Rural China certainly can take its toll on your energy levels, and in a good way. My brain has formed so many new neural connection networks in the past weeks that I can’t keep up with their pace. The best way to learn a language is to put yourself into a situation where your comfort depends on it. The hospitality and warm-heartedness of the people help a lot. The worst things people have told me are “look, a chick-foreigner, wonder what she’s doing here” (two policemen thought I couldn’t understand them) and “you can’t take photos of me”. In other words, not bad at all. I have been actively exposing myself to different types of foods here in Xiangyang, with the intention of dispelling uncertainty surrounding Chinese eating habits. They wouldn’t eat the types of foods they eat if they were truly hazardous. Chemicals are then a different thing altogether. I asked my friend to take me to eat to places where there rarely has been seen a foreigner. We also went to local snack shops, which have actually healthy stuff such as seeds and nuts readily available in small packages. Here are some of my discoveries, which I bought medium-big quantities of (much to the shop owners’ pleasure) and I can recommend them all:

  • dried jackfruit (we don’t even have this fruit at home)
  • Japanese dried plums (these taste like a kind of liqueur)
  • a small natural yeast cake with Hokkaido milk flavour (small in these cases = ~5 cm)
  • a small frankincense-baked cake
  • a small mumu cake
  • a small steamed black rice cake
  • salty dried cherries
  • whole pine seeds
  • amber walnut kernels
  • small elderflower mead biscuits
  • strange-taste horse beans (yes, the label reads “strange-taste horse beans”)
  • whole home-grown lychees
  • goji berries (an interesting thing I learned was that there are female and male types of goji berries. The female ones are fruity and bigger than the male ones. The male ones are crispy and consist mostly of seeds. For some reason, I have only ever seen the female variety sold in our shops at home.)
  • and some other seeds/things where the labels could be read in Chinese only

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A happy vendor in Xiangyang.

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“Sure, we went to … never mind.”

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Water bottles are works of art here.

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A small stool for long stretches of waiting.

The adventures seem to have no end. One day, we went exploring a place called Fanchengquzhongyuanjiexinfuxiaoqushequweishengfuwuzhan. Don’t ask me to repeat that word. 😀 Also, I noticed that because there are too many people (= not enough seats for everyone) at railway stations, there were vendors selling small hand-crafted stools for 12 yuan. That makes about EUR1,50. So, I got one of my own. And it’s adorable! It’s about 20 cm tall, and 15 cm wide. I wonder what Finns will think when they see me apparently hovering above the ground in a sitting position while waiting for my train, because the small stool can’t be seen properly when being used. My friend recently got married (she told me that there would be no hurry, but to obtain some occupations or professions in China, you need to be married to even be considered as a possible candidate) and her family was having a several days long celebration in her hometown. She and her husband are good people, and I was honoured to be able to take part of the celebrations. I will stay here for one more night and take the bullet train to Beijing in the morning, while she already flew back today since she starts working tomorrow. In the meantime, I will try to upload some photos here again. Let’s hope it works this time.

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In China, the traditional colour for women to wear on their wedding day is red instead of white. White symbolises mourning and death in China, and isn’t used in festivities except for funerals.

My good friend started a blog recently on interior design. She is very talented in this field and has a good eye for organising and decorating interior spaces with simple, practical and elegant items. I will definitely need to consult her when I have a house of my own in the future. Here’s the address: http://lovellainteriors.wordpress.com Next time, you will read about the bustle of Beijing as not seen in regular tourist guides, and my/our adventures there!

Mili

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