Sunday, December 30, 2012

Slow Punk Rock Song

Sing it slow, sing it loud
hold on tight...

Eighty trips, eighty trips
more or less, more or less
what will it be
more or less
fill it up, fill it up
this pretty prison

'Round the sun, 'round the sun
truth or dare, truth or dare
what will it be
truth or dare
drink it up, drink it up
this ride is ending

like this it's s'posed to be
long face disgrace
misplaced embrace

Back to dust, back to dust
wrenching guts, wrenching guts
what will it be
wrenching guts
spit it up, spit it up
it's almost too late / (alt: it's never too late)

like this it's s'posed to be
retrace worst case
backspace my face

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This road is most definitely the happiest.

It's still happening, I keep mixing up the Chinese words for "fast" and "happy" even though I know the difference perfectly well...but when I speak quickly they get mixed up. Tonight in the taxi the driver came to an intersection and asked me which road I wanted to take (both leading to the same destination, but depending on the time of day one is faster than the other) so I tried to say "please take whichever road is faster" but it came out "pease take whichever road is happier." He shot me a funny look so I laughed and corrected myself and he laughed at me. And then he randomly asked me how to say "bú yòng xiè" (不用谢) in English and I wasn't quite sure of the most correct translation since I don't hear it too often but thought it meant something like "no problem" since it translates literally to "no use thanking" so I told him "no problem" and so for the rest of the ride he practiced saying "no problem" to me over and over and over. How very weirdly fun and random.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lucky number?

Just woke up from a dream in which I was trying to teach a friend how to play the lotto. We were back in the states and my friend from China was visiting and she wanted to play, so we went to the gas station and bought some tickets. The dream ended with us trying to decide which numbers to pick. And then I woke up and turned on the light, got out of bed, and saw this tiny sticker on my foot.

Out of all my bizzaro dreams lately, this one is kind of weirding me out the most. I have never played the lotto, and have never believed in signs, but...???...who knows!

Either that or I was quality inspected during the night by inspector number 31, a blue collar worker on an intergalactic quality inspection mission.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

that rainy day

Remember that rainy day we had a picnic under a big oak tree and you asked me, "Does this tablecloth sound green to you?" and my head unzipped right then and all of the birds flew away and the mushrooms turned upside down and caught the rain and we drank mushroom flavored rain out of mushroom caps and I said, "Yes, I do believe it does, but how can we be sure of anything" and you tossed back the rest of your tea and took a bite of the cap and chewed it up and said, "mmm this tastes like blowing up balloons for her birthday party" and you laughed until you cried so I picked a white dandelion and touched the tip to your nose and asked, "and how does this feel?" and you smiled and said, "it feels like Chopin's preludes have been tucking in the nocturnes" and then I blew the dandelion seeds across your shoulder and we watched as the wind carried them and lowered them to rest on the tips of the wet grass and the sun rode a horse out from behind a cloud and lit up your face and you rolled back down to the tablecloth and looked up to the ocean and said, "everything smells like an orange car in a funeral procession" and then we paused to breathe in the temperature and you hummed us to sleep with the sweetest breeze.

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I love you, Robert Duvall

Last night I dreamt that I was married to Robert Duvall, and we lived together in a log cabin out on a prairie somewhere. I was in the kitchen drying some dishes I had just washed, and Robert put on his boots, walked past the kitchen to the front room and said, "I'll be back in a bit" as he left the cabin and closed the door behind him. I walked to the front door and looked out the window, feeling a little sad that he didn't kiss me goodbye. I went back to the kitchen and finished drying the dishes. Robert returned shortly, and I walked to the front door to greet him, and he smiled, kissed me on the cheek, and handed me a stack of Form 1040 tax forms and a Cup 'O Noodles.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Baby steps

Just finished teaching my Friday night classes of teenagers, and I think we're making progress..... I still wanted to strangle them, but only at three-quarter strength.

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Should I be worried?

Had another facial hair dream in which I walked around telling everyone in Chinese "Guā wǒ de húzi! Guā wǒ de húzi!" which basically means "Shave my beard! Shave my beard!"

Between this and the lost mustache dream, should I be worried? Maybe I've been studying too much Chinese lately, and maybe not the most useful vocabulary for a female.

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Something's missing

A darn truck honking outside my building woke me up an hour early again today. I was in the middle of this long dream where I was walking through this huge maze of a house going around to person after person asking, "Do you know who took my mustache?"

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lace, ruffles and bling, oh my

One morning last week as I was standing at the entrance of the kindergarten to greet the kids as their parents drop them off in the morning, a little boy and his mother came up to me. The mother spoke Chinese to me but I didn't quite understand her, so I looked to my coworker who speaks fluently and asked him to translate. He said, "She said her son asked her why Teacher Liz never wears dresses."

I started laughing because it was such a cute and innocent thing for the little three-year-old boy to wonder about, especially when all of the Chinese teachers wear skirts or dresses nearly every single day. It's true, I never wear dresses or skirts to work. I only brought a single backpack with me when I left the states, and it didn't contain any of my nicer clothing. So what I wear here is what I've bought here, which is slim pickings for a girl who doesn't prefer lace and ruffles (which seems to be the big fashion here in this part of China). I did buy one skirt though. I wore that skirt to work once and then immediately regretted the decision when I realized that it's near impossible not to flash the entire class when you're sitting on one of those teenie tiny kindergarten chairs.

So I squatted down face level to the little boy, smiled, held out my hands and he placed his hands on my palms, and then knowing full well that neither he nor his mother could understand a word, I told him, "Well you see, Peter, I enjoy wearing dresses very much. But not all women feel that they have to wear dresses everyday to assert their femininity or to boost their self-confidence."

My coworker stood by snickering into his hand, and I smiled sweetly to Peter and patted him on the head.

I may not be a great teacher or able to relate well with toddlers, but I like to think I may be doing a small part in keeping feminism alive in the Far East.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Woke up a little too early today

No, of course I didn't just scoop instant coffee into my cereal bowl instead of my coffee mug, don't be absurd.

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Man In The Moon

oh the man in the moon is looking down on me
from those big eyes I cannot hide
or maybe that's just how it seems
from this scratch of earth far above the great divide

the man he fades, day by day, nothing's what it means
fists in pain pounding out the sound
or maybe that's just how it seems
eyes closed, straining to hear, my ear pressed to the ground

rhythm of the tides pull me in and out of sleep
all this life spread upon the bed
or maybe that's just how it seems
while my quiet mind is communing with the dead

everything's a race, is that how it's s'posed to be
I must be runnin' just for fun
or maybe that's just how it seems
cursing these numb legs as I chase the setting sun

don't choose to be so blind, yeah something's telling me
there is no time that does not fly
or maybe that's just how it seems
waiting so long to turn an eye up to the sky

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Wait, which part do you have a problem with?

Today, on the month-long quest to teach my students about Christmas, I popped in a CD and played Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for them. Then I showed them a flashcard of a reindeer and explained in English (using lots of exaggerated miming) that Rudolph is Santa's number one reindeer because his nose is red and it lights up super bright so he can see where he's going when he flies Santa's sleigh all over the world so he can jump down chimneys to deliver presents and eat milk and cookies. Then I looked over to my assistant Chinese-English teacher and said "Ok, can you please translate that so they understand?" and I'm pretty sure it was the biggest "WTF" look I've ever received in my entire life.

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Everyday's an Adventure (or Why I Love China)

Each time I leave my apartment I prepare myself for an adventure. I never know what kind of adventure -- whether good or bad, surprising or disturbing, eye-opening, mind-expanding or omg-crawl-back-into-my-shell-why-do-I-ever-leave-the-house -- but it never fails…the adventure always happens.

Today's adventure was a simple trip to DC Chéng (DC城 / DC City), the local electronics mega warehouse, to price Nintendo DS units for my lovely nieces and nephews back home. I figure they might make a cool present if I can get them at decent China-prices at hopefully better than China-quality.

Really I was looking to check out the games since the kids may already have the DS units. My friend in Beijing told me you can get game cartridges that have just about every game imaginable on them. What I discovered today is that they have blank SD cards, and they have hundreds of games (.nds files) on their computer, and they put the files on the SD card and wha-la! I remember a not-too-distant-past when I was up-to-date and in-the-know on the cutting edge of most things internet and technology, but maybe this is a sign that the edge is getting edgier and I'm getting, well, what's the opposite of edgier?

So anyway, I left my apartment and didn't encounter any neighbors, which was an immediate win. Then I hailed a cab without having to wait, and when I told the taxi driver where I was going, he understood me on the first try. I was feeling pretty darn good.

The taxi driver asked me the usual taxi-driver questions like where are you from, how long are you here, what do you do for work, etc. I'm a pro at these questions now. Our conversation was flowing pretty good and I was feeling pretty awesome. It feels good to hear and see proof that my language skills are improving. And he seemed like a really nice, polite gentleman, telling me that America is a very good place, etc. Then he asked me my age. No biggie, some of them do that. So I told him sānshíwǔ (三十五 / 35). And then...

He asked me if I am married, to which I replied no, I'm not married. I've found it to be a pretty common question with the chattier taxi drivers, so again, no biggie. But then his eyes almost popped out of his face. Like omg you're 35 and not married?! It's not the politest response, but still not out of the ordinary. It's happened to me a few times now. I didn't bother to go into details like well I was married but not anymore because really, would it go over any better than never having been married at all? The answer is no, no it wouldn't.

Then he asked me if I'm sad because I'm not married. I laughed because it surprised me, but then remembered that many women here are very distraught, like insanely so (by Western standards) if they aren't married well before 30 years of age. So I told him no, I'm actually very happy, and I like being alone. And then his eyes pretty much fell out of his face into his gaping-jaw-dropped mouth.

So this is where things got weird (Yeah, they weren't weird before this). He said some stuff really fast that I didn't quite catch, so I asked him to repeat it. He repeated it and pointed to me and then pointed to himself, and I thought nooo, he can't be saying such things, noooo. So I asked him to repeat again, and he did. This time with hand motions signifying two people coming together, like miming the "side-by-side" motion with the index fingers of each hand. And then I was pretty sure I understood his meaning, but thought nooo, this polite gentleman couldn't possibly be saying such things. So I asked him one more time to repeat himself, and he did. This time with a sign language I had never really seen before but understood its meaning immediately. Because he was driving with his left hand, he used only his right hand to push his thumb in between his index and middle fingers, in and out, in and out... (I know you're totally doing this right now, admit it).

Shortly after arriving in China, I had a similar experience and wrote about it here. Slightly different sign language, same meaning.

So then my eyes popped out of my face and fell into my lap. I quickly replied "Tīng bù dǒng" (听不懂 / I don't understand).

Doot da doo ::look out window:: la la la

::awkward silence::

Then as we slowly approached my stop he began apologizing profusely. I smiled, told him no problem, gave him my cash and high-tailed it out of the cab.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to go back to not understanding any Chinese at all. Either that or from now on I'm just going to pretend like I don't understand a single word.

Or better yet….. Always respond with, "Yes, I'm absolutely married, very much so, like so married you wouldn't even believe it. Like if my marriage cloned itself and had marriage babies and those babies got married and had marriage babies and so on, that's how married I am…times infinity."

Whew! So with that experience behind me, I proceeded with the Nintendo DS reconnaissance mission. After searching floor after floor of small, squished-together electronics stands, with vendor after vendor shouting to me to come see their wares, most of which are identical to the stands on either side of them, I finally found the hand-held gaming counter. Side note, prior to leaving the apartment I actually took time to look up the Chinese words for Nintendo and wrote them down best I could, but turns out no one understood what I was saying or the words I wrote down. Apparently they call every kind of game console the same thing…"yóuxì jī" (游戏机 / game consoles). Ok, learned something new, cool.

Luckily I went during a very non-busy time of day, and the kind lady at the counter took time to speak slowly and deliberately with me. We were able to communicate effectively (even if not so efficiently), and she even wrote down all of the information for me so I could take it home and do more research on prices and see exactly which DS systems my nieces and nephews may or may not already have. She even took all of the different DS models out of the case and lined them up for me (in order of oldest to newest, even!) so I could take photos.

Despite the taxi cab conversation finale, I'm going to call today's adventure a major success, especially in the language department. Heck, I even learned some new vocabulary in the sexual relations category. Bonus!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Listen up, future husbands.

Today before class started one of my little 3 yr old boys ran up to me, grabbed my hand, and kissed the back of it and then looked up at me and smiled before running away. I think my heart melted. This is now the standard by which I shall judge any future suitors. Um, except for the running away part.

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