Monday, November 25, 2013

A Thanksgiving Post To All

Thanksgiving is just about here. I miss being home with my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Since I can’t go home right now, I have to make my own traditions with Jeremy and Raelynn. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss my mom’s awesome meals or hanging out with my dad, watching football and lounging by the pool (which must sound weird if you don't know that I'm from Florida). This month, I’ve noticed so many of my friends posting what they are grateful for each day. I think it’s lovely, but I also think there’s a lot we should be grateful for EVERY day of the year, not just every day this month.

Sure, I piss and moan about my in-laws, but who doesn’t need to vent from time to time? I might not post it every day on Facebook, or on this blog, but each day, I wake up and I think about what I am thankful for.

I’m about to share something very personal with all of you. I have only told a few people about this – my husband, one of my best friends, a friend of mine who’d been going through a rough time, and my boss at work. I had to tell my boss because what I am about to tell you caused me to be quite late to work one day, late last November.

Some of my wonderful friends are going through tough times right now. Without sharing the private matters some of you have confided in me, I will say that I hope this story helps brings you strength and hope and reminds you to never forget to be thankful for what you do have, even when things seem very uncertain and bleak.

One day, late last November…
My driver had picked me up for school. As we turned off my street onto an adjacent one that ran perpendicular to the major road abutting my street, I noticed the traffic on the major road was completely backed up. Right away, I noticed it was worse than the typical morning rush hour mess. I figured there’d been some small accident down the road and I started looking to see if I could figure out how far back all these cars were. That’s when my driver Hu Shufu warned me: “Jenny! Bu kan! Bu kan!” Which means, “Don’t look!” But it was too late. Despite his best efforts to shield me from it, I saw it.

It was an old man, lying dead in the crosswalk. At first, I thought he was just hurt until I saw all the blood coagulated around his head. He was very, very, very dead. I’d never seen a dead person like this. I’d only seen dead people during wakes at funeral homes. I felt like I looked right into the sun. It burned my eyes. It burned into my brain. In those brief moments as my eyes locked on this grisly scene, I saw a policeman deftly prompting other pedestrians to go quickly out of the way as he feverishly took notes from 2 people he didn’t tell to “zou.” On top of that, he was directing the traffic on the other side of the road to keep moving. And then I noticed that there was no car stopped there. Some disgusting excuse of a person hit this poor man and left him to die in the street.

It’s possible the man wasn’t crossing carefully. You should see how they cross streets here sometimes. In some places, there is no choice but to make a run for it between the cars. In this place, there was a crosswalk but no traffic light. You have to go at your own risk and it is very dangerous. Even still, whether the old man crossed carefully or not, he didn’t deserve to be left dead in the street. He was probably somebody’s husband. Father. Grandpa. Friend. He probably got up that morning and went about his typical day, never imagining that it would be his last.

Every day, we have a choice. We can wake up and be thankful we’re alive, even if we are coping with some of the worst shit there is in this world to deal with. Because even in the midst of the worst shit, you still have a chance to come out on top. That old guy will never get a chance again. We can live in fear that we’ll be run over or come to some horrible end, or we can live for today and make every day the best day that we can. Sometimes, I forget this. I’m currently stressing about obtaining a visa for my husband, and wondering what our future in the US, if we can get there, will be like. Will we find jobs? Will we be safe? Will we have a life as good as we have here? We aren’t the richest people but we are very comfortable. I fear we’ll lose that comfort and live sad lives. And then I take a drink from my husband’s infinity pool of optimism. And I realize that we have to try for what we want or else we’ll be left with the ugliness of “what ifs” lining the road of our future.

Fear. It causes us worries and makes us think about all kinds of things that might very well never happen. What we all really need is a huge leap of faith. Fuck that fear. Today, I am here, and if you’re reading this, so are you.That means we've got a chance to go for what we want, to embrace those we love today and be thankful for everything we do have as opposed to being obsessed with what we don't. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lunch Lady Bitchface

I have to say it: our head lunch lady at school is a total bitch. In fact, the title of this post will be my new moniker for her from now on: Lunch Lady Bitchface.

If only she were more like Lunch Lady Doris (rest in peace, Marcia Wallace).

But she's not. She's truly a horrid beast.

Lunch Lady Bitchface is always yelling. In Korean. In Chinese. All she does is yell. Every time I see her, I must resist the urge to beat her fat head in with a lunch tray.

Why do I despise her so?

It started last year when our annoying Korean director, Lesley, was still in charge. At that time, our kindergarten children ate lunch in the classrooms instead. The lunch staff would bring us a big box of food and we were stuck serving it to them. One day, Lesley neglected to tell Lunch Lady Bitchface that we'd gotten a couple new students and they needed to send more food. So as we were serving it, Christina (my Korean teacher) and I discovered we were short some food. She was busy putting the food on the trays so I ran down the hall to tell Lesley so she could get one of the Chinese teachers to help me get more food.

Lesley, Eun Ah, and 2 Chinese teachers (yes, that is 4 people) were serving food to the smaller children. There were not that many children to serve but Lesley told me to go up and get the food. I stare at her, bewildered that I have to do this. But if I don't, some of my students will be missing food from their trays and Christina and I won't get to eat. So up I run to the cafeteria. That's when I try to explain to Lunch Lady Bitchface that we're missing food. And she screams at me. SCREAMS! Like, really, bitch? I hate her. Thankfully, my friend and English boss, Patrick, was right there and helped me get to the bottom of that mess. Lesley wound up getting in trouble for that one (served her right) but ever since, Lunch Lady Bitchface has always been a total twat every time I see her.

This year, our children eat in the cafeteria. It's easier for the Korean and Chinese teachers who now don't have to clean the classroom after lunch, you know, because we have cleaning ladies who don't do anything but mop the floor with toilet water. They're too busy doing that of course. Eating upstairs is a bit nicer, I'll admit, especially since the Chinese teachers put out all the trays and food. Which means I just have to get my kids upstairs, have them sing their lunch song and then I can start eating too. Most of the lunches are pretty blah. It's Korean food, which I love, but just like American school lunches, it's not very good Korean food. Some days though, Lunch Lady Bitchface surprises us with a stellar meal. And last week, she dished up some killer dumplings and a rice porridge soup with chicken in it. The rice porridge sounds kind of bland, and usually it is, but it was very cold outside and I love that stuff in this weather. It warms you right up. Also, there were 2 sauces being served with the dumplings that could easily help jazz up the porridge.

The sauces were on a common table where teachers and older children can serve themselves some kimchi and other various side items, like pickled radishes. I took a spoonful of each sauce and poured it onto my tray. As I ate, I practiced my poor Chinese speaking skills on Wang Laoshi. We were enjoying the dumplings. She tells me I can go get more if I want. And I think that sounds like a great idea. After all, it's not every day that lunch doesn't taste like old shoes. So I take my tray up and before I can even ask for a few more dumplings, Lunch Lady Bitchface begins shrieking at me.

She's screaming like a banshee because I have put both sauces on my tray and she thinks I have used too much sauce. Yes, really. I want to throw the spicy sauce into her eyes but I just stare at her, partly amused and partly pissed off. There is a ton of sauce - more than enough for all of the students and teachers in the school - on the common table. She is SO weird like that. Once, the Chinese teachers got a small soup bowl and filled it up with kimchi for us all to share and Lunch Lady Bitchface came over and bitched at us about that. She was telling us not to waste it. We weren't wasting it - we were all eating it! My God! She is China's Soup Nazi, now isn't she? Or rather, the Sauce and Condiments Nazi.

As she shouts away, I tell her to relax because I'll be using the sauce in the porridge. My Korean teacher, Christina, happens to be behind the counter because, for whatever reason this year, the cafeteria workers don't serve the food anymore and they have the Korean and Chinese teachers take alternating shifts every other week. She gives me a sympathetic look and I tell her I think Lunch Lady Bitchface is very rude. I tell her I'd like some more dumplings and Lunch Lady Bitchface gets all huffy, like there are not thousands of dumplings up there, and like my own Chinese teacher didn't just stuff her face with about 15 of them. I had only been given 4 initially. Lunch Lady Bitchface starts screaming again and Christina translates even though I understand her. She wants to know how many dumplings I want. I should mention that most of the time, I cannot understand Lunch Lady Bitchface. Why? Because she screams so loudly and speaks so quickly that I have no idea what she's saying. She almost sounds like the Crazy Cat Lady from The Simpsons.

Fearful of asking for too many to cause her to become even more bitchtacular, I tell her I want 3 more please. And she throws them onto my tray. Because of course! She's Lunch Lady Bitchface! I hope that evil woman gets kimchi seasonings in her eyes.

My Husband's Crazy Idea

One recent afternoon, Jeremy was able to come pick me up from school. As we talked and drove, catching up on our days, he told me he was thinking it would be nice for us to rent out our home and move to a bigger home closer to my work. This is not a new idea of his. We've discussed this before, but it seems easier at this point to stay in our current home, where we pay no rent.

On this day, however, my normally sane husband farted out this insane idea:
"We could get a bigger place and live there together with my parents."

Um, WHAT? Did he really just say that? He did. He totally did. And I was left to stare at him with the kind of look that could turn someone into stone.

"No!" I instantly shout. "No way! Not happening!"

What could possibly compel him to say such a thing, you might ask. Well, his dippy parents come to watch Raelynn while we work. Right now, they live only 10 minutes away on foot. Jeremy felt that if we moved a little further away, it would be harder for them to come watch Raelynn.

Harder for them? HOW?!? They get up at the crack of dawn (willingly, I might add) and they know how to take all the buses around the city. How is it harder to them? So I strangled my handbag as I explained to him how this idea was the worst idea I ever heard. Lovingly, of course. But firmly. Very firmly.

Could you imagine my life if we lived under the same roof with them? Dear Lord! Let's count the ways:
1) I'd never get to cook anything I wanted. Ever. Because she'd always be in my kitchen making farts with fart sauce or whatever the hell it is she concocts in there, and she'd always insist that I should eat it.
2) My kitchen (and every other room for that matter) would always be dirty.
3) She would decorate things the way she wanted them to be. We've seen my in-laws' decorating skills, yes? Gag!
4) Jeremy and I would never ever ever have any privacy. I think the reminder that we'd never get to have sex again was the one that jarred him from this stupid idea.
5) We would never get to spend time alone with Raelynn without his parents interfering.
6) And speaking of Raelynn, we wouldn't get to raise her the way WE think is proper.
7) Flies would totally call our place home. 
8) MIL would ALWAYS be digging through our laundry basket.
9) We'd find more of the things we love broken from their carelessness.
10)  Instead of just putting up with my husband's bad habit of chewing louder than a dog gnawing on a bone (that's with ANYFUCKINGTHING he eats), I'd have to hear the 3 of them chewing like that in unison.

And that's just 10 of the things I can pull out my ass as I type this. Thankfully, Jeremy realized this was the stupidest thing ever and dropped it. The thought of living with them is enough to give me nightmares. Especially if we rented an apartment in this now infamous building (which is actually close to our home) here in Qingdao, where they painted windows on the north side of the building to save money. No kidding:

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Idiocracy Continues

Not to be outdone by his wife's defiling of my kitchen items, my FIL has done something so idiotic, you'd think it was the plot of some sitcom. What I am about to tell you is exactly how it was relayed to me from my husband who had been told about this by his parents.

According to Jeremy:
"My mom went to the market down the street to get some food to make so my dad stayed with Raelynn. He told Raelynn he was tired. So Raelynn told him to go ahead and take a nap. My dad listened to Raelynn and took a nap. He woke up a little while after and discovered she had chocolate all over her face. While he slept, she got into the kitchen, opened up the cabinet and stole the box of chocolates from there."

I'll tell you why this is disturbing:
1) FIL actually LISTENED to Raelynn's suggestion to take a nap. She is 2 1/2. YOU'RE THE ADULT! Wait until she naps, then you can nap, dumbass!
2) We have a door to our kitchen which we shut and lock when we're busy or roll over to go back to sleep on Saturdays and Sundays. We do this because she can get into anything in there, from the dishes to the chocolates. She long ago figured out our child-safety locks too so I fear she'll open up the cabinet under the sink and play with the cleaning products. He neglected to shut this door, obviously.
3) MIL looks like the more sensible of the two of them now, huh? Then again, she was the genius who left him in charge. But how could she know that her grandchild would convince her grandfather to sleep so she could make off with chocolates?

I'll end with a photo of Raelynn with a chocolatey face from another time she got to enjoy chocolate (with permission from us though):
Also, I would just like to add that MIL is the unfashionista who decided to put a collared shirt with this kitty sweatshirt. At least she used a matching color though, but it still clashes in styling.

Something's Fishy Around Here

Just because I've been pretty quiet doesn't mean MIL hasn't been getting on my nerves. She has. It's what she's good at. But it's been the typical stuff: rifling through our laundry to wash an ugly garment she gave our daughter, putting clothes that are still too damp back into the closet, making mountains of dishes on the dish rack, leaving luo bo and other gross food items all over the kitchen counters.

It's as irritating as it ever was.

The worst though is her inability to clean anything properly. Allow me to demonstrate with this:
This is the lid to our wok. Do you see the filth on that? Yeah. Lovely. When I went to make dinner this week, she had somewhat washed the wok and put this nasty thing on top of it. She does this all the time though this is probably the most disgusting she has ever left it. It makes me gag to think she probably never washes the lids for anything in her house either. What is she thinking when she does this? Does she just not feel like washing it? If that were the case, why wouldn't she just leave it in the sink so one of us would wash it? I think it's more likely that she doesn't perceive this as dirty. And that very thought scares the shit out of me.

Speaking of not washing things properly, I'd like to tell you all about a horrible discovery I made when I went to cook dinner recently.

MIL had brought over some vegetable. I was delighted to find a carrot among them. I love carrots for salads. Especially for making that yummy carrot-ginger dressing you get in Japanese restaurants back home. (In fact, I've got a lovely recipe for that which I'll post below so keep reading!) We ALWAYS  have fresh ginger, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce on hand. But we don't always have carrots. Immediately, I knew I'd make the carrot-ginger dressing to serve with my salad.

I pull out our blender and see that it looks a little crusty. At first, I think perhaps Jeremy didn't wash it out well enough after making a fruit smoothie. I take a sniff and I nearly bowl over. It smells like fish. FISH! And then it hits me even harder than the stench of a bait shop...several weeks ago, MIL insisted on making us these fried fish balls. I was busy playing with Raelynn, but I remember hearing the blender. Oh GOD. She just rinsed it out, didn't she? No soap, I'm sure. And probably with cold water. I look in it again and notice that, under the blades, there's a grayish ring. Remnants of blended fish. Seriously, MIL?!? UGH! That total nitwit! For the next 45 minutes, I cleanse the blender, soaking it in boiling water with soap and then using a metal chopstick to PRY the ring of fish crap off the bottom. My hard work ultimately pays off, but I'm seething. A dinner that should have taken me less than 30 minutes to throw together had taken me over an hour.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the blender, but as I mentioned before, I have a KILLER recipe for that carrot-ginger dressing. All you need is a blender (one that hasn't been defiled by your MIL of course) or food processor to make it.

Carrot-Ginger Dressing
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients into your blender or food processor until well-blended. Should look like this when you're done:
And of course, don't be a cow and forget to wash out your blender when you're all done!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Splitsville: Population - My Pants

Today began as any work day usually does. I got dressed, ate breakfast and hauled ass downstairs. I hop into the awaiting taxi and greet Hu Shufu with the usual small talk and as I do, I hear a noise. It sounds like chips being crushed but I scoot over and look at my seat and see nothing. We arrive at school and say goodbye. Up the mighty steps I climb and disappear inside. Somehow, I'm the first one there. I do the usual mundane things I always do here too. Unpack my snacks from my bag. And my green tea. Put my sunglasses away. Turn on my laptop. I also take off my coat. I'd worn my heavy coat today which is longer than my lighter-weight black jacket. The weather is happily turning frigid now and the other day, I was so cold I couldn't stand it. I had wished I'd worn the heavier coat.

Perhaps I overdressed for today as it was a little warmer than yesterday. I'd worn a tank top under a large multicolored sweater with a pair of gray jeans. I always liked these jeans because I bought them in Korea. They had hearts on the back pockets. They were also fitting me so nicely now that I've dropped some more weight. The sweater is pretty warm, especially with a tank under it so I guess the heavy jacket was overkill.

But it wound up saving my ass.
Quite literally.

In our kindergarten office, all was quiet and peaceful. I think all of us teachers really love that time of the morning, an hour and a half before our kids arrive. At least I do. Anyway, I was using the sink in there and my Korean teacher, Christina, asks me what that is. "What?" I say, dazedly, not yet feeling the effects of the caffeine I've just consumed. Christina, challenged by English comes up to me and seems to check something and says, "Oh! Jennifer! Your pants!" I stare at her, alarmed. Is there a big bug on my pants? I rule that out immediately. She'd be screaming if that were true. She continues to elaborate, gesturing as she does. "Your pants! Your pants! Broken!" She shouts out "broken" with triumph. Not that she's happy about giving me this information, but more like she's happy she's figured out a word to use that will make sense to me too. Immediately, I twirl around to see in the mirror over the sink.

Oh. God. Nooooooooooooo.
My pants are completely split on the ass.
Just fucking lovely.

With no way to go home and nothing to change into, I have no choice but to keep my heavy coat on ALL DAY to cover up my bum. I try to be somewhat grateful as it could have been so much worse. How, you ask? Well, it could have ripped DURING one of my classes and my students would have been impossible to control after that. Still, as the sun warmed up the day, I felt soooooooooo hot and miserable. My only reprieve was when I could sit down in my office and take my coat off at my desk.

It's funny because, and I totally am not shitting you about this either, 10 years ago, something very similar occurred.

I was working my old ad job. I put on these pants that my friend Aaron and I had called "space pants" because they were made from this weird material. Being in Florida, it was a bit warm in these things, but a bunch of us were going out to a happy hour afterward, and I wanted to look hot to attract a guy I liked. While taking a break with my friend, Laura, she noticed that my space pants had ripped on my ass. Discretely, she tells me and we laugh as she walks along with me, trying to help me keep my ass under wraps. I shimmy along the walls until I reach my desk again, where I had the embarrassing conversation with my boss (a guy) about the situation and asked if I could please go home to change (permission: granted).

Wow. That's fucking trippy, isn't it? History DOES repeat itself after all!

Off With Her Head!

This evening, we went out for dinner at one of the restaurants on our street. We also enjoyed a couple beers with it while Raelynn watched episodes of Dora the Explorer on our Chinese iPad. It was quite nice. Until we got home and I was getting Raelynn ready for bed. That's when Jeremy tells me he has some bad news.

"Your yak mug broke."
"MY YAK MUG?!?!?""

 I should clarify here. The mug I am talking about had a cartoon yak on it. It said "Y is for yak" on one side of it. It was so adorably weird that I just loved it.
My beloved yak mug is pictured here in this photo I used a while back to show how MIL puts that damn luo bo radish thing everyfuckingwhere. RIP, yak mug!

I bought it in Korea at some discount store. They also had an "M is for Moose" which I'd bought for my brother. I kept checking back in hopes that they would have other letters and animals but no such luck.

I loved this mug because it was so unique. And now, it's gone.
But that wasn't all, apparently.

"Um, your Starbucks mug broke too."
"WHAT THE FUCK?!? How did this happen?!?!"
The look on his face said it all. I gasp. "SHE broke it! Your mother! GOD! That clumsy fucking oaf!"

You know why these mugs broke, don't you? Because that old troll stacks the dishes on the drying rack like this:
I'm just as pissed about the Starbucks mug, incidentally. It was just a plain red mug with "Starbucks" on the side, but it had been given to me with some coffee (which I never did get to enjoy as it was before we had a coffee pot at home, so I'd brought it to work and that skank girl from France that they hired after Genesis moved away drank it all without my permission. Whore!) by one of my favorite students last year, Ella.

I know mugs are cheap and I can easily get more of them. I'm just pissed that out of the 20 mugs in our home, the only 2 with sentimental value were massacred by a total half-wit. Jeremy tried to change his story and tell me he was responsible for the slaying of my mugs, but it was too late. I knew he was trying to cover for the old goat.

Lately, MIL and I had been getting along so much better. But this week, it seemed like she really wanted to reclaim her #1 spot on my shit list. All week, she kept putting this flower-patterned zip-up hoodie on Raelynn when she took her out. I should tell you that the hoodie isn't entirely hideous. Not what I would pick but paired with the right things, it's cute. And we all know MIL cannot pair anything correctly, even if her life depended on it. I noticed she used it 2 days in a row. So the next day, I made sure to lay out a different jacket (Raelynn has quite a few) so MIL would dress her in that instead. But she insists upon dressing my kid like a migrant worker by putting her in the same thing every day! Gah! She totally outdid herself though when she apparently hand-washed this fucking thing and then put it back into Raelynn's closet while it was still noticeably wet. THERE ARE 5 OTHER JACKETS IN THERE! USE THEM!!!!!!!!

So yeah. She's back at the top of the list of people I want to throat chop. Like you even thought she would ever be off that list for good. As if!