Sunday, July 21, 2013

Averted Adventure

Did you know our mother was on the verge of eating a scorpion, and that it was only due to my prudent intervention that she didn’t?
I had all these intentions of eating something crazy when we went to what is popularly called ‘Snack Street’, a collection of little side streets in Qingdao with vendors offering everything from sea urchins and lizards to grubs and other indescribable objects. Maybe I would have a fried grasshopper, or a starfish. Because, you know, I am an adventurous youth and I like to do exciting and unique things. But after walking around the alleyways observing the squishy, tentacly, oozy, and/or antennaed specimens, my enthusiasm for the exotic dimmed. “You know what Mom? I actually think I’m good”. My stomach was feeling decidedly queasy, and I didn’t have anything to prove, after all. I was confident in my adventurousness. At least...that’s what I told myself.
After a while of wandering we got to a stand that some of the craziest things yet; and worst of all, there were scorpions. Three different sizes – big, bigger, and the kind you see on horror movies. They came pre-fried on a stick; unless, of course, you wanted to pick out your own live produce from the open tubs full of scorpions at your feet. Now, a single Auberry-sized scorpion gives me the heebie jeebies, much less a whole tubful of monsters as big as my hand that were currently devouring live insects that had just been fed to them. Ugh. After watching in fascination a while, we walked on.
“So Mom, if you were to eat something, what would you pick?”
“Oh, I’m going to go for a scorpion.”
I kind of laughed because I assumed she was joking; but when I looked over at her I saw she was, inexplicably, serious.
“!” I gasped in horror.
“Yeah, come on!” She said.
“Oh no! Heck no!” And then out of morbid curiosity, “What size would you get??”
“Um, one of the biggest ones probably...”
“Oh Mom, NO!!”
As you know from the first sentence, this story ends happily – Mom did not eat a scorpion, thank heavens. I had to use all my powers of logic and rhetoric to dissuade her...because, you know, I am a responsible adult and I don’t let my mother do outrageous and irrational things. But after walking out of that alleyway, I wasn’t quite as confident in my adventurousness. At least...not in comparison to my mother.

Welcome to China

Mom and I were worried about how I was going to find her on my first day in Qingdao. When my plane was scheduled to land, she had to be on campus teaching her I was going to have to take a taxi to get to her. But there were a few things that made this complicated: 1) there were a lot of ‘bad’ taxis that I was going to have to be on guard against so I didn’t get scammed, 2) I didn’t know any Chinese to tell the driver where I wanted to go, 3) even if I could get them to understand “Qingdao University”, mom wasn’t at the main campus, but at some lesser-known one, 4) even if I got to the right campus, how would I find her building? 5) what if my flight got delayed? 6) neither of us had operating cell phones. Mom had told her classes that I was coming but that she was worried I wouldn’t be able to get there in time, so not to get their hopes up that they would get to meet me. Luckily, through a lot of pre-planning, printing of maps, backup plans, and a wad of Chinese cash from Chris, I was able to evade the eeevil taxis and direct the good taxi driver right up to the doorstep of mom’s building.
I walked up the stairs and through the hall straight to the classroom number mom had told me. I looked through the door window, and there she was! My mother, who for a year now had been separated from me by literally the entire world, was now standing there on the other side of some flimsy wood and glass. Suddenly I couldn’t stand it anymore... I threw open both double doors, involuntarily struck a victory pose, and the room immediately erupted into thunderous applause and screams from 25 cute little Chinese girls. Mom whooped and ran over to give me a hug, while every single one of her students whipped out their camera phones and started taking pictures of our reunion. Talk about an entrance!
Thus began my experience with stardom and the Chinese paparazzi. First everyone wanted a picture of me and mom together. Then all of them wanted individual pictures of them with me and mom. And then a picture of them and mom, and then of them and me. And then small group shots. With about 25 students in the room, this took some time, and I started getting kind of giggly while I was posing for picture #97. Then one of them tentatively raised her hand and asked me if I would sing a song. What? A song...right now? Seriously? Yes? Uh...ok? So I did. Why not. I think some of them videotaped me. Some asked for my email. Then class was over, and they all seemed sad to say goodbye to me, and I was definitely sad to say goodbye to them! But then the next class came in, and the whole process started over again. They were so nice and sweet and charming that I didn’t mind, but I sure felt bemused the entire time.
My view
And then things kicked up a notch. We walked to a restaurant, where I got introduced to mom’s third class of the day and a whole bunch of authentic Chinese food. Some of it was really delicious, and some of it not so much (I recognized almost nothing, except for the fish - they were easy to identify only because they still had heads and fins). As soon as people slowed down eating, the plates were cleared away and the karaoke microphones were brought out. Mom had warned me that this was coming, and the way I visualized it happening was that I would sit back and enjoy the show for the most part, and maybe work up the courage for one song, just for the sake of the experience.
The students had other things in mind. They pressed the microphone into my hands for the very first song. I tried to respectfully decline, thinking they were just being polite by offering to let me go first...they weren’t. They were insistent. So I sang My Heart Will Go On to a very enthusiastic crowd that sang along with me and cheered when I finished. I laughed and said, well that was fun! And tried to hand the microphone to somebody else. No no! they said. We will find you another English song. No no! I said, that’s enough for me. But while those kids are just delightful, they have wills of iron. So I went all out. I don’t know how many songs I sang. The details are fuzzy, but I remember having a moment where my rational mind rose from the depths of a 42-hours-of-no-sleep fog and was really confused by what what going on and wondered how exactly I found myself to be singing Toxic by Britney Spears at the top of my microphone-enhanced lungs to a room full of cheering Chinese college kids.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Get some sleep, honey.

A text that I got from Rachel tonight after her return from China:

"carrie!  I've been missings you too.  It was weird to come home to an empty home. Lets twlk tomororrow m....i don't know what I was trying to type there but what im informing Your majesty is that am on ambien currently and making plenty of miatakes so we should warn her about talking tomorrow so I can sleep"

"That's not chicken-winging, that's turkey-winging!"-Lucy

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gordon celebrates a Master's!

Gordon's mom came out for a visit, to attend Gordon's Commencement ceremony, and maybe to see Hal.