24 June 2008
Subject: Dragons to Dragons, Dust to Dust

Happy Summer, Everybuggies!

Less than two weeks before school's over!

In preparation for leaving China, my thoughts stray from the present moment of reveling in my current location, and arc towards Thailand, Elseplaces, Coloradifornia. The promise of upcoming adventures and interesting varied activities make my current weekday schedule (wake, eat, bus, wait, teach, eat, wait, teach, wait, bus, eat, unscheduled time squandered on the internet or walking and showering, insufficient sleep, wake, [lather, rinse, repeat]) monotonous.

There are so many stories I've wanted to tell, but I've been holed up listlessly or stalking the streets, infuriated by my procrastination and unable to make good on my communicative desires. Perhaps I wrote them out, word for word in my mind while on one of my numerous daily bus rides, but they were reabsorbed into my lining before I was in a situation to write them down. So their skeletons clatter about in my corridors, reminding me that they once had flesh, but I don't recall their form. I can only offer here some clavicles and scapulae:

Enormous mechanical beasts pecking bird-like at a fallen building, nosing the guts around, hacking away at the concrete carrion with a pneumatic drill bit the gauge of your head.

Sensations of a professional hair-washing and barely bearable ear-cleaning alleviated by an upper-body massage.

Birthday parties with my students on the weekends, going out with them to restaurants, bars, clubs, barbecues on the beach, and seeing how very not innocent they all are, sharing intimacies over sand-castle constructions in the dark, and being a secret information repository for who all is dating whom.

Unfruitfully attempting clothes shopping in the land of the size zero.

Fake monks batting each other playfully on the head with fashion magazines, chatting on their be-dingle-dangled cell phones, squabbling over who gets to sit up front in the four-person peddled quadricycle contraption, attending to their banking business, betting at a gaming parlour, playing pool in a club, eating barbecue, and somehow, not believably monk-like.

Cooking with new-to-me vegetables-- Empty Heart Vegetable, and what I swear are corn stalks, though nobody will admit as much (or name it, even in Chinese).

My High School Level One class is skilled at derailing lesson plans. I'll finish a short reading about racecars, let's say, and ask if there are any questions about the text. I can count on Alan to start interesting discussions, "What's your favourite kind of car?" lauching me into a detailed comparison analysis between a Dodge Viper and a VW Jetta. "V-ten cylinder and terrible gas mileage, but it comes in cobalt blue with silver racing stripes!" I chortle about the former. Dave wants to know if I am into Formula One models. I suddenly realize that I am, though I thought that it might be more the realm of my racecar-driving sister who is one of the organizers of the Porsche Owners Club. I tell how she used to flaunt her sexy Audi at POC events. I wax poetic about the sleek Pantera, and ask if anyone has heard of the Lotus. It's like a little canoe on wheels-- a really fast canoe. Hey, hey guys, I'm a sucker for interesting digressions, but we ought to finish the lesson now!

For the High School Level Two class, I introduced Pig Latin and some basic American Sign Language. The latter slows down the language and gives the body something to help the mind remember. Finger-spelling new vocabulary words as they say the letters out loud is an amazing memory aid. Pig Latin, while just for fun, is dependent on a proficient enough understanding to be able to start messing around with language. Their recognition has improved wildly since the beginning of the year. Other recent fun with English include our practicing "Hey Jude" for the English talent show, and Mitch taking them out to chalk sidewalks in a fit of inspired boredom. Otherwise, it's just been grinding on about the IELTS testing-- him reading speaking and me writing listening.

Xiamen is now home. How can I tell? I know the public bus system well enough that if you dropped me off on any random street, I could find my way to any given location. Another measure: I get anxious and nostalgic when I think about leaving.

The monkeys at the pond restaurant are gone. "Where have they gone?" I ask the woman cleaning. They are dead. "Were they... eaten by customers?" No, she says, the monkey was strangled by his own chain. "He hung himself?" I turned to Addy for a translation to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding this. "What about the other one?" Dead, swinging from the tree by his chain. He also hung himself? Huh. Gruesome, but eerily romantic, two monkeys fulfilling a suicide pact.

I have seen plenty of horrific things, mutilated bodies rearranged by traffic, legs where arms should be. More motorcycle wrecks than I care to remember, some quite near our school. A young girl, crumpled and head cracked open, bleeding into the gravel underneath the wheel well of a semi. Last week, I saw a drowned man washed up face-down on our beach, and it didn't phase me near enough.

I never swim in the ocean here. Our beach is fairly unclean. Truckloads of trash wash up every day, all meticulously collected by vested sweepers and rakers. Household litter, as well as a choking strangle of floating freshwater plants. The sea bed close to land is disconcertingly made of sucking squelching mud, and only hermit crabs brave the conditions scuttled up inside dirty shells. At low tide, locals collect them in bags and bottles, while others dig for the strange sea worms, a delicacy Mitch and I once gagged down. Sea worm jelly is not the most delicious snack, mostly because of the texture. But also because of the actual ingredients.

"Is it just me, or do all Chinese pop songs seem to be just a bit off-key?" I ask Mitch as we wait for the bus near the speakers blaring some atrocity. "They're just not very good at western music yet," he explains, adding that their effort is still fairly good for a people whose most notable instrument sounds like a squalling baby. He recounted standing on our balcony hearing strains of sound across the way and thinking, "Ahh, someone's practicing the erhu!" before realizing that it was indeed a crying baby.

I've had a roommate that I haven't told anyone about. I've not wanted to blow his cover because it might not be kosher with the landlord, and also, as we are on the fourth floor, it would be hard to evict him. I usually don't see him around much, but when I do, I am invariably startled as he appears to roll down the wall. He is an albino newt-like gecko-- totally unsociable-- in fact, I don't even know his name. Maybe I'll ask before I leave.

I'm definitely coming back to the States! How do I know this? I have agreed to give a workshop at an event in the woods with 1000 other people called Dragonfest. (I shall be discussing the mathematical, physical, metaphysical, and spiritual concepts and implications of infinity). I'm also excited to host an inspiration circle with Trevorberry combining our Infinity and I-Ching manias in a Chinese-flavoured dragon dance. Is this enough to bring me home in a timely manner? Yes, in conjunction with the prospect of walking around naked in the woods and swimming in a mountain lake with kindred granola-munchers. And by "granola," I totally mean "fruit." Also, the dates were auspicious, and I like the poesy of trading the Land of Dragons for Dragonfest, kicking up a different dust.

Only after this event shall I return, by popular demand, to Boulder, whereupon I expect throngs of adoring darlings to line the streets and wave, casting flower petals and forming disorderly raucous queues to assail me with long-awaited hugs. I shall also be making good on promised beverage offers, and am still accepting applicants for post-arrival activities. If you want to know specific dates still open on my dance card, write me some fan mail petitioning for my favour-- assuredly bestowed. General dates in Boulder start just before the middle of August. Intended continuation in northern California, or wherever berry picking is prime.

Then? "?"

More madventures, to be certain.
Until we cross corporeal dynamic space-braiding patterns again!

P.S. Pictures!

Bonus Questions!
(1) On a typical school day, I:
a) eat mushrooms.
b) sing loudly along with the Backstreet Boys.
c) meditate for an hour.
d) dream lucidly during a noonday nap.

(2) The most remarked-upon astounding thing about me is that:
a) I am very tall!
b) I am able to use chopsticks!
c) I have nice skin!
d) I have such blue eyes!

(4) The third question is missing because:
a) this is actually the third question masquerading as the fourth.
b) there is no third thing.
d) there was nothing left to say.

Turn your monitor upsidedown for the answers.

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'way+ a>!+ou o+ +>e+uo> aha bu!p!o^e hsnq oo+ aje aldoad hlpeS
>qe (5)
ianj+ lle s! +I
p>qe (1)