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The Dragon Stairs Market, Qian Dao Hu

Colourful markets are front and centre of the Chinese way of life, and most people won’t buy their daily cooking supplies anywhere else. Supermarkets are plentiful, for sure, but nothing beats a street market or wet market for absolute freshness. Why make a special trip to the supermarket when you can easily get what you need, every day, on the way to or from work?
 In Qian Dao Hu township, the market stretches all the way up and down these imperial carved Dragon Stairs, with wares spread out in baskets, crates, and on tarpaulins.  Today the corn (dark gold, pale gold, and white) eggplants, and lotus root are looking great. 
The Dragon Stairs wind down through the town past loads of kitchenware shops selling steamer baskets, claypots, earthenware bowls and glass pickle jars. I had a ball – and although I would have loved to buy some mushrooms and lotus root, I’m staying in a hotel with nowhere to cook, so instead I bought a tin vegetable peeler, a rugged home-made grater, a 3-tier tin and bamboo steamer, and some serving spoons. Much hilarity all round at what the crazy foreigner might be needing a 1 yuan (16c) vegetable peeler for. 
Peeling vegetables maybe? 

Chinese for Dummies

So…..an update on my progress in the Chinese language – and it’s not pretty. Chinese is the most difficult language I’ve ever studied, and my brain was 24 years younger the last time I learnt a language. When I took French and German at school I had three lessons each week, but as soon as I left the classroom the pressure was off – I reverted to speaking English like everyone else around me. Here, the pressure starts the moment I step out the door and rarely lets up. I have even started dreaming in Chinese, although I can’t understand a damn thing they’re saying. I wake up as confused as ever.

The best antidote to feeling depressed about my lack of progress is to go and buy another Chinese textbook in the hope that this will be the one book that finally unlocks the secrets of the language. The Mandarin Holy Grail has thus far escaped me, and as you can see I’ve tried pretty hard to find it. 

I got really hopeful after buying ‘Chinese for Dummies’, but all the characters in the book were named Barbara, Iris and Beverley. I couldn’t bear it. I don’t want to do Chinese conversation practice with someone called Iris, it’s all wrong. So then I bought ‘Chinese in Ten Minutes A Day!’ which is great if you have a spare 3000 days. I don’t. 

My favourite so far has been ‘Easy Peasy Chinese’ because it’s geared towards children and that suits my abilities quite well. When I go to the supermarket though, I find it’s less practical to know the names of all the zoo animals when all you want is some cheese.

While searching for the perfect textbook I still take Chinese lessons twice a week, and each week for homework my lovely Chinese teacher sets me a short essay in pinyin (the anglicised written version of spoken Chinese) which I then read aloud the following week. Here is last week’s effort, not in its original pinyin (how could you read that?) but translated by my teacher back into English to show where I’m going wrong. As it turns out, I’m going wrong in about a hundred different ways – judge for yourself.

Living in China and Eating Chinese Food. By Fiona.

I have lived in Shanghai for eleven years (actually I mean months). 

Before come to China I have never study Chinese (really??)

 I now have one Chinese teacher, she very patient, very kind. (this is going well – my teacher smiles benevolently)

My Chinese can hardly make progress very slowly. 
(at this point, my Chinese teacher looks very hurt. ‘You think I’m not teaching you well?’ she asks. 
‘Of course not!’ I reply, ‘I’m trying to say ‘little by little I’m making progress” 
‘Oh…it’s just that the way you wrote it, it’s quite insulting’)

After coming to China, I want to eat Chinese dishes. my most love is snacks – I most like jian bing and also Langzhou noodles.  

Before coming to China I have never see hand-pulled noodles! Really interesting. 

I have also been Sichuan dishes, Hunan dishes, Yunnan dishes and Shanghai dishes. (I think I may mean tasted,not been)

My friends and children really like Shanghai dishes, tastes soup (I mean sweet, I think), not spicy. I also like Shanghai dishes but now I prefer like Yunnan and Hunan dishes. 

I think Shanghai dishes compared to Hunan dishes bland. I like heavy flavour dish.


So it’s going pretty well, hey?