Things have been somewhat unsettled here on the Eastern Front since getting back from Myanmar.
Aside from the unnervingly deafening death rattle of the cicadas everywhere above you in the trees, the heat has been hovering in the late 30s with a bazillion percent humidity.
We have our dehumidifier running constantly. Last year, when we didn’t do that, our flat was reduced to a scary box full of mildew within a month. So far, with all windows shut against the hostile outside atmosphere and all machinery on full blast in the flat, we are comfortable but wheezy from the recycled air.
I’m looking forward to the Reasonable Season in October (Shanghai’s only really decent month).
On top of the heat, I also have my new intensive Chinese course, which started last week. I’m studying 4 hours a day, five days a week, for a month. I think I may actually be learning something. I waited a year and a half to start learning Chinese in any sort of consistent, non-half-assed way. I think I was still subconsciously annoyed that I had to start learning language number 5 (after French, Afrikaans, Turkish, Spanish) when I was still pretty pissed off just with being in Shanghai and not in Istanbul. I’m better now.
I’ll have even more time to study come autumn, as my university program is being massively cut due to an acute lack of existing students. Declining birth rates in the early 1990s due to the one-child policy have resulted in fewer and fewer students writing the GaoKao university entrance exams each year and our program has gone from 5 teachers to 4 teachers to 2.5 teachers over the course of three years.
Come September, I’ll be the .5 teacher. Yes, part time, up in my little bleak tower on the 9th floor of a tower block in north Shanghai, next to the elevated freeway. I’m actually pretty stoked, as they’ve already paid for my full time work/residence permit. I have enough Super Sekrit Testing Work lined up to not worry about having only a half salary and am rubbing my hands with glee at the notion of only teaching 9 hours a week and having the rest of the time free for evil machinations.
This theme of work and study leads awkwardly to my final theme of chocolate, which came about on our walk down XiangYang Lu, heading home after doing a ton of Super Sekrit marking this afternoon, just after my 89% certain part-time status was confirmed by my school . Just before our turnoff on Yongjia Lu we noticed that Awfully Chocolate had expanded from one side of a building to both sides of a building.
Awfully Chocolate were famous for being a super duper cake shop that never actually displayed any cakes on the premises. You’d go into their stark white, minimalist (read: empty) little shop, wide open to the street through a huge wall-sized window, and peruse a catalogue which gave you the option of a small, medium or large Chocolate cake.
Now that they occupy the north side of the first floor as well as the southern side, they’ve added a minimalist counter carrying three things: cupcakes and truffles and seasonal dark chocolate moon cakes (in an fake antique wooden box, no less).
Inevitably, we went in. I’d had cupcakes on my mind for quite some time now. Sweet things in Shanghai really don’t float my boat much- I’m coping with occasional mochi gummies from Aji Ichiban and the occasional half melted Kinder Bueno from the supermarket down the street but I can’t bring myself to be even remotely enthused about the sweets and fake cakes found in the shops. Thus, I don’t bother. Thus, I’ve lost 8 kilo since I got here. I wonder if there is a connection (no comments, please).
Anyway, cupcakes. They look lovely. Really lovely. I haven’t even tried mine yet, aside from a small chartreuse plastic spoonful of the icing from the white one. I’m too reluctant to mar their prettiness with spoon marks and stray crumbs. They still sit on the dining room table looking utterly gorgeous. They’re 25 rmb each, which is slightly outrageous but deservedly so. I bought one chocolate+chocolate one and one white-chocolate+chocolate one. Doug bought a small baggie of the truffles (about 10 for 60rmb) and vouches for their awesomeness. They are so rich and intense that he stopped at two. I can’t decide whether I’m delighted or horrified by this discovery of cupcakes and truffles barely two blocks from our flat. It could be my downfall.
Awfully Chocolate 174 South Xiangyang Road/ 169 Wujiang Road in Point Plaza, Shanghai