Getting in the Spirit

I know, I know. It has been a long time since I last wrote.This semester just flew by – I can hardly believe that there are only three weeks left of the semester!

I’ve been busy finishing up lesson plans, grading mountains of students’ papers, cooking, working out, traveling to other PCV’s sites, hanging out with students and friends here in Leshan, and, my newest undertaking: trying to get an English Resource Room started.

My school gently suggested that I do this for them last semester, but I avoided the subject and kept putting it off until this semester. The reason I was (and still am, a bit) so hesitant about this is because I knew it would be a lot of work and I had a hunch that my school wouldn’t really help me out. Making it even more work for me. That proved to be quite true, until my program manager visited and had a chat with school officials about their role, and mine, in this project.

Since then, I hashed out some more details. My office will be used as the room, which is a pretty good space. Not too big, not too small. Then I made a list of things that the room will need (sofas, bookshelves, books, etc.) and a list of things that need to be done in the room (clean, scrape old paint, put on fresh paint, etc.)

After my list-making session, I assembled a group of about 15 students to help me out. Together, we got the office spic and span and ready to be painted. Then we started brainstorming ideas for the theme of the room. Here is what they came up with:

  • Christmas
  • Spring Festival
  • Nature Room
  • Happy House
  • Sun.Inn
  • Dream House
  • Ocean Room
  • Big, Big World

Not the most creative bunch. After voting, they narrowed it down to three: Happy House, Dream House, and Nature Room. I tried to get them to think creatively and find a good name (or theme) that combines all three of those…but no dice. So I vetoed all of them and asked them to think more about it and have fresh ideas to bring back to the drawing board. They did agree on a color: green.

That’s where the project stands now. The room is cleaned out and ready to be painted, but we have no supplies. My Chinese counterpart teacher has said that he would push the matter forward with the Foreign Affairs Office this week, but who knows. Getting things done in China is like pulling teeth. My goal is to have the room painted by the end of the semester so that it has plenty of time to get the paint fumes out of there. Fingers crossed we can stick to that goal!

In other news, I put up my Christmas tree.

Image

Maybe a little Charlie Brown-esque, but I like it. Paired with some Christmas music, or a movie, and nice bowl of soup and it’s almost like I’m back home.

Speaking of soup, I made some really good soup tonight. I got the idea from one of my favorite Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner side dishes: Broccoli Cheese Casserole. I was really craving this dish the other day, but I have no oven so casseroles are pretty much out of my cooking range.

So I hunted the internet for broccoli/cheese/creamy/whatever soups. I found a bunch of different recipes and kind of threw them together to make my own, China-friendly version (if you can find cheese, that is, which the Wal-Mart of Leshan now has!!)

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheddar Soup

Ingredients

  • 6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped (try and find one the same size as the broccoli)
  • 1 small potato, diced
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk (can use cream if you have it)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. In a large pot, saute onion in oil until soft (2-3 min). Add garlic and saute another minute, or until fragrant.
  2. Add broth, broccoli, cauliflower and potato to the pot. Depending on how big the heads of broccoli and cauliflower are, you might need more or less broth than instructed. Just make sure that there is just enough to cover the vegetables.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, cover, simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove broccoli and cauliflower, set aside. Remove 1 cup of broth, set aside. Cook remaining broth and potatoes 10 minutes longer.
  6. Chop up cheese in a blender. Add milk and a small amount of broth (make sure it has cooled down a bit so the milk and cheese don’t curdle). Blend until very smooth. Set aside.
  7. Continue to blend the rest of the broth until everything is pureed.
  8. Return pureed soup (and cheese/milk) to pot. Add reserved broccoli and cauliflower and heat through – be careful you do not let it boil or the milk and cheese will curdle. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  9. Enjoy!

ImageIt took awhile to prepare, but was well worth it. And, like I said, it’s kind of China-friendly, what with there being cheese. You could easily get rid of the cheese, though, and it would still be pretty tasty.

The final product was better than I anticipated – so good! Easy, too, despite the preparation. It definitely reminded me of the Jones family traditional Broccoli Cheese Casserole.

Happy Holidays :)

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