After three weeks of school and settling in to our lives in Chengdu, my study abroad group is all set to head off to Tibet on Saturday morning, the 27th, at 5 AM! I’m incredibly excited – I have no strong concept of what being in Tibet will be like, but our study tour will include monasteries and religious sites as well as markets and other tourist destinations, so I’m looking forward to a great trip. We won’t have very much internet access or time while traveling, but I’m planning to post about each day when I get back on October 4th, like I did for the study tour in August.
I’m also planning on doing some posts about daily life when I get back so you guys can get a better understanding of what I do on a daily basis here in Chengdu. To start that off, here’s an chart of my class schedule for the semester – I spend every morning in various Chinese classes, and I’m also taking Chinese Buddhism, Contemporary Chinese Society, Western China, and Calligraphy. More on the volunteering gig later.
Also, you’ll notice I added a new category to the blog – ‘Lost In Translation’. I’m going to attempt to photo document and share with you some of my favorite Chinglish mis-translations from around Chengdu and the rest of my trip.
Lots of love, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back on in a couple of weeks!
Seen on a menu in the grounds of the Summer Palace, “wood to flesh” appears to be some kind of substitute meat dish, but we didn’t stick around long enough to order it and find out. Also note the “fish-flavored pork”. Yum!
Spotted at the Pearl Market in Beijing. Many washrooms in China have signs like this with various translations of the typical Western bathroom signs. Different pictures are popular, too, ranging from smoking pipes for the men’s side to high heels on the women’s.
TO EXERCISE IS A FUNERAL FOR MY DAY
I found some new friends! Those little pots are just barely bigger than the average shot glass, and the tiny succulent and cactus are entirely adorable. The only hitch in purchasing them was when the woman at the shop tried, after I explained I didn’t speak Chinese, to mime to me that I wasn’t supposed to water them very much. That’s a harder charade game than you might think, and the help of several other customers was enlisted before I managed to communicate that I knew how much to water a cactus, thank you very much Dad.
Little babies!! They hang out on my desk and make me happy while I make flashcards.
One night in Beijing, we didn’t have a scheduled group dinner. A classmate suggested a popular spot he’d seen while walking around near the hotel – you can tell when a restaurant is good in China because there will be a crowd of folks waiting on tiny plastic stools out front, blocking the sidewalk and spilling out onto the street. I’m not sure if it was less busy that night or if we got seated so quickly because we were all foreign, but we walked in and immediately began the long adventure of communicating our order to the waitress. The tables were rectangular, with a stove and a large rack above it set into the middle. Ventilation hoods lined the ceiling to deal with the smoke coming off each table-grill. We ordered a leg of lamb and a few other appetizers, and once it arrived, sat staring at it more than a little blankly.
I forgot to mention – flanking our table on either side were tables of drunk, half-naked, older Chinese men. It got quite hot in the building, due to the stove set into every table, so the establishment provided huge tupperware-style bins under each table for patrons to discard bags, clothes, etc. Sensing our cluelessness, a delegate from each table approached us, and using various phrases like ‘China good!’, ‘America good!’, and ‘We should be friends!’ and sign language, showed us how to cut, season, and consume our aforementioned entire leg of lamb.
We eventually finished it all, with lots of help from our new friends, and the cost of the meal was a few dollars for each of our ~6 member party. Wowza!
Check out the legs on that… lamb!
The duck is on the duck-shaped platter, and the onions, sauce, and pancakes are on the right.
On a free afternoon in Beijing, a classmate and I went out to sample one of the local delicacies – Beijing Duck. Versions of this dish are often seen in the US. You are served a plate of paper-thin pancake/tortilla things (probably made out of rice), a plate of green-onion-like veggies, and a dish of sweet, delicious plum sauce along with a platter of cooked duck meat. You make your own little Beijing Duck burritos and eat them with your hands. This was the best duck I’ve ever eaten, for sure, and the owner was exceedingly nice – he kept asking me, in very simple, slowly spoken Chinese that I could understand, whether or not I was enjoying the food. I always said yes, emphatically, in English and Chinese.