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Archive for the ‘school’ Category

The title of this blog is in reference to a song that plays continuously on TV in conjunction with the World Expo. Have you heard of the World Expo? It’s an updated version of the World’s Fair and it’s happening in Shanghai for the next few months and there are enough monogrammed handles in the subway, posters on the wall of buildings and songs on TV to remind you, if you were here.

We spent a month teaching in Shanghai last year and I swore I would never return. I couldn’t handle the spitting, the babies peeing everywhere, the constant staring. Then the university offered us free flights, and to pay us to teach and suddenly we couldn’t turn down an opportunity to travel again. So we agreed! I brought all of my negative feelings with me and when first arriving here, I broke down and wanted to go home. This is not me. I sleep in mountain villages with no electricity, I take overnight buses that curve around hairpin turns a thousand feet over a valley, I bike through traffic in Laos and Vietnam. I do things that most people wouldn’t want to. And suddenly, I couldn’t get past our tiny, dark hotel room with two single beds (but they moved us two days later). So I wrote a cryptic short story and I put all of my negative emotions into it in a humorous way and I felt better. I needed to look at it with humor glasses on, and once I did, I could finally accept the oddities. I now find the spitting hilarious and egg them on whenever I hear the low guttural throat procession begin. I smile at children when they stare and often their parents smile back. I like the slow pace of the people, how they take their time sharing a meal with family and friends, or how they cross the street slowly, unfolding each footstep carefully. It’s a big city with a small feel if you choose the right places to hang out. Everyday is opposite day and once you know you’ll get the opposite of what you expect, it’s easy to accept.

We had a three day stopover in Tokyo on our way to Shanghai. I heart Tokyo. It’s everything a city should be and more. The food is out of this world, the shopping is almost too much and it’s clean, the people are super polite, the subway efficient, and the weather pleasant. We had a blast exploring the city and eating the best sushi I’ve ever had. Most of the restaurants don’t have English but you soon learn how to point and figure it out. Most Japanese speak some English, you just have to ask. The only downfall is that most stores carry a one-size-fits-all and I’m almost twice their size so couldn’t buy much. We met a great guy our last night that owns a delish restaurant called Jewel of India in Roppongi. We stayed at the restaurant until 1 a.m. talking and drinking beer. Thanks Sid!

I have mostly been holed up in our Shanghai hotel room working away at my last packet for school. And here it is: I finished my first semester of grad school in creative writing and I feel amazing! And what’s better is I have so many ideas and want to keep writing. And I can’t wait to start my next book, which is To Kill A Mockingbird. Yup, that’s right, never read it. I was a bad student in the days when this was probably a requirement.

Back to Shanghai. I wanted to make a list of some of the weird/funny things from this trip:

  1. It is easier to cross the street to our guesthouse in the middle of the road then at the crosswalk (it’s three lanes going each direction).
  2. Most restrooms have toilet paper this year.
  3. One of our cab drivers knew a few English words. He said, “Okay, thank you, you’re welcome, bye bye, welcome to shanghai” all at once as we exited the cab. He is the first cab driver we have heard speak any English in this city.
  4. We have learned more words in Chinese than any other language besides maybe Spanish. A few of these new words are: beer, baby (endearing to your sweetheart), check, green tea, dog, Shanghai University and fuckin’ great! On a similar note, I speak great Chinese sign language.
  5. This was heard second hand, but a cat was outside our guesthouse and a man took the cat and put it into a bag, like something that would hold fertilizer. The cat was screaming from inside the bag. Another man came up to the man with the cat-bag and paid him money to release the cat and he did. The man who paid the money even stuck around to make sure the other man didn’t catch the cat again.
  6. Ben and I drank snake blood and snake gallbladder. I wouldn’t say it tastes like chicken.
  7. We went to a nightclub and they stopped the dance music to put on a S&M show. The girls wore black skimpy leather and had whips. The guy wore a full face mask with a ball-gag. (I said, “that’s weird” to my student from last year who was with us and she said, “that’s very Shanghai!”
  8. I watched a man pee right outside our guesthouse, facing the road. I saw a little girl pee in the middle of the sidewalk and a little boy take a poo outside a popular tourist area where there are several bathrooms (with toilet paper!).
  9. I prefer chopsticks to a fork and knife.
  10. Turtle is quite chewy. It was served in a soup with snake. I guest turtles and snakes get along after death.

If you are in the market to visit Shanghai, please eat at Guyi (Hunan; the ribs are incredible!), Haiku (sushi; better western rolls than I’ve ever had in the U.S.) and Masala Art (Indian; great curry and good atmosphere).The food is fabulous in Shanghai and there is always a cute cafe to linger at with a book. They never shoo you away. The shopping is plentiful and I’m off to get my fill today!

And I’ll admit it, we might come back next year! I’m a little sad that we’re leaving on Saturday. However, we are going to an island in Malaysia called the Perhentians, then to Borneo for a two week adventure with Craig.

Please leave your comments! And happy life!

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School is Cool

“I will never go back to school.” – Paula A.

“I am not a ‘school person.'” – Paula A.

“School is not where I do my best.” – Paula A.

I said these things not too long ago, just as recently as 2008. Never is a word I used often about school. I was raised by hard-working parents, but both came from families that lacked educational ambition. My grandparents finished high school only and my parents each completed less than a year or so in college, neither finishing a degree. This is not necessarily wrong, but it shaped how I felt about higher education. I was taught to find a career in which I could make money and support myself, which are excellent life lessons, but there was no emphasis on continuing education for the sake of learning. I am fortunate to have joined a family in which education is a priority. My husband Ben’s grandparents both survived the Holocaust separately, meeting each other in Illinois following their release from concentration and work camps. They made education a priority, realizing that no one can ever take that from you. Each earned their PhD in chemistry, worked at Dupont, and Ben’s grandmother even invented some common household products. They passed on this love for education and higher learning to their children (two doctors and a lawyer) and grandchildren (my husband Ben is working on his PhD). This family issued the support and love of education I needed to believe in myself.

I start my Master’s of Fine Arts in creative writing in February. So in the meantime, I enrolled at the University of Utah as a non-matriculated student, which means I am graded with my peers, but the credits don’t go towards anything. This was a way to get back into the swing of things since it has been eight years since I left college and said I was NEVER going back to school. I found out that I LOVE school. Saying never gets you nowhere. I learned more in four months of school than I have since I started my communications career. I gained knowledge and fostered creativity that make me proud of who I am and what I am working on. I adored my classmates, the curriculum and especially my professors. And best of all, I realized that I am a good student when I enjoy the curriculum. I earned two As and an A-, the highest grades I’ve had in college.

Don’t let “never” be your road block. I am a fortunate person with so many people who believe in me, but what I needed most was to believe in myself. And remember how I said I was never going back to China? Well, there’s a 99 percent chance we’ll be back there in May. Ben will teach classes again and possibly work on a research project for an eco-tourist island off of Shanghai, while I’ll work remotely on my graduate school work.

Lastly, please pick up a copy of Park City Magazine’s winter issue. My article on Park City Iron Man is on page 28 of the second section. Thanks again to Kristen for allowing me the opportunity and publishing my first piece. Thanks to Park City Iron Man for the interview, friendship and incredible craftsmanship. Our dining room table shines in our new home!

Happy New Year! Make a resolution to say no to never!!

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