Tuesday: after a mere five hours of sleep I really wanted to skip my 8 AM class, but I went anyway. Bitter cold morning. But the class was entertaining to be sure.
Today it was the story of the cruel Empress Dowager Lü, who hijacked the Han dynasty a mere generation after its founding and nearly ran the whole thing into the ground with her murderous selfishness. Thus runs history as written by the winners who managed to shake her and her clan loose. Telling terrifying stories about Empress Lü is one of those access points into misogynistic horror that can be fully justified--like the wicked witch of our medieval fairy-tales. Bloodthirsty Empress Lü. There was something unpleasant about the relish with which Prof. HZq related her stories, but of course they were exciting all the same.
My pick for the saddest anecdote (told in a mere three lines of spare classical Chinese): Empress Dowager Lü wanted to kill her son the emperor's younger half brother Ruyi, but the emperor (himself only a teenager) understood what was going on and kept Ruyi by his side day and night. They ate from the same plate and slept on the same pillow. The Empress Dowager could do nothing. But one morning the emperor got up early to practice archery. Ruyi was young and could not get up early. When the emperor returned, Ruyi was already dead.
The moral of the story is: the early bird doesn't get killed by the wicked step-mother. If the stories are true, Ruyi's mother met an even more terrible fate because their husband preferred her to Empress Lü. This poor lady, known as the Lady Qi, had her nose, ears, and hands cut off, and then was thrown into a pit and referred to as the human pig. Or so the story goes. Nice people.
WW, the same classmate who irritated me yesterday, was also in this class. In fact, it was she who told me about it in the first place. The issue of translation did not come up. She did, however, give me a copy of a book, not now available in bookstores, which I had seen in the library and coveted. So I really can't complain, can I. I don't think of myself as very materialistic, but gifts of rare books do tend to earn a person the benefit of the doubt as far as I'm concerned!
After class, I went home for a short while (having forgotten my wallet in my room!) and also to warm up. It was so cold! Then I headed out to meet HJ for another round of editing. I sat in the Western cafeteria, pictured here. It may not look like much, but it's one of the best places to study. (That says something about the potential study areas on campus--almost non-existent; everyone complains, especially since most students live 4 to a room with negligible study space!) Supposedly it also has wireless, though I haven't found out yet.
HJ was late but I had brought my computer and translation materials so I didn't mind. She was stuck on a bus in traffic! It's easy to see why everyone carries cell phones...
She treated me to lunch at a Yunnan restaurant, since it was lunchtime by the time she arrived. Everyone seems to like Yunnan food, but I find it rather boring. Bland and kind of lacking in character. At least they're not big on gross stuff--organs, feet, insects. And soups are very typical, which was nice given the cold. Also we got something that was like a big flat hashbrown. I really wanted ketchup, but there was none. How can you eat a hashbrown without ketchup?! But food always tastes better when eaten in company.
We went back to the cafeteria to do the editing. She takes criticism well and responds constructively--it bodes well. I was shocked by what a crock Chinese letters of recommendation are. I burst out laughing when one of the things I had to proofread for her was her waiver of the right to see the letter of recommendation. "Yeah, you don't need to see it," I teased her, "seeing as you wrote it!"
I actually learn a lot spending time with her, even if it's me helping her with English, because we communicate Chinese. It's interesting trying to explain why I made such and such a change, stretches my skills.
Really it's superb to do someone such a big favor that she'll never feel like she's out of my debt. I realize that that's the only situation in which I can ask favors with impunity. For her to be able to do something to help me is not only not a problem, it's a positive relief! I got her to help me sort out the internet thing I was having trouble with last week. She went with me to the office, and although she said they are mean to everyone, they weren't nearly as mean to her as they were to me.
I think it's done, though I haven't tried it yet.
After we parted ways, I went to the library to start preparing for my meeting with LGs. But while I was in the library he called to postpone. Then suddenly I was incredibly tired and didn't feel like doing anything beyond heading straight home. I only stopped to take some pictures on the way. Leaves were falling from the willow trees, as you can sort of see here. They looked wonderful in the twilight.
I went home and fell asleep at 5 PM. Of course I woke up a few hours later, had a bit of dinner and wrote a long letter to one of my few dear ones who doesn't read blogs. Lots of catching up to do!
I also worked on a craft project which I will reveal tomorrow. Oh, and with great patience and slight lowered standards, I actually succeeded in realizing my dream of a grilled cheese sandwich. Pictured here with some instant cream of mushroom soup, and an Ikea dog placemat that I don't particularly like and which looks like it wants to eat my sandwich (can't blame it)!
A cold day but less frustrating than yesterday.