there was a 12pm harvard lecture about the yelang state of southwestern china. i left about half an hour early, so i could quickly stopped by the community garden and tidy up my plot a bit. unfortunately i left the house (vai bike) but forgot to bring my gardening gloves, so i could only pull out a few dead plants, saving the rest for tomorrow. i arrived at the harvard-yenching library 15 minutes before the lecture began. a few academics were talking in chinese, i assumed one of them was the lecturer. at one point they broke into english, which seemed like they just wanted to show off, despite the bad accents.
i didn't think people were going to show up so close to the end of harvard's semester, although graduate students follow a different schedule. it was a lunch lecture series so there was free food, which was my hope, despite eating 2 mini milky way bars before i arrived. i'd been here once before for a lunch lecture; that time i left without eating, because i didn't feel right eating their food when i have no affiliation with the school. this time however i had no such compunction, and followed a few other people outside where a long folding table was set up with various sandwiches and wraps and cookies and salad and drinks. i took a slice of ham sandwich and a length of chicken wrap, some fruit salad, a bag of cape cod potato chips, and a bottle of nantucket fruit drink. i returned to my seat and ate quickly before the room soon filled up to capacity that they even had to bring in extra chairs.
the lecturer had an accent which i had a hard time following but i caught enough of it to understand and the subject matter was of personal interest to me anyway. the yelang state were mountain people during the han dynasty, primarily in today's guizhou province, but also in neighbor areas like sichuan and yunnan. they had no formal structures - at least none discovered by archaeologists as the region has been heavily terraformed by farmers converting mountains into terraced gardens. what they have found are hundreds of burial sites with bronze vessels. the speaker proposed a hypothesis that instead of a well-defined center of power, the yelang state was governed by markets, with commerce being the overriding factor of collectivizing people, be it to collect duty taxes or raise armies. at the end of the lecture during the QA session, this hypothesis was challenged by a few people in the audience, including some fellow professors. the audience was nearly entirely chinese and throughout the lecture a handful of students would intermittently raise their phones to take photos. at one point i saw a young man upload his images to his wechat account. i also saw a few people checking their phones, and even one person working on his laptop, not paying any attention to the speaker.
my mother called me during the tail end of the lecture, and i called her back once i got out. originally my plan was to bike to target to pick up a few things, before coming back and stopping at market basket. but my mother told me that my grand uncle had fallen for the 3rd time today, and was now lying on the floor with his pants down, soaked in urine, and they needed my help to clean him up and get him back in the bed.
to get to the cafe meant i had to cut through harvard square, but i decided the quicker course of action was to go home, drop of the bike, and go to the cafe via motorcycle. my father and sister happened to be out talking to a senior home so they weren't there to help. before i left my mother called me back, said my sister and father were on their way back to the cafe, and they didn't need my help anymore. i told her i was coming anyway, because my father might need me to lift up my grand uncle. i also bumped into daria who was moving out, i chatted with her for about a minute before i finally left.
at the cafe, at my grand uncle's place, i found my 2nd aunt and my sister already working on my grand uncle. he was lying on the floor. talk of urine was sensationalized, he wasn't wet at all, although he did remove his adult diaper, which my sister ended up putting on a new one. the three of us lifted up back onto the bed, me holding him from his armpits, which my sister and aunt grabbed his legs. he wasn't very heavy, i managed to lift him just fine, although a second person is helpful in carry his legs.
my father finally showed up after i returned to the cafe. i got back on my motorcycle and left, destination somerville target.
at target i was looking for 3 things: a declogger that can work overnight, a new cutting board, and a laundry bag for li. they had an assortment of drain cleaner, but they were also the kind you can't leave in the pipes, so i decided to look elsewhere. i found my cutting board, a 6x10" plastic board made by architec (taiwanese) using a polypropylene material advertised as poly granite, which looks black with flecks of shiny sparkles. i'd been searching for a suitable board since this summer to replace my old board which is now covered in black mold inside the knife scratch marks. i'd seen this architec board back in june, but i thought it was too small (my old board is 7x10-1/2" not including the handle area) and too expensive ($6.99) for essential a small rectangle of plastic. but i've looked everywhere, and they just don't seem to make a small board of the size i want that has a handle, so i've finally decided on this one. the black is good because it'll hide the stains, not sure about the shiny flecks, but it just makes the cutting board look more exotic. finally, i found li's laundry bag, $5.99, the type that also had backpack straps and pockets for change and detergent. i almost wanted to get one for myself, were it not for the fact that i have an in-unit washer/dryer already.
afterwards i stopped by market basket. i only brought a messenger bag, not thinking i'd buy a lot of items, but i ended up getting some passion fruit juice ($1.89), a carton of hood golden eggnog ($2.89), a box of kleenex (89¢), a bag of frozen fruit ($3.69), and some earthworm drain cleaner ($3.59) designed to work overnight. i had so much stuff i ended up having a canvas bag on my lap on top of the fuel tank as i carefully rode back home.
i bumped into daria again, this time i chatted with her a bit longer. she was moving to her new place a few blocks away in piecemeal, for the past 2 weeks, this being her last day. she was dragging a large empty suitcase and carrying a chair on her shoulder. i volunteered to help her move the chair with my bike but she was fine carrying it. she told me she's mastered the art of eating on harvard's dime, as they frequently have lunch lectures where there's free food available.
li came home early, a bit after 6pm, his last night at my place. he did two loads of laundry (washing his sheets and duvet cover, as well as some dirty clothes) while packing up his things. he returned my rear bike light (the one with the laser guides) as well as my cuatro bluetooth speaker which he's sort of appropriated these past 2 weeks after i showed it to him. i found some empty boxes a few days ago and brought up a few more from the basement to help him with the packing. he moves tomorrow noontime, i offered to borrow my parents' car to help him relocate to the apartment above my grand uncle's place. feeling hungry, i heated up a pair of french bread pizza. i let li try some eggnog for the very first time, he said it was very sweet, but didn't hate it. he microwaved some frozen fish curry. on his last night we ought to be celebrating, but not like he's going anywhere, just moving a mile away. he still has at least another year here working on his PhD before he can return to shanghai. i'm going to miss when he leaves though; despite the few things he does that annoys me (peeing on floor, food splatter), he's been a good roommate overall. nevertheless, it'll be nice living solo again.