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The posts have slowed, but that is because we are very busy. We just got back from a trip to Xi’an with my buddy from Georgetown, Matt Busa, which will be discussed later. This post details some of the more interesting Tangshan happenings in the last few weeks. As you all know, Tangshan was devastated by an earthquake 34 years ago. Our boss was given two tickets to the earthquake anniversary commemoration concert at the Tangshan stadium, but was unable to go. So Erin and I went to the concert on a hot and smoggy night. There was a big crowd, and an elaborate stage with a massive screen in the background. Erin and I understood 1 of about 50 words that were said (most of which were Tangshan), but it was an interesting concert. Many emotional songs and speeches were delivered, which were received with extremely tepid applause. I guess Chinese people don’t like to applaud very much, because it was bizarre how little they clapped from a Western perspective. The highlights for us were the dancing by some of China’s minority groups, but the highlight for the rest of the crowd was an apparently famous comedian. He seemed like a jolly enough fellow, but overall it seems that the Chinese sense of humor is quite different from the Western world. Comedy is Rated G, for children and adults. I was expecting the concert to be a bit more touching than it was, but I think I should expect things to be much more corny in the future. It didn’t seem like the crowd was particularly moved either, but we were glad we went.

One of our favorite restaurants in Tangshan is a Uighur restaurant. The Uighurs are a muslim minority group from western China and their food is an interesting blend from many different regions. We have frequented this restaurant dozens of times, and have become friendly with the staff who treats us like royalty (we translated their menu into English). We went to the restaurant for our boss’ birthday, and had a feast as always. The owner of the restaurant is a hilarious and friendly guy that looks like a Uighur version of the rotund laughing buddha, and he of course wanted to make the birthday special. After multiple attempts to give us the meal for free, he instead brought out an ancient looking disco ball and strobe light. After pumping up the Uighur jams, the dance party was on. The 2 Uighur boys that man the outdoor grill came out in Uighur clothes and did some traditional dancing, then pulled all of the foreigners out onto the floor to give them a dose of Western dance. It was very fun, my favorite part being when the owner’s 2 year old son who can barely walk went out on the dance floor and seemed to know how to dance. The Uighurs know how to party, and we all had a very good time.

The last story I will share took place in our apartment complex. We were walking to get a cab for something one day, and said hello to the guard and another Chinese fellow who was standing there. Instead of replying with an awkwardly pronounced “Hellooooo”, the man simply said “Hi.” This was an instant sign of fluency for me, so I asked if he spoke English. In perfect he started talking to us, explaining that his wife’s family lives in Tangshan, but that he lives in Baltimore with his wife and daughter. Such a small world, that we can be wandering in our little apartment complex in a somewhat obscure Chinese city and meet a guy that is from our neck of the woods. His name was Luke, and he asked us to get lunch with him, his daughter and his niece. We had a great lunch with them, and his niece will actually be headed to the University of Texas in 4 days for graduate school. It was a little sad to learn that in Tangshan, Luke was a surgeon at the hospital and in the USA he is a researcher, but he said he likes the USA and obviously likes it enough to keep his family there. Even a Chinese guy who has lived in the USA for 6 years maintains the tradition of being a great host, and we were certainly happy to have stumbled into him that day.

Alrighty, some pictures of the concert and random shots of Tanshan are below. Hope all is well with you, and expect some new and exciting blog updates in the next few days. My friend Busa is currently by himself in Beijing, so we are a little worried about him but he made it through Hong Kong on his own, and now knows the words for thank you, hello, goodbye, and can count to 3, so he should be fine. Good night/morning!

The Master said, “The gentleman calls attention to the good points in others; he does not call attention to their defects. The small man does just the reverse of this.” -The Analects, 12.16

Hey all, we are ready for another weekend of teaching starting tomorrow, so I wanted to make a quick post about some random things. Not a whole lot is new since we came back from Beijing, but I went out for the first time to some real Chinese night clubs last night. We started the night getting dinner at a restaurant with our boss, Eddie, and the other teacher, David, and had a nice meal. Eddie was pretty drunk by the time we left the restaurant, so Erin made the wise choice of staying home instead of going to the club called the Toy Bar. David (the other teacher) wanted me to go and I felt bad leaving him with a drunk Eddie (again), so I tagged along. It was a pretty hilarious experience, especially considering all the horror stories the Chinese teachers at our school told us about massive fights, drug use and other things at this bar. Don’t worry, this would have been the tamest club in the USA, so it is incredibly edgy for Chinese standards. There were 3 dancers that came out every 15 minutes to do a little dance show, involving some bad hip hop dance moves that was quite amusing to watch. Random guys kept coming up to me and trying to buy me drinks or talk to me, and were touching me a LOT which was a little awkward, but is totally common in China. It was deafeningly loud and the room was filled with smoke, but it was still funny to see the Chinese people dancing horribly and singing every lyric to some of the worst English pop music I have ever heard. Why they are playing English pop music in a Chinese dance club is beyond me, but every person knew every word, so I guess they really like it. We left pretty early, before Eddie could do any serious damage to the place.

Overall we have adjusted to life here pretty easily and are having a good time. There are some things that are really starting to irritate me though. Nobody here looks before they cross the street. Cars just go before they look to see if things are coming. People will walk right at you until the very last second, then stop in front of you, THEN move out of the way. I truly do not understand why they do this, and it is a miracle that people aren’t killed constantly while crossing the street. I have asked Chinese people if they look both ways before crossing the street and they all say “No, we don’t do that.” Don’t do that?! Why? WHY? WHY?! It makes driving, riding a bike, and even walking that much more difficult, dangerous, and time consuming, because you have to always move out of the way of people that are paying no attention to anything. In America this is some people, some of the time. In China this is all people, almost all of the time. I have seen lots of traffic accidents the past few weeks, almost all involve a taxi and someone trying to turn. People just turn, they don’t look. They just go and hope traffic stops. Most of the time it does, but again, why not just follow the obvious (to an American) rules of the road, which will save you time and cause less accidents. For now, I just keep both eyes on the road at all times, because you never know what people will do.

Only one more complaint, I know everyone is probably really enjoying my whining. I do not think a single person in China turns their cell phone on vibrate. You can be sitting next to someone on a bus that will get 50 text messages in 10 minutes, with their phone making lots of noise each time, and the only person that it appears to annoy is me. It is not just in those situations, though, because the Chinese teachers and the parents of students that are in class will let their phone ring away in the middle of class, and it is like nobody even notices. Obviously this is not a big deal most of the time, but it is pretty annoying when you are trying to teach and have to start screaming to talk over the noise. It is to the point that I think it is perhaps a sign of status to have your phone make a ton of noise, the more often the better. My mind often tempts me to grab the parents cell phones in class, smash them against the wall, but I try to remember good ol’ Kung fu Tze (Confucius) saying, “Let there be no evil in your thoughts.” Serenity now, as Cosmo Kramer would say.

Alrighty, we are going to watch an episode of our new TV series that we got, Madmen. We finished The Wire a few days ago, and if you have never seen it, you should watch it (it is for mature audiences only)! I have attached some more pictures for your viewing pleasure from our trip to Beijing. Time to teach all weekend for us! Get on skype so we can chat. Zaijian.

Ran Qiu said, “It is not that your Way does no commend itself to me, but that it demands powers I do not possess.” The Master said, “He whose strength gives out collapses during the course of the journey (or the Way); but you deliberately draw the line.” The Analects, 6.10

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