Thursday, November 26, 2009

So much for the green revolution

Grant drew this picture at school yesterday but his teacher wouldn't accept it when he tried to turn it in. Do you see the reason?

That's right, the tree trunk should be brown, not green. And thus, she rejected his picture.

Grant told me that when his teacher rejected his picture, he said, "小气!"

That is to say, "I'm only six and I can see how incredibly petty you're being."

I asked him if he seriously said "小气!" to his teacher.

He said he said it in his heart.

Bless your heart, Grant. I love your picture and am forever immortalizing it on my blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I just called to say "Put on a sweater"

guan, v.: 1. to care for someone; to tell them what to do; to tell them what not to do; to tell them what to do after they finish doing what they're not supposed to be doing; 2. a common expression of love from Chinese parents to children.

Example: If I didn't love you I wouldn't guan you.

Today we were at my in-laws' for dinner and my father-in-law started guan'ing Grant for something. (I didn't completely understand what he was saying, but guan'ing is easily recognized even if you don't speak Chinese.) This went on for several minutes until my mother-in-law called from the kitchen to tell her husband to stop guan'ing Grant so much. She told him that if he guan's the grandkids all the time then his guan'ing will lose its meaning and the grandkids will grow to resent him to boot.

He told my mother-in-law that she shouldn't guan him when he's guan'ing the grandkids because that hurts his credibility and undermines everything he's trying to do.

Never one to miss an opportunity to be a PITA, Grant chimed in and said that his grandpa shouldn't guan him all the time because he can't hear the TV over all the guan'ing.

Poor thing. Because we all know that if you miss a single word of the dialogue in "Ultraman" you are lost for the rest of the show. Ultraman is an old Japanese show, where a plastic action figure fights with a plastic dinosaur, or a paper mache volcano, or a styrofoam space ship, or a tinfoil robot.

So essentially this is what we had.

Grandpa guan's grandson. Wife guan's husband. Husband tells wife not to guan him. Grandson tells Grandpa not to guan him.

Meanwhile I was laughing so hard I nearly choked on a dumpling.

And no one else appreciated the humor in the situation.

Except, hopefully, some of you out there.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I realize they have the same school uniform and all but ...

you'd think one of them would have noticed something was awry...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 9, 1989

In 1986 I left the U.S. for the first time - I was just 17 and looking back, I have no idea how my parents let me leave the country at such a young age. Alone! I was an exchange student in Germany, thanks to a generous scholarship from the U.S. and German governments. Shortly after my arrival in Germany my host family took me to the border between East and West Germany.

At the border, my host father Willi handed me a pair of binoculars and I looked into one of the guard towers on the East German side.

I was shocked to see that an East German border guard was looking right back at me through his own binoculars.

Here's a picture of the border. The sign in the front says, "Stop, this is the border."

Isn't that funny? The dividing line between East and West Germany wasn't a wall, it was more of a quaint picket fence. At least here in Schleswig-Holstein. There probably was a wall at other stretches of the border.

Fate and luck came together and brought me back to Germany again in 1989. I was living in a dorm in Hamburg and I remember when one of my floormates, Olaf, came into the kitchen and said, "The border is open! People are coming from East Germany to the West!"

Disbelief - that's the only way to describe that moment and the days that followed it. The Wall was such a fixture, something we believed would always be there. And now it was down. Incredible.

I went to the border and picked up one of my most prized possessions. My own little piece of history.

I brought back two pieces of the Wall. My kids have already told me they want them when I die. Which is so sweet that of all the jewelry and stock and property that I own, the thing they want the most is a piece of the Wall.

It's not so sweet that they're already planning ahead for my untimely death.

But that's another post.

I wish you all peace and the freedom.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Honey the Parking Attendant

This is the attendant in the parking garage of Tsinghua Science Park.

I love her.

I don't drive to work often but when I do I park in her garage. As soon as I drive up to the window to pay her, she starts singing a lovely litany, a combination of any of the following:

"You are so pretty!"
"I've missed you!"
"I really like you!"
"I wondered if you had moved back to America."

I don't know what her name is but I imagine it's "Honey" because she is so sweet.

Don't worry, Honey, I'm not going back to America any time soon. The parking attendants over there don't have a clue!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My resolve is fading

Okay so my last post was pretty passive-aggressive*. It went something like - if the powers that be don't want me to access popular websites like and and (yes, Facebook, for crying out loud!) then fine!

I won't access them.

And blogosphere will miss me.

And blogosphere will think how terrible it is that access to information isn't free here.

Only guess what? The blogosphere party is pretty much going right on without me. Dr. Cai narrowly avoided a couple of fistfights in his taxi in Singapore. Penelope got engaged in Wisconsin. Mr. Clark didn't win his bid to be mayor of Provo, dangit. Skrocki is leaving Sun, double dangit.

And all I got was a T-shirt that says, "I'm being passive aggressive."

It fits me very well, by the way.

And my blogosphere friends did feel bad that information wasn't free here but they were like, "It's your own fault for moving there."

[BTW I know like is so '80s. In the '90s we said all as in, "He was all, 'It's your own fault for moving there'. " But someone please tell me what we say here in the '00s so I can update my vocabulary.]

And although I thought free access might be restored in October it wasn't. So I don't see the light at the end of my passive-aggressive tunnel.

So if free access isn't restored soon, I'm afraid I will just find ways...

(*For the uninitiated, or mentally healthy, passive aggressiveness means you do exactly what someone tells you to do, hoping that they will regret it one day.)