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

That Luzhou smell


It's strong stuff, be careful

Luzhou is actually a pretty clean city. There really isn’t much pollution, which is a pleasant surprise; I think that it’s mostly the eastern cities that have the smog. But there is something in the air here: Luzhou Laojiao. This is a kind of white liquor that the city is famous for. Some translate it as wine, but it’s really more of a digestif-type thing, like ouzo or a punch in the throat. I think it’s distilled from rice or sorghum, and the Sichuanese have been making it since the Ming Dynasty in the 1500s.

We live right near the main brewery (which is a popular tourist destination we’re hoping to hit soon). You can definitely smell when the liquor is in production, and it doesn’t smell great. Kind of like rancid salami. But the taste? Nothing like salami. Not really like anything good, but not salami. We’ve only had pretty low-end stuff, but I’m not optimistic about the good stuff. Peter actually likes it OK, mixed with mango juice - which is not traditional.

So, come quaff with us! It’ll help us forget the smell.

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 6, 2011

A tofu success

Get there early, fools

We found the tofu and cooked it all up

We’ve had kind of a problem finding tofu around here, which was kind of surprising as it’s a Chinese dietary staple. Turns out, we were getting to the market too late, when everyone was sold out.

This is smoked pressed tofu (which is exactly what it sounds) with cabbage, green beans and peanuts over noodles. Instead of our pre-made chilli sauce, Peter used fresh hot pepper, garlic, scallions and ginger. Spicy goodness.

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.

Oct 5, 2011

To market

Give us some food

We’ve done a lot of shopping in the larger supermarkets around here, but mostly for supplies like paper towels, a broom, etc. They also have a good supply of import goods (like ketchup and peanut butter), that we may go for if we’re feeling homesick. For our daily food, however, we’ve been hitting up the local produce market.

We muddle through with a lot of pointing and gestures. As for the exchange of money, I try to get a glimpse of the scale so that I can see the price. If I miss that, I’m learning the hand signals for numbers. If that doesn’t work, I just hand them a 10rmb note and let them make change. It’s worked so far, and I always make sure to say thank you.

Buying Eggs
This actually is just around the corner from the market. But we wanted eggs and we saw eggs, so we went for it. I picked out 6 from the tray, and she’s weighing them in that blue bag. Later, we found out, these are duck eggs. Still delicious.
Market view one
This is the market proper.
Here's some chicken
This is the window where you can buy a whole bird: chicken or duck.
An actual meat market
It’s pretty common to see just meat pieces sitting out. Organs, too. It’s all fresh, though, so it doesn’t smell as bad as you might think.
Turns out, almost every culture loves garlic
Here, I’m buying garlic. This guy has all kinds of spices, nuts and beans.
Market view 2
More veggies.
Fresh pasta, yes please
This guy makes fresh pasta in the room behind the little girl. You can get all sizes of noodles, as well as dumpling and wonton skins.

Oct 5, 2011

Return of the son of the dumpling

We're at it again

Handmaking dumplings
Check out a slideshow of our dumpling making.

So we did it again, and took photographs. We’re not quite up to Gourmet Magazine food photography quality, but they tasted good.