Parties and sitters

Today my wife and I went to the going-away party for a good friend and colleague who will be leaving soon.  We left our son with a babysitter.  It’s our first big step toward partial independence.  My son does not do very well with babysitters, but he’s old enough now that he needs to acclimate himself to occasional separation from mom and dad.  My wife and I agreed to spend a little more time than we have in the past doing things together as a couple.  It’s impossible to go anywhere alone without leaving our son with a friend, relative, or babysitter.  We decided that from time to time we need to go on a date or join friends for dinner or drinks.  Many parents conquer that milestone early in their children’s lives.  However, our son is a bit spoiled because he’s received almost constant attention from family since he was born.  Thankfully, our son behaved well for today’s babysitter.  He cried a bit after we left, but he recovered and spent much of his time taking his mid-day nap.  This was a first big step for us.  We’re hoping that in the next few months we can leave him with a babysitter later in the day and for longer periods of time.

My colleague’s going away party was a lot of fun.  We feasted on some down-home, pippin’ hot chili brewed up by my colleague.  He’s a gracious host and a good guy.  He’s gregarious and a lot of fun.  Outspoken and charismatic, he’s larger than life in a place where it’s hard to be a stand out.  He’s done very well for himself.  He’s heading to Europe for his next assignment, so he’s definitely not doing too shabby.  My wife and I arrived late to his party because we purchased a large outdoor play set for our son on a whim.  I assumed that his party would slowly wind up and wind down and that we could sneak in and out unnoticed.  No, not so with my colleague’s party.  He is a master of punctuality, and I should have known that the party would start and end on time.  I sometimes operate on “Chinese” time; that is, it is often fashionable to be late to a get together.  I realize I am generalizing, but in my many years of exposure to Chinese culture I have noticed that Chinese tend to arrive “late” to parties; that is, they don’t arrive at the time Westerners expect them to show up.  This of course is not true with all Chinese.  However, if you ever spend time in China, you will know what I mean.  I don’t mind at all.  People tend to give me a hard time for being late.  I’ve done much better at being on time in my current job, but I do have a historical penchant for tardiness.

One of the crazier incidents that happened to me in Seoul was when my colleague misunderstood some American slang I used on him.  He’s an American, but he had no idea what I was talking about.  We talk in slang and innuendo all the time, so I was surprised when he did not catch my euphemism.  We were driving home in his car, and he asked me whether he should take a chance and drive straight or whether he should play it safe and take another route.  If he went straight and the traffic volume was light, we would be home in minutes.  If traffic was horrendous, it would take us a long time to get home.  If he took an alternative route, he would avoid traffic, but it could take us longer to get home.  I responded, exclaiming, “Eat the worm!” and pumped my fist like a frat boy chanting at a college party.  He asked, surprised, “What do you mean?” and had no clue what I had just said.  Do you know what “Eat the worm!” means?  Can you guess what I was trying to tell him?  My colleague spent the entire week asking various people if they knew what “Eat the worm!” meant.  He now knows what I meant, but I’m not sure he believes it’s really slang.

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