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.
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 . . .