But deep in the cold, dark days of winter in Nanchong, the bakery is not a bad place to spend the day. I am not busy now. English classes ended before the new year, and I finished up with my last class of 7-10 year olds last Sunday. But the long Saturday and Sunday with Sam my only responsibility outside of the bakery - feels a bit surreal. The slow morning. Unexpected conversations with Katrina and Riaz, one podcast while I worked on gluing together cloth and cardboard menus, and then the steady flow of people and cakes and coffee from 3:30 til closing. I must have steamed thirty pots of milk at our little espresso machine, leaning against the counter, until I saw nothing but the swirl of the milk and foam. When I woke up this morning, I knew I had dreamed of doing dishes.
Katrina, a student I taught in church English classes when she was fourteen, is now a college freshman, studying English, and distressed about how little she's learning in class. She was waiting for me when I came to open the door in the morning. She talked for an hour or so about teachers who play movies instead of teaching class, and classmates who prefer it that way. She says she's one of the rare students whose spoken English is better than her written, but she has no opportunities in class to speak. She wasn't really asking me for anything but to listen (which is always a relief). I lent her some of the simpler, more fun novels that foreign teachers have left in the bakery, and she came back in the evening to wash dishes - which turned out to be a small miracle in an of itself. I might have thrown up my hands and walked out if she hadn't been there - it would have been that busy. Thank god I volunteered those first few years at the church, I told Justin when the night was over, and somehow all the customers got their coffee.