Stacey and I are in Dalian on the NE coast of China. Drank too much "by-jo" (sounds like "by Jove," made from sorghum and other grains, tastes sort of like grappa) last evening after giving two lectures on American poetry. Large audiences of attentive Chinese undergraduates in this so-called "small" town -- five million people! Yesterday at exactly 2:28 -- the moment the earthquake hit a week ago -- there were three minutes of silence, and everyone stood absolutely still and at attention, in a very moving show of grief, sympathy for the fallen and their families, and national solidarity. More soon!
Our hosts have treated us to remarkable meals. As Dalian is a coastal town, the cuisine makes the most of the many varieties of seafood. Among the specialties we tried were abalone, sea cucumber, scallops in their beautiful pink shells, tiny clams resembling cockles, all put before us on an overflowing lazy-susan. We had two soups that came in one bowl arranged to resemble the yin-yang sign; the darker soup was winter squash, the lighter, peanut. One of the more delicious entrees (one that I will dream about) was made with pork knuckles, potatoes, and sea kelp, in a brown sauce seasoned with soy and star anise. It will be impossible to duplicate these dishes at home, but that doesn't mean I won't try. Our consulate host is engaged to a Sichuan restauranteur; we're hoping he will blog for us about the food of that region as well as the spirits that one would enjoy with it. If we keep to this pace, we'll die like Li Po, embracing the moon above the yellow river (to paraphrase the poet).