Thursday, October 23, 2008

not to be outdone

I recently realized that the majority of actions taken in my life can be explained with the preface, "not to be outdone." I spent much of my adolescence trying as little as possible, all the while shooting for the most success; quite efficient, if you think about it, Greg. The epitome of this mindset occurred in tenth grade. I was playing on the JV basketball team, and during one game, while I was running up and down the floor scoring loads of points, Gabe Cohen was taking a breather on the sideline. Coach McNabb, my old JJV soccer coach, walked over to Gabe and asked him, "where did Jon get all that speed?" Gabe thought for a second and answered, "video games." An exaggeration? Not really. But to my point, there were times when I actually made an effort. I studied for some tests; I jogged during Christmas break, once. All of these efforts were made just to keep up with the rest of the pack. I never wanted to be outdone, at least too much. Nearly a decade later, things aren't so different. I play video games about 90% less than I did at 16, but I still always shoot for efficiency, sort of.

Last week, the Hebei University teachers (Tim, Emily, and Amelia) had been invited to a fellow teacher's apartment to learn how to make dumplings. How fun, I thought, maybe Sophie will invite ol' Jon too. Dumplings are my favorite Chinese food and I'd always wanted to learn how to make them. But alas, no invite! That night, feeling slightly defeated, I asked Ryan to join me for dinner. We rode our bikes over to a popular street food area; a long red canopy forming a wide corridor of street restaurants, where snacks, noodles, soups, and dumplings were all being served. I had accidentally made a few friends at one of the restaurants the week before. I made my way to the canopy by myself one night and sat down at a random too-small-for-Americans table. A kind middle-aged lady approached me in Chinese. I saw that they were steaming dumplings in wood-basket stacks.

"Hayao yiga jiao zi," I think is what said (I want one order of dumplings). Whatever I said, she brought me what I wanted. She also showed me a Chinese menu and started pointing at one of the items and telling me about it. I heard the Chinese word for "noodles" over and over, but I waved my hand; I just wanted dumplings. She still brought me the noodle dish she was talking about, but, as I later found out when I attempted to pay, it was for free. It was a nice gesture; so, I decided to return the favor by going back there (not to mention the daughter of the parents running the place is a bit of a cutie). Throughout Ryan and I's meal of dumplings and noodles, the daughter and two men were rolling dumplings at another table. At the end of our meal, I decided that I didn't have to be left out after all. I perused my phrase book and mixed together the words, "I can help." So, not to be outdone by my fellow teachers, I walked over to the dumpling-rollers and said (in Chinese), "You work too hard; I can help." Somehow they understood me (which is pretty rare; often they'll look at me confused, forcing me to repeat myself until they finally say, "Oh, Chow FAN." And I'll grit my teeth and say, "that's what I said!" ...the tones are hard) and offered us to sit down. For over an hour, Ryan and I tried our hand at making dumplings (don't worry, we washed our hands). And these weren't just your typical boiled dumplings; these were intricately woven steamed dumplings. Basically, we stunk at it. But even though our new friends spoke a total of two English phrases, they loved having us try, and they even used some of our mangled dumplings. Now, when we go there, we receive a warm welcome. But for some reason the free food stopped coming...

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Ryan, Tim, and I just had our "dudes lunch" this afternoon. We get together every Thursday and go enjoy a little taste of America, KFC. Today we sat there for over an hour and talked about "the boss." Tim made the observation that despite our preconceptions about life in China being hard, we are well provided for here. We get paid enough to not have to worry about money, and we have everything we need. Of course, we still don't have a clothes dryer, which is the same for everyone here in China, and which is quite an enigma to me. Nate and I agreed on this a couple weeks ago (Andrew and Maureen disagreed) ; we would rather have a dryer than a washer. Granted, without a washer, I'd have to wash my clothes by hand (or foot), which would take time and effort (maybe 2 hours, at the most?). But after that, my clothes would be dry in an hour! As it is, I have to wait 2 days to 1 week for my clothes to dry on the clothes line, depending on the type (jeans take forever). Anyway, you decide...

Either way, it's great to share joys and struggles with some great dudes over fried chicken. We'll be there at 12:30 every Thursday if anyone wants to join us...

6 comments:

Jarred D. said...

I told you that you would find your wife in China and there you go talking about cute girls. You're going to prove me right after all jallision.

Ryan said...

clothes dry faster when they are on your body because of body heat...i learned that from band of brothers...try it.

also on a scale of 1-10 how much better are chinese dumplings than potstickers(potstickers being a 1)

Jon Allison said...

i believe anything they say on band of brothers.

i'll put chinese dumplings at 10
and potsickers at 4.5

I can order a basket of 10 steamed dumplings for 3 yuan. ($1=6.8 yuan)

Cameron said...

I'll join you guys! Give me a call on Thursdays, I'm down. Otherwise, I might forget... like my classes... Sigh...

Tim and Jon's friend. said...

If you can get a hold of 24 season 6. Or any other season for that matter you could have a lot of time killed. But it's fun.

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