Saturday, December 10, 2011


I think I've gotten much better at fitting in in Hong Kong, I can mimic going through daily interaction in Cantonese, although most of the time I seem somewhat stunted. But still, better stunted than mute. I can navigate things a lot more than I used to be able to, and while I still don't have the nerve to pick out the live chickens they offer at the wet market, I have gone on to pick out fish. (Which they then smash on the head with a cleaver and de-scale it vigorously while it's still moving. It still makes me flinch.)
But I try my best to seem as cool as possible, particularly with food. When faced with unfamiliar things, headfirst, no questions. No asking for help. Perhaps I have a bit too much pride, I've been accused of that before, but I guess I just like feeling some dignity. With that motto, I've become a pork knuckle, intestine lining eating, rice bowl in my hand, crustacean snapping individual.

Anyway I went to a noodle shop with my guy's family a few weeks ago. It was like a hole in the wall type of place, with plastic utensils and a makeshift roof. We each had to pick out an order from the mysterious and unfamiliar items floating at the counter. I had no idea what to choose, but I didn't want to seem completely lost, so I looked at the menu board, and picked the simplest one. Noodles with only one item in it. Simple I thought and probably the best way to avoid anything strange. A7- I said in cantonese. confident. nonchalant. Yes, I belong here.

"Are you sure?" C was looking at me with a slightly puzzled look, as was his mother.
"Yes. I know what I want," I said. (Unfortunately, I may have said this in a slightly aggressive way - with an undertone of Don't patronize Me.)
I could tell he wanted to say something, but I tried to look as nonchalant as possible. He shrugged.

I ate confidently at the table, heartily and with vigor. I could tell the vibe was a little awkward but I didn't really understand the reason. His mother had gotten noodles with an all-included special, and she kept giving me items from her bowl,"Since you like it."
And I'd keep taking it, like "Oh thanks Aunty!"
I thought they both looked a little uncomfortable, slightly intrigued and disgusted. The way I felt when I first was handed a bowl of pork knuckle.

I finished the bowl, and felt good that I had made my point. And then I forgot about that day.

A week later, C mentions to me that his mother had been slightly freaked out by how enthusiastically I had eaten cow penis. She had wondered why it was the only thing I ordered, and whether all Koreans liked eating things like that.

So A-7 was noodles and cow penis.


Yesterday I slid down a flight of stairs on a sofa cushion. My 3 students (elementary school sisters)were clapping and shrieking as I achieved "flight." I would find out later that I was the experiment, they wanted to see if it was dangerous or not.

It made me wonder what I was doing.

I don't feel that way often, only every once in a while:
for example when a student asks me to explain the study guide "translations" of Shakespeare. (It turns things like "My hour is almost come / When I to sulfurous and tormenting flames / Must render up myself" to "My time is up, I must go back to hell. Horrible. Fire sucks."
and "How now" to "Hey you")
"Hey you? I don't get it..."
"It's a greeting."
" hey?"

Or when I get the occasional angry "rebel" attitude in a student.
"Yea, well you're just a tutor." snort.

I don't know why kids say things like that, they tend to look at me with triumph afterward. Like maybe they think it'll send me into a spiraling existential crisis, like a breakdown of "What DO I have to respond to that?" :claws self in despair: "Get me a sofa cushion.. i need to escape this place."

Most of the time I just blink as a response, with a polite, "Yes, that is correct." For once.
Or if I'm not feeling particularly generous I say something equally rude and then afterward as I walk home, I'll feel immature for not rising above the level of a snotty angsty hormonal teenager. "Yea, and you should tell your parents to stop paying me and save the money for that library they're going to have to donate to make sure you GET into a school."

sofa cushion.

Sometimes I feel like I am too attached to our dog. She sleeps with us, she eats when I eat, she shares beer with me, she waits in the bathroom while I shower. We converse. (And it's not just me, her papa shares wine with her in her food dish. Bordeaux for the dog - yes.)

It's like she's my daemon (recently re-read the series, so good).
Although maybe not a daemon, I've come to realize that she may not be as in tune with me as I thought. Once I sprained my ankle while we were walking. I was fallen on the sidewalk, I thought she'd stop and turn and intuitively know that somehow she'd have to heal me, but instead she kept going and I was dragged for a few feet before she turned, circled me, looked puzzled and finally stopped, only to defecate near my hand.
Truly a man's best friend.

I've been in denial that she's spoiled, until we took her to obedience school. It was so embarrassing.
She barked incessantly and jumped and ran and sprinted, snatched treats from the teacher, frantically joyful, while the other dogs cowered and hid behind their owners. She kept turning to look for my approval, but mostly I just wanted to hide.
The teacher kept asking survey questions about how we raised our dogs.
Does anyone here sleep with their dog in the room?
Does anyone here let their dog sit in their lap automatically?
Does anyone here let their dog jump on them when they first come into the house?

We stopped raising our hands eventually because it got too sad having to explain.