Sunday, April 29, 2018

Z - Zoo Fun

When my children were younger, (by younger I mean young enough that they still appreciated their father and hadn't learned how to talk back yet) we would take weekly road trips. I had a job where I worked long hours and didn't see the family much during the week, but I always had weekends off and we liked to spend it on the road. Every Saturday, we would load up the car, head to Huck's to grab some gas station road trip food (mini tacos, egg rolls, sodas, etc.) and hit the road.

Some days, we ended up in a state park. A few times we stumbled onto a small town festival. Other times, we would drive into a big city. Often, we didn't even have a destination in mind when we left the house. We would just pick a direction and start driving. I loved these trips.

One particular Saturday, we decided to head to the zoo. When it comes to zoo trips, we are really lucky. We live in southern Illinois and the St. Louis Zoo is less than 90 minutes away. This is the zoo I grew up going to and it spoiled me for other zoos. It is ranked as one of the best zoos in the entire country, so I always end up disappointed when I am visiting someone in another part of the country and we end up at a lesser zoo. Our zoo is awesome. Suck it, Cleveland.

I was particularly excited for this trip because my kids were at that magical age. Kirsten was two and Christian was six. They would think the animals were the coolest things in the world to get to see. Plus, it was springtime and we had been looking forward to getting out of the house after the long winter.

Once we got there, we headed to the exhibit I always insist that we visit first. THE PENGUINS! I love penguins. I always have. This practice of seeing the penguins as soon as we get there first started when I was a child and I still do it when I go back to visit. After I see the penguins, I don't care where we go. I am happy.

I couldn't wait to share these magnificent birds with the kids and hurried them into the penguin house. As soon as we got inside, I unstrapped Kirsten from her stroller, put her up on my shoulders and turned around to see this:

"OK, let's see what's happening on the other side of the enclosure."

We moved further down to get away from the happy couple and were met with another public penguin porn performance. However, this time it was more like a penguin orgy. There were at least half a dozen penguin couples getting an early jump on the day…and each other. As much as I love penguins, I decided that maybe we should come back later. I don't allow guests in my bedroom to watch without paying admission and since the St. Louis Zoo is free, this just didn't feel right. Plus, I had my kids with me.

We worked our way up the hill to Big Cat Country to take in the jungle cats. My kids lost interest in the leopard pretty quickly because it just sat there.  The panther couldn't be seen, but the tigers were much more playful.

In the very next enclosure, the lions were up to the same thing. My wife commented that the animals seem to be enjoying the springtime weather as much as we were.

About 20 minutes later, we learned that the monkey house was not the place to be right now either. I will spare you the pictures. They are much more graphic.

We left the zoo after being there less than two hours, but in that time we got to see elephants, buffalo, three different species of bear, antelopes and even snakes getting it on. We decided that in future years, we would wait until later in the season to visit the zoo.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Y - Yoga

I don't do yoga. My wife does yoga. She does all the yoga. The doggy style pose, the missionary position, the sexy lotus. I don't really know the names very well, but she did talk me into doing yoga with her once. It didn't go well. I got bored pretty quickly and the instructor kept expecting me to move (like, over and over again). Not really my thing.

However, I am very happy that she does yoga. She really seems to enjoy it, which makes her happy and I like her to be happy. Plus, she wears tiny outfits to do it and she isn't self-conscious knowing that I am watching. This makes me happy. It's good for all the people involved. I just don't want to actually participate.

Here's a list of other activities I do NOT partake in:
  • Aerobics
  • Zumba
  • Speed walking
  • Resistance training 
  • Tae-Bo
  • P90X
  • Spin classes 
  • Any sports
  • Free weights 
  • Failing to SuperSize it
  • Crossfit
  • Adult coloring books
  • Jogging
  • Anything requiring a FitBit 
  • Sweat to the Oldies 
  • Logging out of Twitter
  • Eat things not covered in cheese
Now, I don't want to give the impression that I avoid all physical activity. I do get physical when the need arises. Here are some examples:
  • Answering the door when the pizza arrives
  • Searching for the TV remote
  • Charging my phone
  • Active listening when my wife speaks
  • Covering food with cheese
  • Digging to the back of the fridge 
  • Numerous daily instances of exaggerated eye rolls
Now, that I live in China, I am surrounded by people doing Tai Chi. In fact, there are tons of people in the park and on street corners every morning doing Tai Chi.

I don't do Tai Chi either.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

X - Xenoglossophobia

     noun - fear of foreign languages

Pictures don't do it justice
Several years ago, I took a trip to New York City with my daughter to see the Tim Burton exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. We came into town a few days early to take in the sites. We arrived at Times Square about midnight on a Thursday. The place was packed.

In addition to all the amazing billboards, I was fascinated by the number of languages I could hear spoken around us. Standing in one spot I heard German, Russian, Czech, French, Thai, and something that I believe was Klingon, but I couldn't be sure.

I love language. (I am not scared of it as the title suggests, but you come up with a topic starting with 'X'.) I loved learning Spanish and trying to communicate when I lived in San Juan. I currently live in Beijing and am surrounded by Mandarin speakers all day every day. My wife and I have taken lessons to better our communications here, but she is much further advanced than I am. I get excited talking to people from other countries, getting to know them and hearing their stories.

The college I went to had a foreign students night once a year. They encouraged all students from other countries to cook something from their homeland and bring it to a big fellowship dinner. I had some neighbors from Thailand and Burma who decided to collaborate and make a dish both families enjoyed. I was helping them with this meal and found myself left out of their conversation as they all spoke their common language of Lisu. I had no idea what they were saying and did my best not to mess up the food. They spent so much time laughing at me, I am sure I did it wrong.

Since getting my Master's degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I have the opportunity to be surrounded by other languages at all times. It can be overwhelming occasionally, but I love it.

Language is fascinating.

W - Water

Every time I see someone on Facebook or Twitter make some sort of remark about the Flint Michigan water situation, it irks me a little. Not because that situation isn't wrong, but because I live in a city of 28 million (Beijing) and the water here isn't safe either and no one says anything.

Now, the situation in Flint is a little different because it had something to do with some shady, behind-the-scenes deals and the public was not told about what was being done. That sucks and I am not defending it in any way, so please don't attack me over that in the comments.

However, stating that the people of Flint to not have access to clean drinking water is not true.

It's not.

If it were true, they would all be dead by now.

It is true that they cannot drink water straight out of the tap, but that doesn't mean they don't have access to clean water.

And this HUGE problem is just the way things are in much of the world.

I've lived in Beijing for the last 18 months and know that we cannot drink the water. In this huge city, the water is unsafe and there are no protests about it. The water is not only full of bacteria that could make you very very sick, but it has high metal content from the deteriorating pipes.

This problem is not just in Beijing. I have traveled around China and it is the same in every city I've been in.

I was in Ankara, Turkey a few years ago and we were warned do not drink the tap water. It must be filtered first.

I was in Vietnam a few weeks ago and was given the same warning. Do not drink. It's unsafe.

Now, in all of these places (Beijing, Ankara, Danang, Flint), a person has access to bottled water and various filtration systems. It is not ideal, but there is clean water to drink. It is only in Flint where it seems to be inexcusable.

In large parts of the world, people don't have clean water at all. They don't have access to clean bottled water and just have to make due with the dirty stuff. And their health suffers because of it.

Once again, I am not excusing the actions of the bureaucrats who created the Flint situation. However, I am suggesting that people having a situation the same as most of the rest of the planet is not the end of the world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

V - Violin

I do not play the violin nor have I ever wanted to, but I bet I'd be a pretty hard-core fiddler.