Friday, December 21, 2007

Hell on Wheels

I thought this op-ed piece in the New York Times was pretty funny and true...

Op-Ed Contributor
Hell on Wheels
Published: December 20, 2007

YOU’D rather not think about it — and you never, ever talk about it — but you and I both know that you’ve run over feet.

You can rationalize. (The airport concourse was crowded. You were distracted, looking up at the departures board.) But come clean. You know it’s happening. You can feel your rolling suitcase treating a stranger’s ankle as a speed bump. You can hear the swallowed yelp of pain.

And do you apologize? You might mumble “sorry” over a shoulder. But you never break stride. Instead, you steer into the Chili’s next to your gate, your bag clipping a waitress’s shin as you wheel to the bar. (Go ahead, drown your guilt in that frozen margarita. It won’t cure her limp.)

Aboard the plane, the wanton destruction continues. For the central fallacy of the wheeled luggage trend is that your suitcase will roll smoothly up the aisle in coach. Lie!

Your bag lurches along, catching on seat handles, bumping knees and elbows. You pull harder when it gives resistance. You pull harder still. And you look back to see your bag scraping against the thigh of an obese seated passenger. His haunch has spilled into the aisle to meet the wrath of your ballistic nylon.

When you at last reach your seat, do you gracefully collapse your telescoping handle and lightly tuck your bag in the overhead compartment? No, your handle jams, holding up the line behind you. And your bag won’t fit because all the other bags up there also have huge, jutting wheels.

Plus — particularly if you are a petite, elderly woman (a demographic I am in most cases quite fond of, I promise you) — you sometimes can’t lift your bag at all. This is because those wheels have freed you from having to rely on your own muscle power, or a hired valet. You’re encouraged to over-pack to such a degree that you can no longer move your bag without wheels. So you stagger weakly under its weight until (if I see you) I assist you with it or (if I don’t) you drop it on my head — bludgeoning me with 70 pounds of toiletries.

People, you never need more clothes than you can comfortably carry in a shoulder bag. Soldiers in ’Nam got by with less gear than the average executive now packs for a two-day trip. Unless you are a deep-sea diver or, maybe, an iron-ore salesman, your luggage really shouldn’t necessitate load-bearing wheels.

Also: aesthetics. Your dorky rolling bag doesn’t say, “I’m embarking on a voyage.” It says, “I’m going to a conference in Cleveland.” And maybe you are, but you don’t have advertise it. The swashbuckling adventurer hoists a leather rucksack, or a battered canvas duffel. He doesn’t tug his bag behind him on a leash like a stubborn and especially boring pet.

It’s easy to see the appeal of wheeled luggage, of course. It eases our burdens and lifts the weight off our shoulders. It keeps our neatly pressed jackets un-mussed. But rolling bags are really functional only for the type of journey that goes taxi-airport-taxi-hotel-shuttle bus-convention center. Outside this comfortable circuit, they’re often useless.

I’ve been traveling a lot recently, in countries ranging from developed to less developed to dear Lord, is that a monkey attacking a naked child? In harsher conditions, a dainty rolling bag is absurdly out of place. It’s no fun rolling those wheels across a “street” that’s just a rain-soaked blotch of mud. Or bouncing them up the stairs of a packed train station. Or dragging them through a marketplace where puddles are indeed full of fish and goat entrails. (Enjoy that pungent odor when your bag is back in your room.)

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not trying to eliminate rolling bags altogether. I’m just trying to halt their unchecked proliferation. Perhaps we should regard them with the same mild disapproval that greets that fur coat your mom inherited. She won’t throw it away, but she is a bit uneasy about wearing it in public.

This will all become moot, of course, with the advent of the levitating suitcase, an invention that can’t be far off. When it arrives, we’ll immediately go gaga for it. And soon after, I’m sure, your bag will be levitating swiftly and directly into my groin.

I await your mumbled apology.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

radio stars


It’s always just a matter of time until I find myself in front of a microphone again…this time it was not just a microphone but an entire insulated recording studio at Jiangsu Province Radio, where my friend Will and I spent some quality hours recording educational tapes and tests (just the latest in the series of odd part-time jobs that give texture to my life in Nanjing).
I wrote down a couple of my favorite dialogues. I feel I am really contributing to the world’s store of knowledge by lending my voice to these gems of wisdom. We had to do this straight, with no laughing, which is surprisingly difficult. Try it yourself at home.

A: What did you do this weekend?
B: I pulled up carrots. And you?
A: I was milking a cow.

A: What happened to Michael? He used to have the hairiest legs in town.
B: His coach shaved him.

A: If I don’t sleep soon, I will make your dog disappear from the world!
B: Are you saying you will kill my dog?
A: That’s possible.

There was also a lengthy dialogue involving a boy named Tommy Bush, and a monologue about how “Americans are all very wasteful. As a people, they destroy many things that others would save.” Another monologue described a typical meal in an American home, during which “the wife typically prepares the food while the husband enjoys cocktails. After the meal, the wife typically clears the dishes.” And finally, for the younger crowd of English learners, a series of bizarre one-liners, such as “I prefer puppets,” and “this monkey is for your sister.”
I don’t think they noticed that I was digging my own fingernails into my own flesh under the table to keep from laughing (which didn’t always work—we had to halt production a couple of times when I lost it and snorted hysterically into the microphone.) But we got it done, and had fun along the way. And Will even earned a new nickname: he will forever be Tommy Bush to me.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fun in Nanjing

I finally brushed the cobwebs off my camera and took it for a spin last night--here are some pictures from a birthday party for 5 of my friends: Will, David, Wang Dong, Yun Feng and Wang Fei. The party had all the basic elements: cheeseburgers grilled on a tiny hibachi on Will's balcony; some home-made Chinese food; a cake with a dragon on it; and some spectacular karaoke singing. Happy birthday, 朋友们!


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mom's trip to China

Pics from my recent travels with my mom: the trip was FANTASTIC, and a much-needed reminder to take more frequent breaks from the city! We went down to my former home in Hunan Province to visit my old student and teacher friends, and spent a few days in beautiful Zhangjiajie national park before ending the trip in style with a couple of days in Shanghai.



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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

my school

Wow, I have been really delinquent about blogging! The days are flying are some pictures of my university, Nanjing Shifan Daxue (Nanjing Normal University). It has a reputation for having one of the most beautiful campuses in Asia. These are some of the main teaching buildings, and also the front gate, where I buy my warm soy milk in the morning on my way to class. Classes start at eight o'clock sharp every morning, and go until 12. After four hours of learning Chinese, my head is usually swimming. But it's cool, I'm starting to think and dream in a bizarre bastardized Chinglish!
I'm going to try to be better about blogging, but I probably won't be as active as I was in Hunan...I miss having time to take pictures and write about my days...there's a vacation coming up next week, and my mom is coming out to travel around with me. I'm taking her to Hunan to see my old stomping grounds, so stay tuned for Xintang: The Return.

Friday, September 7, 2007

You don't work, you don't eat

Lately I feel like one of those depression-era guys who go down to the docks every morning, hoping that there will be some work available that day so I can bring some cabbage home for supper...
No, it's not that bad, but this period of waiting for classes to start has been full of various odd jobs that I've picked up as a result of meeting random people in the city. So far, I've done the voice recording for an answering service at a translation company (if you call this company, you'll hear my mellifluous voice saying, "If you know your party's extension, please press 800," etc.), proof-reading a long term paper on venture capitalism in China, and writing an upcoming restaurant review for a website targeting foreign students in Nanjing. In addition to all that, I've been working every week at an English club for adults, facilitating discussions. That job is my favorite. The club members specifically request controversial discussion topics, so I think I'm going to learn a lot from them in the coming months. I asked what kind of topics they want to discuss, and one guy said, "We want to talk about things that will make our hearts run fast." I am SO going to get in trouble for this. I swore when I came to China that I would avoid getting into dangerous waters (I assiduously avoid such topics in this blog, in case you haven't noticed--believe me, there is a lot that I wish I could say in these pages...) Last night we talked about gay marriage. I'm still trying to shy away from the Big D and the Three T's (you can guess what those are).
My classes start on Monday, so I won't be seeking out as many odd jobs, because there's a lot on my plate right now: my Chinese classes, VIA work, GRE preparations, grad school applications, and part-time jobs to put cabbage on the table. Aiyo...

Monday, September 3, 2007

As compensation, the goats' family members will receive a complimentary upgrade to business class on their next flight

This just in from our news desk in Nepal:
Those who read last year's blog might recall that back in May I got stranded in Kathmandu for 3 extra days, missing work (but was I really "missing" it?) because Nepal Airline's fleet of two vintage 757's was grounded by technical problems. Apparently the airline has finally, after several months, discovered the solution to these enduring mechanical mishaps...

NAC sacrifices goats to fix technical snag

KATHMANDU, Sept 3 - Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) failed to rid itself of the recurring technical problem in its Boeing-757 aircraft, despite its engineering department's untiring efforts.

But believe it or not, Chief of NAC engineering department, PBS Kansakar found the root cause of the problem in his dream last night: God was angry as the corporation had not appeased him by sacrificing goats.

Then, the corporation Sunday decided to worship Lord Bhairavnath, and sacrificed two goats-- one black and another white-so that all would be well with its aircraft.

The sacrifice was offered at NAC's hanger at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at around 3:45 pm. NAC top bosses, including Managing Director Gautam Das Shrestha were present to offer worship and goat blood to the deity, said an NAC official. "The decision to sacrifice was made after Kansakar consulted with the top management this morning."

The NAC aircraft whose flights had often been cancelled was again grounded last night after its two attempted flights to Hong Kong failed due to repetition of the problem in the anti-ice device.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The House of Intelligent

On Sunday my friend Pan Wen invited us to go to General Mountain, one of Nanjing's scenic spots. It's not very far out of the city, but I was still surprised by the feeling of relief that washed over me to see trees, hills and green space...and I've only been in the city for a little over a month! I can tell I'm going to have to plan little outings to the countryside now and then to keep my head straight...
General Mountain, like many scenic spots I've been to in China, is an interesting mix of the old and the new. A 12th-century Song Dynasty fort rises above a man-made pond on which you can paddle around in a plastic boat shaped like a duck. Or, as we did, hire a bamboo raft and a couple of poles. Will was a good sport; he and Pan Wen struggled to maneuver the raft around, sweating in the 90+ degree heat, while I sat like a queen under a "sunbrella" at the rear of the craft, holding Pan Wen's terrified six-year-old daughter. Good times.
The most interesting part of General Mountain was the House of Intelligent, an old farmhouse that was used as a re-education site during the Cultural Revolution. Students and young intellectuals were sent here to learn about the simple life (General Mountain was just a small village then--no plastic duck-boats yet). The house is tiny and austere, with a well for pumping water, some vegetable plots, and a large collection of propaganda paintings on the wall.
I find it really interesting that these revolution-era sites are the only places in China that I get a real visceral sense of human history. That sounds odd to write, because clearly China has one of the longest histories of so-called civilization, and I'm not sure how to really convey what I mean. When I see the older sites, I often feel like I'm in a museum, even when I'm standing in an actual courtyard mansion or ancient military fort. I don't get the goose-bumpy feeling that sometimes overcomes me at historical sites in other places--like a crumbling castle in Scotland or a civil war battlefield--that feeling as if I was walking among ghosts. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that so much of the ancient history here was systematically wiped out of the living memory. Or maybe it's just that ancient history here is so "foreign" to me that I can't experience any kind of emotional connection to it. But at these Cultural Revolution sites, I can feel it. And it's creepy! Getting goose-bumps just writing about it...
But creepiness aside, it was a lovely day among the cedars and the willow trees. The sky was blue(ish) and it was a much-appreciated afternoon of respite from the honking, roaring, beeping, snorting city.


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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Je ne regrette rien

I'm helping the administration office at my university by proofreading the "Handbook for Newcomers," and I must share this gem from Appendix II: Conditions for Revoking the Scholarship.
Item 6: "Occupying a room or a bed in the dormitory without permission and not feeling regret even after being persuaded by the college."

Thursday, August 23, 2007


The scaffolding is coming down! Here's a picture of the bamboo used in the scaffolding around my apartment. Apparently bamboo has incredible tensile strengh--you can hear it creaking when people walk on it, but a single trunk of bamboo is strong enough to support the weight of several grown men. Amazing.
I'm looking forward to the scaffolding coming down so I can finally open the curtains during the day. But once the re-painting and construction is done, I will miss the floating population of workers that has set up camp in the neighborhood. They've set up tarps in the alley for sleeping at night. During the day, the street is filled with the sound of workers, painting, hauling stuff, pulling down the scaffolding, and breaking huge piles of rocks with pick-axes for what I can only presume is a re-paving project.
After sundown, the whole street turns into one gigantic pajama party! Whole families are living under the tarps, and at night (when the heat is still oppressive) everyone strips down to their skivvies and hangs out, playing cards or mah jongg or just sitting around talking. It's a really festive atmosphere, and it's going to seem awfully quiet around here once everyone's gone.
I don't mean to come across as glib. I realize that a lifestyle of hard labor is not something to idealize or treat lightly. That's the kind of attitude that was largely responsible for the, um, events of the 1960's here in China...
Sorry for the long delay between postings. Things have been pretty crazy around here, finishing up the orientation and lining up part-time teaching and tutoring gigs for myself. I have a great job now at an English Coffee Corner--basically I get paid to facilitate discussion with a bunch of really interesting adult advanced English-speakers. I think I'm going to learn a lot from them this year. More about that soon.
My classes will start in a couple of weeks. Can't wait to get back into learning Chinese!


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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

birthday bash

Oh, how quickly they turn on you...
You invite your friends over to celebrate the 28th anniversary of your birth. You show them a video of your students in Hunan Province throwing cake at each other, as is the custom at birthday parties in China. Together you prepare a lovely dinner, and they present you with a beautiful gift of a photo collage, and a delicious chocolate mousse cake. You blow out the candles...and the next thing you know, you are smacked in the face with gobs of chocolately goo! A cake fight ensues. Ah, I love being a grown-up!
It was possibly the first time I've had to take a shower in the middle of my own party, but it sure was fun. After we were all cleaned up, we hit the town and sampled some of Nanjing's night life.
I will get them back, this I promise.

before  after  birthday photo collage 
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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

One panda's crap, another man's treasure?

Beijing is gearing up for the 2008 Olympics, and in the midst of the queue-ing campaigns and anti-spitting campaigns, here we have it: the campaign to trick silly tourists into buying Olympic souvenirs that are literally pieces of shit.

China seeks profit from panda poo

Mon Jul 30, 11:35 PM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese wildlife research centre has come up with a novel idea to profit from panda poo -- make Olympic souvenirs out of it.

Researchers at the centre in Chengdu, capital of mountainous Sichuan province, had sculpted photo frames, bookmarks, fans and panda statues out of the 300 tonnes of the stuff produced by 60 giant pandas each year, state media said on Tuesday.

Jing Shimin, assistant to the director of the base, proudly declared that the souvenirs would be relatively odour-free.

"They don't smell too bad because 70 percent of the dung is just remains of the bamboo that the pandas are unable to digest," he told Xinhua news agency.

"We used to spend at least 6,000 yuan (390 pounds) a month to get rid of the droppings, but now they can prove lucrative as half of them will be sold as souvenirs."

Not wishing to miss out on Olympic-inspired profits, the base is currently working on moulding the poop into statues of athletic pandas performing various Olympic sports to sell as 2008 Olympic Games souvenirs.

A Thai zoo already sells multicoloured paper made from the excrement of its two resident pandas.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Wall

Behold the new generation of VIA teachers (minus one), on our recent trip to Nanjing's Ming Dynasty-era city wall. Only portions of the wall remain around the city, but considering that the bricks were held together not with concrete but with glutinous rice, and considering the historical events the wall has witnessed, I'd say it's holding up pretty well!

I too am holding up pretty well (after last year in Hunan, I'm pretty sure I too am held together with rice). Last year when I first got to Xintang, I went through a short period of hibernation before I really started going out and living my life. This year I'm kind of doing the same thing, but it's not really my see, my new past-time is playing "hide the foreigner" (the foreigner being myself). Let me explain.

You can call me paranoid, but I'm definitely the only waiguoren living in my building, and sometimes foreigners' homes are targets for break-ins (two friends of mine were recently robbed while they were sleeping). I don't have bars on my windows, and normally I wouldn't worry because I live on the fourth floor. But for the next few weeks my building is being re-painted, meaning that there is bamboo scaffolding around the whole thing, and from sun-up to sun-down there are workers directly outside my windows. So the object of the game is to not let anybody see exactly which apartment I live in until the scaffolding is down. So far I think I'm doing pretty well, because I keep my curtains drawn during the day. But I'm looking forward to the end of the re-painting because it's not a very fun game, and I think my house-plants are dying.

But lest you think I've been spending ALL my days inside with the curtains drawn, I must say that the new VIA teachers are a ton of fun, and I also think I've found my first tutoring job. Her name is Cissy, she's thirteen, and her parents want to pay me to speak English with her for several hours a week. Spending time with her makes me think a lot of my students last year, who were the same age, but were living away from their families, wearing the same clothes every day, eating the gross food at the cafeteria, and working extremely hard to follow their educational dreams. Cissy lives with her mom, dad, grandma and goldfish in a beautiful apartment. She has her own mobile phone. She knows how to swim and how to play a traditional stringed instrument. She's bright, accomplished, wealthy and priveleged. I think that she too works very hard for her education, and I'm not making any judgements either way. It's just a striking contrast, that's all.

There are a lot of striking contrasts this year, so many that I'm afraid it will become tiresome if I keep drawing comparisons between last year and this year. But I can't help it, so bear with me while I adjust to city living. And I will post pictures of my new apartment just as soon as I can open the curtains.



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Wednesday, August 1, 2007


A couple of pictures from Erin's last night in Nanjing...our "auntie" came over and together we made jiaozi (dumplings, which apparently are the best things to eat before traveling. If you eat dumplings preceding a journey, so they say, you will reach your destination safely--I guess it worked, because Erin made it back safely to America (despite the subversive round- and star-shaped dumplings that he made).
Speaking of safe arrivals, the new batch of teachers rolled into Shanghai early on the morning of the 29th. I picked them up at the airport and we spent the night in Shanghai before returning to Nanjing, where they will all stay for a three-week orientation before heading off to their posts all over China. Most of them have traveled in this country before and speak Chinese to some degree, so in some ways they are quite different from our group last year. But what fun we had those days, bumbling around this city, unable to communicate even the simplest idea! We honed our miming skills exquisitely.
making jiaozi 

Erin's non-traditional dumpling shapes  
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Friday, July 27, 2007

transformers: more than meets the ear

The air conditioner is fixed! Well, sort of. I can't touch the cord or the plug, because even a stiff breeze causes it to become un-plugged, and it takes a long time of tweaking and pushing and swearing to get it to connect again. But as long as I don't go near it, it blows cool air, and that's all that matters.
It's been a good productive week of getting things done. I had my first job interview completely in Chinese (I'm looking for some part-time teaching work to help keep me in dumplings and shoes).
Tried to go and see "Transfomers" with some friends the other night. We bought our tickets and sat through all the trailers until the start of the movie, when we discovered that it had been dubbed into Chinese! Strange thing is, those same friends had seen the same movie at the same cinema last week, and it was in English. We did some asking around and discovered that one must hurry to see English-language films right after they are released, before the dubbers have time to do their dubbing. Lesson learned. We left the theatre sheepishly, much to the amusement of everybody else.
Tomorrow I'm going to Shanghai to pick up the new group of teachers. I remember so vividly the arrival in Shanghai last year, and how overwhelmed I was by the reality of finally being in China after such a long time of reading and dreaming about it. And one year later, I still find China exciting and overwhelming, and so much of it is still brand new every day, aside from a few little things I've gotten used to. For instance, I got hit by a motorbike today and didn't even stop walking. Not a bad hit, just your everyday struck-by-a-vehicle-even-though-the-crosswalk-light-says-"walk" type of thing. Luckily neither I nor the motorbike were going very fast. Both parties came away unscathed, though I did dish out a healthy dose of what Allister calls "the hairy eyeball."
On the whole, one year after stepping off that airplane in Shanghai, I'm still very happy to be in China.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

uh...say what?

It's so great to be here in Nanjing...but the first week has been challenging to say the least. Since I don't work for a school anymore, I don't have the safety net of an English-speaking "handler" that I can call any time to take care of me. The upside of this is that I live in a real apartment, in a really cool little back alley just a few minutes from my university. As soon as I get my domicile in order, I'll take some pictures.
The downside is that this week, with my limited language capabilities, I've had to negotiate with landlords, open a bank account, pay utility bills and haggle with repairmen over a chronically broken air conditioner, all in Chinese. I think my Chinese will improve a lot this year--because it HAS to! Which is exactly why I'm here. But it sure is frustrating...even ordering drinking water is hard. Last year, I just picked up the phone and said, "Hi, this is the foreigner," and they knew exactly where to find me. This year, I am just one of 6 million people, with an address that happens to be extremely difficult to locate. Not much hope of ordering pizzas. :)
The air conditioner, by the way, is still broken. Nanjing residents boast of living in one of China's "three furnaces," the 3 hottest cities in China. I think I probably sweat about twenty times more than the average Chinese woman. I see ladies on the street pull out tissues and dab at their glistening foreheads...meanwhile, I look as if I've been dunked in a swimming pool. If I held a tissue to my forehead, it would dissolve.
So until the air conditioner gets fixed, I remain your humble sweating illiterate foreigner...S

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Care the Gap

I've landed in Nanjing and I'm loving it! It's going to take a while to adjust to city life...last year I walked through a rice paddy every day, and now I "care the gap" while getting on and off the subway.
This week is a little hectic--trying to find a place to live and get ready for the new teachers' arrival next week--photos and updates coming soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

2 Billion Rats Invade Hunan Province

And I thought I had it bad with 9 rats last year! Apparently my recurring nightmare about an apocalyptic rat invasion has, in fact, become reality in my former home of Hunan Province. (This article calls them "mice," but other articles tell it like it is...)
The devastating flood damages (rats included) in Hunan and other parts of central China this past summer are no laughing matter.
Way to go, Three Gorges Dam.

Excerpts from the LA Times:
Two billion voracious rodents have descended on farms in Hunan province. Villagers retaliate with clubs, traps and poison.
By Don Lee
Times Staff Writer

July 16, 2007

BEIZHOUZI, CHINA — The worst summer flooding in years has claimed more than 400 lives and wreaked billions of dollars in damage in central China. Here in the villages around Dongting Lake, rising waters have brought a plague of biblical proportions: an invasion of 2 billion mice.
..."They are like troops advancing," farmer Zhang Luo said Sunday, recounting how he whacked hundreds with a shovel. Zhang, 40, and his forebears have battled mice for 100 years in this area, but he said it had never been this bad. A stench rose from the dead rodents in his fields.
..."If the Three Gorges Dam needs to open its gate to release floodwaters again, it's possible that they might come back. That's why we have people patrol … day and night these days."
...Xu Kai, 14, recalled standing on the second-floor balcony of his house in the town of Beizhouzi and watching in horror as the green and brown slopes 150 yards away turned black. As the mice moved toward his family's farmland, Xu ran out with others and grabbed a thick piece of bamboo. He said he struck the mice until his shoulders hurt, killing three or four with each blow.
On Sunday, he and his grandmother looked out from the balcony and tallied the devastation.
Half the corn crops were destroyed. All the watermelons were lost. The mice had eaten much of the eggplant and other vegetables.
His grandmother, Chen Lianxi, 62, pointed to the thick cotton fields. She said they were a virtual cemetery for the mice the family had killed.
Chen said her family of five lived on their crops, earning about $1,200 last year. About a quarter of that went toward school tuition and expenses for Xu. Some was used to pay off a loan to neighbors for the two-story tile house that the family built 10 years ago for $6,000.
Money is one thing, she said. Chen fears for her grandson's health.
"That's what I don't know," she said. "There are dead mice everywhere."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

No more Frappuccino in Forbidden City

The controversial Starbucks in Beijing's Forbidden City was forced to shut down its espesso machines this weekend:

Apparently the solemn ambience of the 587-year-old monument was being undermined by the presence of so many half-caf skinny lattes...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Photos from Hangzhou

The countdown is on: five days until the big move to Nanjing! In the meantime, I'm here in Hangzhou, one of China's two "Heavens on Earth," helping out with a summer program in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I'm learning a lot--for instance, did you know that suction-cupping can expel heat evils from the body, and that the whites of your eyes are related to the health of your lungs? (I paid special attention to these items, living as I currently do under the hot poisonous cloud that envelops urban China in the summertime...)
Hangzhou is really lovely; the famous West Lake is ringed by low green hills, and delicious Dragon Well tea grows on the hillside terraces.
My friend Scott came out for a visit last weekend, and is also setting up a welcome BBQ for my first night in Nanjing. Then he, along with 8/9ths of the other teachers from last year (yeah, Benny, staying on for year 2!) are returning to America, and a fresh batch of teachers will arrive on the 29th. I can't wait to meet them! But I will miss my good friends.
Below is my first experiment in photo-uploading.

Scotty making sweet love to a dongpo rou (nugget of slow-cooked pork fat, a Hangzhou delicacy) while a yellow egg watches in amazement

The scenic West Lake

learning about medicinal herbs at a TCM pharmacy
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Welcome to the new blog! Make yourself at home, have a look your right you'll find a link to the videos I post on YouTube (so far there's only one.)
Bear with me while I experiment with the features of this thing...