Friday, April 25, 2008

Chinese New Year

Finally got online at home again. This is an old blog but figured I'd through it up any anyway:

So it’s been many New Years in a row. The Russians celebrate New Years on Dec 31 with the rest of the West and on Jan something because of the Russian Orthodox Church which is still on a slightly different calendar and Chinese New Year was last week.

Since 90% of our class is Chinese they really have no choice but to give us a few days off. I expected to sleep for 3 days but not with as full a belly as I ended up with.

I ran into Marcela who lives near me. (She’s the Austrian- although born Croatian and Russian grandmother) and she invited me to celebrate with her classmates. She was sort of punished because she refused to go to the Russian classes (and so didn’t pay for them). Her punishment was to be sent to the evening drawing class. She is the only European in that class. She understands Russian because her grandmother was Russian and she speaks German, English, French, and Croatian quite well. Since the Chinese are generally hopelessly lost when it comes to Russian and the translator went back to China the teachers are going crazy trying to communicate. Marcela often gets a largely disproportionate amount of their time simply because she is the only European and the only one who understands their rants. To boot the painting teachers this year are new to the Pod course and so have only taught Russians before and they are flabbergasted at the low skill level and slow progress. It’s hard to exaggerate the tenacity with which these teachers teach and with which the Russian students have been taught usually for at least 10 years. They go to art school for 6 years and then Art College for 4 and then come to the Academy if they are accepted.

Anyway I thought I knew none of these Chinese students but I went with Marcela anyway. It turned out this was the house of the students I take sculpture with. Some of their parents were there too, all the way from Mongolia. The spread was ridiculous. There were at least 20 people around the table and when I asked whom we had to thank for such bounty they all pointed at each other. They had been cooking for at least 12 hours. There were 400 hand made dumplings and you know I tried to eat them all. There was a glistening fried whole fish as the centerpiece swimming in ginger. I was so happy to see the fish head that I went straight for the eyes and the cheeks with surprised smiles form our hosts who enjoyed my gusto. Of course I held back a little and didn’t start gnawing on its gills like I normally would have. My reserved nature was adventuresome for them. Diced checked with hoards of garlic and red pepper was uncovered after two kinds of soup, one of which included some kind of femur bone. I couldn’t help myself when I saw that I picked it up and had flashbacks from my last life as a dog as I raked it clean with my incisors. It helped that they have a custom of making the guest drink a toast with each of the hosts. That meant 20 drinks without a break and I already started drinking vodka. I couldn’t go back to beer and I couldn’t repeat my birthday when I was bed ridden for two days with the worst hang over of my life. So I took tiny sips and ate two dumplings after each one. Yes that meant 40 dumplings and they weren’t small.

I think the best moment was when we started singing. We tried to find songs we all new. Communication was generally very difficult between poor Russian and poorer English, but they new the Beatles. We got through “Yerow Submaline” and a bit of “Micherre my Berr” with straight faces and finished it off with one they all new quite well. The A,B,C’s Yes at the top of our drunken voices we bellowed “Next Time wont you sing with me” It was a beautiful moment in Chinese American diplomacy.