It's been a while since I posted anything and I'm sure a few of you (my parents included) are wondering if I'm still breathing and alive! The last three weeks have been full of activities, classes, and reconnecting with Chinese friends.
Yesterday, one of my students from last year arranged for myself and several new teachers to tour a new museum in the Olympic Green with his parents and some other foreign teachers from Ren Da. Although I didn't always know what I was looking at, it was neat to know that we were looking at some of China's most precious treasures at this exhibit. We could see the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest (with the torch still lit) from the museum.
Yesterday was Mid-Autumn Festival, an annual holiday where Chinese people give mooncakes to one another and celebrate being with family. Mooncakes are a bit like fruitcakes in that people give them out, but no one really relishes eating them. They're pretty light brown circular cakes about 2" tall that are filled with a flavored paste. Some of the nastier flavors are various types of seafood (I got a clam mooncake last year), red bean paste (a Chinese favorite), egg yolk (also said to be very good), and varieties of vegetables. Tolerable mooncakes are flavored with blueberry, chocolate, pineapple, or apple. The only truly good ones are Haagen Daz-filled. I managed to give away last night the thirty or so mooncakes that Anna and I had accumulated, so we didn't actually have to throw any away. Although, I'm pretty sure that they would have stayed good until this time next year if we wanted to regift them!
Teacher's Day also just passed, which is like Christmas for teachers. I received all kinds of cards and even a few gifts. Jr II class 13 gave me a bar of soap, just like last year. I wonder what they're hinting at? Actually, a student told me it's for washing the chalk off my hands after class. I received a fancy box of mooncakes from one student, which is rumored to retail for several hundred yuan just because the box and the packaging is so cool. Victor gave me some Beijing Olympic playing cards, and I got some other small things, as well.
We actually had the day off today (Monday) for Mid-Autumn festival. Anna and I embarked on an ambitious 48km bike ride this morning around 3rd Ring Road, which took us a little over three hours from start to finish. It was fun to get away from the school and see parts of the city we hadn't been to before. The proof of the greatly improved air quality in Beijing is in my face and on my shoulders - the sun has never been able to penetrate the pollution enough to result in a sunburn!
Some of you know that I had surgery on my wrist in August before returning to Beijing. I was able to put away the brace that I had been wearing on September 12, which was a happy day. Sometimes it's still a little sore, but I'm so glad that I can do most things pain-free for the first time in six months! The stitches are gone and the scarring isn't too bad.
It's been good to be back and I'm still settling into a schedule and a routine now that we're entering our third week of teaching. Be patient, I promise that I'll get around to responding to your emails that have filled my inbox soon!