Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years!

I've been hearing some half-hearted fireworks going off in the distance and being a little slow, it took me a while to realize they actually have a legitimate reason for shooting them off. Legitimate in my mind, I mean; I am sure all the normal fireworks have some kind of legitimate reason.
“We're getting married!”
“We're building a new building and want to scare off the evil spirits!”
“We're opening a new restaurant and want everyone to know it's a happening place!”
“It's some kind of holiday!”
“It's the day after the holiday and I have fireworks left over!”
“It's Tuesday!”

But even though I have been preparing for our New Years Eve potluck tonight, I rather forgot it was New Years Eve. Besides, I'm not used to celebrating the same holidays as Chinese people. (Chinese New Year, January 23 this year, is a much bigger deal, but they still celebrate the solar calendar New Year too.)

I think 2012 will be a good year. After all, it's a nicely proportional even number, unlike those tricky, unstable odd ones. To celebrate, I plan to stay up until at least midnight Guam time (aka. 10pm).

Happy New Years, wherever you are!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Foreign (not so foreign) Country

After living in China for a while, you tend to stop seeing it as a foreign country. Granted, there are strange/frustrating/amusing cultural situations that come up every other day to remind you how little you understand, but you stop seeing the interesting sights you walk by every day because they have become normal. Today when we were out walking around (in the freezing cold!), I was remembering how strange some of these things were when I first came to China. I started thinking about things you don't see on an American street...

*A row of vegetable sellers with their four foot mounds of cabbage piled up on the sidewalk. They squat on tiny foot high stools next to tiny makeshift fires, waiting for someone who hasn't yet stocked up on their winter's supply of vegetables.

*Bicycle repairmen, shoe repairmen, seamstresses, and locksmiths, their equipment littering the sidewalk, waiting to repair just about anything for 50 cents. Their hands are dirty from work and gnarled from cold. Most of them are middle aged or older and very efficient at their work.

*A row of 25 shops, smaller than some people's closets, all selling an almost identical collection of random household items: wash bowls, brooms, dishes, pots, hangers, tools... How do they all stay in business? Perhaps because they have that one item that is different from the others.

*Interspersed among the household items are tiny stores filled with cages of chickens and various other fowl. And rabbits. Wonder what those are for?

*Stores selling huge bags of la jiao (dried red peppers) and other spices.

*Tiny stores filled with giant slabs of meat hanging from the ceilings.

*Outdoor sellers setting up booths with hats, gloves, and lots and lots of long-underwear.

*80% of people wearing face masks (for warmth) and only 40% wearing hats. I don't understand.

*Hundreds of people walking up and down the streets despite the cold.

*Hundreds of people walking on the street despite the fact there is a 15 foot wide sidewalk right next to them.  (What can I say...I usually walk in the street too...)

So yeah, I guess China still is a foreign country after all. But I was thinking the other day, as Juliana gobbled up her fish brains and innards, none of these things will seem strange to her at all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Finals!

Only 5 days until Christmas! ...And 6 days until final exams.

There are some things I like about Christmas in China...less commercialism (although that seems to be the only part that is catching on!), students/tutors/friends who are excited to take part in our Christmas traditions, listening to Christmas music on online radio, less overload of Christmas related activities (well, sometimes).

But a definite disadvantage of Christmas in China is that you may end up taking finals the day after Christmas. Fortunately Christmas is on a Sunday this year so we aren't taking finals on Christmas Day. For that I'm very grateful. But having a bunch of exams and studying looming over your head isn't the happiest way to spend the day. It's a good thing we are also having Late Christmas when my parents arrive (2 weeks from today!!).

How are we spending our last week of classes? Well, our teachers' responses have been varied. Most of them seem determined to pick up the pace and cram as much as possible into the last minute. Kevin's teacher decided they will cover two more units plus go over all the grammar in the remaining six units.

One of my teachers (the really good one that we love), is actually reviewing! What a novel concept! We are going through all the lessons highlighting the grammar and structures that are most important for us to remember. It's great. We love her. And she won't be here next term. :(

We asked our listening teacher how to prepare for our final exam and he said, “Review lesson 1-12 (i.e. all the content from the term). Don't worry!” Very helpful. We're going to fail.

Oh well. 8 days from today we will be officially free!
So Merry Christmas and happy finals to all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

All Bundled Up

With daytime temperatures hovering in the 20's (Fahrenheit), we've been getting serious about bundling up to go outside.  This winter I actually haven't gotten hardly any comments about Juliana not wearing enough clothes!!  Amazing.  And kind of strange.  I must be doing something right.  Also, they seem to be more lenient about toddlers showing skin (provided it is only the 2 inches surrounding the eyes).

The other day as I bundled Juliana up for the cold, I noticed something:  Absolutely none of her outerwear remotely matches!  She has:
1. A red and blue hat with sequins, braiding, little plastic bunny pins, fake flowers, and embroidered kid faces complete with 3D hair (a present from A-yi)

2. A red and blue scarf (so actually I lied: the scarf and the hat do match!

3. A purple, black, and white polka-dot face mask (I was trying to think if I had seen face-masks in America, but since I'm from Georgia I can't imagine actually needing them.  Face-masks are an essential part of outerwear in China, though.  More important than a hat or gloves.  I have decided that Juliana's is not very useful, though, because she just keeps licking at it until it is soaking wet and cold.)

4. A peachy-pink and white polka-dot coat (the best thing we could find to fit her, and the sleeves are still a good 6" longer than her arms.

5. Purple outer-pants with a white stripe down the side and pink and purple butterflies.

6. Buried inside her extra-long coat sleeves, she's also wearing a pair of bright primary striped mittens.

Living in China for a while does dim your sense of what it means to match.  I probably couldn't get away with this in America, but in China there is absolutely nothing wrong with this outfit.  In fact, all the color and diversity of pattern make it extra pretty!

It's possible Juliana will look back at this picture when she is older and say, "Why did you let me dress like that??"  But then again, she'll be growing up in China, so she probably won't think a thing of it!

P.S. Underneath all these outer-layers she is also wearing a turtleneck, a sweater, two pair of pants, thick tights, and an extra pair of socks.  Because it is that cold in our house!  But that's another post...