Monday, April 26, 2010


Today, I checked me & J's wedding website.  On the homepage, there's a countdown to our wedding day.

Today, the clock informed me that we are at 165 days to go.  It seems like just a week ago when J and I set up the site and it began counting down from some ridiculous number like 407 and we kind of chuckled at how long our engagement will be.  Others assured us the time would fly.  I still disagree, but man... 165 days?  The time isn't exactly flying by, but it certainly is passing without me fully realizing it.

Jitters?  None yet.  But ask me in 164 days, and my answer might be a little different.

One of our engagement photos, taken October 2009 by my buddy Buzz.

Reinforcing Complacency

As I write this, I am also writing my midterm project for my Advanced Speaking class.  The project is to create a group presentation based on different topics given to them.  As I go over each of the topics, I find myself deleting and then re-typing anything that I anticipate would wedge my students into the corner of complacency.

I've often given my students topics to discuss that force them to think about their own sense of political efficacy.  Things like the sickening amount of electronic waste (or other waste, for that matter) that pollutes the poor rural areas of their own country and the corrupt officials who pocket the money meant to assist in alleviating these problems.  Or the fact that many more Chinese citizens are waking up to the fact that a press controlled by a higher power is no press at all.  Or that their boastful monuments to Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and increasing joint ventures of Audi in the city centers are quickly warping the humble simplicity found in Chinese tradition and history into a massive consumerist society obsessed with the quickest way to make money-- the very same bourgeois lifestyle that could've landed you in prison not so long ago.  And don't even get me started on the fact I need a VPN to keep up this blog... most likely visited primarily by my parents.

In most cases, my students explain to me-- sometimes with defiance, other times with a crippling helplessness-- that my discussion topics are often "too political."  There's nothing, they explain to me, that they can do, or that the common person can do, to change the situation I lay before them in simple chalk and instruction to discuss how to address the problem using the present perfect or in conditional sentences.  Perhaps they are right-- maybe mixing grammar with politics in China is not a good idea.

But my idealistic mind likes to believe that I am not just an English-speaking parrot spitting out grammar rules and vocabulary without making my students think.  Sure, that is what China would like for me to be.  Unfortunately for them, it's something I simply won't do.

"And therein lies the rub."  At what point do I simply give them a break and let them live in their continued existence of bending to a certain rule for the "harmonization" of a country they love?  When do I throw in the towel and just hope that they have retained some ability to think on their own?  When is it time to just be an English teacher?  When will I realize that striking the delicate balance between taking advantage of teachable moments and knowing when it's time to shake the dust is an art that very few have perfected?

I'm still not done with my midterms, and I fully expect to hear a chorus of moans and groans when I pass it out to my students tomorrow.  Little will they know that inside, I am moaning and groaning right along with them.  For different reasons, though, of course.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Conversations with my dad

My dad is one in a million.  I woke up today for some ungodly reason at 5:30 AM.  I made it a point to be productive and catch up with folks back home since we rarely beat the time difference and find good times to chat.  For a little background, my dad is a HUGE Karaoke fanatic.  People think I'm kidding when I talk about how family events go in my house, but the formula goes something like: Dinner, Dessert, Drinks, Karaoke, Drinks, Karaoke, Fall asleep on couch.  My dad must have a thing for obnoxious songs, because his signature karaoke number is "My Way," made famous by Frank Sinatra and broken-English speakers all over the world.  Here's a tidbit from a conversation I had over Gchat with my pops.  Gotta love that slight hint of Konglish in the conversation, too.

James: :)
  Did you hear about "My Way" is banned from karaoke shops in Philppines?
 me: Because everyone wants to sing it?
7:51 AM James: No, they were fighting - each claiming that they sang better than the other guy
  there were too many fights
  can you imagine??!!!
7:53 AM me: Maybe you should go and sing it so you can settle all the fights
 James: that's a great idea - why didn't I think of that!!!! :)
 me: They'll all say, "Remember when that Korean guy came? There's no comparison. We shouldn't even try."
 James: you are funny!
7:57 AM me: That is so funny, though.
  Leave it up to Asians to get all emotional about their karaoke.
7:58 AM James: I think their way of living seem more humane than the americans live their lives - americans are all about working, but others enjoy their lives a bit better like fighting about who sang the song better.
  who has time for something like that in America?    Yes, Pops.  Life would be better if we just took work a little less seriously and regarded karaoke with the respect it deserves.

Happy Belated Birthday, Yobo

There he is.  The father of my unborn children.  I purposely made this picture smaller to avoid any embarrassment that Jason might face in the future, but this picture is just too good.  I can't decide what's best about it.  The fact that he is clearly unhappy that I'm taking his picture, last season's long johns making an appearance when they badly need to be thrown out, or the fact that he's only wearing one slipper.  What's up with that, anyway?

Anyway, on April 11, 2010, Jason turned 26.  He's not one for huge birthday celebrations, but since we weren't able to spend his birthday together last year, I insisted that we do something a little special.  I asked him what he wanted for his "Birthday Dinner," which consisted of breaded chicken strips dipped in Teriyaki, white rice (because I usually make him eat brown rice), some Shrimp and Veggie Soup, and his favorite pie.
Yes, that is a giant votive candle in the middle of Jason's birthday pie.

Even though I'd offered to make something a little more special for Jason's birthday, he very humbly asked for his chicken strips and rice, to which I gladly obliged.  Overall, it was a very uneventful birthday.  We ate dinner quietly, and I busted out the only candle I could find and some sparklers that I had lying around to sing "Happy Birthday" to him by myself.  We ate a lot of pie, talked a little bit about our days, and 15 minutes in to watching "A Gentleman's Agreement," he was asleep on my couch and we called it a night.

Jason blowing out his giant birthday candle.

And you know what?  It was a great night.  Some of my friends have given me a little flack about getting married so young, and even by the time I was 23, I'd already acquired the moniker "Grandma Grace" for never wanting to go drinking with my buddies and getting stupid at some bar.  Sure, maybe I did spend a few too many lonely nights in my little studio apartment watching weird independent movies and smelling my neighbor's weed smoke wafting through the hallway- I'll fully admit that.  

But Jason's birthday was an example of how I get to be a boring person with another boring person for the rest of my life... and how great is that?  To be completely at ease and content with someone you love, who has no expectations, but lives with great expectancy of what good things are to come.  Someone who is totally cool (okay, maybe compliant is a better word) to you taking a somewhat unflattering picture of them in their long underwear with only one slipper on.  Someone whose only birthday wish is to hang out with his kooky fiance and eat some chicken strips and pie.

Happy Belated Birthday, Jase.  Here's to all the Banana Cream Pie, chicken strips, and rice you could possibly consume in our future long life together!

Oh... and you didn't think I'd leave you hanging without a few more shots of that pie!  Home made, baby!  Look at that crust crimping!  The Oreo topping was Jason's idea.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Father-Daughter Dance

The Father-Daughter Dance has been a topic of some debate between my Pops and me long before I was even engaged.  A few years back, my dad had this crazy kick where he was only listening to country music and insisted that he'd found the song we'd dance to at my wedding.  It was country.  The lyrics are very, very literal, and whomever wrote it penned it- I'm sure- with the intention of selling millions of singles to soft-hearted dads with daughters on their way to the altar.  And... it's COUNTRY!  The one form of music I can't stand listening to!

His gentle suggestion was met with some severe protests from me that were probably insensitive to my dad's vulnerability.  Even though my sister keeps insisting that I just "let him do what he wants," something still doesn't sit well with me with the idea of dancing with my father at my wedding to a song I can't stand.  Maybe it won't matter, but wouldn't it be so much better for us to have found a song together?  One that is significant to the both of us?

We still haven't settled on one.  The one I thought of was the song "One of These Days" by Neil Young, which my dad sent to me via email last year when I first came to China and my dad mused to me about how the song reminded him of me.  But today, I think I finally found it.

When I was a little girl, I watched The Sound of Music everyday for a year.  And when I say "everyday," I really mean it.  My aunt has told me about when she'd come to visit us and I'd be sitting there very faithfully in front of the television watching Julie Andrews rescue the Von Trapp family from eternal cold-heartedness, and then we'd re-enact the "I am sixteen going on seventeen" dance by jumping from sofa cushion to sofa cushion.  I'd totally forgotten that the first time Captain von Trapp melts his icy exterior was when he sings Edelweiss for the first time with... his eldest daughter, Liesel.
Courtesy of

I love this scene.  The children all look up at their father adoringly as he reconnects with a lost identity that was buried under years of grieving, politics, and one very glamorous woman.  I love the unspoken gesture he makes towards Liesel to duet with him, a hidden secret that only the two of them know about.  It's a lovely song, and a familiar one, too.
Courtesy of

Not to mention, the song isn't so stinking long.  There's nothing worse than hearing the chorus for the fourth time while the father and daughter are still up there swaying awkwardly. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Something we can all look forward to

Larry King irritates me.  Maybe it's the seemingly cold way that he asks questions that often seem to cross the line without even flinching... but then maybe that's why he's been on the air for as long as he has been.  But perhaps the thing that I dislike most about Larry King is that I always end up getting sucked in to watching the full hour of his show.

Today, though, I had a good reason.

Snoop Dogg has so much to say when given the chance to say it.  On this hour of Larry King, I learned about Snoop's brief stint on the soap opera "Another World" and about his future plans to record with Susan Boyle.  I also learned about his plans to venture into...

...supermarkets.  Or rather, "Snoopermarkets."  Ahh yes.  Snoopermarkets.  Like a beautiful marriage of WalMart, the Dollar Tree, and Soul Plane, Snoopermarkets will sell "everything" and "everything will be under $20."  "Clothes?  Food?" Larry King asks incredulously.

Without missing a beat and with that cool, smooth tenor that caught the West Coast's attention with its first utterance of "...laaaaid baaaack," Snoop replies, "Everything, Larry.  Everything."

Yes, everything.

I could turn this into a sociological observation about the decadence of American life.  I could talk about the changing face of hip-hop, or its humble origins and the irony of Snoop Dogg (literally) breaking bread (cornbread and fried chicken from Albertson's) with Larry King before the masses.  I could... but a pun like this is so good it deserves its own post.

Snoopermarkets... rollin' through to a hood near you.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stories by Brian: How to...

The assignment was to explain how to do something.  I'm teaching the kids about outlining a paper and writing transition words to denote order.  At first, they started writing things that they can do easily, so I told them to use their imaginations.  It's like watching a lightbulb switch on inside of their eyes when I say the magic word "imagination."  I guess they don't get many opportunities to exercise that part of their brain school, so getting to waste a few hours a week with their kooky English teacher is actually fun for them!  Here goes:

How to make the yuckiest food
Today, I am going to make the yuckiest food in the whole wide world.
First, I will find the ingredients.  The first ingredient is big caterpillars & lizards from amazon.  Then, I'll find rats, toads, newts, and mud in the slum.
After that, I'll kill them: caterpillars into jam, kill the lizards and let them go into stink meat.  Drag off the toad's legs, newt's bodys, kill the rats.  I will put the toad legs, newt bodys and rat meats into the mud.
At last, I will cook them.  I will fry the rat meats, toad legs and newt bodys with mud, and put the stinkmeat and caterpillar jam on it.
Do you want to try?

Gotta love that little bit of Chinglish at the end!