Tuesday, March 21, 2006

at the moment, i am about to dig into my chinese pizza and wash it down with my milk drink with tapioca balls that i purchased at the cafeteria bakery with my food card. the school puts 400 rmb a month on the card which pays for most of my meals and a lot of my snacks and my now growing coke habit (as in coca-cola). i thought when i arrived in china i would stop drinking coke but it seems to be even more readily available here than in the states and here i am able to put it on my food card so i never have to buy it. when i do buy it (with my own money) from the school canteen which is in a shed, cans are only a quarter a piece. what a happy miser i am here in the land of the rising sun!

i love the chinese pizza. from what i have learned, pizza is a fairly new addition to the chinese menu. the students love it. the other morning, at 7:30 am on the way to the speech contest, a couple of students were chowing down on pizza as we listened to older chinese hip hop on the van's stereo. the songs we listened to all reminded me a lot of that song 'jump around.'

the pizza from the school bakery and at stands (which have popped up all over songjiang) is like a regular pizza with no sauce and no cheese but a ton of spices on top.the pizzas are all the same anywhere you go here in songjiang. they taste familiar but i cannot place what the familiar taste is, maybe garlic, maybe chives, maybe sea snake.

the other cheap good here is cigarettes. now that everyone around the world has stopped smoking or is stopping, i am starting. some cigarettes are 2 kuai a pack which equals 25 cents american money. these particular cigarettes are in very ornately decorated red packs with a drawing of a dragon. i cannot afford to not smoke at these prices. i smoke approximately one cigarette a day. in the evening, i sit on my balcony and drink a cup of hot tea and i smoke one cigarette and watch the construction workers excavating in my backyard.

before lunch, i taught class 3. they had to tell me how i can remember their names, the same lesson that i gave class 11 yesterday. angell told me that i could remember her name when i think of the song 'hey jude.' vera told me i could remember her name when i thought of the singer mariah carey. neither of these students had a concrete explanation of how i should associate mariah carey with vera and 'hey jude' with angell. when i got to ding ding, i was a bit cautious when i asked him how to remember his name. i breathed a sigh of relief when he told me after i have been knocked out in a fight i will hear a bell and think of his name. killback told me his name sounds cool and that is how i will remember it.

today has been one of those days and it is only 12:30 pm. i thought it would be fun to give my conversation class some dialogue from some film scripts i saved in my documents on my computer in my office. i pulled up my documents and there was nothing there - no scripts, no lessons that i have typed - nothing. i asked the admin assistants why. actually, of course, that became a game of 'guess what my problem is now' because of the excruciating language barrier. once i acted out the problem and they realized i was not having a heart attack or getting liver spots, the more fluent of the two assistants said 'oh you cannot save anything on drive c.' i took a deep breath. i tried not to get mad. i tried to put it into perspective. i tried not to use the f-word. my articulate response was 'i sure wish someone would have told me before i saved all of my lessons in my documents.' both of the assistants are extraordinarily nice. i did control an outburst which a few years ago berore i tempered my temper would have been a expletive fueled meltdown. at this point, i know that losing my sh-- does no good.

later, nancy (the assistant who gets a lot of browbeating from the australian teacher jo which is another story and i will try to tell it at some point) told me that she mailed the letter that i asked her to mail because i am not sure if i put it in a post box of some sort or if i have to go to the post office or what i do here when i have something to post. i , enthusiasticly, told her thank you. she smiled like she had finally done something right. i felt guilty.

i will find out at some point where i post letters. however, what should take 5 minutes usually takes 30! and what i thought would be a big deal is not. one of the other assistants, logan, i had asked him to hunt down a voltage converter for the laptop that i brought with me because i assumed i needed one. yesterday, after 3 weeks of waiting, he brought me one. what he brought was a simple wall adapter i was excited but i was nervous because the voltage is 240 here (or is it 220? sheesh). i was afraid if i plugged in my laptop it might blow up. i surfed around on the net to see if i had anything to worry about. i would have asked the other assistants but i knew it would be more trouble than it is worth. i asked the other teacher from america and she told me she had a friend here that brought his laptop from america so she called him.

the main reason i was nervous is because a friend in london that i went to see a year ago told me, i think, that when he plugged his apple in at his flat there in brixton it blew something and the something it blew was expensive. i, however, was not listening that closely because at the time i did not think it was information i might need later.

i was mulling this over while the other american teacher called her friend and curious, i was trying to make out what her friend was saying on the other end by her yes's and oh's. she got off the phone and told me that if it says that it converts to 240v on the computers power supply then it should be okay to plug it straight into the wall. her friend had plugged his straight into the wall with no converter. i then thought about all of the travelers that shlepped laptops from country to country and i felt more at ease. lo and behold, when i went home and plugged it in, my computer worked fine. now if i could just hook to the internet at my apartment this would then not be one of those days.

in perspective, the day is better after taking a few deep breaths and enjoying the deliciousness of my pizza and my milk drink, two contemporary chinese dietary staples.


Blogger Megan said...

Tyson, at the risk of sounding motherly, try to throw some vegetables in with the pizza and coke, will ya? And for gosh sake, don't be suckered by the cute dragon packaging on the ciggies!

3:41 AM  
Blogger Farhana Haque said...

ps...you're not in the land of the rising sun...and no wangs or ding dings for you!

12:13 AM  

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