02 December 2002

6th floor isolation

it's been quite a raucus few days around here and thought i'd relay it to you, dear unsuspecting reader.

this morning was an uncertain one for folks destined to rifle some english jabber into 6 year-old noggins. every monday morning, five of us depart for public school classes at 7:20am from bai da wei school. before such time, many of us run up to our school on the 6th floor to grab supplies and a cup of coffee. the elevator doesn't open until 7:30, so we get a little morning stair climb to wake ourselves. this morning, however, our vertical chariot was ready and waiting! little did we know that the reason for this was that the guy with the stairwell keys either was late in coming or just hadn't gotten around to opening the fricking doors. this becomes important when the elevator guy shuts off the elevator and the stairwell guy is still AWOL. the clock ticked louder as the cleaning ladies and stranded teachers all started mulling over the situation in not-so-subdued chinese. fire hazard came up a lot in those minutes of conversation, and i finally called our headmaster so that he could call the first floor so the stair guy could feel so inclined to use the keys given him. another word that came up a lot (in english, though after this episode i am bent on learning the chinese translation) was incompetence. i suppose if it had come down to it, one of the stranded foreigners is adept at rappelling (sp?) and might have jimmy-rigged some appropriate apparatus. happily, though, none of us missed classes.

so that was early morning. my last public school class of the day occurs right before lunch and held its own little twist. one fellow in my 1.4 class (1st grade) is named seymore, and he's a pretty bright chap by any account. today, however, he spent more time talking to his neighbor than paying attention in class, and belinda (the ji che chang teacher) put both he and gillian in front of the class for a few minutes as punishment. they were able to go back to their seats after promising not to talk anymore, and i kept at lessons with "what's this? how do you spell it? how many are there?" but seymore apparently just couldn't withstand the temptation to rattle on and on and . . . so i brought him up in front of class and asked him if he would like to be the teacher since he liked talking so much in class. he replied that he certainly wouldn't mind (i'm paraphrasing), and i sat down in his seat. so he got a dog flashcard (it was the last object on our worksheet today) and asked "what's this?" the class responded. "how do you spell?" he called on one of his friends who gave the correct answer, which he then WROTE on the board! "how many dogs?" he called on someone else to answer. it was stunning!!! i was shocked and giddy, although the original purpose was to get him to stop talking in class. he told belinda after class that he wants to be teacher next class, too, and might just talk to his heart's content until he's allowed. may i remind you all that this boy is 6 years old. we'll see what happens.

last week sandy and i hung at the bathhouse together, including submerging ourselves under hot pebbles for 30 minutes (fantastic, but can i just say "sweat"?). as we were taking our final shower, one woman (there is usually at least one every time i take a communal shower) was remarking on how white i was. when she asked sandy where i was from, i replied that i was chinese. sandy then told her that i was a minority from the xinjiang province and chinese was my second language. she looked at me and my white belly in shock. i thought she got the joke until she pointed me out to a friend who had just come in and remarked about how white they were in the xinjiang province. i felt kind of guilty listening to this and told her before towelling off that i am actually american. she blinked a few times and went on again about my whiteness. sandy and i both chuckled over it on the way home.

we recorded the chorus numbers and the duet last night at jilin broadcasting studio. it was the first time i've ever recorded in such a place. great fun, though sadly mr. star search couldn't make it (see previous entry). we tried to get along without him the best we could. the recording supervisor (i couldn't ascertain his exact area of expertise) spent a good deal of time hollaring chinese into the headsets, and david kept telling him, "hold on just a minute" in chinese. there were a few koreans and a russian and a nigerian who only spoke chinese, no english. the recording staff was chinese as well, so translation between english and chinese definitely added amusement. we couldn't get rolling until 7:30pm because of class schedules, so the wrapup finally came at 10pm. our last song of the night was "auld lang syne," which sounded like a dirge hindered by the doppler effect upon playback. but the staff was tired, so the dirge take is what will be playing on national television. oy veh!

that's about all i can think of at present. tonight i am watching "amelie" on vcd with a chinese friend of mine. it's in french with chinese subtitles, and i can understand just enough spoken french and read just enough chinese to get the general idea, but there are a few holes that i'm looking forward to filling in. my big question mark is what the contents of the letter were to amelie's downstairs neighbor that made her kiss the bullfighter's portrait. anyone know?

hope all is well. sandy says hello and you're not wearing enough clothes, wherever you are.