Everyone in the United States believes I'm dead. Here's an update for the last bits of September and the overall month of October:
1. The beginning of October kicked off with a week-long holiday called Mid-Autumn festival (which oddly enough starts at the very, very beginning of autumn). Official Chinese policy calls for 7 days of school followed by 7 days of vacation. The week-long break hardly made up for those last two school days on the weekend. Regardless, I used the time to my advantage and spent several days decorating the apartment and making deviled eggs. I used to feel bad about my lackluster drive for adventure, but it turns out, I simply like being in my home more than I like just about anything else. All-in-all, a splendid week.
2. I have FINALLY started learning Chinese! I'm taking lessons for 2 hours every Tuesday with a personal tutor, whom I adore. Turns out, Chinese is a very simple language to put together, but the problems with it for westerners generally fall into one of two categories: 1) physical inability to pronounce sounds and 2) lack of context clues to tell you which ma of the 20 fourth-tone mas you should be using. The difficulty is not learning all the words...the difficulty is that there simply aren't enough words to go around, so each word means about 50 different things, all with the same tonal inflection and character.
3. I'm in a roller disco picture with Robin in the print edition of City Weekend with Avril Lavigne on the cover.
4. I went to the zoo over the break and had an utterly Chinese day with Jesse and Jingle. First off, one should never go to the Chinese zoo during a Chinese national holiday, as every other person in China is also seeking wholesome daytime recreation (the upside to which is the absolute overload of cute Asian babies at the zoo full of cute animal babies). The first major difference between a Chinese zoo and an American zoo is that the former is essentially a petting zoo regarding any animal that won't try to rip your arm off. At the ostrich pen, one can pay five RMB for a small tub of animal feed or spinach leaves to offer the enormous (and aggressive) birds.
Then there was the kangaroo yard. For 20 RMB, you and your loved ones, children, and pets can enter a large fenced-in quad with grass, trees, and about 30 kangaroos running every which direction. Some lounged as people pet their heads. Some hopped away from screaming children. More than once a kangaroo that was just beginning to trust me was chased away by a couple of kids trying to grab its tail.
The highlight of the event was the petting zoo, which at the very least was filled with domesticated, socialized animals that actually belong in a petting-zoo. As we watched a fat Chinese baby carry around a fat Chinese baby lamb, we heard laughter erupt ahead of us. Looking up, we saw that two of the smaller pot-bellied pigs in the yard had started having sex. It was raw and hilarious and frightening, as the erect penis of a small pot-bellied pig is about a foot long when outside its body, bright red, and about the width of a straw. Naturally, we got the whole thing on video.