Christmas in China, part 3 – Dominick, the Italian Christmas Donkey

Yes, that’s a random post title and song, but this post is about random other stuff I did during the Christmas season.

Foreigner Get Together

In addition to my lessons and party, I hosted a get together of my foreign teacher friends at my apartment. We talked and ate and had a good time. We also shared a bit about Christmas in our homelands and sang a few Christmas songs. We had a white elephant gift exchange and watched the Christmas story.

We had myself, Aaron, Birte or German teacher, Fernanda and Lucy the Spanish teacher, Kim the French teacher, Ann and John, and Judy a teacher at Aaron’s school from Australia. It was good to have a get together where we could talk openly about the real reason for the season. I did mention it to my students but as a cultural note.

Ridiculous cold

Along with the Christmas season came the winter weather. It doesn’t get too cold here but in Hefei there are not heaters in all of the buildings and in none of my classrooms. This makes you really feel the cold when you’re standing in it for four hours not moving much.

People in Hefei are used to it though and have learned to bundle up. They wear many layers and their coats everywhere. Many times they even open the windows for fresh air. I just don’t understand why they don’t have some heating system when it is cold for a few months of the year every year. There could at least be radiators and steam heat.

Some students from northern China where they have heaters think it is colder here because they’re constantly exposed to it. They don’t have heaters in their classrooms or their dorms and aren’t allowed to have heaters or heated blankets or anything. Basically, they live in freezers during the winter months.

Thankfully, my AC wall unit acts as a heater and the previous occupants left a small radiator and space heater here. I also covered most of my windows with plastic since there was the worst draft coming through. Along with the cold also comes days of extreme inversions when it warms a little. The air quality gets so bad you can barely see down the road.

A Coat

Because of the cold, I needed a coat not just a jacket. I looked at many stores and all over the market and couldn’t find a thing that would fit me. Chinese sizes are much smaller than American sizes and they are not consistent. I mostly looked at stores where I could afford the coats. There were some places where I could get ones that fit but they were extremely expensive.

I kept looking and eventually I found a coat in the market. It is a very nice looking wool overcoat, size XXXXXL. That’s right, five Xs. It is warm but as I’ve started saying, “made in China, bought in China – broke in China.” Some of the seams are already coming apart around the pockets. Good thing I can easily find a seamstress to try to fix it for me.

Movie and Mahjong

The weekend before Christmas we spent splurging a bit with Jamie, Aaron’s friend who let us go to his house to make dumplings. We went to a movie and then to a steakhouse. At the restaurant we had our own room, very customary in China, and had a game table. The plan was to eat steak then learn how to play mahjong. We did both.

After learning how to play the game, I really enjoyed it. It’s a game I hope I can learn more of and play more. It is a bit like rummy or Phase Ten, but a little different strategy. Hopefully, I can figure it out well enough to teach you at home.

A Christmas Carol

I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol this month and watched three different movie versions. It’s a great story that everyone should read for themselves. My favorite film version is still The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you’ve never read it you should.

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