The following is a page from a menu at the Longkou Beef House which I patronized two nights ago:
Some interesting items there. Note the "Hemo-hog" there on the right. Literally those characters translate as "pig red", so I'm thinking blood is involved somehow (hemo as in "hemophilia"?). Personally, I went for the tripe:
Want to see HuaFu on a nice day?
Look! Real, cottony cumulous clouds! How often does that happen?! (answer: about twice a month, apparently)
If you know me, you know that my "hello" gesture is a salute of ambiguous casualness. Living in a school where Communist Youth League members wear red lapel pins and salute the flag as it passes, however, has made me a little self-conscious about throwing it around. I've unconciously saluted the sentries at the back gates a few times and then thought, "Wait, is that okay?". Maybe saluting people in uniform makes you look like a wise-guy in any country, but somehow I didn't have the opportunity to do so on a daily basis till I moved in to HuaFu.
Chinchillas for sale at the mall:
Most useful thing in my pocket right now:
This Chinese-English dictionary built-in to my cell phone makes my life SO much easier. The ability to type in strokes (a skill I am by no means a master of) suddenly makes advertisements on the subway halfway intelligible!
I'm writing this very quickly, as I'm about to leave for Hangzhou with David for a week. More on that.... in a week.
By Gus Tate on September 26, 2008 10:52 AM
Yesterday evening the Shenzhou VII delivered three 42-year-old men into space. Unlike many Chinese, I was not planning on watching this historic event, but I happened to see some thrusters light up the screen as I passed the TV last night, and stopping to investigate led me to witness this enormous controlled explosion.
(not my photo)
This mission will include a spacewalk (the first for China) and is part of a larger plan to put a man on the moon. I would be less interested in this, but coincidentally I just watched The Right Stuff (the second movie from 1983 I've mentioned here so far, ooh) on DVD.
In other news, the first ever meeting of the HuaFu Juggling Club was held today, with attendance falling sharply below what was anticipated due to competing attention from an important badminton match. But to the nine students who came and threw stuff with me, I salute you! Remember that you can use rolled-up socks to practice.
And, as mentioned in the last post, here is probably the grossest thing I have ever seen with my own eyes, which I stumbled across three days ago at a market around the corner:
(here's the link if you're on Facebook and can't view the embedded video)
If I had recorded just a few more seconds of footage, you would be able to hear hearty laughter from the man and woman behind the counter. They didn't seem to realize that I thought a beating heart inside an eviscerated fish was super-duper weird. In fact, I think they were proud that their surgical feat drew my attention and camera. "That guy's going to tell all his friends that we've got the freshest fish in town!" is what they probably said to each other after I left.
On the subject of food, the "Chinese Food in America" lesson this week made for some pretty interesting classes. Inevitably, the best part would be when I told them about General Tso. In Chinese his name is more like General Zuo (左) and though they would all recognize the man as a minor Qing dynasty war hero, they would always look puzzled as to why he might be famous in America. That's when I would drop the chicken bomb. Oh man, it was great. Peals of "WHA?!" and "HA!!" shook the halls every time. Well, almost every time. Teaching, it seems, takes a sense of timing that I often find myself on the wrong side of. But with 11 chances per week to get one lesson right, I get plenty of practice.
You're probably thinking that I don't get out enough. Well, joke's on you, because I saw some freakin' European architecture at Shamian Island, Guangzhou's concession to foreign powers after the Opium Wars:
FYI, you are not allowed to take photographs of the Polish embassy. I was told this by a young(er than me) sentry, who, when I asked him why not, replied, "because it is not allowed". That seems to happen a lot here:
"Why can't I take a picture of this Learn English with the Cast of Friends DVD box set?": "It's forbidden."
"This looks delicious; what is it called?": "It IS delicious; come in an have a taste!"
"Where will the teacher's banquet be?": "Don't worry, just get on the bus, we'll take you!"
There's a definite lack of concern for what I want to know here; only what I need to know seems to matter. David and I have discussed this at length. If I were just a tourist passing through I might actually find this approach to conversation preferable, but as someone trying to live in one place, learn the language and soak up the culture, well, it's frustrating.
There's a scene in Mr. Mom (1983) where Michael Keaton is trying to drop off his kids at school but enters the driveway in the opposite direction and angry moms start to honk. He is then informed by his kids and one of the other parents that he is "doing it wrong" (It was funny in the movie, I swear). Somehow, "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!" has become a popular turn of phrase among both my parents AND the internet community at large (probably the only such overlap), used whenever someone doesn't know the procedure, the routine, the way it works around here. There's a certain stigma associated with "doing it wrong" ("Look at that guy, he's doing it wrong! Hasn't he ever been here before?") and I never realized how sensitive I was to it before I came to Guangzhou.
"Hey, where are you going? You have to pay for your food before you sit down!"
"You can't buy bus tickets here, that's the other window."
"Eek, get out of the girl's restroom!"
Okay, I made the last one up, but you know what I mean. The part of my ego that thinks other people are keeping track of how cool I look as I stroll down the street has taken a beating in the past few weeks, and as a result my shell is hardening. I am slowly learning that no matter how confident my stride, no matter how clearly I enunciate the words "squid-on-a-stick" or "crucified-baby-pigeon", people will know that I am a Westerner and stare appropriately. I may as well be walking along wearing an Uncle Sam costume with sparklers in my hat, juggling star-spangled dildoes and whistling Yankee Doodle. The realization is liberating, actually.
For the record (and here's the record) I haven't eaten squid-on-a-stick or crucified-baby-pigeon yet. I have seen some pretty stomach churning stuff in the last few days, though. This includes a freshly-hacked whole crocodile, fetal pigs fermenting in a jar, and a fish cut in half (cross-section) with a still-beating heart. I've got pictures and video of all this, but because I've only just now told friends about this travelogue, I fear I'd lose some readership among the queasy. My sisters, for one (I mean two), would hesitate to look at my Flickr photostream ever again. Maybe I'll save those for later.... Um.... Here are some puppies for sale!
Ah, puppies in a basket: the visual Pepto-Bismol. Speaking of, here's a recipe I've been thinking about since I've started chowing down on the delicious-but-sometimes-unsettling array of noodles and meaty rice that fill the alleys of Tianhe district. Sounds like a good rainy-day activity.
Teaching has been good to me thus far. Not all ~330 of my students are eager beavers, but there are enough in each class to make things interesting, and occasionally I will do something silly enough to make the whole class laugh, beacons of shiny-happy release to penetrate the general shyness. Today, for instance, I brought some Chinese take-out menus from Lexington, KY (thanks Mommy!), and in the process of writing the word "tofu" on the board I accepted a challenge to write it in Chinese (豆腐). Having forgotten how to write the last bit, suddenly everyone in the classes was shouting out strokes and instructions, culminating in riotous applause when I finally figured it out. You're not supposed to use any Chinese in English class (a rule which I have a much easier time following than the students), but I've found that uttering or writing the odd character is enough to perk the students' ears when the sheep have gone astray.
Students: if you've found my blog and are reading this now, know that I appreciate the feedback (some students approached me after class during the first week and told me to speak up, another group told me matter-of-factly during the second week that the lesson was "very boring, very very boring"). Seriously, I need stuff like this!
Welcome to Guangzhou! Having been here for almost a month, having taught three weeks of classes, I'd say the establishment of a blog is way overdue. I could make excuses about not having wireless internet for the first week, and not having a PRC-approved blog service until last week, but I am above such things. Truth is, no one wants to hear all that "getting adjusted" stuff anyway. So rather than tell you all about my harrowing, clammy-handed first day of class, spending the mid-autumn festival with my newly married friend Ava's family (along with fellow houseguest and Australian former-neighbor Hamish), or a trip to nearby pottery-village-turned-industrial city Foshan, I'll just give you these three videos in no particular order and you'll get the general idea.
This a bird in Foshan that can say "那个!", Chinese for "That one!":
This is a scene from a pre-wedding game of find-the-bride. Thierry, the groom, must bribe the bridesmaids with money in red envelopes to gain access to the inner sanctum where Ava awaits. In this snippet, Ava's sister Nicole gets impatient:
And this is a scene from Teacher's Day at HuaFu (the high school at which I am employed). David is my apartment-mate and co-teacher, ritualistically popping the balloon of destiny:
If you need a better introduction, check out the about section. I promise I'll come up with something more profound and detailed about Chinese culture sooner or later....