Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Frugal Teacher Who Wears the Same Clothes Everyday

That is me. I recently found out from my Chinese teacher via the Panzhihua University rumor mill that I have a rep. Apparently students were talking, either to each other and another teacher overheard, or to the other teacher, and the other teacher asked my Chinese teacher if I was a penny-pincher because students say I wear the same clothes every day. Firstly, I can’t believe they are pots calling the kettle black because, as Jeff can vouch, our students wear the same clothes so often that we identify who they are from afar by what they are wearing. Secondly, really? Don’t students have something better to do than talk about my clothes? How about going and memorizing the English dictionary from A to Z (which they do do for exams)?

I will admit that I do find it a little embarrassing (a little 丢脸if you will) that they are talking about me in that way, but come on, I’m a Peace Corps volunteer, not a fashion model (hmm…although I wish I were?)! Aren’t PCVs supposed to be judged by their magnanimous acts and not their superficial appearances? Oh, who am I kidding. I should have figured I was in the land of frilly skirts and high heels (while mountain climbing) and taken heed. I would like to use this chance to defend myself though since I cannot do so to the rumor-mongering students!

First, although I may wear the same clothes for a week every day to class…I do wash them mid-week! I have stepped up my personal hygiene routine from my Bolivia days and shower (almost) every day and make sure I don’t smell. Second, the clothes I wear are professional and formal(ish). I don’t wear jeans to class, always dark colored pants and a semi-professional shirt (polo shirt or solid color semi-dressy short sleeve shirt)…although I will admit I have not kicked the Chacos habit. I believe this is better than many of the other teachers who wear jeans and t-shirts to class. Okay okay, so all of those that do are guys…the women mostly dress up in fancy garb and HIGH high heels (way beyond US business casual)…but hey, I have seen teachers come to class in workout clothes (like stretchy workout pants and polo shirts) including women! Therefore, I don’t think it’s so outlandish that I wear the same clothes for one week as long as I look professional and put together for class. Honestly, I will attribute part of this to the fact that I am the foreign teacher and maybe they hold me to a higher fashion standard or had lofty expectations for my fashion sense. Finally, I will attribute the wearing the same clothes every week to personal preferences and habits. I still do all my laundry by hand (in my twisted mind I consider it an upper body workout) even though I have a washer so I try to avoid getting too many things dirty. I sweat a ton here (hiking up a mountain under the blistering sun at 3 pm to teach classes in 100 degree weather without AC or a fan) so logical reasoning suggests that I should wear a semi-sweaty shirt instead of getting another one dirty that I have to wash by hand. I will also note that I would prefer to project an image of substance rather than superficiality and that my current clothing style reflects this. In conclusion, maybe I am frugal when it comes to clothes (um, I doubt anyone that knew me in HS, college or my first few post-college years would say that based on my shopping habits) but why buy clothes when you can buy 火锅,烧烤and串串with that money? (hot pot, barbeque and skewers of deliciousness boiled in broth for the Mandarin illiterate)

P.S. Mom, if you’re freaking out that I will maintain this reputation when I am back in the US, don’t worry. Just take me on a shopping spree.

Something to Laugh About Everyday

As COS draws closer and closer (only about a month until I am no longer a PCV), I have realized the thing I will miss most about China (other than the delicious MSG-laden food) is the humor that is part of daily life. A day doesn’t pass without me laughing about something I find ridiculous or random...maybe it’s because I find Chinglish more amusing than the average bear or that when I meet those 哭笑不得 (don’t know whether to cry or laugh) situations I have learned to choose the latter.

For example, last week a student presented an idiom in class as part of what M. and I have coined “The Daily Show.” The student taught his classmates what “let the cat out of the bag” meant, but I have to admit that due to his mumbling I had him repeat what he was saying several times. Finally I gave up and had him write it on the board. “Carelessly diarrhea leaked secret.” Sans diarrhea, I believe it would be a perfectly normal definition, but with diarrhea, I become confused. I need to find this online translator that he is using and write them a complaint. I did ask him why 拉肚子 was part of his definition but I didn’t manage to get much of a response since I don’t think he knew what he was saying either. Maybe while I’m at it I need to work on my teaching skills so that my students don’t present nonsense to their impressionable classmates?

Last night, I was a judge in an English drama competition and was trying to control my laughter during several performances that involved random dancers in the background. Sometimes with an umbrella, sometimes a whirling dervish that ended in a collapse on the ground, taking down and popping a string of balloons hung on the wall. I am still trying to figure out what value the interpretive dance added in their plays.

This morning during Chinese class, I was trying to figure out the phrase 传播开来 so I had lovely 魏老师look up in her handy phone dictionary phrases that contained 开来. What she did manage to come up with was 联想开来 which means (maybe somewhat inaccurately) when you start to think of something it just makes you think about it more and more. The dictionary definition? “Shower breasts.”

Yes, this is what I will miss the most.

Worst. Traveler. Ever.

Last summer I spent a whole month in Beijing and managed to not get to the Great Wall…nor the Summer Palace…nor the Forbidden City…or any other major tourist destinations. I didn’t get to the Water Cube/Bird’s Nest (although I made it to Kro’s Nest, a restaurant with Beijing’s best pizza). Surprisingly I did make it to Tiananmen Square one afternoon after class when M. dragged me there. After COS conference last week in Chengdu, I headed up to Xi’an for vacation…and managed to stay there for four days without seeing the Terracotta Warriors. Ha…I will attribute that to the fact that the tour leaving from the hostel was full and that it was a Chinese national holiday so the city and everywhere was packed. I think that will be my new travel style…go to as many big tourist destinations as possible without seeing the most important things there…

Oh well. I figured when (not a question of if) I come back to China I most likely will be going to Xi’an again so I will have an opportunity to see them then.