Maria Holland

In the Bleak Midwinter

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm

My parents will arrive in Xiamen in 23 days.  This is both really exciting and slightly (okay, majorly) terrifying.  Planning such a trip is really intimidating!  My main concern is for them to have a really great trip, but there are so many things that I have to figure out so that can happen.  I figured out the rough schedule months ago, but then my American friends in Jilin returned to America for the holidays, so that had to change.  I’ve chosen some new places to fill in the gap, but I’m trying to fit stays of the proper duration into their 25-day visit.  Then there’s the issue of transportation, as each location change has the accompanying question: 怎么走?  How should we go – plane, bus, or train?  There are a lot of factors to weigh, including price, time, duration, comfort, etc.

I started (!) researching this morning.  Somewhere in there, it occurred to me that planning a trip for nearly a month across a country like China might be a little bit beyond my abilities.  But after lunch I went to a local travel agency and started talking through things.  With them doing the looking-up instead of me, plus with the addition of their expertise and advise, things started falling into place.  (So Mom and Dad, don’t worry – you’re going to have a great trip!)

I went to class this afternoon for the first time in a week.  (By the way, I happened to run into a friend of mine immediately after returning from both of my recent trips to Shanghai and Wuyishan.  When he figured out that I’d been missing class to go to these places, he told me I was a bad student.  That may have been the only time I have been called such a thing!  If only he knew . . . )  Nobody had been to class since Tuesday, so it was a bit rough.  Tomorrow’s our first 8 a.m. class since last Friday :(

After class I went out to do some Christmas shopping.  Not for gifts – I just had to buy the rest of the ingredients for my Christmas cookies.  There was also a 买一送一 (buy one, get one) sale at Meters/Bonwe that I had to check out.  Shopping therapy after a stressful morning!  I got two long-sleeved shirts, another really cute jacket, and a nice sweater for $40.  Not the cheapest to be found in China, but their clothes are nice enough to be worth bringing home to America. 

Coming home with some takeout and a backpack full of other goodies, I sat down to read the news with dinner.  While reading an article arguing for Tiger Woods as Person of the Year, I realized one of those small perks of living outside of the States.  I feel relatively caught up on the latest news, where “news” is defined here as “events of importance and/or interest”.  However, I am blissfully unaware of a lot of the hype that accompanies the news.  I read about the weird stuff with Tiger and saw a headline or two about Accenture dropping him as a spokesperson, but didn’t know he was on 20 New York Post covers in a row! 

In addition to the big news, I also use Google Reader to read some blogs.  Some are friends’, while some concern other interests of mine.  Today had an interesting entry on language-learning:

Now that I have a … toddler of my own, I’m convinced that everyone who talks about “learning a language effortlessly, just like a baby,” either doesn’t have children or has the observational skills of a salted slug. There is absolutely nothing effortless about the way a child learns a language. It just seems effortless because the kid, unlike an adult put in a similar situation, doesn’t bitch about how hard it all is, probably because he/she doesn’t have any concept of what life is like as a fully communicating adult.

I thought that was a good point!  I had less than one year of complete immersion in Chinese, and I understand more and speak considerably better than the average Chinese one-year old.  It’s not easier for them – it’s just that the expectations are much lower and, really, more realistic. 

WHOA!  My blog (and, it looks like, the rest of wordpress and blogspot) is unblocked in China!

I feel like this post is less cohesive than usual, which makes it hard to think up a title.  I think I will solve this by naming all my post-Wuyishan entries after Christmas songs.  This one is actually quite fitting, as today is the winter solstice and therefore the middle of the bleak winter.  It’s also fitting because the weather in Xiamen feels both bleak and wintery.  It’s sooooo cold here.  I took a long, almost-scalding hot shower before putting on sweatpants and a sweatshirt and grabbing my little heated gel pack to put on my lap.  I thought this was supposed to be a tropical island?  I want my money back . . .

(FYI, the current temperature is 10°C, or 50°F.)

  1. Happy Solstice! Happy chasing of the light.


  2. Tiger Woods was also on the cover of a recent Newsweek, which is worth of mentioning because the picture was an EXTREME CLOSE-UP of his face, and would probably make a pretty good Halloween mask.

  3. I looked for the cover but couldn’t find it . . . sounds interesting though!

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