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.



Asher and I are in Beijing. We came on the red eye Thursday to help a friend who came to the hospital here. Now we are getting ready to run the Great Wall half marathon. Watch for the race report.




A Week in Food


This week we had a few culinary adventures. On Monday, we walked into the High-Tech Industries neighborhood, and we tried a restaurant called Green Molly’s. We read on-line that they had good pizza, so that is what we ordered, but they also had all manner of western food on the menu. The atmosphere was very comfortable, and they had outdoor seating which we would like to try next time.

Tuesday we tried to find the western food grocery store called Ole. We took a bus, but accidentally got off one stop too soon. This led us on a longer walk than we planned, but it was a lovely day to walk near the city wall, so no harm was done. At any rate, we came home with tortillas, cheese, salsa, and Doritos. So we had tacos for dinner and egg burritos for breakfast.

Wednesday night is always pizza night in the Gulley household. Friday we got to attend an amazing bible study at our friend Jabran’s house. On the way home, we bought street noodles and cokes. Saturday, we had Indian food at Redfort. As usual, we ran into people we knew there, and it felt just like home.

Sunday, though, is the best day of the week. This is because we eat halal food after church. Then after dinner, we went on campus to get some coffee, and we ran into Jado! We spent a long time standing around the coffee stand laughing with Jado, Dieudonne, AJ, and Cindy. This was the highlight of our week.


People in Airports


People in airports are often not on their best behavior. Maybe this is due to airport/airline policies and the fact that people are trapped in a space they cannot control. This post is not about them; however, I mention them to provide a contrast for the kindness and comfort I found in airports this weekend.
Yesterday Asher and I were flying back from Hong Kong via Nanjing. Nanjing airport is smaller and older than the Xi’an airport. In fact, we found it hot and cramped and confusing. Our flight had been slightly delayed, so we were worried we would not make our gate in time. We made it with time to grab a water bottle. Then we looked for somewhere to sit thinking we would only be there a few minutes. People were taking up several seats with their luggage. A woman was lounging across three seats and laughing at a video on her phone. Everywhere we looked there was nowhere for us. Finally, we found a spot on the floor. Then a man moved over and made an open seat. It was next to the luggage table, so Asher took the seat and I took the luggage table. We were very grateful. Then it turned out that our flight was delayed, so we had to sit for much longer than we had planned.
When we travel to Hong Kong, we like to stay at the Regal Airport Hotel because it is connected to the airport by a walkway. Then we take the train into town to have adventures. Because our hotel is connected to the airport, we wander around watching people and eating at restaurants. I especially enjoy watching the people in line at McDonald’s. People from all over the world line up for the inexpensive predictable food. (McDonald’s do vary from place to place, but they have coke and fries all over.) In front of us there was a little boy who had an American accent, and he was begging his dad for a happy meal. His dad re-explained to the little boy that he was not getting a happy meal in a non-American accent, and then he spoke to the cashier in Cantonese. She seemed to understand, even though she seemed to be of Indian heritage. My son, who at one point in his life also begged for a happy meal in his American accent, had more in common with the little boy in line that probably anyone else in the room.
But my more important take away from the Hong Kong Airport McDonald’s is that this is what the world should look like. Covered women eating next to Nigerians in business suits. Australian children running around in Easter bunny ears, and elderly Brazilians waiting for their coffee. Thai teenagers ordering fries in English from the Indian girl behind the counter. The whole world wonderfully coexists while eating ice cream.


Top Ten Things That April Brought

1) A surprise holiday (April 4). Tomb Sweeping Day did not impact my work schedule, but I did take a trip to Daming Gong Park on Tuesday afternoon. I paid to walk through the historical palace grounds, and I smelled lilacs and pear blossoms. I also found public art and poetry. I felt like I was celebrating my own private holiday.
2) A New Class. Freshman Intensive Oral English started on Thursday. The students gave impromptu speeches based on which playing card they drew. People who drew spades had to talk about their least favorite household chore. It turns out that most people either don’t like to sweep or to do dishes.
3) Dr Pepper. If you are my Facebook friend, then you already know that we found Dr. Pepper on Thursday evening. This is the first time we have tasted the sweet elixir since we left the U.S. in August.
4) A New Task. I started visiting other teacher’s classrooms. I am supposed to evaluate their oral English teaching ability, but I am collecting data on teaching methods for my own curiosity. I love to watch other people teach. One of the few things I like better is talking to other people about teaching. I plan to do that soon, too.
5) TV. If God wants to bless the heart of a poor man, he causes him to lose his donkey and then find it again. I believe Ted Kooser shared this as an inscription in one of his poetry books, and it is so true. This week we thought we lost our “free” TV, but by the time the holiday was over, we had it back again without doing anything to fix it. So we have the same TV we always had, but now we are grateful for it.
6) Tacos. Thursday, we took a friend to eat TexMex food. We got to witness someone eat their first taco. It was awesome.
7) Horace and Morris but Mostly Dolores. At lunch Jeremy and I were talking about a children’s book we read to our boys when they were little. It has such a great moral, and it is fun to read out loud. I searched on Amazon, and I could buy it for my kindle. So I can read Horace, and Morris, but Mostly Dolores any time I want.
8) Pine branch palm leaves. Today we celebrated Palm Sunday. At church the priest handed out little pine branches to everyone like someone in the U.S. might have handed out palm branches. Father Stephen explained that in this part of China, it is traditional to use pine branches instead. It then occurred to me that the church has been in China longer than the United States has been a country.
9) Manchester by the Sea. We watched this film on Saturday night, and then it lingered in my mind while I slept and on into Sunday. It is haunting and slow. It has a way of reeling you in and then messing with your emotions later. I won’t say more. No spoilers. But Casey Affleck deserved that Oscar.
10) Chinese Class. I’ve been taking Chinese class once a week since October. This week my schedule changed, and my whole class agreed to switch our meeting time to accommodate me. This made me feel so blessed. I can just think back on how kind everyone was to me, and it will carry me through days when the air is bad and the rain won’t stop.

Weekly Update


This week I spent all day Monday and all day Tuesday grading argument essays. Of course, that is what most people do when they are on sabbatical from their jobs teaching writing…they go grade papers in a different location. 🙂 Actually, most of the papers were interesting to read. Also on Monday and Tuesday we went to the newly re-opened Redfort Indian restaurant for their 50% off sale.

Wednesday I taught sophomore writing, and we spent time peer reviewing and discussing subject/verb agreement. And Wednesday night we ate pizza at Fly Elephant. That night I did my Chinese homework at Pacific Coffee. I had to write in characters for the first time.

Thursday I prepared for my weekend conference presentation and attended Chinese class in the afternoon. That night we went back to Redfort for the third time in a week. It was awesome because we met a family from Pakistan who had a darling one year old son who wandered around the restaurant. As we were leaving, our friends Stephanie and Bastian came in and we got to distract them from their dinner for a minute.

Friday, I took my very first tai chi class. I enjoyed it, but I found it surprisingly difficult. I spotted a young man in front of me who seemed to know what he was doing, so I just followed him for most of the class. Friday afternoon, I took a walk with my new friend Selena. She spent a year at JCCC in 2005, and she had pictures of herself with Ellen Mohr and Dr. Carlson. She told me she attended Steve Gerson’s tech writing class.

Saturday and Sunday I attended the International Workshop on Comparative Studies of Language Research and Education between China and the West. This was organized by the School of Foreign Languages at NPU, they invited faculty from a university in Sweden that they collaborate with to also attend. I presented on Sunday morning. My topic was American Teacher’s Attitudes towards MLA 8. I put my project on a padlet, and you can access it here if you are interested

This week, I will go back to grading papers. I also need to prepare for my other two classes (Freshman Intensive Oral English) which begin on Thursday. Maybe I need to track down more Indian food to sustain myself.




Spring finally sprang out of the dark rain and cheered us all up this weekend. On Friday and Saturday, I took long walks in Fengqing Park to drink in the sunshine and admire the flowers floating in the tree boughs. Spring also showed up in my attitude and my satisfaction with my work.

Wednesday, my sophomore writing classes wrote Thank You notes for their journal assignment. I wrote along with them. I felt like I could reframe the rest of my day by saying thank you to someone in both of my classes. By the way, I am especially thankful to my student Camille for writing an essay about turtles. (If you have a turtle that was raised in captivity you should not release it into the wild. It might not be equipped to survive, or it could be an invasive species.)

Thursday, Jeremy and I met with Professor Zhang Fuli to discuss several faculty development projects we are privileged to help with. I was excited to tour the Center for Faculty Development. They actually had a classroom with movable tables. In addition, they had a classroom where teachers could film themselves teaching.

This, of course, led to Friday. I got up early, put on the outfit I was instructed to wear, and tied my hair up. My colleague, Lucy, met me at my gate, and we drove to the video studio where I recorded another educational video. When we got to the studio, I learned that I could leave my hair down (yay!). Also, I needed to re-record my last video. I also recorded a new video on doing library research. Next time, I think I will share my thoughts about notetaking. (I’m sure you are all waiting for the sequel—Outlining—to come out in a theater near you.)

Since the sunshine for two days in a row has made me full of gratitude, I will leave you with a list of the little things I’m grateful for this week. 1) I got a free muffin at Pacific coffee because the employees there are simply nice. 2) I was able to buy street popcorn twice this week. 3) In church, we sang the song I did for my high school choir project (Shine Jesus Shine). 4) I bought flowers and they still smell good. 5) I got to watch over an hour and a half of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince before the buffering became too much to deal with. It has been a good week.