Conrad would love to say he has been super-productive during his first six weeks in Xinjiang, cultivating stellar students with perfect pronunciation and impeccable intonation, but when he arrived in Shihezi he discovered his charges already quite apt in the English language, so he has focused instead on explaining the subtler nuances of his mother tongue to endlessly curious students ('What is the difference between "kiss ass" and "kick ass"'?) as well as furiously countering Desperate Housewives-instigated American stereotypes ('Does everybody in your country have guns in their house?'). Besides teaching oral English, Conrad also gets to lecture to 80 students in a class ambitiously titled "Major English Speaking Countries' Society and Culture," or, less formally (in a nod to Leonard Lopate), "Please Explain: White People."
Conrad hasn't hesitated to take full advantage of Xinjiang extracurriculars, be it camping out in the nearby Tian Shan mountain range, going shot for shot with masochistic university heavies at obligatory banquets, posing questions for hapless contestants at the all-Xinjiang University English Language Speech Contest, developing a big crush on his Chinese tutor, getting dumpling making lessons from the sure-handed master at the Tui Na spot, or pal-ling around with pink-spandex adorned bodybuilders at the local gym.
Conrad was blessed by a visit from his parents during the National Week holiday (just last week!), when they brought him all those essentials of life unavailable in more remote areas of China (books in English, coffee in the bean, Ziploc bags, Immodium, warm and sturdy handmade knitwear from the Mum). Afterwards they commenced a whirlwind tour of Silk Road sights, accompanied by Conrad's PIA co-Fellow, the indefatigable political cartoonist extraordinaire with the Bond girl moniker, Sakura Christmas (who through one of the sad realities of Chinese society does ten times as much work as Conrad, receiving all of the criticism and none of the credit). Unfortunately blogging has yet to enter Conrad's realm of hobbies (there's a long cold winter ahead for that kind of thing) – perhaps he's just lazy, or probably he feels overshadowed by the much more astute and observant Ms. Christmas.