Ah, yes, I’m still here. I’m still in Kunming. I’m still in the dorms. I’m still on vacation. I’m still plodding along, but it’s been taking a little more effort than usual because I’m still fighting off a lingering cough！ I don’t think I’ve felt myself since my fever. Today was actually the first day I didn’t feel fragile. I did a lot of walking and consumed one too many caffeinated beverages. It felt good.
I’m a single lesson shy of finishing one of my three textbooks, so on a recommendation from my flatmate, I bought a new one: 汉语会话301句 (Conversational Chinese 301)， 下册 （2nd Volume), by Kang Yuhua & Lai Siping. The cover claims it’s “the most popular Chinese textbook for foreigners all over the world at present.” Ok, so the English isn’t stellar, but I’m really enthused. It’s a little difficult, but that’s ok I think. Something about it is really pleasing. Of course, I haven’t completed the first lesson yet, so it’s a little premature to gush, but I totally love it! Yay! And it feels so good to be able to go to skip the first book and go to the second level. Yay!
I bought a Bjork album — the Matthew Barney movie soundtrack one. It’s really, uh, experimental. They actually have a few of her hits just tacked to the end of the cd in order to appease the general Bjork listener (me). Because the MB stuff is, well, awful really. I only listened to it through once, and I haven’t seen whatever movie it’s from… I’m sure in context it’s less awful. Heh. I feel, um, alienated by this music. The second track is a bunch of rhythmic wheezing. Striking, bjorky, and even a little frightening, but not interesting. Not good.
Today I went to the Bird and Flower Market — a real foreigner magnet — but I didn’t manage to buy anything. It’s always a struggle to stop and actually consider purchasing something. I’m so overwhelmed by the whirlwind of activity. Fun to just look and get pushed along by the crowd. Yes, there are lots of birds and flowers, as well as lots of other animals and plants. I can’t stand the puppy farms though — yuck! So frustrating to see animals piled into cages, especially such fuzzy adorable ones. Fish and lizards are one thing, but puppies and kittens are just too much for me. Anyway, Mari, Sara, and I were hunting for gifts but we walked away empty-handed.
Afterward, we went to a tea shop where the shop assistant sat us down and made us try a ton of different teas. It was a lot of fun and a great excuse to avoid some terrible rain, but we were about to explode by the time we left! Oh, man. Too much tea. The way they prepare tea is great — it involves a lot of constant movement on the part of the person preparing the tea. Water and tea spill everywhere! The table they use even contains a special drain to siphon off the unwanted liquid. We were seated at an especially cool tea bed that seemed to be one piece of wood with a strange configuration of little shelves. It wasn’t a single flat surface but more like a small mountain with little smoothed nooks where you could perch a small teacup. And there was a very happy buddha carved into one of the tiers. Really beautiful.
Mari had an easy conversation with the shop assistant, while Sara and I tried to follow along as best we could. We must have sat there for at least an hour, balanced on little stools sipping one tea after another. First we tried the famous local Pu’er Tea, a rich flavor almost the color of red wine. Then we had an Oolong that tasted like Ginseng to me, very sweet. Then we had a flowery tea — jasmine? Then a litchee flavored fruit tea, again very sweet. The rhythm of the constant pouring, sipping, and spilling is very relaxing, but left me feeling exhausted — not to mention frantic for a bathroom! Whew!