GIANT Thunderstorm Tonight

I hope this means the monsoon season has come early this year. According to the Xinxian weather station Liaocheng is predicted to get almost three millimeters of rain tonight! Yipee!

I can’t wait until I am back on the swampy east coast of North America.

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Mala Doufu

The other day I went to a Sichuan restaurant located in the West Gate area ordered the spiciest thing on the menu in Chinese, Mala Doufu (Spicy and Numbing Tofu). It was after the main lunch rush, so most of the staff had nothing to do but to stare with confused, incredulous faces at the laowei eating a plate of tofu lava. It was  delicious! And made me sweat like I was in the Amazon rain forest wearing a parka and running a marathon. Needless to say, I was doubly proud of myself for ordering the food in Chinese and eating it under the supervision of Sichuan natives.

I think that the combination of the semi-arid climate, the bitter, dusty wind and the pollution is slowly killing me. I’ve been sick more often this past year than I have ever been before. Maybe it is a test- a hero’s challenge. Survive this and you’ll get a prize. Of course the prize is often times self-discovery, something that I’ve been doing a lot of here.

What was that parade all about?

In China, if you want to get people to purchase your products the only obvious thing to do is to dress up some poor college or high school students as your products and parade them around the city. This was a bei jiu (fermented rice wine) parade. I don’t know about you, but after seeing that parade of  giant humanoid inflatable alcohol bottles I could go for a shot or two of that face numbing brew… on second thought, I’ll pass. The idea for the parade most likely was hatched after sampling the product six too many times…

Da-Q

Da-Q, real name Ji Cheng, is a friend of mine who proves the myth that Chinese people are naturally short and slim is false. Very false. At least six feet five inches tall and three hundred pounds false. Could kill you in one punch false. You get the idea.

Da-Q is a nickname given to him by a (female) classmate and city fellow. Da-Q means two things due to the fact that Mandarin has a great multitude of homophones and puns: the first is “Big Penguin” and the second is “Big Cute (cutie?)”. He is incessantly smiling and laughing, radiating mega watt optimistic energy. He was generous enough to invite me and Martine (my meimei, younger sister, for those who don’t know) to a Spring Festival feast at his home in Qingdao. Much fun was had by all. I really like this guy… you couldn’t dislike him if you tried really, really hard. Which brings us to today’s photo…

Last Friday, most likely just to amuse himself, he challenged me and Yvon to an arm wrestling contest.

So much for Spring… Onwards to Summer!

Apparently Spring only lasts about a month in this part of the world. It’s summertime!

The university is closed to host the “Sports Meeting” which we would simply call a glorified pep rally but they do school spirit boosting things so rarely here whenever they hold a pep rally, the school is closed for two days. Doesn’t make sense to me either. The English language staff took the opportunity to enjoy the summer weather and travel around town.

First we were off to Dongchang Fu (East Lake District) and to the Chinese Canal Culture Museum. The next day we were off to the heart of Liaocheng’s Old City. The 1,000 year old Old City is a man made or man modified square island located in the center of the East Lake connected to the mainland by causeways radiating out from the Guanyue Luo (direct translation is something like “Luminous High Mountain  Multi-Storied Building”, built as a combination fortress and Visiting Emperor’s Palace in 1347. We were then off to the Shanxi-Shaanxi Assembly Hall, a Merchant’s Guild Hall built in the early 1700’s when the city was still in its heydays.