Winter at the edge of Siberia

Sorry, it’s been a long time since my last post. Hope you’ve had a Happy Holiday season and 2016 is off to a good start! Holiday-time in China isn’t quite the same as it is in the US. Although they really want it to be. They pretty much use these holidays as another excuse for mega-shopping days.

Can you tell what was on sale?

Seriously, there’s at least 1 or two HUGE shopping holidays every month where entire stores (especially grocery stores) get completely wiped out because of the deals.There was Singles Day on November 11 (11–11), the holiday on December 12 (12–12), Christmas, New Years, etc. I accidentally went to the groecry store on 12–12 without realizing it was a holiday and I could barely move within the 2 floor supermarket. It was packed! People were pushing, shoving and shouting (usually about prices). If it hadn’t been so crowded and intense like a pressure cooker it would have almost been a pretty enjoyable form of entertainment. Some people went crazy:

I’ll have to do a separate post just about the grocery store. I would say the local 好家乡supermarket would be considered one of the cultural centers of Shihezi. Some of my students have said their favorite thing to do is to go grocery shopping. Your favorite hobby too, right Mom? Some students have also said their ideal date would be going to the supermarket. Food and Money. Food and Money.

Anyways, I wanted to use this post to talk about the winter time here in Shihezi. To put it simply, it’s bloody cold. They always use Celcius here (makes me feel like its Orgo Lab — gross) so the weather typically says like -20 degrees. In normal terms that means its consistently sub-zero °F.

Thank goodness for long coats, bunny (or bomber hats), snow boots and heating. Our apartments have floor heating — so my feet are super cosy even when I don’t wear socks :)

Did you know, only half of China actually has internal heating? The southern part of the country (from Shanghai south) doesn’t have central heating in winter. It’s been this way since the 1950’s when the country faced an energy shortage. That was over 60 years ago, but still nothing has changed. I guess that’s good for the environment, but I’ve heard that in some southern cities it’s colder inside homes than it is outside. Ouch.

The first snow was magical. So much fun! The entire campus showed up to play outside:

I also helped one group of physics majors make a snowman. They didn’t like my suggestion that we give it a carrot nose. I got some crazy looks because of that recommendation. Oh well. I guess Chinese snowmen like fruit…

Here’s a collection of my top 3 favorite snowmen spotted around campus (besides mine which of course tops the list — totally unbiased):

#1 — Classic China. Comrade.
#2. So cute!
#3 — points for the balloons and bright colors.
It’s a hard-knock life for us.

Instead of having Ricardo or a formal plowing service, the students are in charge of shoveling the snow and cleaning the campus. Each major is assigned a certain section of campus that they are responsible for maintaining. My favorite part is that you can see the exact line where one major’s area ends and the other begins. People scrape their area and not one step further 😂😂

I actually think it’s a nice idea to have the students take charge of cleaning the campus since it’s a collective space. The students, however, hate it. Ricky says he thinks this practice is the “the last scrapings of communism.” Punny boy.

自由(ziyou) Freedom — One of the much propogated core values of socialism.

Some of our students also invited us to go skiing.

“Oh that sounds so fun! I just haven’t been skiing in like ten years,” I told them.

“That’s ok! We’ve never gone!” they replied.

… gulp.

Katrina and August Rush on the “chair-lift.” More like Magic Carpet for bunny hills.

Not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. If you remember from my first post I posted here in Shihezi, I said I NEVER want to go back to the hospital here if I can help it. This whole skiing expedition seemed like a recipe for disaster:

Dozens of students on skis.

On the same hill.

Without any prior experience.


Luckily, there were no major incidents.

All the workers were dressed in this 80’s fashion. LOVE the color.

Of course, most students spent more time in the snow than they did on their skis, but hey, at least there weren’t any trips to the hospital.

There were some coaches who were supposed to be helping people learn how to ski, but all they really did was blow their whistles as people went down the hill. Still have no idea what the whistle was for. It was pretty entertaining to go down the hill and just see students wiped out all over the place. The only problem was the fog — you could barely see 5 feet in front of you. Our poor student Rain, he got lost in the whiteness for longer than he cares to admit:

The lone Rain-ger.

This must be what it’s like wandering around the Arctic Tundra.

All students tried going down the hill one time. A couple tried going a second time. Only A Quiet Boy Named Sue kept at it. Sue and I went down about 3 times in the time it took most students to go down one time. Skiing with Sue gave us a chance to ask about his name:

“Some people say it’s a girls name, but I don’t care. I think it suits me. Plus it’s only 3 letters so I wont forget it.”

Gotta love the kid.

Before, I sign off I’ll give you a quick update about how we spent the past holidays here in Shihezi:

For Thanksgiving, we went over to anAmerican couple’s apartment for a big dinner. They live on the 4th floor of our apartment building. They are delightful. We were in charge of bringing mashed potatoes and vegetables. And when I say “We” I mean Richard. He’s the big cook. I’m afraid our building isn’t up to the fire standards required for my cooking…On the left is a picture of Ricky mashing potatoes. Look at that resourcefulness. It was a lovely dinner and even though there wasn’t any turkey or pumpkin chiffon pie (😥) it was still a pretty tasty dinner. Plus we played games after so what could be better.

Yes Molly, I asked a rando to take my picture so I could send it to you guys! It’s our tradition (I just didn’t go to Chanute for it this year).

Honestly, the one holiday we can actually celebrate autentically here is Christmas.China is the perfect place for Jews to celebrate:

Chinese food. Movie Theaters. (And Dairy Queen for the Gelbs).

I know it probably wasn’t the best Christmas for Richard and Tony, but I had a great day!

Plus, Richard made a homemade candlelit family dinner for us that night. Precious.

Check out dem candlesticks. That’s Tony engineering right there #historymajor

On December 30, our boss invited us to the Shihezi University “New Years Party.” We went thinking it would be some sort of dinner or mingling event, but it turns out it was a 2.5 hour performance by students in different colleges throughout the university. This happened to us once before — we were stuck at a previous performance for over 3 hours and the talent was very very 马马虎虎。Here’s a picture of Tony during that performance:

We’re not quite sure why they call these events “parties.” This performance, however, was really entertaining. Unlike the previous “party,” the acts were very professional — the dancers had obviously practiced beforehand, the singers actually sang on key, the little skits were somewhat entertaining, and the dances were less racially offensive. No actually, we really enjoyed this one.

Sorry, quality not very good. My favorite performances were the ones with the little cheerleading kids (far left) and the teachers singing a song praising the CCP (bottom left).

On New Years Eve we had some students over for a little party. We made dinner and then Tony started us off with a little karaoke. Unfortunately, at 11pm (on New Years EVE!) the lady who lives on the floor above came down yelling at us that we were too loud. A holiday! It was like real-life P-Safe but in Angry Chinese Woman mode. Yikes. I’ve heard that we got in more trouble here than PUCSDT got in back at school. Props to you guys. Anyways, we rang in the new year at Richard’s favorite cafe with a little cheesecake and a little 啤酒。

Tony and the rest of the Shihezi crew say peace to 2015 and hello to 2016. Wishing you all a happy new year!


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