Tag Archive | "Shaoxing"

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Shaoxing Culinary Delights…or Not!

Posted on 06 May 2010 by Sasha

There’s a particular smell you just can’ t avoid while walking down the streets of Shaoxing in China.  It’s a smell that resembles stinky, sweaty feet on a hot summers day.  The smell is putrid; wafting un-invited up your nostrils as you walk past the tiny street side food stalls.

Man Cooking Stinky Tofu

Despite the offensive smell, this is the odor of Shaoxing’s most famous culinary delight Chou Dofu or Stinky Tofu.  Despite it’s rancid smell I was determined to try it, after all, this was a dish with ancient Chinese origins and if it had lasted the test of time surely it tasted better than it smelled?

This was originally a guest post written for Ooh.com.  To read the rest of this article check out the Ooh.com food blog.

 

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The only foreigner for miles…

Posted on 20 March 2010 by Sasha

The day I was shoved on a Chinese public bus destined for my new home for the next 4 months was the start of a string of lonely and emotionally turbulent days.

Beijing Map

Cold, lonely and worried I sat in Shaoxing bus station waiting to be picked up after an hour’s journey from Hangzhou.  I arrived at the station feeling that my journey had been much to short and hoping that I had ended up in the right city.  Without my ticket (left with the educational institute that sent me off) next to no mandarin and no documentation what’s so ever all I had were three phone numbers that could hopefully help me.  After wandering around the bus station saying ’bu yao’ (not want) to numerous hotel offers I still had no clue where I would be picked up from and who I should be looking for, would they have a sign?  After 15 minutes I called the contact at the school to tell them I had arrived and was waiting, from what I gathered over the dodgy line and through broken English someone was on their way.  After two hours waiting in the freezing cold feeling caged in like an animal in a zoo with nowhere to go and everyone staring I was finally picked up.  It turned out they were given the wrong pickup information and went to the wrong station.  The stress of trying to find me must have worn them out because no sooner were we in the taxi he was sound asleep.

After the trauma of being stuck in a bus station where no one spoke any English all I wanted to do was curl up in a nice warm bed, eat a nice meal and watch a movie.  But alas no that was not to be my fate.  When I arrived at the school, Shaoxing Experimental Primary School I was swiftly toured around briefly interrupting the principle in a meeting only to be quickly ushered out.  I momentarily met my future students and then was whisked back to my apartment where I was left to spend the afternoon cold and lonely wondering how I ever would survive the next few months! 

My apartment was freezing, the heater was pumped up to maximum capacity not that it made a difference.  The whole place had a foul smell that lingered in the air.  When I entered the bathroom to my horror I was confronted by a squat toilet with the shower over the top! Noooo how would I possibly survive squatting over the next few months! This was turning into my worst nightmare; everything I knew was a possibility had come about but it was not what I ever believed would become my reality.

The squat toilet that will never be as clean as i would like.

The next day I turned up to my classroom at 8am sharp like I was told for what I was under the impression was going to be some kind of orientation.  I assumed that I would be given a syllabus, shown my office and around the school, how wrong I was.  What I didn’t expect was for them to say that I didn’t have an office, that I was to use the desk in classroom and that low and behold today I would be teaching my first class.  It was to start in less than 45mins!  I didn’t have time to panic I had to think on my feet and the result was the obvious tell the students about myself and find out as much about them as I could. 

My first day of teaching went incredibly smooth especially considering I had no lesson plans.  The kids were great, they were so entertaining, such characters and they were so amazed by me. They were hanging onto me like barnacles on a whale.  I couldn’t get a moment to myself.  How could I possibly feel lonely. 

In the afternoon when I was in my apartment with only myself for company I felt incredibly lonely, isolated and just plain sad.  The ladies who looked after the boarding students were so kind and friendly even though I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me.  They would knock on my door to remind me to go to the cafeteria for meals using the universal language of mime to communicate.

I had great students and I had friendly people around me yet I couldn’t help but feel sad. I was stuck in a major rut!  I sort comfort in speaking to my parent’s back home and reading emails from people in more dire circumstances than mine.  All I wanted to do was get on a plane and go back home.  I had never felt like this before when I had travelled.  I had always treasured the moments when I was alone and the excitement of being in a whole new place but for some reason this time the magic just wasn’t there.

Day two of teaching, this time I was armed with lesson plans and again I had another great day of teaching.  I decided that I really needed to get out and find myself a supermarket and stock up on some comfort food.  Luckily for me the sun was shining, finally I was getting that much needed Vitamin D that I had missed out on for weeks.  Within 10mins of walking around the area everything turned around.  I discovered that there was civilisation, that I didn’t need to feel like I was a prisoner and that in fact I was in an incredibly beautiful area.  The magic and exhilaration of travel had returned. To top it off I discovered that just 15 mins walk away I could indulge in my western desires for fast food and department stores with KFC, Mc Donald’s and Wallmart shinning like a beacon beckoning me to spend away my sadness.

My apartment that I now love!

Things have picked up incredibly since those few very low days!  I’m loving teaching, I’m loving the neighbourhood and I’m even loving my apartment squat toilet and all.  By getting out there, exploring and rediscovering the magic of travel I was able to completely turn around my mindset to see all the positives of the situation. I can even see the advantages of a squat toilet, after all it saves me from working squats into my exercise regime to get those fantastic legs!

Read my tips for getting the most out of your experience living abroad in Survival Tips for Living Abroad!!!  12 things I did that turned around my whole experience.

If you want to follow my journey teaching, living and travelling in China then please subscribe to the RSS feed!!!

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