Tonight China showed us its Christmas spirit -- of course it was its own unique brand of the holiday.
Alex, Jenn and I went out to eat at what's becoming our favorite Italian place with three other girls. We ate bread, pasta and pizza while we chatted about all sorts of things girls like to talk about. The lights were dim, the food was great, the olive oil was flowing, and there was a foggy mist outside. It finally felt like winter.
After dinner we caught cabs to the Hyatt for their tree lighting event. We rolled up just as the tree was being lit -- we had missed the show. Santa was there and the place was crawling with little Western toddlers and their parents. I haven't seen so many non-Chinese people gathered in one place since I left the States. We sat on Santa's lap. He giggled. We threw up peace signs and were on the verge of tears from laughing so hard.
Ten minutes later we had assembled our quaint little group of friends. Thanks to Jenn's mass text she sent out earlier in the week, our little Hangzhou community gathered and hung out in the Hyatt lobby even though we all missed the event and the crowd had all gone home. Oh well, the lights were still twinkling and Christmas music was playing from the speakers. It was an eclectic mix of A Michael Bolton Holiday, Elvis, Bing Crosby and of course, Mariah Carey.
We drank mulled red wine (my favorite) from Christmas mugs and talked about jobs, weekend plans, and complained about the lack of snow on the ground. There was nothing extraordinarily special about it, but it was the first time since I've arrived that I felt like I had a comfortable set of friends beyond Alex and Jenn.
I've been on a mission the past couple of weeks to try my best to etch out a life here. The honeymoon period (or rather, the hellish inferno period) is over now, I'm settled into my job, I've accepted our apartment's pitfalls and I'm ready to try figure out my own brand of "normal" in China. Of course, "normal" in China is a bit odd, but I need to make it as stable as I can. After all, I haven't lived somewhere for more than a three week interval since I graduated in May, I'm craving a home base. And for the next few months, my nondescript concrete apartment on Wen Yi Lu is going to have to become my comfort zone. Now if only I could find some Christmas decorations... then this place would really feel like home.