28 August 2007
Subject: Umbrellas In the Sun

Haloo Doolings and Doers of Things!

It's been wonderful to hear from all a yous who've written back. My intardnets are still limited to kafetins, so I'll be better about communications-- as promised-- as soon as I am provided with proper computing tools. And keep your pants on about the photos. Yes, I'm taking lotsa pikshars, but no, you can't see them yet. And speaking of pants-- as it has been discussed-- those are Pants of the Past you're wearing, Punks! 14 hours in the past, if you're (as the conforming Coloradoans are) in MST(3K)-land.

And speaking of internets, I'd like to take a moment to give a shout out to Google. Of all the sites I regularly used in the E.E.U.U., only gmail comes through for me. That's right, no LJ, Wikipedia, or goatporn! So if I made any snarky comments about Google selling out to communist China, I take it all back. I'd trade censorship for the ability to communicate, any day. And I can access my online banking, thank goodness.

Last coupla days have been like an adventure in China, or somewhere. I have a feeling this may be a trend that'll continue. My sleep schedule's been kinda wonky lately, but today is probably Monday. (Already have a 4-day weekend from Yincai). Saturday was spent wandering around alone in the sun with an umbrella, as all the girls do here. I toured XiaDa (Xiamen Daxue--the local university) campus and made my way through the commerce into the South Putuo Temple.

People walk around burning giant joss sticks, holding the incensicles above their foreheads and making obesience at /all/ the idols. Monks traipse about, sporting the cutest style of snooty-booties and saffron threads, and Chinese tourists wander around in their own familial-pocket-dazes. I, like many others, climbed the mountain behind the temple twixt rocks and trees, and looked down on the city harbour. With my dictionary and the help of some unsuspecting translators, I learned that the croaking buzzing sounds were indeed cicadas (chan). It's a cicada year! And the word is the same for toad, and that makes sense--they make the same mrawk mrawwwk noises.

On the way down, I came upon a young man creating creatures out of palm fronds. Clever little things with much crafting, perhaps on par with the style of Ali Crockett the Inventress Extraordinaire. Cicadas, crickets, and butterflies (oh my)! He gifted me with a rose he fashioned, and we had a few words. (Literally). I can't wait until I have a functioning vocabulary so that I can have actual conversations with people. I spoke some French with a couple who thought I was also from France. No, I'm American, I explain, but (switching from French to Spanish) it gives me the desire to speak in Spanish around and about here. The ambient feeling, the colours, the vegetation, even the air is thick and heavy with the smell of castellano. I know all the plants only by their Dominican countryside names. Not even English can help organize me now--everything I know about subtropical subsistence is filed away in Spanish.

Coming home on Friday, I had a conversation of sorts with the downstairs neighbors. They have this little dog named Jo-jo, and everytime I pass I sing Jo-jo was a dog who thought he was a human, but he was just a dog, get back! Get back Jo-jo! This results in much amusement and several minutes of spanking. For the dog. Anyway, the couple is really nice and interested in involving me in conversation everytime I walk by. With my stunning Chinese Skillz, I was able to communicate a surprising variety of nuggets with subtle intricacy. For example, I informed them that their dog Jo-jo was a dog. I also alerted them to the fact that their dog Jo-jo had a nose. And two eyes. And one mouth. That no, I had not yet eaten. I had fruit in my building--mangosteens and dragon fruit. No, I had not just come from work--I was at a cafe writing "I love you" on the clicky thing that went click click click. I was not Mitch's girlfriend. Mitch had many girlfriends. I did not know how many. I did not want to know how many. Also, their dog Jo-jo had, what are these, two ears? That I needed to go study Chinese. That tomorrow I would eat their dog Jo-jo, okay bye!

My conversation with them on Saturday began with the customary spankings. Jo-jo, proud possessor of one nose-mouth-tail, enjoys these immensely. Lichi and Awen, their names are, brought out their nephew, son-of-sister, Simon, who is, by his own account, not Simple. Simon, speaker of English, asked me, what did you tell my uncle yesterday? That I would eat their little dog Jo-jo. But that of course I was kidding. Kidding! Not Cantonese--/kidding!/ Relieved hilarity ensued, then round after round of Chinese poker (the game that never ends), and little cups of bitter cha.

Hopped up on green caffeine, I was ready for action by the time Mitch came home and whisked me (with Simon in tow) away to a "concert" which turned out to be "Chinese Opera" which turned out to be chicks with amplified violins screeching through speakers that went up to 11. We stayed for almost a full minute, went to a karaoke bar to meet some American teacher friends from another school, and then headed over to K.K club, just in case we had any hearing left. Sammi, the cute Taiwanese, was having a birthday celebration and invited me, Mitch and couple other friends to a friend's house on the island of Gulangyu. We hopped on a fishing boat at four or five in the morning, sped accross the channel, and climbed up and over the rock wall in the dark.

The "house" was a millionaire's villa on the elegant island whereon no cars are allowed. The silence, so loud to my ringing ears, was incessant. Anyway, we played pool or drank pichio or stood on balconies talking. I curled up on a couch and woke up amid marbled luxury. Telescopes and curved fish tanks, windows with Salvador Dali prints on the glowing glass, lacquered furniture and light fixtures with artificial flames. The owner, absent, kept five wildcats in cages outside. Pacing spotted felines--what every mansion needs, of course!

So we brooded about for a bit in our collective hang-over, and then went out to lunch at a restaurant reknown by locals. (With our contact, we got a private room and special discount). Lunch was an unfamiliar interface: point and cook. There were lots of plastic tubs outside, air bubbling, filled with saline cluster-fuhks of doomed lunch-parts. Crabs, prawns, angrily-squirting clams, sea cucumbers, eels, fishes--some of them fresh from the Pleistocene. (Mitch has eaten horseshoe crab). I told him we had ordered up the celeocanth, and man, you should have seen his reaction! Lunch alive-alive-o, then a ferry ride back, and perhaps a nap.

But wait, there was more to this day! Lichi and Awen invited us down to dinner, which involved more Chinese poker, beers, tea, and Jo-jo spankings. Then Simon, Mitch, and I rode one of Awen's bicycles built for three. We took it out for a spin, and succeeded in getting up a hill and speeding back through the gate. I tried to think of a name for the thing-- Triandem? Triadcycle? Triocycle? Help me out here.

Then six of us took three bicycles built for two out for some post-dinner BBQ. Some lotus root, dried tofu, green beans, and creature on a stick (don't ask), and more beers later, we headed home for some post-dinner post-BBQ bone soup. Because eating is the major source of entertainment here. Overly full, I had to eat the soup, as did Mitch, or he would lose face. So we sucked the marrow out of bones and ate gelatinous white stuff that looked like coagulated lymph fluid. It was actually really tasty!

You know, I can study Chinese for three hours in the morning and again at night, but I don't learn half as much as I do hanging out with friendly folk who are willing to take the time to teach me slowly and patiently the names of that which is so familiar to them. It helps a lot that Simon speaks English well (with a delightful Australian accent!)

Today I got a cell phone! It has a number: 8847081, with some other numbers in front of it. But you have to be in Xiamen in order to call it, as it is just a local number. I get to say: baba-sichi-lingba-yao and giggle when people actually understand me. At least my number is not like that of Robert's, ending with 4494-- meaning also: Die, die, just Die! hnh! So now I can text message, in Chinese characters omg!

And also now I can go home and get my sleep on! So much adventuring, but how else can one work off the bone soup?

a.k.a. Momolili (!!! ("to touch breasts" in local dialect (Min-Nan) (but only Mitch thinks to call me that (cuz anyone else, it'd be totally not funny (and also the pronunciation is difficult))))).

P.S. We have two turtles, and they are not imaginary this time. They are Yin and Yang, but Yin is dark and Yang is light-coloured. And as of today we have 30+ guppies, but that number should decrease soon.