Month: October 2009


teahouse gate

I woke up at 7 am to the sound of a loudspeaker voice shouting something unintelligible that echoed echoed echoed. There’s always something going on at the sports stadium across the street – usually it’s just soldiers shouting responses, but this voice is scary, like something out of 1984. There’s a squadron of white-uniformed people all holding red Chinese flags, and still the voice echoes….

I’ve almost completed my online practicum class requirements. Yesterday another teacher observed me teaching my class. The 8 students were on their best behavior and slightly nervous, and so was I. Now I have to write up my report, as well as the other teacher’s suggestions, and submit it via the UCLA “Blackboard” virtual classroom software.

In the meantime, it’s my day off (Friday) so don’t expect me to talk or even think about teaching. I need to, like, zone out….

American culture lesson for Sunday, October 18

After my post on Friday about sampling Puer Tea, it occurred to me that I should have explained my reference to settling for the “farm” after you’ve seen “Paree.”

The reference was to a World-War I-era song about soldiers returning to normal life after seeing combat in foreign countries. Would you be able to keep them on the farm after they’d tasted the delights of Paris, even in the midst of wartime violence? Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

For Me And My Gal : The Musical
(Words by : Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young / Music by : Walter Donaldson)

Reuben, Reuben, I’ve been thinking
Said his wifey dear
Now that all is peaceful and calm [after the war]
The boys will soon be back on the farm [home again in the U.S.]
Mister Reuben started winking and slowly rubbed his chin
He pulled his chair up close to mother
And he asked her with a grin

How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm
After they’ve seen Paree’ [Paris, France]
How ya gonna keep ’em away from Broadway [bright lights, big city]
Jazzin’around and paintin’ the town [“whooping it up” – having fun]
How ya gonna keep ’em away from harm, that’s a mystery [“harm” = temptation]
They’ll never want to see a rake or a plow
And who the deuce can parleyvous a cow? [“parlez-vous” – how can you speak French to a cow?]
How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm
After they’ve seen Paree’

Note: instead of “Broadway” (which is in New York, NOT Paris), one version says “Likker” (liquor – booze), which makes more sense.

And that’s the truth.

New or old? You guess

new or old?

Kuanxiangzi and Zhaixiangzi (Wide and Narrow Lanes) in Chengdu were originally built during the Kang Xi period of the Ming Dynasty, about 1700.

During the past several years the area has been transformed (some would say “restored,” others would say “Disneyfied”) into a tourist attraction and upscale shopping / restaurant / nightclub district. Some original elements of the neighborhood were retained – old brick archways, fragments of ancient walls, even a couple of entire courtyard houses of the “nobility” – but much was simply swept away to be replaced with mediocrity or fake ancient-style buildings housing Starbucks and the like.

Visiting this area always gives me mixed emotions. Yes, the entire area could simply have disappeared (as is currently happening to Shuijingfang), but couldn’t the process have been handled with less clumsiness? Do you really need a 3-story “ancient” shopping mall right beside a one-story courtyard house?

The area also has some interesting early 20th-century buildings that I believe were built under French “cooperation” – France has a long history of influence in Chengdu – in western classical styles.

Looking at this building, I thought “Oh, it’s an original doorway that’s been preserved.” When I was processing the photo, though, I noticed that the wood support above the carved bracket had been rather badly “distressed” using streaks of dark-gray paint. Does this mean that the whole structure is fake? Is it a combination of old and new elements? Is it live, or is it Memorex?

China isn’t alone in re-creating historic districts like this; any number of American cities have “tarted-up” older areas that attract yuppies and tourists, with fake gaslights or new “old” brick streets. Such areas are popular for a while, but they often lapse again into decay.

Still, how can you enjoy an authentic Ming or Qing-era atmosphere with piped-in Michael Jackson music and signs that say “Foxy Club?” I’ll sip my caramel Frappuccino and ponder this.

Photo of the day



A day off.

I finally found some pants that fit my 40-inch waist. They even look good.

Spent the afternoon on my bike – returned to my old ‘hood to get my hair cut and to eat a bowl of la mian – hand pulled noodles with beef.

After I bought my pants I headed to the Tea Market, northwest of the Train Station. It’s a huge collection of small tea stores; I chose one and bought 2 tiny porcelain tea cups. Then I asked to sample some Puer (poo-are) Tea – the fermented green tea made famous during the time of the tea-horse trade across the mountains between southwest China and Tibet (Chinese tea exchanged for for Tibetan horses).

Puer is an acquired taste, slightly musty with a bit of sourness (originally the fermentation was caused by the horses’ sweat which soaked into the tea). The first sample was good, but when they served me some 1997 aged tea shaved from a huge tea “brick” I was hooked. Price: 800 yuan for the brick. They tried to sell me the cheaper stuff, even cutting the price in half, but how can you settle for the farm once you’ve seen Paree? I just couldn’t do it. I was spoiled by quality.

I rode to Songxianqiao Antiques Market next, to view again a painting I am considering buying. This time the shop was open, and I found out the artist’s name and the price: 1,000 yuan. I didn’t make a counter-offer, but told the owner I’d be back next week. Will I feel any richer then? I doubt it.