She’s at it again… 

16 Jun

And here we meet again, dear reader. Your glorious storyteller is finally at it again with more delightful takes of her experience abroad. This trip spans just 2 weeks with a jam packed schedule of 5 cities spanning 3 countries.
Why now? Where have you been? I’ve missed your words… Well, here’s the low down as to what has been happening in you dear Curl’s life:
(1) Teaching is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle, and a tough one at that. Take the time to thank your local teacher because he or she is probably spending far too many hours preparing a lesson, grading papers, or wondering how that one student is doing.

(2) So, you want to be a teacher? You have to attend mind numbing college for that. Teaching someone how to teach is all based on practice, not lectures and poster making.

(3) DatKnox finished college. Random, you may think, but he’s the reason for the trip. Every big sister is obligated to travel the world with her young sibling? More like I just got out of having to find any birthday or Christmas gifts for him. I kid… Slightly…

So, where is the Curl now?!

Lounging in a hostel bar watching a UEFA football match. I sounded ridiculously European saying that…

More of my time in Berlin and Munich are to come. Stay tuned.

Adulting is hard

18 Jan

Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…

Sorry, I had to. But, to make my point, it has been quite a while my dear readers. I apologize for the tremendous gap in my postings, but adulting is hard. I’ve been attempting to adult, I do believe that I’m using that word correctly, yes? I’ve been attempting to adult for nearly a year and a half now. And, much to my dismay, it’s not just a phase. It’s, apparently, a portion of my life where I have to get my shit together- I have to put it all in a backpack and carry it around with me.

Side note: I wish I could take credit for creating that last sentence, but it’s actually a line from Rick and Morty. Go watch it.

Anyways, my travels have subsided and I spend most days commuting to and from credential college and the actual school I reside in.

What is this credential college you speak of? Right? I’m still mystified by it myself because in China and the Republic of Georgia your qualifications dwindled down to two things:
(1) Do you speak the English language?
(2) Are you willing to live in the country?

Oh, you said yes to both?! Tremendous! Come and teach forever!

America, on the other hand:
(1) Did you graduate high school?
(2) Did you graduate college?
(3) Did you pass your CSET?
(4) Are you enrolled in a credential program?
(5) Did you student teach, or are you an intern?
(6) Did you pass your TPAs?
(7) Did you complete your year of BTSA?
(8) Did you sign over your soul yet? That’s the last thing we need.

And you’re willing to do all of these whilst teaching the next generation all the skills they need for the future?

If you answered yes, then welcome to adulting. As I said earlier, adulting is hard.

Thus, this post is one of nostalgia. And, in true Curl fashion, a countdown of the top 3 things I miss about being and traveling abroad:

3: What am I eating?
It is very Anthony Bourdain of me to comment on all the food I was eating abroad, but I have to. I love eating, and I miss the random cultural dishes that were present in each country. Linguist and I lived off of currywurst in Berlin, Cowgirl and I always seem to exchange snapchat pictures of nian gao, and Cray Cray and I reminiscent on wine Fridays when we would drink and watch Scandal. What am I trying to get at? Food is memories. That first bite of that soup dumpling, that piece of cake you didn’t realize you ate, the persimmon you picked and ate with Papa, the cha cha you drank at that shack, and the supras that filled the house and lasted deep into the evening. Food is memories, and those memories make me miss my time abroad.

2: Where are we going?
Living in a random country made me susceptible to random and unexplained events. My mantra became, “Where are we going? I don’t know why I ask, but I feel like I have to!” I’ve been shuffled into cars and to places so many times in my life that I should be the star of Taken.

That sounded better in my head, but now that I see it in writing it makes me think that I’ve been kidnapped multiple times. Just for the record, someone is bound to be keeping one, I have NEVER been kidnapped.

Anyways, my adventures across the world could have been easily thwarted by my anxiety, but, instead, I allowed myself to experience the randomness. It was with bitterness at the beginning, but I slowly started to thrive on it. I lived for the random invite, multiple times, to see how alcohol is made, the go with the flow of wandering up a hillside to see a church or the uncountable times I stumbled into a supra, and the agreeing to something that ended in beauty. If I had said no, which I am guilty of a few times too many, I would have never experienced the beauty and utmost realness of our world.

1: #FriendsForever
I’ve met an abundance of people that have changed my entire outlook on life. Cliche, right? Well, it is to an extent, but it is entirely true all the same. Being able to experience so many different perspectives on life is the most fascinating and life changing experience, and it provides me with hilarious stories of miscommunication and absolute happiness.

Take a look at any of my postings about my time in Georgia and my experiences with Papa. That man is still kicking to this day, whenever I talk to Mama D I always make sure to bring up Papa. Or my generous teachers in crime when I was in Georgia. Those woman taught me about strength and love.

Or take a look at any of my postings about my students. Those kiddos gave me quite a lot of material to use on here, but they also taught me how to be a good teacher. My first year teaching in the states was extremely rough, like straight up, I don’t know how I survived it and I’m surprised I’m still teaching rough. But, I did, and I somewhat attribute that to my time abroad, the combination of the women that surrounded me in Georgia, the pressure my students were under in China  and the life lessons I learned about true happiness. Also, the ability to life at the nonsense. Remember to laugh, okay?

But, mainly, I met and grew up with a handful of people abroad that I will never be able to truly thank.

Oh, the nostalgia is great with this one. I know, I know. Where are the pictures? Where is the funny story about traveling? Sorry. Like I said, adulting can be hard.

Curl goes camping

18 Oct

I should preface this post by explaining my stance with nature. I’m in awe of nature, I believe it to be beautiful and, well, quite natural. But, nature also has a darker side that it seems to only show me. I’m constantly the one being a) eaten alive by mosquitos, b) falling hard, c) touching something sticky, d) falling in something sticky or e) getting black lung from smokey fires. I’m not angry, just bitter. Nature always seems to bring out the worst in me, but, still, I somehow decided that camping would be a brilliant adventure before Brother went back to college. Also, I should add, Curls do not do real camping, we do RV camping. Yes, it is still technically camping, but not to the degree of tents. Tents are intense. RVs are a domestic camping situation. I mean, I watched the Roosevelt special on PBS while camping in the RV.

We decide upon Zephyr Cove because it wasn’t completely sold out and took half the time it would to get to Big Sur. Plus, it’s like your camping until you cross the street and decide to have cocktails on the beach. It’s a perfect blend for the Curls that tend to enjoy drinking while on vacation and sleeping on a bed while looking at wilderness through a window. Anyways, we arrive at the campsite and we realize we are the only ones there that do not have equalizing blocks for the RV. What this means is that we are at an awkward angle that results in water just drifting onto the floor when washing dishes and eggs being cooked on only one side of the pan.

It’s a tough life when it’s obvious you are not the camping type. The fire situation didn’t help either. The campsite next to us had a roaring fire while us Curls squatted next to the fire blowing trying to ignite the flame. It was pass out worthy kindling breathing, and resulted in dinner being served at 10pm after Momma Curl accidentally threw the hunk of meat directly into the ash of the fire. Who really needs a roaring fire? Like, wouldn’t you want a slow roasting meat dinner instead? Well, as we waited we played “Heads Up.” I saw this game being played at nearly all lines in Disneyland with people acting a fool so that the person would guess the word. Think catchphrase but on your iPhone. I thought this would be brilliant for the Curls to play as we sat around the campfire. Right? Well, I had never realized how terrible my parental units are at playing games. Momma Curl is constantly getting up to kindle the fire, make a salad, grab a tissue, grab a napkin, make a snack, wash a dish, grab her phone, get more wine, grab some forks, grab a knife, get more wine. The list is endless. And Papa Curl is terrible at describing movies, shows and songs. So put those two together and you have yourself an incredible game night.

(Side note: Have you seen the SNL skit with Kristen Wiig in which she plays a theatre actress on a game show from the 1950-1960s? She’s playing “Secret Word” and is given a word that she must describe to her partner. The whole funny of the skit revolves around the fact that Wiig’s character cannot for the life of her describe the word and instead always says the secret word. It’s hilarious and you should look it up. Anyways, why am I telling you this? Well, Papa Curl is Kristen Wiig’s character from Secret Word).

Papa Curl gets attempts to describe the actor Ethan Hawk and instead of telling me what movies he is in, Papa Curl, instead, slowly says his name.

Me: “What movie is he in?”
Papa Curl: “Um, I don’t know..”
Me: “Well, you have to describe who he is so I can guess.”
Papa Curl: “Eeeeeeeeeeetthhhhhhhhaaannnnn Hhhhaaawwwwwwwkkkkk.”
Me: “YOU CAN’T SAY THE WORD!”

Then we, and I really mean me, decide to go hiking and find ourselves intensely trekking for a solid 3 hours. 5 miles later and my camera is full of photographs of trees. I went tree crazy.

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Since our first hiking trip went so well, minus the complaining Father, the wandering Brother and the adventurous Mother and Daughter, it was a hoot, I opted to make the family go on another hike. I know, you wish I was in your family. It happens. This was when the beauty of nature decided to show me it’s darker side. Within 10 minutes of beginning the hiking trail, I fall. And I wish I could say that I slightly tripped, or did that trip into a run and then everything was fine. No. I fell, and it was hard. I ended up breaking my camera, and having an intense scrape down my leg and on my elbow. But the best part about falling was the immediate comment made by Brother:

Brother: “It’s alright, no one saw.”

Why is it that when we fall our first instinct is to make sure that no one saw? Isn’t it human nature to fall? To be clumsy and not quite understand our body because it is such a complex system? Oh the act of embarrassment that can hinder a humans ability to push and be something more. And, yes, as I laid there on the ground all these thoughts came into my mind. That, and why is dirt so dusty.

I was still able to get some pictures of the lovely Spooner Lake when I wasn’t worried about getting blood everywhere.

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Good ‘ole fashion road trip

5 Sep

As in true Wandering Curl fashion I had yet another trip planned after returning from Europe. I mean, what else did you really expect from me? Sit home and sleep? Sleep is for cats. Unless it’s in a comfy chair, under the sun, then it for kings and queens. Okay, maybe cats have a point. Anyways, Cowgirl, before her early departure from China under unfortunate circumstances that were out of her hands, had planned this vacation to Florida for the Beilun 4, myself, Cray Cray and Linguist. What says reunion like Florida? And, as in true Curl form, I decided to make an even bigger trip out of it by adding Texas, Georgia, the state, not the country, and Kentucky to the mix.

I began my trip in Texas to visit none other than Cowgirl in her natural form. And all I have to really say is it’s flippin’ hot in Texas. It’s like I was somehow closer to the Sun out there. I got in around early evening-ish time, time for dinner, and I was sweating just waiting outside for Cowgirl to pick me up. Ridiculous. I realize I complain quite often about heat or cold, but my body cannot function in extreme climates. I’m either grossly sweaty and red, or shivering and still red. Anyways, my trip not only involved me sweating constantly, but a few solid places of interest.

While in Austin, it is a must to see the Texas propaganda err I mean the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Side note: I only say propaganda museum because Cowgirl’s mother described it to me with those exact words. And, if I remember properly, Cowgirl’s younger brother also described it in a similar way. Anyways, it’s the place where Texas is in the spotlight, limelight, literally all the lights and it’s kind of great. There’s even a 3D type film with interactive happenings like a rattle snake attacking and oil raining down. I mean, who doesn’t love a friend intensely grabbing your arm because she’s afraid of the nonexistent rattlesnake about to attack?! It was the best.

It's Bob in the flesh

It’s Bob in the flesh

Then Linguist met up with myself and Cowgirl to bask in the heat that is Texas, which lead to our afternoon on the lake. I only bring this up because I absolutely loved the show True Detective and I was on a mission to drink Lone Star beer and attempt to make beer people out of empty cans like Rust Cohle. I forgot a knife, but the beer was actually pretty good. And the close proximity to turtles made me forget about the beer can people completely. Did she just casually bring up turtles? Yes, yes, I did. The turtles out on the lake would literally swim up to the parked boat. It was probably because we were baiting them with puffy cheetos, but they came real close anyhow.

"I know who I am. And after all these years, there's a victory in that."

“I know who I am. And after all these years, there’s a victory in that.”

And since our vacation became somewhat about drinking and seeing animals, we also happened to witness the mass population of bats living under this bridge in Austin. The Congress Avenue Bridge to be specific. If you haven’t heard about this bat bridge you’re missing out. Basically, bats from Mexico migrate to Austin to feed on the mosquitos, and people, because we all know bats are just vampires in disguise, am I right? But it’s kind of magical to see such a migration as they all go out to feed together. And since Linguist, Cowgirl and myself have impeccable timing, we showed up right when the bats came out to play.

What's that black line in the sky? Oh, bats? Delightful…

What’s that black line in the sky? Oh, bats? Delightful…

And after a mandatory night at Top Golf, because I had watched it on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and got way too excited, a walk through a residential neighborhood with Linguist, in search of the Austin sign, and a fancy sport jacket dinner, we were off to Florida.

"Just taking a picture in the middle of this street. No biggie!"

“Just taking a picture in the middle of this street. No biggie!”

Florida was just one long spell of relaxation. There is something beautiful about lounging on a beach with a good drink and even better friends. And then throw in the backdrop of what I called, “a Nicholas Sparks novel!” and you’re living the dream. Oh, and snow cones. Right?! It was heavenly. The reunion was a hoot with the addition of Cray Cray and her boyfriend Ging. And maybe because we’re older the whole Florida vacation was less of a Spring Break feel and more of an adult people vibe. I say this mainly because we made meals together, like legit meals. We barbecued, and by we I actually mean Ging barbecued, I made gin and tonics.

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And then we went kayaking. Nothing says bonding like trapping people on what feels like a sinking kayak in the middle of a lake with brackish water. Brackish? What is this word? No, it’s not one of those youthful words that the adults tend to use incorrectly in sentences to look hip, it’s when water is grossly murky and you actually cannot see anything except for the surface. Then add in the lovely old married couple feeling that happens when Linguist and I are together and you have the joys of kayaking. Who doesn’t love getting their shorts wet and arguing about paddling?

"Stop being so brackish!"

“Stop being so brackish!”

And have I mentioned the chaotic weather that is in Florida? I should just say the South in general. Crazy weather. I say this because I was born and bred in California and do not understand when the weather acts a fool.

"Umm, does anyone else see that crazy dark cloud?"

“Umm, does anyone else see that crazy dark cloud?”

Then is was goodbye to Florida and Cowgirl, and hello to a good ole fashion road trip. So it takes approximately 11-12 hours to drive from Florida to Kentucky in one day, but who really wants to drive all that in one day? Right? So we made a pitstop in Atlanta, Georgia to see none other than the World of Coca-Cola! Got an hour or two to kill? Psh, go drink way too many coke products and try the gross Italian soda called Beverly. Beverly, why are you so gross?! Italy, why do you drink Beverly?! The questions are endless, and so are the drinks.

"How many different sodas are there?!"

“How many different sodas are there?!”

And after a delightful dinner where literally all my different worlds collided, teachers from the Republic of Georgia and China and friends from college, we were off to Kentucky. But, who can really drive through Chattanooga without seeing a train?! Am I right? Or the Sunsphere in Knoxville?! I mean, major sights people. Did you know the Sunsphere was part of the World’s Fair in 1982? Yeah, me either, until I looked up things to do in Knoxville as we drove through. And now I’d like to feature a piece of Curl advise: I realize that getting from one place to another in the least amount of time is everyone’s goal, but taking the time to have a little adventure is always worth your while.

Choo Choo Chattanooga!

Choo Choo Chattanooga!

"Oh, cause it looks like the Sun!"

“Oh, cause it looks like the Sun!”

Then we finally made it to Kentucky! Why Kentucky? First of all, Kentucky is home to the Mammoth Caves. Mammoth Caves?! Shame on you! They are the longest cave system in North America, and, I do believe, the world. How do I know so much? I bought these flashcards about the states of America before I went to China, and I found out later that the exact town I was living in is where the flashcards were made, creepy, and Kentucky was always the card pulled by the outspoken student that thought caves were beyond nifty. So now I see caves as being beyond nifty. And, they really are. Go see some caves. And, secondly, Cray Cray lives there now and when you’re friends with travelers you tend to travel to see them, thus the endless traveling. Travel.

So, much to my delight, we saw the caves! But, not without some truly Kentucky guides, one was named Billy, try to get a tour with him on Domes and Dripstones, he knows his caves, and weirdly strict rules. We had to wipe our shoes off on what seemed like detergent suds after exiting the bus that took us to the cave in order to not spread something? I wasn’t quite listening. Anyways, CAVES. They’re magnificent and horrifying all at the same time. The see through ladders and walkways did not help this fraidy cat with the whole height situation. You could see straight down for meters and meters it seemed like. Two words: shaking knees. But when the walkway seemed to level out, and the dim light splashed on the cave walls, the true beauty of the caves were evident.

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And after one bucket list check, I thought, “why not another?” So we shot guns. I’ve never shot a gun in my life before, but I’ve always wanted to. Simple as that. And we had the chance to venture out into the Kentucky wilderness, not really, but I like to think we did, to Ging’s parent’s cabin. Have I mentioned how beautiful Kentucky is? It really is. Examples? (1) Deers just casually walk about at dusk, (2) wilderness that you can see from the kitchen window, (3) a serene silence, and (4) the moon looks close enough to touch. I rest my case.

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Just beware the humidity and gross heat that apparently engulfs the Southern states during summer. But, traveling around the world has made me realize that I’ve barely seen my own country. And what’s better than seeing new things and being stuck in a car with your dearest friends?! A good ole fashion road trip is always the best way to explore your own backyard. Unless it’s physically your backyard, then maybe just walk? Don’t want to ruin a backyard by driving through it. Just saying.

European Extravaganza

19 Aug

Writing a blog is hard. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes it’s truly difficult to sit down, collect all your thoughts and throw it up onto a page. What exactly am I trying to say? Sorry for being gone so long. In my defense, I was traveling. Before I finished up my contract in China, I hatched this intense European extravaganza trip for my brother and I. A sort of let’s catch up and spend all our time together for the next 3 weeks. Basically, let’s get extremely sick of each other while enjoying the beauties of Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London and Dublin. Before long, the news got out of my amazing trip planning capabilities and my mother invited herself.

But, before any European extravaganza begins, a trip to China comes first. As with all my adventures abroad, a family trip to visit is always a must. I kind of have an amazing family. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be stared at intensely whilst riding a subway? Or stay in a sketchy hostel that your daughter/sister booked? Or eat food that may or may not be tripe? Eh, the Terra Cotta Soldiers and Great Wall kind of make up for it all.

Terra Cotta Soldier

Terra Cotta Soldier

Such a Great Wall

Such a Great Wall

With the smog still fresh in our lungs, we headed to Amsterdam. After being in China for so long, I can honestly say I slightly forgot how beautiful clouds can be. They’re beautiful. Go outside and look at one. I’ll wait here… Wasn’t it great? You’re welcome. (Here’s some if you cheated and kept reading).

They're beautiful, eh?

They’re beautiful, eh?

Amsterdam is well known for marijuana and the coffee shops that sell it, but there is so much more to it than that. Let’s start with the absolute beauty that is Amsterdam. It’s gorgeous. And then add in the canals, and the nature, and the cleanliness, and the apple tart, and delicious coffee, and you’ll be in heaven. I can’t say enough about the beauty. Anyways, my dear friend Big G gave us the all inclusive tour of Amsterdam, chalk full of history and apple tart. There are some serious perks to this whole traveling and meeting people around the world thing. But after the Big G tour we were left to our own devices, which included eating way too many hot waffles, napping on a canal cruise, crying in the Anne Frank house and overestimating walking distances.

Gah, those canals are beautiful!

Gah, those canals are beautiful!

Then it was on to the next. We were supposed to head to Belgium, but, as with any Griswold holiday, disaster struck. I’ll be the first to praise the train system in Europe. It’s simple and easy, and somewhat idiot proof. BUT, of course, our train was cancelled without any notice due to strikes. Belgium, why would you start a strike? Don’t you know that people would love to enjoy your little country for a day or 2 and then continue to pass on through to the next. My dreams of Bruges were dashed, and we found ourselves with a full extra day in Amsterdam and ticket to Paris for the next day. So, what did we do? Drank Genever, duh. We went to the Bols Genever factory and drank way too much gin in the middle of the afternoon. For all you gin lovers reading this, go to Bols and enjoy the wide array of delicious gin drinks they mix. It’s magical!

Bols for the souls

Bols for the souls

Then off to Paris, France we went, and off to Paris Disney to celebrate my brother’s 20th birthday. Doesn’t everyone do that? I will say that there is something far less magical about the Disneyland in Paris. It feels more like an amusement park with shoving French teens and adults. Plus, the Indian Jones ride is a roller coaster. Where is the story?! The whole point is to have a delightful backstory and to enjoy the ride.

Me: “Why even call it Indian Jones then?”
France: “We do whatever we like, silly American.”

It's just…. lackluster

It’s just…. lackluster

Paris Disney, meh. Eiffel Tower, yes. The Eiffel Tower should just be this hunk of inconvenient metal, but it really is spectacular. You sort of just stand in awe while men try to sell you beer and wine from ice buckets. And then at night you climb all 600+ stairs and get to stand in awe at the top while your knees shake and you sweat profusely because your brother thought, “hey, why not?”

"Madam, you want wine?"

“Madam, you want wine?”

"We have to walk back down this now, huh?"

“We have to walk back down this now, huh?”

Then on the last day in Paris we kind of sat around and wondered, “what else do we see?” Paris is such an overwhelming city with attractions out the wahzoo that when you factor in exhaustion and family tension from exhaustion, you’d be wondering what to do as well. But, we put our happy pants on and headed out to see the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral is free, and the restaurants around that area are perfect for people watching and pigging out on foie gras, much to the dismay of my mother and brother.

"Wait, this is the church from that humpback movie?"

“Wait, this is the church from that humpback movie?”

Then it was off to London town! This was the part in the vacation after the first day of “exploring the town on our own” when my mother had enough of the self-exploring situation and wanted to go on a tour. When the map on your phone begins to look like a crazed serial killer ransom note, it’s time for a guided tour. We opted for the London Tower and Jack the Ripper tours. Because a) I love beefeater Gin (the men on the bottle are the guards at London Tower), b) my mom wanted to have someone else in charge than herself, her son, or her daughter so if something went wrong we had a common enemy and c) cheesy but fun is kind of our thing. Side note: before I had left China for this European extravaganza trip, one of the few English channels kept playing The Other Boleyn Girl, which, if you do not realize reader, is the story of Henry the VIII killing a Boleyn in the yard at the Tower of London. I saw where the bitch was killed y’all! A bit too aggressive? My bad. That’s on me. Let me rephrase that, I stood where something historic took place. Better? And I got a picture with a Beefeater, a Tower guard,  and awkwardly told him how much I loved Gin. Apparently, they don’t get that weird compliment all the time. And then we had the awkward situation where we thought we were on a Tower of London tour hlaf-day, and the tour guide kept talking about other sights to see and lunch and the whole bit. So after our dismissal near Tate Modern and the common enemy of our tour guide, we headed to some modern art, much to the dismay of my mother and brother. We got to cross the infinity bridge featured in Harry Potter. That’s cool, eh? Finally it was off to the spooky Jack the Ripper tour… Less spooky and more walking and seeing the sights of the murders. It didn’t help that we kept bumping into a tour group in front of us. Really kills the mood of the murders when the guide keeps being like, “man, alright. We’re going to have to talk over here to not interfere with the tour over there.” But, we got to see some of the sights where they shoot the BBC show Sherlock and I nearly lost my marbles.

"Aren't these tours lovely?"

“Aren’t these tours lovely?”

"Do you think the graffiti makes it spooky, or the Jack the Ripper thing?"

“Do you think the graffiti makes it spooky, or the Jack the Ripper thing?”

And after almost missing our flight and a mini family breakdown, brother and I headed to Dublin and mother headed home. That first day in Dublin was a struggle; brother and I had finally hit the wall of exhaustion and instead of using teamwork to hoist each other over, we decided to sleep against it. We managed to get on the hop on hop off bus, but once you actually sit down for a few minutes it’s all bad news. We were like two zombies shuffling around Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s Church before heading back to the hostel. It must have been a sight to see. That first day ended with the equivalent of 7-11 food for dinner, a few pictures and bedtime being 7pm.

"Dublin Castle. So it's a castle in Dublin?"

“Dublin Castle. So it’s a castle in Dublin?”

By the next day we had our shit together and an actual plan that included drinking Irish pints. We headed for the Guinness Storehouse after wandering about looking at churches and attempting to find lunch. The Storehouse is incredible. Who knew a beer museum would be so enjoyable? And serious. At one point we saw people standing in a line and, like moths to a light, we ended up in line. It was a class dedicated to teaching you how to drink the Guinness. One room had the smells, and the next had a woman telling me to take a breath after each drink to fully taste the flavors of the beer. And, much to my surprise, Guinness lady had a point. I could taste it. Sorry I ever doubted you Guinness lady.

"Yes, I'll pour my own pint!"

“Yes, I’ll pour my own pint!”

But, it wasn’t all beer and games. Brother and I also saw visited the campus of Trinity College to see the amazing library where the Book of Kells is kept. There’s something magical about a library that appears more like a beautiful dream than an actual place. It’s incredible. And the smells of old books is intoxicating, it truly is. Then add in the busts of ancient Greek philosophers and Enlightenment thinkers, and this gal is in heaven. Plus, I felt it was needed to show brother that although beer is fun and entertaining, old books can be cool too.

Library of my dreams

Library of my dreams

Dublin is great and all, but if I can give you any advice about Ireland it would be to get out of the city and marvel in the countryside. The incredible beauty of an Irish countryside is breathtaking. And the Cliffs of Moher truly capitalize on this beauty. The drive there is gorgeous, the stop at the old country farm is incredible and then there are the cliffs. Side note: We took a tour. You can explore on your own, but tours are easy and, most of the time, affordable. Plus we got to see an Irish farm where they make chocolate. What can be better? Anyways, the cliffs. The cliffs are breathtaking, mainly because of the harsh wind, and the panic inducing drop off near the edge, but, once again, beautiful.

"So this is just like your backyard, eh?"

“So this is just like your backyard, eh?”

"That's one hell of a cliff!"

“That’s one hell of a cliff!”

"Now that's a cliff, brahhh"

“Now that’s a cliff, brahhh”

European extravaganza was kind of amazing. I will say that traveling with family can be a hassle, sorry, but it can also be truly incredible. Being able to share my traveling memories with my mother and brother means the world to me.

Curl says 再见 to China

4 Jul

Now that my time is up in China, my mind and curls wander through the past 9 months of memories and life lessons that China has taught me. These past 9 months have been drastically different from those spent in Georgia, from the classroom to the people. I found myself longing for a Georgia supra type goodbye, but instead I was faced with blank faces of surprised students when I mentioned that week was the last time I’d be teaching them. I realize I shouldn’t be comparing the two experiences or countries with one another, but I can’t stop myself from doing it. I wish I had a more cultural immersion type experience in China like I had in Georgia, with a family to call my own. But instead I find myself with a sturdier teaching experience, a repertoire of PowerPoints and games, and a deeper confidence in my teaching abilities. Meh, maybe next year will be a mixture of those two!

So, as in true Curl fashion, I’d like to present you with the top 9 lessons/experiences from my time in China.

9. Everyone has the right away!
Crossing the street is like a game of Frogger. Exactly like the game of Frogger. Even the music. And the trucks. Add mopeds and e-bikes.

8. Oh, you have to pee? Yes, that is a trough you see. What is the problem?
Peeing isn’t necessarily a private act here in China. I’ve learned that quite quickly here. I will never forget the first moment I saw a legit trough in the middle of a tiled room that was labeled “bathroom.” My first thought: “WHAT. THE. WHAT.” My second thought: “NOPE.” Maybe because I’m actually a prude, or that the danger of peeing on myself in public becomes a real possibility with a trough, but being faced with public nudity, asses in faces, and the smells makes me forgot how much I love privacy. I love privacy! BUT, over the past 9 months, I’ve become almost completely comfortable squatting up in public. I will say that there is something liberating about dropping trousers without any hesitation about what your body looks like or any other body for that matter.

7. Why does it sound like someone is peeing? Oh, he’s peeing. That’s why.
Back to peeing. So women get to pee in troughs and squat pots, but men and babies have the luxury of peeing literally anywhere their heart desires. I’ve seen many adults holding their babies over a drain while their baby simply pees in it. 1. Where am I?! 2. Why is this happening?! 3. It all makes sense why baby’s pants here have a hole cut out that leaves their bum visible. The noodle restaurant that Linguist, Cray Cray, and I frequent has a drain right near the front door, so you can understand my surprise and dismay when I had to avoid not only a squatting woman holding a baby to get inside, but also the squatting baby’s pee stream. Drains are for collecting water, not pee! Second, men literally pee whenever and wherever they want. It’s ridiculous. Today, for example, I was walking through the courtyard to get to my apartment and I passed a man peeing in a bush. In no way was he trying to make his act of peeing a secret, and in no way was he in a private place. I passed a family of 3 and an older woman before getting to the front door of my apartment building, where there are bathrooms!

6. Chopstick ninja!
No more pee related stuff. Anyways, I can proudly eat anything with chopsticks, and I’ve nearly eaten everything with chopsticks because I’m currently in “living by myself” mode. This equates to me doing dishes out of complete necessity without any pants on. Therefore, I use chopsticks to eat nearly everything. I’m talking from the odd, like oatmeal, to the normal, ramen. I’ve become quite skilled at the chopsticks. I no longer embarrass myself attempting to eat at a Chinese meal that includes a lazy Susan, which is nearly every meal in China. And, I no longer  use the fork that the lunch lady at my school “Nic Cage quested” to find. I swear she pulled out a map and a key to go and find the fork! She’s the best though, she nearly cried when she saw me using chopsticks somewhat correctly and not making a total fool of myself.

5. It’s like fog, but dangerous.
Pollution is bad in China. I realize that you’ve probably heard and read about this at some point in your life, dear reader, but I am here to confirm all those articles and reports. It really is bad. I’ve been living in a city that is near the coast, but the pollution is still, on average, at a level that is described as ranging from “Unhealthy” to “Hazardous.” You get used to it though? The hacking eventually subsides and the face mask culture doesn’t seem half bad. Plus, when you get anywhere outside the country you become extremely grateful for air and clouds.

4. GAN BEI (干杯)!
The drinking culture in China is intense. This is because you have to have good drinking manners, or what I’ve been told is “jiuliang.” The head of the Grade 1 teachers explained this to me my first time having a large lunch with him and many other English teachers outside of school, which meant with alcohol. He explained to me that good drinking manners meant to be respectful of toasts, which embodied the amount of friendliness you were. If the toaster was toasting to you and finished the toast with “gan bei” that meant that the friendliness level was at an all time high, and your glass was at an all time dry. You had to empty the cup to show respect and friendliness to the toast giver. Basically, if you don’t get stinking drunk you are (1) disrespectful, (2) unfriendly, and (3) “not truly Chinese” as the teacher explained to me. What I enjoyed the most though was that the group eating lunch was pretty large so it seemed difficult to clink clink with every glass after the toasts, which I tried to do more than once. Instead, what would happen, the bottom of the glasses were clink clinked on the table as a way of cheers-ing without physically cheers-ing. Be respectful. Drink it dry!

3. LAOWAI!
The amount of gawking is staggering in China. I realize that I’ve talked about this endlessly, but it is something that has been constant during my time in China. The bigger cities seem to care less if you’re foreign, but the smaller cities are claustrophobic with the amount of pointing and stares. It was something I was not prepared for in the least bit, and something I never really got used to. It’s hard not to become paranoid, or bordering rage, when you simply want to eat in peace at a restaurant or go grocery shopping. I’m white with a great amount of curls. We get it. The excitement should be contained is what I’m trying to get at here.

2. Why is she helping you? Oh, because I smiled.
As with any other country in the world, when a kind gesture is offered it is often repaid. I tend to have a smile and nod policy in my book when it comes to traveling and working overseas. A simple smile has turned the harshest looking Russian man into a jolly old grandpa, and the angry looking old woman on the corner into a coffee date. There is something universal in the showing of a smile that can help break the language barrier. The friendliness of Chinese people has also helped the smile policy success. Maybe it’s just my phenomenal pantomime abilities that makes people smile? Whatever it was I was regularly greeted with kindness.

1. Rewarding Challenge.
Whenever someone asks me how I feel about China I always seems to pause before answering. The overwhelming atmosphere, from the mass population to the pollution, can be suffocating and turn any experience into a negative one. I, sadly, did have my negative experiences filled with miscommunications, racism, and sexism, but those were routinely combated with the positive impact I could see in my student’s progress. It’s a give and take that can be termed as the “struggle bus.” A delightful term coined by another participant in my teaching program in China. It’s genius, and she deserves all the credit. Anyways, the struggle bus is the perfect way to sum up my experience in China. It was a struggle. A rewarding struggle though.

Curl tries poetry

10 Jun

Dizzying speeds
Side to side
Echoes of horns
Blare through my mind

As the cloudiness
Of haze
Builds at my temple

Of Heaven
I look

Into the coal colored cloud
Rising above
And below

As the temple of Heaven
Circles round and round
With her eyes closed

As the sounds of the highway
Steam into coal colored clouds
Shout from the honking horns

Of Heaven
I look

Circling round and round
Into the coal covered clouds
With my eyes closed.