Friday, November 26, 2004

First snow and feather eggs

Its really cold!

A couple of days ago the weather was really nasty. Cold and windy, and raining, and the sky looked even dirtier than usual. We were so glad that the power didn't go off for very long at a time - we had a few short cuts. Then during the night I got up for the toilet at 3am and noticed that it was snowing quite heavily. By morning there was a thick blanket of snow. (Its only November yet!) Peter was so excited, running around taking photos and wanting to play with it - it was really hard to get him going in time for his 8am lesson!

My first lesson was 10am, and by then it had started to snow again, very heavily. The road was thick snow and very icy, and my usual 2 minute bike ride, or five minute walk, to the college took a lot longer. I got there with snow all over me, and on my present curls it forms quite a halo! One of the Chinese men teachers was quite excited by the sight of me, muttering "so beautiful ...". They love brown curly hair, even if it does have a few strands of grey now.

At recess time, which is usually time for their "Yi, er, san, si..." (1,2,3,4...) physical jerks, they all played in the snow instead. Kids (even the older ones) love playing with snow, even when they see lots of it every year! Peter was right in there, of course. There is a small courtyard in the middle of the college, and groups were on the roof-top and balconies on opposite sides throwing snow back and forth. One boy had a huge ball he made, about 2 feet across, and was carrying it around for ages until he found his opportune moment to get behind Peter and dump it on his head! Peter was glad he has taken to wearing a thick felt hat! My students were bringing snowballs into the classroom. No one seemed to mind. I saw the fairly elderly, usually very decorous, Chinese male deputy running down the hall with a student (carrying a snowball) in hot pursuit! One of the older female teachers was chucking snowballs too.

Today it is bright and clear - the sky is blue and the air is crisp and very cold. There is still a lot of snow lying around, and you have to be very careful of icy patches. The front steps of our building don't get any sun, and the top step is just smooth ice. But I have actually finished my lessons for today and I'm planning to get stuck into some crocheting and get my jumper finished. I'm not sure that it will be wearable in public, I'm just putting it together bit by bit out of a pattern idea in my head, but it will be warm. I'll wear it to bed if nothing else! I'm also half-way through a nice bright blanket to put on the sofa (and cover our/my knees in the evening).

When the power is on and the satellite is right we get a TV channel called CCTV 9 (China Central TV) - "world news from a Chinese perspective", and its all in English (or at least with English subtitles when they are speaking Chinese). Its very interesting, lots of documentaries about different parts of China and stuff like that as well as news. They did a thing about World Public Toilet Day - but they only went into some of the ones in big cities like Beijing where it was a bit stinky ... they haven't been where we've been!

Our Canadian colleague has been having problems with her toilet. After nine years in China she still hasn't caught on to how poor the plumbing system is. You are not supposed to put paper down it - so we are really careful and flush frequently and use the thin stuff etc. But she has been putting vegetable peelings and things in hers! "Its not like I put a whole carrot down there or something," she said. She had the work men up in her apartment putting the long thing down the pipe and making a big mess - which she was left to clean up later. Hopefully she will learn.

On the Sunday "they did it to us again". When we woke up, the power was already off. When they do that, it’s not an accident, "they" are using it elsewhere, and it doesn't come back on ‘til after dark. And the water disappears too, it all drains back down the pipes. Once again we weren't ready for it. Next Sunday I'll be ready - and it probably won't happen! What really annoyed us too was that we have a little gas stove in the apartments' shared kitchen area, and (if we had caught the water before it went off) we could at least have had a hot drink. But there has recently been a suspicion of a gas leak, so they took away the gas bottle to "fix" it and never returned it. We spent most of the day down in the local village where they cook with gas and there is plenty of cheap food. But by 6pm we were home huddled around our candle waiting for the power (it gets dark about 5), which came back about half past six.

We had an interesting meal down in the village lately. Everyone was queuing up for some yummy looking potatoes on a stick, deep-fried, three on a stick for 1 "kwai" (Chinese dollar, worth about 16c). Or maybe they were dumplings - we thought we might try some because they were obviously very popular. There are always lots of things on sticks, and that day there were even kidneys on a stick and other interesting delicacies. (At one market you can get about 10 cicadas on a stick, or ten tiny hearts - never seen anyone buy them though). So we got stuck into the crispy outside of these ... mmm, maybe they are eggs. There was something rather crunchy in mine. It was dark, because it was an "evening snacks" market. Peter noticed his was dark inside, but then they always soak their eggs in tea and stuff and make them look weird. Then Peter thought maybe they had inserted one of those kidneys we had seen on the other stall. We wandered over to where there was a bit more light.

You've guessed?? When Peter saw the tiny wing with pin feathers we realized. People call them "feather eggs". Eggs with a partly grown chick inside. Bleh! We dropped them into the gutter where they throw all their rubbish ...

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