29 December 2012

Christmas in Qinzhou

December was a busy month of finishing teaching, visiting with friends, and celebrating Christmas.
Students organize an English Corner on Friday evenings, and we have gone once a month -- they always appreciate the foreign teachers, and most of the students are non-English majors, so don't see us in the classroom. 
We had open house each Sunday afternoon, with different groups of friends. We couldn't invite all our students, just the monitors from each class, and they cleaned up the Western-style food we had prepared. 
We did a short play of the Christmas story with each class, students taking the roles of Mary, Joseph, innkeepers, shepherds, angels, the star, and wisemen. With 18 roles, there were often fewer left in the audience, and with little time to rehearse everyone read from the script.
Many stores decorate for Christmas, like this supermarket downtown. The commercial opportunity of the season is not lost on business here, and Christmas launches shopping for the Chinese Lunar New Year in February, much as Thanksgiving launches the season in the US.
We were very happy with our tree, for which we paid less than $5 including ornaments, although we spent more on lights.
All our guests enjoyed our tree and decorations, especially the children of the Chinese teachers who came.
Christmas Eve at the church was unlike any Christmas service at home, and was a variety talent show with singing and dancing.
The Technical English Corner that Daniel organized with a couple of the Chinese teachers met every Friday afternoon and included teachers from different departments as well as business people and others from the community. We wrapped up with a banquet in one of our university's dining rooms. Now our teaching and entertaining is behind us, and we'll be off to Hong Kong at New Year for a short vacation before exams. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

11 December 2012

Normal for now

After Thanksgiving we realize there are only a few more classes, and our normal routine has a short fuse.
We buy fruit and vegetables in the local market a couple times a week. At home we'd call it a farmers market, but here without the upscale connotation.
All dressed up with no place to go -- we were invited to an event in the city center so wore our newly tailor-made suits to class, but an hour before got a phone call saying it was cancelled. But we were still smiling, one needs to be flexible in China.
We call the alley across from campus Restaurant Row, and have a couple favorite places that we'll miss when we leave.
Students do most of the campus maintenance here. The trees in front of our apartment got a fresh coat of white, not so much aesthetic as to protect from bugs.
But the campus is also getting spiffed up to look good for an evaluation team from the national ministry of education. This statue of a famous local educator didn't used to be shiny black, so caught our attention.
We took a walk behind the campus, across the farm fields and past the neighboring cement plant, towering and a little ominous. The road in front was upgraded since last semester, from gravel to concrete pavement, so now many more cars and trucks zoom along at highway speed right to the campus gate, where there's no traffic light, just a zebra crossing to get to Restaurant Row. All this seems normal, for now.