15 August 2010

Anecdotes from Asia

I thought some of you might enjoy reading a post, roughly verbatim from my personal journal. Coming from my journal, it doesn't necessarily reflect my proudest moments, but rather is an effort to most accurately record my emotions and experiences from these few periods of time.

__ August 2010. Ok. I’ve had a couple weak moments the past two days (I’m keenly aware that I’ve probably had many more, but these are the ones which come readily to mind).

. Last night (__ August) I went to order two dressers that [my wife] and I had looked at earlier in the day. First of all, I had to get a taxi. I had taken a picture of the store, which is really a landmark in the area in order to direct a taxi back there later. Apparently this wasn’t as foolproof as I thought. The first guy didn’t seem to have a clue, so he wouldn’t let me get in his taxi. So the next taxi, I didn’t say where I was going, I just got in (this trick I recently learned from [a local friend]), and then told him a place which I knew was past the furniture store. Once on our way, I showed him a picture of the store, and he knew right where it was.

So I get into the store. Buying stuff is not nearly as simple as looking for stuff when it involves ordering, delivery, etc. I began a game of charades and the sales lady joined me, albeit with some hesitation (at one point she held her finger up as if she would return in a moment, then left, only to return in fact a moment later, but with a note that read, “Have C____ friend? My English not good.” Eventually, however, we got through it, and the furniture is set to be delivered on Friday.

Once I had the receipt with all the necessary amounts, and times, and dates, and phone numbers on it (receipts here can be quite complicated), I headed to the store right next door to order another piece of furniture. Here, the lady spoke pretty good English—I was thinking, “I could have really used you next door about five minutes ago.” This transaction went much more smoothly, or so I thought. I even left with the box of the later-to-be-assembled bookshelf, not needing (or wanting) to wait until Friday for delivery.

Upon leaving the place with box under my arm (or as much under my arm as I could muster), I had to exit through the “lobby” of the building which serves as a showroom for a fancier furniture store. This guy with a white shirt and tie comes running after me, calling for me to do something. I eventually stop once I understand he wants my attention, right at the door to the outside, cool summer breeze—I mean . . . sticky stagnant warmth—awaiting me. Then this security guard/ manager starts questioning me. I show my receipt, thinking that was all he wanted. No, he keeps going after me.

In the meantime, a guy outside with a camouflage uniform on (I’m pretty sure he wasn’t army, just a different security guy) comes up and gives me a grin and a nod to the other guy. I’m still not sure whether he was nodding as if to say, “Just be patient, this guy is like this, and he’ll get off his high horse in a minute,” or as if to say, “You better watch it. We mean business and you’ve just made a big mistake.” But anyway, after the grin and the nod, he really just stands there (He might have muttered something to the other guy—I can’t remember).

The guy in the white shirt keeps going. He put his walkie talkie up to his mouth and shouts to someone else—something I never hear about later. Then I show him my receipt again, pointing to the amount that I paid for the box under my arm. He looks at it while he’s talking into his walkie talkie, then looks at me [as if to say, "There you go, you fool. Why didn't you point that out to me earlier?"] and shoves the receipt back at me . . . I left with a very sarcastic, “Xie Xie (thank you).”

8 AM, TODAY. This morning, I was set to leave to get some shopping done early so I could beat the hottest part of the day, only to remember that nothing opens that early, so, alas, I’ll have to wait until it is scorching outside yet again in order to try to get anything done. I was quite upset and mentioned something to [my wife] about how it’s completely ridiculous. Then I remembered that not too long ago, Kohl’s didn’t open until 9 AM . . . Those were the days . . .

10.45 AM, TODAY. Well, either, my proud/sarcastic-American-ness is more ingrained than I realized or I’m getting all of my culture shock in at once. I have to admit—it’s probably the former. So today at the store, I have my list written in my notebook. First mistake. From now on, shopping lists will be on their own piece of paper. Note to self: don’t carry . . . [personal notes . . .] around in public. All ended up fine, but . . .

I was trying to get two sales ladies (who had just “helped” me select a pillow) to tell me where the wall clocks were. Either they don’t have wall clocks here (which isn’t true, because I saw one as a display in a furniture store), or I’m worse at communicating/ charades than I thought. I even pulled up the word for clock on my new handy phone dictionary, and they thought they knew what I was wanting. Second mistake. From now on, I need to make more careful use of my dictionary [Case in point: see blog entry "Picking 'Preserved' Pickled Peppers" below]. Note to self: Don’t assume that a simple “word for word” translation will get you the understanding you hope for.

So I checked off “pillow” on my list (remember, written on a page in my [personal] notebook), then went to the end of the store in the direction they pointed and nothing resembling a wall clock was nearby or anywhere along the way. There were bathroom scales. Perhaps my BMI is worse than I thought, too. A little too much pork on the American “little middle” (I think I want that to be my Chinese name—zhong shao/shao zhong, “little middle.” Sidenote: This whole trip, I have my 5 yr. old son Benjamin and 1 yr. old Lauren in tow. So the whole time I’m looking for clocks (and now that I think about it, perhaps a good reason I never found them), I was distracted by Lauren climbing out of her stroller. Repeatedly. Third mistake. From now on, shopping journeys will be much better planned out--theoretically. Note to self: keep the shopping list short when taking more than one kid along.

Anyway, then I realized I didn’t have my notebook. Still not sure how that happened, but as quickly as possible, I head back to the pillows. Ok, now I’m trying to explain that I lost my notebook. The “pillow ladies” think I want to buy a notebook. I try the same procedure with my phone dictionary as before, but now I’m trying to explain that I have a notebook and it’s lost. Finally, they get a manager who has some English. At first, she thinks the same thing (that I want to buy a notebook), but finally understands that I already own an orange (you mean there’s other colors?) notebook, and that I’ve lost it in the store.

Right about then, one of the “pillow ladies” comes running down the aisle with—you guessed it—my orange notebook. I say, “Xie xie,” (completely devoid of any sarcasm). I’m truly grateful, and a bit apologetic about the whole ordeal, but of course, completely unable to communicate such, so I simply repeat, “Xie xie. Xie xie,” with a sheepish grin. Then I head upstairs to go grocery shopping . . .

__ August 2010. So today, yet again, I’m out shopping. This time I get out and realize I’ve forgotten the bundle of cash that I’ve come to realize I need when buying the appliances and furniture I’ve been buying since we’ve been setting up our home. So I’m too far to go back home and make any use of the day, so I try to run by the ATM. The ATM had no money today. I had run into this once before. It takes them until mid morning the next business day to fill it back up, so I’m out shopping now with less than $50 dollars (and no one takes Visa). I had wanted to get a wireless router for the computer, but with so little money, I just went and priced some so I knew what to expect later. Then I head to the grocery store. I get some plastic cups we’ve been wanting for the kids for everyday use (the ones we had bought had a design that wore off and made the cup real sticky—these were solid and stackable, and came inside a large measuring cup, which will also come in handy. Anyway, I got those, some cookies, a knife I’ve been looking for, a plastic cutting board (which is really hard to find here at a decent price), some tongs, Sprite, Coke, a big ole thing o’ soy sauce (It came in a nice plastic container as opposed to the glass you see normally for soy sauce—plastic is always better when four kids are in the house), and a large laundry basket that we will now use as our kitchen trash can (it’s the only way we’ve found to get a trash can that can hold more than a single gallon of trash)—can you guess what color it is? Yep, the only orange one they had (they only had four period, but the rest were green).

Picking "Preserved" Pickled Peppers

So, we've had a hard time ordering our oldest daughter a hamburger with "ketchup and pickles only." Many of you know, she likes extra pickles, if available. So we've tried to learn the word for "pickle."

So far, this has not worked. Perhaps we haven't learned it . . . well. Anyway, we also have these dictionaries on our phones, so my wife tries to use hers today to show the folks at McD's the characters for the word "pickles." She comes to the table, and we all wait expectantly as our daughter opens up her hamburger. No ketchup, which is no problem because we have the pouches we can squirt on there. . . but no pickles either . . . instead, there's lots and LOTS of pepper.

PEPPER? Hmmmm. Apparently, the phone translated "pickle" as "pepper." Some help that was. Anyway, my wife is looking at the characters, as if there's some hope in trying to figure out what the problem was, and all of a sudden she says, "I think it has something to do with preserved cucumber." I'm like (and I'm still laughing as I type this), "Did you really get that from the characters . . . (thinking maybe she's way ahead of me)?" but she looks up (laughing now herself) and says, "No . . . this says 'Preserved' [next to the characters when it spits out the translation]."

"Oh," I say (still wondering how we ended up with "pepper") and still laughing, both of us laughing at each other now, "'Preserved Cucumber' is so appearing on my blog later." And now here it is. Sorry I can't replicate the humor from the moment, but trust us, it seemed quite absurd/hilarious at the time (and made me want my money back on the dictionary on our phones--not that we paid anything for the dictionary itself, but still--it's the principle).

20 April 2010

Canucks, Chinooks, and a French Microwave

Wow! It's been a really long time since I posted. I hope everyone is doing well. My family recently moved to Canada, and we've been learning about the culture here.

Canucks. Hockey is King!--Doh!--I can't say that . . . The Vancouver Canucks are playing the LA Kings . . . ummm . . . OK, let's just say that the Canucks are to Vancouver what the Vols are to Knoxville. Most of you will get that. I've also learned that if you watch a Canucks game, and hear something that sounds like "Boooooooo," you are actually hearing Vancouver fans chant, "Luuuuuuu," which is short for Luongo, the name of the Vancouver goaltender who also served as goaltender on the Canadian national team for the recent Olympics here in beautiful British Columbia.

Chinooks. We were given a pop quiz the other day on Canadian culture. I actually got many of them right, but I had no idea what a chinook was. We haven't experienced one, but apparently it is when warm winds from the ocean come over the mountains to an interior plain. A chinook can potentially warm temperatures forty to fifty degrees in a few short hours, before leaving the temps to drop back off drastically again shortly after. They got their name from a tribe of Native Americans (First Nations) people in the region (North shore of the mouth of the Columbia River).

French Microwave. I wrote once about God "breaking my microwave". Well, when my family was exploring our "new," and furnished, apartment . . . the microwave was in French. I thought this was interesting. Luckily it was simply a French label that was easily taken off to reveal the English--the OTHER national language of Canada.

That's it for now. Check out my family's much-more-often-updated blog, chopstickstimes6.blogspot.com.

05 January 2010

Monkey Man

While on our visit to Atlanta (we met up with Kelly's brother's family, then traveled down to Disney World - you can see an account of that at our family blog at chopstickstimes6.blogspot.com) - I had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to attend to our 8 month old (at the time) daughter, who was screaming from hunger and (as you'll see I found out later) a dirty diaper.

So I get the bottle ready for her and begin feeding her, but she's still fussy. Then I realize that I smell something. Of course I'm experienced enough by now to realize how this is all about to go down, but at 2 AM I'm not with it enough to figure out a better way to tackle it all . . . so I commence trying to change her diaper while I'm feeding her. Obviously, I cannot achieve this while holding her in my arms; so, while holding her bottle in her mouth with my chin (many of you have seen me do this while trying to do other things, like grab one of my other three kids), I grabbed a diaper, then I gently laid her on the floor. As I tried to then remove her old diaper, I realized I could not see what I was doing with my chin holding the bottle!

I then suddenly remembered I had feet! I sat up as I held the bottle with my hands. Like a monkey! Then I placed a foot on either side of the bottle so that I could see (between my legs!) to change her diaper. It was awkward, indeed, but I finally achieved the desired result. Lauren smiled a few times in the process as if to tell me she thought I was hilarious (I'm sure I looked it); and there you have it - the Tale of the Monkey Man!

18 December 2009

Black Hole of Atlanta

Everyone who has driven in, through, out of, around, under?, or even beside the city of Atlanta knows how crazy the traffic can be. In fact, civil authorities have tried to theoretically make things easier by creating bypasses. I saw a cartoon one time making fun of this effort with a drawing of a car trying to get through it all. Above the car were signs marking the different bypasses and one that read, "285555 Bypass around all the bypasses." Below the cartoon, it said, "Soon, to get through Atlanta, you'll have to drive around the entire state of Georgia"!

Well, recently (just before Christmas), on a trip to my brother-in-law's family's house, north of Atlanta, we made the mistake of pulling off for a potty break, or gas, or something, at Jimmy Carter [Rd?] exit. There is nothing wrong with this neighborhood, except that at the actual exit, there is no potty, or gas, or anything . . . and the traffic (and the traffic lights) are worse than even normal in Atlanta. Therefore, Mr. President, your namesake's road's exit off 85 has earned the dubbing, "Black Hole of Atlanta" . . . by me anyway; and everyone I mentioned our experience to who has been there has agreed.

30 November 2009

Curse of the Nondark

I actually got back out of bed to write all this (in fact it’s actually after midnight, the morning of the 27th, but anyway . . .). Kelly saw one of Benjamin’s glow-in-the-dark shirts tonight, and this of course bothered her. You see, Kelly inspires me to write of:

The “Warrior Woman (Kelly) and the Curse of the Nondark”—really . . . she’s cursed with getting annoyed at the slightest, infinitesimal speck of light in the room when she goes to bed. It’s a phenomenon that has fascinated me since we were married. What’s funny is that most people actually close their eyes when they go to bed, and so most never see anything once their eyes are shut; but apparently Kelly likes to keep her eyes open to be aware of any unknown object which might dare to bequeath a lapse of darkness onto the night.[1]

(Kelly means "Warrior Woman") -- I don't know if I could turn this into an entire book, but perhaps a chapter in my book The World Needs a Nap (see previous post). I really do like writing; but of course, it's difficult to find the downtime.

In all seriousness, Kelly really does have a difficult time sleeping in a room that has any light. She also has a history of migraines, and these are hard for her to get rid of if she can't take a nap in a very dark room; and sometimes they're in fact caused by her lack of sleep (often from being in a room with a bit of light). I pray we're able to get our bedroom in Asia dark enough for her, so that she can remain headache free.

[1]First two paragraphs are excerpted my personal, non-online journal, entry dated 26 May 2009.

28 November 2009

The World Needs a Nap

Well, It's Thanksgiving weekend. After all that turkey indeed, the world (or at least all of us Americans) probably needed a nap Thursday afternoon, whether we got one or not.

The World Needs a Nap is actually another book title I'm tossing around (I actually need to start writing these books if I'm ever going to get anywhere with them). This weekend just gave me an interesting setting in which to play off the same words and creat a post.

Isn't it funny how we come together so often for the holidays and that ends up being the time we get into arguments with family or create rifts that last for years. It's unfortunate, but coming together to celebrate often brings people together who are dealing with a lot of stuff in their non-holiday lives. Being in a setting with people who aren't aware of the context of all our emotional situations creates a catalyst for emotional eruptions, or at least emotional disruption. Sometimes it would be better if we could all just take a nap!

Thankfully (no pun intended!), I've avoided such issues this year. We've been at my mother-in law Joy's home in South Carolina. She prepared a wonderful meal on Thursday, and I can smell another one in the works for this afternoon! Friday, we went to SC's aquarium in Charleston, then the Festival of Lights at James Island Park.

Thanksgiving weekend or just regular days at home, I often--perhaps too often--suggest a nap for my kids as a solution to a bad attitude. Perhaps more often than I care to realize, I need to check my own attitude. Even when my kids attitude needs a check, the way I model a reaction to their poor decisions creates more headaches than answers, more explosions than peace.

I need to memorize more Scripture, so that I can more readily pick out proper responses to the situations I face with my kids and others each day, so that I can react in a way that is consistent with the grace God has shown me.

Perhaps I can look up some verses and either edit this post in the future or continue this discourse in future posts. Until then, take a deep breath, enjoy the turkey, enjoy each other's company; and if necessary . . . take a nap!