Tag Archives: Downtown

Nanjing Hidden Gems: The Chinese Farmer’s Markets

The Chinese farmer’s market.  Abuzz, overwhelming, intoxicating, and the most fun you can possibly have grocery shopping.  The nearest market that I frequent here in Nanjing—there are many, but farmer’s markets are difficult to find as there are no signs that proclaim its existence—is an experience I look forward to when it’s necessary to re-stock my fridge and cooking supplies.  I can walk in with 100 RMB (~$16) and purchase enough food for 2 weeks whilst still walking away with a good chunk of change jingling rhythmically in my pocket.

Similarly structured to an indoor bazaar, this market has everything you need to make a fresh meal each night while costing you less than $2 per meal; the only problem you’ll run into is your motivation to cook when you only have one hot plate and two pots/pans forcing even some simplistic meals to consume 30-45 minutes of your time. Open 24/7 with prices that would make Black Friday shoppers foam at the mouth, this Chinese farmer’s market boasts an incredibly large selection of booths displaying: freshly butchered meats (i.e. beef, chicken, pork, seafood, turtles, bull frogs), ripe fruits (i.e. bananas, mangos, apples, oranges, pears, dragon fruit), impressive vegetables of all sizes (i.e. potatoes, mushrooms, onions, jalapeños, and many I’ve never seen or heard of), exotic spices that laugh in the face of the Blazing Wings Challenge at Buffalo Wild Wings, and much much more.  I’ve crunched into the crispiest and brightest green jalapeños to ever grace my tastebuds.  I’ve sliced potatoes bigger than my hands to make fries.  Crab and shrimp have never tasted fresher and the flavor just explodes in your mouth.  I’d honestly write a George R. R. Martin-esque rant elaborating on the aesthetically pleasing and mouthwatering foods you purchase from these markets, but I don’t want to make you read 20,000 words.  If you enjoy cooking and selecting the ingredients that nourish your body, Chinese farmer’s markets will elevate you to cloud nine; heaven for your body, heaven for your mind, and heaven for your wallet.

Booths, booths, and more booths.  I think there are about 75-100 different spaces in this particular market.
1/12) Booths, booths, and more booths. I think there are about 75-100 different spaces in this particular market.
Fresh homemade noodles.  It is weirdly interesting to watch them being made.
2/12) Fresh, homemade noodles. Watching them being made is oddly hypnotic.
Veggies
3/12) Some merchants use these pans.  Some just have big bundles of produce.
Plump, juicy, luscious fruit.  Fruit is very expensive in Chinese supermarkets and the prices in farmer's markets are a steal.
4/12) Plump, juicy, luscious fruit. Fruit is very expensive in Chinese supermarkets and the prices in farmer’s markets are a steal.

DISCLAIMER: THOSE WITH LIGHT STOMACHS MAY NOT WANT TO SEE THE NEXT TWO PHOTOS.  I DON’T KNOW. IT SHOWS A LOT OF BUTCHERED ANIMAL MEAT.

Fresh meat for those who like a fresh burger or mutton chop.  It doesn't even really smell too bad.
5/12) Fresh meat for those who like a fresh burger or mutton chop. Surprisingly, it doesn’t even really smell bad.  
Meat-lover's dream
6/12) Meat-lover’s dream
Shrimp
7/12
Best crab I have had. I had it cooked at a nearby shop.
8/12) Best crab I’ve had. I had it cooked at a nearby shop.
Right out of the water, the merchant filets the meat and packages it for you...or you can take the whole fish home.
9/12) Right out of the water, the merchant filets the catfish meat and packages it for you…or you can take the whole fish home. There were about 15 other kinds of fish to choose from.
Fresh eels.  The slimy look just looks sooo appetizing...
10/12) Fresh eels. The slimy look just looks sooo appetizing…
Amazingly, frog legs are delicious and you forage for the meat as you scrap the bottom of your giant hot pot.
11/12) Amazingly, frog legs are delicious and I frantically forage for the meat as I scrape the bottom of the pan at Hot Pot restaurants.  Still don’t know how to prepare it though.
Fresh warm bread.  Chinese bread has an odd sweetness to it compared to North American and European bread.
12/12) Fresh warm bread. Chinese bread has an odd sweetness to it compared to North American and European breads I’ve tasted.

I fully recommend giving your business to these farmer’s markets, albeit the market isn’t exactly sparkling clean (if you are a germaphobe, this may be your own personal hell), but for those with unwavering immune systems who love the thrill of negotiating prices with charming merchants, grab a large bag to later sling over your shoulder with pounds and pounds of food and enjoy.

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Shanghai Orientation Video: The Beginning

I pushed hard the past few days and I finally have my first video up and running.  This edit covers some of the events that transpired in Shanghai including: orientation, our travels through Shanghai, experiencing our first KTV experience (Karaoke Television, my GoPro died right before we entered our room), and a peek at the Shanghai club scene.

Let me know what you think about the edit and feel free to leave comments.  I have little experience in creating videos and I the many future edits I will create here will develop my abilities.  Whether it is the music choice, audio and visual syncing, overall cinematography, or anything.  Really.  I always appreciate feedback.


Also, the Ameson Year in China released its video covering our arrival in Shanghai on a much deeper level.  It is well edited, well shot, and covers the reasons why many of us decided to embark on this educational adventure.  My interview did not make it into the edit, but Renee, Frankie, and William communicate the participants’ goals and motivations better than anyone else .  Make sure to check it out.  Credit to the AYC film crew consisting of Nathan Montgomery, Tony Ni, and William Yang.

Follow my blog and experience China with me.  I want you to WANT to read about my experiences.  Comments, feedback, and content requests are more than welcome as they will help me engage you, the reader, in a more effective manner.  Stay awesome.

Nanjing: Settling in

Laws being suggestions?  Blank stares thrown my way while walking down the street?  Overwhelming feelings of confusion, intrigue, and frustration as you attempt to navigate these relatively exotic streets, buildings, and businesses?  Watching young children tug on their mother’s blouses as you walk by, pointing at you and yelling, “Wai guo ren (Foreigner)!  Wai guo ren (Foreigner)!” Welcome to my first few days in Nanjing and boy was the first week a doozie.

It has been a little more than two weeks living here in Nanjing and I could not be happier.  The city is positively gigantic; it is nothing I have lived before.  Skyscrapers tower around the school campus where I teach and reside, but you can look down another street nearby that does not fit the bustling-city atmosphere Nanjing emanates. There is so much to distract you that it is no wonder I have gotten lost more than a handful of times already.

View from the Zhonghuamen Metro Station
View from the Zhonghuamen Metro Station.  This does not come close to showing the actual skyline of Nanjing.  In fact, those buildings are mostly just apartments on the SE side of Nanjing.

The streets are filled with tantalizing aromas wafting from the restaurants and side shops that saturate every city street.  These smells engage in a constant battle with the reeking funk of garbage compressors, garbage bikes, sewage dumps, and other stinks that remain unknown. The constant chatter of merchants shouting their wares and prices dominate your ears, even after you kindly say no and continue on.  The use of car and moped horns and bike bells is extremely liberal (I cannot communicate how quickly these horns and bells become white noise that you eventually end up ignoring).  The daily struggle of driver vs. moped vs. biker vs. pedestrian is an ongoing war on these Nanjing streets.  Bright light-shows and flashy displays overload your vision.  In the same day, you can eat the most delectable meal of your life that puts your mother’s cooking to shame and then you can eat something that makes Ramen noodles, ketchup, and goose liver sound like a delicacy you would rather enjoy.  The weather is hot and heavy as you break out sweating from walking just 100ft outside of your air-conditioned apartment.  You experience this city—to an almost uncomfortable degree—with all of your senses and each day is a new adventure that your body and mind will learn from.

You may happen upon a big group of spectators watching a strategically thrilling game of Xiangqi.  You will see meats, vegetables, produce, and other foods that are not found at a typical American grocery store.  There are beggars, families, couples, groups of teenagers, farmer’s markets, high-end boutiques, luxurious clothing stores, video game cafés, banks, houses, apartments, repair shops, hole-in-the-wall convenience stores, and supermarkets; this is just within two blocks of my residence.

Downtown Nanjing is exactly what you would expect to be with swarms of people inhabiting the streets from 6am-11pm.  However, as soon as the clock strikes 11pm, it becomes a ghost town on the weekdays.

I am placed at the Nanjing No. 5 High School and live on the campus.  The campus is protected by gates as is typical of all schools and universities in the downtown Nanjing area.  Basketball courts, a track, volleyball courts, badminton courts, a dance stage, and numerous ping-pong tables are right outside my apartment/dorm.  The school is currently constructing its cafeteria where I will be able to eat for free for five days of the week if I so choose.  The only annoying thing is being woken up by the campus bells and music that signify a change in class periods on the days where I do not teach in the morning.

Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 High School
Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 High School
One section of the school.
The Nanjing No. 5 High School teachers’ offices and a few classrooms.
School building
The Nanjing No. 5 High School classroom building
IMG_6292
The Nanjing No. 5 High School cafeteria is the building with the blue, yellow, and green athletes. My apartment is the building in the center of the photo and left of the cafeteria.

My teaching schedule runs in an A week, B week type format and I teach some classes at the Nanjing No.5 Junior Branch School on my B weeks.

Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 Branch School
Entrance to the Nanjing No. 5 Branch School
IMG_6449
Branch school announcement board
Branch school campus
Branch school campus
Branch school classroom buildings
Branch school classroom buildings

When I arrived to my apartment, it was filthy.  The kitchen was a mix of wood shavings and layered dust, the wood flooring was covered in dirt and mud, and my bathroom was horrifying.  There was a major sewage problem, but I was able to resolve it through toilet odorizers; I am just thankful that I don’t have a squat toilet. The bathroom still needs a bit more elbow grease, but it is almost to my liking.

It seemed as if the school considered my livelihood as an afterthought.  They provided me with new bedding, a mattress, and a mattress pad, but that was pretty much it.  It was less than stellar, but now that I have settled in and gotten the place somewhat clean and outfitted with the necessary living arrangements, I am finally enjoying my residency.  The air-conditioning is fantastic (necessary for being comfortable with the Chinese climate) and I have my own kitchen, washer, and bathroom.  You have to boil the tap water in order for it to be drinkable and after some negotiations, my school ended up getting me a hot plate, an electric kettle, and a few cooking pots. Stoves are extremely rare and I will not be baking cookies or pizzas anytime soon.  In China, people don’t really use dryers.  Clothes lines and hang piping can be seen everywhere from apartment windows to right outside shops to my (kind of) balcony.

My "balcony."  Shared with the high school students in my dorm.
My “balcony.” Shared with the high school students in my dorm.
Kitchen and laundry room.  I guess I will have learn to cook with only one hot plate.
Kitchen and laundry room. I guess I will have learn to cook with only one hot plate.  This is right next door to my living area.
My living room
My living room
The bedroom
The bedroom
My bathroom, getting better.
My bathroom, getting better.

The fun is just beginning.  I’m almost completely settled-in, I have already made a great number of friends in Nanjing (both expats and Chinese), and I have almost taught for two full weeks which I will talk about in my next post.  This enormous city has much to offer in these next months and with potential trips to Ningbo, Xi’an, Hong Kong, Beijing, Taiwan, and an end of the year trip to Japan being talked about, I am on cloud nine.  Each week will continue to be eventful and educational.  Strap-in folks, it is going to be a wild ride and an unforgettable experience.

Follow my blog and experience China with me.  I want you to WANT to read about my experiences.  Comments, feedback, and content requests are more than welcome as they will help me engage you, the reader, in a more effective manner.  Stay awesome.