The Lester File

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

World Cup Reflections

Much like most of the rest of the world, I am watching the world cup. I may not know much about the players, teams, or even the basic rules, but I'm somewhat addicted. A friend of mine here in China called me an "end-of-the-series junkie" to describe my enthusiasm for sports I know little to nothing about and I thought it quite to the point. I love sports when it comes down to the last few games when tensions are almost as high as expectations. The Mavericks v Heat finals were exciting (and recently abysmally depressing) not only because my team played them for the first time... ever, but because it was a culmination point, a collection pool for excitement and anticipation for fans and players alike. The meaningful and potent emotions present around these games in all sports are an ad and marketing firm's dream as evident in the abundant revenue generated at the end of all sport seasons where the ancient instinct to defend and support the tribe is at its peak. The World Cup is a most singular phenomenon along these lines because that tension and aggressive team pride exists long before the final match. The final game is truly something to behold. I've seen the World Cup twice now and both times i've been in a country where the games were more important than anything else. In Costa Rica 4 years ago, the first words out of a cab driver's mouth on game day was "where are you going to see the game tonight?" Not, "are you?," but "where are you." Now, in China, I'm asked the same question and I can't help feeling a bit nostalgic. The final games in any sport are the most exciting and win or lose I have to watch. I am a junkie in that sense.
Strangely, I'm not interested in true endings, however. In other words, games and World Cups will come and go. Endings only last a few months and then it starts all over again. My time here in China is not such an ending. This week will be my last week of teaching. I give two more exams tomorrow and then I will put a year of coaching, lesson planning, grading, and lecturing behind me. Life has become so habitual and comfortable these last months that I nearly forgot that soon I will be back home . In spite of the excrutiating heat at the moment, I've been walking back through places I walked only one year ago.
I remember how terrified I was arriving in Wuhan in the middle of the night in heat much like this. The haze only allowed a fuzziness to protrude from the neon lights shining from the sides of buildings and roads. Definitely a rabbit hole moment, but China wasn't exactly a Wonderland at first. As is usually the case, the pictures I had in my head were absolutely nothing like reality. Where were the rickshaws, silk clothes, kung fu, or even a friggin fortune cookie?? We arrived to a place beyond imagination and although Meghan warned me with her previous travel experience to China, neither of us were prepared for Wuhan. The smells, the language barrier, the very environment surrounding us was more foreign that any other place on Earth I've been. Everytime I was in public, I felt like a strange animal at the zoo or something. People actually stopped to stare as I walked by, they still do! I've never been more self-aware... Notabely, this awareness does not come with better choice in wardrobe..haha.
Anyway, the fear I felt definitely seems ridiculous now. Funny story though, I went back to an old massage parlor last week that I hand't visited in a few months with Jen and her family. I decided that this time I wanted something new
I had a massage, but also a glass jar suction thing to pull "badness" out of your body. What happens is, they have a bunch of little round glass jars and they light a fire inside each one for a second before immediately putting the jar on your skin. The jars then act like a vaccuum pulling the skin into the jar. They leave the jars on your skin for a few minutes and then remove them rather painfully to reveal huge whelts that show the level of toxins in the body... maybe? The darker the big red circle the worse is your Chi. Mine were pretty brown as you can see. I'm going to miss these small surprises, like that guy who danced to his own iPod at Vox while the DJ played. He was protesting bad music by dancing to his own beat. I loved that guy.... from a safe distance ;) I'll miss everything about China from the frustrating politics and rigid yet pliable social structure to the great food and good people. Next stop... India!!