Satan’s Armpit

Plumeria Guangdong Nama Mama

I’ve been putting off an update. As you know, recent weeks have been a period of major adjustment. Leaving my husband and daughter, flying down to the second-hottest possible area of China to live (there is still Hainan Island…), and starting a new life, that’s what I’ve been up to for the last three weeks.

I bet you’re all wondering how that’s going.

Well, I have to say that my overall first impressions of nearly every aspect of my new life are overwhelmingly positive.

Lazer Tag Nama Mama

I had a couple of days to truly appreciate the intense heat and humidity, as well as get to know B and her crew before the summer camp started. I walked around exhausted, feeling like I weighed three hundred pounds (have you ever been to the tropics?). Summer camp was truly exhausting. Every night I just fell in to bed after the ritual evening shower and lowering of the mosquito net.

But camp was also amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it in China.  The children were well behaved, and all of them know what they were supposed to say and when they should say it. All day I was surrounded by “May I please go to the bathroom?” and “May I have some more broccoli please?” It was surreal.

Because they were so well behaved, the staff was able to do all sorts of fun games and activities with them, without worrying about fights, safety, or them running off. I expected to have to deal with a lot of discipline problems, and when there were almost none, I was left to teach them crafts and serve them more vegetables.

Red Lantern in the Garden Nama Mama

After camp, B and myself, who hit it off very well, did a lot of office work and resting. We also started the Keto diet together, or at least a slightly more relaxed version of it. Basically we try to avoid all carbs and sugars, and limit our food to meats, dairy, and non-starchy vegetables. I thought it would be difficult, but so far I don’t have any cravings. As long as I can feel full, I don’t even feel the need to snack! I think I am just very very lucky.

I’m also already losing inches, and I’ve had some other nice health benefits such as better digestion, and a bit more energy (or perhaps I’m feeling weighed down somewhat less)

This kind of diet would almost be impossible in Qinghai, so I’m taking advantage of having a keto buddy and having more foods around me than bread and noodles.

Stinky Fruit Guangdong Nama Mama

I’m also really enjoying the people here where I live. Of course it is only one small area of an enormous province, but there are so many stark contrasts to my experience in Northern China. In general, people are friendly. Even the grandmas! People often say hello to me before I say “ni hao” to them. It is quite a nice change from the stern judgemental nai nais in the north.

And people genuinely seem happy here. In general. That’s a really nice change. And you know what. I find that I am happy too. Now I am feeling cautiously optimistic that the good parts of 2017 can finally begin. Once I get my daughter here, I think things will be as happy as there is potential for in our current situation. So that is the next step. Arranging for her kindergarten.

I’m looking forward to starting classes at my new school this fall. If the summer camp is any indication of what the regular school year will be like, I may regret not moving here years ago. And let’s see when/if I ever do leave.

Decisions Made

Recent Projects

Buddha Statue With Colorful Red Scarf Nama MamaI’ve been a blog slacker, I apologize, but I’ve been on my computer a lot these days doing other things. I’ve decided to get into Stock Photography. I did some research about it, and thought that I must have a lot of photographs that I’ve taken over the last 5 years that people may enjoy and find worth purchasing. For each sale, I get a percentage as a commission. So far I’ve sold four photos. Not bad for a newbie.

Bird Cages Around the Muslim Mosque Nama Mama

Now that I’ve uploaded my best photos from my own archives, I’ve started going out with my camera with the intention of taking new photos. Taking photos with the hopes of selling them on stock photography websites means you have to think differently. Those websites don’t want photos of regular touristy things. People who purchase photos will use them on websites, blogs, and who knows what else, even billboards, and they should fit certain categories and fill certain needs.

So now I go out and sometimes take photos of brick walls and random graffiti on buildings, as well as my favorite other kinds of photos, all in the hopes I can generate some passive income over time by doing something that I really love.

Village Chorton Early Morning Kora Springtime Nama Mama
My health is improving a lot in recent months, and that goes to show us all how much happiness makes a difference in our overall well being. Having time to myself, not needing to yell at people all day long, and being able to step back and reevaluate my situation have made the last two months the best I’ve had in the last two years.

First of the New Blankets In The Village Me Nama Mama Shemelep

The blanket business is my baby. After we give the tailors their instructions though, there isn’t much any of us can do except wait. Finally last weekend we were able to go back to the village and see how they were doing. Our second tailor, a disabled neighbor to K’s parents, had finished two blankets. One is in the photo behind me. How exciting!

Over the weekend we arranged for another tailor, and heard that or first tailor should be returning soon, and can hopefully get started on some of the bigger blankets.

Lastly it looks like I will be actually starting that course development job that I talked about before, soon. Ha. Life in Asia is so unpredictable. Cross your fingers!

I knew I had a good feeling about this year!

Tibetan Style Blankets

Shemelep Nama Mama Tibetan Style Blankets Green Blue Red Border 1m by 1m Amdo Tibet

I knew I had a good feeling about 2017. I was starting to feel guilty about not bringing in any money recently so I asked K if we could see if there would be any interest in our blanket business. I prepared an advertisement for Wechat, and got a lot of feedback. Then I created a group to discuss with potential customers. The response was overwhelming! It was certainly enough to get the ball rolling.

Over the weekend and Qingming Festival, we received 15 blanket orders and many people are asking when we’ll take the next batch!

We took this opportunity to go to Gansu and get wholesale materials. I haven’t been this excited about something in a really really long time. Right I am working on pricing and marketing.

Shemelep Nama Mama Tibetan Style Blankets Me KL Red Brocade Edge Jiangsu China
One thing I’m worried about are the tailors. Not that they will do a good job or not, but how quickly they can finish, and if they have a good understanding of the colors and sizes. We were not able to stay in the village for very long, so hopefully with the help of their younger relatives and smart phones, everything will be clear. Whether the work can get done quickly or not is another matter. That is a cultural difference.

So these days look for my blogs and pages for Shemelep (which means Butterfly in Amdo Tibetan) to be updated and refreshed. If you know someone who may be interested in a blanket inspired by Tibetan traditional robes and Amdo Tibetan culture, feel free to contact me.

Shemelep Nama Mama Tibetan Style Blankets Green Gold Brocade Edge Zhouzhuang Jiangsu China K

City Life

Nama Mama Amdo Tibet Tibetan Qinghai Xining China Nan Shan Park City View Snow Mountains Urban

Greetings from Xining! I am very happy to be coming to you from my chosen second home. Over the last month we have been settling in and figuring things out. As with city life in general, we have been busy! And the day continue to fly by.

K is sometimes busy with his work, but has a lot of time to spend at home at the moment too. He enjoys it and it is improving his language abilities as well as his understanding of how larger systems operate. He likes the challenge and hopes to continue with this company for a long time.
Nama Mama Amdo Tibet Tibetan Qinghai Xining China Nan Shan Park Prayer Wheels KL Buddhism Buddhist

KL has started Chinese kindergarten. After a search around the area we found several kindergartens, and chose to go with the one that is nearest to our place. This kindergarten is supposed to be famous for instilling a love of music and dance into the small students.

Honestly, we struggle to send her to a Chinese kindergarten. There are a number of reasons for this. Disappointment at the lack of Tibetan kindergartens in the city is one.  The probability of her picking up habits there that we find undesirable is another. But aside from keeping her at home with us all day, we have no other choice.

There are some benefits though, and they are really important. She has started to learn Chinese. Every day she comes home with more understanding of the language. I think it is an excellent time for her to start learning the language that she is going to have to do most of her academic study in for the rest of her time in China.

For now, she makes exaggerated noises and facial expressions when she attempts to speak it, which I think is just hilarious.

She seems to be adjusting alright, she’s gone from not wanting to go in the mornings, to not wanting to come home in the afternoons. I’ve had a mother and a grandma come up to me and tell me that their kid likes to play with “L”. That’s always a nice feeling.

Nama Mama Barley Cookies Baked Goods Amdo Tibet Tibetan Icing Iced China Qinghai
As for me, according to my husband, I am “resting.” And by that I think he means not at the moment bringing home the bacon. But that does not mean that I’ve been idle. On most days I achieve my goal of 10,000 steps (recorded by my handy fitbit). I’m also scouring the web for work opportunities, and networking with friends online and off, in order to succeed in my plan to be able to settle down in Xining for the long haul.

Some ideas I’ve had so far have been to start a baking business, revive our blanket business (which I think we will do!!!), and do some course development work.  I know I need to be patient and allow myself time to get immersed into city life, and to also rest, truly rest, because the last two years have seen adverse affects on my health.

I continue to be optimistic, and with exercise, a positive attitude, and finally being back together with my family, I am turning my life around.

Dos and Don’ts when visiting a Tibetan Monastery

Dos and Don'ts

For many travelers to Qinghai, a visit to a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery is at the top of their to-do lists. Aside from traditional schools of religious study, in recent years many monasteries have become popular tourist attractions. Here is a list of Dos and Don’ts to help visitors respect the local culture and people, and to secure a satisfying visit.

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1. Learn a bit about the religion and culture before you arrive.

These days it is not hard to find general information about cultures and religions. Check out a book at your local library or browse trustworthy websites so that you have a better idea of what to expect when you arrive.

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2. Observe the local people.

They say “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It’s no different in these Tibetan holy places. This means first you’ll have to spot the locals. (Hint: they are not the large groups of people following a megaphone and a flag). You won’t want to do everything the locals are doing, but follow their cues. If they’re avoiding something, you might want to as well. If they’re going in a certain direction, there is probably a reason for it.

Labrang Monastery Prayer Wheels Man and Woman Pilgrims Nomads Tibet Tibetan Buddhist Buddhism Gansu Xiahe China Amdo Nama Mama

3. Follow basic monastery etiquette

Tibetans circumambulate around temples and monasteries clockwise. This means the temple or monastery they are walking around should always be on their right side. Prayer wheels should also be turned clockwise and with your right hand. To do the opposite is ignorant and disrespectful. An exception to this is monasteries that belong to Bon, a pre-Buddhist animistic religious tradition where everything should be done counter-clockwise and with the left hand.

If you are not a Buddhist yourself, consider being content to observe. Doing prostrations or other religious rituals without really understanding them can be disrespectful.

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4. Don’t take photos of monks and local people (unless they say it is ok)

If you are a foreigner who does not look Asian, you will learn quickly about how it feels to have cameras thrust in your face. Be respectful of the local people’s feelings and follow the golden rule. Remember they are people, not exotic animals in a zoo. They’re just trying to go about their daily lives.

It is often also requested that visitors not take photos inside temples and shrines. As a general rule, it is not recommended to take photos inside buildings. (I know, it’s really frustrating!)  Taking photos outside is almost always ok.

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5. Don’t be loud and rambunctious

Tibetans can seem really relaxed in their holy places compared to followers of other religions. Sometimes pilgrims will even elbow their way through a crowd to keep their pace. All the same, as with any place of worship, we should be quiet and respectful. Don’t play loud music, roughhouse with your friends, or damage any property when you’re visiting a Tibetan monastery.

Following these tips will help everyone to have a better experience when visiting Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries.

Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments! How was your experience at a monastery in Qinghai?

Dos and Don'ts

When Cultures Collide

jiangsu-china-school-gate-nama-mama

Compared to most of the (multicultural) couples that I know, K and I are remarkably peaceful. Our relationship is based on logic and reasoning, and we often give each other the benefit of the doubt when there are misunderstandings. That and we’re both just really relaxed personalities, and don’t need to make mountains out of molehills.

Recently however we’ve been going through a difficult time. We’ve reached a problem in our relationship where there isn’t a right or wrong answer, just cultural ideas and a strong adherence to them.

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I’ve written before about the plan for me to move to a tier one city in China, work at a (teaching) job that provides housing, and save as much money as possible so that we would soon buy an apartment of our own. For a while, I too thought that was the only way that we could save up to finally settle down and have a place of our own.

But the more I hunted for jobs, and contemplated a new life far away from my family, the more I felt myself resist. I looked at my sleeping daughter and could not find a worthy enough justification in my mind for leaving her again, this time longer than ever before. I worried that I’d work another thankless, unhappy, and tiring teaching job, alone, and without any emotional support or understanding from the people I would need it from most. I dreaded another Jiangsu; the most miserable year and a half of my life to date.

Even though I put measures into place to make sure I would have a better time than I did on China’s east coast; making sure that wherever I went I’d have foreign friends and a somewhat potentially less ugly teaching experience, it still did not seem worth it to leave my family behind, especially our young daughter.

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So I chatted with a lot of people that I trust and respect, and who are in similar relationships and situations as we are, and learned about other opportunities, other ways to make money without needing to be separated from the people I care about most.

Times were already strained here, we were staying with K’s sister, and I was doing my best to be a good Tibetan wife (washing, cleaning, attending to everyone as best I could, and putting up with Yak Yak!) so I was already not dealing with things very well. K was practicing for his drivers tests and he was under a lot of pressure too. But as New Year Holiday was ending for everyone, I had to tell him how I felt.

He did not take my news well.

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As most of you reading this are fluent in English and most likely come from Western countries, you may be sympathizing with me a bit. I know in America where I come from, parents are responsible for raising their children, and being a good influence on them, especially in their younger years. It is also important, however, to know how situations like this are handled in Tibetan society, and their attitudes about family and child rearing.

From what I have been told and what I observe, most Tibetan children are raised by their grandparents, and later their teachers. Parents are away at work, and unless there are special circumstances (for example, K’s brother can look after his own kids because they attend the same school where he teaches), they don’t have much interaction with their children, especially when they are young.

They also have full confidence that the grandparents (usually the father’s parents) are doing a good job, and don’t worry about their children’s care. It is the parent’s job to go out and work, often very far away from home, to bring in the money necessary to support the family.

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So in the Tibetan mind, going away to work is NORMAL, and an EXPECTED sacrifice a parent does for their family.

Because, as a foreigner, I have such a higher earning potential in large Eastern Chinese cities (and in my case, have a much better time getting work visas), it is a no brainer that I should be on the next flight out to Shenzhen. My family would still be there waiting for me when I came back.

I understand and sympathize with my husband. If I was in his shoes, I would be frustrated with me too. But what can we really do about it? In this situation, whatever we decided, somebody would end up frustrated. Either I sacrifice my health and time with my daughter during an important time in her development, or he gives up his chance for us to buy an apartment much sooner than would otherwise be possible.

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We decided to stay in Qinghai, and that I will try my hand at online work. It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time, and it is something that people here have absolutely no faith in. Things are better in our relationship recently, now that we are on the practical path of securing an apartment to rent, finding A a kindergarten nearby, and stating the online job research-and-interview process.

I feel a lot of pressure to make this work. I feel like I have one shot to prove myself in this. The heat is on, but I am optimistic. And I am very happy to soon be with my nuclear family, away from extended family, and finally following my dreams.