Thursday, November 29, 2007

Final Farewells

My official duties here are now completed: I just finished teaching my last class — the Friday morning session — and after taking this group photo I said the last of my goodbyes to my students (although I expect I might run into some of them around campus this weekend, or at the farewell party the English Club is giving me Sunday night).

The class gave me this lovely scarf, which they said they all took part in knitting (I imagine a sort of student quilting bee). I told them (with some exaggeration) that now I was glad it would be cold in Chicago when I returned, because that would give me the opportunity to wear it.

These two students had heard it's a custom in America to give an apple to the teacher, so they brought these to my final Wednesday class.

I'm glad I took these pictures of each of my classes (note that I'm holding one of the apples in this one); I'm sure I'll be pulling them out (or, since they'll be on the computer, pulling them up) frequently in the coming months when I want to recall the main thing that made these two months in Zhuhai so special.

Yesterday I also gave the last in my series of Thursday-afternoon lectures on various aspects of American culture, this one on holidays. I've especially enjoyed the Q&A portions of these lectures because they gave me an opportunity to interact with the students who aren't in my classes or even enrolled in the Foreign Language department. As is often the case, the questions this week weren't what I expected: I'd thought the audience would ask mostly about the major holidays, especially Christmas, which took up a disproportionate amount of my text (could someone be homesick here?), but they seemed more interested in such minor celebrations as St. Patrick's Day and April Fool's Day (I was asked for examples of pranks they could play on their friends; all I could come up with offhand was taping a "Kick me" sign on someone's back and gluing a coin on the sidewalk).

One student did ask me to sing a Christmas carol, and belive it or not, I complied with an a cappella rendition of "Jingle Bells" — I wish my freinds could have been there to hear that! (Actually, I don't.)

Last night after the lecture the Foreign Language faculty gave me my farewell dinner, a bit earlier than I'd expected because Presdient Wong (I have the place of honor on his left here) was going to be away this weekend. Professor Sun, the department head, is sitting on my left. We went to the same place in the Doumen district, west of the city, where they had said goodbye to my couuntryman Ken a few weeks earlier; it's said to be the best restaurant in the entire district, and after dining there twice I can readily believe it. This will likely be my last chance to post pictures of food, so let me present just a few of the 20 or so courses that we enjoyed:

The meal concentrated on local seafood, including two standbys I never get tired of: these sea snails . . .

. . . and these spiced-up oysters served on the shell.

Each of us was served a portion of what I was told was a "deep sea fish."

Two varieties of chicken: roasted on the right and — I don't know, boiled? Poached? — on the left.

Spicy crab, the likes of which I will not have for a long, long time.

This pork was tender and delicious — and was accompanied by an assortment of spices to dip it in — but it also had a layer of fat as thick as the meat. Sometimes, though, you just have to ignore health concerns.

Many toasts were given, of course, and the pijiu flowed freely. I was repeatedly asked to return to teach again in the future; often such alcohol-fueled statements are insincere gestures, but I have a genuine sense that the offer stands. And as I've said, I sincerely hope that I can take them up on it someday.

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