Thursday, July 29, 2010

Great Wall of China

Andrew and I have added yet more overtime to our summer schedule, so we only had Tuesday morning and all of Wednesday off this week. Tuesday morning John's niece, who is visiting from the north, came over to our apartment and taught me two traditional Chinese dishes. It was really funny and confusing because of the immense language barrier, but somehow I managed to learn to cook an eggplant dish and a fried mushroom and pork dish.

Time seems to go by so quickly here. I guess it's just the novelty of being busy again and having a full workday. Classes can get a little repetitive and boring, but they're not too bad. Usually I start my class by giving my student a speaking topic about the day's chapter. For example, if we're studying values, I'll ask her to talk about what values are most important. She will then have a couple of minutes to prepare her speech. All of my students are studying to take a very important English exam, so they need to practice their speaking skills. After she delivers her speech, we usually start the chapter, with her reading, writing, listening, and completing grammar exercises. After about two hours spent on a six-eight page chapter, we then start doing extra listening, reading, and grammar in preparation for the exam. So you see it can get a bit boring, but because this exam is so important to them, I can't really skip much or incorporate "fun" activities without taking away time from essential topics they need to cover. If anyone has any ideas on how to make it more interesting for them, I'm all ears! Since we don't have time to do fun stuff in class, we've been doing stuff outside of class. Tuesday evening after class Molly came over and watched "Stardust" with us to practice her English. She understood the story, but there were a lot of difficult accents and expressions.

On Wednesday my student Karen and Andrew's student Lily treated us to "Chinese pot." We tried to explain that maybe they shouldn't use this expression to describe what we did, but they couldn't be convinced! Chinese pot is a style of eating in which you place vegetables and meat in a pot of boiling broth that sits at your table. Once your food is cooked, you take it out of the broth and eat it with one of the many sauces offered: sesame sauce, red tofu, salty green gunk, soy sauce, vinegar, and hot chili. We cooked cabbage, spinach, lamb, shrimp, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, meatballs, and thinly sliced beef. It was a fun experience.
Lily, Karen, and Chinese "pot"

After lunch, Lily's driver showed up and took us to the First Pass Under Heaven. This is the section of the Great Wall just outside Qinhuangdao. Lily paid our entrance fees and we stopped at the interesting museum before climbing to the wall. The section of the Great Wall wasn't as impressive as I thought it'd be, mostly because a lot of it has been reconstructed, and you can't walk along it for very far. Still, it was cool to be on top of the Great Wall! I also paid $0.50 to pose with a peacock. Apparently the peacock is a very lucky bird, and the guy made Andrew get in the picture, too, because it would bring us happiness in our marriage. I guess it worked! Other animal attractions included an iguana, a snake, and a fawn.

Just a little way down the road, we stopped at the Dragon's Head, a much more interesting site. Here, the Great Wall meets the Pacific Ocean and there are many old buildings, such as temples and army barracks, that still stand today. Here I bought a cool leaf hat at an awesome price of $0.30.
Where the Great Wall meets the sea
Round doors are only for women. Me and Lily
Cool maze at the Dragon's Head

You can find the weirdest things in the supermarket here. In addition to being able to buy krill, pigs feet, and huge chunks of seaweed fresh from the sea, you can also buy 50% alcohol in a water bottle for only $1.50. Andrew has had a good time psyching out Helen and John and his students at school.

What's wrong with this picture?

P.S. I have a black spot on my camera that shows up in most of my pictures. From doing research online, I think that there is dust on the sensor. Does anyone know how to clean it out? I really don't want to have to buy a new camera, which is what all the websites suggest, especially since this camera is barely a year old!


  1. These are great photos and commentary. Keep them coming! We love to hear how you are doing in China. It sounds a lot better than France -- nicer people and much more honest. Here's a French joke for you. Why are there so many tall trees planted along the Champs Elysee? Because the Germans like to march in the shade.

  2. Hahaha, oh man, I do so love Chinese English.

  3. Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dieshes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

    Enjoy your days~~~


  4. We've had dumplings and Peking duck, of course, but not the Bird's Nest soup. What exactly is in it?