Owen in China 19: Of catering, dentists and a day out (May 9th, 2016)

Hi everyone, this is Owen and this is my podcast for Monday 9th May, 2016. I hope you are all well. If you listened to my last podcast, I’m afraid there’s been no more news about the escaped monkeys. I haven’t seen any monkeys around town and there have been no reported sightings [1]. Actually, it’s been a rather quiet month in Kunming except for a short national holiday. It was Tomb [2] Sweeping Day the other week, so everyone had a few days off to honour their ancestors [3].

Today, I’ll be talking about some catering I did, a trip to the dentist’s and a day out.

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There’s a very nice bar and music venue in Kunming called DT. Over the years it’s changed names and ownership many times and some of the most famous Chinese bands have played there. Personally, I think it’s the best place for live music in Kunming. The venue itself is in a rather old building in a not very nice part of town. It’s changed hands [4] lots of times, so its future is somewhat uncertain. The current owners told me that, basically, the local government could decide to rejuvenate [5] the neighbourhood any day, which would mean the end of DT. Fingers crossed, it won’t happen anytime soon though. Last month a friend of mine organised a big reggae party there. He asked me whether I’d be interested in providing the food for the event. I thought it was a great idea and I immediately agreed. I got all excited and started thinking about the various things I could make. I once spent some time in Jamaica, so I thought about all the things I had eaten there: the patties, which are pastries filled with meat, the curries, all the barbecued fish, the jerk chicken and the ackee and saltfish [6]. Of course, I can’t get some of the ingredients here, so I had to narrow down [7] my options a little. And then, after the initial excitement, I panicked. I started thinking: ‘How am I going to do this? I’ve never cooked for so many people. I’ll have to cook it all in my small kitchen at home and I don’t have the equipment to cook large quantities.’ My friend calculated that roughly 50 people would want to eat at the event. In the end, we agreed on a menu consisting of lamb curry, vegetable and pumpkin curry and Jamaican rice and peas, which is rice and red kidney beans cooked with spices and coconut milk. Goat curry would have been really traditional, but I couldn't get hold of any goat meat. Despite having to make it all in our small kitchen, Vittoria and I somehow managed. It was all a bit chaotic and improvised but it worked out alright. The hardest part was transporting all the food to the venue. Luckily, we had some help. Another friend also agreed to cook for the event. She made jerk chicken which was delicious. Jerk chicken is chicken that has been marinated in Jamaican style spices and then barbecued. After all the hard work the night itself was a great success. We had an excellent turnout [8], we sold out of food and the atmosphere was fantastic. All in all a great night. Another memorable night at DT’s and one we’ll definitely try to do again.

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DentistAs I’m writing this, I’m in a bit of pain. A couple of weeks ago, one of my wisdom teeth started aching. I was hoping the pain would go away, at least until I return to Europe for the holidays. But, unfortunately, it just got worse and worse. I decided that I didn’t have much choice. The wisdom tooth had to go. It’s not that there aren't any good dentists here, I’m sure there are some excellent ones in Kunming. I was just a little concerned because somebody once told me that there are plenty of dentists here with fake [9] certificates. I can’t imagine anything worse than going to a dentist, who hasn’t had the proper training and isn’t qualified. I did some thorough research and asked around for any recommendations before making an appointment anywhere. Eventually, I chose a small clinic not far from where I live. It’s on the ground floor and has large shop windows, so all the passers-by [10] can look inside and see the dentists fixing people’s teeth. Lots of dental clinics are like that here. I walked in and explained what was bothering [11] me. They quickly did an X-ray. The dentist had a look at the X-ray, had a look inside my mouth and then quoted a price [12]. I agreed to it. After that the dentist told me to go and eat some breakfast because I hadn't eaten anything that morning and he was going to give me an injection. So I went for a quick bite to eat and when I returned everything was ready. My only concern was that the dentist looked a bit young. I guess dentists qualify young here. I must say that he was very good though, except that halfway through the procedure he had to give me another injection because it was incredibly painful. It was when he applied the pliers [13] and started pulling that I screamed out in pain. He took the pliers out and said: ‘Relax, don't worry. I’ll give you another injection.’ After that he pulled the tooth out and I didn't feel a thing. He stitched it up [14], gave me some antibiotics and told me to come back in a week to take out the stitches. I was in and out of there in 20 minutes, no appointment, no waiting. It’s really amazing how efficient they can be here.

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Song MingI had a day off the other week and I was eager [15] to get out of the city for a bit. I was checking for a place where I could go for a short hike. I was looking for something not too far from Kunming, preferably a short bus ride out of the city. There are a few tall mountains in the area but I wanted something a little less strenuous [16]. After doing a little bit of research, I found out that there is a small national park outside a place called Song Ming which is 45km from Kunming. The name of the park translates to ‘forest park’, which is not the most appealing name but, nevertheless, a friend and I decided to head there for the day. Song Ming was easy enough to get to. One 40-minute bus ride and we were there. It had been a while since I’d left Kunming and I was looking forward to leaving the city behind. I was expecting countryside right away but, of course, Song Ming turned out to be a really big, albeit empty, town. Everything was still under construction. As we were approaching Song Ming, we noticed that they’ve started building an elevated motorway to Kunming. The downtown area was full of huge apartment buildings with up to 40 floors. Some of the streets had six lanes and the bus station we arrived at was about the size of the Zurich train station. So much under construction and so many big buildings, yet there seemed to be no people and hardly any cars. All the roads were practically empty. It was a real ghost town. All the big apartment blocks looked empty and there were very few shops. The whole place felt like it had been abandoned or like all the people had yet to arrive. It’s difficult to see where all these people are expected to come from though. The same thing is happening in Kunming, where they’re also expecting a huge influx [17] of people. Somebody was telling me that Kunming has buildings to house twice its current population. Surely, there can’t be that many people arriving in the next few years. I don't understand how it all works economically. How can you have so many empty apartments and houses? Anyway, having arrived in the ghost town Song Ming, we managed to find a taxi to take us out to the park. It was nothing special, a few temples on a hill side with a path leading to the top and back down the other side. But it was kind of nice to be in a place with no people for a change.

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That’s just about all from me. Thank you for listening and thank you for your comments. I have a little trip planned this month. I’ll be going to a town in the south-west of Yunnan, right on the border with Myanmar, where they’ll be holding a traditional festival that I’m interested in. I’m also looking forward to exploring an area of Yunnan that I don't know yet. I’ll tell you all about it next month. As always you can listen to all the podcasts by visiting our website http://www.podclub.ch or by downloading our app. You can also download our vocabulary trainer to help you learn new words. In two weeks’ time my father Gerry will be back. My next podcast will be on 3rd June. Until then, I wish you all a good month. Goodbye!


[1] sighting: an occasion when you see something, especially something unusual
[2] tomb: a grave where a dead person is buried
[3] ancestor: a person who is related to you and lived a long time ago
[4] to change hands: to get a new owner
[5] to rejuvenate: here: to renovate or rebuild
[6] ackee and saltfish: a traditional Jamaican dish made from ackee, which is a fruit, and fish that has been preserved in salt
[7] to narrow down: to reduce the number of something
[8] turnout: the number of people attending an event
[9] fake: here: not real
[10] passer-by: someone who is walking past
[11] to bother: here: to cause pain
[12] to quote a price: to say how much it will cost
[13] pliers: a tool used to hold to hold things tight
[14] to stitch up: here: to close a wound with thread
[15] eager: very interested in
[16] strenuous: requiring great effort
[17] influx: a large number of things coming to a particular place