And the Holiday Rushes By

It was another quiet day today.  I went straight on to the computer this morning at nine, spending the first couple of hours revising a Chinese friend’s personal statement for an application to the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  After that I fell into computer hell trying to customize the layout of this new website format. You wouldn’t believe how long it took me just to figure out how to get my links to show up on the side bar.  (In edit mode you have to go to appearance > widgets and slide the links widget on to the sidebar menu.  Whoda thunk it.)  I didn’t get on the elliptical trainer until three in the afternoon, and still haven’t had my shower. It’s now a quarter past ten at night.  The only time I got out of the apartment was to take out the garbage when the drain under the kitchen sink let go again and got everything wet.  Older Chinese plumbing is not very… robust.  I’ve tied up the pipes so this shouldn’t happen again.  Then this evening we did our usual dog run beside the bikes and stopped by the campus fruit store for some durian and watermelon.

Picture: Jiangnan University fruit store at night.  A healthy and popular spot with the students.The fruit store is open late, until about eleven at least, and it’s very popular with the students.  It’s good to see them snacking on something healthy.  Stopping in for a durian hit is becoming a habit with us.

Picture:  Jiangnan University students in the campus fruit store late in the evening.Those are the durian chunks center frame at the bottom.  We’ve become quite fond of the stinky fruit, which tastes something like a sweet onion-garlic custard.  In the past I bought  the whole spiky fruit and wrestle the edible part out of its protective armour, but I realized recently that I can see what I’m getting if I let somebody else liberate the goods.  This also saves me a few punctures wounds, almost inevitable when opening a durian.

Change of Plans for the Weekend

We were scheduled to go to Nanjing on Saturday so that we could attend a rehearsal and televised performance, along with who knows how many other foreigners, of a patriotic Chinese song, Da Zhong Guo.  This morning I sent the television people an email and begged off, partly because it’s on the last day of the holiday and we don’t want to have to rush back for our classes, but mostly it’s because of Chinese communication.  They let us know when they would need us to arrive, but seem deaf to our question about when we would be able to leave.  And last time, when we were actually competing in the “Jiangsu’s Got Foreign Talent” contest, was a lot of fun but we’ve been there and done that.  I’m rather relieved by this decision.  We’ve had fun learning the song.  But the holiday is going by too fast, and I’d rather stay home on the weekend.

The song we were to sing, Da Zhong Guo (Big China),  begins with a verse that I find very amusing.  Translated it goes like this:

We all have a home
Name is called China
Brothers and sister all very many
Scenery also not bad.

It’s that last line, “the scenery is not bad”, that cracks me up.  It sounds so understated.  But really, in common Chinese the term “bu cuo” literally means “not bad” but is used all the time to mean “very good.”  So I’m sure it only sounds strange in translation.

You can hear “Da Zhong Guo” if you click here.  Rather stirring, don’t you think.  I actually hope they adopt this as a new national anthem.  The old one is so cold war and militaristic and isolationist, all about creating a new great wall with their own flesh and blood and marching forward into the artillery fire.  Time for something a bit more in tune with modern China and the global economy.  I mean, we’re all friends now.  Right?

As always, I love to hear from you.  So click the “leave a reply” link below and make my day, okay.

Camera Loving Canal Cleaning War Ready

I bought Ruth a professional level camera for her birthday in September.  And never has a gift been more effusively appreciated.  She’s become a photography fanatic, spending almost every spare minute exploring the capabilities of her new toy.  It’s been very gratifying.  And the pictures she’s been turning out are truly spectacular.

Ruth and her new camera.  It's bringing out the artist in her.

I’ll let Ruth write the review for her new Sony camera, but so far I’ve heard nothing at all negative about it.  The flip up/flip down turn 360 degrees view screen has had her giggling on several occasions.

I’m still in computer hell with my new WordPress website format.  Spent hours today and deep into the early hours of this morning (currently it is 2:30am) trying to do simple things like set it up so clicking on my website address takes you directly to the posts, instead of to a portal which requires a click through.  I’m also still trying to figure out how to take the comments invitation off pages which don’t call for comments.  And then there are the layout issues…  I’m not going into details, but it’s been sucking up my time like I can’t quite believe.  I’ve got other things I want to do, like practice my music and edit Wang Yijing’s girlfriend’s personal statement.  Tomorrow then.

We went for a walk tonight to the fruit store and each enjoyed a lump of perfectly ripe durian.  That was at ten o’clock.  We would have been riding our bikes, but mine had a flat tire and it’s not going to get fixed until tomorrow morning.  On the way home from the fruit store we noticed they had drained the canal and were hosing the bottom down.  I’m going to guess that this is the equivalent of pool cleaning.  Why it needs to be done is not obvious, but it’s quite the operation.

Canal cleaners at work late into the night.It’s a dirty job, but somebody obviously has to do it.

This doesn't look like a fun job.My little point and shoot Sony takes amazing pictures, but nothing compared to what Ruth is getting with her new camera.  You can check out some of her pictures on her Flickr site.
Speaking of canals, here’s a sign I noticed on a wall beside the canal near Nan Chan Si. It’s important to mind your safely.

"Watch your safely" of course.  That's important.  I love Chinglish.  Makes me feel needed here.

I love Chinglish. It makes me feel needed here.

Last week I used the current emotionally charged conflict with Japan to illustrate how one develops a thesis, followed by supporting paragraphs with references to documentation and citations.  At least this is a subject my students are interested in, though it turned out they are woefully ignorant of both the current situation and the historical background. They do feel intense passionate about the issue, as indicated by this impromptu class poll.

Diaoyu island vote.  No doubt it would please the leaders.There were only six students present in this class.  One of my students in a larger class actually knew that the Diaoyu Islands were Chinese until they were stolen by Japan after the first Sino-Japanese War.  (They were supposed to be returned to China after the Second Sino-Japanese war, also known as WW II, when Japan was required to return all land taken from China by conquest, but the island slipped through the cracks in the peace negotiations, possibly because the Japanese had given it a new name, Senkaku Island.)  But none of my students in the vote above knew that the islands are uninhabited.
I hope it was a teachable moment.  I tried to impress them with the value of diplomacy, economic sanctions and appeals to the International Court.  I also tried to impress them with the fact that people my age are not so willing to give up our lives to keep an uninhabited hunk of rock in the ocean part of any granfalloon.  War should always be the last resort, and the last option one considers.
I asked my students what Japan would say if China were to offer them the islands.  Go ahead.  Take them.  But you can’t sell any Sony or Mitsubishi or Yamaha products in China.  Would the Japanese go for that deal?  Not likely.  Of course, the Chinese couldn’t afford that deal either.

This has been another excuse for violence here in China.  We haven’t seen it, but Gao Yan Ho, our summer dog sitter and current Chinese teacher, told us that a girl had been raped because she was too friendly with some Japanese.  There’s been a call for a boycott of Japanese products and angry mobs vandalizing Japanese businesses.  No doubt all participants as ignorant of the facts and history as my students or even more so.  Just looking for an excuse to vent.  I do wish they would leave international affairs to the professionals, and no doubt the leadership of China wishes the same.

Please forgive this rambling post.  Now that I’ve simplified my site, and made posting easier, I hope to post more frequently, but shorter.  Your comments are always welcome.  If you can’t see the comment field, you need to click on the little text bubble icon at the beginning of this post.  Also, if you don’t see the sidebar information, you need to click on the post header.  I don’t know why WordPress makes these things difficult, but I’m working at finding ways around them.


First Day with the New Format

This is a whole new concept for this site, and if you are a regular visitor to The Man in China it will probably be a shock.  I’ve switched to using WordPress.  This means I have far less control over the look of my site, at least until I get the hang of how to customize things. For example, I’d really like to be able to adjust the amount of white space above and below my banner picture.  I’m sure this is possible, but I need to figure out how and I’ve already spent most of a day playing with this.

That’s the downside.  The upside is that making changes and getting feedback from visitors will be much simpler once I get this up and rolling.

What I was doing before amounted to building a custom website page every time I posted anything, complete with a new banner picture, new edition of Chinese Word of the Day, and picture layout with text.  It just took too long.

You can still visit my previous posts to The Man in China.  I really encourage you to start with my archive index and spend at least a month reading through the back issues.  Okay, that’s a lot to ask of you.  But seriously, that’s where the good stuff is.

One thing I need to test is whether I can include Chinese characters on this site.  So here goes.  你好, 黄因在我的家。Okay, that seemed to work out alright.  Now I need to try putting in a picture.

Lunch with Catherine in Stanley ParkHere’s one from our happy summer back in Canada, lunch at the Teahouse Restaurant in Stanley Park in anticipation of Catherine’s son, David Hadgkiss, and Laura Cornish getting hitched there.

Frustration of the moment:  My menu bar seems to put things in alphabetical order and I can’t figure out how to change this.  I want “contact” to be the last thing in the line, not the first.  Working on it.

But that’s enough for now.  I’ll get around to fixing up the menu and links later.  And tomorrow I’m hoping to post something about life in China, and not just about formatting my site.