Saturday, April 06, 2013

An Extra Chair

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we are never always prepared for a new adventure!

Today's sermon: Chinese buying American

Did you take the SAT? I did. It was expensive, so my father told me to do the very best I could on it, so I wouldn't have to take it a second time.

On the day of the test, I woke up feeling healthy and alert. I ate breakfast. I wore my most comfortable clothing. I took the test in my favorite classroom at my high school, and it was administered by my favorite teacher. He supplied abundant #2 pencils.

Nervous people don't necessarily do well on standardized tests. It's that clock ticking. You have this feeling of a guillotine, hanging by a fraying piece of twine, ready to chop if you're not finished when the buzzard sounds. (Ooops. That would be buzzer.)

When I took the SAT, I happened to finish a longish Language Arts section with about three minutes to spare. I looked back at the dizzying array of little gray penciled-in bubbles. And then I saw it.

I had skipped a line, early in the process.

I had to rush like a commuter to get all those bubbles erased and re-positioned in the next line up. But I did it. Whew! And when the scores came back, they were decent ... even the math.

Now, suppose that I woke up that morning with a migraine, or with heightened anxiety, or with cramps, or with the flu. Suppose I didn't catch that missed line in a crucial Language Arts section, which was my strength area. Suppose I was in a strange hall, with unknown proctors, surrounded by people I didn't know.

And then suppose this was my one-and-only chance to take the SAT. If I didn't do well this one-and-only time, I might not be able to go to college.

This is basically the plight that Chinese students face. They have a national collegiate test, once a year.

Can you imagine the anxiety that students must feel in this situation? And parents, who have only one child, upon whom their future financial security somewhat rests?

We're doing a lot of imagining here today, but it's building up to an explanation.

Increasing numbers of affluent Chinese parents are sending their only children to America for secondary and higher education. Most of these parents work through agencies that pair Chinese students with Christian and parochial schools. South Korean parents are doing the same. This is a bonanza for struggling parochial schools, as they wait for that coveted, Constitution-busting voucher system to materialize. You see, the parents who send their kids abroad to America can afford to pay the ticket price at the parochial school, as well as a monthly stipend to a host family for room and board. These same parents will be able to write a check for full tuition, and room and board, at a college. Ergo, what a windfall for struggling liberal arts colleges! Motivated foreign students who can pay in cash! Wowsa!

It was quite by chance that I discovered one of these student placement groups, coincidentally within a week of Mr. J taking early retirement. There's a 16-year-old girl from northern China who attends a Catholic school on the edge of Snobville who is working within the group. She will be moving into Chateau Johnson next weekend. Her current host parents are a couple in their early 30s with no children of their own.

This young lady, who will be called Extra Chair (in keeping with Gods Are Bored policy of considering offspring as commodities), came for a home visit a few weeks ago. She has so much energy that she wore me to a frazzle within 24 hours. But I'll give anything a try in these uncertain times. We have about eight weeks until the end of the school year, and if all goes well, Extra Chair will re-join us in September. She is currently a sophomore.

Extra Chair misses the home cooking of her native land, of which I know nothing. American Chinese food bears little resemblance to Chinese Chinese food. However, recognizing that most Chinese cuisine is healthier than American vittles, I'm willing to experiment. There's a Korean market nearby, full of weird vegetables and tofu and 50-pound bags of rice and seaweed and sauces with no English on their packaging. Mr J, Heir and Spare have expressed their complete and utter refusal cautious approval of tofu-and-seaweed suppers, so we'll see how it goes.

As befits Catholic school, Extra Chair has to take religion classes as part of her curriculum. This course of study baffled her at first and produced the first "C" she ever got in her life. She is adapting but is not interested in converting to Catholicism. Nor will I try to convert her to Druidism. Vulture worship won't be on the map until the time when Extra Chair is completely comfortable here.

It's like this. The nest Mr. J and I inhabit is just too large to be empty. Heir still lives here. Spare has graciously ceded her bedroom to Extra Chair. In order to stay in a home where he has ample space for his enormous book collection, to say nothing of a private home office in the garage, Mr. J is willing to take in another teenager.

Me, I spend my day around kids exactly the age of Extra Chair. The idea of coming home to one, especially such a lively one, doesn't really appeal. But I'm a fun, nice person with lax rules so long as good grades are maintained. We'll take it a day at a time.

The first problem looming ... we have only one cat (Beta), and Extra Chair fell head-over-heels in 20 seconds. Ahem, Beta is Spare's cat. Spare tamed Beta and, as much as anyone can control a cat, Spare controls Beta. Hoping this doesn't evolve into a sister-like power struggle.

Spare's a trooper, though. She'll be bunking in a room with cinnamon-colored paint and bookshelves from floor to ceiling, all stuffed with Mr. J's library. She has already planned out how to imprison include Beta in that space.

So, what do you think? We've sent so many jobs to China, and now they're sending the job of parenting and educating back at us. I'm still totally confounded by this new twist in the global economy and how it will affect our lives here at TGAB. Wish us luck. We need the job.

In closing, here's a reminder to like "The Gods Are Bored" on Facebook! It's so much easier to converse there, no tricky captchas. And we'll be posting some different content there. So, join the party for an extra daily dose of laughs!


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Let's hope Beta has enough snuggles and purrs for all!

Alas, I'm not on FB so can't follow you there.

The Kitchen Witch said...

I had to reschedule my SAT twice my parents could not afford to reschedule it again for me; I took it in a room full of strangers and I had whooping cough. It was hell. One of the proctors of the exam gave me a glass of water even though they weren't allowed to do so. I was lucky. I feel really bad for those students.

3Jane said...

Hi Anne,

while Japanese is not Chinese, this website is now running a free 101 course on how to cook Japanese: (I also love her other website, Just Bento, where she talks about healthy and easy to make lunches in a box: ). I also found this book on Japanese cooking with ingredients available in Europe:

You may also be able to find similar books / webpages for Chinese cooking so that products with no English label are no longer mysterious :) Fingers crossed!

Spare said...

My cat. Not her cat. Mine.