Monday, July 26, 2010

Just My Kind Of Workout

 The New Me (basically)

There are a few truisms so time-tested and self evident that they need not even be uttered.

The Sky Is Blue.

Tomorrow Is Another Day.

Risa Is Not An Athlete.

When I was little, my parents, fully aware of my, er, challenge, signed me up for a t-ball team. T-ball: the Boost Your Awkward Child's Self-Esteem sport. That is to say, my teammates were not exactly olympic-calibre either. At about seven years old, I was already the worst player on a team for clumsy five year olds. I remember going to games and silently praying to be put in the outfield, too far for the ball to intrude with any regularity. Mercifully, the coach also seemed to feel that my skills would be of greatest use to the team out there. Yup, it was me and the toddler who sat down in the middle of the field to blow the fluff off dandelions.

So perhaps you will understand why I am so proud to say that I think I may have found my sport. I've had to travel across the world to find it but I think I've done just that. And, no, I am not talking about the Neti pot, even though I sort of count that as yoga. What I am talking about is the Chairman Mao Eye Exercises.

I initially learned of the eye exercises by word of mouth: reminiscing about some of the inane aspects of primary school, some local people around my age recalled the twice daily broadcast over the school's loud speakers, calling all students to exercise their eyes in the name of Chairman Mao, for the glory of the People and the Republic (or some crap like that).

Apparently, it came to Uncle Mao's attention that his people had a propensity for near-sightedness , and for the advancement of his People's Republic he felt compelled to do something about the People's Eyesight (... although the People's Toilet Trough didn't seem like that big of a deal to him.) In this vein, he implemented in public schools a mandatory  routine of eye exercises which persists to this day, based on his expert scientific knowledge of... erm... beige suits.

And sure enough, on my first day teaching public school back in December, there it was. Fifty little child-pods nestled into identical bulky parkas (the school's winter uniform, due to frigid unheated classrooms), lined up row upon row, like neatly planted cabbages, poking and prodding at their fat little faces as the PA system screeched along it's instructions and careful counting.

YI, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba!
ER, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba!
SAN, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba!

(ONE, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!
TWO, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!
THREE, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!)

... and so on... all set to a cheery musical score so as to ensure a pleasant workout experience, while improving blood circulation to the eyes, and subliminally purging malleable young minds of any budding counter-revolutionary tendencies (maybe)...

As far as I can tell from my observations, the rigorous routine involves:

(1) gently massaging the bridge of the nose with the index fingers while staring up at the ceiling, tongue hanging out the side of the mouth, possibly drooling, thinking about how many pebbles you can fit in your pockets come recess time,

(2) poking around the cheeks a bit, interspersed with some nose picking and spit bubble formation practice (I'm pretty sure that this is because Chinese medicine views the body as a holistic system - you know, like the way that our eyes, noses, and mouths are all connected back there, as evidenced by the spaghetti-in-the-mouth, out-the-nose trick.)

(3) rubbing the back of the neck in circular motion, with the forehead resting on the desk, positioned for a good view of the day's accumulation of pea-shooter ammunition stored inside (because aiming projectiles is also good for the eyes, and isn't really detrimental for learning as long as it's only practiced during English class.)

I'm not sure exactly how the routine goes after this point, because I usually get distracted by the steely prowess of the Eye Exercise Nazi. Hand-picked by the homeroom teacher to patrol the ranks, this pint-sized tattle tale on a power trip marches up and down the aisles barking orders at sloppy classmates who have become engrossed in other endeavors, such as attempting to fit an entire scarf into their mouth or creating sculptures out of eraser shavings gummed together with hand-sweat and maybe snot. (Yes, kids really are that gross when they think no one is looking.)

I'm thinking about asking General Kitty Wong to be my guru. After all, she is already a Face Poking Master at just six years old and three feet tall. If that isn't guru material, I don't know what is. Through her tough-love mentorship, I will become a role model for every child with a collection of "Participant" ribbons.   A beacon for every youngster who has walked the Terry Fox run. A ray of hope to all those who have accidentally forgotten their gym clothes on purpose, or instinctively covered their eyes at the sight of a soaring ball approaching. I'll be just like that fat guy Jared who used to be even fatter, except instead of Subway sandwiches, the secret to my success will be Chairman Mao's Eye Exercises. I can be on TV, and write a book called, "How To Get In Shape By Poking Your Cheeks A Bit."

So there you have it. Mao DID do something good*.

(*He also ended that whole foot binding thing.  So I guess that counts too.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Dog Ate My Homework And I Had to Wash My Hair

When I started this blog, I did it with the disclaimer that all expectations should be discarded. It was not going to be full of high adventure, exotic wildlife, or unique cultural insights.  It's not that I don't experience those things, I just didn't feel like having a blog where it would seem inappropriate to ruminate about tell-tale spit puddles, make snarky remarks about strangers, and reveal the details of my nasal fluids. I didn't want "that kind of blog." Now that I actually read quite a few other blogs, I have also discovered a few more kinds that mine is "not." I'm not going to hash out all of my emotional issues, or tell you that yesterday I did my laundry and ate noodles (although I might tell you about the blatant nose-picker I saw on the subway, but that's different). This just isn't that kind of blog either.

It has been about six weeks now since my last post. Okay, I've been slacking. I've been busy, uninspired, and distracted.

I could explain the "busy" part, and say that I was in Thailand again for two weeks. But that comes a little too close to an "Adventure/Travel" blog.

I could also explain that Michael was visiting for a week, and "Want to watch me type?" didn't really sound like an entertaining prospect to offer a guest. But that brings the blog a little too close to the "Yesterday I Had Oatmeal For Breakfast" variety.

I could also delve in to my mental preoccupation with the fact that I will be moving back to Canada very soon after four years in Asia, that the exciting part of my life may be over forever, that I'm not sure I can handle the workload and responsibility of grad school after living The Easy Life all this time and am genuinely afraid I'll be kicked out, that most of my friends in Canada have spouses or babies or serious jobs or lifestyles drastically different than my own and that I won't be able to relate to anyone anymore, that I'll have more wrinkles than everyone else, that I'm committing to a career that I don't think I'll ever be especially excited about or personally involved in mostly because I don't really have enough faith in myself to dive in to a riskier path, and that I'll be committed to at least two years in Toronto, without the time or money to travel (which I realize is the norm for most people, but it isn't for me) and by the time that two year minimum is over I'll be too old for it to matter anyways. But that would all definitely bring the blog way too close to the Therapeutic / Cathartic / Teenage Angst  genre. And, well, when it comes to emotional expression, I'm a bit of a bottler. (Or at the very least a "let it all out on One Person-er"... thanks/sorry, One Person...)

Now that we're all clear about all of the things I'm not going to say,  what exactly am I going to say?

Not much.

The only funny thing I can think of is that my new teaching assistant's name is Milky. I also have a first grade student named Gogo, who I might have advised to change his English name before it becomes too entrenched, in order to avoid the adult fate faced by such people as Skeletor, Minus, and Sorry, except that Gogo is a little jackass anyways. So whatever.

Laugh at that a bit and accept this non-explanation for my absence, so that we can move on to a real post about important issues such as nude pantyhose socklets (PHOTO EVIDENCE TO COME), the death of The Fart Joke, and maybe even that toilet series I promised way back when.

Don't worry. I'm sure that I'll be far more conscientious about blogging once I start my Master's and have actual important  things to avoid.