THE food in northern china is the dumpling (or Jiaozi). They are delicious and you can put pretty much anything inside. One of the first things that I had to do on arriving here was learn how to make Jiaozi. It's a very sociable activity - the whole family chips in with rolling or stuffing!
This is a picture of me learning to make Jiaozi with some of the teachers
(I have to admit that I usually buy them ready-made as it's a bit long to make!)
Fushun a Coal Mining Town
I spent one day in Fushun. I had heard about the amber carvings made and sold there and hoped to find something interesting. The day proved to be very interesting indeed.
We took a taxi from Shenyang. The first shop was below a bridge. When I got out of the car over a dozen coal miners crowded to a rail to watch me. They were covered in coal.
As you can see the shop was filled to the door with lovely jade items from Xiuyan. You can even see a goldfish swimming in the jade fish bowl to the right.
I climbed the pedestrian overpass to take this picture. This is a main street in Fushun along which were several small shops selling jet and amber carvings.
As I came down to the sidewalk a man driving a donkey pulled cart passed by.
"A city of transition"
At this intersection you can see the means of transit used in Fushun. Here are bicycles, cars, buses and even donkey carts. The donkey serves northern China like the Water Buffalo does the south. Everything from burden to food.
I'm in Fushun, in liaoning province for a year, teaching english. One of the questions a lot of the students ask me is "why Fushun" and it's a very good question...
Fushun is famous for it's open coalmine and it's steel works - not a great place to spend a year you may be thinking.
In fact, I didn't choose Fushun, but it more or less chose me, as I didn't know where to go in China to teach, but I didn't want to go to a big city.
Fushun is a pretty old and polluted city, although they're trying to do something about that..
The school that I work in is a state run school that is one of the best in the area, which is why they can afford a foreign teacher. The buildings are all new and I have a fantastic flat in the school buildings. I actually feel a little guilty about this as the other teachers are 3 to a room with shared bathrooms...
Its true that Fushun city doesn't have al ot going for it, but since I came here to teach and learn chinese then I'm not too worried.
Having said that, the surrounding countryside is lovely (lots of litttle hills), and some of the older buildings in town have a certain kind of charm
Tianjin and back
Tianjin is the port city for Beijing (North Capital), just as Shanghai is for Nanjing (South Capital). It was one of the foreign concessions allowed for trade with the invading European powers, and consequently has many european style buildings. As with Shanghai there is a "French Quarter", and probably other Quarters but I didn't manage to get anyone to buy me a map. (I did ask.) The buildings look like any of Sydney's older buildings, though a few look like hybrids. An old church/monestary built of black bricks looked like a gothic fortress trying to look like a hutong. I suspect, with no evidence whatsoever, that this was the boarding school that Adeline Yen Mah describes in her book "Chinese Cinderella". Dumped there by her stepmother, she was the only student left to face the advancing Communist Red Army of Mao, accompanied by the nuns who themselves had nowhere else to go. Nowadays the place is surrounded by market stalls selling peasant capitalist-roader trinkets, whilst in the doorway three older women stood ready to spread the word of Yesu to anyone foolish enough to give them their full attention.
"Love in Tianjin"
We went to Tianjin at the invitation of Elisa's cousin, her father's sister's son, who is studying at the Air Traffic Controllers University. He and his pretty, but anorexically thin, girlfriend took us around the town looking at buildings and art shops. Jing bought me a picture made from sewn coloured threads on cloth. The shop was full of pictures of flowers and birds and pretty scenery to choose from but I found a strange series of picasso-esque bulls and chose that instead, to the bewilderment of everyone and the delight of the shopkeeper/artist who could finally offload the thing. Except now she is faced with the dillemma of whether to make another, in case another foreigner comes and wants to buy something not quite so kitch as her standard wares.
Very much in love, our guides would walk hand in hand around either side of lampposts, forcing them to let go of each other briefly. Jing tried it on me and when I commented "so you want to do that too", they overheard and turned smiling at us in the knowledge that their love had inspired imitators.
That evening, having returned to the neat and moderately priced "7 Days Inn", we settled into our room while Elisa went to her cousin's room to retrieve her iPod. She came back bemused that she had caught them in The Act, not five minutes since returning to the hotel.
Hotel bathrooms all have condoms stickytaped to the wall with a sign "5 yuan each", for the discrete use of patrons.
I have become insensitive to the chinese stare. (In any event, it gives me an excuse to photograph them back). They stare and stare but I just don't care. Our problem this time round is getting Eli to co-operate holding someone's hand when crossing roads. He refuses, but refusal is not an option, so by the time we get to the other side he is furious. He also refuses to co-operate with shopping. Jing tries to buy shoes and socks and trousers but he won't try them on.
I admire his sense of himself, but it does make it hard to take him shopping. Today we got so frustrated with him that we refused to give him any chips until he agreed to hold my hand. When we refused to budge (having to remind Jing not to give in) he relented and held my hand willingly as we crossed a major arterial road. I thanked him for holding my hand and informed the others that he had held my hand and to hand over his share of the chips.
It's like breaking in a horse!