23 November 2012

Around home

That phrase, "around home," rolls off the tongue too easily even though we're halfway around the world from our Texas home. But we're in countdown mode, and trying to experience everything here before we leave in January.
Our university had Sports Day, for which we had to reschedule our Friday classes. Fortunately the students alerted us the week before -- the official announcement of no classes on Friday reached us Thursday evening.
North of the campus is a range of hills, and we wondered what's up there. We found a reservoir behind a dam with a lake full of ducks.
A newly built home, in the skinny style that's popular here. In Vietnam we learned that taxes are based on footprint, so better to build up than spread out. But it has that essential modern feature, a garage.
Our balcony overlooks farm fields, but this is a new feature in our field of view, trash for landfill almost right below us. The trash collectors pedal up their tricycle cart, dump, and shovel over the edge.
We ask our Chinese colleagues if there are any concerts or other performances in the city, but we never hear of any. So we were surprised walking past the campus auditorium to find a full orchestra playing classical favorites. It must have been announced somehow, since it was full, but no one told us.
We don't teach on Thursdays, so it was easy for us to take a holiday for Thanksgiving. A knock on the door surprised us and Mei, the woman who studied English here but now has a flower shop in town, was there all dressed up with a big bouquet, a gift from her and our favorite student. Of course we invited her in for tea -- she said opening the flower shop could wait.
Thanksgiving dinner -- no turkey but excellent chicken breast from Walmart, scalloped potatoes, squash, beans, salad, wine from Chile and fresh bread -- what a feast!

11 November 2012

In the Neighborhood

This week we did different things in our neighborhood.
Our Chinese friend Ivy is a partner in a Herbalife shop. She invited us for lunch, where her customers came to cook together, making Chinese dumplings, jiaozi (饺子). Ivy is a graduate of Qinzhou University, not an English major but did travel in the US and worked at Chick-fil-A in Florida on a J-1 visa so speaks English fluently and is eager to keep it up. She's been helping us order clothes from the tailors in the old market, very affordable.
We often get lunch from the street vendors across from our unversity gate. A favorite is a kind of wrap made from rice flour steamed into a thin pancake and with a choice of fillings. Diane lifts the covers and points to our favorites, a smooth process now that the couple who run this stand know us. 
We visited a soybean processing plant in the Qinzhou port area, part of a worldwide conglomerate the Noble Group. The general manager is a Chinese-Canadian woman who heard there were Canadians in Qinzhou. She encourages her managers to come to our technical English corner on Friday afternoons to improve their English.
There is a new museum in the provincial capital of Nanning, the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, with architecture in the form of ancient bronze drums. We took a day trip on Saturday to visit, as well as shop downtown for Western food that we can't get in Qinzhou.
Guangxi is home to 12 minority ethnic groups, the "nationalities" which the museum displays outside as playful cartoon characters. Daniel is wearing his Remembrance Day poppy, and in Culture classes last week we taught about the holiday and recited "In Flanders Fields". The students told us that in China, Nov. 11 is Singles Day, from the numbers of the date, 11-11.
The rotunda of the museum has murals that remind us of Aztec figures. The stairs and escalator lead up to the main galleries on the third floor.
Dragons from rice straw and bamboo are some of the many exhibits. The museum is modern and nicely arranged, so we hope it soon attracts many more visitors. It's in a large park, but a ways from the city center so takes a deliberate effort to get there.
We had lunch in the old museum garden downtown, a quiet retreat from the surrounding busy city. The restaurant is in a traditional "wind and rain" covered wooden bridge, and the garden is a favorite spot for couples to get wedding photos.

01 November 2012


Halloween is new to most Chinese, so it is a chance for us to teach while having fun with the students.
We started last week teaching about the history of Halloween, and then having the students do a short Halloween skit with 8 roles, that was written by one of the other Amity teachers. A family of 4 (seated) prepare for the 4 trick-or-treater who arrive at the door.
This week we've been having a Halloween party with each class. The students have been very creative with costumes, like the Chinese tiger complete with paws.
We brought costumes for ourselves from the US, a Star Trek character for Daniel and a witch's hat for Diane. The rustic Chinese broom completed her outfit perfectly. We had the students judge the best costume, and gave a prize to the winner.
We played games, like stick the nose on the pumpkin ...
 ... and bobbing for apples, which we did as a speed competition with two students trying to get the first apple.
There were a lot of wet but happy faces.
The students really enjoyed the parties, and we think Halloween will catch on here. It's quite different than tradtional Chinese festivals, and has something for both children and adults. Our students may become teachers of Halloween to the next generation of Chinese.