成都寒意 – The Chengdu Chill

I long ago decided there is not enough time in the world to catch everyone up on what has been going on in my life over the past few months.  It’s been a series of crazy, awesome events.  I’ve been asked to blog about some, but have failed miserably in my attempt to keep my cyber…well, space… up to speed.  I’ve seen pandas and Hong Kong Disney, gone to a Mariah Carey concert and on a field trip with my kiddos, been hit on by guys both waaaaay too young and waaaaay too old for me, started leading Brownie Girl Scouts with my friend Melissa, and have been busy trying to piece together what life is going to look like for me next year.

But that’s an insane amount of living to condense into one blog entry, so I’ll chop it down to November.  What have I done since the tail end of October?  Well, a lot.  And this activity is typical of life here.  It’s brilliant, it’s fun, it’s exhausting.

Let’s rewind to Halloween.  Our school had a “Fall Festival Committee” (no, I was not on it) dedicated to putting a Fall Festival together.  All teachers and paras were expected to work from 6-8pm on Halloween.  Costumes were allowed, even encouraged, and some kids and teachers wore their outfits all day long.  I did not.  But when night came, I ran back to my apartment to get ready for the Fall Festival.  I donned a brown dress and taped the word “Oh” on it.  Didi, the art teacher, painted my face while Kristen helped me put sticks in my hair.  And — presto chango — I was an “Oh Deer.”  June, my para, dressed up as a “Holy Cow.”  Together, we worked at a game booth called “Glow Ring Toss.”   The festival flew by and, afterwards, I went with a group of friends to The Beer Nest.  We had a cold one, headed to the Shamrock for dancing, and then went searching for more activity on…Ghost Street?  We tired quickly, however, and ended the evening at Shao Kao (Chinese barbecue; which is the greatest food ever to enjoy after a drink or two).

Oh Dear, Holy Cow

The Oh Deer and the Holy Cow

On Saturday, Kristen called me in dire need of a Starbucks run.  We took a bus there, grabbed coffee, and walked back to our apartment complex.  We decided to meet up later for dinner.  I came back to my apartment to take a nap and was rudely interrupted by a man banging on my door.  I opened the door and he, without looking at me, thrust a flier into my hand and walked away.  I took a picture of it and sent it to June asking for a translation.  She said my gas line was going to be fixed sometime the next day.  Not too worried about it, I headed back to bed to try again for that nap.

When I woke up, I got ready to head over to Kristen’s for dinner.  I was reaching for the doorknob when someone new banged on the door, startling me.  I opened the door and this time a woman, clipboard in hand, stood there.  She started rapidly speaking Chinese and waiting for me to respond.  “Tīng bù dǒng,” I said.  “I don’t understand.”  She spoke louder and more aggressively, passing through my apartment, directing me to the balcony, and gesturing wildly.  Once more, all I could say was “Tīng bù dǒng.”  She spoke even louder, finally driving me crazy enough.  I told her sorry (in Chinese: “Duìbùqǐ”) and called June to translate.  She was able to talk to my yelling guest and tell me that I had to be around at 7am the next morning.  Maintenance would then replace my gas line and be done in an hour.  Whatever.  I shrugged, bid my guest “adieu” and went to Kristen’s for dinner.  After dinner, we met up with our friend Adam for dessert.  We headed back to his place, watched The NeverEnding Story and Kristen and I crashed on his couch.  I shot awake when Kristen’s alarm rang at 6:30.  Argh.  I had to get back to my place by 7?  I tore out of there, stopping only to pick up bāozi for breakfast on the way.  When I got back, it was right around 7.  The maintenance workers arrived at 8ish.  So, remembering their promise to be done in an hour, I thought they’d be gone by 9ish.  They finally left after 12:30, leaving behind mud and dirt trekked across my dining room and kitchen floors as well as yellow painted that had dripped from the new pipe down to my counter tops.  So…a good deal of Sunday was spent scrubbing my house as well.  Joyful.

Fortunately that night, I had plans.  I headed with a group of friends to Metro, a large shopping mecca full of imported goods, and then to hot pot for dinner.  It was a pleasant end to a busy weekend.

I took it easy for most of the week, concentrating on getting through math and reading lessons with my kiddos.  I went to a baby shower on Wednesday, had a delicious dinner out with Melissa on Wednesday, and spent Friday unwinding from the week and celebrating a friend’s birthday; another evening that ended with dancing at the Shamrock.  Unlike Halloween, however, I didn’t make it to Shao Kao.  Instead I felt discombobulated and saw the twinkling lights that for me indicate a migraine is imminent.  I left the Shamrock, hailed a cab, and made it back to my apartment in time for the headache to close in on me.  I fumbled for the Excedrin in the medicine drawer, crawled into bed, and lost consciousness as soon as my head touched the pillow.

The next morning Alicia texted me; it was time to be up and at ’em.  The Marine Corps Ball was that night.  We ran to Starbucks (well, taxied; it was too cold and rainy to walk or run), met up with Julie and Natalie, two more coworkers, and got our hair done.  Then we had lunch at…The Beer Nest.  Because it had been so many hours since I had been there!  (Sarcasm, anyone?)  After lunch, we went home to relax and get ready.  When it was nearly time to go, I headed over to Alicia’s to help her finish getting ready.  We had a wine toast and headed to the school to meet more attendees and our driver to the Ritz-Carlton, where the event was being held.  There were cocktails, speeches, delicious entrees and desserts, and dancing, dancing, dancing.  I felt a patriotic surge when the National Anthem was playing; the USA holds even a more dear place in my heart now that I don’t live there.  Most of the evening had me thinking about my dad and what he would say about the shindig if he were present, but, all-in-all, I thought it was a pretty neat experience to attend a Marine Corps Ball outside the USA.

Marine Corps Ball Ready

Alicia and me, at the Marine Corps Ball


Not wanting to be shown up by Saturday too much, Sunday proved to be another unique experience.  Melissa, Alicia, and I went to LouDai, a historic town on the outskirts of Chengdu.  We met up around 9am, stopped at Starbucks yet again (wow, I didn’t realize how often I’ve been going there!), and headed to the bus station where we paid 7RMB (a little more than $1) to hop on a bus bound for LouDai which is about 45 minutes east.  We spent the day meandering around this old Hakka town.  We toured a temple, peered around the Hakka museum, ate noodles and rice, and shopped until we felt it was time to head back into the big city.  Traffic was rough getting back, but we made it home with enough time for me to finish reading I Am David and start John Green’s Paper Towns before crashing.

Heading to LouDai with Melissa and Alicia

Heading to LouDai with Melissa and Alicia

At a LouDai temple

At a LouDai temple

Wandering LouDai

Wandering LouDai

Street Corner Dentist?

Street Corner Dentist?

Tea House Pagoda

Tea House Pagoda

LouDai Blossoms

LouDai Blossoms

Making bread?

Making bread?

Gold Pig Man

Gold Pig Man

The Cleanest Squatty Potty I've even seen

The Cleanest Squatty Potty I’ve even seen

Hakka Museum

Hakka Museum

Street Artist I bought my decorated name from...

Street Artist I bought my decorated name from…

The Mountains beyond LouDai

The Mountains beyond LouDai

Alicia and Melissa in LouDai

Alicia and Melissa in LouDai

This week has also been nonstop.  Yesterday, Jason, Adam, Kristen, and I went out for Korean hot pot which is the only Korean food I’ve really had not counting the kimbop a student brought me for lunch one day.  Delicious food; spicy, but not the same mouth-numbing flavors that are usually in Sichuan food.

Today was “Guānggùn Jié” or “Singles’ Day.”  It’s a celebration of the freedom that single people have and usually results in single people doing one of two things: partying with other single friends or trying to relieve themselves of their single status.  They also do a lot of shopping and Singles’ Day is like the Chinese response to the USA’s Cyber Monday…only 100x crazier.  It’s the largest online shopping day in the world.  While the US citizen in me was thanking our troops and service men and women for their dedication on this Veterans Day, the China dweller in me also took the time to buy things off Taobao (sales!) and attend a Singles Celebration thrown by Alicia.

Phew.  Okay, I think that is pretty much November so far for you.  The kids have no school this Friday because teachers have professional development both Friday and Saturday.  We are also celebrating an early American Thanksgiving on Friday.  The next weekend, I’m attending a murder mystery party.  After that, it’s pretty much December which means a holiday staff party and then I’m taking off to Bali for a few weeks of sun and sand over the Christmas break.

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One comment

  1. Marion Hannifin · November 13, 2014

    ‘So very good to read your adventures! ‘cant wait to hear about December.
    Aunt Marion

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