Saturday, September 27, 2008

Communicatory Day

I'm not always the best phone person. I talk to mom and dad and Kara quite often, but when it comes to friends, a lot of times I wish it really was the thought that counted . . . because I do think about calling people a lot. I'm just not really good at following through. But, the last 24 hours have been quite happy where the phone is concerned. I got to talk to my dad, then Kara, then Beth (on gtalk), then Amy, quick hi to Dawson (also on gtalk), then Shin Hong, then my mom . . . all since last night.

I'm continuously thankful for modern communication technology. I can talk to friends and family on the other side of the world (or the next country over) for free or nearly free!

Thanks to a tip from Victoria, I just discovered which is a great way to make free long-distance or international calls . . . unless your family lives in Coatesville, IN which is the black hole of all telecommunications.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Daily Confusion

Today is Thursday but I have no class until tonight so it feels like Saturday. Tomorrow is Friday and I'm teaching my Tuesday class. Saturday morning, I'm teaching my Monday class. Sunday we're leaving for Vietnam and by then I really won't know what day it is.

Kate, Dave, me and the whole Rice family are going to go spend a week in the northern Vietnamese town of Sapa. We got our passports back from Kunming yesterday with the Vietnamese visa stamped in it. Katie, Dave, and I are going to take a bus to the China-Vietnam border which is about 4 hours from Mengzi (Brian's driving his family there in a jeep) and then the hotel comes and picks us up to take us to Sapa which is about an hour from the border. While we're in Sapa, we might get to see some of the Vietnamese students that study at HHU and going home for the Oct. 1 holiday.

Excited about getting to visit a new country!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Students' Sonnets

Here are some of the sonnets that my British Literature students came up with.

To You--My Missing Lover
When I am first time to meet you.
I can't help myself to missing you at the night.
All the happiness feeling come from you,
My heart always with the joy and delight.
For your smile give me much warm.
Like a cup of tea in the winter.
There is no more unharmony and no more harm.
Just so much sweet emotion occupy my heart when it entered.
Thanks to the God let us meet in here.
Unforgottable for your back shadow fades away.
I can't find that in anywhere.
The sweet memory take me in my dream always.
To you, my missing lover, I will waiting for you in my life.
Loving you in this life if only I'm alive.

Autumn Day
We all went home on Autumn Day.
It was a short happy journey.
In my heart, my hometown is never far away.
My love and soul always live in my lovely small country.
It was bright moon to lighten the way home.
I missed my family for Autumn's sake.
I enjoyed the days I followed my mum.
I loved we all set round to eat mooncake.
Peanuts, delicious food and sweets.
Let us eat so much.
Leaving wonderful memory to us.
It was great happiness for each.
How wonderful Autumn Festival!
It was my short and unforgettable travel!

I had four or five other sonnets that I thought were quite good considering it's being written in a second language. One of my the student's sonnet was "Shall I Compare Thee to a Red Apple" and although some of lines got a little confusing, I thought her last two lines were cute.

Happiness, unhappiness of all my life. And, if God blesses,

I would like to be you Mrs.

When I was reading the students' sonnets, a few of them seemed to be a little too good and some of them were obviously not the students' own work. I started checking and found that the students had turned in two Shakespeare sonnets, two poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one poem by a man named Samuel Daniel, and two poems from a Chinese "let-us-do-your-homework-for-you" site. How my ESL students think they can get away with turning in a Shakespeare sonnet and claiming it as their own, I'm not sure. They're going to get a little lecture in class this week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

On the highway going from my university into town, they're building . . . The Colosseum. Why? . . . I have no idea. I guess it's some sort of large amphitheater. Seems a rather odd thing to be building in the small town of Mengzi. I might start getting worried if I hear anything about lions arriving in Mengzi.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buzz, buzz . . . crunch.

I thought I'd already eaten my share of weird foods in China (snake, eel, live shrimp, starfish), but one of the dishes at supper tonight has to make it pretty high on my Top 10 List of Bizarre Foods I've Eaten. The dish was fried bees. That's right, bees . . . as in the insects that make honey. A whole plate of fried bees and fried bee larva. And yes, I ate a bee. And a bee larva. It tasted like chicken . . . just kidding. It was crunchy and just tasted like the batter it was fried in. I don't ever need to eat another fried bee. Maybe this is why we have a bee shortage in America. The Chinese are eating all the bees. I never saw this in Yichang so maybe it's a Yunnan specialty? . . .

Half way through dinner, while our host wasn't looking, Dave made a buzzing sound and threw a bee at me. It landed on my plate and I about choked on my tea. There's just something funny and slightly disturbing about a plate of fried insects on the table.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Birthday Cake at the Orphanage

Rachel's 12th birthday was on Sunday and that morning a Chinese friend unexpectedly gave her another birthday cake. Since Rachel already had a cake that she shared with her friends, Victoria suggested we take the second cake and all go share it at the orphanage. The kids there were thrilled to have birthday cake and they really gobbled it down. Lots of sticky fingers and faces!
These three little toddlers (two boys and a girl) became my buddies since I was feeding them cake. They were a little too small to handle their own piece of cake but were happy to just get bites from me. The little guy in the stroller was happy to just watch. He's a little too young for cake.

Esther and Grace got birthday cake too! Yum!
This little girl is almost 4 years old and is actually on her way to Kunming today to meet her adopted parents who are from Spain.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cotton Candy To Go

I saw this man and his mobile cotton candy machine outside the school gate. The little gas tank powers the cotton candy machine and all his supplies are in his bike basket. He spins out a serving of cotton candy, puts it on stick (see the white cotton candy?), waits for someone to buy it, and then spins another batch. When business slows down, he can just get on his bike and find a better location or head home. I was glad I took the picture when I did because when I walked back by on my way home, he was gone.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mooncake Sonnet

Last week in my Brit lit class, we studied Shakespeare. We discussed Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy, the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, and Sonnet 18, the famous "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" poem. Despite the archaic English words that they've never studied or used, my students did well discussing Shakespeare and I felt academic and scholarly lecturing about Shakespeare and tossing out famous lines like "Deny thy father and refuse thy name!" and "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all."

While Katie and I were preparing for the class, we discussed the idea of having the students attempt to write a sonnet as their homework. To help the students not be so overwhelmed at the idea, Katie had the great idea of us writing our own sonnet, dedicated to Mid-Autumn Festival which is this Monday. Mid-Autumn Festival is a Chinese holiday where families get together, eat a big meal, and (supposedly) gaze up at the full moon while eating mooncakes. Mooncakes are fig-newton-esque "cakes" which can have a variety of fillings inside--fruit jelly, eggs, meat, red bean paste, nuts. After years in China, I've come to the conclusion that mooncakes, while a nice idea, are similar to fruitcake at Christmas time. I just don't like mooncakes and although Chinese people buy them in bulk for the holiday, a lot of them don't really like them all that much either. So anyways, in honor of mooncakes and to give our students a somewhat ridiculous example, here is "Mid-Autumn Sonnet."

Shall I compare thee to a round mooncake?

Thou art just as longed for and desired in fall.

I loathe the taste, yet I eat them for your sake.

My love is as big as the moon yet the cake be small.

Sometimes mooncakes are sweet and taste of strawberry,

This flavor so right, like us, arranged by fate.

At times quarrels make our sweet love contrary,

Bringing to mind cakes of meat, egg and date.

Each year we sit and gaze at the moon so round.

Telling the story of Chang’e* on this day,

We hope that by her lover she can be found,

But if mooncakes abound they’ll be thrown away.

And so my dear if we must ever needs part,

Know that always the moon(cake) stands for my heart.**

*Chang’e is the beautiful women in the mid-autumn myth. She takes her husband's medicine which is supposed to let him live forever. But when she does, she flies to the moon and her lover is only able to see her when the moon is full at the Mid-autumn day.

**Reference to well-known Chinese song “Yue Liang Daibiao Wo de Xin (The Moon Stands for my Heart)”

Although we took a bit of poetic license with the iambic pentameter, the rhyme pattern does match that of English Sonnets which is (literary trivia questions of the day) ababcdcdefefgg. If my students come up with any good sonnets, I'll try to post them.

So far, I've received 15 mooncakes-- 4 Giant sized, 9 medium, and 2 small. I have no idea what to do with them. Hopefully I can find a way to pass them on to people who like them more than I do.

Mobile in Mengzi

Last week, while in Kunming, Katie and I both bought bikes. Kunming had a much larger selection than Mengzi so we bought them there and had them shipped to Mengzi. Wednesday we got a call that our bikes had arrived! Only 20 yuan to ship both bikes from Kunming to Mengzi . . . good deal! But when we went to pick them up, they were disassembled and in boxes. So we had to have someone take them to the Rice's house on a three-wheel bike/wagon which also ended up costing 20 yuan for only about a mile! Victoria helped us get them from there to a bike shop so we could get them assembled and yesterday Katie and I finally got to ride them around Mengzi. From the university into town will be about a 20 minute ride and we'll be able to get around to almost any place in town on a bike. I'm excited for the mobility and all the chances for exercise. I'm not, however, excited about how sore I'm going to be for a while.

I've Got Mail!

Yesterday I got my first piece of mail since I came to Mengzi. Happy day! It was a sweet card from Ruby Neier (my adopted grandma) who goes to my church. So now I know that letters and cards can find their way all the way to Mengzi.

I do love getting cards and mail from friends back home. Here's my address (subtle hint, huh?) in case anyone else wants to send a card all the way around the world :-)

中国 云南省 蒙自县东郊
红河学院 对外合作与交流处 661100
Kimberly Gaugler

China 661100
Yunnan Province, Mengzi City
Hong He University
Kimberly Gaugler

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Phelps Casualty?

I got an email from a fun, sweet student I taught in Yichang at TGU. Her English usually is great, but one paragraph of her email just made me laugh. She's describing the Olympics which she abbreviates BOG (Beijing Olympic Games). That was first time I'd seen that abbreviation so I read it as bog the first time through. Anyways, here's the paragraph:

While in the summer ,i watched the BOG a lot ,and Phepis is an impressing person,he is quite young and not bad-looking,he broke 7 world record in swimming in water cube.and one of Bush’sdaughter wants to have a relationship with him.I think he is very successful and he is a real Amercan,because of his casualty.

Because of his casualty? I'm not exactly sure what she was going for. But I do enjoy keeping in touch with my old students.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Today, thanks to Brian, I have a wireless router in my apartment which Katie, Dave, and I can all share the signal from! Yeah for wireless. Yeah for Brian being so quick to help us! Now I can move my computer off the coffee table and onto the desk where it belongs. One more thing to check of the list of things to get for the apartment.

My surprise class that I learned about at 10:00 last night went rather well. The kids were shocked to see me and clapped for me when I came in (nothing like a boisterous round of applause to boost your self esteem). I might have been the first foreigner that some of them had ever talked to and I was definitely the first foreign teacher for most of them. Their English level wasn't great since most of them come from smaller towns in Yunnan. But, they were eager to try and once they calmed down and got over their nerves, then we could communicate just fine. I . . . did . . . speak . . . very . . . slowly (and for those of you who know me, you know what a challenge that can be for me) and had to use some Chinese, but I came away from the class feeling like it will be a good group of students to teach.

This week is Shakespeare in British Literature--excerpts from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day . . . ")--the analysis of which I will be reading up on and and dredging out of my memory from my sophomore year in college when I took Brit. Lit. Yeah for the internet! How would I prepare for this class without online research? Hark! Annon! Dost thou thinkest mine students canst hither understand such language? Oh how thou dost jest!

I think I bought all the Coke Light at the little drink shop outside the front gate of campus. The older couple who run that shop think I drink a lot of Coke. They should meet my dad. Please restock so I don't have to trek into town for Coke and then lug it all the way back home!

I still don't know my schedule for tomorrow or the rest of the week. I think I'm free tomorrow but it's only 8:00 p.m. so the school still has at least two, maybe three, more hours to call me tonight. I think I have a class Wednesday morning but that could change. My mantra this week . . . I can be flexible . . . I can be flexible . . . I can be flexible.

We have guests here from America. Mike, Mark, and Brett from a fellowship in Colorado that the Rices are associated with. We got to listen to Mike's teaching from the Word yesterday which was a special treat.

Oh . . . I added a new photo to my Olympic Experience post which reiterates how excited Chinese people were about the Olympics.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's 10:00 Sunday night. 5 minutes ago, Andy (the director of the English department) called to tell me I have class at 8:00 tomorrow morning. How can they not know class schedules for tomorrow at 10:00 tonight? It amazes me sometimes that schools in China can function at all considering the lack of any apparent organization or scheduling. But yet, somehow, students in China are educated . . . they just might not know when or where until the last minute.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy birthday today to my wonderful mom. My mom is everything anyone could ask for in a parent and I hope that when I have children, I'm the kind of mom to them that my mom is to me. Love you mom!

Rhino Beetle

Yesterday while playing with Esther and Grace at my apartment, we found this bug on my balcony. Eeek! Yuck!
Thankfully it was dead! Esther, Grace, and I poked it with the broom several times to make sure and showed it to Victoria. Esther thought she was brave enough to sweep it up but in the end I had to sweep the rhino beetle up and throw it over the side of the balcony. Hope I never see one of these things inside my house!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Off to Kunming

I'm off to Kunming today which is about a 4 -5 hour drive from Mengzi (Kunming's the capital of Yunnan province so it's a relatively good-sized city). Hopefully, I'll be able to buy a good stock of Western food that's not available in Mengzi. I'm also in the market for some apartment decorations and hopefully a good quality bicycle. Katie, me, Dave, Caleb, Rachel, and Brian are all riding up in Brian's borrowed jeep (Brian's the brave driver). Brian's actually picking up some American friends in Kunming who will be coming down to Mengzi for a visit.

Will post more when I get back.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Two Rooms With a View

From my living room and bedroom windows and my balcony I get a nice view of the mountains that surround Mengzi.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Shui Tian Village

Friday morning, Brian called Katie and me and asked if we wanted to take a trip out to Shui Tian village (this is the same village we went to with Rices when we visted here last Thanksgiving). The Rice's friend Xiao Yang is from Shui Tian and her parents and sister still live there. Xiao Yang and her husband Li Ma spend most of their time in Mengzi but return to the village to help Xiao Yang's family during the busy farming times. Brian picked up Xiao Yang and her two girls and we headed out in Brian's borrowed jeep.

Scenery on the road to Shui Tian

With Xiao Yang and her two daughters, Yi Li Ya and Yi Li Sa
Helping the Yangs shuck corn which will be bundled and hung to dry. Eventually it will be feed for their pigs and cows.
Xiao Yang's father brings in another load of corn on his back.

Yi Li Ya and Yi Li Sa got to spend the day with their grandparents.We also helped pull peanuts off the dried bushes after they'd been picked, my first time to see how peanuts are grown.

All through out the village, star anise was laid out to dry. It made the whole village smell like licorice.
Me with one of the older women in the village. They're all so tiny . . . I felt huge standing next to any of them.