Friday, December 25, 2009

Who's my Voodoo daddy?

About 2 weeks ago I took a trip to downtown Hangzhou to do some exploring. I went down a famous street in this town I have been down before. It is called HeFung Lu(I think that is the correct spelling). It is a good street to go down to buy traditional Chinese souvenirs, try some different Chinese candies, etc. Here is a picture of what the street looks like.

I was traveling with a few of my friends here in China. Along with us was a Chinese teacher from my friends school. She lived in Arkansas for about 2 years and her English was really good. As we were walking down the street we came across a place I have never noticed before. When we walked in I was reminded of a scene from Harry Potter. The scene where Harry walks into the wand shop to purchase his wand and there are these huge shelves that go all the way up to the ceiling. It looked like this.

It turned out that this place was a traditional Chinese doctors office and the shelves included all kinds of weird things that they will give you to take. Most were flowers, roots, nuts, and strange dried up stuff. The Chinese teacher told us that people come here even when they are well just to be safe. What I heard was, "this could be a cool experience and I want to go see a doctor." So that is what we did. We went upstairs to where the doctors were checking their patients. Now this is not at all like a normal doctors office. There was a long hallway with many rooms. In each room was a doctor sitting at a table. Some doctors, we were told, were specialist. Some were for women, kids, pregnant women, etc. However most were just generalist. So what you do is go into one of the rooms and wait until the doctor picks you to go. I don't mean a waiting room, i mean the same room with the doctor. So, i am sitting there watching other people get checked out, waiting for my turn.
The doctor did not do anything that required privacy. I was told that first he would check your pulse on each wrist. It is called the 6-point-test. I have always thought by checking a pulse you could only feel for one thing, a pulse. Somehow they are able to tell other things by this test. The doctor would then give you a number from the pulse test. Anything between 60-100, I was told, was good. I had a nice low 65. While holding your wrist he also looks at your eyes, the color of your skin, and your tongue. I passed all things until the tongue test. When he told me to stick out my tongue I got a noise and small head nod. I could tell that this was not a good nod, but the doctor said I was fine. The only thing i needed was to do something about my dry mouth. Then that was it, I was finished. Here is me getting checked out.

The funny things about this experience is what has happened to me since then. I have been joking with everyone that the doctor put some voodoo on me. The next day after I went, I woke up with my first sty ever. Since the sty went away, I have been battling with being sick. I ran my first fever in a long time and got pretty sick for the first time in years. I have been in bed most of this week trying to get all my strength back. I know it is not from the doctor but I find it really strange all this happened since going to the doctor. My lesson is, don't go to the doctor for fun.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Student Spotlight "Computer"

I have been thinking for a while about posting one of my students on here to give people back home an idea of who we teach and live around everyday. When considering who to use, this young man did not come to mind at all until the last 2 weeks.
I am teaching Japanese majors this year in my school. Their English is not great and they spend all of their time outside of class learning Japanese. Basically my class is a required class that you have to have but is not that important overall to their degree. Like Economics to a Social Work major. I cannot do many things that you would do with English majors. It takes me longer to get them to understand what I am trying to say. They are not really motivated to learn anymore English so I have to find creative ways to keep them excited. So over the last two weeks I have been doing random plays and short class speeches that are meant to be fun. That is when the heavens opened up and a light came down on Computer.
Computer has been a pretty good student from the start. He has always been good to speak up in class but never really tried to be funny or anything. Well, that is until I started to give him the spotlight. I am going to show two videos of Computer being himself. I hope you enjoy.
The first video came from my Thanksgiving week lesson. I told the story of the first Thanksgiving, then asked them to break into groups and act out the story anyway they would like. I allowed them to add or take away anything from the story. The only thing I required were pilgrims, Indians, and a turkey. Here is the clip of Computer. He is the shorter kid. He will be playing the role of an Indian.

The second video happened a week later. I brought random things to my room and had the kids take one and write a commercial about it. After that they had to go up in front of class and advertise their product. Computer drew out my hat shaper thing you can buy for the bill of your hat. After explaining to him what it was he went to work. The video was taken by one of my other students on his mobile phone so the sound and picture is a little messed up. This is basically what happens. He starts off as a TV salesman who talks about the product. Then after introducing the product, he turns it over to the scientist who discovered and created the hat shaper thing. Some of it may be hard to understand but I hope you catch what he is saying enough to enjoy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'll take the lady on the second row.

This being my second year in China a lot of the "Whoa" factor in things is kept to a minimum. I have seen the pig and chicken feet in food. The man that is relieving himself on side of the street like it is no big deal, or occasionally a women doing the same. I could keep going but I have to share a "Whoa" moment I had yesterday.
Yesterday I took a much needed trip to Shanghai. It was good to get back to a city that made me feel like I was in America. The way the people live is very different. The Super Brand Mall can easily be compared to, if not better then, 95% of the malls in America. Inside you can find Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Best Buy, and of course a couple of Starbucks. The ratio of people you see in Shanghai is maybe 70% Chinese 30% Foreigner, so it feels good to be able to see other Americans. Basically, in Shanghai I retire my "Whoa" factor meter for a day and just relax knowing that I will not be needing it. Then it happened.
After going down East. Nanjing Rd. I came to the area called People's Square. It is kind of like Times Square in New York with Central Park right next to it. Myself, Bethany, and Bonny decided to take a nice walk through the park. The park was amazing. It had a nice calm feel to it. I was enjoying the unique feeling of walking in a nice quiet park with massive buildings still surrounding me. Suddenly we came to an area with many older people walking up and down the street. Some were just looking and others were balled up into small groups discussing something. I could tell it was something serious because the groups had a look of deep discussion. Kind of like someone trying to sale something and the others were really interested in knowing more about the product. Also in this area were a couple of hundred pieces of paper. Some were laying on the ground and others were taped to a fence going down that area. There was nothing formal about the papers. They were all hand written and some even had a picture taped to them of a young man or women. For the most part they all looked to have about the same information on it. One thing that did stand out on almost every paper was dates from the early 1980's. So our first assumption that they were job openings was shot down.
Suddenly I turned around and noticed Bonny was talking to a young Chinese couple. I walked back to hear what the conversation was about but it ended before I got there. So I had to ask Bonny what was going on. She explained that this event happens every Saturday in that same area. Grandparents and parents come here to advertise their children and grand-children. Kind of a dating service. We quickly put together that all the dates were early 1980's because all these kids are now at a age where they are suppose to be married. Since they are not married the parents and grand-parents have taken things into their own hands. The groups I were seeing were people trying to draw more interest in their children. Needless to say this event brought my "Whoa" meter out and nearly topped it off. I don't know if it was because I assumed something like this does not still happen or the fact that I was actually seeing it happen. It was amazing to see the seriousness of the conversations going on around me. These were parents with a mission to have their child married. I know these parents love their children but this was something more then wanting to see their kid happy, it was about tradition.
After walking through that area we sat on a bench overlooking what was going on. My first thought was a usual Kevin thought "I hope none of the parents got the wrong idea about me going through there." I could easily see I mom brushing off her group to tell me, the foreigner, about her amazing daughter who really is ready to get married. After I pushed away my funny thoughts I usually have I started to think of the seriousness of tradition in this country. I guess I can relate a little being in the early 30's myself and always hearing from my mom that it is about time for me to get married and give her some grand-babies. However here it was much different. I wondered some about what the young adult being advertised must have felt. I am sure they did not like it at least a little. But tradition always trumps individual feelings here. That's what made this so unique to me. The parents were so professional and the ones listening did not laugh or cut up but were just as serious. It was all about honoring the tradition of those who were before them. They did not do this to be mean to their child they were just trying to help their child honor tradition and maintain their face in society.In a very different way I was seeing love from a parent.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why am I back?

I wrote this post about 2 months ago. It may be a little old but it is a start.
I have to say it feels real good to be back in china. if you asked me this question about 2 weeks ago when i got off the plane you may have received a different answer. see, I have felt really confident and sure the last few months that I was ready to get away from the comforts I have grown up with and get back to a country that is still a mystery to me. However when I got off the plane and stood in the airport custom lines all that was going through my mind was “what in the world am i doing back here?”
Back to a place where the comfort of traveling to the store and back in your own car does not exist. In it’s place you get to travel by bus for 30 minutes to a hour one way. When you get at the store you can only buy so much because that same bus route you took to get to that store you will take again along with all the bags of groceries in your hand. along with that comes the possibility of having to stand and hold all the stuff you just bought. I will not lie to you, plastic can cut into your hands after holding it for so long.
Why am I back in a place where my bed is about the same as taking 20 pieces of plywood and stacking them on top of each other and putting a little fabric around them to keep the wood together? In this same bed my first night back here i was welcomed back by a tickling on my neck in the middle of the night from the antennas of a roach in bed with me. Look at your middle finger to get an idea of how big this roach was. R.I.P. my little friend.
Why did I come back to a place where you have to point at food you think you recognize on a picture menu just to get a plate of noodles, chicken feet, and a big chicken head looking right at you? or to walk down the street and get hit with a good smell of stinky tofu?
Why did i come back to a place where i have no idea half the time what i am doing because i have no idea what in the world anything says or what people are saying? I promise you, going to another country where you cannot communicate with people brings out the caveman in you. There is a whole lot of grunting, shaking your head, waving your hands around, and rejoicing with more grunting when they discover that you have been trying to tell them for 5 minutes that you wanted fried rice.
I can keep entertaining you with hundreds of “why in the world did i come back to this stories”, but none of these reasons matter one little bit to the one reason why i did come back. I love my neighbor.