Well week one is done, and what did I do? Sent in my counselor application, pitched two articles to the China Hands magazine (I’ll share the drafts with y’all when I get to them this week hopefully, started reading my advisor’s book “Nontraditional Russian Security Issues” which is incredibly dry, but I’m getting through it, became a member of the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), saw two classmates from UMass who were in town for the ice festival, skated, did some research, failed to get caught up on sleep, but getting there, watched a lot of Ellen Degeneres, made scones, and brokered an animal adoption among other things. Listing the achievements helps me feel like they’re actually achievements and I’m not just pissing away my time here.
For details on a couple of those, the scones were my first big achievement with my oven. Got some imported Irish butter at the import store (among other things), some cinnamon, apples, and whipped up a batch of scones according to my mom’s modified box recipe with the mix I brought back from the states and they kicked ass! Shared some with friends and my neighbors to good reception. Gotta figure out what else I can bake. Biscuits, maybe cookies? Who knows. Did the biscuits today with garlic olive oil (all I had) and onions, actually pretty good!
Part of my research also included taking pictures of a great book on Harbin architecture without buying it cus the cheaper one I wanted was out of print unfortunately. The book was incredible though, it was cool to see how Harbin developed so much over the past 100+ years. Interesting to see in the pictures too how racially segregated it was and which neighborhoods developed when etc. The most surreal to see places I’ve physically stood in as they were 100 years ago, dirt roads, no buildings over two storeys besides the churches, old Harbin is not at the top of my list of “historical places I wish I could see first hand. Check ’em out for yourself.
Now on to the animal brokerage that I’m sure you’re curious about. On my first Monday back I went to get lunch with my CET roommate, over which he told me he had bought a ferret while I was gone. The ferret, 冰棍儿 (binggunr, bing guar, popsicle), is super cute, only two months old, and adorable, did I mention adorable? I then get a text from him (the roommate, not the ferret) on Friday morning asking if I would ask the cafe owners if they could take Popsicle in. Turns out my roommate was gonna give the ferret to his parents, but due to circumstances changing they couldn’t take him anymore. Jichao was freaking out and worried he’d have to find someone to sell Popsicle to, but fortunately the cafe owners were willing to take him in. Jichao brought the little guy over the next day and introduced him to the cats. It was pretty hilarious, seeing all the cats freaking out at their new brother. Zaizai, the black and white Garfield looking one featured in my last post, was the most adventurous and the most confused (although he always looks like that), batting at the small furry thing that suddenly started eating all his food and drinking all his water. Popsicle was quite nonplussed and took to running at him to try and play. Running at furball, one of the two big grey ones, was met with more bats. Popsicle don’t care, Popsicle don’t give a fuck, he just keep running around like a honey badger trying to burrow into every single crevice, between pillows, behind the radiator, up my pant leg… Only Little Leopard actually hissed at him and she started warming up by the end of the day. He was a huge hit with the customers that came in that evening too. So Popsicle found a home! Haven’t been back in to see how he’s doing, but I think it’s a great situation for all. The cafe gets a unique tenant, Jichao can still see the little guy whenever he wants, and I get to say I live next to a ferret! It’s like a sitcom in the making as my friend Brendan put it.
The second half of this title is due to the fact that I’ve been keeping this blog for a whole year, which I didn’t notice until WordPress reminded me and is a little crazy. If you’d care to skip the cliche and sappy retrospective, please feel free. For those of you who are still here, I have to say I had no real expectations for this blog when I started it, no conception of what it would be. It’s gone from more educational to more journalistic recently, but I always try to strike a balance. For those of you who have been here from the start, thanks for your continued support., and I welcome your feedback in any form. For those of you just joining us, I hope you like what you see, and thank you as well for taking the time. Seriously, your love and support means more to me than you know, and you keep me writing this. I started without the knowledge that I would be in China for the vast majority of 2016, but thanks to the shocking occurrence of getting the Fulbright grant, I’m still here in China, still writing, and have only spent about six to seven weeks in the states these past twelve months. This is not an insignificant amount of time (again, I get that feeling that I’m cheating at this whole expat thing), but I feel quite at home in China now. Moving forward, I think this blog will be more focused on the Fulbright experience and keeping you all informed of my goings on, but I’ll also be sharing some thoughts, hopefully pieces that I write, and whatever else I might come across.
That about wraps it up, but I should mention as well that Zhou Youguang died yesterday at the age of 111. Zhou was responsible for inventing Pinyin, the Romanization of Chinese phonetics that I use when I put Chinese characters in the blog to give you all an idea of their pronunciation (as I did with Popsicle up above). You can read about his amazing life here. Without him, I can’t guarantee I’d be where I am now, as without Pinyin, or electronic dictionaries, Chinese would be a heeeeeellllllll of a lot harder to learn. Makes you wonder how people did it back in the day. So thank you Mr. Zhou, you made an amazing contribution to the world, and received far less credit than you should have. Rest easy.