There is no place like home…

Our year in Xi’an China has come to an end. Now that we are home, there are so many things we appreciate that we took for granted before. My comp I students are writing about what they are grateful for this week, and I will join them by making my own list.

  1. I’m grateful for clean air and big skies.
  2. I’m grateful for places to run, swim, and bike.
  3. I’m grateful for my office and office technology like the copy machine.
  4. I’m grateful that we are reunited with our son, Israel.
  5. I’m grateful to have my own car and a valid driver’s licence.
  6. I’m grateful to have meaningful, creative, challenging work.
  7. I’m grateful for my colleagues and students.
  8. I’m grateful for my church.
  9. I’m grateful to have all the coffee I can drink–all the time.
  10. I’m grateful to have a big, extended family near by.

But most of all, I’m grateful that I was granted the opportunity to spend a school year in China with my husband Jeremy, and my son, Asher. We learned and experienced so many things we would have missed had we never traveled. Thank you all for following our journey.


Our Last Day

IMG_2295[1]Today is our last day in Xi’an. Tomorrow we will fly back to Kansas City. Yesterday we started to feel sad. We had lunch at our favorite restaurant—the one we don’t know its name—with our friends Jado and Dieudonne. Then we went to church at St Francis Cathedral one last time. St Francis has been our haven here, and it is hard to say goodbye to it and to all our friends there.

This morning we stopped by to say goodbye to the people who make our favorite breakfast food at the West Gate. We gave some of our plants to our neighbor who keeps a garden. She was the lady who had a duck back in September. We also walked onto the old campus to get coffee from Big Tiger and his mom one more time.

It is hard to believe that most of last week we were in Hong Kong. We stayed at our favorite Regal Airport Hotel again. Then we took the train in to Victoria Harbor and the ferry to Lamma Island. We think next time we come to Asia we will take a writer’s retreat to Lamma Island—the island of no cars. The plant and insect life there remind me of El Salvador and Thailand.

So today we will make the most of our time by saying goodbye to people we will miss. But tomorrow we look forward to seeing our family and friends in the United States again. So today is bittersweet for us.



Vampires Are Afraid of Garlic


Tonight at Pacific Coffee, I learned how to say “vampires are afraid of garlic” in Chinese.  To explain why I carried a bag of fresh garlic (and a full-sized fan) into Pacific Coffee tonight, I should back up a few steps. At church, Professor Wu brought us a bag of fresh garlic from his home village. He thought to bring it because he took us to have lunch with the Bishop of a different diocese yesterday. During lunch, Jeremy and Asher ate whole garlic cloves with their soup. The Bishop and Professor Wu thought they were strong for being able to enjoy so much garlic, and Professor Wu promised to bring them the best garlic in China at church the next day.

On Saturday, Professor Wu—the same one who gave us Chinese Salamanders to keep as pets—took us on the Catholic tour of China. We started at a seminary that also houses and trains nuns. We toured everything from the priest’s room to classrooms, the library, and the church. The whole compound felt so peaceful and joyful. Next, we drove out of town to meet the Bishop. We toured the construction site for the new diocese buildings, and we went into town to eat lunch. In addition to all of this, we toured an old folks home and drove up into the mountains to see salamanders.

By the time we arrived home, we were exhausted. I fell asleep without even turning off the light or brushing my teeth. About one o’clock in the morning, I woke up because tiny vampires (mosquitoes) were biting me all over. I couldn’t find them or make them stop, but after about two hours, I calmed myself down enough to go back to sleep. This morning I vowed to do something to keep the mosquitoes from tormenting me again tonight.

Today, after church, Professor Wu remember the bag of garlic, and we rode the 43 bus to the Tang West Market carrying the garlic with us. We ate pizza at Fly Elephant Pizza with Dieudonne, then went downstairs to the RT Mart to buy a fan. I thought the fan would keep the mosquitoes away. Then, to celebrate our good sportsmanship, we stopped by Pacific Coffee. We tried to give our bus boy friend some garlic when we left, but he refused furiously. Apparently, he really dislikes garlic. I told him he was a vampire—then I had to look it up on pleco the dictionary app to see how to say vampire in Chinese. We had a great laugh together. As we left, Jeremy said if I’d told him this morning he would learn how to say “vampires are afraid of garlic” this evening, he wouldn’t have believed me.



Professional Activities and Goodbyes

Group work

This past Friday, I delivered the second in a series of three workshops on active learning. About twenty people attended, including Jeremy. We discussed the theories behind assigning group work, and then I demonstrated the Think, Pair, Share technique and the Pass the Envelope technique. I also explained how to do Socratic Circles and the ABCs of Reading activities. We had vigorous discussions about how to measure students when they do group work as well as how to engage all of them in the group activity. As with the last time I gave a workshop, we went over by about thirty minutes. I guess next time I should just say that it is a two-hour workshop.

That afternoon, Jeremy and I caught the school bus to the new campus where we helped assess our Freshman students. It seems that the English Department needs some formal way to assess all the students every semester. The Freshmen had been preparing to do a re-telling activity for over a week. They were told that they would listen to a story three times, and then they would have to re-tell it to two faculty members. When they arrived at the assessment, they were told they would listen to an informative text one time and then have to re-tell it. Almost all of them panicked. I felt very sorry for them—as did the other judges. Despite this difficulty, they managed to re-tell the information to us.

In addition to new professional activities, the season of saying goodbye has started. This is normal anytime you live in an expat community or a transient community. I haven’t lived in a transient community for quite a while, so I forgot about it. Last Thursday we had a dinner to say goodbye to two teachers from BYU, Jim and Wendy. They were some of the first people we met when we got here. It is hard to believe that their teaching is over, and they are back in the US now. We also had a lunch to say goodbye to Guilia, an Italian foreign exchange student who has become good friends with the JCCC students.  It won’t be long from now that we will say goodbye to all our friends in Xi’an and come home too.


So Much Has Happened


So much has happened since last week. In fact, so much has happened since this morning. I’ve been interviewed by a media outlet called The Sixth Tone, and photographed by some other Chinese media outlet (maybe CN). No. Nothing bad has happened to me. Apparently, someone is doing a story on our English language mass. I think it could be because the World Wide Day of Prayer for the Chinese Church is coming up soon. It could also be that a short while ago the President of Italy visited China and wanted to attend mass at our church, but at the last minute, the Chinese government wouldn’t allow it. Maybe the story on our church is just to attract tourists. I’ll let you know when the story comes out.

The Sixth Tone story, on the other hand, has to do with some social activism I participated in on Monday. I joined a feminist wechat group. Then I agreed to meet for some activism without asking very many questions about what we were going to do. I was so happy when I showed up at the metro station, and two Chinese women were waiting with signs. They have a picture of a cat who is telling a pig that he can’t touch her even though she is cute. Behind the animals, you can see they are riding on a metro. We walked around with the signs, and we asked passersby to pose with them. We also took the opportunity to share our radical idea that no one should be harassed while riding the metro. Most people received this information very well. I felt so much joy supporting and encouraging my new friends to speak up for what is right.

When the articles come out, I promise to share them here. Until then, I promise to spend the rest of my time in China doing things I love—like riding my new bike, watching my friends perform at international music festivals, filming lectures on APA style, finding weird bugs in Expo Park, and drinking coffee.




The Best Week in Xi’an

With less than two months to spend in Xi’an, I decided to make the most of it. I rode the school bus to the New Campus on Monday afternoon. There I observed a physics class and sat in on the last hour of Jeremy’s teaching methods class. Later, Asher and I took a walk in the park.

My sophomore writing classes are in the middle of their research papers. Judging from their annotated bibliographies, they should be exciting to read. I took their picture to share with two JCCC classes we have been collaborating with. The JCCC classes are now taking finals, but we have four more weeks of class here.

After I teach on Wednesday morning, I go to Chinese class with other foreign teachers. This week we learned a list of twenty new words, many of them I had never heard before. On my way home from class I met a lady from my neighborhood. She shared tiny read cherries with me.

Thursday, the freshmen finished delivering their “TED” talks, and then we watched Andreas Ekstroms’ TED Talk about the ethics of search engines. My students then had small group discussions about the ways the search engines they use in China might be bias.

On Friday, I had the privilege of giving a workshop on Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATS) to the faculty of several different universities in Xi’an. This was the beginning of the best weekend I’ve had in a long time. I felt validated and respected. The workshop was supposed to go for one hour, but we went over by thirty minutes. Then people asked questions, and then we took photos, and then people stayed after to just talk with me.

Saturday, I went with my friends Jado and Dieudonne to the Color Run. It was held in a giant park I had never visited before. The park itself is perfect for running, and it has trees and a river. As you might imagine, tons of people turned up for the run (or really for the color part). We lined up at the front of the start line. They sprayed us with water as the whistle went off. At various points along the course, they shot confetti into the air as the runners passed by. Once I had colored water dumped on me, and near the end people lined up to hit me with water balloons.

Because the race was not timed, the finish line was not so exciting. However, I am pretty sure that I was the first female finisher. (Remember, I lined up at the front. No girls passed me. I’m pretty sure if there was I female winner it would be me.) I thought my friend Dieudonne would be at the finish line, but he was nowhere to be found. Jado and I tried to call him, and we had no luck. So we waited by the spot we were supposed to meet him. When he turned up, he said he came in first, took a short rest, and then ran it again. 😊

Jeremy and Asher asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day, and I said I wanted to eat brunch. So they took me to Peter’s Tex Mex and we ordered an American style breakfast. Then they bought me a Dr. Pepper for later. Later, after church, we had an international fellowship. Asher and I performed in two different skits. I won the bingo game, and we got to see our priest play musical chairs. I think this was the best week I’ve had since I left Thailand.

Great Wall of China Marathon Race Report


Asher and I signed up to run the Great Wall Half Marathon on May 1, 2017. However, we did not exactly train to run the Great Wall Half Marathon. In fact, we did not read enough about the race before we got there. I thought part of the race would lead us through a village before the assent onto the wall. When we picked up our packets, it was clear from the course map that there would be no running around in villages this year.

Monday morning as we rode past the easy part of the wall on our way to the race, we could see tourists climbing very steep stairs. A British woman in the rear of the bus began audibly swearing in terror. At the race start, girls in line for the toilet were discussing their race plans. One girl explained that the half marathon could take up to seven hours. On the spot, I decided that Asher and I needed to change our plan.

I caught up with the race director, and pulled on is sympathy until I convinced him to make an exception for Asher and I. We were allowed to drop down to the 5K. This was wonderful. Because we only ran the 5K, we actually enjoyed ourselves. The first kilometer was a steep incline, but it was not on stairs. The next kilometer and a half were a very steep incline up rickety stairs. (Oh yeah, the Great Wall is really just a gigantic staircase.) Before we knew it, we reached our turnaround, and we got to run down the rickety stairs and then down the steep slope to the finish.

Low and behold, we finished 5th. Then we got to sit and enjoy the mountain setting until most of the 10 Kers finished at about hour 3. It was quite an adventure, and it was the only race I have run since Psycho Summer at WYCO last year. It was wonderful to put on a race bib and line up at the starting line with runners from around the world.