Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chinese Lori Darlin

We were watching this lady on TV the other night and Brian said that she was a Chinese Lori Darlin. Lori being our dear friend, and awesome mandolin and guitar shero. The instrument being played is the Zhongruan. There are a lot of cool Chinese instruments, and I walk past a bunch of old folks in the park doing traditional music every morning on my way to work. I will make an early start one day this week and try to get something on my gimpy old camera to show.

ARRRRRRRRRRRH! They be Turtles!

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Since virtually all of them have only had Chinese English teachers, the sentences initially come out sounding like, "Motten went to a potty in de pock". We practice, and I make individuals say it, and some of them do pretty well. Nearly all can make the sound if they stop and think about it first.
I found that when I can show how "party" and "potty" are two different things, they start to get it right a lot quicker. It has worked with "girl" and "gull", too. And we don't eat "hamboogers"!
Since Halloween is coming up they are also getting a lesson in that fine American festival. We have projectors in each classroom so I can do a power point presentation along with videos, so we be really high tech.
To see the latest lesson go here:
I also am showing some videos of the Blazers and Lakers as well as this classic:

A few weeks back we were at the nursery and pet shopping area and Yali decided we needed a couple of pet turtles, so we got two, along with the tank and dried shrimps that they like. She named them Teabag and Jackie since she is a fan of both Prison Break and Nurse Jackie.
Teabag is a lively lad and Jackie is kind of sluggish, like she's, well you know.

A couple of months ago a friend of ours went down to the DMV, showed she knew which pedal did what and how to honk the horn. She then fogged a mirror with her breath, and paid the licence fee and voila! Instant Chinese driver! She then went out and put a bunch of dents in her car and one in a bicyclist, who was mostly just shaken up. She decided to take some lessons for a while before she subjects the world to her special talents again.
It's pretty easy to get a taxi driver to go on a non stop tirade about the level of ineptitude in most drivers here. People will stop, turn, u turn, back up, slow down and honk whenever and wherever they want. I rarely see an accident, and I find that miraculous, but it is China, and somehow stuff just seems to happen in spite of itself.
The newness of car ownership has a parallel in the newness of supermarkets. Most grocery shopping is still done on a meal to meal basis in giant market places with a zillion vendors all haggling and shoppers carrying everything in bags or baskets. The shopping cart does not exist there. The supermarkets however are a lot like Western ones, including shopping carts. Chinese shopping cart operation is a lot like their car operation with the exception of horns (thank God!).
They stop in the middle of aisles, cut in front of you, back up without looking, and get into great cart jams. Wal Mart checkout today looked like downtown Guangzhou during rush hour.
Speaking of Guangzhou, I have never liked the place. 20 million people, dirty, dangerous and rude. I met an American on the plane from Seattle who was working there. He called it the Cleveland of South China.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bus hazards

Regardless of which country you are in, you see some pretty interesting things on the bus. There is something I have noticed here that may seem more uniquely Chinese.
At certain times of the day the buses are really crowded. There is no orderly queue to get on board when the bus stops. It's everyone for themselves. You position yourself in the bus to be able to snag the first available seat when someone gets off. It's very cut throat. The exception is that someone always offers their seat to the elderly. However, if you are young and fit, it's dog eat dog. (mmmmm dog!)
What makes this whole scene really interesting is that a lot of people are reluctant to immediately sit in a previously occupied seat. According to my Chinese sources, they seem to fear...........
BUS COOTIES!!!!! Really. They think that if the seat is warm you will be in danger of contaminating your rear karma with someone else's. This puts rational, modern thinkers at an advantage. While women in spike heels are standing, waiting for the seat to cool and the cooties to dissipate, some young punk or foreigner plops their unenlightened bottom right on the evilness left behind by the previous occupant. I do this myself all the time, and haven't had any ill effects, but I have seen people stand on a nearly empty bus, until they feel that the seats are safe. I have seen them feel the seat with their hands to make sure it's cool first. Of course, if an elderly person is offered someone's seat they always sit right down. Old, tired feet trump a haunted rump every time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Click the pix for larger picture.
We decided to stick around town for the holidays, partly because I was getting over a cold and partly because traveling during the holidays can really suck in China, since you are sharing the rails, hotels and buses with about a billion other people. I decided that it was time to explore some of the local beaches.
Unlike Americans and Europeans, the Chinese have not taken to the notion of beaches as a great place to hang out. For one thing, they don't want to get tan. That's for peasants and fisherfolk. Yali prides herself in her fair complexion, and always wears long sleeves, a hat, and big shades when she goes in the sun. An umbrella completes the ensemble. You see lots of women and men using umbrellas when the sun is out. I also enjoy the shade provided by the bumbershoot and use mine whenever I'm walking in the baking heat.
Anyway, beach resorts do exist here, but not like you would think. We live in a place that has some nice beaches, and we have great winter weather, but this is no Miami. People from the North do not flock here in the winter.
We did go to two different places this week. The first is a spiffy little island a mere ten minute boat ride in the bay. President Hu Jintao paid a visit here in 2005 and viola!--Instant Resort.
There are some nice little beaches, good lodging, and restaurants, but your view from the beach is of the shipyards just across the narrow strait, so even though we had a great time with a bunch of our friends, I yearned for something a little more natural.
There is another bigger island that is a barrier island facing the South China Sea. It's a longer boat ride to a village, then you have to take a sanmo (three wheeled motorcycle cab) for 35 minutes across the island. It's a bone shaking ride through farms and fish farms--very third world. We were dropped off with the driver's phone number at a deserted resort. It was one of those if you build it they won't come kind of affairs. It was lunch time and we went over to the bamboo and sheet metal restaurant and had an awesome crab and squid lunch. They let us come into the kitchen and pick our crabs which were skittering around in a bucket. We then strolled over to a huge deserted beach with surf and some fishing boats. Yali bought a bunch of fresh fish from a fisher lady, and we boys romped in the surf. It was perfect water, and only a handful of people.
We walked over to the deserted hotel, and found someone who quoted us a price for a room, which wasn't too outrageous, so maybe we'll come over for a night sometime. We went back to the crab shack for a couple of cold ones and waited for the sanmo to return.
It was a wonderfully relaxing day completely removed from the city and we will be making this a favorite place to go on Saturdays for a long time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy National Day

Click the pix for larger picture.
Today is National Day. We are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China by watching the morning extravaganza in Beijing. It's an impressive extravaganza of military disciplined marching and standing at attention without blinking. They have been preparing for months, this thing is BIG. The weather is a perfect fall day in Beijing, what Keith Jackson might call a perfect day for college football.
The grounds of Tianemen Square are covered with a rectangular mass of people with yellow and red cards that change messages on command. There are groups in colorful costumes representing all the ethnic groups of China (except expat English teachers). The top ministers are all lined up with president Hu Jintao looking nattily retro in his Mao Jacket. Different branches of the military are lined down the boulevard for several kilometers with tanks, guns, missile launchers, and various fighting vehicles with 50's white sidewalls to go with president Wu's jacket. The soldiers, sailors and air folk are standing at attention.
The music starts from the world's biggest brass band. I can't help but notice there is not a sheet of music to be seen. An honor guard goose steps with the national flag. It is raised with great flair. The president's limo emerges from the arched doorway beneath Mao's portrait looking uncannily as though the late chairman is giving birth to a motorcade. Hu stands in sunroof with a battery of microphones in front of him and the motorcade cruises steadily past the waiting forces. He stands at attention going past and shouts the same encouragement to each group, and each groups shouts its mighty response. They turn around at the end and he returns to Mao's portal. He then appears for a blessedly short speech, then the music starts again and it parade time!
The marching is truly impressive with its precision. The participants are chosen partly based on size, so they match pretty well. The navy is spiffy in their whites, and the women soldiers have short skirts and mighty stylish boots. President Hu has a big smile for them, much bigger than when the missiles roll by later. My personal favorite are the women's militia in their red mini skirted uniforms with matching white berets, Sam Brown belts, holsters, boots, and gloves. Anyway they are a far cry from the olive drab mechanic overall suited students from the old Red Guard.
It ends with a big flyover of all kinds of fighters, helicopters, bombers and other aircraft.\
Of course, this is not all. The festivities go on into the night, with giant precision fireworks, dance performances, singing, bands, and other choreographed debauchery.