Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back by popular demand...


Just finished another marathon weekend of recording English tapes and tests at Jiangsu Radio Station. It's a great way to make some money, and every new experience teaches me something new about myself...for example, I now know that I'm incapable of saying the word "balls" into a microphone without laughing, no matter how innocent the context.

So here it is: The Top Five Most Bizarre Things I Had to Say Into a Microphone Today While Keeping a Straight Face:

A: What’s Itchy Feet doing?
B: He is lying on the grass looking up at the blue sky.

A: What’s the matter with you?
B: My pants are old.

A: Hobo is standing on a chair and Eddie is lying under the chair.
B: That Hobo is too dirty!

A: What’s nineteen minus seven, Little Monkey?
B: Twelve, Lovely Panda.

A: Why is Eddie wearing a helmet?
B: Because he is now on Mars.
A: Is life better on Mars?
B: Yes. We are cared for by robots.
A: What do the houses look like on Mars?
B: They look like huge balls.
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Monday, January 7, 2008

baba and gugu come to nanjing

Here are some pics from a recent visit from my dad (baba) and aunt (gugu). I LOVE it when people visit, because it's a chance to see the city through fresh eyes. Even though the trip was short and we stuck close to home (Nanjing and Shanghai), I got to experience some parts of these places that I've never seen before.
We went to the tomb of a Ming-dynasty emperor on a mountain in Nanjing. To approach the tomb, you walk up a pathway lined with giant stone animals. The tomb itself has never been excavated, which adds to the mystery of the hillside as you walk through the forest along the ancient wall, knowing that under your feet lie treasures and artifacts untold.
We also visited the newly renovated Nanjing Massacre Musuem, which has been much celebrated in the media--and rightly so. It's an impressive building, and to learn about the history of this horrific event here in Nanjing, where the emotions are still so raw, is really powerful. On our way there, our taxi driver told us about how his grandfather was killed in the massacre, and expressed some views about that island nation to the north which I won't repeat here. (I've learned to pick my battles on that one). On December 13, the anniversary of the massacre, air raid sirens sounded throughout the city--the sound chills you to the bone.
To get some air after the museum, we walked on the Ming-dynasty city wall and took in the winter landscape. Throughout the trip we ate great food and I got to show off my Chinese, which is getting better and better every day!
Happy New Year, everyone. 2008 is off to a great start.




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Friday, December 21, 2007

Hell on Wheels

I thought this op-ed piece in the New York Times was pretty funny and true...

Op-Ed Contributor
Hell on Wheels
Published: December 20, 2007

YOU’D rather not think about it — and you never, ever talk about it — but you and I both know that you’ve run over feet.

You can rationalize. (The airport concourse was crowded. You were distracted, looking up at the departures board.) But come clean. You know it’s happening. You can feel your rolling suitcase treating a stranger’s ankle as a speed bump. You can hear the swallowed yelp of pain.

And do you apologize? You might mumble “sorry” over a shoulder. But you never break stride. Instead, you steer into the Chili’s next to your gate, your bag clipping a waitress’s shin as you wheel to the bar. (Go ahead, drown your guilt in that frozen margarita. It won’t cure her limp.)

Aboard the plane, the wanton destruction continues. For the central fallacy of the wheeled luggage trend is that your suitcase will roll smoothly up the aisle in coach. Lie!

Your bag lurches along, catching on seat handles, bumping knees and elbows. You pull harder when it gives resistance. You pull harder still. And you look back to see your bag scraping against the thigh of an obese seated passenger. His haunch has spilled into the aisle to meet the wrath of your ballistic nylon.

When you at last reach your seat, do you gracefully collapse your telescoping handle and lightly tuck your bag in the overhead compartment? No, your handle jams, holding up the line behind you. And your bag won’t fit because all the other bags up there also have huge, jutting wheels.

Plus — particularly if you are a petite, elderly woman (a demographic I am in most cases quite fond of, I promise you) — you sometimes can’t lift your bag at all. This is because those wheels have freed you from having to rely on your own muscle power, or a hired valet. You’re encouraged to over-pack to such a degree that you can no longer move your bag without wheels. So you stagger weakly under its weight until (if I see you) I assist you with it or (if I don’t) you drop it on my head — bludgeoning me with 70 pounds of toiletries.

People, you never need more clothes than you can comfortably carry in a shoulder bag. Soldiers in ’Nam got by with less gear than the average executive now packs for a two-day trip. Unless you are a deep-sea diver or, maybe, an iron-ore salesman, your luggage really shouldn’t necessitate load-bearing wheels.

Also: aesthetics. Your dorky rolling bag doesn’t say, “I’m embarking on a voyage.” It says, “I’m going to a conference in Cleveland.” And maybe you are, but you don’t have advertise it. The swashbuckling adventurer hoists a leather rucksack, or a battered canvas duffel. He doesn’t tug his bag behind him on a leash like a stubborn and especially boring pet.

It’s easy to see the appeal of wheeled luggage, of course. It eases our burdens and lifts the weight off our shoulders. It keeps our neatly pressed jackets un-mussed. But rolling bags are really functional only for the type of journey that goes taxi-airport-taxi-hotel-shuttle bus-convention center. Outside this comfortable circuit, they’re often useless.

I’ve been traveling a lot recently, in countries ranging from developed to less developed to dear Lord, is that a monkey attacking a naked child? In harsher conditions, a dainty rolling bag is absurdly out of place. It’s no fun rolling those wheels across a “street” that’s just a rain-soaked blotch of mud. Or bouncing them up the stairs of a packed train station. Or dragging them through a marketplace where puddles are indeed full of fish and goat entrails. (Enjoy that pungent odor when your bag is back in your room.)

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not trying to eliminate rolling bags altogether. I’m just trying to halt their unchecked proliferation. Perhaps we should regard them with the same mild disapproval that greets that fur coat your mom inherited. She won’t throw it away, but she is a bit uneasy about wearing it in public.

This will all become moot, of course, with the advent of the levitating suitcase, an invention that can’t be far off. When it arrives, we’ll immediately go gaga for it. And soon after, I’m sure, your bag will be levitating swiftly and directly into my groin.

I await your mumbled apology.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

radio stars


It’s always just a matter of time until I find myself in front of a microphone again…this time it was not just a microphone but an entire insulated recording studio at Jiangsu Province Radio, where my friend Will and I spent some quality hours recording educational tapes and tests (just the latest in the series of odd part-time jobs that give texture to my life in Nanjing).
I wrote down a couple of my favorite dialogues. I feel I am really contributing to the world’s store of knowledge by lending my voice to these gems of wisdom. We had to do this straight, with no laughing, which is surprisingly difficult. Try it yourself at home.

A: What did you do this weekend?
B: I pulled up carrots. And you?
A: I was milking a cow.

A: What happened to Michael? He used to have the hairiest legs in town.
B: His coach shaved him.

A: If I don’t sleep soon, I will make your dog disappear from the world!
B: Are you saying you will kill my dog?
A: That’s possible.

There was also a lengthy dialogue involving a boy named Tommy Bush, and a monologue about how “Americans are all very wasteful. As a people, they destroy many things that others would save.” Another monologue described a typical meal in an American home, during which “the wife typically prepares the food while the husband enjoys cocktails. After the meal, the wife typically clears the dishes.” And finally, for the younger crowd of English learners, a series of bizarre one-liners, such as “I prefer puppets,” and “this monkey is for your sister.”
I don’t think they noticed that I was digging my own fingernails into my own flesh under the table to keep from laughing (which didn’t always work—we had to halt production a couple of times when I lost it and snorted hysterically into the microphone.) But we got it done, and had fun along the way. And Will even earned a new nickname: he will forever be Tommy Bush to me.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fun in Nanjing

I finally brushed the cobwebs off my camera and took it for a spin last night--here are some pictures from a birthday party for 5 of my friends: Will, David, Wang Dong, Yun Feng and Wang Fei. The party had all the basic elements: cheeseburgers grilled on a tiny hibachi on Will's balcony; some home-made Chinese food; a cake with a dragon on it; and some spectacular karaoke singing. Happy birthday, 朋友们!


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mom's trip to China

Pics from my recent travels with my mom: the trip was FANTASTIC, and a much-needed reminder to take more frequent breaks from the city! We went down to my former home in Hunan Province to visit my old student and teacher friends, and spent a few days in beautiful Zhangjiajie national park before ending the trip in style with a couple of days in Shanghai.



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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

my school

Wow, I have been really delinquent about blogging! The days are flying are some pictures of my university, Nanjing Shifan Daxue (Nanjing Normal University). It has a reputation for having one of the most beautiful campuses in Asia. These are some of the main teaching buildings, and also the front gate, where I buy my warm soy milk in the morning on my way to class. Classes start at eight o'clock sharp every morning, and go until 12. After four hours of learning Chinese, my head is usually swimming. But it's cool, I'm starting to think and dream in a bizarre bastardized Chinglish!
I'm going to try to be better about blogging, but I probably won't be as active as I was in Hunan...I miss having time to take pictures and write about my days...there's a vacation coming up next week, and my mom is coming out to travel around with me. I'm taking her to Hunan to see my old stomping grounds, so stay tuned for Xintang: The Return.