Sunday, December 28, 2008

X-mas week (part 2)

...So at noon I was to meet with my students at what they know to be my favorite place to eat in China: Pizza Hut. They got the typical weird pizzas with seafood on it, and I watched them eat the pizza with their forks and knives. I told them "once you get into Canada, eat it with your hands!" Keep in mind, I was in terrible condition. I felt bad. I had an opportunity to eat pizza with my students for likely the last time, but it didn't go the way that they wanted. The thought of eating anything was too dangerous to provoke, and I was huddled in my seat trying to keep warm even though the place was probably overheated.

Once they finished, Mr. Dong, Steven and I headed downstairs to buy things. This would've been fun, but after I bought one X-mas present for Han Jie, I was starting to feel real sick. I told them I needed to go immediately.

This is where the pizza hut is, sorry I don't have a daytime photo to help you picture the scene more appropriately.

On the way back I felt my saliva starting to taste a little more salty than usual. "Stop the car." I studied the area in a millisecond, rushed to the most secluded area (VERY hard to find), and keeled over with saliva pouring out of my mouth. After about a minute of waiting, nothing happened. I'm pretty sure my stomach was empty at the time, so this was probably for the better. We floored it back to my place and I slept for the next 4 hours.

Ms. Han's "party" was happening at 6:30 that night. I woke up from my nap in time to look presentable, but I was obviously still very ill. The party took place in a theater strangely enough. This was one of those moments where you think you have an idea of what's going on, and then when you get there, you realize that you had been preparing for a word that wasn't correctly used...namely "party." The more accurate definition of what this was going to be was "talent show."

I saw Michael in the front row and sat down next to him. He asked me, "How are you feeling?"
"Like Hell. You?"
"I woke up at 2 this afternoon."
"Yup." There was a spread of fruit and sunflower seeds just for us in the front row. I felt like a king! Mustering the courage to eat something was tough, but worth it.

The show started off really weird. A group of strangely dressed people, obviously characters from either video games or japanese cartoons, performed a choreographed "walking around the stage" number to some Chinese rock music. I only recognized three of the twelve or so characters -- Cloud, Aeris, and Sephiroth from FF7 (i.e. some video game characters). I guess they started like this to give me the false impression that everything following it was going to be weird as hell. The remainder of the show was actually a medley of normal performances, including music, dancing, games, magic, and plays. Very entertaining...and it was fun to see my students doing what they enjoy. My only complaint would've been that the speaker volume could've been turned down a little in light of my situation. There were way too many occurences of mic feedback that hurt way more than they should have.

Wednesday (24th) -- Christmas Eve. Can you believe I had class on this day? There was much to do...

First, I did not want to teach. The illness had not passed, like I expected, and I mean, it was Christmas frickin Eve. So I woke up that day and started looking for two things: Christmas presents for my coworkers, and Christmas DVDs at the local DVD "store." I was only able to find one Christmas DVD -- The Santa Claus 3, starring Tim Allen and Martin Short. Check out the cover:

There was no way in hell I was showing anyone this movie. I wanted to ask the guy at the desk if he had any christmas movies, so I called Ms. Han and asked her what the word for "Christmas" was in Chinese.
"Sheng dan kuai le!" she yelled.
Equipped with my knew word, I asked the clerk, "Ni you sheng dan kuai le DVD ma?" I eventually learned that "sheng dan kuai le" means "Merry Christmas," and "sheng dan" means "Christmas," so I actually asked "Do you have Merry Christmas DVDs?" In other words, once again, I sounded like a clown.
He replied, "dfjksaafsdssdfdslaspdk- mei -skjaskdjsdfsdfasdfa." As soon as I heard "mei," I knew he didn't have anything.

So, I got the idea to show them a christmas episode of the Simpsons. While I was still in the store, I bought a few DVDs for myself, such as "Seven Pounds," starring Will Smith. Yeah I know it was just released in theaters like a week ago. It's out on DVD here now. Anyway I went home to try downloading Simpsons episodes. On the walk back, I saw a beautiful miniature bamboo plant being sold on the street. It seemed like a great gift, so I bought it and then continued home.

Downloading crap is always hell. My first attempt needed a password to decompress. The second download worked, but the episode was in Russian or something. My last try was cutting it close; I started downloading at 2:15pm (with class at 3:40). I then got a call from Steven telling me to be at the front gate at I didn't have enough time to finish the download.

My backup plan was two options. The first was to show them "Jingle all the way," starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar. I watched this movie beforehand just to see if it was watchable, and it sure as hell was not. But, it was Christmas related. My other option was to show them "Toy Story," but that really had nothing to do with Christmas. It was, however, entertaining to all ages and pretty simple, so I grabbed it and headed out.

I arrived at the gate and met Steven, Mr. Dong, and Ms. Han. We were going to take a group photo with the students together for the last time. It was pretty sad... I haven't seen any of them since.

I got to class, showed them some of the movie, and then headed out the door. While I was waiting for the elevator, five of the girls from the class told me they had a Christmas present for me at their dorm. These girls are so adorable. I walked with them there and they were all locked arm-in-arm the whole time. We got to the warehouse that they live in and they gave me a box of chocolates. So cute! I wanted to say "thank you," but it wasn't enough, so I told them "I'm going to give you a hug!" They were clearly confused, so in the moment of confusion I grabbed THE most shy girl in the group and gave her a hug. Her face turned bright red. Then the other four girls understood and screamed with laughter, running over to hug me. It is definitely a fact that every girl in China is adorable like this.

In the meantime, I'd called Ms. Han and told her to meet me at the dorms. She, myself, Steven and Mr. Dong were all going to "xiao xi tang" (small restaurant) to celebrate my first Christmas in China. Afterwards, Steven had made reservations at a KTV, which I had seen around the city but didn't really know anything about. We got to xiao xi tang and we ordered the usual -- peanuts, something green, and a hot pot (pictured below). I was still feeling pretty uneasy, so I only ate three bowls of rice. Oh speaking of which... Hunger is often measured in bowls of rice. If you eat only one bowl of rice but you've eaten everything else on the table, you'll hear "eat more!"

To the left of xiao xi tang. It's located in the middle of a residential complex.

The entrance to xiao xi tang. It's seriously a dude's house.

A hot pot inside xiao xi tang. Very delicious, but you have to be careful...normally many of the ingredients are not meant to be eaten. Typical ingredients that can be eaten include: meat (watch out for the bones), carrots, potatoes, cilantro, and hard tofu

We finished dinner and headed to the KTV. On the way, I asked what it was. It's a place where people reserve rooms to stay in for a few hours to sing Karaoke together. So...that's how I was going to spend Christmas Eve night. That's the way it is here, except the KTV's are even busier at around midnight. The mission is to go out and party, not stay home and wait for santa claus. I actually got a few drunk text messages from my students wishing me a merry christmas. One was in Chinese haha.

Anyway back to the point, we were at a KTV and that was that. That's how the four of us were going to spend the next four hours. The staff brought some beers to make singing a little easier. Even though I was still recovering, it was welcome. Also, the music selection had some English songs, so I wasn't completely on an island. I mean, I was the only one who would choose English songs. My coworkers were only choosing sad, slow Chinese love songs to sing. It was sad! I wanted to hear happy songs, so I was only choosing the fun ones that I know really well. "September" (Earth, Wind & Fire) was a hit. But then after me, it was back to tearjerking slow Chinese music. BLEGH. Thankfully, Ms. Han is trained in classic Chinese-style singing, so it was cool to mix it up and hear her sing a few of those classical types of songs. It sounded like what you hear on the radio, very professional.

I was tired of this after about an hour and a half. Maybe its my slow attention span, but I just can't put up with that crap for too long. Definitely an interesting experience though, and it was funny to see my bosses singing. We headed out, and the traffic was even worse than before. Again, the party was just starting for Wuhan. For me, it was done. I had a plan in the morning...

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