13.04.2015 - 22.04.2015
Blog Entry 3
March 22, 2015
On the afternoon of the day that I wrote my last blog entry, I got out of class and decided to join a couple of my French friends in going to Jinli, an ancient walking street nearby our campus. We hailed a taxi and got driven there for 9 kuai (about $1.50)! I have recently discovered that talking with taxi drivers is a very beneficial way to practice your Chinese. They tend to speak very common, practical Chinese and seem to represent the average working person well. We got to Jinli and started making our way through the busy streets. As usual, vendors and shops attracted crowds of people in search of food, clothes and other souvenirs. The local snacks are so different from what we have back home. Cooked rabbit heads, cooked whole fish on a stick, pickled chicken feet and so on. After Jinli, we walked to a nearby Tibetan street (literally a street full of only Tibetan shops, goods and people. I split off from my friends and watched an old Tibetan man play a two-stringed instrument with which we created the most beautiful songs. I saw his bowl with a few coins and one yuan bills and added ten more to his savings. I also entered a Tibetan arts store in which I bought a beautiful wall hanging of the Great Potala Palace in Tibet.
The following day I had one of my first ISA events; an afternoon at KTV. KTV, one of China’s most popular sources of entertainment, is a place where groups of friends go to rent their own private room and sing karaoke as if you are the artist. They give you a microphone, a television with the song’s lyrics, food and drinks. Our party consisted of my program leader Yoyo, her girlfriend and myself. For two hours I listened to two Yoyo and her friend sing love songs in standard Chinese and in the Sichuan dialect. I too sang some Chinese songs and a few songs in English. On our way out of the KTV, the elevator that we were in randomly stopped and powered off. Even the emergency call button was out of order, so we were forced to wait for thirty minutes. Another prime opportunity to practice my Chinese!
On Monday, my Daoism class took a field trip to Jing Yang Gong, a very famous Daoist temple. We saw statues of gods, sacred animals and other deities. For the last hour of class we went to the temple’s tea house where we relaxed and drank local green tea. I decided to split off from the group and asked to join an elderly couple sitting on the opposite side of the pavilion. I think they were more excited to see me than I was to see them. We discussed the political history of China and the United States and ultimately concluded that if both nation’s leaders could sit down and discuss things over a cup of tea, as we were doing, things might get done more effectively. What a great conversation. Unfortunately, my language skills are not at a level where I can comfortably speak about politics, so I simply did the best that I could. However, learning from your mistakes is the best way to lean.
On Wednesday, my professor asked to speak with me after class. Because I was a bit late, I assumed that I was about to be scolded. To my surprise, the exact opposite happened. She told me that she thinks that I am a good hearted person and that I am “very smart.” She then asked me if I would be interested in teaching her daughter English; for those of you who do not know, one simply does not reject their Chinese teacher when asked to do something. I suppose Confucius’ key relationship, teacher to student, even applies to non-Chinese people. However, I felt quite honored to be asked and I agreed with no hesitation. We shall meet every Tuesday afternoon for the remainder of my trip! It didn’t occur to me until after our conversation that learning English is most definitely a part of the Chinese culture. As a foreigner, the least I can do is play my part and participate in further globalizing the world!
Last night, after completing some of my Chinese homework, my Indian friend, Aasim, and I decided to grab some shao kao, barbequed vegetables, meat skewers and fish sold at grills posted on every street. This, in my opinion, is one of Chengdu’s greatest representations of the food culture. First, you select your skewers of choice and give them to the employee manning the grill. He the proceeds to lather the food in oil before barbequing the food for fifteen minutes or so. During the last few minutes of cooking, the grill man dumps spicy chili powder on all of the food, coating them in a thick layer of tongue-numbing spice. Shao kao has thus far proven to be the only thing that, at times, is too spicy for me to eat. Although the flavor is unbeatable, the spice can be overwhelming. Regardless, I plan to accustom my taste buds to the local standard!