I had originally intended to do a short podcast for Christmas but I've had a pretty bad cold and feel that listening to me cough and splutter over the internet probably won't be the kind of fun experience that anyone would really want to listen to.
Last week we had the school Christmas party. That caused a pretty hectic week with something of a clash of cultures as the Chinese teachers took it far too seriously. The would basically take the kids out of mine and Ann's classes without permission and then argue when we complained that we actually wanted to teach them, or maybe even prepare them to do something for the party ourselves. They also got themselves into a very wound up state - one was practically throwing up with the stress she put herself under - shouting at the kids when they got the slightest thing wrong, pretty much taking any fun to be had out of the event and hiding it far away beneath the needs of their own egos. It was bizarre, disappointing and frustrating to witness.
Despite all this the party itself worked out fine with good performances from the kids and the parents seemed to enjoy it. Mr Cai, the head of the school, was there for a short time although more than one parent commented that it was strange how he could come to the Christmas party but cold not be bothered to attend proper meetings with parents. He also disappeared pretty quickly too. After the party Ann and her partner, Joop, came back to our apartment where the other foreign teachers came along for a few xmas drinks as well. Friday the kids and the teachers felt we deserved a rest after a very difficult week so we took it easy.
Saturday was Christmas shopping. Going into Ningbo any weekend is like Christmas shopping and Christmas itself made little difference as it is not observed here except as an opportunity to decorate the shops. We got in and out early enough for it not to be too difficult. In the evening Zak and I went to the Web school Christmas party at the Sheraton. Although neither of us has worked for Web for a while we helped bring the number of foreigners up. It was a fairly formal do, mostly in Chinese, and the food was a little disappointing. Still, there was plenty of free wine and all the smoked salmon I could eat so I can't complain. Afterwards we went to Le Cargo and then on to some smaller bars on the other side of town.
On Sunday we decided to visit Wanda World, a new mall that has opened up next to the school. It's a mall, so there's not a lot to say about it. Of course it's nice to have some restaurants and shops near the school as otherwise it would remain a bit of a wasteland around here but it's just a mall. I started feeling a bit ill while there though and by later in the afternoon my cold had come on in full force. Sore throat, sore nose, sore head, sore ears. I managed to get out to the Indian Kitchen for their Christmas buffet which was nice but a bit of a waste as I couldn't taste very much.
Christmas day we opened presents (for the record: an 80GB USB hard drive, a 2 GB memory stick for my phone, some incense and a bottle of whiskey) and I slept. In the evening we headed out to Josh's, a new Web teacher, for a Christmas party and by then I was starting to feel a little more human. Had some great food - pasta, dip, potato salad - and then came home as I was shattered and Zak had to work.
Watched A Scanner Darkly the other night. Really good film. Pretty much captures the book (at least it does a better job than any other PKD adaptation I've seen, wonder if they'll do Valis next? LOL) . The rotoscope effect works really well to give it a timeless feel. It could almost be set back in the sixties/seventies or in the future. Sometimes it is a little jarring to go from almost photo-real images of the outside world to the very cartoony indoor scenes but in a way that feels like part of the point. Importantly the story retains the power to shock, too, as it hints at the effect of Substance D on society - not just on the users but those who would exploit it for their own ends and power. It's a film that has all the bits but doesn't make it easy for the viewer. Intelligent, well made SF. It's a rare thing and should be treasured. I am also really looking forward to The Fountain.
Yesterday did not do very much at all apart from reading and some writing. Today is Zak's birthday so we are out for a meal tonight. My cold is still with me, my head is still bunged up and I spent what felt like half of last night coughing, but I guess I'm on the mend.