After a few weekends of laying low, I had a really fun, interesting time this past 周末.
FRIDAY - Jess and I hosted Part III of Women's Group, for the upperclassmen. On Tuesday, we held Part II: about 20 freshmen came to our apartment, ate snacks and asked questions mostly pertaining to sex (and Christmas). It made for some interesting discussion, although we tried to emphasize that our experiences and perspectives were not representative of all Americans. We talked about attitudes towards premarital sex: in China, it's generally frowned upon, and I think young people tend to be more chaste, whereas in America there might be lip service paid to abstinence, but more than 80% of people have sex before marriage. The "he's a stud/she's a slut" double-standard seems to transcend culture, unfortunately. One girl talked about how unfair it is for a man to sleep around and gain respect, whereas if a woman does it, she's "crazy."
Next time the group meets, I'd like to bring up gender presentation. Two girls in the group are so butch that they could easily be mistaken for boys, and they're not shy about it all. When we first held the group, one girl popped up and said, "My name is Wendy! I bet you all thought I was a boy - but I'm a girl!" Everyone laughed good-naturedly. This time, another androgynous girl showed up with her friends, who jokingly called her their "boyfriend" and nicknamed her "Superman." I'm curious if they feel pressure to act or dress in a more feminine way, but since China doesn't really acknowledge homosexuality, perhaps acting like a boy doesn't mean you'll be labeled a lesbian, like you might in the States. Curious.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON - On this cold and pretty day, I took the bus downtown, stopping at a bookstore I'd noticed in the past. It said BOOKS AND TEA (and then some random words like "peace" and "chance") so I was sort of hoping it was an English-language bookstore. It wasn't, but it was still a really tranquil spot that I hope to return to. I was browsing the books when I heard a squeaky voice say, "Ni hao!" I turned to the store owner and asked, “有没有 鸟?” which means, "Do you have a bird?" (I learned this word from my kindergarteners). Indeed they did! A really cute talking bird! I had a nice conversation with the store owner, in which I only understood about 50% of what she said, but nodded and smiled anyway.
SATURDAY NIGHT - The four of us went out to dinner at some weird German buffet at 黑石礁。 The staff all wore dirndls and fake blonde braids and I ate something called "beer-pickled chicken heart." It was nice to have a family dinner again and catch up. Then we went to KTV karaoke, which was great. I love singing, even with my terrible voice, and we just all acted dumb and sang and danced to great songs like "Lola" and "California Dreaming" and "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life" and "Folsom Prison Blues." It was grand.
SUNDAY - Another freezing, beautiful day in Dalian. I explored a new-ish part of the city on the way to meet Wang Xiao Ni, who I know through Lisa, my friend and quasi-mentor (and writer of this fantastic book). She treated me to lunch at a place called 大地春饼, which literally means Big Earth Spring Roll. It was crowded and the food was great and I had a really nice time with her. Hopefully we'll hang out again at some point. Then I took the bus back. I just looove public transportation. I especially enjoy taking the bus in Dalian through all the different neighborhoods: it's a medley of narrow tree-lined streets and wide thoroughfares and modern high-rise buildings and Russian-style architecture and old brick courtyard-style houses that are (unfortunately) being torn down. I just throw on some Passion Pit or Magnetic Fields on my iPod and watch the city go by. It's nice.
OH, AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Happy Chanukah! Happy Amazing Christmas Episode of 30 Rock! (Creativity to me is… just like…like a bird… like a friendly bird… that embraces all… ideas… just like shoots… out of its eyes all kind of beauty...) Thank you to Jordan for your wonderful blog post, which contains irrefutable evidence that I should come back to New York. And congratulations to Nick & Amanda on your engagement!