Five things you don’t know about me

Prince Roy tagged me for this blogging game, where I am expected to reveal 5 things the world doesn’t know about me. Here goes:

1. I suck at important exams, for a variety of reasons, chief among them are not studying hard enough, not being able to concentrate during study, or lack of interest. There were other factors too, which I shall explain below.

After 5 years of primary school, I failed the exams to get into the best boarding middle school in the city, No. 3 Middle and High School of Zaozhuang City, thus set forth my long and legendary history of exam failing. Both my older brothers were in that school then. The exams were given at this school in the city. That was part of the problem, because it was the first time ever I went to the city. There were buses, trucks, multi-story buildings along paved roads, department stores, and even occasional cars to gawk at. And get this, the most amazing of all was a freaking UNDERGROUND restaurant in the city, where they cook and customers eat underneath the ground, how cool was that! I believe the restaurant is called 四季春地下饭店. Four Season Spring Underground Restaurant is the literal translation, so you get the idea. My mind was all over the places during the exams. I was thrilled at the prospect of visiting that restaurant. Consequently, I flunked the exams, for which I was ridiculed and belittled for a long time.

However, I don’t think I could blame everything on the UNDERGROUND restaurant, though it certainly didn’t help. Maybe I was a good student in the Ji Village elementary school, but at the city level, I probably wasn’t good enough then.

I proceeded to be a zombie in No. 4 middle school, where my dad was a Chinese teacher then. That’s also where all students in that district were supposed to go. I had no purposes and objectives, and did not work very hard. Puberty and hormone started to affect me at this stage. Once again, I flunked the high school entrance exams to No. 3. My dad had to use the few connections he had to get me into the second best, No. 8 Middle and High School. Once again, I was ridiculed and belittled for a long time.

I proceeded to be a zombie in No. 8 high school, where I boarded. I had no purposes and objectives, and did not work very hard. Puberty and hormone really kicked in now. Once again, I flunked the college entrance exams, the most important exams of my life. Needless to say, I was ridiculed and belittled and deemed hopeless.

Now I faced a choice: go to the small community junior college type teacher’s school, or repeat the last grade of high school and give the exams another shot. I chose the later. I repeated that grade finally at No. 3. I don’t think we paid much money for repeating the grade there, because the new headmaster was transferred there from No. 8. He saw some potential in me and probably thought I could help bumping up the good college entrance rate for his new school, No. 3.

I finally woke up and worked hard this time, and redeemed myself in my second try. My total score was the third highest in the city, so I was a 探花. My math score was the highest in the city. So was my Oral English. I could enter any university in China with that score. At that time, a high school senior picked the universities before the exams. So I was admitted to Xiamen University, my first choice. My major was International Finance. At that time, maybe even today, any major or course of study that has “International” in it was immensely popular.

Alas, my misery didn’t end there. I had to endure the shame of being a 复读生, having failed the first time. I was one or two years older than most of my classmates. The stigma of that, maybe self-imposed, is I am older, not as smart or cute as the younger ones, so I didn’t tell any classmates that I was a 复读生. To this day, like Prince Roy and others, I still have nightmares about exams (Read the comments of that post too.)

All right, now the heavy stuff is dealt with. Here are the rest.

2. I don’t watch broadcast or cable television. I don’t read newspapers. I am about to give up on news magazines.

I do have a TV set, and use it to watch rented DVDs from Netflix. I rarely find TV episodes or reality series interesting. Even if they are, I can rent them if I want to. As to newspapers, we used to have Chicago Tribune, but stopped that subscription a while ago. We had Time magazine subscription but gave it up recently. We still subscribe to Newsweek and National Geographic. I am about to give up on Newsweek. I still like National Geographic. By the way, I wonder if readers noticed how thin this week’s issue of Newsweek is. I think it is about one third of its usual size. My better half commented that the holiday season is over and companies do not need to put out so much advertisement, which makes sense.

I get my news almost entirely online: and blogs, with occasional visits to YouTube.

3. I once saved my house from burning down.

I couldn’t remember when, but it had to be when I was in elementary school, during the summer wheat harvest season. I went home alone one day, and walked into the yard of my grandparents. I saw a small fire spreading from the outdoor cooking area. Next to the fire was a tall bundle of dried sorghum stems leaning against a jujube (Chinese date) tree. Sorghum stems, along with straws and stems from various grains we harvest, are normally used for cooking. We also used wheat straw to fill our pillows when I was little. Anyway, the date tree was right next to our house. With the wheat straw thatched roof, it could easily catch the fire if it spread. I quickly gathered water from the jars and pots I could find and put out the fire.

4. I can get nervous when speaking in public, depending on how confident I am with the subject.

I developed this nervousness during high school. My symptoms are wavering voice and short of breath. I could use a few tips to cope with nervousness from my readers 🙂

5. Related to the last item, my hand is probably going to shake if I pour you tea, liquor, or beer.

Like the one above, this is also embarrassing. In traditional Chinese banquet, strong grain liquor is served. The liquor cup is usually pretty small. And good thing too, because bigger cup can send you under the table in no time. To show respect to people at your table, you are supposed to toast and pour liquor to their cups a few times during the course of the meal. That’s where my problem is. My hand can get shaky during these trying times.

You are also supposed to get the guest of honor drunk during a banquet. Anything less is disrespectful. I think our banquet culture needs serious reform. I like the food and fun, but I don’t like the pretentiousness displayed by so many people.

To overcome this shaking handicap, it is my New Year’s resolution to work out everyday to build up my muscles.

Now I am done. What are your secrets? Don’t worry, I won’t report you to authorities. 🙂


5 responses to “Five things you don’t know about me”

  1. That’s a great list, and a great idea that everyone should do (share 5 things about yourself).

    As four #4, believe it or not I have the same thing, and I speak or training almost half of the year. I’m just great at sublimating it. One of the keys for me for overcoming it is really getting into what I’m talking about. I never select a topic that is something I don’t have an opinion on one way or another. Try it, it works. Focus on how you personally feel about the topic – audiences pick up on the enthusiasm too.

    As for #5, if you were to move to a state like,oh, say, Wisconsin, there’s no such thing as a “small” container for alcohol 🙂

  2. Hah, thanks James. I will keep that tip in mind.

    I was actually supposed to tag 5 people, and thought about tagging you. I finally decided against the whole idea. But you know, you have a blog too… 🙂

  3. […] That was really an interesting question to me, for the following reasons. 1. I never heard of it before; 2. I don’t dream that much, or maybe I do but I couldn’t remember most of them. 3. When I dream, there usually is not much conversation going on. I usually find myself in certain unpleasant predicament, a lot has something to do with taking exams: I didn’t study for the exam or didn’t have enough time for the exams, etc. By the way, both situations actually happened a lot during my school years. In fact, those exam dreams have happened so many times, that I have tried in vain to send a message to the brain part that controls my dreaming to tell my other self in the ether world that “it is just a dream, don’t take it seriously”. […]

  4. […] 我在这里说过,从小学到大学,每次升学考试,我都名落孙山,屡试不爽。厦门大学是我复读一年后考上的。复读后弄了个文科总分全市第三,数学第一,英语口语第一。但到大学后,我比大部分同学都大一两岁。当时的感觉,可能现在也是如此,就是越小越聪明,越小越可爱,搞得我这个全市的探花稍微有点老油条(不油滑,超龄一点),很没面子。虽没去装嫩,但总是吞吞吐吐,躲躲闪闪,不好意思。现在当然明白了,大几岁,曾经失败过,跌倒了就爬起来,有什么大不了的。当然这不是说年纪小的同学就不可爱。 […]

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