Friday, March 30, 2007

The one with all the cartoon characters

Weeell, last night I had me a real lulu of a dream, which I would like to record before I forget much more of it.

So whatever the course of events was up until then, I had qualified for some major Olympic-esque sports competition in-- SURPRISE-- gymnastics! The idea was that even never having done any gymnastics whatsoever in all my long life, I had enough random natural talent to get me in. It was very exciting.

Then I was in high school chemistry... or something.

Then I was touring the the competition facility with some friends, and saw people warming up for various activities... everything except whatever gymnastics I was supposed to take part in. So we were concerned and went looking for answers.

Found them in this little conference room where apparently the other gymnasts had been gathered by means of a note from the office. I guess you needed to be present in order to participate, so my eligibility was hurt by my... non-presence. But I never got a note! Somehow, the person in charge of all of this was Lisa K'Bedford, and she was meeean about it. But I never got a note! I was on the verge of tears when this older gent came in. A trustee type or at the very least a chairman type. But maybe not that high up. But at least high enough to veto Lisa K'Bedford. So I pleaded my case... they were sitting on chairs and I'm pretty sure I was on my knees. In this conference room. And I was all like crying, but I made a really good argument. So the dude decided that I should be allowed to compete, and I was so happy that I hugged him. But... then suddenly he wasn't so old anymore. And then he engaged me in what was definitely kissing, and I remember thinking, "Well, this sort of undermines everything I just said." Thing was, it seemed very much like some continuation of a past encounter, which I had no recollection of. Afterwards I looked around cuz I didn't want anyone to think that I was back in because of some sort of... backdoor relation, but everyone just went about their business like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

By this time, I'm trying to figure out why he had felt it appropriate to embrace me in such a fashion. Where had we met before? Only now it's not something between him and me, but rather Colonel Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist and Disney's Pocahontas. How did they happen to meet before? Well, we're about to find out.

So, there's wilderness. Kokoum (who is a bit goofy in this incarnation) is professing his undying love for Pocahontas for what seems might be the hundreth time. Maybe he's trying to offer her something? Anyway, she's irritated and goes off into the woods, where...

Someone comes tearing through the vegetation, fleeing the wrath of a giant velociraptor. I'm not sure who it was... though I imagine it was Powhatan, members of the Powhatan tribe, or someone totally unimportant. Anyways, Powhatan ends up dangling from a plank bridge over a really big crevace, much in the way that Cuzco and the other guy dangled in The Emperor's New Groove. There are a few rampaging velociraptors at this point, though actually they look sort of like T-rexes. And then there's Roy Mustang, in the most ridiculous getup I think that I could have dreamed for him. He's wearing one of those floppy hats that you picture on fly fishermen, as well as a matching long beige trenchcoat... covered in what seems like rabbits feet or other scraps of fur/foliage. Camoflage, no doubt. But he's only shown floating in midair or standing in a tree or something, by way of an introduction.

The real action begins when a gas jeep come crashing through the jungle. In the jeep are random characters from the Jurassic Park novels, as well as the X-Men. Whoever the humans are, they attack the velociraptor, and there's this moment of irony when the narration declares that this is the same velociraptor that ate Regis and Muldoon (and yes, I know how the story actually goes). Everyone does their thing, and the dinosaurs are vanquished. The remaining characters from JP die anyways though, possibly, and the X-Men remain. There's Rogue, Jean Grey, Beast, Wolverine, possibly Cyclops, and a random male character who might have been Iceman. But Wolverine somehow ends up in an off-screen fight with an off-screen velociraptor, and you can hear all sorts of macho comments about his healing factor and stuff not really hurting when actually he's getting torn to bits. In the end he dies. The other X-Men are standing in a bush. Like actually in a bush. Rogue is the only one who seems sort of upset. It seems like they're just treating his passing like a fact of life. Anyways, Rogue's wondering... something. To which Jean responds by saying that actually they've all been powerless as long as they've been in the jungle (kind of Savage Land like, but that's not actually what's going on here, I think). Apparently Rogue never noticed this. Beast makes some comment about how he's so glad... but actually he still looks the same. Then it turns out that he's glad that he's host to a colony of warrior tuna, which turn out actually to be about the size of sardines and blue, and honestly living in his fur. He throws one at the random male X-Man as a joke. This is an asset.

They chat a bit, discussing how the velociraptors have lost their predatorial edge in this new environment. This is, I think, a nod towards The Lost World. The idea is that they were once like, hunting killing machines, and now they can only kill when their food is brought to them. Not really sure how that mechanism works, but as an illustration, one of them sort of lumbers by and takes no notice of our X-friends. I supposed at this point that you had to provoke/harass them in some way before they'd attack you. Beast decides that he should go collect Wolverine's corpse and they agree.

MEANWHILE. Roy Mustang rescues Powhatan from his predicament. Then he and Pocahontas share tender moments, and it's literally a montage of getting-to-know-you type scenes. In the end, he's got to go, and actually rides off on a horse, into the sunset if I'm not mistaken.

There's some conflict that leads Powhatan to declare an open tournament where the winner gets Pocahontas' hand in marriage. But Col. Mustang doesn't show! A lot of other random dudes do though. They're all in a circle, wielding knives, when Pocahontas intervenes and grabs this kid (the boy really does come up to, like, her waist, and looks vaguely like his name should be Skippy, although he looks a bit like the blond guy in all those Naruto posters (maybe it is Naruto? I've never seen it) who might have been wearing a pink fishnet shirt) and makes him drop the knife. She tries to make everyone drop their knives, and tells them off. They drop their knives and produce an arsenal of other much larger/sharper weapons. Like battleaxes and stuff.

Some decision is made and they decide to go to the burial ground. The burial ground is... a hut. Kind of like a small highway rest stop. Inside are boxes that could be seen as shrines/coffins, but some of them look extremely electronic... I think one was a jukebox, and one was an older model two-door fridge/freezer. This represented Pocahontas' grandmother. Now, there had been references before now to the grandmother and also the soul of the grandfather being trapped with the grandmother, or some really bizarre whatever, but it all sort of fell into place at this point. We (yeah, I feel compelled to say we again, though I'm not really sure why) produce a plan of the refrigerator contents, and by now we're totally certain that the grandfather (or at least his soul) is in the freezer somewhere. But we're just gonna clean out the fridge. The plan shows like ketchup and mustard bottles and I think all those things actually represented non-tangibles, but I can't remember. Then, in the freezer diagram, there was a big oval with an arrow pointing to it that read "Vic." We assumed that was the grandfather.

Anyways, we were in this process when I woke up all "what the hell."

I think this dream proved a few things about me, though I'm reluctant to really talk about what they might be.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

More on that gravity thing

Actually, does anyone remember that Garfield and Friends episode where the rooster convinces someone (if there was a crazy duck on the show, it was probably him) that they repealed the law of gravity and they sang a song about it?

Anyways, yesterday, one of my fears proved to be a totally rational one when I fell off the back of a bike. Ok, so it's actually happened before, but I'm wearing band-aids now and people [who know me] keep asking what happened to my face. People who don't seem to be following a better code of etiquette than I do or have much better things to think about, because I always ask things like that.

But whatever, yesterday I was running a bit late to my class at the #1 school because I opted for the bus, which is in a random classroom on the far end of the campus that I didn't even know existed all last semester. I teach my Sunday morning kids class on Saturdays now in that classroom. I was crossing the soccer field (I think) and saw one of the kids' moms, who was presumably scouting for me, and she offered to take me the rest of the way on her bike. I was concerned, because the rest of the way involves a gradient that it's almost scary to run down, but I thought what the heck it might be fun. And it was, at first. When we got to the bottom of the hill though, the bike started swerving and tilting a lot, and I didn't know really what to make of it... I thought I might fall, so decided I'd better jump, but whatever really happened, I fell face-first into the concrete. Well, yeah, so I broke the fall with the palm of one hand and the knuckles of the other (hence the bandages). And since my legs were pretty much straight when I made contact, and I was wearing jeans, I got by with a small skinned bruise on one of my knees. My big ol' purse must have padded me in some way, though I can't even guess how, and I skinned my cheekbone. I went in and taught, and felt kinda nasty because I couldn't point to anything without giving my students an eyeful of bloody shredded sores, but I figured they were used to it. The mom kept asking me if it still hurt, and of course it stang, but really-- really-- I just told her how it is: I fall all the time. Period. At this point, it's managed to confound my daily routine quite a bit though, because those injuries are in just the places you really need to put your hair into a pony tail efficiently/successfully, and it's hard to wash chopsticks/any other dishes, so I'm running out of all those things. And I have something very much like whiplash, but only in my left arm, and I can't even begin to tell you why that would be.

Anyways, a little story to add to all the rest.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Life on the Streets

Today I randomly purchased two small bags of fruit for Y20. Included were strawberries and loganberry/mulberry-ish things, and they smelled so good that I just let myself get ripped off.

Alice had a day off today, so we went shopping! I found a pair of running shoes last night that cost only Y86 (the cheapest ones in WFJ were like 200+, with Adidas running about 600-1000), so like... I bought those. Also, I bought some really awesome zipper shoes... hard to explain, but they're really awesome, even though they will probably make my feet bleed a lot. Uh... also I got a shirt. And CDs.

In a shoe store, I found some awkwardly wingtipped sneakers, and realized that I would ultimately like to own a pair of slick, wingtipped ballet flats. If I had me a pair of those, I don't know what else I would ask for. I mean... well... figuratively.

Also, I realized something. All those random splashes of liquid that I thought were people emptying tea mugs on the street-- not that at all. So, diapers aren't really *in* here, most babies just wear pants with the seam split open in the back, so when they squat it's like one of those coin purses that pops open to reveal familiar excretory orifices. So I knew that parents coax their babies into peeing in the shrubberies and along the curbs and on the cobblestones near the playground, but I sort of convinced myself that I was skirting baby puddles pretty well. Today, outside the bank, we saw a family walking their baby along, encouraging it to leave this astonishingly long streak of baby pee in its wake. I mean, I avoid all street puddles on principle, but to be shown so vividly that the ratio of pee-to-actual water is actually much greater than I thought, that I run a high risk of stomping into *that* kind of puddle should my vigilance fail just once... well, it was humbling.

Yeah, shopping here isn't something I opt to do much on my own. Too much sales pressure. Like, I've never really been "pee-shy" (as Ryan called it) in public restrooms or anything, but I imagine that it's something comparable to what I feel when I walk into a store here. For example, I went into an outdoor gear shop last night and immediately there was a girl on my left and another on my right, intently following my gaze so that they could describe (as if I wasn't already looking at it) every object it landed on. So like "that's a t-shirt... those are swiss army knives... shoes... belts..." aaaargh! I just can't go about my business while under so much scrutiny. There is really no store where this does not occur, and it really gets me so... hulihutu that I no longer trust my own taste or judgement and feel so beleaguered and vulnerable that I eventually just have to get the hell out, abandon ship, mayday mayday! And so I do. So if I ever do elect to go shopping, I also elect to have Alice with me, because, strategically played, the presence of a second warm body increases the amount of personal territory we have between us.

I have learned that I have a new class on Saturday afternoon. I did find out just a few hours ago. I am going to lose my mind lesson planning tonight and tomorrow (mostly tonight, I suppose, dammit... or according to the people who subtitled the Friends DVD we have, TMD!). Glad I brought that coffee with me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Yes. A bottle.

I am drinking yogurt from a bottle, and it has chunks of coconut floating in it. I wonder if this will make me sick.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Name a time when you've had vertigo in your sleep.

Return of the memorable dreams!

This morning... I was a counselor at some camp where we took the kids out in a bus for a trip of some sort. The head counselor stopped us in this random school playground so that he could get gas. The kids though got into like... vague little fights with the kids in the playground. I think I was one of the kids. But everyone piled back onto the bus and we drove off, pretty angry.

Then we were at a resort-type situation, and I found these 3 or 4 kids that I needed to lead back to the main group, which was across this recreational river type thing, by the pool. The most direct way involved walking over the river via a narrow stone bridge, and I thought that maybe the kids couldn't handle it, so I figured we should wend around this other way. But the water, which we had to bypass anyway, was this white color, and the kids thought it was dirty, so we didn't. Oddly enough, the back path up the side of the cliff was easily accessible even without crossing the river, which... actually... would have been physically impossible, but whatever. Once on the other side, these two like... female volleyball players were looking for the other female volleyball players, whom I knew to be lounging around ... somewhere. I went into the hotel, where our sleeping bags were spread out in the lobby. I was just going to hang out there with the few kids until everyone else came back (shortly) so that we could leave. Then I got a phone call from the boss, who turned out to be this woman I volunteered for back in Ithaca a few years ago, and I talked to her about the schoolyard fight.

When I got back, more and more people were coming back in to get ready to leave. I went looking for my sleeping bag, but found out that someone had packed it incorrectly (but had tried, anyways). And Sarah, a childhood friend, was randomly sleeping on the couch.

Then I was in another one of my hotel dreams. In this one, you had to climb the stairs to the 2nd floor, where you could take the elevator. I was on the 4th floor. I went up and came down. Then went to dinner... ish... thing with friends. There was an ice sculpture? It was nice. Then I wanted to go back to my room, by myself. I found the elevator and got in, but couldn't decipher the buttons. I could see a panel on which the only recognizable button was 3, and then a bunch more. I pressed one that looked like 4, but really turned out to be 10. So then I pressed a lot of other buttons, but it turns out that each one went to an even higher floor, like 34 and 47. I tried to make sense of all these other panels in the elevator, but it turns out that they operate pay-toilets for men. Two guys entered the elevator and had similar button problems. Then finally two women (operators) got in. I was getting really panicky the higher we went. Like, I was really scared! I even had dream vertigo. Finally I just got out at the first floor I could, which the other guys did also, and started running down the stairs. The stairs were a low-gradient spiral staircase upholstered in pastel carpet. As you descended, a plastic shield would appear 2 steps down, to catch you in case you tripped (it's a long way to the bottom). I ran all the way back to the first floor before trying to figure out again how to get to the 4th. Totally didn't trust the elevator because I didn't understand how the regular elevator (only supposed to be a few floors) was replaced by an express elevator that took you straight to the double digit floors. There was only one elevator door.

Anyways, that's the dream I woke up from this morning. The childcare part was actually much more interesting before, but i can't call up enough of the details to recreate that for some dumb blog.

Brownies, baby!

My name might as well be Betty MacGyver. I had another baking session cum mad science experiment last week, and the product was a batch of life-giving brownies. I'm actually really proud of myself!

I'd received what some might call a "motherlode" of bake mixes for Christmas (thanks, friends!) and no way to bring them to fruition! Since baking's not really a part of home cooking hereabouts, an extensive search of the department store/grocery turns up about zero baking pans. Ceramic and glass dishes have stickers on them depicting ovens with a big X on top. All salesladies advise against using any other kind of receptacle for baking, no matter how much it looks like Pyrex.

Now, I'm adventurous, but I'm still not about to put just any unknown alloy into my oven and risk ruining a chance to have delicious baked goods. Also, I realized that Man has been baking throughout the ages... uh... possibly since the dawn of time (hey), so if I tried thinking a little "outside the pan," I might be able to solve the problem without shelling out 3000 for a cast-iron skillet.

Not really sure why it didn't come to me sooner, but in the end, I went out and bought a roll of aluminum foil and fashioned my own roughly 8-in cirucular pan while watching a few episodes of Friends. It was awesome fun, and I really can't wait to do it again. And so simple!

Our fridge was still broken and therefore empty, so we had no eggs. I also wasn't willing to buy more than the one egg prescribed on the back of the box, since we had no good way of storing them. Fortunately, Alice's mom rules. She lent me a nice big egg and also took me to the new grocery store for a fresh jug of oil. I got soybean oil, because it seems slightly more novel and cost slightly less money.

The bane of all baking excursions for me is measurement. I am aware that it's mostly my fault for not just buying a measuring cup (there is a 4 cup measuring AND converting cup at the store for a couple hundred). So I wind up spending a lot of time beforehand looking up metric conversion utilities on the internet. Thing is, few companies mark the volume on containers anymore, and for those that do, I'm unsure as to whether it refers to the total volume of the jar/bottle or the actual volume of stuff they had in it. I went ahead and assumed the latter, so that I could rave about it more. There is a Tupperware cup we got for buying too much clothes one day, and that's 470 ml. I didn't really know how to do 1/3 c with that though. I had an idea that my French press might be 8 oz, and that our paper cups might be 4 oz, but after various internet searches failed to confirm either way, I set up a volume lab at the kitchen sink, and did me some interesting mental stoichiometry. I determined that my French press holds 12 c, and then was able to eyeball my liquids and bake some tasty treats.

It was only after everything was in the oven that I realized that my cough medicine came with a cap that measures 1 fluid oz, so I went back to test my hypotheses and discovered that my French press is actually 13 oz and our paper cups are a whopping 6.5 oz or something like that. It really blew my mind how little space an ounce actually takes up.

I know you're probably thinking that I thought about this too much... and I don't have anything to say about that except that you're probably right... but boy did I feel cool.

Then I gained like an inch of fat around my waist from eating too many brownies (although I did share like half the pan with other people, so don't feel too bad for me).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Gravity, and how it applies to me

Well, since coming to Baotou, I've developed an interesting fear that I did not have before. I am talking about my newfound fear of falling down a manhole. Is this a distinct possibility? Well... I really can't say. I have unwittingly walked very near open manholes, and I have to say that they do kind of sneak up on you. It's not like you expect to find open manholes anywhere, but every once in a while, someone will remove one of the covers and leave no trace of a warning. Knowing my own tendency towards falling in all manners, and my hit or miss attention span, I would say it's a valid fear. Manholes, for their part, are inexplicably dark for how sunny it is outside, and unreadable in their depths. Also, I'm sure that they're full of all sorts of nasty shit, and that any sudden descent into the sewers would be every bit as painful as they make it look in cartoons.

Having shared that...

It is cold once again. We had a warm spell, but boy, was it short! What followed was a lot of snow and an intense wind that lasted for 2 days. I watched the wind blow from my window at night, more or less drawn by the sound-- the equivalent of a train whistle. The streets create a kind of wind tunnel, so everything was swept efficiently away. Everything includes a few of the lanterns people had hanging out for spring festival. With snow, as always, comes the solid sheet of ice that covers all the roads and most of the sidewalks. Going anywhere becomes a perilous enterprise, and with the wind... well, my mass is such that high wind + low friction = wooooo!

Don't ask why, but I was so sure that we were out of the woods for this type of weather. But no. Actually, I should have known. It had to snow one more time at least, so that I could wipe out at least once. Why on earth would I suspect that I could live through such an icy winter without falling on my ass?

So today, I fulfilled my destiny. Dave and I were on our way to teach our first classes at No. 9 Middle School when I unwisely stepped on this little ice... slope... and I had the most spectacular fall-- even by my standards. One of my mittens, which I was wearing, even went flying a few feet. Because the fall involved my sliding very quickly down a gradient (the part of a the sidewalk that slopes to meet the street), there was that feeling of going horizontal in mid-air before coming crashing down. I made contact with the sidewalk all along the right side of my body, and it was like snowboarding all over again. I have a nice long bruise down my thigh, though it's mostly the invisible kind, and also tennis elbow in my arm. I guess maybe it's because I landed on my hand (the one that lost the mitten, so it didn't feel nice). It hurts to sit and also to put my hood up, but like...not a lot. Mostly just enough for me to talk about it. Anyways, I elected not to look too closely at the patch of ice where I fell, though I do know that there was a discarded apple core very near my face.

But anyways, that was an exciting addition to my day, and therefore I ended up dwelling on it... a lot. I mean... I did have class, and it was interesting, and I did have dinner, and it was tasty, but mostly today will be the day that ate it. Though... actually I have been having a lot of flashbacks to dinner and the vinegar that was there. Ooooo.

Class... well, I modified a lesson from last semester that was really fun, but in my opinion, it felt really dull. So I was really bored with my own lesson. That means I'll switch it out with something else when we have class again on Friday. The students were really... bright-eyed. If they had tails, they would have been bushy. So I felt bad that my lesson was so yawn-tastic. Ah well. Next time. I will redeem myself!

Dinner was xian[r] bing, but a different variety than I've had before. These were more like round guotie, and the filling was a bit drier. Also, they were smaller and therefore 500 times easier to manage. I think I prefer these, and foresee many take-out trips to this restaurant, which is right across from the school.

Apparently my arm/wrist hurts also when I type a lot, which I do not like, so I am stopping now. I get to visit the orphanage tomorrow... I hope I can find something to do there!