Cheer: The Modern Wash Day Product

Today is laundry day once more. Laundry day consists of trips to the post office, buying coffee out of the vending machine to get coins for the washer, cleaning, grocery shopping and desperately looking for places to hang my clothes (everyone else appears to be doing laundry as well).









Laundry day for many people occurs everyday. There are always many many clothes hanging on hangers outside of buildings, on the street outside family owned restaurants, and hundreds of stories above the road in high-rises.

I love to sight see, I also love to observe life in Shanghai. (You may have noticed this by the sheer number of mundane things that I discuss in these posts–I will spice this one up with some photos.)

Monday afternoon I went exploring a bit after my experience at the post office. I wandered through some streets close to campus. The most fascinating thing that I saw was a market that I’m supposing is where many many Chinese shop. The market was filled with many shops/stalls in a large covered area. They sold everything from roasted sparrows with all their body parts still in-tact, to cucumbers larger than that of a child. Additionally, large cracker-barrels were filled with live crabs, some scorpion like creature,  什么的。 (That’s how you say ‘etc.’)

And speaking of odd animals, being sold on the street I have seen Goldfish in little balls that you carry on a string, crickets in little cages, live fish for butchering, live rabbits, small turtles, and today I saw a woman with a duck in her grocery bag hanging next to her purse. . .  and casually strolling down Yanchang Rd.











As far as food goes I would like to have it known that I did try a fish that was infact a whole fish, with bones and eyes still in it, it happened to be fried, which is besides the point. I did try it though. I’ve been getting lots of spring rolls 春专. Coffee is either instant or bottled/canned. And of course all the weird/delicious breads from the Bakery across from the South Gate.

Tonight Valerie and I went down to the Bund, it was absolutely beautiful this evening. The Bund is a German area (built in the early 1900s) with gorgeous European architecture and PRC flags blowing in the fierce wind by the Huangpu River. The river divides Pudong and Shanghai. Similar to Manhattan and New York City. The shopping is similar as well, but the bargaining is much more fantastic.











Haggling is an art, and I’m not always very good at it. I will say I got a few things that I could have easily found for cheaper, I got totally ripped off for being too ignorant and appearing too excited. There’s a trick to looking about half interested and being willing to lose the deal. A few days ago a few of us went to what we call the 买的东西地方。 Or “The buy stuff place.” It’s a market filled with fake knock-offs of famous things, anything from your Rolex watches and Swatches, to pirated DVDs, to cheap jade and pearls, your fake Jucci Courture, silk, TOMS, and any number of other items. And this place barters. I got a few decent deals, a Qipao (traditional, early Communist Era dress), a pair of fake TOMS (The human rights activist in me is dissapointted in myself), and a really great gift for my little brother which is a surprise and thus must not get to him via web (though I doubt he’d read my blog post). For one particular item I saw, I was mildly interested, so I ask “多少钱?“ “200 Yuan” is the answer. I widen my eyes and stare at him, “too expensive” I say. I name my maximum price as 10, he tells me I’m crazy, so I leave. He chases me down and says 20. I say no. I get it for 10. I have a lot more confidence in my haggling skills now.

I’m hoping to go back down to one particular market on Nanjing Rd. They sold some great items, like Mao’s little red book, lots of pretty chopsticks, tea-sets, jade, pearls, fans, and notebooks with Cultural Revolution Propaganda posters.

I began this post after Calligraphy today when Valerie called and wanted to go down to the Bund. It’s 10pm now and it’s like I’ve gone backwards in time, I’m still sitting, drinking the weird orange juice, typing up blog posts, and trying to get my episode of Glee to load enough to not stop 100x during a song.

All in all it’s been a good day. I hope to use even more Chinese tomorrow. I ought to study, that would improve my level of immersion most-likely. First I’ll go get my laundry, it should be dry now.

Day22 out of day 37. Signing off at 10:11 pm, 5/31, Shanghai, PRC.


Today I went to the post office. I said two words from the time I left campus to the time I came back. I found the office on my own. I didn’t have to ask for directions. Sometimes people get frustrated with my limited vocabulary. Sometimes they don’t say anything at all. Which is fine by me I suppose. I wish I could have asked what the stamp he showed me when he took my letters was. I should have tried to ask. Instead I nodded. It said something in French, I suppose it meant air mail. He didn’t have me put stamps on them. . . . I guess he did that. I hope they get back home. Though, I’ll be home possibly before they get there. It’s alright I suppose.

It cost 24 块 to send. 6 per card. There are lots of kuais. The one for money literally means “chunk.” Another Kuai is for chopsticks, and another is for quickness. 快 块 筷。 Fast, Chunk, Chopstick. You have to pay attention to the details. The first kuai as a dot then a line then a dot and then the radical. 2 dots. One stroke. The second has 3 strokes. The third looks like the first but it has another radical on the top. 你不明白?Did you understand that?

You have to really focus. Sometimes instead of saying nothing to me, people say too much. They talk so fast, they have weird accents I’m not used to, they don’t understand my northern Chinese, southern American accent. It’s hard to put your whole mind into what they say.

Classes last 4 hours. I’m not even sure my teacher speaks English. It’s hard to focus that long on each word, to consciously translate it every time. I forget I am there. I wander off. . . .

I wonder if my post-cards will make it to the US. Communication back home is frustrating. Sometimes things don’t work like they should. Sometimes my internet shuts down, sometimes my vpn won’t work, sometimes it takes 2-3 weeks to send a letter.

I can’t believe people used to do this before phones and internet. I can use facebook during breaks in class (usually) via my iPhone. So many people whose travels I read did it all without anything but a letter, maybe not even that. I doubt Mary Slessor could mail letters from central Africa in the Jungle. I am not that brave.

In fact I am not very brave at all. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. I get scared that I won’t learn enough, that the weeks won’t go by fast enough, that I’ll spend so much time worrying that I won’t learn enough, that I’ll spend too much money, and what about after I leave, will I forget everything I learned? Will I spend months more learning Chinese with no avail? I wonder why I am so blessed to do this? I’m scared that I’ll abuse the purpose. I wish I knew what God was doing sometimes.

Some days I’m pretty sure I’ve got it all together.

Other days I don’t think I can.

Those are hard days.

Days in need of faith.

My throat hurts and I don’t know whether I’m holding back tears or I have a cold.

谢谢呀。 The only words I said to the post man.

Looking at Poverty but Seeing People

I won’t say that I have seen a lot of poverty, but I am aware of it, I have seen it. The poor have always been close to my heart. The places I saw in Colombia were nearly unbearable situations, shanties made of found materials, entire peoples displaced by guerrilla warfare, 12 year old children taking on the financial burden of a family. . . it goes on. The people were stunning, they were brave, many of them had firm faith. I watched many smile. I was invited into homes with dirt floors filled with smiling faces. It was obvious who had hope and who did not.

The poverty in Shanghai is different from what I saw in Bogota. China has no middle class. There are the very rich and the very poor. On one block I may see a Ferrari and a fisherman gutting some sea creatures. Each street is different and obvious according to class, some even vary building to building. I thought I was prepared to see both rich and poor but some of the poverty has been entirely shocking and difficult to stomach.

I may have seen one or two people begging for money, Stephen and I were even approached one night outside Starbucks, a woman was in tears and needed some money. I’ve seen homeless, and suffering, and hurting. What I have seen in Shanghai does not compare to what I have seen previously. There is nothing to prepare you for the discomfort you face at seeing these people so frequently.

Begging is simply not uncommon. I have seen old men who are obviously disabled (one man only had one leg), their bones show, their clothes hang on them like rags. Everyone shuffles to avoid them. I was told enough foreigners would give them money. I Twice I have seen people on the Subway trains, they carry a sound system with a mic and sing depressing songs, one was preceded by a woman scooting on the ground, the other held the hand of a small child. I saw a man lying on the ground as if he was dead, another man was screaming out, no one looked up too much. I saw a man lying on the ground on his stomach, I passed him going to Nanjing Rd. I passed him coming back. 3 hours must have passed. He was dirty, his hair was mangled at best, I couldn’t see his face because he kept it towards the ground. He didn’t even seem human. . .

And my heart breaks as I say it. He didn’t even seem human. And how could he? Who treats him as a human? He was alone, lying on the street, and no one did anything. He’s not the only one. The others I mentioned, who sees them? I have fallen into the trap with the others. Like the Levite I cross on the other side. Everyone else is lowering their head, everyone else is saying someone else will give, everyone else is questioning their motives. Are they really as poor? Couldn’t they sell their mic and not beg professionally? I’ve said it myself.

One thing is for sure, a person who begs is poor of spirit. They have lost hope. How wretched would it be to not only be without food, shelter, clean water, but to have no communication with another living soul, because to those who are living, you are not even human.

It’s so uncomfortable to see that it is easier to lower your eyes, to say nothing to them–how could you fix it? What would you say? “I won’t talk to them” I tell myself, “what could I say?. . . My Chinese is so bad. . . . they wouldn’t understand.” I gave what I had to a man who trailed our group after we arrived in Suzhou. He was a lovely old man. I smiled at him, but said nothing. I think that is my biggest regret. I didn’t want to make a scene, I didn’t feel like I had the time to attempt to tell him something, or anything, even when there’s so much I could have communicated, even without words. He smiled back and told me thank you, and then I followed the rest of my group.

We took a bus to Hangzhou a little while later. I leaned back in my seat and began to study what was outside. There were fields dotted with shacks similar to what I had seen in Bogota. A few workers were out in the fields wearing their straw hats, harvesting brown stalks. Some fields were surrounded by concrete buildings that looked as if they could nearly fall in. Laundry hung outside the block windows. They looked like barracks but I think they were work units: or communes. Many times I had to search between trees or over the tops, straining my eyes to see the rural areas. They were hidden from our view, as if someone didn’t want us to see.

I began to think about that. To really pray about it. We ask all these pointless questions, how poor must someone be to be in poverty? How their wrong methods make them unworthy of help? What if they just buy drugs with what we give them? People don’t associate with this class, especially the beggars. Yet, Jesus himself was homeless. He knew what the religious scholars were talking about, but he associated himself, not only with them (whom may have been hypocrites), but the real dregs of society: the lepers, the prostitutes, the crippled. . .  the beggars. He encountered beggars, they were in all the public places. They were despised by the Jews “and the Jewish communities are forbidden to support them from the general charity fund (BB, 9a; Yoreh De`ah, 250, 3). But the spirit of the law is evinced again in that it is likewise forbidden to drive a beggar away without an alms (ha-Yadh ha- Chazaqah, in the place cited 7 7).” (

Jesus gave more than alms. We open our eyes to look at poverty. Jesus looks at poverty but sees people. We often remove ourselves from the situation emotionally, physically, spiritual. Jesus is present. I’ve heard some talk of Jesus’ eyes. I know they must be beautiful beyond measure. You can see his love in them. When he looks at someone he doesn’t lower his head and peer out avoiding eye-contact, I bet he looks deep within with such love and raw emotion and passion for whoever he sees. He associated with those who make the rest of us uncomfortable for the most part. He reminded they, themselves, that they were worth being looked at, being smiled to, being helped, being human… and to be human is to be made in the image of God, and he has made us worthy because of the price he paid for us. He has made us priceless. The outcasts are included. No one is turned away. His arms are open. Ours should be too.

Tomorrow when I’m out on the streets of Shanghai once more I desire to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and seeing people as he sees them, treating them how he would treat them, and loving them.


Appalachia and Shanghai

I’ve spent much of my life dreaming of leaving Appalachia and coming to China, primarily the cities. To not talk with a Kentucky accent, but be purely bilingual with clear tones and pronunciation. To avoid listening to bluegrass music. I preferred 12 Girls Band, and traditional Chinese folk music to the sounds of my hometown. Growing up in Berea and dreaming of Shanghai I was immersed in my own culture while studying the other. These past few days I have found myself immersed in the culture of Shanghai while professors from the Appalachian Studies program at the University of Kentucky have been teaching seminars on practically my hometown.

It’s a little surreal. Berea and Shanghai both are. Berea is hard to explain, they love crossing cultures, being liberal hippies, everyone is vegan… they all like mandolins, banjos and everyone has been part of the Festival Dancers… which I was part of… and I was actually asked the question by 3 people in Shanghai, one from Berea and two Berea-lovers.

I spoke with one of them today– A fiddler from Clark County. I could tell he loved Berea before he spoke a word. Maybe you can just always spot someone from where you’re from. We stood a midst the Chinese looms and he asked me if I’d ever heard of Churchill Weavers. I laughed. Of course, I am from Berea. He pointed out how amazing it was that all of this had come together at the same time. I am blown away and I’m having trouble processing the two cultures I maybe know best. In many ways they’re both part of me.

I also have a lot of critique on both dialogues from both sides concerning the cross-cultural communication. So I guess it’s good that I’m majoring in both. I also possibly found a senior thesis already.

I’m entirely curious as to what God is up to and it’s really exciting.


I have been in Shanghai close to a week now. Every day is fairly different. I’ve eaten some amazing food and some not so amazing food. Everything that I don’t like I figure makes a good story.

Sunday I was pulled into helping in a Tea Ceremony. Myself and 5 other 外国人(Foreigners, something we hear frequently) performed the ceremony. I assisted. It was quite a cultural event. We wore red qipaos (some traditional Chinese dress) and performed on stage and quite a few people watched in the square. It seemed like a very big deal, I only followed the tea master and carried her tray of tea to the guests after she had properly prepared it. I was at the ceremony for nearly 3 hours waiting through other tea special type performances.

Monday I took my Chinese placement exam and did very poorly. You can imagine my disappointment in speaking so badly when I have studied for so long (A fragmented ten years). My knowledge is not exquisite, but I am excited that I was able to move up to the higher level today and feel comfortable. We take 4 hours of Chinese a day and study, plus the immersion of being in the country. Many people do not speak English.

One of our waitresses did speak English, however. After Monday night’s 火锅 (hot pot) and the lunch of unknowns yesterday afternoon our group of 11 UK students were ready for something we understood. Hot pot is a complicated dish which is cooked at the table. You have a pot with fire under it (火 means ‘fire’ interestingly enough trains are called “fire cars” when translated literally and you cook the raw foods on the table. I’m really not sure what I was cooking or what I was cooking it in that night. Tuesday’s lunch was complete with fish eyes… and the rest of the fish too.

Last night we ate at a pizza hut in the shopping square. The pizza hut was a fancy sit-down restaurant and fairly formal (they also served wine, rice, and a plethora of other items like waffle fries (which I passed on, six weeks away from CFA is six weeks away from CFA)). However, the pizza did taste like pizza. We were served pizza by Shanghai U that had corn and lychee on it. Lychee is a type of nut but it tastes like kiwi.

I had my first day of classes yesterday. 4 hours is a long time to spend on a subject, but I am excited that Chinese will be my only subject this term and it is the only thing I have to focus on (besides learning how to live in the city and the dorm). I am preparing to study Chinese and read my book for the summit I am taking part of on Appalachian and Chinese cultures.

Living in Shanghai I feel like I’m in a different world entirely. The removal from my first world was difficult and painful and dark. The settling in is filled with adventure and excitement. Crossing cultures is very much about this type of experience. There are lots of ups and downs. I am beginning to realize how hard it really must be for students to come to UK to study from China or another area. I am blessed with my program director and many other students from UK, and I am only here in SH for one month while many of our students come from much much longer, without the aid of a professor from home to come with them and figure things out and translate for them. If anything, this experience will help me be a better friend to International Students at UK.

Yesterday 5 of us took our first adventure in the city without Luo Laoshi. We decided to go to the French Quarter and see what we could find. We walked to the subway station on Yanchang rd and took the subway to the quarter. Most of the area appeared to be quite wealthy and the shopping there was expensive in some areas. One of the interesting things about China is that in some ways it reminds me very much of Bogota–perhaps it’s the constant layer of smog and the ill-conceived structures. Many of the buildings are very nice, and even futuristic looking. One road may be rich, but because Shanghai does not have zoning, the next street could be filled with alley ways, rusty bicycles, and knock-off brands, and the overall feel of being in a third world country.

Lots of the shopping reminds me of New York, there are little shops ALL OVER! And even more hole-in-the -wall restaurants with obvious lack of heath code (good food though). I could simply by hair bows forever and ever. I’ve already purchased a few. Those who see me often know I have a things for little hair flowers. Luo Laoshi says a few days ago “一天一花“ Everyday a flower. I spent about 100 元 yesterday. I began with 1100. Aproximately $150. I’m remaining with about 400.

Riding the subway is somewhat cheap: about 3-4 yuan. It becomes more expensive if you go through the gate for the wrong line. Which we did yesterday. 4 yuan to the French Quarter and 8 for the trip back because of our inability to read the subway signs haha. The subway works much like any other subway and dispenses a plastic card which you scan by simply setting it on the reader. I’ve seen many people hover their bag with their subway pass over it and walk through.

The other thing that cost me 12 yuan was drying my clothes today. The washer also takes a card. Just hover the card over the scanner. My washer card is only good for 3 washes and it’s 25 Y. The dryer is 30min for 6 yuan. I had a lot of laundry so I had to do two 30 min。 I don’t think my jeans will ever dry actually. This laundry experience reminds me of trying to dry things in Bogota… I had a near fit with that one night while I was there.

This afternoon we had taiji class. I felt like the Karate kid. Taiji is very classically Chinese and you can see old people doing it every morning in the grass at the University. It is a martial art form and used for fighting, but it is taught in that ultra peaceful slow way. I believe I will be sore tomorrow. Not to mention these beds are like sleeping on a rock.

Now I must study and read for classes tomorrow. I just found out that the 8 harry potter movies that I bought for like 8 Y ($1.27) are in English with Chinese subtitles and actually play haha. Now I have something to watch on the flight home. The way here I watched “The Vow” which I was afraid would make me cry, but it wasn’t so teary as I thought it may be (myself being quite sensitive at the time). I better study, I only have 28 1/2 more days here. Then I’ll be back at CFA (hopefully speaking more Spanish).

I’ll be home soon =)

That’s So Strange! 奇怪!

By my first day in Shanghai Luo Laoshi was already picking on me for saying “That’s so strange.” Now everyone else is too. But let me explain:

1. Bubble Tea: 什么? What is it? It’s like a liquid with… wiggly jello stuff in the bottom. I had a blueberry one… It was so strange. Tasted like vitamin water with little cubes of jello in the bottom…

2. Squatty potties in public areas… I was not warned of this.

3. Entire fish complete with eyes. So strange. I actually did taste it though. Not the eyes. Be proud of me.

4. Shanghai is apparently famous for their “pajama walkers.” Possibly less odd that then people who come through the drive through in robes and shower caps (I’ll never get over that) however… they are classic pajamas, and they aren’t just walking their dogs in the morning. I definately just saw a man go into the bank in his PJs. That’s so strange!

More of my actual adventures to come. There’s just so much to say!


This is the evening of my third full day in Shanghai. I arrived on Friday Night Shanghai time. I won’t lie, the first night was impossible. It was overwhelming. I had no internet or phone. I hadn’t slept in hours, I had jet lag, but my body was telling me it was am not pm. It was dark when we arrived and I was already homesick. I was looking at 5 weeks in a foreign country. I was losing my mind.

I’m an extrovert and I am not nearly as brave as I once believed that I was. There is something terrifying about feeling alone. It’s like you can’t breathe. It’s like you’re reaching for something to hold onto in the dark and you can’t find anything, so you just fall with no idea when it will end, and it feels endless.

I was restless.

I’ve had a few days to think this over. Adjusting to new settings, new time change, and my first dorm room. Sometimes it’s hard to trust that God has us where he wants us.

I’m learning not to second guess myself. When I speak in Chinese and in life. I feel less now, like I’m falling, and more like jumping.

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”– Ecclesiastes 11:15

The Horizon of a Dream

Have you ever sat back on your heels over-looking a horizon? A new dawn and you blink your eyes again at the rising sun to realize your dream is still there, it’s a reality. This is no new dream, you’ve toiled it many nights, but the nights seemed endless, hopeful, but tiring, and you wondered if maybe you were sleeping. When the sun rises you realize the dreams are real, and you’re about to catch hold.

Tomorrow I board the plane to my dream. I’ve acquired many other dreams and hopes and aspirations over the years, but something about this place pulls my heartstrings. Tomorrow the sun will rise, and myself before it, perhaps I’ll watch the sun come to meet me in the sky.

About ten years ago I spent my nights copying the Comprehensive Chinese-English dictionary onto college-rules notebook paper. It took 8 months. About five years ago I was writing my teen-angst journal entries in half-Chinese and half-English. About one year ago I had decided to give up my social work major and tested into Chinese 201 at UK. About 9 months ago I nearly had to drop out of the class because I was spending every night until 3am studying after work. (I have a collection of vocab flashcards expansive enough to construct a 5 story building). About one week ago I was finishing up final essays for scholarships on this subject and celebrating my success in the classes.

After ten years people still ask me the same question: “Why Chinese?” (Some nights I ask myself the same thing). I think something about the number of people I will be able to talk to in their own language means something to me. There is probably also something about the difficulty of it that attracted me initially (I had much more drive as a child). Now I tell people, “I’ve started learning, I don’t want to quit.”

The language is now so deeply rooted in my spirit I can’t let it go. I blame God for that. These past few months of preparing for Shanghai University have given me much time to ponder my dreams, my plans, and my opportunities. I’ve dreamed of going to China for as long as I can remember, with the reality so close I don’t know how to handle myself. I’m amazed at what God has been up to all my life. I’m not sure what his intention is with it, but my mom pointed out it must have been him who put it in my heart to study so long ago. The opportunities I’ve had to learn are insane: a teacher in my small town in Berea, a friend my age at church who was born in China and recently been adopted into an American family, being homeschooled, the fact that the program at UK for Chinese is so new!

God has been constantly shaping me and my dreams since I was a young child. I’m curious how they will all come together. He has closed doors to some things that I never believe I could live without, he’s opened my heart to new ones which have changed my life.

“I know the plans I have for you” Declares the Lord, “Plans to give you a hope and a future”– Jeremiah 29:11.

I wonder what I would have thought of my life ten years ago. I’ve had many pondering of the future. Now, watching the future unfold I feel my heart start to race. The things in between, I never could have guessed or understood. There’s no use guessing at the future… but there is use in dreaming. It keeps our hearts open. And I believe God has a reason for them. I’m not sure we ever fully understand what the reasons are–I believe there are more than we know.

In the mean time I’m going to follow God to China and then I’ll follow him right back home. On second thought, home is where he is and his plans for me… and right now, that matches the first sentence. =)