Wednesday, November 30

a beautiful week

So, it snowed Monday morning and then again Monday evening. We went out for pizza on Monday night, then some of us went to the sauna afterwards. We went to a newly remodeled Korean-owned Western style food restaurant and it was so good. They also recently added frozen yogurt to the menu, so we ordered a big bowl and shared. It was expensive for Yanji (pizza, dessert, and drink turned out to be about 40 yuan each, which isn't expensive by most people's standards, but it is for us.) What a great evening.

Tuesday, I went to the gym that a few teachers found and have been going to. It's so much cleaner and well-equipped than I expected. It felt really good to work out for a while. Since the weather has been cold and the swimming pool closed for the winter, my workouts have been few and far between. After working out, we went to a stationery store where I bought a bunch of envelopes to send Christmas cards in. A friend of mine is visiting the States and offered to mail some for me. (If you don't get one soon and you want an update, shoot me an e-mail...I only had a limited number of stamps.) After buying stationery, four of us ate at a cheap Korean food restaurant. This meal was only 9 yuan each, and healthier than pizza. We got kimbap, cold noodles, fried rice, dduk bokki (one of my favorite Korean dishes- rice cakes cooked in spicy sauce), and fried squid, and ate it "family style" so we could taste everything.

I've been able to get caught up on some things. My desk is clear, homework is graded, socks are mended, dishes are washed, and my room is pretty clean. Plus, I got all those cards written. I have to admit, I did skip Korean class to go to the gym, but it was worth it. I'm so thankful for weeks when I can rest and do things I want to do. Now, it's snowing again and has been all morning. The first snow this week didn't melt because our highs have been at or under freezing, so it looks like we can have some fun in the snow today and tomorrow! Yay!

Sunday, November 27

second snow!

When I woke up this morning, it hadn't started to snow yet, but around 7, huge, fluffy flakes were falling. Yay! Most on the ground had melted by lunch, but then around 1, it started again! I love snow... but my Korean tutor warned me that soon it won't melt, but it'll turn to ice on the ground and stay there. I'm gonna enjoy it while it's not slippery. (The first picture isn't real's a sculpture in front of our building.)

Thursday, November 24


We got a KFC on October first. It was a monumental event, because although we have a few places where you can get something that is called a hamburger, the hamburgers in those places don't really taste like what you're craving. We also have a few pizza places that serve a pretty good version of pizza, but other than that, no real Western food available easily. So, KFC opened. I finally went last week. It was good. We got french fries and a chicken sandwich, with chocolate dipped ice cream for dessert. It's super expensive compared to other yummy food that is available in Yanji, but it was worth it for a taste of home (even though I never eat KFC at home). For the record, though, it did take me a month and a half to make the first visit. It was really crowded for the first few weeks it opened, but the real reason I didn't visit sooner is because we do have many choices for great tasting Korean and Chinese food in our city.


was Thanksgiving, sort of. This week has been crazy busy for me for several reasons: tests to write, give, and grade, a Thanksgiving lesson to prepare for the beginner level team teachers, stuff to buy for that lesson, an extra class to prepare for and teach (a prep class for our students who are going to volunteer teach during the winter vacation), a Thanksgiving dinner program (that we'll have on Saturday) to put together plus all the normal stuff that goes on during a week. So, when Thanksgiving came yesterday, I wasn't really ready. I taught a Thanksgiving themed lesson to my intermediate students on Wednesday (I don't teach them on Thursdays) and then to my beginner students on Thursday morning. They went well. It was a nice break from the normal stuff we teach. Thanksgiving lunch consisted of some meat and cilantro dish, rice, and seaweed and fermented bean soup in the cafeteria. (I actually like all of those things, but while I was eating with another American friend, she commented that she should have brought a camera to take a picture of our "thanksgiving" lunch.)

After lunch, I had to meet with two students who cheated on our last test. I hate that. It tenses up my left shoulder. But, after that, my afternoon was free, and after such a crazy week, I was super glad. I went home, put on some music, started grading tests, and then fell asleep for a short nap before dinner. For dinner, a small group of us Americans went out to eat chicken, the closest thing to turkey that we could muster up. We debated between KFC (new in town...our first real fast food restaurant) and a traditional Korean chicken soup restaurant. We were torn between the mashed potatoes sold at the former and the atmosphere of the latter. We decided to go for atmosphere, and we were glad we did. We split two roasted chickens and two bowls of samgetang (the traditional chicken soup) plus side dishes. It was great. Afterwards, we walked to the big grocery store in town and bought ice cream for dessert. Like crazy people, we walked a few blocks to catch a taxi while eating our ice cream. Too cold for that...reminder to self. (We walked to catch the taxi, because if you walk a few blocks away from the center, you can get a taxi back to school for 5 yuan instead of 10. We're cheapos.)

So, with the relaxing afternoon, the yummy dinner, and a few students who made a point to wish me a happy Thanksgiving or give me a special card because they know it's a big day for Americans, it was a good day, even though it sure wasn't traditional!

Friday, November 18

high of 34, low of 14

So, the high hasn't gotten above 40 degrees F all week. You see today's temperatures in the subject. It's cold. It's also windy. Every time I go outside, I cry because the combination of wind and cold just makes the tears fall. Everybody is staying inside as much as possible (we have this hallway that connects all the buildings), but I still walk outside when going to lunch, because I can't stand not feeling the real air and seeing the real sky at least once or twice a day. We're all wondering what we're gonna do when it really gets cold. I contemplated buying a mask today, because when the tears freeze on my cheek, it's pretty cold. But, I'll wait until it gets a little colder. I'm living in long johns underneath my other clothes all the time except for when I sleep. (My room gets the morning sun straight through the window, and is heated pretty well, so I'm always warm in there. Yay!)

I went downtown with my Korean tutor today. She's an exhange student from South Korea. We ordered rice cakes for her group trip tomorrow, then we went on a paper search for my beginner Thanksgiving lesson on Thursday. It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving (well, I have to remind myself, I AM in China), but maybe it will once we start making cornucopias, origami turkeys, and singing "Turkey, Turkey" to the tune of "Frere Jacques." I hope that our freshman university students won't think it's too babyish. Last year, they made turkeys out of tracings of their hands, so I think this'll be a little better. We went to have an egg custard and warm orange juice at a cake shop after shopping, then she went to meet some other friends for dinner. I opted for spicy squid on a stick and some rice cakes from a vendor in front of the grocery store, then bought some milk and yogurt and headed home. I feel so sorry for those vendors who have to work with their hands exposed to the cold. Brr!

We had the electricity turned off all day at school for some repair, so I came back to the office to drop off my paper and check my email. It's the weekend, so I'll get to sleep in a bit, study a bit, and grade some tests over the next two days. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 16

street vendors

Today's picture theme...people who sell food on the street. The first guy is selling fruit on a stick, covered with caramelized sugar. The second guy is a cooked meat vendor. There's also a street scene from downtown, a guy cooking meat on skewers, and a jiaozi (steamed dumpling) vendor.

Tuesday, November 15

daily life pictures

I wish I could figure out how to format these pictures so that they look good in the post. I can't see the finished post, but it seems like they don't look that good in the preview. Anyhow, these are some pictures a recent visitor took and I thought they provided a little glimpse into life in Yanji. The first picture is of some people setting up for market. You can see a wagon with a lot of cabbage. Before the cold hits in full force, it's the Korean tradition to put away cabbage in the form of kimchi. (That's why kimchi is the national food of Korea, because it provides a vegetable source during the cold winter when other vegetables used to not be available.) The second picture is of a common tractor/wagon combo, seen often on the hill leading up to and away from our university. (The motor is just open, and I always think it could be so dangerous!) The third picture, of a pile of coal ready to heat a nearby building. These piles are all over town, and just keep getting bigger as it gets colder. Then, there's a picture of the polluted sky as a result of the coal being burned. The last picture is the same market as the first, just getting set up.
I haven't taken any pictures like this yet, but when I saw the ones this guy took, I realized you guys might find it interesting to see more of what it looks like here.

Thursday, November 10

another set of essays

I had my students write about what they'd be excited about, find difficult, etc. if they went to Texas. Here are a few funny quotes:

If I went to Texas, one thing I'd be worried about is the food there.
The food there is too rich in energy. You can get this conclusion surely
from the conversation teacher in YUST. Everyone are tall enough. On
the contrary, I hate being taller than others, because the obvious height will
cause troubles for me.

If I went to Texas, something I'd be really nervous about is the frequent
kiss. In the Western countries, it's so popular for people to kiss each
other every day. How can I refuse the kind kiss from the friendly Texas

And I think I will make a lot of friends in the Texas one day. If
possible, I want to buy a lovely and pocket dog. I like dog very
much. But I don't know how much it is.

Monday, November 7

cold's blowing in

We've been so lucky to have great weather so far this winter...only a few days that were really cold, and only one day of beautiful snow. Today, though, the weather has taken a turn for the colder side and the wind has been blowing super hard all day. The positive side of that is the normally polluted coal dust filled sky has been blown free of nasty stuff and is a beautiful cloudy light blue.

Today, I went downtown to pick up some pictures I left to get developed, and I stopped by the fruit market and the supermarket while I was down there. The main supermarket downtown is three levels. The first level is refrigerated stuff, bread, fruit and vegetables (but nobody buys
fruits or veggies there, because they're more expensive than the market). The second floor is other nonperishables, and the third floor is electronics, plastics, stationery, etc. So, I go into the first floor and there are throngs of people waiting to check their bags (you have to check your bag before you enter). Then, there were people crowded around piles of sausages and huge boxes of milk. They were having a sale! On a Tuesday, the whole store had random things on sale! The ramp going up to the second floor was so packed that it was almost dangerous, and then I get up to the third floor and there's a really long line. Of course, I was curious, so I wandered to the front. I couldn't tell exactly what they were waiting for, but I think it was rice. Unfortunately, nothing I really buy was on sale, but it was an interesting experience!

i haven't forgotten

about this blog. I have been inspired at random times on what I could write here, but I haven't made a lot of time to even respond to emails lately, let alone blog. I have to go now, actually, so I don't have time to write an inspired note here, but I'll be back soon. Tonight, I'm meeting to study with someone and then I'm inviting the girls of one of my beginner classes over to bake. At this point, my apartment is only halfway clean and I don't have anything ready to put together to bake, so I must go.