Wild and Wonderful West Virginia
Sometimes when people find out that I like to travel, they’ll let me know how many states or countries they’ve been to and which ones. And I am genuinely interested to hear about it. However, I’ve found that everyone has different ideas about what counts as having visited a place. Here are some situations people argue about:
-cruise ship stops
I know that I 100% don’t count airports. All airports are the same everywhere, no matter the state or the country. You can see as much culture and as many different nationalities in the Columbus, Ohio airport as you can see in the Beijing, China airport. You don’t even step on the land itself. You see people from other countries more than you see the natives of that place while in an airport. I have been in more airports than I can count on my fingers and toes, but I don’t count a single one of them. Yes, I have been to the LA airport; in fact, I have even stepped on LA’s ground because you have to walk outside to change terminals. However, I have never been to LA.
Driving through. Oh, this one is argued about quite a bit. If you drive through a state to get to another state, does this count as having been there? If you’re going to South Carolina and drive through North Carolina, does that mean you can check North Carolina off your list? But what about if you stop to eat there? Or what if you just open your car door and plant your 2 feet firmly on the ground. Does it count? In my humble opinion, no.
When people tell me their cruise ship stops, I am a little hesitant to count those as countries visited. Yes, you may have stepped on the shore of Puerto Rico, but does 4 hours there actually count as having visited the country? Especially when you have only seen the touristy parts that your cruise guides you to….I know when I only get to stay in a country for a week, I feel like I haven’t got to experience even 1% of the country- its people, its food, its culture. How can a few hour stop allow you to understand a country’s essence?
I also wonder when people speak of “living” in a country. I heard a student say that she lived in Italy once when referring to staying for 2 months of the summer during a study abroad experience. I would venture to say that a person needs to have a permanent address before they can say they lived in a country. I guess my best bet would be to see if the locals consider you a neighbor, if they see you as a permanent part of their space in the world.
To know a place means to experience its food, its language, its religion, its people, its traditions, and its government. Perhaps you don’t have much time to spend in a country or a state. Well, spend some time learning about the place beforehand, so that you’ll know what you’re seeing when the time comes. Every time I visit a new country, or even a new area of my country, I try to read the history of the place, know what the racial makeup is, learn what the dominant religion is there and so on. When you get there, browse the local market or grocery store, walk around a college campus, try the local cuisine, and talk to the people. This will help you know the place you are. Then, you can say you have been to a place.
What are your rules about where you’ve been? Am I being too strict? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Taipei City is a huge metropolitan of more than 2.6 million people. There always seems to be hustle and bustle. And heat. On the weekends, many city dwellers like to go a little outside of town to get away from it all, cool off from the ocean breeze, eat some snacks, and play a few games. Recently I had a chance to visit Danshui, where the Tamsui River meets the Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect respite from constantly being in the city center.
Here in West Virginia, we got about 9 inches of snow overnight. The college I teach at actually cancelled school today, which only happens once every four or five years. I’m so tired of the snow this winter, but it sure can be beautiful. I took today as an opportunity to do my first Instawalk in the snow. Enjoy!
My sister Katie, my friend Lisa, and I got threaded today.
Before we continue, please cast your vote about what you think threading is:
a) getting really high on prescription pills
b) being cut by an enemy with barbed wire
c) a beauty procedure
Ding, ding, ding! You win a prize if your answer was C. Oh the things we women will do for beauty! We get procedures preformed on us that sound like things that are done to you on your first night in prison.
My sister has been raving lately about having her eyebrows threaded, so Lisa and I wanted to give it a go. Threading seems to be fairly new, at least in this area. However, it has actually been around for quite some time.
Threading has been a preferred method for women in India and many Arab countries for centuries. It is a way to shape the eyebrows and remove unwanted hair. Thread is used to pluck the hair a line at a time. This method is faster than plucking individual hairs and is less irritating to the skin than waxing.
My sister had been to this particular threading joint several times before, so the owners were friendly enough to talk to us and let us take a few pictures.
Notice how the thread is anchored in her mouth. And it’s done so quickly! If you’re thinking about giving this a try, I will say it stings a bit. It hurts less than getting your eyebrows waxed though. The results last for about two weeks. It’s pretty inexpensive at $10, which is about the same price you’ll pay to get your eyebrows waxed.
Just like I enjoy trying food from other countries or listening to music from far away places, it’s also an adventure to try things from other countries you wouldn’t normally think about, like beauty procedures. I always like to do something different. This was my different for the week. :]
Have you ever tried threading? What did you think? If you haven’t, would you? Have you tried an even weirder beauty procedure while living abroad or even in your own country? I did have my eyelashes chemically, semi-permanently curled while I lived in China. But, that’s another story for another day…
One thing that really surprised me about living in China is all the attention that I got just for being a foreigner. I couldn’t walk down the street without someone shouting “HELLO!” in their loudest and best English. I’d shop in Wu-Mei, the neighborhood grocery store, and people would stop to look in my cart to get a glimpse of what Americans buy. While eating at any restaurant, the diners at the table next to me would stare at my chopstick skills the whole meal. What can I say? I am a walking, talking circus act! :]
This superstar mentality for foreigners in China may fade away in the next few decades since China is becoming more and more open. But until then, it causes random people to want to take photos with me, like I’m Angelina Jolie. If I happened to have my camera with me when someone asked me to pose for a picture, I’d usually snap one too. I know there are several 100 that I don’t have a copy of though. I imagine I am sitting on the mantle in a picture frame of many Chinese people’s homes, and during Chinese New Year the family sits around and talks about that one time they met that crazy, curly-haired American girl.
Here are a few of my favorite photos with strangers.
Many people would often ask me to hold their babies. This should be a cute and cuddly time. However, Chinese babies wear split pants. Never heard of split pants? Well, instead of diapers, the babies wear pants with a hole in the back, so they can use the facilities whenever they have the need. Supposedly, they are trained to go when their mom whistles, whether that be over a trash can, a sewer drain, straight up on the bus, or most rarely, over an actual toilet. So back to the photo and me holding that cute, cuddly little baby. In the photo below I am enjoying holding that little bao bao, but I am also a bit worried that someone is going to start whistling.
I was so excited to go to the Great Wall in Beijing. I wasn’t expecting to get stopped every few minutes for photo ops though.
Xianjiang is the most western region of China. It borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is more like one of the “stan” countries than part of China. So the people there look very different than the Han Chinese people. They often go to other parts of China to sell special foods or crafts. When on a trip in Nanjing, my friend and I bought some street food off of a really nice man from Xinjiang. He asked if we could take a picture together. I told him sure. He said he didn’t have a camera, so my camera would do. Why did he want the picture when he would never see it again? I don’t know, but I’m glad I got a photo with such an interesting guy. Would you have guessed that he is Chinese?
And sometimes it’s whole groups of people who want a picture. A few weeks after arriving in China, the vice president of our school took the foreign teachers to a restaurant downtown. Before a shift at a restaurant in China, you’ll often see the manager gather all the employees and give them a pep talk. A photo with the foreigners was the pep talk that day.
It’s strange being back in America. People don’t chase me down on the street to try and talk to me. People don’t secretly take photos of me on their cell phones during class. People aren’t throwing their babies at me to kiss like I’m a politician. The strange thing is….I kinda miss it all. Life is weird.
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I love exploring. I love exploring other countries, but I can have just as much fun exploring a city that’s just a few hours away. I got to go visit my dear Taiwanese friend in Columbus, Ohio, which is just a few short hours away, this past weekend. Sometimes we see cities we’ve been to before as boring and mundane, but they can also be bursting with inviting places to visit and exotic food to eat. For example, while in Columbus, I ate authentic Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese food. We went to a few cultural events, did some shopping, and just wandered around. I had a great time, and it quenched my thirst for adventure. For now. :]
I need my hair cut. I’ve put it off for a few months, mostly because it’s hard to schedule an appointment and keep it. I miss the days when I was in China, and I could literally get my hair cut on campus. However, my favorite hair salon was the one right outside my school gate, a mere 10 minute walk from my on-campus apartment that all the foreign teachers lived in.
I remember the first time I went to that hair salon. It was my first hair cut in China. I took one of my Chinese friends, Grace, with me to translate, and we soon found out that I was the first foreigner to get her hair cut there. One interesting thing about getting your hair cut in China is that about 95% of the stylists are male. So, I sit in the chair of one of the guys, and he just stares at me with a confused look on his face. Before I know it, the entire staff of the hair salon are gathered around me, touching curly hair for what I’m sure was the first time. And then they then proceeded to have a conference about what to do with my hair. As they were rapidly speaking Chinese, I had no idea what they were saying until Grace said, “He wants me to tell you something. He said your hair is like the fine silk.” Ok, I’ll take that unique compliment!
I got my hair cut that day with no problem and for only about 3 US dollars! Soon my fellow teacher Heidi and I started going to the hair salon all the time. We’d just pop in after dinner to get our hair straightened for about $2. We became friends with all the stylists there and gave them English names. They didn’t speak a word of English, so it was really good for our Chinese language practice! Also, they liked practicing their English on us. And their hair…oh how I love their hair! Young Chinese guys have really crazy hair styles, and the stylists were the kings of crazy!
I got brave and started trying things other than a simple cut. I had read online that a perm can loosen the curls of people who have really curly hair, so I thought I’d give it a go. It actually turned out pretty well and calmed my hair down a bit. However, the methods cracked me up. I had my hair hooked up to a machine that looked like it was sucking my brain out. It is one of my all-time favorite China pictures. Then they put this trough-type thing around my neck. It was an epic experience.
Soon, I started taking every other foreigner there that was wanting to get a hair cut. Soon this salon became THE foreign hair salon. They should have given me a cut of the profits!
Some people go abroad, especially to a place like China, and aren’t adventurous. Some of my fellow teachers wouldn’t dare to get their hair cut in China. They would wait a whole year until they went home. Come on people! Be a part of the culture you’re in. Participate and enjoy. Learn and make friends while you’re at it. It just might be some of the best memories you have.
There’s a lot of crazy things I have done or would do. Yes, I’ll try crazy foods. (I’ve eaten dog in China. Please don’t cry!) Yes, I’ll speak in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. And yes, I’ll travel across the world by myself. But, no matter how adventurous I may seem, I would never go to space. That’s some scary junk!
First, can you imagine the ride to get there? That’s a bit too fast for me. I feel like I’d get motion sickness and throw up. Puke in an enclosed space is never a good time.
And there are just a few too many things that could go wrong. Actually, I think paranoia is the main reason I wouldn’t go. What if something happened with my suit while I’m tethered to the ship fixing the um, subwoofer? Wait, that’s not a space-y term is it? Uh, the communications module? What if the tether broke and I just floated out in space and they couldn’t reach me? How much more alone could you feel than being in space? I guess now when astronauts go to space it’s not that bad because they take a bunch of people at a time, but when people first started going, they were all alone. I think that’s the main thing I would hate.
Aliens. There’s always aliens. Ok, so maybe I watch waaay too many alien movies. But yeah, there’s always aliens.
I do think it would be a beautiful site to see the moon, the earth, stars, and the rest of the beautiful cosmos. Don’t get me wrong on that. But, when they start doing civilian tours to space, know that I probably won’t be purchasing a ticket.