Saturday, February 09, 2008

CNY Vignettes

Kerim has a post illustrating more-or-less what my CNY (Chinese New Year) has been like so far. More or less because I've been trying to work in the midst of CNY festivities and have been less successful at work than Kerim seems to have been.

Last year we took off the day after CNY to go to Oberlin. So this year we're spending some time with the in-laws (who fortunately have a net connection), and I'm prepared. I've brought along a big huge book to read and some of my dissertatables. But I don't have my laptop along because I figure(d) I can use the computer in the living room when no one else is at it. I don't want to spend too much time hiding up in the third floor bedroom away from everyone. That'd be unsociable.

When we get there I find that my biggest competition for computer time, my five-year-old nephew, is coming CNY Eve--a surprise since I thought they wouldn't show until the next day at least. Oh well. I always have my book.

Reading turns out to be OK, but I have to do it in our third-floor bedroom away from all the noise going on downstairs. I have to wrap myself up in a couple of blankets, too, since the room is about 10 degrees C. (That's cold!) After a few hours of that, my very long American nose has icicles hanging from it.


The red envelope in the nephew's pocket keeps falling out, and finally his mom can't stand it anymore and tells him she's confiscating it. He says, "You can have it."



"Does it still have money in it?"

"Yes, it does." Pause. "I love you, so I'm giving it to you."

From what I know about Hakka families, family members don't say "I love you" very much, so my sister-in-law's face registers a combination of emotions: tenderness mixed with shock mixed with embarrassment. (He's sure to make use of this the next time his dad yells at him.)


A couple of days later, I finally get a chance to spend some time on the diss. during a lull in the computer use. I gather up my Oolong tea and my dissertatables and set myself in front of the computer. Pop in my flash drive, open up my new chapter in Word. I decide to resave my file under a new name, just in case, but find that I can't find the "Save as..." function. (They have a really new version of Word, all crazy colors and undecipherable icons and I can't do a thing with it...) So I give up on resaving and just start working. A few minutes later I want to insert a footnote and find I can't find the insert footnote function, either. So I end up copying and pasting another footnote and changing its content. Whatever.

After about 10 minutes of this, the nephew comes over wondering what game I'm playing. We end up playing the crazy taxi driver game on the computer instead, since we agree my game wasn't as interesting as this is. The crazy taxi driver game is where you drive the wrong way down streets, through parks and lakes, into mailboxes and palm trees and up walls in order to get your fares to their destinations asap. (It's great training for future drivers here.) We play that until dinner time. After dinner visitors come by and you pretty much can't dissertate in the living room when you've got company. Lots of folks ask me how my dissertation is going and tell me I need to work harder on it.


It finally happens--something I've been worrying would happen for years. With an evil grin on his face, my nephew comes up to me as we're all sitting in the living room, looks at me, and announces, "Meiguo ren!" *Sigh* My own nephew... Maybe I shouldn't have insisted that he call me "Uncle" in English...

Despite that, my wife and I take him out to a coffee house/amusement park-type something or other place (undefinable this place is) the next day. He and I take a ride on a little train that runs around the park, we get him a balloon, and he runs around for a while, which worries us (especially when he runs down the 45 degree hill to the parking lot). But he's pretty well behaved and doesn't call me "Meiguo ren" anymore, so I can't complain.

So I haven't gotten a whole lot of work so far since 2/6, but I suppose when I look back on this winter break, I won't count it a total loss. And we still have a few weeks until the spring semester starts, so I'm not totally without hope.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Please stop blogging about my life. I'm a very private person. :-)