Sunday, February 28, 2010


We bless these good capitalists
Scary bamboo pole fu

I perform the great acrobatics that cannot be seen because of stupid blog limitations!!!!!!*

Click the pix for larger picture.

The second morning of the New Year brought a great performance to our neighborhood. I’m not sure what the real name of the troupe is, but let’s just call them “The Young Kung Fu and Acrobatic Lions Entertainment Brigade” or TYKFALEB. We saw them last year in a park, and I didn’t have my camera, but I was prepared this time. We live near a big modern shopping mall with luxury apartments above. There are lots of boutiques and clothing stores as well as a supermarket, McDonald’s, movie complex and appliance store. The lion guys went around to all the stores accompanied by drums and cymbals. They made a hellacious racket and apparently brought great luck to all the merchants for this Year of the Tiger, a great year for doing business. They got some bucks for it as well as the soon to be happening performance out front.
While all the hubbub went on inside, the other performers waited outside preparing themselves mentally by smoking cigarettes and drinking Red Bulls. This ritual helps them attain the careful state of mystical concentration necessary for their death defying feats.
After the lions paid the necessary homage to the merchants, the show began with nifty Kung Fu by a couple of young girls and some manly young men. Then the White Lion did his (their) thing on a nifty structure of platforms. It was very acrobatic, and a pretty impressive. Nobody was hurt, and lots of kids of all ages were entertained.
*(I have some good video of this, but cannot load it right now)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love that citrus!

My favorite conveyance, the Sanmo.

Dude, my flowers rock!

There are many traditional things to buy at New Year's. Some of the big deal things are tangerine trees, plants and flowers. An intersection near our home is one of the places that vendors set up shop. For blocks, the sidewalks were packed with tangerine and kumquat trees, interspersed with flowers, plants, vases, and other gifts. There were also street food vendors selling roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts. Of course there were enterprising folks with their bike carts hauling all this booty making some bucks, too.
It was chilly the day we went to check it out. Just a few days before we had three ninety degree sunny days, then the cold moved in from the north and the whole first week of the Spring Festival was stuck in the mid forties. This is not normal here since we are on the same latitude as Havana, but the Himalayas are to the northwest, and it's been mighty cold in the north, so there you have it.

Cleaning for the New Year

Stairwell Rapids

The days leading up to the Chinese New Year are filled with preparation. You deep clean your home. Decorations go up. The streets get cleaned, buses get cleaned, and parks get cleaned. Even our stairwell got cleaned. They opened up the tank on the roof that holds the fire fighting water and gave our stairwell a big douching.

Bus Tales

The other day I was making a short bus trip. The front of the bus has three seats along the walls, facing each other. I managed to snag one of these seats. A couple of stops later, a lot of people were getting on, including a woman with a young baby in a front carrier. I got up and offered my seat. While she was handing bags to her friend, and adjusting the baby preparing to seat herself, a man slid into the empty seat. Even though I don't speak the local dialect, Leizhouwa, I didn't need to in order to understand the ensuing excitement.
Her friend began to ream the guy in a voice that the whole bus could hear. I'm sure it went something like this: "You fat assed dick! My friend has a brand new baby, and this foreign barbarian had the decency to give her his seat, and you take it like some dog! I feel sorry for your wife, because you have to be the biggest @%$#@!!!!! in China! Aiyah!" All the while the guy got very red, and tried to offer the seat. "No way is my friend going to sully her ass with your bad butt cooties, you piece of cack! Aiyah!" It was very entertaining to everyone. Another lady offered her seat, and another guy offered me his seat, which I refused, indicating that I was getting off at the next stop.
Mommy took her new seat, and I watched the jerk who was glumly searching the floor in vain for his missing face.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cancel That Wedding!!!!!

According to this article in the People's Daily the Year of the Tiger is a sucky year to get married. Apparently bad things can happen including an early spousal death. You also don't want to have a kid this year because Tiger babies can eat you out of house and home. However, it's a great time for business, unless you are a wedding photographer. On the plus side though, if you do get married, tux rentals will be cheaper, it will be easier to book a wedding venue and if you aren't that thrilled with your fiancee, there's a good chance one of you may not be around that long in the first place.
This may seem like silly superstition to the Western mind, but remember, these are the same folks who worry about bus cooties.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Walk Walk Walk

My diet is a lot healthier here. There is no pizza, sirloin steak or Ben and Jerry's. No Cheetos, no Taco Bell. We do have a McDonald's, a KFC and a Pizza Hut, but they are very different. I have never liked McDonald's, I've always been more of a Burger King guy. The Pizza Hut stuff here is weird, kind of like if someone used Google translator to instruct someone how to make pizza into German, then into Armenian, then into Mandarin. KFC has always been some kind of foreign food to me. I feel no culinary siren song coming from these places, so I don't frequent them.
What I loved in America and they do not have is good pizza, Mexican food, micro brews, cheese, good beef steaks, butter, tortilla chips, sour cream, and fatty ice cream. This is the yummy crap I no longer have ready access to. I eat fresh veggies, fruit, rice, noodles, smaller meat portions, pastries with a lot less sugar and fat, tofu and sea food. There just isn't a lot of fat or sugar in my diet any more.
I also don't drive anywhere any more. Not very many people do. I take the bus, a cab or a sanmo. That means you have to walk a lot. The result is that I am at that ideal weight that they have in the doctor's office charts, but that most Americans can't seem to meet.
It also means that things take longer. Which means that your life slows down. When you look at a Chinese street, it appears to be anything but slow. There are a bazillion vehicles and pedestrians moving all at once. But a closer look reveals everyone moving rather cautiously, but with horns a blazing. Since traffic rules are only a vague suggestion, most people are concentrating on not colliding with the people meandering around them. It's crowded, and you don't have any control over how quickly the flow is moving. You can't be in too much of a hurry or your head would explode from frustration.
I used to micro manage the time it took to get things done so that I could be efficient in everything that I did. Now I allow extra time for transportation. If the bus shows up right after I get to the stop and I arrive at my destination early, I don't feel the overwhelming compulsion I once had to fill the extra time with something. I can just think of stuff,. you know daydream, or plan something, or just watch the weird stuff going on. There is always weird stuff. It's China.

More Back Repair

My lower back decided to go Republican on me after six months of being a cooperative, bipartisan part of the team. I went back to the torture specialist who took a couple of tokes from his tobacco bong then pinched the hell out of my biceps and armpits, and did some other intense jabbing and poking in various places. I feel all better again. His "office/home" is in one of the old warrens, and is looking like it's slated for demolition soon. I think part of the effectiveness of this treatment is going into the maze that he lives in. There is some old healing karma floating around in there that may get lost when the fancy new apartments go in.

Team Engrish

I am getting to be a busy guy. I'm supposed to be on holiday, but I've only had one real day off since the holidays started. I will continue to give a couple of lessons a week to the preschoolers after the new semester starts again. I'm also going to be teaching a couple of classes in another private school. I like these classes a lot because they are small and intimate, so I get to know all the students, instead of just a few outgoing, outstanding ones. They also pay well.
I've also been able to team up with my old assistant from last year. She had a falling out with our old employer. That is their loss and my gain. We work very well as a team, a very effective teaching unit.
I have my private students, too which pretty much gives me about a six and a half day work week. Fortunately, when students at my school have their monthly exams, I get a few days off from there.
I will get a real holiday the week of the real "Spring Festival/Chinese New Year". The official New Year day is Feb 14, the day of the new moon. There will be a week of intense parties, fireworks, eating, loving, fireworks, drinking, eating, fireworks, friends, family, gift giving, money spending wahoo.
I've been starting to buy decorations. There are a zillion places you can get all kinds of red stuff to decorate with. I'm getting excited. I'm definitely going to be buying some serious ordinance to blow off. You can get some great nukes here, none of that sissy USA stuff. You can cause some serious disabilities with these things. After living here a year, I'm starting to feel a little more Chinese.