Ho ho ho, y’all

I’m in a vaguely Christmas-y mood, which is OK since it’s Christmas Eve. My Scrooge side must be in regression; maybe it’s the omnipresent holiday decorations in Chengdu, minus the consumer frenzy. It is also damned COLD outside, baby. I took Xiao Gou Gou for a walk and bought a couple of small boxes of milk (I guess the milk scare is over in China), then resolved to stay inside the rest of the night. The milk is for my Christmas morning café au lait. It won’t be an authentic French one, just strong Ethiopian coffee added to some steaming sweetened milk from the microwave. Right this moment I’m drinking some truly kick-ass, spicy, fresh ginger tea with chai masala powder added. The chai masala has been sitting in the kitchen since a departing teacher gave it to me a year and a half ago.



If you’ll permit me to reminisce for a moment, I’ll mention a couple of memorable Christmases from the past. Paris, 1979: my mother, brother, and I ate dinner at a restaurant called Roger a la Grenouille (Roger the Frog). Afterward, we were nearly trampled to death exiting Notre Dame at the end of the Christmas Eve service. The three of us had agreed not to give gifts, but mother surreptitiously purchased a record album for each of us at Galeries Lafayette. Mine was a recording of the opera Mireille, which we’d seen performed in Nice.



Chicago, 1980: in a blinding snowstorm on Howard Street, my brother Kenton and I shopped for a last-minute Christmas tree. There was no one in the tree lot to take our money; when I turned around, Kenton was already halfway down the street with the tree, so technically we stole it (we really DID try to pay). We wrestled the tree onto a public bus, to the annoyance of other passengers. Back at the apartment, we decorated Sally (a store mannequin propped in a corner of the dining room) with tinsel and lights.





2 1/2 minutes of fame

I gave final oral exams this morning, so half of my classes are now finished for the semester; I’ll complete the remaining exams next Monday and Tuesday. The process is simple, and FAST:

Each student chooses a partner; I give each set of partners a number and a scoring sheet to fill out.

As I call each number, I hand the students a small piece of paper with a topic to talk about, and put them in the hall for 3 minutes to prepare.

While one pair of students is preparing, another pair is having their exam.

When your 2 1/2 minutes of talking are up, the alarm on my cell phone rings.

DING-ding, DING-ding, DING-ding!

Thank you. NEXT!

The students appreciate the simplicity of the process, and before they leave, I give them their oral exam score.

I finished early today, so instead of waiting around for the school bus, I hiked to the main road and caught the public bus. The trip takes 90 minutes and involves one transfer, but it’s not the worst commute I’ve ever had. That would be the late-night Chicago subway rides, after getting off work and waiting for 30 minutes at 1:00 AM in sub-zero temperatures on the station platform, hoping I didn’t get mugged or worse, then having to transfer to the Evanston train, and finally walking a long mile home. Brrrrrrrrrrrr.

Depending on my levels of both hunger and laziness, dinner tonight will be either chicken curry or smoked tofu with scrambled eggs. I’ll let you know later.

Food porn

What’s a holiday without food? Or at least tantalizing pictures of holiday sweets? A couple of my fave food blogs are David Lebovitz and Orangette.



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