Chinese colleagues have told me that Zibo doesn't have spring or fall, just winter and summer. The transition between the two is brief. They've also told me that the winter of 2014-15 was pretty mild, as winters go. There was hardly any snow. I felt the cold because I was here without a winter coat, and I had to layer up for class with sweaters covered with a raincoat. This is because the huge building where we teach was barely heated. I even sometimes played a video of crackling fire in the language labs to help create an illusion of a heat source.
Speaking of winter coats, here's a story I haven't told on myself here in the blog (it's been posted at internations.org, a website for ex-pats).
The hospitality and helpfulness of my Chinese friends and students is sometimes overwhelming. I once was with three English students – not kids, mind you, but adults, high-ranking professionals in their field, who decided to help me find a winter coat. Two of them linked arms with me and escorted me through the stores, while another insisted on holding my jacket and purse for me, like I was a celebrity with three personal assistants.
Them: (to the shop owner, in Chinese) Do you have any large size coats?
Shop Owner: (in Chinese) How large are we talking about?
Them: (gesturing to me) (in Chinese) That large.
Shop owner: (in Chinese) Oh. Wow. Well, maybe. Just a minute.
We repeated this four times at four different stores. Finally I said, "I'm going to teach you a new word. Futile."
The shops and restaurants which were all shuttered during the winter break have come back to life and the students are once again swarming to and fro in a way that always makes me think of a large school of colorful and talkative fish. and soon we'll shed our winter coats for the season.