I have not posted since I arrived in LiuHe. It would be a waste of space for me to attempt to explain what has happened over the past four months. So instead, I will introduce you to the people that I spend 99.9% of my time with: Johan Rocha, Zhu Yun Te, and Cai Qiong Qiong.
Introducing Johan Rocha….the bad joke maker.
Johan is my other half in 六合。He was born in Brazil, moved to America when he was eight, went to college at Texas A&M, and worked as a teacher for Teach for America for two years before heading to China.
Johan has two sides. We have unbelievably impenetrable, serious “work Johan”; then, we have” silly bitch Johan”–I love both dearly. “Work Johan” is relentless in his pursuit to learn Chinese–his fifth language. “Work Johan” builds fake cities for his students, so he can guide them through the city and teach them english directions. “Work Johan” plans meetings for us to maintain group unity. “Silly bitch Johan” is a bad joke maker, as he has knack for making some really bad jokes–always leading to intense fits of laughter on his side (this is usually when we chant “bad joke maker”). “Silly bitch Johan” places giant orange peels on his head and sings silly songs about broccoli and being hungry while we cook. “Silly bitch Johan” also takes really suggestive photos (see below). He has a true commitment to testing out as many jokes a day as possible. These jokes—good and bad—have become one our main sources of laughter in LiuHe.
In addition to being a silly bitch, Johan is my best friend here. He is who I complain to, cry to, and beg to drink baijiu(chinese rice wine) with me after a long day of work. To entertain ourselves, we often resort to asking one another about hypothetical situations that will never actually happen in LiuHe. (i.e. “Do you want to go to that new club downtown?”, “Did you hear they were building a new Wal-Mart in LiuHe?”, or (my personal favorite)” I can’t wait till Florence and the Machine films her next music video here.”
Meet Zhu YunTe….the vamp.
Oh, baby Zhu 小猪。 Lucky for YunTe, his last name Zhu is a homonym for another Zhu in the Chinese language–pig. So, we often call him 小猪–small pig. “Small pig” is also very small. 小猪 went to college at sixteen, so at twenty years old he is starting his career. We might make fun of 小猪 a lot, but we have never let his size fool us. He is who we go to for everything, which is why we have a saying in our village: “Let YunTe do it.” Qiong Qiong (see below) recently purchased a bell for him to wear. Now, we always know his whereabouts.He can build anything, fix anything, and he never fails to make us laugh.
It would be an understatement to say that Yunte has a potty mouth. It would also be dishonest if I said that his potty mouth was a result of words that he independently sought out. I may have introduced him (aka trained him) to use the best words that the English language has to offer. As a result, it is quite common for Zhu to enter one of our bedrooms and say something like ” Go fuck yourself”, “Who the fuck cares?” , “What the fuck?”, or “Listen bitch!”. As if this is not entertaining enough, Zhu also carries around a small BB gun with plastic pellets that he uses to add to the impact of his potty mouth. He also wears a great hat that says “vamp” on the front–according to him, “vamp” is slang for “bitch” in English. So, with his vamp hat on and his BB gun out, he often walks into my room and says something like, “Give me the fucking yogurt bitch.”
I love this guy! 🙂
Introducing Cai Qiong Qiong….the strong woman.
Two weeks into training at Summer Institute (so, before we arrived in LiuHe) Qiong Qiong was hit by a motorcycle. She has serious head trauma, and no one was sure how she would make it out. Even after four weeks in the hospital, she did not opt to return home–she stuck with her commitment to TFC and moved to LiuHe. And thank God she did! My first two weeks in LiuHe were spent solely with “the vamp” and the “bad joke maker.” As much as I love those guys, I could not wait for Qiong Qiong to arrive.
Qiong Qiong is a rare combination of a stoic, maternal woman. We often refer to her as “the strong woman.” She is firm, yet gentle. And while she still has not gotten used to my rather affectionate personality, she is getting there slowly. At first, she would scream when I would try to give her random hugs, but now she just laughs. She even gave me a hug the other day!
She is who I like to call ‘my main bitch’. To say she cooks well is an understatement. She does it all: classic Chinese chilled cucumber dishes, spicy peppercorn fish, pumpkin pancakes, stir fried egg and tomato, my favorite eggplant and potato recipe, rice porridge, spicy shredded potatoes, comforting mushroom and spinach soups, and so much more. In addition to her being a Chinese cooking mentor for me, she is also my Chinese tutor. With her dependability and down to earth nature, she is a grounding figure in our group.
The below pics will probably reveal more than my words.