At Zhejiang University, we have a holiday, International Labor Day, and I have six whole days with no classes!
Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t be working.
I grade morning and afternoon, seven days a week, except while I’m in class. But still, what a relief that I don’t have to stop grading to go to class or do prep.
It’s a nice rhythm. After breakfast, I have a 15-minute walk through the flower quad.
(All the beds of roses are in full bloom! Peonies stand tall and staid, lankier than mine at home, and somehow more elegant if less exuberant, shyly offering their pink blossoms. The poppies have gone, but now amongst their nodding seed heads come something called Pink Ladies, four big, delicately-veined petals, pink, as you might guess, glowing with a pale yellow center. I looked it up on my iNaturalist app.)
In my office I pound the keyboard, making my way down the pile of annotated bibliographies.
My students have researched food issues, and the intersecting topics they have chosen are intriguing: Food + Access = essays about Food Deserts and Food Apartheid; Food + Technology = GMOs or Mechanized Farming Practices, or even Urban Farms.
I work until lunchtime and then walk back through the flowers to the canteen.
In her weekly journal, one student added a question at the end of her entry: “What are Mary’s favorite dishes in the canteen?”
I gleefully answered: “Bamboo Shoots and Lotus Roots.”
Both a little rare here, and both delightfully crunchy.
The lotus roots are sliced into discs with holes, so they look a little like wheels.
The bamboo shoots are cut on the bias and quite different from those in the canned Chinese food my mother used to heat up for us on special nights.
I also love transparent noodles.
One student told me they were made of green beans, but another said sweet potatoes.
My time here is growing short, and I’m feeling a melancholy mix of homesickness for Birdland and sorrow to leave my Chinese home.
Most mornings Michael and I catch up with a video call.
That is to say, his mornings, my evenings.
My husband continues our ritual of walking around the yard, only now my walk is virtual. It gives me a delightfully wistful feeling when he shows me the nubbins of Ghost Lily leaves pushing their way out of the soil, or the lilacs blooming as they have for over a hundred years on that farm.
A few weeks ago, he gave me the sad news that he hasn’t seen Maude, our Royal Palm turkey, in a while.
He thinks she’s been eaten, but I wondered if she was setting eggs on a hidden nest.
“Oh no,” he said. “I’ve looked. She’s not anywhere. I’m afraid she’s gone.”
Meanwhile, our two Toms, Claude and Marcel, continue their spring joust, even without their ladylove to show off for.
Imagine my surprise and delight when Michael stopped talking in the middle of a sentence and turned his camera out toward the yard.
There ran a decidedly skinny Maude, head stretched out, in a beeline for the pond, where she took a long drink.
“I told you!” I cried, “she’s got a nest somewhere. Watch where she goes and you can find it.”
But a sneaky turkey was too quick for him, and he lost sight of her.
What remains to be seen is whether the eggs she must be setting are viable, or even fertilized.
But it’s fun to dream about coming home to a proud mama with a string of baby poults following her.
The weather here has been fairly cool in the mornings and evenings, but midday is just beginning to heat up.
It will get up to 88 today, and my morning walk was already warm.
Luckily, I have discovered the charms of the Sunbrella, my own term for using an umbrella as a portable shade on a sunny day.
I noticed some students under smart, reflective parasols, and since the umbrella I brought from home was starting to wear out, I bought one of those.
It works rain or shine to shield me from the elements.
Useful Article: Precious Bulker Poisoned By Bamboo Shoots