I know what you're thinking: "He wrote in December all about how he was going to be more proactive with his blog. He promised writing, and hasn't posted since... He's got a lot of nerve showing his face around here again."
Maybe you're kinder than that. If so, thanks. If not, I KNOW! I am the worst. There are two reasons for my absence. First and most serious, my VPN hasn't been working at all. Without it, I'm trapped behind the Great Firewall, and therefore cannot post. I have been unable. That doesn't mean, however, that I haven't been writing. I have quite the backlog that I need to publish (sound familiar?). At the current moment, I'm mooching a friend's VPN and thought I might have enough time to post something.
The other, more awesome reason I've not posted in a while is because I've been busy. Busy travelling. I spent the entire month of January and the first half of February enjoying everything Yunnan has to offer (and making a pitstop in Chengdu for IST). I will talk more about all of that at a later date. However in the meantime, I'd like to ask anyone reading to remember how happy I was about my summer travel...
I wrote this on the first day of December. I wanted to publish it as is, rather than editing it due to the delay in posting. Sorry about that, by the way; my VPN has been on the fritz lately. Enjoy!
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Don’t let this title alarm you. I’m not looking to have
an evolution discussion, especially not here on my Chinablog (and besides, Bill
Nye the Science Guy said it best). Instead, I want to talk about my own version
This week, in my writing classes, I did a lesson on hyperbole. I
discussed with my students the cultural trend in American English to be
hyperbolic. They didn’t know the word, but when I wrote “hyperbole” on the board,
they were familiar with it (I’m perpetually grateful at the level of my
students English; the average PCV doesn’t teach students at this advanced of an
I had them think about the way I speak when I teach class. I asked them
how often I use exaggerated adjectives and adverbs. I watched them all grin,
because I do it often. Some of them even started muttering certain words I use
the most, like “awesome” and “magnificent”.
At this point, the teacher in me is pleased. My students are
understanding what I am saying, and are on board for where ever I want to go
next. It is times like these that I love being a teacher.
I was a weird kid. There’s no way I can try to deny it. One of my more
peculiar idiosyncrasies growing up: I loved it when my arms or legs would fall asleep. I thought it was cool that I could touch the “sleeping” appendage and I
would not be able to feel the sensation on my skin. (Looking back, I’d like to
say it was because I had a desire for empathy; I wanted to experience what
other people felt when they touched me. But let’s be real… I was a kid; it was
cool that I could pinch myself and it wouldn’t hurt.)
Even now, as an adult, paresthesia fascinates me (and as an adult, I
know fancy-pants, science words). In China, I find tables are just not an
adequate height for a tall waiguoren.
I often cross my legs under the table, which inevitably leads to the moment
when they fall asleep. The worst is when the pins-and-needles feeling is too
intense, and it crosses that boundary from agreeable to painful. In China, you
can get that exact same feeling in your mouth with the “flower pepper”—花椒hua jiao.
This oral paresthesia has been one of many firsts for me in China. Those
who have been following my journey since the beginning may remember that I
wrote about the Sichuan numbing pepper after my first
experience with hotpot. Despite the translation and my insistence on calling
them peppers, they are peppercorns that, when you munch on them, create that
same tingling sensation. In my previous post, I describe it as analogous to
putting your tongue on a nine-volt battery.
After PST in Chengdu and my long train north
to Lanzhou, I never got too many chances to enjoy hua jiao. While common and plentiful in Sichuan, unless I order
specific dishes at my site, I will never taste the tantalizing tingle. While
this is a personal woe for me, it should be noted that I am in the minority.
The average PCV dislikes it, with some crazy individuals actively despise it.
The question remains: why am I nattering on
about hua jiao?
I had two realisations the last time I did a "drive-by shooting": it was pretty simple to do and it was really well received.
I wanted to do it again, and this Friday was a unique opportunity. Over the weekend, I flew to Chengdu (which is my excuse for not having last week's BlogThings up in time). I took a taxi to the Lanzhou airport, which meant this instalment gives you a taste of the barren lands outside of the city proper.