30 October 2002

wanshengjie wiles

well, it's been quite some time since my last little slough of jargon flew up on this posting space. ever so much has transpired in the last few weeks, and i'm sure the same can easily be said of readers and writer alike.

strange sightings: three suit-clad businessmen were seen pissing on the side of a major roundabout near numerous government buildings (incidentally next door to my place of employ) last week, nonchalantly shooting the breeze during what i can only assume is for them common elimination procedure. i had to dodge grazing cows on my way home from the trolleybus over a week ago, which i thought strange since their de facto grazing land was smack dab between railroad tracks and busy avenue (is this a chinese version of free range, i wonder?). since the weather has turned cold, most children have transformed into vaguely ambulatory clothing bundles. too funny to watch said bundles perching precariously atop a bicycle. sadly that's all i can think of off the top of my head, but i will surely think of more in the next few days.

well, it's downright chilly here in northeast china. we had a sudden onslaught of freeze about a few weeks ago, and i shudder just a touch to think that this is only the beginning of what is shaping up to be a hypothermia-friendly winter. as i've mentioned to a few folks, central heating is turned on by calendar day, not temperature, and that day is november first. now i have to preface the upcoming tirade by saying that in china, as in no other place i have been, the weather is not an idle topic. it is, rather, a living and predominantly malificent entity whose sole mission is to make northern chinese the toughest, most resilient population (outside new york subway commuters) i have ever come across. that said, you can imagine what most people discuss on an average day when the weather is below freezing and one's apartment is colder than outside. our headmaster woke up one morning to find his sink lined with frozen water. i have never experienced bonechilling weather before, but it has a peculiar effect on brain activity. most people wear at least three layers of clothing, tip to tail. my students look more like bushels of yarn than aspiring young minds, though i'm sure the clever little tykes are in there somewhere. waiguorens are known for not dressing for cold weather, so more than one chinese friend of mine has unceremoniously pulled up my shirt and pants to see how i am dressed. they all reply that i'm not wearing nearly enough. most subsequently display their own layering system so as to give me a point of reference. i'm still a few weeks from my yarn underwear purchase, thank you. any thoughts i previously had of swimming in nanhu park this winter are gone, gone, gone! some bloc's heat was turned on october 25th to avoid frostbite hospital admittals, and my bloc was one of the lucky few. i think this has something to do with the fact that my apartment is located behind a hospital. happy me! i won't belabor a topic that is probably dismal to those of you situated in comparatively tropic climates, but just know that there are millions of dongbeiren (northeast china inhabitants) who are jealous of your single-layer attire (but you're still not wearing enough).

tomorrow is halloween ("wanshengjie" in chinese)! this is a holiday not observed in china, so i have been acquainting my students with some of the practices. of the holiday observances, you can imagine that candy acquisition rates first and foremost. nancy and i (my co-teacher at ji che chang primary school) have explained trick-or-treating, witches and costumes. this has been met with a cavalcade (is that the right word?) of questions. "are there really witches?" "if i dress as a witch, can i fly, too?" "what happens if a person doesn't give you candy?" "why do you wear costumes?" "are there REALLY witches?" "how does the broom fly?" they are so gosh-darn cute!! i can't wait until tomorrow when we trick-or-treat (after their test, of course). will be sure to take pictures, though i am still working on finding a scanner i can use in this coal-ridden city.

thanks to those who helped with the colossal task of naming! of the 300 students i helped name in the past few months, i've tried not to give any name more than twice. tried to approximate the sound of their given name or its meaning. one of my favorites was naming justice, a boy whose chinese name means "ambitious." ambition should be tempered with justice in my estimation, and his given name sounded much like justice. ahhh, small victories! it has also been heartening to meet a few students who didn't want an english name. i had tried to state as firmly as i could that english names are only for those who want one, and it was glorious to see that my speeches seemed to hit home. i'm sadly currently slaughtering their chinese names, but i have vowed to improve with time and practice.

anyway, more soon. thanks to all for sticking out the length of this email as well as the length of my silence. hope to hear from you and to hear that all is well.

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