Not much to report here today…went out with Patrick and Dean from the English school in town for Patrick’s birthday.  The three of us split a bottle of Jim Bean, which is available albeit quite expensive in China, and played video games on their Xbox before going out to a barbecue restaurant for dinner.  Had we not ventured from their apartment I may have forgotten entirely that I was on the other side of the world.  It felt good to do something rather “normal” for a college age kid, but I feel as though I’m still in need of a good release this weekend.

This Monday is tomb-sweeping day in China, a national holiday in which families go to the tombs of their ancestors, sweep away all the collected dust and leave flowers, as well as probably lighting off some fireworks.  I’m taking the opportunity of a three day weekend to get out of Liaocheng, either heading off to Qingdao or Beijing.  Qingdao is a well known tourist destination for foreigners in China.  It’s a beautiful city on the coast, and I do hope to go there at some point, but as of now I’m leaning towards Beijing, because it’s closer and I have people I can visit there.  Plus, I’m hoping to save Qingdao for when it’s a bit warmer.

I was happy to find today that half of my listening class, the one I tend to find the most useless, was devoted to practicing our characters.  I was very grateful to the teachers for changing the lesson plan to help Will and I with our characters.  The two Korean girls in my class seemed a bit annoyed because they can write and read characters with ease, but to be honest they have been really nasty to me lately, and it was pretty satisfying to see them in such a huff.

Dean told me last night that the difference between the written English language and that of Chinese is that the English language is based upon how a word sounds, whereas Chinese is based upon its meaning.  It makes sense in that you can’t sound a Chinese character out in order to read it, but I question the reasoning in the writing of certain characters.  Like the word pengyou, or friend for instance.  The character consists of two characters that mean moon, and one character that means to have.  So if Dean’s explanation was correct, this would mean that whoever came up with the character for pengyou thought that a friend has something to do with having two moons… Ok.  I’ll go with that.  At least it’s a helpful way to remember the characters for moon, to have, and friend.  I’m sure that the character for peng (two moons) will prove to be useful at some point as well.

Here’s another collections of the some of the common things you see in a Chinese city such as Liaocheng.

These little three-wheeled trucks are all over the city, performing a variety of tasks for hire.  They’ll haul just about anything for the right price.

This is the downtown section of Liaocheng, lined with high priced designer stores and street food.  A gigantic KFC tends to be the center of most activity.

I like this picture for two reasons.  First, it exemplifies the fascination with Western culture, as well as the perceived connotation with prosperity.  Secondly, it’s a good example of how the Chinese language, when translated literally into English, usually comes across as rather chunky and inarticulate.  While the individual words as well as the combined meaning might be the same, a Chinese person who speaks English can struggle for years to develop the proper cadence of language that a native English speaker has, and vice versa.

One of the nicer aspects of being in China is that most of the food you buy at open street markets and in restaurants is extremely fresh and local.  In fact, the proprietor of this restaurant had three more lambs waiting to be slaughtered when he finished

cooking this one.  While the director of the FDA might have a brain aneurysm if he saw this picture, the fact is that this food is probably much more nutritious than any food you get at a restaurant in the States.  This doesn’t have anything to do with any sort of green, loca-vore, or organic movement, it’s just the way things operate.  It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than Whole Foods too.