Monday, August 24, 2009

Ashok is back from China

A post I made a few weekends ago, but forgot to actually post

Some more on Chinese food: For some reason, many products formed into
blocks are classified as "tofu". This is sometimes wildly misleading,
as this includes such things as curdled duck and pig blood ("red
tofu"), and fish/starch blocks. Also, it occurred to me that one of
the most common Chinese dishes - tomatoes stirfried with eggs - is one
that I have never seen in Chinese restaurants in America. Kind of a
shame, as it's a simple yet tasty dish, not to mention inexpensive and
Every so often, I discover some facet of Chinese language culture that
reminds me that I am, in fact, living with people from a different
culture. For example, in America, to describe something is "like the
stars" means that it is beautiful, but in China it means that it is
numerous/commonly found, because there are a lot of stars, and each
one looks roughly alike. Thus, in China, comparing someone to stars
to tell them you think they're pretty is a bad idea.

A bit more on my last weekend

So my post "Leaving China" was rather brief. The Saturday was rather
low key, but I did have an interesting chance encounter mid-afternoon.
I was in a bookstore in the Wudaokou mall when an American foreign
student and Chinese local student came in. I initially paid them
little attention, their conversation in the background, until I heard
"I've heard there was an Ikea around here? At my college everyone
goes to Ikea in the beginning of the year to get furniture." This
sounded oddly familiar. I listened a bit closer, and as I had a
hunch, she mentioned the name of her college - Yale. I walked over
and introduced myself - I was a little surprised to suddenly run into
another Yale student, though I had already done so once (Fellow HBA
student/Yalie Tory Jeffay and I ran into Chris Young, my
recently-graduated friend on the Yale-China Teaching Fellowship, on
the street at night in the Sanlitun bar district - completely
unexpectedly). I couldn't stay for long (I had to meet my friend for
dinner very soon), but I found she was a rising junior and going to be
at Beijing University this fall.

Chinese customs and treating others to dinner

Chinese custom while going out for meals is to take turns treating the
group (but everyone fights to pay nonetheless). I just read an
article from the Boston Globe that describes research concluding that
more money spent on prosocial behavior, such as treating friends to
meals, correlates with higher levels of happiness. Maybe we Americans
could adapt this custom?

Full article at

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Leaving China

Took the train back to Beijing Saturday morning, ate lunch with my
tutor and dinner with my engineer friend I met in Wudaokou. Leaving
for the airport shortly.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ashok screws up his Circadian rhythms

Recently came back from Mt. Hua. I originally planned to get there in
the morning, climb to the East Peak, stay the night and watch the sun
rise from there, but I got to the base of the mountain later than I
expected, and, furthermore, learn that most people climb at night.
Since it's hot during the day, and food/lodging on the mountain is
very expensive, many choose to start the climb at around 11 or so,
getting to the east peak at sunrise. So, I slept in a hotel room at
the base for 8 hours (or tried - I might have only spent the first
hour actually asleep) and woke up at 10. Ate a meal (not sure how to
label it), then made my trip up the mountain with two women from
Jiangsu province. The climb was more difficult than Mt. Song, which I
climbed during the Shaolin Temple trip - much steeper, longer, and had
to hold on to chains on the sides of the path most of the time. Got
to the top at about 5, stayed for about an hour watching the sun rise,
then walked along the ridge back to a cable car station.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ashok violates customs of his home country, is rewarded for his efforts

So I just got back from eating on the Muslim Street. Street food
tends to rank among the best I've gotten in China (never eat uncooked
vegetables or anything left unattended, and that contains most of the
safety tips). I also just saw someone selling kites fly a 60-meter
string with small kites strung along it. 60 meters is pretty long.
My ability to speak passable Chinese has drawn me into situations as
an interlocuter several times - about half an hour ago, I helped some
French backpackers figure out how to order food at a stall. I think
I've actually seen more Europeans than Americans on my trip so far.
One thing I enjoy in particular about the sweets I've had here so far
is that they aren't overwhelmingly sweet, but are mildly so.
Many districts have a local street where food vendors gather.
However, the ones near the front can attach a notable price premium,
simply because they are in front and often people go to the first
thing that looks good - it would take a lot of time to travel the
whole street, especially with the crowds (also, many foods are
similar). For example, the price of a skewer of meat might be 10 kuai
right at the front of the street, but decrease to 3 kuai further back.
Anyhow, this morning I took a bus to the train station and then took a
1.5 or so hour bus ride to Huaqing Hot Springs, where I took a look
around and ate lunch. I took another bus to the Terra-Cotta Warriors.
The sight of the warriors was impressive, but I think the most
impressive facet was the Qin dynasty's level of technology - some of
the bronze weapons where chrome-plated, a process developed by German
in 1937 and the US in 1950 - thousands of years later.
The title of this post comes from my bid to get on the bus home -
while queueing in China isn't non-existent, in some places it's
expected that you scrum around a location, for example, trying to buy
a ticket, or, in my case, board a bus. Maneuvering (sometimes not
entirely by my own volition) my way through the crowd and noticing a
ferocity in some old ladies not normally seen in old ladies, I managed
to snag a seat for the ride home.