Saturday, September 6, 2008

today i touched a turtle in the market and was nervous about germs till i got home. 我学会汉语和这是困难的

this week kicked off my chinese lessons. i have a tutor named xiao fei, but her mother calls her mei, which means flower. she stretches my brain out for two hours every day, and then i am sore for the rest of the time i am awake. sometimes i fall asleep at seven in the evening because there is so much chinese running through my head and i can't quite make sense of it all just yet. i am making progress, i think, and i have pushed past the 'i can't do this i think i'll give up' stage. i am also learning how to read and write characters (very slowly). big looks like this:
and i can write other things, like mother, father, rice, rabbit, art, drawing, draw, piece, me... but they are not easily reversible, and i can't figure out how to make photobooth reverse things into a not mirror image. 
beyond bursting my brain on the hard reality of chinese (which is, i believe, the most difficult thing i have ever tried to learn), i have also been doing other nice things. 
top five of the week
1. da bai
i love grocery stores, generally. in xining though, sometimes they can be more hassle than anything. at beijing hualian, the store i usually go to, my cart gets looked through (because people like to see what i am buying), there are tons of people, it is full of shouting and bustle, and the lines are very very long. it is not a nice place to stroll. 
da bai, on the other hand, is a lovely large grocery store with plenty of space, nice music and not so many customers. also, all the people who work there are very helpful and smiley. here are some photos from my first trip:
this is the prepared and packaged unfrozen but still chilled meats section. sometime i will do a more in depth post on this type of food. for now, know that the things in the lower right corner are barbecued chicken wings. just the tips. 
it is turtle time, i think. today in the market i touched a few live turtles, but just in case they are out of the fresh ones, this frozen guy is available year round. 
also in the packaged prepared chilled meats section is a wide variety of animal parts that i once heard a woman describe as 'delicate'. these include chicken wings, feet, necks, pig trotters, ears, and my personal favorite- snouts. 
a delicious after school snack.
for the babies. i assume. it just made me think of my sister, who, i think, is scarred for life because i would try to shove blankets between her teeth while she was sleeping. i'm sorry erica.
you guessed it. vinegar on the left, soy sauce on the right. that is all. 
(biggest human chain i have ever seen in person)
at da bai, people help each other. 
2. KFC
what can i say... french fries. and chicken nuggets. till eleven pm. i've decided that a blog can serve a second purpose as a confession booth. 
i will probably go there again this month. i think it is probably better than in america, and they have corn on the cob and other things like apple tarts and fudge sundaes. 
3. cool kids
we hang out like, every day. 
4. street art
in xining, the town that hopes to be the cleanest town in china, they hire people to paint the walls all over town. 
5. saturdays.
i think there are something like four hundred ex-pats in xining, and today (saturday) they had a clothes swap. after skype spying on my loot, samuel says i made out like a bandit- and i totally agree. i acquired an ivory-colored recorder, amongst other things, and i am already incredible at 'good king wenseslas'
then, carrianne and i went to beishan, which is pretty much a contractor's market near the mountain of it's namesake. there, i was introduced to tile land. keep in mind, everything pictured below is made from tile.
fun fact: the necklace on this bride actually sparkled!
saturdays are the day to get things done and have a fun time. 
i probably have walked 10 miles in the past two days, and i really love this town. it is ramadan right now, which makes things interesting and lively at night. i heard that last year, xining had the second largest (first place was taken by mecca) end of ramadan celebration in the world. i like to walk around at night and watch people eating and getting together after a long day of work. 
in conclusion: this week was full, even though i didn't have to work.