Saturday, January 14, 2006

New Year's Evaluations

A church designed by I. M. Pei on the Tung Hai campus

This adventure is most of the things I wanted it to be, and so a good success. However, Peter had some surgery in mid November, from which he is recovering well, but I was chagrined not to be able to take care of him personally. In an enormous gesture of love and generosity, two of his very close buddies came, one from LA and the other from Guthrie (twin metropoli of urbanity), and took care of him very well. (I had visions of Three Stooges meet Jim Carrey but apparently our house is still standing and relatively undamaged. Of course I haven’t seen it yet . . . or smelled it.)

The pianist and some of her admirers

Bessie and the Texan (!) missionary founder of the music program at Tung Hai

Our charming hosts at the concert, Shortza and her father, Mr. Ran. Shortza is a pupil of the pianist.

This also means Peter can’t come see me during the winter holidays. Fortunately my dear friend-from–the-sixth-grade Teresa is coming in February, so that will be quite wonderful indeed. After she had called me with her confirmed reservations I learned that the whole country closes down for Chinese New Year, which unlike our single, just the one day celebration, lasts about two weeks, and during which I am told by Reliable Sources many stores are closed, few buses and cabs run, and all the citizenry plays Ma Jong or video games, eats, watches tv, and visits their family, which of course means the workers are not at work. Anywhere. I have a hot plate, a small refrigerator, a toaster, and a hot water maker in my room, clearly exceeding the per capita limit for sane ownership of Personal Appliances, and down the hall a little way is a large refrigerator, a washer and a dryer, and, until 2 days, ago a microwave. I sincerely hope that appliance will be replaced before Chinese New Year or we may have to move to a hotel in town. I can think of worse fates, actually. Better still, we might even have to go out of town, because a hotel is a hotel and one might as well get a change of scenery . . .

Some of about a Brazillion dishes at the banquet.

One of my colleagues here, Bessie Chang, will stay in town for most of the holidays; she has a car and very kindly takes me many places. I would no more drive a car, let alone a scooter, in Taiwan than I would take up lion-taming as a profession, which would be safer, I’m sure. People here drive with great abandon and flair, and consider obeying traffic signals “discretionary.” Citizens I had heretofore considered sane told me this with a straight face. Discretionary. I have developed a strategy for turning across several lanes of traffic safely. I think throwing a bunch of coins or chocolate candy in the opposite direction one wishes to travel and then stomping on the gas pedal and driving at top speed in the desired direction is a very workable plan. But I suggested it to Bessie and she so far has not adopted it, so maybe it is too direct for Asians.

Bessie and Vicki at the neverending wedding/newyear's banquet

My hairdresser, Ms. Li, a very kind, talented and important woman!

Learning Chinese, I have come to understand, practically paralyzes one’s English capabilities (giving me a much more profound understanding of my Asian students' efforts to go the opposite direction, needless to say). As I mentioned before, one of my colleagues responded to some students who asked if she minded if they did something (no telling what form the question took) and she responded ‘No, I don’t have a mind.” It’s a statement I can usefully take over into life more and more, I find. And I have to bite my tongue a lot no matter what I am doing, from teaching to grocery shopping to eating in restaurants (you should see some of the menus that have been “translated” into English; they’re histarical.) See what I mean? Sometimes Bessie and I mark up a menu and give it to the cashier when we leave as a small gesture towards improving communication with tourists and thus their cash flow. We only do this in places that have good food but English menus apparently translated by Google.

My Chinese teacher, a kind woman who deserves a better student . . .

Oh, and I have another neologism that goes right up there with turning in papers lately. A person recently told me that if he couldn't come to a certain event he would notice me. It works perfectly, makes sense, and I like it. We'll soon have a "new slang" to rival that of Eliza Doolittle; we can use it to impress our friends.

The graduate student dinner begins!

I said that when I came to Taiwan I would lose weight, exercise, and stay calm and pieceful. (Oaky, now do you see?) That was before I got here and instead of teaching 6 hours, two courses, taught six courses for 17 hours each week. To sort of quote Bobbie Burns, “the best intentions of mice and men gang aft astray." That would be me as the mouse in that scenario, volunteering to teach other courses after 3 full time people did not show up for work at the beginning of the semester and the chair was going to teach all of them himself. Semesters here are slightly shorter than six months, but not much. I am just now working on grades, our exams having been last week. Education in the East, or at least in Taiwan, is very different to what one finds in the West, in more ways than I can catalog with only a million gigabytes of memory on this poor Mac. I am going to try, however, as I think its worth doing because (a) the topic is so fascinating and (b) it might promote Understanding and (dare I articulate it?) Peace In Our Time.

Recent adventures, documented here and there above, include a banquet celebrating the end of the year and a wedding, which was everything Ang Li would have wanted; a visit to Jane and Tim’s show and dinner afterwards; a brilliant piano recital at Tung (pronounced Dong; don’t ask) Hai University, down the road from us a way; and dinner with my graduate students last night. These last young people are truly bright and charming, and as you can see for yourself, also quite beautiful.

A roundup of all the usual suspects . . .

See you on down the road . . .


At 11:59 AM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Pat -- what wonderful adventures! We all feel quite dull in contrast. I look forward to making use of the new slang, as Freddie Eynsforth-Hill would have said (even when he was Sherlock Holmes), if only to confuse and provoke my students. I am seeing more of the big wide world because I am teaching in the Commerce Buidling this semester(!). It is so hard to be back -- and yet, you're still just finishing up the previous semester. All strength and power to ya, lady. Have fun with Theresa.

At 1:39 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Hi, Kate. Thanks for the comment; most people just read and then ignore it. (But reading is good; don't stop!) I didn't realize Freddie was Sherlock. Was he that really good neurasthenic last one who died recently? Or a previous iteration? The Commerce buidling? You really rank! May you never get rained on going from there to anywhere. Or scalded by the sun. Or frightened by the night. Have you read any Terry Pratchett? If not go directly to a bookstore and buy "Going Postal." Is is one of the funniest books I have encountered in my life, and that's a long long time!

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Robert W said...

Semester Two is starting and WE miss you.
Robert Williams

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Pat Wente said...

Hey, HI! We are all enjoying the blog and happy new year to YOU. I went over to the Harwin shops today -- particularly Purse Alley -- and there's a newer place called Mulan. It has all kinds of fun stuff and they are usually rather subdued in there. Today, the doors were wide open, music was blaring(Fred described it as Asian-disco-remix-Auld Lang Syne), and we were greeted cordially at the door and offered fortune cookies to celebrate the new year. Also, everything in the store was half price. Everything.

Across the way, the two Urdu guys who pretend to be fierce competitors on fake Prada purses were sharing a sandwich in the sun. It was a pretty January day in Houston. Rain for tomorrow.

Chuck and I go to Cabo for my big company trip in a couple of weeks. It is less of a burden than it has been in the past because I can hire a bigger staff, but I am still on call 24/7 while we're there.

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Hi Robert and Patty! Great to hear from both of you. I know the second semester has started because I haven't heard much from Ann lately! Hope all of you are having a good semester this spring, and I know you, Robert, are acing everything. I am also delighted to hear that the Chinese New Year is being celebrated so well in Houston. Bill Thorolygood sent me an article from the Chronicle, but it didn't mention the half-price sale. However, the music sounds like what I'm hearing here . . .

I celebrated the new year by going to Japan, where they were celebrating it, as well. We went to some culturally significant (the UN says it so it must be true) mountain villages and stayed in spa hotels, all of which was pretty swell. Saw the neighborhood where the Samuris lived when they weren't killing people. Cabo sounds pretty darn good, as well. Except for the 24/7 part, which sounds pretty darn awful.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Hey Pat --

We lured Peter out to Star Pizza last week. It was good to see him. We have to go by and entertain him more.

I finally met Ann in the hallway (just about the time I realized I was supposed to be at a meeting -- oops!) who surprised me by saying "I've read your play!" I didn't put two and two together until then: "Oh, you're THAT Ann!" Sometimes that PhD comes in handy...

Can't wait to see some pictures from Japan (home of Hello Kitty!). Gung hai fat choi! Year of the Dog is supposed to be a lucky year.


Post a Comment

<< Home