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It's all about Perspective.

People often ask me why I live the way I do, instead of focusing on a career, a house, a car, a dog and 2.5 kids. Sometimes I try to describe the feelings and emotions I have when I find myself in unfamiliar surroundings, or accomplish an obscure task on my Life To-do List. How alive I feel when I’m “not in the norm”.
But more often than not, people can’t understand this. It’s like trying to describe the beauty of a rainbow to somebody who was born blind. Until you’ve experienced getting lost in the alleyways of Venice or watching a sunset in Villefranche, you won’t be able to wrap your head around the “Why”.
So then I try another approach. “Most people spend their lives working 50 weeks a year to have a week of vacation. I on the other hand simply do things that allow me to be on vacation for the majority of my time.”
Again, sometimes they get it, and sometimes they don’t…

But today, I read a story that should pretty much clarify everything.

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Bye Antoine!

It’s a sad and happy day. On one hand, a really good friend is leaving, but on the other hand, he’s off to continue on an exciting adventure.
Antoine Strauss is a 20 year old Frenchman who felt he didn’t want to live in the “Rat Race”, so packed a bookbag and started walking. And didn’t stop. He walked through deserts, warzones, went without food for days and eventually found himself in China. He reminds me of myself in many ways and I’ll miss our conversations. Check out his website, where you can catch up on his journey “On Foot and almost without Money”.

Hmm…sound familiar?
Good luck Antoine!

April 4, 2010Posted by Greg in Journal

Happy Easter!

Happy Resurrection of the Lord Day! Did you have your celebratory chocolate eggs in His name this morning?
Today in China, this is a holiday for “cleaning graves”. Families get together and visit the sites of their loved one’s who have passed, tidy them up, leave flowers and wine and whisper a little prayer for them.
The only caveat is that you can’t say the name of anyone living while you’re there. As in you can’t say “Hey, John – can you please pass me the scissors?”, as it’s believed that doing so will give the spirits power over that person. One of the Chinese teachers at my school had that happen last year, and believes her grandmother is still inside her head….

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April 2, 2010Posted by Greg in Journal

At least it's not snow...

April 2, 2010Posted by Greg in Journal

A chat with Nicky #2

From favorite movies to women’s suffrage, tonight’s conversations were pretty profound. Until he squinted at me and picked up the chalk…

“I have a question for you Greg…If you leave China, your girlfriend will go with you?”

“That’s right.”

“Why?” he asks as he finishes drawing his “This is China, this is another country, X equals Greg and Y equals Sam with arrows going every which way” diagram.

“Because we’re a COUPLE. That’s what you do when you’re a couple. If one of you moves somewhere, the other goes with you.”

And I should have ended the conversation there…
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The Shovelmen

You know how when it snows, big plows drive around and clear the main roads? Well when it snows here, a veritable army of men and women armed with shovels and brooms take to the streets. They spend the day systematically clearing the roads, including the 6 lanes across from my apartment. I can only imagine how they must feel when they finish, go home for dinner and see snow in the forecast for the next day. Sonofabitch! And to think that you could put thousands of Chinese workers out of a job with a plow and a bag of salt…

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Introducing Nicky

On Fridays, I have a one-on-one lesson with a boy named Nicky. He used to be in one of my weekend classes, but this semester’s schedule left no time for it, so his parents paid to have him do an hour with me every Friday evening.
This kid is quite a character. He loves to talk, and is never at a loss for words. He likes to accompany our conversations with notes, diagrams and calculations on the blackboard. He’s got chalk in his hand longer than I do in most of my regular classes!
It was made clear up front that he had no desire to learn from a book, he simply wanted to practice his conversational skills and learn new vocabulary. And due to our free flowing conversation topics, his inquisitive nature sometimes catches me off guard.

Here’s an example from our last class…

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March 8, 2010Posted by Greg in Journal

We made it.

Well after 10 days of passport drama, way too much money spent on rebooking tickets, and completely throwing away the coat of two round trip tickets (thanks sky-tours!), missed and delayed flights, we’ve finally arrived in Changchun. I don’t think my testicles have though, because they’re nowhere to be found.

Luke, the teacher supervisor, picked us up at the airport and gave us a rundown of what to expect, the school, the hangouts, and the city itself. And poor Sam, kept losing the battle to keep her eyes open. We had had no more than 4 hours of sleep in the last 4 days and really needed a bed to climb into.
When we got to our apartment building and opened the outer door, we were greeted with a smelly, dirty stairwell. I stll can’t put my finger on what the smell is, but it’s “foreign”..
Ascending the stairs that I’m positive were used in all those creepy Asian horror films, I feared for what shambled state our apartment would be in.
Luke opened our door and we stepped into a huge livingroom. To one side the was a full eat in kitchen, a nice sized bathroom, an office with a large desk and a spacious bedroom. And thank god there was a western toilet. With a sigh of relief, we took off outside to our first “authentic dining experience”.

March 2, 2010Posted by Greg in Journal

Teacher, teacher!

Well I’ve started my classes, which range from 5 to 15 year olds. There’s 2 types of teachers at the school – Branch and Kinder. The kinder teachers are sent out to kindergartens that have contracts with us – they work 5 hours a day, Monday to Friday. The branch teachers are the “core” of the business and teach evening classes, from 5 – 7, 3 days during the week and 9-5 on weekends. There were 2 branch positions available and they selected Sam and I – which is a good thing. We also found out that within the chinese employee circle, we’re known as the “beautiful couple”. Tell me how that’s not supposed to go straight to my head?

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March 1, 2010Posted by Greg in Journal

Some-wing Wicked This Way Comes

All I wanted were some wings. Some enough-spice-to-warrant-my-eating-with-my-fingers-and-getting-sauce-embedded-in-my-cuticles, sloppy wings.

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