Friday, July 30, 2010

The Case of the Curious Cab Driver

A tale about life as an American girl in China

The scene:  Any cab, any city in China
The characters:  Me, and any cab driver
The scenario:  I hop into the front seat, where the passenger rides next to the driver, and we strike up a conversation.
Me:  Ni hao. (Hello)
Driver:  You speak Chinese very well!  (Friendly fib.)  Where are you from?
Me:  America
Driver:  Are you a teacher or a student? / How long have you lived in China? / Do you like China?
Me: I am an English teacher at QuShiDa. / This is my first year in China. / I like China.
Driver:  Do you have a boyfriend?
Me:  I don't have one.
Driver:  Why not?
Me:  I don't know.
Driver:  Are you looking for a Chinese husband? (Asked out of curiosity, by men and women alike - not a pick-up line!)
Me:  I'm not looking for a Chinese husband.
Driver: (Optional follow-up questions:  Chinese men are very good.  Why don't you want a Chinese husband? / Do you like Chinese food? / Can you use chopsticks?)
This will probably be the first Chinese-language dream I ever have, because I've repeated the same conversation so often with curious cabbies, curious students, curious train acquaintances... 

Chinese people talk very directly about some topics that Westerners like to dance around (examples: dating/nondating status, salary, looks).  Every so often it bugs me, but most of the time it's just amusing.   Plus, the question-askers sometimes sweeten their curiousity with very nice compliments about my looks:  "Why don't you have a boyfriend?  You're so beautiful!" 

Why thank you. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Goodbye, Grandma B

This weekend my Grandma Bodensteiner passed away.  As she was nearing death last week, my dad mentioned that she was standing at the threshold of eternity -- an awe-inspiring and sobering thought.  She was ready to go and be with Jesus, and so our sadness is "not without hope," as it says in Thessalonians 4:
 13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
I will miss her, though.  She got married at age 19 and went on to successfully raise a family of nine kids, who later produced 19 grandkids and now a handful of great-grandkids.  My first memories of Grandma were shelling peas from her garden in the farmhouse kitchen.  I also remember...

Grandma enjoying big family gatherings, both normal and a little crazy:

1988 Nerd Party at the farm

1989 at the farm, with three new granddaughters

Me with Grandma and Grandpa at my cousin's wedding last summer

Holidays in new Hampton:

Me playing with Grandma at Easter

Grandma perming my hair (just once!):

Her delicious cinnamon rolls, buns, apple pies, and roast beef:

Cooking roast beef with my mom right before I left for China

Playing cards:

Euchre with me, my sister, and my dad in Decorah.

Dancing the polka:

Grandma and Grandpa were married over 60 years, and I never heard a sharp word between them.  Here they are toasting their 40th wedding anniversary:

I wonder if they knew then that they were less than 2/3 of the way through their love story. 

I admire Grandma for her hard work, for raising a good family, for her good humor, for her uncomplaining spirit, for her love for all of us, and for her faith in God.  She lived well and she died well.  Thanks, Grandma B, for showing us how it's done.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Chinese + English = Awesome

I recently compiled some of my favorite English translations from the last year in China.  You can view this Facebook album by clicking here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Writing Class Essay Topics

The following are the verbatim titles of my writing classes' final argumentative essays:
  • Chinese college students should not get married
  • College students should have the right to fire the unqualified teachers
  • Colleges should forbid students living outside campus
  • Not to take the examination for certification
  • Should the Chinese government build more railways?
  • Who should pay for young people's house?
  • Qufu Normal University students should save water
  • China should make human flesh search legal
  • Top students go to postgraduate school
  • The college entrance exam should not be abolished in China
  • Abortion should be banned
  • The university should not send students' grades to their parents
  • University lovers should not cohabit
  • Should university students in China go in for business?
  • It is time to change the one-child policy
  • Should middle school students be allowed to use cell phones in school?
  • China should keep the college entrance exam
  • Qufu Normal University should permit students to ride bikes on campus freely
  • Students in middle school should wear uniforms
  • The one-child policy should be abolished
  • Senior high school students should not watch too much TV for entertainment
  • Living off campus
  • Students should not keep a dog in the dormitory
  • Should people talk with strangers in the train?
  • One-child policy or two-child policy
  • The college entrance examination: to be abolished or not
  • Ask mom or dad for help?
  • Schools should provide computers or TVs in classrooms
  • The young should not purchase new houses on their own
  • The death penalty should be abolished in China
  • The cohabitation of college students
I like to think that the chosen topics give us insight into some of the issues that Chinese college students consider important. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Country Roads

No one makes a green field or a blue sky quite as good as Iowa.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Five Things

Five things you can do in America that you can't do in China:

1.  See stars.*
2.  Drink tap water.
3.  Put things on the ground.
4.  Walk on the grass.
5.  Blend in.

Five things you can do in China that you can't do in America:

1.  Roll up the bottom of your shirt in hot weather (only men).
2.  Disregard driving rules.
3.  Eat out for under a dollar.
4.  Push and shove.
5.  Ask someone's salary.

*At least, I rarely see stars in Qufu.

Any others?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Quick Update

Hello, hello!  I've been home for about two weeks now, and I suspect that's all the time it takes to lose most of my regular readers.  But for those of you remain, here's a quick update. 

Home.  I have been getting reacquainted with Cedar Falls, Iowa.  It's been a long time since I've been here for more than a week or two at a time, and (sadly) most of my friends have scattered.  My activities at home include trying to get back in shape, reading, studying Chinese at the public library, talking to my parents, and admiring the beautiful Iowa sky.

To Do.  During my time at home, I want to accomplish the following:
1)  Support stuff.  I want to connect with supporters and share stories about China.  I also have some fundraising to do for next year.
2)  Continuing education.  I want to do my required continuing education hours for my speech pathology licensure.
3)  Feed my brain.  I want to keep working on my Chinese and also read some good books (like my current read: China as I See It by Pearl Buck).
4)  See friends and family, of course!

Mobile Alison.  My uncle has generously loaned me his car for the summer.  Yessssss.  I also have a phone now -- e-mail me if you want the number.

Family.  My grandma's health has been poor, so I have gotten to visit her twice and spend time with her and Grandpa.  I also attended family reunions both last weekend and this weekend, meeting hundreds of relatives I never knew I had.  Bryan, my brother, is home for the weekend and I'm driving him to the airport in an hour. 

Schedule.  Because of family activities and my grandma's health, I haven't settled on a travel schedule this summer.  Here's a tentative one:

July 12-16:  Cedar Falls
July 17: Cousin Katie's wedding (so excited!)
July 18-25:  Iowa City
July 26-Aug 1: Cedar Falls
Aug 2-3: Garwin
Aug 4-8:  Minnesota
Aug 9-14: Iowa City
Aug 15-24: Cedar Falls

And on August 25, back to China.  You'll be hearing more from me in the next couple days as I send out my last couple of updates from China.  I will also be putting up new China content on the blog.  Thanks for reading!