December 26, 2007

She was really tired...

Sheng Dan Kuai Le

That's "Merry Christmas" in Chinese. It literally means "Happy Holy Birth", I like that.

Holidays overseas are always interesting- a patchwork of your teammates traditions until you have a celebration that is unique while still resembling something familiar. It's beautiful to live in an international community- like hearing the Christmas story in 5 different languages at your Christmas service.

Granted, there's moments of difficulty and Christmas is the hardest. I called a friend today and he was playing Dominos with his family and I found myself being jealous. I wanted to be with my family playing Spoons or football on the lawn.

Last night though, we had a Christmas program with our students- 4 hours of thought-provoking skits, dances, and songs. With no budget for props I really enjoyed their creativity. At one point the lights went out for the three wise men to follow a star. And then I watched as an arm with an Indiglo watch was raised into the air. I thought "Oh no, that's distracting." But that watch started to move, and the wise men followed. And then it registered, and I just had to grin. What did the planning look like for that? "Wait, what will we do for a star?" "Don't worry, I have a watch that stays lit for a full 5 seconds. I can just hold my wrist up really high".

So, whether you're playing Dominos in America with your family, or making new traditions in other parts of the world, Happy Holy Birth, friends.

December 18, 2007

Massages in Asia

Asia is famous for having goods and services at a low price. You might think of food first- yes, I can go out for dinner and my bill will be less than 50 cents. But, I think the real bargain is in massages. I used to get discounted or free massages through Aveda, but you just can't beat an hour massage for the consistent price of 40 yuan (5 dollars).
As a group, the 3 of us roommates splurge on massages about once a month. It blows my mind to think that I used to spend 5 dollars on parking or on a cup of coffee.
Today Diana and I decided on our walk home from work that we 'deserved' a massage. So we stopped at the blind man massage parlor near our house. At one time in Chinese history, blind men were trained in the trade of massages. I've heard that nowadays, some sighted guys fake being blind. Why? Apparently, it goes with the territory- if you're a massage guy, you're also blind. A little cultural note for you.
Our massages began by being greeted by clearly sighted massage guys. I almost wanted them to fake it for us, maybe stub their toe or reach their hands out in front of them. But alas, they made eye-contact and pointed to which table we'd spend the next hour. Now, I'm used to tough massages, when they use their elbow in your lower back or plunge their thumb into the space between your spine and shoulder blade. But this guy, I'll call him Steve, was of a different caliber.
You know those times when you begin to laugh and you just can't stop? You try with every ounce of self mentally scold yourself...but nothing helps? And then the tears flow and you gain a second of composure.. only to burst again with laughter?
I think the only thing better is when a friend is in the exact same predicament. You spur each other on towards laughter and embarrassment.
For a full hour this happened- face down on a massage table, tears flowing, screaming in pain with a bony elbow in our backs.
And let me tell you that laughter doesn't need to be translated. Our massage guys started laughing too. The words "Ouch!" and "Ow!" don't need to be translated either, but it didn't seem to stop them.
As we walked away Diana exclaimed, "Now I need a massage to recover from my massage." So true.

December 17, 2007

The guy in the blue.

Conversation this morning on the way to work...

Diana: I think the guy at the vegetable market, the one that wears the blue coat, tries to flirt with me.

Me: (Slight pause, with a voice of total concern) You know he's mentally handicapped, right?

Diana began convulsing with laughter and I had no idea why. Turns out there's two blue coat guys at the same market. Likely story, Diana. On a team of 3 girls in the middle of nowhere it seems that the vegetable vendor is newsworthy.

(Sidenote: My grandma taught Special Ed for 30(ish) years and I was always taught to say 'mentally handicapped'.)

Wild, Draw 4!

This morning I wanted to reward the students and play a game of UNO for awhile to give them a break from the textbook. The only rule was if I heard any Chinese, the game would be immediately over- I'm trying to crack down on Mandarin in class. One of the students named Charity is a giggler. If she feels uncomfortable, she giggles. If she doesn't know the answer to a question, she giggles. If she is corrected in pronunciation, she giggles. It was discovered 20 minutes into UNO that Charity had no idea what she was doing. Even if the current card was a blue 4 for example, and Charity had plenty of blues and even a red 4, she'd still put down a Wild card. Once she even put down a Wild Draw 4 and then another regular Wild on top of it! No one could understand the careless use of the precious Wilds. We corrected Charity and tried to explain the value of the Wild cards. She just giggled. This continued again and again. I was starting to wonder if Charity understood what we were saying in English.
This is the kicker...Charity constantly had at least two Wild cards in her hand at all times! She had no idea that they were rare. And the victim of all the Wild Draw 4's was Amy, ever competitive Amy. I'd watch her grit her teeth with each round. At one point I asked Amy, "How do you feel?" She said in a low voice "I want to hit Charity!" I laughed and Charity giggled, Amy's eyes just remained on her 15+ cards. The next round Charity put down a green skip on a blue 5- totally random. People were about to throw their cards in the air. I interjected with "No Charity! Wu or lan... that's all." (Translated: No Charity! 5 or blue...that's all." Ruth, the constant rule-keeper exclaimed, "Miss Allison you just broke your rule!" What's more Charity just giggled, picked up her card and put down another Wild Draw 4 for Amy. Poor Amy.