16 November 2002

hot rocks with maple

it occurs to me that i have forgotten to relay a swell bus tale from a few weeks ago. Robin, a swinging chick who is also a teacher at bai da wei, has occasionally accompanied me to my swimming hole at xian guanchang. the first of our tandem submerged exploits began with the single most crowded mode of transportation i have ever been in. many buses in changchun are actually glorified (i use the term glorified lightly) minibuses that have no maximum capacity. on this particular occasion, there were so many people on the bus that no one budged as we careened around roundabouts and plunged into stophood at red lights. there is usually a person to take money at the door, and his task on this venture was to jam people in and yank people out of the bus. at one point there were so many people that he could not rejoin the bus' swelling population and the door closed on him. the bus driver, oblivious to his comrade's screams over the din of his disgruntled cargo, started driving on. the money-taker/yanker/pusher banged on the door to little effect, since the occupants were so crammed in that they could not reach the handle to pull the door open. he finally had to rush in front of the bus to get the driver to stop. i wish i could have gotten to my camera.

this past tuesday was spent in the company of Shea and Maple, a new friend of Shea's and hence a happy acquaintance of mine. many teachers have been on the lookout for a bona fide bathhouse/sauna that didn't peddle more services than one would care to explain to mother. Maple knew of such a place and was kind enough to invite Shea and myself to attend. such bliss! we got white pajamas and unlimited use of the milk sauna and oh-so-warm showers. one room had a pile of hot rocks and a stretching session led by an instructor. there was another room with hot pebbles that you could pour over yourself and sleep on, with an adjacent area for sleeping or swinging under heat lamps. the wooden swings under red light seemed so dreamlike, so peaceful and quirkily well-placed. when we were all taking a final shower before joining the clothed world (shea took a sauna), i happened to have a conversation with a woman who was stunned by my white body. she asked if i was married, complimented my chinese, and asked if i would like her to introduce me to a good-looking boy of hers. she asked Maple the same thing about 5 minutes later and i wondered if it was the same boy or if she had a list of eligibles somewhere in her purse. it has to have been one of the most memorable afternoons in changchun for its other-worldliness. the feeling lasted just up until the time that my wet hair froze upon contact with the outside air. the best part was that i saw no flesh-peddling (if you don't count the woman tring to marry maple or myself)! woo-hoo! anyway, i believe a group of us are planning to go next time. will keep you posted.

i was planning to talk about learning chinese chess and discussing the triathalon in chinese during a recent swimming escapade and a televised christmas program i am probably going to take part in and the new teacher whose pluck is immeasurable, but i suppose this will all have to wait. time to study a bunch of characters and prepare for the next day of slinging english with a bunch of aspiring young minds. hope all is well.

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