I have been able to check my email and respond to a few, although the speed is slow and I'm sitting in a smoky PC room to do it. We have been finished with school (grading and everything) for about a week, so I have had some time to finally rest and do the things I want to. Tomorrow, three of us are leaving for Harbin, where it will be much colder than here (we hear) and we'll get to experience the ice festival that starts on January 5th. I bought the train tickets on my own on Monday morning, the first day of the year. I stood in line with many many other people for about an hour and then finally succeeded in getting the tickets for us three. It's a small victory when I get to use Chinese effectively.
I have been having people over for lunch or dinner almost every day for about a week. I have been making either a version of lasagna or pizza almost every time, so I am getting really familiar with those foods. I'm ready for a break from my own cooking, but it's really fun to have people come over and enjoy it.
On the first day of the year, Monday, we had a new teacher come in. It's really strange that he would come in at this time, since almost everyone is gone, but he had to for some reason. I volunteered as one of my last jobs at my previous university to be in charge of making sure someone picked him up and got him settled. It turned out that I thought he was coming in at 10am and I had people coming over for lunch, so I got someone else to pick him up. His plane actually came in at 10pm and the guy who I asked to pick him up waited at the airport thinking he had missed him. I felt really bad about this and told the guy who I had asked that I would go at night to pick him up. He was full of grace and mercy and said, with no resentment in his voice, that he would take care of it. That is the first lesson and gift I received this new year.
The second one was brought by an old student who came over for lunch. She had gone to the old folks home and shared her time and the truth with some old folks there. She told me about it and how one old person understood her but wouldn't accept her good news. She told me about how she felt like she had spent all last year without really telling anyone, so she wanted to start this year off by doing so. That was a real blessing to hear. This newbie has such a passion and such a giving and searching heart to tell others. She's another lesson and gift for me. All before noon on the first day of the year. I am blessed.