Sunday, October 21, 2007

C***'s Here

My recent photo-uploading problems have put me a bit behind in my blogging, so I haven't mentioned that Ling's sister C***o and her husband R***i arrived here on Saturday. C***o's a political science professor at Jilin University's main campus in Changchun, and she'll be teaching here in Zhuhai for a month. Before I came here, I was thinking of C***o as a sort of security blanket: If I ran into any hassles, particularly of a bureaucratic nature, I only had to hold on until C***o could come and straighten them out for me. But as it turned out, things have gone generally smoothly, so now I can just be glad C***o's here for the chance to have family around.

On her first night here, C***o was taken to dinner by some of her colleagues in the Political Science department, and I was invited to come along. After eating nothing but dining hall food for a week, I jumped at the chance. I had assumed we'd be going o a restaurant in San Zao or even Zhuhai, but it turned out we ate in a private room in the dinning hall. Surprisngly—and gratefully—the experience and quality was every bit equal to that of a restaurant; I was amazed that food that good could be produced in the same building as the not-bad but not-top-notch meals I'd been having just a few steps away.

Next to C***o is Professor Liu, whom I believe is the head of the department. (Sorry, but I've forgotten the name of the other woman in the photo.) There's also a Professor Liu in my department who knows both C***o and Ling, and I'd originally thought we'd be dining with him; the limited number of family names here is an inevitable fact of life that presents occasional confusion, at least for me. Hard to believe looking at him, but Professor Liu (that is, C***o's Professor Liu) is 70 years old!

In the foreground on the table are locally caught crabs. In front of C***o is a tasty dish of spicy frog (don't know if they're local as well). The shrimps in front of Professor Liu are a Cantonese preparation: I'd already had them once here, so I impressed the group by knowing that the proper way to eat them is to just scoop up a handful off the platter.

The next night I took C***o and R****i to my favorite place in the dining hall, a Szechuan spot where they stir-fry every dish to order. Since you have to tell them what you want them to cook for you—write it out on an order pad, actually—I have a hard time going there by myself; the pointing technique I use at the other stands isn't an option (although now the woman who runs the stand recognizes me, and if she's around she'll help me out). The dishes we got were all excellent—by any standards, not just those of the dinning hall—and C***o's subsequent meals at other stands there have led her to agree with my assessment that this place is the standout there.

C***o says that the apartment they gave her (same building as I'm in, next entrance down) isn't nearly as nice as mine: It's dirty, some of the electrical outlets don't work, she doesn't have kitchen utensils (I gave them mine, since I won't be using them), and she's having trouble getting her Internet access set up (unlike me, she had to bring her own computer). So apparently the school gave me special treatment befitting my status as a foreigner, and I have to say that I'm glad to accept it; life's challenging enough for me here without having to dwell in substandard conditions.

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