Sunday evening, wine o’clock: If you dropped by for cocktails this evening, I’d be so pleased to see you that I’d usher you right past my laundry room and into my icy air-conditioned living room. It’s so hot, humid and miserable outdoors that your clothes and body would probably be drenched in sweat, so you’d breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not making you swelter in my laundry room. Then I’d offer you either a cold Budweiser, as that’s all I have this week, or a glass of Chile Cabernet Sauvignon – Valle Central 2013. I forgot to chill it though, as I can never get used to chilled red wine, so it might be a little warm. We can always add an ice-cube or two, but I don’t know if you’d feel safe with it as we don’t drink water from the faucet in China. You might get sick, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.
Have a seat in my comfortable chair and tell me about your week. It’s June, so summer is upon us. Hooray! Do you have any travel plans over the summer? Are you starting to visit farmer’s markets and getting some fresh produce? Have you been to any outdoor concerts? Do you have some time off from work? How about family visits? Do you have grandchildren or parents or children or friends coming to visit? Will you go to the beach or a pool for a swim any time soon? Will you be having a barbecue? If so, what will you make? Will you invite me? 🙂 I sure would like some grilled corn on the cob (hint-hint!).
I took a short walk around one of our lotus ponds on the campus this afternoon. It’s nice to have fresh flowers for a cocktail hour, don’t you think? I couldn’t stay out long because sweat kept dripping into my eyes, I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos, and my camera lens kept fogging over. I think I’m late in the game in photographing the flowers. I should have done it earlier when they were at their peak. Now they seem to be fading a bit. I guess their late stage goes hand in hand with my final days here in China.
I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, so I’m sorry I’ve missed hosting a few cocktail hours. Don’t worry; I didn’t have one and not invite you. You’d always be invited, and very welcome.
Two weekends ago, I went with my friend Erica to Yangshuo. She has never traveled anywhere during her year in Nanning, although she’s been in China for seven years and has traveled prior to this year. We had to squeeze in a lot during a short time, so it felt a little rushed, but we still managed to do shortened versions of three of the four things I did in Yangshuo during the 4-day National holiday in October. It was a lot of fun, although we got rained on a few times.
It’s unbelievably damp in Nanning. I’m so tired of feeling hot and wet all the time. I know, that doesn’t sound good, but that’s how I feel. I get all showered and blow-dry my hair and put on clean clothes in the morning, only to walk out my door and immediately become drenched in either sweat or rain. I really hate this weather in the south of China; it’s one of the biggest reasons I look forward to my escape on July 15. I wish for once I could work abroad in a nice climate, such as somewhere in Europe on the Mediterranean. Or even a northern country, where I’d have to stay bundled up all the time.
Escape is in the cards. It’s visible on the horizon. I bought a ticket for July 15 from Nanning directly to Seoul on Korean Air and then on to L.A. where I will visit my sister in Reseda for about a week on my way home. A week after I bought that ticket, Korean Air canceled that flight, so I had to search for a new flight. Now I will fly to Beijing, then to Vancouver, then to L.A. The scary part is that I only have a 1 1/2 hour layover in Vancouver, and I already know I will probably miss the connection. Planes are notoriously late taking off from airports in China, so I’m preparing myself already. At least it will be Air Canada’s problem if I miss the connection, because both flights, from Beijing and from Vancouver, are with Air Canada.
Yes, my time in China is winding down. Because my departure is imminent, I dropped out of my Chinese class. This was long overdue. Our teacher, Miss Hao, kept telling me I was very clever, because I was able to figure out sentences and vocabulary meanings in class. The problem was that when I left the class, I never studied. I could be a clever person if I actually applied myself. 🙂 Also, the other two people remaining in the class, Gavin and Reed, are very advanced, and frankly, I was holding them up. So I made a quiet and uneventful departure. However, Miss Hao was keen on inviting our class to her house for dinner, so we went on Wednesday night, June 3.
Miss Hao lives on the 18th floor of a new building on the university campus; during many of our Chinese classes, she was busy on her phone talking to contractors and decorators about fixing up her house. It’s a lovely sprawling apartment with great views over the university campus. However, she doesn’t have air conditioning. It wasn’t that she hadn’t turned it on; she decided not to have it built into the house at all. I can’t imagine no air-conditioning in Nanning’s heat and humidity, but I did have the (ahem) pleasure of enjoying (i.e. suffering through) the heat for this one evening.
She had originally promised us we would get to help her make dumplings, which none of us were thrilled about because we’re all pathetic at making them and don’t enjoy the process at all. But we prepared ourselves, only to find, voila (!), she’d already made them when we arrived. The lack of air-conditioning was something I was prepared for however, simply because I know the Chinese mentality. I predicted she wouldn’t have it and I was right.
We did have a lovely evening there nonetheless, and I loved the dumplings. Dumplings are one of my favorite things to eat in China, and these were especially good. Gavin and I brought our own beer, and I’m glad we did because Miss Hao didn’t have any. She did bring out a refrigerated bottle of red wine partway through the dinner, however, so we could make toasts to each other.
Besides that little outing, I met fellow-novelist Paul for dinner one night to exchange our novels. He’s given me the next 50 pages of his, which I’ll read this week, and he’s said he’ll finish mine. He’s leaving in a week and a half, so we’ll see if we get through them.
I had a couple of lunches with Gavin, but now he’s mad at me because I didn’t leap at the chance to help him make the listening final exam over the weekend. He knows my strong feelings about preserving my weekends for myself, and so the fact that he didn’t plan ahead enough so I could help him before this weekend showed a bit of disregard for my beliefs. As a teacher, it’s all too easy to let your planning and marking, which must be done outside the classroom, spill over into your personal time. I like to have a clean line between work and pleasure, so I keep the line very rigid. Only in an emergency will I let work encroach on my personal life.
Oh well, if he doesn’t get over it, I’ll be leaving soon anyway.
Last weekend, I went to Beihai, the only coastal city in Guangxi province, to visit Mari. Mari is a Finnish lady who lives and works in Beihai for a Finnish company, Stora Enso, known for publication and fine paper, packaging board and wood products. She’s in charge of supply chain management for container board used in milk cartons. I met her when we went on a tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an. She kindly invited me to visit her in Beihai, sending her personal driver to Nanning on Friday afternoon to pick me up and drive me the three hours to Beihai. He then drove 3 hours each way Sunday night to return me home. Besides that, she invited me to stay in her apartment, which was beautifully decked out IKEA style. She was the perfect hostess; and we had a great time and lots of laughs.
In addition to those two weekends away, my students turned in 73 outlines and brainstorms/clusters that I had to grade in the first of three staggered deadlines. They’re writing their final research papers for my class and there are three stages in the process. I thought I’d be able to go through them quickly, but it was very time-consuming mostly because they were a total mess and many of them were off topic. Oh dear. If we get through this process it will be a miracle.
Since our last cocktail hour on May 25, I’ve mailed one big box home by ground; I sure hope it makes it back to Virginia. I should mail another this week. I went out for a “drink” with one of my students, which turned out in fact to be a “mango mountain.”
I finished watching the first season of Madam Secretary, Skyped several times with Mike, Skyped with Sarah, and finished watching Season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy. I also watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, one of the few DVDs I brought here with me, for about the 20th time. I continued to plod away on the depressing Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian; it’s a hard-to-take book but I’m learning something about the Armenian genocide prior to WWI. It’s always good to learn something new about the horrible things we as humans are capable of.
I also had an interview with Teaching House in Washington, D.C. because I applied to take an intensive CELTA (Cambridge Certificate for English Language Teaching of Adults) course in September. I passed the interview and committed to the class. So now I know what I’ll be doing this fall: taking the course and enjoying the holidays with my family. I’d like to stay home for a while, but who knows how long it’ll be before I get itchy feet again. Going back to work at NOVA is not something I can get excited about.
I’d love to hear all about your last couple of weeks, so feel free to stay awhile, and tell me what’s on your mind. There’s no rush. I have nothing to do tonight because I don’t work on weekends. 🙂
I do want to apologize for not visiting many of you as often as I’d like. My internet is very slow here, and often I open the pages to your blog and wait and wait and wait for them to open. By then I’ve gone on to something else, or I’ve gone to bed. I hope to be better once I return home to the US of A, where the internet works smoothly and quickly and without issue. 🙂