Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farewell Dinner!

Its almost officially summer vacation. One of my former students took us all out to dinner last Friday to celebrate and to say goodbye since he may not be returning next term. They introduced us to several dishes from their hometown that we had never tried. Namely, bamboo worm, bee larvae and crickets. I braved all but the larvae. They were all fried to a crisp and tasted like a chip but the plump larvae threatened a gooey center and I just couldn't do it. The calf liver and stomach with rice noodles, served cold with a spicy cilantro sauce was surprisingly addictive. I picked out the stomach parts. I had a bad experience once. The brown goop in the banana leaf was a sweet rice paste glob that tasted surprisingly like coffee. It was to thick to eat the whole thing and Frank wouldn't try it. He looked very sad as these strange dishes kept coming. He glanced at me as if to say, "guess I'm going hungry tonight." I think our student caught on and the final dish was a whole barbecued chicken. Without worrying about appearances, I speared the largest piece and put it on his plate. I enjoyed just about everything and it was just nice to have them feel comfortable around us, somewhat. I don't know if I will be coming back to this school once I start school myself but I know I will miss this great bunch of kids! Have a great Summer!

Saturday, June 25, 2011



Sorry it's been so long once again. Nothing has really happened lately, especially with our visas. Frank got pages added and we are once again on a wait and see routine, with them of course saying, "next week!" Well, it's Monday and not a word. We haven't been kicked out either so that's good. The weather here is pretty strange. I have been wearing a windbreaker and sometimes long sleeves in the morning and then it will either get hot with the sun roasting us unless you are in the shade where you  need to put your jacket back on, or it will suddenly pour down rain and soak you to the skin unless you brought your bike poncho. This is the strangest summer I have ever experienced. Gone are the dog days of S.C. Here, it could be any season at any time of the day and change within hours. I'm not complaining though. Nothing wrong with upper 70's and low 80's with a breeze. School ends soon, only two more weeks. I will miss my student Joe very much. He has become such a part of our lives, it seems strange that he won't be around to talk to anymore. We are going to try to visit him in his hometown before he ships off to Sydney, Australia in the fall. I have high hopes for this one. His kind heart and willingness to learn have left their mark on my heart. For example, we have talked about how important it is to avoid the bad habit of swearing. He told me that before, in his hometown, it was cool to swear in English. But, he says, now because of our talks, he feels guilty when he hears it from people or in movies. I explained what a conscience was and how to use it. He really takes it in and tries to apply himself. He wants to make the best impression possible in Australia.  Hopefully he will have the opportunity to learn wonderful new things in his new country. Joe, I will miss you! Keep in touch!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Who Wants Happy Beef?

I could use a dose. But not the skinny piece of meat they slapped on the plate and smothered in gravy. I want a hunk of rare prime rib with horseradish sauce! That would make me happy! Right now, we could both use some happy thoughts. We are once again in a visa situation. Frank is on the train tonight to the nearest consulate, 18 hours away. We have never recieved our official work visas. Our passports were in limbo for the past three weeks, since we returned from Hong Kong. Then, we got them back and were told to wait. For what? Yesterday, they told us Frank's passport doesn't have enough pages and must have pages put in by Friday! If we don't get it back by then, we have to leave the country. It's their fault we ran out of time in the first place! The consulate reps are coming here next week and Frank was just in a city with a consulate. If they had only communicated, this would not be an issue. But that's not the way it works here, unfortunately. And the government doesn't give a hoot whose fault it is, even if its theirs. Get the paperwork or get out! Our boss wanted Frank to fly which costs 1400Y. We don't have that, so he bought a train ticket for 250Y. Then I was told by the secretary that I also had to go because I am a family member. How stupid, what am I going to do, hold his hand? I told her not to worry about it, I wasn't going. I do however, have to work in Frank's place so he doesn't lose money. Oh, I forgot! As soon as Frank bought the ticket, I was told that because of mudslides, the trains had not been running! Come on! Mudslides? Can't you get a bit more creative?  Thankfully, today was the first day that trains had been allowed through and he left the station around 8pm tonight. Getting pages put in used to be free, but as of this year, jumped to $80 U.S.. I was able to get mine done last summer before the change, but Frank never had the opportunity. We know things will eventually work out..... by Friday. Has to. It's not like we can afford to go home. We just keep hope alive and know that if we keep working hard, it will turn out for the best and be a good experience later.

"Whoever said "experience is the best teacher" needs a foot up their rear!"-mandy

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mandy's Thai Fried Rice!

I based this recipe off of one from for Curry Pineapple Rice. The most important step is using leftover rice. Your rice needs to be cooled or it will gum up and stick everywhere. I made enough for six people so I will give you the basic ingredients and you can go with your gut. Just don't overdo it on the fish sauce or the curry powder and you will be fine. Taste as you go!
Cooked rice, cooled
large onion, chunked
seafood, shrimp, squid, mussells, etc (opt. sub. chicken)
pineapple chunks (mine were fresh but a large can of with juice is great too)
a couple tablespoons curry powder
couple dashes of fish sauce (really salty so DO NOT ADD SALT)
Saute the onion in oil, add the seafood but don't cook all the way. It will cook with the rice; you don't want overcooked shrimp!
Remove from the pan. Coat pan with oil and throw in rice. Make sure its all broken up, no balls. Move the rice around frequently till its hot, add the pineapple chunks with a few tablespoons of juice, the curry powder, 1 tbs at a time and a few dashes of fish sauce. Before you serve, throw in the seafood and stir again. It should have a yellow-orange color to it. If not, add a little more curry powder. Serve with salad and cold fruit.
Optional: ginger, garlic, green onions, veggies. Make it your own!
PS: Arawana brand oil gives this dish just the right flavor. Its an Asian brand and has a big fish on the yellow label. If you can't find it, just use veg. oil. Olive oil will give it the wrong flavor. Also, fish sauce can be found in the Asian section. I like the Thai brand best. Fish sauce is very salty and smells funny. Don't let that stop you from adding it. Combined with the other flavors, it's perfect! Enjoy!
PSS: If you use fresh squid or calimari, freezing it renders the meat very tender. Something about fibers weakening or something. FYI


Across from our apartment on the ground floor is a small mahjong parlor where all the retired guys and some women hang out all day long. They gamble at cards and mahjong and drink tea. It can get incredibly noisy, especially since our complex acts as an ampitheater and even the smallest noise carries right into our living room. Last week, the noise escalated into a fight. Someone wasn't happy about how the cards fell and people started screaming. I ran to the window to see what was going on and saw a crowd of people around two men. It was a sissy fight, neither throwing punches, mainly because they were being held back by several women. Just screaming and waving their arms at each other. But then, the larger guy (to the right out of the picture) broke free and picked up a tiny bench. He ran over and tapped the other guy on the head with it. I say tapped because we had the window open and it didnt make a sound and he didn't have much momentum behind him when he swung. But the other guy dropped like a rock! I was laughing because you could tell he was faking it something terrible. His friends were telling him to get up, but he just lay there, one shoe on, one off like he was unconscious only you could tell he wasn't. I thought about going down and tickling him to see what would happen. Finally they started making phone calls, to the police? I don't know. Now, let me tell you something about our complex. There are about 20 guards here, they live directly across from our building, right above this chaos. Not a one even poked their head out of the window to see what was going on. It was forever before the guard at the front entrance, only a few hundred feet away, came sauntering over like he was just patroling the area. He never spoke to them, never tried to interfere or solve anything. He just became another bystander. Meanwhile, the "injured" man stayed on the ground. I guess he was thinking if he acted hurt, he could get some money. Finally his friends got him to the couch in front of the store. The offender just stood off the side. I glanced from him back to his victim in time to see the dude reach up and pick his nose! That was enough, he was NOT hurt! But they took him away in a car anyway, maybe to the hospital to talk someone into saying he needed compensation. I don't know if his act payed off. The shop closed for the day, but directly the next day, it was open and everyone was friends again, drinking tea and gambling the day away.
Arguments, like men are often pretenders Plato

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Word Mishaps

I was recently talking to someone about the increase of violence in American schools. I spoke of the influence of violent video games on the very young. In my comments, I said they play these games and then take a 铳(chong4) to school and kill other students and teachers. After I finished speaking, two people turned to me with confused faces. "What do the children take to school?" Chong4, you know, as I made a gun shape with my hand, a gun". One of them kindly smiled, patted my arm and said, no, no, its 枪 (qiang1). I argued that my dictionary said chong. Why do I argue? The other person leaned in and said, "maybe you don't know, but that word hasn't been used for 2,000 years! " No wonder no one understood! How am I supposed to know which word to use if my "up-to-date" dictionary hands out ancient words? The gun I described as being carried to schools is in the picture above. Come to think of it, maybe he messed up too. Were there guns that long ago? Maybe he meant 200 years ago. See what I mean?  Once I explained, they appreciated my information and the confused looks went away. The red in my face began receding too. Who knows how many other misshaps I have had. Most people don't correct you, so you could go on saying the wrong thing for years! For example, after almost three years, I found out that the phrase cesuo (厕所) does not refer to the squat toilet but is just another room for bathroom. We have moved four times and each time, I have demanded of the real estate agent not to give me an apartment with a cesuo! I made it very clear that it was because we were foreigners and our culture is different. We are not accustomed to using a cesuo. Why did no one tell me I was retarded? Somehow, we ended up with bathrooms in every apartment. The first apartment had only a squat toilet though. Serves me right! For this and many other reasons, I have finally made the move to go back to school. Semester starts in September. I cannot rely on the kindness of the local people forever. I want to be understood, not laughed at! It is pretty funny though!
Lymph, v.:  to walk with a lisp.  ~From a Washington Post reader submission word contest
Dictionaries are like watches; the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true. ~Samuel Johnson

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dynamic Dancing

I recently attended a show of Chinese Minority dances. China has 56 different minority groups, each with their own beliefs, customs and rituals. Some worship dogs, some worship the sun. In one group, the females at a young age have their faces tattooed in the shape of a blue butterfly. The show displayed the music and dancing of several of these groups including on that places high importance on dating and marriage. The young people once a year, come together to dance and sing. They try to outdance each other and partners met at this festival often end up marrying. The clothing and many dances, such as the call for rain are so similar to American Indian traditions and customs. Again, I wonder if my heritage is somehow connected to this land.