Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not Alone

So my previous post was talking about some of the difficulties I was having with the SAS/Stats class I am taking. After, the last week of confusing lecture (and what actually felt like torture for 3 hours), I got to work on my homework (that I had been somewhat putting off just because I wanted to file it away and not think about it).

I went to the lab myself in the morning, and then I asked the professor a question. He reminded me that the codebook was located on UB learns, which I had forgotten. That helped. Then I brought up the e-mail I had sent him last week and explained something in words that I was not able to express in the e-mail. I also wanted to apologize in case he felt I was being too critical in the e-mail after all he is the instructor and I am just a student (though, I do not think I would have felt angry if a student had articulated their concerns in a similar way). It took him 4 days to reply to the e-mail, and he told us that he generally takes less than a day to do that (and that had been the case with previous questions), so I told him I wanted to apologize if I crossed some sort of line. He assured me that it was not the case and he found the suggestions reasonable (he actually plans to use them), so I will see if they are, in fact, helpful.

Later, I went back to the lab to finish the homework because my conversation with him lasted a long time. I found one of my classmates there and we started to work together, but in some ways it was a case of the blind leading the blind. Neither of us was very sure, and found being questioned just made us more uncertain. It was very easy to break out the eraser and change without really knowing if that was the right thing to do. Then one more showed up, but the answers she had were somewhat different from ours. And then two more showed up, and we worked through the problems together. The problem was that we all had the same questions and did not really know how to go about getting the answers.

It brings me really back to what I was writing about last week. Finding that it was not only me, and that these others were also having trouble. What was striking was that we were all female. In conversing, the others said they did not really feel comfortable addressing their concerns with the professor (in fact, they had said they liked the new way, but in reality, it was for different reasons--and the first week was ok, but it got more confusing). These students are not asking questions during the class and are not contacting the instructor after the class. They suggested that they did not want to rock the boat because if they were looking to work with this professor in the future, they wanted to stay on the good side. In other words, it seems like they viewed expressing dissatisfaction or lack of understanding would harm the relationship they had with this professor. There was little confidence in expressing this. In my mind, I wondered if this attitude would be different if the professor was non-male non-white (as a student mentioned in class the other day). In addition, two of the people who were there were non-native English speakers, a third was from working class roots. Which in my mind, are somewhat marginalized positions where questioning authority may be more challenging.

This experience really ties in nicely with what I am trying to write about for my paper in Sociological Bases in Education. I am very curious about gender and math achievement and the reasons that girls generally underperform boys in math, but when girls do get math they generally do better than boys. It is somewhat of a contradiction, and I wonder if much of these barriers are in how the math is being taught and who is teaching it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Top Down & Bottom Up Revisited

I was sitting in my Stats class this week and I realized that I felt lost. But I was lost in a way that i had felt lost before, and that was not so long ago. I felt exactly (exactly exactly exactly) the same way I felt when I was taking Chinese classes in China. In that respect, I suppose I could say that learning math and learning chinese are a lot a like. And I do not really like either one of them. But the thing is, I could.

I remember coming to this realization in China that I taught from a bottom up approach whereas my students were used to learning from a top down approach. This explained so many of the difficulties I encountered in the classroom, both as a teacher of English and a student of Chinese in China.

I learn best when I am given a big picture and asked to break it into part of if I am asked to examine parts after looking at the bigger picture. However, some people get really confused when they are given a big picture of something they have never seen before and asked to make sense of it. They need to have the little parts to put together and they can make the big picture once they have the little parts. In contrast, when I am given lots of little parts and I am not told what to do with them I get overwhelmed and confused (OMG! Is this why some people have neat houses and some people have messy houses?!?).

So I discovered in Stats class that I did not really get what the professor was talking about until the end, and had he started from the end then I could have followed what he was saying. And that this was exactly the same as Chinese. The teacher would start out by explaining unfamiliar vocabulary words and grammatical structures before telling me a complete sentence for an example. However, had she started with that example, I could have quickly absorbed the grammar and vocabulary.

Thus, it got me thinking more about the top-down and bottom-up approach. I wonder if there are gender connections to this as well as cultural connections. In fact, in China all the males (that I talked to) generally liked the way Chinese class was taught and found it useful whereas the females I talked to expressed the most dissatisfaction. (This really needs to be a more careful survey than just some impressions I had from talking to some people).

I think there could be a lot of advantages for students if they were placed in an environment where their teachers taught in the way they learned best. At the same time, there are also benefits for being able to understand information in both ways. However, if information is only taught in one way and there is a large group of people who are not benefitting from the way it is taught, then maybe it could be related to this top-down bottom-up difference. I know for myself, the bottom up is what works. I also get that top-down works for some people. I tried to incorporate both in my teaching, but I also found that it is hard to think in a way that does not make sense to me.

To me, this is one of the reasons multicultural education is important for everyone. I have the idea that teachers need to build bridges for their students to understand information and that it needs to be presented in different ways and in ways that may not make sense to the teacher (or seem backwards) but that would make sense to some of the students. Not all people think alike and globalization means that we are going to all need ways to approach problems and situations that are both critical and creative. By incorporating different styles of teaching and helping students be able to learn in both ways we can perhaps reach a greater percentage of students.

Another issue that came up was that of resistance, and I found a place where I wrote in my blog that I would continue to try to find ways to annoy my teacher under the radar. My students (see last post) did it to me, and I find I did it as well. When something does not make sense, we resist it. Acknowledging that resistance could be a gap in how knowledge is process is something very worthy of considering. I remember hating my psychology class in high school because the teacher was scatterbrained, disorganized, and nothing seemed to have a point. Now, I think she was probably using a bottom up approach. Thus, it is ironic to me know that I have came to prefer that way.

This will certainly be a place where I pay attention in research as it is something that makes loads of sense to me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Grad school as I expected does involve loads of reading and while I could give a long description of everything I have read thus far, that is not my intention now.

The reading I am talking about is just something basic. I am taking this stats class, and we are given homework and exams. Thus far, on my first homework assignment, I managed to skip half of a problem from not carefully reading the questions.

Then on the first exam, I managed to misread a question and give the wrong answer because of it. Fortunately, I have a kind instructor who only marked the question half wrong.

Again, on the take home exam, I did the same kind of mistake with two questions. I wrote the program correctly, but told it to do the wrong thing. Fortunately, I have a kind instructor who allowed me to correct the mistake and resubmit the work for this exam.

From this experience, I reflect on some of the work I have done in the past few years. I cannot count the number of exam where students have answered a different question from what was asked. I always wondered how they could be so stupid (now I bet they at one time wondered that exact same thing--that is, how could they have made such a stupid mistake). I also know that when I came across these kind of mistakes I was never ever tolerant of them. I just marked the answer wrong and thought why can't these students be bothered to read the darn questions.

In marking the IELTS exam, it would also often be the case that someone misinterpreted the topic or it felt from reading their response that they did not read the question. I always gave the advice to students to read the questions several times to make sure you understand what the question is asking.

In fact, there was one question on the exam where I was looking for some information to tell me the way to put my variables (which one goes in the row and which in the column). I could not figure out what to do, so I just picked one way hoping it was the right way. When I first looked at it the numbers made sense, and I put it out of my mind until the day before the exam was due when I realized my mistake and found that the information I was looking for was in the question as it should have been. I felt so stupid and wondered why I could not find that information the first time and second and third times I read that question.

I am reminded of my own advice. Read the question. Make sure the answer you gave is to the question that was asked. Now I feel it is important to add... even if you checked once, check it again.

Looking back, I realize I probably graded quite harsh while I was in China. On one hand, I could say that I wanted to have a high standard or a reasonable standard, but on the other hand, I now wonder if at times I did not have enough understanding of my students. After all, on my tests they were also using their second language.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Liu Xiaobo--a Follow UP

One of the lessons I taught my students in the reading magazines and newspapers class in China was the value of reading stories about the same topic from different countries. I first heard of this story from a former student of mine who is currently still in China. She wondered if I had heard about this story and what I thought and she mentioned it would have made an excellent topic for my newspaper class. She was exactly right.
One of the first sources of information I check regarding what is going on in China is EastSouthWestNorth by Roland Soong in Hong Kong. I have found his blog to consistently take a middle line response to many of the issues that occur with China.
I also checked ChinaSMACK, and found that this topic was not a post although it was commented on in the comments section. This shows me that this is not a topic being discussed in China currently. I also consulted with Danwei (a blog which is generally blocked in China.
The next source for me to consider was the news in the US. For the most part the response of American newspapers was expected. Yeah, a dissident from China got the award! Oh look, China is not happy about it! Yeah! Ha Ha! Just as we always suspected China is back to her ways of censorship again!
I then looked at some articles from an English language newspaper in Norway. There were several articles, but the article announcing the news mainly just gave some details about Liu Xiaobo and explained the significance of the prize.
To me, I wish China could trust her people to come to their own conclusions on some controversial issues. I wish that there could be room for a public discussion and that the country would not need to block the news from her citizens. I wish China could have greater faith in her people to not believe all that the West stands for. I wish the Chinese people could see through western hegemony and present a counter view of the world events that serves to challenge the west. I wish China were truly able to engage in that dialogue. As a country that is developing economically and is being called to take on more social responsibility, I wish that this could be taken on her own terms. In order to engage with the west, I do think that reforms will need to take place. I also have some trust that China is aware of this and that these reforms should come on her own terms. Chinese reform should not be initiated through western pressure. Western pressure on this issue to some extent is a lack of respect for China. It is also wrong of the West to think that China will only change if she is pressured to do so by the west.
I also feel some disappointment in my own country for her predictable response. The news people in the United States want to hear about China all relates to dissent. American journalists love to report on protests or attempts to challenge Chinese communist rule. Few stories talk about the humanistic side of China. The majority of stories we are told about China serve to reconfirm the idea that Chinese people do not have freedom or human rights. And yet, for the most part, this is not actually the case. We can easily point to many isolated incidents where China does seem to not value human rights. The one Child policy, the forced relocations... the list goes on. However, there is always the equally valid moral justification that supports for the good of the people it is ok to sacrifice the rights of a few. In most cases, the United States places too much value on individual rights. I take the ownership of guns as an example here.
In short, I do believe we can learn a lot by looking at how different countries approach the news from different viewpoints. I also believe that few people in any country take the initiative to do so. Without the consideration of the viewpoints of other nations we also never learn how other nations see us, and it is often through their outside perspective that we can begin to see both the strong and weak points we possess. I believe it isn't just China who needs to do this. I would further like to add that this is what I gained from living overseas. When I hear something, I have learned not to take it immediately at face value. There are multiple perspectives and until these are also considered, it is not reasonable to come to a conclusion. Being critical also means learning to challenge the responses that come predictably by many.

A list of articles relating to Liu Xiao Bo from a variety of sources:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Congrats China

This morning I was chatting with a former student of mine, and she asked if I knew about who won the Nobel Prize this year. Given who was asking, my first guess was a Chinese person. During the six years I lived in China, one of the sorest spots among educated Chinese is that they have not been the winners of a Nobel Prize. In my mind, Chinese people believe that winning the Nobel Prize would be a sign that China was truly taking an leading role on the world stage. Just as hosting the Olympics was a huge deal to the Chinese people so to was winning a Nobel Prize.
However, this prize was awarded to a person who is in jail. His name is Liu Xiaobo. From what I understand he was a student who did take part in the Tiananmen Square protests and he recently wrote something called Charter 8 which calls for greater freedoms for the Chinese people (including open elections, judiciary reforms, and human rights guarantees).
In classes, we have been talking about multiple layers of meanings and struggles countries go through to decide whose story gets told. In the case of Japan, there is still a struggle over what is taught about war atrocities during the Asia Pacific War and namely the Nanjing Massacre, comfort women, and other incidents. In Taiwan, there was debate over curriculum that emphasizes nationalist or nativist sentiments. There is a constant struggle in politics, on a legal front, and in the court of public opinion as to what becomes the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
Now with the spreading of globalization, countries are no longer in isolation. Injustice that is carried out within the borders of one country may be challenged by the international community in ways that could not have been imagined just decades ago.
I told my colleague today about the Chinese Nobel Prize winner, and it was the first she had heard of it. Her reaction was one of great surprise and I could see the sense of pride she felt and then I told her he was in jail and the reasons for this and there was also some shock. My husband's sister also did not hear of this news. It seems the Great Firewall of China has been at great work to keep this under wraps. Just now, she reported that as she was watching CNN and they were about to mention something about Liu Xiaobo, the CNN signal was suddenly unclear.
As China was preparing for the torch relay, Tibetan protests abounded. The moment of glory was somewhat tainted by others. Now standing in what also should be a moment of glory for China, it too comes tainted but from within. During the Olympics, China wanted to put her best foot forward and give the world a wonderful impression of her developing greatness. However, I hope the world is watching China now. I am truly curious how she will respond to this prestigious, but somewhat unwelcome award. The world should watch at the same time, because it is right now that China can make a decision to shine, however I feel it is unlikely to happen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Who needs cable? I got internet!

I am a big fan of the Big Bang Theory which airs on Thursday nights. However, I am not able to watch it on Thursday night because I refuse to spend around $60 for cable every month. Instead, I rely on catching shows on the internet.

In the US, some networks also put their own shows on line (ABC, CW, are ones I have checked). You can watch those shows from the websites quite conveniently.

However, in China, the majority of these networks do not allow their shows to be accessed from the international IP, so that wasn't a choice. I eventually discovered that it was possible to catch some shows on the Chinese website Tudou. Youku is another option, but for some reasons I always preferred Tudou. In the past I had just bought the DVDs when they came out (i.e. 10 seasons for friends could be purchased for less than $10, and one season of any show would be about $1.50). I was a great cheap form of wasting time. Now this is not such an option either.

Now that I am back in the states, I continue to use Tudou. Big Bang Theory aired in the US last night. It was able to be accessed on Tudou from 5AM this morning. To me this is a huge feat because not only has the show been uploaded to the internet, it has also passed through the censors AND it has been subtitled in both English and Chinese. In addition, for the most part, the people who are doing these subtitles are not being paid. They just do it for fun. As of now, it also already has 5000 views.

I am waiting for it to download and I will soon too begin my enjoyment of watching it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PhD Update

It has been about a month since I began my PhD program. I do not have very strong opinions in any direction. There is good and bad and the bad and good pretty much balance themselves out. I ended up taking 4 classes and an independent study. Wednesdays are my full day. I have three classes all piled on in the same day. It is nice to have things arranged on one day, but it does make for a really long day.
I feel that some of the passion I initially felt has waned. I feel that sometimes the classmates I have are not really living up to my expectations (though I also question the role the professor plays in all of this). It could also be that my expectations and the reality are just two different things, and once I come to terms with reality, I will feel better about everything. I guess I feel we need to be pushed harder, but at the same time, perhaps a PhD student should not need a push. There are quite a few papers and things for me to attack this semester.
I will need to write a paper on Gender Inequality in the context of Comparative Higher Education, a paper about something related to Education in Asia, a short paper and a long paper related to themes in the Soc Bases of Ed class, take two exams and do much SAS programming homework which always gives me a big big headache. In addition, there is a list of books I need to read for an independent study. I also still have a few loose books to read for the Ed in Asia class. It seems like so much when I put it all down in a list in one place. I guess I have to work on getting motivated to start some of these things earlier. The end of the semester will come faster than I imagine.
I do need to put more efforts to my study. I realize this now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What am I getting myself into?

I have been in contact with my advisor about which classes I should register for. In our first communication, she told me to register for the two classes she was taking and a research methods class with some other professor. She also said she would tell me another class after she returned to the US.
Now, she is back, and I need to register for classes. In my first communication with her, she told me to also register for an independent study with her as well as another class with a professor in our department. She also said that I could take another class I was interested in.
Panicking a little because it seems that I am to register for a few too many classes, I asked her how many credits I should plan on taking this semester as well as how many credits of independent study should I sign up for with her.
Her reply involved taking another class in the sociology department, which is actually a class I cannot imagine I will need given my background.
I guess I will just register for a few of the classes and see which ones make the most sense for me to take and drop the rest later.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


All of the moving is finally done for this summer at least. Hard to say where we will be a year from now, but it seems so nice to feel settled somewhere for a bit longer than a month or to. Having moved so many times, I really do not feel that moving is a big deal. Sure it does create major inconveniences for a few weeks, but then life kind of settles back to normal. The problem with the moving this summer was that there was just so much of it. From moving from Puxi to Pudong with Yingna to moving back to the US and finally to Buffalo, there was a lot of transition. It feels great to know we will not have to move again for a while. Unless there is a evil ghost in our apartment, and in that case, we assured Hudson we would leave.
Yingna is here now, and it just seems so normal to have her around. We are taking advantage of her presence to explore a little more of our surroundings. One day we just wandered around Main Street. We found two parks that are pretty close to our apartment. Yesterday, we went to the Erie County Fair and we explored downtown Buffalo to locate Anchor Bar which is supposedly home to the original Buffalo Chicken Wings. I tried one, but I was not terribly impressed. Today, we are going to do a little more shopping.
Overall, I think I like the area of Buffalo as well as the area we decided to live in. I think there were be many things to keep us occupied in the city and it is small enough that we can really explore it. There was so much of Shanghai that we never did see.
As to my work, I went in, but only the chair was in the office, and it wasn't his job to help me. I will go in again on Monday and hopefully get things sorted out. There are many things I need to do. I still need to arrange my parking, register for classes, find my office, and get the health insurance all sorted out. We do not have a phone or cable yet either. I am not sure when or if we will get those things.
Next week, Meng and Hudson will go with Yingna to Erie. I am sure it will seem quite lonely in our apartment. However, I have a lot of reading to do and our apartment currently provided very few distractions. Hopefully, it will be a productive week for me as I am really in need of one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Last Day in Michigan

Tomorrow we are moving to Buffalo. Oddly enough, while I have lived in both China and Japan, I have never lived in a state besides Michigan. Somehow leaving Michigan feels more like leaving home than moving to another country. When living in another country, that country could not possibly be my home, so I have the idea that I will always be coming back. Thus, it really seems more like leaving home this time then when we moved previously. The U Haul is all loaded up. We have a bit more loading to do, but I am going to worry about it in the morning. I am not too stressed about it. Most of our stuff we have not seen for 6 years, so what is another bit of time or so. We can live without it.
Today, we went and bought a car. I am excited about it. It is a Subaru Outback '02. I am happy with Meng's negotiating skills and I am happy with the car we got. I hope to report back similar sentiments a year from now. We bought it at a dealership. We looked at it and then it needed to be inspected, and that took some time and then it needed to be cleaned and that took some time. Finally, today we were able to drive it and we decided it would work for us.
I guess now we have everything we will need to start our new life in Buffalo. I will report back.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Medical Care without Health Insurance

Last week I started to come down with something and I decided perhaps hoping it would go away was the best choice for about a week. However, as breathing became more and more difficult, I began to realize just how important being able to breathe was for my ability to continue living. However, as the insurance I had in China stopped with my last contract and I assume my new health insurance won't pick up until I actually start working with my new contract, I am currently uninsured. Unless I die or get injured, and then I have insurance through the British Council (I think)!
So today, I went to the doctor without insurance. I told Meng that I thought that was scarier than going to a doctor in China with or without insurance. The result was not as scary as I was expecting. I knew exactly what was wrong with me; however, I was not sure how much it would cost to make it better. The problem was a asthma flare-up. My symptoms are generally non-existent unless I am exposed to too much dust or I get an infrequent wheeze which is cured by a single puff on a long-acting inhaler. However, when we left China, I thought that my inhalers have very little medication left and they are getting old and that since I will have medical insurance in the US, I would be able to get replacements shortly. Turns out I needed those earlier than I expected. The total cost for the trip to redi-care and the pharmacy was $110.00 for the office call and less than $13.00 for the antibiotic and asthma medication. Which brings the grand total to a whopping 123.00 (or 836 RMB). Now for a little perspective.
The whole time we were in China we made what I think were few visits to hospitals (they do not have doctor's offices or clinics there unless you are going to what is now called Parkway Health). The first visit to a Chinese hospital was when Hudson was 4 years old and he shoved a peanut up his nose. (We annoyed him by calling him peanut nose for weeks). As Meng and I lacked the necessary training to extract the peanut from our son's nose, and we thought that a peanut should not live in his nose until grows big enough that it eventually falls out, we decided to take him to the emergency room. The taxi ride to the emergency room at the best children's hospital (or what Meng claimed to be the best Children's hospital--on Ruijing Rd) cost us nearly 30 RMB ($4.41). When we got to the hospital, we had to choose between 2 waiting areas (and lines). The first was the common waiting room (15 RMB/$2.20) and the other was the VIP room (45 RMB/$6.60). We opted for the latter as the wait was about three hours shorter, and in reality, there wasn't a wait. Essentially, removing the peanut with transportation there and back was less than $20.00. That was my first encounter with a chinese hospital.
The second encounter was also Hudson related, and at the time I really wondered if someone had better call child services on us as we did seem to have a child who found his nose in many "accidents". This accident was bike related. He was riding in the child seat on the back of my bike, and he carelessly put his foot in wheel of the bike. He cried and screamed and I was worried if it was broken or what, so we locked the bikes and took a cab to the hospital. (We had actually tried to get foot stands for his feet, but out bike guy was out and told us to come back the next day, and we made the decision to continue with our bike ride as planned--the moral of this story is always if you can imagine something bad happening and something could be done to prevent it, don't wait a single minute to take those cautionary measures). At the hospital, the checked his foot, gave him a shot , did ex-rays, showed us how to care for his foot and gave us all the necessary bandages that we would need. The total for the emergency visit about 200 RMB ($29.41). Yingna helped to watch Hudson while Meng and I went back to retrieve our bikes.
The third time we had to use medical care was when I was experiencing just about the same symptoms I currently have. I was really scared about going to the Chinese hospital, so Meng made an appointment for me at the best adult hospital (Huashan Hospital) and it was in the foreigner's section where the doctors could also speak English. That appointment with drugs ended up costing less than 500 RMB ($73.11). My insurance from the university did not cover this kind of fancy treatment, so I paid out of pocket happily.
Much of the time when I got sick in China and I predicted I would need the use of an antibiotic, I would send Meng to the drugstore. Most of the time it was not difficult to get azithromician or any other prescription drugs I would want. Sometimes pharmacies would turn him away, but he would just go to the next one. The most he ever had to go to was 3 pharmacies.
Those are really the main memorable doctor visits we had that were experienced in Chinese hospitals. For 2 glorious years, when Meng was working for Expedia we were covered by HTH insurance and it paid for us to go to PARKWAY Health!!! Parkway health seems luxurious. You call ahead and make appointments, and more importantly they have a fancy coffee machine in their lobby as well as English materials for browsing, and one of the locations even has a fish tank.
This reminds me of a time when a person came for a visit, and that person was quite sick (so sick that that person was willing to go to a Chinese hospital) I am not sure what the cost of that person's appointment there was but I am guessing it was in the neighborhood of 1200 RMB ($176.00) for just seeing the doctor, and I do not recall the visit providing much relief.
Clearly, medical treatment in China has different levels of prices for different people. The sad thing is not everyone can have access to the best treatment. Much of gaining access to the best doctors means already having some kind of connection to the doctor. Connection can be made by actually knowing the person or perhaps though paying a bribe. Unlike Americans, Chinese doctors are paid quite low and it is not really considered a profession people go into for making piles and piles of cash. However, by paying the doctors so little money, you find that the care is quite poor and drugs are overprescribed.
Being uninsured in America is far scarier than being uninsured in China, but being treated in China certainly seems to have more problems than in the US. They still lack the facilities for hospitals in many rural areas, and few people trust rural hospitals if they have a more serious medical condition. Also, while the cost of some treatment may seem quite low, the reality is that there are many people in China who cannot afford the cost. There is no system for old retired people either. If they get ill, they will be expected to cover most of the cost (some money will have been put into a medical fund--but it is only enough to cover moderate problems. A serious illness can potentially be a huge setback for a family).
I suppose all I can really say is that I hope the treatment I got today will work (I did empty the contents of my stomach shortly after taking one of the pills, so I am hoping to find a way to not make that happen again tommorow), and that we will all be insured soon.

The Beginning

We have been back from China for exactly two weeks now. Time has gone quickly. We have already been to Buffalo for my job interview to teach English as well as for us to find an apartment. I cannot say it all went smoothly. In fact, I felt incredibly frustrated with our lack of planning. This was mostly because we did not have the necessary phone numbers and information that I thought we needed, and Meng's computer decided not to work when we tried to find wireless although it still works fine at home. It is a bit of a pain in the arse. In addition, we did not really have a map and the GPS system was not working properly for us either and it just seemed so hard.
I think as we were apartment hunting, I realized my dream was slowly being crushed. For years now, I have dreamed of buying a house. Of course, I have not dreamed of buying a house in China, but I thought that I would be able to buy one once we moved back. I worked hard for many weekends telling myself that this money would be put in the unused account and it was especially for the down payment on a house when we moved back to the States. I managed to save quite a bit into that account. Moreover, every summer when I came home I would spend hours watching HGTV. My thoughts would often drift to how we could decorate our home, and this made me really happy. So when we were apartment hunting, the realization that this dream would not come in to fruition suddenly struck me. Meng will tell you I broke down in Starbucks. In fact, it makes me really sad to think about this right now. However, I am excited about the apartment we found, and I do believe Erin was right in telling me that it is probably a wiser idea to rent for at least one year. I admit when she said it I knew she was right, but I did not want to hear it. Now her words come back to me and provide a smidgen of comfort.
I was also frustrated because I thought I had found and began the process to reserve an apartment, and when we arrived to take a look, the apartments were already rented out. This was very frustrating to me and all Meng would say for comfort was "first come, first serve". I spent quite a bit of time doing my research, and was excited to find this place which seemed at least $100 cheaper than other apartments and I thought it seemed to have a good location. After visiting, I probably would not say the location was as ideal as I had imagined, but that this totally failed signified a sort of bad omen for me. Looking back, I realize it was just a minor setback and probably a good one. We got referred to look at another apartment that was in a better school district; however, it was more expensive and had a really crappy location. By luck, we drove by some places and were able to see them. Many of the places we called on had already been rented out, so we were satisfied when we found one on a dead end street that we were able to see. It was $200 cheaper than the first apartment! It was a condo style, and I quite liked the apartment; however, it was located on the second floor and there were some pretty big power lines directly overhead and I do not think they are good for a person's health.
After obtaining my UB card and beginning to inquire about insurance, there was a helpful lady who referred us to the Amherst Bee, which is a local newspaper that has classified ads. We called on some of those places and made arrangements to see some of them. The first place we looked at was a house. It was advertised as a 2 bedroom, but it actually had 4 bedrooms, a full basement that was partially finished and a great fenced backyard. All utilities, internet, and cable were included for a mere $900 per month. The school district was still pretty good. However, the downside was that this place was located on what I thought was a big too busy of a street. Also, the landlord's office was located on site, and I am still not sure if that is good or bad. However, we were really happy about this place and thought if we do not find something better then we would be happy to take it. After that one, we went and looked at an apartment in a bigger complex; however, it was also on the second floor and quite far from my school. Unfortunately, we had to wait until 7 to see the last apartment. I thought we could drive by to see if it was worth waiting to look at it or not. As we drove through the neighboring areas, we knew we had found the place where we wanted to live. The apartment is located about two blocks off the main street, and Main Street reminds me of a sort of tourist town you find in places like Sutton's Bay or St. Joe. There are several cafes, a bar, a pancake house, little shops and the like. It seemed like a place you could enjoy walking to and living in. The apartment was decent heat was included in the rent, and the school district was really good. Unfortunately, the laundry is in the basement, and we are on the second floor. The apartment is also a bit on the small side and it has an electric stove. I did not bother to check the water pressure, so I can only hope there is a decent shower. I gave the deposit right away. In Chinese, there is the saying that if the old doesn't go the new doesn't come. I suppose it also applies to out apartment hunting. I will be so happy about the situation once all the moving is done.
I am not really sure how the job interview went, but it was probably good experience for me.
One of my future classmates, Qiongqiong was a great help. She let us stay in her vacant apartment and also invited us over for a home-cooked meal. Rice tasted pretty good and I even choked down some mushroom, tofu, and bitty shrimps with the bodies in-tact to be polite. (I am not sure I will take her up on future dinner invitations very often). We also attended a birthday party of one of my future classmates and I got to meet some of the people who are going to be in my department. It makes me look forward to the future, but it also made me a little nervous about my supervisor who apparently is a work-a-holic. When people found out I was going to be working under her direction, the had a sort of knowing reaction that indicated I did not know what I was getting myself into. However, they were quick to say that she is really helpful in doing things to help her students get published. Both Vanessa (the birthday girl) and Qiongqiong are working under the direction of the same supervisor.
After returning to Michigan, I managed to get sick. I am quite sure it is sick in a way that requires medical attention. As I do not have insurance, I have been putting this off; however, I feel that is no longer an option, and I plan to go to redi-care this morning. I am not looking forward to the bill, but now I am willing to sacrifice just about anything to be able to breathe and to stop coughing. I can't take it anymore.
Hudson's birthday party went off without a hitch, and the kid made out like a bandit. I enjoyed having a interested audience to look at my embroidery and paper cuts. Grammy was even more interested and impressed by the embroidery than I was. It was nice to find anyone who can appreciate what it is I am so interested in. Although if I were as interested in the embroidery as she was, I doubt I could have afforded to buy it.
In addition to this, I have also decided to join Weight Watchers with Grandma. During the first week, I lost 6.4 pounds!