Monday, November 30, 2009

Few times I been 'round that track

Before I get to the teachers sports meet (which shit was "bananas", by the way), something super weird: today's New York Times and LA Times crosswords have the exact same theme. I imagine that the constructors (and editors!) must have been as shocked as Lindsay Lohan was after fencing with her long-separated identical twin at camp at the beginning of The Parent Trap remake, or as shocked as Kirstie Alley must have been at the end of It Takes Two. (To give you a sense of how flimsy the premise of the second movie is (if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing it), the first sentence of the wikipedia plot summary is "Two unrelated young girls happen to look identical and they suddenly meet.")

To anyone who has only solved one of the puzzles and was looking forward to solving the other, sorry for ruining it for you. But not that sorry, because after three months as a teacher I'm already used to ruining dreams.

Saturday dawns cool and bright, and the Guangzhou morning fills with an anxious, expectant hush. After a long pan over the student dormitories, we alight on the window of the apartment where two young strong handsome Americans, GUS (Brad Pitt) and JON (Michael Phelps, in his first film role), sleep fitfully as their bedside alarm clocks slowly tick off the seconds, bringing them closer and closer to TEACHERS SPORTS MEET: REVENGE OF THE CHINA (roll titles).

Who needs film school? I can smell Sundance from here!

Friday, November 27, 2009


Tonight, Gus and I got together with some of our best friends in Guangzhou and had pizza and beer and thought about all the things we're thankful for.

I'm thankful for my school and my students, who are even more intelligent, receptive, and kind than I could have hoped, and I am thankful that they have welcomed me so generously into their lives.

I'm thankful for all the people that I've met so far here in Guangzhou: Fangfang the artist and her sister Rachel; former PiA-er David and his girlfriend Shaohui; the Yale-in-China fellows; Gus, my partner in crime; Gristle, sweet Gristle, endearing, infuriating, sometime penguin Gristle; and SJ, our Cantonese tutor, who called us tonight and told us that she had a gift for us, and then met us at our apartment to deliver the two turkey legs that she had somehow managed to find at a Guangzhou supermarket, and to wish us happy thanksgiving.

And I'm thankful for you, my friends and family, the people I love. If you read this blog, chances are that I think of you -- you, specifically -- every single day, because you are one of my favorite people in the world, and by now you're so much a part of me that I could no more go a day without thinking of you than go a day without thinking at all.

Thank you, everyone, and have a happy thanksgiving.

Also I'm thankful for Lady Gaga, because I have watched the Bad Romance video an obscene number of times in the past week and it never. gets. old.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


So this week in class, we're teaching a lesson on American jokes. Never has their been a comedy audience simultaneously so perfect (in that they haven't even heard the "A man walked into a bar and said, 'Ow'" joke) and so awful (in that some of them don't know what the word "bar" means).

Many of you might be grumbling that there are a lot more important things than jokes, and many of you might be right, but I will say that many non-native English speakers don't know how to properly participate in knock-knock jokes, and so I'm doing them a real service by teaching them that. Of course, every time I teach this lesson, halfway through I remember, oh wait, I hate knock-knock jokes. "Dwayne the bathtub, I'm dwowning" can only get you so far in life, comedically speaking.

There are good knock-knock jokes, but most of them are anti-knock-knock jokes (including my favorite one, which is unfortunately impossible to type), and the ones that aren't involve September 11th. So what's a teacher supposed to do?

Well, what a teacher is supposed to do is look on wikipedia, which is exactly what I did, where I found what I believe to be the best knock-knock joke of all time.

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Sobers. [The reader at this time thinks that the legendary Gary Sobers is perhaps at the door]
Sobers who?
Sau baras se khatkhata rahen hain, Ab to darwazaa kholo. [This last Hindi line meaning "I have been knocking on the door for a long time; please open it" changes the complete orientation of the reader, where Sobers becomes "Sau baras" or a hundred years (figuratively signifying a long period)]

Wikipedia obviously knows me very well, because my thought process while reading this joke went something like: "Wait, could it be -- it is! The legendary Gary Sobers!!!!!!!!!!! wait why is someone talking to me in Hindi." But if Gary Sobers comes to your door, man -- better ask him to sign your Wifflepoofter. I challenge anyone prove that that is not a real cricket term.

Anyway, one of the jokes that I tell to my students (or, actually, have one of my students tell to the rest of the class) goes like this:
Q: What does the elephant say to the naked man?
A: It's cute, but can you really breathe through that thing?
I don't explain the joke (because I don't want to get accused of sexual harassment haha!!), but I give the students a few seconds to think about it, and, invariably, the female students who get the joke react with revulsion and terror. Welcome to China, where to 16 year old girls the very idea of the existence of a penis is utterly horrifying.

Hey, speaking of jokes, guess what came in this beautiful silk lined golden package?


The protein powder that Gus and I bought yesterday, another step in our (seemingly quixotic) quest to weigh more than 140 pounds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sporty Spice

As I mentioned once before, our students had a sports meet last month. I never followed up on that day, but we went to the opening ceremony and it was just as cute as I had hoped it would be. Gus took a video of our favorite student performance, a reenactment of the Iraq war:

The basic outline of this story will be familiar to you from Seymour Hersh's reporting for The New Yorker, but for those of you who are not willing to watch this 70 second video, a summary: George Bush and Saddam Hussein have a fistfight while someone holds a "NO WAR" poster in the background, then a Chinese athlete stops the war by carrying an olympic torch through the fistfight, then everyone begins to dance.

Anyway, that was the annual students sports meet. Guess what happens this Saturday? (Hint: it rhymes with "peachers ports skeet" and involves my being humiliated by colleagues and coworkers in front of my students.)

Everyone who guessed "Teachers Sports Meet" gets to help me bang erasers after class. Just give them a good banging. Bang 'em on up.

So this past Friday, Kai from PiA was back in town on his way out of China, and we had lunch with him, our boss, and our boss's boss. (A fun linguistic situation: Kai doesn't really speak Chinese, the big boss doesn't really speak English, and since our boss is an English teacher we usually speak English with him because that validates his English expertise, but when we're around other Chinese people we just usually use Chinese, so party like a rockstar.) This was a classic Cantonese liquid lunch, in that it involved both soup and a fair amount of alcohol. Just like at the banquet at the beginning of the year, the alcohol policy is simple: our boss runs around refilling our cups as fast as we can all think of new things to toast to. Chinese people are remarkably sincere about this whole toast thing, so over the course of lunch (which, let's remind ourselves, had exactly five people in attendance) we toasted the future our our school, the blossoming relationship between the United States and China, and Barack Obama.

I had never met the uberboss before, by the way, and he was a fascinating man. He pulled out some cigarettes as soon as he sat down at the table and offered some to us, which we politely declined. "No?" he responded. "You don't smoke? You should try it. A lot of people in China like to smoke." Later during the lunch, he asked us whether drunk driving was a big problem in America. We said that it was, and he said that the police had recently gotten much more serious about drunk driving in China. "That's why I'm only having a bit of wine," he said, holding up his glass. "I have to drive later. It's these new rules. Before I could have been drinking with you guys." Truly a role model for China's youth.

Over the course of this lunch, our boss asked us if we had signed up for an event at the sports meet yet, and we replied that we hadn't. I guess we were planning on signing up for something, but I was sort of hoping that everyone would forget about it and we would never have to compete in anything as obviously barbaric as a teachers sports meet. But our boss decided that we needed to sign up NOW, so he pulled out his phone and called the organizer of the event to sign us up right away.

He asked us whether we liked running, and I said, sure, I guess I like to run, and so he said that we were going to be doing running events. Then he asked what distances we'd like to do. Gus said he'd do the 400 and the 100 while I hemmed and hawed, and then our boss said to me, "I'm doing the 800. Why don't you do the 800? Do the 800." And that's how I got signed up to run the 800 meter race.

Now obviously, obviously, this is awful. The 800 is really, really hard. You might thing that my longish legs and height advantage here should give me an edge, but Gus is taller than me and has longer legs than me, and last year he came in dead last when he tried the 800. (Sorry, Gus! That context is necessary for the story.) So I can't bank on anything. And it's not like I'm captain running.

That's why we called the lady today and told her in no uncertain terms that I would not be running the 800 meter race, and that I would like to run only the 400. I opted for that instead of the 100 because I'm more of a long distance runner than a sprinter. Really I'm more of a sit down read a booker than a runner of any kind, but if there's one thing I'm definitely not it's someone who can run 100 meters in a non-embarrassing amount of time.

So in 5 days Gus and I are going to compete in this contest of sport. Which is why tonight at 11 pm, when no one was watching, Gus and I snuck onto the track at the school and tried to train for approximately 10 minutes before calling it a night and going back to the apartment to watch Arrested Development. Next stop, fitness! And competition glory! The more likely option is that I (and, by extension, America) will end the week in total disgrace. CAN'T WAIT.

Oh speaking of total disgrace, more lunchtime fun. Our boss's boss was complementing Gus and me on our looks (what else is new), and he asked one of the waitresses, pointing at me, "Wouldn't you say he's a handsome boy?" And she responded, "I don't think he'd really count as handsome in Guangzhou" and then she said a sentence in Cantonese, and then our boss's boss turned to me and said, "She say's you're...pretty. Very pretty."

So, verdict: I'm a pretty boy. Who still sucks at running.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm a Soy Sauce Man!

Today, after our Cantonese lesson, our tutor SJ started telling us about a Chinese celebrity: the soy sauce man. It's this guy:

Before we talk about the soy sauce, or why the subtitles say 关我X事,with an "X" rather than a Chinese character, we need to go back to the Edison Chen Photo Sex Scandal. My bet is that you haven't heard of it because you don't live in China, and I know you don't live in China because China blocks access to blogspot. But that's neither here nor there.

Eidson Chen is (was) a Hong Kong-based Chinese film actor, rapper, Cantopop singer, model, record producer, fashion designer, and a pop icon. (Thanks, wikipedia!) Also, incidentally, in 2008, 465 pictures of him having sex with lots of famous Chinese actresses happened to surface after his computer went in to be repaired. In Chinese, this incident is called 艳照门, or "Sexy Photo Gate", where the gate, naturally, is a reference to Watergate, because in Chinese they also name their scandals by putting "gate" at the end (seriously). But that, again, is neither here nor there.

Anyway, so this caused a big firestorm in China, as you can imagine. The worst part was that the women who appeared in the photos were almost universally condemned in public opinion, even though my gut feeling is that Edison Chen is probably at fault for taking over 400 pictures of himself having sex. (How terribly were the women treated? From an article on the scandal: "Gillian Chung [met] with fans prior to her 65-second press conference...a female voice was yelling out..."black abalone". This is one of the nicknames that netizens are using for her, in reference to her vulva and its color." But that's neither here nor there.) Many news organizations interviewed everyday citizens to get their take on the scandal and its aftermath.

Enter the soy sauce man.

A Guangzhou TV station went out onto the streets to get footage of people talking about Sexy Photo Gate, and most people reacted with all sorts of moral outrage and condemnation.

But then one man, when asked what he thought of the Edison Chen sex scandal, said “关我屌事,我出来买酱油的.”, which means, "I don't give a fuck, I'm just out buying soy sauce."

I should clarify that this isn't some weird Chinese expression or anything. This is just a guy who doesn't give a fuck and, also, needs to buy some soy sauce.

China now loves this man. For instance, here is a picture I found online of the soy sauce man's head inserted into Liberty Leading the People:

This makes sense in Chinese, because soy sauce is 酱油 (jiangyou) and liberty is 自由 (ziyou). The second character sounds the same. Whatever.

So now soy sauce man has become an internet sensation among the ol' netizens, and now when people don't care about something, they'll say that they're just "buying soy sauce."

Also, why is the subtitle written as 关我X事? Because, translated literally, 关我屌事 means "concerning me fuck stuff": 屌 means "fuck" (it's one of the "Magnificent 5" -- the 5 dirtiest words in Cantonese!), and so I guess the TV station didn't want to write it. But if you search online for screencaps, you'll see that some stations also wrote the subtitle as 关我鸟事, which means "concerning me bird stuff", because "bird" is a common polite substitution for "fuck". When SJ told us the story, she actually said 鸟 rather than 屌, which is not surprising, because I don't think that SJ knows any curse words of any kind. But that's neither here nor there.

Final digression, a headline from China's Global Times, from a few weeks ago: "Injection to replace bullet to the head." Evidently criminals facing the death penalty in Beijing will no longer be killed by a gunshot to the head. Score one for human rights!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

While you were out:

Look at this; three days, a half week, nearly, already, without any posts here on The Guangzhou Story (TGS, to fans). I apologize -- it's been a strange and strangely busy week, but I'm ready to get back into the game, so let's get started.

Here are some things that happened while you were out:

- I got a haircut. I think it's somewhat worse than the last haircut I got, but it's already gotten rave reviews from one student. (She: "You got a haircut." Me: "Yes." She: "Well, it looks better.") When the woman at the hair cut place saw that I was only wearing a light sweatshirt, she said, "Aren't you cold?" and then called to her coworker, "Hey, look at what this guy's wearing!" And then when I told her that I didn't want it too short, she said, "Well of course not! It's wintertime! You have to keep warm!"

Guys, it's 53 degrees. (Actually warmer now. High today was 61.)

- I got a cold. I woke up this morning with a bit of a sniffle and a bit of a tickle in my throat, and then taught class for three hours. I told my cinema students that my sore throat meant that they should participate more this week, but that doesn't work when I'm trying to teach is "Vertigo", a film which, despite having been released in 1958, contains sentences like "Maybe he's on the bum and wants to touch you for the price of a drink." Not 100% accessible to non-native speakers.

Anyway, to combat this cold, I bought another bag of 感冒茶 (catch cold tea), a traditional Chinese remedy, which, as I noted last time I got a cold, could literally be made of anything, since I didn't understand any of the words on the back.

This time I decided I might as well bite the bullet, pull out my dictionary, and see what is actually in this stuff that I've already had 4 cups of today. Here is what it says under ingredients on the back of the bag, translated literally.
Ingredients: sucrose, guard the wind, thorn mustard, small firewood mustache, tree passage, burdock grass, forsythia, three fork bitterness, gold cup silver plate.
I have no idea what any of these things are. I was really scared when I saw "burdock" (牛蒡 in Chinese), because 牛 means beef, and so in the time it took me to walk from the kitchen to the dictionary in my bedroom, I was mentally preparing myself for the possibility that the delicious sweet drink I had been enjoying was partially made of cow. Luckily it's only made of small firewood mustache.

- I watched a movie called "Cow" (《斗牛》, but since it's about a (female) cow, it should be clear to Chinese speakers why this title presents a translation challenge). You can see the trailer on YouTube, but it won't give you a good sense of the plot because it downplays a crucial aspect of the movie, which is: the cow. Typical attempt to bury the cow subtext of the film -- the studio was probably scared by how poorly cow-related movies have done with audiences and critics in the past. Who even remembers the criminal neglect of the classic "Dial M for Mooder"? Starring Grace Cowley. Directed by Alfred Hitchcow. Badda bing badda boom sometimes words sound sort of like other words and that's how "jokes" are born.

More to come as the situation develops. Keep your ear to the ground.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

and go south in the winter. ("The Show Must Go On" edition)

Remember how I was complaining about the heat and humidity in Guangzhou a mere two and a half months ago? (Have I been here this long already?) I said in that post that "you should just assume that I'm sweaty all the time, unless I explicitly say otherwise."

I have big news: I am not currently sweaty. It was a blustery day in Guangzhou, city of heat and humidity, except, it appears, when it's totally not. Chinese friends (really, I mean Gristle. Only Gristle.) say that this is the earliest, coldest winter in recent memory, and my students are freaking out. Most of my students were wearing turtlenecks, jackets, and scarves. One student had mittens attached to his (his!) scarf, and consequently spent the entire period with his hands in front of his fact, periodically blowing on his fingers to keep them from freezing.

Guess what temperature it was today based on the weather applet on my computer. Go on, guess.

53 degrees.

I wore a shirt and blazer to class today and my students reacted with horror and anger at my apparent invulnerability to the cold. I told one of my classes that I thought the weather was actually pretty comfortable, and I saw the following actual reactions from actual students: one girl's mouth fell open, another one shook her head in shock and disbelief, and one guy put his head in his hands. I am blowing their minds. Just another day in the life of Awesome Teacher Jon.

The security guards who patrol our school are wearing coats that look exactly like this:

Guys, it's 53 degrees.

Also, I found that picture by googling "communist jacket." First image result, baby. Do I know my communist jackets or what?

The surreality continues: Gristle came to our apartment this evening dressed in his cold weather gear.

Please everyone ignore my hair. It is windswept. And my strange face. It is [other excuse]. I just want you to focus on the fact that Gristle's cold weather gear makes him look like he just stepped out of a community theater production of "Waiting for Godot".

Sometimes when it's cold out, my mom will say that it is "frickin' freezing." This is my segue to Asians and swearing.

Our students' knowledge of English swear words is unbearably precious. Like, they have some weird lacunae in their dirty word vocabulary -- they don't know "poop" and "butt", but they know "shit" and "ass". Sometimes I hear them saying swear words, and it always makes me happy, because it shows that they're getting the hang of oral English.

Anyway, we were discussing the week in the countryside in class today, and one of my students said that one of the problems with living in the countryside is that there are lots of animals around, which means there are lots of "shits in the street." "Excellent," I said, "but we only use 'shit' in the singular. So actually there was just a lot of shit in the street. Can everyone say that with me? 'Lots of shit in the street'? Good." In the teaching biz, we call this a "teachable moment", and, as you can see, I taught the shit out of it.

And again, this evening, I was working with my (Korean) tutee on some idioms, and she told me that she had a question to ask me about English swear words, and that she was embarrassed to talk about it. I got excited and asked her in a whisper which English words she wanted to talk about. She said there was a word she had heard on a TV show, and that she had heard some kids using it, and she wanted to know about it. She blushed and said she didn't want to say it out loud.

No, I said, it's fine. There's no need to be embarrassed.

OK, she said. They were calling each other...loser. And they were making this gesture.

And then she slowly made an ell shape with her thumb and forefinger and held it down by her waist, grimacing at the obscenity of her gesture.

No, I said, sighing. That's fine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Heartbeat (500) Days

I never got around to seeing "(500) [Days] {of} *Summer*" while I was still in America, so I picked up a copy when I saw it on sale on the street today. I don't really feel like writing anything tonight, so I leave you with the description of the movie from the back of the DVD package. (Usually pirated DVDs just use the original American art and copy, but this is blessedly not the case for this movie.) Without further ado, 心跳(500)天:

Acquaintance of a pair was removed around 500 days of the attractive men and women, male and daughter, women do not love men, be limited to development of relations between lovers fall out breaking up an appointment to go to bed, which specify the actions disrupt the timing from the presentation, read out a new definition of endless love. First-come, first 488 days notice, A heart has been put on a wedding ring; fell back 1 day, Tom finds that she is a dream, see a lover, every minute and every second of her heart; but to the first date, she has been warning you do not believe love. A soup concept of ultra-romantic love, A heart and a man fast intimacy, each opera are all close to the pulse of the era of love. This is not a love story, but the interpretation of love, deconstruction'S NOTE gratification, love ... ...

China is the gift that keeps on giving. And you know, whenever I talk about love, I always trail off at the end, but I don't use some worn-out single ellipsis to show how much I trail off, because that's some lame ass bull shit right there, I trail that shit off, double ellipsis style, when I interpret love, spitting my game all over that gratification, I'm talking opera, I'm talking deconstructions'S NOTE, I'm talking soup concepts ... ...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Return of the Nanking

Well, this blog post won't write itself, so let's get this trip to Nanjing over with so that I can get back to basics around here. I'm sure many of you are saying, "that Tongli museum was sexy and all, but hearing about your life is even sexier," and to those people I say, "let's meet up. msg me for face pic. no fatties."

One thing I forgot to say about the Tongli Sex Culture Museum is that, even though there were a lot of statues which were clearly penises, there were also some which were just poles sticking out of the ground. The placards next to them claimed that these statues had "penis meaning". Look, I'm sure that the curator is very learned and skilled, but I don't think that you should be allowed to call things art just because they remind you of penises. As much as I might want to. I mean, you. You might want to.

But, as everyone knows, every vacation, even the most penis meaningful vacation, have to come to an end, so after two days in the Suzhou/Tongli area we returned to Nanjing for one last hurrah. This hurrah involved a visit to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, a large memorial museum built next to a mass grave from the 1937-8 "rape of Nanking". I don't really want to talk about it. I don't think I'm up to describing it -- not because the event "renders words impotent", as I've heard it said (how could it? Isn't it words that trivialize events?), but because I'm not a writer and every time I try to describe it I can only think of words that everyone has used before: nausea, horror, obscenity, disgrace.

One silver haha lining in this cloud of doom was the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall gift shop, which sold hot dogs and a series of soft-porn DVD entitled "Comfort Women". I am, unfortunately, not joking -- Gus has pictures on his flickr. Also, don't look now, but there are some cute-ass ducks at the top of his photostream as we speak. Let's all take a look at the delicious ducks and try to forget the bad taste of Nanjing rape.

See, it's hard to forget the rape, right? Welcome to my vacation.

Our last day in Nanjing also included a trip to one of David's ancient Chinese classes, which was pretty interesting (and much easier to understand than the catalog class we went to on Monday that Gus blogged about), but which convinced me that I have no serious future in ancient Chinese, or maybe in the Chinese language in general. Apropos of that revelation, want to hear a funny joke? Knock knock. Who's there? I'm going to be living in China for two more years.

And then we came back to Guangzhou and restarted our life. The best part of coming home was hearing someone in the airport say "just now" as 啱啱 (Cantonese "ngaam1 ngaam1") instead of as 刚刚 (Mandarin "gāng gāng"). If you have a Cantonese speaker handy, have them say 啱啱 for you, because I promise it'll be the most fun you'll have all day.*

* Promise only valid if you live in a foreign land, are separated from friends and family by 10,000 miles, and are still a little bummed out from having seen a mass grave the day before.

And now our lives have basically returned to normal. Like today, when Gus and I sat with SJ (our Cantonese tutor) in the McDonalds for two and a half hours while I tried to explain transubstantiation to her and she just laughed and laughed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I hear Venice is the Suzhou of the Occident

No seriously, everyone's talking about it.

Sorry for the lack of a Jiangsu post last night (I know, you were crushed), but I was too busy kicking a whole lot of Chinese ass at Settlers of Catan. I credit my capitalist upbringing and my ability to stab friends in the back.

So, as much fun as we were having in Nanjing (site, let's not forget, of the eponymous slaughter and rape), we decided to take a two-day trip out to the city of Suzhou, 2.5 hours away by bus, which is notable both for its canals and also for its lack of an oppressive collective memory of slaughter and rape.


Suzhou is great blah blah blah; I don't want to describe it too much because it'll just make me want to go back. I will say that they have a Silk Museum in Suzhou which is all about: silk. Ask me a question about silk or silk production, and I promise you I don't know the answer, because I spent 10 minutes in the silk museum before deciding that they could keep my 20 kuai because I was tired of silk.

Whatever, I'm not going to say much about Suzhou because during our trip to Suzhou we stopped in Tongli, home of the world famous 中华性文化博物馆, which is to say the Chinese Sex Culture Museum. The rest of the info about this museum is after the jump. Don't click through if you are offended by dirty words, statues of people with large sex organs, or naked pictures of me. (I don't think there will be any naked pictures of me, but I haven't written it yet and I'm not willing to make any promises.)

In case you don't know what sex is: when a man loves a woman, and he actually wants to make love, to her, something very very special happens, and uh, with deep, deep concentration, and great focus, he is often able to achieve an erec-

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Singles' Day!

Today is November 11th, which means it's Singles' Day in China! Why? Because November 11th is 11/11 -- a row of four 1s, presumably feeling just as lonely as single people do every day of their lives! This is the sort of fun holiday that only people in relationships find funny. The way that people traditionally celebrate singles' day is by eating 油条, long sticks of hot fried dough, which look like the number 1. And, incidentally, like a penis. Just me?

Anyway, some updates from today before I get back to Jiangsu tonight (I promise it will happen):

- Remember the hen from yesterday? I FOUND THE HEN. I FOUND IT. I AM A THE HEN MAN.

I got up early this morning to skype with someone and while I was making tea I saw the hen on the ledge outside my kitchen window. I texted my student, but the problem is that there is no obvious way to get out onto that ledge, since all the windows have bars over them. I told her that I thought she should probably just ask a security guard to get a ladder, and she responded:
Oh thanks a lot. i'll tell my parents the hard situation and ask for help. thanks from the bottom of my heart :D
I sent her a quick "No problem. Good luck with your hen!" and then she fired back with:
Ha, god bless me. that's really funny.
I think the phrase that she was looking for was "bless my life", but the moral of the story is I'm a hero and I'm also hilarious. I'm, like, the perfect guy. I'm the fireman who comes and gets the cat out of your tree and then sweeps you off your feet and takes you inside and makes gentle, sweet, riotously funny love to you. Who's interested, ladies? Ladies? Hello?

- My friend Mark commented on my Legally Blonde post that a video of that performance surely would attract a million YouTube hits. That reminded me that Gus actually did take a short video of the opening scene, which you can see here:

The. Best. Day. Of. My. Life.

- It rained today, so Gus and I are currently walking around our apartment shirtless (topless?) while our shirts dry. Singles' Day, more like Sexy Day, am I right??? Seriously, no ladies are interested in a piece of this action? Come on!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I just got the best text message I will ever get in my life, so the rest of you might as well stop trying

Have you seen my hen? seems that my hen has fell down to the 2nd floor...if you see a missing hen, please tell me. thanks a lot.

[one of my students]


Will you get another Jiagsu post tonight? Only time and my ability to not go insane while grading math homework will tell...

It's Jiangsuper!

Let's start talking about Jiangsu!

Actually, before we start talking about Jiangsu: I just heard today that Claude Levi-Strauss died while we were on vacation. I did not realize he was still alive. Nevertheless, this is sad news. Especially since I had all sorts of great structural anthropology jokes planned for this post which I'm going to have to can. "Too soon" my tuchus.

The first day.5 of our trip after the ol' jump. Some pictures, too. All copyright Gus Tate. Used with permission.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Another night, another not Jiangsu post. All this vacationing really takes it out of you, you know? But I couldn't go to bed without sharing a brief anecdote about Gristle, light of my life, fire of my lo meins. We saw him tonight for the first time since leaving for Jiangsu, and a week without Gristle is like a week without this weird type of sunshine that isn't really a good friend but more just sunshine that hangs out and stores stuff in our fridge (and who, incidentally, sometimes uses a bag that is clearly a purse intended for ladies.)

Gristle was over at our house tonight for our weekly Cantonese lesson, and at the end of the lesson he was talking to us about Halloween. We said that we went to a Halloween party with Chinese students at Nanjing University (I promise that you'll get to hear about this if I ever post about our trip to the Godot of the East), and he said that he had also been to a Halloween party! A foot fetish party.

And I was half tuning Gristle out, as I sometimes do because he talks a lot, and so I half nodded along to this last admission before stopping suddenly, because he said foot fetish party, which is a party, he said, where men and women wear tight black stockings and partygoers are invited to stroke and kiss them with impunity, which is a type of party that I have never been to, nor heard of, nor known to exist except in pansexual Central American love communes, which will throw you any kind of party you like. Seriously. Anything.

Or so I've heard.

So China has foot fetish parties, which, despite involving neither costumes nor the demanding of treats, are sometimes held on Halloween. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THIS IS CRAZY? WHAT THE EFF IS HAPPENING AROUND HERE? AND WHY AM I HERE?

(You see, I have absolutely nowhere else to go.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

No Jiangsu post tonight

Because I am tired and since I am "supposedly" a real teacher I "supposedly" have math homework to grade. Hey, remember that time when I had to teach the proof of Fermat's Little Theorem to 40+ non-native English speakers, at least 8% of whom have no interest in math and are only taking my class because of my good looks? Because I remember that time like it was this morning.

I just wanted to clarify some time zone information for everyone on the East Coast. The end of daylight savings time means that I am now 13 hours ahead of you, so the easiest way to go is just add one hour to whatever time it is there and then change am to pm, or vice versa. Or as I like to describe it, "put a one down, flip it, and reverse it". (Incidentally, it's that sort of streetwise explanation that makes my math class so fun and approachable for my students. Or it would, if only I could stop referencing American hip hop songs that no one in China has ever heard of.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cities and Desire, 1

So I'm back from Jiangsu and I'm all set to write a series of moderately snarky posts about the trip (one of the benefits of having a blog is that I see everything through protective layers of sarcasm, irony, and self-deprecating humor without having to emotionally experience it (this may seem like a drawback to you rather than a benefit, but let's talk after you try emotionally experiencing a Chinese public restroom where someone had a case of the mamsy-poopsy-mams)), but before I embark on my journey into the past (which I hope will take less time and effort than my series of posts about Hubei) I have some relatively non-snarky comments on the trip.

The two main cities we went to, Nanjing and Suzhou, are wonderful places. Suzhou especially: it's nicknamed the "Venice of the East", and, even though I'm probably going to make a joke about that name in a later post, it's not an unreasonable description for a city filled with tree-lined canals and Italian coffee shops which happens to be in The Orient. Going to Suzhou reminded me what things I miss when I'm in Guangzhou. Those things are so irrelevant that it's hard to name them without hearing a voice inside saying, "surely you aren't complaining about that", and they aren't hardships as much as compromises that I make with myself so often that I forget that I'm making them. And usually I chalk these differences up to China, and I swallow them in the name of cultural assimilation and new experiences. But then I take a 2 hour plane ride and I feel like I could have it all if only I didn't live in Guangzhou.

I don't really feel that way now that I'm back, though. Guangzhou is harder to live in because it is more callous and more complicated, but I do actually believe that it's a good experience to live in a complicated place. Suzhou feels comfortable because it's a beautiful tourist destination. Tourists go there because they see in Suzhou a reflection of their own city, and eventually some of them move to Suzhou and try to construct an imitation of their city there, and the cycle continues until no one can quite remember what they liked about Suzhou in the first place except that it was the first place they had gone in China that felt like home.

Plus, one of the days we were there it was cold as balls outside, and no one likes that.

Amusing tales from Jiangsu still to come! What do the song "When You Believe", the movie Legally Blonde, and jade dildos have in common (other than being insert your own gay joke here)? They'll all be featured in Jiangsu wrap up posts appearing this week! For now, content yourself with this picture, which is what happens when Gus pushes the button on the camera before I'm ready.

Also, everyone had to fall back in the US last week, but the time didn't change here because we sprinkled the blood of a Tibetan lamb on our lintel. This means that my convenient 12-hour time difference from the East Coast no longer works. So, bad news for my friends on the East Coast, but good news for my friends on Prince Edward Island, which Canadians assure me is a real province and not simply a long-standing cartographic joke. (Newfoundland, as I discovered just now, is in the half time zone UTC-3.5. Now that's a joke.)