Archive for November, 2006

Language Moments

30 November 06

In our quest to learn mandarin we seem to have overlooked one important phrase – “welcome.”

Like total idiots, for the past year every time we entered a restaurant or store we understood the workers to be saying “Good Morning” at any time of the day. We always thought, how nice! They are really trying to make us feel welcome, even if they’ve got the wrong phrase (good morning in the afternoon).

Turns out they are not saying Good Morning at all, but something that sounds like it, something like Huan Ying – which means welcome. (They say more than that, though including something that sounds like “good” or begins with a g. I’m going to ask my coworker tomorrow.)

And we, like complete dorks, always proudly responded, “Good Morning!” Doy…



29 November 06

Whoa. I have been sitting at my desk for the last hour reading a blog which just blew me away. I am on my lunch break and I didn’t even bother to eat because I was so absorbed in the reading.

The blog I was reading is about life in the same small airport where I lived the last year, but told from an entirely different perspective. The writing is beautiful and the descriptions are true and honest. The author is also an American, a wife of a flight instructor and a mother of two small children. I remember when she first arrived to our hotel. My only thought was – wow, she has come to China with two kids! Other people thought this was crazy, but having lived some of my life outside of the US I knew it was a gift she was giving her children, even if they left while their memories were still young & small.

Her writing and experiences have moved me to reflect on my own blogging and representations of life at that airport and the nearby city. Was I as honest as I could have been? I was often tired after work and didn’t feel much like blogging, so many of the fun, day-to-day experiences I had in China are not represented. My interaction with the local Chinese was small and not very significant, and that is something I always regretted. I spent most of my day with my Chinese students, concentrating on aviation. My social time was spent with my DH and other instructors. I always felt very isolated from “real life” living at that airport, which is why I longed to move into the city center. I missed a great opportunity to get past the surface of rural Chinese life – something I really had no idea how to do, especially since I am quite shy.

If, after reading my blog you believe that my experience was not good or that I did not enjoy it, then I have failed in my effort. As I’ve said before, China is complicated and can be difficult at times, due to cultural differences and communication problems. But I really did enjoy the challenge and I must admit I am happy for another opportunity to get to know the culture better.

The blog I have been reading tells the stories of a woman who did find a way to delve into local life. She befriended workers in the hotel, learned Mandarin, visited local homes. She is an artist so she also took photographs and made amazing drawings of her local friends. (Her drawings reminded me so much of the work my Mom used to do.) Her writing has inspired me to go more native, as had always been my goal.

I hope that through this next year in China I will have an opportunity to get to know Chinese culture, language and life in a more profound way, and I hope that my writing will improve and grow.

To the writer of that blog – you know who you are – thank you.

Peasant Life in Photos

28 November 06

Visit this BBS (Bulletin Board Site) for some photos of 50 Years of Peasant Life in China. It is all in Chinese, but the pictures are interesting.


28 November 06

A visual contrast on food & drink in China:

A 50 cent meal: (and me looking a bit dorky)

50cent Meal

And a $6 cup of coffee:

Coffe Apparatus

(Brewed in this fancy brewing apparatus in a ritzy coffee restaurant in China.)

Pandas & Porn?

25 November 06

How could I not share this with you?

In order to improve the dismal mating habits of captive pandas, experts in China have been showing pornographic DVDs to the male pandas. It seems that when they got two compatible pandas together, instead of breeding, all they did was fight. Porn DVDs to the rescue!

Okay, that will be the last time “porn” is ever mentioned on this blog again!

China – Say Hello to the Green Cat

25 November 06

Thomas Friedman, one of my favorite New York Times columnists, has devoted several recent columns to China’s depressing environmental record and what can be done to make China go green.

Deng Xiaoping once famously said of China’s economy: ”Black cat, white cat, all that matters is that it catches mice” — i.e., forget about communist ideology, all that matters is that China grows. Not anymore, said Mr. Rosen. ”Now the cat better be green, otherwise it is going to die before it catches the mouse.” 15 Nov 2006

His thoughts echo my own:

A friend of mine here wakes up every morning and does his own air quality test — as many Beijing residents do: He looks out his 24th-story window and checks how far he can see. On a rare pristine day, when the wind has swept Beijing, he can see the Fragrant Mountain rising to the northwest. On a “good” pollution day, he can see the China World building four blocks away. On a bad day, he can’t see the building next door.

Shortly before I arrived in Beijing, China had been host of a summit meeting of 42 African leaders. Time magazine reported that Beijing officials had “ordered half a million official cars off the roads and said 400,000 more drivers had ‘volunteered’ to refrain from using their vehicles” in order to clean up the air for their African guests. No sooner were they gone, however, than all the cars returned and Beijing’s air went back to “unhealthy.” China’s Environmental Protection Administration, Time noted, recently estimated the annual number of premature deaths in China caused by air pollution at 358,000. 17 Nov 2006

Yep, that is what I did every morning in Shijiazhuang – open the curtain and see how far I could see. More often than not, that wouldn’t be too far. Here in Linyi, the doesn’t seem to be too much pollution. We are experiencing typical Winter weather – cold, overcast days with wind and occasional fog, but the visibility is still good.

In my opinion, China’s biggest problem is it’s environmental problems.  So how does China clean up? There really is no question that they must. In a country this populated, with a large peasant base, the change must be society-wide, from the bottom up. Local and national leaders must join forces to change habits & practices. They need access to greener energy. Everyone needs education. Businesses and manufacturers need to understand that going green increases profits. They need a green revolution!

In the third article on the topic, Friedman, writing as new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, addresses President Hu Jintao and discusses the idea of US – China cooperation on green energy initiatives. A “good for you, good for me” idea.

**Thomas Friedman’s opinion columns on require a subscription in Times Select service in order to read them online. They should be available free at your local library. If you would like to read the articles online, email me and I will help you find a way. 😉

Just before posting this, I found an article discussing the environmental problems of China that you can access for free. China’s Ecological Suicide on the China Worker Site.

America Doing Some Good in the World!

25 November 06

When I think of Myanmar, (actually I think of Burma) I think of a tropical country hidden behind a curtain of oppression & isolation. Burma is a place that I would love to visit – if and when the ruling junta are out of power and Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer under house arrest.

Imagine my surprise when I read in the International Herald Tribune about the American Center, located in Yangon. The American Center is part of the US Embassy and contains a library, reading center, broadband internet center and auditorium showing popular movies. Burmese members of the American Center can even request special books or DVDs. Right now there are over 15,000 members.

America may get a lot of bad press for meddling in other countries’ affairs, but here is an example of an excellent initiative!

As some of you know, I have decided to return to Grad School to get my Masters in Library Science. This story is so inspiring to me because one of the reasons I would like to be a librarian is to ensure that information is equitably available to the people who need it, especially in cases like this.

I am waiting to hear if I have been accepted to Texas Women’s University’s Distance Study Program for Spring 2007. This is the perfect time for me to go back to school as my work schedule is light enough to allow for lots of studying. You may ask how I can study about libraries while living in a small city in China – I asked the same question. Technology, my friends. The future of libraries is on the Internet and computers.

Happy Thanksgiving America!

23 November 06

Once again I nearly forgot about this one. I couldn’t figure out why no one was emailing today. As you can imagine, Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing & gravy is pretty hard to come by in rural China and even more difficult to recreate in a hotel room. I did have my lunch today with some of the other company employees. We ate rice, boiled peanuts, some kind of bean and shredded potatoes. Not a bad way to spend the day.

I taught my first Radio Telephony class today, which was interesting. I tried to sound as authoritative as possible even though my only real experience with aircraft radio exchanges is the 30 times I’ve seen Top Gun. I think it went okay. I have 34 students. They are all Chinese, in their 20s. They have all graduated from University and I am lucky that their English level is pretty good. Teaching is a little difficult for me because I am a very introverted person, but once I am in front of the room it is like I am onstage. And I’m one of those introverts who LOVES to be on a stage acting. Strange but true. If my mom were here blogging I’m sure she would share an embarrassing story about my overly dramatic tendencies.

The Lost Photos

22 November 06

I was just checking through my bookmark folder when I came across Photobucket – an image hosting site. I had forgotten that last year I created an account and uploaded some photos. I remembered that I had uploaded them, but then lost track of them. So here they are!

These pictures were taken on 1 October 2005, China’s National Day, in Shijiazhuang, China. We (DH, American T & Me) spent the day in the park – being stared at, eating weird things on a stick, and chatting with a little Chinese girl.

The crowded streets & lovely air quality

Me in the park

Decorations in the park
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
More crowds & me in the middle of it all
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Our table in the park where we chatted with a little Chinese girl in English. She ordered her father to buy us beers!

Our favorite restaurant at the Shijiazhuang airport (that no longer exists) The Mongols. Here – a waitress, DH and the American T

Our favorite meal – Pork in Fish Sauce with Boiled & Barbequed Bread

The DH digging in. He is quite handy with the chopsticks!

I can’t believe that these photos are more than one year old! When these were taken I was still very new to China and every day was an adventure. (Actually, that is still pretty true!)

Cold Days & Mobile Phones

22 November 06

Today was a cold, rainy & windy day – miserable. I had to put on every coat that I brought with me just to stay warm! I thought that this part of China was supposed to have mild weather, but I was wrong.

Looks like I am going to have to go one more step native and buy a pair of long-johns. The rush on long-johns is long over, so I should be able to shop in peace. (Last year in October, I blogged about how everyone in Shijiazhuang was rushing to the department stores to buy long-johns for the winter.)

I got a SIM card for my mobile phone today so I feel very connected again. Mobile phones are pretty much a necessity everywhere in the world these days. In China, as in most places, the race is on to purchase the latest, top of the line phone. Everyone has one. I myself use a Motorola that is evidently only sold in the Asian market. While it is quite fancy, it is fast falling behind and I soon will be ashamed to pull it out. I’m kind of out of touch with mobile phone technology in the US, but it seems to me that Asia is leaps & bounds ahead of the US in their passion for the cell. Is that true?

One last thing – and you’re probably gonna wish I didn’t share this! I am officially and completely desensitized to filthy bathrooms! I think at this point I could use anything as long as it has a door, and I’m pretty sure I could even do without the privacy were the situation to arise. This is what China does to you!