Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dragon Boat Festival

It was the Dragon Boat Festival last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This is one of the truly awesome holidays in China, but only if you are one of the people in the boat, or if you completely stay away from the massive crowds, which we did. According to the unfortunates we know who went it was a sweltering mass of humanity of the type only found in places like China, and India. Of course no one can see the boats. It appears that it was as much fun for most people as the invasion of Manilla.
Our family went with surviving veterans of past Dragon Boat Festivals to our favorite local park, The Forest Park. It is located on the edge of town on a lake. There is an amusement park near the entrance, then you get to the garden area, which since we have been getting lots of tropical rain is luuuuuush. The further into the park you go, the more primitive it gets. You get to the lake, and a large pine and eucalyptus forest with trails.
One of the main features of the park is the barbecue. There are pits where you can do your own, but you really want to have the locals do chicken for you. There is a small village of about 5 or six houses, that make the best chicken I have ever had. They have small rock ovens, that they fire with pine needles, until they get glowing hot. Then they take a whole chicken that they just killed from one of the slower birds chasing bugs around the place. They stuff it with garlic, herbs and spices, wrap it in banana leaves and foil and toss it into the oven along with some sweet potatoes and corn. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!
Because most of the city was playing "Where's Buddha?" on the other side of town, we enjoyed a quiet day in this tropical paradise. Good friends, family and food.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Due to some technical difficulties, pictures and videos will not be shown for a while.
It has been raining at mid day for the last three days. It's also in the mid to high 80's which makes it kind of steamy. I'm good for about 3 showers a day. It really isn't uncomfortable, you just have to resign yourself to sweating a lot.
I work with an English (Welsh, actually) couple. The woman and I sometimes ride the bus together. They are roughly the same age, have a 14 year old son and have lived in China for six years. We spend a lot of time talking about cheese. It's amazing what you might want to eat when you can't readily find it here. I found the good liquor store and mayo. They found an import shop with mustard and real cheese.
Even though I actually prefer the overall cuisine here, it's fun to have something that reminds you of home. Now that I have mustard, I had to make hot dogs for lunch. The local supermarket has fresh baked goods and I found some long rolls to use as buns. They also had some long garlic kielbasa type sausage. Boy howdy, hot dogs!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Worker Nanny

Worker safety does not get the same attention from the government here as it does in the USA. I see tile workers cutting tile with no eye protection. Heavy labor being done in sandals. High altitude work with no safety harnesses. Welding being done bare eyed.
Factories have little regard for workers being exposed to hazardous chemicals, dust, or dangerous machinery.
Back in my youth I worked at a ski area. This was in the 70’s and early 80’s. We climbed ski towers that were covered in ice in high winds with nothing more to protect us from falling than the knowledge that we could get messed up pretty badly if we fell. The work place was different then. People got hurt and killed in a more regular basis.
Mill workers lost fingers, choker setters got squashed, anyone working in a loud environment went deaf, and people fell off stuff.
Today the US has a super nanny to keep workers safe, OSHA (Occupational, Health and Safety Administration). In the last 25 years they have done great things to make workers safe, and then went about 20 steps too far to become a meddling, burdensome pest. Kind of like a bad mother in law, except they can and do levy big fines for all kinds of “safety violations”. Now you can get a big fine if your workers are working up high without ropes and harnesses, and you should be. You can also get a fine for a lot of questionable violations.
For example, take the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets). Every chemical in America has an MSDS. This can be very good. If you get some nasty solvent on your skin, you can refer to the MSDS to see what you should do. Every employer has to have a book with MSDS on all its chemicals available to all employees. This can include things like gasoline, solvents, paints, cleaners, pesticides, and glues. OK that seems reasonable. It also includes things like hand soap and dry erase markers. So you have a book store and in your restroom you have liquid hand soap, and you have some sharpies to label things, white out, and an ink pad, and an OSHA inspector springs a surprise inspection you better have MSDS on all this stuff or you are in for an expensive fine.
There are many other examples of this bureaucracy run amok, just ask any employer who has been inspected.. Yes people are safer in the work place, including that book store employee who is allergic to white out.
In China the government could care less if you fell 10 stories off of a bamboo scaffolding, but in the US, someone is staying up at night worrying about the .0002% of the workforce who could have a toxic reaction to Pink Pearl hand soap.
It is interesting to see how the citizens of our countries differ from each other because of the role that the government takes in assuring the safety of its people. Chinese people are very self reliant. They are also very tough. Not a lot of whiners here. Nobody's listening.
How about Americans? Do we want someone taking care of us all the time? Since we live in a democracy, I would venture to say that we do. Sometimes I think that we want to not have to take responsibility for our lives, though. We should be able to know that if you get some soap in your eye, you rinse it out with water.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nanny States

Lately there have been some grumblings in the US about how we are becoming a “nanny state”. Now I’m not totally clear on what the grumblers mean, but if I were to venture a guess, they don’t like the government getting involved with taking care of people and trying to control people’s lives. Perhaps they feel their liberties are being infringed upon. Or maybe they feel that people don’t take responsibility for themselves, or that some people lose the ability to take care of themselves at all. In the US the government does involve itself in many aspects of its citizens’ lives, and in this regard it is very different from China.
The Smoking Nanny
In my home state, Oregon, it is illegal to smoke in any public building, including restaurants and bars. It is even illegal to smoke in a car that has a child under the age of 16 in it. Huge taxes are levied on tobacco and massive campaigns are waged in an effort to educate the public on the dangers of smoking. Smoking has been so stigmatized that most fewer than 20% of adults smoke. Yay, us!
In China, there is no nanny state effort like this. Most men smoke. In fact, over 60% of doctors smoke! You can smoke virtually anywhere including hospital rooms. You can’t smoke on a plane or a bus, but I have seen the bus drivers have a puff with the window open.
Virtually no women smoke. You have to go to a bar to see smoking women, and even they are in the minority.
If you are an oppressed American smoker, I would recommend China. You would be liberated from the tobacco nanny.
Transportation Nanny
In Oregon, if you are a kid on a bike, or anyone on a motorcycle, you have to wear a helmet. I’ve lost track of the size requirements, but small kids and babies need to be in car seats. Everybody has to have a seat belt on. Drivers need to pass a written and a driving test to get their license. All must be insured. Pedestrians have the right of way. Most traffic laws are obeyed and enforced.
Reverse all of the above, and you have China. Kids and babies are piled onto the family motorcycle. It appears the driver’s license requirement is the ability to fog a mirror with your breath and pay the fee. I’ve never seen a car seat here.
No traffic nanny here!
More later….

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Chinese News

This piece is from one of the official state run newspaper websites. Here is the second article I've read this year on gay rights in China. I know there is news that is off limits here, but I am amazed at what you can read about. They cover a surprising amount of US political news, and if I had to choose between two sources, Xinhua or Fox News, I think I would get a more accurate accounting from the Chinese source.

Great Cultural Exchange