Most Popular at Present

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!

Frog Princess

Well, I just tried to open my mouth and I have NO voice today.  Oh, jeez.  Unfortunately, I discovered this only when I called Jeremy’s house and was leaving a message for him.  I wonder what on earth he’ll make of that.  I hope it doesn’t scare him!

The Many Faces of Mari


Originally uploaded by Mari Q..

Here is my friend Mari. I think you might catch a whiff of sarcasm in her otherwise sweet-looking pose. I mean, she’s often sweet-looking, but don’t let that fool you. Here we’re enjoying a meal in an over-priced restaurant too near to the foreigner cafes. Lots of hungry people lurk and scoop up the leftovers. This is only disconcerting when you’re still waiting for your bill!

Eating in an Alley


Originally uploaded by Mari Q..

Eating on the streets of Kunming.  Ah, just like Paris!

Well, actually I imagine the experience is a little different.  It hardly looks like I’m at a restaurant at all!  But I am.  And it’s a fancy one, too.

No More Bean Water

There was a beautiful cool breeze all day yesterday.  Too hot in the sun to stand, but just so lovely.  I was especially appreciative because I didn’t leave my dorm since Tuesday evening!  I’ve been sick in bed with a monster sinus infection — it came with a fever, cough, and muscle aches.  I still haven’t quite recovered, but I went outside yesterday and that certainly helps the spirit.

I think this is a good time to make the switch from coffee to tea.  I obviously wasn’t having my cup a joe when I was feverish, and now nothing sounds better than some tea.  Coffee is expensive here, and often terrible.  Why bother?  Maybe if we get settled I’ll get a french press and real beans.

I feel like I’ve forgotten all of my Chinese over the last week.  I was confusing all sorts of weird words when I was sick.  Although I was listening to some of my listening comprehension recordings and I seemed to pick up more than I expected.  I think it’ll take a little effort to get back in the game.

Can’t wait to get out of the dorms.  Of course, neither can any of my roommates.  Everyone’s scheming to find an apartment.  They seem to be going for some expensive places, but anything’s cheaper than the dorms really.  And infinitely more liveable.  I’ve been keeping an eye out for places, but nothing fits the bill yet.  We’ll see.

I’m down to just one English student.  This is for the best.  He is like clockwork.  One hour lessons from a textbook we chose together.  And his memory is astounding.  He always impresses me with what he remembers from our previous lessons.

So, St. Louis really took a beating!  I think Jeremy’s still without power.  My friend Lizzie was also without power last I heard from her.  Of course, some 400,000 people are without. But I don’t think the heat’s as bad as it was.  They said it might be another week before Jeremy gets electricity.  Sucks for so many reasons, not the least of which is he’s studying for the bar exam that happens on Tuesday.

Jeremy described the storm’s lightening to me — unlike anything he’d seen.  Large rakes of lightening crowning the sky.  It must have been fantastic.