Brandon’s Birthday

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A few weeks ago, my principal invited me to his nearby village to celebrate his son’s (also my student) birthday. Brandon his been a top student since day one, consistently scoring 90+ on exams. He is also an inquisitive student. Unlike most other students, he is fascinated by the often boring grammar rules in the English language. His father had clearly had a a significant impact on his outlook on learning.

Because he is always so studious in class, it was no nice to see him acting like a kid at his birthday party.

What do kids do at their birthday parties in rural China? They see who can find the ugliest piece of corn. This game lasted for about an hour. Johan won.


I got to know the water buffalo some more. Sometimes, when I pass them in my village, I feel like they are peering into my soul. Weird, I know. So, I decided to break down the walls.


Johan and I took a Christmas photo that we will hopefully be sending out to everyone.


Dinner was delicious–chilled cucumbers, cauliflowers, kidney beans, lotus root, shrimp, and more.


And what a better ending to a birthday than the birthday boy getting cake all over his face? I helped.


It was when we were just casually drinking beers with the family, not saying much at all, when I realized that I truly felt like a part of the community. The silence was what did it. Just like between me and my friends in the US, I know I am close to someone when there is no need to talk when we are together. There was no pressure from either side to ask forced, sometimes awkward questions. We were all just enjoying a beautiful, sunny day. Nothing about the scene seemed bizarre to me anymore.

I am used to the peanuts always being on the table, the routines for drinking rice wine, the head of the table always putting more pig fat in my bowl, the sunflower seeds being spit on the ground,etc.  I even get giddy when I see Chinese bacon on the table now.

During my time here, when I am not in class, this is a typical day for me. This is how I have fun. While I miss the US,  I love my family and my life here. I love my students. I love the challenges and successes of being a teacher.

The other night my principal told us if we stayed here for 4 years, we could become a sort of “vice-principal”. I laughed and told him I would love to. Many days, a goal like this seems like a great one.

A Word on Meridians

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At the risk of boring you, I must begin my blog with a little Chinese 101 to explain my title. A Meridian, as defined by good ol’ Wikipedia, is a path through which the life-energy known as “Qi” flows. Simply put, these meridians are the highways of our vitality and/or life force. This might all sound a bit simple to you, but this Qi business can get very complex. I took a Chinese Medicine course the last time I was in China, and I discovered the innumerable things, good and bad, that can happen to my Qi at any given time. The proper flow of my chi is often dictated by the balance of the 5 elements and how they function with their corresponding season and organ.

Lucky for me, my fire element is overactive 365/24/7, leading to an overactive heart. (I know you are dying to find out your dominant elements now , so click here). Luckier for me, people with overactive fire elements suffer most during the summer–I left at the perfect time. Most of you will not be surprise by the fact that Chinese medicine predicts:

“If the Fire Element is out of balance, or is blocked from fully expressing itself, Fun seeking becomes giddiness; humor becomes excitability, conversation becomes incoherent babble; friendliness turns to flirtation; charisma becomes seduction; and enthusiasm becomes grandiosity.”

Anyone who knows me well knows that saying the word “China” or pointing to a Chinese baby (See photo below) is a foolproof strategy for witnessing my overactive heart and most likely the above symptoms–especially the incoherent babble. (Note to self: the last time I arrived in China my excitement led to me running over an elderly Chinese woman with my luggage cart at the airport). With this being said, China is an interesting place for me.  Now, here I am, back to my surrogate motherland, overactive heart and all.

Yes, those are tears. I was way too excited.

So, why did I choose “My Chinese Meridians” as my title? Because this blog is about expressing how my Qi will flow through these Chinese paths over the next two years. With me being a passionate person, you will witness many instances of an overactive heart. I also fully expect to share with you the grounding power of being accountable to a cause greater than myself–the cause of Teach for China. My job is to empower underprivileged students in and outside of the classroom. I will channel my overactive heart as intensely as possible to bridge the education gap in whatever capacity I can.

Since accepting my position with Teach for China, I have often wondered if I have a single clue as to what will be best for my students. Have I reached a conclusion? God no! All I know now is that everyone has a unique energy to share–me to my students and my students to me especially. With our humanism to share, I will strive to connect with my students at a core level. I look forward to sharing me and my students’ journey: our inspirations, our blockages, our overactivity, our choice of escape, and all the fun in between (we should never take ourselves too seriously).

Look forward to stories about my students, sexy (and not so sexy) chinese food, sqautters, bug infestations, inevitable encounters with cultural faux pas, and some epiphanies here and there.