Monday, November 23, 2009

Is it ... *iced* beer?

Friday, November 20th.
Pavan came to the Active offices again. It was her turn to direct the taxi but he didn`t seem to understand her "Rǔan Jìan Yúan". He understood Rod; perhaps the hour per day spent practicing pronounciation with co-workers is starting to pay off?

At lunchtime we managed to get some stuff even the co-workers hadn't tried by way of Rod "helping" with the ordering. This consisted of enquiring as to what a given group of menu items (in Chinese characters) was then pointing to one at random, asking what it was, and, provided it didn't sound vile, ordering it. We got a couple of main dishes selected by co-workers and a couple of Rod's choice sides. The highlight was, without a doubt, a huge bowl of curry-like sauce with potatos, green peppers, onion, chicken, peppers, and so on.

There was also a fish that was cooked in a delicious sauce. Unfortunately eating bone-in fish pieces with chopsticks is messy and difficult. Locals are pretty competent; we had problems. Pavan gave up after one piece; Rod tried several and created a decent sized area covered in shredded fish bits, bones, and sauce while consuming very little meat and expending considerable effort. Locals can somehow eat the meat off from around the bones then drop the bones at the end. Our approach invariably results in bones in your mouth that you then have rather few polite options for disposing of. A few more practice runs may be required to really get the most out of the fish.

Chicken, green pepper, and little crunchy bits cooked with peppers is a much easier dish to eat.

After eating this, a couple of bowls of rice, and several other dishes we thought the meal was coming to a close. We reckoned without the local noodle fetish. The huge bowl of curry-like stuff now had some open areas of sauce with nothing floating in it. Into this space fresh noodles were added, then stirred into the curry. The noodles were rather long so lifting them with chopsticks was something of a battle (though less so than the huge noodles from earlier in the week). The resulting bowl of curry-like stuff and noodles is fantastic. We probably could have ordered the giant bowl of curry-like stuff and eaten it with first rice then noodles and had enough food for all six or so of us!

Re-noodlification of the curry-like stuff

At 1pm it was time for another pronounciation lesson. We got five different people to help, one per day, so this was the last new instructor. They all seem good and all put their own spin on things so it seems like the Language Lesson hour (1pm-2pm) is going to be pretty fun. Pinyin, the system of romanizing Mandarin, is relatively new so it was somewhat surprising to learn that school children learn Pinyin essentially before Chinese characters! They then practice all through school writing things in both Pinyin and characters. Amusingly this practice is carried over to English: they will, in early stages of learning in English, sometimes write English plus Pinyin for that English as a means to guide students in pronounciation!!

For dinner we went to the Sleepy Time Cafe (more accurately the Sculpting In Time Cafe). We brought study material and hung out there for a while. During dinner we decided to order a beer. A small amount of confusion later we found a menu and pointed at the beer item as simply saying it was resulting in questions from the waiter we couldn't understand. In response to Rod holding up two fingers and then pointing at beer the waiter pointed at iced coffee on the menu. This seemed a bit odd so we pointed at beer again. A short time later un-refrigerated beers showed up and it dawned on us that he may have been trying to point specifically at the word "iced" to enquire if we wanted it chilled. Lol.

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