Friday, November 25, 2011

Among the many things to be thankful for this coming holiday season... this public microwave, provided free of charge in a park that we went to last month.  (Hours listed below.  Sorry, no Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn within a 3,000 mile radius)

Outdoor microwave, provided free of charge

Outdoor microwave, provided free of charge

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Setting forth


Seen while crossing a busy street in nearby Xipu. (Don't worry - her mom was just outside the picture frame.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A bit of timeless and ancient wisdom, fabricated

The seller of potted plants, Xipu

"At forty, a man should no longer be confused" - Confucius
"Confucius was actually a bit of a smug jerk when you got to know him, and he was never very much fun at parties" - Lao Tzu

I ran into the Confucius quote (which is actually a paraphrase, as far as I can tell) the other week, and it inspired me to imagine an imaginary Taoist quote in response...

Night on the Town

青羊上路,成都 (Upper Qingyang Street, Chengdu)

Monday, November 14, 2011

La vie quotidienne

I was reminded the other evening, while talking to another teacher here, that one of the joys in China is the pleasure of sitting around and simply watching things happen.  Here, for your viewing pleasure, a couple more videos of life on the basketball court next to the primary school on a Sunday afternoon, circa late September / early October.

Part the first:  In which Z tools around randomly on his bike, Y follows two girls that come by with a kitten in a small box, a random passerby talks on her cell phone, and a clump of children then run off to points unknown...

Part the second:  In which Z and friend play a Pokemon-type game with small circular trading cards, Y experiments with a plastic fake guitar, and someone in the background says ”对“ ("dui" = right, okay) repeatedly so fast that it almost sounds like machine gun fire.

Part the third:  In which Y shreds on the toy guitar, Z loses a round of rock/paper/scissors, and a toddler and her mom take their leave. 

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Doing some errands in the nearby town of Xipu, I came across the vegetable market there, which is a bit bigger than the local market near our house in Hongguang.  To distinguish themselves, vendors often record a short sales pitch of a word or phrase or two, on a little hand-held digital recorder that loops the sentence constantly.  The recording ("Fresh fresh spinach!" or "Bananas, bananas, two kuai, two kuai", for example) is then played back very loudly through a battery powered megaphone, and, if you have two or three of them playing together in the same market...  Well, just watch the video below, with the sound turned up and your headphones on.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ah, the things that Jane's been missing...

Since Jane has now been away from campus for more than two months, I thought it might be time for a timely update on happenings around town.

Presenting our University's brand new green electric intra-campus shuttles!  At the beginning of the school year, all of a sudden they were all over the place, whisking students from the back gate to the central classroom area, or from the side gate to the south gate (we're big on gates here), all for one Yuan.  Like crosses between oversized golf carts and a pack of wild dingoes with their vocal chords removed (large green and white electric wild dingoes with wheels and 12 to 15 seats), these minibusses now roam the narrow streets of the teacher apartment area.  I think the drivers must be working on commission - they make NYC bike messengers look relaxed by comparison.  As an added bonus, the open seating gives the opportunity for college girls from the far reaches of campus who haven't seen our kids before a brief chance to shriek "How cuuuuute!" and "Hello, boy!" as the bus whizzes by, almost grazing our elbows.

Other than that, the changes around campus this fall have been fairly minor.  A slight majority of parents and grandparents of babies and toddlers are now using strollers to push their kids around, instead of carrying their kid in the traditional wicker basket backpack.  When we first arrived, and Ysa was still most definitely stroller-dependent, we were the only family on campus that used one, and that only because our frame pack was killing a sore ankle I had at the time.  Are we trendsetters or are we trendsetters?  (The correct answer to that question, by the way, is "probably not".)

There are now more of these guys around who jump over curbs and things with their bicycles, who I call, for lack of a better name, "Jumping Bicycle Dudes".  I first noticed the first two Jumping Bicycle Dudes on campus the spring after we arrived, and since then their numbers have grown to around twelve, I'd say.  They seem to have been driven indoors by the colder weather and (maybe?) pressure to study, but I'm thinking that next spring, they may double yet again to around 24 when it gets warmer. 

Eye Contact

bus stop, Xipu

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Realizing some goals, beginning others...

IMG_3141 I'm probably breaking confidence a bit as a dad, but here is part of my son's collection that I found the other day while cleaning up around the house. Before he left for the States, Xander had taken a plastic apple-shaped pencil holder and filled it with scraps of paper, each of which had an important life goal written on it. Here are a few:
  • Get in world record
  • Good life
  • Nice Family
  • Ride 1st class plane seat
  • 100 元 (Yuan - the Chinese currency)
Hard to believe, but he and I left for the US on July 18 - almost four months ago.  I haven't been posting about his story much on this blog, but today, some good news - he had successful surgery to remove the pins and external fixators that were holding his bones in place as they healed.  That means a green light to travel China, so Jane and Xander will be flying back early next week!  To say that there is much relief at the whole thing being over is a bit of an understatement...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Found in translation

Getting ready for the big field trip

Here's a challenge:  Can I decipher the note from my son's first grade teacher before my son finishes his homework?  Before you answer, here's the note:
3。长发女孩子要求马尾辫 (高一些);
4。 男孩子头发长了,请家长带去理发。做到清清爽爽。
Piece of cake, right?  I suppose I could have asked a student or an English-speaking neighbor for help, but since I already had the online dictionary and Google translate up on the computer, Zekey and I spent a fun half hour working together figuring out which character said what. 

(For those uninitiated into the wonders of typing Chinese on the computer:  if you know a character's pronunciation, you can simply type it into the computer, choose the character you want, and there it is.  Unless you've got the pronunciation wrong, of course.  If you don't know what a character sounds like, then you can draw it using your mouse into an online dictionary, and that will give you several character choices, one of which will hopefully be correct.  Before computers, you would have had to look up a character by its most important stroke, or radical, and hope that you find the right one. This is where I get very jealous of anyone learning a language that has a phonetic alphabet...)

Anyway, since that was a thirty minute investment in basic data entry, I thought I'd share the results that Google Translate came up with:
Our school is scheduled to open Friday games fall students, parents Friday morning at 8:10 am sharp to send their children to the school, the school at 11:00 to pick up their kids. Not at school.
Please parents do not do will help to not work:
1. Friday must wear school uniform. Please check the school uniform zipper bad parents timely repairs.
2. Please prepare a pair of white parents to their children shoes (wear Friday)
3. Asked a girl with long hair ponytail (higher);
4. Long hair, boys, parents bring haircut. So cool-cool.
Thank you class parents!
Poetry, no?  Certainly much better than anything I could do on my own...

I'll be with you in a sec...

Important business, Chengdu

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Taken at the crossroads

Hexing Street, Hongguang


A couple of pictures from the main intersection just outside the side gate of the university where we live.

The vegetable sellers, Xipu

Vegetable Market Under the High-Speed Train Tracks, Xipu

Was fortunate to be able to borrow a camera last Friday and over the weekend, and lucky enough to get some good pictures out of the deal.  My favorite pictures are generally the ones that require the least amount of verbal explanation, and this batch is no exception.  I'll be posting some of what I think are the best of the lot in the next couple of days.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ordinary Stuff - Grinding away

Study hall, XHU

- Six to eight students per dormitory room.
- Around fourteen, and sometimes up to twenty, different classes in the course of a single week.
- An educational philosophy that emphasizes the mastery of an existing field of information, often accomplished by memorization.

= People Studying Everywhere. 

Here, an unused lecture hall in the first floor of the fourth teaching building that I pass on my way back home after my Tuesday class, which gets out at six.  If it's cloudy, which means most always, the class gets out right around dusk.  The classrooms are the most brightly lit spaces on campus, spilling their light out onto the rapidly dimming sidewalks as most of the students head to the campus cafeterias for dinner.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

I don't know much about art, but I know what I like...

...and what I don't.  And what I don't like so much that it ends up coming all the way around to me liking it again.  Anyway, rather than prejudicing you with any further opinions, here are some finds from a trip into town last Friday.  I'll let you sort out which ones work for you on your own...

Songxianqiao Market, Chengdu




Mona Lisa Cross Stitch, Chengdu

Just when you thought it was safe...

I know this post is a little bit late for Halloween, but may I humbly present...

Scary looking kiddie rides, Chengdu

Yet more scary looking kiddie rides!  Yes, it has been a long time since I've featured them on this blog, but the profusion of scary childrens' rides continues unchecked on the streets of Chengdu, with yet more species being discovered (and more flagrant copyright violations..) every time I go into town.  Besides the Skitch copy above, if that's what it is, there has also been a notable Transformer upswing.  I'm pleased to report, however, that the ever-popular Xi Yang Yang and his cartoon sheep companions continue to hold their own.
Scary looking kiddie rides, Chengdu Scary looking kiddie rides, Chengdu

Also of note - no matter where you go in China, or what the ride, the color palette remains exactly the same.  Don't believe me?  Check out the earlier installments of the series here and here

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

...and you're looking at Who, exactly?

IMG_2890 One of the small learning experiences we still undergo here is the experience of often being the center of attention.  I've more or less gotten used to it, but even after two years here, there's the occasional grandmother or grandfatherly type that will just plant themselves stock still in front of the kids and just stare. 

And stare. 

And stare.  (See exhibit A above.) 

And then, usually, get bored and walk away...