Monday, January 10, 2011

Everything I learned I learned in Kindergarden?

    Several years ago there was a book written by Robert Fulghum and published “Everything I know, I learned in Kindergarten”.   So what the book does not address is what happened if you did not go to kindergarten? Heck I could not even spell it correctly in the title.  I am now discovering that people expect me to know things that I do not know.  I cannot believe that just because I did not go to kindergarten that I am punished for the rest of my life. Maybe I should have paid attention during the rest of my schooling of elementary, secondary and college years, because I am finding I am missing some pretty basic things.

Joss Paper offering at Temple

    Let’s begin with the temperature. People told me that Hong Kong is warm.  I like to believe people and when I arrived to Hong Kong it was hot, Africa Hot and so humid that I was carrying an extra shirt to change due to sweat just to make it from the door to the cab. No one ever told me it got cold in Hong Kong.  No buildings have heaters and we packed all our turtlenecks, sweaters, winter coats and gloves into storage back in the states where we will not see them again for years.  So the last couple of weeks it has been cold. Ok, not cold that most of you are experiencing back in the states, but cold here. It has been in the single digits here at night for a couple of weeks and in the teens during the day. OK—so this happens to be Celsius, but it is still cold. If I am back in WV, OH or Pa and someone told me it was going to be in the teens, I would be bringing in the firewood, turn up the heat and get ready for some popcorn in front of the TV, nice and warm.   The whole metric system I do not think was taught in kindergarten, it could have but I did not go to Kindergarten and I remember several classes trying to teach it, but I did not understand why we had to learn another way when we had our old reliable Fahrenheit.   Now as man who still likes to learn but only simple things, I know that if I multiply by 2 and add 30, I get my estimated conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit.  SO it is supposed to be 6 degrees Celsius tonight, which would be around 42 degrees Fahrenheit ((6X2) +30).  Now I feel like a genius except for the fact that in the US, 42 would have been a warm day and I am cold here.  I walk around and see people in winter coats, mittens and wool hats. I plan on stopping by Joss paper burning at Temples just to get warm.  Next week I go to Korea, where I am told it is really cold, but guess what, I have no winter clothes and no one carries my size. I went to a dinner party this weekend where my shoes that I took off at the door were admired by everyone as some sort of Godzilla footprint discovery.
     Sometime in the 80s or 90s someone in the US government came up with the idea that everyone in the US was going to convert to the Metric system.  There was a countdown and warnings that all road signs would be converted. I believe I saw a couple of road signs and then I think most people just sort of said, this is stupid and we like miles, not kilometers.  I believe that there a minor revolt down by the Department of Highways and it did not happen. We just said this is too hard and I do not want to change. Well I wish I had learned this in Kindergarten because now as I travel or attempt to figure out how many miles my wife ran today, I need a calculator to convert miles, kilometers, yards meters, centimeters, inches, liters and gallons. OH please stop the madness.  So 1 Kilometer = 0.621371192237334 Miles.  If I knew how to do this I would understand what pie is other than something to eat, which I would kill for a piece of apple pie. I know if I was in Kindergarten, they would not deny me pie.  So I know now that every 10 miles is about 16.1 Kilometers. To keep it simple I make sure everything I do is around 10 miles, which makes for some longer trips. I believe that the US is the only country in the world left who uses miles.
     Another item is the world currency system. I get paid in US dollars, must wire it to my bank in Hong Kong. I get a fee in the US, a fee in Hong Kong and I get an exchange rate/loss. The Hong Kong dollar is around 7.75 dollars to every 1 US dollar.  And since I travel to other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, India (Rupee), Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia (Rupiah), the Malaysian (Ringgit) and others, I must figure out the conversion, take a hit on exchange rates and be able to think in terms of that country’s currency.  I must be able to convert their sales into US dollar sales.  One of my first trips to Australia they kidded me endlessly everywhere I went as the Australia dollar had just become more valuable than the US dollar. I just felt lucky as it was only a couple of cents more valuable and in my kindergarten mind, I just called it even.  The extreme to this was a recent trip to Indonesia where at one point I was carrying around 1.4 million Indonesian Rupiahs. I was amazed and felt Howard Hughes (Bill Gates) like to have hundred thousand bills. I would go down the street feeling like a hole burning in my pocket with 1.4 million. However, this was just around $155 US dollars, and it may cost 500,000 dollars for a bag of ruffles potato chips.  So everything is confusing and money may be money or just pieces of paper with a lot of numbers printed on it.  I have never been so happy as I was on a recent visit to Guam, a US territory.  I looked forward to the trip because I got to use US currency and shop for familiar needs at K-Mart. I never thought I would ever say I was happy to shop at K-Mart.  Yes, I got to use US currency.
      Now let me tell you how many US dollars we have lost not in monetary currency but in electrical currency.  We have lost two space heaters, a Wii, five kitchen appliances, a DVD player, and a vacuum cleaner. When I say lost, I mean they burned up.  They teach you in kindergarten not to put your finger in the electrical socket but I do not remember anything about this plug does not work in this outlet.  You would have thought after we lost the first item, we (I say we but I believe no one stopped me time after time) would have learned, but we just kept hoping that if we plugged it in, the miracle of electricity would flow smoothly and everything in the world would be fine.  Now I know that this is not true and we must either get a converter (most of time expensive and a learning experience) or just buy a new item here in Hong Kong. Let me tell you that you would think since most of the stuff we get in the US says “Made in China” it would work, but this does not mean that it will work in an electrical socket here in China. Those Chinese are tricky. I have different plugs and converters for every country now. In most hotels they provide adapters and the only socket that is truly universal for the most part is the shaver outlet in the restroom. I believe this is because too many hard headed Americans kept trying to plug in the hair dryer in a foreign country and blowing out the hotels outlets.

      I know that they teach you what time it is in Kindergarten, but I am pretty sure I would have gotten an F on this as I am constantly confused as to what day it is, what time it is, what country I am in and most importantly, what was the room number of my hotel room.  I keep on my laptop and my iPhone several world clocks going to help me in this transition. I really get confused on the weekends as I write this it is Sunday night in the Eastern US but Monday morning before I go to work in Hong Kong.  And since Mary Barbara and I watch the slingbox on eastern US time, this only confuses me further.  Examples are watching Mike and Mike in the morning in the evening in the US or watching Monday Night football on Tuesday morning from my office or before I go to work on Tuesday.
      So what I missed by not attending Kindergarten, I must now learn to train my mind to think in terms of currency exchange, metric system and is it really cold or hot.  If I could add an important message to kids now in the US, it is pay attention in Kindergarten otherwise the world may be passing you by. Don’t worry about “Don’t do Drugs”, just learn the metric system.  Or you just have to work harder as an adult to figure it all out.  The biggest lesson learned is that if it is cold in Hong Kong, you plug in your favorite US popcorn popper, it will burn out. And for some reason, finding a popcorn popper anywhere (I MEAN ANYWHERE) in Hong Kong is impossible.  So when it is cold, I cannot even sit in front of my slingbox and enjoy a bowl of popcorn, unless I make it the old fashion way.  They do not teach that in Kindergarten.
     Robert Fulghum book is really relevant in Hong Kong, my travels, and I do follow his basics when I am in the world and must give him credit for pointing out the items below. I know when I hold Mary Barbara’s hand the world is good and when I finally find that popcorn popper for Hong Kong.--Mark

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
[Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum.  See his web site at  ]

1 comment:

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