Traveling and seeing the world have always been on my agenda. I think that moving around when I was younger played a role in this desire. Even though, our moving was from one small Midwest town to another, I always managed to become friends with stellar human beings who were the exact manifestation of who I needed during those times and I attribute moving to the blessing of our paths crossing. Each has played an important role in building me up along my journey and I’ve remained friends with most (some in thanks to social media). Another motivation for travel came from doing so in my mind as a way to pass time during long, lonely days that were spent locked in my room (more about this in “it’s not a swastika, damn it”). I would envision all the people I would meet and role played in my head how I would engage new friends; I, of course, always had them laughing. I imagined our meetings would be something life changing as were many of my friendships and the idea of adding such adventure and new friends kept me hoping against hope during many dark times. Daydreaming was a “skill” that helped me through hard times; I could be anyone I wanted and go anywhere in my mind, this “skill” pushed me to start running away from home when just imagining another world wasn’t enough and too much time spent in my reality had me depressed, suicidal and therefore in the hospital on several occasions with cut up arms. Daydreaming helped me escape and played the biggest role in what helped me make it out of a small town in MN where the culmination of my home life (very serious abuse from a prominent figure in the small community) and my resulting escape to drugs, alcohol and people nearly ended me. Spontaneous travel has remained a goal since my official-fist-step into the “real-world” at age 18; a spontaneous escape it was and one I can look back on and believe God had a hand in. I laid next to a black garbage bag filled with my belongings; with a broken lease behind me I abandoned my apartment, leaving the walls spattered with food from the going-away party I threw for myself; I was rolled in sleeping bags in the back of a twin cab truck in route to CO on Christmas Eve., 1997. Janet Jackson and Celine Dion were the soundtrack as we sputtered down the highway toward Denver in the middle of that cold night. The drag queen “Mike” (stage name I can’t remember) who drove from CO to pick us up, knew every word to every song and he belted them out. My new Mexican-gangster friend of a few weeks “Gabrielle” and his lesbian half-sister “Tammy” were in the front with Mike (they were all very overweight = no room for me in the warm cab). I’ve labeled the three for effect to emphasize my age and small town/sheltered upbringing, they were the first of their “type” I had ever met. Gabe and Tammy worked with me briefly at a turkey factory, where I met them through the factory mechanic who I had just started doing cocaine with/we were the night crew. They came to town initially to help their aunt with her start-up Mexican restaurant which quickly closed in the small MN town with Norwegian taste buds. I recall that the two became hard pressed to return home to Denver by Christmas, Gabe’s mother’s health was failing and their father was just released from prison. Despite barely knowing them, with little time and no Christmas plans or options to weigh, I concluded with ease that I should also go to Colorado. I saw it as my way out, I left family behind, but at the time I wasn’t afforded the luxury of having them in my life anyway. My mother, two young brothers and a sister were all stuck in a home with a destructive, abusive person and, for no reason, I wasn’t allowed there to see them, nor were they allowed to see me (just a small example of the mind games this psychotic-controlling personality would play; he separated my mother from everyone who loved her as is typical of domestic abusers, he had the dynamics in our family to the point where nobody said “I love you” anymore and as my sister and I were made to stay in our rooms he put on a show of “Christmas” making my mom watch while he and the boys opened gifts around a tree; definition of mental abuse??). That was far too painful to watch, helplessly. So the pain pushed me in the direction I needed to go for that time in my life. It wasn’t the best, but it was better than the alternative self-destruction. We arrived in Colorado on Christmas Eve’s eve. Mike’s closet had the most sequins I’d ever seen in my life; heels, gowns and straight up tackle boxeS of makeup were the first things he showed me. It was the furthest scene from what was familiar and I was thrilled to be there. I loved how animated he was. My “travels” prior to age 18 were in many instances the result of my running away from home and riding in cars with strangers, usually ending with me in the back of a cop car. I still remember the trench coat I was wearing the night a cop caught me after I slipped on some ice while he was pursuing me on foot in some random town; I still think I would’ve gotten away had I not been wearing that coat. The thought leaves me with one of those breaths-of-relief, because who knows what would’ve come next had I stayed with those strangers who were getting a minor drunk, I shutter to think of it. On this occasion I was on the run from a girls-group home for “at-risk” youth (I was the one taken out of the home when I would call the police on my step-dad….messed up system). A counselor from a different placement had given me the coat, one of the many who failed to do their job of reporting the abuse that was going on at the hand of my stepfather (or perhaps she was one who tried and it was the system that failed)-either way she made me feel important and loved, today I’d thank her for the coat and for trying, if I could. I was so close to 18 at that point that the police didn’t send me back to the youth-home, they probably knew I wouldn’t have stayed put anyway…I may seem off topic, I guess I do write how I speak…there is a back story to the story that must be shared:) the details matter. The many brush strokes paint the picture, ya know?! So all of that was shared to validate my past which follows me like a shadow and is now starting to serve as a point of perspective/a light that reminds me how far I’ve come when I get clouded. I am now living that daydream of traveling for real and it isn’t motivated by pain or a need to escape. I really believe that I am getting paid back in a way for all that time I had to spend locked in my room, my own proof of God’s redeeming love. I have this extreme perspective that is being gained as certain things heal and revelation is introduced. To make a long-interesting story short..I ended up living homeless in CO. after some close calls while realizing the disturbed sort of person Gabe was. Thankfully I had the internal drive to get away from him and his family… The ‘insert popular mexican last name here’ men in that family had the name tattooed on their stomachs, like Tupac had THUG-LIFE beginning with the father who spent time in prison for murder and drugs, his kids, of which he had many, followed his example despite him never being there for them. Even then, having grown up without any help or communication from my own biological father, I thought it was disturbing how desperately his kids vied for his attention and how they idolized him. I share this story [in brief] to lay a foundation for an important point that without the back story, would fall short. Ultimately, my “traveling” to escape pain is the very circumstance that brought me to my point of finding faith …faith is important in this story because without it, I would’ve cut too deep. So, 2015!! Christmas eve was spent in Beijing, China. I taught a class that day because it isn’t common for Chinese people to celebrate Christmas and it is most certainly not a holiday recognized by the government. So just before class, I quickly bought some sour skittles as a “present” for the kids, upon delivering the gift (unwrapped and tossed across the table to them) they all announced (in very adorable broken english) that it was the first Christmas present they’d ever received, they were completely thrilled. I immediately wished I had put more thought into the gifts and perhaps…at least, wrapped them. This gave me perspective: Despite our circumstances in my home growing up, my mom always made sure she gave us a heartfelt/thoughtful present for Christmas and even though we had someone in our lives trying to suck the love out she did what she could, even in poverty we received very thoughtful gifts that she always worked hard to give us, she would do without to make sure we had what we needed. This is a small story about my experience abroad that has made a big impact on my ever growing love for the life I have (I can say the same about everyday so far). It is funny how the reaction those kids had to a bag of sour skittles could make my view on the life I’ve lived/am living seem so simply beautiful. My imagined experience of traveling abroad being life changing…was accurate. My mind is being blown daily, I use to struggle a lot with self-hate and have had a really hard time shaking some of the abuse I experienced by that step-thing, but I am illuminated by the perspective I am gaining and now with my shadow repurposed as insight, I see the divine interventions in my life. I realize my privilege and blessings more profoundly. I am meeting beautiful beings who are opening my heart. I am blown away by the big-big-world and the so very different ways people have to live or choose to live. I am overjoyed and inspired to make an impact and I appreciate who I am and what I have more than ever. This has been everything plus a bag of chips, but here the chips are flavored like shrimp, are disgusting and there is always a background noise of people hacking up phlegm while you eat…..such is life:)
Update: I am sick again;(, a cold this time and the pollution is now quite noticeable so I have to be careful and wear a mask. Despite these hurdles I am still so very happy to be here. I love the teaching gig, the kids are completely adorable, even when they are being little stinkers. Despite what you may think about Chinese students, they do not act perfectly, they can be off task too, especially since the program I work for is an English class in addition to other classes these students already take. One of my students recently decided to respond “Gay” to every question asked in the class, whether the question was directed at him or not. “That’s gay, he’s gay, because gay,” and then just randomly he’d say “gay, gay, gay”….and so on. He must have seen this meme:
To which I respond:
A few of them have thrown out these other words, “fock” and “sheeT” a few times too, I try to focus on the students who are on task, but if they are too demanding of attention with their attempts at using poorly pronounced expletives, I just point out the fact that they are not saying it correctly and if they were to pay attention they would learn how to pronounce things more accurately. I may just have to educate them on how inappropriate it is as well, it is difficult to express the principles of prejudices associated with derogatory language when culture and language are so different or limited, but I will try. I am not even sure if being gay is against the law in China. It is difficult to tell, this culture is a very hands on culture, as I walk down the street I see women holding hands with arms linked and men with their arm around each other, everywhere. There definitely is a smaller personal space quota here, I was on a train the other day during rush hour and it was beyond my understanding why 40 people would shove themselves onto an already full train, all I could do was laugh maniacally at the top of my lungs at the discomfort, absurdity and inability to do anything about it. Chinese people don’t care and a lot of them are tiny so any personal space you leave for yourself they will fill it. I have been surprised though to see so many tall Chinese people, this would be another example of a stereotype that has been defused since being here. Not everyone is short and not all Chinese students are perfect and it is NOT as extreme to be a Christian here as I had thought, I actually had an Asian man come up behind me singing “Hallelujah” the other night and then he proceeded to tell me about Jesus and love and some other Chinese stuff I couldn’t understand, he was so filled with joy, it was kind of endearing ….Anyway, I do know that the government blocks a lot of websites here, so it is difficult to imagine where the kids pick up this stuff/language, many of them have been to America, perhaps this is a factor. I do recall working with an African man back in the day, he had moved to Minnesota in America for college. He told me that when he arrived he was very disappointed to find only snow and frigid temperatures and no women dancing outside of his airplane like they do in some music videos he watched before arriving. He had this idea that America was like one big music video, no clothes on anyone, disgusting (Home Alone quote intended). Television tends to highlight the less admirable parts of American culture. Anyway, I am an educator now and I will enjoy finding creative ways to educate the kids about my culture as well as the language. Teaching is a nice refresher too. I am looking forward to learning some more Chinese. I really enjoy the accents, they make me smile, it is like listening to a game of MAD GAB, which is just about the funniest game I have ever played. Let’s try:
Fur Chin Ollie Foil
Wand Doll Iran Dense Hence
Or this one, that we saw at the train station on our vacation?!
I do have to share also that I am in a new stage of “culture shock, ” I have only recently learned about these stages and I feel my good friend who connected me with this job will be happy to know that I did look at the material :). My neurological and endocrine systems are debilitated, over stimulation has me worn out and run down! Hence my current cold and recent illness, but I am doing a lot of self-care here and taking it easy most of the time. The pace here is nice and I am enjoying the personal journey into my soul as well as this cultural experience!! I am in a defensive stage of culture shock, I think. I am quite embittered by some of the filth here and people are so pushy. It is common to see little children pooping and peeing in public, which is an unfortunate practice in my opinion, especially when public toilets are very easy to come by. My friend pointed out that under no circumstance should you put your purse in the front of a shopping cart, you know, the child seat part, because kids here, while being potty trained run around with slits in their pants so they can just go wherever and whenever needed. I really hate this, it is so absurd and unhygienic. I watched a grandma help her little granddaughter diaherrea poop all over the sidewalk behind an unknowing crowed of people, while I was sight seeing in Shanghai. After seeing this beautiful skyline I am sure these tourists just ended up trampling through the mess. It is no wonder why these people take their shoes off at the door and are in the habit of wearing ‘house shoes.’ I miss the Minnesota nice right now and personal space. This culture has me in a position where I need to assert myself beyond what feels natural, but I view it as a growing experience. You have to get used to people staring here too, they don’t even avert their eyes when caught, it is so absurd to me, haha. When I catch someone staring now, I stare back and then I find myself in staring contests with Chinese people throughout the day, it is a little amusing. I’ve even had a request to be in a photo with a Chinese woman while touring the Summer Palace..haha. (The other woman pictured is my roommate, not that aforementioned). I also went to the Beijing Zoo which was quite disappointing actually, the animals all seemed so sad and people were feeding them human food, despite the signs that clearly said not to and this was really irritating. If people could have a voice in China I am sure there would be an animal activist group picketing for better care. The cages for the animals were so fake, filled with plastic trees. Fake, plastic anything is just depressing. So here are some photos, anyway: Summer Palace Photos:
I was left with only one option after I arrived at work this morning and finished my coffee. Blasting a deuce in a squatter potty is not easy nor relaxing. It is a bit of a workout and the risk of injury or thought of backsplash is enough to make you sweat. If I could use a toilet like they have at the Chicago O’hare airport in every public bathroom, I would have a stress free life. Take a moment to google a video of said toilet and then erase the thought of me blasting deuces in this situation….
And think of me comfortably doing so in the other;)
I almost started crying at the grocery store. There is no English written on any packaging except for SNICKERS and they sell pig snout, fish head, chicken claws and sea cucumbers for a lot of $. I don’t know how to feed myself in China!!! Jimmy Johns, HELP!!
We were spoiled our first week, our boss wanted to show us all of his favorite places to eat. Ive had delicious food so far, I’ve even tried DUCK! I skipped the opportunity to try pig hoof stew at one dinner, I thought about it, so that’s exactly similar to trying it, it counts. Here are some photos of some of our feasts here!! Good company to boot:)
So, it gets very hot here in Beijing, it’s humid as ship and I have been walking many miles a day here so I am sweaty and sticky and smelly all the day long. Another truth, traffic is insane, I am risking my life every single time I cross the road. It has never been truer that there is safety in numbers. I have learned to cross the road with other people. I follow the crowd weaving around; motor bikes, scooter bikes, bikes driven by grandmas, bikes driven by grandpas, garbage bikes, recycling trikes, delivery bikes, good for nothing bikes and most carry more than one passenger all aside from the cars and buses, oh my! I’ve learned you only take “taxi-taxis,” never the black wanna-be-taxis as they might be human trafficking taxis. My sister told me not to get sold or stolen while in China, so I will only ride in real taxis or on the really clean subway (that isn’t sarcasm, it really is clean, except for that one staircase by line 13 that smells like urine). Here there are humans, millions and millions of people EVERYWHERE and there is no order for the people traffic, “red light, eh, stop if you feel like it, but proceed if that is what the crowd is doing even if you’re walking blatantly in front of vehicles that clearly have the right of way.”
Even with lack of order there seems to be a nice flow here, people seem to be traveling at a content, but purposed pace and none seem too burdened.
Also, here in Beijing there is a thing. A thing that is a thing in China is a very big thing because there are so many people doing the things. One bewildering observation I have made of the things here, while out and about showering in my own sweat, is of Chinese men cooling themselves by folding up their shirt to expose their bellies, all of them, young and old all over the city. At times you even catch one playing with his belly button or slapping his big Buddha belly, I have to admit, when I see them, as sweat is running down my swass crack, I feel completely jealous. If I were a Chinese man, I’d be The Man with the friendly chin hair, slapping my buddha belly and I would hold extreme direct eye contact ALL THE DAY LONG.
As I was preparing for my trip to Beijing, I found myself anticipating the freedom of growing out my chin hair while in China. Really, I was just looking forward to the opportunity for laziness in this regard. It is kind of a pain to be diligent in plucking because I have better things to do and it never really makes a difference anyway. Yes, I have chin hair, more than one and they do what they want despite my efforts to keep up. They elude me and seem to be on some grow juice. The chin hair always find a way to grow undetected until they are long and glistening. It is never convenient to get rid of them either; they tend to go unnoticed until I am out and about, far away from my tweezers or “chin hair chopsticks” as I will now refer to them. Sometimes they are long enough to grab between two fingers, but it feels like such a scene to attempt to yank the thing out in public, I always get caught. I had imagined that coming to China I would find nothing but free-range chin hair. I thought this may be nice, they do what they want anyway and with society on my side I could be free of the burden of grooming my chin. But now I am here and…it hasn’t seemed necessarily encouraged. Sooo, I am a little thrown back.
I “grew” this stereotype while working at a sub shop in Saint Cloud, many moons ago. The sub shop was next to a Chinese buffet, I didn’t eat there often, but I did see the employees fairly often as the two restaurants shared a hallway that lead to the restrooms. The hallway smelled like Chinese food and bread mixed together in vomit hiding in some cranny. It seemed to always be the case that when I would enter the hallway to go to the restroom I would run into, “Chinese Chin Hair Man” with whom I could never make direct eye contact (which is how I feel people look at me when my chin hairs break free, they just stare at the hair), I was only able to STARE at his ONE, EXCESSIVELY LONG, black chin hair as it FLOWINGLY waved at me from his mole. I am sure he observed my expression as this….
So, naturally I assumed that ALL Chinese men ALWAYS grow long hair out of their chin moles as a sign of some sort or a thing that China men do, like a coming of age or something. Now having been here in China for a week, surrounded by many, many “CCHM” I have yet to see any actual chin hairs undulating or intimidating me. So, really, I am just surrounded by Chinese PEOPLE, millions of them and now the tables are turned, they are looking at me like I have a dangling chin hair. So, ultimately, I guess I have found freedom because chin hair or not I don’t give a pluck who is staring!