Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 24 – Today is one year since we moved to Songshan Lake, so I thought I’d show some pictures of the Songshan Lake Fountain. The fountain is located across the lake from us at the Songshan Lake Square. It has certain times for shows, varying in different seasons. They play music in both English and Chinese; the song I hear played most often is called “Take Me to Your Heart” by Michael Learns to Rock, a Danish artist. You can hear the music and watch the fountain from the other side of the lake at the square, or as you walk along the side of the lake we live on. After dark, they turn pink and purple lights on the fountain also. Top left and lower right pictures are from the square close to the fountain, lower left is tonight’s sunset with the fountain on the right, and upper right picture is the fountain with lights. Songshan Lake, Music
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 16 – When we went to buy some groceries today, we caught an interesting fashion show at our local shopping plaza. It was put on by a business in Dalang, the next town, that does photography. They provide traditional Chinese costumes that you are photographed in. From looking at the advertising brochure, they are done like the ‘glamour’ shots in the USA. I'm not sure about the significance of the antlers the one is wearing, does anyone else know? Twice while we were watching the show, different sales people came up to Leah wanting to know if she liked it, and showing her their big sample book. Leah did dress up for photos once when we were traveling, just a quick touristy set-up, but maybe this would be fun sometime! Hmm, maybe we can get a family photo done??? www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, June 13 – We arrived back in China late last night – It’s hot and humid (writing this now at 10PM, the humidity is 96%!), but it’s good to be back. I think the time change and jetlag are the worst part of traveling. There is a 12 hour difference between our two “homes.” When we travel to the USA, we gain 12 hours, then coming back, we lose it. During USA daylight savings time, it changes to a 13 hour difference. Jetlag after going to the USA from China is always worse for me than when I come back. For me, it takes 7-10 days to readjust going there, and only about 5 coming back. Today, after waking early, then taking a long morning/early afternoon nap, in between the rain, I went out for a walk. I must admit that I really did miss my walks along Songshan Lake. I like the way the water sits on the lotus leaves after it rains and the sun was just peeking through the clouds when I took this picture. Welcome back to “Life in China: A Picture A Day” :-)
– If we walk along the lake up to the main road, there is a boat you can pay to ride, either one way to another location south of us, or go in a full circle. During the colder months, it had limited hours. Read the first sign carefully, the hours were: “Only on Saturdays, Japan, holidays, and opening up.” I was confused how they would ever have gotten this translation, but Leah explained that the character for “Ri” which means “sun” is the abbreviation for Sunday as well as the first character in Japan or Riben in Chinese, now it makes sense! It seems they changed quite a bit of the English wording for the second sign, however, for the first option, I think for 50rmb I prefer the “Tour around a circle” rather than “Swim around a circle!” :-) As much as I enjoy reading these signs, I think I will have Leah write up a correct translation and give it to them as a suggestion! I’m looking forward to a ride one of these days!
Many countries around the world drink raw sugar cane juice and China is one of them. Most often, we see vendors who you can buy a piece of sugar cane from. They cut the outer part off, then you chew the pulp, suck the juice out, and spit the pulp back out once you’ve gotten all of the juice. I tried it years ago and wasn’t crazy about the pulp chewing. Sometimes, you see stands where they have machines to extract the juice, then you can buy a cup or bottle and just drink it. It’s really not bad, and is actually lower than Coca-Cola on the glycemic index! Coke is in the 60’s, raw sugar cane juice in the 30’s -40’s. This stand is at a Food Festival at the shopping plaza near us. We bought a small bottle for 5rmb ( 75 cents usd). Just took a few sips, but I’m going to try it as a sweetener in some baking.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 14 - Today we went for a 7.5 mile ride by the lake! Farther than we have gone before, so we saw some new areas. China has been cracking down on people hunting songbirds, so I was glad to see this sign posted, and it gave us a good chuckle too :-) someone made a good effort…and we did get the point! Seeing how in 2.5 hrs, we only saw one other foreigner, and he was with a Chinese girl, I guess we should be thankful they even have it in English!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 10 - I’ve always enjoyed seeing the contrast of old and new architecture in China. I didn’t think we had any right here in Songshan Lake, as it’s a fairly newly developed area, but we found this building yesterday. We rode our bikes down this new road it’s on, which I guess was always a road of sorts since this house is here! We live in the housing in the background, which is across a small inlet from the lake, and there is new housing going up on the other side of the road. I really like that this old house is all decorated for Chinese New Year. They also had a big garden and a horse across the street. If these people own the land this old house is on, they are going to be quite wealthy when they decide to sell it!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 9 - If you’ve read what I’ve previously shared about gold and fish… I’m sure you'll understand why goldfish are considered to be “lucky fish!” What better activity for kids (and adults!) at a New Year’s celebration than fishing for goldfish! There is a food fair, with some carnival type games, at our nearby shopping plaza and this “fish pond” is set up there. I’ve seen fishing like this at quite a few other places throughout the year, but in much smaller pools!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 1 - Happy Chinese New Year! Fireworks are a HUGE part of the Chinese New Year celebration! Here in Songshan Lake, the real firecrackers started about 10 am on New Year’s Eve and went off every so often throughout the day. Then the frequency picked up about 10pm and just before midnight, they were constant. But, it was nowhere near as noisy as other places we’ve lived. I remember our first Chinese New Year in Shanghai where it seemed like a war zone! The practice of setting off fireworks comes from an ancient myth about a monster named “Nian,” the same word for “year.” He came once a year and attacked and killed villagers and their livestock as the New Lunar year arrived. An old man supposedly figured out that Nian was afraid of loud noises, lights and the color red. So, each year, houses are decorated with red, and fireworks are set off to scare away the “evil spirits”. This morning, I took a walk, and if the red paper left from the fireworks is any indication, the people living here were successful at scaring Nian away! In modern times, fireworks are popular as decorations as well as the real ones.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 5 - I have seen three sculptures around the lake that have caught my eye as something different for China. Usually, women are portrayed as very petite, so I was curious about these. I have been looking for information about them and was so excited that I finally found it! It turns out that they are a part of a well-known series, from 2010, by Xu Hong Fei 許鴻飛, president of the Guangzhou Sculpture Academy. He did the series because he wanted to challenge Western ideals of beauty. “His ‘Chubby Women’ are not limited by their size and enjoy active and fulfilling lives.” The statue series have made a couple world tours and have been loved! So, here is the first one I saw at Songshan Lake, titled “Under the Sun.” As I explore more of the lake, I expect to find more statues!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 2 -Some things in China really aren’t that different from home. This was a musician I saw performing today, and I thought that he could have been doing the same thing in the USA and fit right in. He sounded pretty good, but I’m not sure what he was singing about since it was in Chinese (Ok…maybe a little different than the USA!). He was next to a bus stop near our shopping plaza, an area that probably gets the largest amount of people here. Guitar case open to collect money, probably trying to raise some extra cash for Spring Festival, so I threw the six 1yuan notes I had in.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 30 - Spring Blossoms - As I said before, Chinese New Year is called “Spring Festival” in China. This is perfect for the region we are in, as many of the flowering trees have buds or blooms, but I’m not so sure about northern China…it’s always very cold there during Spring Festival! The flower picture on the bottom is a peach blossom; when I walked by the lake today, there were quite a few trees just starting to bloom. The tree in the center top photo is an artificial peach tree on display at our local shopping plaza. The two side photos, I believe, represent cherry blossoms, the left is plastic beads and cotton with a lotion display at the grocery store, and on the left is an ad in the McDonalds window. Blossoms are important for Chinese New Year because if there are no flowers, there will be no fruit, so, they indicate growth. And did you notice that they are all PINK! Peach blossoms also symbolize romance. Different blossoms have different meanings, and their fruit have additional meanings. I found one place that said you should never show one single blossom in a painting/picture because it indicated early death! Hopefully I won’t offend my Chinese friends with this lone blossom! At least there is a bud next to it :-)
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 18 - In China, as well as Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam, the number “4” is considered very unlucky. This is because, in all of their native languages, the word for “four” sounds almost identical to the word for “death.” Much like “13” in the USA, in buildings, there may not be a 4th floor, or, as we have found, you can get really good deals if you are willing to live on the 4th floor :-) There may not be any floor with a number 4 in it, including 14, 24, 34, 40-49, etc! Public transportation routes may skip using “4.” People don’t like to have phone numbers or license plates with the number “4” in them, and you should never give a gift of four of anything! Around a sick person, don’t even mention the number “4”! Today, we had lunch at a local Japanese restaurant, and I saw that Leah and I were sitting in seats 3 and 5, but right next to each other….no #4!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 14 - Flexibility is a necessity when living somewhere that you can’t speak or read the language! Tonight, I went to our little store nearby to get some things for dinner: we had decided on having beef slices, onions, mushrooms and spinach. Easy?… sure, I’ve done this lots of times! Well, when I got home and started washing the spinach, I realized that it wasn’t spinach, so I called to Leah that I wasn’t sure what I had bought for our dinner! She came and looked at the label and announced it was sweet potato leaves, and simply added “I’ve been wondering what they’re like”….. so, we had beef, onions, mushrooms and sweet potato leaves for dinner! I wasn’t crazy about them, think I’ll be more careful to choose spinach next time! Here are my sweet potato leaves :-) That’s one way to try new food!
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 13 - This is Sun Wukong or the Monkey King! He has been loved for hundreds of years in China and today ‘he’ was helping to advertise a restaurant at the plaza near us! He is the main character in one of the most famous classical Chinese novels, titled Xiyou Ji or Journey to the West, written in the 16th century. The legend is that he has quite a number of superpowers and is also very mischievous! I think he will have a very busy 2016…more on that in the days to come :-)
Life in China: A Picture a Day, 2016, January 8 - In China (at least in the areas we have lived), housing complexes are called “yuan” or “gardens.” Along with the housing, most incorporate the four important elements of a Chinese Garden: plants, water, rocks, and some type of architecture. This picture is the small lake near the building we live in. It is situated in the middle of a group of tall buildings, but is a very peaceful place to go. The small building on the right actually sits in the middle of lake, reached by a wooden boardwalk at the back side. There are all kinds of plants and rocks around the edge of the lake, right now there are beautiful yellow irises blooming.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 5 - I remember that one of the things I was surprised by, when we first came to China, was that even Western chains have Chinese names. For some reason, I expected these places to be called by their English names! This is the Starbucks in Songshan Lake. In Chinese, Starbucks is called “Xing ba ke,” pronounced “shing baa (like a sheep would say!) ke (the “e” is kind of like the “oo” in foot). “Xing” 星 means “star”, the “ba ke” is basically a transliteration for “bucks”, but if you do look the meanings up, “ba” 巴 can mean “hope anxiously” or “wait earnestly for”, and “ke” 克 can mean “can” or “be able to.” So, to me, it seems like they intended it to mean you are “anxiously awaiting getting your Starbucks coffee!” (My interpretation, not official!) The menu is much smaller than in the USA, but they do offer specials: today’s were Peach Blossom latte, a White Chocolate Chestnut Mocha, and I enjoyed the Chestnut macchiato (made with decaf coffee and soymilk).
Photo credit today goes to my daughter Leah :-)
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 4 - I haven't ridden a public bus anywhere except in China for at least 45 years, so I'm not sure how buses here compare to other places, but I'm fine with them. Some routes are a set fee and others depend on the distance. Today we had to find our China Post Office to pick up a package. It was about a 25 minute ride and cost us 1 yuan, or about 15 cents in US currency. With our bus cards, it's actually less than that! The problem I have with riding buses is that the schedules are only in Chinese (as you can see on the left side of the picture!), so, without my sweet Leah.....I'm lost!
Life in China: A Picture a day 2016, January 2 - Street food is very popular in China. I don't eat it often, partly because of my food allergy issues and partly because of food safety reasons. However....baked sweet potatoes are the exception, they are delicious! I'm not sure about other parts of China, but in our area, where there are people, there are sweet potato vendors :-)
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Jan. 1 - New Year's Day - A day off for everyone, which means Songshan Lake, where we live, gets VERY crowded with Chinese tourists coming to rent bicycles and ride around the lake, as well as picnickers and roller skaters. This is the bike path next to the road we live on!