April 17. English Conversation and Rice Noodles. We have mentioned that we meet with any students who want to practice English speaking and listening skills on
Wednesday evenings and mid-day on Sundays.
Waiting for students to arrive
A session in progress
Since one of the topics that seems to arise often (could it be due to supper time and lunch time??) is food. So, after a discussion of various kinds of noodles and our different favorites — though almost everyone loves Lanzhou noodles — we decided to try rice
noodles at a shop near Beifangziaoziwang, the dumpling restaurant that everyone loves. So, we met at East gate on a cold and damp Sunday evening to go to the noodle restaurant, whose name translates into “makes the whole street smell good.” And it did! We have tried rice noodles before, but they are slippery and long, and I (Finnie) got more on my shirt than into my mouth — much to the hilarity of the shop owner. (I like to bring joy and happiness everywhere I go!) Perhaps, it was the stress of looking more and more like Jabba the Hutt progressively being covered with spaghetti over the course of the trial that made me less enthusiastic about rice noodles that I probably should have been. Anyway, on April 17, I had ramped up my courage and resigned myself to another display of
food art on clothing! However, I discovered that the noodles were not as difficult to handle (with chop sticks) as I had remembered, and they were wonderful — especially when the spicy variety was supplemented with several scoops of my beloved hot pepper
sauce. We had about 12 girls from the conversation groups with us and sort of overwhelmed the dining space of the small shop — but we all enjoyed it very much, as you can see from the photos:
Some of the girls.
Some more of the girls spread over two more tables
Notice how few noodles have been deposited on my shirt
April 23-24. Qingdao.
Deb and had never been to Qingdao (often spelled Tsingtao, in the western world), so when our manager, Yin Chuanbo, mentioned the possibility of a weekend trip there, we gave an enthusiastic, “yes! Count us in!” We have always heard that Qingdao is a beautiful city with a lot of interesting features. It is many times larger than Weihai, but it isn’t very far away to the southwest on the southern side of the Shandong peninsula. Like Weihai, it is a beautiful port city but with somewhat milder weather. Unlike Weihai it is quite old. In fact, people have been living there in villages and towns for at least 6,000 years. It was a German city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so not surprisingly, its most famous product is Tsingtao beer. In the early years of the 20th century, it was home to one of the architects of the Chinese revolution, Sun Yatsen. In recent decades, two of China’s big manufacturing companies, Haier (home appliances) and Hisense (electronics) were founded there. So, we were very happy to have a chance to visit. We boarded our little bus at 8:00 AM on Saturday and headed out on a four-hour drive.
Our driver and tour guide
After a very nice lunch at our hotel, we drove to the water front to see the beautiful park that forms the central part of the vast bay that makes Qingdao’s harbor very secure.
Deb in front of the Qingdao pier
On the Qingdao Pier
Southern rim of the city shore line
A fisherman on the Qingdao Pier
Figure 13. Resting at the shore
Relaxing at the shore
Qingdao was the venue for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition. We drove over to that area and enjoyed the beauty and recreational activities there.
A bicycle built for 3 to 5!
Electric cars for kids to drive — and for everyone else to dodge!
Yacht marina at the sailing venue
In the evening, it was rainy and we had a very nice dinner at the hotel. Deb and I retired early while the younger people went out on the town to the “food street.” The next day, we departed after breakfast to the Qingdao Zhong Shan Gong Yuan — a big public park that is a combination of children’s carnival rides and games and gardens, lakes, arboretums, and pavilions for groups to perform various forms of music. Deb and I really enjoyed the leisure and beauty of the park.
Our Troup at the entry of Qingdao Zhong Shan Gong Yuan
Deb at the small pavilion near one of the lakes
A big group playing Taiji to music
Note the sign under the rod this man is casting. Apparently “No Fishing” — like “Please remain seated with your seat belts securely fastened until the Captain has switched off the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign” upon landing is merely a suggestion!
The Green Bottle Road. Way Cool
in Qingdao to use Qingdao bottles to make a nice path.
The Qingdao tower, viewed from the park
Little girl riding the “Wall Street Bull.”
When we left the park it was really lunchtime so we drove to a nice restaurant to eat. When we arrived the entry was blocked by a wedding party. The Bride and groom arrived in wedding attire and were greeting by a battery of cannon that fired colorful confetti, drummers, and dragons. Much activity occurred while they waiting at the street before advancing through the gauntlet to the restaurant. Then, when they reached the steps, they stopped and faced the crowd while the dragons circled and hovered over their heads — presumably for photo opportunities.
One of the dragons doing its thing
The Couple following the dragons to the steps
Figure 29. At the Steps, the couple turns
to face the crowd while the two dragons hover over them.
Figure 30. And on the street another just
married couple goes by in their little Bimmer.
Eventually, we were able to go into our room in the restaurant and eat a delicious lunch. After that we boarded our bus for the drive back to Weihai.
We really enjoyed the brief visit to Qingdao, and If we ever get rich (right!!!! ) , we’d like to go back and stay longer!
The ride back to Weihai was uneventful, but, because I always enjoy seeing farming activity, it was beautiful and pleasant to see the farms and scenery we were passing. Weihai Prefecture extends 40 – 50 km in the direction toward Qingdao, and while it contains several towns, there is a good deal of agricultural production there, too. We have previously described the mariculture of the region.
The scenery where we entered Weihai prefecture on our return trip.
People doing various kinds of farming.
April 26. Learning Chinese and Poetry. Sue, Zheng Shuhong, our teacher has started giving me reading assignments in Chinese. (I imagine that she must spend an enormous amount of time, trying to find something that is interesting but also containing mainly words I should know. (Don’t tell her, but I don’t remember all the words I have learned. Just kidding, I’m pretty sure that she knows this!) Anyway, some of these are funny stories, but the shortest one is this one — a poem written by Wang Wei (王维) who was a famous poet in the Tang Dynasty, and he lived between 699 and 761. He was a painter and wrote many quatrains.
The translation is:
See the colorful mountain in the distance,
Listen to the silent water nearby.
Spring has gone but flowers still remain,
People come, but do not disturb the birds.
I enjoy these challenges very much, and I really enjoyed this poem because I can easily see the painting he describes in my mind’s eye.
April 29. Lunch at Amy and Frank’s House. May 1 is Memorial Day here, so there was a long weekend. Amy invited us to her house for lunch. We always love to go their house because the food is good and we have so much fun! This time was not different in that regard. Amy’s mother Pan Luolan yisheng (Dr. Luolan Pan) has moved to Weihai and lives with Amy and Frank now. She was an obstetrician, but she is an outstanding cook, too! She prepared a wonderful meal for us (about half Chinese dishes and half western dishes) and we ate and ate! One special treat for us was to hear she and Amy sing together! They obviously have enjoyed singing together over the years and they sing western songs as well as Chinese. Here are some photos of our meal and Luolan and Frank preparing things. Frank and Amy made the jiaozi and we helped make a few, too. Mine were readily identifiable by their rather deformed appearance, but they tasted just as good!
Pan Luolan yisheng frying chicken
Frank happily making jiaozi
Luolan working in the kitchen. (completely remodeled since we were here last.)
Figure 37. Lunch is served. Fried chicken, Russian soup, potato salad, cabbage salad with yoghurt, jiaozi, steamed Rice cake, cucumbers, snow peas — are what I can remember.
Figure 38. Closer view of the dishes
Figure 39. Amy and Luolan singing
We enjoyed visiting during and after the meal! So, after we finished stuffing ourselves, we gathered in the living to visit before I had to go to my 2:00 P.M class.
After dinner chat
Frank and Finnie
A picture in the living room
One interesting thing we learned is that Amy and Frank grow silk worms in their
living room as a project for fun. This year’s crop are just starting out, and they are very small, but they eat constantly and in a few weeks will have grown to a huge size and spun a
cocoon of silk. Amy and Frank have harvested the silk in the past and are saving up the small amounts they produce each year. How fun! The silk worms only eat mulberry leaves. But they eat all the time and they grow fast!
Figure 43. The silk worm farm. Frank and Amy had just picked a bag full of
mulberry leaves to feed the worms, which are little black specks in this photo
A close-up of the previous picture showing the little worms better.
Silk harvested last year.
April 29. P.M. Singing in English Competition. We had been asked a couple of days earlier to help judge a contest of students singing songs in English. We agreed to
do so. Well, the weather was very mild when we agreed, but by that Friday, it was very windy and threatening to rain, and much colder. The competition was held outside on a little square (where the cobbler who made Deb a shoe insert in March works.) We arrived about 15 minutes before the competition started and immediately realized that this might
be a challenge for the judges, but especially for the competitors. The wind was gale strength — seemed like almost hurricane strength — and it was blowing lights over, screens apart, and bringing distinct chilliness to the air. Sand and other debris was pelting everyone. It was not what the students ordered for this occasion. However, the show must go on and it did — for three hours. These students continue to amaze us. We were sitting there with four or five other judges wearing coats, gloves, and hats. Many of the contestants who had to dress for the part were wearing sometimes just a T-shirt and pants. The wind created havoc for the sound system, too. Anyway, in two phases, the top singer from a group 12 was finally selected. She was awesome!
The winning Singer
April 30. DaRunFa, Pizza, and a movie. We have been thinking we need to make a trip to Darunfa, aka RT Mart, for the past two months but there is always something that happens causing us to postpone. However, this, being a holiday weekend, somehow left us with time to go. We asked Sue if she would like to go, to have pizza, and then to come back home for another episode of Wild China. She did and she said she would bring her friend, Zhou Jiahui. So, we agreed to meet at South Gate, where we would take a taxi. RT Mart is a very large department store that has a larger selection of grocery items than most other department stores, and moreover, a pretty good selection of western foods — like spaghetti sauce, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, etc. It is all the way downtown, so we don’t go very often. While we waited for Sue and Jiahui, Deb took pictures of the activities there. We have included some typical scenes of our neighborhood across from the south gate, as well, below.
The tax district building dominates our neighborhood, which was built by
the tax district as housing for its employees.
At night it has neon light outlining it that change from color to color.
The bus stop across from Haiyue where we buy most of our food and other needs.
Figure 49. The downtown pizza buffet
Figure 50. Back at home. Deb, Sue, and Jiahui
May 1. Visit Bin and Jenny. Our new neighbors are a very nice young couple who moved here from Beijing a couple of weeks before we got back to Weihai, and we mentioned having dinner with them at Beifanziaoziwang last time. Zhu Xinbin (Bin) manages a new office of Shinetech here in Weihai and Zhou Xingcui (Jenny) is the Assistant Manager. Bin and Jenny graduated from SDUW, then started work in Chongqing before moving to Beijing to work for Shinetech. After their daughter, Tongtong, was born, they decided to move back to Weihai. They are living in our building until they find the right house to buy. His mother, Tongtong’s Nainai, lives with them and cares for Tongtong. So, we had been trying to find a time to get together again, but we have all been 很忙 — very busy. As I mentioned, May 1 is a holiday, and so we were all available. Deb and I visited in their home and enjoyed playing with Tongtong and meeting Nainai. Tongtong is now over ten months old and can say a few words — like mama, baba and she can wave “byebye” and express “thank you” and blow a kiss! She is standing and crawling really well. So, she will very soon be walking and talking a lot. It was so much fun to see her in her play room, with her books, stuffed toys, and talking doll! After a little while, she decided we were OK, so she let us hold her and interacted with us nicely.
At dinner time, we all (except Tongtong, who was carried, of course) walked to a restaurant a couple of blocks away from our neighborhood. It may have been there a long time — they had not noticed it before, but it was very nice and the food was very good, basically like home cooking, so we stuffed ourselves once again. It was a great find for us! We enjoy finding new restaurants that serve delicious food!
Figure 51 Jenny, Nainai, and Tongtong greet us
Playing with Tongtong in her room
Playing with Tongtong in her room
Playing with Tongtong in her room — her talking doll
Figure 55. Playing with Tongtong in her room
At the restaurant
At the restaurant
Jenny and Bin at the restaurant
At the restaurant
After dinner, when we got back to our house, it was nearly time for Tongtong to go to bed, so we said good night, and thanks for a great day!
May 2. Lunch with Zoe, the Zhang family and the Lian family. Zoe invited us to lunch on the holiday, and we went to lunch at the White Swan Hotel, next to the city government building. It is an elegant hotel and has a very nice restaurant. I had offered a little advice to Jason Zhang, who wants to study in the US for a couple of years, and we were told that the Zhangs wanted to thank us for the help. It was nice to see them again, but the really big thanks was not needed for the really little amount of help I had given Jason. I was just happy to do it! Anyway, we had a very nice visit! Mr. Lian and later his wife also arrived to share the meal. We also had the pleasure of the company of the restaurant manager’s wife and son. The son is 11, but wants to study in the U.S., so he was there to meet a couple of old Americans! Ted Lian, the Lian’s son was not present, but he wants to study for the masters degree in the U.S., and he is graduating from his university this semester. The dinner and conversation were very nice! I enjoyed talking with Jason especially because he is getting very excited about going to UNK this summer to participate in the 1+2+1 program. Perhaps we will see him in America!
The Luncheon party at the White Swan
After lunch at the White Swan
May 6. Dinner and a movie with English Conversation Corner students. At the end of last Wednesday evening’s session, we decided to go have dinner and then go to our house to watch a portion the BBC film, Wild China. One of the girls, Lu Xiaomin, from Qingdao, is planning a trip to Inner Mongolia with her brother this summer, so I thought it might be fun to watch the portion of Wild China that deals with that area. So, 8 girls came on this adventure. We meet at South Gate and walked past our house to the restaurant (which, because it is in the opposite direction from one that students would normally follow to go out to eat, was worrying some of them a good deal!) Anyway, we went to the same restaurant that Bin and Jenny had taken us — in fact Jenny called the restaurant and set up a reservation for us in a private dining room — Thanks Jenny, it was great! She also gave me a list of some of the dishes we had eaten before, so I was able to start the ordering with four dishes I knew would be good. I asked the girls to pick some more dishes, so we finally had about 7 dishes, all of which I thought were delightful. After we finished, we went back to our house to have dessert. During the afternoon, Deb had made two apple pies! So, we had a great time eating apple pie (with cheddar cheese — which made the pie seem less sweet and therefore, better), and talking while the movie played!
Our English Conversation dinner party
Our English Conversation dessert Party
Our English Conversation dessert Party
May 7. BaMaCha, KFC, Visit with Lulu. Lulu suggested that we go to RT Mart, but Deb and I had just been a week ago and our finances probably cannot take another visit there — especially since we (i.e., I) wanted to go to BaMa (8 Horses) tea shop for some tea. So, we decided to go separately and then meet at BaMa. After sampling the tea for an extended period, we purchased 1 kg of tieguanyin tea, and grabbed a taxi to the KFC. We had a good dinner of chicken sandwiches, fries, and chicken nuggets, followed by ice cream cones, and then took a taxi to see Lulu and Zheng Qun’s new house. That’s right! Lulu and Zheng Qun (her fiancée) made the leap and began the process of buying a house! It is both similar and a little different from the process in the U.S. First, you find the right place. Check. They found a great brand-new building and choose a south facing unit on the 9th floor. The building is still under construction so it is just a steel and concrete structure right now. But they will have a wonderful view over the adjacent building to the mountains. The construction phase will be complete by the end of this year. Next, you make the down payment. More or less check. Then when the building is complete (but without finishing — things like wall coverings, floor coverings, cabinets. closets, appliances, and fixtures), you secure the bank loan for the remaining price of the house. Not exactly a match with the U.S. process. Then you enter into contracts with various companies for all the interior features. They hope to have all that done by Chinese new year. At this point, they are thinking of being married in late 2011. We think they made a wonderful selection; it will be a great house, and I am sure they will love it! Best wishes, Lulu and Qun!
Zheng Qun and Geng Jinglu
Figure 66. Lulu and Qun’s future (under construction) neighborhood
Lulu and Qun’s house building lower level. Their house will be on the 9th floor