what the world needs more of is illuminated elephants

(Regular blog isn't working right now so am writing here briefly until I can get back in)

So we are back in rainy Kandy, smack dab in the middle of the Esala Perahera festival. I don't have my guide book with me to remind me what exactly it's about it the nightly procession starts at the Temple of the Tooth near the lake, so let's venture a guess that it has something to do with Buddha's tooth. And elephants. Lots of elephants. Elephants lit up with a Catherine Wheel or a particularly excellent Christmas tree.

We came in yesterday from the east coast where we had spent the past four nights recovering from a particularly vicious and debilitating pot-holed bus ride from Anuradhapura. Remind me never to sit at the back of a rickety bus as it dashes at 90km/h over war-torn, pock marked roads. Or rather, 'roads'.  Also, I'll remind all of you not to either, unless you bring full body armor and knee pads.  We'll leave it at that. To come back to Kandy, we hitched an expensive ride with a kindly Belgian family in their hired van. No lethal bouncing allowed when there are toddlers in the vehicle!

So anyway, Kandy. We are back in rainy season, back in the clouds. And like I said, back in a rather religious city during a rather religious festival fortnight. Hotel prices are tripled and rooms were scarce. We're lucky we got what we did (I won't even mention what we are paying for it). However, we are right down town and were able to easily make our way to the nightly procession that starts in the temple of the tooth and ends up...somewhere.

By 6pm, the streets were blocked off and people started lining the sidewalks, claiming their spots with tarps and cloths. There were police everywhere. Richer folk paid absurd amounts of money for plastic chairs set up at key points along the route. We weren't that ambitious. We lurked around, trying to find gaps in the throngs, and eventually ended up behind some bright yellow barricades under a thick cover of bird riddled trees.

We had a good view, just a step back from those who had claimed the sidewalk, with the added bonus (and good luck!) of some seriously freaked out birds who were having bowel problems. During the one hour wait and the two hour procession, I was shat upon four times, quite exuberantly.  I'd like to think I was just extraordinarily lucky.

The procession was amazing. Drums and whips cracking; dancing and singing, illuminated elephants-- for two hours! The Victoria Day Parade back home has a lot to work on to get up to this level of awesomeness.


 I'm at work so can't access Facebook or Twitter but just wanted to send out a really huge OMFG Yay! to my cousin who just had a baby, most unexpectedly.  Brava, Waycho, brava!

I want to go home *sadface*
big mug tea

In which I wheeze, sneeze and cough disconcertingly

 I'm being almost embarrassingly lazy today- well, today after my morning spent studying Chinese intensively for 4 hours straight. By hour 3 I couldn't quite think straight. Every thing just sounded, well, the same. I'm tired. I'm tired from having spent the weekend doing Lucrative Speaking Tests and I'm tired from having been up all night with drool'y-nosed allergies.  I'd thought that last year's month-o-asthma was due entirely to  our post-Indonesia mildewy flat but our friend made sure our dehumidifier was on during our month away this time (and that the plants didn't die again) so nowt is mildewy and I'm still on 68% lung capacity and nocturnal snottiness.  It must just be a Shanghai August thing. So yeah, tired. 

As many of you already know, I spent my weekend in a book depository on the 4th floor at East China Normal University, surrounded by pyramids of old, dusty Chinese books bundled up in fibrous twine and several rows of shelves of archaic foreign books with no discernable AC, with my back to the sunny side of the building, fully enhanced by lots of windows.  It somehow passed more quickly than usual- possibly because we are normally sent away to Nanjing or Hefei for these testing sessions and so have the stress of long train rides and over heated hotel rooms to contend with in addition to te job itself. I tested a human rights lawyer, which pleased me to no end- usually it's an endless stream of nearly identical university students (majoring in business/engineering/finance) who are taking the test so they can be shipped off to foreign unis for their masters degrees. I swear they memorize 78% of what they say, even though the contents of te exam vary and are kept very very secret.  Mr Human Rights Lawyer and I got into a lovely long discussion about childhood development psychology during the free-form part of the test. Usually that's the tooth-pulling stage for me. Very refreshing.

On the  book larnin' side of things, I've finished day 6 out of 20 in my Chinese intensive course and I think I'm actually, well, learning stuff. Which is very good. Aside from my 4th hour today when everything just kind of hurt going in, everything else has kind of settled in my brain in a way that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Strangely, my Turkish keeps popping up whenever I try to formulate sentences in class, so when the teacher indicates that we must ask each other how something is, the first thing that comes into my head is 'nasil' (Turkish=how) and I have to wrestle my brain into doing it all in the right language (when I was learning Turkish initially, I had major Afrikaans interference).

Anyhow, after my four hours of learning I'm doing absolutely nothing now. I should have gone to the supermarket for laundry powder and other necessary things that we have run out of but I can't seem to drag myself off the sofa. Oh dear.
Conchord noodle happy

Stuff about teaching, learning and bossing veggie sellers around

 So, as you know I'm back in Shanghai's endless toaster oven. My pukey post-Myanmar tummy bug cleared up just in time for my intensive Chinese course, so I've not had to work on my tones and on not keeling over at the same time.  I'm actually enjoying being in the learning seat for once- the teachers at my school are good, surprisingly good. I had been dreading signing up for Chinese classes for ages because I feared they'd be like my few attempts at Turkish classes had been: hours of rote recitation and worksheets with very little practical applicability. I taught myself better just by reading lots of Turkish signs and listening to Turkish music. But these guys are good- a nice mixture of non bouncy activities, drilling, thinking, and a very logical/intuitive presentation of language points. It's all unfolding in a way that makes me go, ah- yeah, I get it now. As a former beginners-only teacher, I'm a big fan of teachers who actually stop and think about how to start building a strong linguistic foundation. Most don't. God knows I've observed many many clueless teachers over the years. When you have next to zero language ability, you're not going to understand anything the teacher says if they blather on in an unstructured way, flinging too many variables and vocab at you. Variables are for higher levels, once the foundation has been firmly set.   


So the class is enjoyable, with lots of interesting people in it.  I had forgotten how utterly wonderful it is to actually talk to a wide range of people- not just D., not just work people (not that I have colleagues or anything...). I used to be a really sociable person until I moved here. I miss that part of me- she was a much happier person, balancing intense privacy with a buoyant amount of human interaction. I'm not sure what went wrong.  But I have people around for this month at least and I like it. 

In other news, I went to the veggie market on Fuxing Lu to get stuff for dinner and bought two bags of veggies (spuds, carrots, purple onions, cilantro and a ton of bok choy).  When I asked the fellow how much it came to, he told me 15 rmb. My brain inexplicably calculated that in Myanmar kyat and it registered as being 15,000 kyat ($15 US)  and I blurted out in English, "Are you out of your fucking mind??" The veggie man sheepishly tucked a bundle of chives into my bag to appease me. 15rmb is just slightly over $2. Whoops.
not in kansas

We are so outta here

 I'll possibly be very absent for the next 26 days or so, depending on the whims of the Burmese censors. We're flying down to Guangzhou tonight, then to Yangon tomorrow morning. It's all very trippy. 

clean and tidy

I need to get some new icons for this blog

 So we have internet at home at last.  I no longer have to run off to faraway cafes with wifi to load up a bunch of pages to read at my leisure at home (and then run out and have to actually read a book or sit quietly and stare at the walls or mark papers or something). Yesterday was a big utilitarian day full of necessary things.  We've got a lovely new stove (by stove, I mean 2 countertop gas burners), which was delivered in the morning, very casually- the delivery guy just left it propped up against the door frame and left when I gave him the receipt and I had to drag the huge box into the kitchen myself.  The installer was meant to come in the late afternoon and the adsl guy was meant to come at lunch time, so after the stove was delivered I ran out to get groceries, thinking it was my only opening in the day.

I was busy throwing tins of fizzy water into my basket at Fei Dan when Doug called to say the landlord was trying to find me. Apparently the stove guy decided to show up six hours ahead of schedule. So I ran back (or walked as quickly as possible with two big heavy bags of groceries in my arms) and prepped the kitchen counter for the new stove. If I didn't peel off the old caulking (is it still caulk if its the gluey clear stuff?) and scrub off all the grit and grime and grease around the rim of the hole in the counter then the new stove would simply be laid over top all the crap and it'd be doubly gross. I learned the hard way that installation-men here just install. They don't prep or tidy up afterward. The latter was my job as well. When installation dude left half an hour later, I spent another half hour cleaning all the saw dust and bits of wood and random bits of plastic and wrapper and whatnot out of the cupboards and from under the cabinets and off the floor. 

The new stove is really lovely. And the flame! It's actually not roaring out of control like in the old stove! 

Anyway. I spent the rest of the day marking endless term papers (*yawn* *head desk* *yawn again*), fumigating the kitchen (whilst dealing with the installation detritus, I met our flatmates, Mr and Mr Cockroach), and trying to troubleshoot with the adsl guy and the landlord, as we couldn't get the internet to work for two hours after getting set up. It turned out that China Telecom had forgotten to reset or reboot our data or something.  And then more marking. Partaaay. 

Today I get to mark some more AND go out to the Public Security Bureau to pick up my passport and residence permit. The fun never ends!

And that was that.

 I just finished my last class of the year. It was thoroughly anticlimactic- no gifts or goodbyes or banquets (makes me nostalgic for my more isolated kids out at Ocean last year who felt bonded enough as groups to want to organize end of year festivities).  My guys bounded out the door for the most part, leaving only a few keeners behind to ask questions about the term paper or upcoming exam.  It's funny: I'll miss many of them a lot and I'm feeling a bit melancholic but I'm pretty sure they really don't give a rat's ass. I'm trying to remember how much of a rat's ass I gave about teachers on the last day of classes.

Maybe they'll actually say goodbye on exam day.

Anyway. It's raining and I failed to bring an umbrella. It's fine though, as the rain is breaking up the awful humidity that has settled over Shanghai in the past fortnight. It isn't as swelteringly hot as last year but it's appallingly heavy and oppressive. The air is thick with water and filth. From our 16th floor vantage point, we can barely see the surrounding blocks and so much of those are encased in a fug of brownish haze. I sneeze a lot more than usual.

Oh! On a perkier note, my newish impersonal website hit an all time  high daily count of 129 viewers, which is piddly and sad compared to, say, blogs that people actually read but for me it's pretty damn good. My all-time best before that was 86. I averaged around 30ish. So yeah, 129 viewers yesterday was a big perk. I asked D. if it was him, checking it every ten minutes during his endless office hours, but he said no. He only checked it twice. Thus, 127 other people actually read my stuff yesterday. Or 126, if you don't count my mother.  Or 125, if you don't count D's mother (who somehow found my site on her own and is now apparently a big fan).

I'm back down to ten views today. Mustn't get hung up on statistics though.  I'm not exactly endowed with mass appeal (I use big words and reference obscure, inane things).

I'm going to go home and do absolutely fuck all. I'm done until September (well, aside from exams and marking).
clean and tidy

Only four more days of school. Repeat. Only four more...

 Hello, remember me? I'm the person who used to inhabit the intarwebs with great regularity before dropping off the face of the universe as soon as we moved flats. We are still officially without net at home but the application process has been kicked off, as of yesterday. Our lovely landlord Peng Tao (I love his name- the Peng bit sounds like the resonance from a struck gong-- Punnnng) went and filled out the forms for us (because we are illiterate) in between fixing our clicky gas burner and sad shower hose. I just have to run down to China Telecom on Wednesday to pay for our year in advance. That's how it works here, when you first apply: you have to earn their trust for a year before they'll send you monthly bills.  After i hand over the great wad of cash, they'll mull over my application for a week or so then call Peng Tao to arrange a time for installation. It looks like we should be wired before we leave in early July. 

What have I been doing without the net? Well. I watched the last 10 episodes of Lost in one week, including about 6 over this weekend. That was intense. I'd fallen way behind on my viewing and had only made it up to episode 7 by the end of May. I'm done now and feel I can join the rest of civilization who knows what happened.  I've also been working on my non personal site and posting when we go to Wagas for coffee a few times a week. They have free but inconsistent wifi. The last few posts have been about the Expo, which we finally caved and went to last week during the Dragon Boat Festival and then again on Saturday. I'm actually pretty impressed by our second visit's mini project (Shanghai Despo(t) 2010), which was to visit as many evil/corrupt countries as possible. I have done things on the Axis of Evil and the Central Asian Stans so far. I'm working on a few other stragglers. 

Work is nearly finished, which is totally blowing my mind- where did this term go? This year? OMFG, my life is passing by unnervingly quickly. This is the last week of classes.  All that's left is this afternoon, tomorrow, Thursday and...Friday. Then done, except for the exam on the 30th. So done except marking, but still done-ish. 

I need a coffee.
Conchord noodle happy

Netless in Sinotopia

 Our miniature 3 day non holiday has ended and I'm back at work. Today is my big, long, scary Thursday- 6 hours of teaching between 8am and 5pm. Luckily it is a 2 day week so the weekend is very much in sight.

All is quite quiet on the online front- we still haven't got internet at home (it's complicated and will continue to be so) and Wagas had some wifi glitches that only affected Macs. I was able to do almost nothing for the past three days. I came in to work early to check my mail and update my site. We went to Expo over the weekend and I took a bajillion pictures. I'm still working on the text. I'm too tired to do more right now. Here is the first half