Kelsey Breseman
3 min readApr 4, 2019

The local specialty of snail noodle soup has spaghetti-shaped rice noodles, a duck foot, snails in shells, and your choice of add-ons. You’re supposed to eat it spicy and sip the fresh, sweet glass-bottled soy milk between bites. The snails, you can suck from their shells or toothpick out, but separate the foot from the intestines– the foot is the part you eat. The duck foot, you chew. It’s fatty, with lots of skin. The cartilaginous little foot joints melt apart in your mouth, so you spit out the tiny bones.

We’re eating in a noodle shop in a mall in Liuzhou. We’re with Jia’s cousins, who are just a bit older than us and chatting amiably in Chinese. I catch phrases, but though I’m having a better time understanding these two than Jia’s older relatives, it’s still not enough to really participate in conversation. Jia translates the interesting bits as we take a post-lunch stroll through the mall.

The mall is not so different from American, though dress styles on mannequins are more conservative and the prices are much cheaper. Jia and I marvel at the great prices in an outdoors shop– she speculates that we might be near a Quechua factory; the brand has a strong presence.

Jia’s cousin works at a place that manufactures cars, so she takes us to check out their new smart car-shaped electric model. Apparently, motorcycle licenses are being tapered (“unsightly”), so this is the alternative play at 20–30k yuan (4–5k USD). Liuzhou is the manufacturing site for three car brands. Jia’s cousin says she has to work more this week because it’s the end of the month– they want to get their numbers up.

It’s hard to get a sense of distance, because the high-speed trains can go a long way in an hour or two. But Liuzhou is north of Nanning, far enough north that you might want a jacket.

Come evening, I wish I had another layer yet. We’re on a river boat: a special treat, the whole family along on this three-level lounge. The boat’s exterior is covered in ropes and dots of flashing colored lights. But that’s nothing compared to the city.

The horseshoe-shaped river circumscribes downtown, so twenty bridges, all different, stretch access to the urban expansion on the far shore. There’s a bridge suspended from one huge central loop, a double bridge with red arched railings, an older cement bridge underlit with ever-changing RGB LED strips.

It’s RGB LED animated rainbows everywhere, really. Every bridge is lit and so is every tower. And we’re…