Archive for November, 2005

A Tiny Bit of Chinglish

26 November 05

Our new Chinglish obsession:

On a bag of Wheat Digestive Crackers:

Tiny, yet coarse. Derive healthy fitness.

Suddenly, everything is tiny, yet coarse. How was dinner? Tiny, yet coarse. What’s the weather like? Tiny, yet coarse.

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Saturday Morning

26 November 05

It is a Saturday morning, and inexplicably, I am awake and out of bed at 9AM. For those who know me well, you know how bizarre this is. I think China is making me into a normal adult. Back in Toronto I would regularly sleep until noon without even realizing it. Of course, that probably had something to do with crazy hospital shift work, switching between nights and days all of the time. Or, it could have been that my bedroom was very dark and the hotel room here is flooded with light every morning at 7AM. Or, it could be that I am finally like everyone else, working Monday to Friday and appreciating more than ever what a weekend is. Namely, you can’t waste one hour of it! Working as a nurse, weekends are irrelevant. I worked many weekends and often had days off during the week, or a random stretch of 4, 5, even 7 days off. When you are doing hard work like nursing, some sort of primal sleep need takes over and you use up half of your free days sleeping. You are never sure if you should be awake or asleep. I guess I am coming to like the routine of a steady Monday to Friday routine, even though I grumble most mornings.

So here I am, awake, drinking a nescafe, reading the online newspaper. I am sure you have heard about the chemical plant explosion and subsequent contamination of the water supply with benzene in the Northern Chinese city of Harbin. Don’t worry about us, we are several thousand miles south of there. These sorts of things are par for the course here in China. A plant of some kind explodes everyday somewhere in the country. I see this as one of the biggest problems facing the country – the horrible pollution and the seeming lack of safety and anti-pollution measures at the plants. I suppose that it is how it is in developing countries, but as China grows economically, they cannot allow this contamination to continue. Between our airport and the city, one of the instructors counted around 15 coal power plants. Back home in Texas, I lived a mile from a coal power plant, but I don’t believe we had any noticeable pollution, just a lot of noise. Here, well, it is just unbelievable. Although, since I wrote that last post about pollution, the days have been incredibly clear, with blue sky and a nice breeze. Maybe I should make these comments more regularly in order to improve the conditions.

As for bird flu, according the China Daily, there have been human cases in China. I am not to clear on how many deaths there have been from the deadly H5N1 strain. Of course, the Health Ministry is denying rumors that they haven’t reported all the deaths related to bird flu. Honestly, I am not too concerned about this threat.

I hadn’t really meant this entry to be about this kind of thing, it just happens to be what I was reading about online today. What I meant to blog about was our dinner last night. A new restaurant has opened at the airport. We’ve been watching the progress of the building for a month now. It opened a few days ago. It has a large sign outside in Chinese and English. The English name is: Shijiazhuang Airport Airfood.

Airfood 3We just had to give this airfood a try. The whole restaurant is made up of small individual rooms for private dining. Their menu is all in Chinese, with no pictures, so we had to use the phrasebook to order. The waitress that took our order asked us to write down the English name of the dishes we ordered. Maybe they want to make an English menu, too. I am always surprised when someone goes above and beyond to try to understand us. I mean, obviously we should be learning their language and not just expect to be catered to in English, but the language is difficult and it is nice when you find someone willing to try and understand our half-English, half-Chinese efforts. I think many times they like to practice their English, too. The food was not bad and we had a good time.

The other day I went to the Kwik-E-Mart for lunch by myself. I had my usual Fried Rice. The girls who work there, who see me frequently through the week, decided that since I was alone, they would try out their English with me. (Maybe they are too intimidated by DH and the gang to try English with them?) It was mostly basic English greetings: How are you? What is your name? Where are you from? The girls would consult with each other in Chinese, turn to me and ask me the question. When I responded, they would turn to each other, consult some more, and then turn back and say something else. There was a lot of giggling on their part, too. With their limited phrases the whole conversation couldn’t last long, but I thought it was nice.

This coming week my aim is to study more Chinese.

Happy American Thanksgiving!

24 November 05

To all my American readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I must have told at least 60 Chinese about the significance of this day. It is interesting to tell the first time, but wears on you after a while. I felt like I was shortening the story each time. At the start of the day I was giving history lessons on the Pilgrims and the Mayflower and the feast they shared with the Native Americans. By the end of the day I was saying, “Your family gets together, you eat a big turkey and fall asleep on the couch.”

We had a big surprise at work today – a huge Thanksgiving feast! You may remember that I mentioned before the company had hired a Western chef to improve the food selections in our cafeteria. To be honest, I am not too sure how that turned out overall because I hardly ever eat in the cafeteria anymore. The food quality is just too dodgy and there are so many students that it is a hassle to wait in a huge line. I either make my lunch at home or eat in a neighboring restaurant. (To give you an idea about the food quality, the only day that we ate in the cafeteria in about a month, DH got some serious food poisoning!)

Anyway, the cafeteria served an authentic home-cooked meal today, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, salad and many other interesting foods. It was a Chinese take on Thanksgiving and I think they did a great job. Evidently one of the American flight instructors helped out, or even arranged it, I am not too sure. The turkey was tender and very flavorful, not at all like the way DH refers to turkey: “You know, that dry bird…” The mashed potatoes had a layer of cheese on top, not too sure why, but you know I love cheese so I didn’t complain. There was a gravy to accompany the meat and potatoes and I enjoyed it. All of the Western staff as well as the Chinese employees partook (?is that a word?) in the meal, which I thought was a nice gesture. I believe that the overall consensus was that the meal was a success.

Now if we could just get them to repeat this everyday, or at least on Christmas, I would be very pleased. I have lived outside the US for almost six years now, and I never really celebrated Thanksgiving in those years. (I don’t know how to do a turkey!) Frankly, I never really missed all the calories and the post meal stupor. But today I was very happy and without sounding too corny, it was nice to share the experience with everyone at work.

Pollution? What Pollution?

21 November 05

Remember how I was saying that Shijiazhuang is the 2nd most polluted city in China? Well this is what it looked like outside this morning:

Don’t see anything above? Well, neither could I this morning, due to the extreme pollution cloud/fog/haze/smoke/wall. Literally, I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of my bicycle! There was definitely some type of chemical in the air, too, because I felt light-headed upon arrival to work and I felt like I might choke. Very worrying. Just what exactly is this smoke doing to my body?

There were no new posts over the weekend because our computer is on the fritz. I spent the whole weekend transferring all my files from the computer hard drive to an external hard drive so we can reformat the computer, or throw it out the window, whichever…

On a better note, I have discovered that in addition to HBO, we now have BBC World News Channel on our TV. I thought it was great at first. I was feeling very out of touch with world news lately. But after watching the same news loop over and over again all weekend, (so much that I’ve memorized it – did you know that the Hudson Bay isn’t frozen yet and the polar bears are starving? Or that President Bush was in Beijing on Saturday? Or that the weather is stormy in the Philippines and Sri Lanka? Or that Middle Eastern stock markets are regularly reaching new highs? Just a few of the headlines and news stories I listened to about 20 times!), I’m done with the BBC. For a few days, anyway!

Home-Style Cooking

17 November 05

I seem to have a theme going here about meals, so I will tell you about the meal we had tonight at the Russians. By the way, here is a photo of the Russian Restaurant:

russians

That is my bike in the picture, the maroon one. The yellow one has long since died. In fact, here is a photo of it’s unfortunate demise some weeks ago:

yellow bike

Anyway, our friend, the American T, picked up a few cans of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce when he was in the city last night. We took it to the Russians and asked them if they could make us some spaghetti. We also explained how to make garlic bread. They came through for us, producing some slices of white bread with a bit of crushed garlic and some cheese melted on top. (There is not a lot of butter in our region of China, so it wasn’t completely authentic, but good enough.) Somehow they had misunderstood our requests to heat up the sauce for “make the sauce HOT” (spicy) so they added lots of red pepper to the sauce. No matter, it was still very good. Reminded me a lot of home! Like I said before about the Tabasco, it’s the little things that keep life fun & interesting. While many of us complain from time to time, (it’s normal), if we don’t then do things to improve our mood and make ourselves happy we will never be happy!
And that’s my moral to this story.

Another Cheap Meal

16 November 05

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but over and over again I am truly astounded by prices here. DH and I just came from dinner – at the Mongols. We had one bowl each of noodles with a delicious soy based sauce and a platter of stewed eggplant with tomatoes and green peppers. It was a very satisfying meal and I am completely full. It cost $1.25. In total. Not per person. 10 yuan total. Unbelievable. When was the last time you had a full meal for that kind of money? Even if we had a kitchen, I’m fairly sure I would never be able to buy and cook something for only $1.25.

Here is a photo taken a couple of months ago at the Mongols:

mongol_yurt

There are two types of yurts. One is the traditional kind as seen in the photo, and the other is made of concrete. Most all of these yurts have banquete style seating made from concrete. There are pipes running through the concrete to heat the seat in the winter. It will be just perfect when it’s freezing outside – as you sit, the radiant heat rises up under the ‘ol bottom and leaves you nice and cozy.

Mansion Hotel Progress

16 November 05

Here is the promised update photo on the mansion hotel’s progress:

Mansion Progress

Progress: the building is painted, a new road, street lights, landscaping… Right on schedule for a December move-in? Nah, I’m not so sure.
This photo was taken around 4:45 PM. Notice the sun setting behind the hotel. Soon enough it will be dark here at 4 PM!!

Wanna see where we live now? Here is our current 3 Star Hotel:

Ya Tai airport hotel

It doesn’t look too bad, right? Appearances can be deceiving!

Both of the above photos were taken on days with decent air quality. In fact, the picture above was taken on one of the most beautiful days I have seen here yet! If you compare the mansion hotel photo to the previous one, in blog entry #50, you will see the difference in a decent day and a mildy smoky day!

HBO

15 November 05

Oh, the excitement!!! Big news in our little hotel in the middle of rural China! You heard it here first! We now have satellite (how in the world do you spell that?) HBO! Evidently the hotel has bought a dish, or they have paid for the channels, or something… I don’t know how, but we have it. Don’t get too excited for us, yet, though. It seems we will only get HBO as long as the “Master Channel” is tuned to HBO. If some hotel manager or worker decides to change the channel, our channel changes, too. HBO must be pretty popular, because it has been on for a while now. My big disappointment is that when I found out we had the channel, “Catwoman” was on, which just so happened to be the English movie of the week on CCTV a few weeks ago. (Yes, I did watch every minute of it that night even though it was nominated for the worst movie of the year. I’m desperate for anything other than Chinese game shows and Britney Spears videos. They love her!?)
I’m pretty happy tonight, because at 10PM Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom will be on. (Yea I’ve seen it 20 times, but so what!) I hope I don’t turn into a bed potato. (I can’t technically be a couch potato since we don’t have a couch, just our bed and a couple of chairs in our room.) I could very easily see myself slipping into some kind of English TV deprivation psychosis where I overdose on HBO and am found weeks later hungry, wide-eyed and clutching the remote tightly in my hand.

Think about me when you are flipping through your 450 channels, or however many you crazy Westerners get these days!

Chinglish

14 November 05

Last week I bought a new pair of burgundy & white trainers. (Trainers are sneakers or tennis shoes.) My new pair happen to be soccer shoes, actually, “made” by an Italian company called Diadora. I say “made” by an Italian company because with the Chinglish written on the tongue of the shoe, I am inclined to believe that I have just purchased a really cute pair of knock-off Diadoras.

Diadora. Suggest the premium sporting goods exclusively.

That is what the tongue says. I love it! I really love the shoes, too, although they are exactly the same color and a similar style to a pair of track shoes that I was given in high school and then was way too ashamed to wear. How times and styles change. The shoes are very 70s soccer. I just need some knee high tube socks and some really tiny running shorts to complete my look.

Other fine examples of Chinglish I have come across:

On the bus ride into the city we always pass a huge billboard advertising a new apartment villa complex built next to a lake. It reads-

Wide house next to lake. Its aristocrat exclusively.

I think that the Chinese appreciate exclusivity. Or at least they think Westerners do.

On a notebook I use to write class notes and lesson plans in-

Ideal never deserts it strenouns, who will reach it with their constant pursuit.

And one of my favorites, printed on a bag of brown sugar. I’m dying to know, why on a bag of sugar?

May the breeze bring you the tenderness and warmth from me. Far from each other we may be. Yet still you are here. At the bottom of my heat.

I do not mean to poke fun at people who are not native English speakers. Half the time I misspell the words I am trying to teach my students. I just get a good smile out of some of these phrases, which must have been directly translated from Chinese to English. I’ll keep my eyes open for more good ones!

COLD!

14 November 05

Today was so cold!! On my way to work this morning at 8AM, (an early morning, usually I go in at 9:30), it was – 3 celsius. (That is cold in Fareneheit.) The heat has not yet been turned on at the school, but thankfully, the hotel decided to turn their heat on yesterday. I once read that the official day for heat in China is November 15th, so hopefully the school will take the hint and turn it on. All of us have been wearing coats, scarves and hats inside our offices and classrooms! The high today was 7 celsius (~45 F). It is also humid, which makes the cold much worse. I am beginning to think that we possibly have jumped over Autumn and fallen into Winter.

What do you think of this photo?

Snow

SNOW? No, actually it is just some sort of fertilizer or soil mixture that was placed around this tree, which is right in front of the new mansion hotel being built down the road from our current hotel. A lot of work has been done on the building and it looks as though it should be ready in another month or two. With any luck, I will be swimming in the new indoor, heated pool for New Year’s! (Don’t hold your breath!)