Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And so it begins....

We spent the entire summer in an earthquake zone where one of our biggest fears was the fatal mix of seismic action and Chinese construction. And there we were in Charlottesville on the last day before school started when an earthquake came. It’s clear that at least this east coast girl had no clue what to do and had this happened in our Chinese house we would have all bitten the dust because we would have been in the closet while it came tumbling down on us. I somehow confused earthquake and tornado protocol and hustled the five kids in the house into the front closet which was away from the windows. After a few seconds I thought to get the hell out of the house. If it hadn’t been the longest thirty seconds of my life the sight of five kids waiting for me as I bolted down the stairs with their little ears covered and then the six of us huddled in the closet might have been kind of cute. Eli’s friend Sam was freaked out and wanted to go back in the house, Eli was clueless, Jonathan thought it sounded like horses storming in the Peloponnesian war, and Rebecca and her friend Olivia managed in thirty seconds to turn into an operatic “WE ALMOST DIED IN AN EARTHQUAKE”

Meanwhile we’re all settling back into normal—or at least our form of normal. We have a few nice little staph infection boils as souvenirs, and I don’t think any of us has gone near a grain of rice. It’s clear that we’re not yet batting with a full team. One of us who shall remain nameless failed to check the time of their first class and missed it, one of us had the day wrong on a seminar, and one of us scheduled office hours during class. Needless to say that the wilting afternoons in the jungle with nothing to do but sweat often drove me completely crazy, but something between that and five people and one driver going in eight different directions might have been a nice transition.

The kids, for the most part, seem to have completely forgotten the experience. Last week I said “Isn’t it kind of weird that ten days ago we were in the jungle.” And the response was a resounding, “Can I have another waffle please?” I, on the other hand, found it remarkable to be standing in front of sixty first-year students talking about the tune Hound dog and Beethoven ten days after riding a Vespa into town to eat dumplings.

They still have a few habits; shoes left outside houses, obsessive washing of hands, constant checking if water is ok to drink. They seemed a little feral when we first got back, and one of them did their best impersonation of a psychotic child at the school open house, complete with no eye contact with anyone and grunting at teachers, etc… But all three of them marched off to the first day of school and haven’t looked back. As always, we get almost no information from them, though I learned from eavesdropping after bedtime that this year the Spanish teacher “actually speaks Spanish to us.” This seems like an improvement. Rebecca seems still to have a crush on the music teacher, and Jonathan would rather learn Latin than Spanish. Eli seems to be having a blast in the same preschool class he was in last year, though his joy was temporarily tampered when his big sibs said “really Eli are you going to learn anything at that school this year?”

I told the kids that I wasn’t cooking for two months when we got back. I lasted two weeks but have still not baked anything. Rebecca explained to me that she was pretty sure that what I baked would be more nutritious than the packaged snacks they were eating. I said a whole wheat Ritz cracker was plenty healthy enough.

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