September 22 had the honor of not only being Frodo and Bilbo's birthday, but also Mid-Autumn Festival in China. As the name suggests, this is the middle of fall, which obviously seems early for you guys back home. It's supposed to be the time when the moon is brightest, and traditionally people exchange moon cakes and eat dinner at a restaurant.
We received dozens of moon cakes from students and Helen and John. Most were filled with a bean paste, which wasn't very appetizing to our tastes, but if we were lucky (which Andrew always was and I never was) we bit into ones flavored with fruit instead.
Moon cakes on sale at the supermarket
Moon cakes, traditional and "European"
Helen and John took us to dinner that night and we shared a whole chicken, feet, head, and all, in a hot-pot. Andrew was brave and tried the head, complete with cockscomb, but I stuck to veggies and beef.
Recently we started taking Chinese classes with John, who doesn't speak any English but means well. We've had four classes so far, and I've only cried once! (I get very emotional under stress.) Let me tell you, Chinese is HARD. Each word in Chinese has four different "tones" and each tone gives a different meaning to the word. Being literally tone-deaf, it's really difficult for me to hear the difference between these words, and even harder to imitate them. I'm going to just stay away from words that could insult people, like the number 4, which also means "death" if pronounced a different way. But, at least we're learning useful phrases that will hopefully make communication easier in our city. Andrew is a champ and can pronounce Chinese even better than John!
Of course, the joke is that in just two weeks we're going to Shanghai, where they speak a completely different dialect of Chinese, and where surely no one will understand us or vice versa. This will be our first vacation, and I'm a little nervous. We'll be taking an overnight train to Guilin, a beautiful city down south known for its karst formations and beautiful countryside.
Guilin, courtesy of Google Images
Seeing as how this city is 2,300 km away, it's going to take us over 24 hours to get there by train. After three days there, we'll head to Shanghai to see the World Expo before flying back to Qinhuangdao at the end of the week. With the amount of traveling we're doing, it's like taking a 10 day trip to the U.S. and flying first to California, then New York, then Florida. Except on trains.
We've almost made some foreign friends here. After stalking people on Facebook and Couchsurfing, I've made contact with a handful of foreigners and we're in the process of arranging meetings with them.
Things here have been both slow and busy. We spend our time planning lessons, going to class, cooking, cleaning, watching movies, shopping; in short, all the normal things you probably do in your lives. Nothing has been overtly exciting recently, thus the lack of blog posts. My guess is that after our vacation, which begins October 11th, we'll have more news to report before going back into dormancy until Thanksgiving.
Despite the many problems France caused us, I find myself missing it more and more. Mostly I miss being able to communicate, but I also miss the friends I had there, both foreign and French, and the charming little city of Orleans. Stepping outside my door here, I am bombarded with a cacophony of car horns, car alarms, and 3 million people packed on the streets. I've been having terrible headaches and I've come to dread even going outside for shopping because of the noise and all the people. I'm definitely finding that I am not a city person!
What's the "Inedidible Method"???
National flag of China