The dining hall was empty. The lights were off, except for the steamy glow of the aquarium Plexiglas kitchen wall at the hall?s far end. I sat in the back with a book, waiting and wondering what species of green, brown, and bony food piles would be warming in chafing dishes today. The third-floor faculty dining hall is reached by a single, echoing stairwell. When I heard the reverberations of hungry voices begin to haunt the stairs, I made a Plinko path through the cafeteria tables toward the service window, arriving along with the groundskeepers, janitors, and other early eaters.
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I?m curious about whether China really cares to decorate for Christmas, or if there?s just so much left over from the factories producing decorations for the West, that there?s nothing to be done but to get people hanging lights and opening plastic trees domestically. A hot item this year seems to be Jazz Santa, which is a life-sized Santa Claus figure playing a saxophone. Just about every restaurant and shopping center has at least one. We?ve even got one standing outside our apartment building entrance.
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Winter has clenched down onto Ningbo, sinking temperatures mercilessly into the lower 60s. Or so it did for about a week. Now we?re back in the 70s, and it might even hit 80 degrees this afternoon. It doesn?t seem possible for this to be the week of Thanksgiving. Of course, Thanksgiving in China gets as much attention as the Fourth of July?which is to say none?but this time of year is not without its unique decorating motif. Around the city and in shopping malls, the latter half of November has been marked by the fusion of neglected Halloween decorations, now accented with actual cobwebs, and halls newly decked for Christmas. It?s technically less negligent than when Christmas light displays stay up through Easter, but the Halloween-Christmas contrast is certainly more jarring. The Thanksgiving holiday interruption does a good job of keeping anyone from noticing that the only difference between goblins and elves is wardrobe.
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Ningbo to Shanghai takes two and a half hours by bus. This is thanks to a 22-mile bridge that crosses the dense sandwich of fog and water called Hangzhou Bay. The ride across the bridge was uncannily like the beginning of a horror/fantasy/sci-fi film where someone enters a mysterious mist and comes out in 476 AD. Happily, we emerged into a city looking much more like the future than the past.
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The "I AM" Sugar Crystal Dehydrated Fruit Snack -- Remove sandals before eating.

The “I AM” Sugar Crystal Dehydrated Fruit Snack — Remove sandals before eating.