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.
We left for Nanjing (aka Nanking, famous for being the capital of the pre-communist Republic of China and also for the rape) last Saturday morning, and since we took a plane rather than a train, we arrived in the early afternoon, just in time to meet up with our friend David and buy costumes for a halloween party. Now, Chinese people do not celebrate Halloween (except when they attend foot fetish parties I AM STILL WORKED UP ABOUT THIS BY THE WAY), so we didn't expect much. Gus bought a sheep mask, and I bought a very tiny hat. I recognize that these are not really costumes, but I also recognize that I spent only 8 yuan, which is a very tiny amount of money.
We went to the halloween party, which was...ok. We talked. We laughed a little bit. A girl told me that I looked like Michael Phelps (surprise!) and also that I looked like her friend's boyfriend (surprise! but seriously this time). Some people liked our costumes. Some people didn't like our costumes. I'd say it was about 50/50.
Pretty much exactly 50/50.
The next day was really fantastic. We took a trip to a beautiful park called 紫金山, which was really nice, but nowhere near as nice as the bus ride there, which counts as one of my favorite Chinese experiences to date. Not because it was a nice bus or anything, but because while we were riding 2 old Chinese women who weren't all that into oral hygiene sat next to us and started to tell us about 耶稣, which for those of you who don't speak Chinese, means one thing: Jesus. Hey, we're Americans and we INVENTED Jesus, so don't try telling me about this 耶稣 guy and how after three days he 复活了 ("resume"-"to live"-new situation particle), because we know this stuff backwards and forwards. By far the best part of this long, long conversation was when the lady said that calling the name of Jesus can bring you strength, and then she invited us to try calling Jesus's name then and there, and then we did, and she said it wasn't quite loud enough, so we did it again. Right on the bus. (Yeah, Sugarfoot!) I didn't have the heart to tell these women that Jesus doesn't speak Chinese and really has no idea who 耶稣 is.
Then we went to 紫金山 and stared into the distance.
Oh God what am I saying that trip down Jesus lane on the bus ride was nothing compared with the performance we went to that night. The new semester at Nanjing University started last month, and so while we were there they had a "welcome back" performance night. We sat next to a nice young woman who said that our students' trip to the countryside is just like the cultural revolution. Her tone seemed to imply that this was an welcome return to tradition.
Anyway, at this performance there were dances and sing-alongs (big news: Chinese people, light white people, clap like this, man) and an English play.
An English play! we said. That should be good for a chuckle or two and some lighthearted rib poking on the ol' "web" "log"!
So the English performance starts and the narrator explains that we're going to see a scene with two college students named Elle and Warner.
What funny names! I exclaimed as I ate my chocolate candy.
And then the scene starts and the male character says that he wants to break up with the female character, because it's time to stop "dicking around."
What amusing American slang! I marveled and took another sip of my Coca Cola.
The male character was going to get serious at Harvard Law school, he said.
And that's when it hit me: that the students' English play was the first scene from the movie Legally Blonde.
If you ever have known a joy so deep that you can't feel it all at first, that's so big that it overtakes you in waves until your ears buzz and your head feels thick and you try to laugh but you can't you're so happy, then you know what it's like to suddenly realize that you are watching a group of non-native English speakers reenact the opening of the movie Legally Blonde.
The rest of the scene went by in a blur because I was laughing every time the kid said "dick around", and then the scene ended and I started to clap. But I stopped quickly because it wasn't over. They were doing the next scene too! Well, this is great, I thought, I guess they're going to do the first few minutes after the breakup scene.
And then Gus leaned over and said these words: "I just saw a girl backstage in a judge's outfit." Take the joy I described above and multiply it by a million, because as everyone knows there aren't any judges in Legally Blonde except at the very end, so seeing a girl in a judge's outfit means that this English Play is actually going to be The. Entire. Movie. Legally Blonde, as performed by actors who can't quite pronounce the word "legally".
And that's exactly what it was. For forty five glorious minutes. Here's a photo Gus took of the climactic courtroom showdown:
It was the happiest day of my life. After the play David turned to the girl who had played Elle and told her she was great. He asked her if they had worked on it for a long time, and she replied, "Yeah, months." I promise you it was 100% worth it.
More Jiangsu to come. But really it's all downhill from there.