May 29, 2012

call me Chaska.

C.hinese timing is impeccable. I found out yesterday that I had a presentation in today's Tang/Song Dynasty class.

Last minute discovery is so normal around these parts that I rolled with it. I continued my evening plans and decided I would get up early today to write the paper in Chi.nese and prepare. (Am I over confident? The answer is a resounding - y-e-s). 

After hitting snooze a thousand times, I reminded myself of my task and I sat down at my computer and tried to figure out whattheheck I was supposed to write about. I had written a topic in pinyin (alphabetized Chi.nese) in my notebook and after some intense googling, I found out that my subject was Zhuxi, the Song Dynasty Neo-Confucianist who was sentenced to death for his unorthodox ideas. Mmmm, exciting. Thanks, Wikipedia. 

An hour of a little Google searching, a little Google translate, and a pounding headache later, I had a 4 page paper in perfect Chinglish ready to go. 

Since I take classes at a campus across town, I hopped on the bus aimed for the print shop and planned to walk to class from there. I do not have a printer (should have invested years ago, now don't want to spend the money). You can't print in the library at school, everything has to be placed on a USB and taken to a shop where you can make prints for 10 cents each. This is often on the list of a foreigners least enjoyed tasks and one day when I have a job where I can print/scan/copy I will appreciate the luxury to the fullest. 

Anyways, I was chilling in the print shop miming that I needed some paper work for work scanned (never learned that word) when I got a text in English from my only friend in the Chin.ese Philosophy Department, "Class is quit. Don't come." At that point, it was 15 minutes til classtime and I had already spent a whopping $1.50 printing out copies of my paper for the whole class. 

"So should I email my paper to the teacher?" I responded. 

"No need. Score has already been given." 

I checked the computer later and found that the entire class had been issued an 85%. We only had class 2 times this quarter, never actually met our teacher, and no one wants to read my assignment. And yet I got an unexplained 85. 

As a previously high-performing student, Ch.inese academics has really brought down my expectations for life - I take what I can get. That kind of sums up much of my experience - there's no explanation or logic, but I'm just happy to keep truckin' along. 

Since I was already on campus, I met with my dear friend who was in the library and we walked and talked for awhile before I headed onto the bus home to actually do something productive with my day. The bus was packed and I wasn't surprised when someone tapped my shoulder. 

I turned and a Middle Eastern man was 5 inches from my face. Unfazed, I asked, "Yes?" He asked me the directions to the International College, and I informed him that he was on the right bus and would get off one stop after me. Unable to move away from him, we carried on the usual conversation that happens when I am approached by a Middle Easterner. (If you are a MIddle Eastern reader - I love you). 

He asked me how old I am, if I am married, if I have children, and why the answer is no to those questions. He complimented my hair, then asked my job and salary. All normal questions. I did my usual gig in which I ask the person the same question they just asked me. I figure if you get to know my details, I get to know yours. 

His name is Zeer and he's from Pakistan. Unmarried. No kids. 400$ a month working in tech. 

There was still some time left on the bus and I was feeling friendly and he was a nice dude, so I told him my story from going to the Wagah Border ceremony at the border of India and Pakistan in January. Having travel stories that can act as a common denominator or fill empty space is golden. His eyes lit up and he went into a long story about the rivalry between India and Pakistan and what it was like at his university when the two countries faced off in the World Cup. He informed me that India won and I offered my condolences which seemed to please him. 

In true form, he asked for my number as I was getting off the bus. My phone is full of random encounters. What made this encounter memorable was that as I was walking through the alley to my dorm, contemplating the passion in nationalism and sport, I got an obviously accidental text from my new friend's number. 

"Chaska America."

And I smiled to myself. 

It wasn't even late afternoon and I already recieved an 85 in a class I never went to, and had my name mistaken for, "Chaska," by the Pakistani on the bus.

The stories are endless. 

walk slow. xoxo. 

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