Friday, November 30, 2012

Movember

You could go here, here, or here for real information, or you could just watch this crappily-constructed video and then go on your merry little way.

video

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Grouch

Something has happened. Something awful.

In college, at Bethel, I was frighteningly social. I could chat it people up effortlessly; I could maintain conversation until the cows came home; I could make small talk with one thousand different DC-goers night after night.

At YouthWorks! it was straight-up my job to get to know and love people. People in the community, staff members, seventy different youth and their legal guardians every week…and I could verbally connect with nearly all of them (except with Naked Reub). We’d laugh, we’d joke, we’d make fun of Canada (which clearly doesn’t fall into the “laughing” or “joking” category), and relationships formed.

In life, at least until sort of recently, I was decent at talking to people. I had the ability and the desire to find common ground with whomever I was speaking to. I think it was my mom’s fault; she is the best conversationalist in the modern world. My father also modeled how to ask deep, probing questions when the time was right. So, for a time, I inherited these speaking skills.

But.

Maybe banter still lies within me, but what seems to have happened is this: I have turned into a grouchy old man. In the past months I have become more and more inclined toward isolation, toward silence, toward alone time. I still can connect to people. The problem seems to be with my desire to.

Ostentatiously, this isn’t true. I have tried my best to maintain my image as an annoying, loud teacher (does this translate into a good conversationalist?), I have let various strangers come into my home and couch and tried to make them feel welcome, and I still sort of try to learn Chinese so I’ll be able to communicate with an additional 1.2 billion people (y’all weren’t enough, sorry). But inside, I feel different. I would rather go home and read or prep for the next day after school instead of going to eat with the guys. I’d rather listen to music and zone out on a trip of any sort than chat with those around me, even closer friends. Friday night? Not a bad evening to write a blog post instead of hanging out with various friends or acquaintances [while they get bombed].

Why is my approach toward my fellow man seemingly changing? Is it because the busy-ness and frantic pace of teaching and of life wearing me out? Is it because I’m actually an introvert who was only until recently disguised as an extrovert? Is it because I am a man (believe it), and men are generally less talkative and more do-ative? Is it because I am constantly surrounded by people I’m for the large part unable to talk to, or because my interests are shifting (from talking to taking in more literature/music/culture/LSD), or because all day it’s part of my job to yuck it up with young people and fellow teachers alike?

Lots of possible reasons why. Very few concrete or satisfactory answers. The thing is, despite my current taste for solitude, I still feel as great after a good conversation as I did at YouthWorks!, or in college, or during high school. The act of forming bonds and connections with different someones hasn’t actually ceased to delight me.

And, I know deep down that those skills of connecting with others haven’t been put in me accidently. Wherever I have been, am, or will be, and whether I want to chat or not, connecting with others is how many people feel and give love, and despite this strange shift I’ve somehow undergone, I know that the commission to love hasn’t changed at all. I’m still to do that – love those around me – in word, thought, and action, word being the easiest one to pull off for me.

So I guess I’ll suck it up and still try to form relationships regardless of how I feel about doing it. But, now, I've got to go; I've got a book I want to finish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Surfing of the Couch

Six people crammed into my apartment, including a person under the foldout couch, multiple strange dudes on my bed, and someone out in the balcony wing. Forgotten umbrellas. The intercom buzzer thingy from downstairs blaring loudly at 2:30 in the morning. Long strands of foreign hair showing up in the weirdest places. Men sleeping with beer cans balanced carefully on their stomachs. Clogged toilets.

During the past eight months, travelers have come from various corners of the world to stay at my apartment. Whether they come or not basically depends on how busy my school is keeping me or whether I am in Beijing at all. People came in April, May, and June, and then school started winding down (so the workload piles up), so no one could come for a while. More folks came in July, August, and September, and then school again took over my life and choked me, and no one could come for a while. Now, again, I’ve changed my availability on my couch surfing profile to “Yes!”, so maybe more people will come soon.

Two years ago Mr. Mark Nola and I had the first couch surfing experience of our own, here in Beijing, and then later that year people started coming to stay with us in Seoul. I wrote a post about that crap at that time. Since then, though, much more surfing other people’s couches and hosting other travelers has happened. Some thirty different people from eleven different countries have laid their li’l heads down at various places in my home. The first people who came to my apartment in Beijing last spring were a couple - Ginte and Mindaugus - from Vilnius in Lithuania who were nice, quiet, and excellent cooks, although they kept claiming that the delicious potato dinner they’d made was just a meager, average Lithuanian meal, but it’s not when it’s made in my kitchen, since my kitchen never gets used. After them came Young from South Korea, who was not touring Beijing but teaching Korean and eating fried chicken with me and treating the ghastly wound I incurred during my baseball club at school, and then there was Nairuo from Pingyao who wanted to know about every picture on my wall, and also Mawati and a cousin of hers from Indonesia who only got to watch me grade papers but later showed some of my coworkers an absolutely amazing time when they went to Jakarta for a vacation. After school ended, Greg from Poland crashed on my couch for a few days because his landlord in Beijing had booted him from his home, and Agathe from France rolled through to explore the hutongs and take pictures of me and dogs and Mr. Haysom and to be hilarious and fun, and Jessica, Cindy, and Jason flew from Korea to Beijing to see stuff and to make me stay out clubbing until 5 in the morning and to laugh about how not all people in the world use toilet paper and to bring random other couch surfers over to sleep on the floor of my home, and then school started again this fall. But that didn’t stop Roy from Beirut from coming and answering all the questions that Ramon and I could throw at him about Lebanon, nor did school stop the Germans Kathi and her sister from eating with Ramon and Nallely and I and leaving thoughts of German apple wine in my head, or three really chill Polish wayfarers who said to come visit Poland even though they didn’t speak super highly of it, or Frederick from Germany and Clancy from Shanghai who brought over a whole bunch of German beer that I couldn’t drink (there’s still three large cans here, please call me) and took pictures of my vast collection of prostitute adverts (not as bad as it sounds, Mom, I promise), or these two kids from UCLA and Stanford who were as old as the first class of students I taught at CCS in Seoul and who ate with Dawner and I. Then at the end of September I had to stop, because I was getting mad busy at school and the last round of people who came left me with such a good taste in my mouth that I had to stop for a while and breathe. First, two German-Chinese girls - Anni and Niki - came to stay for a few days, and they were fun and quiet, but they had to leave and go to a hostel because three German wild men were arriving. These guys, Max, Christoph, and…Christoph, brought music, alcohol, bratwurst, and an endless parade of laughter and mirth to Wangjing. The weekend with them saw no sleep, lots of eating, meeting up with the girls who’d had to leave and other couch surfers, exploring every corner of the city, and just generally painting the town red. I still smile when I think of them making fun of how a student called me at 9 p.m. on a Friday night for something or for how they called my never-used kitchen “the Forbidden Room.” Not as popular as the Forbidden City, but intriguing nonetheless.

Then they left. I set my couch’s status to “Not right now” and concentrated on not getting fired for negligent, exhausted teaching.

But I could not forget about how fun it was.

Generally, all these people range from at least normal to absolutely awesome. No one has been weird or annoying or made me think, “Get the crap out of here.” Yes, at times, having people stay with me hasn’t been the most convenient, like when travelers arrive in the middle of the night or leave super early in the morning or are sleeping when I need to Skype, but those things are not surprises. The positive aspects of all these people completely outweigh the slight burden that they sometimes are. To construct my argument from weakest to strongest, I must admit that a lot of couch surfers who come pay for meals or leave me awesome stuff, even if it is just a postcard from their hometown or a note that says how fun meeting me was. Some have cooked, most clean up well, and sometimes their different skill sets can be put to use (for example, my first guest ever, Felix, reformatted my computer for me).

There are more than just tangible rewards in hosting these folks, of course. It is a community; there are relationships and connections that happen. Hearing about each person’s experience in China and in life is always at least a little interesting, if not completely intriguing, and some people have amazing things to say and amazing stories to tell. It never seems to matter whether we find common interests and share connections or whether we share about ideas that are completely unknown; either option is stimulating and thought-provoking. I feel like by being exposed to so many different ways or relating and joking and sharing and thinking, I know more about the world. And even though most of these people are in my life for about three days, there’s no telling when our paths may cross again. For example, the first couch surfer I ever met, Judy the Stupendous, is one of my better friends here in Beijing now. Will I have hosted someone from the next place I move to? There’s no telling.

The fact that these connections and relationships form is obvious and somewhat predictable, given the nature of this particular social networking site, but I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed the hosting aspect of couch surfing. I think it is something that my mom inoculated in me. When I was little, she’d always clean the house quite thoroughly whenever company was coming over, and my siblings and I would always ask, “Mom, why? Who cares?” But, now, when I know people are coming…I sweep the floor, wipe the bathroom down, and pick the hairs off the bar of soap. Make the place look good. Additionally, somehow I get joy from being able to advise people as far as directions and destinations go. How to take a bus from my home, what the best way to get to the Great Wall is, where Decathlon is, etc. It is sort of like teaching. Or maybe I like having power and knowledge and getting to flaunt it. Moohoohaha. And lastly, it is fun showing people a good time. I make almost every couch surfer who comes go to the Xinjiang restaurant by my school, “the best restaurant in Beijing.” Because it is. And maybe we’ll go somewhere else, to Gulou or to Sanlitun or somewhere else, and it is almost invariably fun. I would hesitate to even take much credit; Beijing is a fun town, and anyone who lives here could tell any visitor a hundred different cool spots to hit up. Maybe the difference is that not everyone is willing.

After reflecting, though, I realize there are some potential dangers to having many people sleep on my couch. I do not mean getting raped or robbed, although I suppose those are real possibilities as well. The thing I am a bit worried about is whether I am becoming too relationally or emotionally reliant on this extremely transient community. I have really, really connected with a few of the people who have stayed at my apartment, more so than I connect with 75% of my friends here, and two of the best weekends I have had this fall have been with couch surfers. But then you know what happened? Those people left. And I will probably never see them again. Yes, we connected super well, but do they know me? Do I know them? Can they understand me without having seen me interact with my students, or yell at a baseball game, or scream into a mic at KTV? Are these relationships worth investing in, over and over again, or would it be wiser to invest more in the people who are consistently in my life, even if I don’t click with them quite as well all the time?

The answer is probably to have a balance, and some of the people here who I value the most – Ramon and Nallely, Dawna, Judy, Mr. Haysom – have often hung out with the couch surfers and me, thus blending real/normal life with the transient/fictitious life that couch surfers at my home creates. As with most things in life, I can do some of both. The first month and a half of school, people came over all the time! But for the past month and a half, no traveling visitors have set foot in my home. A balanced year so far, I think.

I imagine that in the next couple days, a few e-mails will trickle in, and tourists will come again to Room 1809. I don’t know who they will be, or if they’ll be fun, or if we’ll connect. Maybe they’ll be some freaks who saw Anni’s post on my profile: “Reuben is eager to have a negative couchsurfing experience once, so to all the weird people out of there, send couch requests to him!!” Maybe they’ll be extremely quiet, extremely boring wayfarers from North Dakota. Nonetheless, if I’m lucky, they’ll share some awesome truth, some perfect laughter, and some worthwhile experiences with me. I can only keep my fingers crossed.

The first couch surfers I hosted in Beijing...ever. And probably the first meal anyone ever cooked at my apartment.


Young, Minnesota Twins napkins from my mom, and I.


This looks like a weird band photo, but it is just three English teachers from South Korea who don't know the meaning of the words "stop,""rest," or "take it easy."


We'll kick you in the face.


Have you ever been this tired? You've never been this tired.


Have you ever been this tired? You've never been this tired.


Guess where this young lass is from.


German women with Chinese (?) ears and an American dude.


Me, the three aforementioned wild men from Arfurt, Germany, and a Great Wall of Beer Cans that they built. I might add that, despite the fact that they were indeed wild men, the Great Wall of Beer Cans was the only indicator that they'd ever been at my apartment. So fresh, so clean!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Operation Golden Dragon, Pt. 5

The following account details experiences that, though due in no part at all to my own efforts, I believe to be possible only in the country I am currently in. Not much writing, but plenty of pictures. Just how you like it, if I recall.

(1) Beijing Ancient Observatory

It was a Saturday in early November. It was rainy, cold, and miserable, the kind of day that is best spent inside in front of a fire fueled by math textbooks and copies of George Steinbrenners’ biography. However, October had been a taxing month, one full of work-filled weekdays, obligation-heavy weeknights, and activity-drenched weekends. Dawna and I finally found a free Saturday, albeit a wet one, and headed out to explore somewhere complete unaffiliated with anything we did on a regularly basis. Since we don’t view the night sky very often – because we live in Beijing and because we’re both near-sighted – the two of us decided that the Beijing ancient observatory would be a nice, relaxing break from our nasty, starless, busy lives.


We rode the subway to Jianguomen Station and got out with no plan. The observatory loomed up before us, and after purchasing an umbrella, we entered the quiet premises. The observatory has been around for some six hundred years and apparently is one of the oldest in the world, although I know in Rock Rapids there are at least that are older. As expected, all manner of observation instruments littered the place. There was a courtyard flanked by many exhibit halls, a nice garden area, and what I assumed to be the observatory itself: a biggish building with a bunch of star-gazing paraphernalia atop it.

We perused the courtyard and the halls full of information about the observatory.



Then we scampered through the garden.



Finally, we ascended the tower and perplexedly guessed at the function of each of the wild instruments on its roof.




Was it an interesting visit? It was alright. Did we learn a lot? Sort of. Was it an excellent distraction from real life? Affirmative.


(2) Gubeikou Great Wall Hike

It was a Saturday in mid-September. The weather was absolutely golden. At 8:30 I piled into a van with three slow, tubby Dutch women, an Australian couple, a chick from Chicago, some driver, and Sonia, a friend whom I wish would take me on her hiking trips with her every weekend. Alas, it cannot be. Real life beckons.


We drove out of the city into the countryside northeast of Beijing and ate an early lunch at some family’s restaurant outside before heading up into the hills. There is not much to tell after our feet met the stones of the wall. We tramped around from guard tower to guard tower, sometimes enjoying easy stretches of level wall but occasionally straining up the stairs of seemingly-vertical wall. The weather could not have been better, and other than having to wait for the aforementioned tubby Dutch women, the walk was quiet and contemplative.





Eventually, after moseying around in one direction for about three hours, avoiding some people trying to sell us tickets halfway through the hike, and snapping many gigabytes of pictures, our troop reached the end of the section (read: the government had closed off the next section, which looked pretty treacherous anyway). A descent was made, the van picked us up, and we drove back to Beijing. I got out at Sanyuanqiao Station and went home.




I love going out there. I don’t want to write a bunch of cliché sentences about “getting away from it all” or “abandoning the concrete jungle,” even though those are sort of my sentiments. I think I could easily enjoy a hike through a city, were hills to be next to skyscrapers. What I really dig is that hiking of almost any kind is solid and sometimes challenging exercise, non-competitive, scenic, and can be destination-driven. This particular jaunt on the Gubeikou Great Wall was all those things, and it made me happy. Swing.


(3) Military Museum

It was a Thursday in early July. I had nothing else to do. So I went to the Military Museum at – you guessed it – the Military Museum subway stop on the infamous Line 1 of Beijing’s subway system. I figured the museum would be worth a visit at least because it has a subway station named after it. But ironically Beijing West Railway Station – the most heavily-trafficked railway station in Asia – is nearby, so perhaps the subway stop should be called something else.


Anyway! I went there on a whim one afternoon, and when I arrived, there was a huge line of people pushing and shoving to get in to this free museum. I almost left, so annoyed was I – what were people doing here on a Thursday afternoon in July? Didn’t they have places to be? But I eventually shouldered my way in and got through the queue after about twenty minutes.


There was a massive building towering up above all the exhibits, and I figured that that would be the museum part, but it was not. It wasn’t even open. All the other exhibits, however, were. There were basically big aluminum sheds, like what farmers keep tractors in, that housed all manner of military equipment. There were airplanes, huge missiles, boats, cars, trucks, tanks, guns, and ammunition of every size and substance imaginable.







At the center of all the exhibits was what I’d call a tank tent. There were a million different tanks under its aluminum canopy.




I think there were a lot of out-of-towners, as I found myself being photographed a bit more than usual (read: once).


Most of the death instruments on display had labels in Chinese and English and then a description in Chinese, so I didn’t learn a ton about what everything was and how it all worked. It was interesting walking around and checking everything out, though. I did have the thought most of the time that China has not been overly successful in its modern military expenditures, so I guess it’s sort of interesting that they’ve got a museum dedicated to the art of war. Maybe there is museum for Chinese approaches to ancient warfare hidden somewhere that I don’t know about. Stay tuned.


(4) Protests

This is old news, but it happened, and at that time, it was all anyone in Beijing seemed to be talking about. At some point in September, the Japanese government bought some islands from a private Japanese owner. Japan – which calls the islands Senkaku – and China – which calls the islands Diaoyu – argue over who the islands rightfully belong to. There are allegedly some oil reserves nearby, but the dispute goes back and back and back, and you know there is more in the mix as well. Japan captured the islands from China in 1895, and then the U.S. grabbed them after World War II; America returned the islands to Japan in 1972. And that is where they’ve been since then.


To put things in context, China and Japan have had some bad blood in the past, what with Japan invading at various points during the last couple hundred years, and so instead of a civil conflict confined to meeting rooms and media, extremely angry protests erupted all over China when these islands changed hands from Japanese owners to the Japanese government. Japanese cars got flipped over and/or burned, stores and factories got smashed up, and 7-11’s got closed (much to the chagrin of all the teachers at my school). In many cities, the protests were borderline out of control. In Beijing, it wasn’t so bad. Feel free to read more here or here.


The church I attend – Beijing International Christian Fellowship – happens to lie right across the street from the Japanese embassy in Beijing. On September 15, a Saturday, Dawna forwarded me an e-mail advisory from the church (entitled “Urgent Notice for BICF Location”) that pointed out that the road that goes by the church, which is a pretty major one, would not be open the next day - Sunday - because of protests, so church goers should plan accordingly. I read it and did some research on the situation and then went to bed.


The next day I got up and took the subway to Liangmaqiao Station, from where I always walked to BICF. This Sunday, though, there were scads of people everywhere. Near the station, all was fairly quiet; a couple small groups of people were assembling in the streets with signs. But nearer to the embassy, hundreds of people were marching round and round. I can still hear the sounds of chanting and shouting; it was loud loud loud and angry angry angry. A bit unsettling. Nonetheless, there were way more many people standing around watching than there were protesting, and there was a sufficient number of security/police/paramilitary personnel so that things didn’t look like they’d get too out of hand. Some eggs and water bottles got thrown, but no major damage was done to the embassy.




Needless to say, there were a million pictures taken by everyone and their mother, and all of those pictures are on the internet. I didn’t have my camera (although after I arrived, I texted a couple friends who were coming to arm themselves with theirs) but I did steal a few of Dawna’s pictures from that morning. For this very post.


It was interesting. I have plenty of opinionated thoughts on the whole situation, but I don’t think that anyone would benefit if those thoughts went onto the internet in any way, and they are not unique or groundbreaking, so I’ll just keep them to myself. I will say, though, that if the United States of America ever does anything to stir up that sort of hateful emotion against Americans in Beijing, I would be dead.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Photography Quiz

Directions:
1. Look at the picture
2. Answer the accompanying multiple choice question
3. Tally up your score
4. Win a prize
Quiz-takers who answer 25-30 correct usually have way to too much time on their hands and possibly have more than one Facebook account. Quiz takers who answer 15-24 correct generally have a normal life, a Honda, maybe a girlfriend, and probably a cat or a dog. But not both. Quiz takers who answer 5-14 correct often work at Wendy's, hitchhike home for Christmas, and have both a dog and a cat, and that's not enough. What qualities does a quiz taker have when he or she only gets one, two, three, or maybe as few as zero questions correct, you may ask? You'll have to ask Dawna for the answer to that one.

1.
a. Necktie store robbery
b. Escaped asylum intern chooses appropriate strangling tool
c. Me on a Friday morning
d. Me thinking about garage sales, because that is where the tie I'm holding came from, I think

2.
a. Payday at BWYA
b. If all the grades are high in me and Ramon's classes this term, you'll know why
c. A normal day at BWYA
d. Ramon and I about to go buy as much 冰红茶 as possible

3. 
a. Baseball tryouts gone horribly wrong
b. An awkward moment caught on camera between teachers
c. BWYA Sports Day
d. International Translation Day: American Slang Booth

4.
a. Unquestionably the most inexplicable picture in this quiz (okay, #30 is pretty weird, but...there's a shred of rationale there)
b. A super twisted Bigfoot Beer ad
c. Dawna's only friend in China
d. Onstage at The Last Camp

5.
a. Sports Day at BWYA
b. Green Bay Packers Day at BWYA (in your dreams, Paul...)
c. A bunch of fruits
d. A normal day at BWYA

6.
a. Mice from "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury
b. Slippers my mom gave me when I was in college
c. Shoes to wear while spelunking, sort of like those headlamps, only the opposite
d. Two out-of-control Beijing motorcyclers bearing down on me and my camera at night

7. 
a. A picnic in Chaoyang Park
b. A group of suburbians on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes
c. Two potential YouthWorks! staffs on a retreat
d. A group of scientists stopping for a lunch break during an air-checking expedition in Beijing

8. 
a. The back wall and playground at my school
b. A photo from Ghengis Khan's Twitter account
c. Gubeikou Great Wall
d. The border between China and North Korea

9.
a. Students looking plaintively at a picture of Justin at an Off-Holiday Halloween Party 
b. Students watching a movie about what college actually is
c. Students studying hard
d. Me wasting time with a camera when I should be working

10.
a. Where's Waldo? Wangjing version
b. Two couch surfers from Germany and I at my apartment  
c. One hungry maniacal person, one cold person, one flashy Korean-wannabe person, all together
d. The most women who have been in my apartment at one time in 2012

11.
a. My reaction to a pro-Yankees statement
b. Target practice; all the previous shots from a further distance were way off
c. A dispute over who is hogging the most bandwidth on the wireless network
d. Mr. Haysom and I hanging out in the teacher's lounge at BWYA

12.
a. Asking for students' homework
b. Singing a heart-rending love song about a lost lover
c. Hanging out in extended homeroom
d. Speaking Chinese really intensely

13.
a. Me giving a student some M&M's: "Here, hold out your paw there"
b. Me giving my third baseman a pound after some solid defense: "I knew there was a reason I put you in there"
c. Me pushing a student away from our baseball huddle by the hand: "And stay out!"
d. Me meeting a new student: "สวัสดี ยินดีที่ได้รู้จักคุณ!"

14.
a. A Taiwanese horror film
b. Carving pumpkins for the 2012 Halloween season
c. A manifestation and reflection of two human souls in pumpkin form: mine is a cat (because I love cats); hers has no teeth (because she hates teeth)
d. One person getting paid a lot by another to take a photo together

15.
a. Sammy Sosa at the Great Wall of China
b. Sammy Sosa at the Great Wall of China
c. Sammy Sosa at the Great Wall of China
d. Some Chinese kid at the Great Wall of China

16.
a. Close Encounters of the E10 LitFun Kind
b. Everyone had a partner, our class had an odd number of students, and we got desperate
c. All jokes aside, this is a student with a really weird skin disorder (and an unbelievable distaste for clothes)
d. A really unproductive, one-sided conversation

17.
a. Four good people and I consuming an iron tower of baked meat
b. Four good people and I consuming an iron tower of baked meat for my birthday
c. Four good people and I consuming an iron tower of baked human meat for my birthday
d. After having spent the afternoon hunting, capturing, gutting, and preparing our meal, four good people and I consuming an iron tower of baked meat for my birthday

18.
a. A secret society of cross dressers at BWYA
b. A super creative fundraiser involving paying to see male teachers dress up as ladies
c. An exclusive Halloween party for attractive educators
d. A students' Linda Richman homework assignment

19.
a. A brave catcher
b. An photo showing that, even on sunny days, Beijing is still sort of smoggy
c. Me about to strike a student out with a wicked curveball that drops right out of the zone, a change-up that will leave his bat out in front for days, and a fastball that paints the corners like the Hot Teacher will be painting his eyes next week
d. Evidence that, since the batter is not wearing a helmet nor the catcher a mask, concerned e-mails about the safety of the baseball club were legitimate

20.
a. A manifestation and reflection of one human soul in bag form: mine is garbage
b. My Halloween costume for 2012: I'm dressed as Dawna's face
c. Me carrying multiple full garbage bags that I single-handedly filled with Pringles cans
d. A costume for a church skit

21.
a. Surprise birthday party! By E9H
b. An alternative activity to homework planner checking
c. A photo that was posed really, really well for; look at the perfect alignment of the class in the room, the class around the teacher, the distance between the students and the sides of the picture, the balance of students on each side, etc.; the only problem is that the camera wasn't quite centered on the ceiling lights
d. Six peace signs, one shrug thing, a "rock on" sign, one half-hearted thumbs up, and twenty-one smiles

22.
 
a. A group of boys who were just told that they were getting a free lunch
b. Russians, Koreans, Chinese, Thais, Japanese, Indonesians, and Americans posing for a picture that I told them was expressly being taken for my mom
c. BWYA's baseball team after its first victory ever
d. Ten BWYA hats, one Twins hat

23.
a. A parade of happy Chinese people celebrating a Chinese holiday on Liangmaqiao Road
b. Protests against the Japanese's purchase of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands from private Japanese owners
c. The second-most common post topic on Weibo - China's Twitter - for weeks and weeks; first was the BWYA baseball team's first victory ever
d. A group of fans heading to see Psy play at the National Centre for Performing Arts in central Beijing

24.
a. Yoga in the park
b. Me coming out of a cartwheel and into a Frisbee throw
c. A little Chinese girl watching me and thinking, "I'm going to move further into China as soon as I can"
d. Me [poorly] performing an athletic feat that no one else could perform without violently ripping his or her pants wide open at the crotch

25.
a. A lightpole on a foggy night in Britain
b. Me reading under a string of Halloween lights in China
c. Unidentified flying objects in Tahiti
d. A new star being born in Nebulae 5R-S

26.
a. Me after some boys shaved my face in homeroom
b. Some boys pointing out how much I missed shaving in homeroom
c. Leftover surprise birthday cake
d. Me beginning to lose a game of "I Bet You Can't Make Me Laugh"

27.
a. Birthday presents from my mom, students, and friends (including Halloween lights, puppy chow, a t-shirt, a flannel, a book about North Korea, a book by Tony Danza, a book about the Minnesota Twins, a tie, some Twins pens and a toothbrush, a pomegranate, a coffee mug, and some tissue paper)
b. Some stuff (including Halloween lights, puppy chow, a t-shirt, a flannel, a book about North Korea, a book by Tony Danza, a book about the Minnesota Twins, a tie, some Twins pens and a toothbrush, a pomegranate, a coffee mug, and some tissue paper) I found in a closet that I hadn't explored in my apartment
c. Things (including Halloween lights, puppy chow, a t-shirt, a flannel, a book about North Korea, a book by Tony Danza, a book about the Minnesota Twins, a tie, some Twins pens and a toothbrush, a pomegranate, a coffee mug, and some tissue paper) that couch surfers have left at my apartment
d. An offering (including Halloween lights, puppy chow, a t-shirt, a flannel, a book about North Korea, a book by Tony Danza, a book about the Minnesota Twins, a tie, some Twins pens and a toothbrush, a pomegranate, a coffee mug, and some tissue paper) that I gave last Sunday at church

28.
a. Me and Mr. Haysom observing one of the teachers in drag from #18
b. Me and Mr. Haysom listening and erroneously reacting to a student talk smack about the upcoming teacher-student basketball game
c. Me and Mr. Haysom laughing at absolutely nothing whatsoever
d. Me and Mr. Haysom watching a student push a teacher out a window

29.
a. Me
b. Three hilarious German couch surfers
c. A mountain of beer cans accumulated by said German couch surfers
d. All of the above

30.
a. Real life
b. Anne Hathaway's wildest fantasy
c. Adam Shulman's worst nightmare
d. A screen shot of the sickest student-made video I'd ever seen, one that was given to me at the beginning of class on my birthday and one that is too big to upload onto blogger.com

Answers:

1. c         
2. c    
3. d 
4. d
5. a
6. b
7. a
8. c
9. a
10. b
11. d
12. c
13. b
14. b
15. d
16. d
17. b
18. b
19. c
20. d
21. a
22. c
23. b
24. b
25. b
26. c
27. a
28. c
29. d
30. d

Admittedly, there is more than one legit answer for many, many of these awful photos.