Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Day Feast

Since finding a turkey was out of the question, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving with our fellow sojourner, Tom, at a restaurant in Emei City. At first, Tom wanted to try a new "fusion" restaurant as suggested by our fellow teacher, Mr. Gao. We were going to meet downstairs at around 1730 and travel by hired van to the restaurant. At around 1640, we got a call from Tom stating that Mr. Gao thought the suggested restaurant was too expensive. We both agreed that there would be no Sichuan Hot Pot on our Thanksgiving day celebration.

At 1730, the van picked us up and delivered us to a restaurant called the Ai Er Lai Restaurant and Bar. Mr. Gao and his friend, Jason, were waiting for us in the lounge area. It was a nice restaurant but in a rather isolated location not far from the university

As usual, two lovely ladies welcomed us to the restaurant with smiles and greetings. The place was modern and looked very clean.

We got a private room and settled in for our Thanksgiving meal exchanging pleasantries with Jason and among ourselves. It was a comfortable room, big and attractively decorated.

When it came time to order, we were given a beautifully published menu with tempting pictures of the dishes from which to choose. Mr. Gao and Tom immediately began to check out the dishes.

As Tom looks at the menu to choose, I took this shot to give you an idea of the many beautiful pictures in their menu.

Early on, Tom ran the hostess away so he could choose without feeling intimidated by a waitress hanging around waiting. This is usually what happens with the waitress or hostess patiently standing over one's shoulder to take the order. This hostess was especially nice and pleasant and came back after the appropriate time to take our Thanksgiving order.

I even got into the act by helping Tom and Mr. Gao choose one of the dishes.

We finalized our choices and turned in our order. Tom, Mr. Gao and Jason ordered a bottle of red wine while Sunee drank the standard tea and I got my pepsi. We were all set to enjoy our 2008 Thanksgiving celebration feast.

The following items made up this year's successful Thanksgiving Day Dinner:

The first thing we received was this "kimchi-like" appetizer of shredded radishes. Pretty standard faire in Sichuan. This was DELICIOUS as Tom would never say.

Tom has let it be know to his student daily that the word delicious in describing food is way overused among his students. I tended to agree with his assessment as all food eaten by Chinese students is delicious. When was the last time you called food "delicious?" For me, food is good, great, wonderful, etc but never just delicious.

Next up, we got some spare ribs as the second appetizer on our feast. These were tasty but each had very little meat. Guess that is why it was called an appetizer.

This dish resembled a plate of turkey dressing and reminded us of Thanksgiving. But wait, it was Thanksgiving so maybe this dish had nothing to do with our collective memories.

This dish was excellent as the ball turned out to be a meatloaf like substance with a wonderful (not necessarily delicious) brown sauce. Sunee identified the meat as "probably chicken." It was very good.

Corn fritter pancakes. This we had before and wanted to make sure we did not get too far "off the reservation" with our orders. As usual, these were very good and, of course, Tom Delicious.

Potatoes in Sichuan are a sure thing winner. The potatoes I have had in Sichuan remind me of what my grandma used to fix in the summer on the family farm near Anadarko in Oklahoma. Fresh, big, wonderful and even delicious. Sichuan produces fabulous vegetables throughout the year. Potatoes just happen to be one of my favorites.

A spicy dish of noodles made from seaweed. This dish was spicy but very good. This is really what Sichuan is all about- SPICY!

This was our "turkey" or centerpiece dish. A deep-fried fish in sweet and sour sauce. It looked great and tasted even better. Generally, Sunee and I do not eat fish in Sichuan. There tends to be way too many small bones to fight in order to eat the fish. This fish had virtually no bones with the flesh sliced up into little cubes and easily extracted from the fish. I did not personally experience a single evil little bone. The sauce was delicate and pleasing to the eyes and the taste buds. Dare I say "delicious" once again, knowing that Tom will check out this blog in the next couple of days. No. I believe I will not utter the D-word in respect for Mr. Tom.

Mr. Gao and Mr. Tom went off the reservation on this one. The meat you see in the bowl is made up of a bunch of Kermit The Frogs who paid for this Thanksgiving with their lives. Frogs in broth. I tried one and found it a little too froggy for my tastes.

We finished the dishes and then ordered one more to round out the meal. Here we have pancakes or rather crepes made from beer with a raison here and there mixed in. Interesting crepes but not very impressive to finish off our Thanksgiving meal. Our "turkey," the fried sweet and sour fish, had been the big winner. We all gave thanks for our meal and enjoyed the festivities.

The bill came and Tom demanded to pay it. I think the whole thing came to around $35 or so for the five of us including the wine. Can you see why it is very pleasant to live and eat in China?

Happy Thanksgiving ONE AND ALL!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Trip To Peach Garden School (November 21)

On Thursday, November 20, Steven, one of my junior students, dropped by with a friend. They wanted to know if Sunee and I would be interested in visiting a small school with the friend's academic club on Friday the next day. There would be about 60 students who would be taking gifts to the poor rural school called Peach Garden School. Of course, we were very interested.

On Friday, we went to the bus area to wait for the bus. When the buses arrived the students prepared them for the trip and we were off on the hour long drive to the small school of Peach Garden.

The students prepared the two rented buses with signs of their club and the university. It took more time than planned because they had to find a way to hang the signs.

Last minute instructions before the trip. Evidently the red caps were supplied by one of the sponsors of the trip and the students would not be able to keep them. As we drove through Emei City, the sponsor and a marching band marched us out of town. The marching band (Chinese style) is very typical of grand openings throughout China. I think this sponsor had some kind of jewelry store but we could not be sure.

The trip to the school was fine until the last ten or so kilometers. We were in the middle of coal mining country and the road turned really bad. It was almost a one lane dirt road. The road was wet and slippery and we had to stop often to let the coal trucks get through. Finally we arrived at the school and were welcomed by the staff.

Peach Garden Primary School is nestled among the mountains and was a nondescript, typically Chinese school. The weather was cool with mist settling on the mountains surrounding the school.

The students were lined up waiting for our arrival. The smallest were on the left and the oldest on the right as one faced them. The little students were adorable.

The ceremony started with the Chinese National Anthem. The little students just stood and listened but the older kids raised their hands in salute to the anthem.

The SW Jiaotong University students then took charge of the event and addressed the students. The students applauded throughout the students' presentations.

During the presentations and speeches, Sunee walked among the youngest students and tried to get them to talk with her. Most were shy but some did respond with how old they were and their names.

As I walked by, many of the younger students looked at me as if to say "Look, a foreigner!"

Sunee gives the students gifts from the university to help in their school work.

The Jiaotong students along with Sunee and I passed out school materials for the students. These were presented to each student from the university. Here I enjoyed passing out erasers and pens.

We also passed out notebooks. The students were happy to see us and the material.

As we passed out the gifts, several Jiaotong students were taking pictures of us having so much fun.

Sunee constantly tried to get the students to speak both English and Chinese. Eventually, most of the students responded and lost their shyness.

I was asked to address the students, so I spent a few minutes speaking to them in Chinese and trying to get them to respond in English. Things like "How are you?' "I am fine." "Where are you from?" "I am from America." Successful? Probably not as the students just repeated everything I said. It was more comical than successful but we all had fun.

Throughout the event, the students all showed their appreciation by clapping and smiling.

Some of the SW Jiaotong University students then made a contest by asking the students questions and giving prizes to those who answered correctly. The students responded by raising their hands. Very cute and exciting for the students.

This boy had the answer but the Jiaoda student did not call on him so he tried to get me to see that he had the answer.

This boy also knew one of the answers but was frustrated because no one saw him or did not pay attention to him.

Here some of the female Jiaoda students present sort of an aerobics style dance without music. It was more precision steps than really dancing. This is not Chinese style!

Here some of the Jiaoda female students strut their stuff to entertain the Peach Garden students. Definitely not Chinese style dancing.

Two of the local teachers look on with enjoyment. Both were very young but seemed to be very enthusiastic toward teaching these kids. I did not get to speak to either of them, but the kids seemed to really like them.

Steven's friends and Yours Truly in the success pose.

Not to be outdone, Sunee poses with some of the older students.

As the afternoon came to an end, we ran around looking for pictures to take. Here Sunee poses in front of the school


Many of the students wanted to have their pictures taken with Sunee and I. Here I am with several of the students.

Two Jiaoda students get their picture taken with me.

We pose for a picture. Notice the beauty in the background. The whole place was covered in a fine, cold mist that hung over the mountains everywhere

A couple of friends looking to get their picture taken. I obliged, of course.

Mother and daughter also posed for us. Do you recognize the little daughter. She was so cute that I took several pictures of her. The mother was also very cute and really did not look old enough to have a daughter.

If they pose, you have to take their picture. By this time, there was no shyness in the students. I ended up taking a lot of kid pictures.

Another daughter and mother pose. Kind of easy to see who the daughter looks like, right?

Recognize this cutie? Never did get her to really smile at us. Maybe it was because she had never seen foreigners before.

This little girl demanded a photo with me just as we were about to leave.

Here we are huddled together for the obligatory GROIUP picture. An end to an exciting and interesting day in Sichuan Province, China.