China Surprises

Location: Fuzhou and Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China edit3

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This past week was a truly wonderful week for K and I in China. We had the opportunity to travel to Fuzhou, and we were greeted with two marvelous surprises while on our journey. One was the arrival of some of our closest friends to the country. The other was that we were nominated for the Liebster award from another blogger in the WordPress community (wanderinfish.com– check him out!). As we had originally established this blog only as a means of further communication with friends and family back home, we are thrilled at how much positive support and feedback we have received through this platform, and are greatly considering expanding and diversifying our efforts.

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More on that momentarily.

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We did a great deal while Paul and Alex visited. It was pretty much a marathon of our favorite things about Jian’ou crammed into 6 days. What a whirlwind. While they were experiencing the joys of squat toilets, rock solid bamboo mattresses, street food, and oil-fried everything; we were given some crunchy peanut butter, Nutella, Cadbury Eggs, Godiva chocolate chips, and even a glorious bottle of Elysian Split-Shot Espresso Stout (which we’re saving for a rainy day!) that traveled all the way from Seattle.

During our 2 days in Fuzhou (let’s call that the adjustment period), we were able to ease the culture shock of being the only foreigners a bit for them by sleeping in a fancy hotel and taking them for pineapple pinwheels, bamboo dumplings, and mahwah. We finished the day by journeying down the Min Riverwalk in search of a vegetarian meal, which as we know is difficult to come by, and eventually took the train through the mountainous canyons back to Jian’ou. It took them a while to recover from the 15-hour time difference, but eventually the jet lag subsided and they admired the beauty whizzing by outside the windows.

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We promptly introduced them to our few English-speaking friends and cultural liaisons, and arranged for them to have a Q&A with our students. They also got to partake in meals from our favorite restaurants: the quintessential tea-egg and noodle breakfast, bamboo shoots and snails from Suvien’s sister’s restaurant, make-your-own hot pot soup, red bean milk tea at Take Away Café, unparalleled desserts from King’s Café, and a farewell barbecue.

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We climbed the small mountain near our apartment and they were able to see the infamous root carvings and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as fearing for their lives (tetanus?) while playing on the exercise park. We had a midday KTV marathon filled with Budweiser, ’90’s pop songs, and playing dice. We spent an entire day climbing the Big Mountain surrounding the city to the lookout tower above. The weather was the warmest it’s been lately, and our skin was tinged pink by the time we headed down with remnants of plums and dragon fruit sticky on our fingers. We stopped at the Confucian temple for green tea and fortune reading and they could hear the monks singing their midday hymns.

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The last few days we took them to Guangzhou temple for a taste of the amazing Buddhist vegetarian cooking and took photos with the caretakers there. The final day we had a barbecue (a “Spring Out” in Davi’s parlance) in which we grilled vegetables and tofu on skewers, while the others ate duck connective tissue. We even set off some firecrackers before sending them on their way.

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Anyways, the award is and it is given by other bloggers to foster support in the community. In short, it’s recognition from fellow bloggers and it also gives us the opportunity to share a little about ourselves and what we enjoy, which is awesome! We are supposed to answer some simple survey questions and make some recommendations of our own. Since K and I are very different people, consequently so are our responses, so here they are for each of us:

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Why did you start your blog?
K: V and I may differ on this, but to keep in contact with people in America when we were teaching abroad, and to put together a temporal art project/archive. We have some really interesting travels coming up in the future, and I would really like to share and remember them.
V: Because K and I work together well, we thought the project would be a  way to share with all of our loved ones back home what we were doing on the other side of the world. It’s also a fantastic way to connect with others who are working/living abroad and commiserate on similar experiences. Personally, I thought it was important to create a travelogue for reference of the places we’ve visited, as well as a digital record of how we’ve grown creatively throughout our travels.

If you only could visit what country in the world, which would it be?
K: Antarctica, because of its microclimates, and because it’s the one place in the world that–though politicized–is not a political space. It’s fertile, neutral territory, and it’s crazy interesting.
V: It’s incredibly hard to choose. I would have to say Iceland. I’ve always considered it staggeringly beautiful, almost otherworldly and ethereal. Everything: the wool, the accent, the Northern Lights. The relationship and interplay between humans and nature seems breathtaking in a way that is unlike anywhere else.

What is your favorite book?
K: My favorite book of is W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. It’s so many different books rolled into one: travelogue, mystery, bildungsroman, tragedy, drama, history.
V: My favorite book is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.   It’s no contest. It is a stunning piece of writing that is both innocent and honest, and has a little bit of truth to reveal about all of us. All of JSF’s writing is brilliant, though.

What is your ideal job?
K: I would like to be self-employed in a creative, intellectually fulfilling pursuit, where I can experiment with different media (film, writing, music, whatever). Failing that, I want to be a data scientist (but I have to learn to program first!).
V: I absolutely love teaching, don’t get me wrong. But, I would have to say my ideal job would be working with languages. I’m a little different from K in that I don’t think I have the discipline to be self-employed. However, I would love a job that allows me to produce art and work with others, and has built in travel time! Another of my dreams is to one-day open a café or bakery of my own.

Do you have a favorite quote or words to live by?
K: Not really. There’s too many to decide from and I have disdain for people who can parrot back lines from stuff. Otherwise, paraphrasing John Cage, if something is boring, double the time that it takes to do it until it becomes interesting.
V: As they say, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” I interpret this to mean that we should all take charge of our own lives and our destiny, and that we should foster self love. We spend so much time reflecting on our disappointments and focusing on those we cannot please, that we are paralyzed in the pursuit of our own happiness.

What’s your favorite meal?
K: My favorite meal is chana masala with basmati rice, a huge samosa, naan, and an IPA or glass of bourbon. For dessert, I would prefer to eat some kind of decadent dark chocolate and peanut butter concoction. If it were truly my favorite meal, there would be two dinner courses, and one of them would include poutine and the sloppiest veggie burger in North America.
V: My ideal meal would be Pad Thai and Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream for dessert with Jasmine chai tea to drink. I also really love fondue.

If you could be anyone in history for one day, who would you be?
K: I would be pretty much any historical king prior to the Industrial Revolution, to see how much of a difference there is between wealth and comfort.
V: It would sure be neat to try J.K. Rowling’s brain on for size.

What are your fears?
K: Not being able to do all of the things I want to do, artistically and personally.
V: Not ever being able to truly accept, embrace, and love myself as a person. Warts and all.

What’s your favorite post on your blog?
K: Whatever the most recent one is. The blog isn’t old enough for me to accurately reflect on my favorites, and the new things are the most exciting. If I absolutely have to pick, the ‘Hunting for Chestnuts‘ video post.
V: Again, it’s hard to choose. I love the post about Xi’an. Looking through the hundreds of photos from the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses was incredible. K’s video posts are also really spectacular, and I loved collaborating with him to make Boiled Veggie Dumplings. I am a foodie to the core, as you might have guessed.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
K: I don’t believe in feeling guilty for enjoying things, but the answer to the question is Cher’s “Believe” anyway.
V: I agree with K, that people shouldn’t be ashamed of the things that bring them happiness. That being said, I must admit to eating peanut butter with chocolate chips straight from the jar. I also harbor an eternal love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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A great blog we nominate to receive the award. If you like reading what we have to say, I’m sure you’ll love her!
My Hong Kong Husband

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We’re super thankful everyday for friends (virtual and actual) and the support they bring us,

<3, V&K

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