Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, July 19 – When we were out a couple of days ago, I saw this zebra sign at a bus stop, and although it seems to be a strange sign, I was excited that I knew exactly what it meant! (It’s nice when things here make sense!) I’ve posted before about the civil safety notices you see all the time: on signs, buses, etc. Well, this is a safety notice concerning crosswalks. In Chinese, a crosswalk is called a “Banma xian” which literally translates to “zebra line”! So as soon as I saw the “banma,” literally “stripe horse”, or zebra…. I knew it was about crossing streets safely :-) If you look at a crosswalk, you can easily see why they call it a zebra crossing. It’s just in our Western minds we think a zebra crossing is a place for zebras to cross, and there are no zebras in China, especially ones waiting to cross the street!! Crosswalks can also be called “rénxínghéngdào xiàn” which translates more as “pedestrian crossing.”
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, May 25 – We went to a movie with a friend yesterday. She chose it and we weren’t sure what we were seeing until we got there. It turned out to be an Indian movie called Dangal. The problem was that there were only Chinese subtitles :-( I really was able to follow the story line quite well though, just had to ask Leah what was happening 5 or 6 times. I enjoyed it! I do recommend the movie, but best if you can find subtitles in a language you know!
Just like in the USA, movie tickets, when purchased at the theater, are expensive, probably about $12usd. However, I don’t think anyone actually pays full price! There are numerous ways to get discounted tickets. The way Leah has done it for us, we pay about $7usd, but our friend bought them for just $3usd each! The top picture shows a row of machines where you scan the QR code on your phone, from where ever you have purchased the tickets, to get printed tickets for entry.
One way to get discounts at places is to become a VIP. It’s usually free to become a VIP, you just have to put a large amount of money on your card so they know you’ll be back. I have done this for a beauty salon and a pottery painting shop. It was interesting though, at the Volcano Lake Movie City, where we were yesterday, they had a large glass enclosure filled with cat climbing trees, and two sleeping cats. Their VIP promotion is that with different amounts of money put on your account, you can purchase a cat! I’m STILL trying to figure out how this relates to movies????? And I wonder how many cats they actually sell????
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, May 17 – When you see a package of “Almonds” sliced like this in China, they usually aren’t really almonds! They are usually apricot kernels or seeds. The confusion goes way back historically. They look and smell alike, and both are called 杏仁 “xingren.” There are two types of apricot kernels: sweet, which are fine to eat, and bitter, which can be dangerous because they contain Amygdalin (vitamin B17), which can break down into cyanide! I’m honestly not sure which kind are usually sold here, hopefully sweet, but the package does warn that you shouldn’t eat too many and that they aren’t safe for children or pregnant women, so…. Maybe they are the bitter ones? The package also says to rinse them before eating (but I never knew that until now!). The bitter ones are considered a TCM remedy for cancer and dry coughs. They do have an amaretto smell and taste good, or I wouldn’t bother with them! We usually just sprinkle a few in our yogurt or chia pudding, the Chinese put them in soup. The only estimate I’ve seen of how many you can eat, said that about 50 kernels would be a lethal dose for adults, 10 for children. I’m surely no doctor, just writing what I have read that seems to be in agreement from multiple places! www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, April 29 –I’ve mentioned before that the town next to us, Dalang, is called the “Famous Sweater Town of China.” They have LOTS of tiny little shops with knitting machines, as well as large factories. Once before, I walked down this road with some of these small shops and saw the knitting machines running. I’ve been wanting to go again, but this time, everything seemed slow. There were people napping and many machines weren’t running. The machines that were going, weren’t knitting, they seemed to be undoing the knitting! China is great at recycling, and I guess unused cloth or knitwear is also valuable to recycle. These are two little shops that had their machines operating. I wish I knew some definite info about this, but I don’t. Last October, I posted some pictures of one of the big sweater markets in Dalang: http://www.myownchinesebrocade.com/picture-a-day-1/2016/10/17/dalang-sweater-market
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, April 24 –While we were in Shanghai, although the weather was nice, everyone was still dressed for winter. Even the electric bikes were still outfitted for winter. Think about it, you’re zipping along on your ebike, in the cold open air! Yes, I would want some of these if I lived farther north too! They are gloves, and a piece that hangs down in front to block the wind, plus a piece that lays on your lap, all in one! Some even have side pieces. I enjoyed seeing the variety of fabric designs where the rows of scooters were lined up.
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, March 7 – You can see vendors selling quite a variety of things in China. Today we passed this man selling baskets and gourds. The gourds you see hanging from the trunk are considered to be good luck symbols; I’ve often seen them hanging on rearview mirrors. They are bottle or calabash gourds, and their Chinese name sounds similar to words for “protect” and “happiness and rank,” as well as looking like a number “8” which is considered lucky. There’s a lot more to their significance, here is an article with a lot more information if you are interested http://www.thechairmansbao.com/history-gourds-china/ . I was excited when I saw that he also had backscratchers because my husband had just asked for one ;-0 So, we bought a backscratcher for 5rmb or about 75 cents in USD.
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, March 5 – As most people do, I grew up with four seasons separating each year. However, in China, and some other Asian countries, there are 24 solar terms that separate the year! These 24 Solar terms, called Jie Qi节气, originated thousands of years ago as a guide for farmers (maybe like the Western Farmers Almanac?), and are still used today. But, they are so much more than agricultural terms to the Chinese people! They offer insight on the weather, the best foods to eat during each time period, and a general guide to daily living. For many of the terms, our office even sends out notices telling you what kind of weather to expect or even what foods you should eat for the best health during this period!
Translations of the terms are: Spring Begins, The Rains, Insects Awaken, Vernal Equinox, Clear and Bright, Grain Rain are all in spring.
Summer Begins, Grain Buds, Grain in Ear, Summer Solstice, Slight Heat, Great Heat, are all in summer.
Autumn Begins, Stopping the Heat, White Dews, Autumn Equinox, Cold Dews, Hoar-Frost Falls are all in autumn.
Winter Begins, Light Snow, Heavy Snow, Winter Solstice, Slight Cold, Great Cold are all in winter.
Today, March 5th, 2017, is the 3rd solar term of the year, called Awakening of Insects (Chinese: Jing Zhe). Tradition says that hibernating animals (not just insects) are awakened by the spring thunder. Supposedly, if thunder happens before this date, you can expect unusual weather for the rest of the year! The picture is of some water striders we actually saw a couple of days ago; there were hundreds of them on the pond!
Here is a short YouTube video about the 24 solar terms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSfoDp_rglU
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, February 28 - This type of three-wheeled carts are very common around us, but usually they are used for work purposes. They carry all sorts of items: recycling, furniture, street food, plants, and .... sometimes people. You don't usually see little kids sitting in the back alone though, but these two were very well-behaved as we drove past them!
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, January 22 – The chickens and roosters have invaded Pikachu’s spot in the game machine! Did you know that roosters don’t say “cock a doodle doo” in Chinese? They just say “wo wo wo”! Anda chicken says “ge ge!”
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 29 – Westerners often think of “Chinese” people as all being part of one large group, but this isn’t true. There are actually 56 ethnic groups in China. The people we generally think of as “Chinese” are the Han Chinese, which make up the majority of the population. The other 55 minority groups only account for about 8.5% of the population. Many of these people look nothing like the Han Chinese. The village we stayed in for Christmas was home to many people of the Zhuang ethnic group, the largest of the ethnic minorities. The elderly women around the fire with Leah are Zhuang, you can see they wear a certain style of clothing. They were selling sweet potatoes, taro and eggs cooked over the fire. The ladies also worked as porters for the hotels, carrying peoples luggage in baskets strapped on their backs. The lady weaving is from a nearby village. She is one of the Yao ethnic minority. An interesting fact about these ladies is that they cut their hair when they are 18, but save it and continue regularly adding it in with their current hair. This lady had also cut her hair when she had her 2nd child, so she actually had two cut lengths of hair, (all the hair she grew in her life!) added to her current hair. Traditionally, their families were the only ones who saw them with their hair down, but, now you can pay them a few dollars in US money to take their hair down for you. They have a special way of putting it up and a specially shaped hat holds it in place. She was weaving cloth like the sleeves of her jacket.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 19 – I think I may have mentioned that we don’t get mail very often. It’s usually just the 2 or 3 bills we get each month. We don’t even get junk mail where we live now! I only check it once every week or two, so today I was surprised to have not just one personal piece of mail but two! The only problem is, they were mailed from the USA last JANUARY! See the dates? 1-11-16 and 1-21-16! So glad to have finally received this long lost mail! Who knows where it has been all this time! Mail doesn’t always take this long though, it’s usually about a month from the USA. The government run China Post is NOT the mail service to use for anything important, it’s very inconsistent! We order things online quite often, and it’s AMAZING how fast they are delivered, BUT, they come through private delivery services, NOT China Post! I’ve also included a picture of our local China Post….it’s actually quite old, dull and boring!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 18 – Cooler weather seems to bring out the vendors who walk around carrying their goods for sale in boxes or baskets attached to a bamboo or wooden yolk. They might be selling tofu, candy, fruit or something else. They usually have some kind of metal they strike with a certain rhythm which seems to indicate they are selling something. Even I have learned to recognize this sound and know to look for a vendorwhen I hear it! The sound reminds me of a cowbell! Today, we saw the man who is seated, taking a well-deserved rest since he had probably been walking along the lake before coming to the shopping plaza. I photographed the other two vendors last fall/winter.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 17 – In areas away from the large city centers, especially smaller towns, there are usually motorcycle-taxis waiting to give you a ride. They wait at bus stops, near shopping areas, etc. They are a little cheaper than a regular taxi, but they are often illegal also! When we go shopping in the next town, there are always men there waiting; some ask us if we want a ride (in Chinese) and others don’t. I took this picture from the bus, these two men didn’t seem to be trying very hard to get work!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 15 – I think these sleeve covers that the Chinese ladies use are a great idea! They are basically just tubes of fabric (or plastic) with elastic at either end. You pull them up over your sleeves, or bare arms, to protect your clothing or skin while you are cooking, cleaning, out riding your scooter or whatever. As you can see from the variety available, they are pretty much a fashion accessory like a scarf, but for your working hours! I’ve only seen women wearing these, but there is a pair for sale in this picture that says “Happy Father’s Day” so maybe they are for men too?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 12 – I don’t normally eat fast food, but we’ve been curious about this Chinese fast food restaurant chain 真功夫 “Zhen Gongfu” or “Real Kungfu.” We were going out shopping around lunch time today so decided to try it, and we actually thought it was pretty good! You may think you recognize the person on their sign, but you’re wrong (LOL)! The company insists that their logo is no one particular, it just so happens to closely resemble Bruce Lee in his famous yellow shirt! The company however, has no legal permission to use Bruce Lee’s image, so, these pictures are NOT Bruce Lee! Welcome to China :-) Wikipedia says that Real Kungfu is the 8th largest fast food chain in China. Today, I had chicken and mushroom and Leah had pork and preserved vegetables, both came with rice and boiled lettuce and we also got the pork bone soup. They mainly have meals with rice, meat and vegetables, including fish and eggplant and beef and mustard tuber (I don’t know what that is! ) You can get other things like chicken seaweed rolls, steamed eggs, fish balls, steamed buns, and sides of broccoli, mixed vegetables, or preserved vegetables. Both of our meals together cost 52 rmb or $7.50usd.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 5 – At our larger discount/supermarket stores, like Walmart, we have carts that require a one yuan “deposit” in order to use the cart. When you finish shopping and attach the cart to another cart, you get your one yuan coin back. I guess this is to discourage people from taking the carts, but, I think if someone really wanted to take one, the one yuan, which is currently 14.5 cents in USD, wouldn’t really stop them!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 4 – You can buy soooo many kinds of tea in China! I love tea and really haven’t found many I don’t like yet! But… in the past, when I saw ‘cheese” and “tea” together, I was very hesitant. Well, we FINALLY realized that the “cheese” is a soft cream cheese topping that is added to the tea, and it is DELICIOUS! Imagine a cheesecake with your tea :-) There are different kinds, but what we have had twice now is called “Hai yan zhi shi nai gai”; That is translated as “Sea salt cheese milk cap,” and you choose if you want it on black or green tea, or others depending on the shop. The first time we tried it, there were even directions on the lid for how to drink it! You don’t put your straw in and drink like with most iced teas, you sip from the cup, tipping it just enough to get a little of the cream cheese while you drink the tea. The first time I had this, it was on the menu as “Riyuetan Pool Black Tea Milk cap,” nothing about the cheese in English, the “riyuetan” means “sun and moon pool.” Today, we tried it at a new little drink shop at our plaza, no English on their menu, thankfully I have Leah to help! The shop is called “Tea Get” :-) We agreed that the mascot looks awfully similar to an M & M character! Hmmm....yes, we live in China! Milk caps are common for iced tea, but I haven’t tried any other than this cheese kind. Has anyone else? How are they?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 3 – Buying rice in China, or probably most of Asia, is quite different than in the USA and other western countries. In a western grocery store, I would say most rice is in 1 or 2 pound packages, am I right? Well, I had Leah stand in my picture by the rice aisle so you can see how big the bags are! There are NO small packages! Most of the Chinese people here eat rice with every meal, so, they need these big bags! There is also the bulk section, where you can buy a smaller amount. You often see people running the rice through their fingers; I was told that is how you can know what quality it is. With all of these different types of rice, there is obviously a lot more to choosing rice than I ever learned!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 30 – We eat much more pumpkin in China than I ever did in the USA, but, they don’t look anything like Jack-o-lantern type pumpkins, they look more like a butternut squash, only they taste much sweeter! I haven’t been able to find out what they actually are because all pumpkins in China are simply called “nan guo,” which means “south melon,” as they were supposedly first introduced from south Asia. I bake them, and do everything from eating them plain, or making soup, to using them in muffins and cookies. I also LOVE to put sloppy joes over the mashed pumpkin! In south China, pumpkin is quite popular and you can often order baked pumpkin, or a sweetened pumpkin pancake, made with rice, in Chinese restaurants. If anyone knows what type of squash or pumpkin these are, I’d love to know!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 28 – There are thousands of schoolchildren who cross the border from Shenzhen, China, into Hong Kong every school day. In 2014-15, there were supposedly almost 25,000! As young as 3 years old, and up through high school. I’m not very knowledgeable about this, so I’m going to quote a China Daily newspaper article:
“More than 202,300 non-local children had been born in Hong Kong by the time the ban (passed in 2013) was imposed. They have permanent residence, but their parents, who are mostly from the mainland, don't, so the children live in Shenzhen and cross the border every day to go to school.The number of children crossing the border for schooling will peak in the 2018-19 school year, before gradually decreasing, according to the Hong Kong Education Bureau…” http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2016-05/04/content_25061392.htm
These children can spend up to 4 hours a day getting to school and back home again. Sometimes they have an adult accompany them, but, more often, assistants are in charge of groups of students; The older ones are on their own. There are special lines at immigration for these cross-border students. Although the immigration halls are usually quiet places, if you happen to be there when the school children help fill the hall, it can be quite noisy! You aren’t supposed to use your mobile phones in the Immigration Hall, so I don’t have pictures of them all lined up, but here are a couple photos of children before we got to the immigration lines today, when returning to China from Hong Kong.