how we do laundry in China

When you move to a new place, everything stands out to you. Everything is unfamiliar. My first night in China, I swatted at the light switches in my apartment trying to understand how they worked. So many of these little things are familiar to me now, so I should record them so I remember what it is like to be surprised.

My dad asked me a lot of those kinds of questions. What does gas cost? (I don’t know; I don’t drive.) Do you have classes Monday through Friday? (Well, now that you mention it, there are some Saturday classes, and it’s not like Sunday is a holy day.) How do you do laundry without a dryer? (Hang it up outside, or pay someone else to do it.) I took some photos of laundry outside to show him, but he died about five weeks ago. So I am going to write about this anyway, so I can remember.

Like much of the world, very few people in China have dryers. The high cost of electricity plus small apartments makes them impractical. I think they can only be found in luxury apartments for foreigners. Most people who could afford a dryer would likely just get someone else to do their laundry for them.

At my house I have a balcony with a hanging pole. I try to wait for a dry day to wash my clothes, but it’s sheltered enough that an unexpected downpour doesn’t ruin my whole load. And yes, I probably would rewash it, since I can’t imagine the rain is clean. Some people don’t have balconies, so their apartments have racks that extend from their windows. (I am only talking about city dwellers, who nearly all live in apartments.)

Laundry hanging from racks. I took this from the bus, so....
Laundry hanging from racks. I took this from the bus, so….

One phenomenon seems to be people doing laundry at work. I don’t know if they bring clean clothes to work and change there, or if they bring a load of dirty clothes with them. But seeing clothes hanging from trees outside of small businesses, or even on campus, is quite common. I suppose they do it in order to keep an eye on their things, since they will not be at home all day. Or maybe their apartments don’t have a place to hang things up.

 

View from my classroom in the Main Teaching Building. Around 8 am every Tuesday one of the employees comes out and hangs up her laundry.
View from my classroom in the Main Teaching Building. Around 8 am every Tuesday one of the employees comes out and hangs up her laundry.

Anyway, it’s surprising how accustomed I am to seeing clothing draped on bushes. This is another example of how the US can seem a little uptight about certain things. I have to begin by saying I love the US and look forward to living there again. But some neighborhoods don’t even allow clotheslines. It’s as if laundry is this secret shame. China is more free in certain ways like that, ways that are hard to understand until you come here.

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Boyfriend material
Boyfriend material

My PC laptop is more or less on life support. It was fine Tuesday morning, but when I came home from Homework Help on Tuesday evening, I couldn’t get anything to load. I planned to take it in for repairs, and then I thought: The battery doesn’t work. The screen doesn’t work. The DVD drive doesn’t work. The touchpad doesn’t work. I only paid $150 for it four years ago. What am I thinking?

So I got a MacBook Pro. I’ve used both PCs and Macs, and they’re both fine. But I feel like the Macs have better hardware. And since hardware was such a problem with my PC (chunks would break off and I would just throw them in a pile), I decided to try this route. I had to redo all my financial info for 2013 taxes, but QuickBooks was able to sync with my bank info and enter the Plus they gave me a student discount, even though I’m not in school yet. I did lose my Photoshop, so I’m trying to find a way around that. Not my first priority, but I do like having it. Picmonkey might be good enough for who it’s for.

Oh, and I applied for school. Still waiting to hear. I got a note on Wednesday from the program advisor that said, “Did you mean to apply to X program? Because you actually applied to Y program. Common mistake, happens a lot. I’ll make the change for you if you want. ” So that’s going just swimmingly.

And finally, I have a new boyfriend for the first time in mmmmph years. It’s going well. I like him. He likes me. It’s one more thing to make time for, which is difficult sometimes. It’s worthwhile so far, though. A lot is going to change in my life if I get into school or if I don’t, so I’m just taking it a little at a time.

Loss

Rest in peace.
One of my happiest memories of her is her wedding day.

This is more of a personal note than a post about my career change, but it’s all I can think about today. My dear friend Laura passed away last night after a long struggle with Stage 4 kidney cancer. She was 38 years old.

Laura was, among many other things, a Montessori teacher. She didn’t study teaching when we were at UW together, but it seemed to be such a great fit for her. She loved kids, learning new things, science…I mean, of COURSE she became a teacher. And her students seemed to love her.

I am sure that seeing Laura’s joy in her students and her profession planted a seed in me to become a teacher, although it took several years to sprout. Laura’s emotions were always near the surface, and if she felt strongly about something, her feelings were often infectious. I remember just listening to her talk about her students, her frustrations and concerns, and her many and obvious joys.

We all knew this was coming for at least 18 months. I felt like I made my peace and said goodbye a while ago. I had a lovely lunch with her and her family in La Crosse, and I remember thinking, “This might be the last time I see her. It’s sad, but I’m glad I got to have this chance.” But I’m still feeling a loss.

I’m not very happy with this post because I feel like it’s too much about me and my dumb feelings. But right now, that’s what I’m dealing with. She was lucky to have a husband and family who loved her dearly, and their loss is far greater. They are in my thoughts now and always.

Making statements

"jerri blank" is not a Google Images search you want to do if you're planning to enjoy your breakfast
I’ve got something to say!

New updates on the grad school front: I did some investigation into what school options exist in my area. I really don’t want to relocate unless it’s absolutely necessary.

My #1 pick is University of Minnesota. Well, guess what? Their application deadline is December 14. Yes, December. Because their program starts in June, not fall like you’d think. (It’s for a very good reason–you do 3 semesters, then have the second summer session to finish any credits so you can start teaching in the fall.)

Yikes! I was hoping to ease into the application process a little, not go HAM over the next 2 weeks. Now, granted, that’s the priority application deadline. I could apply later. But not much later, I guess, right?

I’m contemplating my 3 personal statements I have to write:

QUESTION A: Experience with difference

Please describe a specific experience in your life that required you to navigate through an environment or situation different from that which you are familiar. How did you approach this experience? What did you learn? Note that the experience you describe may reflect difference across dimensions such as race, socio-economic status, gender, language, religion, geography, sexual orientation, special needs.

QUESTION B: Educational disparities

Disparity in educational outcomes is a major challenge in Minnesota. How do you account for these disparities? How do you view your role as a future educator in addressing educational disparities?

QUESTION C: Becoming a teacher

Discuss your life and work experiences that have influenced your decision to become a teacher.

Not unreasonable things to ask. And that “under 2 pages” requirement is definitely doable. (Here is where the ghost of Mrs. Martz, my high school English teacher, comes in and says, “Sarah, you’re too concise.” As if that’s possible.) (I just realized that Mrs. Martz might be an actual ghost. Like, she might be dead now. Google google google…as of May 2012, she was alive and active online. Well, good for her. Anyway.)

I think Question A is going to be the tough one. I’m going to try to write these up as best I can starting this afternoon. My end goal for the whole app is December 31. I have an info session at U of M on Wednesday 12/5, which will answer a lot of questions, I hope to God.

On the plus side, the website says nothing about taking the GRE. Oh, man, if I could skip that step, this mad dash in December will be worth it. That’s not a silver lining, that’s a platinum lining.

I can do this. It’s just going to be hard. But that’s not a very good reason not to do something.

The plan

Step by step

I alluded to grad school in an earlier post. I’m thinking I’d like to become a teacher. I’d like to teach kids about writing and literature, like middle school or maybe high school. I think that would be really fun, don’t you?

Right now the plan is:

Winter:

– Investigate grad schools. I’m attending an info session at the University of Minnesota on 12/5. I’ve also got some school info marked on Pinterest to read later (I never understood the reason for secret Pinterest boards until now).

– Talk to teachers about teaching. I’ve started doing this in my online community and in real life. My aunt sent me a nice Facebook message that I still need to finish processing before I see her at Christmas.

– Investigate Teach for America. My aunt told me, “But they’ll make you teach in an inner city school for a year!” Two years, actually, and really, I’d probably end up doing that anyway.

– Continue volunteering at Homework Hub. Homework Hub is hard and challenging, but I look forward to it all week.

– Study for the GRE. Bleh.

Spring:

– Take the GRE. Bleh bleh.

– Apply to schools.

Summer:

– Finish applications.

– I don’t know, make money, I guess? Read the last books I’ll have time for?

Fall: 

– Start school. It should take about 18 months or so to finish. Then, I guess I’ll try to work as a teacher starting in January 2015. I might be working through TFA or not.

Lots to do.

Oh, dip

We have a dearth of "Oh, dip" clip art. Internet, fix this!
Oh, right.

For some reason, it just occurred to me that if I go back to school, I’ll be in school. I’ll have to study and write papers and be graded. It’s going to be really hard.

I’m usually a good student. I’m bright enough (“if I go back to school, I’ll be in school” notwithstanding), I follow directions well, I can write a paper without too much drama. But I’d rather work, because work has set starting and ending points. With school, you can always be studying more.

And reading books. God, I love reading books. Literature is one of my few passions in life. Kiss that goodbye if I go to grad school.

Does that mean I’m not going to do anything that requires grad school? No, it doesn’t. I do have to mentally adjust to this idea.

The current situation

I’m so burned out on massage therapy I can barely stand to walk into work. And I don’t hate the work, I hate the job. And the lifestyle.

Look! I'm hot, but not *too* hot!
How am I supposed to work on someone’s back when they’re cranking their neck to the side?

And the work.

What I like, in no order:

1) The physical work. It’s fun to just put your hands on something and fix it the way you want it to.

2) When I get a great client that I really click with. I like feeling valued, really.

3) Being good at something, and being an expert at something.

What I hate:

1) I always work weekends. I don’t mind it sometimes, and having Tuesdays off is pretty great. But sometimes it would be nice to be on the same rhythm as the rest of the world.

2) You can never give enough for some people. I never charge a low enough price. I never have the right hours. If someone leaves a voice mail, I try to call them back. But there’s no point–they never return my calls.

2.5) It’s hard to stay competitive in the current climate. If someone can get a decent massage at exactly the time they want it from a big box massage place, they will. Or they’ll wait for a Groupon. Even independent contractors will cut their rates to compete. Well, what if I don’t want to charge $30/hour? What if I can’t make a living charging $30/hour for massage (who can?)?

3) I worry about arthritis in my joints, especially my right thumb. What do I do if my body wears out? A different job, I guess. Should I wait until that happens or just move on now?

4) Trying and failing to find that elusive chemistry with clients. What makes some stick around while others just come in occasionally, or never again? I’m sure a lot of it is personality. There’s nothing wrong with my personality, but somehow it isn’t clicking with as many clients as I need to make this business work.

It’s been 5 years. I feel like, if it was going to happen for me, it would have happened already.

First post

This blog is about my midlife career change and other angsty stuff. I can’t really call it a crisis, since it’s been going on since I was 30 or so, and I’m 38 now. I think some people just take a while to figure things out, and I’m one of them.

More later.