Maria Holland

Tips for Navigating a Chinese Bakery

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2009 at 12:41 am

Tuesday and Thursday mornings are good for getting stuff done.  I don’t have class until 2:40, so it actually doesn’t even have to be morning, technically.  I believe I left my room at 11 this morning :)  My main errand was sending some postcards from Taiwan.  The good news is, you may be expecting a postcard if: your birthday is on October 13th or 25th, you helped coordinate my trip to Taiwan, you are currently serving in Afghanistan, you live in Brown Village apartment 5021, or your last name is French.  The rest of you: your time will come!  (I am still accepting addresses, though, if you would like a postcard.) 

I also stopped by Coco, my favorite drink place, to try something new.  I am really working hard on increasing my tolerance for tea, so I ordered honey green 奶茶 (milk tea).  Delicious!  I am starting to understand why people like milk tea, although the appeal of regular ‘leaf water’ is still elusive.  On a related note, I’m starting to like tofu.  I think it’s kind of like tea, in that I don’t actually like tofu, but I am finding more and more ways that it is prepared in a way that I like. 

It had been awhile since I checked out the bakeries over by West Gate, so I went back for a second look.  Some of my most useful vocabulary concerns making choices at a bakery.  The first thing I usually ask is “这是甜的还是咸的?”, or “Is this sweet or salty?”.  This cannot be determined merely by a visual inspection – do not attempt to do so. 

The follow up question is “这个有什么里面?”, or “What does this have inside?”.  Most Chinese breads have something inside.  It’s not like donuts, where you may get stuck with jelly or custard, either.  Raisins are actually the least of the possible dangers.  Other (scarier) options include: 豆沙 (sweet bean paste), 肉丝 (shredded dried meat), or 沙拉 (salad?!?). 

Even my near-fluency (kidding) sometimes fails me.  I ended up with a square muffin-croissant hybrid, with raisins inside (seriously, how did I miss that?!).  It also had a sweet milk product which, although mysterious, is pretty good, so all in all it was not a complete failure.

Final note on Chinese bread: the things that look like apple turnovers NEVER are.  Just don’t even get your hopes up; it hurts too much.

I had class in the afternoon.  Somehow, despite being in the 7th week of the semester, we are continuing to get new students.  Of the 22 students in class today, I counted only 11 who were here during the first week, and 4 that I had never seen before today.  I don’t think this makes for the best learning environment as the classroom is getting more crowded, we aren’t familiar with each other, and transience discourages accountability. 

Also, I’m realizing that while I chose teachers that I like, I didn’t necessarily chose those with the best teaching style.  They both speak and write very clearly, but they’re very inconsistent.  We usually take 3 or 4 days to go through a lesson, but in the two days that I missed in Taiwan, Zhang laoshi covered an entire lesson.  Yang laoshi has a tendency to assign meaningless homework – usually on stuff that we haven’t covered yet – and we only go over it sporadically anyway.  All this makes it very hard for me to make a study routine for myself and keep myself disciplined about doing homework.  I think I’ll do a little more research next semester . . .

Tuesday/Thursday class also includes the dreaded Listening class.  I think I’ve hit on the perfect incentive, though, and it made class almost pleasant today.  I brought one of the books I bought recently, and allowed myself to read between exercises.  It encourages me to work quickly, gives me a designated time to read without letting myself get carried away, and it is even making me look forward to next Tuesday!! 

I did realize, though, that the books I bought so cheaply earlier this week are bootlegged.  I hadn’t even considered this, as they look like the real thing and were even sealed in plastic, but after being asked I make a closer examination.  You can see the quality of type isn’t really that great – like a Xerox – and the paper feels like it is Chinese.  Darn; at least they were cheap. 

After class, I went with four friends to finally buy my electronic dictionary!  We settled on the ?? V660, which Karolina bargained down to 830 yuan (about $120).  I’m very excited to finally have it – let the learning begin! 

We went to dinner after our big purchase, where the highlight of my dinner was getting a compliment and handshake (!) from the owner.  We had to write our order down – in Chinese characters, of course – and he said my handwriting was very good! 

As I came in this evening, the temperature-checking student was dozing in his chair.  Like the good, health-conscious student that I am, I went up to him, leaned over so my forehead was reachable, and said “你好”to wake him up.  I could tell he was surprised, and it brought a little smile to my face.  (I like to keep them guessing.)  Anyway, after they take your temperature, they turn the gun around to show you the result.  I’m not so good with Celsius yet, but I’m pretty sure I should be dead – I tested at 33.7°C today, which is 92.7°F.  We think they calibrated the guns down a few degrees to avoid false alarms, which seems to be slightly self-defeating, but whatever.

  1. haha! Hooray Apt 5021! I win a free postcard!

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