Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hall and Oates

After letting my last creature go--the enigmatic and extremely grumpy toad--I struggled with my empty nest. I missed the excitement of rushing home to my unappreciative friend and poking bugs into her cage for her to ignore.

Because of this longing, I found myself in Nanping with Derrick, walking down a row of pet shops seeking a new friend. As we explored, my hopes of finding a new companion sunk lower and lower. The pet shops consisted almost exclusively of cage after cage of dogs and cats, a responsibility way outside my threshold of effort. But as we approached the last of the shops, a small cage rested out front full of adorable little balls of fluff. These guys:

Say hello to Hall and Oates! After failing miserably to name them myself, I pooled my smarter friends on Facebook who offered up an overwhelming number of possible names for them (Natasha and Boris, Sam and Charlie, Pinky and the Brain). I shouldn't have been so stressed because to be honest, more often than not, I end up referring to them as the Chip Chips. And when directly addressing them, I fall back on any number of expletives that strike my fancy at the time. The thing I've learned after my brief venture into chipmunk ownership is quite simply that they should not be pets. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mrs. Toad (Part 3) - And Then There Was One

Sorry this update is so belated! I actually forgot I wrote it. Yes, my memory is that bad.

But part 3 of the Ichabod and Mrs. Toad story is very short. I woke up one morning to find that Ichabod was missing and due to Mrs. Toad's satisfied look on her face, I'm going to assume she put aside her prejudice and decided to finally eat him. It had been a couple days since I got her any bugs so I'm not surprised to be honest.

But this made me realize that I wasn't really giving her the best life and that I might need to return Mrs. Toad to the 'wild' where she came from--aka the streets of downtown Chonginqg. I was nervous about releasing her into a district of the city that she wasn't familiar with, but she's got more savoir-faire than that dog from Oliver and Company so I had faith. I would much rather have released her into the true wild but I decided the park behind my apartment building was close enough.

The second she touched the ground, she got her bearings and then kowabunga-plunged into the bushes. Have a look:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sir Macgregor Applebottom, esq. III

I would like to introduce you all to my new friend, Sir Macgregor Applebottom, Esq. III. No he's not a well-off expat that I met here in Chongqing. It's the name I've given to the new operating system on my MacBook. I assume he looks something like this...

It started when I got back from vacation a few weeks ago. I had left my computer at home, shut down, giving it a much deserved rest after near constant use since I arrived in China. I figured four days of no activity would be a welcomed respite from the usual gruelling pace (Oregon Trail reference for all my 90's kids) of my every day activities.

Once home, my computer turned on as normal and I began to warm it back up into the usual: internet / iTunes / Word / email course. Little did I know, my poor computer's demise was imminent. In the middle of uploading some pictures from my vacation, the poor ol' chap death-rattled, by which I mean the screen blinked bright and fast enough to nearly induce a seizure, and then never turned on again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm Heated, No Seriously

So my patient friends, I would apologise for another long absence from blogging but if I did so every time I went a month without posting, well I'd be apologising a lot. And you all know me well enough to know I tend to disappear for weeks at a time and then casually reemerge from my cave as if I haven't been a hermit this whole time. I have a number of posts waiting to go up once I've included the pictures, but I would like to interrupt said schedule to tell you all one thing straight away:


I've read quite a few Facebook posts that were all something to the effect of, Gee wiz it's hot here! Almost 90 degrees! Time to lay out in the hot summer sun! I'm loving this 'vacation weather'

To which I reply, kindly shut. your. mouth.

While you are all enjoying your 'vacation weather' or whatever you call it, this side of the world is roasting. The heat here in Chongqing right now is oppressive, it's stifling, it's relentless, it's ruthless, it's suffocating. And those are just the words I can think of without pulling out a thesaurus.

You guys, it feels like some sweaty, hairy sumo-wrestling giant has wrapped his arms around me and body slammed me straight into hell. It's like I can feel the hot, sticky breath of satan on my neck every time I leave my apartment. It's like somehow the atmosphere knows to leave a hole in the sky right above me so that solar flares can descend upon me like a fiery balrog and char my flesh. I'm not even joking. Air conditioning has become a religious experience for me and I've literally given offerings to my AC unit above my bed in the hopes that it will never turn it's back on me in this time of need.

So, go. Enjoy your 'vacation weather'. Soak in the sun. Have a hot dog. But check your meteorological privilege long enough to appreciate that some of us are not exactly appreciating this GLORIOUS season, thanks.

You guys know what I'm talking about.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mrs. Toad (Part 2) - Great Escapes and Easy Infiltrations

Previously on Ichabod and Mrs. Toad: Mrs. Toad is swiped off the streets of Shapingba district. After a torturous cab ride in the pocket of a giant, she settles into her new pot for the night. Little does the giant know, she's already plotting her freedom. If you haven't read Part 1, you might want to go back and read that now. It sows the seeds of resentment necessary to understand Mrs. Toad's next move.

Day one, I've survived the journey to my new prison. The walls are cold and slick but the top of my cage appears to be loose. Yes, I've been rattling it for the last half an hour which for some reason upset the giant. He lifted the lid and yelled at me but I puffed up really big and flung mud everywhere until he went back to bed. Tomorrow....

The next morning, I jumped out of bed like an excited kid on Christmas and ran over to Mrs. Toad sitting on my desk. Unfortunately, I didn't know she was sleeping and if you think I'M grumpy when I get woken up unexpectedly, you haven't seen Mrs. Toad. I clearly startled her from her slumber because she immediately puffed up to almost twice her original size and let out the most high-pitched, girly croak I've ever heard. She overreacted so much, in fact, that she flipped right over onto her back and spent a solid minute trying to right herself. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mrs. Toad (Part 1) - First Impressions

Hello once again to my friends across the world! Sincere apologies that I haven't posted in such a long time, but this last month has been a whirlwind of traveling and work and it's been hard to keep my head above water.

"I'm not here by choice"
"This isn't a real flower?"
But! One thing that's really helped keep me sane for the last week or so are my two new roommates. Say hello to my new pet toad I'm honestly not sure what this thing is suffice to say it's a pretty cool bug that broke into my apartment one day. The toad still does not have a real name but I've thrown around Mrs. Toad, Buffy (Bufo.....get it bio lovers?), and Guanyin after the Chinese goddess. She (I also arbitrarily decided it was a she after googling 'how to sex a toad' got really iffy really fast) is kind of cranky. I mean, to be fair, I'd be upset too if some giant picked me up off the street and decided to enslave me in a tupperware container for his pleasure.

But she's learning to love me. The same cannot be said for the bug, Ichabod, who was already in the dog house for showing up in my apartment uninvited and then announcing his presence by flying at my face only seconds after I walked in the door. I'm trying to teach him how to make better first impressions but he usually ends up just biting me when I hold him... Anyway, these two have worked their way into my daily routine now and the story of how we came to cohabitate is worth telling.

For the sake of clarity, let me start from the beginning and tell you all how I came to be in such great company...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

南山植物园 (South Mountain Botanical Garden)

A few weeks ago, the weather really started turning around here in Chongqing. It had been cold and rainy, overcast all day. Not that I was complaining; the Oregonian in me wasn't at all upset with the wet gray blanket that Chongqing had turned into. 

That said, when I saw my first blue sky here in the 'Foggy City' (we all know it's the really the 'Smoggy City', c'mon), I couldn't help but smile and want to take advantage of the wonderful weather. In this spirit, our little gang decided we needed to do some sort of outdoor activity. At a suggestion from our student/friend Jerry, we settled on the South Mountain Botanical Gardens which was just outside the city. It didn't hurt that he knew exactly where it was, offered to drive us, and buy us all dinner, either. Don't think for a second that we were using him; we really like Jerry, but this was also the first time we had had an activity with one of our students outside of class, so I was interested to see how that dynamic would go.
Anyway, apparently, all of Chongqing also decided that this was the perfect time to go to the gardens because it took us something like two hours to get there with all of the traffic. I've already complained about the traffic here, so I'll try not to get into it too much. But we were on a mountain people! Outside the city! And it was bumper to bumper. Anyway, it was definitely not supposed to be that long of a drive but I'd say that it was eventually worth it to get outside of the city in the sunshine and nature. Nature is certainly something that I'm missing with living in such a big city. Even their parks lack real open space and grass to lay in and the massive buildings block out direct sunlight unless you get there exactly at noon.

This is South Mountain