Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Christmas Turtle

Once, in a land far away, lived a turtle named Edgar. He was a happy turtle. He lived in a pond. He spent his days as turtles do, sunning himself on a rock to get warm, then sliding into the water to cool down and to catch fish and other water dwellers. He had a favorite rock that he used most of the time, except for when a particularly stubborn goose wouldn't budge from it, but then Edgar had a second-favorite rock that did just fine. Edgar wanted for nothing, and grew and grew for years and years. In time, he grew so big that the pond could no longer provide him with enough fish and other water dwellers to eat. Edgar had to move.

Moving day is quite perilous for turtles. They have to leave the only place they've ever known and move, slowly, to try and find another, bigger pond or swamp or stream. Even if they find one, it may be already inhabited by another turtle or something even bigger and stronger, like a crocodile or snake that might like to have a turtle for a snack. So it was with a heavy heart and a timid spirit that Edgar made his move. He lumbered on and on for what seemed like days, not quite finding what he felt he could call home. He grew tired. And weak. He even thought that his old pond might do just fine if he could just slow down his eating a little. But he knew, deep inside his reptilian brain, that his old pond really wouldn't suffice. So he ambled on.

Finally, Edgar came upon a lake, with lots of trees around and many rocks and muddy piles that were perfect for a turtle to sun himself upon. He stopped and waited. And waited, to see if there was anything already in the lake that might not want him there and that could stop him from living there. One hour, two hours (although turtles don't really keep time that way) he waited. Then he inched slowy into the water, and waited some more. Nothing came to eat him. Edgar could hear fish jumping and frogs calling out, and he thought to himself that he could stay here for a long time and get even bigger without worrying about eating too much.

As he slid into the water, Edgar looked up at the sky, which was turning dark. He saw two, strange animals looking at him. He had never seen their likes. They stood on two legs, had huge heads in proportion to their bodies and had long, gangly arms. Edgar did not know what to do.

"Shit," he thought, sinking further into the water. "If these freaking things live here, I've got to find another place to live." He decided to hide for a while, then move out when it was darker.

Two people, a man and woman, happened to be strolling by the lake on what happened to be Christmas day. "Honey," the man asked the woman. "Did you just see that big turtle? He just slid into the water."

"No, why?" the woman asked.

"It was the damnedest thing," said the man. "It looked like he looked at us."

"Yeah, right," said the woman. "Why would he care about us?"

"I don't know, but he looked pissed."

"Maybe he was mad that you didn't wish him a Merry Christmas," she teased. Then, to the middle of the lake. "Sorry, Mr. Turtle. Merry Christmas."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

please give this story a title

Sometimes, my instincts are spot on perfect.

In my morning classes, I teach two classes. The first is a class of thirteen children, aged 5 and 4, by Western years(you are one year old here when you are born). It is an unruly class. The children fight each other, do not stay in their seats, do not pay attention, all that. I like them, though. They're not mean, just unruly. They do pay attention when they are having fun. Unfortunately, I can't play games and wrestle with them all class, as much as I would like to. So anyway, the class is just what it is- imperfect, but still beautiful.

There is one boy, in particular, named Jack. He is a big boy, a real butterball. I bet he weighs at least 80 pounds. He is really strong for his age as well. He is sweet, but he also picks on the other children. I have tried to prevent this, but if I am more than grabbing distance away, he is pretty much the bully. I noticed the Chinese language teacher treats him differently from the other kids, largely because of his size. I think that is true for most children who are bigger than normal. We expect that they will act more maturely. I think this must be very frustrating for them. I do a lot of picking up the children. They hold their arms straight up, and I pick them up by their hands and lift them as high as I can. I even tried with Jack, but I can't get any leverage under him, so I can only lift him maybe six inches off the ground. This is not terribly fun for either of us.

I had fought the impulse to try and pick him up any other way, because the kids all want to be treated the same. The only reason I started picking them up at all was that I made the mistake of doing it once with one child. I was immdediately swarmed by all the children, all of them lifting their arms and telling me, in Chinese, that they wanted their turn. As mistakes go, it is one I'm glad I made, because I get to see the looks in their eyes as I pick them up to my face level and above. These looks are of absolute, unmitigated joy.

So, back to Jack. He is the one boy who I can't pick up this way. The other day, he was chasing another child around, and as he came by me, I arm-tackled him, and picked him up by cradling him. He was shocked silly. His eyes lit up, he almost peed himself laughing. I let him down, and he ran off, but turned around and ran back at me. Then I just dropped down to my knees and bear-hugged him, then stood up. He was in heaven. I wondered when was the last time anyone had picked him up, including his parents.

Later, I was saying goodbye to the class, which is usually when they want to be picked up. Jack was grabbing me, so I just thought, fuck it, and grabbed him under his armpits and lifted, hoping against hope that I was strong enough to pick him up. I think that children's laughter must give us extra strength, because I was able to lift him up over my head, and give him a litle toss as well. I had so much fun that I had to do it a couple more times. This boy was just transformed from a bully into a quivering, laughing, little kid.

So now I have a new exercise, because all the kids want to be picked up like this. The lifting by the hands thing is so last week.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

a cool bridge in taipei

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all i want for my birthday is an ice cream

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birthday in taipei

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