The term is nearly over!

Winter is coming!

Winter is coming!

JISHOU, HUNAN — December here is always a busy time, so I’ve been lax in posting here. Or maybe just lazy.

One of those could be a typo. That’s my story, anyway.

Though Christmas is not an official holiday in China, our college puts on a Christmas show every year, and invariably I am recruited to be on stage in one way or another. Fortunately, the college has given up the practice of asking me to play Father Christmas (Santa Claus), as I guess I was giving out signals that I wasn’t very keen on playing him after the first four years. Plus, I’ve lost 5 kg (11 pounds) since I first arrived here, so I’m less portly than before.

This year was easy. One of our Korean exchange students is a very good singer, and he agreed to sing a song. Then, I and some of the Chinese students would come on stage to sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and throw candy into the audience. I wore a bright red Tang-style Chinese jacket that a group of students gave me three years ago (no Santa suit!), but we all wore Christmas hats.

Foreign teachers are entitled to take Christmas Day off, but in the past I’ve just worked through it if it fell in the middle of the week. This year, though, I did cancel Friday classes, so I could enjoy a lazy four-day weekend. (I don’t have Monday classes this term.) New Year’s Day is a public holiday, though, so I had another four-day weekend that ends today.

Classes ended last week, and I give my Listening exams tomorrow and the day after. The Oral English exams are already in the can: the sophomores did presentations last month and the freshmen met with me two at a time for interviews.

This time, we have about six weeks for Winter Holiday. Rather than dilly-dallying about where to go, as I did last year, I decided I would for sure visit Malaysia, and booked a flight out of Hong Kong for Jan. 14. Round trip airfare was $182, including the checked baggage fees and trip insurance.

So, I’ll be leaving Jishou Jan. 12 and plan to be gone until Feb. 22 or so. Classes resume Feb. 29.

I’m still working on my itinerary, but so far I’ll stay a week in Kuala Lumpur, then couchsurf with a young teacher in Kuala Lipis to the northeast. I want to stay in Penang for a while, visit Borneo, and if I can, head into Indonesia to stand on the equator at Pontianak. Singapore is another possible destination.

In a way, this is my 60th birthday present to myself, but it’s also a scouting trip for possible places to retire to. Penang has become somewhat of a retirement haven for Westerners, and I want to say there long enough to see if it would suit me.

Last winter holiday, I couldn’t decide where to go. The end result was a short tour of southern China, after I realized I had waited too long to get decent airfares elsewhere.

A friend visited Malaysia in November with several friends, and the photos she posted online of beaches and palm trees made my mind up, given it was in the 30s here at the time. Prices in Malaysia are favorable, because of exchange rates, so I reasoned I could spend a month there comfortably without having to worry too much about the costs. So, this time I didn’t hesitate, and booked my tickets before I found a way to talk myself out of it.

And, my favorite hotel in Hong Kong is once again offering half-price rates, so I can stay in Aberdeen (HK) again for one night before I catch my flight to Kuala Lumpur. I’ve already booked my HK hotel for my return, too. It’s in Causeway Bay and I’m hoping I get a good view of the harbor.

Now I just need to work out what I’m doing, and where, in between those times. Should be fun!

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