Tag Archives: food


I feel like I’m swimming upstream as I walk across campus from the cafeteria, where I’ve just had an early dinner with a friend. Class has just let out in both teaching buildings and all the students are surging towards the one cafeteria that feeds this university’s twenty thousand students. It’s a good thing that I’m not carrying much because every few steps I wave to another student I know. Some don’t see me – the girls who refuse to wear their glasses in public and those so intent on reaching the cafeteria because they only have 15 minutes to eat before they go on to their next class.

By the time I reach the teaching building, the stream of students has tapered off, and I take my time up the 104 steps to the sixth floor. I get my things from my office and go into the classroom across the hall. The sun is setting, casting an orange light into the dusty, gray classroom. Brandon is head down, asleep on the desk. Angela is munching away on some sweet Chinese bread. Tony stands impatiently by the door. “What are you waiting for?” I ask. “My dinner, my classmate is bringing me some bread and water.” “Bread and water for dinner, it sounds like you’re in prison!” I guess he didn’t have enough time to get to the cafeteria after his class today.

In the afternoon, I’d taught an oral English lesson about food and had brought in some American snacks. Since only 5 teachers came, and one left early, there were some leftovers. I open a tin and offer the rest of the PB and J sandwich to the students in the classroom. “Delicious!” they all exclaim. Just as I offer the last piece, their classmates start to arrive for our 6 PM Intercultural Communication class.


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A few weeks ago, I had a two banana day.

Banana number one: It was around 1 PM in the afternoon, just between lunch and class. I had to quickly go and make copies of some paperwork for the other foreign teachers, so I went to the place I usually go just a few apartment buildings away from home. I make my copies and ask “how much?” The girl hands me a banana. I push it back at her, once, twice, but finally give in. It’s custom in China to first refuse a gift … I’m still learning this one. On top of this, she didn’t let me pay. Next time I go to make copies I think I’ll bring oranges.

Banana number two: Later that evening I was walking out the side gate to go get dinner. I pass by one my my students and give the normal English greeting: “Hi, how are you?” To which he replies, “I just bought fruit” and hands me a banana. It all happened so sudden, I couldn’t refuse. Let’s just say it reminded me that I need to review greetings with this students’ class.

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I am babysitting a waffle-maker this year…so I thought I’d put it to good use this Easter:

Easter brunch with my my co-teachers, one co-teacher’s dad, visiting from America, and a friend who teaches in another city in North East China:

I bought some signs of spring at the flower market nearby campus. Still waiting to actually see some green outside, though!

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Eating Pig’s Head Meat:
I had a casual lunch with the head English teacher this past Wednesday. It also happened to be “Dragon Head-Raising Day,” the second day of the second month after Lunar New Year. After telling me it was a holiday, she told me I should get my hair cut or get it washed at a salon. (But I washed it this morning!) Then, she explained how it’s the tradition not to cut your hair from New Years until this day and how when you do it’ll bring you luck. I opted out of this one, since my hair was neither long nor dirty, nor do I depend on luck. This is also the day that people traditionally eat pig’s head meat. So of course, one of our dishes at lunch was a spicy cucumber and pig’s head meat salad. Quite tasty! I liked it better than the pig’s ears I had over Spring Festival. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture of this!

And Birthday Cake, too:
And yesterday, we had a little surprise party for one of the foreign teachers.

For the party, some friends and I baked a chocolate cake. Sadly, the girls that helped me couldn’t make the party and though I saved them a piece, the cake went moldy surprisingly quickly and they never got a taste of the first cake they ever made! 😦

Signs of Spring:
Speaking of things going moldy, Spring is on the way! How can I tell? Well, it’s coming through one of the corners of my ceiling. There was more snow than normal this year and it was an extremely cold winter (this is what the Harbin native’s are saying), so a lot of people in my neighborhood who live on the top floor like me are in a similar situation. Thankfully, it’s in the room that I only used for my office and I’ve been able to move my office stuff to the room I was using as just my bedroom. I actually like my new set-up, it’s cozy and it’s made me more productive! Would’ve thought I’d be thankful for a wet, moldy ceiling, but in more than one way, I am!

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What foods did they make for New Year?
饺子 (Jiaozi) Boiled dumplings filled with pork, mushrooms, and nuts.
They really were the best dumplings I have EVER had. We ate these New Years morning for breakfast, steaming hot, a huge bowl full. And I had an even bigger bowl of them on the morning I left, because her mom found out I liked them so much.
汤圆 (Tangyuan) Sweet rice flour dumplings filled with peanuts, sesame seeds and sugar.
Her dad made these. We ate them New Years Eve while watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. Below is a picture of the filling before it’s lightly tossed in rice flour and boiled. Yum! When I came back to Harbin, I bought some frozen ones, but they’re not as good.

馒头 (Mantou) Lots of steamed buns! Whenever one of their younger relatives brought a gift (a large box of milk or breakfast biscuits or cooking oil) they’d return the gift with a large bag of steamed buns. Some of the buns had red beans in them. All of them were handmade by my friend and her mom.

New Years Eve Dinner was big spread of about 7 or 8 dishes including: pigs ear, preserved yellow eggs, pork with garlic scapes, pickled lotus root, potato and tomato stir fry, another pork dish. In addition to the dishes we also had two kinds of “main food“ 主食 steamed buns and rice porridge. There’s also a fish on the table in this picture, but it disappeared when we actually sat down to eat.

What did her parents think of you? Did they speak any English?
It’s hard to know what her parent’s thought of me because not only did they not speak a word of English, but their native dialect of Chinese was mostly unintelligible to me. Most of the time in Harbin, I can understand 60-80% of what’s being said around me (depending of if I know the context), but down in that area of Henan I could only get about 10-40%. I did learn a few words like “le” is “er” for “two” and well, that’s all I remember. Both of her parents were really patient with me, though, and before I left I was able to have conversations with each of them without assistance from my friend. I hope they liked me!

What kinds of things did you do there?

New Years Eve was spent as most of China spends it: watching fireworks be set off on the street (her dad set off firecrackers and then the neighbors/relatives had some real big fireworks) and watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. (My favorite part was the funny sketch about college graduates selling potatoes…I hope this is not the future for my students).

New Years Day my friend, her parents and I took at trip to a local Buddhist mountain and climbed to the top with hordes of people. I never expected to see a temple so packed in this country. Her mother went into each pavilion to burn incense or offer something while the rest of us waited outside and took pictures.

The other days I spent there were passed going around her hometown, visiting her relative’s houses, a bamboo garden, and the downtown shopping area. And one day my friend and I went to a larger city about 30 minutes away to visit the Henan Jiaozuo Film and Television City where they film those TV series like “Three Kingdoms” or other period pieces.

All in all, we really didn’t “do” much, but it was really relaxing just to sit next to the coal stove, eat sunflower seeds, chat, and observe life in “small town” China.

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