I have been in China for over a month now and it is fascinating to see that every day is an adventure and it comes with a wide range of challenges. My new home is as intriguing as this country’s 5000 years of history. China is interesting for its culture, its main language and many dialects, its food and especially its people. Here is another page of my latest discoveries and experiences on the land of the panda…
AIAN's First Day of School - Dragon Dance
Access International Academy Ningbo (AIAN) is a small international school hosting a little less than 140 students from K-12, and they altogether represent 26 something different nationalities. My Head of School is from the U.K. whereas my colleagues come from the United States, Canada, Russia, the Philippines, Equator, Ukraine, Romania, and of course, China. This worldwide environment is very stimulating for an islander like me.
This year is a stepping stone into ELL inclusive immersion. Instead of pulling out the students from their classroom, the ELL teachers share the class with the homeroom teachers and provide the necessary help via differentiated activities. This is a work in progress that has been proven positive in other international schools.
Xinda Lu Market
To see the buzzing and lively Xinda Lu Market and buy the best local products from the nearby farm lands, you have to wake up early in the morning. Saturday is the best time to go for teachers like me.
Through the alleys, you can see a display of stands filled with different local products. Among those, fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, tofu, eggs as well as a section of oils and different seasonings. If you look very carefully, you may see turtles among the fish baskets… As you walk, you must be careful and avoid the motorbikes and carts which make their way through the busy market.
The smell welcomes you as you enter the fish market. When you buy a fish, the saleslady takes it alive and starts to peel the scales despite the poor thing trying to get away from her grip… Head and tail gone, she cleans it with water, swings it in a plastic bag and voilà! A bit shocking indeed, but who am I to suggest her to cut the head first to stop the fish from suffering?
At the Fish Market
Fish from the Market
Want to buy a chicken? No problem! Choose the one you want and they will kill it right before your very eyes! Don’t forget to take every part of it with you because chicken head and feet upgrade your soup here.
The fruit section is widely displayed. Each season brings a variety of delicious products. You can buy watermelons, lychees, dragon eye (Longan fruit), dragon fruit, Jackfruit and many other items I have never heard of before.
The only fruit I don’t buy at the market is watermelon. I prefer to see the nice watermelon man who parks his truck filled with its fruit load on Minshan Lu, near Xinda Lu. Day after day, I find him reading his newspaper or discussing with people while choosing and weighing his watermelons for his regular clients. I am one of them. My mediocre Chinese makes him smile. His endless kindness makes me smile too.
In brief, if you want to see China’s daily life, I suggest you experience a market. This is what brings people together.
At the Hairdresser
I had quite an interesting experience at the hairdresser the other day… As my colour was due, I decided to give it a try and entered in a Chinese hairdresser. I brought an interpreter with me so she explained exactly what I wanted. She told me it would take an hour.
Two hours later, I had four men hairdressers staring at my hair and making sounds that made me think something was wrong… After I called my interpreter and passed her on to one of them, I was told that my scalp was not ready to receive the colour! It had to cool down!!! Are you kidding me???
I left the place three hours later thinking that I should really find the colour treatment and do it myself.
The Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival
The Moon Festival is held on the 15th of the eighth Chinese lunar month and is an interesting long term tradition where people celebrate the harvest through a wide range of ceremonies. It dates back to ancient times when the emperors worshipped the moon for the good harvest. A number of legends and songs liven up during this event.
The 2011 Moon Festival will take place from September 10 to 12. People offer moon cakes to their friends and family. They come in an assortment of colourful metallic or wooden boxes, and go from cheap to very expensive. The moon cakes come in hundreds of different flavours; some are filled with either bean paste, fermented egg yolks while others contain sugar, fat and fruits.
The firecrackers have been around China for a long time. Even if they are banned from many cities, Beilun has one to several daily episodes of that noisy tradition. Firecrackers are meant to bring good luck for restaurant openings, weddings and even to chase ghosts! Many Chinese people think this is not a good tradition to keep and wish it was only allowed during the Chinese New Year’s festivities. The first time I heard them, I thought the place was being attacked by the enemy… It is that loud!
The People of China
Chinese people are extremely nice and appreciate the efforts we, foreigners, make to speak their language. Everybody wants to help you and some people keep on talking to you even after you clearly make signs or some sort of visual contact that mean you are clueless about what they are saying.
Being a foreigner in China also means that you are a visible minority. To bargain is not easy because here, there is a price for the Chinese and a price for foreigners.
The most interesting fact is that, when I do my shopping with my foreign colleagues, people slow down and stare at us, particularly when we struggle with certain items. On some occasions, we attract crowds and it becomes impossible to actually move. When we are trapped in such a situation, the best thing to do is to laugh!
It is quite common in China to have a maid, an “ayi” (which literally means: “aunt”). That contributes to provide a family’s salary.
My “ayi” speaks the Ningbo dialect and cannot read or write. We communicate through gestures or via a Mandarin correspondence with her daughter. Luckily for me now, I have some Chinese colleagues who can help me with the language. However, she is very nice and cooks like a chef!
– The sun sets around 6:30 p.m. in summertime.
– I have seen the most beautiful coloured butterflies around.
– When people give you something, change for example, they use their both hands.
– At the restaurant, the rice always comes last among the dishes you order.
– If you want to survive in China, I recommend you don’t drink the tap water. If you go rafting, make sure you don’t open your mouth because a single drop can host unlikely parasites into your stomach and make you sick for days.
– As most public toilets are squatters, always bring tissues and wipers in your bag. That can be very handy for a lot of washrooms don’t have any toilet paper.
– Before you hop on a rickshaw (or trishaw), you must absolutely agree on the price to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding from each part.
Ceramics on Mingzhou Lu