Sunday, March 23

Happy Easter!!!


Happy Easter! (Cortney in China)

Happy Easter Everyone!!!!!

I know it's not yet Easter in America, but it is in China! Well, for the americans living in china it is.

My group and I were supposed to go to Ningbo this weekend. It's about a 12 hour train ride from Hefei...I know, not fun. There is another school in Ningbo that our Head Master wanted to take us too. She wanted us to meet some of the kids and play with them. Also, an added bonus...our school was going to pay for us to go! It was our FREE vacation. They told us Ningbo wasn't good for shopping but it was a beautiful city. We were all mainly excited because we didn't have to pay for anything. So our group was supposed to leave last night. We were supposed to be at the train station at 7:45pm. Before we left our apartment aleksi, bethany, cami and myself wanted to run across the street to get some snacks for our trip. We asked karen (our translator) to give us the address to the train station in chinese and we would show it to the taxi driver and meet them there. So the four of us ran across the street and were in the store for maybe 10 minutes...ran outside and hailed down a taxi. We arrived at the train station at 7:25 earlier then we were supposed to. So we waited and waited till about 7:40 and then started getting a little worried. "why can't we find them?" "are we in the right place?" I showed some random asain man ( super cute...might I add) the address and he nodded his head in agreement that we were in fact in the right place. So we divided to try to find them. Aleksi and I waited at where you buy the tickets and bethany and cami waited by where you board the train. After another 10 minutes we still couldn't find them.All four of us were just standing there with not a clue what to do. No one speaks english,we don't have a cell phone, AND our group has our tickets. Since bus stations and train stations are always packed with people they are also packed with bums/beggars asking for money. We were approached by this lady that was just rambling on and on and shoving a cup in our face. She was really quite scary looking so I gave her a yuan and motioned with my hand for her to "go away." She was soo persistant and kept pointing to her dirty hands and THEN she held up a big chunk of her hair. All of us at the same time said " ohhhh....sick!" She wouldn't leave so we decided to start walking away. Then I turned around and this old beggar lady had thrown this massive bag of stuff over her shoulder (like she was santa claus) and started RUNNING after us. So all 4 of us started screaming and hauling it. We ran inside the McDonalds right next to the train station hoping that she wouldn't follow us inside. She didn't.We asked the employees if we could us there phone to call our school,so they could call Karen (who was with our group) and tell them to meet us somewhere. It was now about 8:10 and we finally got ahold of our head master, linda. She told us that our group was on the train and the train had already left. We were stranded. She told us to come back to the school. We arrived back to our rooms and all of us just sat together in quiet so sad that we missed our free vacation. So now it's just us 4 here until tuesday night. Just us for Easter and just us for my birthday (which is the 25th). So today we are making blueberry muffins that aleksi brought from home and having scrambled eggs for our Easter feast. Last night before we went to bed, we all went back to the store and let each other pick out some candy that we will later hide for each other to find. We decided that even though my birthday is on Tuesday we will celebrate it on wednesday (my actual birthday in america). Then everyone will be home for whatever Aleksi planned for me. Anyway, we are all bummed out for sure. We are safe though, from the crazy chunk of hair lady. Love you all! Happy Easter!

Friday, March 21

Be seen!!!

Are you a Scrapbook Queen? Then let your royal pages be seen!

We would love to post your beautiful layouts on our slide show. If you would like to share your creations with your fellow scrappers email us a picture at:

ps-Found a really neat website to get great quotes for my layouts. You can actually search the site by subjects such as love, family, home, ect. Check it out if you need some inspiration @

Saturday Last Day of Sale!!!

Laurie will be back this weekend which means tomorrow is your last chance to cash in on the killer sales we've been running this week. Saturday only:

30% off patterned paper (including all Saint Patrick's Day and Valentines Day paper)
40% off Anna Griffin
50% off Bare Essentials
40% off Creative Cafe'
50% off Fiber Scrap Tintz

(sales excluding new product)

Thursday, March 20

Friday's Challenge

Friday's blog challenge you don't want to miss! Leave a comment (or another!) on our blog and come in Friday to receive a special gift from Simply Scrapbooks. I wonder if it has something to do with scrapbooking??? haha

*Thank you for all the wonderful comments you have left so far...we are definatly feeling the love!

Wednesday, March 19

Thurdsay's Challenge!!!

Sign our blog guestbook or leave us a comment to recieve 40% off 1 item of your choice!!!! Challenge is valid Thurdsay the 20th only. Guestbook located at bottom of page. (excluding Cricut & Silhouette personal cutting systems)

ps- Our Spring sale is still rolling! Check in tomorrow to find out what the 50% off product of the day will be. Because of high demand, Bare Elements and Anna Griffin will still be 50% off!!!

Tuesday, March 18

Wednesday Challenge!!!

All day Wednesday, sign our guestbook or leave a comment and come in to pick your choice of 10 items from the embellishment bar free!!! Don't forget that we also have great deals happening in the store all week, including 50% off chosen products every day! Guestbook is located at the bottom of page.

PS- Don't forget about our free make-n-takes from noon-2pm every day this week. Gorgeous projects showcasing new and exciting product!

NSBW Session Dates and Times:

For those of you who were lucky enough to grab a spot at our 3rd Annual National Scrapbook Weekend here is a little reminder of the session times:

Friday, April 25th
Session One: 4pm to Midnight

Saturday, April 26th
Session Two: 8am to 4pm

Session Three: 4pm to Midnight

Sunday, April 26th
Session 4: 10am to 6pm

See you there!!!

Monday, March 17

Tuesday's Blog Challenge!!!

Sign our blog guestbook to recieve 40% off 1 item of your choice!!!! Challenge is valid Tuesday the 18th only. Guestbook located at bottom of page. (excluding Cricut & Silhouette personal cutting systems)

Saturday, March 15

Shh! Secret Sale & More!!!

Shh! Secret Sale & More!!!
Laurie is going out of town again & you know what that means...Sales!!! We have some exciting things going on a Simply Scrapbooks this week. Don't miss your opportunity for great deals, freebies, & more.

Secret Sales all weekend long! Your chance to save on the products you love! Sale items revealed in store only.

March 17th-21st we will be hosting FREE make-n-takes from noon to 2pm. Projects will be featuring some very exciting new products.

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, stock up for Spring!!! March 17th anything with green is 30% off all day.

All week we will be holding a secret deal of the day at 50% off the chosen item. Everyday the new sale items will be announced. Don't miss a single day to grab your favorite products at a steal!!!

Introducing our new Simply Scrapbooks blog! We're giving you a chance to earn free product all week just by checking it out. We will be holding sales/challenges that will be posted each evening this week. Mondays challenge?? Leave a comment on the blog & come in to pick out your choice (89 cent value or less) of two sheets of patterned paper. Don't miss out on the free goodies!!!

(all sales are excluding new product, Sillhouette, and Cricut cutting machines)


Welcome to Simply Scrapbook's first blog!!! We have so many exciting things going on in the store and need a great place to share them with you. We also love to hear from our customers and friends. We would love to discuss scrapbooking tips, questions/comments, exciting news and anything else you can think of. We will be updating regularly with store updates, news, pictures and stories. Please visit often!!!

Death Cab...literally!! (Cortney's Adventures in China)

Greetings from China!!

Alright, so this email is going to be a short one but I just wanted to share with everyone a little bit about our first official trip/vacation. Like I mentioned in the previous email we went to Nanjing. It is about a 3 hour bus ride from Hefei (my city). We were only there for a day and a half, but we totally needed it. So we arrive in Nanjing around noon and as we are walking off the bus there are TONS of people yelling for us. they are all taxi drivers wanting to take us to wherever we need to go. They start getting right up in our faces and speaking in chinese. I always just have to laugh because do they really think that I look like I can understand them?? haha...and this isn't the first time this has happened. Everywhere we go people just start talking to us, they automatically assume we speak their language. We usually just ignore them and keep moving, but this particular time it was very hard to keep moving because each of us in my group probably have 3 chinese men surrounding you. This is when you just hold tight to your purse and push through. So finally we make it to the main street and some of these men kept following us. We showed them the address of the place we were staying at and they said they would take us there for 100 yuan. We laughed and walked away. We flagged down a legit taxi driver and he said it would be about 30 yuan. After we get to the Hostel ( a hostel is a really cheap place to stay the night when traveling, it's usually one room with several beds in it. Sometimes you share the room with people you don't know who are also traveling) we drop off our stuff and hit the markets for some shopping. nanjing had some GREAT markets. It was a really nice city. It had a river that ran through it, that was all lit up at night and you could take little boats down it. After shopping the entire first day, the second day (which was today) we decided to go to some gardens and to this big mountain that is pretty popular for tourists. We didn't plan on hiking to the top, but kinda did on accident. It had a really cool view of the over-polluted city. actually really was pretty. After forever of walking and hiking we decided that we were all tired and wanted to head home. After the 3 hour bus ride that ended up being closer to 5 because of road construction. We had to seperate and get 3 taxis to take us back to our apartments ( 3 people in each taxi). First group flags one down rather quickly and goes. Next group. It takes us like 15 minutes to flag someone down. finally, one stops for us and we show him the address to our apartments and he shakes his head in we hop in. haha...ok funny story starts now. So I was the one riding in the front seat, aleksi and aubrey are in the back. As soon as we get in Of course the man starts talking to us in chinese and looking at us and expecting us to answer him. This time instead of just shaking my head I decided to make a conversation out of it. (Most of you will think I am really weird, but my sister,molly and a few others will appreciate my dorkiness). So the man says something in chinese..I reply "oh my day was great...thanks for asking. How was yours?" He says something in chinese...I say "bowling?? really...sounds fun. did you win?" He again responds with something I don't understand and I say back..." you think im pretty??? oh, you are too kind. thank you!" This went on for awhile actually. It was sooo funny and my friends aleksi and aubrey were dying in the back seat. The guy just started laughing too, he didn't know what was funny though. Then I said aloud to the girls " guys...isn't it kinda weird that we are just trusting our LIVES to this strange man we dont know. we don't know this city at all. He could be taking us in the complete opposite direction we want to go and not even know. He could take us to a factory and force us to work for him like slaves." We all started laughing...our laughing quickly turned into silence. My friend aubrey was like "...seriously though." All the taxi drivers have their picture and taxi number on display on their dashboard for people to see.
The next conversation went like this..

me: "uh...guys, do you think our taxi driver is a man or a woman?"
aleksi: " um. duh's a man"
me: " yeah, that's what I thought...but this picture is of a woman."
me: "umm..what if we are in a stolen taxi?"
aleksi: "oh my gosh, he really is going to take us to his factory!"

we all kinda got a little nervous. Then we realized that absolutely NOTHING looked familiar. we had been in the car for like 20 minutes and were not home yet. got really scary. He pulled off the road and stopped infront of this building that was all dark inside.
aubrey: "oh crap...the factory."
aleksi: "cortney, hurry..get out the address and show him again."
me: inside my head (oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.)

I hurried and pulled out the address again, and showed him. He yelled something in chinese and got on the road again. 5 minutes later we were pulling inside the gates of our school. I don't think any of us took a breath for those 5 minutes. we paid the scary man and jumped out.
So this email was supposed to be short,but kinda turned out to be long. Anyway, I am safe and alive and not working for a scary man in a factory. I love you all and I want to hear lots of comments. Or I am going to drop you off my mailing list.... :o) haha.

Saturday, March 8

Simply Scrapbooks Spring Cleaning!

Simply Scrapbooks is Doing Spring Cleaning!!!
Spring is here and it's time to make some room. With all new product from CHA already shipping out and piling up, we're going to need somewhere to put it. To help clean things up, were putting the entire store on sale!
40% off all patterned paper and cardstock!
30% off everything else!!!
(excluding Cricut, Silhouette, and select new items)

Sale begins this Saturday and ends Sunday evening at 5:00pm. Spring by and stock up on your favorite goodies.

Just a little reminder...
The discounted price of $75 for all four sessions at our National Scrapbook Weekend is only available for one more week! Grab your spot now, as there are just a few spots left!!!

Woman's Day (Via Cortney's Adventure in China)

Subject: Woman's Day
Hey friends and fam-

So I apologize because I feel like it has been awhile since my last email, but in my defense they keep us pretty busy here. Luckily, they have cut some of our teaching time so we aren't literally going from one class to the other. So a lot of you have been asking if "the food is getting better" and "how are the kids/teaching." Let me just answer in this email so I don't have to answer 10 different times. The food...I don't know if the food is getting better or I am just getting more used to it. I think maybe both. Our cook's name is Lane ( that's his American name...we give American names so we don't offend them by slaughtering their Chinese name) he is sooo great. I actually look forward to seeing him in the morning and being greeted by him. ILP (my program) has a special counter that is separate from where the other faculty get their food and we also have our own tables. So every morning we go stand at our counter he opens the windows and says with the biggest smile on his face " goo moaning!!!" I think good morning might be the only English phrase he knows. Lane tries very hard to make food he thinks we will enjoy. That's kind of a round-about answer to the question,but yes no one needs to worry. I am eating.
The teaching is soooo much better. I am actually enjoying it now. There are days where I look forward to seeing the kids. call me crazy! I think it just depends on the subject. Last week when I was struggling I was teaching arts and crafts. They had such a hard time focusing. I gave them a crayon and told them to draw a circle and I look and they have drawn an entire landscape. One day we made kites out of construction paper and after each step they insisted on throwing them around the room. It was crazy. So anyway, this week I have been teaching Word Skills. I love it! It is so much easier. I just pick some simple words (this week we have been working on: quick,town,chore, cheat, shrink,etc) I come up with games for them to play that help them with recognizing the words and spelling them. It really has been so much fun and it's because I know they are having fun. Of course they still get crazy and I have to get strict with them, but they are only 8. I love watching them get so into the games and I get so excited when they do a good job or spell a word right. This past week really has been an answer to my prayers. I have remembered why I chose to do this crazy adventure in the first place.
Today (Saturday) is Woman's Day in China. So there have been fireworks all throughout the day and all of the woman on campus were given a bottle of Herbal Essence Shampoo as a gift from the school. ha random is that? I just imagine that the school board is a group of guys sitting at a table thinking to themselves "OK men, women's day is just around the corner. what should we give them this year?" silence.silence.silence "I got it....a bottle of Herbal Essence shampoo!" all the men nod their head in agreement. haha..I don't mean to sound ungrateful, I am always happy to get a free bottle of shampoo, but what's shampoo without conditioner? And now, I have to go find Herbal Essence conditioner, because you can't wash your hair with Herbal Essence shampoo and Pantene Pro-V conditioner. That would be weird...or am I weird for thinking that way? Anyway, so this evening they had a big get together in the gym for all the women and we were invited. They divided all of the women in 6 different groups (all of us Americans were on the same team) and we played games. We played balloon volleyball but you can't use anything but your head. This was HILARIOUS to watch. All these grown women of all ages hitting a blown up balloon over a net with their head. Seriously so funny. So anyway the "Americans" put up a good fight,but they slaughtered us in balloon volleyball. Then we played like 3 legged race but it's your entire group tied together.So all 8 of us girls were all hooked together at the knee and we had to run to the other side of the gym. Gosh, I wish I had it on tape. You would not believe these women. If there were an Olympic Event for a 3 legged race, China would whoop us all. I think these women secretly practice everyday,because they were amazing. They were like sprinting across the gym. ha ha..then it was our turn. We get up there all prepared to show China whats up and we make fools of ourselves. We can't even make it half way before we start stumbling all over ourselves we all just end up hopping the rest of the way. 8 girls all hopping at different times trying to make it to the finish line as fast as possible.We finally get there..turn around and every single Chinese women in there is ROLLING on the floor laughing hysterically. It really was quite funny. I don't think we will get invited to the Olympics anytime soon, but we did cross the finish line.
Alright, well it is pretty late here and all of you guys are just getting up. I have to wake up early in the morning. Tomorrow we are leaving on our very first trip. It is a really short trip we have to be back on Monday, but we are all dying to get out of the city. We are going to Nanjing, which apparently is great for shopping. Nanjing also has some great traditional Chinese temples and gardens. Alright, well I love you all and look forward to hearing how things are going or just hearing your comments on my crazy life. Talk to you soon!- Cortney

Friday, March 7

My Crazy life...(Via Cortney's Adventures in China)

Subject: my crazy life...
Hello friends and family-

I know I haven't written in a couple of days, I have been so busy. So as you all know this past week was my first week teaching. It was exhausting. I now have more respect for teachers....I don't know how you do it. Everyday felt like a battle with those kids. I don't know if I was getting weaker or they were getting stronger. I don't feel like they learned anything. I however, am learning a great deal about patience. you need mass amounts of it if you deal with kids on a regular basis. We teach everyday except Sunday's and Monday's. Normally, mondays are EVERYONES least favorite day, because it's the beginning of the have to go to work. blah blah blah. Monday is now my favorite. It is a relaxing day, where I don't have to even think about teaching. So overall it was a tough week. I had a few classes that went well. Our head teacher said that everything we are feeling is very normal. All of the past teachers have been exhausted, overwhelmed and frusterated their first week. When we first arrived here in Hefei we were all given assignments. So and so is in charge of church, this person is in charge of FHE (family home evening on monday nights), this person is in charge of all of our travels. I was assigned to be the official "party planner." me right? So I am in charge of throwing parties for the kids who are having birthdays here. Except Aleksi is planning mine...because I don't want to plan my own birthday. lame. By the end of the week we were all so tired and drained from teaching, I decided that we should have a " Made it through the week alive" party or a " I didn't chuck a kid out the window" party. So on saturday night we all got together in my room and hung out, listened to music and ate a bunch of junk. We had planned to play games but when it came down to playing them we all decided we didn't have enough energy to even do something fun. So we just talked. It was well needed.
Today ( Monday) we had the day off so we all decided to go to the Hefei Wildlife Park (zoo). It was a lot of fun. Their zoo is very big and apparently the animals take Monday's off too because in practically every exhibit the animal was laying on the ground asleep. It was funny because we would be walking around looking at all the animals taking pictures and then we realized that all the chinese people were doing the same thing but with us. haha..they were just staring and snapping pictures left and right. One guy was recording us for awhile. We had a couple groups of people come up and ask to take pictures with Aleksi and I. It was hilarious. I felt like we should have been behind the glass sleeping and they could have taken pictures and watched us. ok...sorry so short but I am late for dinner. I love you all!-cort

I almost got robbed!!! (via Cortney's Adventures in China)

Subject: I almost got robbed!!!!!! (I'm OK mom)
Alright, so yesterday evening was crazy/fun/scary. These 2 boys that came through the ILP program a couple years ago, came back for a visit/business trip. There names are Daniel and Jamar. They are super cool and very, very helpful. They knew where all the cool stores and places to go were. So after lunch we met in front of our school gate and hopped on a bus to "temple street." "temple street" is just a cool little street packed full of vendors trying to get us to buy their stuff. Aleksi, Aubrey and I went off on our own and made plans to meet up with the others later. We started looking at these purses that were knock offs...dolce and gabana, chanel, luis vuitton. I decided that I wanted to get here comes the bargaining and it turns to a calculator. She typed in 90 yuan (13 or 14 dollars)..then I typed in 45. She yelled something at me in Chinese then typed in 80. I said "ti gue la" ( too much). She gave me a nasty look and typed in 70, I grabbed the calculator and typed in 45 again. This continued on her going down by 5 or 10 and me staying at 45. I kept saying too much, too much in Chinese and I started walking away and she yelled at me and nodded. Agreeing to my 45 yuan ( 6 dollars). I could have gone lower, but for my first official haggle I was quite proud. After about an hour on temple street we hopped on another bus to go to "walking street". Walking street is A LOT cleaner and has more stores rather then vendors. It reminds me a little of new york, because it has all these huge flashing advertisements everywhere. It was very, very cold last night so all of us were very bundled up. Aleksi and I were in the back of the group and we were walking with our arms linked. My purse which I am always very careful with was in between aleksi and I. I all of a sudden got this really weird feeling and I looked down at my purse and there was someone elses hand trying to unzip my zipper, I hurried and turned around and there was the Chinese guy (haha..obviously) probably in his early 20's RIGHT behind us. I slapped his hand off my purse. I was in total shock that I just caught this guy robbing from me. I pushed him and said " are you freaking kidding me?!?!" haha..Aleksi and I ran up to catch up with the rest of the group and told them what happened. We were all a little scared. It was Insane. Luckily, I caught him before anything got taken. Anyway, crazy night...but I am ok and I ended up buying another super cute purse and bought like 20 dvd's for less then a dollar each. jealous? i know, i know. I do not know how I am going to come back to the states and buy anything full price. we were all joking last night that we are going to be in target or something and haggling with the cashier..."ti gue la, ti gue la!!" Alright, well I have to go jump in the shower, I teach the 3 year olds in an hour. (haha...that rhymed.) love you all...and Im ok!!!- cort

ps. I am sick of people not emailing me back...come on family and friends IM IN CHINA. I need to hear from you!!

Miss you All!! (Via Cortneys Adventures in China)

Subject: miss you all!!
Ni Hao (hello) friends and family!!!

I don't know how long this email is going to be, because I have to go to dinner shortly. I just wanted to give you a little update on how I am doing and let you know that "yes, I am still alive."

Yesterday was our first day going further into the city and it was really exciting. We went to this store called Carrefore. They carry some american brands. Again, I feel like an alien in this country. EVERYONE stares and not just like a glance and then look away. It's a full on wide eyed stare and they dont stop and until we are completely out of site. weird.While in the store we saw some of the craziest stuff. Men were sticking there hands in these huge tanks of LIVE fish and eels. This man was trying to pick up and eel and it kept slipping out of his hand and dropping on the floor. I couldn't help but start laughing. His wife looked at me and started laughing too. It was great. A couple of us girls decided to go back earlier then some of the others so we got a copy of our address in mandarin and showed the taxi driver and just prayed that he took us to the right place. I have never feared for my life more then I did when I was in that taxi. No joke. They have no concept of staying in their own lane, they drive wherever they want too. They don't stop for pedestrians...honestly, we came within INCHES of a woman and her child. You couldn't pry my hand off of the door if you tried. They wait till the last possible second to stop AND they drive on the sidewalks to get around the hundreds of buses. I really can't put into words how scared we were for our lives....i think we might do it again soon. haha. We got home from Carrefore shortly before dinner. I am getting more used to the food, but it still is very hard for me to eat. We eat in a cafeteria with the other faculty from the school (they are all chinese) and they always point and laugh when they see us try to eat with our chopsticks. I really am not as bad as I thought I would be. The funny thing white kids are the only ones eating with chopsticks.haha...seriously, all the chinese teachers have forks and spoons. I think they do it on purpose for a good laugh. haha, I ok with it. I will be a PRO next time I go to PF Changs. After dinner was my absolute favorite part of my trip so far. Aleksi and I decided to walk around the track before going back to our apartment and these two little girls (probably 6) ran up to us. "teacha, teacha...wus yo name?" they started giving us hugs and holding our hands. It was great. I guess they get like a break/recess after dinner so there were tons of kids. So our group decided to play with all of them until they had to go inside. They loved it. They kept wanting us to tickle them and chase them around and play with our hair. It was a lot of fun and good way to burn some of the calories we have been NOT been eating. Anyway so I am running around with all these girls and all of a sudden I get this hard slap to the butt. HAHA...I hurry and turn around and there is this little chubby chinese boy just dying laughing. haha...I was just so shocked but I couldn't help but laugh. He did it to one other girl in my group. Apparently it's hilarious to them....and to us. It went by way too fast because before we knew it they were being yelled at by their chinese teachers to get inside. It was so fun to play with the kids, we all decided that we are going to make that a tradition that everynight after dinner we have recess with them. I think it means a lot to them that we do, because none of the adults will play with them. I already can tell that it is going to be so easy to love these kids. They really made up for anything that hasn't gone right so far. Alright, well I still have lots to say but dinner is in 5 so i gotta go. I love you all!! -Cortney

Cortney's Adventures in China!

As some of you may know, our dear friend and employee Cortney left for China last month bound for the city of Hefei to begin teaching children there. She is so very missed by all of us and until she returns, we will keep all of her exciting adventures posted.

Subject: I'm in china...and I'm safe!
Hello friends and family and greetings from China!! First off, I am safe and all is far. Second, this is a lot harder then I thought it would be. We started off our journey with a 14 hour plane ride...not fun. After traveling to the other side of the world we all got on a bus and drove another 8 hours to our city. Longest 22 hours of my life. Did I mention that the bus didn't have a heater?? ha ha...yeah. FREEZING. It's kinda weird because I left America on Tuesday ( Wednesday china time) and arrived in my city on Thursday ( Wednesday American time) I never had a Wednesday February 20, 2008. I don't know if that makes sense at all. I am about 16 hours ahead of California. This time difference is going to be very difficult to get used to.

So I have only been here a day and I already have SOOO many stories.Here are a few:

- We were awakened this morning by these really loud noises ( sounded like joke) we later asked our head teacher and she said that we will hear those everyday. People light fireworks here all the time. No matter the occasion, the light them randomly all over the streets. Tonight is the Festival of Lanterns and so they are especially going crazy tonight with them.

-Bathrooms...NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THE BATHROOMS!!!! It was last night and it was on our bus trip to our city. We were about half way there and stopped to have a bathroom break. It was me, Aleksi, Becca and Aubrey. As we were walking up to the bathrooms there were little kids and grown men just going outside of the not cool. As we entered the bathroom I cannot even put into words how bad the smell was. Literally gagging it was so bad. It was lined with stalls and inside the stall there was a hole in the ground....that's it. They also don't feel it necessary to close the door. I looked at my feet the entire time I was in there. They also don't like to flush...which doesn't help the smell. Aleksi and I ran out of there covering our mouths and eyes and decided to hold it another 4 hours till we got home. Very, very different then what we are used too.

-people...the people stare at us like we are celebrities or animals. ha's really weird. Everyone honks their horn at us. There was a bus full of people with their face plastered to the window staring us down. I just smile and nod my head. some smile back, some laugh, and some give us the angry eye. So far my experience with the people has been positive. We don't start teaching till Tuesday but we will walk around the school campus ( which is HUGE) and little kids will run up to us "teacha, teacha.....hi." It's cute. We also went to "joymart" it's like a walmart and the ladies that worked there TRIED to be so helpful. They would follow us around and try to help us find what we are looking for and of course all the labels are in Chinese so you dont know exactly what you were buying. The girls were really nice though...even though it was just playing charades the whole time. Everyone likes to try to talk to us. We had a man that came up to us at the bank and started talking with us. I told him that he spoke pretty good ( it was still very very hard to understand him but I was trying to be polite) he told us everything he learned about speaking English he learned from watching "Friends" ha ha ...the TV show. He said Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) was his favorite.

-the streets are kinda scary. We all stick together so it's not horrible, but we basically saw every kind of animal skinned and hanging upside down off of poles. Pretty gross. China is very dirty from what I have seen so far.

- the bank....oh my gosh it took us probably close to 2 hours to exchange all of our money today. Crazy...we had to fill out so much paper work. I exchanged 200 hundred US dollars and got over 1,400 yuan back. ha's fabulous.

-Our apartments are.....honestly, disgusting and not to mention freezing. It is warmer outside then it is inside. We all get our own apartment ( bedroom, living room, bathroom.) It gets really cold, scary and lonely at night so Aleksi, Bethany and I all sleep together. ha ha..last night all 3 of us slept on a twin size mattress. We were crazy, but warm.

I really do have so many other stories and things to say, but the fireworks are going off like crazy and I am dying to get out there and see them. I just wanted to let you all know that I am safe and doing OK. I will try to email again soon. Love you all!!- Cortney

PS. The food is really hard for me (some other girls too) I have probably eaten no more then 300 calories in the past 48 hours. The meat scares me so I will probably be a vegetarian (if not anorexic) for the next 4 months.

Mom/Dad- should I get a calling card??