Wednesday, December 31, 2008

South China

Day 7:  In the morning, our friendly minibus driver took us to a wharf to catch a Li River cruise.  The river is really famous for all the craggy karst mountains around it, but unfortunately it was raining.  It was pretty cool to have the mountains rising out of the mist, but it would have been nice to see them on a clearer day.  There were locals on little rafts formed from 4 pieces of bamboo (very tippy-looking) who would attach to our boat and hawk their souvenir wares. Some even gave fresh fish to the kitchen on the back of the boat.  We arrived in Yangshuo at 2 in the afternoon.  West street is really narrow and full of touristy shops and cafes.  There are neon lights all along the second story, giving it an especially lively look at night.  We finally made it to our hotel, which was 30 minutes from the main part of town (again, the travel agent is not too bright) after a long walk in the rain.

Day 8:  Made it back to Guilin in the morning, and went for a walk around town.  The town has a lot of inter-connected lakes with little park areas around them.  Eventually we made it to Fubo hill, which has a cool cave and a great view from the top.  Lots of mountains.  Next was seven stars park, an area with 7 hills and various other attractions, including a panda, fake waterfalls, a hill shaped like a camel, and lots of peacocks.  We walked along the lakes at night when they were all lit up, and saw the largest man-made waterfall in the world cascading down the front of a hotel (10 min at 8:30 every night).  It was quite impressive. 

Day 9  We caught a plane to Shenzhen, and a train to Hong Kong.  The cross-boundary busses involve getting off for an hour at the border to go through two different customs lines.  Unpleasant.  But you get stampys.  We finally made it to Kowloon and treated ourselves to the outrageously expensive, but delicious Haagen-Dasz while watching ice-skating children pushing little penguins around (like the chairs used for balance, but way cooler.)  Huge bright lights in Hong Kong, little lanes filled with salespeople.  We had noodle soup, and went to temple street night market.   Really cheap cool looking oil paintings, which Eric and I bought a lot of.  

THe hotel has TV channels from around the world, including French TV Asia.  It currently has little gazelles running around with the narrator talking in a soothing French voice.  Somehow fascinating at 6 in the morning.  Have a happy new year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Playing tourist at last

I met my family just fine six days ago, and since then, it's been a whirlwind of sightseeing, funny stories, and just good times. It was so unreal to see them walking out of the arrivals gate at the Beijing airport.  We arranged our travels through a Chinese tour guide, who is well-meaning, but didn't realize that we did not speak Chinese, so always sent the itinerary in Chinese.  He also is very Chinese in that he'll do exactly what you want, but not be particularly rational about things.  For instance, he had us in a 10 hour layover each way in the Kunming airport so that we could spend 2 days in Lijiang (both in Yunan province).  We opted for 4 days in Kunming instead.

Day 1:  Beijing.  We left early in the morning for the Mutianyu section of the great wall.  It was cold up there, and very windy, but the scenery was wonderful.  I'll never cease to be amazed by looking in the distance to see the wall snaking along some distant seemingly unreachable ridge.  You hear that it's built upon the mountain ridges, but it's hard to grasp until you actually see it.  On our return to the city, we stopped for a bit at the olympic park, where there were endless Christmas trees lining the main road, and a little christmas house decked out with a sleigh, decorations, and several santas, one of which was playing a saxophone.  (More is better, right).  We then went to the central hutong area near the lakes and wandered around for the remainder of the afternoon, catching another glimpse of Beijing life.  And of course, sampling the street food.

Day 2:  Forbidden City day.  We first headed to my favorite Jingshan park to see the dancing, clapping, games, and other elderly Chinese people activities.  It's so cool to see all the retired people hanging out with their friends and doing active things outside instead of sitting around the house.  Also enjoyed the spectacular view from the pavilion at the top of the hill.  The forbidden city is something I've kind of been avoiding in my time here.  I mean, it's just a bunch of buildings, and all the contents were moved to Taiwan when the Japanese invaded, so what's to see.  It was actually pretty cool.  I wouldn't have been really sad to not see it, but the sheer scale and the sheer absurdity of having it all for one person were pretty amazing.  2000 concubines, and 75,000 eunochs.  1 emperor.  

Day 3:  Transit, to Kunming.  Up at 4:30 to catch a flight to Kunming, Yunan.  My dad, grandma, and aunt went to Shanghai to visit relatives, while my siblings and my mom went to Yunan. The flight was relatively painless, and we arrived around 1:30.  We walked around town to a shopping district and some really really old pagodas.  The streets are a lot narrower and there seem to be a lot more people here than in Beijing.  Or maybe it's just warmer.  We found a Wal-mart, which was very amusing.  Very much like any other Chinese supermarket, but fancier than Wal-marts at home.  Funny, working at Wal-mart is probably a pretty stable and well-paid job here.  For dinner, we went to a cute hot pot place which had a little pot for each person.  I love hot pot.  

Day 4:  Western Hills, and area to the west of Kunming on the shore of a lake.  We started by exploring two beautiful temples that were filled with lush vegitation (I get the feeling that it rains a lot here in the summer).  The hills were breathtaking and there were many sheer cliffs and lovely Chinese architecture tucked into them.  There were a lot of tacky souvenir items on the way up, which makes me wonder who in the world buys such useless junk?  It's like the people say "Oh look, tourists, I bet they want some of this random stuff!"  On returning from the hills, we went shopping a bit, but didn't end up buying anything.  Dinner was at a fast food dumpling restaurant, where it took me 10 minutes to decipher the menu before we ended up with two bowls of noodles, and an enormous plate of 饺子 (Chinese stuffed dumplings).

Day 5:  Stone forest is an area 70 km from Kunming.  It used to be a lakebed, and the large concentrations of Ca in the water led to strangely shaped CaCO3 (limestone) deposits on the lake floor.  As a result, there are stone pillars over 100 feet high and gorgeous rock formations dotting this valley.  There is a lot of vegitation growing in the stone canyons and on the stones themselves, and it felt like there should be dinosaurs around.  Or monkeys.  It was pretty breathtaking.  The trails wandered in and out of the countless rock formations and I felt like a little bug walking through a junk yard.  Some places were flooded with Chinese tourists, but some of the more remote places were still and tranquil.  Unfortunately, Amanda got Staph food poisoning and was really sick on the way home and all the rest of the night.  

Day 6:  Amanda was still sick, so she stayed in the hotel with mom, while Eric and I wandered Kunming a little more.  We walked through a cute little park/lake area with more seagulls that I have ever seen in one place.  There were stands selling "seagull bread" and many adorable children running around with bright looks in their eyes, and seagull chow in their fists.  It was kind of like San Marco pigeons, but with seagulls.  We also went to the biggest active temple in the city, and apparently Saturdays at 11 is a big Buddhist service time.  There were hundreds of people burning incense and candles; you could barely walk through.  The candle holders had gallons of wax dripping down every hour, and the clouds of smoke from the incense was huge.  We got some incense and felt a little sacreligous lighting it, but it was fun anyway.  There was a monk speaking and then chanting/singing in a haunting voice.  It ended with a monk-led procession of several hundred people around the entire complex.  A pretty amazing experience.  The pond had a lot of cute little turtles too.  For lunch, we stopped at the chain restaurant "The Brothers Jiang," which serves the Yunan speciality, "Over the Bridge Noodles."  We were confused, but you have to buy your ticket for your food at the entrance and then hand it to the waiter to him to bring your food.  Kind of like an amusement park.  Wheeeee.  We got a decent-sized bowl of cold noodles and then an enormous bowl of over the bridge noodles.  I love noodles too.

We came back to the hotel around 3 and caught a taxi to the airport, where we waited for about 4 hours for our delayed flight to take off.  For some reason, the airport needed to announce everything about three times in both languages and had to start each announcement with "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention" or the Chinese equivalent.  We decided that they could cut down on their speaking by at least 75%.  We arrived safely in Guilin, Guangxi province.  It you've ever seen Chinese paintings with eerie finger-like rock hills pointing out of a green, riverine landscape, it's probably Guilin.  

 It's kind of funny how I end up leading everyone around and handling all of the logistics because I'm the one who can speak Chinese.  Eric says it's like I'm the mom.  It's kind of stressful having to deal with all of the stuff going on, especially since I'm not fluent, but we've gotten by pretty well so far.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Mellow Farewell to Tsinghua

Today is the day. My family arrives at the Beijing airport at 9:40, as my University life here comes to an end. It's been so great living, studying, and working here. I feel like I've learned a lot more about the world from all my foreigner friends, and hope to meet some of them again someday.

Yesterday, I had brunch (Western) with my Western friends, and dinner (Chinese) with my Chinese labmates. It was wonderful to have a last hurrah with everyone, and strange to say goodbye. They're ok when you know you'll see them again, cause you can just say, 'until next time. . .' but it's hard to say 'goodbye, I know I'll never see you again, have a good life.' I'm going to miss campus life here. So strange to be thrown in with a group of people and be best of friends for three months, then to have it end so suddenly. I'll miss you all so much.

Today will be the coldest day of my trip at a -10 windchill. Maybe Beijing's weather gods are trying to comfort me with a little feel of home.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It can't be my birthday

There' s no snow on the ground, no Christmas decorations.  No finals.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chinese table manners

Chinese (at least Northerners) love to take their friends and family out to eat and treat them.  Even poor college students will take their friends out for their birthday and insist on paying the whole bill.  My labmate says that it makes him really happy to be able to make all of his friends full and happy too.  They call the Western method of paying (i.e. everyone pays for their own) "AA." Not sure why, but they think it's pretty strange.  Part of it may be that it's hard to find what everyone owes because all the dishes are shared, but I think it's mostly because Chinese people care a lot more about harmonious relationships than Westerners.  If there's something to celebrate or you want to do something fun with your friends, go out to eat!  And it's cheap.  You can eat your fill at an average restaurant for about 35 kuai ($5) and get all you can eat at a really really nice buffet for 59 kuai ($8).

Also, when it comes to boxing up the leftovers (No they don't have Chinese-take-out-shaped boxes here), it's really rude to do it unless your only with your family.  If you go out on a date and ask to box up the rest of the food, it means that you care too much about money and little things and not enough about the person you're with.  Again, may be because of the shared dishes phenomenon. 

When you eat with a bowl of rice with others at a restaurant, you use your chopsticks to take a piece from the communal dish and eat it over your rice bowl, sometimes dabbing it on the rice to make the white stuff exciting.  I do prefer to just spoon the sauce over my rice, but that's not really how it's supposed to be done.

My favorite:  when you're eating soup and/or noodles, slurp as much as possible.  It means you're enjoying it.  I'm going to miss noodle soup the most.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The end of the beginning

I leave here in 5 days and I'm starting to get nostalgic already.  

Things I'm going to miss about Beijing:
1.) My friends:  I've made a lot of awesome friends here.  Mostly Westerners, but some Chinese as well.  I was originally planning to do a homestay during my time here, but I think I would have gone insane if I didn't have any Western friends to bum around and commiserate with. I've learned so much about other parts of the world, and hope to see many of them again.
2.)Beijing food, especially stuff that I don't expect to find at home: jian-bing, beef noodles, yummy soups.  I'm addicted to street food.  It's so simple, cheap, filling, and loaded with MSG and other delicious flavor enhancers.  
3.) Speaking Chinese:  It's pretty satisfying to be able to converse with people in another language.  I don't know how much practice I'll be getting out in Colorado.

Things I'm not going to miss:
1.) Annoying salespeople:  You can't look at something in a store without the salespeople walking up to you and pestering you about buying it.  You like? you like? No. Buyao!
2.) Pollution:  Today was especially bad.  Sometimes it just smells really nasty.  It's usually not too noticable, but on days like today, I decide that sitting on my butt inside is better for my health than going for a run.
3.) Speaking Chinese:  Yes, it's love hate.  It's fun, but so frustrating sometimes, especially when people try to explain things and you feel like this stupid little kid who never learned human speech.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Birthday Parties

Last night, my friends celebrating the birthdays of my two French friends Claire and Benjamin and myself.  We went to a nice French resto called Cafe de la Poste (apparently it's a very stereotypically French name).  It had French steak, French desserts, French wine, and more French-looking people that I've seen in my 3 months here in Beijing.  It was fun to see my friends delighted by the appearance of bread that crackles when you squeeze and and songs that they all knew from home.  The wine was good, the cake was chocolately.  We offered a slice to the French owner man and he was so excited he brought out the aerosol whipped cream, which got me pretty enthused.

Today, my lab group got together to play ping pong (because the badminton courts were all booked up) for a couple of hours before going to dinner together.  I'm pretty bad at ping pong, but it was fun to see all of my labmates and my professor so hardcore and having so much fun.  For dinner we went to "Big Pizza."  This is my first time going to an American restaurant in Beijing and it was pretty funny.  They had a salad bar (awesome), soft-serve ice cream, and pizza.  The most amusing kinds of pizza were "warm banana pizza" and "chicken pizza with blueberry sauce."  Both with cheese of course.  Chinese are a lot more liberal about mixing sweet and savory.  They also had a lot of Chinese-type skewers, chicken wings, and other various dishes.  And "Special Big Pizza Wine," which was like grape juice with a slightly off taste.  It was one of my labmates birthday.

Great news from the lab:  My name is getting put on a paper that I have put some editing time into.  It'll be great to be published!  I'm like a real person now.  I guess I shouldn't talk to soon as it hasn't been reviewed yet, but still very exciting.  I'm also helping to write another paper on the experiment I've been working on here and I should be 2nd author.  My prof. joked that I should come back for a postdoc someday, which is probably a good sign.

A week from now, I'll be waiting for my family in the airport.  

Friday, December 12, 2008

Halfway Home

I arrived in Beijing 3 months ago, and my plane ticket home is 3 months from today.  Halfway home.  I feel like I've been here for ages, and it's hard to believe I still have 3 months before I'm home.  I know it will be fun and all, but it gets me a little down thinking about it that way.

I only have one more week here at Tsinghua before my family comes to Beijing and I run off with them.  I would be pretty happy staying here the whole year, but I'm also ready to move on and try new things.  The people I've met here are fantastic, and I really like my work, but I don't think I'm ready to be a Beijinger quite yet.  Maybe post-doc.

Some more little notes about Chinese-isms.  India.  It's seems like Chinese people have a similar idea of India as most Americans do about China.  To them, it's dangerous, poverty-stricken, unstable, and generally scary.  Several people have warned me that I shouldn't travel to India.  It's a little strange, because I feel like until recently, most Americans didn't differentiate between China and India.  Those two Asian countries with scads of people, non-potable water coming from the taps, and millions of out-sourcing beneficiaries.  

People here press the close-door elevator buttons frantically.  As if each event counts for speeding the door shut and getting you to your destination 1.5 seconds earlier.  When 
Chinese student groups hold a "party," it doesn't involve going to a local bar to hang out and talk with friends and maybe play a round of pool (though they do love pool here).  I means sitting in the Tsinghua auditorium and watching your classmates sing to karaoke, perform dances, act out skits, or do kong fu.  Wednesday night was the environmental department's party and I sang a song with one of my labmates.  The rest of the show was pretty funny and very Chinese.  I couldn't imagine American students getting up in front of their classmates and singing pop songs or dancing somewhat erotically.  The best performance was a cosplay of Super Mario Bros.  One person in red overalls jogged in front of a black sheet and other people moved by carrying clouds, baddies, money boxes, and other things Mario encounters in the game.  It was pretty clever.

My mom successfully sent me a birthday cake and cheese from my favorite holiday catalog, the Swiss Colony.  So last night I shared them with friends and also cooked knoephla soup (creamy chicken soup with egg-flour dumplings) and cornbread.  It was fantastic.  In addition to requiring a trip to the grocery store (which I love to do), it was great to see all my friends and fill their tummies with delicious foods.  It's hard to believe that my birthday will come next week, with Christmas hard on its heels.  Everything here is so non-holiday.

I hope you all are having a lovely holiday time, with more tinsel and holly than me.  

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ultimate at last. and partying.

So apparently I'm bad at reading/remembering, and when I discovered in September that  there was pickup Ultimate at my university every Saturday afternoon, I proceeded to check on Sundays and was very sad when I could not find the game.  I've recently recovered from a serious bout of "I'm lame and refuse to exercise" sickness after discovering that sitting on one's ass all day really does not do wonders for one's girlish figure.  So on a run, I spotted people at the field playing Ultimate, so went to join.  They were all quite funny and friendly people and we played 4-on-4.  I feel so broken; my muscles and joints have become so complacent.  I was complete rubbish and spent most of the short time getting schooled or turfing the disc, but it was great to have a disc in my hands again.  It's too bad I found the group when I only have two weeks left.  Also, it turns out there is an expat team in Beijing called "Big Brother."  You can't say that isn't hilarious.

Yesterday was St. Nicholaus Day, and we did a Secret Santa/Kris Kringle/whatever you call it round of presents with my group of foreign friends.  In addition, you were required to compose a poem for your recipient.  After a slow start, we cabbed to a classmate's apartment near campus.  By the way, this place really made me get excited to have my own place to decorate and make homey next year.  We ordered Indian food delivery (which was fantastic) and snacked on cookies, stollen, and traditional st. nick candies (these are kind of like little gingerbread chunks that resemble dog food, but were actually quite delicious.  The presents and poems were all very cute.  The French girl who got a gift for me wrote a song to the tune of L-O-V-E and sang it to the karaoke track.  It was great to just hang out with good friends in a holiday atmosphere.  I can't believe I'm leaving in two weeks.  

Party number two was this morning.  I finished teaching my English class a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to get together with the class again to hang out.  This morning was their last test ever, and they will graduate soon.  So afterwards, I met them and we went out to eat together.  We went to a buffet called American Island, though the food was Chinese and Asian.  It was very delicious.  It seems that when Chinese people do buffets, they go up for multiple trips at once and get most of the food they plan to eat so that afterwards, they can eat and talk and don't have to get up again.  By the way, I'm convinced the Chinese word for chocolate doesn't really mean chocolate, but rather "brown colored and slightly sweet."  The buffet also included beverages, so all of the boys in the class drank quite a few beers.  I did think it funny that none of the girls drank and all of the boys did.  They are all really cool kids.  (Actually I'm younger than all of them)  It was interesting speaking Chinese with them for the first time, and hearing them crack jokes in Chinese.  I hope to meet up with some of them again in the next two weeks.  It's funny, I now have 42 instant Chinese friends.  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Arrival of Winter

Today, winter arrived in Beijing.  After a couple balmy week of over 10 C, we have bust through the freezing point.  It's not really that frigid, but the wind is pretty harsh in this city.  Still, it makes me think of home, and it makes me think of skiing.  Which makes me happy.  So while my European (and Floridian) friends are experiencing the most bitterly cold day of their life, I am happily reminded of home.  I hear there's a lot of snow there, so feel free to send me lovely pictures from out your window.  I'm not sure if it will actually snow here, as it's only precipitated 2 times in the last 2.5 months, but keeping fingers crossed for the white stuff.

This Friday is St. Nikolaus day, and we are doing a secret santa shindig with the upped anty of a required poem.  (Apparently a Ducth thing.  I approve).  Another random note:  I was an episode of "Pushing Daisies," a TV show about a pie-maker (who does a lot of other stuff too).  I'm going to be a pie-maker someday. . . sigh.

And:  I'm starting to actually put words down for this MFC paper I'm supposed to help write.  yay

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Great Wall Outing #1

We went to one of the less popular sections of the great wall and hiked 8 km between Jinshaling and Simitai.  The group was Matt, Claire, Benjamin, Sarah and I, and we left from our hostel at 6:30AM.  According to Claire (the most French person I have ever met) "This is the first time I have watched the sunrise."  Luckily, it was a 3 hour drive, so we got to catch up on sleep a little bit.  

One of the strangest happenstances of the day was that every tourist was singled out by a local Chinese person who walked with the group and acted all nice and kind of annoying before trying to guilt people into buying things halfway through.  I am glad to not burdened with an excessive sense of compassion.  

The scenery was beautiful, with mountains on either side fading into the haze.  It was really interesting to walk on a mix of refurbished and crumbling sections of the wall to get a sense of the age of the thing.  Somehow, I also didn't expect there to be so many stairs on the wall.  I guess I should have known, since they built it across the impassable mountain ridges.  It was quite a hike, but very awe-inspiring.  To think they built it without excavators and cranes and bulldozers.  Crazy stuff.  The Chinese people are actually fiercely proud of the wall, despite the horrifying death toll its construction bears.  

Monday, December 1, 2008


So Matt and I spent two lovely days in the Shanxi province town of Pingyao.  It's actually a UNESCO world heritage site now.  The city had no money to modernize, so it's still largely the same as it was in the Qing dynasty with grey Chinese-looking roofs, courtyard homes and offices, and cute little doorways (I have a thing with Chinese doorways.  They're always so exciting, because you never know what you'll see).  We took the night train to and from, hard sleeper.  There were three bunk on top of each other and no door separating compartments, but it was surprisingly nice.  Chinese night-train riders are a lot quieter than their European counterparts.  We wanted to do cup ramen on the train like everyone else, but didn't.   

We got picked up at the train station by a funny little motorbike with covered sitting cart in the back and rode through narrow city streets in the dawn.  Our hostel was great and the people all very helpful.  There was a great little courtyard in the middle and a pool table.  It was good that the hostel was nice because shortly after we arrived, Matt got a case of China tummy ills.  I fed him a lot of street food in the days before and am very bad a knowing when things are sketchy or not.  Sketchy things in China just don't phase me any more, I guess.  Anyway, Matt feasted on crackers and Sprite for the next two days, though it did grant us the opportunity to try many kinds of Chinese packaged crackers. 

When Matt was feeling up for it, we wandered around the town looking at old courtyard offices, temples, city walls, and tourist shops.  It was strange to be one of the only Westerners in town, as the place was pretty deserted for the off-season.  It seemed like people were always trying to proposition us with, "Hello. . . hello. . . look!" Eventually whenever we heard to word "hello" we just turned away and started walking fast.  

Also, all the restaurants were pretty deserted, so there was a peek-a-boo effect whenever you'd walk by and someone would pop and and try to get you to come in.  We ate, ironically, in a Catholic guesthouse.  I guess it's more accurate to say I ate and Matt partook of the tea.  Anyways the food was actually quite good there and the Shanxi specialty is noodles of every shape and make.  I like getting noodles from random street vendors, but again, probably not very safe. 

It was really nice to spend some time away from Beijing where things were less hectic and the crowds were few and far between.  I think Pingyao may be one of my favorite places in China so far, though I may be biased by the excellent company I had.  

Thanksgiving in Beijing

It's just so overwhelming when you get a week and a half behind.  I'm gonna start from recently.  I'm sick again.  Generic 'Beijing air quality is awful and dry' sickness of just feeling crappy.  It's funny because I rarely get sick at home, but here is seems like everyday is something.

Matt was in Beijing visiting me last week, which was amazing.  The last three days we spent around the campus area and hung out with friends, went shopping, toured campus, etc.  On Thursday, we got off a night train and I had to go hand in my grades for my english class.  Most of the students are seniors, so the class is done early to get the grades in for those graduating this semester.  I gave my final exam the week before, which was quite an experience.  I really didn't know what was going on, but it went pretty well and I think the students did quite well.  I'm hoping to meet up with the class for lunch or coffee every week instead of class until I leave.

Friday, we had lunch with a Chinese friend of my whom I a helping with her applications to US grad schools.  She's pretty cool and it's fun to talk about cultural differences with a Chinese engineering student.  We had hot pot which is always really fun.  Basically, you have a boiling pot of soup in the middle and you add raw meat, veg, mushrooms, tofu, etc. to desired doneness and dip in delicious sesame sauce.  

On Friday night, we went with one of my friends to the home of an American/Chinese family that was celebrating Thanksgiving.  Matt and I contributed pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole.  We made the ingredients for the pie beforehand and put the filling liquid in a nalgene to bring, which I found really amusing.  The dinner was great:  turkey, mash, stuffing, sweet potatoes with ample marshmallows, green beans, all sorts of American tasting stuff I haven't had in ages.  And of course the Thanksgiving food coma.  We played some games, which Matt and I owned at, chatted, and played with the half-asian children.  The dad was frighteningly conservative Christian ("I know what to do with gays in the military:  put 'em on the front line and give 'em a gun that doesn't work!") and it was hard to keep our mouths shut when he said stupid stuff and contradicted himself every other sentence.  It is kind of frightening that people that are so immune to reason exist.  It renews my fear of humanity and knowledge that people are unreasonable that you really have no idea what they might do.  Even so, it was a good night.

Saturday, the German embassy hosted a Christmas market, which we attended with some friends.  It was naturally very expensive, but brimming with Christmas cheer, not to mention mulled wine and pretzels.  There was a cookie decorating booth, which made me feel nostalgic, and lots of white people.  It was strange not being able to pinpoint my friends in a crowd from their blond/brown hair.  

Yesterday, I saw Matt off at the airport early in the morning and napped and read most of the day.  My friend Maelle returned from a visit home to France yesterday (ironically she missed Matt by about 5 hours on either side) bringing delicious foods, so we supped on spaghetti bolognese (sidenote:  for some reason, I don't like round long noodles.  Fettucine, linguine ok.  Spahgetti not so much.  Don't ask why I don't know.) chocolate cake and French cheeses.  She even brought back a round of camembert especially for me.  It was awesome and helped to cheer me up.  The night ended with "Wall-E."  Oh, fer cute. . .

More on the last week next time.