Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adventures in Shopping: The Sequel

A few days ago, Susie posted a blog entry and some photos about the challenges of shopping in a supermarket (Adventures in Shopping . . . or WHAT am I buying??). This is a sequel that offers a glimpse of another way to shop in Dalian. A few blocks from our flat there is a very long, narrow street -- really more of an alley for pedestrians -- that runs for two or three blocks. It is lined with numerous small vendors selling fresh food: meat, fish, grain, fruits, and vegetables. In the evening, the street is packed with a crowd of shoppers picking up items to take home for dinner. Everything is fresh (some items are still very much alive, in fact) and your purchase is always cut, cleaned, trimmed, weighed, counted, or measured to your individual order. You don't have to worry about the environmental costs of buying pre-packaged food at this market!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two Festivals

There are two national festivals in September. The first is Teacher's Day (September 10), begun in 1984 in response to the violent anti-intellectualism of the Cultural Revolution. When I entered the classroom on Wednesday, my students surprised me with a very thoughtful gift: a beautiful piece of red knotwork to bring Sue and me luck. The "class monitor" gave a short speech thanking me for my energy and diligence in teaching him and his classmates. After the brief formalities, a few pictures of these energetic future English teachers were definitely in order:

The second holiday is the Zhong Qiutian -- the Mid-Autumn Festival -- that occurs on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month (September 14) when the full moon is thought to be at its brightest and most beautiful. The tradition dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), when Chinese emperors offered sacrifices to the Moon God. Today, the festival is celebrated with family reunions (or groups of classmates going to a restaurant or a karaoke bar). Family and friends gaze at the full moon, drink tea or wine, and eat delicious round "moon cakes" filled with candy, fruit, nuts, eggs, or meat. As "foreign experts," the city government of Dalian treated us to a free concert of traditional Chinese music. The program included symphonic arrangements of well-known folk songs, arias from the Beijing opera, virtuoso soloists on tradtional instruments like the erhu and flute, and even an arrangement of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" scored for a Chinese instruments:

The Freshman Experience

As we mentioned in a previous entry (First Day for Freshmen), the life of first-year students at a Chinese university is quite different from that of their American counterparts. Classes have already been meeting for two weeks when the freshmen arrive. Sophomores clean the dorm rooms of the incoming students, meet them at the train and bus stations, help them register, conduct campus tours, and even carry their bags and belongings to their dormitories.

On their second day on campus, however, all of that changes. The freshmen are issued uniforms, divided up into platoons, and assigned to the supervision of a drill instructor from the People's Liberation Army. For the next two weeks, the freshmen learn military discipline, march in formation, sing patriotic songs, learn martial arts, and engage in various group-building activities with a cohort of classmates that they will stay with for the next four years.
Here are a few pictures showing the first days of a new student's life at LNU: