Yesterday, to complete my holiday-ification of the consulate, I hung (with care!) stockings outside the Marines’ Guard post, in hopes that our community would help fill them with holiday cheer. To encourage others to stuff the stockings, I (re)wrote a little poem you will all recognize, giving it a decidedly Chengdu feel.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas–Chengdu-Style
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Consulate
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Pol. Officer working a bit late.
The stockings were hung outside Post One with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas (or maybe Ambassador Locke) soon would be there.
The visa applicants were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Vegas danced in their heads.
And a consular officer in his ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a quick, xiuxi nap.
When out on the concrete there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the CLO Lounge to see what was the matter.
Away to the door I flew through the smog,
Through CAC One, out to the guards’ and their dog.
The moon through the Chengdu haze, on the horizon sits low
Gave the same lack of luster as mid-day to objects below.
When, amazed by the sight, I had to stop and stare,
At a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny panda bears.
With a little old driver, who else could it have been?
I knew in a moment it must be Shengdan Lao Ren.
More rapid than visa adjudications, his pandas they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Lun Lun! now, Mei Lan! now, Tao Tao and Zhen Zhen!
On, Chuang Chuang! On, Chi Chi!, on Gao Gao and Gu Gu!
To the top of the consulate! Over the razor wire wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the compound-top the pandas they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I listened with awe,
To the prancing and pawing of each little paw
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Buzzed through Post One St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with factory pollution and soot.
A bundle of toys on his back, for all who would like
And he looked like a peddler, overloaded with goods, just needing a bike.
His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like lajiao, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a Zhonghua cigarette he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly too,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of mapo dofu!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
Stockings were filled with brilliant EERs and dream posts to bid on in a flurry,
And giving a nod, past Post One and beyond, he fled in a hurry!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Shengdan Kuaile to all, and to all a Wan An!”