Sunday, November 2, 2008

Jou Sahn from Guangzhou, China!

"Jou Sahn" is how people greet each other in Guangzhou, and it means "Good Morning". Guangzhou City is sometimes called Canton by people who speak English, and the local language here is Cantonese. Mandarin, the national language of China is also spoken in Guangzhou. Did you know that there are many different variations of spoken Chinese, but only one writing system? It's true. And instead of using an alphabet, as we do in America and Europe, the Chinese have a character, or picture word, for every word they write. Learning to write Chinese takes a lot of hard work! The Cantonese language has a very familiar sound to me because it is widely spoken in San Francisco. Immigrants from around Guangzhou have been coming to San Francisco for over 100 years, and have brought their language with them. Because I worked in a bilingual preschool for five years, I know a few phrases in Cantonese (including the all-important "where's the bathroom"). The smells here are familiar too; incense, roast meat, and the indescribable tang of the herbal medicine shop. This morning, I followed my nose to the outdoor market and found the herb and spice bazaar. The market is devoted to the sale of herbs, and the aroma is incredible. Cooking spices like star anise and saffron, herbs for traditional Chinese medicine such as astragalus and ginseng, and various herbs for making tea are all for sale. Since the market takes up an entire city block, I spent almost the entire morning winding my way through the narrow alleys, sniffing to my heart's content. There are lots of other things for sale in the market: fruits and vegetables, bonsai trees, eggs, meat, and even pets! (the puppies here are adorable!) There is a big pedestrian mall near the old market, and lots of people come out at night to eat, shop, or just hang out. They also love to show off their dogs: poodles, pomeranians and pekinese pups are all proudly paraded at the pedestrian mall. Guangzhou has an amazing Buddhist Temple filled with beautiful statues of Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy, Quan Yin. Nearby Shamian Island is a quiet green oasis where one can sit by the water and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. I honestly had no idea what to expect from Guangzhou, because it had always been described to me as a factory town. People do work hard here, but they clearly know how to have fun. I am having fun in Guangzhou too!

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