Nov 20, 2011

Real western breakfast!

And Earl Grey tea


We’re having too much fun for blogging, but I promise a whole series of posts on our Hong Kong weekend. In the meantime, here’s the English breakfast we had this morning. Butter! Tea with milk! Baked beans! Salad!

Nov 18, 2011

Touching down in HK

A new city

Hong Kong at night

We’re in Hong Kong! It’s been a super hectic day and a half, but fun and awesome too. I’ll have more to say when I’m a little more rested.

Nov 15, 2011

Talking with the students

Formal attire optional

“May I have a word?” — One of my students asked me this very seriously after a class this morning. We then proceeded to talk about which pop stars I like. Beyonce and Lady Gaga are particular favorites here.

Nov 14, 2011

Our debut performance

Hello Luzhou!

First of all, today started out with a meeting with our boss, wherein she told us we’re doing great, everyone loves us, the teachers want tips, the students are learning and the principals want us to stay forever. Nice!

From then, the day was pretty hectic. The school talent show was this afternoon, and we were performing with one of my classes - Peter on guitar, me on bass. But we also each had other classes to teach. We grabbed a final practice at home during lunch (lunchtime here is a 2.5-hour break) and then got dressed for showtime: we wore white button-downs with red ties and black pants/skirt. But, before showtime, we had more classes. My juniors were utterly impressed with my gussied-up look; when I entered the classroom, I was greeted with cries of “Oh, beautiful!”

I had a break before the performance, so I ran over to the gym where the show was going to take place (I had some student roadies to carry the gear) and did a perfunctory sound-check while the class did the same. Peter had one more class.

The timeline went like this: 3:30 pm, sound-check; 4:00 pm, Peter’s last class is over and students start filing into the gym; 4:20 pm, Peter arrives in the gym, everyone backstage is relieved, I brief him on the way the sound is set up; 4:30 pm, SHOWTIME! The kids recite a poem and sing the school song before we join them on stage. We walk out to rapturous applause - this is actually my first live rock performance, so it’s a nice greeting. The actual performance was fun - there were a few glitches, but it was a kids’ talent show, not the Hollywood Bowl. There’s another big concert for Spring Festival (which sounds like it happens around Chinese New Year), and there’s already talk of an encore performance!

(There were plenty of teachers taking pictures, so we’re hoping to get our hands on some soon.)

Nov 13, 2011

Relative sizes II

We’re smaller, but still giants

Peter and I both have lost a lot of weight since we’ve gotten here. We’ve put this down to the fact that we’re walking everywhere - including up and down the big hill that we live atop - and that the bulk of our diet is fresh vegetables. There’s no dairy to speak of and we don’t buy that much processed food. Yes, there’s a lot of carborific rice and noodles, but we’re pretty much going up (down?) a new belt notch every week.

Which is why Peter was a little dismayed the other night when he was trying on his black pants and they were a little tight. He could button the button, but barely. “All my other pants are loose. Why don’t these fit?” he asked. I looked him over: “Because they’re my black pants.” Yup. Peter can now almost fit into my pants.

But we’re still giants compared to the rest of the country. Peter has bought a couple new pairs of pajamas. He’s a XXL-XXXL. At the first purchasing, we picked up a large. The store clerk looked Peter over and shook her head, enlisting help to find the largest pair the store had. I am desperately searching for a new pair of jeans, because the ones I brought are now quite loose. Unfortunately, the trend here for women is super-tight skinny jeans, so I can squeeze into the largest size most stores carry, but I don’t really want to.

So we’re still on the lookout. It’s pretty funny. We don’t think of ourselves as big people, but evidently the Chinese do.

Nov 12, 2011

Tea time

Hanging out with new friends

Taking tea with Summer and Hank

The other night we went out for some tea with some of our new Chinese friends. From left, we have: Hank, Sugar, Peter, Me, Summer and Jenny.

We went to a place up by the Tuo River (the river farther from our house), overlooking Baizitu Square. It was really lovely. We got our own private room and ordered up some green tea, beer, a fruit plate, boiled peanuts and pistachios, and we talked a lot about the differences and similarities between China and America. (“Does everyone in America own their own field, house and car? Because we think they do.” Hank, via Jenny, asked.) We also traded some vocabulary: 花生 (huasheng) means peanut. Summer also told us how to ask, “Can you give me a discount?” But I’ve already forgotten it.

There was one little item on our fruit plate that they were curious to know the English name for. It was about the size of an extra large grape, with a small seed in the middle and an apple-like texture. But neither Peter nor I had ever seen anything like it. So Summer looked it up on her phone. Jujube. We both laughed when she showed us. Neither of us knew that a jujube was a real fruit. Summer asked how it was pronounced. “That’s so cute!” she said when we told her.

Nov 12, 2011

Other foreigners

We’re not the only ones

It’s quite possible that we are the only Americans in Luzhou. But, we have been seeing a lot of Middle Eastern people recently in the grocery store — a lot being more than one, more than once. I was talking to a couple of the kids the other day, and they mentioned that they see other foreigners working at Zhongshan Park, which is a small amusement park in the center of the city. “They’re from Pakistan,” the girls told me. Which actually makes sense, as Pakistan does boarder China in the East. They’re still a long way from their home — but they’re much closer to home than we are.

Nov 10, 2011

Snaps: Cart parking

It’s gotta go somewhere

Wheelbarrow parking

This is where you can park your cart.

Nov 9, 2011

Food on sticks


Since we’ve been here, we’ve been seeing these vendors all over everywhere selling food on sticks. Just an array of lotus root, cucumbers, bamboo, everything, all skewered and stacked on top of each other.

Food on sticks
More food on sticks!

In the past few weeks, we’ve figured out what the deal is. Things on sticks, as we call it, is a meal where you grab up some things on sticks and throw them into a spicy broth to cook. It’s kind of the same idea as hot pot, although it’s not the same. I don’t know why, but when we told some locals about it, they were like, “That’s not hot pot.” Whatever it is, it has become our favorite meal out. Partly because of the level of control we have over the food - you take what you want, and no one’s trying to serve you “duck’s paw”.

The place we frequent is just down the street from our house. You start out by grabbing a tray and hitting the big table.

Sticks 1

Grab all the sticks you want. We’re partial to the broccoli, green beans, cucumbers and red pepper. I like to grab a few porky-looking ones as well. We also like to get a couple different kinds of tofu. (Chinese for tofu = dofu. Pretty easy.) That little silver dish below has a mix of more spices, cilantro, peanuts and some other stuff. It’s really tasty to put on the cooked veggies.

Sticks 2

When the broth is bubbling, throw in your sticks. We often see groups of five to ten people out sharing one pot. They throw handfuls and handfuls of sticks in at a time. We like to do only a couple at a time, so nothing gets overcooked; the more it cooks, the spicier it gets.

Sticks 3

Because we’re out on the sidewalk (oh yeah, this restaurant is basically a few tents set up on the sidewalk), the steam blows every which way. Usually into my face. The white bowls, we use them thusly: When we’ve decided a morsel is finished cooking, we plunk it off the stick and into the bowl to cool off. Maybe we mix in some of the silver bowl spices. Not everyone uses the white bowls, but there’s no shame in it. It’s not like being given a fork or anything. (Chinese people constantly express amazement that we can use chopsticks.)

Sticks 4

Anyway, it’s a really fun, delicious meal. We’ve gone twice so far this week. Every time, you can pick something different, according to what you fancy, so it doesn’t get tired. Last night (our fourth time there), the staff started to chat (in a limited fashion) with us - we’re regulars!

Nov 7, 2011

It just keeps getting better

Revisiting the studio

Now we've got chairs

We bought a space heater and moved the comfy chairs into the studio. This is now far and away the best room in the house.