Thursday, April 2, 2015
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I've come to America with a list of goals. Number one: introduce my offspring to a family that had long given up hope of leaves sprouting from my branch of the Stine tree. A sense of obligation drove me to this as I suspect a return visit will be long in coming. From both sides of the pond. I, having fulfilled my familial obligations on the western side, will focus on familial obligations of the eastern side. They, my western family, having met my progeny, must decide if prejudice and fear can be overcome long enough to suffer the journey red-side. My stories haven't helped, I know.
Number two goal: Immerse, soak even, my girls in my native world. In this goal I have netted the most incredible gains. Anna, Amanda, both girls, dove into my world with no fear. They swam among the various schools of family and friends effortlessly. There were so many cases of daddy standing slack-jawed at their English proficiency that people began to whisper of dementia. It's true. In one crystal clear scene my Annie was having her eyes examined by an optomologist in Goodyear, Arizona. He adjusted his fly-eyed contraption in front of her not-so-Chinese-eyes while advising her soothingly to tell him what she saw. She did so. Easily, in English, absolutely correctly. Food was a slow-going introduction but in the end, they never cried for white rice. I suspect a passerby would never suspect these girls had been US citizens for only 28 days. Proud does not cover my emotions.
Goal number three: Get some old world while I can. I have gained a minimum of ten pounds since my arrival from Hong Kong some 28 days past. I've eaten Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and American, oh yeah American. I've enjoyed an American BBQ of an entire pig, American beef steaks with baked potatoes, Chicken wings in three distinct flavors, and chili. Turkey chili, canned chili, suicide hot chili and chili-cheese frys. Man I've eaten so many bowls of breakfast cereal with fresh fruit added that my first Chinese noodle breakfast may trigger gastrinological rebellion. I had to wait until today to do any clothes shopping here in the world-wide consumer Mecca. Walmart slapped me hard with easy prices and myriad opportunities but it was a little known Kohl's store that stole my wallets heart. I spent as much as I saved and this fact alone guarantees my spousal satisfaction home-side.
A final, first achieved goal, was the Americanization of my two daughters citizenship status. Life hands us peaches every now and then and when the Family Planning Bureau in ShouGuan, China gave us travel permission for both our daughters I was slow to grasp the sweetness. It took an email session with an elder sister to trigger the implications and once I got it, we got it. Annie and Mandy are now US citizens, visa required for any and all trips to China, their homeland.
It's 12:29 Am 11/3. My belly is full of macaroni salad, chicken wings and baked beans, my mind is engulfed in Canadian whiskey and memories of Halloween highs. It is a trip we will never forget. Thank you, my home land, for being even sweeter than I remembered.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It gets me to thinking about what makes the people in my life happy, what puts the glee where all can see. For Annie, my eldest, it's Barbie DVD's and Hannah/Babara cartoons. She sings along with Island Barbie, flutters with Mariposa Barbie, and when Tom and Jerry one-up another, she rolls on the couch in laughter. For Mandy, it's daredevil shoulder rides, red lanterns hung from every tree on the boulevard, and jumping. She jumps on everything from Daddy's beer belly to the top bunk of her bunk bed. This has earned her the nickname "Fall down baby" as she tends to forget she's land bound. Angie, get's gleeful over discount shopping and spontaneous humor. I've seen her collapse into a Chinese squat over a simple joke, her shoulders shuddering and her eyes alight as she fights to compose herself enough to stand again.
I get gleeful over glee itself. Glee is rare in this world of rapidly evolving cynicism, of seen everything now so nothing can touch me. It's easy to forget the simple joys in life. With the world's grief, mistakes, bad deeds, and bad examples of humanity paraded before our eyes non-stop; every newscast, web cast, podcast, or broadcast peppered with reasons to look away, it's easy to say "Maybe we can't." It takes simple glee, the experience of seeing another being in it's optimal state; smiling completely, eyes and mouths in tandem with a happy heart, to fill a person with a sense of "Maybe we can." For those of you out there who feel the world has become a darker place, take a look around you; find your glee. It could be in a coconut, a cartoon, a cartwheel or in a lovers smile. It's there, you've just stopped looking.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I swear I did a little dance right there in the Yi Jia Yi supermarket. Eureka, I have found it! After a week of dedicated search missions to every major and minor shopping venue in the city I found the object of my hunt in my own back yard; a salt shaker. It was a glass and plastic number with your average twisting cap that alternated between sprinkle and pour. Yeah the sprinkle holes were too big but what the hell, right? It's a salt shaker in a land where salt shakers are rare and pepper shakers fail the existence test altogether.
Angie met Mandy and I outside the store. I presented my find to her noncommittal shrug while visions of culinary possibilities danced around in my head. When we arrived at our new house, the catalyst for the original journey, I gleefully retrieved the small container from my wife's purse and proudly showed it to my village-raised Mother-in-Law. She said something in Hakka, I've got no idea what it is, nor do I care. I am filling the vessel with salt and with great satisfaction, I place it next to the frying pan where it rightfully belongs. I consider banning the old salt bowl and spoon number but decide instead to let mama have hers while I have mine.
The next day the salt shaker is somehow clogged with lumps of salt. It's like mama used it to season the bottom of the soup. After I wound down my normal cleanliness tirade, I thought to ask what it was mama had said when I first showed her the shaker. Angie said in an even tone
"She said it looked like a toothpick holder,"
And it struck me true. It WAS a toothpick holder. How could I have been so blinded to it's purpose? Did I want a salt shaker so badly that I projected it's image on something else entirely? Heat intensified as I recalled my cocky presentation of this western wonder to my Chinese family. I'm an idiot. They know it, I know it, the people at Yi Jia Yi know it. It occurs to me that it really does not matter that this glass and plastic amalgam was born a toothpick holder. It has been reborn. A salt shaker has risen and I shall see to it that it's quest for greatness is fulfilled.
My eggs this morning were decidedly not over salted. My converted toothpick holder, now salt shaker, was placed up on the high shelves. It sits now in an exalted place, next to my snack stash and ground espresso coffee, up high where only I possess the legs to reach. And when my culinary cravings come caroming my way it will not be a toothpick holder that I bring down, but a salt shaker in it's sprinkle setting.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
I think I'll grab a bottle of fifty-plus percent and hide away in my new second story office with a DVD and a blanket. Yeah, it's cold right now. Most houses don't have central air, much less heat. Our two space heaters will crank out 3 feet of heat for our babies and parent-in-laws. Strangers reading this blog might air a criticism, something like "why don't you spend it with your family, you schmuck!" and I'll be forced to explain the sad fact that this day, this New Years Eve at the end of the first decade of the second millennium is just another Thursday to them. The babes will be in bed by nine, the folks by nine-thirty, the wife by ten.
Chinese New Year is sometime in February, the fourteenth I think. You can bet your ass there will be a party then. It'll be the Year of the Tiger, fireworks will fly from every balcony and droves of people will converge upon the open air market seeking treasures and plum blossoms. I'll be there, among them, celebrating who knows what for as long as they let me. You learn to take a party when you can get one in this country.
Happy New Years to those of you about to stay out late tonight, blow a party horn for me will ya!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
It could be the isolation factor. None of her classmates understand or properly observe the holiday. Even within our nuclear family there is a great deal of nonchalance and “ Let’s humor Daddy” as I struggle to implant warm fuzzies in our future generation. Yesterday while on the cell with my wife I asked her if she’d pick up some wrapping paper for the gifts I bought. We finally gave up the conversation as she just could not determine what the hell I was talking about. It’s a language thing and it’s a cultural thing. The Chinese cannot fathom the purpose for wrapping gifts. “Why not simply put it in a bag or just put it under the tree as it is,” She’d asked. How can I explain the anticipation? How can I successfully transplant my culture on this very special holiday?
Around town and in our community blinking Christmas lights are going up in window fronts and store displays. The businesses would love to see the consumer frenzy the Western world is so familiar with. However, ask anyone if they have a tree, or if they have been naughty or nice, and you get a blank look. Every year after Christmas I’d ask my students the same question; what did Santa bring you? Apparently, Santa passes China up because if I ever do get an answer, it's about a red envelope with x amount of cash inside.
Now please don’t misunderstand me, I am not supporting the shopping madness with all its pressures and repercussions as we see so frequently in the West, I only suggest the warmth and glow that comes from giving and not expecting in return. The gifts matter very little. What matters is the joy, the twinkle, not of Christmas lights but of a child's delight. The exciting, breathless moment when a colorful box is placed in your lap and it’s all yours, and you got it just for being a good girl and daddy and mommy are watching and so is little sister and oh the sound of paper tearing and the building of anticipation as paper flies out and something new flies in. This is Christmas, this is a memory that builds confidence and the ability to share and love and be loved.
And this is what I am trying to create this morning as I drop off Annie and head off to find colorful wrapping paper. My wife tells me not to worry about buying her a gift, her parents haven’t a clue as to the holiday, but I know better. I will buy my wife a gift, her parents too. Come Christmas morning, they will, for an instant at least, feel some of the magic when that something special is placed in their lap. I will play Christmas music. I will light up our living room in reds and greens. I will put the girls to bed early on Christmas Eve, and I will wake them early on Christmas morning. We will sit around the tree, wiping sleep from our eyes and looking in wonder at the magic tree that the night before held only a few present but now is completely surrounded by boxes and packages and baskets and are those socks on the wall? No I’ll explain, they are stockings, have a look girls. And they will hop up and run to the stockings and pour out candy and fruit and tiny toys and there will be shrieks of joy from both and my heart will know again the feeling of completed circles.
It’s Christmas time in China and in my house, it will catch on.