Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Thursday, October 2, 2014

My new ride in China

Been teaching English here a month, so now feel confident I can handle the "drive in all directions" characteristics of sharing the road with Chinese motorists, mopeds, motorbikes, trikes, both motorized and not, people riding rust bucket bikes that seem sized for children, stray animals, and even the occasional hand pulled cart. It's a Dahon 8 speed folding bike. I think this model is for the local market only. With an OK helmet, cost me 3000 yuan. All my Chinese teacher colleagues think I'm completely crazy for paying so much. Yes, it's about $500. But this is a pretty well made model, not the 30 or 300 yuan bikes you of course can find here. It rides well and I took "Tongling the Red" out for his first trip today. We went to a quietly scruffy part of Tongling, where there are fish ponds, and a complex of stalled high rise apartments. Definitely a textbook case of old and new China, side by side. I turned back at lunchtime as the heat is back, even though it's fall.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dry Pot in a Sichuan restaurant

Last night I had dinner with a fellow teacher and her teenaged sister. We went to a family restaurant in her neighborhood, where we had skewers of spicy garlic chicken (heat level 1 for me, as, in China, I'm not sure what "spicy" means yet), potstickers and a "choose your own ingredient dish that is made to order on a grill in the kitchen out back. We chose needle fish, quail egg, lotus root, potato and tiny white mushrooms that come in a clump. It's tossed with fried rice sticks, crunchy rice (maybe cooked rice spread flat and crisped in oil, then cut into pieces) with a garnish of peanuts, green onion and cilantro. All washed down with tart sweet plum juice. Cost me 100 yuan (about $US 16) to treat everyone. The restaurant's decor is a small room wallpapered with yellow and red signs handwritten by previous diners, who ate the spicy chicken at the most extreme level and survived. The comments are nearly all in Chinese, with a smattering of obscenities written in English.
All a bit greasy but quite delicious. The owner gave me a discount card, eat 3 more times, and I get a free dish on my 4th visit.
As if I'd ever be able to find this place again, without a guide!

My nearest bus stop in Tongling

I decided to take a photo of my bus stop, in case I got lost, and needed to tell a taxi where to take me.
It's 86 degrees today, at 9am on Mid-Autumn Festival Monday. I'm not teaching today, but downtown is busy and the banks appear to be open, so I will do some more foreign exchange if I can find a Bank of China.
I am very uncomfortable going out of my apartment each day, as I'm just not accustomed to people staring at me or chattering at me in rapid fire Chinese. My all purpose phrase is "wo shi Yingwen laoshi", which roughly means "I'm an English teacher." Unfortunately saying this to an older guy in the Botanical Gardens kitty corner from my apartment (a place I plan to frequent, as there are fewer people to stare at me), backfired yesterday. This persistent clown insisted I give him my Chinese cell phone number, then demanded that I accompany him out of the park (what on earth for?) then, giggling like a halfwit, he grabbed my hand, tight, which isn't what I'd read the Chinese do, and trotted down the path, I suspect showing off his new English friend like a new pet. When he started to kiss my hand, I stopped in my tracks, told him: "I don't know what the F you're playing at, Bub, but I'm outta here." Then I walked away from
Mr Crackpot, and bought myself a canteloupe from a nice woman with a truck parked outside the gate. I also checked that this idiot wasn't going to try to stalk me. If I start getting strange phone calls and heavy breathing my phone, I have this person's number and will ask one of the female teachers at school to report him to the police. I'm really not sure what was going on. I'm willing to write it off as some lonely retired guy (he told me he was a teacher, hmm not sure that's true) biting off more than he could chew by trying to communicate with the foreign woman.

What 51.40 RMB buys in a mini-mart in Tongling Center

I thought I was getting 21 eggs for 8 yuan. I didn't want 21, I only wanted 6, maybe a dozen, but the store clerk I think told me I had to take the lot. It appears that it's 8 yuan per kilo, so the eggs are 20.50 yuan. It's a good thing I like eggs.
I also bought some raw sugar, 2 forks and a "sunning rack". You clip your laundry to the clothes pins and then hang the contraption from a hook that hangs from a rail inside your window cage. I guess if anything falls off, you go downstairs to retrieve it. Good thing I'm only on the 2nd floor.
It cost me a total of 3 yuan for a round trip on the No. 6 bus. It should be 4, but on the outbound I watched other passengers put coins in the exact change box, and I'm sure they only put in 1 coin. I guess the driver didn't care.
As I had to take my tray of 21 eggs back to the apartment, I cut my downtown visit short. I guess it's BYO egg carrier around here, so a miracle I got them all back, unbroken.
I think I'll go back downtown later today and check out a big street market I saw in the side streets near the hotel I stayed in for my first 2 nights in Tongling. I'm guessing that's where I'll find vegetables and fresh meat.
Various bbq duck street hawkers ply my apartment block, but I'm not sure I can trust the cleanliness of hot duck being hauled around on the back of a tricycle in near 90 degree heat. Once I figure out how to ask the guy when he cooked it, and how much per slice or per gram or whatever measure they use here, I will try it. Survival Mandarin 101, and not in my phrase book.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

5:50am on Sunday Sept 7

This is the view from the window of my Tongling apartment. This cage is used to hang laundry, for pot plants and to hold drying mops, buckets and shoes. The cloud of smoke is engulfing a nearby apartment. The neighbors there thoughtfully chose 5:50am on Sunday morning as the time to explode a bunch of fireworks. I've just gotten up to close my windows before more gun smoke wafts inside.
I'm not sure why we are being treated to fireworks today. There is a national holiday tomorrow (mid Autumn Festival) where people give moon cakes as gifts. However, all week I've been hearing explosions at random times of the day or night. I don't think this morning's show is related to any festival. Perhaps someone needs to drive out a few personal demons or mark some event known only to him or her. It's quite amazing. No one is else is paying one bit of notice. No lights are coming on, nor are there any angry shouts from the apartments all around here.
It's all apparently totally normal.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

English as a foreign language in Tongling

Day 3 of teaching day 4 since I landed in China. My 16 year old students are a godsend. I've just moved into my apartment for the next 5 months, and literally can't read 99% of signage hereabouts, let alone speak with the locals. So I'm asking for help in how to say "I want to buy..."

Monday, September 1, 2014

An interesting sign

It's been a very tiresome day, my first in China, but I'm starting to notice some great Chinglish signs. These, on some slippery polished marble steps leading into and out of a subterranean walkway, are a good example of why it's fun to be an English teacher.