The promised rain finally comes. For the past two weeks the weatherman has been predicting a thunderstorm ‘tomorrow’. Everyday an alert saying tomorrow will be a thunderstorm but, without fail, no thunderstorm. It’s raining real good now and with a little luck it’ll be heavy enough and fierce enough to unless some Olympian might.
As a climb the steps to class, the foul stench of the restrooms pervades my senses. Each of the six floors has its own unique scent but they share more in common than are separated by difference. The thick fog today- truly fog rather than pollution- does not aid in my effort to grasp a breathe of air. Without too much excess labor I reach the apex of my journey, though am not rewarded with the height’s usual vista.
Sometime a Week Ago:
saw a movie called “东风雨”… translation something like East Wind Rain. basically this movie sucked. kinda boring. maybe i didn’t catch the more subtle points because i was watching in chinese with chinese subtitles, but the other [chinese] person i was with said it sucked too.
the plot was similar to another, much better chinese movie released last year called “The Message” or in chinese “风声”. i recommend it, especially if you can get a copy with english subtitles. it’s a well done ww2 spy thriller, a mysterious who-dunnit type of flick. for an english language review of the film, click here.
|photo from: steventsh.com|
on wednesday my shin was kicked instead of the ball, and my shin had no protection. normally this doesn’t bother me, but i got it pretty bad in the muscle. it bruised and swelled up a bit and fearing the worst, i bought a pair of shin guards. this wasn’t the first time i’ve been knocked around a bit. i usually come out every weekend with some kind of scrape or bruise from either falling down or thanks to someone kicking me. almost got a cleat to the knee which actually made me nervous. if it connected i would have been done for- luckily it just drew a little blood. the offending party recommended i get shin guards… yeah, should have listened to this omen from above. anyway, after a day or two my leg was doing fine… why am i repeating this? no idea. but i bought a pair almost identical to these for 15元 right before i…
really terrible chinese (that was the one above) decent gung fu movie called “ which is a sequel film. it’s loosely based on the life of ip man, who apparently was a teacher of bruce lee back in the day. all and all it wasn’t bad, except for a little awkwardness during a scene where the main character is beating a british boxers to smithereens. awkward because the audience in the movie theatres were cheering and clapping at this as i reminded myself that i was not british and they hopefully had no ‘beef’ with me. as silly it may have been, i even prepared a response to any animosity directed towards me, ready to share that many americans had apparently died in ww2 protecting chinese (more in another post on my recent visit to an airforce memorial in nanjing dedicated to those chinese, russian and americans that lost their lives).
after the movie, i came home and started grading thesis papers until i came to the conclusion that the students probably should read their papers first and fix silly mistakes that were abundant.
the morning commute was more intense than usual. the beginning of a holiday weekend, people had decidedly taken the extra day off and were fleeing the city. it was actually pretty great- traffic leaving the city was so bad that the cars leaving overtook another lane or two despite painted lines and convention leaving only a single path for buses and cars coming into the city. even though i was late to school i still enjoyed the sight of this mayhem.
|photo from: My Little Terrors 🙂|
also along the commute, i noticed something else. along the base of the mountain there were several makeshift tents or shelters with rather country-like peasants living in them. also next to these shelters were a number of boxes about a meter or so high. after seeing them first on wednesday and then again today i finally decided that they were bees and their farmers. (see picture for something like what i saw) i’m not sure if this is a local spring time tradition. perhaps i’ll need to stick around another year to find out. my guess is that it’s some kind of government mandate intended on helping promote the flowering of native flora… but that’s just my wild guess! 🙂
school was actually only half the day. most of my students were eager to see mother and father and about 20% of them did not show up only with receiving official leave of absence. it was okay with me as many of them tend not to see their parents often and the three day holiday (shortened from seven days) would not nearly be enough to get to other parts of the country and back. so classes were quick and painful as i reiterated what we had already gone over and made them read their own writings…
after the short day, i picked up my new trek bike that is an added perk of my new apartment. the retail sticker on this two wheeled contraption is way more than i would feel comfortable splurging on, but since it’s a ‘gimme’ i went ahead and rode it 🙂
so ride it home i did. from a far away district over the mountain to the center of nanjing. i’m in okay shape, but i’ll definitely admit that the bicycle did most of the work. it’s light, speedy and is designed for road travel, that much i know now.
so impressive is this bike that i’d have to say that it has more power than my electric scooter, almost as much as a gas engine. at least it feels that way. i could start from a standstill and out accelerate these two, and on several occasions did. again, i’m not in that great shape but it happened…
almost spilled one though- was moving faster than the traffic around me, hit the breaks and the back end slid out from behind… apparently the bike is quite light and the brakes work very well. also if you think about it, there is very little touching the ground with these ultra thin road tires.
relaxed because my routine was most gladly interrupted by the holiday and my usually visits were canceled. surprisingly there was a large turnout for football despite the beautiful and thus warm weather.
i’ve grown a bit of a loud mouth on the field, slightly annoying humor and sarcastically insulting or encouraging others i’m playing with. in fact i’ve been not doing much in the way of sport, more enjoying the human interaction. perhaps the hot weather influenced my decision to talk more and do less. did manage to score a goal nicely in the upper corner. good enough work for a weekend i suppose…
that’s today. a complete waste of a day. ran errands, watched bill maher’s latest tv show on hbo and uh… took a nap. the weather maxed out at a nice 32C which for those of you on the imperial units would measure as nearly 90F. what can i say? the first warm afternoon is perfect for snoozing. it’s a holiday don’t forget. was planning on going on an epic bike ride outside the city but that will be postponed until tomorrow afternoon. another canadian bloke and i will set off and explore the outskirts of nanjing. i can’t wait… hope to snap some excellent (or modestly aesthetic) photos of life outside the hustle and bustle as well as get some exercise. on the sad news, another gold fish bit the dust. the two orange fish have died leaving only the black (gold) fish swimming alone. hope he makes it to a real tank at some point…
oh, i’ve been a mango nut as of late. can’t stop eating them. found a fun and exciting way to cut them without making a mess (see picture to the left). it’s funny how when you can’t peel and orange you don’t “like” them, but as soon as it’s peeled you eat them (that’s me in my childhood). some thing with mangos i’m guessing. just didn’t know how to get at them in order to try them so i didn’t really try them. blah blah blah. ok, time to hit the hay. this has been a long and rather mundane post with incorrect and uncorrect english. if anyone were to actually read this… i don’t know what i would do…
After all these years, I’ve finally found it! Always in the back of my mind, a short story, apparently written by Isaac Asimov, which I read way back when.
Spoil the fun I won’t. It’s a quick read so why not spend 5 minutes reading instead of me telling you the punch line. Don’t ask me why this made such a huge impression on me… it just did.
|take me to the other source|
|take me to the source|
Brr… it’s cold: a whopping zero on the ol’ C scale.
I just melted off a huge chunk of ice from my kong tiao with scalding water.
Here’s hoping winter is bearable!
Without sounding cruel or unusual, I’d like to attempt to recreate a scene I witnessed today. This may be a difficult undertaking, but one I will endeavor to complete regardless.
While enjoying a peaceful sleep and trying to readjust my circadian rhythm, I was gently awakened from this quiescent slumber by a heavy and abrupt thunderstorm. Unable to trust my better judgment not expecting at all the rain that had come, I rose to the window sill. Upon opening my window I did indeed discover that the rain had all at once come with the sudden boom of thunder as well as with a lightening bolt somewhere off in the distance. Three stories below, I captured the first water fallen upon the previously dry and paved earth. And, as if by some unknown cue, a solitary figure with an umbrella spread open wide was there to receive both the tear drops from heaven and my prying eye.
Now it struck me as bizarre that an instant after these magnificent showers were produced, our character in question was out under the rain with protective cover. What’s more, our mysterious person was by no means avoiding the onslaught of water. At first glance I was unable to recognize our scurrying figure being hidden behind a slightly unwieldy umbrella which had seem battered by the years and therefore now incapable of achieving full extension. Several awkward steps, some to the left, some to the right, then a 180 about face- ah! this would be my building’s 阿姨 (a yi), or auntie.
Call me nosey or instead say that I was embracing the culture while I watched the scene below. With a quick reach to the ground it appeared she had recovered an accidentally dropped item. I also entertained the idea that she was cleaning the road clear of something inappropriate. Both of my theories were shot down upon watching frequent repetitious of this strange and curious action. Another clue helped fill in the remaining gaps, though I was slow to believe what my common sense was trying to signal: each time the a yi reached for the earth an object only seconds before had dropped from the heavens above.
Like a tidal wave it all came crashing down on me. All at once I realized the following facts:
- She was standing underneath a ginkgo biloba tree. This type of tree is a favorite of mine for several reasons: one can make tea with its leaves; the leaves, while quite beautiful, also providing shade; the tree can be bonsai-ed; and, most pertinent, the tree produces edible fruit/seeds of a sort.
- She is old school. Who else would I expect to pull a wicked MacGyver move like collecting tree fruit/seeds knocked down from meters above head during a freak thunderstorm on a moment’s notice? Though I try as I might, would I have ever come up with, let alone execute successfully, this maneuver? It takes class, it takes grit, and it may take a lifetime of living in Nanjing speaking nanjing hua before I may ever be deemed as clever and aware.
Nothing cruel or unusual to speak of so far. But I continued to watch. This collecting kept on, the more fierce the weather, the more fallen the object of desire, the seemingly happier the a yi. Several minutes passed as I watched- watched the tree shed, the human follow… lather, rinse, repeat. The payoff was small; patience was required. The scene engendered a touch of admiration. To put it bluntly, it also made me laugh. From my viewpoint, it seemed a bit like a video game. If I had only a mouse and cursor to click on the fallen fruit, the a yi would come scurrying over to collect. The time between droppings was considerable enough to prompt these thoughts of mine. Upon spotting nature’s gold, she moved with such ferocity and determination it was actually comic. Her actions seemed from a time forgotten, when people once gathered and scavenged for nourishment in the wild. Her movements were creature-like; before me I saw nothing more than a squirrel in disguise. I also felt pity though I don’t know why…
Once my daydream stupor had worn off, I came to settle upon this with a smile: she had used her sixth sense wisely in collecting some free but valuable gifts of nature that would have otherwise gone to waste and spoil; I had only watched the spectacle below, sitting above empty handed, the gentle grumble of hunger beginning to stir within.
yesterday it was raining snow. i say this because it wasn’t exactly snowing and it wasn’t exactly raining. the ground was wet from the previous days’ rain and the falling snow like flakes weren’t staying in their semi solid states. in fact, they were reverting to liquid upon contact with the many surfaces found here. to say that it was slushing would indeed be stranger than saying it was raining snow, so i won’t say it (slushing). in fact i’m not saying anything… only conveying it through written word, which in fact isn’t even written. to take this fact even further, these words are only the manifestation of electricity which may or may not be something we consider physical. what i’m trying to say is that even if i wrote it, conveyed it, took a picture of it, etc… you probably wouldn’t even know what i was talking about when i said it was slushing. er… i’m lost and confused it seems. a little sidetrack. our experiences are all subjective as we are all subjects (hahaha… subject to the man) and being subject, i find our existence to be less concrete that i might think. what the heck am i going on about? i’m not sure. something philosophical perhaps? i don’t know. it just makes my head hurt… and to imagine how it is making your head feel is beyond my grasp for i am not you. that’s my whole point…
so it was slushing. instead of riding my trusty steed to work (i swear someday i will post an image of it, not the real thing, for in fact to turn my bicycle into electrons would prove to be impossible, at least for me) i decided to go by shoe. yes, on foot would have been too cold. actually i went on sock which was on shoe which was on the sidewalk and various other things, but that is on top of the point (like how i didn’t say beside the point?) yes, the point is that i traversed vicariously the road quite often traveled by. you see there are 7,000,000,000 people living around this town i currently call home. that’s a lot of mouths to feed. that’s a lot of food. that’s a lot of shit. yes, you should see the creek? i’m not sure what to call it. it’s a man made version of nature’s creek. i guess we call it a canal. it contains liquid, probably not much of it is pure water. i guess because it’s a mixture (or solution?) that very little of it’s water. yes, this is a polluted causeway, what is the cause? well us. and the it carries this liquid for some reason, i’m not sure where from or why or to where, but it carries it and i cross it every day to work. one day it was on fire, or something under the bridge over the water was on fire and it was smoking. i wondered what it was but didn’t stop to see. i also once saw someone, most likely a country peasant like myself, taking a crap in this causeway. he was squatted on the ledge, taking a crap. i’m not exactly sure how one ends up doing this. i mean i’m not sure of it. it’s of the most natural order of things to excrement one’s waste, though society has taught us that we should hide it, we should do it in an orderly fashion, and that it’s dirty. granted i wouldn’t want to drink the nutrient rich water from the canal that this man toileted on, but nonetheless if you get right down to it, what he did was perfectly normal. I suppose that i noticed it, and i wonder how many other people also noticed it. you see it wasn’t necessarily in plain sight. it was something one might just catch of glance of on accident and see. but there he was, bare bottomed leaning off the edge. perhaps reminding me of a time when i took my poor dog out to go to the bathroom. it happened to be raining. both of us (the dog and myself) did not want to be in the rain. the poor dog was getting old and taking some time and seemed to be miserable standing out in the rain trying to do what is the natural order of digestion. i could see drops of rain water on my dogs nose and i felt empathy. the ridiculousness of it all. the dog saying sorry, i have to go, i don’t want to stand out in the rain, and if i could use the toilet inside, i would.
so the man was going to the bathroom in a sewer canal which flows threw the middle of the center of the city of this once southern capitol. he is doing this right next to a building of several stories that houses the latest technologies that can be found in this world. yet he is doing this simple natural thing. was it normal? did he choose this? did it seem strange to him? i don’t know. I didn’t stop to ask. given my brainwashing, i wonder why he didn’t use a restroom. in fact, not far away, even i knew that there was one near by, there is a public restroom. not to be side track, but this is something that should be thought of. the question, why?
so across the bridge i go, on my trusty steed in the slushing snow. actually i was on foot this time, i must remember the events as i experienced them. so this day, which was yesterday, i walked to school, over the river and through the woods (the woods may be defined as the bicycle lane between trees on either side) to grandma’s house we go. grand ma’s is in fact one of the teachers, and grand she is. so off to work i went, and soon arrived at. one class. only one. then another in the afternoon. it was slushing in the morning. so the one class i went to, up four flights of stairs. it’s a work out, and makes me alert in the morning, having to muster up the adrenaline to climb these flights, four of them to be certain. class went well and then i walked home. the same way i came, perhaps on the opposite side of the road, because to come and to go are opposites. home i arrived and because of all the slushing and because of the adrenaline i earned from climbing now seven flights of stairs, i decided that i should play football (some call it soccer) in the slush. so i slushed in the slush, running and kicking and juggling and shooting and running and breathing and resting and walking and jumping. all of these i did in sub zero temperatures. depending on your scaling system, it may have been sub zero and may have be exactly zero or may have been far beyond zero in the positive realm. either way you cut it, my body temperature was warmer than the outside surroundings.
some time passed and students emerged. we shared some time on the field together, though i feared what their parents might think if they were to see us play in the snow. I didn’t fear for my parents thoughts for they knew not and might not ever find out. so i made them go inside, though were i them i’d want to play too, for that is the age of carelessness, but not the negative type. after they left i played by myself some more. it continued to slush throughout this whole time. when finally i finished i was fairly wet and cold, but not really too cold. i came inside and changed my clothes (for they were wet and to stay in wet clothes is silly) (unless you’re scuba diving or on fire or something of that nature). so that exercise in slushing in the snow or rainfall, depending on how you define subjective occurrences. ah, yes, so that was it. i did have to go back to class later on so i rode my bike this time. in the slush. i wasn’t fearful of wearing light colored clothing even though the ground wasn’t the color of the slush, but that of the mush that was created by the slush and the ground.
later on that evening after all the other activities i partook, i was riding my steed home when i came to a stoplight. the poor frozen man (i’m not sure whether he was financially solvent, i only use poor to describe the miserable environment he was currently in, though he may have very well enjoyed it… that’s the beauty of subjectivity my friends) this poor frozen man this poor frozen man… he thought that i was a poor frozen man because i had no gloves. he was tooting his whistle like crazy, though he really has little authority and people often ignore the street corner traffic police, this man was tooting his whistle and i waved at him because i thought he was tooting and me and i was fed up with the ridiculousness at all and wanted to be sarcastic and somehow peaceful or ironically show my anger in a happy way…. i waved and him and he smiled and waved back. i guess he wasn’t actually tooting at me, but more likely was just tooting in general… tooting being his way to sarcastically and peacefully and ironically show his anger in a happy way. so he tooted, i waved and he waved. he pointed to his gloves and the pointed to my lack of gloves. this was his thinking me as poor, perhaps in the monetary sense but more likely the circumstances. so he pointed at my lack of, which i sounded off in his native tongue… or standard tongue for invariably he spoke a dialect as his native tongue… in manipulation of my tongue i conveyed that i didn’t have them with me, and that they were at home. perhaps he didn’t understand, or perhaps i sounded and manipulated my tongue in just the right manor for him to understand. in any event this spurred his face muscles to shape his mouth in a shape that resembles a moon, or perhaps a parabola or something mathematical… a semi circle a curve. it was a concave up if i remember correctly my english mathematical definitions. in layman terms so there because little room for disagreement, he smiled. and it seemed that the smiles were contagious, for those around us, in particular, a woman, also on a steed, she too smiled and i think it had to do with the vibrations produced by my tongue and perhaps the light that had penetrated her eyes and perhaps the shape of the mans mouth.
long story short: today it also slushed. but it wasn’t as spectacular as yesterday…
when everything in life is going wrong and you are unhappy, just hang out with some kids- their enthusiasm and energy will give you a boost, if only temporarily.
my students made me happy yesterday. we finished part of last week’s country simulation and though some of us were more eager than others, it went off smoothly. i can’t say that it went off without a hitch because there were several hitches. for example, in one class the sound system wasn’t working… lately i have been showing a short movie clip as a warm up to the activity but a movie without sound isn’t nearly as fun. on the spur of the moment, i asked for two volunteers to be the voices for the two characters in the cartoon. we watched pixar’s ‘mike’s new car‘, a short spin off of monsters, inc. what pursued was a riot! the kids had no idea what was going to happen next, and on top of that they were speaking a foreign language. all these factors made a great improv scenario and turned out to be a great activity.
during the country simulation, i was in for a pleasant surprise. instead of battling it out for resources and a fight to the finish, the class decided as a whole to combine their resources and make a united nation. while this wasn’t really in the spirit of the game (or maybe it was) i went along with it. it’s heartwarming to find this alternative perspective in their minds. join and work together to survive instead of surviving at the expense of others…
also, last week a student called me out and kept me honest. it was awesome. at the beginning of the semester i took photos of all my students and made silhouettes of their heads. the idea was to give them an outline of their head so they could write or paste in pictures or draw things about themselves. then we would hang them up or go through them and try to guess who is who by the shape and what they had written or put in their heads. great idea, but no follow through. after i printed out around 400 individual heads (this was very time consuming and labor intensive) about 6 students ended up turning in their papers. it was kinda a bust. the six that i collected i told them that they could come to my office and receive a prize for following direction and actually doing some work. long story short, finally one student came to me last week and asked if she could get her paper back. i said of course. then i asked her if i told them they could get a reward for doing the project. she confirmed my promise, i asked her what she liked and offered a candy bar, toy, coffee, etc. She decided she wanted coffee. It was towards the end of my week, so I promised that this week should could cash in. Sure enough, this weekend I got an anonymous text message reminding me not to forget my deal. (my cell number is now in the student community… uh-oh, look out!) yesterday we went across the street from school and had coffee during lunchtime. it was great. if i could do that with every student, i would. honestly, it’s very difficult to get to know the students when i see 30 of them at a time for 40 minutes a week. I’m glad a had to shell out some money, keep a promise and actually get to know one of my students a little bit. ok, only around 485 students to go…
on another note, yesterday was FREEZING cold. it was probably under 0c which IS freezing. instead of riding to school on my trusty steed (more in another post later), i walked to school. it takes about twenty minutes but the journey was peaceful as i was propelled by a nice techno mix. walking was a change of pace from the usual bicycle/bus ride and i believe you appreciate life more when you walk. it’s hard to be in a hurry when you walk: if you are in a hurry, you aren’t walking, you’re running…!
and lastly, something that made me chuckle… i’ve got a two week stubble, something resembling a beard. my chinese listening skills must be getting better… my office is a cacophony of chinese teachers’ and students’ voices in multiple languages. somehow i heard one of the teachers comment in chinese how i looked like an arab. while surprising (one, because i’m not from that region and two, because i don’t know how i could somehow understand in chinese) this isn’t the first time i’ve been told i look like i’m from somewhere else. in the countries i’ve visited in europe, i naturally pass as a native. when i visited to south america, i don’t think i stuck out too much. one of my friends and I once visited our former high school teacher and he commented that i could probably pass for an afghani (at which point i had a nice beard going). i think it’s my dark brown, near black eyes. anyhow, it’s funny what you pick up just by listening passively.
alright… enough quipping. time to study a bit and do some scheduling for 2009. it shall be interesting…