Anecdotal evidence

 My Buddha – meditating into the New Year


This is the New Year’s Day blog. How’s that for a snappy opening line? It’s been a wet, cold, drizzly, gray, depressing New Year. I had to teach today; one of my Saturday classes was canceled a couple of weeks ago, so we met today to make it up. Instead of doing the normal 9 to 3:15 thing with lunch break, I taught straight through from 9 AM to 1 PM, with two mini breaks. I explained some of the traditional New Year’s traditions in America: getting drunk, kissing someone at midnight (in a pinch, a stranger will do), and making resolutions. I shared my own resolutions:

1. Lose 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds!)
2. Earn more money
3. Travel a lot
4. Work hard at learning Chinese

One of my students burst my balloon my stating that I can’t have more money and travel a lot. Oh well. What I didn’t talk about, though, were my REAL resolutions:

1. Work on my anger issues
2. Work on my character defects (demanding what I want instead of being passive- aggressive and whining; speaking my mind and actually responding to people instead of being complacent and agreeable.
3. Be happy. I know that sounds vague, but the 12th step of AA says that it’s about the joy of living. I ain’t had no joy this past year. Well, maybe for a couple of moments.

Now for some comedy relief:

Here’s the best teaching anecdote that I’ve read recently, and it isn’t even from an English teacher – it’s from a food blogger:

Bad English Lesson [April 2007] – by David Lebovitz

I’ve been teaching English to a couple of my friends here, and the other day I tossed in a phrase they’d never heard before:

‘Sit yo ass down.’

After I said it, I realized I’d made a rather important error, so I corrected myself:

‘Sit yo ass down, bitch.’

I also accompanied it with a raised index finger moving side-to-side with my head moving from side-to-side at the same time, but in the opposite direction of my finger.

My friend Florence looked at me with great interest, and asked, “And when would you use this expression?”

I wasn’t quite sure what to tell her.

(After I said it, I realized that I probably shouldn’t have since if the phrase catches on, someday in the future you might go to a café or restaurant in Paris and the waitress will tell you to do just that…and you’ll know who to blame.)

One of the comments from readers made this correction: it should really be

‘sit yo ass down, bee-yotch’


Brain freeze

I spent Dec. 31 going for a numbingly cold bicycle ride, freezing my head and almost getting in a bike accident when I passed someone on the left instead of on the right.* I ended up at the Wanda Plaza, a huge shopping center / cinema / residential complex. I had two immediate goals: shop at Ito Yokado and visit Tip Top Ice Cream. I’d been there once before with a friend, but only sampled his ice cream without ordering my own (it’s expensive stuff). It was just about the best I’d ever tasted. [Well, maybe Vivoli in Florence was the best, but technically that’s gelato, not ice cream.] Imagine my disappointment, then, when I had my mouth and taste buds set for some super-rich, creamy goodness, and I couldn’t find the place. It just wasn’t there. Then, I did find it, but it was closed for remodeling. I walked away in disgrace, consoling myself at Ito Yokado with a couple of new wool scarves on sale.

After class today I stopped in at Isetan (the other Japanese department store chain) for some cheese, French bread, smoked ham, and coffee. Since it was almost 3 o’clock and I hadn’t eaten lunch, I made a gargantuan ham, cheese, and onion sandwich on French bread drizzled with olive oil. It was overwhelming; I fell onto the couch for a nap immediately after.

I’ve officially moved into my small study room for the winter. It’s cozy, warmer than the bedroom, and it will just hold the long sofa, which lays flat for sleeping. Over the past few days I’ve watched the complete first two seasons of Mad Men. Like a good book, I just couldn’t put it down; it’s captivating. I’m hooked – now I have to have more.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, 2000  

* OK, I admit that I’m absolutely clueless when it comes to traffic and bicycle etiquette in China. In Los Angeles it’s customary to say “Passing on your left” (or right) when overtaking another cyclist [but then it’s also customary for cars to simply run over bike riders, since they just don’t look for them]. In China, people pass wherever there’s room – in the wrong lane, the wrong side of the street, the right, the left, even on the sidewalk, for God’s sake – but always with a warning honk. I did ring my bicycle bell when I was beside the other rider, expecting him to veer right, but he veered left, sending me into the high curb next to a bus stop and scraping my ankle. My response to him was “Xiao xin!” or “Be careful!” His response was a smile. However, just this morning I was crossing a bicycle lane as I walked to the bus stop, when a motor scooter beeped behind me. Instinctively, I started to move left, to the safety of the metal guard rail separating the bike lane from the street. I narrowly missed being hit. The thought suddenly struck me: it’s not a right or left thing; you simply move toward a protective barrier or object. Can someone else in China offer me their wisdom on this subject?


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