Christmas in China. Again.

Chinese Word of the Day:  懷舊 (huai2 jiu4 literally “to cherish” + “bygone/past”) nostalgia It’s been a busy few days leading up to and including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Picture: Ruth in Papa Johns Pizza, Wuxi, China Picture: Seasons Greetings at Papa John's Pizza, the War on Christmas comes to China.   



China seems blissfully unaware of the “War on Christmas” that is raging back in the Untied States.  Virtually all the store signs in Chinese establishments say “Merry Christmas”.  It takes an American franchise to include us atheists and people of other faiths in the holiday season.  I would be thankful for that except that the founder of Papa John’s has been bashing Obama and claiming that he’d have to take Obamacare out on his workers.  We almost gave the place a pass, until we considered that some Chinese franchise owner doesn’t need to suffer because the founder of the chain is an idiot.

Christmas Dinner for the Teachers

Sunday evening the school treated us to dinner at the Sheraton. That was a little bizarre because the featured entertainment was a troop of Egyptians. So we dined to the throb of Middle Eastern drums and singing that sounded like Apache war cries. Below is my impression of the evening… Picture: My impression of our Christmas dinner for teachers.  Wuxi, ChinaI do remember delicious food and quite a bit of wine.  A wonderful dinner and many thanks to the North American College of Jiangnan University administration for treating us so well. We brought our own Santa for the evening – Michael who grew hair and beard and purchased a custom made suit in anticipation of this event . Picture: Our own Santa and Chinese child, the Sheraton, Wuxi, ChinaOur Santa was much in demand, but I missed getting a picture of him belly dancing with the Egyptians.   I noticed that he did perk up quite a bit in their company. Picture: Our own Santa and visiting Egyptian entertainers at the Sheraton, Wuxi, ChinaIt’s so hard for them to get their signage right in China, even at a five star hotel with lots of English speaking staff.  And that’s okay, because I love Chinglish. Picture: Chinglish sign found in the Sheraton, Wuxi, China.  "Please don't Tounch"Needless to say we wouldn’t think of tounching this display.

Christmas Eve

That was Sunday.  Then Monday after classes,  Christmas Eve,  it was a pancake dinner at Beth’s apartment. Ruth and I made a huge tub of eggnog from scratch, a recipe we’ve used for several years now. It included a bottle of rum and a bottle of scotch. Then Thomas brought another huge bowl of eggnog, and outclassed us by having a grater and fresh nutmeg. So we were awash in alcoholic eggnog and ended up taking home enough for Christmas dinner.

Christmas Day Dinner

Panda arrived for a visit just as we were leaving the Christmas Eve party, and stayed for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, joined by Gloria and Lynn. We couldn’t manage a turkey, because our tiny oven is just too small for anything we could buy at Metro, so we settled for chicken drumsticks with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, squash, broccoli, home made cottage cheese, devilled eggs and a great bean salad. Lynn brought the desert. Shortbread cookies with sherry added a traditional touch to the evening, and Santa had put together stockings for our guests.  The company was delightful. 

That Thing They Pay Us to Do Here

While all this has been going on, we’ve been teaching. It’s the end of term, and this week I was giving individual attention to the students’ short formal reports. That had me staying past the bell on Christmas Day, with students I didn’t have time to talk to during the afternoon class. I never thought I could describe this work as gruelling, but this has been.  Today, Boxing Day, was, if anything, worse. The short formal reports include a cover letter, a title page (both with letterhead but with no page number), a summary on a separate page (to be numbered with a Roman numeral), table of contents (also to have a Roman numeral), introduction (where page numbering starts), and discussion which should include several headings with information and citations, a conclusion, recommendation, and finally a reference page. It has to include a survey of student opinions, which must be mentioned in the report and included as Appendix A for the survey questions and B for the student responses. All in all there is a heck of a lot to check over and correct in the first drafts. You can imagine. And I find I’m repeating myself endlessly to each student. At one point I tried to short circuit that by giving a mini-lecture on the purpose and content of the cover letter, but that fell on deaf ears and saved me no time at all. If you are at all interested in what we did this term, you’ll find everything on The Woman in China, Ruth’s site.  I think it was far too much. The good news is that I’m almost through all the first drafts, and will only have the marking of the final drafts to do to end the term. Oh, that and the usual paperwork. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Death by Nostalgia

This morning my son, Casey, sent me a picture, along with this note: “Grandma Carrie is taking pictures down and giving them to me. She gave me this one and it made me really sad. I love you dad, Merry Christmas.”

Me holding the infant Casey with Victor on his trike, circa 1983

Ah yes, sweet nostalgia. This picture was taken in 1983 or thereabouts. The incredibly cute kid on the trike is my eldest son, Victor, and that’s Casey in my arms. I wrote back to say: “Interesting that this made you sad, Casey. That was a happy time for me. Victor was such a cute kid, and I was so happy to be holding you. I guess I feel sad that those days are gone. But they were good days, and good to remember now. No regrets. Just enjoy your kids. They’ll be grown up before you know what happened. Love you too, my son. Dad in Wuxi, China” Now I need to find a towel and a glass of scotch.  

Camera Loving Canal Cleaning War Ready

I bought Ruth a professional level camera for her birthday in September.  And never has a gift been more effusively appreciated.  She’s become a photography fanatic, spending almost every spare minute exploring the capabilities of her new toy.  It’s been very gratifying.  And the pictures she’s been turning out are truly spectacular.

Ruth and her new camera.  It's bringing out the artist in her.

I’ll let Ruth write the review for her new Sony camera, but so far I’ve heard nothing at all negative about it.  The flip up/flip down turn 360 degrees view screen has had her giggling on several occasions.

I’m still in computer hell with my new WordPress website format.  Spent hours today and deep into the early hours of this morning (currently it is 2:30am) trying to do simple things like set it up so clicking on my website address takes you directly to the posts, instead of to a portal which requires a click through.  I’m also still trying to figure out how to take the comments invitation off pages which don’t call for comments.  And then there are the layout issues…  I’m not going into details, but it’s been sucking up my time like I can’t quite believe.  I’ve got other things I want to do, like practice my music and edit Wang Yijing’s girlfriend’s personal statement.  Tomorrow then.

We went for a walk tonight to the fruit store and each enjoyed a lump of perfectly ripe durian.  That was at ten o’clock.  We would have been riding our bikes, but mine had a flat tire and it’s not going to get fixed until tomorrow morning.  On the way home from the fruit store we noticed they had drained the canal and were hosing the bottom down.  I’m going to guess that this is the equivalent of pool cleaning.  Why it needs to be done is not obvious, but it’s quite the operation.

Canal cleaners at work late into the night.It’s a dirty job, but somebody obviously has to do it.

This doesn't look like a fun job.My little point and shoot Sony takes amazing pictures, but nothing compared to what Ruth is getting with her new camera.  You can check out some of her pictures on her Flickr site.
Speaking of canals, here’s a sign I noticed on a wall beside the canal near Nan Chan Si. It’s important to mind your safely.

"Watch your safely" of course.  That's important.  I love Chinglish.  Makes me feel needed here.

I love Chinglish. It makes me feel needed here.

Last week I used the current emotionally charged conflict with Japan to illustrate how one develops a thesis, followed by supporting paragraphs with references to documentation and citations.  At least this is a subject my students are interested in, though it turned out they are woefully ignorant of both the current situation and the historical background. They do feel intense passionate about the issue, as indicated by this impromptu class poll.

Diaoyu island vote.  No doubt it would please the leaders.There were only six students present in this class.  One of my students in a larger class actually knew that the Diaoyu Islands were Chinese until they were stolen by Japan after the first Sino-Japanese War.  (They were supposed to be returned to China after the Second Sino-Japanese war, also known as WW II, when Japan was required to return all land taken from China by conquest, but the island slipped through the cracks in the peace negotiations, possibly because the Japanese had given it a new name, Senkaku Island.)  But none of my students in the vote above knew that the islands are uninhabited.
I hope it was a teachable moment.  I tried to impress them with the value of diplomacy, economic sanctions and appeals to the International Court.  I also tried to impress them with the fact that people my age are not so willing to give up our lives to keep an uninhabited hunk of rock in the ocean part of any granfalloon.  War should always be the last resort, and the last option one considers.
I asked my students what Japan would say if China were to offer them the islands.  Go ahead.  Take them.  But you can’t sell any Sony or Mitsubishi or Yamaha products in China.  Would the Japanese go for that deal?  Not likely.  Of course, the Chinese couldn’t afford that deal either.

This has been another excuse for violence here in China.  We haven’t seen it, but Gao Yan Ho, our summer dog sitter and current Chinese teacher, told us that a girl had been raped because she was too friendly with some Japanese.  There’s been a call for a boycott of Japanese products and angry mobs vandalizing Japanese businesses.  No doubt all participants as ignorant of the facts and history as my students or even more so.  Just looking for an excuse to vent.  I do wish they would leave international affairs to the professionals, and no doubt the leadership of China wishes the same.

Please forgive this rambling post.  Now that I’ve simplified my site, and made posting easier, I hope to post more frequently, but shorter.  Your comments are always welcome.  If you can’t see the comment field, you need to click on the little text bubble icon at the beginning of this post.  Also, if you don’t see the sidebar information, you need to click on the post header.  I don’t know why WordPress makes these things difficult, but I’m working at finding ways around them.