A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Friday, April 15, 2005

UU's Unite

Following in the grand tradition of Thothmuffin (see link on right),

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Main Gauche of Warm Humanitarianism.

Get yours.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Okay, so an update is way past overdue, this I realize, but I once again find myself not knowing exactly what to write about. Lots of stuff is happening, and China is continuing to be China, which doesn’t help me narrow things down at all!

But to pick a topic, and I realize I keep complaining about this, but I’ve just been feeling very busy of late. It shocks me every time I say it, but it’s true. Take yesterday for example:

I got up at 7, and entered grades into the computer before I quickly got ready for class. Then I taught four hours of class, came home, ate lunch, and cleaned house. After that, I took Maurice to the park (which was a bad idea because there was a performance in the square there which meant the lawn Nazis were on patrol. They kept insisting that people not go on the grass, including Maurice. I kept insisting Maurice go on the grass. It was fun. That is, until he started bothering some of the Chinese performers who proceeded to swat him and kick him away. There is a serious love hate relationship with dogs in China!!!). After rescuing him from the crowd and taking him home, I walked to a travel agent and basically planned my mom’s entire trip while she’s here. From there, I went to a Wal*Mart in that part of town (which I might add is nowhere near as good as Carrefour. I went for like four specific things, only one of which they had, and when I was checking out it wouldn’t scan and they said a price check would take like 15 minutes so I just left without it), took a taxi home (which took over half an hour because it was rush hour!!! So unreasonable for a town this small!), then went to dinner at a friends before coming home and doing more grading and going to bed.

Tell me that’s not a busy day! And what’s worse is that things are just going to keep that way for like the next month. Since I’m missing a week of school while my mom is here, I’m making up the classes over this next week and a half, which is a pain. Not to mention the fact that the 11 students whose theses I’m directing have their first draft due this Friday. I guess though, that in the end I prefer being busy to doing absolutely nothing. I get bored too easily!

On the China being China front, last Friday morning at 10 AM, I was called by the university and told that there was an American official from the consulate in ChengDu down visiting the university, and they’d like for the American teachers to go to lunch with her at 11 that day. I was interested since I’m taking the Foreign Service exam in a couple of weeks, but talk about short notice! At that lunch, I found out that the Waiban (International Exchange Office of the University that looks after us) had bought tickets for all the foreign teachers to go to the opening ceremonies of the “China Kunming International Cultriam [sic] Festival” (based on the Chinese, that should read the “Kunming, China International Culture and Tourism Festival,” do not ask me where Cultriam came from!) the next evening.

We didn’t know what to expect, but Chesa and I had just the week before gone to a performance of Dynamic Yunnan (which you can read an article about in the New York Times), which was actually a pretty good performance of some ethnic minority dances (Yunnan is the home to 26 of the 45 nationally recognized ethnic minorities in China), so we had some idea of what to expect. And actually, we weren’t too far off once we got used to our surroundings. The event took place in a football (read soccer for you blasted Americans :o) ) field in town, and we were all placed on STOOLS in the middle of the field. They provided us with little pink and blue blow up hand things adorned with flying Picachus saying “How are you?” to wave at appropriate times. In a typically Chinese move, we were placed in the second row in what was effectively the foreigners section, cause hey, it’s not a good show unless you can prove that foreigners were there. It also meant that during several occasions we had camera people standing right in front of us putting the camera directly in our faces and just standing there filming for two to three minute intervals. Also, as with everything else in China, the sound system was exactly two decibels above bearable, which meant that we basically had to plug our ears at all times.

The performance itself had its stronger points and its weaker ones. For example, there was a really cool choreographed gongfu fighting scene which I really liked. There was also a very unique Polynesian looking dance that I enjoyed, but I’m not exactly sure why it was there. For the most part, the dances were an endless parade of ethnic minorities. In fact, it was so endless that I am very convinced that they were just plain making up some of the minorities. The one in shiny silver costumes for example. Unless they came from Mars, they were certainly not an ethnic minority! There was also a fake Riverdance-type performance with an American and his backup dancers, the “Heidi-in-really-short-shorts 组 (zu),” or the “Heidi-in-really-short-shorts minority.” That one was a little surreal in terms of the dances. They also had such great songs as: “Yunnan is a great place. It’s really really fun. Yunnan is a great place. It’s really really fun.” Oh China! Upon leaving this performance I turned to the other teachers and said “That is the epitomiest Chinese thing I’ve ever experienced!” But really, it was a good time.

My main concern really is that the tourism route that the Yunnan Province seems to be pushing is focused almost entirely on the ethnic minorities. Although I suppose it helps the minorities who might not have any other jobs keep some of their traditions, it’s just turning them into a spectacle. They live in fake villages, in downtown Kuming, make up costumes, and invent extra traditions to make them seem more exotic. Sure these people have traditional dances, but what we’re seeing ain’t them! And besides, Yunnan has some of the most spectacular scenery and weather in China. For them to be ignoring those as major selling points seems like a big mistake to me!