Hello Uncle Foreigner


Oct 15, 2011

It’s playtime

Old fashioned toys

The girl with a stick and hoop

We saw this girl the other day playing with a hoop and a stick, like something out of the 1820s, but what I’ve noticed is that people here — not just children — seem to go in for old-fashioned modes of entertainment; I’ve seen more little boys doing tricks with yo-yos in the past three weeks than I ever have in my life.

I don’t know whether it’s the city we’re in or the entire culture, but here there seems to be more life lived out in public than even in New York City. On our evening walks, we meet plenty of people taking similar strolls, and we pass countless groups of people at tea houses and what seems to be semi-private clubs playing cards or Mah-jong - they seem settled in and like they’ll be there for a while.

Anecdote: I asked one of my students what his favorite weather was, and he said rainy. When I asked why, he said it was because then he was allowed to stay in and play video games. I asked the whole class, “When it’s sunny, do your parents make you go out and play?” A resounding yes was the answer.

Whatever the cause, the people are on the streets, and it’s awesome. This city has a really lively energy that’s exciting to be a part of - and the language barrier is blocking less than we feared; everyone understands a smile (New Yorker Emily is barfing over in the corner and making faces, to be sure).

Oct 15, 2011

A very fine house

Upgrading the kitchen

The kitchen, beforeThe kitchen, after

Today we finally had the time and the tools to do a deep cleaning of the apartment. Everything looks and feels infinitely better (Peter says we’ve stepped up from camping to living), but the kitchen is where the most dramatic results are seen. Above is a before and after.

And while every mundane thing has been more fun just by virtue of the fact that we’re doing it in China, housecleaning is housecleaning all over the world.

Oct 14, 2011

Something looks familiar

An apple a day ...

Is that ...... yes! It is!

Recognize this? There are actually a couple of “Apple Stores” around town.

Oct 14, 2011

My Chinese name

Today one of my students gave me a Chinese name (they all have English names): 爱美丽, which is pronounced Ai Mei Li - very close to Emily, if you’ll notice. The kids laughed when he said it, so I was a little worried that it was something bad. But it means “Beautiful Love,” which is kind of sweet.

It’s really hard to not get a big head over here.

Oct 10, 2011

We’ve all got our reasons

Me: Why are you learning English?

Student: So I can have an American wife.

Oct 9, 2011

Back to work

The National Day Holiday is over, and we’ve gone back to work, teaching make-up classes for Saturday and Sunday. Both Peter and I are feeling more comfortable in the classroom. It’s easier to plan our lessons, now that we know what the kids are and aren’t capable of.

I’m finding the way I can be most helpful is with pronunciation - so I spend a lot of time just making noises, both with the seniors and juniors. This week, I’m showing the seniors “th” vs. “s.” I’m pretty sure that all of them can hear the difference, though some have a really hard time doing the “th” themselves. It’s really cool, though, when a kid gets it. The whole class applauds — they’re big on applause as positive reinforcement.

I did have a kid in one class today say that Justin Beiber has a haircut like a girl. And that wasn’t even off topic — our lesson for this week is describing people. A lot of the kids love him, but some of them like him only “just so-so.”

Oct 8, 2011


Observation: It’s hard to teach the concepts of Aunt and Uncle to the only children of only children.

Oct 7, 2011

Our first date in China

Let's eat

Today is the last day of our holiday - from what I understand, the Chinese government only allows schools to give kids 3 days for a holiday, but schools like to give kids five days in a row, so they just do make up days this Saturday and Sunday - and after we finished our lesson plans for the week, Peter and I went out on a date.

We walked down to the river (of course) where we met these girls.

River friends

They had been giggling behind Peter while he was taking pictures of something else, and when we started to walk away, they called out, “Hello!” They each took pictures with us on their phones. We said fair is fair and took pictures of them with me.

Our restaurant

Here’s where we went for dinner. We ordered food with the help of our list of translated foods. We kept pointing at dishes until we found two that this place served - our waitress was very patient.

Peter and the food

We ended up with spicy tofu, spicy cucumbers and steamed rice. It was very delicious, and very spicy. The meal, including 3 beers, cost $7.


Did I mention the food was spicy? The hot pepper flavor really fills us up quickly, even though we love as much as our foreign little mouths can take, so we took the rest of the tofu to go. I’m getting quite good at pantomime.

At the bar

After dinner, it was still early, so we walked up to Tower Square, where there was a western-looking bar. We attempted to order some whiskey (oh, the tastes of home!), but we ended up with two Budweisers instead. But at least they were cold; the Chinese drink their beer light and warm. On the way out, I took a photo with one of the workers. He spoke a little English, so he sat and chatted with us on his break.

We have class early tomorrow, though, so after that, we headed home. All in all, a lovely night. By the way, it’s in the mid 70s here.

Oct 6, 2011

A sunny day = long walk through the city

And slideshows galore!

Baizitu Square

Today was our first real sunny day here in Luzhou, and we definitely took advantage of it. We successfully took the bus west to the bank of the other river (which we found out is called the Tuojiang River) and scoped out the area around Baizitu Square. This square, one of our colleagues told us, is also referred to as the 100 Children Square, for the 100 children that are carved into the pillars around this amphitheater. We can’t find anything online to back this up, but it sounds good. The city holds concerts here from time to time, which we’re looking forward to seeing.

But the whole area along this river is very nice. We saw a lot of families out for a stroll. It’s evidently a very historical spot, though everything is in Chinese, so we’re not sure what kind of history.

A boy on the stairs of the 100 children square
Click through to see a full album of Baizitu Square.

After we soaked up the mystery history, we turned down Jiangyang Xilu (which means West Road of Jiangyang district, our neighborhood) for a long walk back toward our house. The architecture and neighborhood structure is very variable in Luzhou, which we could especially see on this walk. The main road will have big expensive looking stores and government/utilities buildings, but branching off from that will be little lanes with tiny shops and chickens running everywhere. New construction sits right next to buildings that are falling apart, and its hard to predict where a given path will take you. We traversed a dirty lane that passed by falling down shacks, luxury apartment construction (I’m coming back to that in a second) and a fancy looking mall. We also saw a gorgeous park; a posted sign said it was Datibu Culture Square, the Luzhou government website calls it Terraced Square, but there’s further information on neither. Though I can say with authority, it was, like all public spaces here in Luzhou, hopping.

Back to the construction: There are luxury apartment buildings going up at an incredible rate here. Construction crews work around the clock (we hear them all night), and there just seems to be a mad rush to get things built. Is there such a demand for the space? It’s tough to say, especially only having been here for two weeks. But I can say that there’s more development here than in New York City, and developers there are still having a hard time filling their buildings.

The west of Luzhou city
Click for a full album of Jiangyang Xilu.

Then it was back to the Yangtze, our favorite walk. It looks a billion times more inviting in the sunshine. We ran into a couple of our students here, and they said the river walk is very popular with their peers; the street has a lot of karaoke places where the kids like to go. We were starving, so we bought scallion pancakes from a street vendor - these are quickly becoming our favorite street treat.

Pancakes by the Yangtze River
Click for a full album of the Yangtze River.

Oct 5, 2011

Along the Yangtze

A nice place for a ramble

Luzhou is nestled in and expanding around the junction between the Yangtze River and one of its tributaries (we’re just calling that one “The Other River”). We live a few blocks from the Yangzte, and it’s one of our favorite walks so far. We’ve gotten down there just about every day.

It is nicer in the northern part of our slice of river. Toward the south, there’s a sad looking beach with chairs and tables; it’s not very inviting. Up north, though, the riverside street is lined with tea houses and cafes one side and trees and small parks on the other. It’s a very popular spot with the locals for an evening ramble. There’s also what looks like a permanent carnival set up between the street and the river, as well as some river-front cafes. We love walking down here and seeing the sights, and greeting all of our gawking neighbors.

One thing we’ve learned: If we hear a “Hello” ring out, it’s definitely aimed at us.

The rain comes on the Yangtze River, and a lone woman braves the wet
Check out a slideshow of the river in the wet.