Discovery of Food, Mandarin, and Myself

When I had visited China last year, backpacking for one month, it was a different experience compared to now living here. I had known very little about the culture and staying in hostels didn’t help learn much about China. I had a few experiences with locals and I certainly had an amazing time but it doesn’t compare to how much I’m learning about China this time around. Last year was a small taste and introduction which I’m happy I did. One thing I didn’t pay much attention to last year compared to this year was the food. This is the Then vs the Now.

The Discovery of Food

Food is engraved in Chinese culture. Each province is very proud of their food. Understanding the Chinese culture means having to understand it’s food which is forced upon you if you stay here long enough. I’m thirty minutes from downtown Xi’an meaning any sort of Western food is fairly difficult to find and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I found a new love I didn’t know existed prior to China, a love for food and especially Chinese food. Actually, I’ve always known this because in the last year of travel, I’ve eaten everything I could get my hands on but it was never fully discovered – that is until now.

Chinese Dishes
Chinese Dishes

I take an active role in memorizing how to say Chinese dishes in Mandarin. Jotted down in my tiny notebook, I have written several notes on different dishes. My selection of food is outrageously huge all within a five minute walking distance. I very rarely ever pay more than 20RMB for a meal, typically paying 10RMB. My wallet is happy and so are my taste buds. I sense a few articles coming up on Chinese foods.

I’m now on a new eating mission for my travels.

Learning Mandarin

I’m here for nearly a year, figured it might help learn the language. With the developing globalization of China, I believe it’ll help me down the road as well. I take two private lessons a week for one hour or more each lesson. While learning Mandarin is mostly intensive memorization, pronunciation is the real purpose for my private lessons. Working on the tones is essential and better to get that down now rather than later. Best part about learning is I’m forced to use it since I’m learning it in a country that it’s used in. Other ways I’ve been learning is just by talking to locals and asking “what is this” to everything. I’ve also been using Rosetta Stone which believe it or not, has actually helped quite a lot but it can be insanely boring and repetitive. Several other blogs and podcasts has helped. A few hours a day of studying has been treating me well. Learning the language has given me a better understanding of the Chinese culture.

Backpacking introduced me to a part of me that I didn’t know existed. It introduced me to new opportunities and abilities.  It never came across my mind that ESL was an option or that running a website could open so many doors. Three years ago, I never would have thought that today I’d be learning Mandarin, living abroad, discovering new foods abroad, or having so many options across the globe as I do today. Travel did this to me and I’m grateful for it.

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Michael Tieso

Michael Tieso travels around the world writing, photographing, and filming his adventures. He left the cubicle life to travel the world in May 2009 and he still continues the journey to this day with no end to it. He loves adventure, food, and music. He is the Editor-in-chief of Art of Adventuring.
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