Day 61 - A Life of Happiness

Friday, April 8th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

I had recently reviewed the notes taken on the books “Willpower” and “The Power of Habit,” though I can’t recall which this tidbit came from. It talks about correcting behavior and the three factors that come into play: severity, immediacy, and consistency. 

Naturally, we think that severity is what matters. Otherwise, why would we have the death penalty? Just like the death penalty, we see from research that severity has very little to do with correcting behavior. In fact, being overly severe can have the opposite of the intended effect, causing people to rebel. No, more important than severity is immediacy - catch them in the act - and more important still, consistency. Every time you catch them, you must act if you want the behavior to stop as quickly as possible. They say that the only humane war (if there is such a thing) is one that is as short as possible. Likewise with stopping unwanted behavior. Rip that shit off like a bandaid.
Why am I talking about this?

Because that’s what I’m doing with my kids and picking their nose. I’m just going the public shaming route. Call out their name, and tell them not to pick their nose. If they get caught enough times, I make them go wash their hands. Funny enough, it’s actually working. I wasn’t sure shame would be a big enough factor. Some kids like the attention.

During the break, the little peoples pester me, which is fair because I normally play with them. One of the chronic pests gave me the opportunity to think I was writing on him in pen by quickly clicking or unclicking the pen silently when he wasn’t looking. Metal tipped pens work the best for this. The cold steel makes them think it's the ink tip. Heh. My own pestering days have taught me well.

Randomly placed on the wall of a ramp leaving
an underground parking garage.
I’ve found that the ¥1 coins are big enough to do some minor sleight of hand  with, so that’s also been fun to play around with kids. It’s so easy. They were also amazed at the “rubber pen” trick where you wiggle it in your fingers. Hell, adult Chinese people apparently have never seen this trick, which surprised me. Look at me, "The Magical Foreigner."*

Aurora brings a new girl with us for lunch, Karen. In the caf, Helena joined us, and we talked about shopping in Beijing. 

Helena tells me that you can bargain almost anywhere, even big stores. You can simply ask for a discount (yǒu zhé kòu ma? [yo juh ko ma?]). Seriously, they will sometimes give it to you. So strange. I also learned bartering strategy of one of my other coworkers: walk up to anything and simply start with ¥50. If they ignore you, raise it until they finally acknowledge you. The alternate strategy I hear was to ask how much, and give a ridiculously low counter, then see where they budge. If you don’t want to screw around, ask “what’s your lowest price?” (nǐ zuì dī néng mǎi? [nee zoy dee nung my]) and see what they say. If you don’t want it, walk, and they may shout “huílaí” at you, which means “come back!” In other words: game on.

"With Wheat"
I think it's a beer bar
I had learned from a friend back home that the Northern Chinese accents were considered more “manly.” Is Beijing was north enough? Aurora wasn’t sure, but Karen confirmed that people consider it so. Sweet, since that’s the accent I’m getting.

I’ve seen the kids running around with these hacky sack-like things, which look like a loose stack of thin pogs (remember pogs?) with feathers attached. They kick them around - just like a hacky sack - and I thought it was just some little thing kids play with. I did, that is, until this past weekend when I had seen old people playing with one. No joke, there were 3 60-70 year-olds in a big 4-square box, kicking it around between them. Both refreshing and confusing to see.

I remember Dan talking about how viciously he defends his time here, and wondering why he was so protective of it. Now I fully understand. Time slips through your fingers under normal circumstances, but seems to be much more exaggerated here. To use a strange metaphor, it's like being naked and given the challenge of keeping all the gold you can carry with you. You can get some, sure, but to get a substantial amount takes some, uh, "creativity." Most of the time is lost just in transit. To get anywhere takes at least a half hour, most likely an hour. This is why I only want to tutor for kids who will come to me. Dan suggested I put up posters around our apartment complex. Good idea...

The crowd waiting for a train to pass.
In this pic, the gates are beginning to opening.
Guess who called me back? Yeah, that tutoring center that I had been “rude” to in the interview. They had a kid from an international school. I didn’t really like to play their game, nor wasting an hour in transit getting to and from their school. I was only willing to take the student on if he came to me because I’ll be damned if I have to go to some tutoring center who skims off the top and costs me time for the privilege of it with the added (slight) risk of deportation. They had said they’d pay me whether the student signed up or not, and then stiffed me once the mom opted for 'not.' Whatever, lesson learned. The place was hiring Russians and passing them off as North Americans, to boot.

I entitle this one:
"Waiting for Rain"
After cabbing home and scarfing down some food, I tutored Lola again. This time, she actually sat and read. I was able to teach her some basic reading skills, and would write some sentences. Her sentence: “She looks like Coffee and he looks like candy.” Well, that’s something. “She looks like coffee” sounds rather poetic.

Our yogurt machine arrived today, only something like ¥70 ($13.75 CAD/$10.83 USD) for the thing, and can make yogurt in 8-10 hours. Oh baby, limitless, unsweetened yogurt. UnSweet deal. I urge Shimou to get ready to go to the gym. She drags her feet. This buys me some time to do scales on the guitar that Aurora had lent me. My, my, how the skill has slipped through my fingers like Beijing time.** But at least this comes back to me with 10 good minutes of drills.

I was hoping that the gym would be dead at 7pm on a Friday night. Wrong. Hulklings and Runners galore. Gym etiquette here is that of a 2 year old. Equipment is sparse. 
The court finds the following Gym Etiquette offenses:

-weights everywhere, unracked
-racked weights are out of order
-the hording of rare machines
-resting on rare machines
-foreignness to wiping machines after use (no supplies provided)
-never stripping weights (even on machines with pegs)

Lat Pulldown
I see a jacked middle-aged man who is about to start deadlifting. I expect him to be one of the people here who knows what he’s doing. He readies his stance, bends over, and arches his back when lifting the weight. I stifle a cringe. How did you get so fit when you curl your back for deadlifting?! Another strange thing about Chinese gyms is the whole bro spectator sport. These guys crowd around their bro who is about to lift and watch, sometimes videotaping. Each time, I check to see if it’s anything insane / impressive but… nothing. Not like I’m some demigod or anything, but watching a guy do 70lbs on the lat pulldown (right) isn’t something you stop and stare at.

Cable Machine

One final curiosity: their cable machine (left) only goes up to 70lbs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t those things usually go up to at least 200lbs?

After a shower back home, Shimou walked with me to the massage place. On our way, we passed a man who said, out of the blue “xìng fú” which is “happiness” of the enduring sort. "A life of happiness." There’s another word, just for contrast, “gāo xìng” which is also “happiness” but like, 'I am happy now,' or 'I am happy with this or that.' I have no idea what to make of it, but I’ll take it as good wishings. Maybe it was just bàijǐu (rice alcohol).

In the massage place, I got the girl who really works your muscles. Last time I was sore for a couple days following her punishment. I asked her name (nǐ jiào shén mé? [nee je-ow shen muh]) and she told me. I then said “nǐ zuì hǎo” which means “you’re the best.” She giggled slightly and seemed embarrassed. I knew it might come off wrong, but figured I’d risk it anyway. Shimou said it means something like “you’re the most important to me.” A romantic sort of gesture.


*One of my goals for getting older is being that jovial, magical old man who knows a lot of random stuff, wise enough to give good advice, and can do all sorts of 'amazing' tricks. One day.
**Might have to start using that metaphor more.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
Rice Alcohol (ranges wildly in quality, most foreigners seem to despise it)

To use (“wǒ kěyǐ yòng zhè gè ma?” = Can I use this?)
[y-oh-ng] (careful to sound like ohng, as I often accidentally say 'ahng')

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