Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kindergarten... 1 month into it.

It has been one whole month since the Kindergarten's official start.  Here are a few things that have been happening since then:

1.  There are approximately 35 kids in the school now, split up into 2 classes.  I say "approximately" because there are new recruits trickling in every few days.  The capacity would be 42 kids, so there is still a little bit of room for anyone else that shows up.

The goal for next semester is 3 classes, at least.  That would be 63 students, as each class has a 21 count limit.

2.  The playground is open.  It was built by the school, and will function as a playground for the kids in the school and the kids that live in the complex.  It is the only public playground around.  The kids love it.

3.  There are 4 teachers at the school, 2 helpers and Barbara.  This month, all of the teachers have been sick at one point or another.  Also, one of the teachers is away at meetings in another province.  Thus, it has been a busy month for everyone.  China has the October holiday next week, so the teachers will get a well deserved break.

This next point is from my point of view, which is of a dad and husband that comes in every so often to steal photos and videos of the kids:

4.  Most of the kids seem to be adapting well.  The older kids all seem comfortable with their classes, both English and Chinese, and are up to the challenge of learning the languages.  The younger kids are a little more shy and sometimes have a hard time leaving their moms and dads for the day, which is understandable because they are 3 years old.  Yet, they sing their songs together and play their games together, so they're slowly getting comfortable, too.

Seeing all of the kids together is a great thing to see.  I have been working on a video of the whole thing, which I will hopefully have up for viewing by the end of next week.  So, look out for that in the near future.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Deconstructing Hercy

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm not really motivated to do anything else.  In this time my brother has posted a clip from the old Hercules cartoons.  He reminded us all of what we loved so much about that show:  in 5 minutes the story was told with a lot of action and a lot of awesomeness.  A great show.

That being said, it sure is a fun show to pick apart.  And thus, I thought that I would pick apart an episode for the fun of it.  It is a lot of fun.

So, here is the most memorable episode for me.  It stars Hercules and the dangerous Hydra.  Watch the episode first here:

1.  The Hydra eats the bulls, the wagon, and the grain in about 10 seconds.  Certainly, a beast to be feared.

2.  The guy at the 20 second mark actually looks like my brother Bryce; the very brother who reminded me of the Hercules cartoon.

3.  The sword:  A few things about this scene: 

Firstly, when Herc's like "let me get ready" do you think that some of the villagers are like, "Hey, maybe if I had a ring like that then I would be as strong as Herc?"  I feel like Herc could have done better for his cred if he would have put the ring on before he came into the hut.

Secondly, while Herc is yanking at the sword I imagine the ripped blacksmith going to the back of the shop to get the keys or screw driver to unlock the chains.  When he gets back and sees that Herc broke his chain set, he would say, "What, you couldn't have waited a few seconds for me to get the key?"

Finally, Newton asks Herc if he needs a hand breaking the sword from the chains?  Whatever, Newton.

4.  In the woods, Newton gets tangled by some branches. Herc is carrying the strongest sword in the world and he doesn't use it to cut the branches away?  Yeah, you set that sword, that took the blacksmith a whole year to make, down by a rock and use your fingers to untangle your useless friend.

5.  I'll admit that the Hydra displays some sweet skills, most notably being able to pick up the sword with it's teeth and tossing it a mile away into a pond that melts really strong swords.

6.  At 2:41 is the inspiration for every awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger line.

7.  How come the breath from the 2nd head didn't put itself to sleep for 1000 years when Herc sent it back on itself?

8.  Herc's most notable power is being able to fall down from great heights (as falling down into the hole) without having his little skirt flipping up on him.

10.  As I mentioned earlier, the sword was supposedly the strongest every made, and it gets flung into a puddle of mud and melts?!  That blacksmith is a fraud and, in the end, deserved to have his chains broken.

11.  It takes 10 seconds of screen time for the Hydra to fall down the hole.  That is a big hole.

12.  And what really gets the Hydra in the end?  The fire head?  Well, okay.  

Herc's anger about the whole sword issue is explained by the fact that he was too angry to return to the blacksmith's hut to whip him with whatever was left of it.  Seriously, that was the worst made sword of all time.

That's about it.  Thanks for reading and have a great Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cold Koreans kicking films

It's cold here in Xining.  The lights of Summer have been snuffed out.  I wore a toque today.  I swear it was 30 degrees Celsius 3 days ago.  The heat will not be turned on in our apartment until October 15th. That's the way it goes, I guess.

The water guy just arrived with our delivery.  He asks, "Are you American or Korean?"  All I could do was stare at him.  Finally, I ask, "You think I look like a Korean?"  He shrugs his shoulders and waits, apparently for me to answer.  I say that I'm Canadian, he ignores my response and asks if he can have an apple.  At this point I know that he's messing with me.  He walks out of the door and I say, "Goodbye, my Korean friend."  He turns and tells me he's not Korean, but Chinese.  I shake my head and close the door behind him.

I played soccer yesterday.  It had been one of my goals this fall to get out there and play that game.  It had also been probably around 18 or 19 years since I last played an official soccer game.  The Tibetan team had me first and put me in the middle on defence.  I marked my man and cleared the ball out of danger's way a few times.  In the end, I don't think that they trusted me with the ball, so I didn't really get too much of a chance to kick it.  Eventually, one of their other guys showed up and I was "traded" to the Korean team.   They put me on the left side on defence.  It went pretty well, and I got to kick it around a few times.

Overall, I enjoyed it.  A lot of running, and it's surprisingly difficult to get control of the ball and kick it to where you want it to go.  I'll continue to enjoy playing it, but it will be a while before I get used to implementing all of the lingo that goes a long with it.  As in, I will not say "the pitch" for at least a while.

For you cinephiles, I have done it again; I am trying to watch 8 1/2 again.   That famous Fellini film that they told me to watch before my film school.  This movie is always on the Top 10 lists of filmmakers and directors, so I've put a lot of work into giving it a fair shake.  This is my 4th viewing.  The first 3 times went right over my head and out of the door.  For some people I would pretend that I loved the movie, but when it comes down to it, it did not make a lot of sense to me.  It is a beautiful movie, but the story did not add up to me.

Within my readings of late I have discovered that 8 1/2 is an "antiplot" story.  These types of films reverse the classical tones of story.  So, when watching a movie like this, I need to keep in mind that this film will not flow like most films.  The basic theme of it is the internal struggle and contemplation of the protagonist.  With that in mind, this 4th viewing has gone well so far.  I will watch the final 30 minutes tonight.

Some parts that confused me before because they seemed funny and comedic are actually funny to me now that the confusion is gone.  It's actually are really funny movie, I just didn't know it was supposed to be.

Guido, the main character, is also the coolest looking dude in film.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Snack time

I climbed aboard the bus outside of Min Yuan.  The bus rolled ahead a few feet and stopped at the red light.  And that's when I saw him; standing there on the sidewalk.  It was amazing and looking back on it now, it is very difficult for me to put it into the proper words to enable the depth of the humor to shine through.

He was a monk, standing there on the side of the road; waiting for a friend, perhaps.  In his hands he had a box of crackers.  The crackers were the cheap kind that local people would probably feed to their teething babies.  At least, that would probably be a good reason for buying them.  This monk had them in his hands.  He picked one of them up and proceeded to stuff it into his mouth.  Then, he repeated the action two, three, even four times before the first cracker had gone down his throat.  To put it another way, he was "going to town" on that box of crackers.  By the time the light had turned green he had eaten half of the box.  Crumbs were caked on his face.  He was in the "cracker zone", unaware of anything else around him.  It was him and that box and nothing else.  I was tempted to jump off of the bus to buy him a water.  I was sure that he was going to need it.

Not sure why this scene was so interesting to me.  More than interesting, it was bizarre.  I've heard many stories of monks pushing their physical limits in a number of different areas, including fasting from food.  Something in me figured that monks only ate once a day, and only because they had to.  Then, today, I have the cookie monster crunching up a storm on the side of the road.

I'm not judging him at all.  Heck, when you're hungry, you're hungry.  For some strange, arbitrary reason, this scene was completely hilarious to me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

An olympian ignored

The man stood up from his stool and stared out blankly at the street in front of him.  His mind wandered in and out of itself as the leaves on the trees flickered back and forth between themselves.  The wind picked up that time of day and the sun was shining just enough for the leaves to dance their shadows onto the pavement.  His daughter shook him from his gaze as she shouted a food order into his ear.  He nodded, sat back down on the stool, reached under the glass case, and pulled out 15 metal sticks loaded with lamb meat.  He hoisted them over the fire, dusting them with the spice and salt of the region, and life went on.

Students walk by the sizzling meat, and through the door for lunch.  Noodles cooked fat, thin, long, and in pieces.  Everyone orders them differently, but generally, it's all the same.  They live off of flour and water and spice.  Over the last few years the noodles have doubled in price, making things difficult for everyone, as they are these days.  You could add some meat to them, or a boiled egg if you could afford it.

The man on the stool disappears in a sea of the noon-hour rush.  Down the steps, towards the street, the crowd thins out.  Near the alley stand a row of trees, all painted red and white for whichever reason you might think that they would be.  To prevent the bugs from eating them?  To prevent the drunks from crashing into them?  Some sort of hidden message or political statement?  Painting trees is a job for people?  They stand tall in the autumn air.  Their leaves will be gone soon, but for a short time anyways, they are proud and beautiful.

Below a tree, in it's well, squat two small children.  They are no more than 2 years old, yet young enough to waddle around in their split pants.  The boy scrapes at the dirt in the well with a stick.  This is his playground.  The girl picks up a littered piece of used toilet paper and mimics (as her mother had taught her) how to wipe herself in the opening of her pants.  When she had finished, and being polite, she offers it to the boy, who repeats the action.  Both are very proud that they can wipe themselves with this piece of dirty paper.  "So grown up", they think.

On the road, the students continue to flood the area.  Groups of girls clunk by on their high heals.  Groups of boys pass by the other way with wavy hair and skinny jeans.  Their hairless chests poke out of the top of their unbuttoned shirts.  They are Justin Beiber.  They are Justin Beiber.

At the bus stop, The People wait in their blue uniforms for the #28 so they can go with their heavy tools to the end of the line and beyond; to the place where they work doing whatever they do that pays them money to buy things to eat.  An old lady holds two bags full of vegetables in her hands.  The cloth stretches and pinches over her arthritic fingers.  She spent 3 hours getting the food for the evening's dinner, though the market is only a block away.

The #28 is close to arriving, but stops at the red light just before the bus stop.  The people cross the street as the bus waits.  They cross as motorcycles ignore the light.  They cross as a police car drives through the red, driven by some police officer's friend.  The car is full of some more friends smoking their cigarettes inside the tinted window of the back seat.  An old man curses at the police car under his breath.  A foreigner kicks the car with his left foot, and the pain makes him quickly regret this foolishness.  Yet, the car drives through.

The main gate of the school is serving fast food.  They lady stands at her cart while the students eagerly line up for a box of cold rice, some potato strips and perhaps a piece or two of beef.  The lady must be making a killing.  No rent, no electric bills.  She must have strong legs to peddle that bike, with the gas stove, glass case, and food on it, all the way from the market.  An Olympian ignored.

Other students stream by the cart, up the broken sidewalk back towards the noodle shop, where the man has just put the finishing touches on the lamb kabobs.  His daughter takes them from him and places them on a metal plate to serve to a cuddly couple sitting by the window.  She is in love.  He's not so sure about it.

The man gets another order for kabobs and starts the routine off all over again.  He glances up to see his grand daughter digging in the dirty tree well with her cousin.  He takes a moment, within the noise that is there, to smile and think about what a beautiful young woman she will soon grow up to be.