February Recap

Not a whole lot to recap for this short month, which was interrupted by the Chinese New Year break. Though we officially had a vacation of seven days, a lot of people were away from Shanghai for the full fifteen-day Spring Festival, or even longer. The owners of my favorite dumpling shop around the corner spent over three weeks visiting their family in Shandong province; I’m happy that they’ve now returned, since I usually eat at least one meal a week at their restaurant.

This was the first time I’ve spent an entire Spring Festival in China, and it was an interesting experience—an experience that I’m not terribly eager to repeat, but glad to have gone through once. Shanghai felt very empty, though the incessant fireworks from 6 a.m. until midnight or even later indicated that I was definitely not alone in the city. I quickly got used to the smell of gunpowder seeping into my apartment through the (not very well-insulated) windows, and I even stopped being startled every time the barrage of fireworks began anew. But after my own Spring Festival trip to Hainan was over and I had returned to Shanghai, I felt kind of aimless: most of my friends had left for the holiday, the libraries and archives were all closed, and many of my favorite Chinese restaurants were closed as well.

After what seems to have been a fast-paced January, I slowed down a lot in the second month of 2013:

  • I re-read two books in preparation for writing about them: Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth and Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. My blog post on feminism and The Good Earth should be up at the LA Review of Books China blog sometime in March. Boo’s book is part of a much longer article for the LARB on new books about India—an article that I’ve been working on for many months now and hope to finish sometime soon. It’s turned into a much bigger (but also more thought-provoking) project than I expected when I pitched the essay to them last spring.
  • I knit one tiny pair of baby socks for a friend’s child.
  • I tried to watch Lincoln and got bored before I was halfway through. I did watch Les Miserables, though I fell asleep for a solid hour in the middle and didn’t seem to have missed much. The high point of my DVD-based entertainment in February was finally getting around to The Sopranos, after hearing friends enthuse about the series for years. I’ve just finished the second season and can absolutely understand why people were such fans of the show; I’m looking forward to seeing Season 3 soon.
  • I went to Hainan, where I walked around Haikou, “swam” in the ocean (I can’t swim, so I just sort of bob around), ate a lot of good seafood, and learned that I think coconut water is kind of disgusting.

My March is shaping up to be sort of crazy, bordering on insane: I’m heading back to the U.S. for almost three weeks to do some research, attend the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, eat all the foods I can’t get in Shanghai, and try to catch up with all the friends and family I haven’t seen in six months or more. I’m also giving three talks on Zhang Leping and the Sanmao the Orphan comics he drew: the first one will be tomorrow morning at the Shanghai International Literary Festival; the next on March 18 at UC Irvine; and the final one at the AAS conference in San Diego on March 21. My calendar is getting more crowded by the day, but it’s all stuff that I’m very excited about and looking forward to after the somewhat subdued month that was February.

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