I skipped class for the first time since coming to China today. Well, that’s not entirely true, but this was the first time I skipped to sleep. The other times were all for travel, which is practically the same as attending class anyway (in terms of progress in my Chinese skills). It was Oral class and it was at 8 a.m. and it just wasn’t happening. I approved of 10 o’clock Grammar class, though, and went to that.
Afterwards, Aleid and I shared an odd but good lunch. She took me to the 东北 (northeastern) restaurant by West Gate where she had had caramelized sweet potatoes. We ordered those, a plate of dumplings, and fried egg-and-tomato with rice. None of the dishes really go together but they’re delicious individually and were still quite good together.
Then I had a dessert of paste. I went to the post office to mail my 29 postcards, and ended up licking 29×3 stamps. To those of you who are about to receive postcards with as much area taken up by stamps as by writing, I would like to say: “Blame China Post.”
I keep adding to my list of who I want to give cookies for, so this afternoon I had to go buy more ingredients. I don’t want to use my precious American chocolate chips quite yet, so I went looking for cheap Chinese chocolate. While I wouldn’t voluntarily eat it, it’s fine for baking and much cheaper than Dove. When I was in Jilin, we had all sorts of waxy disgusting chocolate bars for 1 kuai each – Chum, for example, or Yong Fen (pictured below) which, despite looking remarkably similar to Rittersport, has only its brown color in common.
Anyway, I realized as I looked in vain that I hadn’t seen any of these brands in Xiamen. Figures, just around the time I want crappy Chinese chocolate, I can’t find any. I finally found some suitably cheap stuff at the 3rd supermarket, but it was hard enough to be painfully ironic.
This afternoon I was joined by another Thai friend, Doi, who wanted to learn to bake cookies. As the first ones came out of the oven, my Japanese friend Keiko came over to help too.
We made another batch of chocolate chip cookies and one of Anna’s wonderful snickerdoodles. What a wonderful afternoon – tantalizing smells, delicious cookies, the heat of the oven and the warmth of the sun on the balcony. After the cookies were done, I again receiving visitors again – Chinese, Cape Verdean, German, and Austrian. (It was good to see my Chinese friend, Hu Jing. She’s the ME student I befriended, but she’s been too busy to meet with me recently. I now understand why she hasn’t had time – between her classes for her major and minor, she has 15 finals coming up! AND one of them is on New Year’s Day!!!)
I also gave cookies to the desk guards, the woman who sells candy downstairs, and the guy who delivered my takeout. This seems really normal to me (my mom usually gives something to the mailman and people like that when she bakes for friends) but everyone here seems to think it’s odd. Whatever. When I’m in China I pretty much live to rock boats . . .
The highlight of the evening was dancing. Yeah, I know I say that a lot but tonight really was special. I packed up what was left of today’s batch of chocolate chip cookies and brought them with me. Before sitting down, I made the rounds of the room, offering them to everyone – and, when they refused, insisting because they were 自己做的 (made by me)! Everyone seemed to like them and I ended up in a conversation with some of the women about how to make them. IT TURNS OUT that she just happens to have a full-sized oven in her home and doesn’t know how to use it! (I really thought that there were no ovens in China but this is apparently not entirely true. The average house does not have an oven, just like the average American house doesn’t have the equipment to have hotpot, which we don’t eat. But this woman is rich – driving-a-BMW rich, to be exact – so I shouldn’t have been that surprised.) Enter Maria, foreigner with cooking experience who hasn’t seen an oven larger than a shoebox in 4 months, and a beautiful partnership formed. We’re going to go shopping together and I’m going to teach her to bake cookies and cakes and pizza and stuff!
Also, I danced a lot, which is great too. Tonight was the first time I danced an entire song of the samba and the Viennese waltz, and I learned some cool stuff in the 慢四 as well. Sweet. I can’t stop dancing tonight, even as I’m typing right now!