Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Boys in the Back of the Room, Space Claiming and Thoughts on Chairman Mao


a. The Boys in the Back of the Room Phenomenon.

I was told by the high school teachers that the BITBOTR were much worse as they got older. Surly, rude, no desire to learn, no expectation to learn (Their No Child Left Behind Policy is still under construction, I'm guessing). Of course there were many boys not in the back of the room who were extremely involved learners, but something is up and I don't get it. I have heard that the Japanese students are the respectful ones who stand when their teachers enter; has this Japanese reality transferred into Chinese myth?

b. Diet.

Ladles of grease + heaping bowls of rice = Not much body fat. What is our low carbohydrate, low fat diet accomplishing? I think we just need to walk more.

Bones. Chinese people separate the bones from chicken and fish flesh and miraculously spit the bones back out onto the table, not unlike our sunflower seed separation process. It's all about flavor to them, and the bones are the flavor. They would not understand our boneless skinless chicken breasts or the boneless tilapia I just had for dinner. How far are we removed from our very sanitized food sources?

c. Space issues.

Here is my epiphany: in America, we are cultivated in open spaces. There aren't many of us, and we obey collectively understood space rules. In China, when someone would cut in front of me in line at the grocery check out or push a hand full of money in front of mine, it was because I left an opening, allowing that to occur. When I learned to position myself strategically, blocking the line out with my elbow, I was leaving no spatial opportunity for the 1.3 billion people competing for it.

Same with the traffic. All of the close calls that should have ended in death or dismemberment or at least a bent fender DID NOT. I saw nothing resembling an accident. Crosswalks are suggestions; traffic lights are stronger suggestions. Police did not ticket for violation of them because you are responsible for seeing the open spaces and inhabiting them with confidence. That's it. And they excel at inhabiting spaces.

d. What's with Mao (whose preserved body, by the way, is displayed in a shrine in Tiananmen Square, with extremely long lines of people waiting to see him) (No, sadly, our tour did not include it)?

Remember my shock at the open adoration - the very loud plastic hands clapping - given to him by the crowd at the variety show? I was aware that his portrait kept watch over Tiananmen Square and that the government kept a strong line regarding him as a national hero; because of my reading I was expecting his image to be on t-shirts (eating a McDonald's cheeseburger, claiming "Poweer lomes from the gun (sic),") watches and lighters and other junky trickets- an image not unlike that of Colonel Sanders' - kind of kitchy and "Santa Clausy" (according to Julie Carey). But I assumed that there would be a very strong undercurrent of contempt for him and whispering about him; after all, the generation who endured his fatal policies still exists (how many of those old wrinkled faces did I want to draw stories from?)

I expected this from our twenty-something college girl TA's, being of the educated population they would certainly have opinions different than the party, right? On one of our "dinner with the girls" nights, feeling OK about bringing up politics away from school and expecting to receive secret political viewpoints, I asked intelligent Annie about the Mao rejoicing that went on in the theater. She looked at me blankly, like "why wouldn't they clap?" then Amy whispered to me "I found out more about how they feel about Mao...I'll tell you later...") They love him. They hate Japan and Mao is their savior from Japan.

Where was their secret hatred? After all, I have read numerous books about the Cultural Revolution (written by a small minority of writers who have come out of that society to gain Western perspective on Eastern events). I saw the exhibit at SAM last year: China: 25 Years of Photography, (chronicling the feelings of repression of artists). I have been viewing it with liberal American eyesight. However, viewing it with my Five Weeks in China Eyesight, I must consider that in the last century alone, China has witnessed the end of dynastic rule, endured brutal foreign invasion and occupation, civil war and cultural revolution and is now trying to maintain the fastest growing economy in the world, plus the biggest migration in human history from its rural interior to its coastal cities. We Americans have one civil war, a depression and 911 to give us perspective, while the Chinese...well, when someone falls on the roof above them and dies- covering them in blood that is dripping through the ceiling- they just move to another table.

Chairman Mao advanced China's social and economic development ("his policies were 70% good, 30% bad" Deng Xioaping once said). The communist (but oh so capitalistic) government overlooks the torture and death of that period and mentions it a blip on the life-screen of a highly successful military leader. The Chinese people are mostly accepting this for now - the information being difficult to come by, anyway - and are moving on without calling the police and freaking out and laying crime scene tape all over the place; they just want to claim a new space and finish eating their dinner.

e. How I feel about China now

Each morning since my return, I have restless waking dreams about China. In them I am playing frogger across four lanes of traffic, organizing flash cards, sweating streams down my back and worrying about the bags of cute, breathing frogs waiting to be stir fried on the streets. The dreams are not at all peaceful- they are confusing (Confucianing). It has not been a restful summer (especially today at Wild Waves).

But the nostalgia I'm experiencing so quickly is surprising me....all of the above - the energy, the chaos, the steadfastness of the Chinese people - I have been processing the events from this trip more than any trip I have ever taken. Maybe it's just too hard to love China at first sight, especially if that first sight occurs during the breath-sucking heat of July or August.

I'm pretty sure that, eventually, I will not only say that I love and miss the massages, Stir Fry Street and the Sunnies of China, but that I will be able to say that I love and miss China.

And that I will go back (some cool October).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

1. How did your Craigslist renter work out?

a). My Craigslist renter was dreamy. She kept my plants alive. She cleaned my place immaculately. She and my mom hit it off over coffee while I was gone. I came home to a stocked refrigerator (all kinds of cheeses, nuts, chutneys and jams - most of them unopened), a very nice bottle of wine, two food movies she thought belonged in my collection, and various little gifts scattered all over my condo. Her son lives in Seattle, so she will be returning...does anyone want her email address? You will make out like a bandit if she chooses to gift you with her presence in your home.

2. What other universal synchronicities occured through Craigslist this time?

Sometimes universal synchronicity takes time to reveal itself, so I will have to go with my initial perceptions and then, perhaps next month, next year or possibly when China is ruling us, I will have more insight into the workings of the universe (these are not, by the way, in order of importance):

a. Stir Fry Street

Imagine, had I remained in the Chinese hell hole that is Deqing, I would have missed living one block from Marjie's Street of Dreams. The universe played a little hard to get on this one (it taking me to a place with uninteresting street food at first) but Stir Fry Street was meant to be in my life sooner or later. Sadly, rickshaws are outlawed in many cities for the sake of "progress" and I have to wonder if the Stir Fry Streets are disappearing as well. Hopefully the others just didn't find them, but no other ACT group had tales of a street tranformed each night with woks, live fish, Noodle Performance Artists and vegetables. Now I have the memory of my Noodle Guy, my Noodle Lady and my Clam Guy with me always.

Specific foods in my destiny: the long necked clams (never had one before, hope to see them again), the hand-shaved and stretched noodles (had them here but I think shaving and stretching in China adds flavor and texture), the salted egg pumpkin and the egg-covered dumplings.

The above would have been enough u.s. but

b. Keqiao was Massage Heaven, too.

The Hair People and The Foot Guys were also meant to be in my life (but, sadly, not the Abundant Blind Person). Since we were living in the Textile City, residing in the marble-floored Textile City Hotel, the demand for massage was probably higher than usual for visiting businessmen. We had our choice of salons within a four block radius. And

c. My Group Gave Them a lot of Business.

My group was amazing and fun and up for so many adventures. I will be visiting them, hosting them, emailing them and traingvel with them. I especially enjoyed hanging out with Amy because fun follows her. She makes things happen and I loved being along for the ride.

d. Grade school kids.

I was so desperate to get out of Deqing that I didn't even ask what I would be teaching in Keqiao and therefore did not have time to worry about my fear of - my horror over - teaching small children. I would have never chosen it, but the universe made it so. I spent four weeks organizing flash cards, choreographing songs, wracking my brain for games and poems, sweating onto my students' workbooks, smelling hot, stale urine in the muggy afternoons and being forced to use the torture squat toilets. I'm happy for all of it now... the bad memories already magically transformed by distance.

Back to the kids... I loved their innocence, their sense of humor, openness, and their beauty. What a future they are facing; they are what the whole world is talking about.

e. Our assistants.

They were wonderful and they provided a window into Chinese culture that was and will continue to be invaluable. Another Sunny story: While we were loading up the van to leave Keqiao, we were very surprised to see Sunny and Maggie running into the hotel. They had ridden the bus for over an hour because they wanted to see us one last time; Sunny had a picture for Amy and two of Lu Xun's books for me (the famous writer from Shaoxing- I had briefly mentioned that I regretted not buying one of his books). Since my return I have received many Sunny text messages and emails. In each one she asks me a question from the idiom book.."What's the difference between 'every other day' and 'every two days?'....She has finished her "study plan" and is determined to come to America.

3. Would you do it again?

Many people have asked me this. I don't tend to repeat experiences, plus I will not willingly travel to Asia in July or August again, so no I would not do it again. I hesitantly recommend ACT; they are a bit unorganized, but they did manage to connect us with schools and the schools were primarily responsible for us. It's all a gamble (think Deqing), especially when you are dealing with China. It's certainly a valid way to get there and experience IT. (By the way, earning independent study credits through Heritage University make up your own curriculum and study plan).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Today the Great Wall, Tomorrow the view from Phinney Ridge

I will discuss the Wall in a minute...I have been involved in a haze of touring ever since we departed from our sleeper train (best night of sleep I have had in five weeks!) on Sunday morning and we have to leave for the airport at 4:15 tomorrow morning (what do you think I am doing after this? getting a hair wash and massage!).
Haze is the correct word. I feel I have been living in Batman's world for the past week - Beijing is SMOGGY! I have heard a few ACT people try to trick themselves into believing it is "fog"; it is not. It is most definitely smog and the sun is trying so hard to shine. The good part about this is that it isn't as hot here. The bad part is that I feel so claustrophobic and my throat hurts. Beijing is just SO BIG and there are SO MANY PEOPLE and the TRAFFIC IS SO BAD! I hear they are trying to clean up the air to present a good face at the Olympics; I will be impressed if they pull it off. This is not a pretty city.

Anyway, I will say that meeting up with the other ACT people that we met so briefly in the beginning was a lot of fun. Most had pretty good experiences, but out of the 7 groups, I think we got pretty lucky. Maybe part of my lackluster response to Beijing is that we had such a great setting in Keqiao...we keep saying that we were spoiled by Keqiao and that we miss Stir Fry Street and the waterfront. But as the groups arrived, we heard many stories similar to ours: changed schedules, more changed schedules, nothing as it seemed, duck beaks on a stick, the "boys in the back of the room" phenomenon, etc. But one girl, Chandra, a pre-MEd student from Portland who is taking three years off to travel before committing to the rest of her schooling, had the most unbelievable story. When we were at The Forbidden City, she approached me quite casually and said, "So, do you want to hear the weirdest thing that happened to me?" Here it is:

The others in her group were teaching night school so she decided to have dinner by herself at a restaurant she had frequented during her time there. She sat down to a dinner of noodles and vegetables (a popular entree among the ACT people) and was almost done when she and everyone else in the restaurant heard a huge BANG on the roof right above Chandra. Everyone looked up and this is what they saw: blood coming through the roof - lots of blood, pouring from the cracks - right onto Chandra and her meal. Shocked and confused, she just stared as blood splattered all over her. A waitress ran over and helped her up, trying to redirect her to another table and said "I will get you another dinner!" Chandra said "No, thanks...I don't want any more dinner, I think I will go home now..." As she was walking home, she saw the ambulance come. What had happened, a man had fallen from his high story apartment and landed on the roof of the restaurant and DIED. She was covered in his blood.

We all agreed that she won the prize for the "weirdest story." I can't believe she is still a normal person.
OK, so because THAT did not happen to me, I will tell you the worst thing to happen to ME. And because this is the worst thing, I have to say it is not SO bad but it is bad. I lost my camera the first day in Beijing (sorry Brian, this will hit you the hardest next to me). My camera that I had learned to love in the six weeks I had it...the one my whole group coveted and wanted to buy upon their return home. We had just gotten to Beijing and had seen the Temple of Heaven and got into the hottest cab ride ever. I was sitting behind the plastic barrier, sweating to death, feeling I would pass out. I had gotten into the habbit of checking my bag every time I left a cab and did so again to see my camera CASE in there. A half hour later when I went to take pictures of the hutong (ancient neighborhoods of Beijing) I realized that my camera was missing from its case and that cab had of course disappeared into 14.9 million people. Wow that was depressing. But everyone has been so nice about it...Miguel took pictures for me up until today and then today one of the other group members, Joey, let me use his extra camera for the wall. But I don't want to talk about it anymore except to ask my brother if he will check NewEgg for another good deal on the exact camera. And, thank God, I had transferred EVERY single picture up until that morning onto my laptop, so all of my memories remain intact.

So we have been, like I said, zipping around the city in a tour bus. I expected (and wanted) to feel really small in Tiananmen Square but did is broken up into sections (obstructed by a museum and a masoleum holding Chairman Mao's body) so what I had in my imagination...standing there and feeling the history of China and that bloody square course through me just didn't happen. The Forbidden City was forebodingly crowded and our very difficult to understand, yet very enthusiastic tour guide, Jessie, drug us to every single crack to tell us a long story that sounded like this" Hu ha wu shi wa, Emporer, Concubine" (sped up five million times and ongoing for 5 minutes) until she got to the end with her "OK! OK! Let's go!" It was hot and we were hungry and really, the Temple of Heaven was more interesting. But what the Temple of Heaven did NOT have was a STARBUCKS right in the middle of it. That's right, there was a Starbucks Coffee right in the middle of this city that was forbidden to outsiders for 500 years; corporate America, corporate Seattle for that matter, has now been invited right in to the bossom of the most sacred place of the oldest continuous civilization on earth. I didn't like that at all but I did have a tuna sandwich and an icy chocolate chip frapaccino that tasted really good and prevented me from slipping into a food coma. I am conflicted! And Jeff, I have a picture of a sign describing an ancient ruin with the message below "Made possible by American Express." If that is not PI material...

The Wall today did not disappoint, except for the vendors giving fake money in change for their cheap souvenirs. It was massive and windy and glimpsing it was truly exciting, walking on it surprisingly steep and challenging, the height of it (only about two stories) was quite shocking. I mean, what kind of wimpy army can't scale a short little wall like that? We climbed the "hard" part to the south where there were half as many people. I will not try to describe what it is like, it is truly fabluous. There is a huge sign next to the most well traveled section that reads "One World, One Dream, Beijing 2008." You know that will be on The Today Show every day!
So I am ready to be on my comfortable couch for a while. It has been a great experience, but I want normalcy to return. I don't know if I mentioned this, but I have earned five credits through Heritage University for doing this trip and writing this blog, so a "reflection" will follow upon my return and if it's OK with Mary Ann, my advisor, I will just do it on the blog (Mary Ann?). Thanks to everyone who kept in tune; especially to those who wrote messages that were so fun to receive. And mom and dad, can't wait to eat from your garden tomorrow and to smell that fresh CLEAN Seattle air!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dog with a side of Ethnican Chips, please

Amy and I are all packed and ready to go so we wandered up and down quiet, (sad) foodless Stir Fry Street (can I really leave it?) and are now at the clean cafe for just a half an hour. I guess I didn't mention that we have an all-night "soft seat" train ride to Beijing. I don't mind the train ride, but I hate getting my luggage to the train.

Last night Gail and I got "Elegant" Taiwanese massages (one of the only ones in the neighborhood left to try) and then met the others over at my hair washing place because most of them had yet to experience that (which was hard for me to believe after how much I talked about it). What a sight to see four Americans reclining in a row with soapy hair and an attendant at each head. Wish I could send the picture.

Then Miguel, Jess, Karis, Amy and I went down to the carnival for one last walk along the water. Earlier in the day, one of the TA's told us something interesting...that the boats on the water in Shaoxing (and Keqioa - our polyester suburb) were different than all the boats in China. They are canoe-shaped with two overhead coverings and because of them Shaoxing is referred to as "The Venice of the East." For some reason we had not tried these boats, so at 11 last night we decided to hire one of the many guys beckoning passersby into their boats. It was a bit scary getting in, but our oarsman was quite competent. We were very surprised to see (because it was hard to see him on his perch behind the covered area) that he was rowing one oar with his feet and the other with one hand (he was also smoking a cigarette). We sang Italian songs and had a great reflection hour regarding our time in Keqiao; another bittersweet moment because it is Jess' last night with us. She is meeting her parents in Shanghai and is going to Beijing with them rather than joining the group tour. I haven't talked much about Jess, but as one of the youngest in our group, she has been one of the most steady and able to bounce with all of the chaos. She is great, and we hate to see her leave early.

So, for more emotional reporting, this morning at breakfast, calm cool Jess couldn't help crying. Our group, thrown together under very difficult circumstances, has functioned very well together. In fact, the director of ACT visited the other day and he said we were the most independent group out of the 75 teachers in China this summer. He was impressed that we had ventured out so much on our fact I can't remember if I mentioned this, but we weren't supposed to leave until tomorrow. None of us wanted to miss out on another day in Beijing though, so on the train we go "alone" tonight. Anyway, it has been non-stop action, up down and sideways for four weeks, all eight of us, and it is hard to break that magic.

Before I go, I forgot to tell you one of the highlights from yesterday. Five minutes after I said goodbye to my first class (the third graders) and returned to the break room, there was a knock at the door. Someone opened it and there they were, all fifteen of them. Their teacher was in the break room, too (they leave their kids unattended in the classrooms all the time). She said, "Oh, they miss you already!" Then, because she is a music teacher, she suggested that they sing "Jingle Bells." They did, and we received perhaps the only caroling to occur in China this summer.

Gail told me a touching story last night. Thoughtful Debbie bought us each a puzzle of China as a parting gift. Since Gail taught her very bright fifth grade class a lot of geography, she put a piece of the puzzle in each kid's goodbye bag and then gave them a speech about working as a team to accomplish things. She told them "You all have a piece, but if you work together, you can make a whole and build the world" (she did not say 'in one day') (although her words were more inspirational than what I remember). One of her students stood up, independently, and took his piece and put it in the puzzle. Every single student followed and when they were done putting China together, they gave the puzzle to their Chinese teacher, whom Gail said was wonderful. She said she was holding back tears. Gail really is a wonderful person, and at 60, a very brave one to venture out to do this. She took all of her students on an imaginary journey for two weeks...they got to pick where they wanted to go and then they "flew" in a plane (she even had the kids act as stewards serving rows in a plane cake from across the street). The kids loved it and her. People here do not really think about traveling outside of China very much because it is very hard to get a Visa and it is so expensive and Gail helped them to imagine it.
Here is another t-shirt saying (just saw it) STOP SAD it says.

Oh, and Amy bought me a bag of chips, Inca Chips, "Ethnican Flavor."

Oh, and one of her students wrote in a penpal letter "My favorite food is dog."

Mine wrote to penpals, too. I can't decide which girl to give my niece as a penpal but she can choose from the video of them (Crystal, maybe your daughter wants one?). Anyway, I put a list of questions for them to answer on the board (yes, in chalk, did I mention the only tool I have had to teach with for the last four weeks is chalk?). Lily, my favorite, wrote "I like Marjie, but I don't like tomatoes or pork."

Now I really have to go! Good bye!

Take Me Home Country Road (but to Beijing First)

I'm done I'm done.

What a day what a day.

How exhausting to have two end of the school session days within two months!
I arrived to find my 6th grade girl fan club waiting at the door with loads of gifts (unfortunately they mostly bought me cute little angels and paperweights...) and spent the day in a fog, playing last minute favorite games and giving my little bag o gifts to the 80 or so Chinese children who have made my life oh so interesting this month and receiving so many gifts. The little ones cried and the older ones hugged me about eight times a piece when we said goodbye. The fan club put on a "program" for me which included skits and songs...if anyone can endure some videos just let me know, how could I NOT get them on film?

After school Pamela treated all of us teachers and our assistants to dinner at the hotel. We sat at a huge round table and ate about 25 dishes. In China, you think you are done eating because the food stops coming out for about ten minutes and you feel kind of relieved...then five more dishes arrive. I can't figure out why one of the last dishes is always soup. Anyway, after dinner we had to say goodbye to our TA's and I was fine until I looked over at happy Sunny with tears running down her cheeks. I can't tell you how special Sunny is; out of all of the girls I think I was the luckiest. She is funny and, well, Sunny. She helped me so much. She really liked the "Where the Sidewalk Ends" book I brought (my mom's) so I gave that to her as a parting gift (I will buy another one) as well as a book Julie Carey gave me on idioms and a tie-dyed t-shirt I bought on a whim and wow, it fit her personality to a T. She loved it all - she especially loved the books because she is so eager to study English and travel the world ("like Marjie" I have her saying on tape). She gave me a drawing of a beautiful Chinese woman - she is quite artistic- in a very funny plastic frame with animals on it ("the animals are lovely" she said). Anyway, when I went to hug her goodbye she turned away and said "I can't say goodbye to you!" She was very attached to Amy, too, and when Amy hugged her she lost it completely. I think Sunny is so bright and this is her first contact with the world and she loves the taste of it and it broke her heart to see it go for now. She is determined to study hard and make lots of money and come to visit me. "I will visit you in your condo" she says.

Last night Amy and I took the girls from a few weeks ago out to dinner. We all took the bus to Lily's university campus and fortunately it was much better than the first one, with waterfalls and rocks and an ancient bridge. The seven of us walked through the "U District" which was unlike anything we have seen vendors cooking pancakes filled with meat and vegetables, artists making animals with ribbons, photo booths where Sunny and I got nine different backgrounds and nine poses for under two dollars. Amy's TA, quiet and studious Lily, wanted to take us to a special restaurant, so I had to resist all of the pancakes - but what a treat. The place is known for its pumpkin with salted egg...really outstanding, I would have to say the only time pumpkin has tasted good outside of pumpkin pie. Funny, we bought our drinks outside, as usual, and when we sat down Lily said "They have very good dumplings down the street, I will be right back." And she returned with the best dumplings of my life and plopped them down, no concern that they came from down the street. They were pot stickers covered in egg. Later I found out that the fried rice we had at the beginning came from somewhere else, too. No problem.

After dinner we were under no volume constraint so Amy and I traded songs with the girls. We would sing an English song (Take Me Home Country Road, Top of the World, American Pie) and they would counter with a Chinese sleeping song or a pop song. Funny, they know a lot of Carpenters and we sang "Yesterday Once More" together.

I am under pressure to leave now for my last massage and some wandering down Stir Fry Street with the gang so I am not going to edit this: the next time I write I will be in Beijing, and by the way, don't ask for pictures...the dirty internet has been completely dismembered and I can't figure out the camera stuff here ( and I have TRIED).

See you in Beijing!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

About to Rock Around Beijing

Last night Kim and I walked around the lake and I was able to persuade her down Stir Fry Street, even though her feet were killing her. Took her to my Stir Fry Guy and bragged to her that he "got me." "He will know just what I mean." Well, I was a bit too bold...I had dreamt up a concoction in my mind and it involved long necked clams, eggplant, greens and noodles. I thought My Stir Fry Guy understood my pointing and nodding perfectly, but what ended up on our little plastic table was an order of clams (delicious), an order of noodles with eggplant (delicious) and an order of greens with eggs (greasy). That's what I get for showing off, but at least they were all good mistakes and Kim was impressed anyway. She got NOODLES WITH VEGETABLES and that was all she cared about.

As we sat at the table, a cute girl with a guitar came to our table with a song list and well, you know, how can you resist those eyes? (musicians wander along Stir Fry Street only on certain nights and we can't figure out the pattern...) We agreed to some entertainment from her and she proceeded to play a song on the saddest sounding guitar you have ever heard - it was a similar sound to strumming a piece of wood. Nevertheless, word got around that the Meguoren (Americans) were paying for entertainment and I am not exaggerating when I say that we suddenly had a line of beggars and musicians waiting at our table. We agreed to one man who had a two stringed sitar looking instrument and his music was beautiful with a little Jimi Hendrix jamming thrown in. The entire time he played (about ten minutes in all), a little boy stood by our table holding his guitar and clearing his voice quite loudly. We were so amused. Then a gust of wind came and blew about ten dollars off of our table and he heroic-ly ran after it and brought it back (we have discovered that this is a very honest culture). So what could we do but pay him for some music. His guitar was worse than the girl's, but we enjoyed our evening immensely. I especially enjoyed Kim's enjoyment of it; she had not explored the street much and she loved it. As we sat there I felt so happy and satisfied. Me on Stir Fry Street, almost done with my responsibilities and heading for the Great Wall = Happiness.

I have to say a word about how much my brother rules...most of you know this, but not only did he set up my glob and has been of the utmost importance in his role of maintaining it and posting my pictures (remember, I have not seen it since I left US soil...) but he found the greatest Canon camera for me before I left and I have loved it. I have taken many videos...of stir fry street, my walk in the morning by the canal, crossing the street, the kids saying "We Feel Awesome, Oh we feel so AWESOME, UGH!!" and skits and the musicians last night, etc, etc. He also urged me to buy an extra battery and that has saved me on about five occasions. Imagine being at the wall and running out of battery... Plus I have my laptop here, so I have been organizing pictures as I go. Today I showed all of my kids a slide show of them during the past four weeks and they loved it.

I attended the third grade party today and what a treat. They seated me as the guest of honor and we played games and different kids performed for Nancy, who turned ten today. Larry did a trick with string, Oliver did a magic trick, Jeremy did the splits, two boys did a dialogue (tradition in China, to do a dialogue with advertisement slogans), five girls played "Jingle Bells" on the flute (I taught the teacher the song because she is a music teacher and she kept them singing it), we sang Happy Birthday in both English and Chinese and opened presents and had cake. I was very honored to be invited and the kids were so much fun. It was good to see them outside of classwork.

By the way, there is a bit of a performer in me and it has really come out here in China. I teach the kids songs almost every day and I choreograph most of them. For example, today we were learning time so I taught them "Rock Around the Clock." We start out with one hand straight up, like the long hand on the twelve, and one hand as the one, then change it to five oclock and then nine oclock, then we spin our hands in a big circle to "Rock Around the Clock." I was doing this in front of the mirror at about 11 last night to put it all together. I am someone else here!

Well, off to Noodle Street tonight... I think, I will give my Stir Fry Guy a break.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Frisbees and International Relations

Last night Amy, Karis, Miguel, Jess and I went down to the water with a frisbee. Everyone was playing carnival games and dancing and playing badminton as usual so it was a bit difficult to create a space. However, we were successful and in not more than five minutes a crowd of about 100 people gathered around the Americans and their funny throwing thing (none of my students, and apparently not many Chinese, have ever seen a frisbee before!) After a few minutes, we began to ask kids who were watching on the sidelines to throw by gesturing toward them with the frisbee; the first five literally recoiled from the offer and ran away! But then a ten or eleven year old stepped out and made it known that he was ready to try. He became permanent in our throwing group and then more people started to get involved. In about twenty minutes, we had eight others in our group, including a Pakistani robed in gold, an Indian man robed in white and a couple of punk rock teenagers. Everyone was laughing and having such a great time; especially watching Amy with her antics. Every time the frisbee went outside the circle, a little Chinese boy (about two years old...he had probably just learned to walk) would run with all of his might to fetch it and bring it back to Amy. None of us wanted to break the spell but when we did turn to go, we all waved goodbye and received a hearty wave from the crowd. We decided that that ten year old will be an ambassador someday.

The clams were fantastic last night and will go back tonight; I have lured Kim to come with me.

Today was fun...the kids were fun. One of my fourth graders asked me such an interesting question (through Sunny) "How can you graduate from university and not know Chinese?" What an honest I didn't quite know how to answer. My third graders have invited me to a birthday party tomorrow so I am looking forward to that, and my fifth graders put on skits today for the class. They are so cute, I got them on video. The really smart girls (who "worship" me, can you tell I really enjoy writing that?) performed a whole skit with an investigative reporter and everything. Tomorrow I am going to have them write ten sentences about themselves to be video taped and sent back to America...if they do the sentences, they can enter a drawing for prizes, consisting of the things I brought from home and do not know what to do with-

All in all I have mixed emotions about leaving now. I feel I am just starting to make some progress, but would I stay? NO! Do I love China? Well, I like China, but I think the main word I would use to describe my feeling about it is CONFUSION, or Confucian, whatever.

I was actually heading for the dirty cafe so that I could send some pictures but it had huge padlocks on the doors and a sign in Chinese...who knows what happened, but I don't know if I will be able to send from this clean cafe, which doesn't seem very clean now because the guy across from me is spitting on the floor about every five minutes. It's really disgusting!