Posts Tagged With: Food

London: The Ultimate Drawn-Out Adventure (Part 4)

We met up with the ‘rents in London (yep, still in London) and went to Borough Market. It had a lot of great food to buy, stalls to wander through, and weird vegetables to look at. Some of them, like this fractal-y cauliflower thing, were just too cool not to take pictures of.

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And then there was the food, most beautiful of which was the German sausage and Indian food.

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Saying Goodbye to Xintang (and it’s wonderful, tasty food)

My last goodbyes on my way out of town took place not at school, but at my favorite local restaurant where I went for dinner the night before leaving (and for many nights before that). What I hadn’t realized was that the restaurant had only been open for a year, so the family running it didn’t know I’d be leaving at the end of the school year. 

And so, for my final tour…

Here’s the back counter where I picked out my dinner and learned lots of news vegetable and tofu names:


Here’s the wok, cooking counter, and chef.


And here’s the lovely lady who took my order and served me so many times, with her rambunctious little son who went to day care on campus.


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Winter Break: First Stop, Guangzhou

After New Year’s Eve we got a magical phone call informing us that our break had started two days ago, and that we had a month to go not teach in various places. First stop in the not-teaching not-road-trip was Guangzhou, two hours by high speed rail south.

First on the itinerary was visiting a friend in the city. Her apartment is in one of the coolest places–I think–in the area. In order to get to it you have to wind your way through some narrow alleyways…



once you get there, the view is magnificent. Cityscape on one side:


and traditional hutong on the other side:


Gorgeous, right?

We walked down by the river and over to a nearby park.



It was–can I use the word “gorgeous” again? Because wow, it really was. And of course, like most Chinese parks (and plazas by rivers, and unused space under bridges) it had exercise equipment.


While we strolled…


I noticed a, frankly, ridiculous number of wedding photos going on.



I’m still not sure if they were real weddings or just for a wedding magazine or photography studio.

Whatever. Not important. What is important is appreciating these beautiful pictures. Look at them.



Later we went to a market street for dinner. There were fun statues to play with!


And lots of pretty lights!


The next morning I woke up early to share some traditional southern breakfast foods with a couple new friends. Below we have an assortment of porridges, a sweet pudding-like thing, and sticky rice balls filled with crushed peanuts. As my students would say, “very tasty!”


I ate with a Chinese girl and two girls from England. IF ANYONE KNOWS THIS ENGLISH GIRL PLEASE TELL ME! I lost her phone number when my phone was stolen!


The next day we went to a fabulous dim sum restaurant.


It was a pretty classy place, too.



It was situated on the edge of a large lake,


and after lunch we took a stroll.










That night (or was it the next night?) we walked down by the river again to see the lights.




And for our last activity in Guangzhou, we found this weird place:


It’s a shopping mall. With creepy superhero and super villain statues.



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New Year’s Eve…was a while ago.

For New Year’s Eve the two of us foreign teachers went to Hengyang, just a short train ride away. We didn’t know what to expect, but were banking on the fact that a city–any city–would have more going on than a small town. And lo and behold, we were right!

We arrived early in the day, and spent some time checking out the street food, including all the usuals (kabobs, flatbread) and a few unusuals, like pan fried chicken and this weird number:


A thin layer of sticky rice surrounding a ball of whipped cream. I did eventually find a piece of cake in the middle. An itty, bitty, teeny, tiny cube of cake.


It was glorious.

I also got my favorite sweet; fresh strawberries dipped in a hardened sugar syrup.


Then we wandered down to the river. At first it seemed like there was nothing much going on,


though we did find a local substitute for the New York New Year’s ball:


Then, all of a sudden, we noticed something!

20131231_193308A paper lantern!

We decided to investigate…and found a plethora of fun explosives to play with, from sparklers to fire crackers and roman candles, and even real (big) fireworks.


But don’t worry, we started small.


This man is trying to teach me the proper way to light a sparkler.


We got creative!


And tried out some bigger ones!


Eventually, we decided to try our hand at one of the paper lanterns. And just so you’re aware, these things are not the little red ones you hang around your room. They’re BIG!


And they’re kind of hard to actually get up in the air.


Taking pictures of the lantern while I was holding it out of it’s own flame was a bit difficult…



But it did eventually fly…and then drop…and then sit for a while…


Aaaaand finally rise to join the other lanterns in the sky.


We watched other people set off for a while (read: “oooh pretty ‘splosions!”).



And found a candle display that someone had obviously spent a lot of time on.


It’s 13 ❤ 14 in a heart, and “Happy New Year” in Chinese characters off to the side.

And then we discovered that we standing directly underneath the prime fireworks zone. And boy is it hard to take pictures with your fingers in your ears.


On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance to stand under fireworks so low they could take out the fourth floor of a building ever again. Definitely worth it.


Happy Belated New Year!

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Double Decker Donkey Delivery

We decided to go to a new restaurant for dinner tonight. The restaurant doesn’t really make much difference, to be honest. They all have almost exactly the same food. But sometimes one will be more expensive, or less spicy, or have better service than another.

This one was good, except for the owner coming in half way through. On her motorbike. In the middle of the restaurant.


And then the delivery truck showed up to drop off next week’s main course.


That, folks, is a double decker donkey truck. I am inordinately glad we ordered the chicken.

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Snapshot: Murphey’s Law part 3

Scene: Paying for skewers of meat after taking pictures with the vendors late at night.

Me:            “How much?”
Vendor:      “No money! You’re Muslim, we’re Muslim. We’re the same!”
Roommate: “Thanks!”
(walking away)
Me:            “Do they know I’m not Muslim?”
Roommate: “Probably not.”
Me:             “Would it be weird if I thanked you for your religion?”
Roommate: “No. This meat is good!”



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The Brunch Adventure

Sunday morning we had some of the teachers over for brunch. Now, Chinese people don’t really do brunch. It’s not really a thing here. Which, we figured, was good for us, since then we couldn’t be criticized for anything. We spruced up our apartment, invested in a table cloth, new bowls, plates, and spoons, and cooked up some classic U.S. brunch food; French toast, scrambled eggs, and fancy oatmeal with apples, raisins, and cinnamon.

The reactions were hilarious, and went a little bit like this:

  • Teacher: “This tofu is really good!”
  • Us:            “It’s French toast.”
  • Teacher: “Where did you get the grapes from?”
  • Us:            “The supermarket.”
  • Teacher: “Where did you get the ingredients from?”
  • Us:            “The supermarket.”
  • Teacher: “Where did you get _____ from?”
  • Us:            “The supermarket.”
  • Teacher: “This seems like breakfast!”
  • Us:            “It’s brunch.”
  • Us:            “How is it?”
  • Teacher: “还可以 (Passable)”
  • Teacher: “Do you want to go on a 70 kilometer bike ride?”
  • Us:            “I can do seven.”
  • Teacher: “Do you want the big bowl or the small bowl?”
  • Us:            “It’s a plate.”

My couch is wooden.

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Teacher’s Day

Tuesday was teacher’s day, which is like Mother’s or Father’s day but for teachers. I think it’s great how they show their appreciation for teachers here, as opposed to the general lack thereof in so many other countries. And most importantly, we’d been told that we wouldn’t have classes to teach that day (which was extra beneficial since we hadn’t gotten more than four hours of sleep the night before, and had to be up at 7 a.m.).

There was a big assembly of all the students where the administrators spoke about the new school year and gave out awards recognizing some of the teachers. I’m not sure what they did to get those awards, but they got sashes and flowers and some sort of honorary degree thing. I’m also not sure why they would want an honorary degree from a middle- and high-school.

My co-teacher and I gave a short speech that our waiban helpfully translated, basically talking about how grateful we were to be at the school and have amazing opportunities and all the lovely people we’d met so far, etcetera, etcetera. Of course, at that particular moment in time I don’t think either of us were feeling very grateful, since we were sitting in direct sunlight in ninety-something degree heat and couldn’t even visibly fan ourselves because we were sitting at the head table.

When the speeches were all over there was a dance or acrobatics performance by disabled youths. We were going to stay and watch part of it, but our waiban told us we actually were going to have classes that afternoon, and we hadn’t finished our lesson plans yet. So we ran back to (shower and) frantically lesson plan (and shower) and find more names to give our students, and then (showered. Really. You have no idea.) ran over to the teacher’s dining hall for a Teacher’s Day special lunch.

Lunch…was a highly interesting cultural experience. Generally, when you go to a restaurant here, you wash out your bowl, spoon, chopsticks, and tea cup with boiling water or tea to make sure it’s clean. We had no water or tea, so we used beer. I can honestly say I have never washed anything with beer before.

Then they brought out the food. We ate:

  • Turtle
  • Cow Stomach
  • Sea cucumber
  • Pig fat
  • Duck feet
  • Bok choi
  • Lotus root
  • Donkey

As I said, it was…interesting.

And then we found out we actually didn’t have to teach that afternoon. So, since we had English Corner coming up again on Wednesday, we went to buy speakers so the students might actually be able to hear the music video. In one store the sales clerk tried to sell us speakers that were hooked up to a computer on display. I don’t think they officially sold those speakers there, but he was going to sell them to us anyway. We moved on.

We ended up buying speakers at—surprise, surprise—the supermarket, where we spend most of our time anyway. Bu this was a new supermarket! How exciting!

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, most of my leisure time is spent in supermarkets, or sitting at my computer telling you about them.

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Happy Birthday to Me!

(Written on September 1st)

Yesterday was my birthday! The night before had been pretty terrible—the day was exciting, and we had fun wandering the towns and such, but there’s only so many stares and strange looks two people can get, while simultaneously dealing with a language barrier, overwhelming heat and humidity (and a lack of electricity with which to turn on the refrigerator for cold water), and the knowledge that in three days time they will be starting new jobs for which they have the bare minimum of information before they get a little down in the dumps. And then there was the cockroach. So…not so good for me. But I mentioned to my roommate and fellow foreign teacher at about 1:00a.m. that the next day was my birthday, and did I mention I have the best roommate in the world? Because at 1:30 in the morning, when I thought she was nicely killing another cockroach and making me keep my door shut so I wouldn’t have to look at it, she was making birthday decorations for my doorway.

Birthday decorations from my roomie!

Birthday decorations from my roomie!

The next morning I got a phone call from our waiban inviting us over for lunch at her apartment, which had gotten electricity back on that morning. We lazed around, realized at the last minute we should probably bring something—we still don’t know the Chinese customs, but in the States the guest usually brings something, so we grabbed the box of dove chocolates we’d bought to snack on, tied a ribbon around it, and ran out the door. Lunch was some very tasty Chinese dishes home cooked by her husband. We had rice (of course), greens, some kind of meat with something that looked like celery but might have been sweet potato stems, something else with black mushrooms (I choose to call all fungus mushrooms because it sounds more palatable that way), steamed egg (like an omelet but just steamed in a bowl), chicken feet, and some other food that I can’t remember right now. I tried the chicken feet. It was weird. Also very spicy. But mostly the food was amazing, and they toasted my birthday with orange juice.

We spent some time lesson planning in the afternoon, and came up with a preliminary plan that should hopefully work for all age and language levels. Of course, we didn’t even have our schedules yet, let alone our textbooks, so we were really flying blind. We also wrote up a list of class rules, activities for those with less English and more English, a short list of interesting slang to teach the students, some songs for different language levels, and a crazy long list of idioms with which to start each class. Because we are awesome, we have more than sixty idioms on our list. I would type them all out for you but I’m too lazy for that, so here’s a picture of the first two pages of the list in my notebook.

I think we're up to 70 or more now!

I think we’re up to 70 or more now!

We’re also trying to come up with some good tongue twisters, so if you know any fun ones, send them along! So far we have:

  • She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
  • Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • Six sick sheep. (Is there more to this one?)

We wandered around campus looking for wifi, which was pretty silly considering most of the power to campus was still off. But we found the English resource room and checked it out, and worked on our lesson plans a bit more, by which I actually mean I read The Boxcar Children. I am liking the selection of books in there.

We went for dinner at what is probably the nicest restaurant in town, mostly because we figured they would at least have a menu and a waitress who could explain some of the dishes to us.


We ended up mostly guessing, and just agreeing to whatever the waitress suggested. We got some sort of spicy beef, a fish in broth (and when I say fish, I mean the whole thing dismembered in a bowl—we couldn’t figure out what some of the pieces even were), and some vegetables like bok choy.


Then for dessert we had little fried balls of taro paste which were super tasty.


At one point during dinner the owner came over to our table to make sure the foreigners were happy. Being the only two non-Chinese people in at least two towns makes us a teeny-tiny bit conspicuous, if you hadn’t gathered that already. He was nice, even if he did assume I spoke absolutely no Chinese and directed all his questions at my co-teacher.

We stopped at the supermarket, mostly because the only things left open were other restaurants, the supermarket, and karaoke, and spent a while looking for random, mostly unnecessary things like a mosquito-zapping light.

We wandered around campus for a bit looking for wifi now that the electricity was back on for the night, found some, couldn’t connect, and went back to our apartment and watched a bad quality copy of twilight on a laptop. All of twilight. Like, all the movies. Because it came on our dvd of fifty movies.

Then sleep happened.

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Chiang Mai Shopping

I ended up at the shopping mall near our hotel surprisingly often. It was pretty nice–this is the mini park in the center of it.


The mall had all the usual kinds of stores, as well as a supermarket, a pretty good food court…


and some western chains like Dairy Queen, Antie Anne’s Pretzle, and Dunkin’ Donuts. There was also this hilarious Japanese bakery with pastries decorated to look like sushi.

Sushi donuts!

Sushi donuts!

The last day I went to the mall there was a sort of market/fair thing going on outside. There was clothes, knick-knacks, and tons of food.


There was some real sushi as well, but it had been sitting out in the heat for a while…


There were omelets that looked super tasty, fresh and cooked on a grill in banana leaf baskets…


And then I checked out the possible ingredients, considered my general lack of Thai language skills, and decided to get something else for lunch.


Here’s another thing I didn’t eat.




I did, however, eat some very good purple dragon fruit.



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