Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Orient Express

This blog has been silent the last few weeks because I have been, quite literally, far away from home.  From July 10 to 27 I was in China.  I spent most of my time in the city of Suzhou, helping to lead a best-practices workshop for Chinese EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers. For many reasons (my gentle readers' attention span not least among them) I cannot give a full, or even particularly thoughtful, account of my trip right now. I'm still pondering the weight of our very beautiful-baffling-busy time abroad, so until I have longer stories to tell or deeper reflections to offer, I give you (in order of increasing profundity) a few of the lists I have been making as I look back on my time as a foreigner.

New Culinary Experiences

  • cow stomach
  • spicy frogs
  • chicken feet ("Bite the toes off first," they told me.)
  • sow's ear
  • Peking duck
  • jellyfish
  • duck tongue
  • donkey meat (the entree was advertised as "Griddled Ass")
  • "stinky tofu" 
  • eel

Just some of the tea-related
 paraphernalia I bought in Suzhou. 
Reasons China is Awesome for People Who Love Tea

  • hotel rooms come with a hot water kettle and tea bags (not a nasty, coffee-tasting coffee maker)
  • entire gardens are devoted to tea
  • even small supermarkets offer a wide array of loose, bagged, and instant teas
  • milk tea can be ordered with tapioca-pearl "bubbles"
  • hot tea is served with nearly every meal


Our room in Suzhou came ready for tea.

Much fancier tea service at
our Beijing hotel.

An enchanting tea garden!

Words I Learned Either to Read or to Say (But Not to Write) in Chinese

"Tea" again! I can read!

  • white
  • red
  • gate
  • bridge
  • horse
  • mother
  • eggplant
  • hello
  • tea
  • mouth
  • "I don't want [it]"
  • "I don't know"
  • "See you later!"
  • "How are you?"

Forms of Transportation We Used During Our Trip

See the boats?

  • airplane
  • gondola (both motor-powered and hand-rowed)
  • bullet train (the same day and the same line as the July 22 crash)
  • subway
  • bus
  • taxi
  • personal car
  • cable car
  • ski lift

Miscellaneous Things I Loved about China

  • inexpensive, delicious food
  • family-style meals
  • readily-available public transportation
  • not freezing from overly air-conditioned buildings 
  • cheap, high-quality fountain pens 
  • melon-flavored candy
Miscellaneous Things I Did Not Love about China

  • over-crowded buses and subways (especially in Beijing)
  • having to brush my teeth with bottled water
  • humidity 

Genuinely Beautiful Sights

One of Suzhou's smaller gardens

Tiger Hill, one of the most famous sites in Suzhou and UNESCO World Heritage Site
We had a beautifully clear view of the mountains
surrounding the Great Wall at MuTienYu.

People I Came to Know and Love 

  • Dennis, Agnes, Erin, and Sarah
  • Ken, Jean, Elaine, and Grant
  • Jon, Shelley, and Janae
  • Jody and Amanda
  • Sherry
  • the teachers in our two-week workshop

Questions I Have Not Answered

  • What does it mean to be a "foreigner"?
  • What is the best way to learn Chinese?
  • Have I grown too complacent in the familiar communities and relationships that are home to me?
  • Does the idea of a settled home ever become an idol for me?

1 comment:

  1. I am glad you enjoyed your time in China! We love China and it sounds like you were able to experience a lot more than the "average tourist".