Life in Cili: A Week in Review #1

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and do not reflect the views or opinions of WorldTeach or its affiliates.

Since I came to Cili, I have already made some leaps and bounds in getting out of my comfort zone. I joke with my friends and family about “skill points” like my life is a video game, so here are some of the “skill points” that I acquired this week:

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Cuts

For some reason, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to find a place that could deal with my hair when I was in China, so I pretty much accepted the fact that I’d have to grow out my pixie cut. Almost as if the Universe was mocking me for doubting China, I found at least three hair salons near the school. One day I just decided that my hair was getting a bit dorky-looking (ladies who have grown out pixie cuts before, you know what I mean), so I decided to walk in with a photo and see what happened. Fifteen kuai and forty minutes later, I felt a lot more put together!

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The “before” shot
First haircut in China
The “after” shot

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Skill Point Acquired: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Before I moved to China, I lived in the greater Washington, D.C. area for work, and while I was living there, I tried to start a mini garden on my balcony. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out like I had expected, but that might all change here in Cili! Within my first week, I found a potted aloe plant and a mint seed kit from my wandering around the city! When we were in Changsha, I found a hanging basket with English ivy; I’m hoping I can find one like that to hang from my balcony. I’m hoping that more greenery in the apartment would make it feel a bit more like home.

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Vegging Out

When I was studying abroad in Beijing, I didn’t really have much opportunity to prepare my own meals; given that the program was only for two months, it seemed unrealistic for us to go out and buy a wok, a pot, etc. when we could eat out cheaply, compared to the U.S. Luckily, my apartment came with a rice cooker, a microwave, and some of the other basic essentials for cooking, so I only had to get stuff like food storage containers and actual foodstuffs.

I also was able to cook my first homemade meal here in China! I made steamed rice in my rice cooker, boiled a leek and half a carrot in a pot on my hot plate, and then fried an egg with spinach and a bit of soy sauce. The only issue with the meal was that it was too much for just me! Oh, well—all the more excuse to invite guests over! That said, though, the best part about having one pot and pan is that there are fewer dishes to clean up!

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P.S. Bonus points because I found shou zhua bing pancakes in the market across the street from the school! Since I haven’t been able to find a pancake stand near the school (though that might change as classes get going), I made one! I’m still trying to get used to the hot plate concept, though, so it got a bit burnt. That said, it still tasted like sweet victory!

Homemade shou zhua bing
手抓饼(shou zhua bing) with an egg

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Spice it Up

Normally, I go to one place for everything from mantou (steamed rolls; perfect for when my stomach isn’t cooperative) to rou si chao fan (fried rice with shredded pork), but one day, no one was out in front, the lady who helps run the shop was watching TV, and while I was likely within my rights to call out to get her attention, I wasn’t in the mood to yell. So, I decided to move on down the street to a mi fen (rice noodle) place, and ate there instead.

Normally, they ask, “yao bu yao la jiao?” (do you want spice?) and my answer is usually “bu yao la jiao” (I do not want spice). In Changsha (possibly because there were more foreigners), people were generally okay with this, but here in Cili, there was some commentary from the people behind me the last time I ordered food; I didn’t catch all of what they said, but I imagine it had something to do with how foreigners can’t handle spice (guilty as charged) and that the food wouldn’t taste as good without spice.

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At the mi fen place, I took a baby step and ordered my beef mi fen with yi dian la (a bit of spice). Later on, the lady handed me some pink vegetable or fruit; I never figured out what it was, but it cut the spice a lot.

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Could anyone tell me what this is? I wasn’t able to ask the lady who made my food.

Tomorrow I start teaching classes here in Cili, and honestly, as grateful as I am for the time to explore, I’m ready to start teaching. Hopefully I’ll be here next week with another article! See you then! Zai jian!

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