Happy Chinese New Year! I hear it’s year of the Monkey. I don’t know what the significance is, but people are very excited about it. People have been setting off firecrackers for about a week now, but last night was pretty epic. The fireworks had been doing their thing and being loud for almost three hours by the time I cared to pay attention, which was around midnight. I made my way up to the roof and found the entire horizon line filled with this bright cacophony. I was a bit surprised with how close many of them were. At home, on the 4th of July usually, people set them off over water or something, but this was out of parking lots and driveways and basketball courts. Some were being set off on campus a few building away. Really glad that’s over with, I mean I enjoyed the light show, but I much prefer the peace and quiet.
Laura arrived on the 21st of January and departed on the 2nd of February. We lounged for the first few days, then made our way to Xi’an. The hotel was not as nice as I was hoping a 4 or 5 star hotel would be, but it sufficed. The shower though, oh wow, endless hot water and superb water pressure. Two things I had been severely lacking for the previous few months. Anyway, we saw the terracotta warriors and had ourselves a small adventure getting there too, the hotel “private tour service” (another disappointment at the hotel) was supposed to be available at any time but they only have one person on staff to give tours and they weren’t there… So, the terracotta warrior dig-site is not really close to the entrance, first there is a small village of shops near the road, then the ticketing area, we arrived a few minutes before they closed (so close, phew), then a 5-10 minute walk along a path to this arena of buildings. Apparently there is more than one dig-site of terracotta warriors. After we came out of the main dig-site, some woman heard us speaking English and offered us a free tour so she could practice her English (both her father and brother both worked there so she knew almost everything about it and her English was very good), and I’m glad Laura was there to chat her up as we went, I don’t think I had that much conversation in me… We took lots of pictures, soaked in all in and headed back. I’m not sure if it was the last bus or not, but it was getting dark and we caught some of the last few seats and it was perfectly timed. Upon returning to the hotel and went to the Chinese restaurant (because the advertised Japanese and Western restaurants didn’t exist…), but the food there was scrumptious, well worth it. Oh right, prior to all of this, we went to the bazaar, the Muslim area. We went up the bell and drum towers and found a Starbucks which Laura was very excited about and right next to it we found a Haagen Dazs restaurant which I was really excited about, and didn’t know there was such a thing as Haagen Dazs restaurant but I want them to exist everywhere. In the bazaar area we found an uncountable number of food vendors selling sticks and bags full of savory and tasty treats. There was also a very well hidden alley of very cheap goods which must be haggled for if you want to not empty your wallet really fast… I bought some scarves and laser pointers… the laser pointers are super helpful for both teaching class and like choosing food on a wall menu. The scarves… Well, one of them was amazingly soft and slim and just the right colors and pattern, so now I wear a scarf when it’s cold, never done that before, and the rest of them were just pretty and I couldn’t help myself, plus they were cheap… It was all very exciting and we had a wonderful time together, but we missed our train back to Taiyuan by a few minutes… We got a refund for those tickets and bought ones for the next day, then we left the station and started wandering looking for a hotel… Thankfully some random woman noticed us and tried to tell us that she had a place for us to stay. At first we thought she was trying to sell us oranges… Then she showed us her card which had a picture of beds on it. At the end of my wits and no other options we followed this strange woman into her apartment building… Turns out she runs a super small family run hotel-thing. She set us up with a room, brought us fresh water and oranges and it was super cheap, she even woke us up the next morning to make sure we got our train. Super nice lady. We made it back and spent the rest of the time relaxing and decompressing.
Something I wasn’t totally aware of before Laura arrived was how much I am dependent on others, even though I’m living here alone, I still barely speak enough Mandarin to scrape by, and when she became dependent on me for getting around and asking if there was meat in her food, it became a wicked big stressor. Many thanks to all parents and guardians, and especially my mother whom I’m sure will read this. Laura only spent a week and a half with me and I felt overloaded by the end, I can’t imagine how hard your jobs are to take care of us. So in light of how difficult the situation is here right now, we decided to take a little step back, at least until I return to the states. I can’t wait to get home to see her, but while I’m here it’s too much for me to handle. I’m really grateful for her visit, and I’m really grateful for this learning experience, and I have nothing but love for her… (Edit: 5/15/16. This happened a couple months ago but I wasn’t sure about sharing it. Due to a misunderstanding Laura and I are no longer together, which was quite a surprise when I found out, but if she is unable to share important feelings like that with me then I guess it was for the best.)
Oh, by the way, I’m totally and utterly missing home. I think it’s finally hitting me. I’m homesick. I think it was the snow that really triggered it for me. Today was almost 60F and I’m looking at my friends’ pictures on Facebook of snowstorms… I miss tromping around in blizzards. I miss New England. As much trouble as all the snow is, I much prefer it to the smog and pollution here. Oh, and after all those fireworks the air quality chart for the area when up to hazardous overnight.
On a different note, classes start in a couple weeks, realizing as I’m writing this that I need to start preparing… I’m not even sure what classes I have to prepare for… I’ll get on that… As soon as I feel like it…
And the first few weeks of my vacation, and this past week, have been filled to the brim with glorious mind-numbing video games… Ahh the bliss of not thinking about things… If I had rock climbing I’d be doing that instead, but I don’t, I only have video games and filthy air to keep me inside playing them.