THIS WAS A GOOD FRIDAY.  So good, in fact, that it is Wednesday evening and I am just now posting.  Actually I was just lazy.  But enough of that.

Rachelle had just gotten back from Zhuhai, and I had taught a class in the morning, which my boss had sat in on.  It went better than expected.  After a quick nap, we met up with Sebastian and Jenny, and Sebastian suggested we take the Metro to Shamian Island.

Shamian Island used to be a sandbar in the river, but it was the only place foreign interests were allowed to set up shop in Guangzhou, back in the Qing Dynasty, and the British gradually built it up.  Currently it houses some interesting Western-influenced architecture, a great big hotel where the American embassy is/was/will be?  I don’t recall because the building is under renovation right now and it’s closed off.  We strolled around the island, Sebastian being an excellent tour guide, and we eventually stopped at Lucy’s for some munchies and drinks.  It was a quaint little American-themed establishment with an outdoor seating area.  By the time we finished, the sun was starting to set (but the smog kept it pretty light for a while).

We finished our tour of the island and headed to the riverside to catch a ride on a river boat.  After some momentary confusion as to which pier we needed to gaggle around, and some frustration and concern when we found that all the ATMs in the area seemed to be out of cash or were just not working for us, we climbed aboard, were ushered downstairs (upper deck was for the higher-paying passengers), received our water bottles and some kind of spaetzle-krispies treat with sesame (they took some getting used to, but man oh man was i horfing them down by the end of the trip), and AWAY WE GO!

I took a buttload of pictures.  Guangzhou is flashy as all hell at night.  Maybe not as much glitz per square meter as, say, Vegas, but there’s a hell of a lot more of it to go around.  After a few stops and a turnaround, we returned to our port of departure and we were rather hungry.

Sebastian knew of an excellent German restaurant just a few blocks down the road.  So we headed to 1920′s, as it was called, and it was in fact delicious. As a matter of fact, my wife and I returned for our anniversary dinner on Monday.  After dinner we rounded the corner, passed a place specializing in “gruel,” headed down entrance D of the Haizhu Square Metro terminal, and headed home to listen to construction vehicles outside our balcony until 1 in the morning.  THEN we slept.


So from like my first whole day in China, when I first tried one, I’ve been crazy about these herbal tea drinks that I’ve been told are a major thing here in the south.  Here’s one.


I was curious about what exactly is in these teas.  Google to the rescue!

Turns out, it might be the only thing keeping me alive.  Ha ha, holy shit.

Also, I love my wife, as you can see above.

Rachelle had a hankering for Mexican food again.  She found a restaurant on Google Maps and so we charted out our Metro trip to get there.  Pretty much everything’s within a few blocks of a Metro station, and we got our prepaid Metro cards (with a 15% discount per trip!) on our last excursion, so Metro is really the best way to get anywhere in Guangzhou if you can manage it.  In my opinion.  On we went, like a couple of mole-people.  After a few transfers, we got to the Taojin station and attempted to take the exit that would not require us to cross a major thoroughfare.  We were informed that it was out of service.  Eh?  Okay, so hopefully there’s a bridge or something on the surface.  Hey, I wonder why the Metro guards have helmets?  I resisted the urge to knock on one (it was mighty difficult, let me tell you), and we stepped into the sun.


The place was swarming with police and their ilk.  Across the street, cars and vans with flashing lights were all around the exit we would have taken.  Men in camo combat fatigues milled around with the police, many of whom had shields, helmets, and beating-sticks.  They were further supplemented by provincial police and possibly some private guards, who look similar to ordinary traffic cops from a distance, as far as I can tell.  At first, I didn’t want to take any pictures for fear my phone would get taken or smashed, but then I realized I wasn’t in the U.S. anymore and everyone else was taking pictures, and really everyone seemed pretty easygoing.  Nonetheless, we found a footbridge across the street and headed across and then away from the commotion both to find our restaurant and get away from the scene just in case there was anything dangerous happening.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen so many police in one place before.

So we walked past the entrance of the building containing the restaurant twice.  Rachelle suggested we go inside as we were passing it for the second time, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t in some alleyway on the back side of the building.  Guangzhou’s tricky like that.  We entered the Pearl River building and there was a directory inside.  ITALIAN RESTAURANT 3F, MEXICAN RESTAURANT 4F, the sign said.  I shit you not, there were signs advertising an establishment called “The Italian Restaurant” all over the place; that was the real name.

We hopped into the elevator and pressed 4.  We emerged…in a Sichuan restaurant.  Now I like Sichuan food as much as the next guy, but that’s not what we came for.  We got back in the elevator, a bit confused.  It was heading up further, so we got off at the next floor.  It was some design firm.  There was a brief exchange of Chinglish where the people outside the elevator suggested we might be on the wrong floor as we were explaining that we meant to head down a couple floors.  When the elevator arrived again we all had a good laugh as we tried to cram as many people in the elevator without setting off the alarm.  There was much hopping over the threshold.  3F.  Let’s try this again.

So it turns out that the Mexican Restaurant is really more of a feature of “The Italian Restaurant,” which is really more of a “Pan-Western Restaurant.”  I had a spaghetti bolognese which, despite having no really remarkable flavors, was really, really enjoyable to eat (we speculated that it was in fact full of MSG), Rachelle had a quesadilla (they couldn’t manage guacamole, but the made some red-pepper salsa stuff that was quite good in her opinion) and we both shared some pizza.  The pizza, as far as we could determine, was topped mainly with a cheese that tasted of sunflower kernels, jalapeños, mushrooms, and..kidney beans?  What?  Anyway, it was actually pretty tasty although it did not taste a thing like were were expecting a pizza to taste.  We also had a couple of Coronas, although Rachelle told me later that she has come to prefer Chinese beers.  And seriously, I drink Tsingtao or Zhujiang like I do water (which is still a lot, even though it’s no longer hotter’n Satan’s ass-crack here), so I was in agreement.  We paid and left, and hey–!  the police had finished blocking off the street.  In front of the hotel was a throng of people with banners in Chinese, and Chinese flags, and all around there were people waving little Chinese flags and wearing Chinese flag stickers (some in the shape of a heart).  Okay, so it was a demonstration of some sort.  On the way back down to the Metro I tried to surreptitiously take a picture of somebody who seemed to have been taking part, but the flash on my phone was on, and he noticed, and…well, he was actually happy to let me take a picture of his sign.  On the ride back, we saw on the little television across from us more news of the incident brewing between China and Japan, and so we figured that was what all the hubbub was about.

On another note, we made some tortillas!  Yum!

Yesterday was my first day teaching.  It’s an all-morning class, wherein I attempt to teach adult students (mainly professors and researchers it seems) how to speak English clearly enough to pass a test and be understood wherever it is they’re going to do research.  The class had been pushed up a day, so I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I had hoped to be.  I had access to my predecessor’s lessons, which made it easier for me to derive one of my own, but when I arrived at the classroom I found that my slides and files would not open on the computer.  So yeah.  I ended up having to use someone else’s lesson after all.  My students came into the class.  There were about fifteen.  I asked if more were coming, and was met with an affirmative answer.  More did, in fact, arrive.  And more.  And more.  And I had more students in the class than seats, nearly fifty, actually.  It was not a particularly difficult class to teach once they started coming out of their shells, and I managed to go all the way until 12:25 without running out of lesson, hooray!

I returned to the apartment.  Rachelle had completely taken the place apart and was cleaning and organizing.  She enlisted my assistance in finishing up the work and showed me where everything was supposed to be.  We’ll see how long this system works, eh?

It was still early in the afternoon once we finished everything up and had some food, so we met up with Jenny and headed to the famous…YUEXIU PARK.

*skip generally pleasant metro ride across town*

Yuexiu Park is big, and like most of Guangzhou, it doesn’t always follow Euclidean geometric rules.  Furthermore, even though it’s mostly a great big green wooded green space, you can tell pretty easily that the entire place is professionally landscaped.  It’s definitely a natural area, and the fact that some of the more remote wooded trails have loud dance music emanating from …somewhere? ensures you don’t forget that you are, in fact, still in the middle of a megalopolis.  Pictures will have to suffice, because typing is tedious.

Rachelle saw a new bird, and there were people playing some kind of Chinese hacky-sack.  Also you could rent paddle boats with water cannons.  The water did not look very nice.

After this adventure, we wanted some drinks.  There was a Marriott across the road, but no obvious way to cross without dying.  Fortunately, the Metro station was still right there, and so we entered on one side and emerged on the other.  Hooray!  The hotel was fancy and shiny and we found the bar and it was expensive.  Well, it was about what you’d expect for a hotel bar in the States.  Martinis, mojitos, beers, and bowls of peanuts.  We found out that Guangzhou has an Oktoberfest.  We might have to go.  The service was terribly slow at the bar at first, but we’re all pretty sure that our drinks required the bartenders to find and open stuff that they don’t usually use.

Anyway.  Rachelle was starting to feel hungry, and we were all a little buzzed by this point, and we saw a McDonald’s around the corner.  We had originally planned to go to a Middle Eastern restaurant that had a “Vagetarian” menu, but honestly we weren’t in a mood to wait until after dark for food.  So Rachelle ended up eating a Big Mac.  In China.  It was funnier with the alcohol.  Did you know they deliver?

We decided to head home and Jenny wanted to use up some groceries in her fridge, so one metro trip later we were back on campus.  The Dig’n'Shop had large Zhujiang Draft cans for 6RMB apiece, so Rachelle and I went to get six of those and some playing cards and our German friend while Jenny prepared some food.  Honestly I don’t clearly remember much after that but I think I enjoyed myself.


Hey, so it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I’ve been getting my data where I can, but until today there hasn’t been a nice enough connection for me to post at my leisure.  This all changes starting today, and yes I will post about my first week in China over the next few days.

But let me tell you about my day.  Today was the opening ceremony for the School of Foreign Languages at SYSU’s Zhuhai campus.  Rachelle had to attend, and of course, that meant I did as well.  We woke up bright and early and prepared ourselves for the day with coffee and kiwifruit on the balcony.  It was a cool, breezy day–the first we had encountered thus far in Guangzhou.  We met Jenny and the German teacher in front of the SFL building and waited for the rest of the faculty to arrive.  We’re always so early!  Well, except when we’re not.  Anyway.

It was a fairly nice bus ride–long, but we got to see a lot of China outside of Guangzhou.  Spoiler, even outside the city there’s construction everywhere.  I found it hard to imagine how the little agricultural patches could coexist with the high-rises being built just on their edges, but they seemed to be working just fine.  I’m sure that it wasn’t quite so simple as that, but I’m just giving you the drive-by view.  The scenery was beautiful and I do wish I had taken more pictures, but I didn’t.  Maybe next time.

We finally arrived at the Zhuhai campus.  I had looked it up on Baidu and Google maps and image searches, and heard that it was essentially one giant building, and it was true.  The ground floor was really just shops and banks and bike parking around giant support pillars, and the rest was around four stories suspended in midair for what looked like a quarter-mile, at least.  We gaggled along to the second floor, I tried my damnedest not to hit my head on anything, and after a quick restroom break and some taking-in of the views, we filed into a lecture hall of some sort.

Oh, here are some of the aforementioned views.View from Zhuhai

Yeah, my phone camera seems to be a bit blurry.  Meh.

There were a bunch of speeches and the event was MC’d by a guy who reminded me of a Chinese Steve Buscemi.  Then the English department all went into another room and the teachers all introduced themselves and there was a speech speech speech.  It was mostly in Chinese, which I’m still terrible at, so I can’t say much more about it.  THIS IS NOT THE INTERESTING PART.

LUNCH, HOWEVER, MIGHT BE.  We got back into the bus and headed to a restaurant located pretty much across the street.  Food was served in what I assume to be the common fancy-Cantonese style, based on my prior experience (you’ll read about it later I’m sure).  I noticed that in addition to the chopsticks, we all had an additional wooden ‘stabby stick.’  I was informed that this was for snails.  And sure enough, the first thing to come out was a plate full of snails.  Stab, pull, pop, munch.  Not too bad.  Much like clams or other similar molluscs, but these had a bit of an aftertaste if you chewed too long.  Their shells were plenty cool though.

snail shells

From there, the plates kept coming.  There was some sort of freshwater fish that nobody could recall the English name of (mighty tasty though).  At the same time there was a plate of random bird chunks which I was told were pigeon.  Also not bad.  Chicken feet came out next.  Uh…  I tried one, and it wasn’t terrible, but it was a little too bony and gelatinous for my taste.  The beer kept coming–if you didn’t refill your glass, someone nearby would, and if they didn’t a waitress would come by–and the rest of the meal isn’t quite as clear, but there was a mushroom stew with seafood, a beef with peppers and leeks, some greens, some great big pieces of daikon with goose pieces, buns stuffed with either savory meat or sweet pineapple filling (which Rachelle said tasted a bit like bubble gum), a tofu and pumpkin dish, and probably a few more I’m sure I forgot.  By the end of the meal, I was half-staggering, half-waddling back onto the bus.

The itis, Cantonese style

The itis, Cantonese style.

On the way back I got a shitton of text messages in Chinese and then my phone stopped working.  Apparently, although my SIM card allows me 200MB of data per month (I know, right?) my phone is still in “use ALL the data!” mode.  And that’s how I drained every last yuan on my card in two days.  Son of a bitch.

We arrived back, and Paul took us to the networking center to set up our Internet accounts.  It was madness, but we got everything working which is why you are reading this.  Yay.  The following is on the doors of the helpdesk office, and made my head explode.

Merry Christmas, indeed.


Oh, I forgot to mention.  The class (which you would have known about had I been posting regularly up to this point) which was supposed to start Sunday, has been moved to Saturday.  I am teaching this class.  It is five-ish hours long and starts first thing tomorrow morning, and so why the hell am I still here on the internet?  Fortunately, my predecessor had some good lesson plans which I could shamelessly rip off build my course around.