Monday, July 04, 2005

 
Independence Day
What follows is an exchange between an English teaching pal of mine named Patrick in Shenzhen who sent a mass e-mail today, the 4th of July, and my reply.
Patrick M wrote:
Dear Everyone,
Forgive me this - my first-ever - lame mass email. I just wanted say
HELLO and HAPPY 4th of JULY to all of my American friends -- and other
miscellaneous persons whose addresses have somehow found their way
onto my contact list. Instead of eating any substantially tasty
backyard food tonight, I'll probably eat at KFC. Instead of blowing
things up, I'm making a trillion copies on our aging copy machine here
at the school. Instead of hanging with friends and family in Wilson
Park, I'll be drinking strange Tibetan beer at this strange Tibetan
bar we've found. I hope all of you are doing something fun - if not
necessarily celebrating all that is the USA. Being away from home for
so long always gives one a certain kind of detached perspective, and I
can say that I miss the USA just as much as I'm glad I'm not living
there and having to deal with all of the embarrassment, BS, and gas
prices that have made headlines for the past year.
...but that being said, I'm going to be landing in St. Louis (via
Chicago) in just about 10 days, and I couldn't be more excited.
"Home" sounds so amazingly good to me right now. I'll be home, in
Granite City, on July 14th, and will be kicing around my parents' and
various friends' homes for about 5 weeks. ..This isn't news to most
of you, but if it is, I hope I get to - at the very least - talk to
you on the phone and do some catching up. On August 25, I'll get back
on a plane and come back to Shenzhen, but I'm saying GOODBYE for ever
and ever and ever and ever to being a Fake English Teacher. I'm
enrolling in Shenzhen University's intensive Chinese language course
in September, and have phony dreams of achieving fluency in Mandarin
by this time next year. Today's holiday is, for me, about celebrating
my impending indepenence from this craptastic institution that I've
sorta "worked" for for the past 10 months.
I do hope all of you have a great 4th, and I hope you are all having
fun doing whatever it is that you're doing. Drink some budweiser,
crank some Toby Keith, drive your kids to soccer practice in your SUV,
eat some fast food -- you know, all that stuff Americans like to do.
Look forward to seeing you all soon,
patrick

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
The Hong Kong kids are shooting fireworks below
Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey, baby, it's the Fourth of July

--Apologies to Dave Alvin
Dear Patrick,
Nice missive and a Happy Independence Day to you, also. Thank you This is my second 4th in China away from the nurturing bosom of the Motherland, though not my first away.
The worst was in Tongduchon, Korea 2nd Infantry Division Camp Casey 1975 when I was assigned to ride guard duty on a garbage truck to make sure the Korean garbage guys didn't rip anything off. (A month before they'd driven a US Army Jeep into the truck, covered it with garbage and were only discovered when the tie-down for the Jeep's radio antenna worked loose and sprang up out of the trash pile as they were at the camp's gate waiting to get out...) I was so pissed at having to guard garbage on the 4th of July that I bought 12 cans of Olympia beer, split it with the garbage men and looked the other way as they more or less looted mess halls along their route of "spare" steaks, vegetables, potatoes, soft drinks and large containers of fresh milk.
Last year I in Shenzhen I did score an invite to a barbeque held by Catherine's American boss. I was able to find fireworks at a corner store that the owner had left over from Chinese New Year. You might try the same trick if you get this in time. Gotta work today, but I'm wearing my American flag shirt much to the disgust and bemusement of some of my alien commie socialistic coworkers.
Hoist a Bud or a PBR for me and I'll do the same for you after work.
I had an overpriced mega-cheeseburger at a newly opened Ruby Tuesday today (recalling a line from The Simpsons 'I'm so hungry I could eat at Arbys!') and played some Bruce (Independence Day), Elvis (American Trilogy), Jimi (Star Spangled Banner), Simon and Garfunkle (America) and Dave Alvin (Fourth of July) before leaving for work. I'm feeling Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Justin
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