Giving and Getting

Fall is my favorite time of year in Chengdu. We’ve definitely passed into winter by now, but I’ll take a minute to look back at all the wonderful parts of the last two or so months.

November 11, or Single’s Day as it’s known here, is the biggest shopping day in the world. It puts Black Friday and Cyber Monday to shame. This pseudo-holiday started in the 90s in Chinese universities as a day to stop sulking about being single. Then in 2009, Alibaba coopted it for a marketing ploy that has since ballooned into a shopping holiday. I’ve heard stories about people putting off all of their purchases for months until this day in order to take advantage of the lowest sale prices of the year. People will bulk buy a year’s supply of toilet paper, or splurge on a new winter coat, or buy crates of milk. Brick-and-mortar stores get in on the action, but it’s mostly an online holiday. For at least two weeks after, you’ll see lines of people outside of tiny delivery shops (everything is delivered to delivery shops in China as opposed to directly to people’s houses). I ordered a new umbrella (after breaking my old one) and, when I went to pick it up a week later, this was the pile of boxes lined up on the street across from the shop. I would say it was small in comparison to other stores on different days.

On a less commercial side, this was also a season of giving. I celebrated birthdays with a few friends and said thank you to other important people in my life. One of the things I’m most thankful for about my life in China is how much time I have to do what I want. One of the things I’ve been spending time on is crafting – so for all of the birthdays and other occasions, I made cards.

A bunch of them were inspired by the gingko trees that can be found all over Chengdu. The distinctive leaves turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. When they start to drop, you can find tons of people holding impromptu photo shoots in parks and underneath large trees. For a few days, my apartment was also littered with the leaves after I collected a bunch in order to trace their shape for the cards.

For Thanksgiving this year, I went back to Yibin, Sichuan to celebrate with a few Peace Corps Volunteers and their friends. We pulled together an incredibly impressive feast melding Sichuan and American flavors. There were too types of pie, green beans two ways (classic American green bean casserole and an egg-green-bean-fried omelet with lots of red pepper on top), corn bread and corn on tiny toothpick skewers inspired by a Douyin video, chicken and Peking Duck as the star poultry dishes, dumplings, mashed potatoes, and many other things that ensured we were all stuffed to the point of not being able to move. The night ended with everyone sharing what they were thankful for with hand turkeys followed by a Chinese-English bilingual game of Werewolf.

The next week at English Corner, I borrowed the hand turkey activity and did it with my students as well. They came up with really thoughtful responses. During the last twenty or so minutes, I put on Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, but unfortunately, I underestimated how difficult it is to follow without subtitles with the near constant background music.

Meanwhile, the semester is wrapping up and I’m busy writing exams and teaching. It’s been a much busier semester than I had anticipated, but I’ve loved seeing my students’ writing really start to develop.


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