Sunday, December 30, 2007

2008 二林林八!

你们好!
.
This will be the last blog entry of 2007. Tomorrow I will take the trusty 502 bus down to Jiefangbei and catch the monorail to PCV Jake's apartment to celebrate the New Year in style with my favorite Chongqing do-gooders. Oh, 2007. It was a good year, a year of providence and xin pengyou (new friends). I bid farewell to Fredonia, New York, which had been my home for the past 6 falls, springs, and winters, and with doing so, sadly left behind some great people (and happily some not-so-great people), but forever captured their memory. Even 8000 miles away, living and experiencing a culture unlike anything I have ever dreamed of, I still still find myself lost in a state of nostalgic reverie when I think about the random dorm rooms and apartments I called home during those 6 years, and the great people I called roommates and housemates. It was most certainly a ying yang of happy and sad, revelry and lethargy, cold days and hot nights. It will always be a home.
.
But, as you can see, the later part of 2007 has been a roller coaster of adventure and discovery. In avoidance of summarizing everything, I will look ahead to 2008 and mention my 1 [weighty] goal: To learn Chinese. Not just the language (which could easily take up all of my time), but the culture. The mindset. The literature and the philosophy. I want to be the best American English teacher in China that I can be, and it is going to be difficult and frustrating, but with only the small taste I've been given so far, I know the lasting effect will repay a million fold. "Give it your best shot, Phil!" as my students would say!
.
I am off for my last run of 2007. I wish you all a very happy new year and thank you dearly for reading this blog. I hope 2008 brings you health, wealth, and happiness. And remember, 8 is a very lucky number in China...
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil (蓝麦飞)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

你们好!
.
First, as I learn more and more Chinese, I will most likely be incorporating specific hanzi, or Chinese characters, into my blog entries and personal e-mails (see the above example: 你们好 Ni men hao! Essentially "Hello ya'll!"). If you bought your computer in the United States, Canada, or any English-speaking country, there is a chance you can'tt see the Chinese characters and/or the characters are replaced with boxes or repetitive question marks (???????????). If seeing the characters is of interest to you, then there is a simple way you can convert your computer's language to display them. Directions can be found here. 谢谢 Xiexie! (Thanks!)
.
My classes are official finished this semester. The next week is "hell week" for the students as they are plagued with exams and seemingly relentless studying. Eat, Study, Sleep. After learning within my first few weeks how unmerciful Chinese exams have been and can be, I decided to whitewash the E-word from my class syllabus, or, as I explain it to the class - have a "final exam" - making quotation marks with my fingers, much to the delight of the students due to that specific mannerism being absent from their cultural body language. Instead of the standard exam, I had them perform their own original skits based on any of the lessons from the semester, judging them on pronunciation, intonation, and most importantly, creativity. Long story short, I was truly amazed on how much time and effort they put into their performances: creating costumes, typing up scripts, rehearsing dances and songs, and most impressively, memorizing all their lines! I saw modern spins on Chinese fairytales, Shakespeare plays (they know what I love!) rewritten as if they were originally Chinese, crime and suspense thrillers, love stories (the most popular theme; my favorite being the ones with a character named "Phil" who always falls in love with multiple Chinese women), marriage ceremonies (where I was asked to act as the priest, impromptu of course, holding a Chinese-language Bible), and some groups even recorded the narrator's voice onto their computers, timing it perfectly with their words and actions on stage. One group even asked if they could go last because they needed time to "do their make-up" in the hallway! There are some great pictures (TAG: Firstsemesterfinalperformances), as well as some of my Christmas dinner in Chongqing.
.
Speaking of Christmas, I gave and received some interesting and thoughtful gifts. Candy is a popular gift in China. The supermarket sells hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in holiday wrappings. I gave my Shakespeare students, aside from a complete collection of Shakespeare plays earlier in the semester, a red, white, and blue candy cane stapled to a packet of instant coffee, explaining that caffeine was my "drug of choice" during graduate school. I received a very nice stamp collection and Southwest University paperweight from the Foreign Language department (see pictures) and a decorative fish from a group of students who really appreciated the Christmas lecture Devon and I gave. My family sent me a box full of good stuff, most noteably Dawn Razem'ss famous chex mix white chocolate candy, motivating a student to call me in the middle of the night asking for the recipe. Ha! The best gift, however, was Corinne's movie (see 2-3 blog entries ago).
.
Life is good and busy. I am going to finish up my grades today and tomorrow, read my books, write in the journal, study a little Chinese here and there (my sentence structure is terrible!), and prepare to leave with Decaprio to Beijing sometime next week for a 6-7 day stay. It's rare when I have some down time, and usually I spend it writing to you on this blog. I checked a few days ago, and this blog has upwards of 70 entries so far, many of them as long as 1 standard page, single-spaced. Not bad in the first 6 months. I hope to top 300 before my return to the red, white, and blue. That's a decent-sized book. Dui bu dui?
.
2008 is only a few days away. It's the year of the rat in China, as well as arguably the most important year in China's modern history being that the whole world will be watching this coming summer. I am sure I will muse on the past year, as well as set some goals for the upcoming one, next time I post.
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Nimen hao!
.
It's final exam week at 西南大学 (Southwest University) and I am swamped with work, final "performances" (more on this in the next few days), and submitting grades for my first semester teaching in China. It's been a wild ride, but I've enjoyed (almost) every bump in the road.
.
Christmas was lovely and relaxed. I met with some of my fellow Peace Corps China "13" volunteers and we enjoyed a few drinks (free because we gave Santa hats to the restaurant staff!) and sampled the delicious Indian food downtown Chongqing has to offer. Indian food on Christmas!We all missed our friends and families, but as you can see, we kept the Christmas spirit alive in the Middle Kingdom.
.
More coming, as soon as this crazy week ends...including pictures and explanations of my many, many [unique] Christmas gifts from students and SWU staff.
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sheng Dan Kuai Le!



.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Merry Christmas, everyone! This is just one of many Christmas class photos!

Picture TAG: ChristmasClassPhotos

I love and miss you all,

Phil

Friday, December 21, 2007


Nimen hao!
.
Every night before bed, I write a page or two in my journal. On the top of every page I write "MM:" which is an abbreviation for Memorable Moment, followed by just that: the most memorable, strange, interesting life-affirming event of the day. Sometimes it's something funny said in class, a sad line from one of my student's journals, or a beautiful/strange sight I most certainly would miss in America. Last night, extremely tired from the night's "Curious about Christmas? Lecture featuring Southwest University's favorite foreign Oral English teachers, Devon and Phil," I wrote: Before you die, you must dress up and play Santa Claus at least once in your life. So last night, with the help of my trusty partner-in-crime, I checked this off my "to do" list, and in all places, China.
.
It gets lonely in China. Devon and I have lunch or dinner together 3-4 times a week and the rest of my time is either spent cooking for myself, writing and rewriting my Chinese hanzi (characters), preparing for my classes (the Shakespeare class takes up most of that slice of the pie), running (3-4 times a week, usually at night), helping students with miscellaneous performances and examination prep, and doing the seemingly endless paperwork for Peace Corps (I despise fax machines). As the unique Christmas season chugs along in China, Devon and I marvel at the pictures and packages our friends and family send us of snow-covered houses, family Christmas trees, and delicious homemade candy (It arrived, Mom!). Over the past couple of weeks, our students have flooded us with questions about Christmas. Since Devon and I not only act as "oral English" teachers but also Southwest University's "American culture" experts, we thought it would be wonderful to hold a Christmas Lecture, answering questions, showing a movie – The Polar Express – and finally, despite my terrible (I repeat, terrible!) voice, sing some popular Christmas songs. All went as planned: Devon unsurprisingly out shined me with her perfectly hit high-notes (she is a professional singer in America), the movie was a great hit, sparking unanswerable questions about "the Christmas spirit," and I, as you can see above, half excited half scared the sh*t out of the 70+ students, with my impersonation of Santa Claus, yelling "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas," throwing candy into the crowd! It was simply amazing...
.
But the "lecture" ended with our real reason for preparing this little slice of happiness for our students and their friends: Christmas, as we explained, is a time when those aware of their extreme fortune give back to those who are less fortunate, motivated by that little "Christmas spirit" voice in their heads. A very popular dinner conversation between Devon and I is the one where we unload the amazing things that happened to us that day, leading to us eating silently, lost in our own personal reveries and contemplating our own (extremely fortunate) lives as college students and how they were so much different from the lives we teach everyday. Devon and I are both smart people – we sometimes speak in great lengths about culture, language, philosophy, love, religion, politics, etc. – but we aren't afraid to be 11-years-old again, and we realize that sometimes the best gift for Chinese students, who spend 80% of their day studying, sipping caffeinated tea, and accumulating stress of unimaginable levels, is a happy, smiling face, a cheery song, and good laugh just to help them forget about that exam soon approaching that they feel will decide the rest of their lives. Knowing our real families and friends couldn't be here in the Middle Kingdom this Christmas, we wanted to celebrate our holiday with those we really love and appreciate for what they do for us, and because we feel truly loved and appreciated in return. They are our Chinese family, and we love them.
.
Many pictures posted (TAG: ChristmasLectureandIrishHotPot) including some of my final meeting with my students heading off to Ireland next semester for a year of post-graduate study. If you want to learn about some interesting (delicacy) foods served in China, nimen kan yixia (Have a look!). Hen hao chi! Oh, and the duck blood is supposedly good for removing dust from your lungs, which is why I had seconds.
.
More on my Chinese X-mas in the next few days... 圣诞快乐!(Sheng4 Dan4 Kuai4 Le4!)
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nimen hao!
.
It's not an everyday occurrence in the wan ba (Internet Cafe), that is when a Foreigner like myself walks in at 9am on a Monday morning to check the Buffalo Bills score, and leaves with glassy eyes. Yes, the Bills lost to the Browns (worthy of tears, but it's alright, I guess, since I'm a native Clevelander), but that's not why I left the cafe in a state of silent, reflective joy, and/or "feeling like a million bucks" (a popular American Idiom I teach my students). The reason for my happiness was the below video, created by the one and only Corinne Razem, wode meimei, my sister, for my Christmas present:
.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIg-3rbscgY
.
When I watch this video I can't help but marvel at it being about my last 5 months. There is such wonder all around me, and yet, coming from my amazing sister, 8000 miles away, I can't help but wonder at the life she lives - the life I will return to in approx. 21 months - and how beautifully strange Western culture will be in 2009.
.
Thank you, Corinne. I love you lots! Wo ai ni! Best Present Ever!
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil
.
P.s. I am very proud of you too!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Nimen hao!
.
I wish today could be a "Lazy Sunday" (Oh, my dream, to have a Buffalo Bills game broad casted on Chinese public television and a pizza delivered!) but too much needs to be done (and recapped for you)! It's been a wild Friday and Saturday. Friday is usually my busiest teaching day, with classes stretching into the evening. Fortunately, I was "anticipating" (This week's "cool word of the day") the Foreign Language Department's Fall Performances and, having helped with both performances of Dracula and Pinocchio, I was eager to watch my students transform into the figures they've stayed up late rehearsing, outdoors, despite chilly Chongqing nights.
.
The performances were a great success, and I never felt more proud of my students. My student who played Pinocchio's Stromboli was flawless, dressed in tattered peddler clothes, stuffed with a pillow under his shirt, and speaking with an authentic Chinese-English-Italian accent (such a thing exists!). Dracula was bloody (KFC ketchup!) and Nicholas (Dracula) stole the show, surprising everyone with his beautiful French pronunciation (He speaks Chinese, English, Spanish, and French, and in doing so, makes me feel like a missed the bus somewhere in life). The pictures speak volumes. You will read more about this evening, especially some of its more interesting moments, in the coming weeks, months, and years (insert cliffhanger sound effect: dun dun dunn!).
.
Saturday was a day of adventure as Devon and I celebrated Pepsi's birthday (Devon's former student's English name is Pepsi – creative, right? Happy 21, Pepsi!). Pepsi, her mother and father, Devon and I set off for DiaoYuCheng, a very historical town surrounded a great wall. It was here where a Chinese army, outnumbered 2:1, stopped the Mongol imperialists (mid-13th century; two generations after Genghis Khan) in a long, vicious battle from entering/conquering Africa. DiaoYuCheng (Translated: Fishing Village/City) has many beautiful/poetic calligraphies craved into the solid rock, as well as many statues of Buddha – both intact and [obviously] destroyed – including a great sleeping Buddha. I spent some time [of course, with the help of Pepsi and her father] translating the beautiful, shorter calligraphy messages, and some of their translations can me found under their pictures on Flickr.com (Picture TAG: PepsiBirthdayandPerformances). This was a wonderful destination, and I know I never would have visited, or even heard about it, if it wasn't for Pepsi and Devon's invitation. I learned a great deal about Chinese culture and history in just a few hours, and in watching how Chinese are so eager to explain their history, I continue to learn how important it is to them.
.
Our next and final destination was a trip to the small, ancient village of TanLai, just inside Sichuan province. At first look, TanLai is no different from any small, poor village in Sichuan, but as we walked through the narrow streets, marveling in the unique fruits and meats (see pictures, but please beware if you are a lover of a popular American family pet – Remember: the cow is a sacred animal in India), we encountered an entrance to a temple, which we later learned holds the 2nd largest statue of sitting Buddha in Sichuan (the largest being in Leshan). We walked around, smelled the incense Chinese burn to honor the gods and their ancestors, washed and drank sacramental spring water, closed our eyes, spun around 3 times, and walked towards a carving of Fu (Translated: Good luck or Happiness, you were right Uncle Bob and Aunt Peggy!) like a Chinese version of "in the tail on the donkey." Pepsi's father, loving great Chinese spectacles, bought a 15-foot tail of firecrackers and, very gracefully without any trace of fear, lit the fuse with his cigarette and casually walked away with a smile on his face, leaving Devon, Pepsi, and myself helplessly cornered in one of the stone corners of the temple. Long story short, as the firecrackers popped, spraying plastic "bullets" everywhere (see pictures), I couldn't help but think, "I need to throw myself on top of these two women," protecting them from the zipping explosions! It sounded and felt like war! Ahh! We were running for our lives and I think I was the only one to get "shot" by one of the honorary plastic pellets, and of all the places to get hit, right on the ear! (See picture above, Devon's face says it all!) Devon, Pepsi, and I couldn't stop laughing as the Chinese onlookers laughed themselves, just feet from the continuous popping (but on the right side, as the two foreigners and their Chinese student covered their faces in sheer dread). Needless to say, I learned a lot about how to honor the Chinese Gods, and even more about where not to stand when the Gods are being honored.
.
We drove back to Beibei in Pepsi's father's Volkswagen and sung Christmas carols for her birthday as chickens darted across the road and large ox walked along the highway.
.
On a final and more serious note, I would like mention Blythe Ann O'Sullivan, a young, vibrant, 25 year-old Peace Corps Volunteer who recently passed way while serving in Suriname. As Christmas approaches, we, Peace Corps Volunteers, being so far away from our families and friends, long to spend the holiday with those we love the most, but yet sacrifice it for the sake of people we love, but have only just met, and sadly, may never see again after our service is over. The thought of leaving my students in 2009 already brings me to tears. Blythe died doing something amazing. If her service was half as rewarding as my service has been thus far, then I know she died knowing how delicious life can taste.
.
Picture TAG: Pepsibirthdayandperformances
.
I love and miss you all (very much),
.
Phil

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Nimen hao!
.
Yesterday morning, I woke up at 6:30am ("Flight of the Bumblebees" is my cell phone alarm ring tone), fried an egg and steamed some mantou, drank my instant coffee (blah!), sealed the lid to my hot green tea and made my way to my 8am class. The sun was still rising through the thick Chongqing clouds so my classroom is always dark before I flick the half-dozen switches, illuminating it and its inhabitants with life-draining florescent light. However, this morning, there was a surprise. Being that it is mid-December and the countdown to Christmas for Americans living in Chongqing is well on its way, I decided to set aside my "Daily Pronunciation, Tongue Twisters, and Idiom Dissections" introduction for the week and attempt to inspire my students with the Christmas spirit (Christmas is celebrated in China, but it seems no one really knows what it is or what happens on Christmas - strange, being that almost all of the Christmas decorations in your house were made in the country I am currently residing).
.
I lined the blackboard with Christmas lights ("Ohhhh!" said the class when I plugged in the extension cord), hung up a Chinese version of Santa Claus with the traditional Hanzi characters (Sheng Dan Kuai Le! Notice the unique presence of a pig in the picture above...very Chinese!), and played English Christmas music as they worked on artistic renditions of their favorite stanzas from Clemet Moore's immortal poem, "Twas' The Night Before Christmas." As the students worked - painting, drawing, and coloring, talking/laughing in a mix of Chinese and English - Bing Crosby sung "White Christmas" in the background. For a few minutes, I stared out from my 2nd floor window in reverie. A rare few hours of sunshine was beginning in Beibei; the sky was blue and cloudless for the first time in several weeks and the temperature reached into the high 50's in the early afternoon. It was wonderful, and as much as the Christmas spirit encompassed my students, inspiring 2000 questions about what I love most about Christmas (many laughs!), I realized that I am truly going to miss my family and friends this holiday season. Hell, I have to teach Shakespeare at 9:30 on Christmas morning! Haha! But, you know, I kinda like that. It's fitting with the unique life I live here everyday.
.
Last night, I helped another group of students with their end-of-the-semester play, Pinocchio. Long story short, there is nothing more amazing, inspiring, absolutely drop dead hilarious than 20 Chinese English majors attempting to speak in an English-Italian accent! Ladies and Gentlemen, I am Strombolli, Master Showman, That's-a-me!
.
The rehearsal ended around 11:30pm and, being that I was on the other side of campus and all the buses had stopped for the night, I walked home. When I write these blog entries for you all, I try my best to place you in Chongqing and have you begin to understand the new, strange life I live here in China. But some of the things I want to explain to you are simply impossible to describe, kinda like last night's walk home alone, when, I will admit, I saw the stars for the first or possibly second time in my 5 months living in China. Walking under the stars on a cloudless night in Chongqing should be on everyone's "to do" list before he/she dies. It just might take you a few months of living in Chongqing to be able to check it off. But, while we are at it, living in Chongqing for a few months, in my eyes, should be something everyone should do anyways. It will change you.
.
More this weekend, especially some pictures of classroom decorations and Dracula and Pinocchio!
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Nimen hao!
.
I write you all from my apartment during a typical cold, rainy December Saturday night in Chongqing. To my right sits a steaming bowl of jiao zi (dumplings) and to my left, a stack of my students' journals, ready to be happily read and learned from. Tonight I ran a few miles through campus alone; Decaprio has been busy studying for finals, but we (and his girlfriend, Mary) still find time to catch up on Mondays and Tuesdays at our favorite Muslim restaurant. No snow here. It's about 45 degrees during the day. In the last few weeks, I've received a few e-mails from friends and family with updates about Western New York weather (keywords: "Snow storm, freezing, shoveling the driveway"). I never thought I would say this, but I miss the cause of all those school closings listed at the bottom of the television screen. Some of my students wear full winter attire to class (I can't tell you how strange it is to turn around after writing on the front board and see 30 faces decked out with winter hats and gloves - remember: No Central Heat!). They ask me constantly, "Aren't you cold?" being that I usually only wear 2 layers while I teach, rarely needing a hat and gloves. In any American city, I could probably get by with my quick response, but in China, I think it just confuses my students, sending them off to Google the weather conditions of my hometown: "Cold? Ha! I am from Buffalo, New York. Comparatively speaking, Chongqing is paradise."
.
Next weekend my students will be showcasing their English talents in a series of performances, including two abridged versions of Disney's immortal Pinocchio and the hauntingly bone-chilling Dracula. Some of the Dracula (Draconian? ha!) actors asked for my help and I wasn't surprised when they told me their rehearsal time. "Meet us at 10pm, Thursday night, at the Mao Statue," they said. 10pm is pretty late for a Thursday, being that all these students have class at 8am the following morning. The reason: All, or at least most, of these students have classes continually from 8am-9:30pm, with a few hours xiuxi (rest period) for lunch. Altogether, these students spend upwards of 80% of their day sitting in a classroom...that includes Saturdays! So, as you will see from my pictures, I brought some snacks for the students to ease their cluttered brains, including HOT CHOCOLATE for all. Judging from their reactions to the steaming liquid chocolate pouring out of the water thermos into their tiny paper cups, I am pretty sure "hot chocolate" and "happiness" are synonyms in the Chinese thesaurus.
.
Final thoughts:
.
Go Bills! I still believe they can make the playoffs this year, without JP Lose-man. Wishful thinking, I know.
.
The school is remodeling my bathroom while I travel for Spring Festival. I told them, in a serious tone, I wanted a Jacuzzi in the shape of China (very Peace Corps, I know). I don't think they understood me (or my bad joke)...but then again, I really hope they did!
.
Picture TAG: DraculaRehearsal --- and no, those are not real guns. It was a chore to get my student, Myst, to pose with me without cracking a smile. FYI: Guns are [highly] illegal in China. America has a lot to learn from the Middle Kingdom.
.
Christmas in China is coming...Nimen zhun bei hao le ma?
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Nimen hao!
.
As I continue to learn the Chinese language (“slow and steady” is my most commonly used response when asked the popular question, “How about your Chinese?”), I am able to [slowly and steadily] gain a greater understanding of Chinese culture and moreover, the subtle differences between Eastern and Western thought. Pictured here is a beautiful example of Chinese calligraphy written/drawn/painted by one of my students, English name Katrina. She gave this to me as a present and an example of her calligraphy skills – something she has professionally studied for several years. Though it is hard to see in this picture, the brush strokes are infinitely detailed and it was obvious that a significant amount of time was put into drawing these 10 characters. I asked Katrina how long it took her to draw these 10 characters, expecting an answer no longer than 10-15 minutes (a little more than 1 minutes for each character, right? They are each just a few simple lines, shapes, and dashes!) I was amazed when she said, “liang ge xiaoshi.” Two hours!
.
Hard to explain, Chinese calligraphy (which I plan to study next semester, thus learning how to better explain it to you) is a unique type of art, requiring an enormous amount of mental energy (Mark Salzman is my inspiration, author of Iron and Silk). We mustn’t forget that Chinese does not have an alphabet (the words I used above are pinyin, a phonetic form for learning oral Chinese; there is a hilarious story about this alphabetic misconception in Peter Hessler’s epic Oracle Bones). With the help of my fabulous Chinese tutor, I am going to do my best to interpret this poem for you. This is an example of a traditional Chinese poem, thus it is read from top to bottom, right to left. The number next to the pinyin word indicts the specific tone. Though only 10 characters, it holds a profound (and beautiful) meaning:
.
6th: yi4 (thoughts/ideas) 1st: xin1 (heart)
.
7th: ding4 (steady/fixed) 2nd: qing1 (clear)
.
8th: tian1 (sky) 3rd: shui3 (water)
.
9th: wu2 (without) 4th: xin4 (appear)
.
10th yun2 (cloud) 5th: yue4 (moon)
.
Okay, so we have “heart clear water appear moon thoughts steady sky without cloud.” Beautiful! Right? Saving you a lecture on traditional Chinese grammar and sentence structure (something I barely understand!) I will jump to our interpretation: “If your heart is clear, you can see the moon in the water (or rather, “If your mood is calm, you can truly appreciate the beauty all around you”), If your mind is clean, the sky is without clouds (or literally, you can find peace within peace).” Wow! Profound, indeed. All in just a few simple lines, shapes, and dashes…
.
Peng Laoshi (Sandy), one of the several program directors of Peace Corps China, visited Beibei this morning and was lucky enough to observe my Shakespeare class. I was happy she enjoyed my reading/teaching of Act I of All’s Well That Ends Well, complete with my best impression of Helena, that cunning vixen! (lame Shakespeare joke! sorry…) Devon and I dined with her and some other Foreign Language Dept. teachers at a fancy restaurant – complete with our favorite tang cu li ji (sweet and sour pork) – and they urged me to eat a fish head, which I posed with like the xiaopengyou (small child) that I know I am. Haha! (see pictures: TAG: Sandysvisit).
.
All for now. J.P Losman is a bum; trade him, Marv. Let the young blood thrive. I miss watching the Buffalo Bills lose, or, like this past week, win without scoring a touchdown.
.
Remember: “Xin Qing Shui Xin Yue, Yi Ding Tian Wu Yun.”
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Nimen hao!
.
It’s been a busy week here at Southwest University. The theme of this past week’s Oral English/American Culture class was Chinese and American Weddings. I was lucky enough to meet PCV Megan from Iowa (currently serving in Zigong, Sichuan) during Pre-Service Training and acquire copies of her best friend’s wedding pictures. FYI: Chinese students love pictures (Why wouldn’t they? Their entire written language is based on them!) and the class filled with many Oh’s and Ah’s as the photos made their way around the classroom (I posted these pictures on Flickr, in hopes the mysterious couple won’t mind the happiest day of their lives being publically displayed to my 100+ Chinese students…and the entire world via Internet.), the most popular photo being “The Kiss” – the simple act of kissing is not something I see often, if at all, here in China. In fact, one girl was hesitant to return this specific photo after I ask for them to be passed up to me in the front of the classroom; she was absolutely mesmerized by this magical touching of lips. Luckily for my future students, I was able to wrestle it away from her…
.
A little about Chinese weddings – remember, I am a teacher in China, but more than often I feel like a student due to the very evident contrast in culture: It must be said that weddings in China are just one aspect of Chinese culture that has been infiltrated/influenced by Western culture. If you ask a Chinese, “What are weddings like in China?” you will either receive a modern perspective (very similar to that of a typical American wedding: white dress, fancy restaurant/hotel party, speeches, drinking, etc.) or a traditional perspective. The traditions/customs of traditional weddings are long and highly detailed with long stories of former Chinese emperors and gods and their interactions with the common man. I’ve mentioned some of these traditions in a previous blog entry from July; the most popular traditions, and still occasionally performed today, are the elegant, tight fitting red dress (as opposed to the standard Western white), 3 bows by the bride and groom (one to God, one to the parents, and the last to each other, immediately followed by “the sexy” as described by my students with much laughter!), peanuts in the bed sheets (to promote fertility!), an apple on a string bobbing up and down in front of the couple’s faces (to promote a public kiss!) and fire-jumping by the bride (to cleanse her from previous “sins”). Of course, these traditions are much more elaborate, provincially specific, and accompany much more significance than I can possibly describe here, but, if you use your imagination like I have all week – I pretended to build a fire pit and jump over it, crashing into the blackboard! – Chinese weddings can be a heck of a lot of fun!
.
Unfortunate news: Bevon, greatest rapper in all of China, did not move on to the next round of the singing competition. Devon and I didn’t expect a miracle (again, rap music is no where near to the popularity of pop music in China), but judging from Bevon’s confidence and superior pronunciation (Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”) I consider his run of success a true accomplishment, and in the words of Bevon, “I f’in' lost, but it was f’in' cool.” Remember, all this kid ever wanted (maybe, in life) was to see a crowd bob their heads and wave their arms up and down as he rapped, like the final scenes of 8-mile. As you can see from the pictures, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, a dream fulfilled. But I don’t think Bevon is hanging up his microphone just yet…
.
This afternoon some fellow PCVs visited Devon and I in Beibei. Leah (California), Nikki (Illinois), and John (Texas) got a royal tour of Southwest University and then we all dined at one of few Chinese/Western food restaurants. Yes, I ate bi sa (Pizza!) and it was delicious. 1 word: Cheese.
.
Picture Tags: PhilandDevonBeibei - and - WeddingPicturesforClass
.
Life is lovely. And, as you can see, even in cloudy Chongqing, the sun still manages to make an appearence.
.
I love and miss you all,
.
Phil