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June 21, 2004

Local Weather Report

We have now been here during winter and spring and we're heading into summer, so this is a good time to tell you about the weather.

I think we made it pretty obvious that winter was not fun. It's actually warmer than Kansas City, but it's also very damp, and it's impossible to get really warm because no one here turns the heat on indoors. I hate having to wear long underwear all the time and I really hate having to keep my hat, coat and gloves on when I'm indoors. Try eating in a restaurant that way! It just takes all the fun out of everything.

Spring is an entirely different proposition. You can't believe how beautiful it is. For one thing, there are flowers everywhere. Azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, flowering shrubs and trees of all kinds, and, most of all, roses. Roses are not just for gardens here. Big masses of red, pink, yellow, coral, and peach-colored roses (not white, for some reason) are just everywhere. The most striking thing is that they are planted in huge beds on both sides of all the major streets. The spring weather is equally lovely - pleasantly warm all day and pleasantly cool at night. There were a couple of thunderstorms that were real humdingers, but usually the rain just comes in nice showers and mostly at night.

We are getting into summer now, and now I really can tell how close Nantong is to the ocean. It hasn't really been ghastly hot (although everyone tells us to expect that in July and August), but the humidity is something else! There is this thick blanket of hazy fog that just hangs over the city, and when we go outside, it's like walking into a steambath. We are running the air conditioners in our apartment now mostly because of the humidity. Oddly, the fog seems to reflect sunlight in all directions, so the glare is pretty uncomfortable too. Sunglasses are a must. Norty finds this all very pleasant. He likes heat. Yours truly is getting a bit uncomfortable, but still coping.

As most of you know, we will be back in the States for a couple of weeks in July. I am really looking forward to the visit. I'm quite happy here, but I've missed everyone so much. And two weeks of no Chinese food will be wonderful. I like Chinese food just fine. The problem is, it's all there is here. In America we get so used to being able to have just about any kind of food whenever we like. Italian, Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, Greek, Middle Eastern - you name it, we've got it. Here, it's just variations on the same thing. I have found a place where I can get Western-style groceries, so I can make some non-Chinese things at home, but there's always something missing. For instance, I haven't been able to find tahini anywhere and spices like cumin are not to be found, either. It is possible to make something that tastes a lot like hummus without tahini and cumin, but it's not quite right. When we're home, I plan to buy a lot of herbs, spices, flavorings and things like tahini to ship back to China.

See you next month!

Posted by now at 12:32 AM

June 17, 2004

Dancing in the Dark and Marrying the Postman

Norty and I went to Shanghai last weekend. While we were there, we had dinner with Norty's Chinese teacher, Chunhua, and her husband, Pingping. After dinner, as we were walking back to their apartment, we heard music.

It was coming from a large tiled patio area where a crowd of people were dancing in the dark. It is very hot and humid this time of the year, so it feels much cooler that way. Chunhua and Pingping urged us to join the dancing, so we did. It was such fun! I danced with Norty and Pingping several times and once with a nice young man who taught me a popular Chinese dance. I have become quite fond of Chinese popular music, and now I know how much fun it is to dance to. Norty and I would like to find something similar in Nantong, but no luck so far. Nantong ren (Nantong people) don't seem to be as fond of nightlife as Shanghai ren, so we may not find any dancing here, but now we know we can go dancing in Shanghai.

About marrying the postman.... On Monday, I was alone in the apartment when the doorbell rang. I looked through the peephole and saw a guy in uniform. He held up a letter, so I figured he was from the post office and I opened the door. Unfortunately, he didn't speak any English and my Chinese is "ma ma hu hu" (literally, "horse, horse, tiger, tiger" - which is an idiom meaning "not good"). He showed me the letter with Norty's name on it, and said something that seemed to be an inquiry about who that was. I wanted to say, "He is my husband," but I couldn't remember the word for "husband." So, I tried to say, "I am his wife," because I could remember the word for "wife." But I screwed up the pronouns and what I wound up telling the postman was that I was HIS wife. The guy just cracked up! I managed to straighten it out, but I'm sure the postman is getting a lot of mileage out of telling everyone about his American wife! He must think Americans are very friendly! And after Norty told the story to his colleagues at work, they had a lot of fun teasing him that he should "chi cu" (literally "eat vinegar" - another Chinese idiom that means "to be jealous"). Well, the postman WAS awfully cute!

Posted by now at 08:06 PM