culture

Nov 22, 2011

Back at home

It’s time for sticks

After waking up way too early (4:30 am) to catch our flight, we’re back in Luzhou. Signs that we’re back:

  • The smell of the Old Cellar distillery; It’s stinkier and stronger than ever.
  • All the kids greet us enthusiastically in English. We’re special again!
  • No one besides our students speak English. It’s amazing how quickly we forgot in Hong Kong that most Chinese do not speak our language.
  • On the menu for dinner tonight: Things on sticks!

Nov 15, 2011

Talking with the students

Formal attire optional

“May I have a word?” — One of my students asked me this very seriously after a class this morning. We then proceeded to talk about which pop stars I like. Beyonce and Lady Gaga are particular favorites here.

Nov 14, 2011

Our debut performance

Hello Luzhou!

First of all, today started out with a meeting with our boss, wherein she told us we’re doing great, everyone loves us, the teachers want tips, the students are learning and the principals want us to stay forever. Nice!

From then, the day was pretty hectic. The school talent show was this afternoon, and we were performing with one of my classes - Peter on guitar, me on bass. But we also each had other classes to teach. We grabbed a final practice at home during lunch (lunchtime here is a 2.5-hour break) and then got dressed for showtime: we wore white button-downs with red ties and black pants/skirt. But, before showtime, we had more classes. My juniors were utterly impressed with my gussied-up look; when I entered the classroom, I was greeted with cries of “Oh, beautiful!”

I had a break before the performance, so I ran over to the gym where the show was going to take place (I had some student roadies to carry the gear) and did a perfunctory sound-check while the class did the same. Peter had one more class.

The timeline went like this: 3:30 pm, sound-check; 4:00 pm, Peter’s last class is over and students start filing into the gym; 4:20 pm, Peter arrives in the gym, everyone backstage is relieved, I brief him on the way the sound is set up; 4:30 pm, SHOWTIME! The kids recite a poem and sing the school song before we join them on stage. We walk out to rapturous applause - this is actually my first live rock performance, so it’s a nice greeting. The actual performance was fun - there were a few glitches, but it was a kids’ talent show, not the Hollywood Bowl. There’s another big concert for Spring Festival (which sounds like it happens around Chinese New Year), and there’s already talk of an encore performance!

(There were plenty of teachers taking pictures, so we’re hoping to get our hands on some soon.)

Nov 13, 2011

Relative sizes II

We’re smaller, but still giants

Peter and I both have lost a lot of weight since we’ve gotten here. We’ve put this down to the fact that we’re walking everywhere - including up and down the big hill that we live atop - and that the bulk of our diet is fresh vegetables. There’s no dairy to speak of and we don’t buy that much processed food. Yes, there’s a lot of carborific rice and noodles, but we’re pretty much going up (down?) a new belt notch every week.

Which is why Peter was a little dismayed the other night when he was trying on his black pants and they were a little tight. He could button the button, but barely. “All my other pants are loose. Why don’t these fit?” he asked. I looked him over: “Because they’re my black pants.” Yup. Peter can now almost fit into my pants.

But we’re still giants compared to the rest of the country. Peter has bought a couple new pairs of pajamas. He’s a XXL-XXXL. At the first purchasing, we picked up a large. The store clerk looked Peter over and shook her head, enlisting help to find the largest pair the store had. I am desperately searching for a new pair of jeans, because the ones I brought are now quite loose. Unfortunately, the trend here for women is super-tight skinny jeans, so I can squeeze into the largest size most stores carry, but I don’t really want to.

So we’re still on the lookout. It’s pretty funny. We don’t think of ourselves as big people, but evidently the Chinese do.

Nov 12, 2011

Tea time

Hanging out with new friends

Taking tea with Summer and Hank

The other night we went out for some tea with some of our new Chinese friends. From left, we have: Hank, Sugar, Peter, Me, Summer and Jenny.

We went to a place up by the Tuo River (the river farther from our house), overlooking Baizitu Square. It was really lovely. We got our own private room and ordered up some green tea, beer, a fruit plate, boiled peanuts and pistachios, and we talked a lot about the differences and similarities between China and America. (“Does everyone in America own their own field, house and car? Because we think they do.” Hank, via Jenny, asked.) We also traded some vocabulary: 花生 (huasheng) means peanut. Summer also told us how to ask, “Can you give me a discount?” But I’ve already forgotten it.

There was one little item on our fruit plate that they were curious to know the English name for. It was about the size of an extra large grape, with a small seed in the middle and an apple-like texture. But neither Peter nor I had ever seen anything like it. So Summer looked it up on her phone. Jujube. We both laughed when she showed us. Neither of us knew that a jujube was a real fruit. Summer asked how it was pronounced. “That’s so cute!” she said when we told her.

Nov 12, 2011

Other foreigners

We’re not the only ones

It’s quite possible that we are the only Americans in Luzhou. But, we have been seeing a lot of Middle Eastern people recently in the grocery store — a lot being more than one, more than once. I was talking to a couple of the kids the other day, and they mentioned that they see other foreigners working at Zhongshan Park, which is a small amusement park in the center of the city. “They’re from Pakistan,” the girls told me. Which actually makes sense, as Pakistan does boarder China in the East. They’re still a long way from their home — but they’re much closer to home than we are.

Nov 10, 2011

Snaps: Cart parking

It’s gotta go somewhere

Wheelbarrow parking

This is where you can park your cart.

Nov 7, 2011

It just keeps getting better

Revisiting the studio

Now we've got chairs

We bought a space heater and moved the comfy chairs into the studio. This is now far and away the best room in the house.

Nov 7, 2011

Back in black

Let’s not talk about paperwork

Hello friends,

Sorry again for the slow down. Between some bureaucratic matters (it takes a lot of paperwork to live in China) and us both catching a change-of-the-seasons cold (now it’s in the 60s and rainy every day, instead of in the 70s and rainy every day), we haven’t had a lot of time for adventuring.

The paperwork could be described as an adventure, but not really an interesting one. I did learn that they use the English word “propaganda” to mean information or documentation — which kind of jibes with its original Latin meaning - but it is really funny to hear someone say, “Here. Take this propaganda,” at the police station (no one got arrested; foreigners have to do a lot of checking in with the police in China). Don’t worry. I didn’t laugh.

But we’re mostly well, and near the end of the process for getting our residence permits, so I’m hoping blogging will resume as normal.

Teaser: A short trip to Hong Kong is in the works. I’m excited to possibly find and eat some cheese; Peter’s looking forward to visiting HK’s giant guitar store.

Nov 1, 2011

Relative sizes

I’m finally tall

Many of you asked before we left, “Do you think you’ll be tall in China?”

Short answer: We are tall in China.

More detail: Both Peter and I have students who are tall. I have many boys, especially, who are taller than me. But Peter definitely sticks out as a bigger person. I feel like I’m about the same size as most women, maybe a little taller. Until I notice that a large portion of the women here wear three-inch heels or platform sneakers. I’m finally tall!