Monday, May 28

umbrellas and nothing in particular

It rained lightly most of the day today. It means that I can't ride my new (used) red bike, but I like the pattern of umbrellas on campus and the coziness of reading a book under a blanket on the couch.
There are a lot of times when I don't feel like I'm a foreigner. But, there are times when I feel totally foreign. For some reason, when I walk into the building where I teach and I see these announcement posters that I can't read, I feel it every time. One of my friends said she feels it when she sees elementary students wearing their red neck scarves. Lately I've been more conscious of people staring at me. You'd think I'd be over it.

Tomorrow, I'm showing a movie in the American Culture class I teach. I'm pretty excited to not have to prepare a lecture. Today has been much more fun as a result. This is the door going in to the language lab where there is one computer screen for every two students. The doorway is funny to me...with the big lock and metal door it looks sorta like a medieval torture chamber.

These two styles of stockings are popular now. Especially the one on the right. The one on the left is perhaps a little dated now. But, doesn't it look like these girls could have just bought one pair of black stockings and shared them?

I've baked two birthday cakes in the past two weeks. This one has imported sprinkles and pudding frosting from the States and cute candles that say happy birthday in Korean. Today I went to a bakery supply store that has cocoa (no need to import it from America anymore!) and cupcake liners! They had something that looked like shortening and frozen nondairy whipped cream too, but I was a little leery.


mad4books said...

What I LOVE: your pictures

What I don't love: that language lab

(Yikes. "Abandon hope, ye who enter!")

Okay, lengthy comment: They asked this guy the other day on NPR if his trip across China interviewing regular people on trains and buses gave him a feel for the national character of the country.

I thought to myself as I worked in the kitchen, "Oh, that's weird. Can you interview a hundred people or so and then say you have a feel for the culture of a BILLION? That's like me saying I understand the culture of Germany because I work everyday with my aide from Moerfelden."

And then I thought, "Good grief. I wouldn't want someone judging America just by meeting crazy ol' me. I'm certainly not representative of most people, am I? And does America...or any country...have a whole culture in common? We're all so different, so opinionated, so vocal, and weird, and just DIFFERENT."

And then I thought, "Yes. I think we do. There's no way to explain it, and I don't know how anyone could ever put their finger on it, but if you put me in a crowd of people overseas and I found another American...even a liberal Yankee from Newark who cursed like a sailor and voted for the Mondale/Ferraro ticket back in the day...I'd still feel a kindred spirit with that person. She and I would probably go get a drink together, even though we'd never run into each other socially at home or want to hang out here."

And then I thought of American optimism and our outrage when things aren't fair and how we respect grit and creativity and how we love the underdog and root for the little guy...and yeah, maybe somebody who rode across China and only interviewed a hundred people COULD get a feeling of the cultural identity of a billion people...because anyone who rode across America interviewing the common people who crossed his path could certainly sense ours!

Good grief. This is the longest comment I've ever written. Maybe the longest of ALL TIME!

chinachat said...

This summarizes some of my struggle with teaching "American Culture" (along with the jokes from Europeans who say there is no such thing)...who am I to teach about the whole country's culture? I'm certainly not the typical American, and even if I were at one time, I sure wouldn't be now that I haven't lived there for four years! But, I've learned a lot...hopefully I've been able to transfer some of that to the 48 students I have!