Maria Holland

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

It’s A Mystery

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Another success this morning!  I’m trying to plan a big celebration for the Fourth of July on Sunday, hopefully involving a boat and obscene amounts of food.  Last semester, Jimmy arranged all such excursions, but this time it’s all me. 

I set out this morning to the general ferry area, knowing how much we paid last time and basically nothing else.  But you know what?  It was enough.  I found the right place rather easily, as it was – conveniently for those of us who read Chinese – marked “place to rent boats”.  There were three shirtless men inside, so for once I was almost as aware that I was a woman as I was that I was a foreigner.  But I told them that we wanted a boat, when, where, and how much we wanted to pay, and they said okay.  So we have us a boat!

It took way less time than I expected.  This is probably because, when scheduling things in China, I start with the amount of time a given task should take to complete, multiply it by 5, and add on two hours just in case.  I remember at TU scheduling meetings back to back with dinners, dinners back to back with events, and running errands in between everything else.  Not so in China.  The most I will plan for any given day here is three things – morning, afternoon, and evening – plus meals.  Run to the post office to mail a letter?  That’s going to take all morning.  Mass?  Just block out all of Saturday evening.  Grabbing a few groceries?  An entire afternoon, gone – and if you go too late, evening as well. 

Class today was good.  I found the perfect balance of participating in discussion and playing Mahjong on my cell phone so as to optimize learning and minimize boredom.  Chinese has been easy lately.  I think I’m just coasting.

Today was a big day for goodbyes.  Deni, Benjamin, Lester, and Vikki all left, but luckily I ran into three of them as they were literally on their way out!  I also went through my cell phone and deleted some numbers so I don’t keep trying to invite Kristina to stuff.  It was pretty sad.

This evening, I took Shawn to Mass with me.  It was his first time going to Catholic church, although I think he’d been to one of the international Christian fellowships (the kind that don’t talk about God, though).  It was interesting, helping this Chinese guy follow along with the Mass – in Chinese.  I really wonder, because Christianity is not a part of their culture as it is in the US, how much of it he understood?  All references to today’s saints, Peter and Paul, certainly went over his head, and there must be more things like that.  Even beyond the concepts, does he even have the vocabulary?  If I say 主教 (bishop) or 告解 (confession), does he have any concept of what those mean? 

But I guess my Catholic Chinese vocabulary isn’t all that great either.  I don’t know what to call the hosts, other than “Jesus’ body”, and we kind of had an argument over whether or not it was bread.  I guess I don’t really know exactly what 面包 means, but I don’t know what else to call it! 

I will also say, this year has given me a great appreciation for missionaries to foreign lands.  It’s hard explaining what we believe in another language!  My familiarity with the Mass has helped, of course, but I’m still mostly grasping at straws.  Shawn was really curious about the Trinity, so I tried to explain it . . . I know the names of the Three Persons thanks to the Sign of the Cross; Trinity Sunday was a few weeks ago so I know “three persons in one God” is 三位一体; and the Mystery of Faith is 信德的奥迹.  I just kind of put those pieces together and prayed.

I talked to Bishop Cai after Mass – we’re getting a new deacon!  Looks like there is one more opportunity for me to participate in a special event with my parish here before going home.  The ordination is on the 17th of July, and I plan to be flying out on the 20th.  For the record, three weeks from right now I will be sitting in the Hong Kong airport – adventuring towards home.

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Beach Bumming – Finally!

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 at 2:38 am

After spending an entire day yesterday trying to do something we’d been planning for weeks, today’s impromptu shopping trip went fabulously.  Well, the photography company has completely disappeared and no one sells piano music and my feet are still impossibly large, but still.  I got two things that had been specifically requested by people back home, and that’s kind of amazing. 

I took the bus back to campus, thinking only of a shower.  But then I got off the bus at Baicheng and one look at the beach made me forget about that.  I called Aleid, who just happened to be at the beach already!  I joined her as quickly as I could, and we spent the afternoon soaking up the sun, sea, and sand.

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When I found out I was coming to a tropical island this year, a few people made comments along the lines of “You’re going to be a complete beach bum!”.  That really took me by surprise, because I’m not really a beach person.  If I’m partial to any part of the US, it’s the Heartland, and I think I’ve only been to the ocean once down in Rockport, TX.  I can swim fine but I don’t adore it, and while I like my skin bronze I would never seriously devote time to getting it that way.  So yeah, sometimes I feel like Xiamen has been wasted on me.  I’ve had several memorable occasions on the beach, but today was my first time swimming in the ocean here and really my first time sunbathing. 

It was great, though.  I’ll have to do it again!

I cleaned up in time for a pre-game dinner with the Netherlands contingent, followed by the Netherlands-Slovakia game.  (Following quotes are from the NYT live updates during the game.)

Pre-game musings: For the Netherlands, as always, the question is when. When will it all go wrong? Fatalism and realism go hand in hand when it comes to Dutch soccer which, when played well, can be some of the best you’ll ever see. Every four years the Netherlands cobbles together skillful players and cheerful fans and high hopes, and every four years something seems to go wrong. Like the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox, the Oranje always seem to find a way NOT to win it all.

The first half wasn’t too exciting, with the Dutch basically in control but not doing much with that. 

Minute 29 – [The Slovakians] just won a free kick in the Netherlands’ half, however, so Stekelenberg has put down his drink and folded up his lawn chair just in case. He stands it next to the goal so he won’t have to go far to retrieve it in a moment.

One of the most interesting events was when they stopped the clock momentarily – a big deal in soccer!

Minute 35 – The game is stopped briefly to give the far-side linesman a new flag. But heaven forbid they ever stop a game to see if a ball, you know, crossed the line or not.

The second half saw another beautiful Dutch goal, and generally more action from their stars.  I’m learning them by name, under the tutelage of Diederik: Sneijder, Robben, and Kuyt.  Kuyt’s name is the world for the calf muscle, which apparently is pretty fitting. 

Minute 59 – Van Persie drills the free kick right onto the fists of Mucha, who is then run down by a charging Kuyt (is there any other kind of Kuyt?).

Minute 60 – Kuyt runs so hard he could play for the U.S. Except he scores from time to time from the forward spot, so maybe he wouldn’t fit in.

It was looking like a 2-0 finish, and Diederik was excited about moving up in the pool.  But the referee called a penalty on the Dutch keeper and (dictated by some logic I can’t grasp) this meant one of the Slovakian players got to kick the ball at the goal with only the goalkeeper to try and stop him.  He tried, and failed: 2-1!  This was the score I had predicted (using the very scientific method of writing “2-1” for every single game in this round), so maybe I’m beating Diederik again?  Even a broken clock is right twice a day!

One of the Slovakian players (Hamsik) had a Chinese-looking tattoo on his neck, sparking a discussion between Aleid and I.  I did some checking online when I got back and found some pictures to scrutinize, but I also accidentally looked at about 30 pictures of the neck of another Slovenian player (Skrtel).  Apparently he is kind of a beast, as evidenced by this list of Chuck Norris-like hyperbole

 

Also – as of today, I have been keeping a journal for 6 years.  If I were still using that old livejournal account, it would be 6 today!  This will be post #2,080 – covering 6 years, 3 schools, 5 countries, 3 boyfriends, and countless memories.  My journal is where I write about what makes me happy and complain about what stresses me out.  It’s where I write my plans for the future, and it’s where I look back on earlier entries so I can laugh about what became of those plans.

It’s been fun writing for people to read again, but my journal will be around long after I go back to the States next month.

Soccer: Likes and Dislikes

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 5:06 am

I went out tonight to watch the German-England game and was very glad I did so.  What a game!  Out of all the football games I’ve watched (haha), this first half was by far the most exciting.  In the space of 7 minutes, there were two German goals, an English goal, and two shots each – all alternating!  Basically, the ball crossed the entire field like every 4 seconds.  It was more like a basketball game than any football I’ve ever watched.  Oh, and to add to the drama, one of the English shots was a goal that was not called because the referee didn’t see it go in. 

I’m watching these second round games hoping to catch a glimpse of the still-elusive penalty kicks, when it comes down to sudden death by ball.  Not much chance in a 4-1 game, though.  I decided to watch the Argentina-Mexico game afterwards.  I haven’t seen Argentina (and the fabled Messi) play yet, and in an interesting coincidence the matchup is a reprise of my very first football game ever, the 2007 Copa America semifinals that I watched in Mexico City.  Mexico lost then, too (but at least they scored this time!)

 

As I’m watching, let me share with you some of my thoughts on soccer, organized by Likes and Dislikes:

Dislikes

  • Extra seconds – I don’t like how the games end at random times on the clock – 90 minutes . . . and 6 seconds?  What, did you just now glance at your watch?  That’s just bad form.  What if something happens in those 6 seconds, does it count?
  • Referees – They seem like a third team out there on the field, as crucial to the final result as the other two.  I think their job is incredibly hard, which seems a little silly when there are so many resources available to make it easier (this little invention called the video camera, for instance).  It also sucks for them because a good referee is basically invisible, perfectly forgettable – while a bad referee will be remembered for ever.  Coulibaly from Mali, I’m talking about you.
  • Grudges – I swear, I hear more talk about bad calls than good goals.  Yes, I’ve heard of the Goal of the Century, but before each match I hear a rundown of previous times these two countries met and what stupid thing the ref did in favor of one of them.  Rivalries and grudges seem to be based more on errors of a third party instead of any hard feelings between the two teams. 
  • Diving – I don’t like the idea of a sport that rewards players for faking injuries.  Why not just come up with a better way to differentiate real fouls from players falling to the ground of their own volition?  (See, “Referees”)
  • Ball design – When I saw the headlines about the official World Cup 2010 ball, and players’ complaints, I thought it was an Onion article.  (Interestingly, they did later run one!)  I don’t get the need for a tournament to create their own ball; I thought soccer balls were standard!  If they want to make things really interesting, they should just use an improv item for each game – and not necessarily a ball.  I would watch that. 
  • Goalie uniforms – I have a hard time figuring out which side they’re on because they don’t match.  Help me out, I’m just a beginner here!  Couldn’t they at least wear varying shades, complementary colors, something??

Likes

  • Goalie uniforms – While I think they’re confusing, I also think they’re super fun.  The English goalie looked like a banana today, long and thin and brown at one end.  
  • The game clock – I like knowing almost exactly how long a game will last.  None of this “15 minutes left on the clock, so maybe . . . an hour?” stuff.  Yeah, they throw a minute or three on the end for some reason, and there may be overtime (exactly 30 minutes) but there are no commercial breaks and even injuries don’t warrant a stop. 
  • The rules – I still don’t understand penalties and fouls, and I call offsides incorrectly so consistently that it’s almost amazing, but the basic rules of soccer are so much easier to understand than football.  They run, they kick, he blocks, someone gets a point.  Let me put it this way – I couldn’t have a conversation about any other sport in Chinese! 
  • Upsets – Maybe because of the low scores, there seems to be more opportunities for upsets.  It makes things more exciting and gives underachieving teams a hope before each game – a hope that I don’t see in my friends who cheer for the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions. 
  • Slow motion replays – So much better in soccer.  You see the flesh on their cheeks flapping up and down as they run, in that super dramatic way that just demands a soundtrack of “Chariots of Fire”.  You see the sweat shower of their heads as that header goes right where they wanted it.  And – unlike American football – you see the emotion on their helmet-free faces.  The joy of a goal, the despair of a bad call, and – my favorite – the joy of a goal followed by the despair of a bad call nullifying the goal.  Priceless. 
  • The players – I like that I can see them as people on the field, instead of helmets and jerseys with numbers on them.  It’s easier for me to remember faces than names, so I feel more of a connection with them.  Also, let’s be honest here – some of them have really cool hair and a lot of them are quite good looking.  It helps.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Changtai

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 12:52 am

This morning is SO typical of China.  Behold:

We meet at Baicheng at 7:30 (just for the record, this was a mere 2 1/2 hours after the football match ended last night) to set off for our day trip.  Nathalie’s running late so as we cram the five of us into the taxi we urge the driver to go faster – we have an 8:10 bus to catch!  At the bus station, XuLei goes to buy tickets while we go to find our bus.  The woman at the information says, “Changtai?  There are no buses to Changtai from here.”  Ah, the old wrong-bus-station trick; I’ve fallen for that one a good many times.

But this was apparently part of the plan.  XuLei comes back with tickets to Changtai as well as bus passes that will get us to the correct bus station.  It’s a short drive away, a small transportation hub hidden so cleverly in a mall that none of us knew it existed.  We navigate our way through the station, finally get on our bus to Changtai, and I fall asleep.

Transportation tally: taxi – 1, bus – 2

XuLei wakes me up after calling the rafting place, our destination in Changtai.  Due to the flooding affecting the entire province (except our island, apparently), there is no rafting today.  I understand that weather affects outdoor activities, but what makes this something that could only happen in China is that a) XuLei ordered tickets online last night and b) the place was also closed yesterday.  XuLei confers with the driver and finds an alternate destination; a few minutes later we are dropped off on the side of the road.

It’s the JiaLong theme park, a completely artificial wonderland filled with a zoo, fruit garden, hot springs, pools, fishing, and a [90m] ‘mountain’.  Despite a very enthusiastic employee, we unanimously decided to seek greener pastures (or at least higher mountains).

But there were no direct buses to our next choice, Xiamen University’s campus in Zhangzhou.  I mean, technically there were no direct buses to anywhere, but we did manage to get on a bus to Xiamen after walking a ways and standing on the side of the road looking helpless (fortunately, sometimes I happen to excel at). 

The vehicle we boarded was the bus equivalent of the Jeepucha from the farm.  The Jeepucha was the very first stick shift I ever drove, a feat that was complicated somewhat by its complete lack of power steering, suspension, or brakes of any sort.  The seat belts were sketchy – heck, the seats were sketchy – and only a few windows remained.  This bus was pretty much like that.  It sparked a mild debate between us as to how old this thing could be; Aleid thought 30 years but Nathalie and I disagreed, saying that vehicles don’t get driven like this and last 30 years.  XuLei guessed 10. 

It got us safely to DongDu, where we caught a bus to Lundu, where we got on the ferry to Zhangzhou.  Yeah, we felt a little silly about our route thus far, which had taken us from Xiamen to Zhangzhou, back to Xiamen, and now returning to Zhangzhou, but we agreed that the scenic tour had been nice.

Transportation tally: taxi – 1, bus – 4, boat – 1

We took a local bus from the ferry to the campus, where we decided to have lunch (as it was already noon).  We first had snacks, some 烧仙草.  Lester described it as “milk with peanuts, red beans, stuff, and other stuff” (where the other stuff is coconut jelly and suspicious black jelly), but I’m personally partial to the name of the stand at West Gate: Fubu Burns the Fairy Grass.

Then we went to a restaurant for lunch, where we were treated to some truly notable service.  They really don’t see many foreigners out there in the country, and the poor waiter was so confused that he asked XuLei if she could speak Chinese.  Then, as we ordered food, he offered a commentary on whether or not we would like it.  “Chinese food is not the same as Western food,” he began, going on to tell us that “we aren’t accustomed” to eating this type of fish and that type of meat.  I’m surprised he didn’t bring us forks and knives, actually.  I would have been insulted by how condescending he was if I hadn’t found the whole thing so hilarious. 

It was my first real meal in about 6 days, and even though it was quite hot my stomach had no problem.  We all struggled a little with the hot peppers, but luckily discovered that lychee really help to put out the fire.  They may be my new addiction . . .

We walked around the campus after lunch, seeing XiaDa students (including XuLei) spent their freshman and sophomore years.  It’s a beautiful campus, with many of the things that make our campus on the island so beautiful – water and mountains, fusion architecture, tropical plants. 

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But it’s only a few years and the trees aren’t very big, so I think in maybe 10 years it will be able to compete with its big brother. 

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The main draw is the library, a piece of architecture so famous that there was a CCTV special on it.  It’s huge, airy, open, and fabulous.  There’s a giant courtyard/arboretum inside illuminated by sunlight (filtered so it’s not so harsh) and filled with couches and plants. 

As soon as we sat down on one of said couches, we were approached by group after group of students wanting to get their pictures taken with us.  What can I say, we’re cute!

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Lester felt left out because no one wanted a picture with someone who looks Chinese, so I took a picture with him.

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And we got someone to take a group picture, too. 

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Then it was time to go home.  Bus to the ferry, ferry to the bus stop, bus to campus. 

Transportation tally: taxi – 1, bus – 7, boat – 2

What a day – and all while we were “adventuring towards rafting in Changtai”!

Hand on the Plow

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2010 at 5:14 am

Said goodbye to Kristina this morning.  There are no more Slovenians now, not until I go visit them.  It is a sad day for Xiamen.

I felt much worse this morning, so I spent the day in my room.  I finally finished a Chinese movie I’ve been working on, 非诚勿扰 (If You Are the One).  I can tell it’s funny (about a guy looking for a wife) but it’s much harder than the other trashy movies I’ve been watching, so I only pick up a third or so of the actual words. 

Today is my 10-month anniversary in Xiamen, but I didn’t do much in the way of celebrating.  Still, 10 months is a long time, isn’t it?  Most study abroad programs are for a semester – and a short one at that – so as far as study abroad goes, this year has been a marathon.  I’ve been in Xiamen longer than any of last year’s freshman have been at TU!

I did manage to get to Mass this evening, although the single apple I had eaten left me so weak I thought I was going to faint as I genuflected.  Today’s Gospel ended with “手扶着梨儿向后看的,不适于天主的国”, or “He who looks back while his hand is on the plow is not fit for the kingdom of God.”  Sweet, I learned the word for ‘plow’!  I also caught most of Bishop Cai’s homily and what he said really caused me to think about the things in my life that accompany me on the straight and narrow, and the things that try to make me turn back. 

After Mass, I got a mango fruit juice from my favorite juice stand.  It had been 5 days since I had tasted something so deliciously flavorful!  My stomach felt fine afterwards – but even if not, I decided it was about time my mouth felt good. 

I went dancing only because Lester leaves on Tuesday and it was my last chance to dance with him.  We did the cha-cha, it was good.  I also danced three other songs and didn’t even pass out or anything.

Now I’m back in my room.  I ate a banana and apparently not all fruit is okay with my stomach . . . Also, there’s a cockroach in my room and I’m afraid to go to the bathroom because he’s over there.  Seriously, though, I’ve seen smaller cats!  I considered calling a friend to help me but I don’t like to think of myself as that kind of girl and would hate for others to.  So I will just hold it in, I guess, and sleep with eyes open and mouth shut.

The Uruguay-Korea game just finished, 2:1 with Uruguay continuing on.  Great way to start off the final round, because that’s exactly the score I predicted!  I’m currently 5th out of 10 in the standings of our pool – while it’s true that four of them have been lax in submitting their brackets, I am legitimately beating Diederik.  Will wonders never cease?

 

Update: I woke up at 3:47 a.m., an hour and a half after my alarm was supposed to go off.  The US-Ghana game started at 2:30, but my alarm didn’t work and only the faint cheering on TV finally roused me.  It was looking like a typical American game – Ghana had scored first, but Donovan’s goal (which caused the cheering) tied the game.

No worries about missing the first hour of the game.  I got to watch the last half hour and, when it was still tied, got to experience my first ever overtime football match.  It’s kind of intense – they add 30 minutes to the game, which is 1/3 of the original length again!

They worked hard, but lost 2-1 and we’re out of the tournament.  I would like to extend a thank you to “the guys”, though: Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Bocanegra, Bradley, and guy-with-the-long-name.  You’re the first American football (well, American soccer?) players I knew and in fact, I learned your names right around the time I found out who Maradona and Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were.  You played well, keeping me invested through four long (one really long!) games, cheering for you all the way.  Thanks for your hard work, and maybe I’ll see you on the field in the future? 

Especially you, Donovan – you’re cute. 

Tell Me How You Really Feel

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2010 at 12:11 am

I felt so much better this morning that I broke my 24-hour yogurt fast in the afternoon to eat a cookie.  It was a mistake, apparently.

But I still had a good time this afternoon.  I played two games of Catan with Aleid, Jelle, and Carlos, and won them both.  After Carlos dominated last time, things are back to how they should be. 

I went to see Toy Story 3 afterwards, which was everything everyone said it would be.  I really loved watching it in a theater full of young Chinese, hearing them exclaim “so amazing!” when Buzz flew across the room, and “so cute!” whenever the baby was on the screen. 

I’m out of sorts, though, perhaps an example of my mind mirroring my stomach.  Seriously, what happened to those six capsules of charcoal I ate??  I’ve been anxious all day, worried as if I was running late to something important.  But my pressing social engagements today were Catan, Toy Story, and a football game that I ended up skipping, so I don’t know what the big deal was. 

I guess XuLei got me a little bit down today, too.  I love the girl, really, and think she is one of the most caring people I know.  For example, as we were walking down ZhongShan Road she stopped to talk to a handicapped man who does calligraphy with his feet; when I asked how she knew him, she said that she just stopped to talk to him one day and gave him her phone number in case he ever needed anything.  After walking a bit further, we passed a man doing calligraphy with his mouth – he didn’t have arms either – and she said she knew him, too.

But she’s kind in a Chinese way.  While I know that she would never do anything to hurt me on purpose, sometimes it’s not enough to know intellectually that this brutal honesty is not considered rude in China.  Today was much worse than usual, with her asking me “Why is your face thin, but your stomach fat?” and “What’s with the black area under your eyes, didn’t you wear makeup today?”.  (I did wear makeup today . . . and this is why I don’t ever wear contacts in China anymore, because people constantly worry that I’m on the verge of death from sleep deprivation or something.) 

Another note on an aspect of Chinese culture that continually stuns me – bus etiquette.  I’ve gotten used to the shoving during the boarding process and the way that guys will take seats that leave girls standing while everyone will immediately give up their spot for a pregnant woman or old person.  But lately I’ve been shocked on a regular basis by what I can’t help but see as incredible self-centeredness. 

Two people get on the bus and head for the back, which has rows of four seats, separated into 2 and 2 by an aisle.  There are only two adjacent seats left.  In America, the first person would sit down and scoot over, allowing the other person to sit down on the aisle.  In China, the first person plops down in the first seat (obviously, because it’s the most convenient) and sits there expressionless while the second person awkwardly climbs over them to the window seat.  This is of course hampered by the proximity of the chairs (not enough room for me to sit straight) and the horrible bus design that puts some seats flat on the ground.

Aaah!  I can think of no circumstances under which this would be okay in America.  Even if you were already sitting in the aisle, if someone wants/needs to sit next to you, social convention dictates that you either move over or stand up to allow them to get to their seat easily. 

I wonder, what customs do we have that other people think are rude?  The habit of splitting the check, I know, but what else?

Why Don’t I Drink Beer? Because It’s Bad For You

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 2:44 am

I was feeling better this morning – went to class this afternoon and dinner with Shawn tonight.  But dinner was probably a bad idea, as I was feeling worse before and the decline continued afterwards.  There was a going-away dinner for Kristina – of course, because the motto of my life right now is “Another night, Another goodbye” – but I went only to put an appearance.  (And to eat a single mantou.  Because life’s not worth living if you can’t eat grilled manto.) 

I’ve barely been eating anything these last three days – my expenditures on yogurt have far outstripped expenditures on non-yogurt foods – but apparently that’s not enough.  I’m snacking on charcoal like it’s candy tonight and tomorrow I’m only eating yogurt.  Dear stomach – whatever’s bothering you will be out by tomorrow if I have anything to say about it. 

But I really resent these wasted few days.  In addition to not doing much, I haven’t been eating much – and with less than 30 days left in Xiamen I don’t want to be taking days off.  There are mangos to eat (and drink), bowls of malatang to savor, favorite dishes to enjoy again and again, and the girls at Coco who undoubtedly miss my daily visits.  It’s just not fair.

I wanted to do this last night but was up late enough as it was – so tonight I will share some of the Chinese songs that I discovered yesterday at KTV!  Feel free to check them out on Youku links provided!

 

今天你要嫁给我 – “Today You Will Marry Me”.  Besides an adorable music video, this one is great for the rapped version of the wedding vows at the end:

“Listen to the church bells ringing / We are here in front of God, friends, and family to witness / This man and woman want to become husband and wife / Let us not forget how sacred this is / Are you willing to be with her forever, in life and death, sorrow and happiness / to love her, respect her, comfort her, and protect her / While the two of you begin your family? / Are you willing to do this? / Yes, I do.

听着礼堂的钟声 / 我们在上帝和亲友面前见证 / 这对男女生就要结为夫妻 / 不要忘了这一切是多么的神圣 / 你愿意生死苦乐永远和她在一起 / 爱惜她尊重她安慰她保护着她 / 两人同时建立起美满的家庭 / 你愿意这样做吗 / Yes, I do

简单爱 – “Simple Love”.  Yeah, it’s a little creepy that the object of his affection is a young girl who appears to be 11, but the song is kind of sweet. 

The wind from the river blows your hair around / Holding your hand I have an indescribable feeling / I want to take you to my grandma’s house / Watch the sunset together / until we both fall asleep. / I want to hold your hand like this and not let go / Can love never have sadness? / I want to take you to ride bikes / I want to watch baseball with you / This way, there are no worries / Singing as we go.

河边的风在吹着头发飘动 /牵着你的手一阵莫名感动 / 我想带你回我的外婆家 / 一起看着日落 / 一直到我们都睡着 / 我想就这样牵着你的手不放开 / 爱能不能够永远单纯没有悲哀 / 我-想带你骑单车 / 我-想和你看棒球 / 想这样没担忧 / 唱着歌 一直走

听妈妈的话 – “Listen to Mom”.  Notable because it is probably the cleanest rap song you will ever hear.  I haven’t spent too much time on these lyrics, but here’s how it opens:

Little guy, you have a lot of questions, don’t you? / Why do other people read comics / while I study drawing / and speak to my piano? / Other people play games but I lean against this wall and memorize my ABC’s / I want a big plane but all I have is an old radio / Why do I have to listen to mom? / After you grow up you’ll start to understand this advice.

小朋友 你是否有很多问号 / 为什么 别人在那看漫画 / 我却在学画画 / 对这钢琴说话 / 别人在玩游戏我却靠在墙壁背我的ABC / 我说我要一架大大的飞机 / 我却得到一台旧旧录音机 / 为什么要听妈妈的话 / 长大后你就会开始懂得这段话

牛仔很忙 – “Cowboys Are Busy”.  Best song of its kind since “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy”.  Seriously.

Although I’m a cowboy / I only drink milk when I go to bars / Why don’t I drink beer? / Because it’s bad for your health

我虽然是个牛仔 / 在酒吧只点牛奶 / 为什么不喝啤酒 / 因为啤酒伤身体

Don’t bother me, don’t bother me, don’t bother me, don’t bother me, don’t bother me / I have to rush because every day I have a duel, the audience is tired and the hero is tired too / don’t bother me, don’t bother me, the refrain isn’t long but there’s a couple / justice is calling me, the ladies all want me, cowboys are really busy

不用麻烦了,不用麻烦了,不用麻烦,不用麻烦了,不用麻烦了 / 你们一起上,我在赶时间,每天决斗,观众都累了,英雄也累了 / 不用麻烦了,不用麻烦了,副歌不长你们有几个,一起上好了 / 正义呼唤我,美女需要我,牛仔很忙的

对面的女孩看过来 – “Girl Over There, Look Over Here”.  A classic.  Learn left, right, up and down while you’re at it!

Girl over there, look over here / look over here, look over here / The performance here is quite fantastic / please don’t pretend not to notice

对面的女孩看过来 / 看过来,看过来 / 这里的表演很精彩 / 请不要假装不理不睬

I look left, I look right, I look up, I look down / Girls really aren’t simple / I think and think, guess and guess / Girls’ minds are really strange

我左看右看,上看下看 / 原来每个女孩都不简单 / 我想了又想,我猜了又猜 / 女孩们的心事还真奇怪

桃花朵朵开 – “All The Peach Blossoms Open”.  I smile at the thought of this song stuck in your head, as it surely will be. 

I am waiting here for you to come back / waiting for you to come back to see the peach blossoms open / I am waiting here for you to come back / waiting for you to come back to pluck the peach blossoms

我在这儿等着你回来 / 等着你回来 / 看那桃花开 / 我在这儿等着你回来 / 等着你回来 / 把那花儿采

Oh, oh / You’re even more beautiful than flowers / I can’t forget you / Oh, oh / fall has gone and spring has come / Remember our love. 

啊哟啊哟 / 你比花还美妙 / 叫我忘不了 / 啊哟啊哟 / 秋又去春又来 / 记得我的爱

Much Better After Today, Thanks!

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 3:42 am

I’m feeling better today, only hurting 15% of the time instead of yesterday’s 50%.  I still didn’t go to class, though, because 15% pain plus 80% boring is just not worth it.

But XuLei finally – after months of nagging – arranged a trip to KTV so I got dressed and went out with her, Lester, and two other Chinese girls.  Karaoke is more than just singing here; it’s a way of life.  Towns as small as Hunchun have whole streets filled with karaoke bars, while cities as big as Xiamen have numerous karaoke cities.  There’s just no other way to describe these places – room after private room with supermarkets inside so you can sustain yourself during epic karoking (is that a verb?) sessions. 

We ordered up a nice mix of Chinese songs with a few English thrown in for Lester and I.  We foreigners also tried a Chinese song or two, but the lyrics are all in traditional characters which turns karaoke into the vocal equivalent of doing brain surgery in mittens – it’s already so hard that it just seems unfair when this further obstacle is thrown in.  All those characters I could never learn to write in my summer course when we learned traditional – 聽(听) and 還(还) and 過 (过) – came back in a flash of terror . . .

I did a few English songs for everyone’s listening pleasure (I think?).  They were delighted that to hear a song called Maria (they have no idea!), and I think they liked “I Wanna Have Your Babies” although XuLei kept repeating the title over and over as if I would at some point realize what it means.  Lester and I also did a duet together – “Glamorous” by Fergie, with me doing the spelling (“G-L-A-M-O-R-OUS”) and him doing the rapping about making money to buy me shoes.  It was memorable. 

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We spent a few hours there and then went for dinner, my first real meal in 48 hours.  I’m subsisting on a diet of crackers, noodles in clear soup, charcoal pills, and yogurt.  And my stomach is still unhappy.  What is going on??  We’re not even back in America yet; save your hissy fit for the return. 

 

Tonight was another big game for America – although to be honest, each time America plays in this World Cup is a Big Game to me.  We were playing Algeria at the same time as England was playing Slovenia, in the final two matches of the group round.  Dave Barry explains it much better than I could: basically we wanted to win to ensure we would continue on in the tournament, but a tie could also be acceptable under certain circumstances.

I went to Cafe del Mar to watch, but about half of the viewers were English or Italian and Xiamen’s sole Slovenian was there, so I was far outranked.  Instead, I brought my computer and kept one eye on the live updates from the NYT. 

The English scored in the first half, putting the pressure on us to get a goal (as an English win was not one of the aforementioned “circumstances” under which we advanced).  The second half dragged on with shot after shot in both games – most went wide or got blocked but one American goal was declared offsides (which may or may not have been true, but doesn’t actually matter.  Again, see Dave Barry for explanation).

The game clock reached 90 minutes, but a few more were thrown in for funsies – well, presumably there’s a reason, but I don’t know it.  It was looking like Slovenia and England would advance, and Kristina was making jokes like “When an American asks you where Slovenia is, tell them it’s at the top of Group C!”  But then I saw an animated crowd doing the wave across my screen below the words “GOAL: USA!” and I started screaming and jumping up and down.  Landon Donovan had scored in the 91st minute, winning us the game, keeping us in the tournament, and putting us at the top of our group.  Sweet!

 

Back in my room, I took advantage of the daylight hours back home to call TU’s financial aid office.  After a few weeks of these midnight calls, I think I have managed something akin to alchemy – I have turned fake money into real money!  I’m on full scholarship at TU, which includes a stipend for food that comes in the form of Dining Dollars.  Dining Dollars can only be used in the limited and kinda pricey on-campus food establishments and they expire at the end of the year.  I mean, it’s kind of fun to take 15 friends to the sports bar for dinner on you, and the end-of-semester shopping sprees for literally bags full of candy bars are nice, and I’ll never forget the Drink Naked parties or the times I brought Blue Bell to class for everyone, but let’s face it – Dining Dollars are fake.  They create an artificial economy where efficiency has no place and excess is encouraged. 

So hopefully this works out because, while I am missing American food, I dream of meals at real restaurants – not at The Hut. 

PS – As I hung up with the woman from financial aid, I closed with “bye-bye!”  Yeah, that’s right, I just said “bye-bye” to a grown woman.  I remember when I was embarrassed for the Chinese adults who would bid farewell to me in this way, thinking to myself We just don’t do that in America, that’s just for little kids.  And college students who are culturally confused, apparently.  I even type 88 (the Chinese shorthand for “bai-bai”) at the end of online chat conversations.  That’s not the only Chinese typing tic creeping into my habits.  I sometimes type 1’s at the end of sentences, which are required to select the most likely set of characters when typing in pinyin.  And I have to restrain myself from typing “en” in English conversations.  But . . .  it sounds exactly like the noncommittal grunt I make dozens of times during any given interaction!  “Oh” and “ah” and “hm” just aren’t the same . . .

Stomach Clench of Death, We Meet Again

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 11:54 pm

As far as the Stomach Clench of Death can come at a good time, this one did.  I was feeling fine in the morning – it wasn’t until after my one-hour, full-body massage that the cramping started.

But then Eunice and I took the wrong bus and ended up on the mainland, which meant over an hour of public transportation, me moaning the whole way like a woman whose water just broke.

I called in sick to class and spent the rest of the day lying in bed watching Gossip Girl (with Chinese subtitles!) and most of a Chinese movie.  XuLei came by to tell me that my stomach is too cold and I need to drink hot water, but she also brought me light soup later so I’ve forgiven her. 

Nothing much going on here in my room, but this is a good time to share some other stuff from recently:

  • Apparently the monsoons I’ve been complaining about have caused actual damage.  I can’t believe I didn’t know about this until now.  For all that I occasionally feel integrated into this society, things like this remind me that I actually have an extension cord spanning the ocean and plugging me into things back home.
  • Also, the Chinese government has started the gradual appreciation of their currency.  So far it’s a whopping 0.43%, which means I only get 6.7969 kuai for my dollar instead of 6.8262.  I guess I’ll have to deal with the high prices for the next month, but it’ll be in my favor when I close my Bank of China account and trade my RMB in for USD.  If I take a whole month’s stipend home, I’ll have $250.11 instead of $249.04!  Where to spend it?
  • We learned the word 花蕾 (flower bud) in class the other day and I excitedly told XuLei (徐蕾) that we learned her name.  Apparently a teacher used to call her Flower Bud in class and she didn’t like it, but I told her that the ‘lei’ in her name is nice.  At any rate, it’s certainly better than the other ‘lei’ (雷) which means lightning but is part of the words ‘land mine’ (地雷) and ‘water mine’ (水雷).  Don’t ask me why I know those words.
  • The other day I went to dinner with a bunch of foreign friends and YongZhi.  We ordered a fish, but there was some problem with it so the waitress started talking to YongZhi about it.  He turned to us to translate and said, “The fish is very big – maybe two kilometers?”  Wow, that’s gotta be some sort of record!  We laughed pretty hard about it.  We know what it’s like to say stupid things like that, so it was nice to hear a Chinese person mess up in such a harmless way. 
  • Sometimes I feel like I’m so over Chinglish and sometimes I think I don’t notice it anymore.  But then I see a shirt that says CHECOLATE MELK in huge letters and I’m reminded of why I loved Chinglish in the first place.  Also, I’m not sure if this counts as Chinglish or not, but my Chinese Mom – a 50+ year-old woman – was wearing a “Kit Kittredge: American Girl” shirt to church the other day.  I loved it. 

Green Trees, Blue Sea, and White Clouds

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 2:17 am

It was blazing hot today when I went to class – at 8 in the morning!  Of course, within five minutes of reaching the classroom I was freezing and losing feeling in my extremities.  Apparently the need to overcompensate with air conditioning is not isolated to the American South.  Ugh – I hate it!  It’s so wasteful, first of all, but I if I’m not comfortable at 60 degrees in the winter, why would I want that temperature in the summer??  I don’t want to be cold instead of being hot, I just don’t want to be hot.  But apparently I am alone in this. 

I did laundry after class.  With only 30 days left, I’m hoping to only have to do this two or three more times.  Maybe I’ll just start using Febreze more.  Seriously, the laundry situation here is another facet of the unpleasantness of Chinese dorm life.  I’ve been told by XuLei that the communal washing machines make clothes dirtier actually, and I would believe it.  Coming out the washing machine, my clothes look and smell about the same, only . . . wetter.  Awesome.

Today was the first clear day in ages, which meant Lester and I had plans: riding the cable car!  It’s been on my Xiamen Bucket List since I went to the Botanical Gardens next door, but we were waiting for a day without rain or – praying for a miracle – smog.  Today was that day! 

The cable car is slightly difficult to find (up inconspicuous steps off a busy road immediately next to a tunnel) and pretty expensive (40 kuai, or $6), but I’m glad we did it.  The route goes all the way up and down the mountain (and back!) and it moves at a glacial pace so  you get a good hour of cable-car-riding for your money. 

There wasn’t anything too amazing to see, but I did enjoy the silence and stunning amounts of green surrounding us.  Combined with the colors of the cars themselves, it made for great pictures.

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Once we crested the mountain, we had an interesting perspective on the campus and the blue (!) sea and sky beyond.

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So all in all, I would say the cable car is worth riding, but wait for a nice day.

This evening, Aleid and I made dinner at her place.  First, we went shopping at the supermarket, where we picked up a pound of ground sausage that was elegantly scooped up by some guy’s bare hands and placed in a plastic baggie.  Just the way I like it.  While we waited in the ridiculous dinner-time checkout line, Aleid and I updated each other on the tiny things that make our life here interesting.  Today, she told me that she just found out the salary that one of her Chinese friends is making working at a coffee shop – 5 or 6 yuan per hour.  This is less than a dollar per hour, but even after turning RMB into USD it’s still below our minimum wage!  Concrete numbers like this are such a wake-up call for me. 

When we got off the bus by her apartment, the sight of blue sea and white clouds nearly took my breath away. 

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Let’s not reflect on how sad it was that we were excited to see the land over there, shall we?

Our dinner consisted of pancakes and sausage, with sides of watermelon and lychee.  It was awesome, of course.  After dinner we watched The Wrong Guy, which is the best movie you’ve probably never heard of.  Do yourself and go watch it right now if you haven’t yet – heck, if you have, go watch it again! 

Aleid has two new French roommates, and one of them told me some news of the French World Cup team: apparently they’re on strike.  This is hilarious, right?  I told them that the stereotypes we have of France are good food, a beautiful language, and constant strikes by everyone about everything.  He said it’s pretty much true. 

One other World Cup note: Portugal beat North Korea 7-0.  I’ve apparently assimilated some soccer knowledge, because I remember looking at the scoreboard at one point during the 2-2 US-Slovenia game and thinking “Wow, this is a high-scoring game!”.  But 7-0?  That doesn’t even sound like soccer; you could fool me into thinking it was any other American sport!

 

As of today, my blog has passed the mark of 10,000 views.  I’m pretty sure it’s not a big deal, but I did want to take this moment to share some of the odd search terms that have led people to my writing:

  • "striving for mediocrity" in liturgical practices
  • minutemen meatpuppets descendents angst
  • ridiculous fruit
  • kristina groves legs
  • pink flame bowling ball bag
  • creepy burger king

Hahaha.  I wonder if these people were disappointed with their search results?