Thursday, May 31, 2007

Birthday Cake

I can't find chocolate lava cake with raspberry sauce, so I got myself chocolate mousse and raspberry mouse, single serving, and ate them at work while my students took a TOEFL practice test. Close enough, I guess, although I would have LOVED a chocolate lava cake with raspberry sauce...I'll have to get one this summer.

The cake my friends brought me. The little chocolate thing says "生日快乐"。I didn't eat any (I am not a big fan of cake). But, everyone else enjoyed the cake, so I think it was okay. Even though I don't eat cake anymore (must be old age), it is the the thought that counts, and I REALLY appreciated it.

Friday, May 25, 2007


For many members of the black/African American community, complexion is often an integral part of identity. We use many different words to describe complexion, from the edible - caramel, chocolate, coffee - to the natural - mahogany, sunshine, Georgia clay - to the location on a spectrum - high yellow, light-skinned, brown-skinned - and even sometimes the offensive and intentionally hurtful. These descriptions often relate beauty and color, and color-linked standards of beauty change with time and community. So, for example, a person in NYC that might be described as being the color of coffee might also be described as being the color of dirt. The former implies a rich, strong color and the latter, an ugly, dirty color.
My best friend, who has a medium-brown complexion, and I were talking about this the other day. She mentioned that recently she's heard people describe her as being "light". This is amazing to her, because growing up she thought she was the color of charcoal. She grew up in a community where light skin was often associated with beauty, and brown skin was often referred to in less than positive terms. As a child, she would never have imagined that anyone would consider her "light". Her skin color hasn't changed, but her community and the associations with that color have.
As for me, my complexion was never anything spectacular or extraordinary. Although I was subjected to the usual slurs and compliments given to people of my complexion, there are enough people in US media with similar complexions that I was by no means isolated. In China however, my color is more unique. And not only to the Chinese, but also to many of the Africans. In fact, recently (now that summer is here and you can see the skin on more than my face) when African guys meet me for the first time, they talk endlessly about my color. They talk about it in terms of beauty and love, and it is so interesting to me. There are light skinned blacks in many African countries, and so it is not the fact that I am lighter that makes my color intriguing. Apparently, it is just my particular color that they find attractive. And all of this talk about color, although flattering, causes me to think further than the words they are expressing. Although in many communities complexion is important - every day I see Chinese women running in fear of the sun, afraid to get "black", and European women lying in the sun, trying to get "brown" - as complexion is an indicator of health, fitness, occupation or socio-economic status, I am not sure how many communities have a similar range of complexions or the sordid history related to complexion as the African diaspora. And this history, from yesterday all the way back to the time the first slave was forced to embark on the middle passage, allows me to smile and say thank you on the outside, and reason with the part of myself that is cringing on the inside.

On a similar note, this semester brought with it new students, and new students means more introductions. Now, I am 100% black American all the way back to slavery. Now, I know that this is a lie, but it is for the greater good. Let me tell you why.
A while ago, I went and ate lunch with a few of my classmates and friends. On the way back from lunch, a guy from Turkey, who is the friend of my friend MM, and I were talking, the usual introductions.
"So, where are you from?," he asks.
"America," I reply.
Completely dumbfounded, he responds "America?".
"America?," he responds quizzically.
"Yes, America. The United States of America."
"Yes, why are you so surprised?"
"Oh, usually people from America don't say America. America is what we say in Turkish."
"What do people from America usually say?"
"Ok, sometimes we say I'm from the U.S. But we also say "the States", and sometimes 'America'."
"Really, you're from America?"
"You're a citizen?"
I am annoyed. "Yeeeess. Why is that so hard for you to believe?"
"You don't look American."
"Really? What do I look like?"
"African? What about me looks 'African'?"
He is at a loss for words. He looks at the other people around us.
"You look like you and MM are from the same country."
MM is from Niger. He is tall, lanky, very dark skinned, and our eyes, noses, mouths and cheekbones are markedly different.
"MM! We look nothing alike. Absolutely nothing alike. What you really mean is that because I am black, you don't think I am American."
"No, it is just that most of MM's friends are African."
"You're Turkish."
"You look like the African girls."
At this time, there were two (of the three on campus) African girls in front of us. And now, I am completely confrontational.
"I look like them? How? Tell me how, exactly, I look like them. Because I know you are not looking closely, I will tell you that at first glance I am considerably lighter and have completely different hair. If you were just going on appearance, you wouldn't think I was from the same country as either of those girls. Why is it so hard for you to believe that I am American? There are black people in America, you know."
"Of course I know that there are black people in America, everyone knows that."
"Really. You don't seem to know."
The conversation got progressively worse after this, but I will spare you the details. It should suffice to say hat he was quite adamant that I don't look "American", and I was adamant that he had no idea what he was talking about and that not only is he ignorant, but that he was making a fool of himself. This continued until he noted that he "should stop before he gets himself in more trouble". After that, for the next two weeks, every time I saw him I said "Hello my friend who doesn't believe that there are black people in America," childish, perhaps, but absolutely hilarious.
So, why am I 100% American? Because I am TIRED of people who act like they know differnt and feel like they have the authority to question my citizenship. Because I REFUSE to feed into their stereotypes. Because I WANT THEM TO KNOW that there have been black people in America, not just the country, but the Americas, for centuries. Because there are black people that have NEVER been to Africa. Because there are black people that have NO IDEA where in African their ancestors are from. Because they would be ANGRY if anyone questioned their CITIZENSHIP or GENEALOGY, and so they have no right to question ours. And so, because I am not going to give anyone the "I was born in, my father was born in, his father was born in..." story so that they can attempt to link me back to Africa, I tell them that my family is American back to the time of the slaves. I am not ashamed of my ancestry, or my own personal history, but this is too much. Anyone who needs to know anything else already knows, and if they don't know and need to find out in the future, I'm sure they will.
A Chinese friend of mine got quite a history lesson a few nights ago, when he said to me, "I think you immigrated to America." I asked him why he thought that, and he responded, honestly, that when he watches American TV he only sees white people. So, I told him about the Middle Passage, slavery, segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and current discrimination. When I was done, he said, with all sincerity, "I am so sorry to ask." I told him that he doesn't need to be sorry, it is what is done, but I am glad he asked because now he can correct his friends when they assume that all Americans are white. He even knows now that there are lots of non-white Americans, including some Chinese-Americans that immigrated over a century a ago! Each one reach one...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tongji song

This is the video of the TongJi song, there will be more about the centennial celebration as soon as I sit down to write, but in the meantime, enjoy the song...we actually like it! :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Janet Jackson - If (long version)

This one is a special request, so here's to you my forever friend. I got the long video, 'cause it's good and we only got to see it once or twice before they replaced it. Shout out to DLSA class of '94 and especially my girl Chika, my choreographer and co-conspirator.

For those of you that have no idea what any of that means, here's the short story.
For a school performance when I was in 8th grade, the girls that lived in Queens (and thus commuted together regularly) decided to perform "If". We watched the video and learned the choreography, then we held auditions. We didn't have enough boys for all of the girls, so Chika choreographed steps for the background dancers that didn't include guys, but fit seamlessly with the choreography that we learned from the video. We went to a small private middle school in the city (oh, that's Manhattan for those of you that don't know) and this caused QUITE a stir. The lyrics are a little more sexual that most of the adults thought was appropriate. (Okay, maybe they are a lot more sexual than was appropriate.) And then, Ms. Bunn (our vice-principal) discovered that there was some hand-genital and hand-chest contact as part of the choreography. We were told to edit those parts, and we did - sort of. LOL. Imagine a bunch of 13 year olds doing this dance, yes, the entire thing. And us in middle school...lets just say that we were a mature bunch - mentally, emotionally and physically. We wore all black, and we had black bandannas on our heads (that was the style at the time), and the guy doing the lighting made it flash during the instrumental part in the middle- HOT. Oh, and by the way, I was Janet.

Premier Wen Jiabao visited Tongji University

I know that most of you can not understand a single word, but for those of you that can this might be interesting.

This is a follow-up to my posting a few days ago, which mentioned that I saw Wen Jiabao at TongJi.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Takin' you back

Okay, so I love youtube...can you tell? This one has nothing to do with TongJi or China, but it is an excellent throwback song.
Being as I am in a throwback mood, I'm gonna give a shout out to my mom. I love you! Remember the living room at 147? If you feel it in your heart and understand me, stop right where you are everybody sing along with me...
To everyone else, I hope you enjoy the throwback. I would also like to let all you know that I STILL remember every word. Maybe I need to get some Chinese songs in my head! If you are too young to know this song, or did not grow up listen to this type of music, just give it a watch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

同济大学百年校庆标志发布动画-- Tongji University Centennial Logo Animation

Just to get you all ready. This year is TongJi's 100th Anniversary. And you know what that means? It means that right now the campus is a flurry of activity, as lights and stages and flowers and trees goes up (or get changed or refreshed), construction on numerous buildings is being completed, and dignitaries and politicians visit the school. (I saw Wen JiaBao, the Premier/Prime Minister of China on Monday.) So, you can view this video and begin to understand the meaning behind TongJi's logo. A little background before the fun stuff. LOL. There will be more videos in the coming days . . . enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2007


In class two days ago I learned two interesting things:

1) The reason why the toilet stall doors in public restrooms in America have a space at the bottom is because many Americans kill themselves in the public restroom stalls...

2) Many Chinese think/say that Americans are stupid. Why? Well because American children wear diapers (many Chinese don't, they have slit pants, we see bottoms all day). And because our children wear diapers, they are not toilet trained until they are 7 or 8 years old.

So, there you have it. We kill ourselves in public restrooms and wear diapers until the 2nd grade or later. And only Americans, not Canadians or Europeans, or Australians, or South Americans...or any of the other countries and even entire continents that have either of those two things in common with the USA.

I have more to share, but I'll save it for the general update this weekend. Have a good day/night!

More about Iraq

The following are excerpts from a few e-mails I received from my brother, a Sgt. in the USMC. (Semper Fi!)


I served 23 years in the United States Marine Corps. I was through two wars. I flew 149 missions. My plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire on 12 different occasions.

I was in the space program. It wasn't my checkbook. It was my life that was on the line. This was not a 9-to-5 job where I took time off to take the daily cash receipts to the bank. I ask you to go with me . . . as I went the other day to a Veterans Hospital and look those men with their mangled bodies in the eye and tell them they didn't hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother, and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job.

You go with me to the space program, and you go as I have gone to the widows and the orphans of Ed White and Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, and you look those kids in the eye and tell them that their dad didn't hold a job.

You go with me on Memorial Day coming up, and you stand in Arlington National Cemetery - where I have more friends than I like to remember - and you watch those waving flags, and you stand there, and you think about this nation, and you tell me that those people didn't have a job.

I tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men - some men - who held a job. And they required a dedication to purpose and a love of country and a dedication to duty that was more important than life itself. And their self-sacrifice is what has made this country possible.... I have held a job, Howard.

Things that make you think a little:

There were 39 combat related killings in Iraq in January.
In the fair city of Detroit there were 35 murders in the
Month of January. That' s just one American city, about as deadly as the entire war-torn country of Iraq

When some claim that President Bush shouldn't have started this war, state the following:

A. FDR led us into World War II.

B. Germany never attacked us; Japan did. from 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost .. an average of 112,500 per year.

C. Truman finished that war and started one in Korea. North Korea never attacked us. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost ... an average of 18,334 per year.

D. John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked us.

E. Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost, an average of 5,800 per year.

F. Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent. Bosnia never attacked us.

G. In the years since terrorists attacked us, President Bush has liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled Al-Qaida, put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran, and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.

The Democrats are complaining about how long the war is taking.

But it took less time to take Iraq than it took Janet Reno to take the Branch Davidian compound. That was a 51-day operation.

We've been looking for evidence for chemical weapons in Iraq for less time than it took Hillary Clinton to find the Rose Law Firm billing records.

It took less time for the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines to destroy the Medina Republican Guard than it took Ted Kennedy to call the police after his
Oldsmobile sank at Chappaquiddick.

It took less time to take Iraq than it took to count the votes in Florida.

Our Commander-In- Chief is doing a HARD JOB! The Military morale is high!

I have taken the time to do some fact-checking, and have made corrections as necessary. However, I have not done extensive fact checking and encourage you to check the validity of any statements read herein. Other information obtained from:,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I think I understand how/why we ended up in Iraq in the first place...I can kind of sort through the tangled web...but, why, exactly, are we still there? The daily death toll in Iraq usually equals or outweighs the VTech killings and although it does not diminish the loss suffered by all I do wonder about the importance, scale, and coverage provided to each. VTech, as with each tragic and unfortunate mass shooting, highlights grave issues with our nation, from the plight of the "nerds" and "loners" to mental health care and treatment, from what is "legal" to the who's and how's of guns purchases. And Iraq highlights its own set of issues in our great nation...a set of issues that I can even begin to scratch the surface of. Of course, millions of people are dieing around the world every day for millions of reasons, and everyone has their own cause to champion, but it still strikes me that the US has a direct, obvious, and controllable ability to lesson the current death toll in Iraq. Iraq might be "old" news, and perhaps we are all tired of it, but knowing firsthand what is it like to have a soldier there, I know that it never gets old to those families, to those relatives, to those soldiers who put their lives on the line every day, some of whom never make it home. It never gets old to the citizens and occupants of that nation, who are dealing with daily suicide bombings and mass murders. At VTech it was clear who had blood on his hands, we know who the murder was, citizenship, personal history, system failings, influences and chemical imbalances notwithstanding, it is still clear who pulled the trigger. In Iraq, as more information comes to light, we see that lies, personal agendas, system failings, influences and chemical imbalances aside we know who pulled the trigger.

Another, slightly less grave question. Why did the CEO of Sallie Mae pay himself a salary of $225 million over 5 years? $225 million. Please excuse my language, but are you F-in' kidding me? This is the former CEO of the same company that a few months ago sent a letter addressed to me at my current address in China, to tell me that they could not locate me, and would like greatly appreciate any assistance I could provide in helping them to locate me. This from a company that charges students as much as 28% annual interest on their loans (according to Fortune magazine). 28%. 28% so that their CEO's can make millions, the corrupt loan officers can make hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks and sweetheart-deal stock transactions and people like me can be told that although I live and attend school abroad and work part-time, I can not get a deferment, I can only make my payments "in US funds drawn on a US bank" (not even a money order) and that they need my help...'cause they are unable to locate me. If anyone ever hears of a lawsuit, petition, rally, or anything that will help to drive Sallie Mae out of business, I'm IN!

Information obtained from: