Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

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Tonight's was a sedate Thursday trip compared to past outings. Lara was tired, and I - I have been coughing up crap that I believe is still the holdovers from my lung-singeing a while back. So I wasn't at the top of my game, either. But I had to go out because this is the last Thursday I get until June; I'm about to start an intensive ESL training program that will last for four weeks and promises to be grueling. Fun, but grueling.

Not too many pictures, alas. We went to the Europlaza mall and spent about an hour and a half looking around there. Lara found many things she liked, and indeed, so did I - but the clothes were either too young or too small for me, and although I found lots and lots of knick-knacky things (absolutely adorable cat pillows and the like), I'm trying to resist buying knick knacks. I weigh everything - literally, and figuratively, against the need to ship or carry it home. I did end up with a couple of headbands and a few pairs of socks. (Socks are the bane of my existence here. I didn't pack many pairs, figuring I could buy them here for cheap. But apparently, not only do Asians have small feet, they also have ridiculously skinny ankles. Every pair of socks I put on feels like support hose.)

Then we sauntered down the walking street for a while, looking for a coffee shop called "Slow Life, Simple Food, Coffee, Book." I've passed it a number of times every time I've been here, but have never gone in. We found it, checked the hours, then went in search of dinner. (Coffee shops don't really serve dinner.)

Dinner turned out to be fabulous. We found a dumpling restaurant just on the verge of closing for the evening (it was about 8:30 and they closed at 9:00), so the selection was small, but boy, was it good. I was very pleased to have found it because [a] it has a lot of seating, including some big tables and [b] the menu includes English, so it'll be a perfect place to take the teachers who are coming in July. And the food was outstanding. I wouldn't have expected that just off the main tourist drag.

After dinner we headed back to the coffee shop (which we refer to either as "Slow Life" or "Coffee Book," because the actual name is a mouthful). It's a terrific spot, to which we will return; there are big comfy chairs everywhere, and seating areas are separated by curtains that look more or less like the bead curtains from the 60s without the beads, if you can imagine . . . string curtains, I should say. Very conducive to relaxation. I have a wonderful picture of my cafe mocha, as well as a picture of Lara and her Kindle (we came prepared to hunker down and read), and a picture of my New Pink Purse-thingey (which is big enough for my good camera AND my Kindle, without being too big to carry) . . . but the internet is not cooperating and I can't upload them tonight. (This lack of cooperation from the internet is getting real old real fast. Half my week was spent in frustrated attempts to complete my Statistics homework or listen to lectures; stuff that should have taken about 4 hours ended up taking roughly 16. Thank god that class will be over soon.)

The sign on the door claimed that the coffee shop would be open until midnight, but at 11:00 the staff made pointed attempts to get us to leave. Since we both had our noses in books, it didn't really dawn on us that we were being given the bum's rush until they dimmed the lights . . .

We walked out the door just as a taxi happened by. On the way back to the dorm I was amazed at all the street life. With each successive Thursday there have been more and more people out, more street vendors, more music, more action. The place is really waking up. We passed a bus that was kitted out as a diner - made note of where it is so we can go back and check it out next time.

So now I'm going to pack it in for the night. This weekend I'm going to finish Statistics and prepare for my ESL program - we have some "homework" to complete before the class begins. It's going to involve 40+ hours a week for the next little while, so although I'm going to try to get back here regularly, if you notice a gap, that's why . . .

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