bya Gabrielle at 11:31 AM

You are sitting in a blue plastic chair at a desk in a room that you know all too well. On your desk is a pencil with .5 mm lead. It’s the kind you hate because it breaks too easily if you press down too hard. Written on the blue plastic neck of the pencil in black ink is your least favorite number in the world. Two. Specifically, #2.

The room is quiet, except for the steady ticking of the clock positioned on the wall behind you. Every now and again there is a nervous roll of a pencil across a desk from someone sitting behind you. You’d roll your pencil too, but you don’t want to draw any attention from the woman standing behind the podium at the front of the room. It doesn’t even seem like she’s even paying attention, but you know that it’s all an act. Her eyes are trained to see anything and everything that might be deemed suspicious. Years of practice have taught you to remain still and quiet.

The woman, if you haven’t guessed yet, is your teacher and today is test day.

You’ve known about it for a week now and you studied for it, but your anxiety is still running a little high. Tests, well, they just make you squirm. And you’ve heard rumors about this test. A friend of a friend of a friend who knew this one person who dated this one person who took this test a few years back said that it completely made him self destruct. With rumors like that floating around, you have all the right to be just a tad bit nervous. It can’t be that hard, right? It’s just an English exam after all. What is there to be afraid of?

As the clock behind you flips to 9:30 am, the woman behind the desk lays the test face down on your desk. She’s gives you that look that says, “If you cheat, I will personally eat your soul.” You nod in understanding and flip it over.

Before you is the test that you’ve been losing sleep over all weekend.
The test is only one page. One line. One question.

The question is . . .


“You have until the end of class to finish your test. Good luck.”

Humor me and answer that question for me.

I gave this question as a extra credit to my students on their test today, and they really did self destruct. They had no idea how to answer it.

And finally, a random picture from my collection. This picture comes from the selection I stole from Tim when we met up in Hong Kong.

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Taiwan Folk Village: Picture Mania

bya Gabrielle at 6:36 AM

The following pictures are from our little excursion to the Taiwan Folk Village during our May Holiday. I apologize in advance if they suck. Five minutes after we arrived, my camera decided to collect all the moisture that Xiamen has to offer(which is a a lot) in the very center of my lens. Luckily, Phil had his camera, but then his battery decided to die half way through the day. I don’t think God wanted us taking pictures or something, but somehow, we ended up with a few decent photos. Take a gander and enjoy.

Religious figurines chilling on a hill.

This little moth attacked Phil’s foot before we headed into the village and wouldn’t get off. Phil shook his foot real hard too. So, I coaxed him on to my finger and lead him to safety. Hopefully, he liked the bush I chose for him.

This little guy just doesn’t know how to play fetch.

There were countless statues all over the place.

Lantana. It’s every where I look in Xiamen. A very pretty flower.

More religious offerings. This would make a super cool bird bath.

Buddha. Enough said.

I’ve never stood so close to a Tiger before. If you can see through the ring cloud, you should be able to notice the cataract in his left eye. Poor thing. I thought at first that they were just letting him sit there without any chains and that made me super nervous as I took the picture. However, I saw later that there was a very short, older than sin chain that attached his neck to the table – which somehow didn’t make me feel any better. I have a feeling he could have easily dragged the table with him as he made the crowd of on-lookers his dinner.

Once again, if you can see through the fog that is my lens, you might be able to tell that this is no ordinary leaf. It’s actually a butterfly. We found him in a building called butterfly world. It is the best place to go to get photos of butterflies – if your camera is willing to cooperate. I thought it was pretty cool looking.

If I had been on the other side of the road, this picture would have turned out better. All things considered though, it didn’t turn out to shabby.

Lantana over-taking the beast.

Popcorn clouds. We never had this many blue skies in Fuyang. Never.

Most everything in the village was man-made, but it was still impressive.

Everyone thought it was normal for the local Chinese to get a picture with the gigantic Taiwanese statue, but when the laowai decided to do it – everyone had to stop and stare as if I were doing something wrong or exotic.

One of the best pictures to come out of day. No matter where we go in China – there always seems to be stairs in the way of my destination. You would think that I had gotten used to them by now, but no, I still hate them as equally if not more than before I got to China.

Here is that moth chilling on Phil’s shoe. I think Phil could have walked all throughout the village and he never would have budged.

Probably the cause of the moisture attacking my lens.

Pretty mountain side.

Actually, I take that back, I’m pretty sure this was the shot that destroyed my camera for the day. If you forgive my finger intruding on the left over there – the picture didn’t turn out half bad.

That’s the Beach Road and the ocean relaxing in the background.

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Student Life From the Past

bya Gabrielle at 3:47 PM

This really doesn’t need an introduction, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. This was an email I received today from one of the only good students I had in Fuyang. Grey was a very sweet girl, and much like the last time she sent me an email, this one almost had my tear ducts going. I think this is the only reason I ever decided to become a teacher. It’s moments like this that make everything that stresses me out worth it.

And I have no idea what that stupid blue line is. It won’t go away.

Miss Cook,

I’m sorry I haven’t been online for such long time.Did you have purple days.I have passed the high school advance entered exam successfully.Now I have been a high school student.Thank you for your help from the time we spent together.

Miss Cook,where are you now?Are you still in China.

Perhaps you are now far away from our country, but I think you will still bright smile, I hope you can spread the light of you own nomatter where you are.

This is my blog address

I hope that you can have a unforgettable time in China.


Grey is right here waiting for you

Categories: China,Fuyang,Students
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More of Wanshi Botanical Gardens

bya Gabrielle at 3:30 PM

I’ve been trying for days to get these uploaded, but it seems that Blogger hates me no matter what city I am in. I kept getting a timed out error every time I tried to upload them. I’m guess it has more to do with my sucky internet here than anything. It is very difficult downloading things as well. The files always get corrupted. If the internet was just a wee bit better, Phil and I could use the Slingbox he bought off Woot to watch all of our TV shows from home, but no. Our internet sucks just enough for the Slingbox not to work properly, and I seriously mean, just enough. It’s very aggravating. Well, here they are – a few more pictures of relaxing and beautiful Wanshi Botanical Gardens.

When I go home, it will be things like this that I miss – The architecture of China. Even the simplest things are beautiful.

The incense was very strong here. These little guys were all sitting in a little alcove in the rock face. It was a worship site of some sort.

We tried really hard to get out of the park before the sun set, but we got lost. But hey, we at least got a pretty picture of it as if fell behind this building.

Whenever I can get close enough to one, you better believe I take a picture. All Chinese cats run for the hills when I even think of wanting to pet one. Since coming to China, I’ve had to remind myself that not all kitties and puppies are safe. The first cat we ran into in Wanshi must have had rabies or something cause the damn thing tried to attack me. It could barely walk, but it definitely had murder in its eyes. Thank God I had a water bottle in my hand. I used it as a shield to give me and Phil enough room to run the other way. The cat actually tried to pursue us but gave up after awhile. Really, really creepy I say.

I really liked this picture until Phil said, “It would be perfect if it wasn’t for that.” The that that he was mentioning was the piece of trash chilling on the lily pad. When I took the picture, I didn’t even notice it.

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Richland County Makes China Daily

bya Gabrielle at 6:33 PM

I was flipping through the English Chinese newspaper – China Daily – when I came across an article entitled “4 Chinese Mugged in US County”. As I began reading, I half jokingly asked myself, “I wonder if this was in Columbia?” I didn’t really take myself seriously, but I had to read on to find out. Within the very first sentence, my question was answered. It read like this: “Four Chinese were mugged in similar fashion in the north west area of Richland County in South Carolina.” I had to read it twice to make sure that I had read it correctly. Apparently, the people who were mugged worked at Chinese restaurants and had been targeted by armed gangs that knew that they carried large amounts a cash on them. That wasn’t what surprised me though. This did . . . and I quote:

“It’s not unusual for Chinese to be robbed, raped or even murdered in some crime-ridden areas of the US, Chinese People’s Republic Security University Wang Dawei said, attributing their vulnerability to their traditional virtue of tolerance.”

No wonder so many people I talk to think that the US is dangerous. I mean, I would think so too if I read articles like this and had never been there. Richland county may not be Eden, but man, this article makes it out to be an awful place to live or visit and really exaggerates the crime rate. Raped? Murdered? Common? Geeze. That’s pretty harsh.

I guess it’s a good thing that I live in the less crime-ridden county – Lexington – which is right next door. :) Phil is the one that should be afraid. He’s the one that actually lives there . . . in mini Los Angeles. :)

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Xiamen “Rainforest” – Wanshi Botanical Gardens

bya Gabrielle at 4:34 AM

During May Week, Phil and I decided not to try and fight the billion and one other people trying to travel, so we stayed in Xiamen for our vacation instead. During our time we went to many of the tourist spots Xiamen has to offer including the Wanshi Botanical Gardens. It is a very beautiful place and much larger than I thought it would be. The entire time I was walking around and up the mountain side – I had a hard time believing I was actually still in the middle of Xiamen because it sure as heck didn’t feel like it. Here are some of the pictures that we took. If you get a chance, I would go. Bring nice walking/hiking shoes with you if you to walk the entirety of the the park. It’s that large.

Oh, and watch out for creepy looking, possibly infected cats with rabies. One tried to attack me, but I’m not sure if he was old or sick. I’m just glad he wasn’t able to bite me and have me find out the hard way. I get shivers just thinking about it.

The rain forest mist and the rays of the sun. I say rain forest because it was all an elaborate hoax to make you feel like you were somewhere you weren’t. There were sprinkler heads every where spitting out mist to give it that rain forest feel. It was called Rainforest Valley or something like that and made me laugh.

The Spider Flower of Death! Heh. It was purple. It was pretty. I took a picture. :)

For a second, I thought that this odd looking wall of fog was coming to get me like that mysterious, evil smoke that likes to kill people n “Lost”. But then I remembered it was just the massive amounts of mist being sprayed from the army of sprinkler heads.

If you look closely, you can see the outline of the mosquito that Phil slapped dead.

A pretty purple flower lily.

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Student Life

bya Gabrielle at 9:20 AM

So, the other day in class, I was telling my students about the party that the school is going to have on May 26th for no other reason than to spend money and to take pictures of students having fun. The school wants to use these pictures to show future students how much fun they can have if they join the program. Hey, I don’t mind the publicity stunt so much. There will be cake, fruit, drinks and a variety of other yummy dishes there as well. It’s a pot luck party. The only reason I’m coming though is for the cake. Heh.

I brought in the invitations, hoping that they(as in the invitations) would speak for themselves, but apparently I over-estimated them(as in my students). Even though their English has improved in the last few weeks and the invitations were written in the simplest English possible – they had a difficult time grasping what it was the little pieces of paper I handed them was telling them to do. Thankfully, one of the four finally got what I was trying to say and translated for me to the others.

“Oh, party,” the three others chimed in like little birds.

I thought it was probably best to then go over the invitations to make sure that they actually knew what they were responsible for and when they were to show up. That took another 10 minutes. :)

When I got to the line that said – “All staff, students, and their partners are allowed to attend.” – they all sorta looked at me funny.

“Partner?” They asked. “What does that mean?”

“You know, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband . . .”

“Oh,” Lisa, the brightest of the group said, “Boyfriend.” She pointed across the room. “She has a boyfriend.” She then translated what she said in Chinese and all the rest of the students were clued in.

“Monica, you have a boyfriend?” I asked.

Quiet Monica just nodded her head.

“Are you going to bring him to the party with you?”

Monica shook her head and quietly said, “No. He’s in Wenzhou.”

“Oh, ok. That’s alright. How long have you been dating.”

There was a long pause, as though she had to think about it. Or maybe she was counting in English in her head. ” Six months.”

Ok, well, what about you, Yuti, do you have a boyfriend?”

Yuti’s eyes got really big for a second and then said almost hysterically, “Who? Me? No. I’m a good girl!”

Somehow, everyone understood that and laughter followed.

I guess that makes Monica a super bad girl then for having a boyfriend for six whole months.

Never a day goes by that one of my students says something that makes me laugh.

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Things That I Could Eat

bya Gabrielle at 11:30 AM

When I walk into Carrefour or any other Chinese grocery store, there are a plethora of choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some are normal, others unusual, and few that just freak the hell out of me. If you are in China, ever been to China, or are coming to China in the near future – you either know what I mean or you soon will. :) Case and Point: Fresh Delicious Brain

Yummy Specimen of Brain for only 4.00 RMB.

I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was to see it neatly packaged in the meat section considering that the Chinese eat just about everything of an animal, but it caught me off guard nonetheless. I stood there for a second staring at it, thinking about how exactly it would taste, and then I had to walk away or else puke everywhere.Once again, I wish that the picture came out better than it did, but I didn’t want the Carrefour workers to come confiscate my camera. Some stores don’t allow you to take pictures or movies, so I took it quick and on the wrong setting without really thinking. At least you can still tell that it’s brains.

Just yesterday, I saw another freaky thing in the meat department. Both Phil and I looked at it and said, “What the hell is that?” “I have no idea what it is,” Phil said. “I could be an awfully big rat.” “Or a kangaroo,” I said. “Want me to ask? “If you want to?” I tapped the lady standing beside it and asked, “这是什么?” (What is this?) I can’t type the Chinese that she said, but she pointed to the weird looking thing, then to her butt and said something about a cow. What we were looking at was the tail of a cow with part of his/her back end attached. Ick. That’s what I said. I just want to know who bought it and how in the world they cooked it. Ick. Ick. Ick.

For the most part, when Phil and I cook, we cook western type food. We haven’t mastered the art of making Chinese food yet. I think that will only come with patience, a lot of practice and quite possibly a teacher. Living in Xiamen though, we have access to a lot of western food. We have to go to many stores to get all of what we want sometimes, but for the most part, life isn’t that much different than it is back home. – save one or two instances here and there.

Categories: China,Chinese,Food,Xiamen
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Ahoy, Matey!

bya Gabrielle at 7:50 AM

Sometimes, we find the darndest things when we walk around Xiamen.

The other day we went to go find the Ferris Wheel that we keep seeing when we go to Carrefour to buy our weekly groceries. For someone reason, we’ve never walked to the area behind Carrefour, probably because we always had 10 or so bags of groceries in our hands when we say to ourselves, “We really need to go see that. It looks cool.”

What we expected to find behind Carrefour was a Ferris Wheel, and we did, but that wasn’t it. To our surprise, we found a huge area sprinkled with “carnival” like activities. There were 3 or 4 game booths set up for people to play. They were fairly simple games and consisted of popping balloons and knocking over cans to win one of a few assorted prizes – usually a stuffed animal or some other random piece of plastic junk. There was even a pond area where you could rent animal themed boots to paddle around. If you really wanted to, you could give one of those plastic bubble balls that scare the crap out of me a test ride. Basically, they zip you up in a large plastic ball(makes people look like hamsters) , and toss you out in the water for a minute or two while everyone giggles at you as you attempt to maintain your balance and fail.

One of things that confused me was the English we heard coming over the loud speakers as we walked in. At first I had no idea where it was coming from and then I saw the large TV screen on the back of one of the buildings. It was playing the movie, The Bourne Supremacy, with Chinese subtitles of course. Several people had gathered to watch it. They were all sitting with there heads slightly tilted up with their mouths hanging open – like kids watching Saturday morning cartoons.

The one thing I did not expect to see was the life size boat in the middle of all this. I wish my picture of it had come out better, but my camera doesn’t like taking night photos. The other side of the boat is even prettier because all the sails have pretty blue light all over them. When I tried taking a picture of it, all of the photos came out blurry. I don’t know if the boat has a functional purpose or not or if it is just meant to sit there and look pretty. There is a fairly nice hotel to the right of it and I think the two are connected. Perhaps the hotel uses if for something special. Either way, it was a pretty cool find – just one of the many that we come across when walking through Xiamen.

What the last typhoon brought to the middle of Xiamen.

Categories: China,Chinese,Xiamen
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Student Life

bya Gabrielle at 2:15 PM

The other day, I had my students write five questions about themselves on the board. I wanted three of the sentences to be true and two of them to be false. When they misunderstood me and wrote five true sentences instead, I wasn’t surprised.

Most of the sentences were normal. They wrote about things that they liked to do, how they got to school everyday, and the other normal information you can drag out of a person who’s language is not your own. And then it was Monica’s turn, the quiet girl from way up north, and I mean way north. I don’t know when, but her parents decided to move from a city near the Russian/China border all the way down to Xiamen at some point in her 20 some years of life. Apparently, it hasn’t been that long since she left because she misses it enough to say the following:

I not good friends in Xiamen.
My good friends at hometown.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking, that’s sad, and I am not talking about how she wrote it.

In front of everyone she decided to tell the rest of the class, which was me and Emma at the time, that she doesn’t have any good friends in Xiamen. All of her good friends are back in her hometown – where ever that may be.

It made me think of me and how alike the two of us are. All of my good friends are 7,000 miles away from me, and even though I can talk to them through email and Skype – not being able to see them and hang out is something completely different. I’ve made friends here in China, but they can’t replace the ones that took half a lifetime to build.

If only Monica knew that she wasn’t alone.

I not good friends in Xiamen too.
My good friends at hometown too.

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