Thursday, January 31, 2013

A little PG13

Peter is revisiting Tae Bo after a four year hiatus.  He is reviewing the workout options on the DVD menu.

Peter: What is a fat boner?
Peter: The fat boner.
Me: How is it spelled?
Peter: F-A-T B-U-R-N-E-R.
Me: Not the same, baby.  Not the same.

On the phone.

Peter: What are you doing?
Me: Nothing.
Peter: Why?
Me: I don't feel good.
Peter: That happens a lot.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 3

Fact: In China, as is many other places,  people like to keep their stuff looking nice by making it look terrible; that is, by never removing that clear or blue plastic cling film that comes on brand new electronics and appliances.

Corresponding confession: I am the phantom that ranges throughout the world, pulling the film off other people's stuff.  Seriously.  I just stripped the film off the air conditioner in our hotel room.  The school where I worked in Xi'an built a new center with a cling-filmed TV in every classroom.  (Not a screen protector, the manufacturer's frosty white film on the black plastic frame around the screen)  Within two weeks I had surruptitiously peeled the film off every single TV.  Before that I was peeling film off TVs that were new three years ago.  I consider myself a really uptight public servant.  Shhh!  Don't tell my secret.

That's the thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 6

Stuff we are looking forward to eating in America!

Tomato soup...and grilled cheese
Dill pickles
 REAL bread
Nachos...with cheese
BLTs...but no cheese.  What are you, crazy?
Milkyway bars
Legitimate coffee
"spicy" chocolate (Hershey's Cookies and Cream bar)
Salty, buttered popcorn...good with parmesan cheese
Legitimate salad
Ranch dressing
Pizza from the cafe at the downtown Whole Foods (Peter's holy grail of pizza)
Barbecued anything
Cinnamon rolls
Appetizers of all descriptions
Salsa...yeah, pretty much all Mexican and Tex-Mex food
Anything involving an avocado (cheese for vegans)
Potato salad
Breakfast cereal
Blueberry muffins
Samples at Costco
Costco hot dogs
Lobster (that one's just Peter)
Fresh fruit year-round
Herbs of all descriptions
Legitimate whole wheat bread
Real butter
Ben and Jerry's
Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, and cookie dough
Pasta.  All pasta.  Especially lasagna
Anything cooked by my mother

Restaurants to which we look forward:

Olive Garden
Joe's Crab Shack
Shari's (for the memories more than the food...sorry mom!)
Taco Bell (yes, that one's just me, an no, I am not ashamed)
The Whole Foods Cafe and Deli...yeah, it's that good.  The one at the big mall in Tualatin has the best seafood chowder, according to Peter.  I think they put all the shellfish that doesn't sell in that chowder.
Jim and Patty's
Papa Murphy's...don't knock it, much less greasy than the big chains
Bellagio's Pizza...I never got to take Peter there, gotta fix that
Izzy's...I like pizza, ok?
Mo's...another one he's never been to, but we have plans to go with a student of mine
Safeway Chinese....ha, gotcha

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 7

This is a list of widely (though not universally) -held beliefs in China.  Though some are debatable, generally speaking I disagree with all of them, and I won't miss running up against them in my everyday life.

  1. A nap in the afternoon is necessary for good health.
  2. It is acceptable for teens to only sleep six hours per night.
  3. The iPhone costs only $200 in the US.
  4. Cold drinks and foods give you stomachaches, diarrhea, cancer, and are very bad for menstruating women.
  5. Drinking hot water makes you feel cooler (in temperature).
  6. Eating spicy food makes you feel cooler.
  7. Chinese people have different (less healthy) bodies than westerners and that's why Chinese medicine works for them but not for westerners.
  8. Western medicine is bad because it has side effects.
  9. Something is clean if it has been wiped or rinsed with water.
  10. Tall buildings mean a city is developed.
  11. Using the “back door” to get things done means the Chinese are more clever; westerners aren’t creative enough to think of using the back door.
  12. A pet (especially a dog) in the house is bad for a baby or a pregnant woman.
  13. Neither the new mom nor the baby can bathe for 30 days after delivery.
  14. A woman should be on bed rest for 30 days before having a baby.
  15. Chopsticks are easier to use than forks (simpler is the same as easier).
  16. You can't write Chinese characters with your left hand.
  17. Left-handed people are more clever than right-handed people, but it’s still wrong to be left-handed
  18. You can't eat noodles with a fork.
  19. A spoon is the next best thing to a fork (ie western people use spoons more than forks or knives).
  20. Boiling removes impurities from tap water (not just kills bacteria).
  21. Butter is beef fat.
  22. In America and Canada the government gives you money to have more children.
  23. All Americans are rich and own cars and single-family homes.
  24. Americans look down on Chinese people.
  25. Chinese food is really expensive in America.
  26. Cheese and butter are the same thing.
  27. All Americans speak Spanish.
  28. Mandarin Chinese is becoming really popular in America.
  29. White people are Americans; members of other races are not true Americans.
  30. Americans use the IPA to study English because the IPA is American pinyin.
  31. If a baby is exposed to more than one language before age two he or she will never learn the mother tongue properly.
  32. America considers Japan it’s little brother.
  33. America opposes China in various political issues to punish China for it’s economic policies.
  34. Americans eat plain (untoasted) bread and milk for breakfast.
  35. Exercise is good for a cold.
  36. Everything is cheap in America.
  37. Americans spend most of their time discussing sports and entertainment.
  38. Black people are dangerous and white Americans live in fear of them.
  39. Chinese people who go live abroad (even second generation and beyond) have a duty to learn the Chinese language and even if they are citizens of another country their primary national identity should still be Chinese.
  40. All Americans are promiscuous.
  41. You can get over a cold in one day.
  42.  Elementary-aged children should have as many extracurricular ectivities as possible, such as owning a pet, to fill up their free time, but they don't have enough time for these activities in high school, so hobbies must be given up and pets must be given away, whether or not it is good for the pet.
  43. Studying is more important than physical exercise for high school students.
Also, this just happened:

Peter: Let's watch a movie.
Me: Okay.  What kind of movie is it?
Peter: Black man.
Me: (rolls eyes)
Peter: What?
Me: You're so racist.  "Black man" is not a kind of movie.  You have to learn how to see people beyond color.
Peter: I mean, Men in Black.
Me: Oh, never mind.
Peter: You assumed I was being racist.  Doesn't that mean that the racist one is---
Me: Shut up!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Day 12

Peter and I ate hot pot with the group of foreigners I mentioned yesterday.  It made me remember what it was like to be in China for the first time.  It was refreshing.  It was also nice to be able to introduce them to a food they seemed to enjoy.  They've been on their own for food some of the time, and we got the impression that the results have been less than stellar.  We had a really good time.

Did not make any packing progress because I am hitting the "I hate moving" stage.  I have, I don't know, Mover's Block?  Like Writer's Block but with clothes?  Shipping prices went up, so we have decied to pare down some of our stuff.  We are supposed to mail it tomorrow, but I don't know for sure if we will get around to it.  Arg!  Ready for the moving part to be over.  I'm ready to move on to Beijing, even if it means dodging the syringes.  

That's the thing.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Day 13

China is bananas.  Giving directions in China is completely different than giving directions in the US.  Overall, Americans are much more precise than Chinese.  Just watch a Chinese cooking show sometime, you'll see.  Chinese people (at least every one I've ever met) are not good at giving or getting directions, and are not good at finding places they've never been to.  

For example, if I were giving you directions to my apartment, I would say, "Do you know where Gaoxin is?  Okay, so from Xiao Zhai head toward Gaoxin.  You'll pass Mei Gui Da Lo on the right, and a Starbucks/Subway on the left.  Right after that you'll see a hotel called the Seven Stars Hotel.  If you get to the park or to Tai Bai Lu, you've gone too far.  Enter through the main entrance to the Seven Stars Hotel.  There's a crawling lighted banner above the door and a hair salon to the immediate left of the entrance.  Take any of the elevators in the lobby to the fourth floor.  We are in apartment blah blah blah."

When we were apartment hunting, I was two blocks away from the Seven Stars teaching class.  Peter wanted me to come check out the apartment.  He called me, and...

Peter: Okay, so to get here you need to come back.
Me: Come back home?
Peter: No, come back from where you came.
Me: Where?
Peter: Like you're coming back.
Me: So I need to exit my school and go...?
Peter: Across the street.
Me: Which street?
Peter: To the park.
Me: Okay, so I am crossing the park block?
Peter: What?
Me: I have to go to the other side of the park?
Peter: No, you are on the other side of the park.  You need to come here.
Me: Okay, I will call you back.
Me: Okay, I crossed the park.
Peter: Where are you now?
Me: In the park, opposite my school.
Peter: On the street?
Me: Um, yes.  At the intersection of Keji Street and the other big street.  Near the supermarket.
Peter: Okay, the building is right on the corner.
Me: Which corner?
Peter: The one with the building on it.
Me: Which building?
Peter: The one with all the windows.
Me: They all have windows!
Peter: Okay, hang on, I am going to come get you.

For the record, the building is not right on the corner.  It is 500 yards up the street from the corner.  Anyway, Peter's mission to come get me is how most Chinese people give directions.  That is, they don't give directions, they tell you a street (not an intersection, just a street) or a district or a building, meet you there, and guide you the rest of the way.  This is how they do for me and for each other.

Does this mean Chinese people are stupid?  No.  The conversation above makes Peter sound, erm, intelligence-challenged, but he's not.  He's really smart and has no practice at this particular skill.  That's true of most Chinese people I know.  And, to be clear, I don't mean "Chinese" the racial group, but "Chinese" the cultural identity.  This is just how they do things in China.

That's why we had so much trouble with the Sheraton Hotel tonight.  Some friends are staying there, and we called the concierge to leave the address of where we're going to meet tomorrow.  Leaving a message at a hotel should be easy, but any time you step outside what is expected (in China or anywhere else) things get weird.  First they wanted to know why our friends didn't just call us on their cell phones.  Well, they don't have cell phones, they are only in China for eight days.  Then they wanted to know why we are such horrible friends we won't come and meet them and go to the restaurant together.  To a Chinese person, letting a friend go to a new place by themselves (and probably get lost) is rude.  Peter explained that all they had to do was show the address to a taxi driver, and we could meet them at the restaurant.

Right now there's a hotel concierge chatting to a maid or someone at the Sheraton talking about how weird these Americans are.  I'm okay with that.

Oh, and the first thing we're downloading on our new phones in the US is GPS apps.  Our relationship runs smoother when we get our directions not from each other.

That's the thing.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Day 13

So last night at 4am we were sorting Peter's clothes into "ship" and "pack".  I really lobbied for a "throw out the window" category, but he won't part with any more clothes, no matter how shredded, shrunken, or ill-fitting they are.  Oh well.  Then we went to KFC because I was hungry.  There comes a time at night when a person needs to go to sleep or plan on eating another dinner.  We went and got the French fries I have been craving for a few days, but they were cold and it was totally disappointing.  Oh well.

Tonight we went to have hot pot with our students.  I don't know why, but I wasn't really into it.  After they wanted to go play pool and sing karaoke, but I ducked out.

Here's a story I have been saving. Well, two.  Three. 

I was playing Catchphrase with Jesse and I had the word "lawyer" when this happened:

Me: If you are accused of a crime, who do you need help from?
Jesse: God.

He's not wrong!

Also I found this today.  Judging by the number of pictures in the post it's a common thing, but I'm glad to say I've never seen one of these in person.  I can't believe I have to explain this, but, church, we do not use baptism punitively!  Baptism is a good thing!  Also, since the parking is reserved for members of a particular congregation, not a particular religion.  Baptizing you doesn't make you a member of a congregation, it makes you a Christian.  So this is ugly not only because it implies (even jokingly) that you could be sentenced to baptism for parking in the wrong place, but it also implies that only non-Christians park illegally.  Sorry kids, that's just not true. Christians also make bad choices.

Anyway, here's the best one.  The other day after Peter bought me my knockoff designer woven seatbelt bag, we left the store.  I wandered over to a kiosk and said, "You know, I could also use a new wallet."  I had looked away for literally one second, when I looked back he was GONE.

I found this to be an unreasonable response.  I am not a hardcore shopper, and I never bring Peter along against his will.  In fact, shopping had been his idea, (probably because he hates all my handbags).  I shop fast and I don't spend much, so I thought disappearing was a bit unreasonable.

Then the imaginative part of me took over.  What if it was like Nowhere man?  Or a Lifetime movie where a kid is abducted?  Parents, I know what you mean now when you say, "I just looked away for a second!"  I began imagining.  What if it were some kind of government caper?  What if I am schizophrenic and there is no Peter, I have been imagining him all along, and I had arrived at a brief moment of clarity?  (Do other people think about these things?)

I assumed I’d spot him, but after turning in a few circles, he was truly nowhere.  I got out my phone, and I’m not gonna lie, it was good to see his number in my phone (no schizophrenia).  I called him.  I got the generic message you get when a phone is turned off or out of range.  Weird. 

Then I had an epiphany.  When I had looked at him before going for the wallet, he’d had his hand in his pocket.  That could only mean…crap.

I ran back to the store where we’d bought the seatbelt wonder, and sure enough, there was Peter accusing the shopkeeper of stealing his iPhone.  He said he’d set it on the counter in the shop (at which point I refrained from screaming at him because, seriously, you never do anything like that in China unless you’re planning on donating it to a thief) but it was of course nowhere to be seen.  Others had come and gone while we were in the shop too, so that made it 458% worse.  In my five years in China, Peter and I have had four cell phones stolen.  This would be number 5. 

Peter asked for my phone to call the police, and I had another epiphany reaching for it in my bag.  “You didn’t put it in that bag you were looking at, did you?”  He’d picked out a bag for himself, but changed his mind when the shopkeeper wouldn’t meet his price.  Look in the bag and blammo, phone is there.  Whew!

So we narrowly avoided donating his iPhone to a stranger and having a huge fight, which we would have, because he’s always on my case about how I don’t protect myself enough from pickpockets.

Of course, I never did buy a wallet, so maybe…nah.  He wouldn’t go to all that trouble just to stop me from shopping, would he?

Anyway, that’s the thing.