Shaowu is a small typical Chinese city at the foot of a mountain range near the East coast of China. Tourists don't visit Shaowu except to pass through and very few people speak English. There are some scenic places to visit nearby but these are generally only frequented by Chinese tourists. As westerners are very rare here, we get stared at quite a lot. The only other foreingner who lives here is Shane.

The primary school where we live is located right on the main street of Shaowu, which is called 519 road. The street is reminiscent of Bourke Street, with flashy clothes shops and most of the town's neon. A few months ago the mayor installed these neon lights into the pavements and the buildings along this street and the river. At night they give the impression that the city is full of life but the illusion doesn't last very long!

There is a nice park a few blocks away from the school with lovely forest walks. There are stone walkways throughout the park that take you past several pagodas to the peak of a large hill. In the evenings the park is busy with people walking and doing stretches but at lunchtime it's deserted as many people like to take a nap around noon. Here you can see some pictures of the park when we went for a walk with some of Georgia's students and some puppies that live in the park.

There are lots of places to eat, from restaurants to street stalls. At lunch time the most common choice is "fast food" - precooked dishes in a bain maree from which you select 3 or 4 to have with rice. Noodle soups are very popular and we found an interesting option for dinner which Georgia named "Soup on a Stick". This is a stall with dozens of different types of food displayed on skewers. You choose as many skewers as you want and the contents of these skewers are cooked with noodles on the spot and served in a soup.

In the evenings the whole town seems to come out for a leisurely stroll, rather than staying in and watching TV like in Australia. There is a "people's park" with a water light show and music where hundreds of people dance each evening. Stores tend to be open long hours, as the owners live above the shops and prefer to sit out the front and play cards with friends than close the shop. There are often many people just sitting on the street and chatting, and walking down the streets you can see into people's homes as they tend to leave their doors and window shades open. This all gives the town a very communal and social atmosphere.

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