I think it's fitting that my first blog posting should deal with a baptism. My own. The one I underwent a couple of days ago in the bathroom at a school where I was a guest lecturer. Not only did I get sprinkled literally, but I got inducted a little bit into the Chinese way of thinking about what constitutes embarrassment.
Any way ...
The bathroom was typical of restroom affairs in this country that's gearing up to be foreigner-friendly during the 2008 Olympics next summer, but which hasn't quite hit full stride. It featured a western-style commode as well as a squatty pot. Mind you, squatties don't bother me. I had my very own when I lived in small-town Mongolia. But, given the choice of a western-style toilet with a door, or a squatty without door, I'll take the former. This being the case, that's what I did.
The door didn't shut right, so I just did my business with it slightly ajar. Finishing up, I pressed the flush button on the western toilet. No water. No problem. I saw the pipe leading to the pot with its handy valve right in front of me. I turned that valve. The water turned on me, as if it had been lying in wait, spraying my face and soaking my jacket.
"I'm really embarrassed," I said in Chinese (using one of the useful phrases I'd learned in my language sessions), to which one of the students said, "No, no. We're embarrassed." The fact that I'd done a dumb thing, embarrassing myself (only a little, really. I'd used that line just because I knew it and wanted to say something in Chinese), meant that I'd "lost face." In this place, to cause another person to "lose face" or be embarrassed (even through such indirect means as being associated with the school that has a malfunctioning toilet) is cause for one's own embarrassing loss of face.
Like I said, I was inducted a bit into the Chinese way of thinking. I still don't know a whole lot about about face and how to help someone else maintain hers, but I do know that more embarrassing things are bound to happen.