November 9, 2009
Well, another week has come and gone. They are simply going by too fast. But I used to say that back in the old days, when I, uh …, uh…, you know …, uh, worked!
This week, I realized that we are experiencing something that may be more similar to life that you might see in a movie, but you don’t really actually ever quite live. This is harder to explain that I thought it would be, so I’ll try to find a way to express what I am thinking. Maybe everyone else lives in a world where what I am trying to express is routine, but I have not. For example, people come up to me all the time and start talking. I may be sitting in the odeum waiting for the performance to start and someone says happily, “Hello! Are you a teacher?” (or it could be anything.) I respond, “Yes.” And before I know it, we are talking about all manner of subjects, just so we can talk with each other. Or I am walking across campus with one of my students to see the photograph display, and we bump into someone one of us knows – happens every few feet, seems like, and you get into the friendly little conversations that winds up being very interesting and you’ve made a new friend! (I have always been so busy that I pretty much raced from one place to another, and everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing, so about all anyone in my past world had time for was, “Hi, how’s it going?” as you pass, or as you walk together somewhere. But it isn’t that way here. It isn’t that the people here have more time, they really do not – they have much less time in reality, but they take time and really focus on the time we have together. It is a very good feeling to have and to experience.
For one case in point, Thursday evening, Deb and I were at the Dance recital. It was great, by the way. Anyway, I got to the seat late – I always make a point of going to the W.C. (or washroom or whatever) before an event and that way, I usually can enjoy the entire show without great discomfort.) So, right after I crawled over about six people with my backpack, purse, and coat, and sat down with a big thud, one of the people upon whose feet I had just trod said, “hello!” and started giggling. I said “hello” to her and her friend, and soon we were talking. She was very insecure about her English, and struggled to think of ways to express her ideas. So, her friend, Mona, would try to help her and try to translate what I was saying, as well. Sometimes I tried my Chinese, and sometimes that was even understood. Sometimes we had to call on someone else to translate, which seemed to be fun for the other people, too. Anyway, before the first performance, we had visited about a lot of little things and had established who we were and so forth. She is Sharon. Both of these young women were “fresh,” that is freshmen. After the performance I got pictures of them with Deb. It was such a little thing, but it made us feel good to have had the experience. I think this is one of the reasons we are enjoying our time here so much.
Deb and I met a student, Jenna, who had studied at UNK last year and so she invited us to go to dinner with her and her friend, Mandy, who is also Sue’s friend and who had come with Sue to our house for dinner about 3 weeks ago. We decided that Sunday evening would be good, so we met at the South gate and then walked to a restaurant they wanted to take so to (Deb and I had actually been there before and enjoyed it, so it was great). It was the “best porridge place in town”. And the porridge is great. It is rice porridge and thousands of kinds of things that can be added, We had pork porridge and fruit porridge. We also had peppers and beef, and fried pork dumplings, called “guotie,” and broccoli with garlic. We enjoyed a slow dinner together and then they took us to a bookstore so that we could buy children’s books for learning Chinese. And then we invited them to come our house to tea. They accepted (hopefully we did not put them into a situation in which they felt they would offend us if they declined), and so we came here and had a two hour tea and just talked about whatever – from life at UNK to American and Chinese life in general. Well, the whole reason for telling this story is that these students are simply amazing. They both know more American history that I do (OK, I know that isn’t impressive, but they know more American history than most Americans do!) Their English is perfect! They wanted insights into topics from an American perspective and we were asking the same of them, so time flew by and we really enjoyed the evening.
Here’s Deb to tell us about (her) being an absent-minded professor and Spa Day:
Absent Minded Teacher: Wednesday I got to my class on the second floor in plenty of time to give the promised mid-term exam. I waited for the students to arrive… and waited… and waited. It was now a few minutes past time for the class to begin, no students. So I decided to go to our original room on the fourth floor. There they were waiting for me – but it was the wrong bunch of students. I had transposed the classes in my mind and was ready for the Thursday class on Wednesday. I had nothing with me for this class. What to do? The students were amused, but not rude, just giggling with me about the mistake. So I decided to go back to the apartment and gather up the class stuff for the Wednesday class including their graded mid-term exams (this class had had their test a week earlier). I trundled back down the four flights of stairs, got on my trusty pink “Forever” steed (my pink bike is a Forever brand) and peddle quickly home, climb 2 flights of stairs to the apartment to get the stuff, be teased by Finnie for being absent minded, down the stairs, onto the steed, up the four flights of stairs to the class and they were all still waiting for me! Class was delayed about 30 minutes, but we did just fine and now I have about 30-60 minutes of material already prepared for next week. So all worked out great! That night Finnie and I went to the Little Flower restaurant and on the way home when we got to the corner to turn to go to our apartment, my legs registered major exhaustion. I was tired.
Spa day: Friday I decided was a “spa” day for me. My hair was long, thick, and needed a cutting and a bit of color; my nails were as long as they were ever going to get without breaking again; so today was the day for hair and nails. A bit unusual and girly for me, but I decided it would be fun. So when Finnie left for his 2:00 pm Chinese lesson I left to go the hair cutting shop on campus (you remember the ￥10 haircuts the first week we were here?). The stylist remembered me and in hand gestures and minimal oral language I told him I wanted a cut but also hair coloring. His eyes lit up and the process began. My stylist, the manager of the shop (who was sporting a permed hair do, held in place with a head band) and 2 other stylists, and some guy who was getting his hair cut but spoke English were all involved in selecting the color. We decided on a darkish brown (I would have chosen something lighter but could not find it in the book – I think next time I will bring my own coloring kit with the right color) . So the process of coloring began – on each single hair one at a time, over and over. The manager inspected the job and determined that more color needed to be applied on certain areas. The whole coloring job took at least an hour – it was starting to get dark outside (it gets dark about 5pm). While we were waiting we tried to communicate, but neither of us knew or were comfortable enough to say much – but we looked at the hair coloring book together and launched into a discussion of names of colors – I learned that orange, for instance, is called hong huang, or “red-yellow” in Chinese – no special name for the colors derived from mixing the basic colors together. That was interesting! Then came the washing out of the color; then the cut (which took another 30 minutes), a blow dry; then another shampoo to remove the sprigs of cut hair, and another blow dry. I left about 4:30 after paying the equivalent of about $30 and the stylist’s business card.
But the day was not done! I had learned earlier from Lulu that the grocery/department store near our apartment does nail painting. So I did the grocery shopping I needed to do (turnips for turnip-beef stew) and asked if they (the nail painters) had time for me? Yes, they did, in ten minutes. I returned and I finally got them to understand that I needed the nails shaped and then painted with a flower design. “Huar – Huar” (flower – flower) they said when they understood. Yes!!! “Duoshou qian?” I asked — after a puzzled minute they said “oh, how much?” “Yes – dui”, I said. Out came a calculator and I learned that the whole job would be not much. So they began. They had many designs to choose from. I choose a little white flower with a pink accent design. After shaping my stubby nails as best as they could, cutting off the scraggly cuticle around each nail, buffing and filing , they applied a glittery no color coat and then the nail painter proceeded to paint each flower separately and painstakingly one finger nail at a time with an artist’s brush that had about 3 hairs in it. It is amazing how little nail paint was used to create the art on each nail. Each nail was painted on at least four different times with the final touch being a tiny, tiny sparkly gold dot in the middle of each flower. A clear cover coat was added. And then the nail artist blew the finger nails dry with a hand fan. I should note that the lighting in the store was abysmal and she was bent over each nail so her eyes were about 6 inches from my nails (no magnifying glass). It was 6 pm by now but it was fun and the nails are really pretty I think. I’ve never had this done before, but I think next time I will try a more elaborate, colorful design. At ￥40 for the whole thing – why not? Finnie took pictures when I got home and some of the better ones are attached for you to see. The turnip-beef stew was really good, when we finally got to eat it around 8:30.