An average day?

People have been asking me what an average day is like here in Hainan.  I guess there really isn’t an average day other than I run errands and hang out with friends.  It is like being in Columbus Ohio but on a Tropical Island in China…and without the punk rockers.  I miss my punx ;-)

I’ll give you yesterday which again is atypical and typical in its atypicall-iness.

I awoke around 6 am and was jet lagged from the flight.  We have exactly a 12 hour time difference from Ohio.  I bummed around my room a bit until about 630am when the cafeteria opened.  I like the school cafeteria and eat most my meals there. Breakfast is my favorite meal.  They sell sweet soft fresh baked doughy breads with coconut, red bean paste, and other sweet fillings, as well as noodles, porridge, hard boiled eggs, and piping hot soy milk.  I had breakfast with 3 friends. Shao a local Hainan girl who is applying for grad schools now, Louie a guy from northern China who I met at the gym and is graduating this semester too, and Saverio an Italian guy who is in my Chinese class.  Of all my friends I tend to hang out the most with Saverio and Louie.

Elenamary, Louie and Saverio at a birthday party.

After breakfast with the gang, I skipped class that I have from 740am until 1140am and went home to nap.  “Home” is dorm room think of it as a studio apartment with the luxury of hot water and air conditioning.  Chinese students have neither of those luxury goods and are six to a room.

I chilled out at home and cleaned up a bit and then went to meet my American friend Markham.  He was going to help me with getting my internet turned back on (his Chinese is much better than mine) and then have lunch with some other foreign students.  When I say foreign students I mean not Chinese students.

After lunch I headed out to get a massage with Saverio and a British dude whose name I can’t recall.  I love getting massages and do it a few times a week.  After massage I went to the grocery store to shop for bed sheets and some other household goods.  I ran these errands while driving my “ebike” or “electronic bike” it is like a mini motorcycle, something like a Vespa, and it runs on electricity.  I headed back to campus and realized I’d underestimated the time when I noticed the gym was open and my friends Norm and Louie were mingling outside the front of it.

I stopped in to lift a little bit with my friend Norm who is a triathlete from Colorado and then I ran a few laps on the track with my friend Ajun.  Ajun holds the school record in the 5km and 800m.  I headed home after the quick workout to shower and change for dinner.

Ajun and Elenamary at a "going away" party in the dorms.

Dinner was had in the school cafeteria with a large group of Chinese friends including Lester Chinglish who helped me start a philosophy club here.  (Please, help me out; I am accepting suggestions on readings).

I am too tired to continue writing about the rest of the day but that’s pretty much what every day is like.  It changes, in that some days I play soccer, volleyball, basketball, badminton, ping pong, or pool. Some days I go to class, sometimes I go to parties, some days I lay in the sun on a yoga mat and read.

laowai on bike

How many Laowais fit on a bike? Outside the foreign student dorm. Our German friend Stefan got a new bike.
So, of course Morten from Denmark and I, tried to see how many people could ride on it.
Standing behind us are:
Richard from Australia, Saverio from Italy, Dee from Thailand and Meiji from Malaysia.

mountain biking

I signed up for my first ever mountain bike race.  In fact, this will be the first time, I’ve ever been mountain biking.  What have I gotten myself into?  As soon as I got home from signing up at the bike shop, I emailed my buddy John McPocho, who offered this advice:

“Best piece of advice I can give you is to thrust your booty-weight towards the rear as you go downhill, so as to not tumble forward over the handlebars.”

Great!   I can picture myself now, going down a hill, more rapidly than I can control the bike with my butt hanging way behind the seat, just barely hitting the tire.  The seat, just waiting to nail me in the crotch.  The seat won’t get a chance to nail me though because I’ll lose control and fall on the tire, and then bump my head into a tree.

I’d like to tell you about the location of the bike race, but I have little idea.  I know the race will take place about two hours south of Haikou and that for the amateurs it is only an 8km race.  I know that the bike shop is providing transportation and accommodations. I am renting a mountain bike from the shop.  I know the city that is hosting the race is offering 200 Renminbi to all participants.  Also in attendance will be a triathlete friend of mine and a new friend and avid cyclist I made here in Haikou.  That is all I know. It is exciting and kinda scary…but more exciting than anything.

Oh and when I went the website to try and get more information on the race, I came across this picture, of my brother with the heading “但是,老虎也有打瞌睡的时候” (I don’t know what it means and I don’t trust google to translate.)


It was weird when we found each other in blogotitlan, we were about the same age (all in our early-to-mid twenties), in fact Cindylu, El Oso and I, are no more than 2 months apart in age.   It is weird how we go through somewhat similar milestones, and Cindylu has inadverantely helped me through one of my own.

Four weeks ago, I had written out a training plan for myself for the Half-Ironman in Switzerland in June.  I had just gotten back from visiting my brother in China and figured at the end of the triathlon season in Ohio (Early September) I’d head back out to China where it was warm and I could continue my training.  I love Ohio during the spring and summer.  Triathlon club, biking with friends to the quarry to swim, running after the sun has set with the cool summer breeze, and scheduling a triathlon every other weekend with friends, 5k / 10k fun runs.  It is a blast.

There I was with my training schedule for the Half-Ironman, I stuck with it for the first week, and then the second week sub-came to the bitter cold of Ohio.  I turned on my electric blanket, my space heater, and spent a week in bed.   I wasn’t living life.   I was a lummox.  I hated it.  So, I decided why stick out the rest of the winter here in Ohio?  Why not go to China now?  Forget Switzerland and do the 70.3 Ironman in Beijing.  So I did.  I turned in my two week notice to work.  Booked two plane tickets the first to Mexico to visit my Grandparents, with a following trip a week out to China.  After a week of not exercising of not swimming, biking or running, I felt awful.  I got to Mexico and the sun was nice, but I still had not motivation to train.  Then I arrived a China.  I tried to train but was having mental blocks.  I felt, slow, fat, clumsy.  This wasn’t my body—but it was.   Not only had I not been following my training schedule, I was at a worse place then I was before I started it.

Then the day before yesterday, with almost a month of not training, I read Cindylu’s blog entry about Finding Balance.  Despite having watched all kinds of Ted Talks on running and motivation, and reading training books, it was surprisingly Cindy who motivated me to move past my own mental blocks.   I finally went out and did a 10k run. It was slower than I have done in a long time, but I did it and still felt like I could keep going.  It is good to know we are all weak at some point.  That we aren’t alone in our struggles.

I’ll have to write another entry about why I ever started  losing weight (help from friends), training (my brother), and all the obstacles I really hate.  But for now I am just glad I had blogotitlan to motivate me once more.

work and play

El Oso referred to me as being lazy.  I am not lazy but rather I take great pleasure in enjoying every minute of life to its fullest.  I guess when I refuse to ever work a 30+ hour work week it may seem kind of lazy.  Only once in my life have I ever had a 40 hour work week.  It was an office desk job dispatching interpreters.  I liked that I got to talk to different people from different countries, different life experiences, different languages, then my own.  What I didn’t like was working 5 days a week 8 hours a day.  When do people who do this live?  Especially, those with commutes.  Let’s say it takes you an hour each way and you take an hour lunch (not included in your 8 hour work day) this means your work day just went from 8 hours to 11 hours. For those of you who live in places like Ohio, during these 11  hour work days, when do you actually get to see the sunlight let alone enjoy it?

The one time I had that 40 hour a week job, I found myself  telling my employer I couldn’t do it.  They dropped me down to 32 hours a week.  I tried it and had to again explain  I couldn’t do this.  They dropped my hours to 27 hours a week, the minimum allowed that still permitted me to receive benefits.  I tried it and found myself turning in my two week notice.

I have three main objectives in the work I do.  Firstly, I must not be negatively impacting the world and must be hopefully positively impacting the world.  For example a job at walmart or the border patrol would be a job that negatively contributed to society. Secondly, work cannot take up my life.  I did take a job recently that I love(d) where I worked 40hours a week in 3 days but only worked every two weeks.  I got all my work done at once, had enough money to pay my bills and travel…but the time I worked did not greatly effect my free time. The opportunity cost of my free time is rather high.  Thirdly, I must enjoy my work.  Enjoyment for me varies. Challenges can be enjoyable, positively impacting the world I live in is also very enjoyable and highly fulfilling. Back in the states what did I do with all that free time?  I went to the gym, library, hung out with friends, traveled and enjoyed life.

Now in China I am continuing the enjoyment of the short stay I have on this planet.   On my run today I enjoyed the weather and sunshine to its fullest. It is winter here and the temperature today was 74F (during February the average high in Haikou is 72.1F ).  After my run  I stopped my brother’s apartment who noted the temperature as well and said “This is why I moved to Hainan”   I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that sentiment.

It is also why I moved here.  For those back home who discouraged my move to China, your high today is 33F and you probably won’t see the sun.  I am happy here and loving it.


Years ago, my then boyfriend Alexi and I took our first international trip together to Mexico.  It was our first night in Mexico, and we were asleep in Taxco, my hometown.  I was awoken by Alexi  “Elena.  Elena.” I grumbled something lifted my head slightly and looked at the blinking red digital clock and dropped my head back into the pillow.  He continued “Elena, do you hear that?  What is it?”  I heard in the background a boom, some crackling and then the echo of the boom and crackling.  “Fireworks” I responded still not lifting my head. “Why?” he asked.  I let out in a somewhat flippant tone ” Because, it is 7:23am”.

It is quite normal in Taxco for both fireworks and firecrackers to go off anytime.  People like the explosions there is no real reason for it.   I’ve been reminded of that feeling here in China the last few days as the Chinese New Year is being celebrated.  People stand around nonchalantly with a long row of fire crackers, and with the same ease of puffing on their cigarette they lean down with their cigarette and ignite the row of fire crackers. And why the hell not?  It is the new year.  It has been non-stop.  The fire crackers are wrapped in what seems like a never-ending amount of red paper that has littered the streets leaving the streets a bright celebratory red.  I like it. I am sure it is wasteful as all hell but I like it.  I almost like it as much as I like shitting in KFC.

I hate fastfood restaurants.  I hate seeing them in the US but even more so abhor seeing them abroad.  This is what we’ve exported?  I can’t full explain the gratification it gives me to know I have shat on our great American capitalist, diabetes inducing, artery clogging bull shit.  It gave me great pleasure that on New Years Eve while in a touristy trap neighborhood of Sanya, Hainan, I got the runs while near a KFC.  There is something wonderful about going into a foreign fast food joint and defecating.  If you are going to get the runs while abroad, I know of no better way to full enjoy it; their bathrooms are clean and you are returning to them the favor of what they gave the world.