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.