Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Home Sweet Home

That is where I am right now.  I have a LOT to catch up on blog-wise, but if I am MIA (as I already have been the past few weeks), it's because I'm getting reacquainted with the best place in the world.  It's raining ever so slightly, the coffee tastes amazing, there is promise of Chicken Tortilla Soup for dinner, and I'm sharing my time with my adorable sister.

Life is beautiful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The things I'd do...

... for this kind of talent.

Not only is this an amazing and original feat, but it is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Some call it Spielberg's greatest flop.  Others remember the feeling of poly-blend carpets under tummies and chins pressed firmly into palms as we gazed up into our bubbly TV screen and watched crackled, worn-out tape playing on our VCRs.  Sticky fingers from stuffing our faces with Cheez-its, Abba-Zaba, and Fruit Roll-Ups.  Before flat-screens.  Before organic anything.  Before seizure-inducing Saturday morning cartoons chock-full of dialogue and flashing lights.  When Star Wars was still a legit franchise.  When Ice Cube was part of NWA and would've destroyed Daddy Day Care in a freestyle battle.  Before pirates were cool again.  When we related to this movie because we actually were just a bunch of kids.  80's babies feel me on this one.  Hook!  Hook!  Where's the Hook?!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


2010 is going to be a big year.  First of all, it's the year of the tiger (or white tiger, if you want to get specific) here in China.  It's also the year I'll be officially taken off the market... legally, I mean.  Not just in the Facebook world (which may as well be one and the same nowadays).  It's an exciting time... we've moved on in this century from single digits...

courtesy of

If ONLY I knew how to call the year.  Is it Twenty-Ten?  Two thousand ten?  Two thousand AND ten?  Just "Ten"?  Or is it as my students would say: "Two-zero-one-zero"?

I remember when we hit Y2K (blech, I hated that it was called that) and the rest of the world panicked over what would happen to computer systems, bank records, and databases all around the world.  Meanwhile, I was pondering what Conan O'Brien would do with his "In the year 2000" sketch, which I loved so much.

That was TEN YEARS AGO.  Well, for old time's sake, enjoy this little video of Conan and a much younger but equally deadpan David Duchovny for one of the last "In the year 2000" sketches (they've since moved onto the year 3000... and into Jay Leno's time slot).  And get back at me about how you're calling the next ten years.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Busy Day

A lot of folks back home often ask me what a normal day is like.  The trouble with this is that when something is normal, you often forget what exactly happens.  I took one day to document almost everything I did.  Take note that this particular day was a bit busier than my normal days... but still fairly boring.  Enjoy!

7:35AM- Roll out of bed
I have been setting my cell phone clock five minutes ahead to help rush me a bit.  Sometimes it works.  Usually, it just tells me I have five extra minutes to procrastinate.

WARNING:  Next picture may completely change your opinion of me.  Yes, folks, this is me in my raw form.  This beacon of shining beauty is what Jason will have the pleasure of waking up to every morning for the rest of his life.  It's painful to take in... but there it is for all of you to see.

In no time at all and with minimal effort, I'm ready to face the world!

Well, almost ready.   

8:15AM- Off to class!  Coffee and class activities in hand, I rush off on my five-minute trek to class.  Here's a quick shot of the teacher's lounge.  Growing up, I was always curious about the teacher's lounge.  It always seemed the teachers were so anxious to get in and shut the door behind them, like it was the gate into a teacher's version of Narnia filled with red marking pens and teacher's dirty looks competitions.  Turns out it's pretty anti-climactic.  But we do have a flat-screen TV.

8:30-12:30- Class time!  Today's activity was to take a personality quiz and discuss the results.  It was pretty interesting to hear what my more "mature" students had to say about their findings.

12:45- WOOHOO LUNCH!  My favorite part of the day is eatin' time!  This day, I went to one of my favorite spots near my house, The Bridge Cafe.  It's a little escape from crazy Beijing life and they have amazing coffee with free re-fills.  I went with a panini and side salad and coffee.  Total cost?  A spendy 50 RMB... but that still works out to about $7 USD.  Steep, yes.  Worth it?  On a day like today, definitely.

2:30 PM- After running a few errands, it's back home for a quick break before my next class at 4PM.  At first, I thought about doing my dishes...

... but decided to check my email and have a chocolate instead.

Read the local paper and get frustrated at the government-operated press.

4 PM- Off to class, then back at 6 PM.  Put in an hour of yoga via my laptop.

7:30- DINNER TIME!  (Notice how excited I get for meals?)  Samara comes over for Hot Pot (huo guo) which is basically a hot, flavored broth that you throw random things into and then go fishing for once they've cooked.  We had quite the spread, including some leftover lamb and beef slices, tofu, bok choy, spinach, and sweet potato.

9:15 PM- The story of my life.  After a lovely meal and conversation, I finally get around to the pile of dishes I'd been putting off, which has now doubled in size.

10:20 PM- Dishes, kitchen floor, countertops, stove, and eating area CLEANED and DONE with the help of Earth, Wind, and Fire (the band, not the Planeteers).  Think about doing laundry...

Learn from past mistakes and put a load into the machine.  Break time with some pirated TV on Youku and another chocolate (heehee).  Bonus points to whomever can recognize the opening credits.

11 PM- Bake some banana bread.  I love my friends.  They love my banana bread.  I dislike brown bananas.  Banana bread loves brown bananas.  It's an even exchange.

12 AM- Laundry machine goes crazy after second load.  At first, it wouldn't stop washing.  Then, it wouldn't stop spin-drying.  It's going to be a long night.  I take a shower because THIS is what I look like by the end of it all.

2 AM- BED TIME.  FINALLY.  But first, hang up laundry to dry!  Since the winters in Beijing are so incredibly dry, it's recommended that you hang your laundry inside your bedroom so that you can breathe in some of the moisture from your wet clothes as they dry.  Also, putting them outside on the balcony (yang tai) can sometimes be too cold which could possibly lead to frozen clothing!

Crazy busy day.  Four hours of class tomorrow at 8:30.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Snore.

New Year, New Blog: Gift Giving in China 101

Wordpress and I have a complicated relationship.  We were going strong at first, and then when the Chinese government put up the internet blocks that stopped access to all blogs, well... you could say that absence made the heart grow fonder.  But Wordpress, you are indeed a fickle lover.  We were reunited and feeling good, but you turned your back on me.

So I welcome you to my new virtual home away from home here on Blogspot along with the other blogger masses.  And what better way to start off the new year than to give you the perfect example of what it's like to live here in China?

You know those lists that identify all the signs that you belong to a certain category of people?  Such as, "You know you're from California if..." or "You know you're Korean if..."?  Well, if there was a list like that for English teachers in China, my contribution would be:

"You know you're an English teacher in China if you have a closet full of bizarre, useless, and ridiculously overpriced gifts still in their original packaging."

Over the last year and a half, I have received some outrageous gifts.  Some are so wrong, it's right, and I put them out on my mantle as conversation pieces.  A snow globe that says, "Congratulations on your first communion" (because I'm a Catholic baby, as we all know), a model of a high-speed train, a tiny Mongolian yurt, a porcelain cat with a feather tail are just a few of the many treasures I've collected in my relatively short time here.  But the gift I received last week was the gift to end all student gifts.

And here it is:

This little Buddha is carved from a single piece of bamboo root.  Eerily enough, its carved eyes also seem to follow you around the room.  My students told me that they all pitched in some money to purchase the gift for me and three of them spent two hours in the freezing Beijing winter cold looking for "the perfect gift."

You can imagine the feigned, plastic smile that I had to wear while accepting this more than generous gift, all the while thinking, "What in the world were you thinking?"  Thousands of different scenarios run through my mind when I look at this smiling and mildly creepy Buddha, imagining what must have happened when my students (all of them adult Ph.D's who have met foreigners in the past) went shopping, trying to follow their twisted train of thought that would eventually lead them to wasting their funds on this piece of glorified junk.

I've tried to figure out what to do with this Buddha.  Because of my beliefs, I'm not comfortable putting it anywhere in my home, nor would I want to re-gift it.  On the other hand, I'm sure it was expensive and I feel badly just chucking it in the trash.  And so, a predicament lies before me.

For now, Rooty (I've named it) has a temporary home hiding between my two house plants (an example of GOOD gift giving, for those of you taking notes), but it still gives me the heebeejeebees when I'm in my living room or watching TV and it seems to be watching ME.

What do you all think?  To chuck or not to chuck?  It is rather cold, and it would make for a nice fire on my balcony... hmmm...