Monday, March 26, 2012

My Chinese Story: A Victory and a Failure of Mine



My Chinese Story

My Chinese Story: A Victory and a Failure of Mine

The editing of this true story  is inspired by a couple friends, wanting to know how I am doing, and Wes, wanting me to write with good publishable grammar.
January 25, 2012
I have arrived!
Dear Mom, Dad, and everyone,
I have arrived safely, and everything is good. It is not as cool here as I thought. It is basically the same as our house.
When I arrived in Beijing, I could see fireworks out of the window of the plane. I thought that there would be festivals like in Thailand or Japan, but the celebration of the New Year’s at least here in Nontang is very family oriented. They mainly have a week off to gather as family each others houses to eat and socialize.
It is 2:30 in the morning, so it seems that I will have jet lag. I want to go to sleep.
On the twelve hour flight to Beijing, I sat next to a girl named Bing, after the season of Winter, meaning Ice, for she was born in the month of January. I had her be my first teacher of Mandarin Chinese. I bought a notebook that I plan to carry around. The first statements of the notebook that I have in Chinese and English are “Can you teach me Mandarin Chinese? This is all I know. Please review what I know and share more.”
I wrote a lot in my journal, read the scriptures, and studied Mandarin. Another question that I added to the list on my notepad is: “Where do you think that I should begin learning Mandarin Chinese. Bing said that I should first learn Pinyin the phonetics of the language spelt out in English.
I am doing well. I have ten days to prepare to teach. Tomorrow Mary and I are going to celebrate the New Year with family.
Love
Alex
29 January 2012
Celebrating the New Year AND I have a real branch to attend!
(Hint to Elder Hicken and Angulo) THIS is a NOVEL.
Dear Family,
This week has been amazing. God works in mysterious ways. On Wednesday Mary took me to celebrate the New Year with her family. She has like six siblings, so currently her family is rich in the ability to have great reunions. I fear that the tradition of celebrating the New Year with a great amount of family will diminish in a few generations, since most families only have one children now. Soon instead of siblings unite with their parents and children, it may be the child meeting their parents with their children. The population will decrease dramatically; then, they will have to stop the one child rule.
Wednesday morning before we left to visit Mary, my host,’s family, I woke up about seven, my usual time. I look out the window to see China, and I saw many adults, practicing Tai Chi, at the school that I will be teaching at. I had to go join them. When I first met them, I asked for the teacher; then, they realized that I was Mary’s new teacher, since I spoke English. They could barely speak a word of English, so they continued. Their movements were hard to imitate at first. After watching them, I saw them pull out their swords. That was cool to see. I still tried to imitate them. When they concluded, practicing with their swords, they pulled out their fans. I got better at imitating them; then, one gave me a fan to practice with. They practiced to music, and for one song I did pretty well. I was pulled off to the side by a teacher, when they practice with two fans; one in each hand. The teacher show me the basic steps of Tai Chi until the morning work out was over. They practice each morning at seven, but I have not joined them yet because I went to celebrate the New Year with Mary’s family and CHURCH.
The first evening I meet a lot of her family. They gambled, playing a card game, as they waited for dinner. Fruit was served, and I was able to eat fresh Apples, Cutie Oranges, and Longan. At dinner we were gathered around a table. Not all of the family could gather around the table, but I may have been at the main table. They brought out many dishes. Guess how many… TWENTY different dishes. Since this was the real Chinese traditional food, I had to try each dish. They were mostly very good. I wondered about the meat that tasted of cheese though. I was able to have very limited communication with a few people. I think that I may come home with a habit to talk very slowly. I was served milk at dinner, and it tasted a little like medicine. It was suppose to “flavored.” It did not taste very good, but they do what can they do. After dinner I was so cold. I was lead up stairs to my room, and they let me use their laptop. Even though it was only like seven thirty. I did not feel like hanging out cold, so I went to sleep super early. I don’t think that I have endured jet lag.
I woke up really early on Thursday, since I went to sleep super early. I checked my email, since I could not think of anything else to. I was not informed how to prepare properly for the trip. In my emails I saw my application progress as I entrusted it to my parents after my best efforts. A couple days ago I received an email saying that they received my transcripts in time and my application, further explaining an acceptance letter may be coming.
Mary likes to sleep in, and there was not much to do Thursday morning. Since my feet were cold, I took a walk. My feet, being cold, has been a cause that seems to be only my temporary dilemma; although, I feel that I have adapted quickly. The desire to have warm feet was a focus of my decisions the first few nights. The nights and days have sounded like a war outside or a hurricane with all the fireworks. Mary’s family did not have any so I did not personally see the abundant fireworks at a good view.
After lunch on Thursday I was still bored, hanging out. I want up to my room with a hint of home sickness, but I mainly wanted to keep my feet warm in my bed. When they found me there, they said that they had pulled out the badminton rackets and a birdy to play with. I went down to hang out, and I saw one of the family grandma’s picking seeds out of cotton. I saw that helping her would be the most amazing thing. When they saw this, they came and joined the work, and we finished picking the seed out of bundles of cotton. Too bad I forgot my cord to my camera I took a good picture of everyone together. (I also forgot my shaver cord to charge that, so at church today I looked a little scruffy. I did get a razor and shaving cream on the day, but I have this as a new skill to learn.)
Thursday evening was interesting. Mary said that she was going to take me out to dinner. I never know exactly what is going on, but I trust the Chinese people. I was taken to another family gathering. At first I did not understand that was the case, for a government worker introduced me to “English students of the local university,” which I found out later that it was just another family gathering hosted by Mary’s Sister’s family. The government worker, which was my age, of the daughter of a family friend, who is a local English teacher too. The government worker spoke English very well, so we were friends perhaps. I tried to ask her out; although, she lived like two hours away. I am still working on that. One thing that I had to overcome was that Mary would tell me what to say and try to chose the food that I would eat, but I overcame this when I met at this family dinner. I met all the “English students individually.” I recalled that on named Christy said that she would be willing to teach me Mandarin. Sarah, the government worker, and Mary lead me to eat at another table that the sister was hosting. Mary’s sister’s husband loved my excitement to try all the new Chinese food, and he would spin the thingabob with each new dish served to me. It is tradition at these dinners to have toasts like twenty times. I think that it is partially a measure of seeking to be drunk. A man named Mister Wang came to meet me. I expected to go aside to talk a little bit, but he just mainly wanted to make a toast, which was all that he expected. I asked his name, but he went back to his friends table. The government worker said that he wanted to make friends with me, since I was American, wanting to host me for dinner the next day. As I sat next to my government worker friend, kind of feeling like my date, I asked for a pen and a pencil, since she explained that we can communicate through a social networking organization popular in China called QQ. Each person suppose to have a number for this social network. I wanted Christy’s help learning Mandarin, so I went to go find her with the pen and paper to obtain this “number.” It turned out that my new friend Mister Wang was the father of Christy. Christy is nineteen. There was a good group of youth with her and their parents. I felt like I was a celebrity. They wanted to have me over for dinner and take pictures with me. The host of the dinner that I was originally invited to had me go to his house. That was a little scary to receive at first, but everyone was coming. All the youth became my friends. Sarah drove us to the house. Seeing all four the youth reminded me of Jamaica because they were squeezing themselves in the back seat.
The driving in China is very interesting. Everyone just goes wherever they want. People respect that. Cars, pedestrians, scooters all go wherever they want, so every Chinese has a special sense of carefulness that Americans don’t understand. There is a carefulness. With carefulness of course comes a patience; however, with this carefulness they drive slow.
When Sarah first turned left to visit the family’s house, she was driving on the wrong side of the road. If I had not gone to Jamaica, I bet many of you would think I would be scared, but I actually find it humorous. After a few moments we were driving on the right side of the road. When we arrived at the house, I was received by a crowd of people with the youth as a “posse.” I met many people there only for like five minutes; then we went to the host’s house. I still did not know what is going on. They asked me if I wanted to take a shower. I actually did because I did not the day before. After that they asked if I was sleepy. The plan seemed to be that we were going to say the night there. I was able to please everyone, and everyone loved me. One of the youth loves foreign people, and the youth helped me join QQ. After that I wondered if the room that I was working on the computer with and shown was my room. When I saw that I was twelve, I decided to sleep. EVERYONE was in “my room,” hanging out. I got up to say I am going to sleep, and get out of my room if it was my room. When I told everyone my decision, I was shown into my room. Yeah does this email seem like it will never end. I did not know when the celebration or stay with the family would end ether. I thought that it was just going to be one dinner and be back the day that we left.
I felt a headache coming though. When I woke up Friday, I had a slight headache and I did not feel like eating. I was praying that I would not get sick, but I came to know the purpose and hand of God in this day as I exercised trust in him. Mary became worried, and she decided to return home that day. That morning I tried to eat, seeking a consistency in my life. I ate a 馒头, a steam bun, and an apple for breakfast. There was a bowl of rice porridge prepared for me, but I was feeling out of it. I went up to take a nap, after drinking a few glasses of water.
My hydration has been an adventure too. On Thursday morning I woke up so dehydrated and cramping. Drinking water is not served naturally at meals. I asked to water, but the glass was so small. I looked for more liquid that I may drink. We ate the same food for breakfast as we did the twenty dish feast the night before. Since I had nothing new to try, I asked for the soup prepared with extra broth. This morning I taught everyone what broth and the importance of hydration was. To this day Mary talks of the broth experience. I had like three bowls of soup. I needed to be hydrated. I needed to take control of my life. I stopped Mary from serving me the food that she wanted me to eat, and after this day she finally understood my right to chose for myself what I want.
After my nap, I felt a little better, but we were still leaving. I was realizing at this time that this would be perfect timing to figure out how to go to church. I found that the closest church in China to where I live as in Suzou. Of course I was questioned. They do not understand the concept of church. Communication is hard, since Mary barely knows English. I learned to not be annoyed by her and humbled myself by the end of this Friday. A family friend had to drive us to Nontang; although, our original plan was to take the bus. The friend came because we waited like two hours standing on the side of the road, waiting, and it never came. When we came home, Mary started talking about going to church tomorrow. Tomorrow was Saturday though. I have boldly emphasized my right to observe my religion for myself. The next morning I was rushed off to find the church for me. I was afraid that they were convincing me to attend a Catholic Church in Nontang. I stood my ground though. A humble servant of the lord came. She spoke English. She was a Chinese kindergarden teacher of a local school. It came out to be a Seventh-day Adventist Church. The sister respected me, and she was a great mediator for me with Mary. Mary wanted to go to the address that I found in Suzou, but I was prompted to say that we should do more investigation to make the trip worthwhile. When I proposed the idea to go on the Internet and figure out what I can, they were surprised, asking why I was happy, laughing. They said. How can I do research without a computer or Internet. Computers and the Internet has been more readily accessible than my own clothing, so I knew that my request would be received.
Mary’s little brother was driving us around. Using his computer at his house, I felt good. I had my appetite and ability to work out what is going on, trusting the church. When I found that church websites were not going to offer any phone numbers of local leaders for advice, I clicked to chat with the missionaries of mormon.org. They gave me the phone number of the district president at Beijing. She spoke of virtual sacrament and meeting, since I was not in Beijing. I was down for anything. Just as long as I can partake of the Sacrament, but God had a greater plan for me. The leader of the Beijing Church heard that lived near Suzou, saying that there is a branch there. She gave me their contact information, and we called to figure out what is best. Mary was so worried. She did not want me to get lost in China especially on my first weekend here; however, my new branch president Benson comforted her, offering the option to stay at her house. Since this was an option, I ask if I could get clothing and stuff. Mary said yes, but when we were on the road, heading out of town, I received the news that I was going to meet new people and stay at their house without anything AGAIN. I basically had the clothing on me.
We were off, and I had the address. It was in English though, and Mary would not attempt to understand that. When we arrived at Suzou, they asked around for a church. I know that it would be the wrong place, but it was Suzou. The place of my new branch, and I was going to stay there. We arrived at a big BIG cathedral. They tried to convince me that this was my church. I asked for the phone to call my branch president. I said that we were in Egret Park. Recognizing where we were, he told me to give the phone to Mary. After discussion, we were off again, but we had another humble servant with us as a guide from the cathedral. We finally met up with President Benson, and he showed us the house that we have our meetings. A couple guys were there, and we hang out. Mary loves to talk. President Benson has been studying Mandarin for twenty years, so he told us Mary’s touching vision.
Mary works for a Chinese Orphanage, but she knows how corrupt the system is. She has been working hard, scarifying a lot obtain this vision, which is to have the profits of the school that I will be beginning perhaps called Mary International Education go to build a new private orphanage program by herself. In my house in Capitola, we have heard scary stories of Mary, but I trust as I said in my last talk and article at the Ocean Branch weekly services. Every person is a pure child of God; despite, the natural man is scary. Mary is a very loving person.
Mary gave my two hundred yuan for my bus fare home and entrusted me with President Benson. When I entered his car, I was received by two of his wonderful children. Emma, nearly four years old, and Anders, perhaps two. President Benson said that we were going to pick up the rest of his children after we buy me a bus ticket home for Sunday after church. His children were getting haircuts, and as I waited in the car to see him return with his newly groomed children. I counted FIVE addition children. The oldest Benny, second Hannah, third Katie, Layo, and Oscar. I have eight new siblings now. You may count seven, but President Benson’s wife is due this coming week for the eight name Anniegene or something close to that.
The Benson Family is stush (luxurious). When Mary gave me a towel to dry myself off after showing, I received basically a sweat rag towel, and when I look for a towel at the Benson’s the first towel that I found as the biggest beach towel that I ever seen like seven feet by five feet. At dinner I broke the news to them, that their common fast food dinners of KFC and what not was a first for me. I know that KFC is not luxurious, but they are stush. I watched more movies there that I have this entire year. How to train your dragon is a pretty awesome movie. The children all loved me, hoping that I would come every week, but with the new child coming, my extra body in the home was just a warm up. The Benson Family is amazing. They were all prepared before I got up about seven. I do not know the time because I do not have a watch or a clock. I can use my phone, but it is sixteen hours off. This morning (today being Sunday) I finally had my traditional oatmeal and raisin breakfast. I was almost going to go into withdrawals without my oatmeal and raisin breakfast.
The Suzou Branch is a real BRANCH, and it is full of the some noble of the children of God. They are currently recovering from most of the people coming home from vacation. They usually have sixty people. The branch is so mature.
I am so grateful for all that God has prepared for me in China. I never doubted God’s care. We even have a YSA Sabbath supper next week for Fast Sunday, and I hear the food is as glorious as it is in the Ocean Branch. I love the people of China. I see that the people that I email may think that I am unapproachable with conversation; Not even one question. Please forward this to the Branch, family and so forth, and post this on my Facebook wall as a note like I use to do with Trevor’s emails. Just tag me. Take care. I hope to hear from you soon.
Love
Alex
8 February 2012
Preparing for Work, and the learning curve of teaching is truly high. I feel the burn.
Dear Family,
I should tell what is going on before I have to write another long chapter to my China Life story. By the way, it still sounds like a war zone outside.
I hear that it is the Lantern Festival today. Yesterday I went on QQ, a social networking instant messaging website, and I said hello to all my friends. 等一个人, a cousin of Yacht’s, explained the occasion of the day. This day is the final day of the Spring festival. The lantern festival is themed after an ancient inventor that invented the flying lantern. It is an unmanned hot air balloon. They used to use this in war. 等一个人 said that sending these lanterns to fly symbolizes that things are well. We got to the temple after ten pm, so we missed the big event when hundreds are sent flying at once. I did see them though. I was very windy, so it was difficult to let them go successfully. 等一个人’s family bought a few, and we tried to fly one, but it failed. I have a couple, so we can do it at home. Flying these lantern are illegal now, since they cause fires, but Traditions are hard to stop.
I woke up Monday morning, (This is Monday, the thirtieth of January.) wanting to go practice Tai Chi, but I figured that this well be a beginning of a normal week or something new, so I waited for Mary to tell me what is happening. She indeed had something big, having me meet with some education experts at 9:30 am.
I was use making lesson plans, and this is the main thing that we did at first. At 9:25 a girl walked in, calling herself Shirley. We have become very good friends, since we hung out for the past week. Shirley is seventeen years old. Shirley was a child of learning disabilities, so her parents and her decided, since she is a girl, who should ‘stay home;’ instead of going to high school, she goes to an institute, skipping high school. She is studying for a bachelor’s degree to be an English teacher; although, she has never taught a class. She has been a great help and my translator too. We made our first lesson plan before lunch and a couple others in the afternoon. She helped me get in to a perspective of teaching six to seven year old children.
The next day I practiced the lessons before Mary; Shirley; Mr. Yu, the real education expert; and another friend. (They vary.) Mary expected me to bring material to China. I see what type of material that she wanted now, and I could not have provided what she wanted. Kindergarten is for children age 2-6. It is basically preschool for all those years. The reason that I could not provide that material is because they have a completely different perspective on education. All this week they have been teaching me to be a performer. Kindergarten teachers have to be active because this shocking fact. I had to ponder a while to accept it. Chinese parents do not teach their children to read or write. They depend on their primary schools to teach them these skills. This is necessary according to their language, since there is no alphabet. I would think that the parents could teach their children. Maybe the government instilled this in the people to promote trust. I just got back from church, and a man named Mike moved into the branch. His wife got a job practically identical to mine; however, the school system that she works for is a lot more organized. It is organized by Disney, and she likes the job saying that it is her easiest teaching job. She is learning to be a performer like me. Learning these things of the Chinese Education system has been shocking, and I have needed to humble myself to these traditions. When I learned this, I thought to myself. “So much for bring the American style Kindergarten to China as sought after by word before I arrived.”
One adventure that I had with my friend Shirley is that we went to a library and a book store. I was looking for a dictionary, pulling a Brother Duckworth. I got a Mandarin Book of Mormon last Sunday. Sunday I learned that it is simplified Chinese. Traditional Chinese is more real and comprehensive in the writing, so I would rather begin with that, thinking to understand where the simplified Chinese is coming from. Simplified Chinese is more modern though.
I rode Mary’s bicycle. It was fun to try to participate in the madness of the road. Shirley wondered why I would laugh at her when she would walk in the middle of the road, and a car would have to stop suddenly. In front of most places there is an area, which people would park there bicycles, since cycling is more common than cars. When I rode in the libraries bicycle parking lot, I thought that seeing that first hand was interesting. They rarely use bike racks. They just lock a wheel of the bike to itself.
We visited the library first. It was kind of weak. They did not even have a dictionary, which we were looking for. Shirley and Irene, one of the other friends, showed me the English section of the Library, and they only had one series of books. They were the Chicken Soup series for the Soul. We went up to the children’s section of the library, and that place was a mess. I was surprised to see that the books were very big like novels. I did not see any children style books as we know. This makes sense now that I know that parents don’t teach there children to read or write.
At the book store we were lead to a new good friend. His name is Wind, and he is from Ru Gao, the place of Mary’s family. I visited there last week, so I have friends there, pondering visiting him as he did me Saturday. Of course since we were in China, finding a Chinese to English dictionary was hard. Shirley would pull out primarily English to Chinese dictionaries with a very small Chinese to English dictionary in the back. Wind pulled out a fat dictionary though with more than two thousand pages long, weighing like eight pounds. I was in my Jamaican understanding of foreign money, thinking that holding a more than a couple hundred dollars was normal. After buying the 238 yuan dictionary, I realized that the dictionary was about forty dollars. The book is old, and it looked like it was at the store for many years. I feel that God has been saving that book for me, since it is perfect.
There is another Californian that is working with us. His name is Eddie. He came to teach too. His teaching opportunity is with freshmen in college. Earlier in the week I was scared that my stay may be cut short, since I learned on Friday that this job is only a weekend job. I wonder how many job openings there are, since Eddie is being recruited too. I still don’t know how many the answer of these ponderings. Eddie has another job at a local restaurant, so I may have to work on getting another job.
This past week another small thing was worked out, but it is necessary. I need a clock on me one with an alarm because I want to be able to control when I wake up in the morning. One day I wanted to begin waking up at six o’ clock, since I want to study the scriptures and Chinese; however, I did not have an alarm. I prayed to God to wake me up at six, and I prepared by going to sleep at ten o’ clock. The next morning God woke me up at six o’ clock, and I studied the Book of Mormon in Mandarin for two hours. With my knowledge of how to use the dictionary I only found the meaning of four characters. Well although it felt like a little. I learned a lot. 摩 means mo. It is part of the name Mormon. Looking at each part of the character of mo. I see the 摩 means the journal rubbings on the surface. I was surprised to see that is the definition of 摩 it says conflict of two nations caused a war too. 广 means wide and extensive (knowledge). 手 shou means hand, a person doing or good at a certain job with hands, handbook, handy. He is a real crafts man. 摩门 mo+men. 门 is pronounced as men, and it means door. In more of the definition of 门, I saw whole family, blessings has descended upon the house, school, and a branch of study.
The title of the Book of Mormon is 摩门经 见证耶稣基督的另一部约书。 见证 means witness, and it is pronounced jian zheng. 耶稣 is Jesus pronounced yesu, and Christ is spelt 基督。耶 ye of 耶稣 has no meaning, but it is part of pronouncation. 稣, su, of yesu 耶稣 means revive and come to. The pronouncation is jidu. 基, ji, means foundation or base, and 督,du, means super-intended or direct. I think that this means the foundation of Christ is intended directly and especially for you. 的 means nothing, but it is a character used to connect adjectives to a noun it is pronounced as de. 另 is pronounced as ling, meaning another. 一部, meaning volume, is pronounced as yibu. 约 is pronounced as yue, meaning to make an appointment. This same character can be known as yao, meaning weigh. Shirley said that it may mean that the book is appointed. 书 is pronounced as shu, meaning book. There is the title of the Book of Mormon in Mandarin,Momen jing: zheng yesu jidu de ling yibu yue shu.
Yesterday I had my first lesson. I teach 6-7 year old children; although, they seem younger than that because I am trying to teach them with another language. I did well in the lesson for about twenty minutes; then, since I overestimated my skill and kids, the lesson fell apart. I was hoping to do a role play of the movie that we watched, but the class got out of control before I can try. I did not approach the class correctly that is why it fell apart. I am trying to teach them the key phrase: How old are you? I am #. I need to figure out how to teach them, and keep their attention for a hour. A child that I named Jason was literally practicing break dancing when things were out of control. Luckily there was a back up song that we taught them with the TV. We play the some like ten times; until, we said Good Bye.
I went out with Yacht’s cousin last night again to hang out. We went to play pool after we had dinner. I asked them to get me something that I never tried before, and they got me Duck Liver soup. Yao is the name of the Cousin like Ming Yao, the basketball player. They were saying that Ming is actually his first name. Chinese tell there last name first and so forth backwards. I won somewhat against Yao in pool; although, he hit all his balls into the pockets before me. He scratched twice on the eight ball, and the Chinse don’t lose when they do that. At the rate that we were playing, trying to hit the eight ball in, we would have played forever. He introduced me to a couple of his best friends: Xu and Xue. After the everlasting game, Yao and I tried to beat Xu, since he had good skill. Both of us totally lost to him. We hung out at McDonald’s, talked, and played 21, the card game; until, Xue and I had to go home, for we wanted to be home by ten.
Saturday evening was an adventure, I had to take the buses alone to Church. I stayed at the Okeson’s household. Gratefully Mary arranged for someone to take me to the bus 178 from the bus station. I would have been lost. Trying to get off at the Okeson’s bus stop was fun too. I had help somewhat there too.
Church was good. It was good fast Sunday. During priesthood, we practice the memorization of the Oath and Covenant. Since I knew that I had to learn it, I memorized it during the past week. The spirit is strong here; although, I feel weak. Sabbath supper was good. The host family seems to embrace life so much that they don’t let others to talk. It was good though.
Thomas there is a guy from Ecuador here named Andres Galan. He is on an Exchange program, learning Chinese. He knows president Lara, and he was raised in the Guayaquil North Mission area. He is super friendly, and a friend that you may recognize that lives near President Lara is named Franandez.
There were a few guys and a few girls in the YSA here everyone is a teacher of English. I want to go out with a girl named CC, but she seems to be really into Andres. Another girl that I think is cute, which I ponder going out with on Saturday is named Nicole from Taiwan. She is interesting because she got a PhD in English, studying at England, so she has a British accent.
I tried so hard to email you earlier, but I have been unable.
Love Alex
15 February 2012
I made it through my first week of teaching.
你好家庭,
你好么?我是朱彦龙。
I am catching on to a little Chinese. I hope that this email will be a little simpler than the last couple. I taught four more classes last week. I had an assistant a couple classes; although, the class does get out of control sometimes. I am catching on a little. The second class that I taught alone was a lot better than the first. During one class I thought that I needed to teach both classes, since the other teacher is gone. There was a heap of balloon in my classroom, and I was planning to play a game and rest before we have the second class. I was going to teach them duck duck goose, but when I said game they went crazy, and ran to the balloons drawing faces on them. I have learned to teach the class. I will continue to learn as a teacher. I had some brilliant points this week. 彦 is the character of Brilliant, or that is what I remember the definition.
Most nights this week I went out with friends. I went out three times with 等一个人. I call him my cousin, for he is Yacht’s cousin. His name is Yao. He took me out to a restaurant each time. Two of the times were in very luxurious places. This is a hint of how spoiled the children are. I met a girl the first time we made plans to hang out, which was Wednesday. She was “a sister of Yao’s,” but she is actually just a very close family friend. I asked if she would hang out with us; however, Yao made plans to hang out on Tuesday. Tuesday night we went out for dinner. I could never decide an informed meal at the restaurant, so I told them to get me something that I probably have never eaten, and Guess what they got me. They got me Duck Liver soup. It tasted interesting; kind of like egg yolks. Afterward we went to play pool, Yao thought that I was good, but I could not say that I am good at pool. Yao’s friend Xu had great skill though, so Yao and I played to first game. The game would have lasted forever though because we could not hit the eight ball in a pocket; however, Yao scratched on it twice. We call it a tie; then, we played two on one, and Xu totally destroyed us.
The next night I thought that we were going to hang out similarly as the night before but with Youn Yi; however, since she is a family friend, the mother organized a great night out. We went to a new block in China. They are building new blocks and roads like crazy here. Today I went on my first run in China, and I saw the rare sight of a building being demolished, so they are building a lot here. We went to a special hot pot restaurant usually there is one big hot pot, but this one had one for each individual. Youn Yi said that her boyfriend was in the area, and they wanted to hang out since they rarely see each other. I was grateful that I was able to help her in that way. We watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I was worried that it may be in Chinese like the Harry Potter movie that I watched it Thailand was in Thai. I thought that it was funny because it was the Chinese that had watch the movie in subtitles not me. Another crazy thing that I need to tell you about the movie is that it was a 4d movie; although, the movie was not 3d. It was weird. A sharp burst of air would be shot at you went someone is shot. Wind would be made in the theater when the scene is changed to an exotic place, and water would be splashed at you went the camera in near the water.
The next night was Thursday, and everyone was preparing to go to their universities, for it started this past week. I wanted to hang out with Shirley a last time. I thought that doing it as soon as possible would be better, so she would not be in a rush or pressure later. She had me over at her house. The family had spring rolls during dinner, and her grandma made homemade noodles from buckwheat! Shirley alone spoke English. Afterward we went out with her parent to the mall. Seeing the culture of shopping was weird; however, it made sense for her family because the mother loves to knit, so she studies the clothing patterns. I humbled myself to see the greatest of the different designer’s imagination, creativity, and style. When the parent got tired of walking, Shirley and I checked out the arcade. We saw a could girls, playing DDR, and I said that I know how to play that game a lot better than them. We decided to play the game, and I played mainly alone since the game needs skill.
Friday night Yao invited me to dinner again. I meet more of his university friends. Every Chinese student that I have meet has only attended one semester. We went to another great restaurant, but after I did something that I never done before. I went to a KTV! ~ yeah. It is karaoke. I have asked around about places to dance in China, but the youth don’t dance, so I am off the hook. Karaoke seems to be the dancing hobby of Asia for the soul to express it’s artistic self with their voice. It was as I imagined. I do not know any popular songs, so I cannot follow the melody. I did sing a Beatles’ song. They did not want to sing another Beatles’ song though after the first, since the band is so old.
Monday was my last lesson. That morning Mary wrote in Google translate that the parents don’t like me to teach.
I replied why don’t your statement have a conclusion? For example, although the parents don’t like your teaching style, I trust that you will get better, and you still have the job. I did not understand why she would just tell me the opinion of the parents. Shirley asked what I will be doing these days. I assumed that I still had the class to teach. She asked if I still had to teach the next day. I wonder why she would ask and showed Mary the text to see if they were on the same page. Of course I was out of the loop. Mary then confirmed that I was not going to teach the next day. I asked her about the future of the class. She said that the parents still need to enroll in the class and pay tuition. hmmm.. That must have meant that I was not actually teaching the class. I was not being trained. It was a trial period to show the parents what is going on in the class, and that is it.
I now hope to learn Chinese. The people here see that the English language is popular, wanting their children to learn it. Since I have something that they want, I have a lot of opportunity still here. I hope to stay as long as I can, and that I will be accepted at BYU, so I can return in the Fall. I work now to continue my goals in developing the skill of teaching. Mary wants an experience teacher, and I am not an experienced teacher. There are plenty of opportunities here for amateur teachers.
Take care
Alexander Hicken
also know as
朱彦龙 (Zhu Yan Long)
Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan’s names are also Long. I means Dragon.This year is the year of the Dragon, and I was born the year of the Dragon, so that’s my Chinese name. Yan is the same middle name as Yacht’s.
20 February 2012
Looking for another job.
Dear family,
I have been sentenced to sit at a computer because I have done something wrong perhaps. I told Mary that I got a job interview for tonight, and she replied no. I don’t know what that means. I attempted to communicate, but she did not let me use the translator. Mary said according to the contract that she has not drawn up yet, I am supposed to only teach at her school, giving this school the competitive edge. I have an interview tonight at seven, and I don’t what Mary is going to pull on me.
On Friday I realized that I do have a role at the school here. I did not tell you about this because it comes in short notice, but I teach middle school students age twelve on Saturday. I had three on the first day, but they did not come a couple days ago. I have to sell me teaching skills in China. I just completed being informed that my foolish mistake, and the assumed  topic was what Itransgressed. I was further instructed not to say anything about her family or the school. On Saturday she said that I should talk to President Benson about getting a job.
This past week, starting Monday the thirteenth, upon revelation the sabbath day, the day before. I received the guidance that I should no longer study the Book of Mormon with my dictionary, for I am not learning real Chinese. I am learning reformed Egyptian translated into Simplified Chinese. During the week that I was studying the mandarin Book of Mormon, I felt weak. I learned on last Sunday that I should have my scripture study and my Chinese language study separate. The progression in studying Chinese is too slow to count it as my scripture study.
I assume that most of you have not read the lasted article that I send  for the OBWeekly, but I see that I have a lot of time in the morning to study. In priesthood a brother  was lead to testify that at the MTC. He heard Thomas Monson promise his  gift of Photographic memory, if you memorize one verse a day. I am assume that it is sequential in order. On my mission, Iattempted this, so this is not new to me. I have gone a week so far. A verse in Doctrine and Covenants 84:85 says:  Niether take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say, but treasure up  in your minds continually the words of like, and it shall be given you  in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.God  said that portion that is meted unto every man shall be given to us.  This bless is much larger than just teaching the gospel. These words are  so powerful. I don't know how to explain.
I was further asked by the branch to prepare a talk, which I said  yesterday. I already gave you the talk, so I do not need to explain.It  should be at OBWeekly.blogspot.com, if not ask Eliza about it.
There  is a social networking website here in China. It is called QQ. Ilike to meet people on the bus to Suzhou, and get their QQ number if they are cool. We practice Chinese, and talk. The girl that Imet on the bus coming home was cool, but Ihad to deal with drama this evening with it though. Girls like to have  friends, and two random girls asked me to be their friends. Idid not know them, and I did not want with chatting with random mysterious girls. I had to put an end to dealing with the random people, so Iasked them where they got my number.They refused to answer. Igave both of them five seconds to tell me; then, I deleted them off the list. One finally broke down, and said that she was not able to tell me in English. I did not understand that, but she told me in Chinese. Qin Dan, the girl that Imet on the bus gave, my number to them. Iasked if the girl knew the other random girl, and they were actually roommates. haha. Iseem to like to make drama in China.
This weekend Ihung out with Andres, the Ecudarian guy. He thought that  it was coincidental that he knows Martiza, my sister in law, and that  she married Thomas. Another thing that was coincidental, which happened  when we were talking with a couple other YSA about learning Chinese, was  that Andres was talking about the Book of Mormon programs that he  downloaded to help him learn Chinese, and the guy that made one of the  programs was one of the couple YSA.
We seem to be naturally coming together to be good friends. I was hoping to hang out on Saturday. I spoke with Nicole about hanging out. I was worried that the YSA would just be a group of friends that hangs out without dating. I thought that Nicole and I can set an example and a good foundation for us to date each other; however, she is recovering from a spine injury, so we could not do it this weekend as hoped.
Just a few minutes ago in my pursuits to find a job, I received a phone call from Mark from Oakland, California. He is in Shanghai for some reason though. I saw his opportunity as he asked for a passionate creative write. It looks like I am going to be a GHOST WRITER! This is an awesome job title. haha. He said that it will pay forty yuan an hour, which is about 6.35 dollars, but I am excited about the job. He is Dyslexic that is why he needs the Ghost writer. The topics of the book is what I love too, which as teaching, learning disabilities, and business.
Another thing that happened this past week is interesting. One of the faculty leaders has been taking me to the campus cafeteria for lunch, but since she cannot speak English, she was lead to basically sit me to myself. I was tired to dealing with a lonesome lunch. I felt like everyone was talking and laughing about me, so I got up. I saw that I know that one of the sister at least knows a  little English, so I went to talk to her and eat Lunch with her. After that day Iwas received by the faculty a friendly. They take me up to hang out  with them. One day last week four of the sisters and I went out after  lunch to KFC, celebrating a sister’s birthday. I named three of the four sisters each as the following names: Mellisa, Andrea, and Erika. I was happy that Iwas lead to take control of that situation. They are very friendly. They invite me to join their family on outings, but on the weekends, I want to be in Suzhou with the Saints as long as Ican.
22 February 2012
I may be moving to Shanghai to write a book, and I have great news too!
Dear Family,
My life has been on a roller coaster. Last night I felt odd, for the last few days have been plagued me with a cold. My circumstance is developing quite odd. Last night I was told to prepare to visit Sam’s family in Rugo. I had this opportunity to write this book with Mark, which seems to be a man of great statue. I was talking to friends, and in that time as my teaching opportunity here at Mary’s International Education seems to be closing on me. I had to answer to Mark. I will add his cover letter, which he has sent me, so you can understand.
The fact is that my teaching opportunity with Mary is gone. The English program was not managed properly and fell apart from the get go. That is my opinion.
It was an interesting situation this morning, for it began with Mary, telling me that the English school will be closing and I was not going to Rugo. I was shocked. As she was leaving, going to the school, she committed me to do my passion, which is communicating and writing. She asked me “Why I was not writing?”
I replied. “It is because I don’t know what to do with my life, and I don’t know my options.” I pondered how I can take control of my life. I was lead to email Mark, a proposition that I can move down to Shanghai, and we can write his book. I was lead to do this as I spoke to some friends, for I was arranging to see them in Rugo. I did not know what to do, but I felt expected to go to my office at the school. When I arrived I checked my gmail, I saw an email from BYU Idaho, saying that they have made the decision, concerning my admission. This morning has been exciting. When Mary was going to came in to tell me that she was going to buy me a ticket for my flight home, my shocked and dreary state changed to rejoicing. I have been accepted in at Brigham Young University Idaho. I finally may have taken control of my life too, for I am awaiting Marks decision, concerning living with them. I hope to stay here as long as possible to learn Chinese. I wonder if I can teach part time, when I am working with Mark in Shanghai.
By the way, referring to my cold,I feel much better than last night. I  found a good friend. I had to inform my good teacher friend of the state  I was it that we may understand each other, for she was showing me her  family. I did not want to be a fake rejoicing with her about her family,  when I actually feel this odd way with all the commotion.
Early yesterday I rejoiced too, for I was lead to ask Nicole whether I can visit her as she is in Shanghai  because of my job opportunity. She replied in a text. We could go out  Saturday evening to Indian food, thinking of inviting a friend to join  us, so the YSA, getting together, is in the works.
Take care
Alex
26 February 2012
The celebration is over.
Dear Family,
Over the past few days, since I emailed you last, I have done a lot. I feel free to express myself and do what I like, since I no longer work for Mary. I am in good terms with everyone, and they express a great love for me. My love for them has been expressed too, for I have been exposed to the routine of the school more. One thing that I have done to show my love is to help in their process of serving the students lunch. All of the teachers go to the cafeteria, and they get two big buckets. One usually has rice, and the other usually has some type of soup. The great love within the school which I feel apart of brings my soul to parade around the school delivering the buckets of food empty or full to there destinations. I love serving. On my first day, doing this, I saw one of my former students, carrying both of the buckets, so I ran to her aid, trying to deliver both of them to the cafeteria. She wouldn’t let me though. She saw my child-like purity. After the delivery she walked ahead, looking like she wanted me to chase her. I embraced her desire, and she guided me, holding my sleeve up to see her classmates. My students were up there in varies classrooms. I am received a like the mascot of the school in a few classes. I helped three times already in their lunch routine, and it has been bliss to serve and interact with the children. I have been hugged and lead by the hand at this kindergarten.
A sister that want me to call her mama dong ping has had me help her in her role as the school doctor. I probably have met or seen all the children, for she has me help her weigh the children on a scale. Another service, which was a lot of fun, was the wrapping of spring rolls. The chief deep fried a lot of springs rolls one day to have plenty for the entire school. All the staff helped. They asked me how many Spring rolls that I ate, and they were happy to hear that I ate more than ten of them.
The evening that I received notice that I was accepted in to BYU Idaho. I was taken out to a steakhouse by the staff. I felt almost awkward, since I cannot communicate to them, but its good. Another we went out to celebrate a teacher’s birthday. I have named her Erika. The younger faculty at the school really know how to have a party. Four of these teacher call themselves my sisters. The younger are my sisters and the older are my mama.
On Friday I had a date with a daughter of Mama Tong, a teacher at our kindergarten. Mama Tong came in the afternoon with one of her daughters. I received her as a good friend as she was the one that I talking to the past few days. When we sat down, I realized that she must be the older sister, since she spoke as if he met me for the first time. She came to inform me that her younger sister, which I was hoping to meet was not coming. Mama Tong likes to give me her phone randomly to meet her daughter, and the settings of our communication never let me memorize her name.
After I received the news that ‘Susan’ was not coming, I went to go up to hang out with the teachers as the students had nap time. I hoped to write in my journal as they knitted; however, Mama Tong gave me her phone, and her daughter was on the phone, telling me that she was coming, so we can ‘play’. When I heard a mix of voice, I knew that it must have been the older sister, and her husband spoke to me too.
They totally spoiled me. When I got into the car, they asked what my favorite food was. Since the word ‘fruit’ rang in their ears, they stopped at a fruit-stand meters away, buying me all the fruit that I wanted. I found out that their names were Vergil and Anna. For an odd reason a lot the English names that I hear seem old fashion, so they asked me to give them new names. Vergil’s nature reminded me of Kevin Chapmen, a high school best friend, so I gave him the name Kevin.
Kevin and Anna took me to a museum, telling me that this museum was the first in all of China. There were divers building with plenty to see.
It was funny because it seemed that the tour guides were always walking over us. They were literally tripping over us. When we arrived at the great man’s house, a tour guide arrived with a company of military officials. I took a picture of the statue of great man and the tour guide as proof.
Zhe is the family name of the great man, but I cannot remember his whole name. I learned that he gained his great wealth by his factories, making clothe. He has also served in government, being one of the first elected to a democratic government. I took a picture of his genealogy, his family admonition, and a few other things. This weekend was very interesting. I learned that Nantong is a city full of museums and Suzhou is city full of gardens.
In Suzhou yesterday evening the YSA group date was a little messy, but it was okay. Andres and I planned to meet at the Suzhou south bus station, but when I arrived, I was surprised to find that I was at the north station. I was trying to connect with my friend, but I didn’t know how to find the 168 bus. A “taxi” took me, but it took him like 25 minutes to find it. It was too late by then to catch the bus to find Andres. I gave myself an hour to find the place. The bike driver was like a chicken without her head, looking for a bus stop, and I was discussing with Andres the way to reach the restaurant, showing him different destination that I should be going. The “taxi” driver asked for twenty yuan, but I only had hundreds. When he took my hundred, he went off with it even after a man, which coincidentally could speak English, was rebuking him to give me my change. I only got twenty back from him.
The next adventure was finding a taxi, which I don’t have much luck with. Since I was late, I was running after any taxi that I found. That took like forty minutes. I finally got myself a taxi, arriving at the Indian Restaurant about a hour late.
I never at Indian food, so the environment was new. Coming in late, Andres and I were out of it. We had a good dinner though. I sought after having two couples to be at the dinner to have a good personal setting. When the third sister came, it was good, but the environment could have been better. Allyne, the third sister, was celebrating getting into BYU Hawaii as I celebrated getting into BYU Idaho. yay!
Take care, (How is my grammar now, Wes?)
1 March 2012
Good Bye Nantong
It seems that I will never have a regular week in China. I said the celebration was over last Sunday because I was going to get to work to find a job. Mary asked me my plans for tomorrow. I questioned why, but she means business. I can’t stay at her house for much longer, since she is under a lot of stress. I wanted to work out my stay in China for the next six months before I go to BYU Idaho. She needed me to go home as soon as possible, so I offered her a deal, since I want my stay to be a success. I asked her to give me a date that she will buy my flight ticket home. If I don’t find a job, justice is due, and I will be sent home. She gave me until the thirtieth of February. That night I got to work. Since most of my friends are part of the education system, I text my network of friends, if they can help me find a job in a few days.
Somehow I came to realize a while ago that Craigslist is a great way to find a job for foreigners because Chinese people don’t know the website. It is basically customized for us. I emailed all the reasonable job opportunities that I found from Suzhou to Shanghai, since I have connections to there. This day was Monday, and by the afternoon I had a job interview set up for Shanghai the next day.
One thing that I learned about the professional world is that the majority of job opportunities, which I could apply for was taken from me, because I did not have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree represents a high standard of training.
Last Saturday Mary took me out to watch a Chinese movie to celebrate my acceptance into BYU Idaho. The movie was gruesome, but the story and the characters were well developed. On the way over to the movie theater, Mary told me to hand out the leaflets to begin recruiting new students that I can teach. That was confusing; however, Monday afternoon Mary had me help her teach English to twelve of my students in our house. Not teaching at the school is awkward. I taught two classes this week with Mary. Working with Mary, we have smooth lessons. Also on Monday I told my colleagues that I would like a haircut. They were going to take me out the next day, but I accepted this job interview appointment.
Going to Shanghai was an adventure. It is a huge city like Washington DC, standing separate from all other Providences. Mary was worried that I would get lost, so she arranged that her friend Anna would show me around. I gave here the information of my appointment and everything, and I went to sleep trusting that everything would work out fine. I planned to leave late in the morning after a little preparation in the morning; however, I received a text from Anna in the morning advising me to get a 7 AM bus. I don’t know how, but I rushed, and got to the station and the ticket in time for the seven AM bus. On the bus lame Chinese films were being played, but I felt good about working on memorizing scriptures instead of corrupting my mind. Guess what! Today mark the day that I finished memorizing the first chapter of first Nephi.
When I arrived, I fulfilled all that I knew of the plan to go about my day in Shanghai. I arrived about eleven at a McDonald’s, which was all I knew of Shanghai. Anna had me wait for a half an hour until she arrived; then, we looked for place of my interview first, since Shanghai is so big. I was lead to an office building, for Mark sent me a text, saying that he can help me. The office building seemed to be quiet, but hearing Mark is hard especially with my old phone. He had a proposition though to keep me here.
During my call, I realized that Anna disappeared, and after the phone call, she mysteriously returned. It seemed that the office building that I was in has the office of my interview. We went up; even though, we were way early. I was really excited for this job opportunity because it seemed perfect. It was not a normal teaching job, but it is associated with a private library. The description of the job was reading books to children.
The job interview was simple. I applied for the job, spoke with the interviewer, and demonstrated my teaching skills in a ten minute demo. After the interview Tina came in to inform me that I had that day to decide whether I would take the job. My phone call with Mark entailed that I would meet him to discuss his proposal, so I asked for an extra day, which they granted.
I DID IT! I found a job that would solve housing, visa, food and everything even a flight home. I would be moving to Shaoxing for the next six months to join a new branch.
After lunch we headed to see Mark. He was in Shanghai, which was a surprise. I thought that he was in the states busy until April from whence he will come. When we arrived at his metro station stop, I was told to turn left to head to a stop light; then, turn right after crossing the street. I did that, but I went out the wrong exit. In the metro stop, there was four exits. I was told to go out of the first, but after heading out the first, I actually went out the second because I went down the wrong stairs. That messed us up. We did meet Mark though. Talking with him, I was surprised to hear his new goals, for he just a few weeks ago closed the Happy Company. He plans to teach the happiness and service of his company as new curriculum at universities.
His proposal was good. Since it was in the early stages of development and I needed to figure out a decision by the non existent thirtieth of February, we decided to move to Shaoxing. I am part of Mark’s team, so it was we.
Coming home from Shanghai was interesting. I experienced first hand what the life of a city of 25 million people is like. When I got out of the subway, there were so many people that we were bouncing off each other and we were in close quarters. I felt a molecule of water in a steam, flowing up the stairs and escalators.
The next day my life was good, but a week does not go by without being thrown in a tail spin. I had a second interview by phone! It was not much of an interview, but it was just my boss informing me of my new situation. They wanted me to commit to a year contract, but I could not. I have four bosses now to convince to hire me without talking to them. They told me that they were going to decide that evening whether to hire me, telling Mary what will happen.
I was so grateful that Mary was my translator, for she was more than a translator. Mary was my negotiator and my advocate. They had three conversation with a phone call each. Mary said that they would not have hired me, if she had not persuaded them. That night was tense. My possibility of staying in China was being decided by people that I could not speak to.
This next morning another tailspin did not turn out well, for an email from my mother said that dad was very sad and worried for my temporal welfare in China, beckoning me to come home. I sent a message to comfort them, saying all is well. Unmanned hot air balloons are being sent home. Everything is figured out. They sent an email earlier in the week or the day before or so, telling me to come home, but my good news satisfied them. Dad was not convinced that I can ever be secure in my job searching efforts today. I humbled myself, since a power struggle, between personal agency and your patriarch is stupid. God seems to have better plans for me. The ones that I was living was exactly according to my desires in China. My contract would finish in time for my first semester at BYU Idaho; although, this tailspin was the most devastating of all. My hours of pondering was humbling. It seems that I will be home soon. I felt like this trip was a victory and a failure both at the same time, for my goals of learning Chinese, earning money for my education, and finding a job in the education system were given and taken from me. I am over it though. This is just a normal week in my adventure here in China, which seems to be over now.
Love
Alexander Hicken
IT’S NOT OVER YET.
PS I had my first Chinese hair cut today. The barbers in China are very radical. I was taken by a couple of my sisters to a nice one though. They shampooed my hair, and they even gave me a much needed massage. When they asked what type of hairstyle that I would like. I said modest. They had the look that word up in their phone. After the haircut they even washed out all the loose hair from my head, so I don’t have a heap of hair to bug me in my shirt. The barber was good, but I realized after the hair cut that he left sideburns uneven. They don’t seem to match one side of the head to the other side.
Another thing that was great today was seeing my students for one of the last times. They all greeted me as they laid in their beds, since it was suppose to be nap time, and they were lead to blow me kisses. The people of my school bring a smile to my face even when they don’t know my Chinese story.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2012
March twentieth
Dear family,
I seem to have finally found that my coming next couple weeks will finally be my regular weeks, for it will be spent fulfilling my hobbies until the twentieth of March, which my departure date. Dad told me that it was illegal for me to seek a job as a tourist, so I refused the job offer at Shaoxing. I spoke with my potential new boss there on Thursday night. The first thing that she spoke about was church. I was going to work for an Episcopal church. Churches are really poor now a days, so when I read more of the situation. I was told by the sister that I would be the second teacher and affording both of us is very difficult. I told her, realizing how weak the program is that they would be better off without me. She even pursued with another proposal, which entailed no pay, so I am left here in China doing whatever hobbies that I want.
Since I lacked a purpose in China, I felt like going against the norm. I showed a little California culture by showing that many people wear shorts all year round. Everyone was freaking out, worrying that I would get sick. I learned from cross country that sickness does not come from being cold, but it comes from being indoors more during the cold season, where the germs are more abundant. Mama Dong Ping told me yesterday, when I wore shorts again, that she was wearing five layers of pants. That’s how they are raised. I was not cold, wearing shorts.
Friday night I went out for dinner with my good friend Shirley. She has been super busy at school, but we went out to a steakhouse to catch up. Shirley only hung out with me for the second week of my stay here. The reunion was too chill for my liking, but it was nice to see her. She was heading to a concert across the street from the steakhouse, so I walked her there.
Walking home, I passed a fast-food chain in China called Dumpling. There is a girl there, which I find cute. I even got her QQ number. She tried to talk to me once over QQ, but she is not confident in her English. I wanted to see her, wondering what would happen. It was very awkward though. Since she were lacking of confidence before her coworkers, they looked at me very strangely, so I said good bye.
Saturday morning I did not have much to do because the dates that I were hoping to have fell through. I was able to Skype with Deneice, a good friend though. A very limited amount of people seem to see my status’ on Facebook because not many people know that I am in China; except for people that I am most close to. I fixed up all the emails for her and Andres, for they want to read my adventure here. I am doing a lot of writing now a days. I was hired as a Ghost writer, so that is fun. Mark said that we can meet in the states to figure out how we can work together.
When all my options were taken away from me, I felt that I don’t have a purpose here. I can practice Chinese. Saturday morning I saw that I was set to be on the spring fall track at BYU Idaho. I thought that I may be attending in the spring, but, rereading the letter, I see that I still have until September to get to Idaho. I occasionally thought myself as a prodigal son, since I used up all my saving, but my father comforted me, comparing my stay to the original Zion’s camp. They went out only to exercise faith. Zion’s camp did not go to war to recapture Zion, but they made it there.
On Friday evening, I introduced Melissa to brown rice, saying it is more complete than white rice. I further said that I like it better than white rice, and on Sunday night, I was surprised that she said that she bought some, preparing me breakfast for the next day. It was tasty. She has cooked me breakfast three days in a row now. She asked what I wanted last night, and I said French Toast of course. I wondered how Chinese French Toast would be. She said that the bread was requiring a lot, and she did not have time to cook it with eggs and stuff.
Fast Sunday was really good. A brother testified of a meaningful principle that ‘my way are not your ways’, which rang true with everyone. I came here to do things, but they seem to not be my purpose here. We ought to seek to do God’s will rather than our own.
The past couple days with Melissa at her class, I would play with the kids. They have toys, but perhaps the toys are beyond their age because they just look at it. They are probably three to four years old. The toys are like Lego’s. On Tuesday and Wednesday I built things for them, and they had played with them. They have a great imagination. They played with an unfinished project of mine as if it is a cake, and a boy sang the happy birthday song. A girl wore one as a crown, and the children felt like a dog or a cat as they held a ball like structure before their face. The class play time have been more fun and loud, which I think is good.
Yesterday my sisters said that they will knit me a yellow sweater, starting today. I thought that they were working on it already, for Erika was working on a yellow sweater. I was wrong, and they said that they will make a better one for me. They asked me if they wanted a long neck, a common design, so I had to have that, since it was handmade just for me in China.
On Monday I decided to read my first Chinese book. The first day was discouraging. Since I was reading the title of the book, the character combinations did not make any sense, so I skipped all the title stuff to get to the story. It is children’s literature, so it should be fun. I asked Melissa, if she recommends any books to learn Chinese, and she recommended Hsu Chih-mo poetry 徐志摩的. I hope that they are like psalms.
Occasionally I am able to be an aid for Mary to teach Engish. Humbling myself to be free without a purpose in China, being able to do whatever that I want and seeking to be fruitful, is interesting. Many people may feel that way now though.
Love
Alexander Hicken
TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2012
Entering my final week in China
Dear Family,
It feels too long since I wrote you. I need to do research to recall what I need to begin on. I realize that people may want to have a dialog, but I might as well finish, writing the story of my adventure here.
Thursday was a nice chill day because it was women’s day. I don’t know, if many Chinese people celebrate it as much as my associates, but the school teachers went out. Since the day was a half day, We went to a mall, having a fun time at an arcade and a restaurant. Girl love to go have fun, so they were generous with buying token and playing games. Some of the games were boring, since the difficulty seems to be scaled back. I usually don’t do well on racing games, but I was able to basically win the one that I was playing. I was pushing the back bumper of the first place winner. This can also be a sign of how easy it is to do well at this arcade, playing the games. It got good though. I will not go one explaining video games.
In the evening Melissa took me to meet her family. Melissa is married, so we first went to pick up her child. The primary school is huge. They need to organize the departure of the students in order to keep it sane. This school has thirty classes of fifty students! Fifty students per class is average.
Melissa’s son is really cool. Since it was a week day, we were not able to get to know each other well. He also had to do homework, so I was left to hang out, doing what I want. Melissa showed me family pictures and Hsu Chih-mo poetry 徐志摩的. This poetry is love poetry, so I am not too interested in it. She did give me a book though. I don’t know what it is about, but it begins three hundred years ago. I am realizing a book saying that is kind of odd. I will figure it out though.
The book is written in traditional Chinese. I am afraid that it may be Cantonese. It is written from right to left, and up to down. It seems that there may be many one word sentences, so that is a little confusing.
Melissa treats me as her only little brother, since she has never had siblings. On Friday my older sister took me shopping to buy books, so I can practice learning Chinese. Since studying dialog in my current opinion seems to be a good way to go, learning Chinese, I had her buy me a comic book the size of a manga. It is about a legendary male opera singer that cross dresses, during her performances. I hope that he is not a cross dresser all day long. The other book that Melissa bought me is from the thirties. I hope that this book can be enlightening. It has the English text in the back, so I can test if my translation is good.
Saturday was an awesome day. After studying the scriptures, I was lead to take a nap, which was good because I was awaken up to be informed that we were going Ru Gao to meet Sam’s family. I love Ru Gao. This day was cool because I was taken to meet Sam’s father at his factory. He is the big man over the factory. Figuring out what the factory was making was a puzzle because I did not have a tour guide. I had a pretty accurate idea what they were making, which was confirmed, when I was given a catalog. They make machines that manufacture raw material like metals and plastics. I enjoyed the puzzle; then, we went to Yacht and Sam’s old high school.
I had a lot of fun at the high school. The school was quiet, since it was the weekend, but if you read my blog article about his school. I will need to update it. They have institutionalised meeting from 7 in the morning to 9 at night. All of them are not class. I was surprised to witness what I was told from Sam and Yacht was true. On every Saturday they test their skills to prepare for university exams. A teacher took me on a tour of the campus. They have three gigantic five story building for the school’s facility. Since school is all day long and the students come from far and wide, many students have to live in dorms.
The teach let me interview her students perhaps because I told her that I interviewed Sam. It was more like they were interviewing me though. This teacher only had fifteen students, who are preparing to go to foreign universities. I am of the impression that they also have learning disabilities. They were cool! We took pictures. I feel that the class setting was an experience given to me my God, for I was able to have a great time. I was grateful that I was not overwhelmed with fifty students. When it came time for break, some of the guys took me to play basketball.
Although most boys are crazy about basketball, I was surprised that my skill was average or looked upon as good. The skill level of most students in basketball is weak compared to America. I am lost on the court at home, but here I was in the game. Some of the best basketball players of the school wanted to play with me. I was surprised that I had a pretty accurate shot. I kind of lived up the name of America. If I was Michael Angulo or Kade Bullough, I would be looked upon as a Michael Jordan. Their skill is not good because most people work all day long, and little time is given to recreation.
The night was crazy. I was taken to a place to shower. After showering, we went to a sauna type room. This room had a very social environment. We went shopping just before coming here to eat at the sauna. This weekend I felt full most of the day. I was offered food all day long. I don’t know how the Chinese people do it. Maybe they do it just because I am a foreigner, and many American people are obese. After eating at a nice restaurant, they often have noodle soup. I don’t know about you, but I go to dinner to have a filling meal. It does not seems so here. Sitting an the hundred degree room for a while, we went to a resting room.
In this room, I asked Sam’s ‘brother’ how often he comes her, wondering how wealthy the family is. How often to they afford going to shower and relax here. He refused to answer. When we entered the resting room, we were lead to walk through the rooms of one of the residence, since this business was family run. I said hi to the girls casually on a computer as I was trained to do according to the Jamaican culture.
I was wave hi to the girls once in a while according to the Jamaican habit that I have, waving hi to people whenever it is appropriate. One of the girls said “I love you.” Since they were ‘embracing our bond,’ which is my definition of a friendship, I had to make it lasting. I went over to talk to the three girls. We exchanged QQ numbers. They were not confident with their English, so I had to exercise my patience as they retrieved the sister that knew English the best. You may not be able to know this unless you visited here, but instant lasting brotherly friendships are formed. Two of the friends of the family left, and we were left to get to know the family. I got to know the brother, who is an English teacher. We took pictures, and the youngest daughter walked me out. She was not confident in her English; but to show you how the instant lasting brotherly friendships are formed. I heard the sincere words “I will miss you.” as I made my farewell.
Sunday was nice too. I was honored that Sam’s family gave me this day too. I don’t feel like writing much about this day because I have an odd feeling about this Sabbath day. Since the family was Chinese, I could not preach to them, so my sabbath observance was not as great as I wanted. I thought of the phrase if someone compels you to go a mile go with them twain, and as I pondered the commandment within the ten commandments, I more fully realized how meaningful the words are in this commandment.
On Monday I was inspired to make Chinese French Toast for my older sister Melissa, but I ended up feeling the entire faculty. They are not sick now, and they said hao cher, so it must have been good. I was almost frustrating to cook it. Sam’s family was surprised when I informed them of the size of the loaves in America. They are like three times the size of them her. The bakery section is more like a small pastry section. I used up the whole Chinese loaf of bread, trying too cook in a metal pot. Mary does not have a pan, but I was lucky to have plenty of eggs and I was able to have four slices not burnt. The way I served it was more Chinese than the French toast. Since I knew that it would be a hassle to find a fork, I cut the toast into bite size pieces. The food was displayed very nicely. I had a small bowl full of strawberry yogurt within a big bowl full of the bit size pieces of French Toast. I saw extra grapes and longan fruit around to I put that on top too.
That evening we celebrated at a Steakhouse me, leaving. This past weekend I got many new friends on QQ, for I also am friends now with the students that I met at Sam’s school. The teachers that took me out bugged the waiter, which knew English pretty well to talk to me. He wanted to exchange QQ numbers. He is super cool.
The teacher expressed their love to me through him as the translator. They had him test me if they know their names as they always do. Chinese names are very hard to remember because they always give there full name, and they say their name backwards. Reminding me of their Chinese names almost everyday kind of makes sense.
My final week here has been pretty quiet until last night. I have been writing a lot. I write as the teacher knit and the children sleep. Last night Yao’s friends contacted me to hang out tomorrow, and I may go the Shanghai on Friday. My final week is turning out well.
Love
Alex
TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 2012
Good Bye China
Dear Family,
This email is my last entry to my Chinese story, for I am home now. The last email concluded with my hopes for a great final few days in China, and I was blessed to have a greatest final days therein. Yao’s friend invited me to visit her and hang out with some of her roommate. I wondered if there would be boys hanging out with us, but Xue, the friend, has nine roommates.
It feels odd to write about this because one of the roommates is on the list of people that I am sending this to. She wants to practice learning English, so she embraced our friendship. When she heard that I love to write, she asked to read some of my writing. Writing of her and all her roommates for her with her reading it is fun.
When I met Xue with her good friend, she was uncomfortable because she never spake to with an English speaker before. I don’t know why Chinese people always say that their spoken English is poor. This was the first time that they spoke to an English speaker, so they should relax.
Ten teenage girls living in one room seemed insane to me. Xue and a couple of her friends took me for a walk, and they denied the drama, which I imagined that can be. All ten girls were studying the same thing, so I kind of felt like I was talking to multiples of the same person, especially if they lacked hobbies. I knew that I may get their QQ numbers, and I wanted to get to know them. I was lead to ask most of the girls what their interests were, which I found to be good to identify who each person was when I instant message them.
The most interesting girl was very similar to me, loving to write. She has been working on writing a comic for six years! It is of a Romeo and Juliet story of China. The name of the story has the word butterfly in it, if you want to look it up.
The majority of the girls lacked a passion to pursue interests, but a common interest is reading. Two of the coolest girls were more athletic, either practicing volleyball or dance. The date with the girls kind of felt like the bachelor show.
The next day was Friday, and I was hoping to hang out with the girl that I met the weekend before at the sauna place in RuGao. During the week, she asked me to give her an English name, so I can have a name to easily remember to call her with. I was hard to decide, but we found a good name. It is Shaundra, the name of a most awesome cousin of mine. We planned to meet at 6 in the evening, and I was thinking that it took two and a half hours to get there. I told her the day before that she needs to tell me the place to meet her, or I cannot come. She waited to the last minute to tell me where to meet her. She is only in the ninth grade, so it was just for fun. Shaundra said that she would bring some friends as well.
As I rushed over the RuGao, I asked Shaundra, if there is a late bus coming home, so I can be home that night. She answered that the latest bus left to Nantong at 5:40 pm, which would not be an option. I could have if I wanted of be lame, but I did not want to cancel the evening of “play,” a word commonly used by Chinese to say hang out.
God provided me a guardian angel to be safe. Before I even got on the bus, a girl began talking to me. Her name is Xue. She said that she was fifty years old, but I have seen college students that looked older than her. She was really cool, helping me find the place that I was going to met my friend, get into a hotel, and get back home in the morning of Saturday.
It turned out that the bus ride only took an hour, so I was way early. I had another friend that I wanted to meet, but she was a teacher. It kind of annoying how the professional world in China works the people way too much. I have a friend that works, starting at 7 am and often comes home after eleven pm. The teacher friend is named Susan. Susan needed to participate in the administration of a mock University entry exam all that weekend.
When Shaundra arrived, I had to rush back to the Wengfeng mall because I went on a walk. I was lead to a park, which I was seeking. I knew that there needed to be one nearby by, since a river flowed by the mall.
She introduced me to four of her friends. I only got one of the QQ number of one of her friends, so I only remember the name of one of them especially since she wants to call herself Candy. After a walk through the mall, we made it to our destination, the arcade. When they saw my excitement for pool, they followed me in to play a game; even though, they had never played before. Candy got into it, and Shaundra was too tense. Seeing the enthusiasm of Candy made me realize that I was inaccurate because I was not hitting the balls hard enough. I was more accurate, and after of playing an hour we discovered our hour time limit was up. We did not even finish a game, but we were tied. We both had two balls to hit into before getting to the eight ball. We played more games and shopped before going to dinner at like ten o’ clock.
On the bus, coming back home from RuGao, Xue, my RuGao guardian, called me. She did a few times in my final days in China. She is my loving RuGao mother. She is a proud Chinese, saying that the RuGao and Chinese girls are more beautiful than California girls. I can’t agree. The Chinese people are so family oriented and friendly that this bond was instant. A couple girl, sitting in the seats before me in the bus, spoke as if they wanted to talk with me, since I spoke English, so I approached them. They struggled as they all do, but we had good times. They wanted to hang out afterward, for they were going to the bookstore and to play at a park. I was down; however, their uncle was with them, and he lead them away with errands to rush to.
When I got home, I still had things to do. Melissa took me out for lunch for the final time. We went to a famous soup place, where they boil the broth and have you place the food in the pot at the table. Eating out of the pot was odd, for all I had was serving spoon and chopsticks, but I managed.
The weekend was full of drama afterward, which I should not discuss.
On my last day in Nantong, I said good bye to the school, which I spent most of my time at. I hung out mostly at Melissa’s class. I drew farewell cards for her class and the faculty. Playing with the kids a final day was nice. They are like 3-4 years old.
During the week prior, a student wanted me to participate in the class, so she had me sit next to her in the class. We sang songs and did various activities. Melissa even gave me a sticker on my forehead, which is common in school, when students are good. I wore that proudly as the children do.
I was given my yellow sweater, which my Chinese sister at the schoo made. Mama Pongping paraded me around the school, boasting of the fruits thereof. It fits well, and it is beautiful.
Also during last week I noticed that every day of that week, the teachers would lead their students in fun dances to a variety of song for exercise. I was lead to join, and the children enjoyed my presence. I only danced one song though
I participated in Mary’s English class on my last day in Nantong too. It was a good fun class of hers; however, at the end She had her students say good bye. They were very disappointed that I had to leave. She instructed them to hug me individually; then, we took pictures. At the end of it all, all the kids gave a big group, hugging for a few minutes. We almost fell down on the flour. They said the dearest words of love, the ones they knew.
On the flight home, I was bummed that I did not have my journal to write in one the way home, but flying from Beijing to San Francisco was fun. I was placed to sit next to two youth, heading for North Dakota and aviation school. At least all the employees of Air China go to the same university of these youth, so I had to test what they said and asked our flight attendant where she attended school. They all went to the same school. I felt part of the Chinese aviation family. I learned that yangyang, the flight attendant, only had to attend the university for one year before attending to the planes. I hope that they don’t work her as much as the people in China. I asked for her QQ, but we were not lead to receive it, since she was so busy. I was told that the majority of flight attendants only work for ten years before they have to move on. Pilots work for thirty years.
This is my Chinese story. I still am trying to figure out how to speak Chinese. I download the international QQ to keep in touch. I began renren, the facebook of China, but I don’t know how to connect with my friends. I love the Chinese people very much. I don’t know when I will go to China again, but I will try to keep everything which I was given there with me especially the friendships.
Love
Alex