New Friends & Xiananigans

This week centered around new friends, new adventures, and overall contentment with Zhongguo life.

When I last left you, it was the end of Week 4. Week 5, my most successful teaching week is due to a friend of Ruth’s who teaches at another university here in Xi’an and whose wife, Homey was responsible for Ruth and I’s Hainan airfare tickets. Ruth informed me of the success he had with a “Meet the Famous Painter” conversational fluency activity. This lesson involved discussing famous painters and their artwork. I chose Van Gogh, Picasso, Munch, Renoir, and Dali. The paintings I chose included the Portrait of Doctor Gachet, The Old Guitarist, The Scream, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and The Persistence of Memory respectfully. I provided my students with bios and explanations of the painters and their artworks. I chose either challenging pieces or ones that provided interesting stories and details. It was baffling to see many of my classes that are not usually so active, really show their interest in their lesson. I had many students who went above and beyond, and looked up additional information about their painters. In my larger classes, I paired students up so that more students were participating as a painter. Those whom were not chosen (I even had classes that had so many volunteers that I could not even choose everyone) were required to view the painting and then brainstorm questions to ask the painter(s). I was the curator of the gallery so I stepped in whenever necessary. I heard from students whom usually never speak more than a few words or speak only when I force them to. Students volunteered; this was the breakthrough I have been seeking! I now have a lot to work towards, because this lesson was clearly one of the more exciting lessons I provided to my students so I must not disappoint them in the coming weeks.

Aptly named Gaga KTV, we upheld its name and sang every Lady Gaga song this difang provided.

In addition to teaching, it was Isabella’s birthday. Isabella is a foreign student at the university; she hails from Austria. We dined at Delhi Darbar, the Indian restaurant I have often talked about. I met many new foreign students, all attending XISU. Saturday and Sunday’s weather was rather miserable, so it was decided we would brighten Isabella’s special day by going to KTV. We sang for several hours, but as I had to teach the next day and Isabella and the others had to attend classes, we shortened our time and sang our hearts out. I went home with a rather sore throat, but the exorbitant amount of fun I had made it well worth it.

On Tuesday, I had lunch with Hui Li, Mike, and Gaby & Liv, two of Hui Li’s former students at a farmer-style restaurant located just off the new campus. I’m including a picture of an extremely spicy fish dish (above) that yes, I ate. It is certainly in the running for the most spicy dish I have consumed in China thus far. Gaby & Liv were insistent on teaching me their Chinese names; we ended with me calling them their family nicknames, Bei Bei and Hui Hui. These girls are hilarious, spontaneous, and they understand the subtle nature of sarcasm. It makes having conversations with them an absolute delight! They invited me to spend my day off with them, with hopes of spending the entire day with me…that seemed a bit much to me so we opted to speak later in the week and make definite plans.

On Wednesday, I spent time with Ruth and Sara. This is becoming a regular occurrence. This week we headed to this placed nicknamed the “Hole-in-the-wall.” It is a wholesaler that provides Western goods to restaurants in Xi’an. The most important item you can purchase here is cheese, real cheese to be correct. The cheese is purchased in 5 kilo slabs, and must be spilt between several people. I ended up purchasing 10 kilos’ worth of New Zealand cheddar cheese. Let me say, it was worth the 100 kuai I paid for my chuck. I recently cooked myself pasta and the cheddar cheese melted nicely on top. In addition, I’ve been following in Sara’s footsteps and recently enjoyed some melted cheddar on bagels and toast. Mmmm…just thinking about it is making my mouth water.

On Thursday the 24th, after meeting them during my previous Saturday night out at Park Qin, I accompanied two new German teachers to the canteen for lunch. Linda and Tine (pronounced Tina) are both very entertaining, adventurous, and great company. We got to know each other over these delightfully delicious green noodles. Linda is only visiting for a short time, but will be returning in September. Tine will be here until the end of the term. At lunch, we planned to have a much needed night out that coming weekend. On Saturday, we grabbed a drink or two at Park Qin and opted for some dancing at Fantasy,one of many clubs in and around Xi’an. It was a nice change of pace to enjoy the company of teachers significantly closer to my age (Linda and Tine are 25) and we have agreed to have lunch every Thursday.

On my day off, Friday, as planned, I spent time with some of Hui Li’s former students. Yang Di, Bei Bei, Hui Hui, and I spent the afternoon making pottery, dining on delectable Chinese dishes, and exploring Da Yanta (The Big Wild Goose Pagoda). Here is a short photo montage of our day:

Making pottery with Hui Hui. I made a very attractive bowl which I then proceeded to ruin. It wasn’t until several tries later that I came close to approximating my first and most successful attempt at pottery-making.

From Left to Right: A dish whose name I can’t recall, eggplant and green beans, and baozi (dumplings) filled with broth. There is a special technique to consuming these delicious treats. You must first take a small bite, then with a soup spoon (the Chinese ladle kind) allow all the broth to seep out onto the spoon,  then drink the broth, and finally dip your baozi into soy sauce and enjoy. 
Victory! We made it up the 264 steps. Let’s just say it’s a miracle I didn’t trip and fall; the steps were far too tiny for my big Western feet. Clearly this Pagoda was made nearly 1,500 years ago with only Chinese feet in mind!
Yang Di, Me, Bei Bei, and Hui Hui. Yes, I am aware this photo is slightly blurry, but unfortunately many Chinese people do not know how to use a camera properly. This woman took five or six photos and this is by far the best one. We couldn’t necessarily ask her to take more because of the concept of losing/saving face (it would be deemed disrespectful if we didn’t seem to appreciate her taking the time to photograph us).
The mini Drum Tower at Da Yanta. The tower contains 108 tablets for 108 living people, an auspicious number in Buddhism. The majority of those who have a tablet are either rich or extremely famous. 

Monks chanting sutras
Hoping for some luck.  It is said if you rub his belly, your life will be filled with good luck. This incarnation of Buddha is the most well-known: Happy Buddha. 

I am aware I have an entire new week to make up for, as today is the first of April, but this teaching week continues for me tomorrow. Yes, I am required to teach on a Saturday, as I will have both Monday and Tuesday off for Qing Meng festival (Tomb Sweeping Day). I will update on those days as this evening is winding down for me, and I have only just managed to get my photos in this entry to cooperate with me, move where I tell them to etc. Look forward to my next entry as I discuss this week’s past lesson, the Wednesday’s gang attempt to find the fabric market, an amazing food find, and some new “Xiananigans.” Finally, if you are a devoted reader, then please follow this blog, either by email subscription (at the bottom of my homepage) or through Google connect. If you are unsure how, please contact me and I will instruct you how to do so.

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