February 2012

Day #14 of Not Swearing.

 

I have to admit, the first week was the easiest. I thought to myself, “Okay, I will be around conservative people for five months, I have been around my baby cousins for longer. I can do this!” And though I have succeeded so far, it has been one of the hardest challenge’s I have done yet.

For the last 3 years, I have made profanities a valuable part of my language. I used them everyday, in almost every sentence. I used various swear words as “filler words” when I was stumped. I used some of them to describe different objects, people, and places. I used them in so many ways, that publicly, I would forget and in front of an audience of strangers, WOO!!! Out came flying an inappropriate talk.

When you are the one being impolite, you generally never notice. To you, it’s okay, because there is Freedom of Speech. But when does it cross the line for you? When do you start to embarrass yourself and duck your head when the ones around you are being socially inappropriate. Yes, there is Freedom of Speech. I encourage everybody to use it, but know when to, and where to.

 

By not swearing, just for these two weeks. I feel like good things are coming my way. Whether you read The Secret or you read personal development blogs, there is always one rule of life: you attract in return the energy you give out.

There is no doubt that the use of vulgarity brings negative connotations to your life. It will only bring frustrations and inconveniences in your realm of happiness.

By not swearing, I feel more secure. I feel more inventive and creative with the words I choose to say. If I cannot find a replacement word, I say nothing. I close my eyes and count to 10. I feel like a lady. Ladies should not cuss in my opinion, it is unbecoming of us and sounds trashy. And I doubt any woman wants to have a reputation of a trucker. Please, let’s leave the swearing to the boys.

It feels amazing to feel respectable and feel tall. To put how I feel with the image I want to portray, is a such an empowering feeling, knowing that it’s all going to be worth it. It helps in shaping my perspective, my views, and my attitude. I encourage people to try this challenge, especially if you are like me and have had a problem with it over the years.

I guarantee this is a life-changing challenge.

Minority Report

When you are in America, you hear hundreds of complains, “Why can’t that person speak any English? Don’t they know they are in America?! LEARN SOME ENGLISH BEFORE YOU COME HERE!”

I used to have that annoyance, too. Until I became the minority. Do you know how hard it is to learn another language? Did you know that English is the hardest language to learn? American-English is my first language and I don’t even know all the words, dialects, and proper forms of grammer. How can we expect someone else to so easily?

Just because people come into a country different from their’s does not mean they have to be fluent. They try the best that they can, even when they have lived in America for over three years. They will always hold ground to their original language and we should never be so arrogant to expect that to change. We have made the minorities feel uncomfortable and wrong for being in this country and being different. Have those who have complained ever traveled somewhere else? Do they know what it’s like to be on the other end of the pond?

It is totally different. It sucks. It sucks to be pushed to the back of line because I am white and don’t know the Chinese language. It sucks to be pointed and laughed at and not have a clue what they are saying to me. I don’t know whether they think I am interesting or pure stupid. It sucks to try so hard to speak slowly with a cashier or store employ and explain to them what I want through simple words and hand gestures.

I am sure they think the same thing. “Why can’t this person speak Chinese??” But I, just like the people in America, am trying the best I can to communicate!!! I am trying to learn the language and give the respect of communicating in their language, because yes, it is their country. I should not expect them to know what I am saying.

I am not saying people who come to America shouldn’t have to know our language, but we need to be patient. People move to new places all the time. It can take years to become fluent in the language. Why should we take that right away from people who wish to come into our country? They are giving us a compliment alone, saying, “Hey! I think America is awesome. I want to live there and do there what I cannot in my country.” Let them learn on their own time.

The next time you are having a difficult time with Spanish speaking customer or a Frenchman or a German guard or whoever it is, HAVE SOME PATIENCE. They are still human and you are not God. You still do not hold the right to get mad at someone for being a little different than you.

You may not have to worry in your home country, but the minute you travel elsewhere, you become the minority. Remember that.

Seven Days Down….

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I have been in China for one week now. I am used to the cold and yesterday, I bought an electric for eight American dollars. Which works great by the way. I am writing this sitting underneath it with only one layer of leggings on. I am used to wearing two or three. I’m still not brave enough to take my zip-up hoodie off.

Up until yesterday, I kept saying I was too cold to even workout until I realized, “I am running out of excuses,” and the majority of what I can seem to think about as I write down my lesson plans for the gym class I teach is, “How can I workout and stay fit during the cold weather, without running outside or laying on the iced over tile in my room?” I have come up with too many ideas to ignore. On top of my current mental 30 Day Challenge of no swearing (which by the way is coming along nicely. One whispered slip up and not a single swear word floating around in my mind.) I think it is time to start a physical fitness challenge again.
Since the weather is cold here, I do not sweat, leaving my body to store anything it can for warmth. Eventaully my cinnamon alliance won’t prove enough when I depend on that only to burn my fat. Nope! As of right now, I still fit in my clothes, but refuse to wait until it becomes too late.

I take in any vitamin I can. The only drinks I consume are water, milk tea, pineapple juice, cold green tea, and hot Jasmine tea. Everyday I eat oatmeal, rice, a banana, a couple different forms of Seafood, and maybe some crackers for a small snack. I haven’t even touched the Chips Ahoy! that I bought last Friday! It’s interesting how undesirable sweets sound to me now, although I can always go for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or a bag of M&M’s…. Some things you just don’t question

It’s hard to find protein here. Our commons area and dorms have no available resources for cooking, so eggs, unfortunately, are out of the question. The meat looks terrifyingly under-cooked. I tend to stray away from it, because it mostly comes along with the body it was in. I will eat the dumplings and I am still wanting to try the hamburgers at the only McDonald’s in town, but other than those two options, I may be turning semi-vegetarian for the next few months. I will be so excited to have a Sloppy Joe when I get back to America!
Also, up and down the staircases, they hang their meats to sausages and animal meat slabs to dry right next to their shoes and clothes. It definitely adds to my intimidation, but I learn to not look as I climb on by.
But who knows, I could also love chicken feet and duck head when I return 😉

The pricing here is absolutely incredible. Although I am learning how to budget, I can’t resist buying three pairs of thick, thick leggings for under eleven American dollars and a filling lunch for 20 American cents. Everything else, I can’t help to question. It shows me the lesson my mom is still trying to teach me: Want or need?
Although I’m not pro, I am taking my baby steps towards becoming in complete control of my finances. In fact, I have already set aside enough kuai for our week long vacation to Bejing, coming up in March!

Speaking of trips, we have 2 three or four day weekend trips available throughout the semester and one more week vacation at the beginning of May. Apparently no other ILP groups, even in the past, have gotten that lucky break. How we got that chance, I don’t know, but I am thrilled about it. That brings me to the word: grateful.

Being in another country shows me how incredibly lucky I am. China doesn’t have any debt, everyone who has a car drives a very nice one, and they make 90% of what Americans use.
However, their sewage system is not strong enough to flush anything other than what naturally comes out of you. Everything, including your toilet paper, gets thrown in the garbage. We were in a village yesterday, getting some fruit at that market and I am 110% positive that I was standing in a layer of feces. My mother did warn me about this and that is what I get for doubting her.

People are constantly washing their hands, because diseases in the water can come easily if the person is not sanitary. They prepare outfits ahead of time, because it takes around 5 or 6 days on average for one small load of laundry to air dry; they do not have dryers in this country.

This is how people live day to day here. This is their normality. Not only must I bow to their outstanding courage (although they are used to it), but I admire their strength to do the things they do and just be happy.
Even though I will be living this life for the next four months (or nineteen weeks, to be exact), I am both honored and extremely grateful for the life I have been given.

When you are taken out of your comfort zone and put into an environment where you are the minority, you talk a little slower and open your eyes a little wider. Suddenly, you hold a lot more respect for the people and things around you. You conserve what you have and take absolutely nothing for granted.

I have survived seven days in a world 100% opposite of the one I am used to. It’s felt like three weeks. I have a little less than 180 days to go and I am joyfully anticipating every moment and experience that comes my way.

And so, I leave America….

 

No, not once and for all. Just four and a half months. As some of you know, I took off on the airplane and headed off the west coast, over the Alaskan Range mountains, and after a two and a half layover in Seoul, Korea, landed safely on the ground in Shanghai, China with my English teaching group.

I don’t know if I have felt any strong culture shock yet, but I have noticed extreme differences. I said to myself, “Well Ash, we’re not in Utah anymore!” And I don’t think I’ve stopped saying it since I’ve been here.

Every time I get in the car, I pray. Even though they have lanes on the roads, nobody in the car who was Asian knew what a blinker was. They give courtesy honks to other cars, letting them know that they are allowed in. If they don’t honk, they merge in anyway. Everything out here is a double-edged sword. It’s quite interesting. Personal space? Forget that! In China, it’s free game for everything. The speed limit is lower and that is actually one of the few traffic laws people abide by. I really believed we were going to get hit every five seconds. We sat so close to each other that we didn’t have to use our seat belts. But what else do you expect with a small van full of ten adults and over 20 pieces of luggage?

The more inland we drove, the more it hit me that, “Wow, I am in a third world country.” The houses that surround Bengbu are old, brown, and look like they are wiped with dirt by a giant hand. They are breaking apart and some don’t even have roofs; some of these roofs are a fabric that is spread and pinned by something holding down the fort. Kids run around the cold weather in hardly any clothes and since this country doesn’t believe in drying machines, every article of clothing is hung out to air dry. Debris feels the streets of this city. In fact, there is so much garbage that they have controlled fires, to burn it to ash and let nature takes its course on it. I was able to get a picture of the burning in action, which you can find in my gallery.

On our first stop of the road trip away from Shanghai, we ate at a small noodle restaurant in the city of TaeChung. There was no restroom in the building, or in the building next to it for that matter. I walked three blocks with one of the other teachers and crossed the street to this small hut, separated into a boys side and a girls side. In the girls bathroom, when you open the stall, there is no sitting toilet, cemented to the ground. It a ceramic hole in the actual ground. There was no toilet paper. When I went to wash my hands, there was no soap. No paper towels. Not even an option for either luxury.

All around Bengbu there is trash floating freely and spit smothered into it. The animals are dirty, and some get cooked. Their sewage lines are so poor out here that when you go to the bathroom, you absolutely cannot flush your toilet paper, no matter what number you go, because it is just too hard for it to disintegrate. Girls, that means also when you to that time of the month… no flushing. It’s not gross, it’s just the way it’s done here. I saw a cook this morning at breakfast who was smoking a cigarette while wiping down the counters and holding a pot of soup.

 

These are definitely not all of the differences I have seen, but the few that stuck out in my mind. I don’t judge it. I don’t hate it. I just notice it. So, let me ask you: While reading this blog, how many times did you gag? How many things did you realize you are grateful for? How selfish did you feel? How much sadness did you have? What were you feeling when you read this post?
I would love to hear your comments, because I felt every single emotion. Not many people think about life being completely different from the norm. But to these people, this IS normal. So what is normal? I am open for discussion.

The House on Marine View Drive

I know what I want to do. What I have to do. I want to learn how to play “I Never Told You” by Colbie Callilat on the guitar (singing included) and sing it to Devan when I get back from China.

Maybe that is Darron’s song.
Is it possible I feel Darron’s energy?

I keep feeling like I’m having dreams of dancing with God (while falling asleep talking to him.) I remember saying, “You know, I don’t care what you look like, the brightness is too bright to even tell. But I believe in you all the same”
And these dreams were so vivid, I was feeling myself still awake and listening to my Pandora and could hear songs like Taylor Swift and an 80’s female pop singer.

But I remember thinking a couple of times in the past, that Maybe Darron died and now he’s looking over me. I don’t know why, I feel like he should be back in Utah by now. Not to be romantic with me, but to just let me know he is alive and healthy. Okay, so maybe I day dreamed about it a few times, but the part about his safety means more.
So I was thinking, “Maybe it’s him? Is he giving me [more than plenty] the signs I have asked for?”

How do you know when you get a sign? How do you know if it’s not a day dream, a wish, a prayer, a scene you want to happen, a scene you don’t want to happen? Is it your conscious that plays out everything and you just pick & choose out of the group and say, “Ummm, I think I like these the best. So, yep! I’m going to go with that.”

When do you decide right from wrong?

 

Well, I’m back writing, from when I just stopped a few spaces above, I have let time pass a little over a half hour. The songs on my Pandora are getting more and more intense. I feel as if they are switching people talking through the songs. I keep having images of me begging God to please keep me safe, images of both Darron and Devan standing above my casket telling me the things they never told me when I was alive, images of Devan and I, images of Darron standing at my doorstep, images of Darron ghosting beside me and watching over me; protecting me from the danger I feel I am about to face.
All of these songs, which are playing on my Kate Voegele Radio (the happiest radio I have, I’m pretty sure on my list) are telling me to leave where I am. To get out. Get out before something comes for you.

There are no curtains covering these windows. The door frame has an eery light coming out from behind it, in the kitchen. I’m in an unfamiliar house and even though my friend Sergio is amazing for letting me stay here, I feel very uncomfortable in this room. In this house. I can almost feel the history. Feel the coldness; and not just from the beach weather air. My hands are shaking, my eyes are burning, and I am too scared to even turn my neck in any direction. I don’t know whether I have an active imagination or not, but I have to leave. I have to get out of here.

[10 minutes go by]

I just tried again to sleep. This is obviously not going to happen. I could sit awake all night, but what good will that do me? I just heard the most terrifying grumble come out of the cat’s throat in the kitchen. There is definitely someone outside my door. I’m frozen.
What was that? A stomp? Did someone just try to stomp on the cat? The cat just hissed back and now there is nothing. No noise… the footsteps moved nowhere. Mind you, the floor is creaky. Even when I walked through the house as I got here, the floor creaked. And I am a fairly light person. Two creaks, and just quiet. Are they just standing there? Are they getting ready to come get me? You should see the position I am holding myself. Arching up from my elbow, propped to lean from my side, with dead locked stare at the door. Waiting to meet whoever is on the other side. Ready to fight, if I have to. Please God, help me.
Again, now, the cat is in a fight with something out there, I hear it coming closer to the door and see a shadow down at the bottom of the doorway. My entire body is bombed with shakes and terror. I can feel my breathing shorten. I can feel the blood draining from my body. I’m about to start screaming and crying. I can feel nothing good in this room.
I need to leave. I need to get out. I’m sorry Sergio, but your house has something evil in it. An evil I cannot explain beyond how I felt.
I need to call my brother.

[just past midnight]

My brother was definitely right about the San Diegon streets being unsafe. I couldn’t wait inside that room for one whole minute. After staring at the door as I am on the phone with my brother, I finally grow the courage to get out of the bed and turn the light on. I keep my eyes locked on the knob as I pull my sweatshirt on and zip my bags closed. I’m holding it closed as I put my shoes on. Pray. 1,2,3 RUN!
As I walk out the front door, I see two of the cats, just staring up at something. Almost in a daze. Staring with protective looks on their faces. I pray for them and leave.
The neighborhood does not make me feel any safer. I am a small girl with a backpack on and a big pink duffel bag. It’s dark outside, and I am not as tough as I make myself out to be. I am no Liam Neeson. I can’t fend for myself. I call my brother and force him to stay on the phone with me until I get into his car. Immediately feeling worlds better.

I slept soundly once I got to his house, by the way.
The house at Marine View Drive, will no longer suffocate me.