Thursday, June 30, 2011

Red Dress

There’s nothing like a special grocery delivery from Beijing and Internet to cheer up a jungle princess. Manuel’s friend Jake arrived last night after I went to bed so I woke up to a strange man on our couch and whole wheat flour, butter, cereal, pretzels, bagels, cheese, pita bread and more. The kids jumped for joy at having cereal for breakfast and pizza for lunch. Between Jake’s deliveries, my mom’s package and the crappy toaster oven we finally had the makings for cookies. The texture was a little funky but the kids literally licked the plate and were completely silenced by the food.

Jake and Manuel have a piece coming out in Nature next week, which epitomizes the difference between publishing in the sciences and in the humanities. They submitted it last week and it comes out next week. They apparently plan to do another one before August. I submitted an article two years ago and it will probably come out this fall. And even that depends on me wire-transferring money from here to the Vatican. (I’m assuming my sister/financial manager will take care of it for me)

As for the Internet we were all like crack addicts. When it came back on the seven kids in my house huddled around the computer playing some dumb dress up game. I admit it I suffered just as badly and had a screaming fight with Eli over computer usage. Again I realized how much we need internet here to live in the style we are accustomed to. I couldn’t skype any of my home girls for a dose of American feminism. I couldn’t call or skype my mom to discuss the package she sent. No TV. No face book. No online metric conversions. No google translator to figure out what the grandfather of the girls up the hill was trying to say to me. I had visions of him trying to tell me an earth-quake was coming my way.

The power and Internet here mystifies and frustrates everyone. Yesterday I ran into a Dutch post-doc hauling a giant server size computer across the basketball cout towards the electric bus. Huffing, puffing, sweating and cursing he made quite a sight and I’m afraid the kids and I all cracked up. He explained that he needed to run a computer program that took 4 days to run and after two months of trying to get consistent internet access in the fancy new lab he gave up and moved the whole operation somewhere else.

I’m getting a little anxious about the 90th birthday celebration of the communist party. Since agreeing to play viola at this event I’ve learned that it’s a rather bigger deal than I thought. In addition to the participation of various high-ranking officials here the event is part of a larger project of red song revivals; essentially party propaganda. Party officials commanded red song festivals and competitions all over the country. Meanwhile according to the New York Times liberal thinkers see it as problematically portraying party ideology as somehow native and as a potential harbinger of the most destructive aspects of Maoism. None of that critique exists here in the isolated south where everyone from the grounds keepers who live without running water to the lab groups are practicing songs. I really have no idea what to expect. I’m a bit worried about the kids too. People take this very seriously and I’m not sure Eli belting out the Star Spangled banner or Rebecca and Jonathan singing their song about Monkeys and Darth Vader would end well.

The color of the day will be red. When we asked what I ought to wear for my solo viola performance the unanimous vote (command) was modest red dress. I have no such thin here and I’m four inches too tall to purchase anything modest. Someone, I’m not sure who, got the idea that we should have a Dai dress made for me. I’m not sure how the Dai, feel about the communist party but they practice budhism and live and do not speak Chinese as a first language. A Dai grad student took me to her dressmaker to have the frock made. Rebecca chose the most elaborate and expensive model in the store for me. This turned out to be a good thing as the other red fabrics were very thick and had no give—not for me when the temperature will no be lower than 95. I bought red mens flip flops in the market today which Rebecca and her friend think they can cover with beads by tomorrow. In addition to viola performance anxiety it’s possible that I will look like an idiotic white person trying to be ethnic.

On a lighter note, the kids think they need to acquire DS’s. I don’t know what that is but they tell us the ones here are fake so we’ll need to go to Malaysia or Thailand to get one. They are also home schooling Rona, the four year old down the street. They have now taught her to write her name and to recognize numbers. They began Spanish yesterday, which since they don’t speak it and Rona already negotiates English, Thai and Chinese seemed like a bad plan to me. But who can argue with child pedagogues. Eli runs the scribbling class and it has lots of homework.


  1. I agree - it looks great! Next, I'd love to see a shot of those beaded flip-flops!