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Running away from Home

Sichuan dining: not for the faint of heart

CHINA | Sunday, 9 May 2010 | Views [430]

My bed is as hard as a rock, but I still have a hard time getting out of it. The pitter-patter of rain is like a soothing lullaby that makes me forget that my back is screaming at me. What the heck is going to happen when the vacation ends and I have to go back to work? I don’t want to think about it, so I roll over to give my back a little relief and close my eyes again. Pretty soon, not just my back but my bladder, too is urging me to get up and it’s too much to ignore.

The morning pitter-patter turned into a steady drumming by noon, but it soon tapered off and I was left with no excuses to go forth and explore Chengdu. Once I got out into the fresh air, my spirits were lifted and I grew increasingly enthusiastic about my plans for the afternoon. I headed for the Wenshu Fang Old Quarter which isn’t really old, it’s just an older style of architecture. Still, it’s impressive even when the skies are gloomy and there is a light mist. In this area there are many teahouses, souvenir shops and a few restaurants. I was interested in the one that sold Sichuan snacks, a large number of tiny servings of Sichuan goodies. Fortunately, I had copied the Chinese characters for “Sichuan snack” or else I would have been up dookie creek. This restaurant had it posted on a placard by the entrance along with the price so that I wouldn’t get embarrassed. It was all Chinese characters in the menu too, so when I placed my order, all I could do was point. I paid 28 Yuan (a little more that $4) and I got 14 little dishes. I tried all of them even though I couldn’t tell what the heck I was eating. I get a little bit of a jolt when I think something is going to be savory and it ends up being sweet. I took photos of the individual snacks as well as the group so perhaps I can get someone who knows Sichuan food to help me identify them.

After my adventurous lunch, I spent the afternoon wandering around the ancient Wenshu temple that is a small haven of peace and quiet in this burgeoning city. It was too tranquil for me. I wanted to lay down in the garden and take a nap, so I sought a 21st century solution to this problem. I left the temple behind and power walked to the Starbucks outside of Platinum City, a trendy new shopping area. Since leaving Vietnam for China, I have migrated back towards tea as my caffeine supply, but I longed for a frappuchino. It was not meant to be, however. The person who made my drink thoughtlessly left out the coffee, and I got a little bit of a sugar buzz, but not the full-scale impact of a caffeine high.

A lot of my time lately has been consumed with job hunting and I found an interesting ad online for teaching positions in government universities in China. The pay is a lot less, but you won’t be employed by the “English mills” that promise the world and then deliver….China. The up side is because the government pays so little, they can’t demand someone who has years of experience. But what they did want was a number of documents, including a “passport-like” photo of the candidate, and “professional dress helps“. I was wearing a green t-shirt in my passport photo. I spent the evening trying to pull something together out of my travel wardrobe. All I can say is, thank God for scarves! This task was enough of a challenge, but I also had to figure out how to take a self-portrait that would not scare a prospective employer. It was an interesting exercise and I stayed up late e-mailing all of the required documents (it all had to be in one e-mail) to this recruitment program. Wish me luck!

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