August 31, 2009

Fall is in the Air and Ari is in School

The last week and a bit has given us some of the most delightful smells, temperatures and tastes that we have enjoyed since being here.  If don't know if it will stay in this fall-like bliss, or if it is too early, we are certainly loving it!  We are watching as the scorching heat of a very long summer melts away into cool breezes and pleasant temperatures of only 25C.  I've even worn some long sleeved shirts.  The Chinese have a word for this weather that I think perfectly sums it up.  Liang kuai means comfortably cool.  I think it is great that they have one word that describes a perfectly pleasant temperature.  The smog that hung low over us for most of August is starting to dissipate a little, and I feel a little less like a claustrophobic.  

Along with it is the stunning (and welcome) realization that many of the smells are reminiscent of home fall-smells.  Beijing seems to undergo massive fall and spring cleanings.  In the spring we watched as armies (that is not an exaggeration) of people trimmed unruly tree branches, raked up debris, mowed the scattered patches of grass etc.  But all summer long, there has not been much grass mowing and as a result, some sidewalks are fairly overgrown with long grass and weeds.  But now it is time to start fall cleanup!  The mowing has started again and the smell of grass clippings is in the air.  Breath it in deep Jessica!  That's the smell of my dad in some of my earliest memories, and the smell of my earliest money making endeavors!  I have also caught hints of woodsmoke in the air (not coal smoke, there's a big difference!), and it reminds me of the farmers burning their fields, right across the street from my house.  I remember watching the fires blaze across a whole field (not 100 yards away from my living room window) as the sun set and darkness fell, with shadowy figures of the farmers passing to and fro in front of the flames.  For some reason, the smell of earth/mud also figures heavily into the equation, and I have come to the conclusion that I love the smell of clean mud!  There's an oxymoron!

The cherry on top was the other day on the bus when we drove past something that smelled like spice cookies baking in the oven!  If I could bottle the smells of fall I would!  (Am I writing a poem or a blog entry?).  The summer smells here were quite foreign, but fall, so far, has been different.  

The market is now selling in huge quantities corn on the cob and crab apples!  Home sweet home!  I plan on buying bushels of those small apples and freezing them.  I have not found anything else here that is tart enough to make apple pies or apple crisp with.  It is a welcome discovery!  That first bite puckered my face into tiny little lines, just like the apples from my parents' backyard!  I haven't been overtly homesick at all, but these experiences have been mightily comforting in a strange and unexpected way.  

I have also been working on sewing my winter coat, which I mentioned a while back.  I have so far sewn the outer shell and the lining.  Now I need to put them together with the filling and sew the collar and cuffs.  So far and I am very pleased with the way it looks.

Today is Ari's first day of school.  This picture at the top was taken not 20 minutes ago.  The other picture is of his school.  Having just been woken up, Ari was still a little confused, especially when I showed him the spare change of clothes that I had tucked into his backpack and stitched his name on to (the school requires this).  I saw a hint of tears in his eyes and he said "Am I going to stay there for all the rest of the days?".  I was quick to reassure him that Jude and I will be there to pick him up at lunch time, but I was somewhat relieved to see that despite his obvious restlessness at home, it is still a place that he wants to be.  

We recently had a routine visit from our landlady.  We had never met her before.  We prepared a list of things we wanted her to know.  One was that the TV stopped working shortly after we arrive, and that we were not responsible for breaking it.  We were not asking for a new one, so it was a surprise to us yesterday when she arrived with a new TV for us... a monstrous, brand new flatscreen TV.  I was very alarmed when I saw the delivery man lugging a box almost as tall as I am.  We have never been TV watchers.  In Canada, we kept a very old TV stored somewhere in the basement and never used it, and now here in China we have this monstrosity.  Because it sits on a rickety stand and is a flatscreen, we were terrified that the boys would knock it over.  So it is now in our bedroom, which now officially feels like a hotel room.  This TV is so big that even when you are sitting as far away from it as possible, you wish you could sink deep into the wall, just to put a little more distance between you and it.  At 15 out of 100 volume capacity, it is starting to get uncomfortably loud.  The good thing is that we can actually practice hearing Chinese more now (although a small short wave radio probably would have accomplished the same purpose!).  

In other news, it seems that we narrowly escaped gaining a cat as a pet. Aiyi came in last week asking my permission for something having to do with the boys and a kitten. I thought she was asking if she could bring them somewhere to see a cat, so I gave my permission. Well, thank goodness she also thought to mention it to James, who after much clarification, discerned that she actually wanted to bring us a pet cat. Thankfully, he was able to divert this disaster before it happened. She seems bound and determined that the boys must have a pet for entertainment. Just think how entertaining it would have been if the boys had been able to watch the cat stalk and feast upon their precious baby chicks! Watch out! If you come to visit us, Aiyi might have already stabled a horse in the guest room! Come prepared to sleep on bed of hay!
Farewell from the Mainland!

1 comment:

derrydown said...

Oh, I'm anxious to hear how Ari likes his school! I'm sure he will. Will Jude miss him when he's gone?
I'm glad the weather is so nice, as it is here too. I'm glad to hear you are having a good time sewing and thinking of apple pies. One of my favorite smells is in spring, when I smell the mud after the snow melts.