i retreated to my usual spot in the living room, waiting for them to leave. at 7:20am her mother started bringing their things outside: a small travel suitcase, their backpacks, some hand-carry items. i went to the bedroom briefly to do a quick surreptitious inspection, making sure they didn't take some of the things they'd borrowed, like my travel books. i was surprised she left behind a stack of GRE books, although they would've been too heavy to haul around.
annie and her mother were a little awkward as they left. we made niceties, but for the most part they were still strangers, not much else i could say other than good bye and have a safe trip. i noticed in the nearly 2 weeks that her mother was here that annie seemed more withdrawn. just when she was starting to open up a bit, her mother's presence made her revert back to her original private self.
instead of leaving, they stood outside momentarily, almost like they couldn't decide which way to go, while i stood in the doorway awaiting their delayed departure. finally they left, one final wave, as i closed the door and watched them walk in the direct of star market, the complete wrong way. i watched as they walked off, then minutes later walk back, having reoriented themselves, now in the correct direction to harvard square.
and with that they were gone. i'm curious about how they'll do in new york city, but they're such private people, i don't think i'll ever know. not that i really care. they weren't bad people, kept to themselves most of the time, but also never really made any effort to connect, so even after more than 2 months, i still felt like strangers were living in the house. there were so many things i wanted to show them about boston, but they had their own agenda. annie herself was a little weird, missing out on the pride parade and the 4th of july fireworks; when that happened i knew she was a lost cause and didn't bother asking her anymore. her mother definitely saw way more of the city than her daughter, i'm glad she was able to do that, though a little sad i never got to show her around since it's one of the things i love doing.
i went to the community garden at 8am to do some neglected watering, as i don't intend to come back the next few days. i picked some red tomatoes and a few hot peppers and dropped them off at home before going down to the somerville whole foods to get some soaps on sale (using my amazon prime subscription). i thought it was the fancy fragrant multi-layered soaps (which sells by the ounce), but instead it was the more generic good soap ($1/bar). i bought 2 peppermints and 1 black soap.
around 9am annie sent me a text on wechat, letting me know they were already on the bus and thanking me for the past 2 months.
even though annie had accumulate a lot of stuff in the year that she's lived in the boston area, she didn't leave a lot behind. the essentials she packed up and shipped to urbana-champaign. anything else she donated to her friend. and what little nobody wanted (like shoes) she simply left on the curb for anyone to take.
as with most people, she left behind some condiments she couldn't take with her. sticks of butter, carton of whipping cream, a jar of fermented tofu. she also left an assortment of sushi sauces, but i have a feeling those were donated to her from friends when they left the US, since i almost never saw her using them. she left a stack of her chinese GRE books. these were books she'd been pouring over for months, i never saw her without them. maybe she has other GRE study guides, or maybe she's maxed out on her GRE studying. unlike some of the things she left on the curb however, she simply left these behind on the bookshelf (even though she didn't want her GRE books, she couldn't bear the thought of throwing them out). there was also a plastic container of dried shrimp on top of the refrigerator. i think she simply forgot about it, because it wouldn't be hard to pack up. there was also a container of blue ink, not sure what that's about, maybe she does calligraphy in her spare time. there was zero fresh ingredients in the refrigerator, she and her mother ate everything they had. i noticed her mother had brought a bunch of mooncakes with her, they took all of it. they did leave me a bowl of leftover chicken stirfry from yesterday. the only thing remaining was in the freezer: a frozen fish head wrapped in 2 layers of plastic bag, which i will throw out on the next trash day.
i left for belmont around 11am. low in fuel, i went to the mass ave speedway to get some gas. across the street i saw my 2nd aunt's apartment: she's still in taiwan, but my 2nd uncle was probably home. they didn't bother with the hassle of installing an AC, he just left the windows open to cool off. i stopped by the cafe briefly to show my father the solar fountain. he told me my mother was at yoga at the cambridge YMCA, so i decided to hit the nearby burger king first to get some lunch. i wanted to try the impossible whopper ($6), got an order of chicken nuggets as well ($1.50). there were a lot of senior citizens in the restaurant, but the busiest was the long of drive-through customers. i even heard a woman order an impossible whopper as well.
there's been a lot of buzz about impossible burgers, the plant-based meat substitute so close to real meat that it's hard to tell the difference. look-wise it had a uniformity that said artificial processed food, but a typical burger king patty made from beef is already heavily processed anyway. bit-wise, it didn't have the graininess of real ground beef, there was a uniform texture, reminded me of a jimmy dean breakfast sausage. taste-wise that's where it excels, but apart from a slightly off texture and look, it tasted about the same as a real burger. but that could also be because the patty has been flame-broiled and seasoned, and combined within the matrix of the whopper, any off-taste is easily disguised. i don't know if i would get it again, but it was an interesting experience. vegetarians - which seems like the target audience - are actually against the impossible whopper because burger king uses the same broiler for these vegetarian patties as their real beef patties. calorie-wise, i think it's about the same, and i think i read somewhere that it might even be slightly more caloric, if that's even impossible. finally, price-wise, because it's a new item, there's no discount, unlike the heavily subsidized whopper, which you can normally get for cheap with discounts or BOGO offers.
i'd already seen the breach in the southern fence when i first arrived in belmont. the critter couldn't dig across the wire fencing so it simply moved a few feet to the right, to a stretch that had no wires. it took tremendous will power for me to not do the repair work immediately but instead have my impossible whopper for lunch first. as soon as i finished eating, i was back outside, digging a trench to lay down another 8ft length of buried wire fencing. it was easy until i got to the second half of the fencing, where i encountered buried tree roots. my legs and arms covered in dirt, sweat dripping from my face, long hair strands sticking to my forehead, as i bent down to cut the roots with a pruning saw. finally i managed to get enough clearance to put down a 4ft section of fencing. i must not've been paying attention, because as soon as i left the area, i walked but the coil of fencing and managed to snag my leg on a piece of exposed wire, sustaining a 4-1/2in. gash.
it'd been 5 days since i was last in belmont, my father said he'd been checking the perimeters to make sure no critters were getting in, but the ravaged squash leaves tell a different story. a segment of stapled chicken wire by the bottom of the eastern fence seemed to have been poked by a large animal trying to get out but the fencing held together so it wasn't able to. later i checked the backyard webcam. quality-wise it wasn't that good, so i had to scrub hours of pixelated videos to see if i could spot whatever it was that ate the squash leaves. sure enough, on 8/8 thursday around 3pm i saw rustling along the southern edge of the yard. there was 9 minutes worth of footage where i could make out a woodchuck going to town on the squash. 3:05pm something spooked it and it ran off the screen to the right. a minute later, a critter appeared from the left of the screen, most likely out the hole it'd dug earlier. same woodchuck? or a different woodchuck? it'd be great if i could set up the webcam in the back of the fence, so i could capture any critters in action, day or night. but the wyze cam requires wifi connection, and that's about the farthest range the signal will reach. nevertheless, something to think about, a future project.
i got a chance to use my new solar fountain. the instructions weren't very helpful but the gadget was pretty self-explanatory. unfortunately today was a cloudy day, and when the sun isn't shining directly on the solar panel, it doesn't have enough power to run the pump to create the fountain. when it was working it was pretty glorious, but the pan i used was too small and over time water came out to the point where there wasn't enough water to run the fountain.
around 3:30pm i went out to check the perimeters again, to see if the woodchuck came back. i was shocked to see a new hole had been dug right where hours ago i'd barricaded it with wire fencing. i couldn't tell at first which direction the woodchuck had dug, afraid that i might've inadvertently trapped the woodchuck in the backyard. but a closer look showed that the woodchuck was trying to get in, not out, despite the mess of fresh dirt. the woodchuck was no match for the wire fencing and after chewing on the wooden bottom edge of the fence, it gave up. ideally i'd want to extend the wire barricade, but the further west along the southern fence, the more tree roots. not just tree roots, but dead bamboo roots as well, and those things hardly ever decay, so little chance that a woodchuck would try to dig through that. for the time being we're safe.
elsewhere in the backyard, we have a few good-sized buttercup squashes. the honeysuckle squashes have a weird teardrop shape because they're growing semi-suspended, unlike the regular buttercups that grow on the ground and have a new compact shape. a few squashes in the western field have a pale appearance. either this is a mutation (after all my father used seeds he saved from last season's squash) or these squashes will turn green once they mature. my father has also been germinating some yellow dragon fruit seedlings. the possibility of actually producing fruits is slim (i read it'd take 6-7 years), he's growing them just for fun, see how long he can nurture them.
i returned to cambridge by 7:30pm. it'll take me a while to get used to having an empty house again. i did a load of laundry and moved my computer setup to the bedroom so i could fold my clothes and watch television at the same time.