I’ve been hesitant to post a blog because I feel like my view of our experiences here is biased, and I didn’t want to misrepresent the people and the culture here, both of which I am just beginning to become familiar with. I remember before I came I had a picture in my mind that was completely different from the way Zhuhai really is. I guess the best I can do is show you some emails I wrote throughout the past few weeks, describing what I was seeing. The first is from the first week in Zhuhai, and the last one is from a couple of days ago.

1. Then we went to the seafood market. In addition to outside shops with live seafood, there was a warehouse sized building- a farmers market filled with all sorts of dried seafood- squid, various fish, sea snail, seahorse, shark fins. They were all organized, labeled, and placed in clear plastic wrapping by family booth. There were also a few strings of fake pearls. A woman with a child in the school we are teaching at offered us squid to try. I accepted a piece; I figure I can’t refuse aalll meat.  It was sweet and then very spicy, with a texture like thin strips of dried mango. The fishy smell was overwhelming in the market though. After that we went to a restaurant and ate all sorts of dishes, again on the lazy susan tables. The school children we were with were quite polite and friendly. They helped serve us, gave us chopstick lessons, and made sure we got to the food before they did. Afterwards we tried green bean ice cream from a local vendor.

2. I went to the beach the other day. It was awesome; there weren’t waves so we got to swim a lot. We also played volleyball with some kids. I think I mentioned I’ve also been playing basketball. I meet one of the teachers and some of the people in my group and we go to public courts at night, were a bunch of guys usually go. We just start playing against a random group of strangers, and everyone’s really friendly. We do that from 8 to 10, because at ten the lights on the courts cut out.

3. The other day one of the other teachers and I went on a walk after dinner. We found a narrow alley that you can only access by a dark rusty neighborhood gate. Most neighborhoods have these gates, and all residents have little round electronic keys to get in and out. This gate was open though, so we just wandered in. The apartments were so close together that some of the apartment windows that jutted out from the tops of the buildings almost touched each other above us, they were maybe 6 inches apart. When we wandered a little further in, we found an open room on the ground floor, with bright lights coming from it. The shops are opened and closed with garage type doors. This room was like that, with the garage door up. Some women were playing mahjong at the front, and some men sat behind them in a corner and watched. I was surprised to see women playing, I usually see men. I stopped to watch. I hesitated, about to leave, and one of the men offered us stools. We stayed and watched a game, I understand most of it from playing with my brothers back home. Once the round was over they scooped the tiles to the center of the table and the table opened up and consumed them, then laid out new tiles ready to go, in a pattern. Apparently the table redoes itself like how bowling pins reset, it was surprising to me. The guy who invited us asked us to play a round, but I said no because I didn’t want to get trapped into gambling. We kept going down the alley. It was wet and kind of muddy, because it had rained that day. There were plywood planks in some places, to keep walkers off the water I’m guessing. We came across some little kids playing basketball and a room with old style arcade games and a bunch of teenage boys on stools crowded around them. I bought some bubble gum from one shop owner. I asked how much and he tried to get his four-year-old son to translate, it was really cute. Mostly it was just dark apartments though. We eventually found our way out to the main streets, where dinner shops with plastic chairs and tables for outside seating were still open. They can eat late here; the restaurants stay open until 10 or later sometimes. We went past that, and some people selling see-through sunbrellas with holes in them (the use? I don’t know) on the streets, and some others selling jewelry and clothing on racks. On the way back we found a bus stop for the buses to the ocean, so hopefully that will be my adventure this weekend.

-Abby

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