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Tuesday, May 3, 2011



Yesterday I met up with my friend Charles, who graciously invited me to his home for the May holiday (basically the Chinese labor day). From the little I could read about his hometown, Jinchang, it seems to be an industrial town that was created from the discovery of Nickel and various other minerals/ores. Charles told me that the town was only created 30 years ago and someone else told me it’s the richest city in Gansu (although the capital is Lanzhou). The city itself is north of Lanzhou - 4 hours by train.

Charles said that his hometown was in the desert. HOLY CRAP, he wasn’t kidding! On the train, I couldn’t believe how remote this city was - just nothing around - no trees, no bushes, just a few of those scraggly little plants that seem to survive no matter what the conditions are. The terrain around the city is like it is around Midland/Odessa, but more barren, if you can imagine.

From being here only a day and a little longer, I can tell that this place has a lot of money and is fairly new - the streets are clean and the buildings still look brand new and I haven’t seen any signs of real poverty yet - whereas I saw them the minute I arrived in Lanzhou. It doesn’t have the huge buildings crammed together like Lanzhou or Beijing, but everything is nice and spaced out - not unlike Tyler or any other mid-sized city in America. Charles has a very nice home - 2 bedroom apartment, and his parents are very nice. I have a LOT of trouble understanding his father, but his mother is a little easier to understand.

We mostly relaxed yesterday and watched some TV - there was a really interesting program about Chinese students who were the first to go to America to get college degrees. I couldn’t understand a lot of it, but I got the general picture. There was another interesting show on CCTV English about this dude named Rewi Alley from Australia. I didn’t watch a lot, but I’d like to learn more about him.

A few things I noticed about Jinchang, or at least from my limited experience there, is that people seem to like sour foods (I don't like sour stuff much, so sometimes it was hard to eat, but I put a brave face on). Even the kind of hotpot (huo guo) that I had was a little sour - strange. (remember, hotpot is a type of food where there is a huge pot over fire and you put in vegetables and meat into a type of soup to be cooked. When the food is done, you get your chopsticks and get the food out of the soup, which has flavored the meat).

I also had something called Pai Gu, which is a family meal (can't get in restaurants) where meat that is on the bone is cooked in a spiced type of soup with potatoes and peppers.....oh man, delicious.

In Jinchang, I also had the best food I've ever had in China - it was a street food called Kang Guo Zi. This food is prepared when you order it - it is meat, blocks of tofu, onions, and peppers seasoned with cumin and a couple of other spices cooked with a squirt of soy sauce. It's cooked on a huge flat piece of metal over a fire. It was magical, it really was. It was that type of food where every bite is just as good or even better than the last - no matter how much you ate of it, you wanted more. The taste was sweet and spicy mixed with the flavor of the soy sauce, pepper, onions, and meat. The sad part is that it is a Jinchang specialty - you can't get it anywhere else and people who don't live there have never heard of it. Too bad.

I've got some videos I need to put up, but for some reason, I've been having problems with YouTube - they'll upload to 85% or so and then stop. Just stop. I dunno why. I have no problems with other websites, just YouTube.

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