My week – or was it?

Autumn leaves, Shahe River next to the UESTC campus

There’s no real purpose to today’s post; it’s mainly an excuse to display some miscellaneous photos. OK, so I also needed to vent, and besides, I can use the writing practice.

Dacisi Temple – exterior wall

First, I have to congratulate myself. Totally without meaning to, tonight I believe I created my most delicious chicken dish since I’ve been in China. I’m usually not one to give away recipes, but here are some hints: diced chicken (from Carrefour), diced (hot) green pepper, olive oil, hot Sichuan chili, Sichuan pepper (huajiao) – yes, they ARE 2 different things – ground coriander, ground cumin, LOTS of grated fresh ginger, red vinegar, light soy sauce, and finally a spoonful of black bean sauce. Stir-fry quickly. The flavor has a kick to it.

Building in the Dacisi complex. Is it old or new? Actually, I suspect it’s a little of both.

The tile of this post is borrowed from part of my grandmother’s diary, written in the 1970s for me and my brother, in case we ever got curious about her family history. My day – or was it? relates the story of the Cake from Hell, in which everything that could go wrong did. Among the disasters were a dropped 5-pound bag of sugar, a cake that wouldn’t leave the mold until it fell out in 1,000 pieces, a bag of vanilla pudding dropped in a bowl of milk, drenching table and chairs, and other mishaps. However, in her inimitable fashion, Grandma saved the day by adapting herself – and the cake – to circumstances and whipping up a kind of English Trifle with the broken cake and pudding. There’s a lot to be learned from that story. I think of it often when things go wrong in the classroom – or life.

Chair and stool, Dacisi area

To get back to my story, I spent the week watching students’ final oral presentations. Each group had to present a short 10-minute drama, and my students showed some great creativity, even including martial arts, swordplay, love triangles, comedy, and some unusual sound effects. I was bouncing back from two weeks of being sick, plus a two-hour ordeal at the dentist to repair a tooth and install a crown. I also have to evaluate and give scores to 350 students, and separate the top 20% so that they’re exempt from the second semester of English.

Window in a window, Dacisi area

I decided this week to visit a couple of English schools in Chengdu, on the chance that they may need some teachers for short sessions during our winter break. The first school was easy to locate; the second, Crazy English, almost completely eluded me. I was unable to secure precise directions, except for “the building across the street from…” which left me wandering for more than an hour in central Chengdu. I found a likely building and climbed up five flights of stairs, only to find myself in the bowels of a cinema multiplex. I walked around to a back alley, through a bicycle parking lot, and up another six flights to discover – no language school. I gave up and adjourned to Starbucks for coffee and an “American Brownie.” Eventually I located the school and dropped off a resume, but unfortunately I had already put a curse on the place and don’t feel safe about accepting a job there.

Smiling for the camera, East Shuyuan Street, December 2006

The rest of the week was the usual – Xiao Gou Gou ate everything he could get into his mouth, including bottles of Vitaman B and Vitamin C, some cold medication, my hat, and some Hall’s cough drops. Sometimes our relationship is tense. Oh yes, and we’re now sleeping in my study, which is about 8 feet square and easily heated (the bedroom is freezing). The 6-foot sofa barely fits in the space, which also has to accommodate my desk, computer, guitar, chairs, and whatever else I need at a moment’s notice.

East Shuyuan Street, now vanished (where do the boys live now?)


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