Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Two of my former students met me this afternoon to give me a Thank You gift for helping them with their SATs last semester. These are two giggly, giggly girls and meeting with me without being consumed by shy laughter was doubtless a struggle for them, so I appreciate the effort.

Their gift: two cards (super cute, full of all sorts of lies about what a great teacher I am) and two nice books of Chinese poetry, one of which even has English translations. But, for instance: the first poem in the section “Yuan, Ming, and Qing Poems” has been given the English title, “Poem to the tune of Groping for Fish.” Frankly this is not a tune I am familiar with.

On the basis of this title alone I put the chances of my reading this book at, like, 30%. Given that this is a book of totally incomprehensible nature poems, I’d say that’s pretty high.

The other book is called “If life were only as it once looked”: The Beauty and Sorrow of Ancient Poetry and has no English words in it of any kind. I am telling you right now I will not read this book. The card from my student said the book was “easy to understand” but that card was full of lies.

And girls, if you find this blog post: of course I will read your books! They look really interesting! But they also look scary. (This is sort of how I feel about groping fish.)

They also asked some questions about American colleges while we were there. One said that she had actually been looking into a few women’s schools.

When the friend reacted with alarm at this, she turned to her and said very seriously, “I know what you’re thinking but they have buses that bring you to boys.” She paused, and then lowered her voice a little bit.

For dating.”

Paroxysmal cuteness with these two. Really incredible.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Loose Ends

I am back in Guangzhou. Class starts Wednesday, but to hold you over in the meantime, some things you might have wondered about while I was gone:

  1. Perhaps you remember the daily Nutrition Encyclopedia text messages I kept getting at the end of last year. Perhaps you remember hearing about the unremitting barrage, dozens and dozens of times a day, of “tips” and “tricks”, things like, “whatever you do, don’t drink tea with milk.” Perhaps you remember the lengths I went to to try to unsubscribe. Perhaps you remember that these text messages were, slowly, driving me insane.

    Well, if you don’t, don’t worry: I’m still getting them, so you haven’t missed anything! The first sentence of the one I received yesterday is 在家看光碟自学肚皮舞不利健康 which means “Studying bellydancing from a CD at home can be bad for your health” As usual, this is not a joke.

  2. Gristle is still alive, and doing well. Yesterday was Gristle’s birthday, so he called me and said, “let’s go out to dinner!” And I said, “ok!”, and then Andy (my new roommate-cum-colleague (it’s a real preposition deal with it)) and I met him at the gate to our school, and he told us that we were actually going to his aunt’s small apartment, where we ate soup of unknown provenance, drank plastic cups of coca-cola (which the host gave to Andy and me and no one else), and watched an episode of Breaking the Magicians’ Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed:


    featuring the paunchy Masked Magician and his assistants, never named in the show but presumably referred to behind the scenes as Cheekbones and Breasts. Respectively.

    It was playing on Chinese TV for reasons that are unclear to me. But Gristle, Gristle’s aunt, Gristle’s ambiguous other female relative, Some other guy (maybe married to the lady), a 10-month-old baby, Andy, and I watched it after dinner and had a great time.

    As we were walking home, Gristle turned to me and said, “You know? Andy reminds me a lot of President Lincoln.” And then: “Don’t tell him I said that.”

    So no, Gristle hasn’t really changed.

  3. From Saturday’s New York Times:

    Obama and Star

    I only post this because I am not sure why President Obama is posing with the members of what appears to be some sort of Weimar-themed Space Command.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010