The inmates are running the asylum here. Tonight while I called Manuel’s father to give him an update Rebecca got on my computer and started putting items in the retail relay shopping cart. They included chocolate pudding, canned pineapple, expensive fruit salad from foods of all nations and a $14 brick of cheese from feast that she knows she’ll like because it’s from Italy. Jonathan meanwhile was obsessively playing every Elvis song I have on my ipod. I’ve lately figured out that Eli treats R and J like a second set of parents. If we say no he asks them. “Well wabecca gave me this cookie, Jonny says I can go outside” From my perspective they are not doing a good enough job of co-parenting and should take over potty training and bed time. Last night was not a golden moment for me in the parenting department though. It is always delicious when you have a wretched parenting night and it’s witnessed by 8 of your grad students and a perspective graduate student who we can only hope found it amusing and not terrifying. My plan was that the students would be charmingly in bed and we’d have pleasant discourse over Chinese food. The big kids wanted to stay up to say hi to the students. Eli chose this night to pitch a total fit at bedtime because he wanted a shield in Note to self turn off baby monitor when students are in the house you never know what will come out of your children s mouth. Eli chose this night to pitch a total fit at bedtime because he wanted a shield in his bed. He already had about 7 other things and I finally decided he was time busting and I was done. So he screamed bloody murder. And so began the power struggle between the mother and the three year old which ended with Eli up about 23 and me at a giant 0. The low points were Rebecca calling my cell phone from upstairs and leaving a message with Eli screaming. And Jonathan coming downstairs and saying "come on mommy he really needs you just get up and deal with it" I finally got the brilliant idea to give Jonathan the objects to give to Eli so that Eli would put us all out of our misery but not think that I was willing to turn bedtime into a two hour bargaining ritual. J came skipping down the steps to say that Eli had three other requests, a gun, a sword, and a bullet. I’m afraid in my exhaustion that I may have not put our absolute best foot forward to the perspective graduate student who was visiting. I'm also not sure about having these students sit in on my seminar. This one involved not only my usual checking on google for factual information that I don't know but looking at my email in my own class because I was anxious to hear from Manuel who was in a city I'd never heard of with no phone and checking the cell phone. As is her custom Rebecca had an ashtma attack sunday night so I kept expecting the school or the babysitter to call with need of inhaler advice. She's totally fine by the way.
Now for a modulation with no preparation see below for an update from Manuel from China. He is there checking out a possible location for part of our sabbatical.
The airport in Kunming this morning was a scene utter chaos and confusions, I had to try 4 non-english speakers before I could piece together our cheerful efforts at sign language and end up at the correct check-in counter. I then had a beautiful moment in security where I got a near-massage from a 13 year old army dude with a metal detector and soft hands. The awkward moment was that one got checked with one's hand overhead, and he couldn't reach, so I had to bend over as he leaned across my back and probed. Probably best if not pictured too closely. However, when all was said and done, it only took me 18 minutes to go from arrical through ticketing, boarding pass, and security to the gate. Weird how such a short time can seem an eternity when it's spent in a confused whirl.
My plane ended up being about 20 minutes late, which worked well because Chai-Sian was a little late picking me up at the airport. She and Bonnie will get along. She's a no nonsense scientist mom who is navigating being a spousal hire and a woman in a society that makes ours looks like it's run by Xena. They have an eight year old and four year old whom I'll meet tonight. It doesn't hurt that she's wicked smart and grew up speaking Chinese. We spent almost 3 hours doing errands and eating lunch in the city, Jianghong, which is an hour from the Garden. Jianghong is where you go to do everything, and where the state hospital is. There's also a doctor resident in the garden and one who is there during business hours, and they handle most ailments. Jianghong is slow sleepy city of 750,000 people; somehow even at that size it maintains a small town feel. The entire town takes a 3 hour lunch break during the work week. You can buy everything you need there, and there's a very nice collection of restaurants.
Before lunch we went to the 'supermarket', a word that doesn't begin to do it justice. You can buy everything there, from soldering irons to frozen pizza. The candy collection is like the Louvre's painting one. There is also a large table of edible flowers near more kinds of breakfast cereal than you knew existed. They also carry more brands of toilet paper than I had ever seen. The foods were an interesting melange. The above-mentioned frozen pizzas were displayed next to the frozen worms. We then went to the pet market area so CS could buy cat food. Next we took the one hour drive from Jianghong to the Garden. The garden itself is bit like Fantasy Island, a botanic garden plopped into rural tropical China.