Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dragon Boat Races

The Sheraton Hotel sponsored the Dragon Boat Races. There was a rumor going around that they wouldn't be held this year out of respect for the earthquake victims in Sichuan Province. Then, a couple of days ago, notice of the boat races on Muchu Lake appeared in the Nanjing papers.

The races commemorate the life of Qu Yuan, a poet and patriot who lived lived 340-278 BC. He is supposed to have become despondent when his ideas were not accepted, and, according to legend, drowned himself. Dragon boat races were instituted to distract evil spirits from harming his body, and the custom begun of throwing zongzi, leaf wrapped rice balls into lakes so that fish would be discouraged from eating his remains.

International crews participated in the rowing competition on the galley style dragon boats. It was hard to get a good picture on this overcast day, so I supply one I found on the web. I also include a picture of zongzi. My friend Ruo Yi found a restaurant where we could enjoy this delicious seasonal treat.

a Canadian competitor

Friday, June 06, 2008

Somehow it Works

The Chinese do not organize things precisesly as Westerners do, a this can make for a certain tension. This morning, the local radio station arranged for us to visit a foreign language school on the outskirts of Nanjing. The plan was for us to interact with some students and then to speak to a group of English teachers. Barry, Bonnie, Emil and I participated

The bus came nearly an hour late, because the first one broke down.
Then, we were delayed in Nanjing traffic. There are more and more cars here, and the roads become crowded easily. Sir Barry was worried we would arrive too late to be of much use to the school-- after all, he reasoned, schools run on schedules. He went into frustration mode and began to roar like a lion, as he often does at these times.

But the Chinese deal well with contingencies. They divided one of their classes in three, and I soon found myself in a classroom with twenty or so Chinese 6th graders, whom I was invited to teach. No one told me how long the lesson should be, but they gave me a full fifty minutes. I improvised. We talked about things that are shaped like a circle, sang songs, and imitated animals. It went over well. So much for lesson plans. Afterwards, we met with the teachers.

Our appreciative hosts gave us gifts and insisted we join them for a "simple lunch," i.e. a banquet complete with shrimp, pig's head, and three kinds of soup. I wonder what a complicated lunch would look like.

Part of our very appreciative audience.

At the "simple lunch."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Challenge of Posting

Posting to a blog poses some challenges over here. Without my good friend Dennis Cope, I could not do it, though I now have some special software which allows me to see my blog once it's posted-- at least for now. Infrastructure is one problem. I send the material to Dennis via gmail, and he posts it. The connections are not always that well established. But a second issue is what they call "information control." Internet postings can be seen by authorities and are not always considered suitable.

This is not only a Chinese issue-- the US government monitors overseas emails, though this is controversial. In an age of terrorism, it is not a simple issue, though as an American and Civil Libertarian, I am something of a privacy freak.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A note for Gan Mei

I'd forgotten. When the Chinese receive a present, they feel they must reciprocate. So after I regifted the duck eggs, I found a note in my room thanking "Gan Mei;" With it was a plate of peaches and lychee nuts.
Acquired Tastes

Thought I was buying a frozen iced coffee-- that's what it looked liked in the picture. Turned out I had a Dokdo; that's milk tea, a drink which is all the rage on Lion's Bridge Road. Definitely an acquired taste. Imagine sweet tea, only with milk, which you sip through a very wide straw.
The day was hot, and I was very thirsty, so I actually drank it. By the time I finished, I decided it wasn't bad.
Gift box

The Chinese love to give gifts. At Dylan's farewell dinner, one of his friends gave us all heavy weight things that looked like huge hat boxes. I opened the thing, but I could not identify its contents.
There were shiny packages, items wrapped up in green straw and things resembling colored rocks.

Bonnie solemnly informed me that the mysterious items inside could all be eaten. The things in the little pink packages are weird little cakes; the things in the straw are composites of rice and red beans; and the rock like objects were duck's eggs. I sampled one of these oval shaped treats and decided to forgo the pleasure a second time. Ditto for the little brown cakes. I decided to regift this lovely package to the downstairs staff. The attendant nodded briefly when I gave it to them.

When I came back after supper, the desk clerk tried to give the box back to me. These folks can only say "Hello" and "Thank you" in English, and my Chinese is also quite limited, so it took me awhile to persuade these nice ladies that they were being treated to duck eggs.
Once they figured it out, they were delighted. Bu Xie. (Literally-- no need to thank)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Location, location, location.

The studio apartment where I was staying was spacious, by Chinese standards. There was a microwave oven, a refrigerator, and even a
little washing machine in the bathroom. There was a gate keeper at the entrance on the first floor, and another off the main courtyard.
Downstairs,there was an ornamental arch, a well stocked gold fish pond, and a wooden bridge. But I felt very isolated, for the place was several miles from the office, and the high rise apartment was very anonymous.
I longed for the tiny hotel room on shizi qiaoLion Bridge Road), where I lived two summers ago. Lion Bridge Road is a "walking street," where vehicles are not permitted, where you get to know people. Today, I moved, and I feel a lot better.
Pictures: Courtyard of the high rise apartment house; Dinner with
Lishi Yanmeng (Tim), an old friend who works near Lion Bridge Road.

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...