Sunday, October 28, 2007


Last week on a particularly warm afternoon, I went to the basketball courts to shoot around. I seldom play any actual basketball games here, mostly because my style of playing isn't compatible with the students' style of playing, but I enjoy shooting around. It reminds me of the glory days when basketball was my answer to all of life's problems. Stressed out? Play some ball. Energetic? Play some ball. Big report due soon? Play some ball. Life was simple.

Shortly after I arrived, loosened up, and phased out the stares of the surrounding ball players, a small cute kid appeared right under the basketball goal. She was was holding a tiny basketball and looking at me. Although she appeared to be about two or three, it's possible she was really six or seven given the inherent youthful looks of the Chinese. Anyway she took my basketball from me and gave me hers. For a three year old, she had better control and more moves than most of the college students I've seen play around here. It was pretty impressive watching her dribble the ball one-handed. For probably forty five minutes we played lots of games, including running up and down the bleachers over and over again (which really means me running up and down the bleachers carrying her while she giggled). It was fun because I don't generally get to play with little kids given the language barrier, though I think that language doesn't matter so much to children. Whenever I would talk to this little girl, she would stop what was entertaining her for the moment and gaze up at me with a crinkled forehead of mild confusion. Once it passed, she would giggle and go on playing.

Apparently, her father works in the campus library because she took me there to see him. He wasn't there, however, and when I told her we should leave, she started screaming. She threw the absolute worst temper tantrum I have ever seen. I tried to pick her up to bring her back to her mom who was near the basketball courts working, but the girl was screaming and crying uncontrollably. I was trying to talk to her in broken Chinese, but she wasn't listening. When I looked up, I noticed that everyone was staring and laughing at the spectacle we were making. I finally had to resort to picking her up like a football and running with her towards her mother who, like all moms, had an acute sense of hearing and was headed our direction to save her baby from the foreigner. I gave the kid over to her, tried to explain what happened, and then quickly exited the situation with what little face I had left.


Every holiday offers us a decent excuse to do something fun or unique (or mostly just easy) in our classes. Last Monday Brian, Jessica and I decided to combine our Monday afternoon classes into two classrooms. In Brian's classroom, our students would be given a Halloween lecture by Brian for one period. In Jessica's classroom, our students would be given the most dramatic reading of The Telltale Heart ever made. William, whose deep, soothing voice has been the talk of the town since he arrived, agreed to read Poe's classic tale for us and in doing so, guaranteed his spot as the most favored storyteller in Shiyan.

As I mentioned before, this week happens to be the interim between the end of one class and the beginning of another so Brian and my usual Monday and Wednesday night classes are not scheduled for this week. That's pretty exciting since it means we don't have to work on Halloween. However, I was being terribly shortsighted until yesterday when I realized just how many days off I'm going to have this week. As I was sitting around considering what to do with my time, it struck me that I could easily take a week long vacation to Hong Kong without having to fight crowds or worry about scheduling. But, alas, it won't work because I can't miss Halloween (my birthday). Since I didn't travel for October holiday, I'm feeling the itch to just choose a destination and take off. I think I can hold off awhile longer; Jessica, Brian and I are looking into taking a long weekend to travel somewhere in the coming month.


Last night we had plans to engage in a healthy competition of Taboo. Last week Jessica, Brian, Priscilla and I played a impromptu game where our true colors shown through (and I realized that Jessica is as insane as I am when that little hour glass of sand is running out). Sometime later Jessica challenged John and Megan (unbeknownst to me) to a friendly competition, one they readily agreed to, and last night was the night we were to prove ourselves. However, no night of fun can begin until after dinner so we decided to go into town to find some place to eat. At the bus stop where John and Megan were to meet Jessica, Brian, William and me, there was a stage set up and some guy who looked Mexican was wearing a decorative Mardi Gras mask and talking to a group of curious people who gathered to gawk at the entertainment from the sidewalk. We blended in so well that it took a full ten minutes before the host came down from the stage to talk to us. He said they were celebrating Halloween (hence the masks) and offered us a few masks to wear. He wanted us to come on stage, but we politely declined. We were, after all, waiting on friends to arrive, and Brian was engaging in some kind of marriage exchange ritual with a high school girl and her father. I think there was a promise of a goat, but I can't be for sure; I was distracted by the Chinese-speaking Mexican asking me to be their sideshow.

Shortly after John and Megan arrived, we found a dumpling restaurant. We ordered a few plates of dumplings, and each of us wanted a bowl of soup as well. The three of us girls ordered three bowls of pumpkin soup which they brought out speedily. It was delicious! The boys ordered three bowls of duck soup which they brought out one a time. Each bowl was meant to be shared with a whole table. The bowl of duck soup was so large, it didn't come with a spoon; it came with a ladle! It was hilarious watching these three grown men look stunted next to their giant bowls of soup.

During dinner someone mentioned going to a coffee shop, so the promise of a trash-talking night of Taboo was postponed till a future date. After eating we walked to People's Square because UBC Coffee is hidden strategically behind the grocery store in the Square and other random buildings. As we were walking along the slick, marble-like ground, suddenly fountains of water shot up right next to us. It was eight o'clock, and we had caught the nightly ritual of fountain dancing. I've never seen it before as I'm generally not near People's Square around 8 o'clock. We watched the spurts of water combined with a colorful light show for a minute or two. Then Jessica said, "I'm sort of joking, but really I'm not. I think we should run through the fountains." Everyone ignored her, but I made eye contact with her - my first mistake. Once I saw the mischievous glint in her eyes, I knew I wouldn't arrive home with dry clothes that night. So we put on our Halloween/Mardi Gras masks and sauntered through the fountains. We arrived on the other side of the fountains unscathed but for our drenched shoes and unfulfilled sense of adventure. We then decided to weave in and out of the fountains as we wandered back to the others. This time we were sufficiently soaked and pleasantly pleased with our immature endeavors to remain young at heart. I'm not sure anyone else enjoyed our wet-dog appearance; the coffee shop I imagine wasn't too pleased with our soaking clothes on their couches and neither Brian nor William would accept our attempts at offering them "holy hugs".

Today has been a quiet Sunday. After meeting this morning, I stayed back to rest (and wait out an intensifying headache) while the others went to lunch. They then gathered for a game of volleyball, but I passed on that too. Instead I watched Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. I know it's a classic, and I can appreciate its statement on the psyche of those involved in war, but it was actually a depressing choice for a simple Sunday afternoon.

Tonight I must prepare class for tomorrow. I only meet with tomorrow's class twice more, and the last time we meet is set aside for their final exam, which I haven't yet prepared for either. Usually, I make plans on Sunday night to prepare for Monday's class, but I generally procrastinate until Monday morning. I don't see why this week should be any different! Plus, I promised Jessica I'd watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with her.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Anyone who has read my blog from last year knows that our group in Shiyan became avid watchers of the television show LOST. This year with the arrival of new teachers, we felt it necessary to enlighten them to the joys of this series. It doesn't take long to get anyone hooked, and Priscilla and Jessica have been catching up on the past three seasons for several weeks now, usually in my apartment. Tonight we're down to the season finale of season three, and despite the fact that I've seen it before, I'm stressed out. I'm in serious need of a distraction from the tension which is why I'm blogging within two weeks of my last entry as opposed to my standard two months.

I actually don't have much of interest to report. This week has been like most others. On Monday Abraham, the guy in charge of our class schedules, asked Brian and I to take two more night classes. We already have two so that would put us at four nights a week plus English lectures once a month. When we came to this school, we had a verbal understanding that we would never have to teach more than two nights a week, but Abraham was insistent. After a couple meetings with frustrating results, we were able to solve the problem for him. Unfortunately, the solution involved adding one night class to Jessica putting her at a full load this semester while Brian and I are sitting with a light load. I feel guilty, but there's no possible way Brian and I could take four night classes a week.

Halloween's coming up in a couple weeks. Last year we put on a big haunted house in our apartment building. It was a lot of work, and our apartments were slightly damaged (bloody fingerprints and scuff marks on the walls). This year we decided not to go through all that again. Instead, we are thinking smaller - movie night or small parties. I'm not sure exactly what we'll do, but the most fortunate of circumstances had befallen Brian and me. We actually have night classes on Monday and Wednesday every week, but it just so happens that the week before Halloween, our classes end, and the next set of classes don't begin until the week after Halloween. So we're fortunate enough to not have to teach on Halloween!

Now it appears that LOST is serving as a distraction from my blogging which is quite all right considering I have nothing to write about anyway. I'll try to have something more exciting to write about next time.