On Holiday in the Salar Town

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Greetings! I am happy to report that my Winter Holiday is off to a healthy start. Every day that K and I are both here, we get up very early and go out walking/jogging. This has been really great for me for many reasons.

It’s great to get my body moving again, after spending so much time curled up in a ball trying to stay warm. It’s also great to get out of the house and enjoy the local surroundings. Finally, it is wonderful to have some time with K that is uninterrupted. We have such great discussions from psychology to our plans for the next few months.

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Last week I went back to Shenzhen and Hong Kong, for another stamp. It was the best trip yet. I had the chance to spend time with each of my WWAM friends there and meet the newest baby “T” as well as her wonderful grandparents.

Traveling to Shenzhen has solidified how important it is to have friends who can relate to your life on some level. As much as my hair shines and gets wavy when I enter the southern humidity, my heart becomes light and relaxed when I know I’m about to spend a fun week with other foreigners with Asian husbands. They’re wonderful ladies and I am so fortunate to know them. That is one positive thing about needing to make these expensive trips.

But these trips need to come to an end, because we can’t afford for me to keep making them. Thus we are looking at our options. There are basically two. One is for me to get a job that can actually provide a work visa, and the other is to apply for a visiting family visa. Judging by our financial situation, I will have to go for the work visa.

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Since my days in Qinghai are again numbered, I’m trying to enjoy the meaningful moments, while trying to ignore the annoying aspects. It can be difficult whilst we are staying with K’s sister. We are hoping to be able to rent our own place here for the next couple of months, and we really need to, because let’s face it, I have accumulated too much stuff.

What good is an Empty Bowl?

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I’m sitting in my office, in the dark, so that the students don’t know that I’m here. I’m soaking up the last bit of uninterrupted (and unjudged) bit of Internet and ME time before I take my leave of this school, probably for good.

As it usually happens, when I can enjoy some time to myself, my head fills with ideas and dreams for the future. I figuratively lick my lips as I peruse Pinterest, finding fulfillment and inspiration in the creativity and genius of others. I smile as I fill one of my new notebooks with ideas for blog posts and web articles. I know more than ever, that I will truly be happy if I can run with some of my great loves, and that it can only be acceptable if I can earn some money from them at the same time.

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I’m apprehensive about trying to make a living in a field besides English teaching. I’ve been teaching ESL to Asians for six years of my life. I’ve taught at all levels except kindergarten, in three provinces and four different places. For my life in Asia, aside from one blissful year of editing, teaching is all I know.

But I am completely burned out. I was even given the chance to work at what I always thought was my dream job this year, and it was equally as hard as any of the other teaching jobs I’ve had. In different ways, but in the end, I’m leaving with less energy than I went in with.

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I’m introverted. Teaching drains me of energy. Teaching in Asia, where many jobs for foreigners are little more than dancing monkey roles, makes it even worse. And knowing that all the energy you put into your work is completely unappreciated does little to boost ones morale.

I’m aching to try something new. I have so many ideas! But I have no support from my family here, because ideas are not solid, and cannot be relied upon. They are just dreams that take risk, and thus might fail. It’s good to be practical. I do appreciate that. But if I don’t do something different soon, I won’t have anything at all left to give anyone.

New Year’s Resolutions

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As I said in my previous post, 2016 was a year of discovery for me. I learned with more clarity what kinds of things I want out of life and what I need to do in order to get them. With New Year right around the corner, it’s a great time to write down some resolutions that will help me to achieve my goals. I hope you’ll share your New Year’s Resolutions with me as well.

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1. Be more grateful.

I have the cultural predisposition to complain. I’ve also been spending a great deal of time wondering if what I’ve been experiencing is indeed hard or lacking in basic necessities. To try to combat this, I want to start A Year of Thankfulness. Every day I want to write down one thing that I am thankful for. I find my brain really turns itself around when I start on this kind of task. Hopefully after a year of being thankful, I will be much happier and at peace with what I have.

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2. Work and save up money quickly.

One of our biggest struggles as a family is that we don’t have our own home. We’ve been bouncing back and forth all year working different jobs on opposite sides of the country trying to balance income, job availability and family time. In fact, since we’ve gotten married, K and I have lived in 3 different apartments together, and for most of this year we’ve lived separately.

The sooner we can buy our own property, the sooner we can live together as a family. That means I need to buckle down, move out east again, and earn money quickly, so our dreams can come true that much faster.

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3. Get more creative

When I get into funks, the last thing I want to do is pick up a pen or get crafty. This year I haven’t even read any books! (I know right?) But that is about to change. I’m going to be blogging more, and working on volunteer projects that are related to my interests. I’m going to be welcoming the creative spirit and getting fulfillment from doing things that make me happy (even if it is “weird” or “a waste of time” in the minds of people here).

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4. Put the phone down

This year, due to anxiety, depression, and loneliness, I have become addicted to my phone. Especially WeChat, a program similar to Whatsapp, which allowed me to stay connected to people digitally, while I have had few or no friends in my actually surroundings.

I realize now that what I have is an addiction, and in the new year, I plan to reduce my phone time, and spend more time with and pay more attention to the people who are in my physical presence.

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Overall I am optimistic about 2017. There will be new adventures, more learning, and many happy moments to cherish (and write about in posts to come).

Happy New Year to all of you!

Year in Review

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Two thousand and sixteen. It’s been quite a year. A busy year. A lonely year. A year of discovery. A year of learning what I really want in my life. Here’s a recap of this year, and a hearty wish that the next will be better.

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At the beginning of this year, I was still in Jiangsu. One positive thought at that time was that the end of our time there was in sight. Some positive things happened while we were there though. I got to spend more time with F, and I made friends with another multicultural couple, R and J and their son E. Now, with a half year’s distance from that place, I can say that my friendship with the members of this family, especially J was a wonderful thing to come out of my time in the swamp.

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For the Chinese New Year Vacation, I went back to Qinghai and enjoyed some warm sunshine and Tibetan traditions with K’s family. Aside from the drum ceremony and the bonfires, this year there was a village performance that we enjoyed. It was refreshing to see everyone dressed in their colorful robes, especially the children.

A couple of months later, K and KL rejoined me in Jiangsu, and it was happier to be together as a family. K attempted to be granted a US visa, but was ultimately denied, so that added more stress and ultimately disappointment to an already sad and stressful situation.

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I took KL by myself to America to visit my family and to attend P and S’s wedding. I had a very good time there, unwinding, and enjoying my family, and many of the luxuries and comforts of home.

As the end of my time in Jiangsu loomed nearer, I made more of an effort to get out and see the beautiful and cultural things there. I spent more time with R, J, and E, and tried to make positive memories of the place. I also started getting crafty, which helped me pass the time in a happier way.

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Then it was time to move back to Qinghai, and K, KL, and I spent a mostly happy summer in the grasslands, where K had been working on and off for the last long time. It was glorious to be back in the high altitude sunshine, but worry loomed as we struggled to determine what our next move should be.

My visa was going to be up, so TD and I went to Hong Kong together so I could apply for a visiting family visa. It turned out that the agency didn’t believe I would be given one from the bureau and I should get another kind instead. Reluctantly, that is what I did.

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I learned of a program in a school that was likely to close down if a foreign teacher couldn’t come and take over at the last minute. I agreed to take the position, and began my time in, and then about 10 kms outside of, a famous Qinghai town. KL started kindergarten in a village right across the street from my school, and this is where we’ve been for the last three months. K continues to work in the milk factory on the grasslands about 4-5 hours away by car. We’ve been able to meet up for a day or two once a month.

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This is where we will finish out the year. I’m looking forward to a very nice family Christmas with TD next month, and a hopefully relaxing New Year Holiday in January. Because of my visa situation, I will most likely not be continuing at my current school next semester. I’m in the process of looking for jobs in higher paying cities, in order to save up some money so that by the end of next year, we can settle down.

Well that’s been my crazy year. How was yours?

Heading south again

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I’m actually feeling relieved at the moment. I’m sitting in the library, waiting patiently for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to come and pick us up and take us home with them. Classes are over for the day, and the week, earlier than usual due to this past week’s mid term examinations. (Yes friends, the kids get a two and a half day weekend, instead of the usual day and a third.)

To be honest, I haven’t been coping so well. I believe that it is mostly due to lack of proper heating. This theory was put to the test when last night our bedroom was actually warm enough to sit in comfortably without two winter coats on. I felt quite relaxed to watch KL play on the foam mats we have on the floor and draw while I made dinner. Previous to this we’ve been crawling into bed soon after arriving home because it was the warmest place in the apartment.

There is heating in the school as well, but since my office is on the shady side, there is no sunshine streaming through the windows to warm it up. The heating only takes the chill off and nothing more, meaning that hot tea, multiple coats, and electronic water bottle hand warmers are necessary to function.

Some of this is my own fault, and it should not be ignored. I do not wear three layers of long underwear. Not that I wouldn’t. I just am unable to go out and find any in my size. I should use Taobao like every other sane person, but I’ve not had any luck attaching bank cards in the past, and I don’t have any local friends to do it for me here at the moment either.

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I don’t want to make this into a post that is all complaints. However heating is only one of many problems I’m currently dealing with these days.

I’m about to embark on another journey to China’s sweaty south. This time, going to such a hot place doesn’t sound that bad! The only danger is that I’m in a mood to shop, and I don’t care so much about how much things cost. I feel a need for some retail therapy, hoping that if I can dress up the outside of myself a bit, it will help me feel more together on the inside.

I’ve been dealing with some anxiety. Trying to do right by my students, take good care of Autumn (who let’s remember, is 3), and to carve out some kind of life in rural Qinghai without my husband around, is really taking a toll. I remember how tired I was the last time I went for my trip to HK, but this time I am hopeful that it will be more like a holiday. Not something that I have to do so much but a much needed break from my current situation.

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I have a meetup with some ladies in Shenzhen who are in my chat group to look forward to. Also some time alone and a change of scenery, however brief, may help me gain some perspective.

When I return I hope to have a fresh take on things, and more clarity about what the next steps for us should be for the rest of this year, and the beginning of the next.

Daring to settle in

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Things are finally starting to look up. I’ve been a ball of nerves for more than a month, due to several things, but mostly because I’d been receiving conflicting information for my two go-to entities about my job.

We’ve moved to the new campus! Two things have happened since our move. One is that KL has joined me here and started kindergarten. Having her back with me has helped me tremendously emotionally, and with regards to timeliness.

The other is that I now have more clarity in my role here, and instead of feeling nervous and like my classes are behind, I now feel inspired and ready to embark on my own adventure at this school.

I’ve even started to unpack some suitcases…

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But there are still some unknowns. If I cannot get the documents I need from my school sometime soon, I won’t be able to stay. So many things are not ready. So many things are still crazy. But at least we are heading in the right direction.

KL has started kindergarten! Her school is just across the main road from my new school, and I’ve been struggling through the mud and stones to take her there to play there with the other little kids, most who live in the village nearby.

As is to be expected, she isn’t dealing with all of these changed perfectly just yet. She’s cried and clung to me every morning when I try to leave. Then when I come to pick her up, she doesn’t want to go home. The teachers know I am worried about her crying, so the tell me that she’ll get used to it soon enough. Yesterday K told me that they’ve said she is a very naughty child in the school, probably influenced by other naughty cousins or children in the family.

That much is true, when she was returned to me, sticking her tongue out at people or sticking out her butt were two of her favorite naughty maneuvers whenever people tried to engage with her. We have some work to do to change some of her bad habits and to get into healthy routines that include limits, routines, and consequences.

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It’s been a long week and a half for both of us, getting used to a whole new lifestyle and location. Everyday we are both so tired that we go to bed before 9:00. One thing is for sure, we are both so much happier to be together again at last.

One reunion down, and one to go.

The Mooncake Blues

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It snuck up on me this year, my favorite season: Fall. And tomorrow is my favorite festival in China, The Mid Autumn Festival. I’ve written about it in previous years, but the thing I care most about when it comes to this festival is Chinese Moon Cakes. Mmmmmm. I thought maybe because this is not a very culturally Chinese place, maybe they wouldn’t have any for sale, but leave it to the Muslims to save the day, and provide some beautiful and tasty fall treats.

So of course yesterday in my wanderings, I bought a bunch, for their beauty, uniqueness, and of course tastiness. But as much as I like to think the main point of the holiday is these traditional tasty treats, the real meaning is more apparent to me now than ever.

The festival celebrates the full moon, its roundness, and its completeness. It is what inspires the round shape of the cakes. It also symbolizes family gathering. All family members should gather round, eat, and gaze up at the beautiful full moon together. It is meant to be a time of family reunion and celebration.

It was a surprise that my school would have a few days off for this holiday, as my last school didn’t, and to get time off for the smaller holidays in China is kind of a new thing. Now I have nothing to distract me from my current family reality, that is, we are not together.

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It shouldn’t be a big deal. In a few days I need to make another trip outside of China anyway, so I’ll be busy and distracted once more. It’s just that today, the festivities are highlighting a theme in my life that I am hoping to put to an end. The scattered nature of my family life.

I can only hope that in the near future, we will be together again, and working toward settling down for good. Well, as “for good” as anything can be done in China.

Fingers crossed.