Oct 112009

This man gave a demonstration of the Chinese tea ceremony.  They use a tray that allows water to pass through to another tray below.  The server heats water, makes the first tea, then uses that tea to warm the tea serving pot and the cups, then makes more tea to fill the cups.  Mostly tea drinking is about smelling and looking at the tea before drinking it.  You have to really slow down to understand how people here enjoy things.  It is all so beautiful, I don't mind.  I like that there are young people working to maintain traditions and use them in their lives. 

Oct 112009

We traveled to Ningbo with several people from Brian's school to attend a Cultural Event at the “Beyond Mandarin” school.  Beyond Mandarin is on the 20th floor of a HUGE 50 story building in downtown Ningbo – overlooking the city, made me dizzy to look out the window.  The wonderful staff gave presentations on Chinese music, calligraphy and the tea ceremony. 

Here is a young man playing the gu – also known as “ancient instrument” – beautiful music!  He accompanied the calligrapher and the tea ceremony as well.

Oct 052009

So here are a few food creations made with all those fresh foods!  The prawns were alive when we bought them and wiggled a bit in the pan!  Delicious!  I feel like our diet is so much better than it was in the US.  Everything fresh, unprocessed and cooked quickly!  No “fast” food and we eat slowly because we use chou zi (chopsticks).  Its all good!

Oct 052009

Fresh vegetables, fruit and fish are everywhere here in Beilun.  I go to the traditional market at least twice a week.  The people working at the market are very patient and kind with my questions about food.  I enjoy their obvious pride in the food they sell.  People have also been very honest about money.  I don't always understand the currency words, and will give the vendor a 20 yuan bill when they have asked me for 2 yuan.  The will patiently give it back, or show me the kind of bill they should get.  Other customers have also been helpful.  The fruit vendors 'suggest fruit that is in season and cheaper.  When I pointed at a certain plum, one vendor pointed to a different (smaller) version at a much better price.  Turns out she helped me to avoid the expensive imported variety!   Here are some pictures. 

I am hesitant to take pictures of people I don't know.  I waited until I had been to the market a few times before bringing my camera.  I asked (well with gestures) permission, and then showed the person the picture using the LCD on the camera.  I only took pictures AFTER I bought something.  This seemed ok.

When I found out that Photo paper is very inexpensive here, I had a different idea.  I bought some 4 X 6 glossy paper, and returned to the market the next time with a copy of my picture for each person I photographed.  This was a big hit!  I felt good to give something to the people who have been so nice to me.  I was especially touched by the pleasure of the man who sold me broccoli and eggplant – He really liked the picture I took of the eggplant! 

These little experiences of having some communication are wonderful — they spur me to study and practice Chinese with the hope of better conversations!

Lauren Austin
“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by answers.” — James Baldwin