Friday, June 08, 2012

Talking Chinese To A Baby
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While many of my friends have begun working at restaurants and stores in the mall like normal teenagers, Z and I have stumbled on a job of a very different sort. We have actually become Chinese teachers! Well, in a very loose sense of the word. To be clear, we speak Chinese to a five-month old baby for twenty minutes, two times a week.

It all started when Mom got an email from the baby's mother asking if she had any Chinese students at Blair who might want to help the baby (who is not at all Chinese) become accustomed to the sounds of Mandarin. Z and I got first dibs on the offer and, given our love of babies and our need to practice Chinese, it sounded like a perfect fit. I mean, who wouldn't want to get paid to hold an adorable baby and speak to her in Chinese?

So Z and I have been working with this little cutie pie for a couple of weeks now. Here is our usual lesson plan...

1. Carry her around and sometimes bottle-feed her while singing or just talking in Chinese.

2. Go through a lesson on a Chinese computer program (usually consists of vocabulary) while interacting with her.

3. Go through the numbers with her a couple of times.

4. Do something else interactive like read a story or take her outside and talk about what we see.

I don't know know how the baby is enjoying our lessons but I am sure having a great time "teaching" her!

~Julie

Thursday, June 07, 2012

HOBY: TA-Style

Some of you might remember that I went to a youth leadership seminar last year called HOBY and loved it! Well this year I went back...only with a different title. While the sophomores who go to the seminar are called "ambassadors," juniors and seniors who come back to volunteer for them are called "team alumni." To become a TA, you have to complete at least 100 service hours and attend the meetings throughout the year to plan the seminar. At the end of the three-day seminar last year, I knew I would be back for more.

So throughout the year I made sure that I was fulfilling the requirements and taking care of any applications along the way. Even though I didn't really know anyone who was going to be a TA, I was really excited about getting to know this group of highly motivated people. And I was not disappointed!

My time as a TA this year was even better than my time as an ambassador last year. Even though I was up at weird times and was constantly running all over the Mount Saint Mary's campus, I got the pleasure of spending that time with a great group of people who are now really close friends. From coloring HOBY HUGS, to meetings at 1 am, to 3 am safaris with Jessica, each of the four days was unique and special.

HOBY HUGS to my TA family and see you next year!

~Julie

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Me, Chipotle, And The United States Border Patrol

I apparently caused quite a scene in our local Chipotle the other day, and I didn't even know it until I was told by Julie and Z.

It all started a few year back. 2007, to be precise. While on our second cross-country road trip, we spent a couple of days in El Paso, Texas. When looking for things to do, I noticed that El Paso is the home of the National Border Patrol Museum. We are big fans of the unusual, so we decided to check it out. What we encountered was a funky little museum that looked poorly funded. Exhibits chronicled border patrol practices dating back well over one hundred years. We decided to pick up some t-shirts, much like Julie did last summer at the Peking Man Museum outside of Beijing. A nice way to remember an offbeat experience.

Fast forward to the other day. My border patrol museum shirt is in my drawer, a shirt that is in my regular t-shirt rotation. I don't give much thought to wearing it, but I do like it, as it is black, a color which seems to be making up a bigger and bigger part of my wardrobe these days. All there is on the shirt is a little US Border Patrol logo on the front.

While ordering at Chipotle, I did notice that some of the young women behind the counter were talking quietly with one another, smiling, even laughing in a weird way. I paid very little attention, assuming that they were just having fun at work, joking around about stuff that I would have no way of comprehending.

When I walked outside where we were sitting, Julie and Z had these kinds of Cheshire cat looks on their faces. Julie, who is getting pretty good at Spanish, then told me that the workers at Chipotle had noticed the logo on my shirt. One worker was seemingly the most moved by my t-shirt, and was giving the heads up to the others. They were all apparently eyeballing what I was wearing.

There was also some talk about making sure they were ready, something cryptic like that (cryptic, at least, to us across the counter, half hearing a conversation in a foreign language). You can ask Julie for the details. All I know is that I just wanted some tacos...

~Steve

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Violence On The Red Line

The other day, while riding the metro to campus, I inadvertently found myself in the middle of an altercation that was a bit violent. This was the kind of incident that, frankly, I have come to expect while traveling across China (see here and here for some of my worst moments in Chinese travel). But it was a real eye-opener to be part of this kind of encounter here in the United States.

I was on the metro at an unusual time of day, having worked at home in the morning. It was early afternoon when I jumped on the train at the end of the line at Glenmont. I noticed that there was only one other person on the car, a young-ish looking guy.

Shortly after the train headed out, the door between the car I was riding in and the one in front of it opened up. In walked three young females, probably late teens or so. I noticed that they walked down and sat with the guy at the back end of the car. I thought this was unusual, in that they did not look like the kind of people who would associate with one another, but, hey, who I am to pass those kinds of judgments...

Seconds later, over the din of the Chinese lesson in my headphones, I heard raised voices. Glancing down the car, I could see that all four of my traveling companions were standing up, with the three females being rather aggressive toward the guy. He was trying to get around them, get away from them, and the whole group kind of spilled down the middle of the car, until they were essentially adjacent to me, in that open area between the middle doors of the car.

Having taken off my headphones, I could hear that the females were accusing the male of bumping into one of them. He was heatedly denying this, and looking kind of frightened. I was just keeping my eye on the situation, not knowing what was really going on, and wanting to calibrate any response in an appropriate manner.

It was at that point that one of the females took a water bottle and threw its contents onto the guy. Another one of the females was brandishing what looked like a metal pointer. At one point, she smacked the guy in the face with it.

That was enough for me, so I got up and walked in between all of them, telling them to calm down and break it up. The females were yelling at me that I didn't know what was going on. The guy was denying their accusations and looking at me in a way that strongly suggested he was happy to have me involved.

I was considering pulling the alarm that was nearby, but we pulled into the next station before I could act. Imagine the surprise of the people waiting to get on when they found their passage blocked by this unruly group. One older woman bumped into one of the young females as she was boarding.

But the young females were not interested in this older woman and her quest to push by and get a seat. They were busy chasing the guy on and off the train. Eventually, he ended up off the train, with the females still on board.

The females then sat down a few rows away and carried on with loud voices. A few minutes later, they came walking by, and aggressively waved their metal pointer in the older woman's face. She looked really scared. The females then opened the door and moved into the car in front of us. (Moving between cars is, by the way, not allowed on the DC metro system.)

I did see the females one more time, about twenty minutes later, when they came walking back through our car, talking out loud about how that woman had bumped into one them. Thankfully, they got off the train, rather than try to cause any more physical trouble. I can say that the older woman had her head buried in her book the whole time, not daring to look up.

I think I'll stick to rush hour from now on...

~Steve