Thursday, May 28, 2009

Standing Room Only

In China, church is no longer illegal, but it's still somewhat frowned on. A member of the Communist Party took us to church this past Sunday. I believe our visit gave this person an acceptable reason for going. There were several services; the one we attended was packed to overflowing. Those who could not be admitted sat in the courtyard on blue plastic stools and watched the proceedings on close-circuit television.

Above: The throng pours out of church.
Life's minor problems

The staff of the international office is very solicitous about helping us deal with minor catastrophes. But I don't like bothering them-- they've looked tired ever since the quarantine nightmare.

So when our toilet went on strike a few days ago, I decided to deal with it myself. Unfortunately, the term "plunger" was not in the pocket translator we carry around with us, so I looked it up online.
Here's what I found:

plunger ['plʌnʤɚ] ['plʌnʤə]
1. 名词 跳进(水中等)的人;跳水人;潜水者
2. 名词 (弄通堵塞管道用的)揣子
3. 名词 [机械] 活塞;柱塞;撞针杆
4. 名词 [口语] 鲁莽的人;(尤指)滥赌的赌徒;不顾一切的投机家

Your computer may not have the software for decoding Chinese, so if you're interested, you can follow the link to what I saw:

I had no idea how to pronounce these words, nor which of them was applicable. So I found a picture (above) and took it with me to the campus store. The sales people laughed when they realized what I wanted, but they said, "Mei yao" i.e. "Don't have." Before we could arrange an excursion off campus, the toilet spontaneously recovered from its malaise.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beijing Opera

This past weekend, we went to the Beijing Opera (above). The music utilizes a different scale from ours, and the singing sounds a bit screechy, but the instrumental parts are lovely, and the dancing and acting glorious. It's a lot like ballet. Beijing or Peking opera-- I hear it called both -- is performed at several theaters and is of course government subsidized.

We had very good seats near the front of the auditorium, where we were served tea, cakes and fruit-- a performance in and of itself. Before the opera begins, the actors apply their makeup publicly, in a little vestibule adjacent the auditorium. It's a very different practice from Western Theater, where actors enjoy the privacy of individual dressing rooms and any such observation by spectators is thought to detract from the atmosphere surrounding performance.

Above: an actor transforming himself into the "Monkey King."
Second Above: The Monkey King in performance.

Below: Actor, Musicians, and the tea ceremony performer

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. ...