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Friday, February 02, 2007

You got your Lianjiang in my Zhanjiang

I spent the last few days visiting the home town of one of my students in Lianjiang, a city with a (shall we say) indistinct relationship with Zhanjiang. An hour's drive over barren highway and then you're in what appears to be another big smoggy Chinese city, full of not-so-high rises and motorcycles and the like. But is this a city? A town? Is it still part of Zhanjiang? These questions and more will not be answered in the next installment of this blog.

Steve and I bought a liulian (that is, Durian) that we didn't eat tonight, and it's stinking up my place something delicious.

Lianjiang was nice, if a little familiar. Desiree, her classmate Kaly, and I were lucky enough to get a ride to the city from one of Dez's old classmates, who was in Zhanjiang with her husband (and his car ... hence the ride). I was able to tour some of the middle and high schools, which I actually found interesting; they're on full-on campuses, and they have a helluva lot of sports and activities that you often only see in colleges in the states. I also learned that Chinese students, before college, spend almost their entire day in school. They are there at eight in the morning, class until eleven, home for lunch until around two, when they go back to class; home for dinner around five, back to class at seven and there until almost ten.


Their evening classes are little more than homework done in the classroom, but still; that's a demanding schedule.

What else? Climbed a mountain, saw an amazingly beautiful sunset augmented by the smog, the reds and blues and the final dusk being greedily sucked into the air and then torn away mere minutes later. We watched the city's lights come to life, then walked down the mountain using fireworks and sparklers to light our way.

I ate all sorts of strange things: duck tongue and brain (and all the other, more traditionally delicious parts of the duck), more dog (sorry Duke), and the "everyone has two" meat of various animals (that'd be kidneys, a word Desiree and Kaly just couldn't remember).

I let Dez's brother play my DS, and aside from having a lack of basketball games to play, he loved it; he even had an audience going for Elite Beat Agents.

I visited the village of one of Dez's friends. Her Chinese nick name is "xiao niu," meaning "Little Cow;" trust me, it's endearing. "That was affectionate ..." Brent might say. Her grandmother was quite old, perhaps a little senile; I don't think it registered to her that I wasn't Chinese, because she kept yelling for me to sit down and relax, drink some water, boy is the weather nice, all in Cantonese or some local dialect I couldn't even begin to name. I was able to walk around the vast fields and watch the farming going on, manual labor and buckets of water for acre after backbreaking acre, brushfires and little kids herding cows because they've already given up school. The work some of these people have to do is heartbreaking, and when you see that it's all to send just one child to school, so that their life will be a little easier, well, you can't help but be awed.

And I sang karaoke, and I must say that "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is a really great, really short song to sing, should the situation arise.

Well, I'm sure there's more, but that's all for now. In two days I leave for Cambodia. Angkor Wat, here I come.

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