Thursday, October 31, 2013

My New Simile For The Impossible

I love cake. Don’t you? One of the best perks of teaching kindergarten is the birthday parties because of the cake. Except when the moms send in a cake that has that blah-tasting whippy frosting topped with grapes (with seeds!) and dragon fruit. Meh. But most of them do a good job of picking a delicious cake. Even when students in another class have a birthday party, I can still count on getting a glorious piece of cake.

But there is something quite odd about cake-eating here. I noticed it in Korea too. Instead of giving you a fork to eat it with (or even a spoon or a spork), they give you a teeny tiny shrimp fork. No joke:

The one in the photo happens to be wooden, but most are plastic. In either case, trying to eat a piece of cake with one of those is as close to impossible as it gets. You wind up destroying what was once a lovely slice of cakey goodness in a desperate attempt to get a bite into your mouth. I think using chopsticks would actually be easier!

Prior to this, my favorite simile to use to describe doing something that was impossible came from Mr. Anderson from Beavis and Butthead. Remember him? 

He was the old neighbor that was constantly terrorized by them. He once said, “I feel like a one-legged cat trying to bury turd on a frozen pond,” though for the life of me now, I can't remember why he was saying it. Perhaps he was trying to eat cake with one of these damned things too. In any event, I now have my very own simile to coin:
I feel like I’m trying to eat a slice of cake with a puny plastic shrimp fork.

Feel free to quote me on that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Day I Was Mistaken For A Chair

After our grueling one-hour-that-felt-like-ten-hours-flight-with-a-tantrumy-toddler, it was refreshing to easily claim our luggage and start on our way to our hotel. We took an early flight so we had plenty of time before my family arrived in Shanghai. Jeremy suggested we take the subway. He probably wouldn’t have made this suggestion had he realized it was about 12 stops away, but that was fine. We both love subways. They are building one in Qingdao and we can’t wait until it’s finished. Riding the subway in Korea was one of my favorite things. I loved being able to get around so easily. Plus, we thought Raelynn would enjoy the ride too. She is too small to remember the first time we took her on the subway when she was 1 month old.

While Shanghai people are far more polite than those up in Beijing, they aren’t as friendly as Qingdao people can be. In Qingdao, get on any bus with your kids and watch everyone jump up to offer you their seat. In Shanghai, get on a subway with a baby and people will pretend not to notice you as you struggle not to wobble over while simultaneously holding your child. As the train prepared to make a stop, one of the seats opened up and Jeremy told me to take Raelynn and sit while he kept the luggage from rolling away.

I sat down with my kid, who, for whatever reason, decided she did not want to sit. So while in my seat, I have a squirmy kid trying to escape, screaming all the while, and then, I am not joking when I tell you some horrid cow sat on me. Yes, that’s right. She fucking sat on me. I was sitting in a chair on the subway and she sat right on my lap. Being the loud, bitchy American that I am, I of course yell at her. My husband gets involved as I jump from my seat, absolutely astonished that someone would sit on me and then not even notice. She settles into the seat and people have now actually gotten up to let her husband and grandchild sit down. The grandchild is apparently sick and they are taking her to the doctor. Oh good! Bring a sick person onto a train. Why don’t you take a taxi?!? There are tons of taxis in Shanghai. They are quite easy to get. She tells my husband she didn’t see me there. HOW DO YOU NOT SEE ME, YOU OLD BAT?!? She starts apologizing and as Jeremy is relaying what she’s saying, I’m offering my own very snide commentary on the matter. I notice some of the passengers understand English quite well because they are chuckling at my caustic remarks. Another seat opens on the bench next to these people and she’s telling me to please come sit down. I don’t want your sympathy seat, asshat. I don’t care if I never fucking sit again. Cow. And I certainly don’t want to sit next to your grandchild who is ill so that my daughter and I might come down with whatever it is that is ailing that poor child. So yeah, shove it.

I know I’ve lost a bit of weight recently but I had absolutely no idea I was beginning to resemble a chair of all things. Now this situation is a bit amusing to me of course, but I have to ask you all – would you be able to sit on a subway (or even a bus) and not notice there was someone already seated in the seat you were attempting to sit in? And suppose you really truly from the depths of your soul did not notice them, would you continue to sit on them as though they were just a chair, without offering an apology until their spouse demanded one of you? Yeesh. My grandpa was truly right on when he used to say, "it takes all kinds."

Toddlers, Tantrums And Tarmacs

Raelynn at age 2 1/2 on the flight to Shanghai. This photo was taken after she chilled out from throwing an epic tantrum and agreed to read with me. Hooray!

For a year, we’d been planning a trip down to Shanghai to visit with my family. We’d planned it last year when they’d come to visit us here in Qingdao for our vow renewal ceremony. It made saying goodbye a little easier, knowing that we had a date set to see each other again. This time though, my parents wanted us to meet them in Shanghai. I love Shanghai. It’s an amazing city, though I still love Seoul like no other place on earth. Still, there are worse places to be. Far worse. And one of the best is indeed Shanghai.

The first time we went, it was before Raelynn had been born. I was about 6 months pregnant and Jeremy and I went there for a mini-honeymoon. We returned once more after Raelynn was born to get her US citizenship at the consulate there. Despite being an infant, she was very good on the plane. We also took a trip up to Beijing when Raelynn was a bit bigger but she still wasn’t walking yet. And again, she was good on the plane rides.

Shanghai and Beijing are both about an hour flight from Qingdao. Still, for this trip, I prepared and armed myself heavily with things to keep Raelynn occupied. When she was smaller, she slept and breastfed. Now she’s 2 ½. It takes more to entertain her. I also spent weeks preparing her for the trip. I told her about airplanes, staying in a hotel, how we were going to see Papa, Mimi and Uncle Phillip and all kinds of things. We packed her a bag of her own filled with toys, cards and books. We also packed our iPad. And don’t get me started on the snacks – my bag was loaded with goodies of all kinds. Yet, despite all this artillery in my arsenal, we still failed miserably.

For one, Raelynn completely flipped out when I buckled her seatbelt. Put her in the seat and she was fine. Fasten her seatbelt? You’d think I’d just ripped her arm off and clubbed her in the head with it. Fortunately, people in China are far kinder about screaming children than my fellow Americans. We apologized profusely to those around us and were only met with offers of assistance and smiles. Somehow, I finally talked Raelynn into reading a book with me (pictured above). When she calmed down further, we gave her a snack. Jeremy and I smiled at each other. We’d won the battle!

Or so she led us to believe.

Soon after, she pitched a fit about sitting in her own seat. She wanted to sit on me. The flight crew thankfully had no problems with this so I distracted her by showing her the things we could see out the window. By the time we’d landed, we both felt like that one hour was 10 hours.

The return flight to Qingdao was not much better. We had even more things to busy her with but problems arose when she wouldn’t sit in her seat. I held her and off into sleepyland she went. I could actually read! So part of this hour flight was actually lovely. And peaceful. Until she woke up. She wanted water. Easy enough. One of the flight attendants brought us some. Only he poured it right into her Hello Kitty cup. But nooooooooooooooooooooooo! She wanted it from the plastic cup which was now long gone as he retreated to buckle up for landing. She screamed, kicked, cried and totally freaked over a cup. Oh man. It was deeply embarrassing but we teamed up and tried our best to calm her down and distract her. And again, we were met with much sympathy from the surrounding passengers. A Chinese businessman in front of us, in perfect English, told us he has 2 children and that flying with them is very stressful at times. Another foreigner a few rows up told us it happens to him all the time when he travels abroad with his wife and 2 kids. Their encouragement helped us feel better about the deafening shrieks she unleashed upon us all.

At least we don’t have to fly every day. But we’re already worried about how we’ll endure any of the flights we’ll take in our near future. We’d like to go to the states soon and we wonder if we can’t keep her calm for one actual hour how we’ll actually make it through 16 hours of tantrums. We can only hope the other passengers we encounter then will be as gracious as the ones we met on this trip. And for those of you with flights coming up, when you see a family with a small child, please have a heart. No parent wants for their kid to throw tantrums anywhere, especially not on an airplane. We all have places to go and we’re sorry we can’t just get off the plane and leave you in peace. I hope you’ll all bear that in mind if we’re on your next flight.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

And The Award For Best Engrish Typo Goes To...

...Christina, my Korean teacher!

(insert round of applause here)

Coming up this week, we'll be having our Open Class for English. Which is really nothing more than a giant circus of bullshit that the school wants us to put on for the parents' amusement. They don't really want to see how I teach their children to learn real things. Oh no. They want a dog and pony show. And they'll get it. I've been busy working on crowd-pleasing crap, meanwhile Christina has been making sure our classroom looks nice.

I mentioned to her that some of the children's name tags had fallen off the cubbies and we should fix them. She agreed and set off to remedy that. Some of those tags, however, had gotten lost, so she printed them and laminated them again.

On Friday afternoon, one of those tags caught my attention instantly. Here it is:

Now, I don't have a student by the name of "Denial," however, I do have one named "Daniel." This typo is absolute gold too, if you know Daniel as I do. This is a kid who always has milk with his snack and who always tosses it into the garbage without first emptying it, creating a huge milk mess in the trash can. And he always DENIES it. Yes. This might be a better name for our dear Daniel.

But just in case his folks figure out what "denial" actually means, perhaps we'd better keep on calling him Daniel.