All’s well that ends (or begins) well

Lamps on an entry gate

Posters on a wall


I had a sebaceous cyst (small fatty bump) removed from my neck yesterday at the University hospital. It was a “minor surgical procedure,” but believe me, I would rather endure another root canal AND a new crown on my tooth before I would go through that experience again. I heard enough snipping scissors and felt enough stitches to make me feel like a new piece of (designer) clothing. My bump had been infected and swollen for two weeks before that, so my mood hasn’t been the best lately. Fortunately, I had a friend with me to act as translator and health advocate.

The medical practitioners I’ve encountered so far in China have been friendly and compassionate, without the lofty sense of self-importance that I’ve become accustomed to in my own country. I have yet to be treated like a side of beef or just another number.

Bring my own what?

When I had my prescription filled, along with the aspirin was a box with a small glass vial of liquid in it. When I asked my student assistant what it was, he replied, “That’s your anesthetic.” For the first time in my life, I had to show up for a medical procedure with my own local anesthetic. That’s kind of like bringing your own novacaine along to your dentist’s office.

Famous first words

Teaching this morning was a chore, since I’m still feeling some pain. After the student Talk Show oral presentations, I gave each class an easy writing exercise. I put them in groups of 3, and then told each group to choose one of the following famous opening sentences:

It was a dark and stormy night.
– Anonymous

He was awake a long time before he remembered that his heart was broken.
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls

It was love at first sight.
– Joseph Heller, Catch-22

James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and though about life and death.
– Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
– Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis


A good opening sentence forces the reader to ask questions, and to want to know what’s coming next. The students had two tasks:

1. Choose one of the above sentences, and write two questions that it makes you want to ask.
2. Use the same sentence to create your own story: use it as a starting point and then write at least two more sentences of your own.

It filled up some time, and allowed the students to use their creativity. It also got them motivated to hand in their final writing projects next week.

Still more food

I “invented” my own sauce the other night. I bought some small reddish-purple fruit that look like plums (although my local fruit knowledge isn’t good). I blanched them in boiling water to make the skins easy to remove, then seeded and chopped them. I mixed the fruit with some tomato paste and chopped cherry tomatoes, and added a little sugar, red vinegar, and hot chili flakes. It made a delicious “sweet and sour” sauce for stir-fried pork.

Here’s another restaurant meal shared by me and my friend (who’s very good with a camera).

The large plate is actually a corn dish–how it’s made I have no idea, but it has the texture of a flaky bird’s nest. It’s sweet, crunchy, and oily; in short, it’s the perfect comfort food.

Fried corn or “Beehive Corn”
Chinese: 蜂窝玉米 “feng wo yu mi”

Bon appetit! (That’s NOT Chinese)


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