Thursday, September 30, 2010

T is for Tommy Gun

Know your radicals (tommy gun, cold drink, sandals)

Here at Slow Boat Central, three-fifths of us are now deep into the process of learning our Hanzi (Chinese characters). Xander is, of course, now in the first grade, which for Chinese students is the beginning of a six or seven year Long March to master a good portion of the ten to twenty thousand of the characters that are out there. This fall, Jane, in addition to teaching three classes, is also an official part-time student, studying Chinese for foreigners three days a week at a university on the west side of Chengdu. After a year of ignoring Chinese writing as much as possible, she's now biting the bullet and making Hanzi flashcards as well. (Me, I've been plugging away at them for the last year now - I'm kinda geeky that way.)

Of course, the Hanzi learning process bears very little resemblance to the "A is for Apple" routine that us Latinate alphabet users have to figure out in Kindergarten. The main difference, besides scale, is phonetics. While many Hanzi have phonetic elements built in, the main emphasis in the beginning is learning strokes and radicals, which are small symbols that you combine together to make more complicated characters.

The radicals usually, but not always, give you a clue to the meaning or pronunciation of the character in question, which leads to some strange juxtapositions in elementary textbooks. For example, what better way to learn the "ice" radical, pictured above, than to learn the words for cold drinks, sandals (literally, "cool shoes"), and ... tommy gun? Not the first image that I'd choose to educate my first grader, but then again, once you strip away the phonics, an alligator munching on an apple doesn't make much sense either.

Other strangely poetic combinations that I ran across:

Know your radicals (tennis, hillock, dried meat floss) Know your radicals (monser, fast-noodle, pocket watch) Know your radicals (certificate of merit, cosmetic, general)

  • Tennis, hillock, dried meat floss
  • Monster, fast-noodle, pocket watch
  • Certificate of merit, cosmetic, general
  • Guard, seal, measuring tape
  • Casket, doctor, horse (my favorite, because the doctor looks so mean)
  • Drawing, rope skipping, toilet paper

Know your radicals (guard, seal, measuring tape) Know your radicals (casket, doctor, horse) Know your radicals (drawing, rope skipping, toilet paper)

How do we create meaning in the world? One way, it seems, is by making connections between random objects, and then going on from there.

Ordinary Stuff - Another good idea

Good idea (fan timer)

Wind up timers on electrical appliances. Mostly fans, but I've seen them on water coolers (to turn on the heating element) as well. Wind it up, and then you can leave the house or go to sleep, and your electric whatever won't be running all night and day wasting electricity.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ordinary Stuff - Hard Sleeper

Hard sleeper, Xichang - Chengdu

Which isn't very hard, actually, this slightly bleary-eyed photo notwithstanding. Or difficult, especially compared with the no seat option.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ordinary Stuff - Designed a bit better

Behold, my razor!


An ordinary razor handle, purchased in the US maybe - 15 - years ago? (Sorry, I should've cleaned it up for the picture.) If you look closely, though, you'll see a teeny white plastic tab on top of each blade. Why? The tab is connected to a thin piece of plastic between the blades. Push the tab, push out the small bits of stubble stuck between the blades. Viola! A cleaner razor, and you don't have to change the blade as often. You'll notice that the blades are sold in packs of two, which, according to the packaging, is a two months' supply for most Chinese men.

So we've got the rare phenomenon of an American company making things that last longer, are (okay, only slightly) less disposable, and are (again, only slightly) better for the environment. Who'd have thought, huh? Gillette's got my business for now - until I work up the energy and courage to find myself a straight edge razor and learn how to use it, anyway...

Monday, September 27, 2010

One photo before going to bed

Qionghai Lake, Xichang

We're all ready to say good night in this corner of the world. Pleasant dreams everyone! (or good morning, depending on where your sun is at)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ordinary Stuff - Traveling overnight by Hard Seat

Another bit from this summer that I want to post about but probably won't ever get around to describing completely is my solo language study trip to Xichang, a town in southern Sichuan.

I took the trip around the last of August, precisely when every single college student in China was taking the train from home back to school. So it was no surprise that when I bought my ticket in the afternoon for the overnight train (a ten hour ride), there were only hard seats available. (Chinese trains usually have four classes: Hard Seat, Hard Sleeper, Soft Seat, and Soft Sleeper.) It was a surprise, however, when, wandering around killing time at the train station an hour later, I looked at my ticket and deciphered the characters “无座”, which mean "no seat" instead of "hard seat". Oops. Must have misunderstood that one...

I must have been feeling in a fatalistic mood, because the only thing I did was find myself a small little folding chair in a shop nearby, and then went to the teahouse in the station, tanked myself up on caffeine, and then wandered up to the departure hall when the train was scheduled to depart.

A little bit of a long prelude for a post, but here's what Chinese trains look like during the peak travel season:

Hard Seat overnight - Chengdu to Xichang

No, the people in the aisles aren't lined up to go anywhere, though many of them squnched into a seat with relatives as the night wore on. Yes, this is totally ordinary, and yes, I was glad for my tiny little folding stool, which helped me get about an hour and a half of sleep (in ten minute increments between people going back and forth to the bathroom) before the train arrived at five in the morning.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Speaking of creativity, anyone that interacts with people under the age of 14 - or over the age of 14, come to think of it - should check out Howtoons, the World's Greatest D. I. Y Comic Website. Every time I go onto the site, I think, "Dang, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for anyone to be bored." (Though some of the common household items they use aren't so common here in China.)

We've been invited out to an indoor swimming pool this afternoon, so if you'll excuse me, we've got a submarine to build...

Where Good Ideas Come From

Interesting take on creativity by author Steven Johnson (plus, I'm a sucker for these animated whiteboard illustrations of lectures that seem to be popping up lately...)

Two basic thoughts - 1) Good ideas are often slow hunches that take a long time to incubate and develop. 2) The best ideas are when one person can build off of another person's hunches - so connectivity is important here.

So, really, I'm not puttering around on the web, I'm umm, using the power of connectivity to allow my Great Ideas to incubate over time!


Awwww, rats...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ordinary Stuff - Bright Yellow Clothing

Yellow pants, near North Train Station, Chengdu

The hipster color for clothes on campus this season (okay, more specifically, the color of clothing that I'm noticing even though it's not terribly common...) seems to be yellow. Cadmium yellow medium, to be specific - at least that's what the painter in me calls it. Here it's a pair of pants, but more common is a pair of solid yellow tennis shoes matched by a yellow t-shirt of some kind.

[Jane also pointed out that there's usually a bright yellow purse that matches the shoes - shows what a lame fashion correspondent I am. There's a reason that most of my photos feature stuff that doesn't move...]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Updating the ol' Resume

“叔叔请进" ("Uncle, please come in")  - Chinese for Children

Recently, because we've had several new teachers joining our organization, we've had quite a few "getting to know you" introductory emails flying back and forth through cyberspace. And because I was putting off something or other at that moment, my introductory email became an exploration of the nether reaches of my work history - i.e., the jobs that usually don't make it onto my resume. (Having a Master of Fine Arts in painting means that I've occasionally had to look in some interesting places for employment...)

So, in the spirit of "Hey, I wasted my time on this - why not waste yours as well?", I thought I'd copy and paste a few of my most memorable jobs (and "jobs") onto the web site. Here goes...

- Cashier and soft drink fetcher, (age 12), Hardee's booth, Kansas State Fair (yes, my very first paid gig)

- Summer Camp Counselor, Presbyterian Clearwater Forest Camp, Brainerd, MN (You ain't really lived until you've had to deal with a cabin of fifteen hyper fourth graders making fake farting sounds for two hours after lights out...)

- Cucumber Sorter, Gundelsheimer GurkenFabrik A.G., Gundelsheim, Germany (If standing at a conveyor belt at a pickle factory picking out rotten cucumbers all day doesn't sound like much fun, it's because it isn't. Three weeks' work paid for a summer of backpacking through Europe, though.)

- Archeological Survey Assistant, Santa Fe National Forest, Coyote, New Mexico. (A summer spent following a compass through the wilderness looking for small flakes of obsidian. Oh, and stuffing myself with green chili burritos over the weekends. Ain't volunteer jobs great?)

- Stir-Fry cook, LeeAnn Chin's Carryout Chinese Cuisine, St. Paul, MN (the beginning of my long road to China? Um, probably not. I couldn't even touch an eggroll for years after that job...)

- Collections Management Intern, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. (where I got to spend many happy hours wandering alone behind the scenes in museum storage. Think the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and you can get some idea.)

- File Clerk, Radiology Department, Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Filing CAT scans and shootin' the breeze with great Loud Women from the South Side, all with James Brown blasting in the background. One of the better temp jobs that I've had.)

- Temporary Front Desk Reception Relief, Leo Burnett, Chicago (Answering phones for a rotating schedule of annoyed secretaries while they had their lunch breaks at one of the biggest and most high-stress ad agencies in the country. One of the worst temp jobs that I've had. Fortunately, it only lasted two days.)

- Cloth Diaperer. Having successfully shepherded three kids along from birth to potty training without the help of disposables means that I've got six years of experience in the field - enough for another master's degree, I think. (Jane, of course, is a postdoctoral fellow in the field...)

So yeah, that's my resume, more or less ...

Do I get the job? Oh, you'll call me...

Okay, well, uh, look forward to hearing more from you...

Time Lapse

Yes, yet another posts featuring building construction on this blog. Why? Umm, there are a lot of buildings being built here...? To give you a feel for the time scale, here are a few pictures taken from the same site next to our campus, starting from last year at about this time.

August, 2009:

Timelapse - August 2009

February 2010:
Construction, Hongguang

June 2010:
Timelapse - June 2010

September 2010:
Timelapse - August 2010

Okay, that's it for buildings for a while. I promise. (Though that is the back of Zekey's head in there. And did you notice the cat...?)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And now a word from Our Sponsor

Along the same lines as my previous post, (but put much more memorably), an oldie but a goodie from our friends at the Onion: God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule.

From the article -
"I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you'd get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important," said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. "I guess I figured I'd left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?"

When you're built like a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail...

Freshmen required military training, XHU

Since the beginning of September, our campus has been echoing with the chants of the military. The freshman class has been undergoing their required month of Army training before starting classes, and they've been quite visible around campus - all dressed in camo fatigues, marching in formation from place to place, call and response yells in unison that I hear during the classes I teach, etc. etc.

One side effect of all of this bruhaha is to put me mildly on edge. Not the mass yelling so much, as the fear of walking past a squad of young boys sitting at ease who have all never seen a foreigner before. Having forty kids in green camo baseball caps and T-shirts all shouting "heh - loowe!" to me is the closest I've felt to being in seventh grade for quite some time.

Now, I'm all for a shared group bonding experience, and self-sacrifice and all, but you can get that singing Beethoven's Ninth, you know? Maybe it's being in another culture that makes it feel so strange. Indoctrination, I've noticed, is much more obvious when seen from outside rather than within.

Maybe it's the knowledge that there's a pretty good chance that the jet fighters that I see zooming over the campus whenever the sky is clear are doing practice runs to shoot down imaginary American planes. (Who are, in turn, over the Sea of Japan somewhere doing practice runs to shoot down imaginary Chinese planes...)

Another side effect, then, is the simple thought that, "Wow, there's a pretty large chunk of the world's infrastructure out there that's dedicated to killing people." Not directly killing people perhaps, but being there for that distinct possibility. Just sayin', y'know?

And just to be clear, I'm not singling out China here, or even the military in general. There are so many structures in place (think: energy, media, food distribution, and on and on..) that are based on protecting Our Group versus Their Group at whatever the costs, and most of us benefit from them to one degree or another.

From here, it seems so..., well, "sad" is not quite the word I want, though the word definitely fits.

More like, "Is this the best we can do?"



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ordinary Stuff - Walls and Slogans

"Tourism is Xichang's Bright Future"

China is no longer the land where everyone carries Mao's Little Red Book, but it's still pretty easy to find walls painted with government slogans pretty darn near everywhere.

(Before all us Proud Citizens of Democratic Nations get all nice n' smug about our freedom of choice, lack of state propaganda, etc.; think about how many times you can see the word "Pepsi" or "Coke" each week...)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mood Ring

Bamboo Sea, Sichuan

Early morning, peaceful, a bit foggy (me, not the weather outside), headed off to teach a class in about an hour. Enjoy your Monday, everyone!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What we build is who we is (and vice versa)

While we're on the subject of maps, how about pumpkins?

An inspiration for the Hongguang Atlas project was Denis Wood's A Narrative Atlas of Boylan Heights, which is a series of unconventional maps describing one particular neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina. Maps of things that are usually unmarked and unnoticed, like power lines...

...street signs...

...and of course, the Jack O Lanterns (dang, that word looks funny in print) pictured at the beginning of the post.

If you look at these maps in detail, it's surprising how much you can learn about a place (and of course, the people who live there) just by noticing where things are. That clump of pumpkins at the top of the map, for example, correlates very nicely with the area of town with the highest property values. How much energy we use, who uses it, who has power and who doesn't - it's all described by maps of objects that we usually take for granted.

It's also very interesting to look at maps of this well-gridded and amply provided for neighborhood while in here China, a place where the built structures seem much more improvised, and are changing from year to year and even month to month. How do the structures we build shape the way we live? And how does the way we live shape our built environment?

More about Dennis Wood and his maps here, and you also listen to an interesting radio interview with Ira Glass here.

Oh, and if you're looking for Christmas gifts for the map geek in your life (just sayin'..), his book is now out as well, and looks really cool...

Some things go viral for a reason...

...including this way cool video that's been making the rounds lately. I played it over and over again yesterday (umm, for the kids, of course...), and am going to show it to my classes. Just Because.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back to badminton

In honor of the return of our English department's weekly badminton gatherings this Friday, I would like to present this excellent rant on the sport, found who knows where on the internet, and reposted here for your general edification and enjoyment...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mapping Xihua

Ah, it all started so simply. Jane and I planning curriculum for last spring's semester, starting with a lesson or two about maps and giving directions to strangers. A highly abbreviated transcript of our conversation:
Jane: "Wait a sec, what was so interesting about maps, anyway?"
Me: "Well...what if we had the students walk around our town and find out the answers to stuff that we still don't know about? They could make their own maps - heck, we could even make an atlas out of the deal."

Little did I know that yes, I've got to me more careful with my suggestions. We both taught the same map-based curriculum with our Oral English classes last fall, but it was Jane and her students who fundraised, revised, scaned, and edited the material into a thousand full-color copies of the Hongguang Guidebook, a 37-page English-language atlas of our area. Scans of the actual book are forthcoming (hmmm, maybe we should wait until after the book release party?), but in the meantime, here are a couple of student maps that I uploaded a while back to give you some idea of the project.

"The New District of Xihua University" (student map)
The New District of Xihua University...

"The Map of flowers in XiHua University" (student map)
Every kind of flower on campus!

"Loving Home Supermarket" (student map); XHU
Our local convenience store/supermarket

And one of my favorites...
"Lover's Dating Places" (student map); XHU
Lover's Dating Places!
As the map's authors state,
"The aim of the map is that, on the one hand, it helps lovers to find the perfect dating places. Oh the other hand, it helps passengers [passers-by, ed.] and the lovers to avoid feeling embarrassed."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dang, they're actually going to build this thing!

Yes, the straddling bus is coming to China. Guess we live in the future after all.

In other transportation news closer to home, Chengdu now has electric buses, and is piloting a free bike rental program. And the subway is coming! We'll see if it makes sense for us to use it, but at least we'll get a day trip out of it sometime in the next month...

Our first mudslide

The problem with blogging for about five minutes a day is that it becomes awfully hard to keep up with events - chronologically, I'm at about mid-July with stories that I've taken notes on and wanted to tell. Add a first week of classes, and the internet being wonky for a day or two, and it's pretty obvious to me that some events will have to remain a mystery to even you, our faithful readers. (Oh yeah, this is old news, isn't it?)

So maybe a landslide blocking the road is a good metaphor here. Or, heck with the metaphor, at least an interesting picture or two...

Mudslide, somewhere outside of Jiulong, Yunnan

Two hours into a three hour drive to a national park outside of Shangri-La, we ran into the scene above - a shallow stream ford over the local road that had been totally covered in mud and rock, with a handful of highway workers clearing the way with hoes, picks, and shovels.

Mudslide, somewhere outside of Jiulong, Yunnan Mudslide, somewhere outside of Jiulong, Yunnan

(Ysa, waiting quite patiently)

The Removal of a Very Large Boulder:

Mudslide on the road, big rock - #1

Mudslide over the road, big rock - #2

After watching for a bit, it became quite obvious that this was going to take a while, so there wasn't much choice but to head back the way we came. Another two hours back along winding mountain roads, a stop at a small roadside restaurant for lunch, and we were back home again.

On our way out of the restaurant, we saw a big earth mover (Front loader? It's been awhile since the boys were fascinated with construction equipment, so I'm rusty on my terminology) headed the other way towards the landslide, so I'm guessing that all of the other stranded travelers were freed up as well.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Glad to be away from this particular teacup...

Muslim grilled lamb, near North Train Station, Chengdu

... as in "tempest in a teacup", that is. Let me get this straight: for the whole summer, the Most Important Event in America has been a group of Islamic moderates who want to build a community center? On their own land? Without any government support involved? Oh, and they want to build it two blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Center? (and a tattoo parlor, several adult book stores, a McDonalds, and another mosque?)

And the Next Most Important Story is that 50 people in Florida want to burn Korans? (because... what, there's a shortage of witches down there?)

It makes for an interesting postmortem article, anyway. Read a good analysis of the media's part in the whole shindig here....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The joys of stuff within walking distance

Xihua University, Sichuan

Piggybacking a bit on Jane's post of a few days ago, I've been thinking of how lucky we are to have so many things within walking distance. Not only is there absolutely no need for us to have a car here (okay, so maybe we'd like to get into Chengdu more often), but we really don't even need to bike that much. Consider our following commute times (all by foot):

1-5 minutes walk:
  • 400 or so neighbors, including a couple of close friends, several colleagues, tons of kids for our kids to run around like hellions with, and the incredibly sweet former chair of the English department, who took Xander and Jane fishing one day last summer and sings Chinese folk songs so loudly to himself that we can often hear him at the back of our apartment.
  • A small supermarket, about the size of a Wallgreen's. They're selling moon cakes now...
  • Several convenience stores, for when the supermarket isn't open or when I feel like practicing a bit of Sichuan small talk.
  • The mantou shop - a place that sells steamed buns and hot soy milk for about 5 cents each. Great for snagging a snack on the way to class.
  • The cart right by the university gate that sells phone cards. Cards for the internet too.
  • Johnny's restaurant. Okay, it has another name, but it was Johnny's favorite restaurant, so now its English name is simply Johnny's place. After a little bit of convincing, they now make us a pretty mean batch of kung pao tofu, when we're in the mood.
  • A big open air vegetable market - a world unto itself. I'm sure we've got photos of it on the blog or Flickr somewhere, but I'm to lazy to look right now.
  • 4-5 bubble tea places. We loves us some bubble tea!
  • A long store lined commercial street containing, among many others stationery store, black market DVDs, barbershops, multiple restaurants, and a madly swerving electric scooter or five.
5-10 minutes walk:
  • Our kids' schools - the kindergarten, where Zekey and Ysa are each in their own separate classes this year, and the primary school, which Xander is walking back and forth to all by himself!
  • A playground. Okay, it's really an exercise yard, with all sorts of low impact fitness-y things for mostly senior citizens, but it's the closest thing to a playground that we've got in these here parts. If we by chance see a real American-style playground in our travels somewhere, our kids all drop into a dead faint. (For five minutes, until they wake up and realize that it's not dangerous enough to be fun...)
  • The English department office, which we are going to less and less as we get more and more settled in.
  • A soccer field, running track, and a basketball court. Half of the basketball court doubles as a bike rodeo arena for the 4-7 year old segment of the University's population.
  • A ping pong plaza. (My students often want to know what the English word is for an area with forty or so ping pong tables permanently installed outside, and I haven't been able to give them a precise answer, until exactly... now!)
  • A kid's sandbox! Well, actually, it's the long jump sand pit next to the running track, but grandparents bring the kiddos there to play all the time. Oh, and said grandparents also have their kids pee into the sandpit when they need to, in the traditional Chinese diaperless way. We've been gently directing our children to the basketball court and the exercise yard instead...

10-20 minutes walk:
  • The stop for buses to Chengdu.
  • Our brand new high speed rail station! (Though you can only get tickets for the day after tomorrow's train, it seems.)
  • The new section of campus, where Jane and I are teaching our classes this semester. Also a great place to ride bikes and fly kites, weather permitting.
  • A couple of good tea houses. One we discovered just today, in fact...
  • New construction by the river, including a couple of good restaurants facing a plaza and park(ish) space that our kids like to run around.
  • More new construction! Dust!
  • Other areas of town that we haven't needed to go to!
  • Um, dragons...?

Saturday, September 11, 2010



Again in the "Let the Pictures do the Talking" department, a few of the textures in and around Ringa village in northeastern Yunnan, where we stayed overnight last summer. As always, you can click on the image to see it bigger on Flickr. (Oh, and did I mention that Jane milked a yak?)

IMG_5791 IMG_5902

IMG_5995 Ringa village, Yunnan


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why it takes an hour to walk home, and I love it

Pick up Zekey and Ysa from kindergarten at 5:00.  See Shirley, acting English department chair, discuss how to fundraise the last of the money for the Hongguang Guidebook from my last year's students.  Heh heh, scheming with a fellow teacher.  Meander away from the school with Ysa yelling something at some grannies picking up their wards, but I wasn't paying attention because I was walking with Wang Yuen's mother, Yu Jun Xin.  Typical me, I recognized her face, but couldn't place how I knew her or what conversation we'd had.  Even more typical and embarrassing was that Yu Jun Xin remembered lots and lots about our last encounter, during which I'd gotten her phone number, we'd talked about lots of commonalities, etc.  We speak in both Chinese and English.  She's a Mechanical Engineer teacher, but only has 2 classes, so she and I make plans to go buy the ingredients for "pixian douban" (red chili broad-bean paste) together.  I literally have finely-diced hot red peppers and red chilies in a large jar with me, because I set out on this pick-up-walk intending to find someone who could help me with finishing the recipe.  And, indeed, I met Yu Jun Xin who is willing and able!  We stroll together, me trying not to seem like I'd forgotten so much about our last encounter, and I'm enjoying her pleasant company.

Cross the river and stop to check out what's the trash floating downstream at the moment.  Zekey and Dave had yesterday seen hundreds of eggplants floating downstream, so Zekey renamed the river "eggplant river" in Chinese.  Today there was just a pink plastic house-shoe, a big piece of styrofoam and a couple of other small unidentifiable pieces.  But the water sure was rushing along at a quick pace!

As we turn to leave the river, I overhear the same 2 grannies from before telling their grandchildren that, "No, Ysa is not a 'yangwawa.'"  This means she is not a foreign Barbie doll.  We all laugh, and they know I have understood them.  What's awesome is that I just learned that word a few days ago in taking notes on my latest read about China: "When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Either Save Mankind or Destroy It" (I highly recommend it).  But now I know what Ysa was screaming about, that she had been telling the grannies earlier that she was not a yangwawa, aahhhh, now it makes sense.  What you have to put up with when you're the only foreigner blond girl around.

Part ways with Yu Jun Xin and Wang Yuen, which makes Ysa cry.  Yu Jun Xin is perfectly willing to take Ysa for a few hours, but I figure I'd better take care of Ysa in these immediate after-school hours.  But it's so cool there is community around that is so available to help out with that!

Round the second-to-last corner and almost run into Sarah, who works in the foreign affairs office.  We have a date with her for later tonight to see a movie together at our house (No Impact Man), but the kids haven't seen her since summer.  Z and Y climb all over her, they lovingly call each other names in Chinese and English.

As we enter our lane, see another girl from Ysa's class with her mother.  They have a plastic bag with beautiful-looking walnuts in it, so I ask in Chinese where she got them, as I'm always on the look-out for walnuts.  The Chinese belief that they are good for children's brains has infused deep in me somehow.  Unfortunately, she bought hers from a guy leaving the market on his tricycle rickshaw, but she thinks he might be back sometime.  Obtain walnuts from mother, who is squatting down handing the nuts to her daughter to hand to Ysa to hand to me.  So generous and kind!

Encounter Xander outside sitting on the curb in front of our door with a girl pal from school, still coloring together.  He thinks she's so nice.  I think they're cute.

Arrival time: 5:55  Just another walk in the 5-block area between my house and the kindergarten.  Gotta love it!

The latest selection from the Temple of the Month Club


Photos above and below are from Ringa temple, a very small Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage temple in the countryside near Zongdian that we visited last July. The local farmers periodically donate small farm animals to the temple, and so the whole hilltop that the temple is located on is filled with chickens, piglets, and even a rabbit or two - all given sanctuary by the temple and fed by donations from local farmers.


Ringa temple, Yunnan IMG_5868 IMG_5869


The view from the top of the hill:


It's a rainy quiet morning so far here in China - Peace to everyone today!