Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dreams of sugar plums... er... rice milk tea

I had a dream last night that I was in Beijing, walking down the street where I used to teach at Canon once a week, past a convenience store I usually went into before class to buy a particular rice milk tea (which I couldn't find other places) and some kind of snack before class.
As I walked past (in the dream) I thought, "Wow, it feels so nice to be here, and there's that store, I should go get one of those drinks and a muffin." But I was on my way to find some other place a few blocks away, so I kept walking, figuring there'd be plenty of time to go back for that drink later, because I was going to stay in Beijing for a while, and it felt so nice to know I'd be there for a long time....

Then I woke up.

I should've enjoyed the drink while I had the chance. Darnit.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tuning my djembe

My small adventure partially restringing my djembe drum is coming soon...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Great Chinese Expectations

I recently finished reading Great Expectations!
In Chinese!
Sounds impressive, huh?
Fine, it's a 5th grade level version, with pictures, and bilingual.
So it's not so impressive, but for ME it's great. I've been working on it on & off since I was in China; it's been one of my bigger goals in Chinese.I'll give you an example in English of how much I understand. Blue is words I know, red dashes are words I don't know.
You can click the picture to read the 'real' English words, or see which Chinese characters I know. Red underlined means I don't know that hanzi, yellow means I know them individually but don't know what they mean together used that way.
And here I'll type the literal translation though it'll sound funny. Do you like the anime-like illustrations? Pip with big cartoon crying eyes...

"No, I don't agree, Pip," she said, "You should __ a __."
So I ___ played, while Estella ___ me. Finally, Miss Havisham __ should let me go home.
[Hey, this is like Mad Libs, maybe you can fill in the blanks with your own words and put it in the comments or send it to me for fun]
"I want you within 6 days come back." she said to my back (as I walked away), "Before you go, Estella will give you some things to eat."
Estella gave me some bread and a few pieces of meat when make cow ___?" [some kind of beef I guess][HAHA! edit: I got "cow" mixed up with "afternoon"; they look similar! So it's not "when make beef.." it's "for lunch", LOL...] But there was no way ___ this food. I felt myself was only a small dog, because __ __ __ __. I felt very __. Eyes __ not stay tears come.
When Estella saw me cry, she was very pleased. She smiling brought me to the gate.

Cold Pizza

I was reheating a slice of pizza in a frying pan, and wondering why it wasn't sizzling yet, feeling it, still cold....
I turned on the wrong burner.
I have an electric stove, so you can't see a burner on. A back burner was busy heating the air while my pizza was staying cold in the pan.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Heat Fail (or is it cold fail?)

Fine, I'm a wimp. I didn't do it. I wimped out and turned on my heat. I wanted to make it to November 15th like all the people in China, and like I did the past two winters, but I gave up. I failed.
Here's how I'll alleviate my guilt:

A.) It's not like the chinese people don't WANT heat before Nov 15th. If they had a choice I'm sure they'd turn it on well before that. They'd probably think I'm dumb for not turning mine on if I'm allowed.

B.) The day I turned on my heat (yesterday, 10/29) it snowed in my area. I didn't actually see the snow, but people said it did and the news said it did.

C.) I saw my breath, in my house.

I guess snow + seeing your breath = it's ok to turn on the heat. No need to go any further than that in 2008 USA. Now Harbin.... I wanted to live in Harbin, which is way north in China. They have an ice hotel and ice sculptures and ice festivals.... but I hate the cold.

Well, I made it to the first snow and seeing my breath in my living room. I guess I can be proud after all. Good enough!

Forward THIS for good luck! AAARGHHHH!

Ok, I've been sick of all the "forward this to 10 people" emails for about 10 years now. When will they ever stop?!? We've heard them all!

The last one I got, though I appreciate the sender's good intentions, had some amusing discrepancies in it..... "This is a Chinese proverb. It originated in the Netherlands." Ok, so they meant the guy who started sending it out sent it from the Netherlands, I guess. But it came across as rather silly at first. "It's been around the world 8 times". Really? How do you know that, and how do you count "around the world"? Do you have to send it along like this: Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, NY, NJ, PA, OH, ....... NV, CA, across the Pacific to Japan, China, etc...? Or if I send it directly to China and that person sends it right back to my area again does that count? Yeah, whatever.

It said a guy sent it out right away and won $99 million dollars in his country. In his country? What is that supposed to mean? You know 99 million tughriks is only $86,766? Still, I'd take it.

If you can tell me what country tughriks are from without looking it up, I'll give you one. It's worth $0.000876424.

And another guy DIDN'T send his and his son fell gravely ill. But then he sent it and the son got better. Another guy didn't send it and he lost his job.... so..... you're giving me BAD luck? Gee thanks. You're basically forcing me to take action. How dare you MAKE something BAD or GOOD happen to me when I didn't ask for anything. And why do I have to send it to 20 people to deserve the good luck? What if I don't have 20 people I can email to?

Finally, it said the good luck will come in 4 days.
Then it said within one day.
Then it said a few days.

Well, now if I have a run of bad luck I know who to blame. Some guy in the Netherlands who probably forgot about it by now. I hereby state that all the bad luck people like me are supposed to get... goes to him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Open mic night and 11hrs of warm water

Ok so to complete the experiment, I checked on the water in the thermos after open mic night. There was less than a cup left, and after 11 hours total it was lukewarm. Warmer than the air, but cooler than my mouth. And it tasted a little like plastic. It was my first use of the thermos, though I did wash it. So if you buy this item, don't use it for guests more than 6-7 hours when it's new.

Open mic night was great tonight, for the first time I started feeling more sure of myself and there was one song at the end where we all just gave it all our might. It was a fast, loud, hard song, but it wasn't just noise, it was pretty good. They tape everything there; maybe I can get a copy.


I ended up with some little bruises on my hand, which tells me two things:
1 - I had fun and played well (so far the amount of hand pain actually equals how well I played)
2 - I'm playing wrong; I am now investigating proper hand positions.
A bruise means you broke a blood vessel, right? So I don't think that's smart, to go breaking blood vessels on purpose, and when I do, to continue beating on them, hitting the broken blood vessels hundreds more times.

Never underestimate the usefulness of a good Thermos(tm) and a hat

In my last entry I lamented the loss of my thermos mug from China. It kept liquid hot for over an hour, in February, with no lid. That's scientific genius, dontcha think?

In the spirit of saving money, and of wanting to be tough like I was in China (waiting until November 15, when the whole city's heat was turned on all at once - those communists ARE powerful - magical even!) I want to prolong turning on my heat as long as possible. (maybe they wanted to wait until EVERY LAST PERSON was so cold that they'd be so thankful and appreciative to even have heat when it finally came on)

So I'm going to try, and now that I announced it publicly (to all the millions of readers here) I'm going to have to really try to do it.


Can you make it?

Try it!

Our NJ/NY weather is similar to Beijing. If millions of Chinese people can do it, surely you can too. You can get a feel for what it's like to live in a big city in China. Don't turn your heat on until November 15th.

Some ways to beat the cold, inside:

- wear layers (no duh); this includes not only a sweater, but long johns under pants during the day as well as under jammies at night. I was amazed that EVERYONE had long johns on in China. Everyone does it, every day in the winter. It's a normal part of life in colder climates, just do it.

- wear a thin glove on your "mouse hand" while on the computer; when even one part of your body feels cold, you may perceive your whole body to be cold, turning up the heat, when really it was just your feet, or just your mouse hand, and you can fix that easily.

- wear double socks, and slippers

- get out an extra blanket and toss it on your bed (or under the top one if you care what it looks like)

- wear a hat to bed; after all, you're bundled up under blankets but all that heat is escaping from your head, which is the only part sticking out. I did this last winter and it was actually quite cozy and nice. It makes a HUGE difference. Trust me, before you start turning on your heat, just do the simple thing of wearing a knitted-type hat to bed. And keep it on in the morning until you get going. A hat and two blankets, and you can keep your thermostat down several degrees for 8 hours a day while you sleep, I promise you.

- take a water bottle to bed. I got that one from my cousin Patty; she had one for each kid. Then I learned that people in China do it too. Put it on your pillow before you lay your head down, then put it down by your feet or cuddle with it.

- have a hot drink at all times; you'd be surprised at how much warmer you'll stay simply sipping something hot every now & then, and holding it to warm your hands

... and to help you always have a hot drink on hand... without even having to get up off the couch... is an amazing discovery called THE VACUUM. No, not the thing you clean your floor with. A REAL thermos bottle, a GOOD one, has a vacuum (the air is sucked out) between the inner and outer walls. Most "thermos" (which is a name brand, but whatever brand) bottles & mugs, cheap ones especially, have two walls, but not a vacuum, just air between them. That helps a little, but it's NOTHIN' compared to having a vacuum in that space. SERIOUSLY. Here's what I just bought:

I got it from a Chinese food store, where they know the value of a good keep-water-hot-contraption. I'm broke lately, and please note I never buy anything except food, and electricity and phone... so to any very dear family members who may be reading this and I owe money to, please know I am not wasting my money on anything at all, and this $19.99 will actually keep my heat down, I'm not kidding. I actually drink straight hot water, and as I said, sipping it every now & then can make my whole body feel warm even when the temperature is as low as it was before drinking it.


Maybe 6, or 7, I don't know, but it's been FIVE HOURS ALREADY and the small amount of water (2-4 cups) in this 2.5liter thing is still too hot for me to put my finger in. I have to sip it carefully. I could make tea with it. After FIVE HOURS. You boil one pot of water, pour it in and you have hot water on your coffee table or at your desk all evening until bed, or all day at work.

Shoot, I gotta go, it's Open Mic Night.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

This fall's first soup (besides instant ramen)

The cashier lady at the farmer's market store only spoke Polish. She said the total in Polish and said a little something extra when I was done in Polish. I said "Thank you". I hope it was the right thing. Maybe it'd be a good place for me to stick my ESL class flyers.

I bought a few things, among them a healthy bread with sunflower seeds on top. Not too big, a nice small loaf. And remember the peas? Well I just bought the same size container of sunflower seeds. Out of the shell. Shelled is a little bit fun, but takes forever and it's more like a pastime activity than actual eating.

No really, it really is a pastime activity in China. People buy a nice big 1-lb bag and a new 5kuai DVD off the street and head home for a cozy relaxing Friday night. Shoot, now I want shelled ones.

And I bought "soup greens".
Pictured is half. The other half is in a pot with water, where else would it be?
The house smells really good right now. Soon I'll add half of the tofu and noodles.

I think today is the real beginning of fall. There was quite a chill in the air and I got the urge to make soup, so it must really be fall now. Today also felt like China. I made lots of soup there, and drank lots of hot water.

Yeah, you heard me. HOT WATER. PLAIN. JUST DRANK IT. STILL DO. You got a problem with that? I never did that before China, but I tried it and it caught on. Feels nice.

I miss my thermos mug. I can't believe I didn't bring it here, surely I could've stuck it in a box somewhere. It was GOOOOD. Not just a cheap sort-of-keep-it-warm thing.... oh no. This must've actually had a vacuum inside (like a real thermos should) because it kept my tea hot longer than anything I've ever seen! I did a test, and after 45min, with no lid on it mind you, I could not keep my finger in it for more than a few seconds without being burned. An hour and it was still hot. No kidding. In February.

Look at the steam coming off that soup! It's got the soup mix above, plus:
boullion cubes
a pinch of hot pepper
garlic powder
"midget bowtie" noodles (2/3's dumped in instead of half; there are way too many noodles)

And my spoon from China. Those spoons are way more practical for liquids. They have some depth to them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pea Addiction

I don't know about the rest of you, but I sometimes go on food binges. Not (always) in a bad way (though the recent sales on ice cream at Shoprite haven't helped much).... now it's dried peas. I'm on a slight health kick again, trying to eat more like I did in China, when I was 10lbs lighter. I gained weight almost instantly upon setting foot on American soil; we have cheese everywhere, that's one problem.

I am shocked at myself, really. I always thought of peas as vegetables. My son had them every day as baby food, it was his staple for about a year. As real peas (not baby mush or soup) I rarely bought them on purpose, and I'd figure the few I'd consume here or there eating out couldn't possibly add up to much, healthwise. Well apparently I made up for it all in the past 3 days.

108 grams of protein
54 grams of fibre
63 g of fat
27 g saturated fat (they've got some veg oil and salt on them)
216 calories
...in this container, when full, of a pound of dried peas.
It'll be gone soon, there are less as I'm writing than when I took the picture 20min ago.

I just keep eating them.
They're freakin' good.
Too bad they have artificial color, I just noticed that when I took the picture.

And they were only $3/lb at a local Asian vegetable market, contrary to what some online health sites who are selling peas would have me believe ($5-10/lb). Considering I'm broke, and after all the unknown stuff I ate in China, I think the artificial color will be just fine for now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

my presidential debate comments

It's still going on and there are already articles on what's been said in the debates. In the good ol' days we wouldn't hear about it until tomorrow's paper or on the news shows afterwards.

So I'm going to do it too. My unpolitical opinion is that McCain is scared of losing now. For a moment I even saw it on his face. He thought he'd have an advantage in this town-hall style debate but not so. Obama's pretty darn comfortable speaking in any situation it seems.

On another note, I must say it's been pretty attack-free so far; the whole thing, all the campaigning. There've been a few things, like Obama being somehow related to a terrorist guy, and blahblahblah... but the little attacks get squashed pretty quickly, and there are far less than I expected and than I remember in past elections. One thing I remember thinking when I was younger about election time was that there were constantly ads trashing "the other guy", usually from both sides. Dirty play. And it was always one of the things I hated about politics. It's almost bearable nowadays.

Uh-oh. How is this related to China? Well, one good thing about their lack of competition in government is that the people don't have to be subjected to campaign ads and debates.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Open Mic Night

I had a blast at Open Mic Night a couple weeks ago. Well, "blast" is a strong word, but it was pretty darn cool. Felt good. Fun. Nice. Jammed out & stuff. It was the best I ever played my drum in front of (or with) anyone, ever. Well, there was that time I played til the sun came up at a Grateful Dead show but we won't say any more about that. We can't really say any more about it; it was 20+yrs ago and I barely remember it except that my hands really freakin' hurt afterwards, but it was the first time I drummed so there's a blur of it still in my mind.

Here's me at an open mic night in Beijing (summer 2007) at the Stone Boat, which is a tiny bar/teahouse with a small stage outside. Bad outdoor nighttime pics.
Hey, I just wore those pants and sneakers today. And where's that shirt?? I could be wearing it to work! (need to wear black) I like that shirt. I'm gonna go look for it. (can "gonna" apply to my last blog?)

"nukular" is more comfterble

She did it, like Bush, Palin said "nukular" instead of nuclear. heehee. No, I'm actually not a freak about such things, though I would correct my students if they said it that way, so... you'd think the president and vp would say it right... but WHATEVER....


Ok, so how does this relate to China? Uh... pronunciation, yeah that's it. All the little words we native speakers say wrong but those wrongs become natural and often even preferable to the correct pronunciations. When I was in China teaching English I had to correct my own pronunciation so that when my students imitated me they'd do it the right way, not the slang way or the drawling way or some regional-accent (NJ/NY) way.

Let's think of some examples together, shall we?

comfortable = comfterble ... Almost all of us do that; don't you? It's difficult to correct, and not much reason to in the US. If we all do it it's ok, right? (eek)
February = Febuary ... Once every few years I hear someone pronounce it like it's spelled, but again, I see no reason to not just keep saying "Febuary". In fact, let's go nuts and just stop spelling it with an R.
Wednesday = Wensday ... I've never in my life heard it pronounced like it's spelled and I'd sound like a dork if I said it that way.
clothes = close ... my students in China often said "clothe-es", 2 syllables. They don't have a TH sound in Chinese, so that's hard enough, let alone THS, so, to make life easier and let them just sound like us American-English speakers, I told them to just say "close". Maybe not right of me, but that's what it ends up sounding like and it's WAY better than "clothe-es".

Can any of my zero readers think of any more?

I know. It's sad. My idea of amusement is sometimes a bit... uh.... never mind. Goodbye.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My last box arrived!!!

Ok, my 3rd and final box I had shipped from China came. I'm going to be brave and open it in "real time" right here. I'm dorky, excited, and sad all at once. It's the last bit of my life in China, finally arriving in the US. That's it. All done now. All 3 boxes were earlier than China Post quoted, though quite beaten up. Two of them had actual holes you could stick your hand in, like this one. Yes, the straps came like that. Pack WELL if you're shipping the cheap ground route overseas.`

Now I'll go open it and see what was so special that it was packed in the first box I packed and was worth 343rmb to send and weighed 13.48kg. (29.7lbs, $50) I hope it's nothing embarrassing or stupid, because I'm about to show it to the world.....


I forgot it was a box within a box....


YES! It was TOTALLY worth it! It was all books, no wonder it was so heavy. Good stuff, stuff I can't buy even in Chinatown. If I ordered just 3-4 of these books online (if I could find them and know if they're any good first) I'd pay that $50, and some of these are sentimental too... and some DVD's, some bracelets that will be gifts...

Boring part: naming everything in the picture. I won't be offended if you stop reading now, but I'm going to do it for the person who said "You can buy Chinese books in Chinatown." Sure, find me these books.

From top left, COUNTER-clockwise-ish:

Pamphlet from donating blood (the thing with the guy's arm sticking out; he's famous and those ads were all over subways, etc); bracelets strewn about; pamphlet about the Olympic Torch Route. I also have pictures of me with a real torch (behind glass) and some sketches of other possible torches, from working at Lenovo, who made it.

Dark blue book: How Languages Are Learned

Yellow: calligraphy practice book

small handmade notepad (green with fish)

handful of DVD's & CD's

Pinnochio (bilingual)

100 Topics for Business English, which I sometimes used in class but can also use for myself learning Chinese; it's evenly bilingual

Teahouse (middle) - the script of the play; it's really super famous and I saw it in NYC before I went to China (all chinese, no english, beyond me but a high quality thing to study in the future)

2 DVD's of old 1930's Chinese movies; beyond me now but good practice material for future; I think old movies like that are really interesting

dark blue book: dictionary of characters (yes, chinese characters can be arranged in dictionaries; it's not hard to look them up once you get the hang of it, but I'm still proud I can)

small black, white, & red thing: deck of playing cards with pictures of the Nine Gates of Beijing from the 1930's.

light blue: writing practice books (cute and cheap as heck; schoolchildren use them and you can buy them anywhere)

colorful book with pink flower bit: children's book describing flowers and plants. I also have one describing vegetables & fruits, and a few of a different publisher describing animals, household items, etc. VERY useful. For example, "ONION: Onions grow underground. They have many layers, and when you cut them they will make you cry." Good vocabulary in a simple way.

stack: YiJing (I-Ching) on top, another philosophy under that (both above my level but fun to tackle a small paragraph of when I want a huge challenge, and awesome for the future: and thank you Raymond for them; if I could only choose one book I got in China to take home it would be the YiJing) ...

Under those are 4 elementary/middle school level science books. They have a variety of topics, 1-2 pages on each, with Pinyin. It will be an extremely useful tool for studying; TONS of vocabulary, and the topics are so compact and neat. Chock full of info but bite sized. Picture follows....

middle: Spitting On Ghosts: A collection (bilingual) of old fables with morals and stuff. It's not great but it has pictures, like a cartoon book but not very funny.

In the box is misc... Garfield comic book, small kid's books of poems or fairy tales, notebooks, etc.

Ok, I *really* have to go ... now what shall I read to bed?....




Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Little stuff I found

I unexpectedly had off today, so I'm unpacking a bit from moving. In a little bag I found some little items. They made me miss some things, particularly eating in the Lenovo cafeteria, and walking around there from the subway to work. The green ticket is 5 mao, half a kuai, and was to be used by non-employees like me who didn't have swipe cards. We buy tickets from an office then use them to buy food. I liked the food, though the employees there said they liked it too but only for the first few weeks, and I'd start to not like it very shortly. They were right. Same foods repeated, and not much tofu. But it's a nice warm fuzzy memory.

The big thing on the left is my VIP pass to an MMA event, which my son gave me for Christmas. My own pics are here, and you can go to their real website at www.mmachina.com . Going clockwise we have the green lunch ticket; a McDonald's salt packet; my archery card giving me about 40% off, I think; a piece of chinese Dove chocolate (yeah baby); and my ATM card with the account number covered by a toothpick from the Kempinski Hotel, which is very famous and fancy, and I never stayed in. I don't really know where I got that from, but I have a bunch. How exciting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There's a bathroom on the right... in Shanghai.

Ok, I haven't written for 2 months, since I've been back in the US. I want to keep this blog mainly about my time in China, so I'm going to add memories now & then. It'll be nice for myself (because really I'm the most important person here and not many of you really care about my time in China very much), but if someone out there finds it pleasant or amusing or interesting, well, that'll be a nice bonus and I'll feel good.

So here we start anew... not with my present daily life (much), but with memories and/or comparisons, thoughts about China, etc.....

I'm currently listening to a song called "Xiao Wei" which you too can listen to, see the video of, read the lyrics of (in hanzi, Pinyin, or rollover English) here...
...and everything got all misty and wiggly and black & white, and I heard that harp sound effect of when a tv sitcom person goes back in time in their mind....

I was in the back seat of Grandpa's SUV. Not my Grandpa, the Grandpa of the two Chinese kids I tutored. He'd drive one of them to and from school while their driver drove the other. I had to go along on all those 2-hour long rides at 7am and 2pm making sure the kids studied and didn't fall asleep or goof around in the car. Yeah, that part of the job stunk. But the hour without the kids, that was ok because I could look out the window and daydream... or listen to whatever music the driver was listening to, or try to talk to them a little. Grandpa had a CD of some soft rock, and Xiao Wei was a song that stood out in my mind. It's short and catchy, heard in supermarkets; everyone knows it. It was the first Chinese song I really "heard".

In fact, I was walking to a store one lovely evening and 3 guys sitting on a little bridge sang the last line of it to me as I walked by. It's a Chinese way of flirting or goofing with somebody, to sing them a line of a song. I looked back and smiled in a way that said "You naughty boys! But it's ok, I liked it." I didn't know what the line even meant at the time but I had a vague notion, and I knew it was a love song. It meant he's going to pick a star from the sky with his very own hand and give it to me. The part I mostly heard them say was the last part, "give it to you with my very own hand", so they could've meant anything really, but they looked innocent enough and as if they'd mustered quite a bit of courage to sing that line to a "foreign girl" like that. All 3 of them sang it together. It was cute.

But that wasn't my memory. I meant my memory to be this...
... riding in the SUV with Grandpa, hearing that song for the umpteenth time (wish I had that whole CD now), realizing it was a song about a guy loving something a lot, but being too dumb to realize it was a woman he was talking about. Sounds REALLY DUMB now. But after realizing the "love" part, I pondered, prepared my sentence, and dared to speak out loud to Grandpa in Chinese, "Wow, I think he must really love Shanghai a lot." Grandpa busted out laughing and told me he wasn't saying Shanghai, he was saying "xiao nu'hai"("girl"), which to my untrained ears (and in a song) sounded very similar. You see, (my defence coming)... our brains, when faced with uknown sounds or images, try to match it to the closest thing we know, and so I thought he said Shanghai and was singing about his love for the city. Yeah. But I laughed with Grandpa when I realized how dumb I just was.

Sort of like singing, "Theeeer'es a bathroom on the right..." because you never heard the phrase "there's a bad moon on the rise", so your 14 year old brain didn't even think of it. What. Tell me you didn't mess up that CCR lyric somehow.

Here's the gist of the lyrics to "Xiao Wei" in English:
There was a beautiful girl (not a city) whose name was Xiao Wei.
She had a pair of warm gentle eyes
She quietly stole my heart
Xiao Wei, can you realize how much I love you...
I want to take you up into the sky
See all those beautiful stars...
I'll pick one down to give you with my very own hands.
That's my own loose translation, not perfect.

I have some pictures from inside that SUV, of the scenery, the kids, etc, but I can't find that ONE out of my 5 USB thingies right now. It figures I can't find that one.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Last Minute Leaving Things

Ok, I have to make a list of things to do tomorrow, last minute. So I figured I'd make the list here, just for kicks, then the world can know what kind of last minute things are to be done upon leaving a country. This is really for me too though, so I don't forget anything.
- ask Laura if she can take Ax's computer until he can come pick it up
- send Ax a message with Laura's number and where to pick it up (sorry I won't get to see him!)
- go to ATM and make double sure there's no money in my account
- post office to ship a few boxes
- eat the last two cherry popsicles and defrost fridge.
- give Grace bike lock key :(
- give bags of food & clothes to garbage lady
2pm meet landlord and electric meter guy, settle last two money things
2:30-3pm - LEAVE for airport!!!
Oh, TAKE MORE PICTURES!!! (of Grace & Laura maybe)

This lady owns the little shop you see and sells cigarettes, drinks, ice cream, phone cards, etc. I often bought gallons of water from her, and sometimes an ice cream when the mood struck. She was both embarrassed and flattered I wanted to take a picture to remember her.

This is a horrible picture of me so I made it small, haha. That guy is my favorite of the doorguards. He's always so peaceful and smiley. See that basket? I gave it to him with candy in it. I MADE that basket in high school in Mrs. Hasselman's class. I soaked the strips of woody stuff and weaved it myself. I have no idea why I brought it to China, I was always attached to it for some reason, but I think it's time to let it go. I'm glad I thought to give it to him. He's a good person to have such a thing. Weird, I know.
:) And he has my kid's dumbbells.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ugh! So busy.
Today I shipped a box of books to NJ. It's expensive, so I chose the 2-3 month option. I also stuck some DVD's and little things in there, so it'll be like a surprise when it comes.
I have to ship more tomorrow. Some things can wait; winter jacket, some books & dvds, my chinese Lipton joke mug, some little gifts for family I picked up, haha... they'll be forced to wait for them until Christmas! Also some gum. I don't normally chew gum, but there are odd flavors here, like cantaloupe. And there's an herbal gum I really like, so I bought 3-4 containers of it (40pieces each). Fine, I'll take a picture. Then you can tell me I'm a fool and they have it there.

You can try it very soon. I'm bringing back one right away, and packing 3. I checked the expiration dates, we're good.

I've also been taking pictures of nothing in particular; just roads I often go down, snapshots from along my usual routes.

So many little things I'll miss. Like individual packets of soymilk powder and cereal drinks (sound SO exciting I know, but they're really tasty and handy).

And cheap GOOD chinese food. Gongbao tofu goodbye! I have a recipe, but my one first attempt was a miserable failure.

- Little spiral disks, you eat them, they have a wisp of a hint of cinnamon and hot pepper.
- Tongyi hongcha! (my favorite iced tea)
- So many other drinks; not just 20 different kinds of soda in the refrigerator section of a convenience store, but just a few sodas, and other things like juices, rice milk, different kinds of milk tea, soymilk (dark and light)...

I've wanted to write a lot lately but I've been busy. Today it took me 15minutes to buy a gallon of water (excuse me, 4 liters), because I ended up chatting with the lady who owns the store and some older guy with his front teeth missing and gold other teeth... he's a doctor. He was kinda clever and amusing and wise actually, and he gave me his card.
When I got home, I found my son grumbling and cursing and rubbing his head because a huge piece of moulding that's been hanging finally fell. At the wrong time, wrong place. On his head. Spilled his yogurt too.

That's all for now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

LEAVING CHINA, and speaking chinese

Ok, it's been a while. I've thought about writing but I've been a bit busy and frazzled. I've been trying to get my visa extended but no dice. The only way would be complicated and too expensive, so I've got to go back to .... (I hesitate to call it home because every day when I say "home" I mean the apartment I'm in now, so this is also my home).... america? The US? "the states"? The United States of America. You get the idea.

I tried showing Olympic tickets, doesn't matter. There are too many people, and too many foreigners in Beijing for the government's comfort. It's a shame. Why am I here? Because I like it here. I don't like everything about China of course, but I'm one of the people who's here because I'm curious about it and want to know what it's like to live here. I'm learning chinese, I like learning about the history, culture, etc. There are foreigners who've been here YEARS and can't speak chinese and don't want to and are just counting the days until they go home. They don't like the food, the people, the manners & habits. They're living in their own little bubble trying to pretend it's not china.... THEY should leave, not me.
I've been eating out a lot lately. Tomorrow I'll go to an Indian buffet with a friend and his girlfriend, and I'll give them a gift certificate to a restaurant I won't be able to use. I have a lot of stuff to get rid of.
I sold my bike to Grace (woman whose job it was to help me get settled at first but even after I left that job we remained friends)... she gave me 50kuai today and said keep using the bike til I leave, just give it to her the last day or whenever. That was good. I have a girl coming over friday to look through my books and kitchenware.

Had my longest chat ever with the doorguard and elevator lady (see earthquake post in May for their pictures). It felt good. My chinese isn't great, but when I'm familiar with the topic and they're patient and don't mind repeating, I can hold up my end up well enough to survive a little chat. Makes me feel good. I learned another language. A completely-opposite-from-english language. I hated languages in school but now when I look at french or spanish I think, "Wow, that looks so easy, the people learning that are so lucky."

I have to find people wherever I'll live who speak chinese and are willing to. I have an idea. In the US, there's a phenomenon of middle aged chinese people settling down then bringing their parents to america later. These older chinese parents may not speak english or even want to. So maybe I can hang out with them. Take them shopping or to a park and chat, or help them with english if they want, 50/50. Maybe.

That's going to be one of the worst parts, I think. Not hearing chinese, no chance to use it. I'm dreading that.

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Bayjingle Bells" and Mahjong With the Boys

Well, I finally learned how to play mahjong, which I will henceforth call majiang, because that's how you really spell it and say it. And while we're at it, you know that sound you make that's the S in "usual, asia, pleasure" or the J in how you usually say "Beijing, mahjong" in English? Well, I don't know why you all say it that way for Beijing and majiang. The Chinese pronunciation is a J, like in "jingle bells", just like it looks. Probably some French person started saying it that other way and it stuck. So really Beijing is [bay jing] with a J as in Jingle Bells. Remember that. Bayjingle bells.
And majiang has that same J.

So a new friend Alex (who makes rc flying things) and an older friend John (who's also from NJ) and my neighbor friend Wang Hao James Bond (with whom I mutually found a ten kuai note on the ground so in order to solve the problem of who should keep it we bought 10kuai's worth of apples and split them) all came over tonight for the Dragon Boat Festival and they taught me to play majiang. Actually we did nothing Dragon Boat related at all, except made one weak attempt at buying zong4zi, a glutinous rice food wrapped in leaves with any of several fillings inside. But the market near me was all out. So we bought cookies and cherries and soda and iced tea and water. And I already had almonds and cashews waiting. We all barely ate anything so I sent them home with some.

How to Play Majiang
It's like playing poker with dominoes. You mix them all up, then arrange them in certain rows. Then you roll dice to see where you start picking the tiles from. You take 13 tiles. On each turn you draw (from the row or the one the last guy threw away) and discard one. You have to make sets of sequences or same tiles, like poker. Not hard to learn really, but it wasn't an all-chinese-speaking night after all. Too difficult to do while learning a new game. Too many new words. But now that I know the words for all the tiles, and some words like draw and discard and "wake up idiot, it's your turn" and "Check" (I only need one more to win, so watch out, suckers), etc... I think maybe I can handle it in Chinese next time.

It was fun. Not the usual stereotypical smoky drinking-gambling-all-night version of the game, just a calm, mild, learning evening. John spilled soda everywhere. I just thought I'd mention that in case he ever reads it. It's ok John, mei shi, bu shi wode sheet, shi fangdongde. Check out my washing machine 2 posts ago, no problem!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Products I feel like mentioning (and the Koran)

Product #1: Plug-in mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes buzz near my ear every night within 5-10 minutes before or after I fall asleep. I have gotten up too many times at 3am, put my glasses on, waited a moment for my eyes to adjust to the glaring light, and went mosquito hunting. They've really disrupted my sleep. This thing better work; I bought the big package with 72 inserts, each good for 12 hours. The girl in the store took the thing out of the box and demonstrated that you put a little flat thing into the plug-in warming device, then plug it into the wall. And I actually thanked her for her help. In China you are NEVER at a loss finding a salesperson in a store to help you. There's practically one in every aisle, bugging everyone, ready to demonstrate mops and food processors and cell phones and ...

Product #2: Triple-ply toilet paper. No they won't demonstrate that, but I just wanted to say that it's all 3-ply. That's just how nutty it is over here on the other side of the planet.

Product #3: Milk in bags. At first I thought they were odd. Now I think they're quite handy. Wait, let me take a picture for those of you who don't know what I mean.

I know what you're thinking. "Why does she have a Koran?" I just noticed that after posting it and I'm not going to take all my milk back out of the fridge and pose it again just to avoid the question some of my loving Christian family or friends will be wondering. My answer is... Why not? It's a book. I read about half of it because I wanted to know more about my Uyghur friends and see for myself if it says to have a lot of wives and go around killing everyone. I feel I understand their religion pretty well now. I'd be glad to discuss it if you like, in a nice friendly way.

Allah is with those who restrain themselves.
Quran, 16.128

Yep, that's what it says. Now you know. Well, I know. You still may not, actually. Depends on how much you wanna trust your source.

Islam is to terrorists as Christianity is to the KKK.

I said that.

SO ANYWAY, the BAGS of MILK!!!!!
The can is Lulu, an almond drink. It's REALLY good.
The cup thing is "black soymilk" from 7-11. Also really good.
The bags, from left, are chocolate milk, walnut milk, regular milk, chocolate milk, and soymilk with wheat powder.

They also have peanut milk, "breakfast milk", which has egg and wheat powder and sugar and is a little thicker. And soymilk, also in several varieties. I don't even like regular plain milk. I drink the chocolate or soy milk.

Why do I like the bags?
1. They're small and convenient and don't need to be refrigerated. You can toss one in your bag and later, at any time, tear off the corner with your teeth and have chocolate milk.
2. The expiration date is like 6 weeks from now. No pressure.

I guess 'juice boxes' are the same, but I just never used them in that way. Everyone refrigerates everything in the US. I have come to not mind at all if all my drinks are room temperature, even chocolate milk.

I thought maybe the packaging is wasteful, but I think a bunch of little thin bags isn't too different from a big thick plastic gallon jug. And they get recycled.

Go look at more products, some with amusing labels or comments from me, in my album "FOOD and random products".

Thursday, June 5, 2008

If you think your washing machine's bad....

Yeah, yeah, I know, at least I have one.

Ok, this is my hundred year old washing machine. Note the children of color hugging in their underwear. They must be happy that their only outfits are being washed.

See how it has two sections? Let me explain. The left half is where you put the clothes, and you turn on the water faucet at the sink (kitchen sink, you hook a hose to the faucet.) ... and you have to turn it off when it gets however high you want it.
- Then you turn the timer and it'll swoosh (strong word) for however long you said. Extra dirty things need extra swooshes with a giant spoon.
- Then you turn a dial and the water drains out. Sometimes a little goes on the floor, but it's old. That might happen to me someday, so I'm forgiving.
- Then you turn on the faucet again (don't forget to close the drain) and repeat for rinsing.
- Then when you've done all that to your satisfaction... you heave the wet dripping clothes over to the right side, which spins it dry. If it clunks around and doesn't spin, you shift the clothes a bit and try again. And again. And again.

Well, today while it was spinning the kitchen started smelling like burning rubber or electrical-something. It was obviously broken. Luckily I had a backup. Yes, you heard me. I had a BACKUP. How many of you can say THAT? Ha.

Really. There's been a brand new washer on my little indoor "balcony" all along...

..... enter new washer, which my son proudly hooked up. I think the landlord never used it because it wouldn't fit through the sliding kitchen door, which was stuck slightly closed. A few people have tried and failed to open it all the way, even my son and the landlord. But TONIGHT... oh, tonight was different. He carried that darn washer from balcony, through my bedroom into the hall, and carried the old one from kitchen, through the hall, through my bedroom and onto the balcony, so he MADE THE DOOR OPEN. He shoved harder than ever and it opened just enough to get the washer through.

See the chinese writing? I bet most of you don't know what it all says, huh? Neither do I. One of them says "water level", and one says "stop" and there's the obvious big red power dot. I've got a test load going now, to learn what it does with this particular combination of little red lights. Check out all those bumps and spinny things inside.

So far this washer's even more of a pain than the old one, because it wants the water to turn on/off/on/off/on/off all fancy-like, which means *I* have to get up and go turn the water faucet on/off/on/off/on/off or it just sits there doing nothing, waiting. Ugh.

Ok, I can hear it coming, from my wise elders, don't even think about it!

"Back in my day we had to carry our laundry on our BACKS, uphill both ways, for 10 miles in the snow, and beat it with sticks in a river after we broke away some ice to make a spot!!" Yeah, well at least I'd get exercise. This way I just have to be nearby for 45 minutes doing something that can be interrupted at the washer's beck and call.

More washer pics in my Picasa album, "My Apartment"... and maybe you'll get lucky enough to see other appliances as well.... like the inside of my fridge, food included!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My XXL caffeine-free underwear

In Chinese underwear, I’m XXL.

I should be embarrassed to announce that to the world, but they’re NOT THAT BIG. In the US I'd probably be "medium", but I'm in China where it seems about 85% of females are my size or smaller. But there are a LOT of Chinese girls/women with larger rear ends than I have even if they're shorter, so I don't really get it.

But more importantly, I want to share with you the design on these undies. I’ve learned to not make fun of bad translations and odd words until I look them up; it may be a British way to say it; or a word from another language. I have to keep an open mind lest I look like a fool for laughing at something that makes perfect sense to a Greek person…

...or an old caffeine-sensitive person....

"At today high prices its amazng th mone you save - switching from cofee to postum!"

I looked up "postum", thinking it might be latin, or nonsense. It's not; it's this:

It's a naturally caffeine free hot beverage from Kraft that was around for 112 years but miraculously avoided TV, magazines, radio, the kitchens of everyone I've ever known, and my ears. Did you ever hear of it? Well, it stopped being manufactured last fall, sorry to disappoint all the Postum fans; though they probably heard this news last fall while the majority of us were still ignorant and "Pre-Postum".

Hmm. You learn something new everyday. So now, about making fun of those underwear..... ah what the heck, I still can. Why would they put an ad for Postum on underwear? To remind you what to drink when you wake up after sleeping in your underwear? And what's that other gibberish? Is it another language? Random letters strewn together? And my butt's not THAT big; in fact I've lost about 10lbs here in China. I can even wear white baggy pants without feeling self-conscious. I have a pair; they're "capri-length" and have white embroidered snowflake-flowers on them.

Yes, I bought those underwear.
How could I not?
Look at them.

I'll wear it with my shirt that says "panda is a lot of booms of person from 1972... friend - rough".

(ooh, and with the snowflake-flower pants! Just wait til I come back; I'm going to be SO fashionable!)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Brazilian (and other) undiscovered tribes

Here's a link to the recently publicized but still uncontacted tribe in Brazil:

AP: Brazil says uncontacted Amazon tribe threatened

There are a few pictures too. I brought up the topic in an English Corner (a "class" with no particular topic, just free talk or play games or whatever) and decided to put the students into groups of 3 (5 groups) and have them discuss what their team would do if they were in charge of deciding if the tribe should be contacted or not; how much; in what ways; etc...

Here are some answers. The students are all adults. Some answers are serious; some got a little funny.

- impose VERY STRICT laws that no one can go near them or affect them in any way, and be sure to harshly punish anyone who does

- choose an area around them to "rope off" as a protected area and protect them... like pandas (laughter ensued)

- Yes, and we can build a high-up train car around their huts so we can all go sightseeing and watch them in their daily lives (more laughter)

- divide them into two groups. One group: leave them be. The other group: we study and do research on them. (a few gasps of horror, "that's like they're not humans!")

- only contact them enough to ask what they want; they should have free choice

- don't publish pictures like they did; don't put them on TV; the gov't should protect them by NOT telling everyone they're there, maybe even lying about their location when asked. This way no individual curious people/groups will bother them

- watch them from afar by camera to study them

- no, no, they should have the right to privacy!

- the scientists should stay in their labs!

--- it seemed ALL were in favor of protecting them so that they could continue their way of life OR choose for themselves. Many said that "culture" is disappearing in so many ways nowadays, we should try to protect people's cultures whenever we have the chance, keeping variety in the world.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Weird dreams...

I've been going to bed late & getting up late... lately. And having weird dreams. The past few days have had hurricane-like wind but with no rain. It was SO WINDY I couldn't sleep. It was loud, and some windows were shaking, a car alarm would go off outside, etc. And you know how external noises can enter and affect your dreams, right? Like if you fall asleep with the TV on, etc?
So, my dream....

In the dream, I looked out the window (someone else was in my apt with me) and saw the trees blowing really hard (they really were in real life). I commented on it, and they started not only blowing so hard but moving past, faster & faster. I then realized that the building had started spinning... and going up. Everything was in black & white, and I felt the whole building being lifted into the air as it was spinning really fast. I thought, "Oh I get it! This is like the Wizard of Oz! Soon I'll land in a colorful world with a yellow brick road and go see the wizard.... Nah, I'm not really in the mood for that." And the dream changed to something else. Cool. I'm not really a "Wizard of Oz" person. That would have been an annoying dream.

I also had a dream that I forgot to feed my hamster for a few days (don't really have one) and found it dead, arranged neatly on display in this toaster I found a picture of online the day before for a different purpose. I think my brain just didn't finish thinking about that toaster; I wondered some things about it but dismissed it; so my brain went back to it in an effort to give it completion, like a bad relationship. Don't know where the hamster came from... random weird pairing.

(you can only toast one slice at a time? and it needs to be a certain thickness? The glass must get hot, so would you burn your hand if you bump it? And how do you get the toast out, poke it out sideways with a knife? Ahh, so it's ok to stick a knife in THIS toaster? The heat must escape from all sides; that seems inefficient. I don't think I want this toaster. Ok, I think my brain's done with the weird toaster.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Weather widget, paying bills

Ok, I thought it would be interesting for people who are not in China to see what my weather is like here. So I searched for weather widgets. Many put up the current weather, which is dumb because if you see it while I'm sleeping, it'll seem nice & cool here, when in reality the daytime was just 90 degrees or something. Finally I found a simple 5-day forecast where I could choose colors, layout, etc, but it's too big and gets cut off. So I chose "transparent background" and changed the width from 250 to 200, a lucky first guess, and it turned into a 4-day forecast. The 5th day is hanging in oblivion somewhere, never to be seen. That's also why the words "Beijing, China" aren't centered.

It will now live in the top right corner, I think.

This is the one I wanted though; I thought that shade of red would be striking.

Oh well. I'll leave it here and visit it in the future just to bask in its glory.


In the US you get bills for everything. I hate bills. My usual way of dealing with them was to let them pile up until I HAD to do something about them. Maybe that's one reason I feel less stressed here. There are no bills. NONE. It's lovely. Convenient. Stress-free.
So how do we pay for things? It varies between cities & even parts of cities, but here are the ways I pay for things:

Electric & Water:
A lady who works in the building goes around once every 3 months or so, checks the meters, knocks on your door and asks for the money, then gives you a receipt. If you're not home or don't have the money at that time, they'll catch you at the front door sometime over the next 2-3 days. (there's a guy there at all times, I call him the door guard for lack of an exact word)

Each meter has a swipe card that can be put into the meter. You bring the card to the bank, stick it in a machine & press some buttons (they still do that part for me), bring it to the teller, pay her, stick it in the machine again to give the card the credit, then go home and stick it in your meter again. You do this in advance - when you see the meter getting low you go buy more before it hits zero. Easy for gas company, no bills, pay in advance as much as you want or can afford. You can buy months & months worth if you know you'll be living there a long time, and just forget about it for a while. Nice.

Today I'll go buy recharge cards from the CNC joint down the road. It's 120yuan/month. I could buy several month's worth in advance if I wanted to, though I don't. I'll dial 2081 or something, hear my balance, and go buy cards accordingly. Then I come home, scratch off the silvery stuff covering the pin number on the back, dial it in over the phone, and it's credited immediately. If I don't have 120 in my account at midnight the last night of the month, the internet cuts off. Then I go buy the cards and call them in. There is no penalty if that happens; it's my own doing, that's all.

Cell Phone
Pay in advance. You buy cards ANYWHERE, at little newsstands, convenience stores, etc, and scratch off the back, call in the number, and your phone gets credited.

A lot of "pay in advance". I like it. No one can be late with their bills, can't mess up your credit. If you can't afford it, you can't get it. If you forget, you don't have it and you feel dumb and make sure you don't forget next time. And you know how much you use. I've found that enlightening. I can see my water meter spinning when I do laundry, I can see how much gas I use in a week. I don't overuse things or waste things because I am always aware of how much I am using and the fact that I will be paying for that. It's in front of my face, not hidden away, only to feel the stress and obligation of a BILL in my face every month. I am in charge, not them.

At least, that's the feeling I get.

I like it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New photo albums added

I added a few new photo albums in Picasa, the link is to the left.

Oh, I meant right. I guess I was talking as if I was in the computer looking out at you, like I am in the pictures. Sorry, I get confused sometimes.

Some of the captions are quite bulky, like tiny blogs of their own.

Here are some samples to entice you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Day in the Life of Me (maybe long & boring, but now you have an example of a whole day)

I had a really nice, mild day. Got up at 8 to go to a meeting at work at 10am, which was actually kind of fun. Because it was early and a few of us wouldn't be teaching until evening, 3 of us showed up in jeans & sneakers, one guy with huge holes in the knees and a baseball cap & scruff.... I've only seen him before, for months, looking all sharp & professional. And no one told us in advance we'd each be getting our pictures taken. So it was a slightly giggly-meeting, with us younger shabby-looking teachers sitting in the back row where the shabby-looking students usually belong. The baseball cap guy colored in all the holes of the letters on the agenda (a,b,d,g, etc), as any good back-row-sitting student should. Got a free lunch afterwards.

I took the bus home, which I like doing if I get a seat. On the bus I can look out the window, which I really find fun and interesting, and daydream a bit or practice Chinese in my head. Walking home from the bus I stopped into my neighborhood market & bought 2 kinds of tofu, vegetables, some fresh handmade noodles, and yogurt (total=15yuan, or $2, or $15 if we put it back into proportion; it's only cheap if you earn a US salary).

At home, wasn't sure how to spend the next 3 odd hours before going to class. I did a load of laundry, got online a while, then started feeling really antsy, not sure why, and didn't really know what to do with myself. Played my drum a little, but that didn't help because I was too worried about bothering the neighbors in this new 1st floor apartment as opposed to the top floor one I was in before, where I could go out on the roof and actually feel alone. I miss that. Here, I know the doorguard & elevator lady would be able to hear anything loud in my place. I lifted my son's dumbbells for a bit (after taking off the heavy plates; I'm weak) and did some couch-pushups (because real ones are just not in my repertoire) then finally decided to try a new yoga dvd. It's awkward following a video (the first few times) because you're supposed to be facing other directions, or hanging your head down, but you have to keep turning to see what they're doing - "[peeking up]... oh, head should still be down... [peeking up again...] nope, heads still down... [now...?] .. oh golly she's standing up now in some crazy pose, how'd that happen?"... Ended up sweating and feeling pretty good.

Early dinner was leftover broccoli & ginger and brown rice from a little buddhist restaurant, to which I added two eggs, all mixed together. It was really good.

Rode bike to subway, running late even though I had that free 3 hours. Go figure, but that's me sometimes.
My class was great. We didn't use the book at all. The 4 students who showed up were relaxed casual friendly ones, so we just talked the whole time about all different topics. I learned the chinese version of "speak of the devil!", which includes the name of an emperor, not the devil, and sounds funny because it rhymes. Theirs is better, sorry to admit. (shuo1 Cao2cao1, Cao2cao1 dao4) They also asked me lots of personal questions, like who do I live with, and about my son & "husband" (I just say "we're not together anymore" avoiding the words married/divorced, since those never got around to happening and I really hate lying)... my lifestyle is not exactly traditional for this country, but I like explaining it to people who are genuinely interested because then they learn something... like being a single parent isn't a BAD thing, and there are reasons, etc... and they already know me & respect me, so they actually listen and see another view.

Riding home from the subway was REALLY nice - the air was the perfect temperature, and riding a bike gives that nice little breeze that makes me want to stretch my arms out (but don't worry, I only put one out) so I rode around my apartment complex a little extra before going in. (confession: I often sing while riding my bike. Pedestrians will only have to bear a moment of it as I quickly pass, and they'll never see me again, so it's safe)
The kid was unexpectedly home (a bit after 10pm) and we talked a lot and didn't end up playing a game like we said. I let him go online without bugging him (rare for me) and dozed off on the couch daydreaming... which turned into real dreaming I guess. Woke up at 2am and went to bed for real.

There you have it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can't see my own blog; Little jobs; Earthquake donating

Ok, it seems impossible to find a blog I like that isn't blocked in China. I was able to sign up for this one, get it all prettied up, write this... I was so happy... but I CAN'T SEE IT. Correct. You just clicked on that link and you're seeing my blog, right? I can't do that. Well, not without being sneaky, I discovered. But I'll keep it because I like it, and continue being sneaky.

My Latest Mini-Job
I'm transcribing an hour and a half lecture on Advanced Energy Efficiency (in industry; by Amory Lovins). It's tough. It's taking me and my poor typing skills a LONG time. I realized (again) that our brains really do like patterns. When the guy says some layman-type sentences, I can remember a half or a whole sentence, pause the video, and type it out. When he uses big words like "axially mounted" and "therefore as in naval propulsion you can do what’s called virtual trail shafting".... well, a whole sentence takes a really long time to remember and type. I'm not going to admit how long it took me to transcribe 5 minutes about gas turbines. Yikes. This is not the career for me. (almost an hour)

I also recently did a little proofreading and will probably do more. They translate from Chinese to English, then I fix it up and make it sound comfortable rather than like a dictionary-robot.

I've been really good at everything I've been doing in this ... field? I hated English class in school, yet here I am proofreading it, transcribing it, teaching it, even helping with a study on it... no, English is not "my field", teaching is. If I know something, I can teach it. It's handy to know what you're good at and not good at. Me: good at teaching, seeing things, solving problems. Not good at math, typing, playing the xiao (vertical bamboo flute).

Earthquake Donating....
I donated blood about 1.5 months ago for no particular reason (I have "panda blood" they call it, the most rare, most wanted) and agreed to be put on a list for emergencies in the future, so I won't try again so soon; they'll call me if they need me. People with normal boring blood are being turned away. There are too many people donating; they're literally overflowing. (...? don't think about that too much, just go on...)

Some people said their companies are MAKING them donate money, and telling them how much to give. I don't think that's right. And I thought about it today as I donated at my very own apartment. If my boss told me I MUST donate 100 yuan, I'd feel.... well I wouldn't feel like I was donating, that's not really donating.

But at my apartment when I came home tonight, there were two big blackboards (every complex has them for notices) with lists of names on them and an amount next to each name. I figured out what it was right away, and chatted with the door guard, elevator lady, and a neighbor about it for a while. (pic above) They told me the other 2 foreigners' names and like a good student I searched the board and found one of them. Then they taught me some new words, which I already forgot.... (oh, I remember "donate" from giving blood) and it felt REALLY GOOD to write my name on that board with my neighbors' names. Really. It was all heartwarming, especially the way the old doorguard guy (in the picture) said "谢谢, 谢谢你, 谢谢" (thank you). In that situation, I felt GOOD giving, and would've felt bad not to. It was really nice.

See? You can pressure people leaving them resentful, or pressure them leaving them feeling good, and thinking it was their idea.

Funny, I didn't click the orange OR the blue buttons... but while I'm here, let me experiment a bit....

Ah, I can add pictures! woohoo! This is one of my favorite roof pictures, when they messed up my hair color last year and I yelled at them in really bad Chinese and stormed out the door crying (how a real Chinese girl would handle it). It grew on me by the time I got home and I had fun with it after all. Go with the flow...
"I can pretend this is a famous quote, but really it's just me...."
  • and i can use these handy bullet points to list what i bought at the store:
  • 黄瓜
  • 豆腐
  • 鸡蛋
  • 巧克力牛奶
  • are you getting bored yet?
Ok, that's enough, we'll see what happens tomorrow. I'm REALLY going to bed now, I swear.
Ok, the entire environment for dealing with this blog behind the scenes for me is in Chinese. It's taken WAY too long and I should be asleep now. But I made it to this point, writing in a box. Then I'll choose either the orange button or the blue button below and see what happens.

If I can figure out how to get back to this spot again tomorrow and write a NEW post, I think we're in business. Wish me luck.