renata came by to pick me up this morning around 9:30am, as well as the 2 chinese exchange teachers from her school, to spend a day down in rhode island with her parents in providence. i got the feeling that i was invited only because the other teacher that was supposed to come couldn't make it, but i didn't mind being a second string travel companion. other than giving us a tour, there were other reasons renata wanted to visit the ocean state: to drop off an early chistmas present for her brother marsian (the pink tinsel christmas tree) and primarily to pick up her friend erin from the providence airport. all this while still nursing a cold, a day where renata had her nose buried in kleenex after kleenex. the drive down was uneventful, despite the fact that a lot of people would be back on the road again with the thanksgiving weekend drawing to a close. soon after we arrived, renata's mother had breakfast prepared for us: scrambled eggs, english muffins, bacon strips, and a fruit salad. we also peeled one of the pomelos i bought so everyone could try it. marsian arrived just in time for breakfast and couldn't concentrate on food when all he could think about was the pink tinsel tree standing partially unassembled in the next room. before he left, he asked, "tony, i want you to blog my display!" and later renata would tell me that he threatened her with a broken arm if she didn't bring me to his latest creative endeavour.

everyone piled into renata's parents' car. despite the fact that in hindsight it would've been more comfortable and safer for us to have taken 2 vehicles, i didn't mind that renata was crushed against me in the back of the car along with the two chinese teachers. a 30 minute drive brought us first to colt state park in bristol. since they've been in new england, the teachers have yet to see the atlantic ocean so this was a treat for them. unfortunately the weather was very raw, windy and rainy, and we got out for a few minutes to take a few photos then quickly ran back into the car. next we went to the blithewold mansion (bristol), in lieu of some of the more famous newport mansions, since it'd involve less walking around in the miserable outdoors. blithewold (sounded like "blight world") was all decorated up in christmas regalia, including the 18 feet tall artificial christmas tree greeting visitors as they came into the mansion. while renata was warming herself on one of the forced air vents, i tried to imagine how gigantic the furnace in the basement must be in order to heat up this mansion.

we paid a visit to basically british tea room (bristol), which from the outside looked like an antique store but was actually a "quaint" british tea parlour. i was surprised when the store owner greeted renata like a long lost friend; apparently this wasn't renata's first visit to the place. i ordered the spicy chai which i thought was only okay. the tea wasn't steeped in milk like at tealuxe (milk was added separately) and even though on the menu it said it was sweetened, i couldn't taste the sweetness until i added 3 packets of sugar into my cup, which drew some giggles from my companions. the tea cozies were interesting though, i've heard about these things but before seen it in practice, a little "hat" for the teapot to keep it warm.

we returned to providence by nightfall, with renata riding on her father's lap in the front seat, much to the chagrine of her mother, who thought we'd be pulled over by the police for not wearing a seltbelt. we dropping off renata's father (who got out of the car with numb legs), before renata's mother took us back out again to give us a car tour of the city. i'd been given the tour before (in better weather, and during the daytime), so this was an encore presentation. we circled around downtown, through brown university, through federal hill, down thayer street (which for some reason was tranforming into what harvard square used to be before it was consumed by franchises). we stopped off at AS220, where marsian had his installation. unfortunately we got there too late and the place was closed, but i was still able to get some photos through the window, keeping my promise to marsian, and making sure renata would keep her limbs unbroken.

i was glad to be back at renata's parents' house. i was tired and slightly motion-sick, so it was a relief to just be doing nothing for a while, to catch my breath as it were. renata made her father bring out a childhood christmas toy of theirs, a wooden triangle with three layers depicting the creche. strategically placed candles were lit, with the heat from the candle spinning wooden blades on top of the pillar which in turn would spin the creche scene. it was pretty cool and i sat mesmerised for many minutes watching baby jesus circle round and round.

dinner would eventually be served. we had some great dinner conversations: the fact that in chinese culture we never pass things around the dinner table, the universality of certain fairy tale themes from around the world, the seven year itch, little chinese-english pocket translators, how "tony" isn't my real name, and the long and complicated story of how renata's parents met and got married and a side anecdote of renata's mother's beehive hairdo allergic reaction while still pregnant with renata.

we ended up not having to pick up erin from the airport after all, her flight schedule had changed and she was heading directly into logan airport instead. so the 4 of us drove back to boston. the weather was as bad as it'd get, heavy downpours mixed with hydrofoiling highway puddles, and finally we encountered that post-thanksgiving return traffic, with certain spots on the road slowing to a crawl. renata and i took turns trying to find good songs on the radio but there was nothing good. we went the wrong direction on the mass turnpike but eventually got our bearing straight. we dropped off the teachers first, before renata gave me a ride back to my place.