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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Night Markets and Foreign Banquets

Well, this week has been really good - I'm learning how to get into the rhythm of teaching and figuring out what I need to do to keep up my stamina, and having some fun with my classes. It's been fun and challenging!

Well, Fall is here, and Winter is just around the corner, and every morning I wake up and think, "GOD, it's freaking cold this morning..." But hey, Lanzhou gets cold. The central heating doesn't get turned on until November 1st, so I've got about a month before the heat comes on.

One thing that signals the onset of winter is the sweet potato vendors. As you can see, there's an empty oil barrel filled with wood/coals, and the sweet potatoes are baked whole right on top of the barrel.

From what I've heard, this was originally a Beijing/Northeastern tradition, but it seems that over the years, it's made its way out to Lanzhou and other places in China.

I don't eat sweet potatoes, but it's just one of those things that I see and think, "Well, I guess it's officially Fall now."

So, I've been up to a lot this past week - one of the things that I enjoyed the most was my trip to the Zhengning Night Market. It's one of Lanzhou's more famous and popular night markets, and deservedly so. There are a lot of great snacks to be had there.

One of the best things you can have there are the kebabs - lamb kebabs, chicken kebabs, octopus kebabs.....all kinds of great stuff.

They'll have the raw meat on sticks there, and they season it and cook it whenever you order it. It's pretty awesome, and really fresh! You can see the guy here seasoning it with a water bottle poked full of holes filled with the seasoning.

One of my favorite things is the octopus kebabs, and it's great, but the ones I had weren't cooked quiiite long enough, and I was thinking....."And yet again, I'm rolling the dice with my food here." Haha that's part of the deal in China. But I was fine.

It's a chaotic place - crowded, a little hot, dirty, and such delicious food. Oh,'s so awesome, and so uniquely China.

I went there with a Chinese friend who hadn't been to Lanzhou in a while, so I got to sort of play the guide and she got to be the tourist.

We had a lot of fun sitting and chatting about China, America, life, culture, and a lot of great stuff. I was thinking,

"You know, this is life. This is a good time. Just watching the people go by, talking about culture, eating some delicious food, and not really doing anything."

I dunno, I enjoy those little moments of being idle and relaxing in this crazy, chaotic city. It's refreshing.

One thing that I enjoyed a couple of days ago was the Gansu Provincial National Day Reception for Foreign Experts. It was a little gathering for about 100-ish foreign teachers, delegates, and workers in Gansu Province.

I didn't know that it was a really special dinner, but apparently it was. Not a lot of people were invited to this dinner, so I was pretty lucky to go. Lanzhou Jiaotong University is a pretty well-regarded university in the province, so all the teachers were invited to go.

Only about 8 of us went, but it was pretty fun. As you can see, it was a pretty nice spread - a lot of great food, some wine (I don't like win), and some great conversation.

(Also, check out the menu. My favorite one is "Fried Bun stuffed with Vegetarian Stuff"....awesome, huh?)

We got to meet a lot of other foreigners, a few of them who had read my blog. I met a girl from Europe who had emailed me about coming to Lanzhou, and another American teacher who read my blog before coming to Lanzhou.

It was pretty cool to meet them, and it really made me feel like this whole blog thing is finally worth doing. I've gotten emails, met people who've read it, and I keep getting hits. It's nice to know that it's not just numbers - real people are actually reading it.

I always love meeting other foreigners in China, because we're all here for the same reasons - we love China, and we all are here to do something we can't really do back home.

It's also fun to share those funny stories about talking to kids, embarrassing moments, our crazy-normal lives. There's no such thing as a foreigner with a 'boring' life in China, and once you get a bunch of foreigners together, it's readily apparent. Once the China bug bites someone, it's not a bug that people that can easily get rid of.

Until next time,


P.S. - If you guys want to see more pictures of Lanzhou, I've got them up in a couple of albums on Facebook: Here and here and here. I've got way more, but it would be a lot of trouble to put up everything on here. Anyway, yeah......see you guys later!

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