Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Last Tsinghua Meal

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2015 at 12:33 pm

I went to work early today, to take advantage of the last day I can run simulations.  I was also supposed to meet with Profs. Feng and Li about the next step, but there was a miscommunication.  So instead, I met with just Prof. Feng in the afternoon.  

I had lunch with my Romanian coteacher, Tamas, to say goodbye.  As we walked outside after lunch, the loudest crack of thunder I’ve ever heard scared the crap out of me, and was immediately followed by an absolute downpour.  Ugh, 墨迹天气, my weather app, is the worst.  Of course, today was the day I only brought an umbrella.  I barely made it to a nearby building, where I waited out the rain shopping for a few more Tsinghua souvenirs – and another rain coat.  

In the evening, I had my last meal at the Tsinghua cafeteria.  The food selection seemed so fraught with importance, and then I choked and got what I thought was pork but was actually bamboo shoots, haha.  Also, two people bought watermelon, so we ate so much watermelon . . . 

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Afterwards, I realized I had to clean up my desk and transfer data, which took longer than I expected.  Then we went to play mahjong again!  Two of my EAPSI friends were interested but bailed, so it ended up being me, Zu Yan, Cheng, and her boyfriend.  I did a lot better this time.  I think the time off to process things helped – I literally dreamt of Zu Yan teaching me more rules last night, so I know my brain was working on it all night.  

We played until a little after midnight.  I still got to bed waaaay earlier than some EAPSI people . . . As tomorrow is the closing ceremony, all the non-Beijingers have to get back here by tomorrow.  Easier said than done, because apparently the noon thunderstorm in Beijing threw the air traffic situation in the entire country into complete disarray.  People sat on the tarmac for hours, were delayed or canceled multiple times, etc.  For a while, I wondered if it was just going to be the 12 of us Beijingers for the ceremony tomorrow, but I think the last flight landed around 4am.  

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Learning Mahjong

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2015 at 10:51 am

There are a ton of donkey restaurants in Beijing; apparently it’s a Hebei thing.  It had been on my dwindling Beijing to-do list for a while, so this morning I went to get 驴肉火烧.  Contrary to what I was told, it turns out that donkey sandwiches are not a breakfast food, so I’ll have try again tomorrow.  

Today I brought in a bunch more things I couldn’t return or didn’t use up.  Here, have some conditioner I didn’t like, and some q-tips.  Seriously, I give the best gifts.

I also brought in the rest of the s’mores ingredients.  I just realized this morning that they have bunsen burners in the lab – we could have been eating s’mores all day err’day!  

Prof. Feng’s son came in to the lab today and ate lunch with us.  He’s a sophomore or junior in high school and is taller than me – a veritable giant.  Zhao Yan asked him if his biggest problem is that every girl likes him, haha.  He’s tall, left-handed, and was born in Germany (while Feng was doing a post-doc at Dusseldorf) . . . an eerie number of similarities with my own brother!  

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I made a complete mess of myself while eating watermelon today.  We have watermelon after lunch and dinner about 87% of the time.  I’ve easily eaten more watermelon in two months here than I have in the rest of my life combined.  Unfortunately, watermelon is not my talent – I just can’t eat it without getting soaked.  But, I have my own gifts.  My labmates here (like people everywhere, really) are fascinated by my extraordinary talents at sleeping and frowning.  Sleeping and frowning are my talents.  Today I learned how to turn pictures into stickers, so now I can send my frown in WeChat messages with one tap!  

It was supposed to rain today at noon.  Of course, my weather app has said this literally every day for the last two weeks.  Around noon, it says in the morning.  At noon, it becomes 1; at 1, rain is predicted at 2.  At some point, they give up and say, it will rain tonight.  I think we’ve had rain twice since it began this game two weeks ago – basically as accurate as a broken clock.  Today I taught my labmates the phrase “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  And they taught me a word for liar: 啃爹.  

In the afternoon, Prof. Feng asked if I would like to join the meeting with a visiting professor that Zu Yan is going to work with next month.  Oh man, that was the most awkward meeting I have ever been in.  I tried to break the ice by speaking English with him as they set up, but he didn’t seem that interested in talking to me.  Then, Prof. Du and Zu Yan presented, both in English, which I’d never heard either of them speak.  They did a good job, although their work is definitely outside my field and I couldn’t do much more than smile and nod.  But the visiting professor had arrived in China two days ago and was obviously not over jet lag.  He couldn’t stay awake, which led to long silences as they waited for him to wake up and answer a question of theirs.  There were also weird moments when he was asleep, I didn’t know what they were talking about, and I wondered, if you speak English and no one understands it, does it still make a sound?

At various points during this, Prof. Feng answered the phone, printed off a short story for me to read, and gave me a gift of tea and showed me how to steep it.  Aaah it was so awkward.

Afterwards, Prof. Feng suggested that I present.  So I also got to experience the awkwardness of speaking English at a sleeping American while a bunch of Chinese listen.  He seemed interested when he was awake, though, and we ended up speaking at length about the EAPSI program, and my experiences in China.

After me, HaoYuan and Chang Zheng talked about their research on spider silk.  It was also the first time I’d heard them speak English, although to be honest, it was about the first time either of them had talked to me except for that graduation dinner.  When I told them tomorrow is my last day, they seemed sad to see me go.  I’m not sure why, but I guess that’s cool?

Today I finally gave out the Stanford shirts I brought from home.  I probably waited too long to do this, but I was waiting for a time when all the people I wanted to give them to were there, and no one else, which never happened.  I also underestimated the number of girls that would be in my lab, and how small they would be.  Sigh.

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Zu Yan wanted to take me to get donkey to thank me for helping her with her presentation, but she took too long so I went with Zhao Yan instead.  It was good – the most similar thing to a sandwhich or taco that i’ve had here in China.  

Zu Yan joined us at the donkey place.  She was exuberant, having finished finished the English presentation, and wanted to celebrate.  She wanted to play mahjong, and I was definitely in!  We coerced Zhao Yan into joining us (Zu Yan s a social instigator like me, so he really stood no change), but that still left us 三缺一 (three, missing one).  Luckily, GuoYang was done packing and agreed to come over.

We went to a mahjong place near the south gate, a pretty seedy place, the kind where you could picture opium being smoked.  (But only cigarettes were smoked.  I am very sensitive to cigarette smoke, but when I asked about it, Zu Yan pointed to a No Smoking sign.  As if that meant anything . . . It struck me as a very Chinese response, to defer to the official word instead of conceding to reality.)

We were in a little room with a table – the coolest table I’ve ever seen.  It’s an automatic mahjong table – you press a button in the middle and a circle rises up, revealing an opening under the table.  You shove all the tiles in there, press the button again, and the circle lowers to close the table.  While the tiles are swished around underneath, shuffled and restacked for you, a new set rises up out of the table.  Within seconds of finishing a game, you’re ready to play the next one.  It’s only good for one thing, but it does that thing perfectly.

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The rules of mahjong vary across China.  Zu Yan is from Heilongjiang and GuoYang is from Chongqing, so they first had to agree on rules – the simplest, I think, for my sake.  Even so, mahjong is definitely the hardest thing I’ve done yet in China.  Part of it is that I had to learn the rules in Chinese – my brain works slower when it has to process two things at once, like language and logic.  Another reason is that mahjong does not follow the some of the basic rules that most games I’m familiar with do.  For instance – play moves counterclockwise, which never stopped confusing me; you can form series (123 or the like in the same suite) but not sets (111 from different suites), and even then only ever three in a row; and there are multiple ways to win (in our “simple” rules, either four sets of 3 and a pair, or seven pairs).  

The worst part was that, by the time I got my tiles flipped over and arranged in some logical order, a few tiles had already been played, and they inevitably included one that I needed.  They were going too fast for me, although they said they were actually playing slow!

Zu Yan, bless her heart, kept trying to help me.  She’d look at my tiles sometimes and offer advice.  Often, the advice would include assessing the tiles that other people had already played, so as to not give them what they want.  I laughed so hard at this.  I literally hadn’t looked at another players’ hand in several games.  I was barely holding it together at this point – I did not have the brain power to even consider the other players.

The low point of the night was definitely when GuoYang asked if I had won, and was right.  I hadn’t even realized!  He couldn’t even see most of my tiles, just guessed based on the ones I’d picked up and how I had them arranged.  How embarrassing.  

The high point of the night was when I won the last hand on my own!!

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Other notes:

if I never hear 国洋还是郭洋 (guōyáng or guóyáng?) again in my life, I will be happy.  

Once they asked me if recognized the characters on the tiles 發 and 萬.  They’re traditional, but also really common (the simplified forms are 发 and 万 – much easier!!).  I introduced them to the phrase, “bitch, please”.

Also GuoYang is really good at mahjong, which was annoying, so I taught them “Who invited him?”  He was really really good, and I was terrible, so I almost taught them “rage quit” as well . . . 

GuoYang called the direction of play “inverse clockwise”.  I laughed.  Counter clockwise, I said.  Would people understand me? he asked.  Yes, they’ll understand, but they’ll laugh.

I made a joke about us being 赌博的读博的人 (gambling PhD students).  It’s funny because the two words, “gamble” and “PhD student”, are identical except for one tone.  See, this is the humor only foreigners like me can come up with, because we play fast and loose with tones.  

 

We stopped playing around midnight or one – that table makes it so easy to play without noticing the passing of time!  I still had to pack after getting home – I’d been hoping to be able to take my extra luggage to the lab tomorrow, but I’m going to have to make an extra trip.  As it was, I didn’t get to sleep until 3am.  

Things I Luckily Didn’t Leave at Home, and Things I Should Have

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2015 at 10:12 am

I went to Mass today at the North Cathedral – last Mass in Beijing.  There was some activity going on, ton of young people in matching blue shirts, so I couldn’t sit where I usually do.  But it’s always nice to see full churches.  

I think every time I’ve gone to Mass in Beijing, I see someone instructing someone else how to put their arms over the chest in order to receive a blessing at Communion.  I wonder if Chinese Catholics bring a lot of non-Catholic friends to Mass?

Afterwards, I went to a nice Xinjian restaurant at Xizhimen to have lunch with the two friends of a friend who took me to lunch when I first got here.  

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Every single time I offer treat, I fret about not having enough money.  Every single time.  This time I had 450元.  A lot of the dishes were around 150元, so I was legitimately worried.  I even asked if they took credit cards, but they said only domestic cards worked.  I tried to stay calm as we ordered, but they said what I suggested was too much and reduced it.  We ended up getting a “big plate of chicken”, a plate of noodles, a few lamb sticks, some bread, eggplant and green beans, and Xinjiang [salty?!] milk tea.  It was still a ton of food, and delicious, and cost 130元 (around $20).  This also happens every single time I offer to treat – I can’t believe how cheap it was, and that I was ever worried.

I got a ride back to the train station, which was great because it was HOT today.  Only 35C, apparently, but it felt like the hottest day yet.  I’m not sure if it was the humidity (only 50%!  Xiamen will be 90+%!!) or the fact that the pollution was pretty bad and I wore a mask all day, but I could not handle it.  

At the train station, one of the girls helped me get my train tickets.  I had bought three of them online, and had the confirmation numbers, so those were easy enough to get.  (Side note: I had a mild panic attack when, at the front of the line with the grumpy teller and a long line of people behind me, I thought all the information was in my Gmail account.  That’s like three layers of inaccessible, as I’d have to have internet, get on my VPN, and download PDFs.  Thankfully, I had put the numbers in Evernote.  But it was just one of those situations where I realize how smoothly my life runs in the US and how . . . different that all is in China.)

The fourth ticket was the one I bought at Tsinghua and then lost.  Unfortunately, they had no record of my ticket on the train number I had written down.  I vaguely remember him saying that that train was sold out and offering me another one, but I don’t really know which one.  We tried several others, all the fastest trains on that day (which better be what I bought!) but found nothing.  I’ll probably make a trip back to the place where I bought the ticket, then, worst-case scenario, buy it again.  It was 270元, or $45 – not nothing, but I’ve definitely made worse mistakes.

After being on the go all morning in the crazy heat, I was ready to go back to the hotel for the rest of the day.  I showered, cleaned up, took a nap, read The Three Body Problem, and kind of started packing.  I’m trying to figure out what I can/should bring on my two weeks of travels, and what should stay in Beijing.  Opening up my suitcases and going through my drawers, I got a look at the things I’d brought and never used.  The award for Most Worthless Thing I Lugged Across the Pacific definitely goes to the big box of business cards I’d been told were ‘essential’.  I think since I came to China, I’ve legimitately used one, and gave another two to labmates as basically a souvenir.  The award for Thing I Almost Left Behind That I’m Glad I Didn’t is a tie between my Time Capsule (oh, the glories of wireless internet in my hotel room, at least when we have internet in the hotel) and my 3D printed brain (best. show-and-tell. ever.).  All in all, I did a decent job packing.  

What Was On My Mind (III)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 5:00 pm

The end of the year, captured in facebook statuses:

 

Maria Holland heard someone say “Not gonna lie” today and, not gonna lie, it made me realize how long I’ve been away from America.
May 12 at 11:35pm

Maria Holland is still delighted every time I realized I can speak and read Chinese. Does it ever get old?
May 15 at 12:36am

Maria Holland It would have been nice to know we were climbing a mountain after Mass today, because the clothes I usually wear to Mass are generally not the best for mountain climbing. But, I’ve now climbed a mountain in peep-toed sandals and a skirt and feel more Chinese for the experience.
May 16 at 10:00pm

Maria Holland is spending the night at the church on Gulangyu. I’m planning a peaceful and quiet night, praying for Uncle Daniel and Robert, Nick, & Lonnie on the anniversary of their deaths. Glad we got to know you, Daniel.
May 18 at 5:12pm

Maria Holland had a beautiful night on Gulangyu. I took in a violin concert, savored the silence of the island broken only by piano music, slept three doors away from the choir loft of a century-old Catholic church, went to morning Mass, and had porridge with the bishop.
May 19 at 9:46am

Maria Holland got a SEVEN on the HSK!!!!!! I could theoretically go to college in China . . . but I think I’ll head back to TU and finish up there.
May 19 at 11:55am

Maria Holland it is May 2010 and, just like May 2007 and May 2008, I am making my way to the northeast of China. It’s almost like going home . . .
Meat sticks, I’m coming for you. Get ready!
May 20 at 2:54pm

Maria Holland is in Hunchun, the (0,0,0,0) coordinate of my life in China! I’ve been living with Xiao Zhang and Xiao Li, visited Mob Boss and MacGyver, eaten at DongFang and am currently preparing for an epic Shell birthday dinner complete with my cake and homemade dairy products like you wouldn’t believe.
Be jealous.
May 23 at 4:43pm

Maria Holland is in Hunchun at the farm today, for the third anniversary of my first day in China, and the third International Day of Prayer for the Church in China. Please join me, il Papa, and Christians around the world in praying for love, mutual understanding, and unity (both spiritual and political) between all 基督徒 in China.
May 24 at 8:34am

Maria Holland met up with Zaibin, my very first Chinese friend, today and we went to see Goose Lady!
May 25 at 8:52pm

Maria Holland has spent nine months in China!
May 26 at 10:31pm

Maria Holland is going to Xiao Zhang’s to learn how to make jiaozi and sugared potatoes! This means no internet ’til Sunday night though . . .
May 27 at 3:21pm

Maria Holland it is 10 a.m. in China and I’ve already stolen someone’s identity and broken the law. I’m currently sitting in what seems to be a love motel that I have rented by the hour. This has been a great trip . . .
May 30 at 10:39am

Maria Holland is back in Xiamen, happy to be out of Jilin but already missing Hunchun.
Also, how is it almost June??
May 31 at 10:52am

Maria Holland I live on a tropical island. Today is the 2nd of June. I wore my winter coat to go to dinner. One of these things is not like the others . . .
June 2 at 9:42pm

Maria Holland taking advantage of the rain to have the laziest day ever. Entire day spent in pajamas – check. Lunch delivered – check. Dinner delivered – check. Four seasons of Psych on DVD – check.
June 3 at 8:38pm

Maria Holland found out that Chinese people think mixed-blood babies are exceptionally beautiful and smart. Whatever. It’s when it turns into a matchmaking service designed to match me with a Chinese husband that I start to mind. Also, does EVERYONE have to participate? Random old man on the street last night, I’m talking about you . . .
June 5 at 2:56pm

Maria Holland watched Iron Man 2 (钢铁侠2) in theaters today and then bought both 1 & 2 on DVD immediately afterwards, for less than the cost of a movie in America. Sweet!
June 6 at 8:49pm

Maria Holland enjoyed an hour-long massage for $5 this morning. Yeah, I’m doin’ alright.
June 8 at 11:09pm

Maria Holland has still not bought return tickets. Maybe I’m not quite ready for that step . . .
June 10 at 12:52am

Maria Holland has pancake mix, dried pasta, marshmallows, chocolate, nutella, condensed milk, brown sugar, powdered sugar, and most of a bottle of gin . . . . and I am determined to use all of it before I leave this country, despite lacking an oven or any discernible kitchen.
June 10 at 5:41pm

Maria Holland had a great time watching the opening game of the World Cup. It’s a weird feeling, though, probably like what Harry Potter felt upon discovering this whole other world that only cares about one sport, a sport that you’ve never heard of.
June 12 at 1:01am

Maria Holland US vs. England in our first World Cup appearance – at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday/school night? Why certainly!
June 12 at 11:12pm

Maria Holland needs more soccer-related vocabulary if I’m going to continue watching the World Cup in China. Tonight’s 生词: “draw” = 平. 我为美国加油! (I’m cheering for America!)
June 13 at 5:01am

Maria Holland Tomorrow would be the perfect day to leave Xiamen, because I just had the perfect Last Night in Country: singing French drinking songs on a bus that we flagged down at 2 a.m. and convinced to take us to a bar.
June 18 at 3:39am

Maria Holland is gearing up for a showdown between America and Slovenia – basically, me vs. Kristina. 美国 para ganar!
June 18 at 8:41pm

Maria Holland is really getting this football thing. Not getting the whole sleep thing, though. The two may or may not be related.
June 19 at 3:19am

Maria Holland is ready to go home, I guess. Everything is moldy and I’m tired of it. 30 days seems just about right!
June 21 at 11:06pm

Maria Holland has the Stomach Clench of Death. Come on yogurt, work your magic . . .
June 22 at 2:23pm

Maria Holland and this is why I’m loving the World Cup: sitting in a coffehouse, watching the England-Slovenia game and reading updates on the US-Algeria game, with friends from 3 of the 4 countries next to me. The US goal in the final minutes to win the group didn’t hurt either, of course!
June 24 at 12:38am

Maria Holland This may be the best line of its kind since “save a horse, ride a cowboy: “Although I’m a cowboy, I only drink milk in bars. Why don’t I drink beer? Because it’s bad for your health.” Courtesy of a Chinese cowboy song, “Cowboys Are Very Busy”
June 25 at 2:52am

Maria Holland taking a nap in my U.S.A jersey before the game. Sorry, Africa, but I hope Ghana’s out after this . . .
June 27 at 1:08am

Maria Holland Xiamen has a way of making up for Bad China Days. I had a very successful trip shopping for gifts this morning, spent a beautiful afternoon on the beach, and am headed out for dinner and the game. NEDERLANDS!!!
June 28 at 6:59pm

Maria Holland plans to enjoy each of my remaining days in China as much as I did today. Lunch with friends, afternoon on the beach, winning two games of 6-player Catan tonight. Spain and Holland play this weekend and we’re celebrating the Fourth on a boat, then I go to Hangzhou to see Matt Thomas! 挺好的 :)
July 1 at 1:38am

Maria Holland has a plane ticket! On July 20th at 8 p.m. (Beijing time), I will begin my adventure towards home. Expect me around 9 a.m. Central on Wednesday, July 21st at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport – allowing, of course, for 48 hours of possible “adventure-related delays”.
July 1 at 12:20pm

Maria Holland is feeling far from home right now. Didn’t realize how important the internet is to keeping me connected, until they shut off our electricity today and I missed the news of my aunt’s heart attack. Please pray for my Aunt Cathy!
July 3 at 9:34pm

Maria Holland This was the best Fourth of July ever . . . if I do say so myself. Wait for pictures if you don’t believe me!
July 4 at 8:34pm

Maria Holland is not quite caught up from an amazing Fourth of July weekend but, ready or not, I’m off to Suzhou and Hangzhou tomorrow afternoon!
July 6 at 12:07am

Maria Holland Spain vs. the Netherlands in the World Cup final: two countries with the best-looking football, the best-looking footballers, and some of my best friends. I cannot lose!
July 8 at 4:29am

Maria Holland had Papa John’s delivered and ate it with an old friend from elementary, middle, and high school. BTW, I’m still in China. That’s crazy, right?
July 8 at 9:20pm

Maria Holland returned to Xiamen for the last time. The next time I return somewhere, I will be returning to the United States. 11 days . . .
July 9 at 8:55pm

Maria Holland will miss many things when I leave here – but not The Key anymore, and never the giant kamikaze bugs.
July 11 at 2:00am

Maria Holland is getting ready for three finals: the World Cup at 2:30 a.m., Listening at 9:00 a.m., and Grammar at 10 a.m. I predict domination in all three!
July 11 at 9:31pm

Maria Holland AAAH. This morning was amazing, between the game, the glorious sunrise, and the celebratory s’mores that we ate (possibly for breakfast). No longer tired. Two finals in three hours.
July 12 at 6:06am

Maria Holland is so tired. My sleep schedule has been messed up by constant goodbye parties and the month-long World Cup, but if I can keep it up for 8 more days maybe I won’t have jet lag when I get back home?
July 13 at 1:58am

What Was On My Mind (I)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 4:54 pm

The first part of the year, captured in facebook statuses:

 

Maria Holland is off to China!
August 24, 2009 at 6:17pm

Maria Holland made it to Hong Kong! Not really sure what happened to Tuesday though . . .
August 26, 2009 at 7:46am

Maria Holland is in Xiamen! Despite the best efforts of the Chinese to thwart me, I have a place a to sleep, cell phone, bank account, and have registered for classes. Take that!
August 28, 2009 at 1:43pm

Maria Holland is enjoying a BEAUTIFUL day in Xiamen (as in, my glasses did not fog up when I walked out of my air-conditioned room)!
August 29, 2009 at 12:04pm

Maria Holland had a great day yesterday – got vindicated on the issue of registration, got my money back from the university, rode the bus successfully, found my church, went to Mass in Chinese, and went DANCING!!!
August 30, 2009 at 2:34pm

Maria Holland couldn’t have just walked out of a dance at her university in China and bought a chocolate crunch Magnum bar for about 70 cents. It’s just not possible . . . yet it most certainly happened. My life is awesome!
September 2, 2009 at 10:42pm

Maria Holland realized I haven’t seen, much less used, a fork and knife in 10 days. Weird . . . but at the same time, not.
September 5, 2009 at 12:05am

Maria Holland found French bread at the local bakery!!!!! I think I’m going to make it here . . .
September 10, 2009 at 12:22pm

Maria Holland saw a commercial for a board game store on a bus today. Unfortunately, it was in Chinese, but I WILL FIND IT. So help me, Klaus Teuber.
September 12, 2009 at 5:45pm

Maria Holland broke a mercury thermometer in my room this morning. The guard’s response? "没关系!" (no worries!)
September 17, 2009 at 12:51pm

Maria Holland met a guy from Oklahoma – OU, to be specific – last night at a beach party in Xiamen, China. Incidentally, we met at the exact time that they were beating us in football, apparently.
September 20, 2009 at 1:34pm

Maria Holland learned the Sign of the Cross in Chinese today! 因父,及子,及圣神之名,阿门.
September 21, 2009 at 10:37pm

Maria Holland has Chinese study buddies for both Catholic and Engineering vocabulary. This is basically everything I was hoping for.
September 23, 2009 at 12:50am

Maria Holland is hesitant to declare victory over China, as this has often led to smiting.
September 25, 2009 at 9:53pm

Maria Holland is in Taiwan. At least the typhoon that’s heading our way won’t catch me with my pants down . . . BECAUSE I’M NOT WEARING PANTS!!!
September 30, 2009 at 11:18pm

Maria Holland has eaten Dunkin’ Donuts, a BLT, Coldstone, and fajitas in Taiwan. BUT I also climbed an entire mountain, bathed nude in hot springs, and am eating snake tonight. 
October 2, 2009 at 6:46pm

Maria Holland experienced her first earthquake last night, and is still trying to make plans for southern taiwan around the typhoon(s). Thanks, Taiwan :)
October 4, 2009 at 9:52pm

Maria Holland is leaving Taibei. Destination: rain. Pretty much . . .
October 5, 2009 at 8:25am

Maria Holland has checked most everything off the list of natural disasters here in Taiwan: Typhoon, check. Earthquake, check. Rockslides, check. Still looking for a flood before I leave tomorrow . . .
October 9, 2009 at 11:46pm

Maria Holland had a wonderful time in Taiwan and is now back home in Xiamen. Yes, I said home. Isn’t that weird?
October 14, 2009 at 1:39pm

Maria Holland watched a beautiful sunset in Xiamen this afternoon, is going to a 350.org event on Sunday, and has 3 dancing events coming up in as many days. 祝你周末快乐! (Happy Weekend!)
October 23, 2009 at 9:46pm

Maria Holland participated in 350.org’s International Climate Day of Action in China! Also, I’m on track to go dancing every night this weekend. Seriously, my life is wonderful.
October 25, 2009 at 2:35am

Maria Holland has been in China for two months today, which means it has been two months since I last saw anyone I knew two months ago . . . The weather is beautiful, wish you were here (hint hint)
October 27, 2009 at 12:10am

Maria Holland found out that my XiaDa student ID gets me 1 kuai off at Coco, my favorite milk tea place. It does NOT, however, allow me to check out books from the school library, and that is just not okay.
October 27, 2009 at 11:15pm

Maria Holland is studying dance in China. I’m learning a little bit of Chinese, too, but that’s just coincidental.
October 28, 2009 at 11:40pm

Maria Holland it just figures. The one time you go out in your pajamas to buy a bottle of gin, you see everyone you know.
October 31, 2009 at 5:16pm

Maria Holland is sick – after the most expensive dinner yet in China (67 yuan!) at a famous vegetarian restaurant. Seriously??!?
November 1, 2009 at 7:18am

Maria Holland 拉肚子. There is no such thing as TMI in China, so I don’t care if you all know how my digestive system is doing: not well.
November 3, 2009 at 6:41pm

Maria Holland realizes that there are too many things I haven’t done yet, and too many sunsets I haven’t seen. I can’t waste the day wishing it would slow down; I’ve been given this one world and I won’t worry it away. Every now and then, I lose sight of the good life . . . but then love comes in ♥
November 5, 2009 at 9:13pm

Maria Holland is taking "adventuring towards" to a whole new level. Tomorrow morning we are *probably* going to be adventuring towards Ningde, which is *either* 4 or 12 hours away. Tell you all about it on Sunday evening!
November 6, 2009 at 10:35pm

Maria Holland I think Fujian is the biggest province in the world. You can ride buses for hours and hours and hours and travel only tiny parts of it. In fact, that’s exactly what I did this weekend.
November 9, 2009 at 12:31am

Maria Holland finally remembers what butter tastes like, but adjectives are failing me.
November 10, 2009 at 1:10pm

Maria Holland had one of those moments where I realized, "Holy crap, I live in China!" – and then smiled. It’s a good day here in Xiamen.
November 19, 2009 at 1:57pm

Maria Holland played Catan tonight!!!! Learned a lot of Chinese words in the process (wheat, chance, robber, trade) and even laughed ’til I cried.
November 20, 2009 at 9:59pm

Maria Holland spent $10 tonight and enjoyed dinner (all-you-can-eat) and a movie (2012), with a lesson in reading Chinese subtitles at no extra charge.
November 23, 2009 at 12:47am

Maria Holland celebrating my second Thanksgiving in China. Last year left quite a precedent to live up to, but I’m doing my best!
November 25, 2009 at 11:25pm

Maria Holland got up really early the day after Thanksgiving . . . to run. Sometimes China is not so fun. Tomorrow is the sack-hop race, which is sure to be even more intense. Remember, Maria, you’re doing it for the t-shirt!
November 27, 2009 at 4:44pm

Maria Holland is slightly bummed that I have 6 weeks of class left instead of one like everyone at TU, but on the other hand, I’m a lot more free to skip class. Thus, I’m leave for 5 days in Shanghai on Thursday, and the following week will be spent traveling through Fujian and Jiangxi.
November 30, 2009 at 9:38pm

Maria Holland is headed to Shanghai tomorrow for my deacon’s ordination! Please pray for him and all clergy throughout the world!
December 2, 2009 at 2:41pm

Maria Holland found out today that one of my priests may or may not be set to be ordained a BISHOP early next year!
December 8, 2009 at 10:10pm

Maria Holland is taking the midnight train going aaaaanyyywhere! . . . I mean, we’re hoping to end up at Wuyishan but this is China, so who really knows?
December 15, 2009 at 2:51pm

Maria Holland had a really wonderful trip to Wuyishan. Highlight was probably the singing of national anthems by citizens of four nations on the bus ride. Now I’m back home in Xiamen for the holidays – but really, is 15 C the best I can get around here? Tropical island fail.
December 19, 2009 at 11:23am

Maria Holland is BAKING! Half of the ingredients are Chinese and my oven has a capacity of approximately 4 cookies, but . . . still, I’m BAKING! This is a big deal.
December 21, 2009 at 10:57pm

Maria Holland is on one of those emotional highs – dancing, Christmas movies, baking and sharing cookies, having friends, and finding an oven in China!
December 23, 2009 at 9:51pm

Maria Holland had the strangest Christmas Eve EVER – namely because of baking 100+ cookies 4 at a time, visiting McDonald’s, and eating barbecue on the side of the street at 2 a.m. But I really do believe that if each holiday in China isn’t the strangest you’ve had, you’re doing something wrong. Therefore, I must be doing something VERY right.
December 25, 2009 at 2:25am

Maria Holland is so Two-Thousand-and-Ten, you’re so Two-Thousand-and- . . . then? Happy New Year, everyone – it’s a great one so far!!
January 1 at 12:41am

Jet Lag and Reverse Culture Shock Aren’t So Bad

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

I think I actually like jet lag.  Coming back from China is the only time I ever get up early willingly, and it’s also the only time that’s acceptable to feel as tired as I always feel.  Four hour nap in the late afternoon?  It’s just jet lag.  Incapable of staying awake during a 15-minute car ride?  She just got back from a year in China, what do you expect?  Sleeping for 14 hours when a pre-dinner nap went too long?  Well, it’s noon where she was before! 

(Never mind that I regularly do these things – or at least would love to do them – when I have no such valid excuse.)

Since I’m already just this side of narcoleptic, it’s a little hard to tell when I’m over jet lag.  Kind of like how it’s hard to tell if I’m drunk or not; I have no sense of direction anyway and can’t ever walk straight, so don’t jump to any conclusions.

 

After the insane heat of my last month in Xiamen, I couldn’t wait to get home to Minnesota on the 45th parallel.  But when you study abroad you hear a lot about reverse culture shock, when you realize everything you’ve been missing about home maybe isn’t quite as amazing as you remembered it being.  So while I sweated through multiple changes of clothes each day and spent all available moments on the beach in the sun (because it was just as hot anywhere else and at least there it was acceptable to sweat gallons), I wondered to myself if I was seeing Minnesota through rose-colored glasses. 

But no, it’s all true.  Minnesota summers are just as gorgeous as I remember.  I heard some people talking about heat but they were obviously completely crazy.  It was a week before I used the AC in the car, and I told my mom the first day I broke a sweat – a good 10 days after my return. 

It wasn’t until I got back to Minnesota that I realized just how hot Xiamen was.  The temperatures were in Celsius; while I developed a good feel for that scale I could only compare those temperatures to other temperatures in Celsius.  Also, I never once heard mention of a heat index, which must be either a Fahrenheit thing or an American thing.  Looking back now, the heat index on my last day in Xiamen was 124F; the first day of that weekend we lost power was 138F.  The two hottest days of my two weeks in Minnesota were barely even 120. 

So when people complain about the heat, I just say that it’s nothing “compared to China”.  This is actually relevant to many topics.  Weather, prices, population, distance, convenience, courtesy – everything looks a little bit different when China is added to the perspective.  It’s all relative. 

I can’t help but compare.  I expected the price comparison to be especially hard to take but actually overprepared for culture shock in some ways.  I was terrified to come home and have to spend American dollars, but it’s not so bad.  I’ve gotten some decent meals for less than $10, even $5, and the movie theater near my house has $5 movies except on weekends.  That’s what I was paying in China, with the 50% student discount!! 

My haircut was a total rip-off, though (especially when I realized later that, with hair this long, I could easily cut it myself), and taxes and tips suck.  After a long year of dividing by 7 (which I am really awesome at!), calculating 15% shouldn’t be so ridiculously hard.  But it is. 

 

Two things have really surprised me about America: how little Chinese there is, and how much.  First of all, no one knows any Chinese.  Every American has 30 Spanish words or phrases, 20 French, and a few German (gesundheit, danke shoen, blitzkreig, etc.).  We even know some Japanese – domo arigato [Mr. Roboto], konichiwa, and sayonara.  But Chinese?  Before my first trip I didn’t know how to say ‘hello’ in Chinese, and most people I ask back home can’t either. 

It’s kind of cool.  I can say whatever I want and no one has a clue what I’m saying.  There are no congnates to give me away, and even the tone of voice that could give me away in other languages is disguised by the choppiness of Chinese tonality.  I can also write anything in a code impenetrable to the vast majority of the American population.

(Another advantage: When my parents try to use my computer, I end up hearing them call from the other room: “How do you get rid of the Chinese?!?!”)

It would be better, though, if everyone would just learn my top 3 phrases or something.  麻烦, 走吧, and 怎么办 should be as commonplace as hola and gracias.  It would make my life so much easier.  Come on, Americans, get with it! 

But I also said that I was surprised at how much Chinese there is in America.  Characters EVERYWHERE!  On signs of Chinese restaurants, on all sorts of art, on everybody and their brother’s tatoos.  Pretty funny considering how few people can read them at all. 

 

I’m still realizing how different this year is going to be.  I became used to my life in Xiamen over the last 11 months to the point that that became my ‘normal’.  It’s been 16 months since I took a class that wasn’t about Chinese and 11 months since I took a class that wasn’t taught in Chinese.  Thing’s gonna be a little different this year, I think.

My Onion horoscope this week was:

Your belief that all life’s problems can be solved with a heart-to-heart talk and a good night’s sleep will be severely tested this week when you’re introduced to mathematics.

Sad day, considering a large part of my life as an American college student is mathematics.  Specifically, MATH 4503 Intro to Numerical Methods. 

I mean, I know I’m headed back to TU, back to ME and all, but I can tell I’m still thinking in China mode.  I had to buy a new computer (because my LCD backlight died and our open-heart surgery proved less than successful), and just like the army always fighting the last war, I found myself buying a computer for last year.  I pictured myself watching whole seasons of DVDs on that screen (when I have a huge TV in my living room), obsessed over having USB ports with the ability to sleep-and-charge (although I’ll have outlets and power strips galore in my bedroom), and worried about portability (even though I’ll be treating it as a desktop just like I did the year before I left).

In the end, I bought a computer.  It has a sleep-and-charge port but is just as ludicrously large as the brick I hauled all across China.  My laptops have an average lifespan of 2 years, though, and who really knows what the second year of this one will bring?

A friend called me a few days after I got home.  Stephen managed to get a hold of me on the day I left for China and also ended up being the first one to call me upon my return.  It was great to hear from him, although the familiarity of his voice reminded me instantly of my last year at TU and how, without him, it won’t be the same.  After we chatted and caught up, he asked me what was different about home.  I searched for something deep to say but came up with nothing.  You know, being gone from Minnesota for a year really isn’t weird at all.  When I’m at school in Tulsa I only make it home for a few weeks around Christmas between summers, so this year wasn’t all that different.  My parents even came to see me around the time I would have seen them normally, so I just missed out on seeing the town and the few friends left up there.  Coming back to my parents’ house after a year away felt just like that – like another year away.  Not that long, nothing special, just another year away. 

But TU?  Being gone one year from a place where the average turnover is four?  That will be different.  As I said, it’s all relative. 

 

Like sleep and my Anki reviews, reading the news got put on the back burner in both the pre-departure rush and the post-arrival chaos.  I finally got around to my Google Reader starred list after a week at home.  Lots of random articles and a whole series of them about the oil spill.  As far as I was concerned, oil was gushing til the end of the month (although it was actually capped on July 15th). 

I wonder if I’ll stop being out of touch now that I’m back in the States?

Ode To A Little Container of Garlic Sauce

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm

We woke up and were on the road by 10, catching a bus to Hangzhou.  I think I picked the wrong bus station in Hangzhou, because we had a half-hour taxi ride upon our arrival.  But at least there was no problem with the hotel this time . . .

We had lunch at a Sichuan place that looked nice – but unfortunately, wasn’t.  I forgot that the only thing you can tell from how a Chinese restaurant looks is how expensive it will be; the quality of the food and service are totally unrelated.  The servers got our order wrong, ignored my repeated requests for tea and rice, and tried to charge us for things we didn’t order. 

It was rainy, but the main (only?) thing you go to Hangzhou to see is West Lake so we headed there anyway.  I could tell the lake was pretty, but on a day like this it really didn’t have much on Xiamen.  Except pagodas, I guess; those were a nice touch.

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We walked across the lake on the Su Causeway, which was a stretch of land so wide that it was possible to forget we were walking across a lake.  It’s a pretty big lake, and it was a long walk. 

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The tree cover overhead is thick and weeping willows kind of block the view of the water, so the main sight was the colorful umbrellas of our fellow walkers.

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Once we reached the other side of the lake, we found a bus stop to take us back to our hotel.  Matt noticed that one of the guys waiting with us was wearing an XMU baseball cap, so I started up a conversation with him.  I’m pretty sure the last thing he expected to see in Hangzhou was a foreign woman claiming to be classmates, but that’s why life in China is so exciting.  The bus took like an hour to come, so we had lots of time to chat; he just graduated in Biology and was headed to graduate school.  We commiserated about Xiamen’s weather and discussed sites to see in Hangzhou.  We’re pretty much besties.

We got lost on the way home.  I am not sure why we had so much difficulty navigating main streets on this trip! 

Back at the hotel, tired and wet, we decided to order in for dinner.  A quick internet search, a simple phone call, and 40 minutes later, Papa John’s was at the door!  Please don’t judge me for eating from American pizza chains twice in as many days; I had a moment of weakness and Matt only encouraged it.

With that said, the pizza was amazing.  It tasted exactly like home (as much as I can remember from a year ago) and even came with the little container of garlic sauce.  Oh, little container of garlic sauce – I will be home soon!

下课! (Class is Over!)

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I went to my last class at XiaDa this morning!  It might be my last Chinese class ever, but I may audit Advanced Chinese at TU next year, so we’ll see.  It was really anticlimactic; we did a bunch of exercises and then it was done.

I got online when I got back to my room and found out that a friend of mine is pregnant!  It kind of sucks to learn news like that online; punctuation just isn’t enough. 

I also read the news – more updates on the oil spill.  A few of the companies involved are only familiar to me from my time at TU – Halliburton, Anadarko, etc. – and I wonder what reaction, if any, there has been back there.

I had lunch with YongZhi, which was probably not that fun for him.  We walked to West Gate in the midday heat and I was so hot that I didn’t even have energy to complain about it.  We ate mostly in silence.  I am a horrible friend – especially when it’s hot.

I’m On A Boat

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I slept as late as possible (as I had, after all, been up until after 4 a.m.) but once I woke I up I had to hit the ground running.  We were supposed to meet at West Gate at noon, which meant that we trickled on to bus about 45 minutes later.  We were down three people but up two, and somehow all the food had showed up, so it was slightly chaotic but turned out okay.

There was a mix-up at the pier where we got on a boat but it turned out not to be our boat . . .

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. . . But nevertheless by 1 or so we were out on the open water.

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We sailed past Gulangyu and the statue of Koxinga, and headed for an island much further away (not, despite popular demand, Taiwan).

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Our boat was a long wooden contraption, painted green and other bright colors.  There was a little cockpit for our crew (and old woman and an older man) while the rest of us chilled on the open deck, partially covered by a roof.  We had stools to sit on and laps to eat off of – what else could you want?  The spread included bread, salsa, pasta salad, potato salad, barbecue, peanut butter and chocolate bars, cookies, and so much beer that it looked downright silly as they brought it on board.

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Our group was as diverse as Xiamen get-togethers usually are – 29 people from 15 countries.  There were 6 Chinese, 4 Americans, 3 Germans, 3 Dutch, 2 British, 2 Filipinas, and people from France, Ukraine, Thailand, Burundi, Austria, Romania, South Korea, Sweden, and Kazakhstan.

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It really was a melting pot, which is about as American as apple pie.  (Sadly, there was no apple pie, but we did have watermelon!)

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And the four of us Americans treated our guests to a rousing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, which has to earn extra America points, right?

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After an hour or two of sailing, we arrived at our dream beach.

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Haha.  No, seriously, I think the captain actually wanted to drop us off there but we said no, on account of it looking like Hades and all.  Instead, we turned around and went to a different, only slightly more hospitable-looking island dominated by insanely sharp pointy rocks.

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But it was good for exploring and the constant threat of death by impalement on said sharp pointy rocks kept things exciting.  I cut my toe on one of them, which actually just complemented the cuts I had on both of my pointer fingers from chopping vegetables and grabbing broken beer bottles, so it was okay.  Also, my fingers ached all day from the capsaicin embedded under my fingernails from last night’s salsa-making and I somehow lost part of a toenail . . . But believe me when I say I had an incredible time!

The weather was simply amazing – hotter than heck back in my room, I’m sure, but there was a steady breeze on the water.  We stayed on the island a few hours, then headed back while we fired up the barbecue.  A few of the guys took care of the fire, so I was free to relax on the side of the boat, enjoying the gentle light of the sunset, the rocking of the boat, and the sound of friends’ laughter.

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By all accounts, it was one of the best days in Xiamen.  It was the first Fourth of July for many people, and perhaps the most memorable for me.  Happy Birthday, America!

PS – The Onion did a special America edition.  Please enjoy these classic articles: Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence, Report: U.S. May Have Been Abused During Formative Years, Third Amendment Rights Group Celebrates Another Successful Year, Supreme Court Rules Supreme Court Rules, and Life In The Navy Rocks Even Harder Than The Commercial Implied

Beach Football is the Best Football

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 at 3:55 am

I heard a rumor last night that they were shutting off our electricity today.  Why is that the bad rumors are so much more often true than the good rumors? 

The electricity stopped at 7 this morning, and didn’t return until after 8 in the evening.  Yes, that’s right – as if it weren’t bad enough that they were cutting our electricity during the hellishly hot days of July in Xiamen, they also conveniently arranged it on the weekend and during the scorching daylight.  Thanks, guys. 

We drew the curtains before going to bed, so the room stayed reasonably cool until we got up.  But then Leinira left the balcony door open for a half hour while she cleaned and all the pleasantly cool air fled the room.  By staying in bed and lying perfectly still, I managed to pass the time until about 2 in the afternoon.  At that point I got up, immediately started sweating, and decided to get the heck out of my room.

Apparently most of campus and some other parts of the city had lost power as well, so every place at West Gate with air conditioning was mobbed with sweaty patrons.  Eunice and Andreea somehow found a table at McDonald’s, and I joined them there for a few hours of studying.

While we sitting there, the day got even better.  (And of course by “better”, I mean “worse”.)  Two girls came in and stood uncomfortably near our seats, causing Eunice to protectively move her purse to her lap.  I, not being from the Philippines, didn’t think much of it and we all went back to reading.  Then all of a sudden there was a commotion and we looked up to watch Andreea nearly tackle a girl to get her purse back.  While we were figuring out what the heck was going on (and trying to think of the word “thief” in Chinese), the three of them got away.  No one so much as looked at us afterwards, and they barely reacted even when we finally started yelling 小偷, 小偷! 

That was the first time I witnessed an attempted theft.  When people warned me about thieves in China, I guess I always figured it would be more of a pickpocketing thing.  Anyway, with how easily I lose things I didn’t worry about it too much.  Why fear a thief I’ve never seen when I’ve lost more cameras than some people have ever owned?  But this, this blatant grab-and-run, was scary – and the complete apathy of everyone around us was even more so.

I wasn’t feeling like showering in my dark bathroom, so I went to get my hair washed instead.  It’s been far too long since I indulged in this luxury, and the scalp massage was even more amazing than I remembered it.  The lady next to me was so excited to see me, and said that she’d always wanted to wash a foreigner’s hair.  I’m not one to disappoint, so I’m planning on going back there once more before going home – #48, your time is coming!

I went to church in the evening and, thankfully, got home after the power had come back on.  I was able to get online after an entire day without internet – while it is kind of a long time for me, it really wouldn’t have been that big of a deal on a normal day.  But the first email I saw was from my parents and ended with “Still awaiting news on Cathy” and the second email was titled “Prayers needed”.  They had both been sent 16 hours earlier, when my aunt suffered [basically] two heart attacks and was put into a drug-induced coma to minimize damage to her organs. 

I was upset and scared to hear this news, and even more so because it seemed like so much time had passed without me knowing.  Let’s be honest – 90% of my communication online is not time-sensitive at all, and only a fraction of a percent is truly urgent like this was, but almost all of my communication over here is internet-based in one way or another, and thus it is all – important and trivial – subject to the whims of China. 

 

A little later, Eunice and I went to the beach party.  We arrived a few minutes past 10 to find an entire beach full of people focused attentively on the Germany-Argentina match being broadcast on a white screen that swayed gently in the breeze.  We had already missed one German goal but it turned out to not be a big deal.  We settled down in the sand to watch the rest of the game, all four German goals of it. 

One thing I’ve been a little annoyed about during the World Cup is the way everyone gets so worked up when a team loses.  I mean, everyone except one team goes home a loser, so it seems like it shouldn’t be such a big deal.  But I’m starting to see that it’s not so much the losing as the way it was lost.  France was an obvious disgrace and apparently (though I’m not clear on why) Italy was as well.  While I want to remember the awesome 91-st minute goal, everyone else is remembering how tired the US team looked when we lost to Ghana.  England’s Rooney was so hyped that a 4:1 loss is kind of bad (although, really, everyone and their mother has allowed 4 German goals, if you think about it).  South Africa didn’t live up to expectations/hopes as the host nation, none of the other African countries stepped up either, so that every African loss felt like a continent-wide failure. 

And then tonight – Messi, Maradona, que paso? 

While I don’t relish the idea of an entire country in mourning, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this match.  Cafe del Mar has been a nice venue, but nothing can beat cool sand and a fresh breeze after a hot day.  The sound of waves over there, the moon shining through clouds, and stars visible in the clear sky overhead – they helped, too.  And when they celebrated Germany’s victory with fireworks – well, that was almost too perfect. 

I also had a burger.  They were too small, the buns were sweet, and they cost $3 each (a fortune!) but they were still the best burgers I’ve had in nearly a year.  (It’s kind of fun to be able to say that.  Almost makes up for having to go nearly a year without getting to eat stuff like hamburgers.  Almost.  But not quite.)  It kind of felt like the Fourth of July!

I danced for a while but went home because I had to cook while we still had electricity.  The good news was, there was a match on – Spain vs. Paraguay – to keep me company.  I was hoping to watch it with Carlos, my favorite Spaniard, but he was sick.  I found him in his room, huddled under a blanket and asking me to bring him mine.  I would have stayed with him, but his AC was off and his room was so hot I started sweating immediately upon entering. 

So I sat on my bed, slicing tomatoes and cheering for Spain whenever I remembered to look up.  The game was 0-0 for a long time, and the thought of Spain losing made me cry.  Come to think of it, it might have been the onions I was chopping; really tough to say.  I washed spring peas and diced garlic and cut up hot peppers and finally Spain scored and won.  Around 4, I finally went to sleep on a bed that smelled of salsa, under the blanket I had reclaimed from Carlos.  Germ warfare using blankets – that is just like the Spanish, isn’t it?