So as I’m sure most of you know, Mandarin Chinese, as well as many other languages spoken in Asia, is a tonal language, meaning that not only does the comprehension of their language include the pronunciation of any given word, but also the pitch at which the speaker is talking.  Mandarin has four tones, which is actually relatively simply compared to say Cantonese, which has six tones is actually the most widely spoken language of Chinese nationals living abroad.  Mandarin tones consist of the first tone, which is a sustained high pitch, 2nd tone, which rises, 3rd tone, which falls and rises, and the fourth tone, which falls.  In pinyin, the written language that uses the English alphabet to write Mandarin words, the four tones are signified by accent marks above the vowels in each word.  To learn a few key-phrases in Mandarin, see them written in both pinyin and in Chinese, as well as hear the difference in intonation, click here.

Here are a few more pictures of Liaocheng.  I don’t have time for a long entry today because I’m going out for a little retail therapy.  Classes have been frustratingly slow lately, and combined with what I suppose is culture shock I’ve found myself in a pretty irritable mood most of the time, so I decided to go to the whole sale market in town and buy some new shoes.  By the way, if there’s anyone out there that’s dieing for some cheap knock-off shwag, and doesn’t mind a little Chinglish or frayed stitches, I’m taking orders.

It wasn’t that long ago that the vast majority of China’s waste was organic, and this may account for the general uncleanliness of Chinese cities.  Every city has an army of public workers whose job it is to walk around and sweep up people’s garbage, and more often then not they just push it all into one place until the pile gets too big and someone comes around the clean it up.  In places like Beijing and Shanghai, there is a massive effort underway to teach people to actually use the garbage bins on the street.

The beautiful canals of Liaocheng…biking along these river ways has been good for the body and mind while here.

While this picture might shock some of the animal rights activists, for the most part this guy seemed like he was pretty kind to his little monkeys.  They were well trained, and his performance was downright hilarious.  Every time he pretended to get angry at one of them another one would toss a rock at his head.

The gap between rich and poor in China is simply massive, which is ironic in a country that’s technically communist.