Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 6

Some observations: At the coffee shop Wednesday night, I asked for water-- and it was hot! Apparently that is common here, because it is boiled for drinking.
The standard for beauty here is light colored skin. There is very little makeup worn, but many of the girls walk around with umbrellas on sunny days, to keep from getting too much sun.

And I have enjoyed the "Chinglish." Haven't seen much the last couple of days, but overall it's prevalent. Chinglish occurs when someone translates Chinese into English, or maybe even writes in it originally; and while the writing is not wrong, it includes syntax or word choices that are not common to us. I first noticed it on the Air China flight, when reading their promotional materials, and one sentence said "Our chefs have created dishes that will make your taste buds sparkle!"


Day 6

Low water pressure this morning. And the internet didn't work very well. It's China. You learn very fast to say that.

I went outside and discovered again the bird I saw yesterday, perched on a branch very easy to see. I wanted to see the colors of its back, and it obligingly hopped around for me. I believe it's a brown shrike, common in this part of the world but not present in the Western Hemisphere.

At noon, we met Carolyn and Josie (both co-workers) and Zach (Chinese brother who would translate) and went to the high-rise home of Rason and Elsie so that a video could be made of them for the upcoming camp. They have a tiny apartment on the tenth floor in a very depressing building that looks dark, old, and rundown. Yet the building is only about four years old. Building maintenance is a big problem here.

As it turns out, no video had to be made because they can come to camp in person. Rason and Elsie have quite a story. Rason lost his job several years ago because of his choice to live for the father, and had to move far away to work. He came back because of his interest in Elsie. One night they were in a terrible vehicle accident; she was hospitalized for a year, and told she could never walk again (which she has defied). I've been told that their wedding was beautiful as she was wheeled down the aisle and then stood to take her vows.

Anyway, we were invited there for lunch. The food was served in bowls placed on the table, and everyone just dug in with chopsticks. No individual plates; I was the only one who received tableware! Guess a bowl and a fork were their nod to the new American. And no drink is offered. The food was good. I especially liked a bowl of very small potatoes with some kind of soy sauce, and a eggplant dish. There was a dish of pork and tofu. Andrew made me try the tofu (tastes fine, texture awful), but I didn't eat any pork because it was mostly bones. There were some good breads--a steamed bread that looked like yeast rolls but with no browning on the top, a thin cornbread, and a sweet fried bread, very flat. The taste was similar to the pancakes and syrup that I had a craving for yesterday. There was also salad with a sweet vinaigrette. Josie brought brownies made with walnuts and brown butter that were a good end to the meal.

It was a great honor to sit, in this closed country, at the table with this young couple who have been through so much, some of it simply because they follow the father.


Tonight was an entirely different experience. We met one of Andrew's students at the side gate, then took a taxi to the home of a teacher at Andrew's school, who is also in his English class of postgraduate students. The high rise apartment was in a much better building than where we were earlier. This woman has a particularly difficult set of circumstances. In addition to her husband having to work far away (not uncommon), she is rearing a four year old blind daughter. She couldn't do it without her mother's help. Blindness is especially hard in China, where there are no accommodations or assistance for someone with a handicap. We took the little girl one of the hats that I brought, made by the mother of one of my students and her friends at her meeting back at home.

Young blind girl
Six other students were there for a dumpling party. Several of them worked at rolling out and filling dumplings while others worked at keeping a little grill going on the tiny balcony. Different foods were put on skewers, then grilled and passed around as appetizers. They cooked chicken wings and hearts, wedges of eggplant and squash, and pieces of the same kind of steamed bread that we ate earlier in the day. The little girl was everywhere, wanting her mom's or grandmother's attention. A little neighbor boy came to the apartment after awhile, and that helped to keep her occupied. The children were handed skewers of food just like the older people, which they ate the food off of and waved around without regard for safety.

Little neighbor boy

It took awhile, but when the dumplings were boiled we crowded around a small table and ate a small mountain of them. They were good. There were also cucumbers, and spring onions that they would roll up into pieces of flat tofu with a dark condiment. For dessert we had slices of watermelon and Popsicles.

We were able to communicate fairly well in spite of the broken English and my nonexistent Chinese. Andrew has learned some oral Chinese during this year, and when the students are in a group they can help each other. I told them stories about Andrew when he was younger, and they loved it. I've learned that you must speak slowly and deliberately for them to get what you are saying.

This group has expressed no interest in any deeper reasons why Andrew might be here. But it was relationship building, and it was a great night of learning Chinese culture.


Ada said...

I think I would starve there. I'm pretty sure I will never have an opportunity to go, but IF I do, I will take one suitcase full of potato chips, candy, hmmm maybe some chicken noodle soup?!?!

Barbara H. said...

What a treasure trove of wonderful memories you'll have when you come home!