Monday, September 8, 2014

Part P - Teaching in China - Pets

"They eat dogs in China you know."

How many times have I heard this statement and wondered what the underlying message was designed to be. For goodness sake, other people eat snails, snakes, eels, kangaroo, lambs, deer, fish, pigs, horse, insects and all sorts of creatures. It's what many humans tend to do to fill their bellies - often because they enjoy the taste, sometimes through necessity. If the need arose, I suspect I'd gnaw on some foods that right now I'd prefer not to think about.

And just to put the record straight, not all dogs, fish or snails in China are destined for the dinner plate. Many of them will become pets, kept for their beauty, serenity, good fortune or plain lovability.
The Chinese word for fish is similar to the one for abundance, so keeping fish as pets has special significance, fish also represent fertility and happiness.
I'm not too sure who is the star of the cheerfully posed photo above, though the little blue runners on the pooch were striking!
An expat enjoying walking the dog in dappled sunlight.
Puppies for sale in a market in Xuzhou. Not all were in prime condition and I suspect puppy farms are as much a problem in China as they are here. The little ones I photographed were in good condition and bouncing around healthily.

Every morning we'd look out of the hotel window and see groups of people training their dogs, chatting or walking briskly along before the heat of the day became unpleasant. Often the dogs would be off-leash and we nervously watched as the traffic streamed past and the dogs roamed free. But not once did one come close to being splattered! Although small dogs were most common, there were some large animals as well - Samoyed, Chow Chow, and others I didn't know.
One lunchtime our hosts asked us to give some suggestions about which dishes to order. I looked at some meat and suggested it could be a nice change. Bonnie, our interpreter looked at me with horror and simply said "Oh no, that wouldn't be nice"


"It's dog."

Even though dog is on the menu at various restaurants, it's clearly not the meat of choice for everyone!

It's odd though, while I'll cheerfully eat some animals, others aren't quite as tempting. I don't pretend it makes sense and my somewhat more logical brain says that if I'll eat one animal, then why not all of them? My brain then tells me that if I'm unhappy about munching on dog then I shouldn't eat any meats at all.  I'm obviously not as rational as I like to pretend I am!

My previous posts about Teaching in China were our ArrivalBanquets,  Culture and Comfort foods, DrivingExerciseFabulous Food,GamesHistoryIllnessFrom Jerilderie to JiangsuKenny (which is about toiletsLists and Communication Misunderstandings, Non-verbal communication followed by The Observations of an Onlooker, and the next will be Questions!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Part O - Teaching in China - The observations of an onlooker.

If you're female, tall, blond and blue eyed you'll be noticed in a country where most people have black hair. That's a given. There's no way you won't turn heads and create both obvious and discrete comment from children and adults.

If a bloke has a generous amount of face foliage and is older, you'll not only turn heads, but will have people constantly queuing up, asking to have their photo taken with you.

When you're a foreigner staying in a non-tourist Chinese city, be prepared to be stared at. Staring isn't necessarily rude, but is more along the lines of "Did I just see what I think I saw? My eyes must have been deceiving me!  I'll just have another look to check." This is often closely followed by a nudge to a friend, a hurried conversation and more staring eyes.

Put simply, if you're in the above categories, and don't like being stared at with curiosity, wonder or disbelief, dye your hair a dark colour or shave the beard off. For the introvert it'll save a lot of angst, and isn't uncommon among foreigners. You won't blend in, but you will be less obvious!

Staring can range from the cursory glance, to the prolonged unblinking stare, to the positively amusing triple take, complete with audible gasp and bulging eyes.

In the photo below you can see this in action. The lady in the blue/green blouse on the left is staring at the beard. The man in the black t-shirt in the centre of the photo is staring at our blond colleague.
I'm following along behind, bemused, insignificant and practically invisible ;-)

On the escalators however, it was another matter.  People couldn't stop and stare. They'd be travelling up the escalator chatting away and were unable to stop or backtrack to get a better look at the gweilo. I'm sure some of them would need to have had a neck brace fitted afterwards as their necks snapped round with such speed!

Walking along behind either Candy or Ian was often entertaining! You'd always know where they were by the synchronised turning of heads. Ah yes, they must be that way .... hmm, no more people looking, time to backtrack and follow the signs! On one occasion in a crowded market I couldn't see Ian, and simply gestured to a stall holder, stroked an imaginary beard and with a huge grin and wink, he pointed me in the correct direction. A beard can be a very useful item for a wife!

My previous posts about Teaching in China were our ArrivalBanquets,  Culture and Comfort foods, DrivingExerciseFabulous Food,GamesHistoryIllnessFrom Jerilderie to JiangsuKenny (which is about toiletsLists and Communication Misunderstandings. Next up - Pets!