Month: July 2009


Fragments, Dacisi Temple area

Actually, the title of this photo also fits well with today’s post. Or tonight’s, rather. It’s been an interesting and frustrating day. I just had my first problem with my new Acer notebook computer. It got stuck somewhere between “off” and “on” and wouldn’t go either way. I finally removed the battery to shut it down. Tomorrow I’ll go to a computer doctor – probably one of my students who can help their technologically-challenged teacher to solve what hopefully is a simple software problem.

I ran this morning – 4 entire circuits of the running track. Without dying. It actually felt good. Then I walked 4 more circuits and adjourned to the cafeteria for guo ba rou pian for lunch.

Tired from the workout and lunch, I had a delicious afternoon nap, followed by rushing about madly to pull together a teaching plan for tonite’s business English class. I berated myself for being unprepared, waiting till the last minute, and many other defects of moral character. In the end I told myself: “Self, CHILL.” And I did. I had put together a good homework assignment requiring students to look up 2 words each using an online English dictionary, then reporting on their salient facts at the next class: pronunciation, meaning, syllabic division, stress, etc.

Then I picked 2 pages from a textbook about conversations involving complaints, problems, and solutions; I photocopied them, and then built a whole class around them. Not bad. I could have saved myself all the mental anguish. My new resolution is to simply “do it:” go to class with a simple plan, let the students make something of it, and then come home feeling satisfied. No more self-judgment, criticism, or agonizing over perceived mistakes. Just do it, and be satisfied with having done my best. The end.




(The accompanying photo was uploaded to Flickr today by lambeertje2, at the moment when the eclipse was briefly visible over Chengdu.)


Chengdu’s sky this morning, the day of the solar eclipse, was overcast – nothing unusual, but still there were small groups of people on street corners, and in some places larger crowds, hoping to catch a brief glimpse of the once-in-a-lifetime event. Chengdu was lucky enough to lie within a narrow band over about half the earth that was directly in the moon’s “umbra,” or the point of total eclipse directly in line with the moon and sun.

It had rained earlier, and the gray-blue cloud clover intensified the oppressive humidity. Xiao Gou Gou and I went outisde at about 8:50 AM, and found a couple of hundred people in the street by the Shahe River bridge close to campus, talking in low voices, their eyes and cell phone cameras trained upwards. Some held pieces of dark-colored plastic or smoked glass, even though there was a slim chance of actually seeing anything. A lighter patch of sky where the clouds thinned in front of the sun, however, offered a hint that we might in some way share in this sublime event.

By about 9:05, as the light began to dim, people’s voices rose, cameras began clicking, and excitement spread. I stood open-mouthed as total night descended, pitch-black and ominous. Car headlights shone on streets, and lights went on in buildings. A little newsstand glowed from inside. The darkness was brief – from about 9:11 to 9:15 AM, then slowly the earth grew lighter again. People began to disperse.

Just before reaching my apartment, the clouds parted enough to show a sliver of sun peeking over a dark disk. For maybe 30 seconds I could see the actual eclipse through the haze, as the obscuring moon drifted slowly in its path from upper left to lower right across the sun. The clouds shifted again and the eclipse remained only as an unforgettable after-image in my mind. Shortly after, the rain began again.

According to the latest “Chengdu Grooves” magazine, “the last Solar eclipse visible here took place on May 10, 1575 during the Ming Dynasty, and it won’t happen again until June 9, 2309.” The astronomical event of a lifetime is now history.

Tuesday, July 21

Disney Hall in 2 frames, Los Angeles

I’m trying hard to maintain my cool demeanor – and my sanity – in the heat and humidity of summer. I was feeling some heat exhaustion after the close of the Summer Camp last Friday, so I’ve done my best to stay indoors, mostly in my air-conditioned bedroom. Unfortunately, I still have to venture outside for my evening Business English classes Monday thru Thursday, but I’ll try to be brave.

I fixed myself a hot-weather treat for lunch yesterday – diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, tuna, and cheddar cheese with a little olive oil and shallot, all wrapped in a flour tortilla, which is a foreign delicacy here. It was a nod both to the traditional “pan bagnat” of southern France (minus the hard-boiled egg, parsley, and garlic) and to my former addiction to tortillas. My waistline doesn’t need any more white flour right now, but they’re SO-O-O-O-OOO good. Besides, what would I do without white-flour Chinese noodles, and bao zi, and jiao zi, and pastries, and….?