First thing... I didn't go to Tianjin. Not a change of heart, but sleep got the better of me and I slept in til around 10 or 10:30 yesterday, which made it a bit late to get ready and go. I would not have gotten to Tianjin until 1pm, and only having 4 hours was not what I had in mind. So I'll go to Tianjin and Panshan (a little mountain with paths and some temples 120 kms north of Tianjin) in two weeks, after the last week of insano Winter period.
The supper for my TB 3As did, however, go ahead as planned. Only 4 of the 7 showed. We weren't able to get through to two, and one couldn't make it, which was too bad. We still had a pretty good time.
First we tried to go to Xinhua restaurant, which is a revolving restaurant near the school. No luck... they were only accepting people with reservations. This was a good thing, though. We divided and in two cabs headed to a great place called Feng Huang Yuan (Phoenix Garden something), a really nice restaurant near where Alistair and I live. That worked out perfectly. While they were busy, there were still a few empty tables.
One thing that really threw the students off was Lily's presence. Betty was my assistant for the kids when they were TB 2B and the students knew her well, but she said she'd be out of town all this week and when the supper idea had originally been floated wouldn't be able to make it. I invited Lily with whom I get along really well, wanting to have someone else to talk to and to translate if/when needed. It was awesome having her there, but the girls were a little weird about it. As soon as she showed up outside the school, they pulled away from where we (them and I) had been standing and closed off in their own circle. They warmed a bit once we got to the restaurant, but there was clearly something odd about the whole thing for a while. I don't want to jump to the conclusion that there was some territoriality going on, but hey... they're 12 year old girls.
Anyhoo... we had a good meal, and talked for a bit. It was great for the girls since being able to socialize outside of school is generally bu ke nan (impossible) since they're so busy 99% of the time. They had fun, and I chatted with Lily, mostly. Most of my attempts to start conversations with my students met with short replies and awkwardness. I think the change of environment was jarring for them, and I don't think they really expected me to go through with taking them for supper. A lot of things here are said but never done. We had gong bao ji ding (which made them laugh as they know that I love it), an awesome eggplant dish (best dish in Tangshan, I think), a spicy seafood congee (I think?), green beans with duck egg batter, chicken wings (which surprised me) and egg/seafood 'cake'. The egg was steamed and somewhat custard-like, with seafood on top. It was quite good. I was worried the sloppy texture would deter me. I've been wary of sloppy foods since the chilled tofu, chives and ant-sized prawns dish I had a few months ago... it was just nasty. Like slurping curdled milk with dead insects in it for crunch value.
Headed back to ke ji guan (the museum) and waited for the kids to be picked up, then with Lily walked Jenny back home, then headed home myself. It was a nice night and good to get out. Prior to supper, I also managed to do some planning/organizing for this weekend. When I left work last Friday, I had just dumped everything so my desk looked like a whirlwind of materials, baskets, worksheets and coursebooks. It's somewhat sorted now. I really don't feel like returning to work this weekend, though. I've been in braindead mode for what feels like forever, and have been thoroughly enjoying this wondrous respite. But all good things come to an end... bring on the kidlets. March and the end of my contract is right around the corner.
Oh, two of the girls each gave me a present, which was really sweet. One was a book of Chinese paper-cut (cutting?) which I don't fully understand. It's a 1500-year-old art form... kind of like silhouetting. Ah, here's a link. The other was a glass decoration, which looks cool but would likely be better suited for a young girl. It has a flower bow on the bottle part, and these paper stars inside it with lots of glittery... stuff. Very nice of them, anyway.
On another note... I've lost even more weight, it seems. I'm down to 72 kgs (158 lbs)... with clothes and jacket on. I need a new hole or two punched in my belt. This is getting a little ridiculous and I'm wondering if I haven't picked up some sort of symbiotic parasite that is sharing my intake of sustenance. And I'm not even gleaning any super powers from it. What a gyp.