Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Not-So-Raging-River of Death

The Not-So-Ragging River of Death

I got a job as an employee for We Serve in Las Vegas, courtesy my cousin Adam, so I didn’t go home for Memorial Day weekend (even though we had that Monday off). I was going to work 2 concerts at Mandalay Bay Beach. Everyone else went home except for Quinci and Chris. The 3 of us are all actually from West Valley, and Quinci actually went to Kennedy Jr. High with me (she was a grade before me, though). At the Olive Garden for lunch on Saturday, Chris is all, “Hey, would you guys like to go cliff jumping or tubing down a river?” Now, I wasn’t feeling good this weekend; I had had a sinus drainage, so I didn’t say anything. But if Quinci wanted to go, I’d go. So Quinci said, “Sure, that sounds like fun.” That was the last we brought it up.

I worked the Barenaked Ladies concert that night and it was by far the best concert I had yet worked. The nicest thing was that, unlike Cyprus Hill, they didn’t keep talking about all the “mofos” and saying what a “mofo” wonderful night it was and how they had an awesome “mofo” song coming up. The band (Barenaked Ladies) was excellent live and it was windy, so it wasn’t super hot. Probably in the 80s. Anyway, I go to church the next day and come back and Quinci and I are Facebooking. She tells me that we are meeting Chris at Kmart at 6:00 a.m. This startled, but Chris confirmed, so being a somewhat good sport, I woke-up super early (even though I was still feeling sick).

When we get to Kmart, Chris showed us the map on what we were supposed to do: we had a “small” 3-mile hike “downhill” to the river, and then we would just float down for 15 miles. So, I didn’t think that it would be too difficult a hike, so I just brought my flip-flops. I helped Quinci carry the red basket-cooler-thingy on what felt like pretty flat ground (except for a few places that I knew we were going downhill, where there were rocks and I almost fell on Quinci since she was mercilessly yanking that red basket-cooler-thingy ;P). The ground was nothing but medium sized pebbles that kept killing my feet. Quinci finally just had me take her board and she took the cooler. I fell behind then because I was light-headed. I finally had to stop because I felt like I was going to faint. Quinci came back and brought me some water, but I fell behind again and had to stop once again because I thought I was going to faint again. And I’ve never fainted in my entire life, so I was nervous.

I finally made it down to the river, and Chris took the 2 white boards from me, strapped them to the extra tube, then we all got in the river and started “floating down the bayou” (courtesy Ray from The Princess and the Frog). About 30 minutes later, we were passed up by some kayakers and I could hear them talking with Chris, who informed them that people normally didn’t do what we were doing, so I felt more apprehensive.

Eventually, Quinci passed me and she stopped off to the side and we got out of the river and had lunch. We sat next to some ducks and duck poop. It was lovely. We started goofing off and singing Disney songs. I’m not sure if Chris enjoyed it as much as we were, but there was only 1 boy and 2 girls, so he was outnumbered (the extra tube didn’t count as a person). We got back on the river and Quinci and I caught the current and kept up with each other. After what felt like 6 hours, some more kayakers passed us and told us it was 3:00. We had gotten on the river at 9:30.

Eventually, we found where the kayakers were getting out, so Quinci and I pulled off to the side to wait for Chris to find out if that was where we were supposed to get out. Chris finally passed us and told us we still had 3 miles to go. Both me and Quinci were freezing and tired; my legs were dead from all the kicking down the river (we couldn’t float anymore because the wind blowing against us was stronger than the weak current). We passed Chris, and then after a while, he disappeared. We didn’t know what happened to him. We kept going down the river since there was no way we could/would go back up. By this time, I was really tired and pessimistic. I just knew that something had happened to Chris and that Quinci and I were going to face the same fate. I could see the story on the news: “Young Adults Go For Slow Ride Down Colorado To Death”. It was one of those stories where I’m at home and my mom and I are watching it and saying how stupid those poor souls were. I had been thinking about my family a lot, especially my mother, and how she hadn’t heard from me all day and how she knew I told her I was going and that it should only take a few hours. I hoped she had enough sense to panic and call Homeland Security or SWAT or something so that they would come and find our bodies. I felt like one of those idiots on the news and I sure as heck wasn’t going to die as one.

By this time, we were almost to where we parked at the end, but it was a huge bay in the river and Quinci and I were exhausted. We got out before the bend to the bay by a fish hatchery that said “No Foot Traffic Allowed”. I don’t know about Quinci, but I’d rather be shot then stay in the river. We were wondering what happened to Chris. He wasn’t coming down that we could see and my feet were sore and dead. My flip-flops where with Quinci’s stuff which was on the spare tube that Chris was carrying with him; Quinci was set to walk to the road and find out the way to the parking lot, but I couldn’t walk. Finally, about 20 minutes later, Chris came into view and told us that he had stopped for a while because he needed to get out of the water. We got our stuff from him and climbed up the hill.

There were about 10 houses along a small paved road right next to the fish hatchery, but they all seemed deserted. Quinci wanted to walk up to find the highway, but Chris said that the road wound down passed the hatchery to the parking lot. I decided to walk up to the houses and see if anyone could tell us which way to go to the parking lot. I knocked on about 3 doors, but I was feeling leery about it. This looked like the kind of town that had aliens living in it who would shoot us. Chris found a man in his truck driving away and he told us to just follow the road to get to the parking lot. We walked down the road for about 20 minutes, then came to Quinci’s ride.

The last obstacle on our Odyssey was crossing Hoover Dam and entering Nevada on Memorial Day. After about 50 minutes, we drove the 5 miles to cross the Dam, then we were home free.

After China, Before Vegas

After my exciting life in China, I came home to Amreeca (courtesy Mr. Kholi from Bride and Prejudice the Bollywood musical). After Christmas, my rentals (Mom and Dad) helped me pack up and drive back down to my second home, Cedar City, Utah. When I was in China, one of my friends, Amy (not from the ILP group), told me that a lot of people go into shock when they go to grocery stores in America. I had been to a Wal-Mart (a.k.a. Hell) when I got back with my sisters, so I was all “I guess that won’t happen to me”. I was wrong. Dead wrong. After my rentals helped me move in, they took me to lunch, and then they made their merry way back to West Jordan and civilization while I made my not-so-merry way to Hell (a.k.a. Wal-Mart) to go grocery shopping. I do suffer from anxiety from time to time, and when I got to the store, I had an anxiety attack. I felt so alone, lost, and confused as I was trying to find the perishable groceries I needed, that I panicked, bought a few things, and rushed out of the store. Now, I know you’re probably wondering, “Well, what kind of parents leave their poor daughter alone to go to Wal-Mart?” It wasn’t their fault they weren’t there. They offered to stay and help me shop, but I was all, “No thanks, I can buy cereal”, which, unfortunately, I didn’t grab in my mad dash outta there. When I got back to my dorm, my other new roommate had left with her family for dinner, so it was just me. I called my mom and told her about my shopping mishap and she calmed me down. She called me a few more times that evening to make sure that I was alright.

As the days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became one semester, I had made a lot of new friends, aced the Block, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Southern Utah University. The best part was when my friends and I managed to sit in the front row before the stage. Grandma and Grandpa Mariani came down for the graduation, and we all ate at IHOP because I wanted breakfast for lunch. Then my parents helped me move down to Henderson, Nevada where I was to complete my schooling as a student teacher at Fay Galloway Elementary School.

Student teaching from SUU requires us to do 60 days total: 30 days in a lower grade and 30 days in an upper grade. My schedule is all whacked-up, but I’m cool with it. I’m with my first placement for about 9ish weeks and my second one for 2 weeks and 2 days. I was supposed to switch this week, but my second placement class is going on track break next week, so I’m staying here. My first placement is with Mr. Bennion’s 3rd grade class. There is a lot of diversity in the class and it makes me happy. However, there are some students who do tend to cause drama; it’s not a surprise, though. He has 19 students: 4 boys and 15 girls. So where do you think the drama is coming from? My second placement teacher, Mrs. Buchanan, teaches 5th grade. Her class talks a lot. Track 5 (my third grade class) had to do math testing yesterday and today (Tuesday and Wednesday), so I spent the mornings observing the 5th graders. They talked so much today that they have to spend recess doing laps around the playground. The weird thing I’m finding here is that they only get 20 minutes of recess and that’s right before lunch; I have to watch them for the first 10 minutes. When we have inclimate weather (days where it is over 100F), the students don’t get any outside time. We had that happen 3 days last week. In about a week or so, we won’t be able to have outside P.E. or recess. The students spend ½ an hour before lunch with us in the classroom. I love my class though.

Home Visits

ILP has home visits as part of their mantra, but not many schools included in the program use it. However, Bond Institute loved this idea, so we needed to do it. I really enjoyed it, so here are stories about the kids I visited.

Younger Kids:

Sophia ~
Sophia was actually Korean and she didn’t know Chinese. Her and her friends Scott and Alice were learning English as well as Chinese. Sophia had an infectious, effervescent personality and played with a lot of the children. When we went to her family’s apartment, she was very eager to show us her little sister who was about a year old. She put her on her toy teeter totter and dragged her around the room. Her parents were friendly and gave us a lot of tea and fruit. Everyone was talking in Chinese, but the parents knew some English. I’m supposed to tell them about Sophia in class, and she was a good student. They were friendly when we left.

Visiting Jackson was the strangest thing I had ever seen in China, much less America. His family was loaded. His parents lived and worked in America to send money home to him. He lived with his grandparents and great-grandparents, which was saying something. Chinese people usually don’t start dating until 19, so to have his great-grandparents alive was interesting. They had people who worked for them. Everything in their apartment was made of glass. Jackson was about 3 years old and high-wired. He would never sit still in class. I was amazed (after the people working for his family immediately gave us brand-new slippers to wear in their apartment) that they had very fancy china to serve us coffee in. That wasn’t even the amazing part. They gave Jackson coffee in his sippy-cup! Trust me, he was the last kid who should be drinking it. His grandparents offered me coffee, but because it would rip up the delicate lining in my esophagus and tummy, I declined it. So then they gave me at least three “juice” boxes of herbal tea! I had already eaten and drank a lot at Sophia’s. Then they gave me a ton of fruit. When everyone started yapping away in Chinese, I decided to watch Jackson. Now, none of us were sure on what his English name was (out of the ILP group). We couldn’t tell if it was Jason or Jackson. We had done a test to see what he answered to, so we thought it was Jason. After visiting him, I knew why it was Jackson: he’s a HUGE MJ fan. They popped in a DVD of MJ in concert and Jackson was brought a red, sparkly top hat that he promptly put on and then began doing the same dance moves (including the infamous crotch-grabbing [for lack of a better euphemism]). He kept spinning around and finally fell, breaking one of his two jade bracelets. The people who work for them went running and brought out another jade bracelet and forced it on his wrist. I asked one of the Chinese teachers about it and she said that he breaks his jade bracelets all the time and they were worried about it, but that his family had a lot of them. The grandparents told me that he went through 7 bracelets like everyone can just buy real jade bracelets all the time. As we left, they gave me two giant melons to take home.

Phillip was a quiet kid and he tended to cry a lot. He was the last student we visited this night. The Chinese teachers told me that his parents were divorced, so I shouldn’t bring it up. Like I would. He loves to help people out, so he helped his mom bring in the fruit for us to eat and helped pour the water. While the Chinese teachers were talking to his mother, I sat with him on the floor and played with him with his trucks. He really likes trucks. His mom liked seeing me and him playing together. I told her that Philip was a good student and that he was learning English. The Chinese teachers told her about how he tends to get emotional during lessons. It was a nice visit.

Even though Sophia, Jackson, and Philip all lived in the same apartment complex next to the school, they all lived vastly different lives. Jackson’s apartment was definitely high-style, while Sophia and Jackson lived in apartments that, from what I figured, most people lived in China.

Older Kids:

Angel (or Angle, as the Chinese teachers spelled it)~
Angel’s mom met with us after school and we went to a fancy Japanese restaurant for dinner. Her mom told the Chinese teachers to tell me that I could order anything I wanted, but I made sure that I chose things that were reasonably priced. For example, some fish and sushi. The Chinese teachers were excited when I got the fish because 1) they told me that fish is brain-food, so it would make me very smart, and 2) because it was served with parsley, which they didn’t know about. They asked me about it and I finally got to explain something to the Chinese teachers. I told them that in America we put it with food to look nice, but it is also edible. They all nodded and said, “Ohhh” when I explained it.

Morris (Or “The Morris” according to Aden) ~
Morris was an interesting kid. He never sat down in his seat; instead, he would crouch on top of his seat. Try as we might, he never would sit on his pockets. So we gave up by the middle of November. Morris also liked to lay on everyone. Aden often complained about him, saying “The . . . They Morris is . . . is . . . touching me!” because he often rested his head on Aden’s shoulder. He lived in a modest apartment and was really excited to have us visit him. He came out to take us into his apartment and up to his family’s apartment room. When the Chinese teachers began talking to his parents about his progress, he kept bringing out toys to show us. Since I was the only one who didn’t know what was going on (even though I pretended I did and smiled and nodded a lot when they looked at me), he would bring them to me. I started to play with him with his toys and everyone thought that was wonderful. Even though he, too, was into the trucks and cars. Morris was a funny kid. I often had to repeat things to him twice, but he understood what I wanted. Even if he pretended like he didn’t. I knew he knew, and he knew I knew he knew.

William ~
As a teacher, you’re not supposed to have a favorite, but William was mine. The other girls had a hard time with him because he required so much attention, but he made me laugh all the time. He also knew I liked him, so when he had troubles, he came to me. None of the kids could pronounce my name, so they all called me “Teacher Minda”. I would always ask William what my name was because he would always shout it to me like a soldier. He lives with his father and grandmother. There were pictures in his house of his mother, but she wasn’t there. I did ask about it later, but no one gave me an answer on where she was. William’s grandmother was a funny old Chinese lady and she kept making us eat snacks, especially me. She kept giving me apple slices, orange slices, and other Chinese snacks. William also kept coming over to me to show me things, like how he could climb up the back of the comfy chairs. I miss William the most.

December 17, 2009

December 17, 2009. The longest day of my life. Literally. I left China that day, did a 1 hr 30 min ish flight to Taipei, a 14 hr flight to L.A., sat in LAX for 5 hours, then another 1 hr 45 min flight to Salt Lake.

This was the day I was most anxious for and it was a bitter-sweet day. I loved China. I knew enough of the language to tell Chinese people their prices were “ti guile” and “xie xie” when I went for my daily dumpling run. I knew the money really well and I loved the kids. However, I missed my birthday and was eager to see my fam again. We left before dawn’s early light from the apartments and got a ride with Banker to the bus station that would take us to Hong Kong. “How are you going to drive to Hong Kong when Hong Kong is an island?” may be the question you are pondering. Well, ponder no more. Hong Kong is actually 5 islands and they are connected by roads and bridges. It took us 2 hours to get to the airport, where we camped out for several more. I’ve always wanted to be in an airport around Christmas time, thanks to movies like Home Alone because I feel that airports are the most festive places to be on holidays. And I was not disappointed. Mainland China doesn’t celebrate Western Holidays, but Hong Kong does, since it was previously owned by the British (until about 20 or so years ago). There were giant Christmas trees everywhere and Christmas music was playing. Mistey and I swung by the Starbucks to get some hot chocolate (me) and coffee (her) before the flight.

We finally were able to board the plane and had to suffer during the safety video. Since we were in a country where English is not the primary language, the video went first in Mandarin, then in English. I zoned out as soon as it began, but it’s not like I missed anything. I know the whole “When the plane crashes, put your oxygen mask on first, then help your kids,” and “The seat you are currently resting your butt on doubles as a flotation device!” info, so I wasn’t too concerned. We were served a meal of rice and veggies, then flew to Taipei. When we got to Taipei, we had about 2 hrs time to kill, so we just hung out at the terminal. I went to the Subway and got myself some dinner. It was a bit pricey, but Subway tastes better in Asian countries. I don’t know why. We caught the plane and spent the night flying over the Pacific Ocean. There were some cases of turbulence, and for once they kinda freaked me out. I was afraid that I was going to crash in the middle of the Pacific and that Hayward (my computer, for those of you who don’t know) would be ruined and I would die a cold, wet death in the middle of nowhere when I was so close to home.

We arrived at LAX around noon-ish. It felt great to be back in a country where everyone speaks the same language, but I was self-conscious. I just got off a really long flight from a country where no one bathes regularly, so I was a bit worried about my stank. However, all that was overshadowed by Sydney who said really loudly on our way to pick up our luggage “I really need to tinkle!” I started laughing because a lot of people turned around and looked at her. She was embarrassed and said “Oh man, I forgot everyone here can understand me!” My very first American meal consisted of a cinnamon bun from Cinnabon and a bottle of water. I wasn’t too concerned about getting a real meal because my fam was taking me to the new In-N-Out Burger by our house when I got to Utah. The roll was too sweet for me since I had adjusted to the natural sugar in China (when people get dessert there, it’s just fruit), but I ate it all. Sydney got too much sweet stuff added to hers and she couldn’t finish it. When our plane finally came in, we had to wait 20 minutes before departing because a whole bunch of missionaries had to get on the flight and they weren’t all there.

Finally, we got back to Utah. We stopped in the bathroom before we went to meet our families, and I was anxious to see mine. I was amazed, but not surprised, when I saw as we were coming down to meet our families that there was a giant crowd of people there. It made sense that they were all there for me ;). After all, I’ve been gone for 5 months. I felt like crying when I saw my sisters waiting for me. I was finally home and we (the fam) were all excited.

And then we went to In-N-Out for din din (that’s how I say “dinner”. It’s not Chinese, but it makes me giggle) and I didn’t go to bed until Midnight since it was roughly 7 p.m. China time.

Beijing B

The last trip we went on was the one we all were waiting for: Beijing. We only had 4 days for this vacation, so we really filled our time. We left right after teaching that Friday so that we could take a bus to a city where we could catch a plane. The plane ride was about 3 hours and we were served a “meal”. When we arrived in Beijing, it was only about 8 or 9, but we were tired and it was freezing. We were used to the warmer, Southern China weather; we didn’t have time to adjust to the freezing winter weather. The bus from the airport only took us so far, so we were responsible for finding our own cabs. Because there are so many people visiting Beijing, there are a lot of fake taxis. The real taxis start with "Beijing B" on their license plates. We finally found one and we got to our hostel. Hostels are fun, especially when they’re open air hostels, but November is a chilly time in Northern China, and our hostel was freezing. Mistey and I shared a room with Caleb and Chyenne.

I didn’t think to bring a coat to China because I was going to Southern China, so I only had a jacket in Beijing. The first thing we did Saturday was go to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I about froze my @$$ off because I only had a jacket. Sydney let me borrow one of her scarves and I layered all the shirts and socks I brought. I also bought a pair of cheap mittens, but they didn’t really help; the cap I bought did, though. So we stood at Tiananmen Square for a little while, then we went across the street to the Forbidden City. We paid to get in and walked around. After a while, everything kinda started looking the same and I was wishing we had come earlier in the year (like July or August). When we got through the city, we stopped for lunch, then walked around the outside to get back to our hostel (we would have had to pay to walk back through the City). We went shopping and I bought myself a coat. Suddenly, the trip seemed so much better!

Sunday was the big day: we went to the Great Wall of China. Chyenne found a somewhat skeevy person to get us to go to the part of the Wall that isn’t really open to the public. We hiked about 1.5 miles to the wall, then we climbed up a broken part of the wall and walked along the wall for about 2.5 hours. It was really cool, except that the wall was covered in ice and snow and was broken in parts, so one wrong move would send us off the wall and plummeting to certain doom. We went shopping again in the evening. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before (since it’s been so long since I updated or even looked at my blog), but I hate shopping in China. You have to bargain, and I suck at bargaining. I know that they start really high (especially if you’re American) and that they are trying to take advantage of us, but I am a sucker for the guilt trips. Anyway, we spent Monday also shopping and then caught the train to the airport that evening for our flight back to Southern China. By the time we got home (we had to catch a 2 hour bus ride after the flight), it was about 2:30 a.m. I hadn’t showered the whole time we were gone because I was afraid I would be exposed to the elements and die; I stayed up and showered so I wouldn’t gross the kids out the next day (not like they’d even notice. Everyone smells bad in China). It was a fun trip, I just wish it was warmer. And I did buy some awesome things.