Fishing for crayfish

May 24, 2013
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Yesterday, around noon, our friend WangBiao took Sabrina and I fishing.  I was expecting hooks, worms, and hours of sitting.  What actually happened was way better than my expectation.

It turned out we were crawdad fishing, and all you have to do to fish for crawdads is tie a chunk of raw pork to a string, tie the string to a stick, scan the water for crawdads, lower the meat gently in front of them, wait a couple seconds for them to start eating it, and then bring them up.  They almost never let go as you haul them in.  For anyone who likes instant gratification, no other fishing method can compare.  Well, I guess those people who just throw an explosive in the water and collect the dead fish also get instant gratification, but where’s the fun in that?

In under an hour, the three of us caught over 50 crayfish!  New hobby.




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May 22, 2013
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As you can see, it was dark by the time 张震岳,the feature performer, took the stage.  The concert started at 4.  I’d been there since 3 something.  At 9:30, they started getting the stage set for him.

At 3ish, it was still quite sunny on the outdoor lawn.  As tends to happen in any sunny Chinese space, a sea of pastel umbrellas opened up.  We added two to it, one shading our legs, one shading our faces, and we lay on a mat of advertisements (still not sure whether passing your ads out at a concert as grass-covering material is a good model–on the one hand, people actually take them.  On the other hand, they immediately sit on them) and took a nap.

There were some other pretty cool artists at the concert, and I enjoyed eating sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon, honeydew, and all the other snacks Doug brought.  It was a pretty chill time.  Until  9:30.  Then, everyone stood up moved forward, and got ready to for the feature presentation.



张震岳 is older than all the other performers at this concert.  He’s also way more well-known.  He clearly, therefore, felt no need to amp up the energy.  He just went and sang his songs in a super calm way.  Frankly, the performance was lazy, but he still sounded good, and the crowd went wild.

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 3.24.34 PM

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May 22, 2013
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Lately, I’ve been out of town.  First, I went to Changsha to see an amazing rendition of Aladin!  Seriously, so fun.  The singing was super pro, the acting was great, the set and props were super clever.  Hittin’ it out of the park, once again Yali!

A whole new world the Sultan, Jafar, and Iago

After the play, I went to see my favorite Chinese singer, 张震岳 perform in an outdoor music festival in Hangzhou!  It was pretty cool to think that, during my early days in Anhui, I stumbled across his songs by clicking around on a Chinese music website; I listened to them, learned vocabulary from them, sang them out of key at many a karaoke session, and now, I got to see this guy and sing the songs along with him and a huge crowd!  I haven’t taken the pictures off my camera yet, but those will be coming soon.

Now, back in town, just in time to figure out where to go for the GaoKao break.  hmmm… any suggestions?  We were thinking Xinjiang, but those ticket prices jumped waaaay up from when we first checked.

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May 15, 2013
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Woke up at 5:45 am.  Got home at 9:45pm.

After a sixteen-hour school day (in Chinese), I’m ready to sleep.  More on this immersion experience later.  For now, here are my math notes.


Fun fact.  The words for “complex number” and “negative number” have the EXACT SAME pronunciation in Chinese.  复数and 负数 respectively.  Same tones and everything.  I kid you not, a Chinese math class sounds like this: “xu shu ji he ge ge xiang xian nei de dian de ji he shi yi yi dui ying de.”  That’s an actual sentence from my homework.  It means there’s a one to one correspondence of imaginary numbers and points in each quadrant of the coordinate plane.  When it’s written in characters, I can figure it out.  When I hear it, it sounds like not a real language.

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Less religion…

May 14, 2013
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… less ways to defend bigotry.

Yeah, I know, harsh.  But it has been quite fascinating to read students’ responses to questions about the whole Jason Collins coming out situation.  We asked them to list 5 pros and 5 cons of coming out, to say whether Jason Collins made the right choice when he decided to come out publicly, whether other basketball players would treat him differently now, and what they would do if a friend came out to them.  An overwhelming majority gave responses like this:


Only three students out of 210ish answered the last question saying they couldn’t accept a gay friend (yes, I know that number might be somewhat lower because they could anticipate what Sabrina and my opinion on this subject was–but the responses seemed pretty sincere), and all three of those students said things like “I know it might be wrong of me,” or “I can’t explain it, I just can’t accept it,” or “maybe in the future society, I will be able to accept it.”  In almost any American high school, the responses would be distributed differently, and I bet the vast majority who would reject a gay friend would defend that stance by talking about the mysterious and hetero-normative will of god.  At least, that’s how it was at my high school, and we were a pretty darn tolerant and accepting high school.

It’s too easy to discriminate when you consider “it’s what god wants, and we can’t possibly understand god, so we should just listen to him” to be an acceptable defense.

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How to be a good Chinese high school student

May 14, 2013
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Tomorrow, Sabrina and I are going to become Chinese high school students.  We will get up at 6 am (maybe earlier) eat breakfast, join the students for morning exercises, study with them in the classroom, sit in on all of their morning classes, race them to be one of the first in line for lunch, sleep after eating, get back up, go to afternoon classes, eat dinner, and go to their evening study class (which lets out around 9:30pm).

We know what their day looks like on paper, but now we’re going to see it first hand.

Sabrina’s class is having a gym test and a chemistry test tomorrow.  Man do I feel bad for her.  All I have to do is some math homework.  Despite the fact that I lucked out on my class’s test schedule, this day is still not gonna be a walk in the park (other than gym class where, since I’m a girl and there’s no test, it’s totally acceptable for me to walk around, holding a parasol, eating ice cream).

We asked for some survival advice, and we got quite a lot.  Here are some examples.

student advice

Mr. Hu is the head teacher of the class I’ll be joining.  He’s very friendly with us foreign teachers, but apparently he’s super strict in class.  The suggestion that says “don’t bring snakes to the class” is definitely supposed to read “don’t bring snacks to the class.”  Ah, the always hilarious snake-snack switcheroo.  That’s a common mistake for our students.  I’m guessing I shouldn’t bring snakes either, though.

Interestingly, a lot of the advice is contradictory.  For example, I’ve seen all of these:

Don’t eat in class.

Don’t eat in Mr. Hu’s class.

Bring a snack or you will be hungry.

Don’t let Mr. Hu see you eating.



Don’t sleep in class.

Don’t let the teacher see you sleep in class.

Sleep in Chinese and English class.


Now I’m wondering, if I had written tips on how to be a good high school student when I was their age, what would I have said?

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May 13, 2013
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Now that the play is over, I have time to enjoy one of the perks: trying on all the cool costumes!

Brother costume Boyfriend costume lead character costume

We’re thinking of filming a Western sometime.  You know, just for fun.  Good thing we now have six cowboy hats.

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On the local bus

May 13, 2013
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This guy got on the local bus.  He had a squirrel on his shoulder.

Bus driver:  “Nice squirrel.  What does he eat?”

Rando with squirrel:  “I feed him corn.”  (pulls some kernels out of his pocket and starts hand feeding it).

Bus driver:  “huh.”

The squirrel then jumps out of his hands and starts climbing all around the bus.  The look on the one passenger’s face was pure disgust.  It was a pretty cute squirrel, though.

squirrel man

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Seven Misters for Seven Sisters

May 13, 2013
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I am so proud of these kids:

Welcome to the showChase him out!If you won't eat like people, you can eat on the ground like pigs

Dance lessonlearning to danceParty scene   Party scene Too late to apologize   kidnapping

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糟糕的成功 (A mess of a success)

May 13, 2013
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The play was a huge success.

Never mind the fact that the curtain broke just before the show, forcing Gabe and Alex to stand behind the curtains and run back and forth with them between each scene.  Never mind the fact that the screen onto which I was projecting the Chinese subtitles toppled over and thankfully was caught by Liz who sprinted up from the audience just it fell straight forward off the stage.  (It had to be tied up with a jump rope for the rest of the show.  Good thing we brought extra props.)  Never mind the fact that the students opted to start their dance number a full 8 counts early, leaving the girls a very, very long time to play tug of war with the boyfriend characters (luckily nobody reported any dislocated arms).  Never mind the fact that nobody caught the shopkeeper when he fainted at the end and we could all hear his head hit the stage (no signs of concussion yet).  Never mind the fact that one girl improvised and pulled a wooden sword on her ex-boyfriend when he rejected her in the last scene (never happened in any of the rehearsals).

Just mind the fact that the audience laughed and applauded, and our students couldn’t stop smiling.

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