what remains I spent part of today worrying about camera exposure. I’ve never really grasped it, having never taken a photography course in my life. In gray, hazy Chengdu, getting a decent picture can be challenging. Every once in a while I cruise over to the Shuijingfang area, just across Jiuyanqiao (Nine Eyes Bridge) from Sichuan U. I’ve been documenting the area and its gradual condemnation and destruction for 3 years. Visiting Huangsan Xiang (Alley) today, the hushed stillness of the area reminded me of a graveyard. The houses are vacant, most surrounded by brick “destruction” walls, and the sounds of the city seemed far off. Eventually I was shooed away by a patrolling policeman. Due to my reduced teaching schedule, I had an entire free day today. I watched a mesmerizing film called “Under the Sand,” starring Charlotte Rampling, napped, had some coffee, and am now planning where to have dinner. Oh, the decisions we face in life.
leafy walk Yesterday was my birthday. I was in class much of the day, and for some reason I was incredibly stressed out. Classes went fine; in fact, a couple were much better than usual. In my afternoon class the four students actually stayed for the whole 2-hour period, and spoke English virtually the entire time. In the evening I gave the final exam to my Business English Class, employees of a local Chengdu pharmaceutical company. This morning at 9 am I received an emergency call from the teaching department, saying that they had to have the scores by 9:30. I said that it was impossible; it’ll take me a whole day to grade the exams. We later compromised when I promised that all of the students will pass the course. I know from past experince that final scores are merely a formality; the students all receive a certificate of completion anyway. However, many companies ensure good performance in class by requiring employees who score too low to pay a penalty of up to 10,000 yuan. Anyway, this afternoon I’ll visit the company with the other teachers to take part in the awards ceremony, then we’ll attend dinner afterward. My birthday celebration will wait until tomorrow.
door & vegetables, old lane, Chengdu Woke up at 7; had coffee and some good, chewy bread. Meditated 30 min.; finished reading Hesse’s “Siddhartha.” Braved the wet cold day to take the bus to Lianna’s Bakery. It was closed. Damn, for once in my life I had a taste for a grilled ham & cheese sandwich, apple pie, and coffee. Went to Roma Square, which is now occupied by many antique sellers. Didn’t find nuthin’. Looked at electric heaters – too expensive. I can freeze for a while. Went to Namaste Indian Restaurant for lunch; wrote in my journal for the first time since Aug. 30. Food just OK: chicken tikka masala, curried tomatoes & potatoes, garlic naan, masala tea. Walked home, took a nap. Went out to get a roasted chicken, bread, eggs, garlic. Gave chicken to Xiao Gou Gou for dinner. I had scrambled eggs. Walked dog. Studied Chinese 20 min. Typed blog entry; posted blog. The end.
The hazards of teaching: I’m always correcting my students’ pronunciation when it comes to the similar words “snack” and “snake,” as in “We ate some food at the snake bar.” Yesterday during the class break, as I was on the school balcony enjoying some “fresh” air, one of my students said, “Roger, our other teacher brought snake today!” I said something to the effect of “Oh, well that’s great – did he give you some food in class?” At that moment another student appeared, carrying a clear plastic box that contained – you guessed it – a real SNAKE. Yipes. I learned my lesson. Believe it….or not.
I spent my usual Sunday riding my bike all over Chengdu. I visited two big markets in the northeast part of town – the housewares and dinnerware market, and the used furniture market. I didn’t find much of what I was looking for, but I did score an incredibly cheap 5-yuan teapot. I then stopped by Han Baozi for a huge serving of steamed dumplings with a side order of pickled vegetables – my afternoon snack. I later met two teacher friends at Peter’s Tex-Mex Restaurant. The food isn’t too good, but we had fun. I’d stopped by Sabrina’s Country Store earlier to stock up on coffee and Jolly Time yellow popcorn (the real thing, not that microwave stuff). When I got home I popped some corn; the Chinese 锅guō (what we would call a wok) is perfect for popping. I use imported olive oil, but I had no sea salt on hand, which would have made it perfect. I then crawled into bed with my laptop computer, and munched popcorn while watching the incredibly lame Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1942), a formula WWII anti-Nazi propaganda film, on DVD. At least Ray Milland was good.