September 28, 2004
Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
34Trip End Aug 2005
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My English Corners remain a constant source of amusement and provide the bright spot at the end of the day. We generally take field trips to random places throughout town, which I've decided is more of a publicity stunt for the school than a beneficial experience for the kids
My apartment continues to frighten and repulse me in new ways every day. The other day as I was in my closet/bathroom, I noticed three enormous purple mushrooms growing out of the doorframe. I don't know how long they've been there, but I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that every time I take a shower or do laundry, an inch of standing water covers my floor for hours at a time (I think this might be because the floor doesn't slope at the optimum angle for the water to reach the hole/drain in the bathroom floor). Every so often a random workman shows up at my door, comes in carrying his tools and rapidly speaking Chinese, walks around, points at things, then leaves.
September 28 marked Mid-Autumn Festival, the 15th day of the 8th moon in the Lunar year
Ms. Xiong's brother took us along for a fishing trip. I had visions of bamboo rods and picturesque ponds running through my head. However, the lake we arrived at was man-made and the water level was too low to fish properly. I sat on the bank and rested. Meanwhile, one of the neighbors, undeterred by the lack of water, proceeded to strip down to his bright blue bloomers (I call them that for lack of a more accurate word) and waded out barefoot into the muck armed with a plastic bucket. I'm not sure what was more disconcerting: the fact that I was watching a middle-aged Chinese man galavanting around a pond in bikini bottoms, or the realization that I had eaten some of those gross little fish for lunch (the same ones that he was scooping out of the murky water to land with a squishy thud in the bucket).
Ms. Xiong told me stories about her childhood, about walking to school carrying bushels of rice as payment and gathering firewood in the mountains. Electricity and running water are recent developments, only within the last 15 years, and life is still incredibly hard in the countryside. I wonder how she feels about the vast changes that have swept China in the last couple of decades...Her only daughter is only one generation removed from the life of a peasant.
The holiday turned out to be very simple but nice. That night Nancy, Principal Liu and I attended a Liuyang party for the various town bigwigs at the park down the street from school. We drank some local wine, ate moon cakes at tables set up underneath strings of illuminated lanterns, and listened to a live string quartet.