Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shrooms and Tunes

We are constantly told that Chinese students work all the time and that they work much harder than American graduate students. The institution carefully guards the “work day”, excluding of course the two-hour nap break after lunch break. Maybe not…. I’m pleased to say that some things are “universal” Manuel popped into the student office and found one student on Facebook, one editing an art magazine, and one ordering something that was not science related online. These facebook-reading students turn out to be great source of cultural information. The kids keep asking, as they shout out tunes from Fiddler on the Roof and Debbie Friedman’s greatest hits if anyone here knows about Jews. I assumed no But according to the students; a very popular Chinese sit-com ay features a Jewish Doctor who, like many Chinese people, suffers from lactose intolerance. The show thus consists mostly of fart jokes. This works for the kids who like nothing better than to talk about farts and butts.

In other news our house is getting some necessary upgrades. We hear an “oven is coming.” We haven’t seen it yet. But everyone is talking about it. We did, however, get a door put in between our house and garage. The house comes rather incongruously with a garage. No one has a car here, and no one drives. The big door for the car on the garage front is wired shut, and the garage just opened into the house like an extra room. This means that if someone did bust through the big door and put a car in it, everyone would die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Now we don’t have to worry dying at the hands of Eli’s fleet of trucks that live in the garage.

And just in case things were not weird enough, we had an interesting drop-by during dinner. We had just sat down to eat delicious mushrooms. After rain storms Dai women gather them from the forest and sell them in the market. We used a little of our carefully guarded butter and sautéed them up and they were, indeed, amazing; like no mushrooms I’ve had before. Manuel explained that they were of the genus Lactarius and quite similar to L. volemus, which is found in Charlottesville. The boys actively ignored him, and Rebecca asked at the end if jews and Chinese could eat it without farting.

In the middle of his mushroom monologue, our neighbor popped over to ask if I would play a Chinese folk song at the garden’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of the communist party. The “Foreigners” are also all supposed to sing a song. This will be a gesture of goodwill, and my viola playing will be the centerpiece. Luckily I just started giving a Chinese graduate student violin lessons last week and she taught me some Chinese tunes so I’ve already re-familiarized myself with the pentatonic scale. Exactly what tune I'm playing is still up in the air.

In other food news we finally got the new breadmaker paddle back via a hand delivery. Yesterday we tried it and got a mess of yucky paste. Note to self—do not use dumpling flour to make bread. Today it worked, and I had a bit of a baking binge; oatmeal bread, yeasted corn bread, and chocolate cake. I stuck the kids in front of Peter Pan, gave them each a piece of chocolate cake and took a nap. I was exhausted from taking seven of them to the purple playground and then from offering careful suggestions to the musical they are writing. It’s called “Warrior Idol” and involves Warrior Cats in a cat version of American Idol. (If you haven’t read the Warrior series; do not….) Jonathan is supposed to sing “If I were a rich man.” Despite the fact that he orchestrated the “Barbie recreation center” which involved him brushing Barbie’s hair and directing the others to do the same, he seems to be their best option for patriarchal authority.

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