24 August 2003 2003 nian 8 yue 24 hao

Journal: A Day in Dalian

Only a week left until the start of classes. On one hand I'd like to get a head start on my lesson planning, but on the other hand I want to make the most of my last few days of summer vacation. Tie Cheng has been preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination in January ever since she returned to campus weeks ago (most students are still at home and will be returning over the next few days), but she also feels that the holidays are slipping away, so we decided to take a bus to Dalian today and watch a movie.

There's a 6-screen multiplex on the sixth floor of the Newmarket shopping centre. We had a choice between two movies with convenient starting times. One was the latest Jackie Chan film, and the other was called Green Tea. I couldn't help laughing out loud at the poster for the Jackie Chan film, which was utterly typical with the two main characters staring solemnly into the camera while they assumed contorted kungfu stances—seriously, when would it ever be useful to kick directly above your head?

So we watched Green Tea. Of course I had a lot of difficulty following the dialogue since they spoke so quickly (the subtitles in chinese were actually a useful aid), but I understood the plot well enough to realise that, apart from some interesting camera work, the film was pretty silly. Part romance and part psychological thriller, neither half was carried off with much success.

I think there might be only one other cinema in Dalian, which is not much for a city of 5 million. There are lots of movie fans here, but most of them watch films on DVD or VCD, which are widely available (pirated) for less than half the price of a movie ticket. Videos are rare here—I suspect that by the time middle-class China was wealthy enough to buy VCRs, it was already obsolete technology. I've also heard a few people say that the reason they don't often go to cinemas is because cinemas show too many chinese-made films, and chinese-made films aren't very good. From my limited experience, this doesn't seem far from the truth, but given a few more years I'm sure the standard of chinese films will improve. Anyway, I have to admit that a lot of Australians feel the same way about Australian-made films, but that's only because they've become addicted to that numb brain feeling that Hollywood delivers again and again.

After the film we descended to the fifth floor and had lunch at a genuine chinese food hall, which had a whole lot of tastes that you would never find in your "large chinese combination" at an Australian food hall. We ended up choosing the place which promised "Xi'an local flavour", where we ordered sour-spicy soup and a couple of roujiamo, which are fried bread buns sliced open and stuffed with a filling. I incorrectly called them bing at first, which is the generic name for vitually anything flat and circular, from the crepes of Beijing's street vendors to grilled corn bread. Although rice is widely eaten in China, it is certainly not the only kind of grain produced, and in fact historically it was rarely eaten in northern China because you just can't grow it here. Some foods made from wheat include noodles, jiaozi (stuffed pastry that is boiled, fried, or steamed, hopelessly translated as "dumplings"), and all manner of steamed bread.

What I can tell you about the Xi'an local flavour is that it's incredibly hot. In fact, after finishing her jiamo and struggling through some of the so-called "soup" (which was more like rice noodles and vegetables floating in chilli sauce), Tie Cheng felt ill and just wanted to eat a nice bland bowl of rice gruel. Actually, I think that's one of her comfort foods, something her mother used to cook for her when she was sick. Personally, I'm a big fan of rice gruel if it's cooked with a few mung beans in it—surprisingly tasty.

After lunch we hooked up with Jackie and his girlfriend, and visited Xinghai Park. It's only a small place compared to other public parks in China, so it doesn't have very much in the way of grass and trees, but like other public parks in China it has an area with lots of fairground rides and games. It also features a pebble beach. One thing I've noticed here compared to Australia is that half the people go swimming with a floatation device. That's probably because a lot of people have never learnt to swim.

We saw an unfortunate sight today. Half a dozen strong fellows came running up from the beach, carrying an unconscious man who had been fished from the water. None of them seemed to know much about first aid. Life guards do exist in China, but apparently this beach didn't have any. I heard a siren later, and hoped it was an ambulance, but it turned out to be a police car. I can only hope that police have first aid training, because if that man had stopped breathing when he came out of the water and didn't get mouth-to-mouth resuscitation urgently, well...

There's a beach not far from my college. I went swimming there once with a student friend, which is against the rules. In the last year students have been banned from swimming, because there have been deaths from drowning in most of the previous years.

Now I need to get some sleep, because I've arranged to go to Dalian again with a different friend early tomorrow, and visit the zoo.

wow you have a cinema? cool. Yes it is funny, most chinese just can't swim. no wonder there were many drownings(not funny).

Do you like chilli? I love it, but whenever I have a dish with chilli, its always fried, and that shits me because it takes the heat out of the chilli. I used to grow red birdseye chillis,nothing like the flavour and heat from a fresh birdseye. I'm going to have to get some seeds and grow some I think.
matt [homepage]
25.08.2003 , 17:00

Too bad I read this post a little late, I could have helped you get into the zoo for free as friend of mine's husband is an administrator there. The zoo isn't that great though...poor animals!

Wait until you hit authentic Sichuan dishes or have Sichuan hotpot..I swear its the hottest thing you'll eat on earth. Not only is there a burning sensation in your mouth but your mouth will go numb!
27.08.2003 , 08:12

I thought the zoo was okay, especially the safari-styled bus ride. "Poor animals"...I agree in absolute terms, because in all zoos the animals are unable to follow a natural lifestyle. We felt sorry for the polar bear sweating under the hot sun, but in relative terms I don't think the living conditions of the animals in that zoo were much worse than zoos I've been to in Australia (and far better than a zoo I once visited in Bangkok).

I love chilli for its flavour and spice, but not in quantities that burn your mouth and eclipse the other flavours of the food. As far as the restaurants in this part of China are concerned, I'll happily eat most of the dishes that have "chilli" in their title.
27.08.2003 , 13:34

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