Wii-ning Advice

Much like the poultry population of southern China, our Oakwood population is experiencing its own culling process. Friends that we’ve made through Thad’s A-100 training class and language training are beginning to pack-out and leave for their respective assignments.  On one hand, this is great because the commencement of their tours means ours isn’t far behind, but on the other hand, it is a bit odd to not have the same people on the shuttle each morning and evening and to not have the same people chatting around the table at lunch each afternoon.

This week was the last week at FSI for two such people.  Ian and David both just dominated their end of course language tests and are now headed west to visit family before heading far, far east where Ian will begin his assignment in the Guangzhou consulate. Thad and Ian started Chinese classes together last July and have spent a large portion of each day together since then. David and I joined the party a bit later, but have also had our share of time on the fake-coyote ridden campus of FSI.

A bit of an impromptu going-away party convened last night to celebrate their impending departure and to wish them well in their new adventures. While I usually am not up for anything big on a Friday night, riding up the elevator five floors for a get-together is definitely doable! The evening’s docket included pizza, soda, chips and a bit of Wii.

This being my third Wii-experience (Wii-sperience?) in as many months, I have a few tidbits for my fellow players who also lack technological aptitude:

  1. Apparently, calling yourself a “video game player” is not appropriate lingo for those who are serious about their games. If you refer to yourself this way, it is equivalent to donning a sandwich board sign advertising your lack of video game skillz. (Spelling and pronouncing skills with a “z” may lead to a similar assumption, but I’m sticking with it!)
  2. Just because you are a decent driver in real life (no pullovers or tickets for this motor vehicle operator) does not mean those abilities will in any way translate to video game driving abilities. After coming in 11th and 12th consecutively, David jumped in to be my back seat driver.  In addition to giving me hints about upcoming turns and obstacles, his squeals when I careened into various gorges and ravines kept me on my feet. With him riding shotgun, I soon propelled my standing from the bottom of the pack to 2nd place!
  3. Don’t listen to your competitors-ever. Their advice should not be heeded. Towards the end of an intense Mario Party clashing, as I was about to purchase my third star, thereby putting me in the lead, I was debating whether or not it was in my best interest to allow Donkey Kong to shoot me out of his cannon (really, who wouldn’t want a ride in a cannon?!?), I hear something say “Yes!”  Thinking this advice was coming from someone in-the-know, I chose to take the cannon ride, which catapulted me not to the star as I thought it would, but rather to the Never-Neverland of Mario’s prehistoric jungle. There would be no star in my future, at least in that round.

As a thrice-experienced “gamer”(this, I am told, is the correct way to label yourself if you have wasted away hours of time on your sofa, moving your pixilated men and creatures in hopes of achieving virtual success), I feel that my past mistakes can be learning opportunities for those who follow in my technological footsteps.  While these tips may not allow you to be the ultimate winner of Mario Party (which I was last night, by the way!) but they will give you a leg-up on your fellow uninitiated video game players.

The coming months will see many more goodbyes, but mostly great ones, as it means everyone is finally heading out to their multitude of awesome posts, as well as the possibility of a few more virtual game nights. I doubt I will ever be good at goodbyes, but I will continue in my quest to achieve the gaming skills of a six year old!

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Wii-kends are for Playing

After what seemed like a never-ending week of Chinese in which I attempted to wrap my mind around the ever elusive change-of-situation “le” particle, and was privy to such useful information as the term for godmother also doubles as a common term of endearment used by prostitutes for their madams, some downtime was definitely needed.

A good friend (and fellow China Returned Peace Corps Volunteer), John Park, just purchased a Wii. With weekend looming, along with John and Erin Townsend (also fellow China RPCVs),  we all figured it was the perfect time for that little white box to see some action. Before tackling the games of skill and prowess, we thought a few authentic Chinese dishes might get things off to a good start.

There is a lovely little restaurant in Falls Church that has a bit of a split personality.  In large neon letters, it advertises itself as Hong Kong Palace, with is a pretty normal name for a Chinese restaurant in the US.  The only problem with that is, the smaller, yet still neon, Chinese characters on that same sign say Chengdu, which is decidedly not Hong Kong. Nearby, in one of the front widows, yet another neon sign advertises the store as Small Chengdu Restaurant. Now, not only are Hong Kong and Chengdu more than 800 miles apart, but their food is quite unique as well.  I guess the thinking is that to Americans, Chinese food is Chinese food, so it is best to pick a well-known city with which to advertise. Then, to pull in the Chinese customers, a more accurate description of the culinary style is provided.  (It really isn’t that odd of a concept I suppose. As Americans, most of us would probably make a distinction between southern food and that of the north, but to visitors from other countries, it could all be easily labeled “American.”)

With bellies full eggplant, spicy noodles, green beans and rice, it was time to Wii it up!

If you’ve been following this blog, you have read of my exploits as a softball player. For those of you new to In Search of the End of the Sidewalk, it only lasted one season and mostly consisted of me warming the bench. That stupendous athletic ability extends to nearly everything I do that requires any amount of coordination. (Again, frequent readers will remember that I was no more than ten minutes into my first motorcycle riding class when I found myself pinned to the asphalt by a couple hundred pounds of shiny metal.) Sadly, as I recently learned, Wii takes a wee bit of coordination. That does not bode well for me or for anyone unlucky enough (John T.) to be saddled with me as a teammate.

The evening’s events began with bowling. I was lucky enough to be blessed with a fabulously shiny gold bowling ball, which I think was my secret weapon. While my score was only a little higher than what I would rack up in a real life bowling alley, I came out on top after ten frames. (I think I may have only won by two points, but considering that was the only time all night I didn’t earn the no-so-coveted fourth place position, I want it to be remembered that a win is a win!)

From bowling, it was on to doubles tennis. Poor John T. got stuck with me as his partner for the ensuing matches.  I quickly discovered that I have adequate serving abilities, but that is where any slight aptitude ends. Not only could I not hit the dumb little yellow ball to save my life, more than once I somehow forgot that we were playing a game and not just watching TV. It wasn’t until after the ball sailed by my cute purple clad Mii that I realized I should have taken a swing.  I was so into watching the action I totally forgot that I was supposed to be taking part in the action.

When I did remember to participate and potentially help my partner out, I did so with full effort and enthusiasm. While some too-cool-for-school Wii players may master the art of minute gesticulations, I was all in! It takes a powerful swing to hit a tennis ball from one end of a court to the other, so gaming device strapped to my wrist or not, I was swinging for the stands!

Bowling and tennis were really just warm-ups for the evenings main event- Wii dancing!  It is important to bear in mind, not only do I lack an inherent sense of coordination, I am also totally devoid of rhythm.  Put these two things together, add Britney Spears and let the chaos reign! It may not have been pretty and I may have lost to everyone, every dance, including when John T. played as he lounged on the couch, but it was a blast! Not only did I wiggle and waggle to some Black Eyed Peas and LMFAO, but I got to watch Thad and John P. battle it out as robots busting out some pretty spastic moves.  I am not sure which of them ended up with the most points, but I am positive that those of us watching were the winners!

It is very possible that I logged more hours on the Wii last Friday night that I have spent on video games in my entire life. I may have set up  a permanent Occupy Fourth Place camp that would bow to nothing less than pepper spray,  and I may have pulled a muscle or two during unintentional spastic moments, but there is no doubt that Wii night was the perfect end to a gray matter melting week of Chinese study.

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