Saturday, June 28, 2008

2nd round of pics from the U.S.


I got spit on yesterday by a four year old. Part of me still can’t believe it happened. I was carrying a bag of clothes that had been sitting at my friend Sally’s house for the past six weeks.
It was real soupy out - sun blasting, the humidity about 142% - one of those days where you felt like you were inside a dog’s mouth, ready to pass out.

I saw the little crumb about 30 feet ahead of me, fixing his shoe, but I thought nothing of it. I barely noticed he was there as I walked by, but the same can not be said for his awareness of me. As soon as I got next to him, he took aim and took off down an alley. The next thing I know, there’s foreign saliva on my forearm.

I’d like to say I hunted the kid down, that I found his parents and made them pay Chuck Norris-style....but I didn’t. I was stunned and really it isn't that big of a deal...but it is bizarre. Most of the little kids I see around here are pretty cool – if you pay attention to them, they eat it up; if you take their picture, you’re their best friend. But this kid was different, he had a spur-of-the-moment hidden agenda and I was it.

While I was walking home - sweat on my brow, dribble on my arm - I couldn’t help but think there was an underlying cause behind what he did. Maybe he’s just a bad kid, maybe he spits on everyone. Or, maybe his parents were complaining about foreigners that morning . I'm not really sure.

I get odd glances a lot here. My Chinese teacher told me when the locals stare, it’s out of curiosity. But, sometimes the locals give you that Mr. T Clubber Lang stare like the next words out of their mouths will be “Pain.” And then you say "Go for it" and they smile and say hello.

Or, you say "Nihao, neighbor" and they just stare back, like this is the title fight they’ve been training their whole lives for. In an ideal world, I’d know how to say, “Take it easy, buddy. If you think there are a lot of foreigners here, you should see where I’m from.” Either way, I’m letting it go. If nothing else, I’ve got an off-beat story now about the Chinese Mr. T and his spit.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back where things make sense

I’m back now – back where the signs can’t be read and there are more people, cars, and bikes around than you ever knew existed, where babies have a slit in their pants so they can poop on the sidewalk, where the construction never stops, and the authorities call you every few days just to make sure you are who you say you are. Yes, I'm back in the Wild East.

I never really went through culture shock when I came to China in November. It’s such a livable, convenient city that if you only visited Shanghai, you could not say you visited China. It’s not an accurate portrayal of the rest of the country (not that any one city is). But going home, I went through some sort of reverse culture shock – it's like my brother said, “you’ve changed Doogie.” The trip itself was surreal. After thinking about going home for months I was finally back amongst people and faces familiar and getting an idea of what it would really be like to live in Philly again. I spent five weeks there and one in Chicago with trips to D.C., New York and world-famous Conshohocken along the way.

In all, I made it to four Phillies games, my nephew’s T-ball championship, the White House again, two weddings (one of which I was the best man for), a college graduation, a bachelor party, a law school graduation, a sweet 16 party, Mother’s and Father’s Day BBQs, a Broadway play, and a baseball game at Wrigley. In many ways, it was the all-American trip. From Chinese food at an Irish Bar on 2nd street to my first visit to Bartram’s Garden, I took in as much as I could and kept up my Chinese wherever and whenever I could; and so…without further ado, here are some pics.