Steve's China Blog

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some videos

I saw this video out on YouTube, and at first I thought this was filmed in China... Shanghai to be exact. Anyways, after watching a little bit of it I thought it must be somewhere else. This is about as opposite as you can get as to what life in China is like. I am not even sure why this film was made... Is it an ad for Shanghai? Is it a training film to teach people what their mothers should have taught them when they were children? I have no idea.

After watching the above video, see if you can guess which of these behaviors is a typical behavior in China...

Being nice to strangers? Wrong.
Acknowledging that strangers are people too? Wrong.
Take a picture for some foreigners without thinking of a way to steal their camera? Wrong.
Helping someone avoid an accident, instead of just watching and then laughing at them in their pain? Wrong.
Giving your used newspaper to someone instead of throwing it on the floor? Wrong.
Not pocketing some nice electronic device someone left on the subway? Wrong.
Letting a stranger go by you on the escalator? Wrong.
Holding the elevator for some helpful person you don't know? Wrong.
Lining up in a queue? Wrong (Only if someone makes you).
Letting someone back into a queue if they left it for some reason? Wrong (Hehe. Get real!).
Boarding an airplane in an orderly fashion? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Someone sitting in the sun? Wrong (Maybe a kid would, but not likely).
Throwing trash in a trash can, instead of just throwing on the ground? Wrong (They have trash cans in Shanghai?).
Helping a handicapped person up a wheelchair ramp? Wrong (They have wheelchair ramps in Shanghai?).
Non-corrupt/helpful police officer? Best to avoid that subject.
Letting someone else have the last piece of some particular food in the market? Wrong (think vultures).
Picking up something that has dropped on the (dirty) floor of a restaurant with the intention of returning it to it's owner? Wrong. (Ugh!)
Walking into a public place when it's cold outside and not closing the door? That's correct!

This video is a little more accurate...

It's the video story of Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, some human rights activists in Beijing, and their story of being under house arrest. A very interesting story about the latest attempt by the Chinese authorities to silence domestic activists' public criticism of China's human rights record.

On a lighter side here's a video of President Bush having fun in Africa...

From what I have seen not much of Bush's visit was reported in the US news. It was mentioned in the Washington Times, and in some local newspapers. And it was mentioned in the foreign press. It's good to see him having fun for a change. It must have been a drag to go back to Washington D.C.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dinner and a Lantern Festival

There is a new mall near where I live and I noticed a few weeks ago that they are going to be opening a Papa John's Pizza place there. After my Chinese tutoring on Saturday I went over there with Reese to see if Papa John's was open yet... still not open.

Oh well, we found a nice Korean BBQ place there and that was good. Korean BBQ is one of the thing I miss about Dalian. We had a big platter of different kinds of meat to BBQ, some kimchi, and some bibambap (called banfan in China). It was really wonderful, but I ate too much.

Entrance to Ta Zi Shan park

After dinner Reese took me to Ta Zi Shan park where there was an event going on for Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).

Me in front of a big display of mechanical dancers and musicians

I had been to Ta Zi Shan before for a team building outing with some of my co-workers before. The place was a lot different now with a lot of displays for different stories about China and about Lantern Festival.

The big tower on the hill all lit up

We walked around and looked at all the displays. Most were made by making shapes with wire and then covered in silk or paper.

A phoenix

Reese in front of an Olympics display

Some of the displays also had motors put into their base so that different objects moved or twirled around.

Some mechanical dancers

A pretty moon lady with lanterns and cranes

A bunch a mechanical pandas on a boat

There were also a lot of vendors selling all kinds of touristy stuff and also selling lots of food. Too bad I ate so much at dinner... Maybe that was a good thing.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Three Years in China

A few days ago was my third anniversary of coming to China. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that I have been here for three years. Time flies when you're having fun (and when you are confused alot. Haha!). Actually, I had arrived in China earlier but I was not officially in China until the paperwork was done. As mentioned in an earlier post I had to get my work visa renewed, so I thought I would post what I had to go through to complete that...

Usually the first work visa is the hardest one to get, and then the subsequent ones are not too difficult... fill out a form, pay the fee, and it gets sent off to the government for approval. Since I moved from Dalian to ChengDu there was more involved than normal to renew my work visa.

First off, I needed a Proof of Residence document from the police station near where I live. Foreigners are suppose to do this within 24 hours every time they move, but for some reason both my landlord and I forgot about it when I moved to ChengDu. Oops. No problem... I got that document and the police didn't give me a rough time about being 7 months late.

Next, I needed to get some passport-sized photos. This should have been easy, but there are no photo places near where I work, and when I went looking for photo places downtown after work they were all closed. I ended up walking around town in the cold and the rain until I finally found one that could take my picture and process the photos that evening.

After that I needed to go get a physical exam. I don't like going to hospitals, and have always tried my best to avoid going to a Chinese hospital. When I arrived in Dalian in 2005 and got my physical I had gone to a local clinic, and like most places in China, it was very crowded. Luckily, my HR here in ChengDu sent me to a hospital for foreigners, so it was not too crowded. This should have been a quick process, but I did not bring some things I needed (photos and passport), so we wasted a lot of time getting those items.

After a few days the hospital had my results, so we took that along with my other documentation and headed down to the local immigration office and gave them all of that. They took all of that stuff, had me fill out yet more paperwork, and that was that. A short wait of 5 days and I got my passport back with my new visa. The whole process took about two to three weeks (not including the holiday).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Different is an understatement

The last two weeks here have been nice and quiet... most people were spending the holidays with family and there were not many people out and about. A lot of stores and restaurants were closed and the streets and sidewalks seemed deserted (compared to usual), and it felt like I could cross the street without getting killed. On Monday everyone was back to their usual routines and the streets, sidewalks, shops, and restaurants were all crowded again.

Today I was reading an article about Japan and what makes Japan (and the Japanese) unique...

...and now for somewhere completely different

In Japan, the trees are blue. So are the traffic lights, even though they look decidedly green to uninitiated outsiders. The Japanese do have a word for green, but when it comes to foliage and traffic signals, blue is the preferred term.

Blue trees are not the only initially puzzling thing about Japan. In a hundred tiny gestures and assumptions, Japan can seem just slightly out of kilter...

It is a rather long article, but I thought it was very interesting. It also got me thinking about what makes China unique. If a hundred tiny gestures and assumptions make Japan seem slightly out of kilter then China's gestures and assumptions make China seem upside down most of the time! I bet being a Chinaologist would be both interesting and frustrating.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chinese New Year

I spent most of the Chinese New Year holiday just relaxing and hanging out in my apartment. The weather was cold and rainy, so I didn't feel like going out much. I did go out a little though.

On New Year's eve I went out to eat, and the restaurant decided to have a dumpling making contest. A group of people from England asked me to join their team, and I accepted. We didn't win the dumpling making contest, but it was a lot of fun.

On New Year's day my driver and his daughters came by to visit. I knew they wanted to take me someplace, but when they showed up I was surprised they wanted to visit my home. Good thing it was not too much of a mess. They brought me some apples, oranges, and tangerines. They were expecting me to cook them breakfast, but I explained that I usually don't eat breakfast. I gave the girls some Pop Tarts. They really liked those.

After that we drove over to the River Viewing Pavilion Park, which is across the river from where I live. The park was built in memory of Xue Tao, a female Tang dynasty poet.

My driver and his daughters

The park was very pretty and since it was a holiday there were not many people here.

Part of the River Viewing Pavilion Park

A nice gazebo among the trees

A workshop to make brocade

Not sure who this was, but people knelt on the little rug and bowed to him

A stone carving

A workshop to make paper

Statue of Xue Tao

Statue inside the bamboo area of the park

Goldfish pond outside the bamboo workshop

I really liked this park and want to come back when it's warmer outside, and not raining. Luckily it is close enough to my apartment that I can walk over.

After visiting the park we went to have lunch at Peter's Tex-Mex. Believe it or not, this was not my choice... I was in the mood for some Sichuan food. Anyways, we went to Peter's and had a good lunch. I taught my friends how to eat with a knife and fork, and they got to try some good food. The Sonora style steak my driver had looked really good... I'll have to try that myself sometime. I went with the burritos and the girls had tacos and chicken fingers.

After lunch I went home and did some laundry. The rest of the week was spent playing computer games, eating, and watching movies. One night I did go out to eat at the Shamrock Pub and ran into a group of people from France who were staying up late to watch the French rugby team play the Irish rugby team. I decided to join them and root for Ireland. That was a lot of fun! France won, by the way.

I recreated my Jinxerbell character in Everquest II, and made it into a female Coercer. A male Jinxerbell was just too... gay. I got the new Jinxerbell up to level 30. Playing a coercer is the most difficult character type I have ever played, but I have started getting really good at it. Here is Jinxerbell in her formal dress clothes...

Jinxerbell the Coercer in Neriak

I also watched a bunch of movies... A few old movies, like the Flying Tigers, etc... The new Rambo movie, which was good. I watched some Chinese movie on TV that was very funny. I do not know the name of it, but will try to find it on DVD. I am not even sure how to describe it really... martial arts kid comes to America. I also watched a movie called All Babes Want to Kill Me which was kind of funny, but pretty stupid.

Today I am back at work. I need to get my work visa renewed. It's a pain in the butt process, and I'll write about that in another post maybe.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl @ Shamrock

Not too much happened last week, except work. I even worked during the weekend so that I could take off a few days at the end of Spring Festival. Having seven days off will be very nice, even though I do not have anything planned.

This morning I woke up real early and headed over to the Shamrock Pub to watch the Super Bowl. I got there at 6:30am, and there were only three of us there then. It filled up very quickly and by kickoff we had about 40 to 50 people. I was not aware that we had so many Americans in ChengDu.

Some of the people watching the Super Bowl at the Shamrock Pub

Most of the people were rooting for the Patriots and only a few were rooting for the Giants. I'm a Redskins fan, so I figured I would root for the underdogs. Besides, the Redskins beat the Giants once this year but lost to the Patriots.

A few of the people there (mostly die-hard Patriot and Giant fans) must have taken the day off and started drinking beer right after breakfast.

A busy place early in the morning

It was way too early for me to have beer. It was also a work day, so no beer for me (drats!). Since the second half of the game was during the beginning of my work day I had my computer with me, and I logged on and did some work while the game was playing. If they didn't have wi-fi I probably wouldn't have even gone.

The video of the game was from a Thailand sports station called True Visions, and the audio was from the US. The audio seemed to be about one play behind the video which was kind of strange. It was also kind of weird that True Visions did not show any commercials during the game. Without the commercials the game seemed to go by a lot quicker, but the game ran in the usual amount of time.

Anyways, it was a fun and unusual way to spend a morning. It was also really great to see some real football for a change!