Thursday, August 20, 2009

Regarding Firewood.

During my high school years my family lived in the frigid north of Maryland. In this cold frozen wasteland our home was heated by a woodstove. Now I loved this woodstove, for it provided a constant feeling of 'real heat'. You always knew that at any point in the day, you could take your homework, lay down on the carpet at the foot of the stove, and feel warmth seep into your bodies core.

The tradeoff was that it was me and my brothers constant responsibility to bring firewood into the home. A never ending train of wood was necessary throughout the winter to keep this precious warmth alive. Of all the chores I remember being given (and there were many) this is one that I can't recall complaining about, most likely because it was the one chore whose results were most clearly seen.

Now in almost all aspects of the term, I view myself as a 'laid back' kind of guy. And yet somewhere between those wheelbarrow loads of wood and today there has developed an intense pet peeve of people doing their job. Nothing will piss me off faster than someone who has a clearly given job and fails to do it.

The problem, however, is that in real life, when I am not the oldest brother and tasked with the refueling of the iron beast, is that the boundaries of when I get to chew someone out is not nearly as clearly defined as it was when a teenager. The question is further complicated when speaking in the context of the larger Family. In the complex relationship of Brothers and Sisters (and further muddled by work relationships) I typically have no clue when it is actually appropriate to open my mouth.


Another reason why responsibility is overrated.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Regarding Stools that don't Swivel.

Today a maintenance worker at SYIS reminded me of my father. It was something random, something small, but I immediately laughed when it happened because my first thought was, "DAD WOULD DO THAT!"

I am struggling with a breathing problem that requires me to take deep breaths. Weird, I know, but the longer I stand up straight the more noticeable/worse the problem becomes, and so I requested a stool for my room. The head of the maintenance staff replied by giving me a black metal swivel bar-chair, however half of the ball-bearings were broken and the feet were somehow uneven, resulting in a extremely loud and wobbly piece of furniture that was more of an annoyance than my breathing problem. So I requested a new one. One that didn't swivel.

Today I got my wish. One of the maintenance staff, a small older guy that doesn't speak a bit of english, handed me the exact same chair. Which frustrated me. Then I sat in the chair.

No swivel.

I was puzzled.

I flipped the chair over, and I realized what he had done was drilled holes in the four legs and bolted them to the seat of the chair.

He grinned at me, and said in broken English, "No turn."

That's my dad. 98% of the world's population would have gone out and bought another stool. These two guys just make do with what they have.

Artists in their own right.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Regarding Singing Taxi Drivers

Tonight was one of those nights that you look back on and can appreciate the value of life and friends. It began with a trip to Strollers. Strollers is a bar/restraunt that is almost worth traveling all the way to Shenyang, China just to visit. It has a German/Russian/Rocker with the random motiff that Applebees, Crocker Barrel, and the like only dream of achieving. Along with this it possesses great beverages and a huge variety of western food that actually tastes like western food. The last aspect of Strollers contributes to its rarity and value as much as the decor.

Our group of friends then traveled by taxi to the nearby Starbucks to complete our evening of western culture, where I was able to indulge in a mocha cappuccino while the wife had some sort of frappuchino over quality conversation among friends of common interest and values.

As we were driving home, a friend commented on how he was falling in love with China. I looked out the window to the busy streets lit by the skyscrapers, neon lights, and oversized tv's displaying massive advertisements. I thought about the people, the evening, the culture, the kids I've been able to teach this week. As I was thinking, 'I believe I can Fly' began playing in the background of our taxi's speakers. Emily laughed at the randomness of it, and I began to tease her by informing the driver in my broken Chinese that this was my wife's favorite song. He immediately burst into singing the main chorus line, taking both hands completely off the steering wheel, and flapping his hands as he grinned at me.

And the first thought that went through my mind: I love life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Regarding Annoying Questions

Probably one of the most annoying questions I get asked from people back in the States is, "So what is it like living in China? What are the people like?" Honestly, its a somewhat ridiculous question. Imagine if someone asked you, "So what's it like living in America? What are the people like?" The problem with the question is that it is asking you to deliver the information equivalent to a freight train in the space of a mailbox. So you feel cheated, because this questioner (with good intentions) is going to walk away feeling like they know what your life is like, and what the people are like, when in reality all they have seen is a snapshot the size of a postage stamp.

/end rant

/take deep breath

By the way, if by some chance you are reading this and have asked me that question - I love you, and know that the reason you ask is because there is a genuine desire to know what life is like b/c you care, and for that I thank you and appreciate you.

The 'people' aspect of those two questions is difficult for the reason that every person is vastly different. Imagine if you will a foreigner visiting Manhattan, then going back to their native country all excited that they now know 'Americans' and what all 'Americans' are like. Not only is there great diversity within the country of the United States, but also within that particular area of a huge city.

Hence, the reason why I started this blog. Hopefully the snapshots of what 'life is like in China' will accummulate to the point where an accurate montage will exist for people to get a understanding of the differences and similarities off life here and life there.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Regarding Busses

Today was a good day.

Waking up early to finish a powerpoint presentation of our kids at camp acting like various zoo animals, preparing a lecture on the different names of people within the family, and a breakfast of cornflakes and blue berries.

A 20 minute wait for the bus, along with much circular thinking, "I hate buses. I hate waiting. But this is a good cultural experience. You are learning patience. But I'm wasting time, and therefore hate buses."

I finally resigned myself to taking a taxi, and in the short distance to the training center we passed 4 buses all making their way to my stop. Irony.