I’m in Toronto for a couple of weeks, learning more about living cross-culturally. I have learned a lot, not necessarily about China, but about culture in general and about how to ask the right questions to start to understand a culture. Today we took a field trip to Chinatown to practice “mapping a culture,” which is really a fancy way to say observing it carefully and trying to figure out pieces of what we don’t understand. We didn’t know before we went that it is also the Toronto Chinatown Festival this weekend, so there were extra activities happening. I enjoyed the chance to practice my photography skills on something other than nature, too.
There were a couple of quite good er hu players. An er hu is a two stringed traditional Chinese instrument. I got to try one for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I decided I want to learn to play the er hu while I live in China. It has some similarities to playing a violin, but also many differences. This should make for interesting blog stories (and possibly videos) in the future!
There were lots of little grocery stories and fruit/vegetable stands. It was fun to look at vegetables, like the qing cai above, that I know from China but don’t actually know the English name for. I also went into a store filled with rice cookers, hot water kettles, chopsticks, and pirated DVDs—all the things you need to set up a Chinese style home. I had a moment of realization that this will be my life within the next few months (except for the pirated DVDs). It was exciting and a little overwhelming all at the same time.
The dragon and lion dancers were out for the festival kickoff. This is by far the closest I’ve ever been to such dancers—they aren’t as common as you might imagine in northern China.
Of course, I ate lots of delicious food! No trip to Chinatown would be complete without it. We had a dim sum style lunch as a group, which was delicious but not Chinese comfort food to me because it comes from Hong Kong and southern China. After lunch I got myself a milk tea with pearls (tapioca balls), and eventually I had pan fried dumplings for dinner. I would also like to actually learn to cook Chinese food this time around!