Happy New Year! 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — It’s 2013. Have a good one, y’all.

Merry Christmas! 圣诞节快乐! (sheng dan jie kuaile)

JISHOU, HUNAN — Our college’s annual Christmas extravaganza has been put to bed, this year featuring more dances than I can ever recall. Even we teachers danced. (Video may be forthcoming). We foreign teachers (all five of us) had dinner with the president of the university, the v.p., and the deans of our colleges. Unless my memory is faulty, this was the first time the president has joined us. The food was delicious and ample — quite suitable for a Christmas dinner. I have received about a bushel of apples today (OK, really just a half dozen apples), because the Chinese have acquired the custom of giving an apple on Christmas Eve. If I’m not mistaken, this is an English custom. And just now I was on a video chat with five former students, including one in Thailand. They all graduated in June. Another guy called me from Shanghai. (I think he was a little drunk.) A gazillion people sent me messages on QQ tonight. One friend has promised me a handmade scarf, but was profusely apologetic for it not being on time or in my favorite color, and being so simple. I told her it makes no difference, because ...

A little holiday confusion here

A little holiday confusion here
JISHOU, HUNAN — So I got a Christmas stocking with candy inside this week from our students. The candy is OK, but the stocking is a bit disturbing. Check it out. Clearly someone at this candy company needs to bone up on his or her Western holiday mythology. Or maybe Mrs Claus has been moonlighting. The stocking says “Kinder / Happy fania” at the bottom. First of all, the stocking did not contain any Kinder Buenos, Hippos, Surprises — indeed, no real Kinder confections at all. Not even anything chocolate. Very disappointing. I’m not sure what to make of “Happy fania” — “Happy family”, maybe?

Busy again, so just a quick post

JISHOU, HUNAN — Today is 12/12/12. Celebrate however you like, a dozen doughnuts, 12 ounces of your favorite drink, 12 chocolate eclairs, 12 shots of JD — whatever. Another day like this won’t come for another 89 years. (Think about it. We can’t have 13/13/13 and so on. So, we have to wait until 1/1/2101.) Tomorrow is Saint Lucia Day. If your family isn’t Swedish or Norwegian, then nevermind. Conversely, you can lie to your kids and persuade the eldest daughter to wake up early and serve you coffee and pastries in bed. Hey, it could work! On a more serious note, the world lost two great musicians recently, both at remarkably advanced ages. Dave Brubeck died at 91, a day before his birthday. Ravi Shankar died at 92. Brubeck was one of the pioneers of “cool jazz” in the 1950s. His most known number is Take Five, which has been covered by so many musicians (including China’s 12 Girls Band) that it’s impossible to list them all. I was fortunate to hear him in concert back in the ’80s. A great musician, and a really nice man. Five of his six children became musicians. Here is Brubeck and his ...

Thanksgiving update 1

Thanksgiving update
JISHOU, HUNAN — My access to Facebook is blocked again, so blogging about Thanksgiving is about the only to reach friends and family about my Thanksgiving day doings. Needless to say, we Yanks don’t get the day off, so I still had to teach three classes: Oral English III and two sections of Western Culture. But afterward, I joined the two other Americans and two of our Chinese friends to go out to eat dinner. Since turkey is not exactly a common bird around here, we settled for duck hotpot, potatoes, eggplant, sour radish, cabbage, and scrambled eggs with tomatoes for our feast at a place called Xiao Xi Qiao 小西桥 (Small West Bridge), known for its excellent duck hotpot 火锅. Gerry, one of the Chinese teachers, brought some homemade red wine, and we bought a bottle of Roche Mazet at the restaurant. Then we went back to campus and shot really bad pool for a couple of hours. Since we all had 8:00 classes today, we called it a night at 9:30 pm. Throughout the day, I got Thanksgiving messages and emails from students and friends. And today I got this gift from a friend in Huizhou. It’s a ...

Merry Christmas! Sheng dan kuai le 圣诞快乐!

Merry Christmas! Sheng dan kuai le 圣诞快乐!
JISHOU, HUNAN — This photo sums up my Christmas here. Hope you have some fun, too. It’s Christmas Eve here. I just got back from a big faculty luncheon. Tonight was the annual Christmas show by our college students, and tomorrow I’m busy with other holiday gatherings. And we may have snow tonight. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Solstice or just a quiet time at home with someone you love, or like, or can at least put up with for a few hours. God Jul!

Modern vampires suck 5

Modern vampires suck
JISHOU, HUNAN — I’m old enough to remember when vampires were scary, the kind of guys no girl would want to hang out with — unless they really wanted to be both ravished and undead. Now teenage girls swoon over the impossibly sensitive and chaste modern-day vampire guys, who swear off human blood and suck only animal blood. I am surprised PETA doesn’t get on this flagrant abuse of helpless animals, but the animal control folks are tickled pink, I bet. The vampires I grew up with (not literally, mind you) were all versions of the ghoulish Count Dracula from the novel by Bram Stoker — not very pleasant at all. They couldn’t stand sunlight, which could kill them. So they only moved about by night. None of this new-age sparkly effects we see nowadays. They without exception attacked only humans for their blood. Any sex would do, but Dracula in the movies seemed to have a taste for the ladies. And of course the victims, once bitten, would also become vampires. (The sexual connotations here are pretty obvious, but alas lost in today’s abstinence-only vampire ethos. How bloody dull.) They were technically undead, neither alive nor dead, but somewhere ...
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