Day 5

Seal School: Day 5

Saturday 5 November 2011

There’s no class on the weekends so I’m free to explore the city. I want to use as much of my free time as possible to see as much as possible—and my calves will be in great shape when I get home since I’m already doing a lot more walking than I’m used to.

10:40 AM – I walk to the bank and withdraw 2,500 RMB and another 2,500 from my second visa card. My plan is to go every day and withdraw the maximum amount until I have enough to pay for the tuition and dormitory. After I leave the bank I walk to the Carrefour department store and buy a metal tea mug and some tea to drink in my room, an umbrella, and a long-sleeve t-shirt ($38.84).

After taking these back to my room I decide to walk to the Temple of the City God, which can be clearly seen on the top of a nearby hill. I follow Nanshan Road south along the lake and take a left on Wansongling Road which leads up the back of what I think is the hill with the Temple. I find a paved path that leads up toward the top of the hill and find, instead of the Temple, the Zhejiang Memorial Hall of Revolutionary Martyrs. There’s a tall memorial, some sculpture, and a nearby closed building with no one around but a few dogs laying about. I walk by a group of people playing cards near the street and see on the next hill over the City God Temple. I walked too far and had gone past it.

Hefang Street
In the early afternoon I return to Hefang Street and browse the tourist vendors as I stroll down the street. One of the booths in the middle of the street sells seal stones so, not knowing where I’ll find more, I buy five stones, of various materials, in boxes for $87.21—over $17 apiece. I’d heard that it’s necessary to haggle with the street vendors but I have had no experience with this and decide to pay the asking price. Not having anything to compare with I assume they’re overpriced but it seems a reasonable amount to me at the time. At another vendor I get a clay xun, an ancient Chinese musical instrument like an ocarina, for $13.47. He tells me “no water” which I assume means, since it’s made of clay, that it shouldn’t be washed in water or maybe that I need to be sure to empty any condensation out of it after using it. I eventually find the Rongbaozhai art book store at #151 Hefang Street and buy $111.78 worth of books and supplies: five seal books, one seal-cutting knife, one brush ($10.30—I ask them for their best medium-sized calligraphy brush), and one brush roll. The store has no sign on the street, just a narrow passageway that winds back to the shop, which is behind other shops that line Hefang street. Downstairs are books and upstairs are art supplies. I sense I’ll be coming back often.

After I get back to the university I find the library—so they may have to drag me kicking and screaming to the airport in order to get me out of here now. Unfortunately they won’t let me check anything out, so I’ll have to come back as often as I can.

4:50 PM – Since the university cafeteria is closed on the weekends I decide to try out a restaurant for dinner. A few blocks down from school on Nanshan Road is the Linglong Restaurant which I walked by earlier on my way to Hefang Street. I decide to go in for dinner ($12.84). The menu is illustrated and in both Chinese and English. One of the things I order is “Tewed Shicken with Three Cups of Sauce” (hot) which has small pieces of stewed bone-in chicken with whole garlic cloves. It’s good but a bit hot/spicy for my tastes and maybe has even less than a cup of sauce. It must have pieces of chicken wings in it because the bones are so small. By the time I leave, the restaurant is packed with young couples but I wonder how they can have a romantic tête-a-tête when they’re both constantly spitting out little chicken bones onto their plates. It must work somehow though because there are a lot of Chinese in the world. Some of the more interesting items pictured on the extensive menu include:

  • Beef offal, duck blood curd boiled with chilli and spice
  • Braised lemon chicken (it looks good)
  • Club sandwich (it looks like a club sandwich, 22 RMB)
  • Cold hairtail, pig’s tongue and tripe tip in rice wine sauce
  • Duck blood with pickle
  • Duck intestine in spivy soup
  • Fish lips casserole (the picture looks like the whole heads)
  • Fish vesicles with chili
  • Fragrant and crispy chicken gristles (a hot dish for 42 RMB)
  • Fried bullfrog with chili sauce
  • Fried cabbage (it doesn’t look anything like cabbage)
  • Fried goose liver (a hot dish)—I’m later told that many Chinese get gout from eating too many rich dishes with goose liver in them
  • Fried rice with pineapple (including shrimp, served in a hollowed-out pineapple half)
  • Fried snake pieces with salt and chili (a hot dish)
  • Fried string bean with preserved
  • Griddle cooked tentacles of squid
  • Marinated duck webs in broth (a hot dish)—I can’t tell from the picture if it is what it sounds like
  • Marinated mud snail with rice wine (a cold dish)
  • Papaya milk shake (it looks deep-fried)
  • Papaya red cubilose and forest frog stew (served in a hollowed-out papaya)
  • Purple yam in honey sauce (a cold dish)
  • Refreshing iced seaweed (a cold dish)
  • Sauteed nullfrog
  • Shredded salmon with grapefruit (a cold dish)
  • Steamed lichen and bullfrog in sauce (a hot dish)
  • Steamed pig tongue and ear (a cold dish)
  • Stewed big fish head with red
  • Stewed soft-shelled turtle with green pepper
  • Stinky beancurd in stone pot
  • Stir-fried (a hot dish)—that’s all it says on the menu and the picture doesn’t make it any clearer
  • Stir-fried pig intestine with chilli
  • Taishan pig feet in hot pot
  • Wenzhou duck tongue cooked in soy sauce
  • Western-style boiled goose liver (a hot dish)
  • Wine-soaked lake crabs (a cold dish)—the picture shows them in their shells (18 RMB)

In the evening I go to the Lavazza Coffe shop for a cup of pu-ehr tea ($6.34) and to use the wifi to send an email to Wang Gongyi (my art teacher in Portland) and another to my daughter. I had originally planned to use the iPad to post to Facebook while I’m in Hangzhou but find out when I get here that Facebook is blocked in China.

It’s been both hot and raining every day so far. So everything, including me, feels soggy all the time. With the high humidity even the paper I use for calligraphy practice in my room feels damp.

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