This blog entry is special for so many reasons! First of all, it's 2008! Happy New Year! This is also the post where I'll try to recap Christmas, tell about my trip to Yichang for the New Year's party, list some resolutions, and probably do some other things that I haven't thought of yet. So here goes.
Well, it seemed like Christmas came and went in a flash. I already blogged about events leading up to Christmas morning, so you'll have to go back and read about that if you're interested. On Christmas Day we all woke up and enjoyed a nice breakfast of quiche and cinnamon rolls, courtesy of Jessica and Angelyn, then we emptied out our stockings and found out what kind of loot Santa brought us this year. I got lots of things, many of which are too incredible to be imagined. I got a tool set!, various candies and chewing gums, some card games from America (Blink, Mad Libs), 22 dice and a printout of the instructions for Farkle (side note: Farkle requires 6 dice. 22 is not divisible by 6.), a wooden crocodile, some cool lights that clip on your fingers so you can look like you have laser fingers, nunchucks, pens and pencils, an alarm clock that only works on American voltage (thanks William), a name stamp with the incorrect characters for William's Chinese name (thanks again, William), and some other stuff that I can't think of at the moment. It was pretty exciting to get that huge pile o' stuff. We ate so much for breakfast that we pretty much skipped lunch and waited for the progressive dinner/tacky Christmas sweater party to start at 5:00. We started out at William and Priscilla's with drinks and snacks. William was kind enough to share his Rotel with us, so we've all decided that Rotel cheese dip is officially the new Christmas food of choice. We then walked down to the bus stop to catch the bus to John and Megan's school for soup. Well, Christmas is catching on here as a day of major sales at every store in town so it took us over an hour to get to their apartment instead of the expected 15-20 minutes. We gulped down some incredible potato soup, french onion soup, and bread, and walked over to the medical school for the final rounds. At Brad's apartment we had the main course of Chinese food cooked by Min, his lovely Chinese wife. Then we walked downstairs to Andrew and Jaime's for dessert and secret Santa gift exchange. I got some lovely white towels from Brad to help with any "bathroom business" I may have in the future. (He means to help dry off anyone who goes Swimming at our apartments.) We had a lot of fun and I ended up being declared the winner of the tacky Christmas sweater competition. It wasn't too hard since only 2 of us wore tacky sweaters, but I think I may have won even if everyone wore a sweater. I don't have the pictures on my computer at the moment so I'll add them later.
New Year's Day
After Christmas there was a lull of sorts as everyone stayed home waiting for their family to call. We also could hardly move after eating so much food at the progressive dinner. At some point during the week I found out that my friend Jacob was coming back from Hiroshima to visit Shiyan. He graduated from this school after my first year here and got a job working for Mazda in Japan, so I was excited to learn he was coming. I then almost immediately found out that my friends Laura and Tomas in Shanghai were going to come visit for the weekend. They especially wanted to come visit after I told them Jacob was coming. Well, around Thursday or Friday Laura called to say they couldn't come because they couldn't get tickets. Jacob still came Sunday morning, but he was disappointed to hear that the others couldn't make it. We hung out all day Sunday and had hotpot with some of the guys that night. Hotpot is so amazing! I love hotpot.
Monday was the big trip to Yichang for New Year's so Angelyn, Jessica, and I loaded onto the bus at 8am for the (supposedly) 6 hour journey. Last year it took a little over 8 hours so we were pleasantly surprised when it only took 7 this time. We were also pleasantly surprised that 4 people from Wuhan got off at the Yichang bus station at the exact same time we did. This year's party was going to be a blowout! The festivities started later with a picture/video scavenger hunt that spanned the entire city. It was pretty fun because we filmed a kungfu movie on the bus and a Titanic scene on the bridge over the Yangtze River. Beth also taught "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" to about 50 kids at a party in McDonalds. I'm pretty sure our team should win just for that one. At the end of the scavenger hunt we all met up at Pizza Hut (!!!!!) and pigged out on... guess... pizza. It was fantabulous. We went to the pizza place here in Shiyan one time this year and it was very disappointing. Nothing compares to the real thing. We put about 10 straws together, put a pitcher of Pepsi at one end of the table, and passed the straw around so everyone could try to get a swig. It was pretty tough! After dinner we went back to campus for our party, where we hung out, showed the results of our scavenger hunts, ate lots of cookies and other goodies, and ended up counting down to the new year. We don't have the big ball in Times Square to help us out here, so we got an apple, slapped it on a chopstick, stuck some sparklers in it, and it did the job just as well. When I say we, I really mean that Brad (Yichang Brad, not Shiyan Brad) took care of all the arrangements. I can't take any credit for it. We sang a while and hung out, then all went to bed. Now, last year in Yichang Beth made the resolution to learn one new recipe every week. The Lord was good to us this year in that Beth was able to keep that resolution. I don't know everything she learned to cook this year, but just to give you an idea: poptarts and bagels. That's right, home made poptarts and bagels. If that's not amazing, I don't know what is! We're drawing up plans for a kidnapping attempt so that Shiyan can enjoy some of her cooking. I'll let you know how it turns out. After lunch on Tuesday we all headed to a coffee shop for about an hour, caught a last minute taxi to the train station, and took the 7 hour train back to Shiyan. The train was actually a double decker! I've never seen one that I know of. We got to sit on the top level, so I felt extra special. The inside of the train wasn't much different other than the fact that there were stairs at the end of the car. Oh, and the snack cart couldn't go up the stairs so the workers carried around baskets with the things they were selling instead of pushing a cart through. That was kind of nice. I always get whacked by the cart.
As for New Year's resolutions this year, I've been mulling over a few different ones. 1) Become much better at Chinese. Keyword: much (not just better) 2) Talk with one non-English speaker every week about my Source of Hope. 3) Become more focused. (i.e. use my time more wisely) There are other things that have passed through my mind, but I feel like I could settle on those 3 for now. If I add more to the list, I'll let you know.
Plans for the near future
If you're planning to send me a package anytime soon, put a hold on it. I'm about to go to Kunming for language school and I probably won't be back in Shiyan until the last week of February. We still don't know when class starts back, but I've heard both February 13 and February 25. I'm hoping the 25th is right, but you never know until it happens. Such is China. Anyhoo, on January 10 I will be going to Chongqing on the train. After an overnight stay there I'll catch another train to Kunming and arrive there on January 13. The 14th will be the first day of class at our language school, so Angelyn, William, and I are ready to get started. We'll be there through February 8, which makes for 4 weeks of classes. Two of the weekends we're there they will take us out for dinner or other activities, I'm not sure exactly what. The other weekends I guess we're free to do whatever we like. I think there are a lot of places to see near Kunming so I think it will be a good 4 weeks. After that, I'll either head back to school (if classes start sooner) or I might travel to some other areas for a week or two (if classes start later). I realize I didn't put out any pictures, so I'm going to go ahead and post this without pictures so I can be done with it and then put up the pictures for it tomorrow. There should be video too! It's time for me to leave for dinner with Jacob (he's leaving town tonight) so I have to run. Happy New Year!