Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 22, 2016

When you are a foreigner living anywhere in China where there aren’t a lot of other foreigners, most of the time, you become an instant celebrity. Chinese people outside of the big cities are used to seeing only Chinese people, so a foreigner is often a rare site to them. The younger a foreigner is and the lighter their skin and hair coloring, the more attention they get. I often wonder how many pictures of Leah have ended up on Chinese social media sites from the time we’ve been here. She wasn’t photographed as much when we lived in Shenzhen, it was mainly the small children with blonde or red hair that got the attention, and I remember Leah was really glad for a break after we moved there! Now, we are back in “celebrity zone,” she stays humble through it all, smiles for the pictures, and chats a little.  There are usually at least 2 people together when they ask, so you get your picture with each one and then as a group. Today, when we went to the supermarket, this girl was very excited to see Leah and asked to take a picture. She was polite and asked for pictures of my friend, Kim, and me also, but it was obvious she really wanted Leah! She was actually working with 4 other people, passing out flyers for a photography business, so I took a picture of all of them afterwards, I’m sure Leah will want memories of this someday :-)

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 20, 2016

The cat of many names!: Originally from Japan, and called Maneki-neko, which means “Beckoning Cat,” in English most commonly known as “Lucky Cat,” and in Chinese “Zhao cai mao 招财猫 ” or “Welcoming Wealth Cat.” Westerners often think the cat is waving, but it represents the Japanese way of beckoning. The lucky cat dates back to the 1800’s in Japan, is known around the world, and is extremely popular in modern China. It is often found in businesses as it is believed it will bring good luck and wealth. Having right, left, or both paws raised, and also what it is wearing or holding, can all have special meanings. The most common is to have the left paw raised (often battery powered to move up and down) and wearing a red collar with a gold bell. There are many folktales about the cat, as well as numerous modern day characters depicted from Maneki-neko. Traditionally, the coloring represented a tri-color calico Japanese bobtail cat, but today it can be found in many colors, especially white, gold, red and black. There are entire stores for selling them, and they show up in all kinds of places! These pictures show the Lucky Cat at a local restaurant we like to eat at, some meat floss snack cakes at the local grocery store, a lucky cat shop from the Spring Festival flower market, and a mug with a lid for sale at a local store.

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 9, 2016

These are the "Fire Hydrant" signs in our building :-) There is one just outside our apartment door and another in the lobby that I pass every time I go out. I always picture Scooby Doo saying “Rire Hydrant”! It’s my guaranteed daily smile :-) I’m sure that the Chinese factory workers who make these signs don’t know any English, so, just as we think Chinese is so hard…English is just as difficult to them. As we might confuse two similar Chinese characters, I guess “F” and “R” are confusing to them!

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 8, 2016

Today, we visited a local park, Taohuayuan, or Peach Flower Park, which we hadn’t been to yet and thought it would be nice to go when the peach trees were in blossom. One of the things they had was a wishing tree, actually there were a couple, plus a wishing bamboo grove, and a wishing bridge! Wishing trees are a Buddhist tradition. You write your wish on a red paper or ribbon and throw it in the tree or tie it on a branch. There were actually ribbons tied on trees and sculptures throughout the park. I’ve seen other wishing trees that were so weighted down with ribbons, people had to put new ribbons on structures that had been built. This is done especially during festival times, so with Spring Festival having just passed, there were a lot of new ribbons!

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 7, 2016

Gong Cha is my favorite tea shop for a drink while we’re out. The company is originally from Taiwan, first started in 2006, but now has over 1000 stores in about a dozen countries, including CA and NY in the USA J We’ve had it in many parts of China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. When we lived in Shenzhen, it could be found in just about every shopping mall. They are known for Taiwan Style Bubble Tea. Teas with different kinds of fruit are plentiful, and you can add in extras to any drink: things like pearls, red beans (adzuki), milk caps, various jellies (herbal, coconut, aloe, fig, etc). You also choose your level of sugar and ice. We have found that different locations have different options though, and depending on the location, they may or may not have an English menu. This picture is from our neighboring town of Dalingshan. Photo credit goes to my husband Jim.

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 6, 2016

The peach blossoms are in full bloom…and the crowds were certainly out this weekend to see them! I had posted a close-up of a peach blossom on Jan 30 when they were just starting to bloom and look at them now! Beautiful! The Chinese people love getting out and enjoying the beauty of nature. Peach blossoms symbolize good luck and everyone loves taking their pictures with the flowers. Living in a tourist area presents a bit of a problem on weekends like this, as traffic is terrible, but we make the most of it!

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 5, 2016

We walked along the lake to the plaza area for lunch today. There were a lot of people out because the peach trees, magnolias and other blossoms are blooming beautifully right now. People everywhere were taking pictures either of, or with, the blossoming trees. When so many people are out, there are also an abundance of vendors out. Just like back home, I think a favorite of the children are the balloons. The two kinds we saw today were very ornate twisted creations like backpacks and hats, and also simple colored balloons on sticks. I had never seen a vendor dressed as a clown before, clowns don’t seem as popular here as in the USA, so I had to take his picture! A balloon is called a qiqiu 气球, which literally translates as an “air ball. “

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 4, 2016

Today we went to our Songshan Lake Library. Since I don’t read Chinese, trips to the library aren’t quite the same for me as in the USA! Our library here is four floors, quite large, but doesn’t have a specific section of English or other foreign books, so I usually just wander. There are “teasers,” maybe the title will be in English, but the book isn’t, and there are a few books and magazines in English, mixed in with the rest, if you can find them! There are also “readers” for learning English, that often have interesting articles. Leah looks for the young adult books, which are in the children’s room, and I look at the picture books! The page above is from the book I sat and read today: it’s in English, pinyin and Chinese characters. I can understand enough of the pinyin, that I can learn a few new words by reading at this level! I brought home a Charlie Brown and Snoopy comic book that is in Chinese and English, and I also found a Chinese painting book, in the Reference section, that I enjoyed looking at :-)

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 3, 2016

In China, many hot beverages are called “tea” although they are not true teas or what Westerners think of as herbal teas. This morning, I had a bit of a sore throat and got out the Korean Honey Citron Tea. This is basically candied fruit, like marmalade or jam, that you add to hot water! In Korea, there is a fruit called the citron that it is made from, but it seems that the ones made in China are made from pomelos. It is supposed to be good for colds, coughs and sore throat, kind of like we’d use honey and lemon in the USA. I’ve tried a lot of different brands, some are much sweeter than others. Start with a couple of spoonfuls, add water, (hot, warm or cold) and if you need more you can add it in. I think next time I’m stateside, I’ll try it with some marmalade! Red date, ginger and other citrus fruits are also available.

Life in China: A Picture A Day, March 1, 2016

Today when I went to the supermarket in the next town we saw this local job fair set up across the street. There were probably at least 40 companies represented. Most seemed to have pictures of technology on their boards, but when I showed Leah the pictures she said there is also one for hairstylist assistants, so there must have been a variety of employers. The ones in these pictures are offering pay of 10-12rmb per hour, with meals and housing (dormitory style) included. (10 rmb is approximately $1.50usd) These positions would be for unskilled jobs.

Life in China: A Picture A Day, February 29, 2016

It’s always interesting how things can have such different symbolism in different cultures. The owl or mao tou ying (pronounced mow (rhymes with cow) toe ying), literally translated as “cat-headed hawk” is one of these: Where as in much of Western culture the owl is considered “wise”, in China an owl is looked at as a bad luck symbol, frightening because it has traditionally been considered a sign of death. Because of this, it isn’t common to see owls depicted much, although once again, modern times are changing the thinking of at least the younger generation. Although there are about 30 different species of owls in China, I unfortunately have never seen an owl in the wild here. This picture, a Buffy Fish Owl, is from our recent trip to Singapore, it looks very similar to the Tawny Fish Owl, which can be found where we live, so I thought I’d use it to explain the symbolism of owls in Chinese culture.

Life in China: A Picture A Day, February 28, 2016

This is a dessert called tangyuan. It is traditionally eaten for the Lantern Festival because the balls are thought to look like the full moon. I am late sharing this since the Lantern Festival was almost a week ago, but, since we were away, we are just finally eating the ones we bought. “Tangyuan” literally translates as “round balls in soup” and they are often served in a sweet soup, but can also be steamed or fried. Ours were frozen and we just had to put them in boiling water for a few minutes (until they floated). The outside is made of glutinous rice flour, and the sweet fillings are traditionally made from sesame, peanut and red bean. Today, there are also new kinds: we bought pink colored ones with purple sweet potato filling, and they were delicious!  Also pictured are the traditional white ones with black sesame filling, which we had last weekend at the Lantern Festival party where we live. In Chinese, “tangyuan” is pronounced much like “tuanyuan” which means “reunion,” so the tangyuan symbolize happy family reunions.