Friday, November 29, 2013

An American Thanksgiving in China

Yesterday I celebrated American Thanksgiving.

Nothing beats the authenticity of going all the way to China for my first real American-style Thanksgiving party, which as it turns out is very similar to a Canadian Thanksgiving party. Several of my fellow foreign teachers are American, so they planned the event and I was excited to be a part of it.

Now of course, being off the beaten path in China means that creating reminders of home or Western experiences is much more difficult. I've used the example before that sometimes I feel like I'm in the Swiss Family Robinson. Not everything I want is readily available, so I plan and search and improvise, and maybe by next summer we can have that treehouse built. But against the odds, this group of foreigners was able to create what I thought was an excellent feast.
You better believe those are Goldfish crackers!
The turkey was ordered in advance online, on Taobao, China's version of eBay on steroids. We had it all: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, homemade pumpkin pie, pasta salad, chicken nuggets, coleslaw, popcorn, Chinese food... a real who's who of holiday favourites. We even had cranberry sauce, everyone's favourite dish to look at and never actually eat. Since I can't cook well enough for people to eat quite yet, I made some dip, brought more vegetables than you can shake a drumstick at, and a make-your-own-sundae bar. And to answer the question on many people's minds: yes, I ate the meal with chopsticks, and the mashed potatoes were definitely the most challenging part.
Mmmmmm fresh off the Internet and oh so juicy!
It was a great evening with fun people, and I'm really glad I have these folks around. Some people miss home during the holidays, and although we may not be at our original homes with our "real" families, we do a bang-up job of recreating simulations designed to make you feel right at home.
The Kenneth's English School gang
I recently heard that Americans celebrate Christmas as well, and it's coming up. I'm looking forward to that too- it'll be fun to see what an American Christmas is all about!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hand me that baby.

Today I held a Chinese baby.

I don't know if you know this, but Chinese kids are freaking cute. Even though I work with little kids 5 days a week, I still love seeing these little guys outside of school. I mean, I can only teach English to so many kids, so there are probably DOZENS of other kids that I won't meet in class. A good portion of those kids are just too young to learn another language (because they're super busy learning Chinese), and those tiny ones will really melt your heart.

When we went for lunch today there were a couple kids roaming the restaurant, and I couldn't take it anymore- I just had to hold one of these tykes. I figured that strangers have approached me for pictures enough, it's my turn to approach a mother and demand a photo with her child.

It actually worked out really well; I was able to pull it off without speaking any Chinese. I just did the classic approach: walked up slowly, without making sudden movements as to not make the mother skittish. I held out my hands, palms open towards the baby, and mimed holding him. To seal the deal, I said in English, "Give me your baby." It worked. The baby was mine.

Here's the picture we got. Me and the baby, and a second baby that another mother wanted to be in the picture. I don't know why, but more cute babies... so why not?
Photo by Greg W.