Sunday, September 26, 2010

Say What??? Some funny things…

1) “but there are MANY old, dead, smart Chinese men…”
Explanation: One of our college students, Holly, a great student and a professed lover of history (she even could remember who King Henry VIII was in class one day!), took us to eat at one of her favorite restaurants just outside of the East campus (pronounced, please, in Chinese-English as East campers). On the walk, Brad was talking about the mountains in and around the city of Qingdao. He remembered my dad explaining that one of the mountains around here had something to do with Confucius, but couldn’t remember which one. He asked Holly. Holly did not know who Confucius was. Here’s how the conversation pretty much went down,
Holly: Confucius?
Brad: Yeah, Confucius, you know, the really smart old guy.
Holly: I don’t know Confucius.
Dana: He was the very good man and was very smart and was a big part of Chinese history
Holly: Oh, well maybe that is his English name and I only know his Chinese name.
Dana: Oh, right. (thinking I’m being sooo supportive….)
Brad: Come on, he’s really old and really smart …
Holly: Oh, he is alive now?
Brad: No, he is dead.
Holly: laughing, shaking her head, and pretty much thinking we’re ridiculous Americans, but there are MANY old, DEAD, smart Chinese men.

2) Riddle: An English speaking American and a native Chinese speaker try to communicate in a shop in China. What language do they speak? ……..Spanish, of course! Explanation: Brad was eyeing something in one small shop and was trying to ask a question about it. The Chinese man in the shop tried to talk to Brad in English, but was having a difficult time so he asked Brad if he spoke Spanish. Brad said he did a little, so he and the Chinese man spoke in broken Spanish instead. They were able to communicate enough to understand each other. Thank you to Spanish teachers everywhere!

3) On Sundays Brad and I both have tutoring classes. We have noticed subtle differences between cultures here and in the U.S. recorded in the workbooks that these classes use. Both of my classes are mix of grades 4-9, though the majority of the kids are in 6th grade. I teach two levels of English, but in the lower level the students were learning the word ‘preference’ and had to choose which beverages listed were their preference. Beer was one of the choices along with milk, soda, fruit juice, etc. I thought that was pretty funny – then came Brad’s class.

One of Brad’s Sunday tutoring classes is comprised of four (two girls and two boys) 2nd graders. Preparing for his most recent class, he was looking through the teacher’s manual for suggestions about the lesson. On the top of the “Unit 2” page, in a shaded box, was the heading In this unit the pupils learn to understand: (obviously the objectives of the lesson… so very important)
Don’t forget (the potatoes).
My head hurts.
Stay here.
Damn. My new jeans.
I want to sell (this necklace).

amn, I should have been teaching that lesson! What does Brad know about new jeans?!

9. 26. 10 – Updates on dining:

9. 26. 10 – Updates on dining:
1) At the end of the week before last, Friday night the 17th to be exact, Brad and I were on the hunt for this English bookstore called the Book Nook. Dad had told us about it AND we were planning to join the other American- English teachers here to go there the next night for an “English Corner” - not that we had any idea what that meant. Brad has a very good sense of direction and after a little research and map investigation, thought he could get us there. We took a bus to a normal stop and got out to walk down a side street. We walked, and walked, and walked. We passed some very cool places like a “Fashion Street” but we found no such Book Nook. We finally turned around and decided to go down “Fashion Street” to get something to eat. That was my idea. I was starving! …Well, conveniently enough, a side street off of “Fashion Street” was “Cuisine Street” so we picked a place and sat outside. Someone came to give us a menu. The menu did have pictures, but they were misleading. I ordered what looked like a big bowl of spinach-artichoke dip (yum!), though Brad was pretty sure it was tofu, which I was totally cool with. Brad ordered a pork and vegetables plate. Hmmm – I did get tofu, but it was tofu mush. Somebody forgot to tell the cook that I did in fact have my teeth. Brad was correct in the idea that he was ordering pig, but when he looked closely at his meat selection in front of him, he realized he was eating pig intestines. Seriously. I tried but did not eat my mush; he ate his intestines. What’s wrong with that picture?

2) There is a Subway at the Carrefour. (The Carrefour is like a Super-Walmart. On the bottom floor are some restaurants, including a KFC and Subway, and some specialty shops. The next floor is a grocery store and the third is sort-of like the rest of the stuff you can buy at Walmart minus the groceries.) Subway is my favorite place to eat. They have my oh-so-favorite honey-mustard sauce and I even eat the veggies on my sub. Delightful! They have crazy-flavored Lays potato chips, though, which is a bummer.

One often can find other foreigners there enjoying an escape from Chinese food reality. That next Saturday afternoon we went to Subway for lunch. The tiny place was PACKED with foreigners and locals alike. (First of all, the locals need to leave. Um, they can’t get noodles or rice here. They must be confused. – my initial thoughts.) After ordering, all four of the tables were taken and we didn’t know where to sit. A white girl sitting by herself at a table of four chairs offered up her extra seats until her friends got there. We were very grateful. Turns out she is 19, an aspiring lawyer, and is from a small college in Vermont. She is with a group of others from her school doing a 2-3 month internship. Very cool. Whatever characteristics you are giving her in your head, stop now. It won’t be right. Brad and I ate superfast (yes, my computer rathered it be one word) and finished just before one of her classmates walked up. (He was cool too, from DC but has family in Charlotte, and we’ve actually bumped into him again.) As we were getting up to leave another white girl pushing a cart with lots of stuff in it, tried to needle her way into the small restaurant space. Brad noticed something on her t-shirt and asked if she was from America and she said yes. I asked where and she said, “North Carolina.” I told her we were too and then Brad realized who she was… My good friend Neely works for this company which designs and sells standards-based lessons to schools. About a week or so before we left for China, she had been to this girl’s school and met this girl’s principal and somehow they got into the conversation about the both of us. The principal sent Neely this girl’s email address but I had yet to contact her. “Are you from Johnston County?” Brad asked, and of course she was. After she was done ordering, and while Brad was talking to yet someone else, she came out and we chatted. She is here with her husband and baby. She stays home with the baby, but he works at the International School here where all classes are taught in English. She goes to the “International Fellowship” on Sundays and asked if we wanted to go (unfortunately we work on Sundays) AND it turns out she plays soccer and is hoping to start playing pick-up here soon. CRAZY! I gave her my email address but haven’t heard from her yet. Hopefully soon!

3) Last one, I promise. Brad had the great idea to invite our college kids to dinner, one at a time, to a restaurant of their choice. I made the announcement last Monday and prize student Holly immediately took us up on our offer for Monday night. We walked from our “West Campus” (where international students and teachers live) to the “East Campus” (Chinese student side) and were led to a near-by street filled with eating possibilities. She had already taken the time to look at her favorite restaurant’s menu on line and pick things to order. ( I had mentioned in class that Brad and I have a difficult time knowing what to get – hence story #1.) She had written them down in a little book and translated them in English – at least what she thought the translation was. She ordered three plates of food, all were GREAT, but the third was AMAZING. It was a plate of hot (in terms of temperature, not spice), cut up and then saturated in brown sugar syrup sticky goodness, sweet potatoes. OH MY, S.O.O. O. GOOD! I told her I needed the recipe to add this to my family’s traditional Thanksgiving menu!

All By Myself

9.15.10: I AM AT THE BEACH…. ALL BY MYSELF! Today is my day off. We’ve had a few super nice days in a row. Two days ago, Monday, on Brad’s day off, he wanted to come to the beach in the afternoon so I absolutely obliged. It turns out it is right by Huawen College’s campus. On Monday when we came I thought I was going to have to go back yesterday (wow, it really was yesterday. It now feels so long ago.) for work so I tried to memorize what I was doing. Brad had been told by Cheny to get off the bus after the mountains had ended so he relayed that to me. He also made a point to show me the bus sign when we got off and then also told me that one time he made a mistake and got off the bus too early. It made for an long walk but he still got to Huawen none the less. (He has to teach there on Sundays.) Since we had to wait for a while to catch the bus to return, I also noticed a number of banks across the street. This was all key information for my return solo adventure.

Okay. I CAN DO IT BY MYSELF… right?? I hung around the dorm in the AM and waited for Brad to get back from the morning college class. Poor guy, he has to double down on his classes today. Teach the college kids in the AM and the middle school in the afternoon. Yesterday he did too since I had to teach at the primary school. We went to lunch together and had a nice time with some fellow Americans from BYU. Brad went off to the middle school. It was time.

I decided to bring along Brad’s bathroom towel instead of mine since his is orange and mine is white. Mine would have a much higher risk of getting stained by the dark sand. Besides, he offered.

So I got to the beach ALL BY MYSELF! I bought water ALL BY MYSELF! I found a place to sit ALL BY MYSELF, and then I sat ALL BY MYSELF! Hmm… I didn’t want to get bored so I brought some casual reading that was left for us in our room by Madam Jiang, the riveting Common Knowledge about Chinese History. I also brought something else. I was so proud of myself for this… my new netbook with the go-go-gadget long battery life to play some favorite ENGLISH tunes! I put my (Brad’s) towel out and placed my book and water beside me. Then I opened my computer and pushed the play link on my i-tunes playlist. Two guys in jeans and white t-shirts, under an umbrella, and a good enough distance away so I was sure they couldn’t hear anything turned around and stared. I turned around too to see what they were looking at. Whatever it was I’m sure it was exciting because they were turned around for a while. I saw a guy walking this way. Maybe it was him. What?

I so enjoyed my time at the beach. It was beautiful and the music was so fun. I never got to the book. Next trip, I’m sure.

9.15.10 PM: Brad wanted to take a trip for a few things so we went out. On the way down the campus to the bus stop we realized that neither one of us had a camera. First time that has happened since being here. We joked that something H.U.G.E. was obviously going to happen.

Brad played a fantastic game of pantomime with a lady at Carrefor who was able to play it right back. It was definitely the most impressive game I’ve seen him play yet as he does do it often. Most store workers don’t understand and just giggle and shrug instead. Not this lady; she was ON IT! She helped us find a perfect hotplate (it even had some directions in English) and a tea kettle that would work with it. The Chinese government did a GREAT job with her assignment!
On the way home we traveled down a road not yet traveled (not the first time) to find something to eat. It was flashy and bright so we thought there was bound to be something somewhere soon. There were in fact many places to eat, they just happened to be all fish places. I saw the famous tanks with the live fish soon to be fish food. The places were packed; they just wouldn’t be further packed with these two brunis (sorry, wrong continent).

We walked on.. and on. We came up on a CFY – Care For You – restaurant. I actually have seen a couple of these around and have peeked in their front windows before. I’ve since wanted to try one but didn’t know we had one close to us. We went in. We were led upstairs and sat down at a table and left with a menu to check off what we wanted. We looked around. There were large shallow pots in the middle of every table. WE WERE AT A CHINESE MELTING POT!!! Awww – it made me ink! We also didn’t have a clue what to order as the menu was in Chinese and no worker spoke English. The manager stepped up to the plate to try to help us (She had a white shirt on and everyone else had on green.) but couldn’t either. They all just laughed at the confusion. Fortunately there was a large group of people celebrating at the table right next to us and they knew English very well. Brad told them they could all be Americans and they laughed. At least it was a happy atmosphere! We told them some things that we wanted and they checked the appropriate words. We still had to order fish (we chose shrimp and crab) but at least it was dead when it came to our table and we cooked it. Shout out to the Butlers on the Toogoodoo who showed me what shrimp look like when they come out of the water and taught me how to peel a shrimp with the head still on. Who knew then I would actually NEED to know that info and teach it to Brad! Well, I declare! (That was for you, Elloree.) On that “shout-out” note, we ordered crab because the people at the table behind us had it. If Emily Richardson hadn’t taught me about her famous crab pasta I wouldn’t have recognized it! Thanks, Em! Great Success!