The Random Writings of Rachel: June 2015

Television in the Olden Days

I asked Angel recently what shows he used to watch regularly when he was a kid, and was somewhat dismayed to find out that our nostalgic memories of childhood tv time showed almost no overlap whatsoever!

So, photos from childhood are really limited here, and I present to you this one of Angel before he ever watched any TV (and long, long before I even existed...).

I can remember at 5 p.m. on weekdays, being permitted to watch a show, or two, while Mom cooked dinner before Dad got home from work. This was a tradition with my siblings until I was about 9, and I can remember at various times, these regular shows of ours consisted of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, Arthur, The Puzzle Place, Kratt's Kreatures, Zooboomafoo, and The Magic Schoolbus. They were mostly slightly educational, and mostly found on PBS. When the television was turned on in the morning, it was only for Sesame Street, of course. Later on, when I was 11, we had cable TV for a year, discovered TV Land, and got hooked on Gilligan's Island. My mom remembers distinctly the year when we kids would do any chore, would finish any mountain of homework and would accomplish all tasks given to us without complaint because we did not want to risk not being allowed to watch our daily two episodes of Gilligan's Island at 3 p.m. Never before and never since has a show been so loved in my family.

Angel, on the other hand, recalls loving Bobby's World, TailSpin, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Darkwing Duck. He also remembers watching Sesame Street, but only as a last resort, when there was nothing else good on. I thought it was pretty funny how just being 7 years apart--of course, also coming from quite different families--we have no shared childhood TV shows!

It got me thinking, what did you watch when you were a kid? Or were you one of those kids who never watched a bit of TV? Can you relate to the shows I regularly watched, or more to Angel's, or none of the above?

Recreating an Old Outfit



I was wearing this navy and white striped tee recently, and it reminded me of the tee I wore in my senior photos. Of course, my reaction was to try and recreate the photoshoot outfit with the clothing currently in my wardrobe.







The only original item from the outfit I still had was the denim thing. We had a discussion about what I'm supposed to call it. Is it a jumper? An overalls miniskirt? A denim thing? There's no consensus. I've also switched from baggy flares to skinnies over the years, though I did still have those black pants from the original photos right up until we moved to China. I wore them all the time during beauty school days.

Oh wait, I still have the watch, too, but it needs a new battery and I forgot to wear it in the new set of photos. I wore my fork bracelet instead. Close enough.



I remembered that the photographers had scrunched me up into some sort of weird position full of lots of angles--this last shot was my attempt at recreating it. I was kinda-sorta close, but I should have been facing the other direction--haha!

Turns out my style hasn't changed all that much. I still love this outfit. The differences between the photos can all be attributed to the difference brought about by 7 years and my current lack of a professional makeup artist, hairstylist, and photographer. Wouldn't those be convenient to keep on hand?

Our 3rd Home

 



I think it's my favorite yet.

Our first home was a farmhouse built in the late 1800s, full of quirks and character. Sometimes the "quirks" were mice and the "character" was a bat--but hey, we ended up with great stories...and hilarious videos of Angel catching and releasing bats. It had a huge yard, and I loved having so much space when we had parties and bonfires, but Angel's no fan of yardwork, so we didn't appreciate the opportunity to landscape as much as other people might. We loved eating outdoors in the summer, but during long Michigan winters, neither one of us enjoyed shoveling the long driveway, although I always tried to mentally frame it as "exercise." Our last winter there, we finally broke down and hired someone to plow it on a number of occasions because the snows were so heavy.

Our 2nd home was a highly efficient 3rd floor apartment in a building with eight stories and no elevator. We often thought about everyone who lived on the eighth floor and how strong their legs must be. We had 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, a tiny kitchen, and only the barest necessities as far as appliances and conveniences go: wifi, a rice cooker, a fridge, microwave, stove. The couch was extremely uncomfortable, and this was a somewhat grievous offense for two people whose shared favorite hobby is cuddling up on a cozy couch and watching a movie. I loved that cleaning and dishwashing took so little time--having minimal cupboard space motivated us to stick to keeping only 4 plates. It doesn't take long to wash 4 plates, and it doesn't take long to mop 600 sq. ft. either. There was no heat in the apartment building, so during the mild ShenZhen winter we wrapped ourselves in blankets, cuddled up with a hot water bottle in bed (old school!) and sat directly in front of a little electric space heater. It was only in the 50s, maybe occasionally 40s, outdoors, but it was chilly inside!

Which brings us to the 3rd home, the one we haven't yet lived in for a week. It's about 1000 sq. ft., a nice medium-size in between the spacious farmhouse and the efficient China apartment. We've got 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms (and you can tell now that it's also very efficiently designed, in order to make that much use of the space. For example, there are no bathtubs, because bathtubs take up much more room than a showerhead on the wall.). We've been running around this whole week, shopping and cleaning and trying to set everything up to make it truly "liveable." It didn't have a washing machine or a fridge or internet service when we first moved in, but we acquired those within 3 days and so we're living quite comfortably. The house is currently furnished with a combination of Ikea furniture that my parents purchased for us as gifts for last year's birthday and Christmas (this has been a long-desired move), along with hand-me-down and borrowed furniture from Mom and Dad's house and office. I'm having so much fun arranging and rearranging everything just the way I want it to be (is there anything like the feeling of walking into a totally empty house and knowing that you have the freedom to set it up exactly as you'd like to?). I've got a kitchen with more cupboards that I can even fill--no complaints about a kitchen with lack of storage here, that's for sure!

There's still much to be done. My jewelry is still jumbled up in the plastic bag I've kept it in for the last year because I haven't decided how I want to organize it yet (we shouldn't put any holes in the wall, so I'm trying to find a good option that doesn't require that. The master bedroom has neither a closet nor a built-in wardrobe, so my clothes are currently taking over the built-in wardrobes in the small bedrooms until we can decide what sort of wardrobe to buy for our room. Right now, the two small bedrooms are occupied by my brother and my cousin, there will be 4 of us living here until they return to the land of college and candy (how we affectionately refer to the USA) in August. After they leave, I plan to keep one bedroom as a bedroom, but set up the other as a computer/education room.

I tried to take a few pictures of the new place this morning, but I learned that I have no idea how to take good pictures of a room. The camera can't see the whole room the way my eyes can. I don't think the photos do our new place justice. I'm looking forward to really settling into this new home of ours! Right now it's probably the cleanest it'll ever be, since we've been cleaning all week and still have very little in the way of "stuff" to clutter it up, but I think even when it gradually becomes a little more cluttered, it'll be a very nice place to live, indeed.

p.s. See that silver and black stick right next to the washing machine? It's awesome. That's how I hang up my clothes to dry. After being washed, I put the clothes on hangers and use that handy stick to lift the hangers all the way up to the bars on the ceiling where I hang up the clothes to dry. So far, I think this is just the coolest. At this point, one of my favorite things to do in my new home is wash clothes in my very own washing machine and then use the stick of awesomeness to hang them up on the ceiling to dry. This negates the need for a clothes drying rack that takes up floor space. How clever--whoever designed this place was smart!

Leaving Well

Last July, we said goodbye to Michigan.

Now I'm finding myself on the other side of the world, but facing similar feelings. With only 10.5 months here, we don't have nearly the history in ShenZhen that we did in Michigan, but that doesn't seem to be making it all that much easier to smile through the goodbyes.

I've been thinking lately about the importance of the manner in which we approach leaving. My life seems to involve a lot of leaving, and, if I have to do it, I want to make sure I do it well.

There's a sneaky little part of me which would like to simply not mention to our students or neighbors that we're leaving permanently...to let them just assume that we'll be back when school holiday is over. I could probably almost trick myself into viewing our upcoming plane trip as just that, a trip. Maybe, if we didn't tell anyone, they'd get used to our absence before they even realized its permanence and this would be much easier on everyone.

But a larger part of me is convinced that that's not a good way to take our leave. Giving out bad news isn't something I, or anyone, likes to do--but the people we've done life with here deserve fair warning.


Giving notice of our impending departure sure isn't the easy way out. It means we've been constantly bombarded with goodbye gifts and requests for photos and ways to contact us in the future. The schedule leading up to our departure is filled with myriad last suppers and each goodbye feels like it's tearing at only recently healed holes in my heart. We're trying to walk the fine line where we give thank you cards and goodbye gifts to the friends who have made life possible here, while insisting that they not run out shopping for us since our possessions are limited to what will fit within our luggage allotment.


My mom always said that it's the respectful children who cry for their parents whenever they're left in daycare, as it shows loyalty to mom and dad. If that's true, our students are respectful to the utmost, as all of our announcements of our upcoming departure are met with groans and whys and please stays. It's irresistibly endearing when a usually cool, quiet 16-year-old jumps out of their seat to shout, "We will miss you!" as you walk out the door after teaching your last class.

And they expect me not to break out into unprofessional tears in the hallway?

We're telling our friends here it's just a short plane trip to visit us in our new home--and they're, in turn, reminding us that it's just a short trip back to ShenZhen.

I'm so excited about our future. We have thrilling things to look forward to. But I believe that leaving well means that some mourning is acceptable and needful, even when, deep down, you're happy about where you're going. 

I have no idea if or when we'll be back in China, but I'm so very glad we went.

This Year's Surprises

We went into our move last year with very little in the way of expectations. Possibly as a result of that, many of the highlights of our time in China came as a complete surprise to me.


I didn't exactly expect to finish off my first year as a teacher with an overly dramatic reading of a classic piece of comedic American poetry in front of more than a hundred of our students.

{Backstory: We were asked to judge our school's English Performance Competition. Angel happened to mention to another teacher that when I was in high school, I participated in, and won, Performance Competitions. They thought that was exciting and said that I "should" perform during our school's competition. We didn't know up until they called me on stage whether "should" meant that I would perform or if it was merely a random idea with no real-life application. I printed off a copy of the poem I used when competing during my senior year just in case--I'm glad I was semi-prepared, since they did ask me on stage. And yes, I realized that my choice to perform semi-obscure poetry written in the 1800s is not going to make me seem cool anytime soon.}


I never thought I'd watch my husband perform a dance in front of 3,000 people while wearing a fedora and sunglasses.


I never expected to get asked by the school photography club to "model" for a photography project of theirs. It was at the end of a long school day, I was makeup-less and hadn't straightened my bangs that day, but I could hang out in the library and pretend to read books with the best of them.


I never thought we'd be featured on local television in a news segment about the lifestyle of foreign teachers in China.


I was surprised to see the U.S. Capitol Building for the first time on this side of the globe...and right underneath Mt. Rushmore, too!

Jungle Cruise
I sure didn't expect to actually spend my 4th wedding anniversary at Hong Kong Disneyland (I honestly thought that there was no way I'd ever convince Angel to go to anything Disney with me!).


I was surprised to discover that my own Gilligan's Island isn't anywhere within range of a 3-hour tour from Hawaii.

 

I never thought we'd live in a hotel for three weeks. During this time, handwashing clothes in the bathroom sink and hanging them to dry on the balcony wasn't the highlight, but not having to clean the bathroom since it was magically cleaned every day--that was!

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A few more surprises and life lessons/experiences, without pictures:

Getting an EKG, blood draw, and ultrasound immediately upon arrival in-country was a surprise I hoped wouldn't happen (visa-related health screening)...but I lived to tell the story.

Learning that Angel looks like President Obama, according to lots of teenagers.

Finding out that ballroom dance is actually quite a popular activity in this part of the world--I would have never known had I not randomly stumbled upon groups practicing the salsa or waltz outdoors on a regular basis.

Discovering that it's actually possible to feel comfortable riding buses and subways all the time. This small-town girl thought I would always feel terrified of getting off at the wrong stop. Not anymore.

Realizing that while cockroaches are a menace in our home (similar to Malaysia), ants aren't. Ants are everywhere in Malaysia, so I had assumed that since we're not that far away, they'd be the bane of my existence over here, too.

Learning the immense importance of not getting caught outside during monsoon season without an umbrella. Even if it doesn't look like rain when you leave the house...bring the umbrella, just in case. A rainy day takes on a whole new meaning when you walk everywhere instead of just hop in your car.

Left-handedness is nearly unheard of, which surprised me. My students were shocked and full of questions the first time I picked up a marker to write on the whiteboard.

Angelisms, Part 9




{Scene: We've recently been battling a cockroach who is attempting to live in our bathroom. We arrive home from work and Angel opens the door.}

Angel: *cheerful yet sinister voice* "Cockroach! We're home!"

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{ Scene: 9:15 p.m. on a work night. I'm blogging, Angel is on his computer, we're winding down and about to start getting ready for bed.}

Angel: "Leprosy can be transmitted by nasal droplets. It can also be transmitted from armadillos to humans"
{The only possible context for this is that we'd watched the movie Ben-Hur two weeks previously.}
 
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{Scene: Angel is complaining about me to my mom.}

Angel: "We lived in Michigan for almost 4 years! And maybe 3 times in all of that time did Rachel call me and say she didn't cook dinner so I should pick up a pizza or Culver's on the way home. 3 TIMES! We're going to have to have a new rule--in Malaysia, she needs to ask me to pick up dinner on the way home from work at least 10 times a year."

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{Scene: We're on a metro in Hong Kong. I'm watching the scenery, Angel is daydreaming.}

Rachel: "Whoa! Did you see that?"
Angel: "What? I didn't see anything."
Rachel: "We just passed this open field where there were a hundred guys all dressed exactly the same and they were practicing martial arts!"
Angel: "Cool story bro."
Rachel: "No! It was real! You have to believe me. They had a leader, and he was standing up on a stage, and showing them what to do!"
Angel: "Oh, suddenly, there's a leader, too? And a stage? I'm sure..."
{You guys believe me don't you? It was like some kind of scene right out of Shao Lin Soccer. A hundred guys in matching uniforms practicing martial arts in the middle of an open field in the Hong Kong countryside. It totally happened, he just wouldn't believe me.}

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{Scene: My favorite pedicure shop closed for renovations, and I don't own nail polish or nail polish remover and refuse to buy any since we're moving soon, my toenails used to be purple, but I'm cutting them as they grow out and now they are only half-purple}

Angel: "Whoa! It look like you have french tips on your toenails! Purple french tips. That's so...weird!"

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{Scene: He's watching Youtube prank videos that involve a remote-controlled spider.}

Angel: "Next time, I'm going to buy a remote-controlled spider from eBay instead of a bear costume."

Does that sound like a good idea to anyone?

Travel Is Not My Priority

People tend to be a little surprised when I say stuff like, "I'm no traveler." They usually respond with, "...But you live in China."


It's quite possible to live abroad without embracing the traveler's way of life. I am probably the least traveled person in my immediate family. Our coworkers are often pretty surprised at how much we do stay around town--they frequently mention to us how previous foreign teachers traveled frequently and saw much of China during their sojourn here, which makes the fact that we stay in ShenZhen most of the time seem quite strange to them.

I've always lived a lifestyle which tends to involve a great deal of travel even though I don't claim it as a passion or priority, so that certainly skews my perspective. I know my lifestyle will always involve airplane flights from one place to another, so it's not something I tend to seek out unnecessarily.

Why isn't travel my passion? Here are a few of the factors that play into the equation:

1. People. I may prefer to avoid talking to total strangers unless necessary--but I have a passion for building deep relationships and I love the people that are in my life. I say that I'm not a traveler, because of all the trips in our 4 years of marriage, Angel and I have taken 3 road trips to Texas to visit his family, 3 trips to Malaysia to visit mine, multiple trips to Chicago area where we visited more of my relatives, and countless weekend trips to stay with my grandparents on the opposite side of Michigan. I'm not a traveler because if I were, I probably wouldn't consistently choose to spend vacation time going back to the same old places where people I love just happen to live. These trips aren't motivated by a love for travel--they're motivated by a love for people. Wherever I live, I crave community. Consistent community doesn't happen as easily when you spend all of your free time jetting off to new destinations every other weekend. People are what make life worth the living for me, not merely the chance to go off around the world and see great sights.

2. Home. I sure love my share of adventure, but I also have a great affection for my home turf, wherever that may be at the moment. My parents could tell stories about how I actively opposed the vast majority of plans to leave our home city for any extended period of time when I was in high school. I was particularly attached to my home back then, but even now, I think our little neighborhood and our local mall and our park and our apartment complex and school are really cool. I love to be here, at home. Having my own place where I can invite other people over to is the greatest feeling in the world. Also, I really really like clean bathrooms. If you're a world traveler...at least in my part of the world...you lose the privilege of nice clean private bathrooms when you're away from home too much.

3. Airports. I don't really like them, and traveling means spending a lot of time in them. I've already slept on the floor in way too many airports without even making seeing the world my goal! I don't want to imagine how many more hours I'd have to waste in airports and waiting in immigration lines if I actually made travel a big priority in my life.

4. Money. People who say anyone can travel and that you don't need money to do it rarely look at every different life situation. Travel absolutely takes money, and that's a big reason why it doesn't play a major part in many families' lifestyles. When we take trips, we're big on cutting costs (we did Hawaii on a tight budget last year), but we also learned in ChungKing Mansions in Hong Kong that we can't stomach staying in scary firetrap hostels. We're just not backpackers. This year we've made saving for some future planned expenses, such as buying a car and a fridge and a washing machine when we move into our next apartment, a priority--had we made traveling a priority, that would have made saving for plans that are important to us much more difficult.

I decided a long time ago that seeing everything this beautiful world has to offer isn't the goal of my life. The goal of my life is, instead, to be the kind of person who leaves a hole in plenty of hearts when she's gone (so, basically, an extremely evil desire, right? I want everyone to be like, "Man, too bad Rachel's gone, she was so helpful when she was around!" And then they'll cry buckets and buckets). With my mindset, it's not really worth it to invest my precious resources into constant travel. I love a good vacation, but I'm staunch in my declaration that I am a vacationer, not a traveler.  Travelers themselves will turn up their noses at mere vacationers like me, and I'm completely content with that.