Ice water

January 18, 2012
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I want to take this post to appreciate ice water.  Although I don’t mind (and sometimes enjoy) drinking boiled water in Chinese restaurants, having come back to America and rediscovered ice water, I see now where my true allegiances lie.  Although I do drink cold (room temperature in a very cold room) water in my house in China, it’s just not the same.  I have not had a glass of ice water in quite a few months, but now, I have at least one a day and it is incredible.

I can, for the first time, see ice water for the luxury that it is.  The energy it takes to freeze the ice, the fact that the water here didn’t even have to be boiled or hauled up a hill in a 19L Poland Springs bottle.  Tap water with ice. Free of charge.   And then there’s all of the ice cube fiddling that reminds me simultaneously of first dates and family dinners at Olive Garden.  Chewing on ice, jostling it with a straw, fighting buoyancy to hold it under the surface of a full glass or fighting gravity to drag it up the side of an almost empty one, doodling in the condensation, puddles on the table, and drying my hands on my jeans looking apologetically at whoever is sitting across the table watching all of this.

Love America, love ice water.


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Feeling rude

January 17, 2012
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People in America acknowledge sneezes?  Oh yeah… I had forgotten about that.

When I lived here, saying “bless you” was like a reflex.  A reflex that could apparently be completely eradicated in just 7 months of immersion in a culture lacking that rule of etiquette.

So, I am now blessed (haha) with a slightly “outsider” perspective, and here’s what I think.  It’s actually pretty cool that people in America are so aware of each other.  Noticing your neighbor’s sneezes and offering them your best wishes on their health creates a kind of communal attitude.  People here bless each other even if they’re not directly interacting with each other!  I awkwardly keep not realizing that the person who is sitting next to me in the café, not talking to me, reading a book,  is actually addressing me when he says “bless you.”  So my “thank you”s are a little delayed.

But that’s the thing about America:  People are simultaneously really open and really closed.  Even walking down the street, strangers say “hi!” or “good morning” or “how are you,” and yet, there’s no way they’re actually that interested in the response.  People say American’s are really friendly to everyone with everyone, but friendships aren’t as deep here as they do in many other places.  Then again, “best friends” have got to be about the same everywhere, right?

Mysteries of the world.  At least I can say this: American etiquette makes a pleasant atmosphere.

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January 14, 2012

I’m in America!

Right now is the 春节 (spring festival) break, so there are no classes for a month.  Last week I was traveling in Shanghai, and now I’m in New York City with my sister.  Posts over this break will be very sporadic, but I will return to blogging when I return to China.

In the meantime, look at me and Laura:

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January 2, 2012
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I decided to teach my students about the N-word.  For one thing, I fit rather well into my lessons for this week in which we talked about Missouri, slavery and St. Louis rap music.  For another thing, it’s something they’re in serious danger of accidentally using when talking to foreigners, so I figure it’s only fair to warm them.

In Chinese, you don’t say “umm…” or “hm…” or “uhhh…”  You say “那个…” which, unfortunately, sounds exactly like the N-word.  I can not tell you the number of times I’ve been talking to one of my very sweet and adorable students and had the conversation go something like this:

Me: What do your parents do?

Student: My father… n***a…

If you don’t believe me that this is a legit Chinese filler word, or if you think this is just part of my small village’s dialect, think again.  Check out this video from a rather famous comedian: Russell Peters video.

It’s actually surprising that more people don’t know about this phenomenon.  At least my students are now aware of it and have had some practice saying “ummm…”  Hopefully if you come here and meet them, they won’t say “那个…” to you.  But if they do, at least you’ll know why.

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January 1, 2012
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In America, do people just let strangers hold their babies?  I’ve never seen anybody ask to hold a stranger’s baby in America, and maybe that’s because America’s so lawsuit-happy.

Maybe because I’m a foreigner here, or maybe it’s just a Chinese thing, but everyone here seems willing to let me hold their adorable babies.

Which is a lot of fun until they stick their germ-covered hands in my face.

They always go right for my big western nose.

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