Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Fairer Weather

Posted: August 1, 2011 in Life, Travel
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My accessibility to reliable Internet has been on the fritz lately, I apologize.

Rain has decided to make a timely appearance to Xi’an, and I cannot be more grateful. An overnight shower brought the daytime temperatures down by a full 15 degrees, making venturing outside a lot more bearable. Having made a lot of new friends in the past few days, we made plans to take advantage of the cooler weather and go play some sports.

陕西师范大学老校区 translates directly as Shaanxi Teacher’s University, yet somehow is traditionally translated to Shaanxi Normal University. This archaic term for a training school for teachers is still preserved in China, but is hardly used elsewhere in the world. About two miles from the apartment where I am staying, its outdoor recreational facilities are open to the public to use. From soccer fields to basketball courts to swimming pools, just about anything (minus a climbing wall) is available.

乒乓, or Ping Pong, is an everyman’s sport in China; you’ll be more likely to find a myriad of ping pong tables than tennis courts in any athletic facility. The tables are cast out of concrete for durability, and metal beams are used in place of a net. Just bring your own ball and paddle, and you’re ready to play! At this school, nearly 30 tables were set up side-by-side, and every one was occupied. On a Saturday afternoon, we had to wait about 15 minutes before one opened up for our use. People take their ping pong very seriously here, yells of excitement are not uncommon.

Ping Pong Tables

On this trip, I brought along with me a few Frisbees *ahem* Discraft Ultrastars. Though none of my friends had ever thrown a disc before, either they’re really adept at learning new skills, or I’m just a really good teacher. We had enough numbers for some 4 on 4 Ultimate, and it wasn’t long before we had a nice friendly scrimmage going. A lot of them really took to it, and kids watching from the sidelines joined in too. Unfortunately we were competing for field space with a soccer tournament going on, so next time we’ll have to show up a little earlier to snipe the turf.

A prevalent problem in the United States is that youth are becoming more and more lethargic, becoming less inclined to participate in outdoor activities. Programs such as the Boy Scouts, the NFL’s Play 60 Kids, and even Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Outside” campaign are designed to get people active and playing games, leading to a healthier population. This issue is beginning to come to light in China as well, as kids become more involved in video games, TV, and endless studying. I hope that by organizing twice-a-week Ultimate scrimmages for the rest of my time out here, I can get people excited about this fun activity, and maybe have it become a passion for them. I’ve already promised to leave some of my discs.

Underground Eatery

Of course, any afternoon of hard work cannot go without the reward of a good meal. 6 RMB (90 cents) for a plate of fried rice, plus another 6 RMB for ice-cream afterwards. I think I like it here.

Fried Noodles are available too

Not a straw dispenser, a chopstick dispenser

Dinner with friends

Gas and Electricty

Posted: July 27, 2011 in Life, Travel
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I’m currently staying at an apartment of a friend while he is out of town, so I’ve had to figure out a lot of things on my own. The utilities were close to running out when I got here, it’s been quite an adventure to get things settled. Electricity is managed by the apartment complex, not by a utility company. To get power to the apartment, you have to take this mag-stripe card to the manager’s office, top it up with cash, and then insert it into a reader attached to the electricity meter in your apartment. Instead of sending you a bill every month for how much electricity you’ve used, you have to keep track of how much you’re using as you go along, otherwise it might just cut out on you. Not too much trouble if you’re simply watching TV, but the electrically powered water heater might be missed when taking a shower.

Utility Card Reader

Getting natural gas to power the stove functions in a similar fashion, with a card-reader sitting on the wall above the stove in the kitchen. However, gas isn’t managed by the apartment. Through much broken Chinese with a few English words thrown in here and there, I figured that to top up the gas card, you have to walk down the street about a mile, make two right turns, and go to a store titled (loose translation) “Utility General Store”. For 50 RMB (about 8 dollars), I bought 24 cubic meters of natural gas, enough to facilitate a family of four’s cooking for 2 months. My friend will probably find it useful, this is akin to me filling up his beer-fridge.

There aren’t any dumpsters around here to throw your garbage in, either. After watching the locals for a few days, it turns out that garbage simply goes in a plastic bag outside the front door of the building. Someone comes by to pick it up eventually.

In the days prior to getting gas at the apartment, I’ve been cooking with only electricity. Soft-boiled eggs are made in the electric kettle, and toast is prepared in the toaster oven. Sausages can be thinly sliced and heated up in the oven as well, and the hot water from the electric kettle is used to blanch my vegetables.

Electric Eggs

All Electric Meal

The alternative to cooking is to walk down to the corner market, and buy 包子 (Bao-zi, meat filled rolls) for 6 cents each. I had ten for breakfast yesterday. Going out to dinner is equally cheap, 羊肉泡沫 (Mutton stew with noodles) was $3 last night. With endless options to explore, it may be a while before I even turn on the stove.

Bao Zi, the Breakfast of Champions

Dinner for $3, what's not to like?