Sunday, April 22, 2007

Huck's 3rd Birthday

Huck turns 3 on April 27th. We'll be in Vietnam that day so we've started celebrating already. I asked the Chef to bake a cake for the dinner we had on Friday, so he knew it was Huck's birthday and he brought a present for him. We don't have any real looking guns in our house, as a rule, but we do now. Chef Bai brought the gun pictured here. It makes LOUD noises and lights up.

Xing Ayi and her husband, our driver, brought an electric train for Huck. It was very cute.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Jed tennis

Here's Jed playing tennis. He takes tennis lessons with 3 other kindergartners on Thursdays. A Chinese woman who speaks pretty good English comes to our compound and teaches at them for an hour.

Masses of Tea

We came across these people going through the tea to bring into their shop.

Tea Street

On Wednesday William and I went tea shopping. "Tea Street" is very far from our houses, but it was worth the trip. You can see from the photos that the teas here are different from teas I am used to from home. The flowers are beatiful in the boxes and taste great. One can purchse the flowers by the pound, so you can imagine the size of the bag! We also tasted some Oolong teas. The varieties are vast and all taste different. We'd walk into a shop and ask about one and they'd sit down and make us some to taste. It was great. Everyone was so friendly, even if we said we didn't want to buy, we were just asking.

Furniture shopping

On Wednesay we went furniture shopping. William needed visit the workshop where some pieces are being made for him. Above is a photo of that workshop. We came across this man outside one of the shops. I went along because I am going to have a Hope Chest and a few other things made. It was interesting to see the process. I learned a lot of new vocabulary: different woods, European style, etc.

At the market

Here are photos from my visit to the market last week. At the top is Tsao Ayi. She's one of the ayis that goes with us each week. She speaks no English and thinks it's funny when I speak Chinese. She doesn't look happy in the picture but usually she has a big smile on her face. On this day she bargained for the price of the carrots. The price was 3 mao per jin, which is pound. The total for the bag, which was about 36 pounds, was about $2.
The bottom two pictures are a man preparing a pineapple. It's a simple pleasure here to be able to buy a pineapple ready for cutting so easily.


At the wet market on Tuesday William, the two Ayis and I came across the child at the top of this post. The child is a girl! This is the traditional way the Chinese cut their children's hair. This explains why EVERY Chinese person we meet thinks Huck and Jed are girls. They would never let their sons' hair be long, even the girls usually have short hair too but sometimes you see longer hair.

After a few minutes of taking pictures and shopping at the family's stand, the woman went away and came back with another child whom she said is the child's brother. So, on the left, you see the boy and on the right is the girl. They are one year apart. The women asked us to take their picture and bring it to them next time. we always meet interesting people at this particular market.
Take note of the split pants on the boy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The problems we face on a daily basis...

Now if only someone would address the issue of adult males peeing roadside and children relieving themselves where ever and when ever the need strikes, we'd be all set...

Read the following article to learn a little about what daily life is like here. One of the boys in Jack's cub scout den said he just learned the 5th tone of mandarin Chinese (there are 4 tones). He then proceed to make a throat clearing, hocking sound... Sad but true.

I've seen the queuing up volunteers. Yesterday at a pharmacy it took 3 tries before I got my turn to pay for my items. Two people just walked right up alongside me and paid for their items.

April 17, 2007
BEIJING, April 16 — For all the expectations and civic pride that Beijing has attached to being the host of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the event is a source of civic anxiety, too. What if traffic is terrible? What if the weather is bad? These are worries for any host city, but Beijing also has a few more:
What if foreign visitors are forced to navigate a minefield of saliva left by local pedestrians spitting on sidewalks? What if lines at Olympic events dissolve into scrums as local residents jump to the head of pack? What if Chinese fans serenade rival teams with the guttural, unprintable “Beijing curse”?
China’s ruling Communist Party has never been very comfortable with the question, what if? While Olympic visitors will undoubtedly be greeted with ecstatic hospitality, local officials are worried about some local habits. So as Beijing is building new sports stadiums, subway lines, futuristic skyscrapers and public parks for the Games, city leaders are also trying to rebuild Beijingers.
Citywide campaigns are trying to curb public spitting, discourage public cursing and littering and also promote lining up. There is even a campaign to rectify the often hilariously bad English translations on signs and restaurant menus. Given that Chinese leaders regard the Olympics as a milestone event to showcase China to the world, they obviously do not want to be embarrassed.
“Public awareness of manners needs to be improved,” said Wang Tao, the soft-spoken, exceedingly polite civil servant who has become a local celebrity for his efforts to curb public spitting.
Last week, the city commemorated “Queuing Day,” an event held on the 11th of every month because the date symbolizes an orderly line. Volunteers wearing satin Queuing Day sashes shooed rush-hour commuters into lines at busy subway stations, while hospital administrators and a few city officials handed out long-stemmed roses to patients who stood in line to pay their bills or pick up medicines. Local news media swarmed the event.
“This is to encourage people,” said Zhang Xin, 30, an expectant mother, clutching her flower as she left Beijing Hospital after her pregnancy checkup.
Chen Chunfang, one of the hospital administrators, summed up the purpose succinctly. “The Olympics are coming, and everyone wants to show their best,” she said.
Beijing, of course, is a sophisticated city that is the cultural and political capital of China. Nor it is alone is being accused of public boorishness; some people have even accused, say, New Yorkers of occasional displays of foul language and unflattering public behavior.
Still, some Communist Party officials have publicly fretted that Beijing may not measure up. One delegate at the country’s annual political meetings in March recommended heavy fines and a public education campaign to curb spitting, cutting ahead in line, smoking and foul language.
“They are stubborn diseases that stain the image of the capital city,” Zi Huayun, the delegate, told the country’s English-language newspaper, China Daily.
In fact, Beijing had already announced that people caught spitting in public before the Olympics could face fines up to 50 yuan, or about $6.50, hardly small change in China. Mr. Wang, the anti-spitting activist, said the Olympic spirit inspired him to begin his campaign. “I felt I must do something to contribute,” he said.
He chose a very dirty task. Public spitting is a frequent practice in Beijing and even more common elsewhere in China. (The sinus-clearing, phlegmy pre-spit hawking sound is so common that one foreigner wryly dubbed it “the national anthem of China.”) Health officials, worried about communicable disease, have long tried to curb public spitting, with limited success, given that many people do not consider it unacceptable behavior.
“I spent six months trying to figure out how to stop people from spitting,” Mr. Wang said. “I first wanted to wipe their spit up myself, but just how much could I wipe? So I decided the best way was to ask the spitting person to stop.”
He chose to begin in May 2006 in Tiananmen Square, which might qualify as an official venue if spitting were an Olympic event. “The first person I came across was a thin man, not very tall,” Mr. Wang recalled. “I said, ‘Mister, please wait a second!’ But he walked away and I couldn’t keep up.”
His campaign has since gained momentum. He has attracted hundreds of volunteers for his group, known as the Green Woodpecker Project. They carry tissues, which they offer to people as an alternative to spitting on the ground, and try to convince the offender, usually male, to change his ways. Mr. Wang himself carries a small camcorder and posts spitting action shots on his Web site.
“Woodpeckers pick up worms and clean up the forest,” Mr. Wang said. “I want to clean up the city the same way.”
Beijing’s mangled English signage is not so much a bad local habit as a local institution in the eyes of resident foreigners. English translations on signs are considered fashionable and good advertising, as well as a gracious gesture to foreigners baffled by Chinese characters. But until recently, the attention paid to the accuracy of the translation was, at best, uneven. Consider that a local theme park about China’s ethnic minorities was initially promoted in English as “Racist Park.”
David Tool, an American who teaches analytical thinking at Beijing International Studies University, recalled attending a Peking Opera performance in 2001 that offered a running digital translation in English.
“They had this line that should have said ‘auspicious clouds in the sky’ but it read ‘auspicious clods,’ ” Mr. Tool recalled. He said a group of foreigners in the audience erupted in laughter, which he found offensive, even though he was also offended by the bad English.
Mr. Tool and a prominent retired professor, Chen Lin, are now at the vanguard of Beijing’s English police, an effort emboldened by the Olympic self-improvement campaigns. City officials have enlisted the two scholars and other experts to retranslate the bad English translations on signs around the city. Last week, Beijing announced new standards and official translations that can be used on more than 2,000 different types of signs, as well as on menus.
Mr. Tool said he spent his weekends visiting different businesses as if he were a detective in a linguistic vice squad. “I go in and I say the Olympics are coming and this sign is wrong,” Mr. Tool said. He then sends an e-mail message with a correct translation or has a printout delivered.
He is writing a book on the subject, and no wonder: regular blunders include typos on menus in which the ‘b’ in crab becomes a ‘p.’ Some translations are trickier, like describing pullet, which is a hen less than a year old but appears on some menus as Sexually Inexperienced Chicken. Mr. Tool said one prominent sign had become a regular photo op for foreigners: the Dongda Anus Hospital.
Mr. Tool intervened. It is now the Dongda Proctology Hospital.
Score another gold medal for Beijing’s self-improvement campaign.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

more missing Aunt Annie

Another side to living abroad

It's very hard on the boys (and us) to live so far from everyone we love. Annie (my sister) sent this picture of herself by email. I taped it up for the boys to find in the morning. They were very excited to find it. Here are pictures.

Another sign

Here's a sign about 2 miles from our house.
It's a little hard to see but behind the trees on either side is a picture of a tire.

The sign says

"Pick Foetus Machine, Move Balance"

meaning: you can get an ultrasound (illegal) and move and balance your tires at the same place!

It is illegal to learn the gender of your fetus here because the majority of women would choose to abort a female fetus.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Making the best of things

Today we colored eggs. As you can see, only brown eggs are available here so that complicated the coloring process. The boys didn't mind, they took it all in stride and were just happy to be coloring the eggs!

April 7

3 boys on their way to a day of parties...

Huck at the flower market

On Friday, Xing Ayi, Xiao Shang (the driver), Huck and I went to a flower and fish market where we had some artwork and photos framed and chose some fish. Huck chose a blue Beta fish and we also bought some pleckos, one of which was dropped on Huck's head by the saleswoman... Only in CHINA!!!
It was a beautiful day, with a blue sky. Huck looked up at the sky when we left to ride our bikes to the bus stop, he pointed and said "what's that?" It was a puffy white cloud. We almost never see clouds here because the air is so polluted, we just see a solid sky, whether it is a shade of grey or brown or the rare blue, there's almost always a bit of a haze, rather than actual clouds. So sad that he doesn't remember clouds. We'll have to be sure he plays the "name the shape of the cloud" game this summer back in the America, land that I love!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Grocery shopping

I am thankful to have the grocery store we have. As I've said before, I am thankful to have the choice of Western products. One request I'd have, if I could, is that the checkers be trained on bagging the groceries. Today I bought several items and when I left, some were bagged as follows:
bananas with pickle jars
eggs with soda cans
chips with milk jug
strawberries with Juice

It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that these are not good ideas. I often wonder if it's a passive aggressive way to "stick it to the man" but I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it's just lack of awareness.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The boys, blue sky and making matzah

A week ago, Sunday, we went to the Chabad to make matzah. It was a beautiful day, so I thought I'd show what a somewhat blue sky looks like. Huck is yelling in the photo b/c the sun was too bright for him. It's great to live in China, such a "foreign" place, for lack of a better word, and still be able to live a normal life and do normal activities. I have these moments about once every couple of weeks when I've been living what seems like a pretty average, normal life and then something happens and it reminds me "holy cow, I live in CHINA!"

By the way, the chef is now in my kitchen, making Charoset, macaroons and kosher oven fried chicken!

Mid March, I went to the attache spouses' coffee hosted by the two Italian wives. At the coffee, they dressed in traditional Southern Italian dress and did a dance for us. The food was wonderful, of course. The event was attended by close to 100 women from many different countries.

Later in the month, the American ladies hosted a lunch at a BBQ restaurant. We dressed in Western clothes and everyone ate Texas grub. The job here is to represent our own countries, it's fun to see every one's traditions, culture and food.


At the wet markets, often times, one can purchase a pineapple and the vendor will peel it and even slice it. At the market I went to most recently, I bought a pineapple and the vendor proceeded to peel it and remove the eyes and this is what it looked like when I brought it home.

The other side of Peking (Beijing) Duck

About 10 days ago, the boys and I were driving down the road when we came upon this truck. In US, it's not so unusual to encounter a truck of cattle or other livestock on it's way to becoming meals, but this is not a common sight... A truck full of cute, white, ducks!


I went to the old flower market on Monday. I saw a nice arrangement with orchids and roses and asked them to copy 3 times it in a smaller version and put it in small glass vases I bought upstairs. They had three colors of orchids, so we did three versions. The arrangements were for a friend, so I didn't manage to photograph the finished products, but here is a photo of the process as well as the vendor's flowers.
The arranger is wonderful. He makes beautiful arrangements. You can see he even covers the green foamy stuff he sticks the flowers in, with a large leaf. It's great. Whenever we have parties, we can have great flowers to brighten up the place.