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The posts have slowed, but that is because we are very busy. We just got back from a trip to Xi’an with my buddy from Georgetown, Matt Busa, which will be discussed later. This post details some of the more interesting Tangshan happenings in the last few weeks. As you all know, Tangshan was devastated by an earthquake 34 years ago. Our boss was given two tickets to the earthquake anniversary commemoration concert at the Tangshan stadium, but was unable to go. So Erin and I went to the concert on a hot and smoggy night. There was a big crowd, and an elaborate stage with a massive screen in the background. Erin and I understood 1 of about 50 words that were said (most of which were Tangshan), but it was an interesting concert. Many emotional songs and speeches were delivered, which were received with extremely tepid applause. I guess Chinese people don’t like to applaud very much, because it was bizarre how little they clapped from a Western perspective. The highlights for us were the dancing by some of China’s minority groups, but the highlight for the rest of the crowd was an apparently famous comedian. He seemed like a jolly enough fellow, but overall it seems that the Chinese sense of humor is quite different from the Western world. Comedy is Rated G, for children and adults. I was expecting the concert to be a bit more touching than it was, but I think I should expect things to be much more corny in the future. It didn’t seem like the crowd was particularly moved either, but we were glad we went.

One of our favorite restaurants in Tangshan is a Uighur restaurant. The Uighurs are a muslim minority group from western China and their food is an interesting blend from many different regions. We have frequented this restaurant dozens of times, and have become friendly with the staff who treats us like royalty (we translated their menu into English). We went to the restaurant for our boss’ birthday, and had a feast as always. The owner of the restaurant is a hilarious and friendly guy that looks like a Uighur version of the rotund laughing buddha, and he of course wanted to make the birthday special. After multiple attempts to give us the meal for free, he instead brought out an ancient looking disco ball and strobe light. After pumping up the Uighur jams, the dance party was on. The 2 Uighur boys that man the outdoor grill came out in Uighur clothes and did some traditional dancing, then pulled all of the foreigners out onto the floor to give them a dose of Western dance. It was very fun, my favorite part being when the owner’s 2 year old son who can barely walk went out on the dance floor and seemed to know how to dance. The Uighurs know how to party, and we all had a very good time.

The last story I will share took place in our apartment complex. We were walking to get a cab for something one day, and said hello to the guard and another Chinese fellow who was standing there. Instead of replying with an awkwardly pronounced “Hellooooo”, the man simply said “Hi.” This was an instant sign of fluency for me, so I asked if he spoke English. In perfect he started talking to us, explaining that his wife’s family lives in Tangshan, but that he lives in Baltimore with his wife and daughter. Such a small world, that we can be wandering in our little apartment complex in a somewhat obscure Chinese city and meet a guy that is from our neck of the woods. His name was Luke, and he asked us to get lunch with him, his daughter and his niece. We had a great lunch with them, and his niece will actually be headed to the University of Texas in 4 days for graduate school. It was a little sad to learn that in Tangshan, Luke was a surgeon at the hospital and in the USA he is a researcher, but he said he likes the USA and obviously likes it enough to keep his family there. Even a Chinese guy who has lived in the USA for 6 years maintains the tradition of being a great host, and we were certainly happy to have stumbled into him that day.

Alrighty, some pictures of the concert and random shots of Tanshan are below. Hope all is well with you, and expect some new and exciting blog updates in the next few days. My friend Busa is currently by himself in Beijing, so we are a little worried about him but he made it through Hong Kong on his own, and now knows the words for thank you, hello, goodbye, and can count to 3, so he should be fine. Good night/morning!

The Master said, “The gentleman calls attention to the good points in others; he does not call attention to their defects. The small man does just the reverse of this.” -The Analects, 12.16

Despite being located in a major ecological danger zone, I want to wish you a Happy Earth Day! Fortunately for me, I can access most of the American “green blogs” from over here. Some of the blogs I really like are on the Mother Nature Network (MNN) site: http://www.mnn.com/blogs. No, I’m not getting paid to write this, so you don’t have to ask…but if you are interested in reading about things like saving money by greening your home, the 10 most toxic places to live, organic fast-food restaurants and easy explanations regarding complex environmental phenomenon, I would highly recommend it! Today MNN greatly enhanced my knowledge of one of my very favorite hobbies, using coupons and finding great deals, by way of the Coupon Sherpa! This site gives you practically any printable or internet coupon for major chains, and had some really awesome Earth Day promos and tips for making money in a bad economy on their blog site: http://www.couponsherpa.com/ask-coupon-sherpa/ *Not a sermon, just a thought. (-Name that pastor of McLean Bible Church for a Chinese trinket!)

Yesterday night David and I hosted our first dinner party in China, and it was a success! On the menu was vegetarian chili (canned goods thanks to Jenny Lou’s in Beijing) and rice, fruit salad, mushrooms in oyster sauce, fried potatoes and Chinese puff pastries for dessert. I made everything except the pastries, and it all turned out really well. David cleaned the house and decorated with our ever-growing variety of plants, and we fed 4 additional guests: Ada and Milly who work at the school, Ada’s husband Liu, and the other David teacher. We pumped some American jams through the computer speakers David bought for a few dollars, and continued our ambassador-ship of South Africa by showing our slideshow again. We also showed Christmas photos of David’s family to our guests, and they couldn’t believe how big the families were…and how much everyone looked alike, haha. Overall it was a really fun night, and next time we hope to serve pizza! It makes me feel more at home to be able to host events like this, and I hope we can invite more friends and students over in the future.

The comments didn’t load on the last set of photos, so I wanted to mention that the picture of 3 men includes Eddie and his Chinese business partner. The photo of David and David on the street is the “food street” that we eat at nearly every day, and the little pup is DoDo (little bean) who lives with his chef family on the food street and is one of the smallest full-grown dogs I have ever seen. The girl and boy on TV is my student who hosted a show, and the darker photo is inside the Tangshan “Toy Club.”

I managed to get a really bad stomach ache today for the first time since being here, after eating a great-tasting dish from the food street. The other David felt pretty bad after eating it too, so hopefully it was just a bad batch of food. Anyway, I probably won’t check in again until after Hong Kong, but I look forward to telling more tales!

Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart. -Confucius

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