Thursday, November 09, 2017

My New Obsession

When I was about 13 years old, my mother gave me a small book of wall paper samples and taught me how to make paper beads.  I remember that at the time, I didn't really see the point.  I think it was partially because they were unfinished.  It was as popular craft back in her younger life, and it was particularly common to use wall paper samples.  I don't know if you can even get those samples today.  Recently I began researching how to make paper beads and I have become obsessed!

I watched a really good video on youtube about making paper beads.  I have to say that many of the videos I watched were not really that good.  But this one is excellent.  If you are interested, here is the link.  Click here.  I learned some really excellent techniques from her.  I have watched every video I could find, and have really come to the conclusion that I need to make a video too.  My main thinking is that I have taken what I have learned and now have put my own twist on it.  Also, I was so obsessed that I would have gladly welcomed another good video.

So three weeks ago I came to China again with my husband for his work.  I brought several things to do while I'm here, but the one thing I've spent most of my time doing is making paper beads!  I made a necklace for myself before I left home, and now I plan on making some for gifts for others.  I actually can't believe how many I've made here in China.  But they are turning out so beautiful, and I think the necklaces will be pretty.

A week or so ago I went with a friend to the pearl market here in Su Zhou.  I did buy some inexpensive pearls for gifts, but honestly, I prefer my paper beads to real pearls!  The lady I bought from also sold me some strands of beads to take back to use in making the necklaces.  I certainly couldn't buy them that cheap back in the States!  I also bought some black necklace cords.  But enough talking, let me show you some pictures of the beads I've been making!

I bought a small plastic box to put my beads in.  Then I decided I really needed some way to sort them by color, so I made paper boxes to store them in, inside the box.  I also bought a plastic box with organizing sections in it, but it didn't have enough walls, so I made some out of paper.  Here is that box:
Here is a picture of the smaller box with the paper boxes inside.  (You will notice I also keep a chart of the color patterns inside the lids):


You use permanent markers to color the beads, and just before I came to China, I bought some metallic ones.  They really make nice beads!





 I decided I wanted to make a patriotic one like one I saw online, so I made these beads.  I will also use the red and white ones in the picture of the plastic box above.
Here is a picture of the one I made for myself.  I added small clear beads in between, and also found some larger pink beads at a good price, so mixed them in too.


Now I can't wait to get home and glaze them so I can start stringing them!  :)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Caution: Geek Post: My Harry Potter Life

I was just watching an interview of Oprah talking with J.K. Rowling several years ago.  It really made me think about my own experience with the Harry Potter books.  Jo Rowling mentioned in the interview that one day she was walking down the street and a young girl popped out of no where and said, "You were my childhood!"  Well, if I met Jo Rowling walking down the street, I would have to say, "You were my second childhood!"  I wish that she had written Harry Potter when I was a child, but I have enjoyed the books just as much as an adult.

The first time I heard of Harry Potter was listening to NPR.  They were interviewing someone about children's books, and she mentioned this new series called "Harry Potter", and briefly talked about the plot of the books.  At that time, we were preparing to go on a family trip from California to Utah, so I was interested to try reading the Harry Potter book to entertain my children on the trip.  When I pulled out the book in the car, my older children were quite insulted and insisted that they could read for themselves, and didn't want me reading aloud.  But I wanted to have the family experience of reading a book together, so I told them that since my youngest child didn't know how to read yet, I would just read the book to him, and they could listen if they wanted, or not.  I read the first chapter, and they were hooked.  They insisted that I keep reading.  After a little while, my voice got tired, so I told them we would have to stop.  They complained loudly and suggested I drive and let my husband read to them.  So that is pretty much what we did for the rest of the trip;  switched places back and forth when our voices got tired.

My husband is a very dramatic reader.  When he reads out loud, he reads it in a way that you never knew it could sound.  He doesn't do it for show.  This is just the way his mind works.  When he was young, his grandmother often read out loud with him.  She would get a book and take him to a nearby park.  They would sit at a table and read aloud to each other for hours.  I credit that with his ability to read dramatically.  He even added voices to his reading, so the kids actually preferred him to read.  I tried to do that, but it just couldn't compete with my husband's abilities.

One thing we did wrong was pronounce the name Hermione wrong.  We had never heard that name before, so pronounced it "Her-Me-Own".  It just so happened that my neighbor across the street was an English teacher, and had studied in England, and was married to an Irishman.  She informed us that it was pronounced "Her-My-Oh-Knee".  And somewhere along the line we realized we were pronouncing Rowling wrong too.  Then one day I heard an interview with Jo where she said that it was "row" like rowing a boat, not "row" like you are having a row with someone.  So now we get it right.

Lucky for us, by the time we found the series of books, Jo Rowling had already written three.  So when we got home, we rushed and bought the next two books.  My kids devoured them.  In fact, by the time the fourth book came out, our other books were so worn out that they were falling apart.  My kids had read them all several times, as had I.  My neighbors had joined the Potter-mania, so when the fourth book came out, they went together to the midnight release of the book at Barnes and Noble.  My kids begged me to allow them go with them.  I let my older children go, and gave them money to buy a hard backed book.  I knew that we would need the better binding.  Repeat that event for every other book release and movie release.

When the movies came out, we all went to the midnight showing.  I know that is late for kids, but you have to realize how huge this was in our family.  But after the first couple of movies, I decided that I would enjoy it more if I weren't so tired, so I quit going to the midnight showing.  I also kept my youngest home.  It was just as enjoyable in the matinee the next day.

I need to insert here that my husband isn't really a Potter fan.  He enjoyed reading the first book, but never tried reading the rest.  I kind of think he is less in touch with his inner child.  ;)  He likes to read history books and more technical things.  He doesn't really understand our obsession.  But I think part of that is because he never continued reading them.  Oh well, to each his own.

I have to say that my experience with the first movie was enchanting.  For me, I was entering a world that was totally new to me.  I've never been to England, and much of the visual images are kind of reminiscent of the 1800's or something.  I relished every little prop and costume.  I had this same kind of experience when I saw Star Wars for the first time.  Star Wars was unlike any other movie we had ever seen.  The special effects were amazing, and unlike anything that had ever been done before.  Harry Potter gave me that same feeling.  It was a world I had never been, and I savored every moment.

My siblings all are Harry Potter geeks too.  We all take those quizzes on Facebook to test our Harry Potter knowledge, and we all score really well.  What can I say?  We are a family of geeks.  And we are all old, and we still love it.

One day I was in a grocery store and I heard the checker telling a customer how she thought the Harry Potter story was evil, and how she didn't think kids should read the books or watch the movies.  I told her that the books don't encourage evil.  I told her that it is all imagination, and that they don't teach actual witchcraft.  None of the spells in the books actually work!  I told her it was no different than watching "Bewitched" on television.  She smugly answered, "Exactly."  Really?  She doesn't even watch "Bewitched"?  Well, there is no hope for that kind of person.  Hey, listen, I am LDS, and I am VERY religious.  If I thought the books would sway my children to become evil, or follow the devil, I would not allow them to read them either.  But I read them for myself, and I can tell you that they actually teach children that there is good, and there is evil, and that good can over power evil.  And I think also they actually teach children to recognize evil.  As Harry says in the first book, "I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself...".

I also like that the books actually help children learn coping skills.  They teach what to do if sadness and despair overwhelm you.  They teach what to do if you are frightened.  They teach about courage, love, and loyalty.  Good can come from many sources if you are wise enough to listen.

My kids are grown now, and we don't read out loud to each other anymore.  But we do occasionally listen to the books on CD.  Jim Dale did and AMAZING job reading the books on CD!  My favorite one to listen to is, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" because the voices Jim Dale created are so wonderful!  And I do really love the beginning of that story.  My sister listens to the books on CD every morning as she is getting ready.  She has done this for years.  I usually only listen to them as I'm driving long distances.  I have listened to other books, but the Harry Potter books are like a familiar friend that I keep going back to revisit.

It's cliche to say it, but I am pretty much like Alan Rickman who was asked how long he will be reading Harry Potter, and responded, "Always".  I do have other books I read, but every so often I think about the Potter world and want to go back for a visit.  It's pure magic!






Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Chicken Feet

The other day I saw a restaurant that specialized in chicken feet.  I noticed that the character for the chicken's foot actually looked like a claw.  Evidently that didn't sink very far in to my brain though.  Here is a picture that I took of that restaurant.

Today I went to another restaurant and decided to get some beef noodle soup.  They don't put many vegetables in it, so I looked on the menu and saw a section titled "small vegetables".  One of the characters on the sign looked like "gua" which could refer to some kind of squash.  I took some chinese classes in college, but my reading ability isn't very good, and here in China they use simplified characters instead of complex ones.  I learned the complex ones.  Well, sort of learned them.  I read about the same level as a first grader.  When I asked the waitress about the "gua", she replied using a different tone.  I should have had a clue then, but I thought maybe I just remembered the tone wrong, or maybe because of her dialect she said it differently.  So I ordered the "Dong gua".
Here is what they brought me:
I should have remembered the character from the chicken toes restaurant!  I thought to myself that maybe I could learn to eat it.  I honestly tried, but couldn't eat it.  I even tried to just gnaw it a little so that it would look eaten when the waitress came to clean up my dishes, but I didn't really get very far with that.  It was just repulsive to me.  I remember as a missionary being served chicken's feet once, and failed at eating it then too.  I just can't get past the texture.  It's not just skin, it's soft, almost gelatinous skin.  And honestly, then I tried nibbling on the claws, but immediately pictured in my mind the chicken scratching around in chicken poop.  I couldn't eat it.

The beef noodle soup was delicious, but a little spicy.  So after lunch I went to the convenience store to buy a container of milk.  But once again, my characters were so bad that I couldn't tell what was what.  I finally asked the store attendant if the milk I was looking at was yogurt milk or fresh milk.  It was yogurt milk.  I like yogurt milk, but that wasn't what I wanted.  Finally I saw a small bottle of milk that had "milk beverage" written in English on it.  I bought that.  It turned out to be sweet, coconut flavored milk.  It tasted good, but alas was not what I had wanted to buy.  So I'm learning.  Very slowly......

And speaking of food, my husband and I went out to eat hot pot.  It actually was very good.  But we had a stomach ache all the next day.  We won't be going back.
Tonight we ate Papa John's pizza.  It was okay, but after eating Chinese food every meal for the past week, it was kind of heavy.  The last thing I want to try is a shrimp/rice patty burger with mango at Burger King.  I am curious to see how it tastes.  I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Drifting Between Two Worlds

I'm back in China for 6 weeks.  It's such an odd sensation to go back and forth between the two cultures.  It's not a bad feeling, just weird.  I actually feel very at home in China.  It also takes a few days to get my mind back in the language mode.  This city has a slightly different accent than where we used to live, so it takes me a few days to get accustomed to the accent.

We have been hotel hopping trying to find one that suits us.  Last time we were here we stayed in the same hotel the whole time.  It wasn't the most convenient location, but the room itself was the best.  It has a small kitchenette and a washing machine, as well as a refrigerator/freezer.  This hotel has a tiny refrigerator, but nothing else.  We are still trying to figure out the best way to do our laundry.  We will try an air B&B next week.

One thing I'm really enjoying here is the food!  We eat out all the time, so it's always an interesting experience.  Breakfast is a buffet here in the hotel.  I love Chinese breakfasts, so that is always my choice.  My husband tends to stick to the American eggs and bacon.  My breakfast usually consists of:  fried rice, two different stir fried vegetable dishes, a small sausage, a few steamed meat buns, some rice porridge with pickled vegetables, hot soy bean milk, some fruit, and some bread pudding.  Yes, I will probably gain weight here!  For lunch, I go next door to the mall and go downstairs to the food court.  One day I ate beef noodle soup.  Another day I had chicken curry with rice, vegetables, and mushroom soup.  Today I ate dumplings and a cucumber salad.  But tonight I had a stomach ache, so that food might have not been very fresh.  I won't eat there again.  For dinner tonight we went to an excellent restaurant!  We had some barbecued pork/chicken with rice and vegetables, an egg and shrimp dish, and a DELICIOUS eggplant dish!  It was eggplant stuffed with a rice cake, seasoned with a spicy sweet sauce.  I will definitely be going back!

Last night my husband and I took a coworker out grocery shopping.  He is an intern from Germany and is having trouble finding food he can eat.  He is a picky eater, so coming to China is especially difficult for him.  It is very difficult for me to understand, but he doesn't eat vegetables or fruit!  How can a person go through life with no vegetables or fruit!!!  I just can't comprehend it.  After helping him shop, I asked my husband if a young man like that can actually live off of coke, ice cream, and cookies.....   No, actually he did buy some meat, noodles, cheese, milk and bread too, so I guess he will survive.  He is still young, so maybe he will change his eating habits as he gets older.

The other day we took the subway to go to church.  On our way home, as we were almost to the door of our hotel, I heard a big crash!  I looked and saw that a young woman driving a scooter had tipped over.  I ran over and asked if she needed help.  She was clearly shaken and had hurt her leg.  I helped hold up the scooter while she gathered her things.  The side mirror had broken.  She explained that she hadn't seen a small lip where the sidewalk dropped off.  My husband thought maybe she was embarrassed that I helped her.  I told him I felt she was embarrassed that she had tipped over, but was actually glad that I helped her.  It's hard to know how things are viewed in each culture.  But I think overall she appreciated my help.

Oh, back to food for a minute.  Burger King has tailored it's menu to the Chinese palette.  They have a shrimp/rice patty served on a bun with a couple of slices of mango.  I'm kind of interested to try it.  They also have a very strange looking chicken burger that is served on a black bun with dried pork on top.  The pork looks kind of like hair.  If I can get it to post, I will insert the picture I took of the advertisement on the subway.

Well, if I can continue to get my VPN to work, I will post again.  I can't get on to Facebook, but I can check blogs and watch youtube.  Go figure.




Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Back to China

I'm back for another round of China.  This time my stay will be about 6 weeks.  I think I won't be coming for the rest of the year though.  My husband has to keep his weeks in China to about 26, or he has to pay more China taxes.  At this point, his company doesn't want any expats, so aren't willing to pay the tax burden.  So this will be my last visit until January.

I boarded my plane in SLC, bound for SFO.  I ended up sitting next to a very large man whose upper body spilled over in to my seat.  His arms took up the armrest, and I had no where to put my arms.  It was a full flight, and I felt sorry for him that he didn't fit, so I just made do the best I could.  I found that when he fell asleep, he would cross his arms across his chest, and that gave me room on the armrest.  He slept most of the flight.  But about 20 minutes after we boarded, while we were still taxying on the runway, the pilot informed us that SFO was turning us back.  We had to go back to the gate and wait for 1 1/2 hours before we could depart.  I began to be very nervous because that would put us in SF about 11:30.  My international flight was at 12:00.

As soon as we arrived at SFO, I hurried out of the plane (after waiting for my carryon to be brought up from the belly) and asked the first airline employee I could find how to get to the international terminal.  I have been in the airport a few times, but it had been awhile, so I couldn't remember very well.  I walked as quickly as I could, and when possible I even ran a little.  My feet are so bad that running is difficult.  As I hurried away, I heard the employee calling out to me that I should take the "red line" on the air train, and go to the first stop.  I walked for about 10 minutes and finally came to the air train.  Next I came to the security check point.  I had about 20 minutes before my flight was due to leave.  I was praying that God would delay the plane.  I got in the security line and noticed a drug sniffing dog coming by.  Suddenly he keyed in on a man in front of me, and sat down next to him.  The TSA agent caught the eye of another agent and gave him a knowing look.  They took that man aside, but I don't think they found anything.  He was Chinese, so the dog could have been smelling Chinese medicine.  But just to make sure, they made us all walk a large circle so the dog could sniff us again.  Meanwhile, the clock was still ticking.....

Actually, because we had to walk in that circle, we were directed to a TSA precheck line that didn't require us to remove our shoes, or take laptops out of our luggage.  It made my security check even quicker, for which I was thankful!  The minute I got my bags, I took off again as fast as I could.

I finally got to the international terminal, and went as quick as I could to my gate.  I hurried right up to the door, but the employee there stopped me.  I said, "Have they already left?"  She said, "No, we don't board for ten minutes."  They had been delayed, but didn't post it on the board!  I was so relieved!

I got a perfect seat in the plane.  It was the last row of the middle seat, and I had the aisle seat.  Another woman had the opposite aisle seat, and the seats in between us were empty!  We both felt so lucky!  What a great flight!

My only problem with the flight was that when I arrived in Shanghai, I realized that my luggage had not arrived with me.  Although I made my flight, my suitcase didn't.  Fortunately, I had slipped some clean under clothing in to my carryon before I left home, so at least I could put on clean clothes the next day.  I wore one of my husband's casual shirts, which looked like a tent on me.  I gathered it at the side and tied a knot.  At least it wasn't a dress on me.  The airline delivered my suitcase to our hotel the next day.  So all's well that ends well.  But next time I think I will put a full change of clothes in my carryon.

I'm already enjoying the Chinese food again.  Our hotel has a wonderful buffet breakfast, and then my husband and I go out for dinner in the evening.  I usually grab something quick for lunch.  I love Chinese food!

The weather here is a little trying for me.  We have typhoon weather, so it is actually cooler than normal, but is still in the 90's with 80% humidity.  I think today will be close to 100 degrees F.  Ugh.

Last time I came, we went to Hong Kong for a few days.  I love Hong Kong and wish I could live there some day.  I was kind of wishing I didn't have to go back to China when our trip was over.  But when we arrived in Shanghai, I realized that I feel very at home in China.  I've lived here for about 4 years of my life, and it does feel very normal to me now.  The people here are wonderful, so I really have nothing to complain about.  Oh wait, except the pollution.  :)

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Forgiveness

I have always been terrible about forgiving.  It takes awhile for my "mad" to wear off, and even then, I feel like I have a memory like an elephant.  I remember the offense for a long time, and often think about it.  My husband is just the opposite.  He gets over anger quickly, and then promptly forgets the offense.  Weeks later he can't remember the details, while I remember every word.

Recently we had a very offensive thing happen with a neighbor.  Certain offemsive comments were made to us.  In the moment, I tried to be tolerant.  I tried to be long suffering,  I tried to bite my tongue and keep the peace.  My daughter was in the next room, and came out and put the person in their place.  Part of me wanted to just try to keep the peace.  Part of me was cheering my daughter on.  You would think that after that flare up, and after my stating our position, that would be the end of the problem.  But no, the neighbor went on to be offensive to my sons while we were in China for a month.  I wrote an email to the neighbors.  I started out trying to be tactful, but I have to admit that my anger came out and I wrote a few sharp things.  The neighbor replied, and said they never meant to be offensive.  But honestly, it wasn't much of an apology.

In our scriptures, we are taught that we can "reprove at times with sharpness"but show an "increase of love" thereafter.   (Not an exact quote). I did write an email thanking this neighbor for something nice they did for me.  I also have greeted her when I have seen her.  But that's as far as it has gone,  frankly, I think we are both trying to avoid each other.

One of my problems with forgiveness in this situation is that now I don't trust them.  They have revealed themselves to me, and I haven't liked what I saw.  This is perhaps the hardest thing about forgiveness that is hardest for me.  I might be able to accept them as friends again, but I will probably always keep them at a distance.

So as I've been thinking about this, I thought of the dog training done by Cesar Milan.  One thing he does is provide psychological exercises for the dogs.  For example, he makes them lay in a calm state while listening to loud noises that frighten them.  As the dogs practice these exercises, it is amazing how quickly they overcome their fears and bad behavior.  I've begun to look at these experiences with my neighbor as a psychological exercise for us.  It helps me to think of this as an opportunity for me to learn to forgive.  I'm still struggling with the forgiving part, but thinking of this as a sort of spiritual exercise has helped me to look at these neighbors differently.  I'm not a person that lets go of things easily.  Call it tenacity, or stubbornness, or just pride, but I tend to hang on to things.   I would like to learn to be able to wholely forgive and forget.  How does a person get things out of their mind?  If you have any suggestions, please pass them on.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sinofied

I'm not even sure if "sinofied" is a real word.  But to me, the meaning is "to become Chinese".  I feel like in many ways I have become "sinofied".

One of the things I first noticed after coming back to China is how normal everything seems to me.  I went to a grocery store, and things I would have never bought before looked good to me now.  It so easy to sink back in to every day life here.

I look forward to eating the food.  I happened to mention at church that I haven't really been cooking during this visit.  The woman at church said incredulously, "What do you eat?!"  I was kind of dumbfounded, and plainly answered, "Chinese food....".  I love Chinese food, and I can't imagine not liking it.  I was talking to a friend who has been to China several times.  Her husband led a touring group from BYU.  Another friend asked us both, "Is Chinese food good?"  She and I answered at the same time.  I answered "Yes!" and she answered,"No!"  I told her that one reason she probably didn't like it was that she spent a lot of time at resorts.  My experience with resorts is that their food isn't very good.  I told her that if she went to a regular restaurant, she would like the food.  But later she did say to me, "Me and China don't mix."

I have to admit that I didn't always feel about China the way I do now.  As a new missionary, there were many things I wasn't used to.  Back in those days, cilantro wasn't really a part of the American diet.  When I first ate it in Taiwan, I didn't like it.  But through the years I have developed a love for it.  There are many other things about the culture that although I wouldn't choose to live them, I understand them and can accept them.

Although I might understand the culture, there are still things that I haven't really incorporated in to my psyche.  Let me give you an example.  The other night we went out with some friends to a part of "Old Su Zhou".  My husband, and the other man had a conference call they needed to attend by phone, so they went to a nearby McDonald's to find a quiet place to have their conference.  Me and the other co-worker, a woman, walked around the square window shopping.  While we walked, I mentioned to her that I hadn't been able to find any greeting cards in SuZhou.  I wanted to send some thank you notes to some people back in the States.  Today she is flying back to her home in Singapore.  This morning my husband remembered she had given him a small package for me.  It was a sack with some Chinese greeting cards in it!  The Chinese are so good at doing this.  I know they do it, but I have never really made it part of my thinking, so it didn't even occur to me to buy a present for her.

I guess you can take the American out of America, but you can't take America out of the American.  But I do think that China is sinking it's way in a drop at a time.  I do think I"m slowly becoming "sinofied".