“What if instead of tabbing over to the web browser in search of some nugget of gossip or news, or opening up a mindless game such as Angry Birds, we could instead scratch the itch by engaging in a meaningful activity, such as learning a foreign language?”
Enjoyed this post.
It’s usually not a good sign to walk into a restaurant during the noon hour and find it deserted, with nary a customer, waiter, or hostess in sight. I would have turned tail and left, except I’d promised to meet my Chinese student and her new boyfriend for lunch.
She had specifically chosen this Turkish restaurant in the heart of Guangzhou (Canton) because it was rumored to have one of the most mouthwatering Mediterranean menus on the metropolitan map. Since I had my choice of tables and a few minutes to kill, I began a quest for the best seat in the house.
I knew I’d probably found the most comfortable booth when I accidentally disturbed two waitresses snoozing soundly on the red tuck and roll benches. Startled to see a customer, they jumped up, wiped the sleep from their eyes and offered me a menu.
“Where is everyone?” I asked in my best Mandarin. The two sleepyheads just smiled and nodded. Apparently my best Mandarin needs some work. Just then, Monica and her boyfriend arrived. After chatting briefly with the two girls, she offered me a one-word explanation: “Ramadan.”
During the holy month of Ramadan, followers of Islam abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Since the restaurant owner and most of the customers and staff are Muslim, business hours had pretty much shifted into the night. Nevertheless, we were warmly invited to sit and order.
After some deliberation and consultation with the now wide-awake waitresses, we ordered an assortment of appetizers, salads, kebabs and platters. Had we known, we could have saved some money and just ordered appetizers. Not that the food wasn’t delicious; it was fantastic.
It’s just that they, well, they had me at hummus. And flatbread. Hot, fresh-from-the-oven, round-as-a-tire flatbread and heavenly hummus. They kept bringing it and I kept tearing off huge hunks of bread, slathering it in the hummus and eating it. It’s hard to believe the lowly chickpea can elicit such sensory delight in a full-grown human male.
Another name for chickpea is garbanzo bean; however, hummus is no ordinary bean dip. According to Wikipedia, hummus is a transliteration of the Arabic word. It can also be spelled hamos, hommos, hommus, homos, houmous, hummos, hummous, or humus. (I’d be cautious ordering that last one—you don’t want a bowl of topsoil on your bill.)
In addition to cooked and mashed chickpeas, ingredients also include olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds. There are a myriad hummus recipes on the Internet, some with tahini and some without, so I won’t give you my recipe. I don’t have one.
I do have a horrible pun though. If you’re ever in a Turkish restaurant in China and you want to order, but you don’t know the words…just hummus.
My friend Brian and I were both limping on the same leg. What I mean is, HE was limping on HIS right leg and I was limping on MINE. Or maybe it was his left. Anyway, it doesn’t matter.
Brian claims his limp is from an old football injury that occasionally flares. I think he slipped in some buffalo wing sauce during Super Bowl halftime. No, wait. Brian is British. Make that World Cup and malt vinegar. I finally went to a doctor and found out what my problem was. Osteoarthritis. But I am getting ahead of my story.
We hobbled around for about a week and things did not seem to be getting any better. It finally got serious when neither one of us could make it up the stairs of our favorite Chinese Pub (is that an oxymoron?). The pub is in the basement, so we were trying to go home. There might be another reason we couldn’t make it up the stairs. But I digress.
Finally, Brian suggested we get a Chinese Fire Treatment. His ex-girlfriend is part owner of a tea shop on the other side of Guangzhou. Apparently, they do fire treatments in the back room. I know what you’re thinking, but let’s not go there. Actually, that’s what I said to Brian. And I quote, “let’s not go there.”
So the next afternoon Brian picked me up in his Buick. Yes, he drives a car in China. Buicks are very popular here because they are American. But I digress again. Re-digress?
Now, let’s examine the situation, shall we? What my friend and I were heading out to do was get ourselves lit on fire in the back room of his EX-girlfriend’s tea shop. Sound like fun? You betcha.
We arrived at the tea shop without incident. We had the obligatory Gong Fu Tea out front. Then it was time for the fire treatment. Since there were two of us, Brian went in first. Fine with me. Then it was my turn. When I went into the back room, Brian was alive and resting on a narrow massage table with his knee wrapped tightly. He gave me the thumbs up.
Now, all evidence to the contrary, I am not a complete idiot. I did have the foresight to wear shorts instead of long pants. That way, I could keep my pants on and preserve my dignity as I ran flaming out of the building. I must re-digress again. If you are reading this—which I assume you are—and you are British, then I was wearing short trousers, since you people mistakenly think that shorts means underwear.
Anyway, treatment began with some magic Chinese formula—Ben Gay, which is Chinese for “Are you out of your mind?” Actually, it wasn’t Ben Gay, but whatever it was, she slathered it all over my knee. Next, she wrapped my knee in several small towels and let me rest a bit while the magic Chinese formula soaked in.
Now, here is the part where you need to remember the famous quote from George Washington as he stood in the boat crossing the frozen Delaware river at two in the morning. “Kids, don’t try this at home!” Rubbing alcohol. I think that’s what it was. I don’t read Chinese labels so well. She soaked the towels with it and then took one of those long lighters, you know, the kind you use to start your backyard grill. She took one of those and lit the towels on fire.
I didn’t feel anything at first. But then, my knee began to warm up. About the time I was ready to panic, she deftly threw more towels over my flaming knee and the fire went out. After a while, she repeated the entire process. Then she wrapped my knee, towels and all, in plastic wrap. I’m guessing this part of the traditional treatment was added after plastic wrap was invented.
And that was it. Brian and I drank more tea and rested while the heat soaked in. Kind of like using an electric heating pad. Wait a minute… what a great idea!
Is your bucket list full and bank account empty? Perfect. Now’s the time to plan an extended vacation abroad! Sound crazy? Not really. If you have portable skills or residual income, there are many countries where your talents are in demand and your money will stretch a lot further.
Even if you aren’t in the group just mentioned, don’t despair. You may be able to put your ability to speak English and your knowledge of Western culture to practical use. Ever thought of teaching English as a Second Language? Here are the steps.
Update your resume. Having a college degree is a definite plus, however there are courses you can take towards certification as an ESL teacher. These courses usually take about one or two months to complete and can often be done online. Check out the Internet to learn more about different types of ESL certification.
Place your resume online. There are numerous websites where you can browse ESL jobs and also post your resume. Before you put up personal information, however, be sure to read the website directions and disclaimers.
Two of my favorite ESL sites are ESL Teachers Board and Dave’s ESL Café. By the way, some countries prefer a CV, which is like an expanded resume concentrating on your academic experience.
Get your passport. If you’ve never had a passport, you’ll need to apply in person at your nearest passport facility, which is quite often the local U.S. Post Office. Details are available on the official government website: Travel.State.Gov
Screen carefully. After you post your resume online, you’ll start getting invitations to teach. Unfortunately, not every invitation you receive may be legitimate. The ESL websites I mentioned in Step 2 have a wealth of information about finding the right teaching position and being safe in the process. Do your homework.
Negotiate a contract. This is sometimes easier said than done, however a good way to tackle this chore is to ask the school if you can speak with one or two of their current or former ESL teachers. If the school has nothing to hide, they should be willing to let you do this. If they are reluctant, keep looking.
Get ready to travel. Many schools will offer some reimbursement for your travel expenses, so be sure to ask. Travel lightly. If you’ve established contact with another ESL teacher at the same or similar school, ask them what to bring. The best thing you can take along is an open mind.
Tips and Warnings:
In addition to your passport, you may need a visa for travel to certain countries. Once you know which country you will be working in, check out the official website of their Embassy or Consulates for more information.
Prepare yourself for jet lag and culture shock. Perhaps the best preparation you can make is just be aware that you will experience them.
Never put yourself in a position where you don’t have enough money to leave if things don’t work out.
Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. I’ve been living and teaching in China since August, 2004. Every day is an adventure. Good luck and good journey!
One of the most common interracial pairings is Western man and Asian woman. The attraction is very real, and for good reason. After all, opposites do attract! If you are about to give up on finding Miss Right, perhaps it is time you went looking for Miss Wong! Here are a few pointers to help you in your search for marital bliss.
Be serious. Chinese women do not like players either. Their culture is intensely marriage and family oriented.
Be stable. You don’t have to be rich (although it helps), but most Chinese women want to know if you own a house and a car.
Be willing to stretch a little. By this I mean you should be interested in Chinese culture and language. The good news is that the Internet makes it possible to become a scholar overnight. Well, not exactly, but close.
Even if you don’t speak a word of Mandarin and she speaks no English, translation software can help you communicate. Check out babelfish.com. Just remember the KISS principle, however. Keep It Short and Simple!
Now that we’ve checked you out, it’s time to check her out! A quick Google search for “China Bride” or “Asian Dating” will yield a goldmine of results. Remember that most of these sites require a fee at some point. Do your research before you pull out the plastic.
Be indirect. This is a tough one for us Americans. Naughty talk will come eventually, but don’t push it. Be very, very patient.
Be ready to travel. China is a fantastic country. Even if you’re not ready to pop the question, you should at least take a look at her side of the world. And by the way, culture shock is a very, very real thing; you should carefully consider where you both will live once the knot is tied.