Sunday, March 25, 2012

this is cooling faster than I can ....

If you correctly identified my little "spin" on Ani DiFranco's "Not A Pretty Girl" lyrics in one of the titles of my last posts here, you probably get the title of this post.

Whether you attended Lilith Fair, didn't attend, and/or once tried to drive to Hartford, CT in an attempt to buy scalped tickets/got lost in Trumbull, CT, pulled into a Dunkin Donuts and drove home.... ( like one of us here).

Either way, "Cooling" is Tori Amos ( and I don't think Tori ever performed at Lilith Fair).

That's the way it feels now.
It's cooling faster than I can. Everything is "closing" too soon.

Do I want to stay in Foshan for another year? No. Am I sad to leave? Yes.

The checks on the "Countdown" list are starting. I just took my last "ride on the back of the motor scooter" tonight. AKA- had my last tutoring session with Jenny. Motor scooters are actually very common, popular here in Foshan. I don't even think about seeing them, because I'm so used to it. Even 5 yr old Jenny has a little helmet and she'll ride sometimes ( usually standing - yes, not the safest option, but I've seen lots of kids here doing it- the parents don't drive them too fast). For the past few months, I've developed this ritual/routine with her father - meet him on Sunday night at 7:20pm outside Dongjian Center ( the mall where our school is located). Jump on the back of his motor scooter, drive down a few streets to their house, tutor Jenny for two hours, jump back on and drive back to the mall, cross the little bridge, and go home ( or more often, to Starbucks).

That routine ended tonight. We just had our last tutoring session. I still have one class to teach - so I will see Jenny on Friday. Then her father is driving me to the airport in Guangzhou on late Saturday night. We took pictures and video. I drank my usual several cups of tea and coffee that were poured for me ( and took my chewable multivitamin that her father offered me). They are really just nice people. They invited me to stay with them when I return to visit Foshan.

I'm also trying to see Lisa and Quinny before I go. Making plans is truly a test of sanity. Last night I drove across the edge again. My mental motor scooter, skidding and swirving, almost dumping the entire contents of my sanity into the great abyss. To start - working in China, is serious WORK. In general, most people only get one day off per week. Sometimes it changes each week - depending on what the company needs you for. Last week you were off on Tuesday, this week it's Friday. Jenny's father works everyday - no day off. He works " for the government". I'm still not sure exactly what he does, but he works in an office.

So- trying to "make plans" when you never know when someone will be off - is also a lot like playing that "New Choice" improv game. I hate playing this game when it combines the fact that I  #1. Have very little time left to see this person and #2. when I think that we will be able to get together on a certain day/night ... only to find out that we can't.

I was supposed to meet up with Lisa and Quinny today in Guangzhou. I had originally told Jenny's father that I would not be able to tutor Jenny tonight. ( but THAT changed). Then I received a QQ message from Quinny and Lisa telling me that Lisa's boss had moved her day off to Tuesday because there is some Land Rover car show going on in Guangzhou and she has to work late at it tonight and then work again tomorrow.


Friday, March 23, 2012

speaking in the present tense

chaotic.... unfortunate.... immature.. it's like giving birth and not knowing what your breasts or bottles are for.

That's the way it feels to me. That's the way Linda runs her school. Maybe in 2 or 3 yrs with time and experience it will be different?... better?... but for now, despite her past friendliness, it feels very disorganized. That's it. It's not "hell on earth", but it's..... disorganized... and needs a lot of help....

Funny how my principal said once during one of the staff meetings about 2-3 months ago, talking about " the marketing department, the most important part of the school" .... ( bringing in new students, more $$)

I bet she's eating her words now. We just had another staff meeting where she was talking about the "testing" that has to take place at the end of each course ( Pre-K1, Pre-K2, etc. etc.) in order for the students to graduate and "move forward".  She only recently found out about this. If students don't pass the test, the parents might worry that the students aren't learning and might not enroll them for the next year and/or go and find a different ESL school - ( big LOSS of $$ ... and potential reputation there).

Now does she appreciate teachers? ... i dunno, but if so, it's too little too late. I can't care.

I've "come down" from being angry. There's too little time left for that. ( though losing $400 any way - by accident, last minute changes of plan, etc. any way .... still sucks... )

There's always a "bell curve" with learning. You've got  a minority of kids who will score above average, a minority of kids who will score below average, and a huge wave of kids that will fall in the "average" middle area. I know that's what WILL happen with my kids. ( I can already guess who will be at either ends of the spectrum too. Some kids truly want to be here and learn, others misbehave/are forced to come by their parents, etc.).

Running a company ( business) and running a school are two completely different beasts. You need to approach them in different ways. The head of the education department in New York( I'm blanking on her name .... "Cathie .... " something)  was friends with Mayor Bloomberg.. and he got her the position because he knew her from her days as a boss running a "business". However, she lasted about 1 month running the Board of Education because .... despite her "business savvy" ... she had no idea about "the business of running a school". 

I'm going to miss my kids a lot. I know that I will keep in touch with some of them. They have sparked my own imagination and creativity and they help ME to LEARN and to see the world in new ways...

I've said before, coming to a new country- you expect some chaos and frustration .... (and these situations very often make for some funny stories to bring home! I have a great story about attempting to buy apples. Also about getting my entire face waxed- when I was really just asking for my eyebrows). But when it comes to my everyday " routine" of work, I want to work for a boss who knows what she's/he's doing and who understands the importance of education.

That's it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012
"I am not an "angry girl" ... but it seems like I've got everyone fooled"

just following up on the "Ani DiFranco" kick I was on starting of my last entry.

*Sigh* just coming back to this with a little more clarity. I knowwww that it will all be "OK". Losing $400 ( half of my apartment deposit) sucks though. No matter how you look at it. No matter if you figure out a way to forgive and breathe and ... "understand". It still kinda sucks... right?

Today I'm breathing and forgiving and just moving forward. I am "hen dooLEE" ( very independent) in general - whether I'm in the USA or China. I know who I can depend on when I am lost or confused or need help.

For the future, I choose not to work for Best Learning. I choose not to work for Linda Lin. At this point in time I ( along with the 8-9 other former staff who used to work for her) feel that she is not a good boss.  For all of the reasons that I listed in my last entry as well as the fact that, she is not a "team player"

This year has been an "adventure" truly in SO many ways. I've been shaking my head and sighing and laughing ... but overall really enjoying it.

You can't expect to come to a foreign country and have

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"I am not a poker player... that's not what I do" - ( in my best Ani DiFranco voice)

I can't say "thank you" and not mean it.
It's really hard for me to "fake it til I make it"
It's probably a good thing that I have no idea how to play poker because I bet my face would "show my hand" every time.

I strongly dislike being "fake". I'm not good at it and I hate when I can notice it in other people. Why bother? It's a waste of energy. I'd rather just sit quietly and not talk to you. Or blush and look down at my shoes and run away or flirt back or whatever the "truth" of the moment is. 

Even when it comes to performance-related things. I think at this point, I know myself well enough to know that I would rather dance/sing/do musical improv- than ever do "stage theater" or anything scripted. I like writing ... and I like when I can see people and think "oh , she/he would be perfect as this.. etc. " but for me, I prefer creativity that stems from my own emotions that are already there ...  and/or inspired by the environment around me. 

Scripted stuff just feels fake to me (though I really love writing).

That said, I'm a little... disappointed ( to say it mildly) in my boss here at this point, and I'm having a difficult time hiding it. (So I'm pretty much just avoiding her, only talking to her when necessary).

I've said before that, going forward,  when it comes to finding a school to teach at, I want #1. A school that has been open/up and running for two years or more,  #2. That the school be run by the same principal/administrative staff for that time period and #3. To talk with other teachers currently working or who have just completed a year or two working at the prospective school. 

Best Learning opened in 2009. So when I started, technically it HAD been open for "2 yrs" BUT my branch in Foshan had NOT. ( And everyone will tell you -- don't read school reviews online - because EVERY BRANCH IS DIFFERENT. Just because someone writes a negative or positive review about one school at one FRANCHISE doesn't mean the entire franchise is not worth/worth working at - it will be different from branch to branch it depends on the individual school. So TALK to CURRENT TEACHERS to get a REAL feel of where you will be.)

For me, Best Learning was "old", but our branch at Foshan was very new. This was the first time that my boss Linda Lin (Lin Wei) had ever run an ESL school. There were no "former teachers" to TALK TO because there was not a school branch. Until last April. This was the first time that I had ever taught ESL in China ( or anywhere) ... so we were all "green". 

My boss was sweet and a real "team player" and all at first BUT as time went on, other Chinese staff began to see her true colors. - short tempered. impatient. stubborn. self- centered. She's very cheap ( though I understand when first opening a business, you want to be careful.. I get that). I did not get to see this side ( until now - now that she knows I'm leaving) because I was the "cash cow". Lisa told me this in an email .... a "long time ago", several months ago .... and I see now that she was right. (Although I always kind of knew). I would say about 80% of my boss being nice to me was because I was doing her favors. I was giving her business. ( I HATE THAT IDEA. btw. Be nice to me because you ARE nice. Because we COULD BE friends. Not because I can GIVE YOU something.) Now that this "cash cow" has stopped "giving milk" ( decided to leave). Linda can .... "put me out to pasture" ... or try to grind me into meat ( though she doesn't know this, and don't you tell her but... I am secretly a magical phoenix-cow and I'd come back to life).

She lost all but 3 of her original staff - marketing/reception/teaching assistants- in the first 4 months that Best Learning Foshan was open. They were all Chinese and they all quit.  It's crazy to think that Lisa left so long ago now ( in August). Sometimes it feels like yesterday... I guess that's a good thing? She feels closer? I've seen her since then, so maybe that's why. I was very angry  at Linda to begin with when all the staff started leaving because I felt like I was starting to "make friends" ... and now everyone was leaving. "The new girl was left alone in the classroom." Like everyone had graduated and I was left behind. (though I still had/have my TA Metis - we've "seen it all" together since training in Beijing. She's my partner in crime.)

But now, I'm SO happy for Lisa, that she's happy and working hard and she's got her own apartment. So it really did work out for the best.

As a first year ESL teacher who had never lived abroad, there was obviously a lot of little things that I didn't know and it just seemed like I was "inconveniencing" her most times I asked for clarification or help with something. I would wait it out a little .... but sometimes ( like recently when getting my plane ticket home) I could NOT ... and had to ask her - every two days or so - to make sure she was going to give me an answer.

Less time = more expensive ( not my problem because she was covering it, but still) flights and ALSO a less likely chance that ANY flights will be available ( my problem, because I had the misfortune of being born without wings and so now, due to this unfortunate deformity, I have to get one to fly home). Luckily we found a flight .... and it's one that I wanted with only a 3.5 hr layover and I've got an aisle seat for both planes ( from Guangzhou to Seoul, Seoul to JFK)... I get into JFK at 11am. 

BUT ... the real "frustration/annoyance/problem-problem"...  is that I might not be getting back my housing deposit because I'm leaving before my contract is up. My housing contract expires on April 24th and I'm leaving on April 1st because my VISA to live/work in China expires on April 3rd and Linda is not extending my visa through the end of the month. 

So, pretty much she's screwing me out of money. I am "softening the blow" for myself a bit by not paying my rent (2500 rmb) for March here now. So that means I'm only screwed out of 2500 RMB. But still that's an extra $400 I could have taken home.

As it stands I'll be coming home with about $2000 ( plus $1,180 tax return money) so I'll be ok for the 2 months that I'm home ( living "rent free" with the parents). But it's just SOOOOOO inconsiderate. She thought that she had a teacher to come to take my place and teach my classes and so she wasn't going to PAY THE EXTRA MONEY extend my visa. Buuuuut KARMA can be a real "B***H because at this point, I'm preeeeetty sure that teacher backed out of the deal ..... so now SHE'S SCREWED. She will have 3 classes CURRENTLY IN SESSION with NO TEACHER teaching them. What will she do? Not my problem. You would think that Linda would want me around to help the new teacher to get adjusted.... but she doesn't think of those kind of "rational, sensible" things. It's all about the money. Unfortunately - for her ( and kind of for me too... but more for her... cause she's the one who will really lose out in the long run).

So, if you are a potential ESL teacher and you are reading this - DO NOT MAKE THE RECKLESS CHOICE TO WORK FOR LINDA LIN (Lin Wei) at BEST LEARNING  in FOSHAN CITY, GUANGDONG PROVINCE, CHINA. 

In general, my year has been GOOD .... really, new experiences, learning and growing, and I'm THANKFUL for the lessons ( and definitely for meeting Lisa) all -in-all but now in hindsight it reminds me a bit of "The Little Princess" story ( remember the movie with Shirley Temple - I think they made a newer version too). It was all "smiles" and "parties" and "agreeable" when Sarah's father was giving the school money .... but once he was thought to be dead, Sarah was stripped of her beautiful clothes, put into black rags and sent to live in the attic with her cockney servant friend Becky. ( FYI:  I would love to have a friend named Becky with a cockney accent... if you're from a rough and tumble section of England and you're reading this, Becky, let's make that happen.)

"You go to grow" as my old voice teacher said once ( about auditions). It's all about growing.... get up and try again... get up and do something different ...  

(Dudes, and yes I KNOW I said that I'd write about Thailand ... and I about "milking a cow" ... this has become more like "beating a dead horse" ... or "crying wolf" you wonder if I ever will write about it ... but I WILL. Other things here have just gotten in the way recently. Thailand is definitely a place that I will return to. I feel like I could never go to Thailand again without doing SOME sort of "community service" in addition to vacationing - animal welfare, environmental welfare, human trafficking issues ...- I feel like I want to give back to Thailand. )

And that's all that I will say for now -- because #1. Starbucks is literally turning off their lights and it's time to go home.  #2. This entry is long enough as it is. #3. I've got two brand new 60 min each video podcasts of The Rachel Maddow Show to watch. Who doesn't have to work til 1:30pm tomorrow and is staying up til 2am? ... this girl!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Don't Understand, But I Do.

I feel like there is buzzing, life going on around me today but I don't understand it.
In a way that's more than normal - not just because I'm in China and Mandarin is not my first language.

Even when my Chinese co-workers are speaking Mandarin I can put bits and pieces together and understand the general topic of conversation. I can add to the conversation sometimes even. - in English and Mandarin.

But this isn't that. This is different. It's more in an "out of body" way.
I now know for a fact that I will be leaving China in EARLY April either the 1st or the 2nd. I went into my principal's office again last night and talked to her ( calmly, patiently) about my leave date.

So now- everything is rushing at me - getting my apartment security $$ back from my landlady. booking my flight. getting rid of the things I don't need to take home, making sure I make plans to make time to SEE and SPEND TIME with the people that matter the most .... especially my favorite person.

I'm at work right now. Using my VPN to access blogger here and all I can think of right now is going downstairs to get a cup of coffee ( as if that will make this whole situation easier? I dunno)

I cried going to bed last night. Wrapped up in two layers of pajamas ( b/c it's still a litttttle chilly at nights here) with my "favorite" scarf wrapped around my neck. Actually the "good cry" before bed ritual has happened a few nights in a row now. This whole year has been the extreme of both sides of the coin. Seriously. I've never had the extreme of both together like this. Filled with the most DIFFERENT and EYE OPENING times and also the most FRUSTRATING times/situations. "I don't understand, but I do" - pretty much summarizes everything here. Things are done differently - business/life, etc. and sometimes I shake my head and don't understand, but then looking back, with some perspective - I DO. I DO understand. The people in China are not that different from people in America. Everyone wants to have a good, successful business, a happy family, a happy life, to be able to travel and to give their family the best that they can. I think these are universal "wants". The country itself - is SLOWLY becoming more "democratic" and less "communist". I think that's what scares the government the most. The PEOPLE are slowly gaining access to the "outside world" and wanting things that they've never wanted before. They are seeing things in different ways. Chinese people have VPN codes and, if they can afford the little extra monthly expense, pay for them and have access to Facebook and Twitter. There are (small) protests and uprisings. This rampant desire ( and big $$ business ) to learn English will ensure that the future will be different, the country will continue to change. For better or worse.

I know that I want to go somewhere new for this next year - to Taipei in Taiwan ideally, or if I'm still in China, Shanghai. I WANT a BIG CITY with more social/adventure options for a "single" American woman. BUT that doesn't change the fact that I've had a life here for the past year and that my heart and mind have made memories. The good thing is, I can take the memories with me and I can come back to visit. The hard part is this initially "goodbye" that's coming soon.

I've made plans with Lisa for later this month. We've been texting via my little "itranslator" iphone app this morning...but the app doesn't work without internet connection. So after I left the house ( and sent a text with my plan ideas) to come to work here about an hour ago, she sent a final little reply message. I will have to go home later and see what she said.

BUT I saw and I understand the Chinese characters for "OK" that she typed, so I think the plans are good to go. ...

I don't understand, but I do.

When I do start packing, I think packing my carry on bag full of tissues will be a smart idea. :-/

I Don't Understand, But I Do.

I Don't Understand, But I Do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

AHHHHH! ( aka Chinese New Year Post #2 postponed interrupted by homesickess)

I am SO homesick right now.  You know how they talk about "blind rage"? This feels like "blind homesickness". UGH. SO heavy. I said on Facebook that it's like that feeling you get when you have to pee after a long road trip. The closer you get to the bathroom door, the harder it is to hold it in. You KNOW what I'm talking about. You can be fine just riding along in the car for 4-5 hours ... but once you get up and you see the door, it's like your bladder gets crazy and it feels like you have mere seconds before an accident is bound to happen!!!!

This homesickness kind of popped up out of nowhere. I've been fine ... a lot of times... really great here  for the majority of the year in terms of feeling "settled in" and "adapted" and all that. At the beginning, the first two months were definitely challenging. But July was awesome  for many reasons ( lychees, Lisa, swimming pool,  warm weather... etc. ) and since then it's all been ... good with a sprinkle of frustrations here and there. I've picked up a lot of language too ... which I'm proud of and which will definitely help for the next year.

But now that I'm wrapping up my year - esp this past week - out of the blue it's become... "difficult" and "frustrating". I KNOW one reason for my frustration is the... lack of "prior planning" ( a term that my Dad likes to use, I can hear him in my head now saying it... lol) regarding my "leave date.

My F visa ( the thing that keeps me living/working here legally) expires on April 3rd, 2012. Originally my boss said that she would be able to extend my visa for the month. She said that it would be "no problem" and that I could work until my school contract expired for the year ( on April 24th).

BUT when I went to her last week and was talking with her about my airfare and buying my plane ticket home ( the school is covering my airfare), my boss mentioned that I MIGHT be able to go home earlier. IF they hire this new teacher who she's interviewing ( and who I'm pretty sure will work for the school, the teacher is going for the week long training in Beijing next week I think) - there will be no need to keep me through the month .... and she will save money ( oh "money.. money.. money"... always about the money...) by not having to pay the fee to extend my visa.

I was caught off guard with this news and told her that we had to book my flight SOON because I was looking online and saw that #1 flights are getting expensive and #2 flights are getting a little ridiculous in terms of layover time ( a 13 hr layover in Shanghai? or ANYwhere? NO THANK YOU.).

My boss told me that she still "didn't know" and that she would tell me next week. ( tomorrow). I told her that I "thought that everything was settled" ... and that this is very frustrating and unorganized and that if I have to stay at a hotel because she decided to change the plan and there are no flights with layovers that are 4-5 hrs or less ... my school WILL be paying for it. Because I don't want to. I shouldn't HAVE TO. I'm the one who is TRYING to get ready/prepared early here.

This is her first year running this school and while I've had my share of good times with my classes (and socially with her at times), I've learned for the future that I want to work at a school that has been up and running for at LEAST 2 yrs. Being a foreigner in a new country for the first time is HARD ENOUGH without the added anxiety/frustration/moodiness of a boss who doesn't really know what she's doing. My Chinese co-workers have said that she is moody and is slow to make decisions/often changes her plans, so I'm not the only one who has seen/felt this. It's not a cultural thing.

Right now my mind is a million miles ahead of my body. It's a little speck that is slowly disappearing on the horizon in front of me. I can kinda see it ... but I've gotta squint.

When you are confronted with a big change or something unsettling ( like that initial "culture shock/homesickness feeling of moving to a new country) you naturally CRAVE something familiar/routine. I know that's kind of what happened initially and that's what's happening now. Everything was "fine" in general from July to now.

I just want a taste of home. The two to two and a half months at home will be ENOUGH.
ENOUGH to get my fill of just, GOOD, PURE, LOUNGING - stretched out in my Dad's good ol' lazy boy chair and all! (lol) catching up with the fam, laying around watching "mindless" Bravo and TLC shows on tv, going to hot yoga and dance, being with friends - eating,drinking, just catching up, using English regularly with people my own age and older, etc. etc. I'll still have QQ and can use QQ on my computer at home to keep in touch with Lisa too...

It will be enough time to be happy ( and not have to worry too much about $$) and at the same time enough time to get excited for my NEXT year of teaching in Taiwan.

I'm just feeling it right now. I'll be good. I'll be ok. Tomorrow I'll approach it ( the conversation with my boss) slowly and easily and without getting too worried, caught up in it all. Mentally ready to either leave on April 2nd or April 24th ... and being fine with EITHER decision. But even if she did pay for me to stay overnight in a hotel somewhere, I'd really rather have a 4 hour layover. Even if it's a midnight flight. I don't care.

a safe flight, a 4-5 hr layover. That's all I want.
It's still cold out. Despite a few days of my apartment building "sweating" ( warmer outside, cold inside), it's still damp and cold here. It makes me want to stay curled up in bed and sleep late on my days off. Today I slept until 1pm. I know when summer gets here it will be "HOT" but, I'll be home by then.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chinese New Year Vacation (aka "Spring Festival" ) Part 1

I have been putting this entry off and off and off. I think pieces of me were all scattered between - being stuck in that hazy post-vacation fogginess, not wanting to admit that vacation was over, and just being overwhelmed jumping back on the "hamster wheel" of reality and dealing with "work stuff". ( like teaching SO MANY make-up classes for a few kids who missed class before the Spring Festival break)

BUT I'm HERE now and I'm ready to write a little. I'm gonna start writing about Chinese New Year, aka "Spring Festival".

So, to start. In China, usually between late January and early February, the "Spring Festival"  holiday is celebrated. Most people here call it "Spring Festival", even though it is the celebration of the Lunar New Year."Xin Nian Hao" - is a pretty common "Happy New Year" greeting. When I lived in New York, Chinese New Year meant "dragon dances" and "different animal years".  That's all that I associated with it. But being here, I realize that it is the BIGGEST holiday on the Chinese calendar. Most people get anywhere between one week to a month of vacation time. It reminds me a lot of "Christmas" ( without the "Jesus" or "Santa Claus" emphasis). Families, who, if they don't live in the same city/town often have not seen each other at any other time during the year- due to busy work schedules, will get together and share meals and quality time. Every year is represented by a DIFFERENT ANIMAL and a DIFFERENT ELEMENT. 2012 is the YEAR OF THE WATER DRAGON. Dragon years in general are considered especially lucky and powerful. The Dragon is the only animal in the astrological chart that is a mythical creature. All the other animals in the chart are "real" ones. Typically, during Spring Festival kids will receive "red envelopes" filled with money ( some of my students got a lot of envelopes from their family members - adding up to almost the amount of my monthly salary!). My boss gave each of the employees a red envelope filled with 100 RMB. I also received red envelopes ( with about 20 rmb in each) from two of my students, Alex and Vivian's, mother's. There are "New Year's Specials" broadcast on the television and each city/town has their own local traditions. I was invited to attend a taping of a New Year's tv special that was broadcast at a television studio in Foshan with Jenny ( 5 yr old that I tutor) and her family. Her family is really so good to me, so sweet and so interested in life both locally and also just the world, everything going on outside of China ,and so helpful. Her father actually picked me up at 9am the morning I was leaving to go to Thailand and drove me to the bus station where I took the shuttle bus to Guangzhou Airport.

As far as traditions, wearing red is considered to be lucky and to bring you "luck" in the New Year. ( I got a dark red mani/pedi before leaving China to ensure that I carried some luck with me to Thailand). If it is your animal year - (say, if you were born in the year of the Dragon and this year being celebrated is the year of the Dragon), it is considered lucky to wear a little red every day. ALSO it is important to clean your house before the new year- to "clean out" the "old bad energy of last year". I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom. It was the biggest cleaning I'd given it in months and it felt great .... and was still SO clean after I returned from Thailand.

As far as some "local" Spring Festival Traditions to bring luck and money, in Foshan, one tradition is to walk across "Tongxi Bridge". There are about 9 steps up and over the bridge on one side and then twelve steps down on the other side. Crossing over is supposed to symbolize that you will complete the new year with more money than you started out with. ( "12" is greater than "9" , i know your math skills are better than mine, you know this). I took part in this tradition after I returned from Thailand. It was a little bit of CROWDED craziness. It reminded me why I shake my head at the crazy tourists on tv every year in NYC - why I will never take part in "New Year's Eve Ball Drop" in Times Square.  It wasn't as bad as Times Square, but, as a foreigner  there was definitely a little "where am I and where is my apartment in relation to where I am now?" going on. Everyone was carrying these beautiful bright spinning pinwheels with little bells on them and it was definitely a festive atmosphere. Another "local tradition" in Foshan is to throw lettuce at the big ceramic lettuce statue. Don't quote me on this, I'm not sure if that's the official name of this tradition, but that's pretty much what happens. I forget what street it was on, but everyone is given a head of lettuce with some incense sticks wrapped around it and you throw the lettuce at the statue. I posted a picture of this in my "Foshan Album" on my FB page, so any friends can see what I mean there. The street looked like a SALAD. I'm not sure where this tradition came from, but I know there was talk of getting rid of it because some people felt it was ( and it is ... unless you're giving the lettuce to animals or something afterwards) a waste of food.

I said "yes" to everything - every tradition- to bring me LUCK, MONEY, HAPPINESS. Wearing Red. Cleaning My Apartment. Crossing Bridges. Throwing Lettuce. Putting up lucky New Year's decorations - I went to my supermarket and bought two copies - one for my apartment door, one for the Academic Department door at school- of this cute picture of two dragons carrying two different scrolls, one with the word "Happiness" and one with the word "Money" both written in Chinese characters on them.

... and I have to say, I think there might be something to these New Year's traditions because not only did I have a wonderful vacation in Thailand... since the New Year, I was also approached to tutor adults in ESL two nights per week ( making a little more $$) and I've been doing that, about 3 times so far now. I ALSO just found out that I will be getting a $1,110 tax return and I don't have to pay the state or federal ANYTHING! (luck! money!) This is seriously my best tax return news in a LONG time. In the past I always owed money and I never got that big of a return. I'm looking forward to paying off my credit card and then we'll see what I do with the rest. I might take my Mom & Dad on a Hot Air Balloon ride once I get back to NY. I know there's a company based out of Baird Park, not too far from their house. They've ( and I've ) never been and I know it's something that my dad mentioned that he would really like to do .... and I like surprises/surprising people... so maybe.

Anyway, that's it. Spring Festival reminds me a lot of Christmas - very family oriented. However, I also received a sweet message from Lisa while I was in Thailand, wishing me a Happy New Year and telling me that she would rather be with me there than with her family and friends. I am very proud of her. 2012 has been very lucky for her too. She's found a job that she loves and feels respected at, and she also just moved into her own apartment in Guangzhou. She's so focused and hard working and strong. I don't know what this will be. Right now I feel like we're creating the best versions of ourselves, doing what we want to do to better our lives ( Me: learning Mandarin, paying off debt. Her: making more money and eventually taking English classes). However the story ends, that's a good path for both of us to be on.

ok, that's it for now waiguorens.
My next entry will talk about the "THAILAND" part of my Chinese New Year.
Xin Nian Hao to you and yours!