Monday, June 30, 2014


Image source.

1. I married a sex offender (posted February 2014) "He told everyone who would listen his manipulative version of the abuse, with no regard for the privacy or feelings of the victim or even his own family."

2. Euclid The Game. For the math nerds like me. See if you can do some compass-and-ruler constructions in this game.

3. Brazilian prostitutes and Christian evangelicals play soccer match on World Cup sidelines (posted June 15) "Rights must be the same for everyone. We're no different from anyone else just because we're sex workers."

4. Cat And Lynx Become Inseparable Friends (posted June 8) Oh my goodness you guys this is the most adorable thing.

5. Why We Need More Movies About Abortion (posted June 19) "Despite the fact that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion before age 45, judging by the content of mainstream movies and TV, it seems more likely a woman will try on ten thousand bridesmaid dresses, accidentally fall for a trained assassin, or change bodies with her teenaged self than terminate a pregnancy." So... I'm pro-choice in theory but this really really scares me/ makes me really uncomfortable and I can't explain why.

6. When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ* (posted June 19) "When you choose to exist in public looking well-groomed and sharp, you are basically extending an invitation for me to lust after you." Well amen.

7. Not Everyone Is Beautiful (posted June 9) "Because if everyone is beautiful or everyone can be beautiful or everyone is beautiful to someone, it’s okay to base a civilization around it."

8. Bathsheba and the myth of unconscious seduction (posted June 13) "A woman is in the wrong merely for having a body, for being beautiful, for being visible. To be sinless and safe, she must cover up."

9. These curious animals:

Image source.

10. Inflatable Unicorn Horn for Cats (posted June 25) "Cats love it!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fruit Culture Shock

It's the season for picking plums, so my school had an event where we took the students (adults) to go out and pick them.

I had no idea how much of a culture shock it would be.

For starters, I was the only non-Chinese person there, and I'd never picked plums before. I'd never even eaten a plum before. Yeah, sure I've had plum-flavored stuff, but I don't think I'd ever just straight-up eaten a plum.

And also these plums are green. Because China has tons of fruits that I have never seen before.

Green plums. Image source.

So we got off the bus, and there's a roadside stand there where you can buy baskets of plums and yangmei berries and also sample them, and the students pretty much all pounced on them and started grabbing fruit and eating it.

Yangmei berries. 杨梅。 Image source.

Pretty much what American children would do if someone was giving out free candy. Except these are Chinese adults. Chinese people just love fruit. It's mind-blowing to me.

So we went into the area with the plum trees, and we all were given a plastic basket, and everyone started going at it. Chatting and spreading out among the plum trees and picking as many as they could- looking for the softer ones, and so excited when they found a big one.

If those trees had been growing chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, I would have been doing exactly what my students were doing. Also, man, as soon as I get back to America, I am making a freaking chocolate cake. Cake in China tastes like foam, you guys. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, because the Chinese bakeries aren't sugarcoating it either. Oh and did I mention, cakes in China always have fruit on top. Chinese people LOVE fruit.

So anyway, I was still trying to eat the plum that someone had given me a few minutes before. One of the students showed me how to peel the skin and eat it and spit out the pit, and I was still trying to decide if I even like them or not.

Meanwhile the old woman working at the plum-picking place is dumping plums into my basket because she sees that I am obviously slow (and white) and need help. You know, in China we don't have personal space- in America, you'd have to ask permission before putting stuff in someone's basket.

(Actually, I think I only picked one or two plums, and the rest were put in there by other people who assumed I needed help but totally didn't ask me. I wasn't even sure I wanted a basket full of plums.)

OH ALSO did I mention plum trees have branches that grow outward at a really wide angle, and they're close together so you have to crouch down and walk around like Quasimodo- you can't stand up straight. That drove me crazy! But everyone else was on a mission to get the best plums and didn't seem to mind. Again, just like me going after the cupcakes.

(And on top of that, the place was full of mosquitoes who thought I was delicious, and I was wearing shorts because it was a hot day, and maybe sometime later we can discuss Chinese fashion and how everyone else was wearing pants/shorts/skirts longer than mine.)

So then it was time to go, and all the students have full baskets of green plums, and mine is half full, and everyone's like "Perfect Number, why do you have so few???" and man, I was kind of annoyed at that point because of the culture shock and feeling like everyone was trying to force so much bizarre fruit on me. Actually at one point I was rude- so, watch out for culture shock, kids, because it can put you in a bad mood and then you'll end up being rude to people. But after that, I tried my best to just explain myself with a laugh- "I don't know what I would do with so much fruit"- and then the students can just marvel at how strange I am and it's fine.

Fruit. So much fruit. Chinese people love fruit.

It's common for my Chinese colleagues to show up at the office with some kind of strange fruit I've never seen in my life and then put one on everyone's desk. (Incidentally, that's exactly what happened when we got back to the school after this outing.) Usually they don't ask if you want it or not- because in Chinese culture, you should say "no" regardless, just to be polite. Plus, I mean, everyone loves fruit, right? Like if I was giving out oreos. I mean, everyone wants an oreo, yes? (Nope, not in China.)

And it really makes me feel stressed out when my colleagues do that, because man, it just raises so many hard questions. What is this fruit? Has it been washed? How do I eat it? Do we eat the skin or not? Does it have a pit I have to spit out? It's gonna make my hands all juicy, isn't it? It's just so complicated- that's why I don't usually eat fruit. Just apples and bananas, because those ones I can understand.

A couple years ago when I was traveling in China, the family I stayed with would eat fruit every night after dinner while they watched tv. So much fruit. Apples and oranges. Every freakin' night. SO MUCH FRUIT. How can anybody eat that much fruit?

(Which may explain why fewer Chinese people are overweight. They think fruit is a dessert.)

I suppose it's good and healthy, and I should start eating more fruit too. But man, to me it's just so WEIRD.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

On the Subject of Eating Dog

Image source.

So apparently on June 21, in Yulin, Guangxi province, they have "dog meat day" (狗肉节).

Guangxi is in southern China, and kind of has a reputation for eating weird things. (Guangdong is another province in southern China and apparently they eat even more weird things there. There's a joke I've heard that "Guangdong people eat everything with four legs, except for tables.") But in most places in China, most people think it's really weird to eat dog.

Anyway, I saw some posts on Chinese social media about "share this post if you are opposed to dog meat day", and last night I saw a news story about dog activists protesting in the streets of Yulin. (Huge warning on that video- it has a couple shots of the dead, roasted dogs.)

So... it seems like eating dog is kind of controversial, and kind of "eh, people there eat weird things, that's just how they roll, whatever."

And my opinion? Well, as an American, first I'll say EWWW NO THE POOR LITTLE DOGGIES!

But, you guys, I'm not a vegetarian, so... Is this really all that different from eating pigs and cows and sheep?

Some people here in China think eating dog meat should be banned. But I think, unless you're a vegetarian, you're not really in a position to be advocating a ban. What's the difference? Pigs and cows can be smart and friendly too, and nobody has a problem with eating them. (Except some cities in China with large Muslim populations- yeah good luck finding pork there.)

Also, in China, they sell cooked chickens with the heads still attached. They serve fish on a plate with its eye looking at you. It seems like Chinese culture is way less discreet about the fact that meat comes from animals.

So... yeah. Again, let me emphasize "dog meat day" is just something that happens in Guangxi province. Don't read this and think "Chinese people eat dog"- no, the majority of Chinese people do not. Dogs are pets, just like in America. (Haha, nope, American pets are way more spoiled.)

This dog is happy because it is a pet and no one is eating it. Image source.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Release (Five Minute Friday)

Image source.

It's always an adventure living in China, but maybe I don't want it to always be an adventure.

At some point, I get sick of being crowded, sick of being limited by the language, sick of dealing with really bizarre situations that could only happen in China, sick of culture shock. And man, I just want a freakin' chicken salad sandwich.

I love being here, I really do. No chance I want to move back to America. But still, sometimes I feel stuck and I want to be free. I want release.

And my phobia too. I wish I didn't always have to be so cautious, looking around for the objects of my phobia. I wish I could just live life without any awareness of their existence, like I used to.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not free, but I want to be.

And I used to believe God would give me freedom, but now I'm not sure.


This post is written for Five Minute Friday. The prompt this week is "release."

Five Minute Friday

Jesus Got All Shiny

But why did he get all shiny?

Sources: here and here.

Here's what happened in Matthew 17:1-13: Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a mountain, and then he got all shiny. And Moses and Elijah showed up to talk with Jesus. Then Peter was like "Hey this is great! I'll set up 3 tents for you guys" and a cloud came down and they heard a voice (presumably God) saying "This is my Son, whom I love- with him I am well pleased. Listen to him." And the three of them were so scared they fell down, but then Jesus told them to get up and everything was back to normal.

On the way home, they asked him some questions about Elijah.

So. let's talk about this.

What exactly does it mean that Jesus was "transfigured"? And were Moses and Elijah real?

First of all, what exactly does "transfigured" mean? Do we use that word in any other context besides this? Google defines it as "transform into something more beautiful or elevated." And aha, it's also used in Harry Potter! When they use magic to turn something into something else. (And, I suppose, in Disney fairy tales, when someone turns into a beautiful princess or something.)

And about Moses and Elijah. I've heard that Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets, so their presence shows that Jesus is continuing/fulfilling those things.

But were they ghosts? Like, the real ghost/spirits of the real Moses and Elijah? Were they holograms- just 3D representations of Moses and Elijah but with nobody inside?

"Help me, Peter, James, and John, you're my only hope." Image source.

If they were the real ghosts of Moses and Elijah, well... don't you think the language would have changed during the hundreds of years between their time and Jesus'? What if they couldn't understand each other? Or are ghosts not limited by things like their knowledge of language?

Hey someone remind me, do Christians believe in ghosts or not? :)

Let's back up here. The text says that Moses and Elijah were there talking with Jesus. What that actually means is that the 3 disciples who witnessed it described it as Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus.

Maybe we can't get answers about what the "Moses and Elijah" actually were because the writer and his sources didn't know either. They just said what they appeared to be seeing.

What was the purpose of the transfiguration?

It seems like the point of this was for Peter, James, and John to see it. But why? Maybe to show Jesus' power? And reveal more of who he is, and his connection to God, the law, and the prophets?

But... what was with the part where he got shiny?

Why did the writer feel it was important to include this bit about Peter wanting to set up tents?

Image source.

The way it sounds to me is like "this amazing experience was happening, and then Peter said something stupid, but a cloud came down and basically shut him up."

Like, that's how I've always read it. Peter didn't know what to say, because seriously, what do you say in that situation, so he said something stupid.

Is that it? Is it somehow important? Am I missing something? Why was it written down and preserved for us to blog about it 2000 years later?

So a cloud comes down, and there's a voice- presumably the voice of God- why is he "well pleased" with Jesus? And did he say "listen to him" to scold the disciples? Were they not listening or something? Maybe something is lost in translation?

Was the "well pleased" bit meant as encouragement for Jesus or to teach the disciples? And the "listen to him" bit always felt to me like God was telling Peter to shut up about the 3 shelters. But I really think there could be some translation issues going on here- perhaps the individual words are right, but the feeling of the phrase "listen to him" in American English is not what was being communicated.

All of the bible translations listed here say "listen to him" or something to the effect of "hear him", except the International Standard Version, which says, "Keep on listening to him!" The Message also says "listen to him."

So, what do we make of that?

And then after they got up from the ground, it was all over.

Was it real? Was it just a dream?

And then, on the way home, the disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?"

This means the transfiguration must have got them thinking. My first thought is that it showed them that Jesus is definitely the Christ the Jewish people had been waiting for, but hey wasn't Elijah supposed to come before the Christ? However, I'm not sure if the idea that "the Jewish people were totally waiting for the Christ" is actually true or if it's a common evangelical spin on the story.

In any case, seeing the transfiguration changed the disciples' view about Jesus (and John the Baptist).

So what's the take-home message?

When I was reading this passage with my boyfriend, I told him that (in my experience) Christians always look for some kind of "what does this mean for my life" message when we read the bible. But, like... I don't know, in this story, what am I supposed to do? There's still a lot I don't understand about it.

Just that Jesus got really shiny, basically.


This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: The Most Important Question (Matthew 16:13-28)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

China Memes

Here are a few memes I made to capture what it's like living in China (as a white American, by the way):

And here are some I found online (through google image searches and the "China memes" facebook group):

If you don't know who this is, fix that immediately.