Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

By Bronnie Ware

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks...

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one.

Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.

They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

One of these things is not like the other!


Tianning Temple November 26, 2011

Tom's Crystal Clear Whiskey Glasses

Temple Wall
Tianning Temple in Changzhou on November 26, 2011

Beijing Temple Stairs on November 19, 2011

Thoughts, thoughts like crazy rushes of the November breeze stirring my autumn imagination and generating questions about why I am where I am... of all places, China.

At a random bus stop in Changzhou, I look down at the sidewalk and small intimate piles of phlegm and blood cling stickily to the concrete. One man is squatting, unknowingly I suppose, over the red human stain looking as if the shiny fluid underneath him is being excreted from his rectum.

I finished reading Haruki Murakami's short story "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" and felt like weeping because humans are doubters, always questioning happiness and equipped with only a faulty sense of fuzzy memory.

The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in the chest. And they knew:

She is the 100% perfect girl for me.
He is the 100% perfect boy for me.

Without a word, they passed eachother, disappearing in the crowd. Forever.

A sad story, don't you think?

To preserve his anonymity, I will refer to him as: The Man I Am Dating or TMIAD. I saw this man off at the bus station Sunday afternoon. He helped me tidy the kitchen after we had eaten breakfast on Saturday morning, and he sprinted to the bus station Friday evening so he would make the last bus that dropped him in Changzhou at 7:30. That's backwards. We spent the weekend together and found some not-too-sweet Chinese white wine. We drank it in bed from Tom's crystal clear whiskey glasses. He's a vegetarian, TMIAD, not Tom- which is a bragging point on his behalf. He introduced me to vegetable dumplings at the dumpling fast food chain Wu Da Niang Dumpling.

I am full of 12 vegetable dumplings and one green tea and red bean smoothie. The weather reminds me of a tropical summer's day and there are banana plants in the park.

I would take a nap if I could. But I shouldn't.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nanjing South

SAT Identity

My students in senior 3 wrote an essay on their midterm exam addressing the power differential in relationships between themselves and important people in their lives such as college counselors, teachers, mothers and fathers. Alyson's essay struck me as typical of the American college entrance experience for many Chinese high school students. My students are competing for places in the top universities in America, which only compounds the pressure.

Alyson's Analysis

The conflict in the essay I write is about the conflict between counselor (college) and me. My counselor insists that "I should put all my energy and time on improving my SAT score," and my hobbies or interests should be put off to the side. She wants the outcome (of a higher SAT score) and she takes charge of the talk.

I want my conversation in the essay to appear as a conversation between a busy business woman and her poor client. She makes me feel that I am working for her because she is condescending.

Alyson's Essay

When I talk to you, look at me. OK? Show your respect. Shen Zhoutian, are you listening? Give some reply, OK? Are you listening at all? Look at people's eyes when they talk to you, OK? Mind your manners. I don't know, but I think your eyes make people feel you are flippant. I am worrying about you. You are certainly not going to pass the college interview with the admissions officer. If I were the college admissions officer, the least person I would want to accept is you. I tell you, you are doomed if the college requires an interview. Mind you with your eyes, OK? Do you have any research? The college application requires you to write about research that you have conducted before. OK- that-eh-eh... stop, stop here. Do you even know what research is? I can't understand what you're writing. And what are you talking about? I can't understand and the admissions officers cannot understand either. So don't tell every step of your so-called research. Do you really have no other to write about? Are you sure? Just remember what I tell you. You should write it down, you know, in case your forget about it when you write. We have a tight schedule here, and time is limited. There are 5 students waiting for me. So how's your test preparation going? What! You are learning Spanish now? Don't joke. Look at what time it is. You are applying for colleges. Now focus on your SAT, OK? Promise me. Are you a serious girl? Your friend takes the SAT course, and she has a score of 2,300. You are way behind her level. The most urgent thing you need to do now is improve your SAT score. Do you have confidence in yourself? OK, I see. Send me your college essays before this Sunday. I have a really tight schedule.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

American Girl: Dating Game


I never thought I would date in China.

I had given up the search assuming that most Western men wanted only to experience the female Chinese partner. Dating a Chinese man seemed like a cavernous cultural divide both incomprehensible and inaccessible. I was dreading the lack of intimacy when... I wasn't alone anymore.

to be

photo caption: The school bought me a new mattress- a comfortable highlight of my day on November 14, 2011.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yixing, China - November 12 and 13

Shanjuan Caves in Yixing
The Lovely Snail Woman

Bride Beautiful... groom too

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stealing Ice Cream in Changzhou

Sophie Ren

Professor LJ the Raingirl

AP 2 English

11 November 2011

The Ice Cream Thief

Changzhou, China always has a hot summer. I hate summer because it’s so hot. I just want to stay in my room with the air-conditioning on, but on the other hand, I love summer too. I don’t have to wear a lot of heavy clothes like I do in the winter. I don’t feel cold any more, and I love sunshine, although sometimes it’s too bright. But the most important thing is that I can enjoy my favorite ice cream at any time.

Last summer, I was living in my grandfather’s factory. I bought a huge supply of ice cream and put it in the chest freezer. The chest freezer was sitting in a small room on the first floor of one of the buildings at the factory and other people knew I had my delicious ice cream there. When I felt like eating some creamy and cool ice cream, I would go and get one from the freezer.

Time passed. Suddenly, one day I discovered that it seemed the number of ice cream treats was not correct. I counted them carefully and then left. The next day, I opened the freezer and checked again. To my surprise, I had lost one of my delectable ice cream treats. When the count did not add up to the correct number, the smile disappeared from my face. Several days later, I lost two more, which made me think I should investigate the situation. I was going to catch the thief.

There is CCTV in the factory, but I did not want to watch a minute-by-minute video record of the entire time period my ice cream had been disappearing. It was too long. I was not sure when the thief took the ice cream, so I gave up on that plan after watching only a small part of the video. I didn’t find anyone in the video, except me.

Second Step: I checked on all the trash cans outside the building. I finally found some wrappers from the ice cream in the garbage; however, I proved that they were bought by the workers. I failed again.

I changed my tactics after getting nowhere with first two strategies. I decided to warn the thief rather than catch him. I wrote a letter with the words, “Don’t steal my ice cream! I am always watching you through CCTV!” on it and stuck the letter on the chest freezer so that anyone who opened it would see it. I didn’t lose my ice cream anymore. The thief got the message.

Later in September, I was told that it was my cousin who ate my ice cream. I realized I was like a little stupid child doing all these petty tricks to catch a thief. I felt like a 5 year-old again who cared more for her ice cream than her cousin. I knew now that I shouldn’t have worried so much about a few ice cream treats that disappeared from the freezer. I relaxed and chose to ignore small things which don’t matter. The world then became a better place.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Midterm Exams

I am lucky enough to have the academic freedom to write my own midterm exam for my senior 3 class in Changzhou. I can't wait to read their original essays about the rules and regulations that direct and shape their lives here in China. Excerpts from their papers will be posted here. My students' intellectual light- I'm going to help it shine!

“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid – AP 3 Midterm Exam – Part Two

STUDENT ESSAY: This story is a great example of literature's ability to leap across cultural boundaries. Kincaid is from Antigua (in the Caribbean) and it seems the story is set there. But it transcends this setting, too; it's a timeless, universal story about the generation gap. Parents will always try desperately to pass their own values on to their children — their lifetime's worth of learning and wisdom — and children will also try desperately to discover their own values and gain their own wisdom.

Source: http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-2005/girl-notes.html

Brainstorm Services

Directions: Write an essay in a similar style about rules and regulations that control your life in China. Use specific examples from your own life like Jamaica Kincaid did in her essay “Girl”. Set the tone and mood of your essay with those specific examples. Decide from what point of view you will write your essay: (Teacher-Student, Father-Son, Mother-Daughter, Elder-Teenager, another, et cetera). This essay does not have a traditional plot structure. Decide how you want to organize your essay in a creative manner so that the organization is clear and meaningful to your reader. Is there conflict in your essay? What is the theme? Are there important rules that you want to stress when you narrow and focus your topic? What kinds of relationships exist among the characters? Think about all these things when you write.

1. 1. 1. Write your essay.

2. 2. 2. Write a short literary analysis of your essay. Answer the questions above. Add more information if it is relevant and necessary. I leave that to your discretion, which means good judgment.

Dragon Breath

too colorful

too loud

in synch but never rhythm,

‘cause rhythm requires heart and hips

memorize the dance steps

and copy the other kids

perky red dragon breath

censored lukewarm

can’t ignite a fire

exercise with me

for health and well being

lockstep together

pity the individual who

tap dances to the left

when the group mentality

is twirling to the right.

(The video that accompanies the poem was shot in Hangzhou, China on November 6, 2011 at an outdoor fun fair for kids.)

HangZhou November 6-8, 2011 #2

Returning To ChangZhou

A framed Obama message/poster that was on the front desk at the Wushanyi International Youth Hostel in Hangzhou, China on November 8, 2011.

Hangzhou November 6-8, 2011

A rainy mist embraced West Lake spreading its flat, gray light over the causeways and pagodas. Live jazz, a flightless kite, and big brain conversations blended splashes of color into an ashy autumn landscape!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Arboreal Locomotion

I want to win an Intrepid trip to Borneo. I entered to win, and here was my reason why:

I have always admired gingers of the world. Red hair is dynamite. Orangutans- smart vegetarians swinging in the trees- Can I go to Borneo please?

Inside Joke

No explanation is needed.

just a personal memory of some chairs

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Moon Cakes Philosophy: Tasty Enjoy

The mission statement on my moon cakes reads as follows in all CAPS:




EST 1996

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.