Thanksgiving is over and done on this side of the globe and we’ve moved onto Black Friday. There will be no shopping here, but there might be a bit of frantic rushing as we will shortly head out the door to a nearby city, where we’ll eat some more awesome Western food and play/watch an intense game of flag football, the Turkey Bowl to end all Turkey Bowls.

This year Thanksgiving was more than good. We spent the morning cooking up a storm in the kitchen. We had a dinner list of 17 people (8 Americans, 9 Asians), and I think more than half of us ate until we were nearly sick. (Oh, the spread!! Turkey from a hotel in our city; dressing made by Michael–delicious, I might add; macaroni and cheese; green been casserole; sweet potato casserole; corn casserole; rolls; fruit and green salads; pumpkin dip and asparagus dip; green beans; broccoli; apple cider; and pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies. Yum.) After slowly emerging from our food coma–most of our Asian friends had never eaten turkey before and they definitely felt the tryptophan lulling us all to sleep–we walked over to our campus and played a game of kickball. We ended the evening with our now traditional Thanksgiving night viewing of Elf. Welcome, Christmas season!

Families, we missed y’all and thought of you throughout the day. So thankful for Skype!

 


Travails

We just got back, Sunday night, from our travels in the countryside. We skipped class for a week and headed to the rural areas outside of our town (approximately an 11-hour train ride away, and yes, a good deal of that was spent on an overnight train without beds–see Michael’s earlier post). Our week was wonderful. We walked about the hills, shared meals with the people, enjoyed the beauty of creation around us and a much-needed break from the pollution of our city.

Here are a few scenes from our time.

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Boxes of cheap beer were stacked high in the corner of the bare concrete room. We added an offering to the collection, our passkey and a sign of respect for the deceased. In the streets, toothless old women tipped dirty green bottles to their mouths before shoving them to the lips of passers-by. We pass through the crowded hall, down a maze of steps, into a tiny, dust-filled, people-crammed room. In the corner lies her body. Someone brushes the corpse rhythmically with a stick. “It’s to keep the flies away,” they say. Another lifts the kerchief covering her face. This girl is young; 30, perhaps? The press of the crowd is so great it’s hard to see what is happening in this matchstick box of a bedroom. Her husband thanks those pressed near to the head. At the woman’s feet, the wailing begins as friends and family shriek. We quietly shove our way out, not knowing how to take this onslaught of grief.

Later, the local doctor tells us the woman died of AIDS. It’s rampant in this mountainous area, our new friend says. People often share needles when injecting drugs and the infection is widespread.

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We traipse through fields of carrots and potatoes, scrambling up stone walls and leaping over questionable trickles of irrigation or sewage (possibly both?) following our guide, a short but powerful farmer in knee-high gaiters. His home is a few bare concrete slabs of rooms, centered on an open courtyard where the chickens roam free and the pigs are cooped. We can leave our bags in his bedroom, he says. The room is dark and dank, the floors bare and the walls empty. Save for one bright spot: the bed cover is pristine white with purple flowers. On the wall next to the bed, the room’s sole decor is a magazine clipping of the very bed spread this farmer and his wife have at last managed to buy. I wonder how long they’ve dreamed of this, the one shining exception in this dim stable that is their home.

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And, the photos. (All courtesy of Michael–he did an awesome job.)

If you’d like more details, please e-mail and we’d be glad to share.


Harry Halloween

Any guesses who we were for Halloween?

Professors Dumbledore and Snape, or as I like to think of it, two of the best characters ever written. (Exaggeration, what???) I particularly like to remind myself of this as I think I actually ended up bearing more than a passing resemblance to Snape in the movies: dark hair, pasty skin, solemn stare which I only managed to hold for some of the pictures. Michael’s beard was pure genius, which our friend Valerie knitted herself (!!!).

Here’s the whole cast. If you’re having any trouble, that’s Hagrid (Owens), Dumbledore (Michael), Draco Malfoy (Talia), Ginny Weasley (Valerie), Snape (me), Hermione (Audrey, who is really doing a great job with the pinkie extension), Harry (Sarah), and Ron (Ross).

Halloween is not celebrated where we live, but we still dressed up, boarded the bus, and rode an hour and a half to the Papa John’s our city recently got, where we took pictures in the square and caused a general commotion.

Here’s Michael with his fan club.

And again, running through the square to the bemusement of all lookers-on.

Girls pic (yes, Harry was a girl–all the actual boys have grown beards and it just seemed like Harry wouldn’t be Harry with facial hair).