Archive for October, 2010

Study Area

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Today was a great day to “see” my family. Thanks to Skype. I have been so busy getting settled that I haven’t really called anyone, until today. It was also a good time to make plans for visits and travel. Somehow, I really needed to see them, and I didn’t even know it. Thank God for family!

Some people may be wondering where I do my writing. There is this corner in my room that is like a balcony, only it has windows and bars. I put a table against the wall where there is an opening (not much of a view, though). And because I don’t have a bookshelf, my books are just stacked on the table, along with my computer, notebooks, pens, and a pitcher of water. There is a sliding door that separates this balcony from the bedroom. The enclosed space helps me concentrate and write, for some reason. In the next few months, I will be spending hours upon hours in this study area, just writing. Today, I already put in 5 hours.

cozy little corner

Monday Night Dinner

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Tonight, I made chicken adobo for my guests. There are many variations of this Filipino dish — this is my version. Every time I make this dish, I have to make sure there’s enough rice because the sauce makes people ask for seconds. Good food, good fellowship. Good night.

chicken adobo

After dinner, we went out for roasted corn on the street. They tell me this is usually something they do during the winter season, but vendors come out in September. Since I love all kinds of corn (esp popcorn), I chomped down and finished off my roasted corn very quickly.

roasted corn

*I did not bring my camera so I actually googled this image of the corn

The Pitch

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

major potholes

It rained last night. It was still raining lightly when I left the apartment this morning. Normally, I would just walk, but because I had to meet other people to visit a new apartment farther away, I rode my bike out. The people here have a little stand on their bike handles on which they put an umbrella when it rains. Since I have no such pole, I wore a poncho instead to stay dry and to keep my backpack from getting wet. Ironically, after our meeting, I needed to go to the “wet” market to buy some vegetables (potatoes and string beans) and bananas for dinner — and it was, indeed, wet. A lady told me that I needed to go deep into the market to reach the potato section and in order to get there, I needed to go around the corner. The street turned out to have these major potholes which would have blown my tires or splashed water all over me. I ended up walking my bike around these puddles of mud.

Today, I pitched the book idea to my teammates. Though it was received warmly, it was also evaluated critically. There was a lot of brainstorming going on, which I expected and for which I was grateful. I have a feeling that if this is done thoughtfully and prayerfully, it has the potential of bearing fruit. Insha’Allah.

A Boy and his Dog

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Bessie Girl

A few of us helped some teammates move into their new house today. There were boxes, tables, and toys to be cleaned and moved. Going up and down the stairs gave me quite a workout. The family just recently adopted this cute little puppy. Around here, where dogs are basically a delicacy, they keep her inside the house as much as possible. When she does go out, she’s very closely watched. The family mentioned that a couple of their neighbors had also just gotten puppies. Even though one of the dogs is smaller than Bessie, she’s quite frightened of her and would run away. As the standard of living in this area increases, certain pockets are allowing for more luxuries, and it would seem that more and more people around here are starting to own pets. In Shanghai, it is definitely vogue to have a chic pet dog. Here, the trend is picking up among those who have just a little more than their neighbor.

Visitors, visitors!

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

A friend called to ask if I wanted to hang out today and offered to make lunch for me. She asked if I had any requests, and the only dish I had a craving for was Gui Lin Mi Fen, the noodle dish I had when I first arrived here. Sure enough, she came over and whipped out this dish (along with a couple of vegetable dishes) with the ingredients she brought along with her. She made just enough for the two of us (by the way, that’s my Starbucks mug).

桂林米分

It was a real pleasure getting to know her during our lunch together. While we were chatting, another friend called to see if I wanted to have dinner that evening, which I obliged. Then, just when I hung up the phone, I hear the doorbell. It was my neighbor girls, and one of their little brothers came along this time! I had to tell them that I had a guest over and could not play with them. Afterwards, my lunch buddy said that there was someone who wanted to meet me and asked if she could come over. How can I say no? So, I met a new friend today and we talked for most of the afternoon. She is a veterinarian with a very interesting job! She checks for diseases in farm animals that could potentially affect farmers’ livelihood. During our conversation, the girls rang the doorbell again checking to see if my guests have left. Nope. Then, I get a phone call that I could not answer because all these things were happening. Finally, it was time for me to bike over to the other friend’s house for dinner. It was nice to get out of the apartment for the first time that day. On my way back from dinner, I get another phone call from a friend in Shanghai. I ended up walking my bike and talking on the phone for 30 minutes to go back to my apartment. What a day for visitors!

Yesterday, I made myself a noodle dish (I’ve been craving for noodles more and more these days). It doesn’t look too fancy, but I’m quite proud of it. It was yummy, too!

homemade meal

Delightful Day

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Kaya: An American Girl

Today, I spent most of the morning reading. Without feeling guilty. Dream come true. Because I was an English teacher for most of my working adult life, I always seem to read textbooks and novels that my students would have to be reading. As a teacher, reading books for me was “work.” For the first time in a very long time, I read for pleasure!

Speaking of books, the packages that I had sent over to myself arrived today! After some miscommunication with the courier and coaxing the driver to take me to the place, I finally picked them up. Extra winter clothes, some DVDs, fun hobby stuff, books, and more books were in those boxes. It felt like Christmas. I had forgotten how much I need books in my life until I went without them for a week!

Another good thing that happened today is finding the place where they sell frozen chicken legs (ah, the things we take for granted!). I had to hunt for the place after someone tipped me off as to the exact location. In these parts, if I want chicken, I have to get the whole chicken because they kill them right on the spot. I think I’m set for the next few months — I bought 5 kilos worth.

Finally, I rejoiced to find olive oil on the shelf in the nearest supermarket! One of my goals this week is to make my own bread. For some reason, I can’t find butter anywhere. I found that olive oil is a good substitute. Besides, I can use it to make salad dressing and other stuff, too. It was a little pricey (imported good), but I invested in it, figuring it will be well worth its value.

Today was a delightful day indeed!

一 天 濄 一 天

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

One day passes on to another day.

I spent most of this day writing. I had very few distractions except for two little girls who came by and wanted to play. We chatted for a little bit and I popped The Little Mermaid on DVD when they got bored. So, I had company while I continued writing. I never thought I’d see the day when I could just write for a whole day. Dream come true. I suppose this is a little like living out the stereotype of the “starving artist” — out of work for the sake of his/her art … I would argue though, “except if one’s food IS the art.”

In the evening, I left the apartment for a bike ride around town. I tend to automatically visit the park a lot more now, like I’m just drawn to the party there every night, such as this big dance troupe:

Night Dancing!

I took this picture on a raised platform in the middle of the square so I can capture the scope of the size. There were two groups, actually, seemingly competing for attention because both their sound systems blared all across the park. From what I understand, they dance every night when weather permits. No wonder their moves are all perfectly synchronized, as though they’ve been doing this for months, if not years. This is their pastime, what they do after work, after dinner. A day passes into another day, and they just dance.

more dancing

It’s a simple life, really, literally dancing the night away. What a way to live. No TV — just dancing. At one point during the night, I stood in the back and watched their steps. I took country line dancing class once, so I know a thing or two about steps. It is such a big group that I would not feel at all self-conscious if I followed and studied the steps from behind. I have in mind to join them one of these nights …

Chinese Cotton Candy

What’s a party at the park without cotton candy? I thought this was an interesting contraption. At first, I thought it was a homemade machine, but it turned out to be this fancy thing that uses white refined sugar to make cotton candy. I didn’t buy any, but it sure gave the place a carnival-like feel. Imagine this scene happening every night!

Chinese Popcorn

What is a carnival without popcorn? Even if it’s sweet popcorn. I am particular to buttery popcorn myself. I actually asked to take a picture of this cart instead of sneaking in a shot like I usually do. He was kind and even posed for me. After that, we chatted a little bit. He said that he’s not really a native of Guangxi and that he’s from Hebei up north. I offered that I was also an outsider in this town. He was interested in knowing what I thought of Chinese people as a foreigner. I told him it is like being with family. I asked him if he had any buttered popcorn that’s not sweet and he said “no.” I looked over his corn kernels with interest and he said that he did not get them locally; he said that one day, he’ll tell me where he got them. Can’t wait.

Vestiges of Old China

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Every time I leave my apartment to go exploring, I’m always wanting to see traditional China. I want to see that distinct place, untouched by the modern world, much less by western influence. However, I think that I am coming to a sad realization that the China in my imagination is either farther from where I live or is no more. Gone are the gray suits and bamboo seats and communal courtyards.

I got up early to bike over to the park where people do Tai Chi exercises. I expected a whole big group in the square following a master teacher. Instead, there were little groups scattered about the huge park. One of the ones that fascinated me, as I walked around the park, was the Sword Tai Chi group which consisted of mostly older women. It is amazing to watch their control over these long (and seemingly heavy) swords.

Tai Chi Sword

The biggest group I saw was in the plaza square where people were doing Tai Chi exercises. The different colors of their clothing suggest an attitude of individuality that I did not expect. They wore jogging pants and sweatshirts, even headbands and wristbands. Modern, indeed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/health/28brody.html

Early Morning Tai Chi

Dancing is a very popular pastime here in Guangxi. People love to dance as much as they love to sing. I watched these women prepare for their dance exercises on a raised platform in the park. Dressed in their snazzy black leotards and colorful blouses, they waited as the dance teacher set up the music using this huge sound system they wheeled into the park.

Dance Group

To illustrate the contrast between the old and the new, I came across this area where one side was used as a volleyball court and the other side was used for doing Tai Chi. The volleyball players looked about middle-age, definitely not younger than 40 years old. To the right of the court were senior citizens practicing their Sword Tai Chi.

Volleyball

It is as though this area simply confirmed my musings that the romance of traditional China is indeed a part of the past and that, at the very least, there is now a merging of the old and new. While I continue to look for vestiges of old China, I have a feeling I’ll find it within the details of the new fabric.

Movie Night

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
The Miracle Box

The Miracle Box

I invited a few of the single women over to watch this movie called “The Miracle Box.” It was an appropriate movie to watch because, as singles, we sometimes need encouragement and a reminder of what is important in life. The story is set during the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong and how this young doctor was prepared “for such a time as this.” The movie is about her relationship and eventual marriage to another doctor who taught her how to make these “miracle boxes” in which one offers up prayers and petitions up to heaven. Without giving too much of the movie away, the miracle box changes the lives of those around them.

Afterwards, everyone stayed around for another hour or two chatting about the movie and sharing our own personal stories. It just goes to show that love is one universal human experience we can share with anyone, no matter who we are, where we came from, or how we got here.

Water Calligraphy

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

long smooth strokes

After dinner, I took a walk at the park. It was a nice, cool autumn evening and I expected more people. The last time I was here in the summer, there were throngs of people milling about. I think I got there too early because I saw people just beginning to set up the boom box for the nightly dancing (yes, nightly!). I woke up really early this morning (jetlag?) and I was feeling tired, so I decided it would just be a quick stroll. Next time, I’ll be sure hang around longer to watch the dancers. What I did see was water calligraphy. These men held long calligraphy brushes with a tube on top of it where they filled it with water. I’ve seen this before but this was the first time I actually stopped to watch.

short quick strokes

I don’t know the significance of this practice, but when I googled it, I saw that it is an ancient Chinese discipline that probably originated from Buddhism. In fact, after the water calligrapher finished his paragraph and after he had a captive audience, he went ahead and read it out loud as if doing a sermon. I wish I knew enough to understand him.