November 30, 2011

I can now answer “yes” to the inevitable food question that will be posed to every person who has ever visited China.

Have you eaten dog?

Yes.  Yes I have.

Tonight, we went out for dinner with the teacher who made us help his students with their English skit in the local talent show.  We were celebrating their advancement to a regional level competition (which they apparently did terribly in because the microphones didn’t work).  After I’d already stuffed myself (吃饱了!)our host asked if we wanted to order some dog.  Um.  Yeah.  Obviously I had to try that.

The dog meat was dark brown, tender, and delicious.  Others first-time dog-eaters at the table seemed to have some moral qualms, but I didn’t.   Maybe that was because they grew up with pet dogs, or maybe just because my extreme sensitivity to animal lives had previously caused me to thoroughly think through my food morals to arrive at my current cognitively harmonious plan of eating.  In any case, I didn’t have any weird feelings about it.  It was just meat.  Dead animal like any other.

Also at this meal, we ate something that our hosts could only describe to us as “那个。。。fish lung?”  That was pretty weird, but without the glitz, glam, and taboo of dog.



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Printed in the newspaper

November 28, 2011
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My students were very excited to show me a picture of the policemen pretending to check my passport, which was printed in a local newspaper.  By the way, apparently the article explains that these officers managed our arrival and helped us understand the limitations and rights associated with our visas.  Right…

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Visitors without warning

November 28, 2011
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One day, our school liaison showed up at our house without warning accompanied by two policemen and a reporter.  Here’s the news story about us: http://www.xiuning.gov.cn/html/news207_75253.htm

They caught us off guard, so I’m kinda dressed like a farmer, and Sabrina and I were in the middle of cooking.  We served them bread and jam and herbal tea.  The photographer (who at this point had helped himself to Sabrina’s hot-pink slippers and was shuffling around the house in them) was snapping pictures the whole time.

Then, the older cop asked to see my passport.  I wondered if there was actually some kind of problem, but it turned out they just wanted a picture of him looking at my passport.  They didn’t actually need to check on anything serious.

Then, we all sat on the couch, and they talked to us for a long time in Chinese while the photographer took pictures, and I pretended to understand a lot more than I actually did.

Finally, they all left, Sabrina and I agreed that “that was weird…” and we resumed cooking.


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Regarding the level of my students

November 27, 2011
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Because it was Thanksgiving, Sabrina and I combined classes for a day and taught about the importance of being together and thankful on Thanksgiving.

When I think of Thanksgiving activities, I think of making hand-turkeys (if you’re American, you’ve definitely done this at some point: you trace your hand and then decorate it like a turkey.  Your thumb is the head, and your fingers are the feathers, and if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, you can look at the photos below and see what you missed out on in your childhood).  But back to the point, I decided we’d have the kids make hand-turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Frankly, I expected that part of the lesson to flop.  I thought that these 16-year-old kids were going to refuse to make this preschool level craft and were going to mumble to each other in Chinese about how I’m an idiot for trying to get them to do this extremely elementary activity.  Luckily, I was totally wrong.  They absolutely loved it.  We passed out crayons and markers and chalk and just let them color and be happy.  It was adorable.

We also had the kids write acrostic poems of things they’re thankful for.  Some select excerpts from their poetry includes: “Aliens come visit me,” “Mr. Karim and Mr. Corbin,” “NBA” and “KFC.”

Anyways, here are some of my favorite turkeys.  If you come visit me in Xiuning, you can have the pleasure of viewing the larger gallery which is now proudly displayed in our common room.

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Cacti correction

November 24, 2011
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A few posts ago, I talked about how placing a cactus beside your computer is supposed to improve the fengshui.  Well, it turns out that I guessed wrong, and that’s not what the cactus salesman was actually trying to tell me.  After asking a Chinese friend, I learned that the true reason for putting a cactus next to your computer is because cacti have the magical ability to suck in all of the radiation supposedly coming out of a computer.  Even though I don’t believe that cacti are capable of bending otherwise linear radiation, or that my computer is dangerous, I still am in the habit of keeping my cactus nearby.  I figure maybe she likes the screen glow, if nothing else.

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November 24, 2011
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My second cold in China.  It seems that I’m getting sick here with about the same frequency as I used to back in America.  Actually, maybe a bit less.

Lately, my days have been filled with tea, sudafed, and a lot of time in bed.  Just hoping to get better by Friday evening, when we will have a lot of school teachers and officials over for a Chinese-American-fusion Thanksgiving dinner.

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Helping the children

November 24, 2011
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The Xiuning 外教s are the go-to people for anything requiring the presence of a foreigner within a 20-or-so mile radius… maybe even further.  So, we sometimes get asked to do things that have nothing to do with our students or our school, and of course, we’re expected to accept any requests within reason.

A week and a half ago, we were asked to help some children prepare an English skit for a public performance to be put on in the Xiuning Public Square.  So, for a week, one or more of us would work with these kids every night to put together a little skit.  Frankly, our presence was not necessary.  Although we came up with the entire idea for the skit and helped the kids rehearse it a few times, all of that could definitely have been done by any local with a cursory knowledge of English.  Really, we were just there because the kids’ instructor wanted to be able to say that he’d given his students an opportunity to interact with real, live foreigners.

When we were first asked, we were given a copy of the official Chinese announcement.  It was, well, in Chinese.  With translation help from my friend Joe, I figured out that the whole sheet was pretty useless–it just said a lot of stuff about how there would be many different kinds of performances and how this event had the approval of the Communist Party.  Good to know.  The one useful thing was a line saying that the theme was something translating roughly to “all children are different! happily, we show you.”

So, we made the kids pretend to help teach each other various skills, like how to dance, make soup, jump rope, and play sax (which was always pronounced as either “sucks” and “sex,” but never “sax”), and then at the end they sang that “We are the world, we are the children,” song.

In any case, I’ve got some video of the final performance, but it’s not particularly YouTube worthy.  All of the kids (boys included) were wearing sparkly green eye shadow and very pink blush, but you can’t see any of that in my video.  Nonetheless, here’s a photo of the kids.

For the most part, the acts in this talent show were pretty… boring.  But, there was one group of little girls, who were actually really, really good at ballroom dancing.  Here’s their final pose:

Apparently, our kids did well enough to be invited to a larger competition.  Which means we were once again asked to help them.  Sabina and Aaron went once, and then gracefully refused to give any further (and totally unnecessary) help.


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As American as apple pie… served with chopstics

November 23, 2011
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I, like anyone else, have quite a few life goals.

One that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is my desire to bake a beautiful, lattice-top, apple pie.

So, last weekend, I made my first attempt.  I’ve gotta say, it didn’t turn out all bad.  But it also didn’t turn out all good, so there will be many more apple pies in my future until I can master this art.  I don’t have a picture of my first try, but I’ll give you some revealing tips, and you can imagine from there.

First of all, it’s really important to measure salt.  Don’t let anybody tell you that’s not important.  Salt is the kind of powerful little spice that will severely damage your culinary masterpiece so quickly, it’s not even funny.

Second, if you want to make a lattice top, maybe you should check that your crust recipe is compatible with lattice-making.  If it’s too dry, you’ll end up with a hybrid lattice-top-crumble-top.  Which is kinda cool, but maybe not what you’re going for.  I guess it would still taste good, though, granted that you took my first tip to heart.

Thirdly, when you pour all of the filling into the crust, maybe you don’t want to go ahead and dump in the sugary juice at the bottom of your bowl of seasoned apple slices.  But if you don’t mind scrubbing burned sugar juice out of your oven, you can just go for it.

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Cacti and procrastination

November 20, 2011
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Today, I purchased two cacti.  Well, only one is really a cactus.  The other is an aloe plant.

I paid 10 kuai each for them, which was probably a bit of a rip off, but I’d been wanting a house plant for quite some time now, so I just went with it.  Plus, the dude assured me that placing a cactus next to my computer would work wonders for the feng shui.  That’s a free tip for all of you looking to up your home’s feng shui level.  Buy cactus.  Place next to computer.

I want to name these house plants 李友 and 王朋 after the characters in my intro Chinese text book from this summer.  As I was reaching for my Sharpie and construction paper, I identified what I was doing as shameless procrastination.  Making name tags for cacti is a whole new procrastination level that I’m not going to allow myself to stoop to.  Not today, anyways.   Time to finally force myself to grade these hundred tests.

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Laundry frustrations

November 18, 2011
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I miss having a dryer.  What a great convenience.  Really!
Since I don’t have a dryer, all of my clothes go outside to dry.  At first, I was too shy to hang my underwear outside.  The fact that all the other teachers at the school and all of the students could come by and look at my underwear was just too weird.  Then, I got tired of my underwear not drying properly, so I gave in and started hanging it outside as well.  But that’s another story.  The story of how I sneak outside when kids are in class so that I won’t have to have a conversation with any students while I’m holding all my underwear.  This story is a bit different.  This one is about what happens when it rains.

Sometimes, I just want to ignore reality.  I know it’s drizzling, but I just don’t want to face the facts and bring my laundry inside and try to find some place to hang it.  My neighbors are strong believers in reality, though.  The minute the rain starts, I hear them calling me.  “孔老师!下雨啊!” (“Ms. Corbin!  It’s raining!”).  So, I’m forced to go outside and take my still-wet clothes off the line, and bring them inside, only to have no idea what to do with them next.  Today was the worst.  I washed all my bed sheets.  And then it started to drizzle.  It started to drizzle just as my second load was finishing.  I didn’t even know until I heard the familiar call: “孔老师!下雨啊!”  It’s like my neighbors have some kind of 6th sense, the rain sense.  The minute a drop falls, they’re on laundry patrol.  It’s really nice of them.  I know they’re helping me.  But still, it drives me crazy.  I hear that call and think: Great.  Just great.  Now what do I do with all of these wet things?

Because I had so many wet sheets, I couldn’t just hang them over doors and call it good enough.  I had to tie up some line in the house.  So, from one fire extinguisher holder, over the refrigerator door, across the kitchen, tied to a rack of food, there’s a nice red rope.  Forget trying to describe it.  At the moment, my house looks like this:

Having finally finished hanging everything, I sat down to relax, and there was a knock at my door.  Who should it be except my boss (I’m not sure what exactly his job title is, but he’s some kind of school administrator).  He’s possibly the nicest man in the world.  But I didn’t really know what to say, standing there in front of all my bedsheets and underwear.

“What’s all this?”
“I was doing laundry, and it started raining.”
“Oh, I see.”
And then, he started shaking the lines, making my laundry dance, and humming “wooo, wooo, wooo!”  I laughed at the bizarre-ness of the whole situation.  Then he told me that he would ask someone to fix the library door (which has been off it’s hinges for a good month and a half) and he left.

The moral of the story is, after two years without one, I will never again take dryers for granted.

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