Wednesday, June 24, 2009

King Fruit

This is what King Fruit (or Durian fruit) looks like. It's really spiky on the outside (and they're sharp spikes!!) and the inside is full of these pod-like things that you remove and skin. It REEKS. Like a landfill. I'm not even kidding. Like methane, dirty socks and public restroom - much like how China smells in general, actually. But the actual King Fruit is HUUUUUUUGE. Like the size of a basketball. Then it tastes like raw onions, raw butter and a hint of sugar. It's very different and I'm so sad I can't bring one home for all of you to try.

From wikipedia: "The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. The odour has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia."

Pictures from lunch + more

For lunch after our tour of the Shi Family Mansion, we went to this place called the Green Era. It reminded me of the Rainforest Cafe except more natural - not as many mechanical animals. There are palm trees, live animals (birds and seals) and all kinds of flowers. Even the tables were each secluded in a mini bamboo forest for privacy. It was VERY COOL and I ate up every second. I guess they also have a microbrewery inside the restaurant but we had to leave before any of us could try the beer. Shame.

This is a picture of our group from today. I bought a pair of blue Nike soccer shorts on our last day at TNU. They have a little shopping center (store full of junk, basically) for the students to go to in between classes. They sell fruit, candy, knick knacks, household/dorm goods, clothes, etc. Because I was dying of heat waring capris in nearly 100 degree weather (with 100% humidity) I opted for soccer shorts to keep me cool. Now, I wear them all the time. They are so comfortable, I think I will wear them every day from now on. They are the best 15 yuan I have spent this whole trip! (Roughly $2.20 USD). Po and the other Chinese girls said that Thailand is going to be at least 100 every day if not hotter (well, they said 40 degrees celsius which I think translates into 100+). Uh oh. I am going to be very sweaty.

Here are some pictures of some of our food we had for lunch today as well as a dragon fruit (I never knew what they looked like on the outside. But they're so neat!). I also attached a picture of these really cool hot pink plants that were growing by one of the streams.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shi Family Mansion

Hey guys, Now that we're done teaching at TNU, we're doing more tours and excursions until the program officially ends Sunday evening. Today, we went about 45 minutes outside of downtown Tianjin to the Shi Family Mansion. I believe this is the family that has been making silk kites for generations. They have a "mansion" open to tourists to visit. I didn't really understand it but got some FABULOUS pictures. It was interesting to note that the Asian idea of mansion means longer/wider house versus the typical Western view of mansion where the house is taller. This mansion had 160 rooms, the largest indoor theatre in Northern China and a beautiful Asian-inspired garden. I have attached pictures of what the building looks like - many corridors (all outside) and interesting shaped doorways. Next, I will send pictures of what the garden looks like (it was my favorite part of the whole tour).

Here's what I eat

Hi again,
Here are some pictures of the food I have been eating. The first one is of my veggie pizza from Yummy Food (it was the best thing in the world. SO much better than pizza hut and a million times cheaper!) and the second is of the chocolate banana pancakes we get for breakfast when we go there. The third one is of my hotpot from last night (coolest way to eat dinner!) and the last picture is of a funny road sign. My friend Amy thinks it reads, "If you drink cars, your glass will break." HHAHAHAHA There's a whole series of signs like this and she has captions for all of them!

Adventures in Tianjin

I have attached some more pictures for your viewing pleasure. The first one is of me making dumplings the other night. They arranged for us to work with the head chefs of the hotel restaurant to learn how to make dumplings. It was kind of interesting and pretty difficult.

The second picture is of a foo dog outside of a really nice hotel in downtown Tianjin. We took a trip to the bookstore (so i could buy the Monkey King and a mandarin book) and while we were downtown, we walked past this hotel that had this cool looking foo dog! Reminded me of the lions that guard the entrance to the art museum in Chicago.

The third picture is of our new treasure! The other Americans who are staying in the dorm recommended this place to eat called Yummy Food. The chick who owns it speaks really good English and the food is TO DIE FOR (veggie pizza, fries, chocolate banana pancakes...). Ellen and I go there everyday (usually for breakfast) and it is amazing! the best part is that it's only a 5 minute walk from our hotel.

This last picture is of me playing with colored clay at TNU. Not sure why we did that activity but we spent about an hour and a half being kids again playing with slabs of colored clay. I'm wearing a "necklace" that Ellen made for me. She also made earrings but I'll save those pictures for later. We were a huge hit to the Chinese. Go figure.

Hope you all are doing well! Sorry I'm so bad with sending pictures. Now that we're done teaching, I should have more time to send emails.

Teapots Galore!

Teapots are HUGE in China, obviously. But depending on the different material the teapot is made out of, determines what kind of tea is supposed to be brewed in it. Same with the cups. These are pictures of clay tea pots but I don't remember what kind of tea they are good for. (We learned about it at one of the teahouses we went to in Beijing but I can't remember right now.) Very cool though. If I wasn't going to be traveling around after our program, I would consider buying one but i'm sure it would break during my trips.

Shopping Trips

Ooops, it's been a while. Here are some pictures from a shopping trip we took last week. I think the area was called "cultural street" but we weren't sure. It was about a 44 cent bus ride. I hope you enjoy!

I found lots of little presents and goodies here. All at great prices! You an bargain nearly EVERYWHERE in China! The picture of the fat pigs is for Philip. ha! It reminded me of something he would like. I think I will try to go back next week when we have some free time to buy one for him. Funny little thing.

This is me playing what I believe is called a "Chinese piano" - a harp-like instrument that lays down but you pluck the strings to make sound. There were little kids (like 5 years old) getting lessons right in the store when we went in. Hopefully we didn't distract them too much with our
fooling around trying to play the instruments.

We also went into a kite store right next door to the music store. I like the Kung Fu Panda kite - thought it was cute. And we call Cathleen's mom "Po" - the name of the panda from the movie. The kids were cool. All different sizes - much more interesting than Mackinac Kite company (no offense, Grand Haven.)

Here I am standing in front of a replica of an insence thing that are usually found in front of temples.

And last is a picture of the carved trim on the sides of one of the stores. It's so detailed and intricate - and all done by hand. Amazing.

This is a close up of a picture painted onto a 4 foot tall vase outside of a teapot store.

Oh, and there's a picture of some statues in the middle of the shopping street. I'm not sure what they are because I coudln't read the inscription but it looked cool and made for a good picture.

This is the tea set Ellen bought for about $6 USD for the 7 piece set!