"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page." - St. Augustine

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turkey, Temperatures, and the Passing of Time

Well, it's officially December now, and the last week or so has brought with it some changes to life in Jiujiang. First of all was Thanksgiving. It seemed that it would pass without notice until I got a door-opening text message from my fellow CIEEer Laura. We had been invited to a Thanksgiving get together by one of the older foreign teachers in town that Laura had met a while back. Laura couldn't make it, and I had never met him, but I showed up at a bus stop, not quite sure what to expect, but excited to hang out with some foreigners nonetheless. It was quite a strange experience, walking into that house. I hadn't been with more than one non-Chinese (and therefore English-speaking) person since our trip to Xi'an two months ago, so entering a house in Jiujiang with more foreigners than I could count on one hand, and all of them speaking a language I could understand, was a little shocking! Alright, we didn't actually have turkey, but there was chicken and mashed potatoes, some pasta and veggies, and a few Chinese dishes thrown in the mix too. It wasn't the traditional Thanksgiving feast we're all used to, but what made it special was all of these people from all over the world coming together to celebrate. Even though we couldn't be with our families, we managed to be there for each other and have a good time celebrating the things we are thankful for here.

potluck Thanksgiving dinner
Since I had to work the next day, I didn't stay too late, but it was nice to meet everyone, especially some of the foreigners that have been here for a while. The next night, we ended up running into some of them walking around after dinner, and they introduced us to a place called "Freedom Bar" over by the big university (where most of them teach). Night life here is mostly KTV joints (karaoke) or clubs, they don't really do the 'bar' thing, so it's nice to finally have a more chill place where we can just go sit down and have a drink. It's pretty much the hang out for all of the westerners at Jiujiang University too, so we can always count on running into some familiar faces when we head over there now. In just a few weeks it's become my 'go-to' place on a Friday night (and sometimes other times too!)

winning night out with new foreign friends!

(see fb for more pictures chronicling Jiujiang's nightlife soon!)

Change number two came with the beginning of December. It's gotten cold. From what I've been told, when winter comes here it's like a switch turns on, and it will pretty much stay like this until April. Now, cold is a relative term. The weather here is actually really similar to the weather in Austin/Waco, so it's not like we're talking arctic temperatures or anything (those can wait until I travel around in January). We had some low 20s last week with some storms, but it's mostly been in the 30s/40s. But the key difference between winter in Jiujiang and winter in Austin is that there is no central heating here. I am lucky enough to have an electric heater in my apartment (one of the stipulations of my contract through CIEE), but it only works when it feels like it and I can only heat one room in my apartment at a time. But nowhere else has heating. The restaurants, the classrooms, etc are all pretty cold now. Time to bust out the coats and scarfs!

My final note for this post is just to remark on how much time has passed since I arrived in Jiujiang. December 1st was the 3-month point, which kind of caught me off guard. I have now been in China longer than I was in Maastricht! But it certainly doesn't feel that way. Time is passing very quickly and the days feel shorter than they did there (probably because I'm not jumping on a train to another country every weekend like I was then). This experience has been so different from that one. Not better or worse, just very different. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this observation that time is inevitably passing. I'm enjoying my time here, but it's going by faster than I thought it would. But, I don't really know what that means or how I feel about it, so for now, it's just a thought that can run around in the back of my mind while I'm otherwise engaged.

I'm down to my last few weeks of teaching for the semester and have begun the daunting task of planning final exams for 180+ students. I am also planning my whirlwind tour of China for the winter break in January/February with some other CIEE folks from Jiujiang and Harbin, but more on that another time. I'm sure our adventures will fill many a blog post by the time we're done!

That's all for now! Keep warm and enjoy the holiday season for me!