88 Auspicious Things I Did :: Travels in China
In Kowloon, Molly presented me with a slim mostly blank book.
The cover has several pig-looking cartoon characters and says "Buta"
(a brand of stationary and other products). The subtitle is "We may
addirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accompi."
The only contents at the time were a list of "88 things to do
here." My enterprising hostess had thought up small adventures
to pursue and quirks to notice, something of a side game for our travels.
This list was not the "Ten things you must see" variety you'd expect
from a travel guide; this agenda was quite personalized. The book would
later be used to jot down jokes like "NOM NOM NOM Chompsky," drawings
like a can of mixed newts, and several rounds of Boggle played by hand
from a list I'd compiled of die faces.
Below I have noted the date of completion of each task, some notes,
and pictures (with tool tips) where apropriate. For activities that
happened more than once, I have either recorded the dat of the first
occurrence or of a particularly strong instance. Through my month in
China I tried to avoid photorhea, so many of these items were not visually
recorded for posterity. Use your imagination; it'll be good practice.
Why 88? The Chinese believe that the number 8 is very auspicious
because it sounds like the word for prosperous. They also believe that
doubled numbers are auspicious (for instance, the Dragon Boat Festival
is on the 6th day of the 6th lunar month). Double eights, therefore,
are very auspicious. It's no accident that the Olympic Games begin in
Beijing on August 8th, 2008.
- Visit Yingcai campus during classes - 2/19
- I taught a U.S. geography lesson to Molly's students. After drawing a
free-hand map on the chalk board, I marked the location of all the cities,
universities, and attractions the students could name. San Francisco was
the first place they thought of. Houston took some prompting, even though
Yao Ming plays there.
- Soak at Ri Yue Gu hot springs - 2/17
- I soaked in pools infused with lavender, rose, lemongrass, wine,
beer, four kinds of tea, ginger, and curry. (Separate pools, of course.
Even I would balk at lemongrass curry beer tea.) It turns out
my superpower is scaring Chinese people out of pools. Perhaps they
think my body hair is contageous. Or maybe they were weirded out by
the released air bubbles from my baggy swuimsuit. Nonetheless, we
had most pools to ourselves for as long as we wanted. At the end we
let a pool full of Turkish hot spring fish nibble off our dead skin.
This service cost extra, so my super power didn't work there.
- Hear a pianoforte on Gulangyu - 2/20
- Gulangyu is a small island a short ferry ride from Xiamen where
cars and trucks are not allowed. Many buildings are European-built,
dating from Xiamen's time as an Opium War concession port. Given the
wealthy European fondness for pianos, the place is named "Piano Island."
There's a concert hall, a piano garden, and paino music piped through
camoflauged speakers along the esplanade. Watch out, though: the island
is known for giant cephalopod attacks.
- Walk down Zhong Shan Lu - 2/20
- Along one of the main commercial roads in downtown Xiamen I bought
over forty dingle-dangles for two kuai each, providing a gift for everyone
who works in my office for a grand total of about twelve dollars.
I also bought a pirated Chinese DVD because the cover had several
- See from afar a giant golf ball on an oversized T - 2/16
- Xiamen has some interesting skyskrapers.
- See some vomit on the street with corn & rice - 2/17
- Noted in the parking lot of an expensive sea food restaurant/bar.
I didn't get up close and personal to verify the contents, but it looked
like someone's gut couldn't strike a balance between the yin of Asian
grain with the yang of North American grain.
- Ride the number five-oh-one busline - 2/23
- This originally said "number twenty six busline," which is a
double-decker in Xiamen, the route of which Molly knew nothing. While I'm
generally a fan of getting on busses to see where they go, I didn't see a
number 26 bus until I got back to Hong Kong. I was about to get on and
pay a fare when I realized my destination was only two blocks away and
then remembered that the game master had switched this quest to the last
city bus I took in Xiamen. We did ride the number two bus in Kunming,
Guilin, Xiamen, and possibly Xiaguan, but never the number one bus.
- Get a massage by a "blind" man - 2/10
- In China, as in many countries, massage parlors are sometimes
fronts for prostitution. However, if the sign says "Blind Massage,"
the place is legitimate, even if the guy who rubs your back can see.
In China, massage was traditionally a vocation for the blind. Today,
"Blind Massage" describes the style and it seems just as likely to be
practiced by sighted people as the blind. All four of the people who
massaged us could see. A "blind massage" is akin to what one would
expect from a standard massage therapist in the U.S. The massagee lies
on a table while the masseur uses pressure and positioning to bring
the client's body closer to its natural alignment. Unlike the U.S.,
you can get an hour-long massage for less than $10, welcome news to any
traveler who's been carrying a backpack all over the country.
- Get a massage by a smiling woman - 2/22
- Chinese massage parlors not labeled "blind" typically offer
services of smiling young women. On Friday afternoon we visited the
"blind" massage parlor where a miscommunication led to two hours of
massage instead of one. It felt like the guys were filling the time,
so we were somewhat underwhelmed by the experience. At 11 o'clock that
night, we set out to another massage parlor. There we were attended to
by smiling young women from Sichuan who gave us Asian pear, Coca-Cola,
Sichuan noodle bowls, and an hour of foot and leg massage before finishing
the process with a backrub. All told, February 22nd featured three and
a half hours of massage for less than $30.
- Find the statue of a girl in overalls on Xia Da campus - 2/21
- Traveling through Yunnan and Guangxi, I saw very few public statues.
Every temple had several religious statues, but the Chinese didn't seem
to have the European fondness for bronze statues of animals, people,
and dead heroes. But Xiamen, as a former concession port, has plenty
of statues. Molly tells me this statue won awards.
- Try five fruits you've never tasted before - 2/7
- With a mollybee as a travel guide, fruit stands are always on the
itinerary. When I arrived in Hong Kong we made our way up and then
down the Nathan Road corridor sampling fruits and pastries. I ate four
fruits I'd never had within 24 hours of being near China, so I was sure
this goal would be easy. Our visit to Xishuangbanna was quite fruitful;
after one visit to a market and a park bench I ate five fruits I'd never
tasted before and two that were new to Molly as well.
- Hear someone yelling "Weeeii?!" into their phone - 2/13
- "Wei" translates to "Hey" and is what the Chinese say when they
answer the phone in the pattern "Wei? (pause) Wei, ni hao," or in
English "Hey? (pause) Hey, hello." I thus heard this pretty much any
time someone's cell phone rang. I noted 2/13 as the date for this item
because we walked past two people about three meters apart simultaneously
saying "WEEEEIIII?!?!?!" as if there were a bad connection. We imagined
they'd called each other.
- See a thin Chinese girl wearing stripes - 2/8
- Even though the February weather was quite nice in most places,
almost everyone wore their coats all the time, even inside. I thus didn't
observe a lot of Chinese fashion, but girls in stripes definitely seems
like a trend.
- Walk along the sea boardwalk at night - 2/20
- The beach is only a few steps from Molly's home, making walks along
the Pacific waves a convenient retreat from stresses of the everyday
world. Unfortunately, she no longer has a goat to play with as the tide
- Eat gong bao ji ding at least three times - 2/13, 2/18, 2/21
- This is Molly's favorite dish, so this item was less a quest and more
a promise. Even though I ate Chinese food almost every day for a month,
this dish (kung pow chicken) was one of the few I was familiar with.
That and "a bowl of white rice."
- Spend at least ten seconds in a nightclub - 2/24
- I didn't visit any nightclubs in the mainland, but I spent a few
hours after midnight in Hong Kong drinking a Guinness and listening to
live music and a disco DJ. The first band (consisting of six Asians)
finished their set with a great version of "Play That Funky Music
White Boy. The next band (four asians and maybe a Brazillian?) opened
with a strained version of "Sweet Home Alabama," leading me to propose
the Skynyrd rule: You're not allowed to play "Sweet Home Alabama" unless
you've lived in Alabama and enjoyed it.
- Pet Molly for hours and hours and hours - 2/15
- The relationship between mollybee and trevorbear doesn't fit standard
models. People who observed us holding hands, making jokes, and sneaking
tickles in public would assume that we were "a couple." But unlike "a
couple" we would often sleep in separate beds so we could get some good
awkward-position sleep in. We nibbled on each other's ears, necks, and
arms but didn't "make out." And we stayed in bed until 4:30 PM on
the day after Valentine's Day tickling and rubbing and touching and biting
each other's skin. We slept together, but didn't "sleep together."
English doesn't have a word for this sort of relationship, but I don't
think Mandarin does either. So I usually refer to her as "my friend."
The one downside of a six hour tickle session is that we wasted our one
day of good sunlight in the Guilin/Yangshuo region, so our collections
of karst photographs are worse lit than they might have been otherwise.
- See a red sign with yellow/gold lettering - nearly constant
- Among other things, red is the color of good luck and prosperity and
gold or yellow is the color of weath and influence. Gold characters
on red signs is quite typical for signs above stores, happy-new-year
papers on home doors, and anywhere else a sign invoking positive feelings
- Prepare tea in the Chinese style - 2/20
- I need to shop around in Denver for a proper tea set so that I can
share the tea I brought back in the proper style.
- Find a building with decorative lighting - 2/6
- Several hotels in Jinghong were outlined in colorful lights and I
don't think it was just because of the new year. Xiamen is full of very
lit buildings, including two I saw with giant light dingle-dangles.
- Successfully avoid hitting any pedestrians - continuous
- I didn't find most pedestrians very annoying, actually. Maybe if I
spent a few more months living in China I'd be more likely to hit someone.
- As a pedestrian, successfully avoid all vehicles - continuous
- I grew up in a part of America where trafic is very orderly and
traffic laws are almost always obeyed. I wouldn't last an hour driving
in a Chinese city. But growing up in Boulder let me practice frequent
jaywalking, so I was able to cross the street without incident.
- Check to see if ther are dragons in Bai Lu Zhou Lu park - 2/20
- Lantern Festival is not as widely known as Spring Festival (Chinese
New Year), but it's significantly more colorful than Twelfth Night.
- Observe someone hock a magnificent loogie - 2/24
- Traditional Chinese health advice is to rid yourself of mucus as
soon as it arrives, even if you're (say) on a bus. Many Americans
are disgusted by the walking down a street where someone's spitting
every twenty meters, but I don't mind; I regularly spit on American
streets, so this was my one opportunity to fit in with the natives.
I listed the date for this item as 2/24 because choppy seas caused at
least half of the passengers to use their vomit bags. The sound of
100 people wretching in unison is nothing if not magnificent.
I can say so with full smugness as I'd spent the afternoon eating bread
products and my stomach was too busy absorbing spongy matter to let
anything disturb its slow and steady work.
- Real soon now see a red plastic bag within ten seconds - 1/29
- At some point in the last few years, I noticed that almost all
the Asian stores and restaurants in my neck of the woods place your
purchaes in white plastic bags with "THANK YOU" repeated several times
in red letters. In China, almost all purchases of small or medium size
end up in a thin red plastic bag. And while they end up in landfills,
they usually get two uses: one for carrying the fruit or nuts, the other
for depositing fruit and nut shells. One might think it's ironic to see
all the consumer products in bags the color of socialism, but plastic-bag
red is a different hue than Communist-party red (and both are a different
hue from lantern red).
- See employees of a business lined up on the sidewalk - 2/22
- I was on the lookout for factory workers at the beginning of a shift,
but didn't see any. The best I managed was about five construction
workers in a line as they put on their safety vests after lunch break.
- See a public light post that changes colour - 2/14
- Xiamen loves buildings and lamp posts that change color a few times
a minute. I also saw color-changing lamps in Yangshuo.
- See two people with matching shirts walking side by side - 2/14
- With all the Chinese wearing coats in February, I only noticed
this once. A young man and woman wore matching shirts and pants on the
Li River cruise on Valentine's Day. Awwww.
- Find a bit of porcelain with blue on it on our beach - 2/23
- Did a porcelain-bearing ship run aground near the Port of Xiamen?
Or do the citizens throw their broken soup bowls and spoons in the ocean?
- Notice a girl using a cell phone with a dingle-dangle - 2/10
- Cell phones are as much status symbols as communication devices,
so absurd acessories are to be expected. I believe on the 10th I saw a
girl talking on a phone which was smaller than the stuffed dog hanging
from the antenna.
- See an old woman wearing a purple/mauve jacket - 1/29
- When China is an old woman, she shall wear a purple coat. In China,
red is the color of luck, purple is the color of old women keeping warm.
- Climb the hillside above Nan Putuo Temple - 2/18
- I walked up stairs, around rocks, under trees, through portals,
and along paths, all with a stick of incense burning.
- Smell the lotus flower - 2/7
- And I've already forgotten what it looked like. The nose doesn't know.
- Purchase an interesting hat - 2/1
- I bought a batik/tie-dye style reversible crushable hat with a
round brim. I washed it when I got back to the states and somehow the
blue and white hat turned the water red.
- Observe someone force their way (cut) into the line - 2/16
- Lines are a significant part of modern Chinese life. Like any
other component of everyday life, behavioral norms develop within the
culture. The line norms in China are quite different than in Britain,
the stereotypical queueing culture. Lines needn't be single-file, when
a new line opens a mad dash is expected, and when you're at the front of
the line you may still have to fend off people intent on getting quick
service before you.
- Eat something and have no idea what it is - 1/30
- As we walked up Xi Shan, a little lost and after a morning of blood
sugar issues, a woman invited us to the garage-sized "restaurant" next
to her house. She showed us several tubs of mushrooms, roots, leaves,
and other items. We didn't recognize most of it, so asked her to make
us something tasty. Deliver she did, with a large omlette and three
bowls of stir fry.
- Eat of the lotus root - 1/31
- Flower root on a stick! Covered in spicy powder!
- Hold on to a plastified drink container for support - 2/19
- Some of the busses in Xiamen have juice boxes inside hard plastic
handles. Before Molly pointed it out once we were in Xiamen, I was
wondering what sort of drunken state I would have to be on to find
stabilization in a plastic cup.
- Learn to count to ten in Minnan Hua - 2/17
- Min is a Chinese language found in the province of Fujian. It seems
closer to Cantonese than Mandarin and the numbers are more fun to
say, specially five (ngaw) and ten (sap!). Molly's neighbors said my
accent was better than hers, but maybe they were just being polite to
- Find, for sale, a dark green metallic umbrella so I can buy it - 2/13
- A quest for a present for John had us looking at every umbrella
display in China. I found a dark green metallic umbrella at an umbrella
store in Guilin, but it wasn't quite the right shade of green. But I
still found it, so this item is checked off.
- Sleep on a really hard bed - 2/11
- Most Chinese beds are harder than most American beds. Unfortunately,
I find it hard to sleep unless I'm lying on my side. I can sleep on
my back if I have a pillow under my knees, but most of the places we
stayed didn't have extra pillows on the bed. The hardest bed I slept
on was a bunk in a hostel in Kunming. The following night's rest on a
train was much more enjoyable.
- Intimately witness a construction zone - 2/1
- On 2/1 I walked past some guys mixing concrete more or less by hand in
old-town Dali. The process was contained in the lot for the building they
were constructing. In Xiamen, the sidewalk at Xi Men (West Gate) was in
a different phase of development everytime I walked on it. In America,
they try very hard to keep people from walking on unfinished sidewalks.
The best Xiamen offered was yellow plastic warning tape.
- Safely ride a motorcycle taxi - 2/11
- A three-wheeled motorcycle with a couple benches and soft walls is
a no-frills lots-of-fun way to get around Jinghong (or any other city,
- Find a good luck sign over a door that's upside down - 2/19
- I asked "Is the door or the sign upside down?" and was told the sign.
Actually, the sign is rightside up, but it has an upside down character
(gold on red, natch). Lots of homes and businesses have these paper
signs on their doors, but if you don't read Chinese well you might gloss
over the fact that the character is upside down. Let me know if you
grok the symbolism.
- Eat some roasted chestnuts/boiled chestnuts - 2/2
- I'd always heard the song lyric "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"
and associated it with snowy European winters. But the first time I had
a chestnut roasted on an open fire was on a hot February day in Xiaguan.
Soft and tasty!
- Eat fruit skewered on a stick and candied - 1/29
- "On a stick" is a suffix which makes food more appealing. And really,
how can you turn down something this awesome?
- Eat something else on a stick (shau kau) - 2/18
- Shau Kau stands offer meat, tofu, and vegetables (mostly roots)
brushed with chilli flakes and cooked over fire. Like any good "on a
stick" option, the stands are open late for those times that it's eleven
o'clock and you say "Know what would be great? Spicy tofu on a stick!"
More American cities need cheap meat-on-a-stick for sale on the street
late at night.
- Ride a bicycle built for two - 2/18
- Growing up, I knew two things about the people of China: they rode
bicycles instead of cars and they used chopsticks instead of forks.
These days, motorbikes seem more numerous than bicycles, but there are
still more bicyclists than in most American cities. Molly's neighbor
rents tandem bicycles, so we teamed up to make it to shau kau one night.
We even briefly rode a bicycle built for three. Turning was a challenge,
- Hold a Chinese baby - 2/10
- I thought this task might be a challenge. Was I supposed to speak
Chinese well enough to convince a mom to let me hold her kid? But when
the neighbors have a baby and laowai visit, the bundled baby is quickly
set up with the fuzzy newcomer for photo opportunities.
- Pay way too much for something and not feel bad - 2/10
- The bus driver from Damenglong didn't take us to Xiaojie like we'd
asked because he wanted to get the full fare to Jinghong. We only gave
him the 20 RMB it cost to get to Xiaojie, shorting him 40. We then
discovered that all the hotels in Jinghong had raised their rates for
the weekend after Spring Festival, so we paid 40 more for our room than
we had the last time through town. Conservation of energy, conservation
of currency. But at least we gave it to a nice woman at a hotel desk
rather than a smoking asshole bus driver.
- Pay way too little for something and then realize it wasn't - 2/14
- In our hostel in Guilin we reserved a room at its sister hostel in
Yangshuo for 60 yuan, 10 less than list price and 40 less than we'd paid
in Guilin, so we thought we had a reasonable deal. Then we met some
folks we'd encountered before and learned they'd found a room for 30.
Oh well, the difference is only about two U.S. dollars.
- Buy an object with Chinglish on its package - 2/21
- In addition to the word choice and grammar, notice the punctuation
and lack of spaces for this gem. On a corner of the front of a package
of dried "west plum:"
On the back:
- Delicious or choice excessively delicate or
- Refined of exceptional quality or refinement
- Something delicious
- GuangDong YiXin Food Industrial Co. Ltd.
- Add:Gongshan Mianhu Town Jiexi County
- Preservation Way:Hermetically save,Put it in cool and dry.don't put it in sunlight
- Using method:use directly
- Executive Standard: GB/T10782-2006
- Sanitation No.:Yue Food
- Sanitation Recognized No.5222A00134
- Shelf life: 12 months
- Eat "hot pot" style dinner/lunch - 2/3
- In the "Ask Trevor any questions you want about himself" phase of
English class, one of Molly's students asked "Do you like hot pot?"
I responded in the affirmative and the kids all laughed. Molly followed
up, "How many times have you had hot pot?" "Twice," I responded,
"Once at home and once in China." "That is why," she explaiend, "He
likes hot pot." I suppose I might not be so keen on it if my family
ate it every night for dinner.
- Send a short text message in Chinese - 2/19
- Molly composed a short message to a friend in Chinese and I hit
the Send button. I carried a cell phone around Xiamen for a few days,
but it didn't have any money on it, so I couldn't call out. I'm not
sure I could've figured out how to message in Chinese on it either.
- Use a public bathroom - 2/1
- I'm kind of glad my nose was stuffed up or runny for the first week
I was in the country. Yeeech.
- Burn incense at a temple Buddha - 2/18
- As a religious eclectic, I quickly picked up the local style of
incense burning. Taking a step back, burning incense in front of a
Buddha statue isn't much different in form than lighting a candle in
front of a statue of Mary.
- Taste tea in a tea shoppe - 1/29
- Some things are much cheaper in China than in the States. Visiting a
restaurant, for instance. Some things are much more expensive in China
than in the States. Quality electronics, for instance. Some things
cost about the same in both places. I think I paid about the same amount
for similar quality tea in China and Chinatown.
- Play an instrument unusual to you - 2/6
- The hulusi is a Yunannese flute with a chamber next to the mouthpiece
and up to two drones. My dad's studio has a lot of interesting
instruments and musical memorabilia, so I figured it would make a
great gift. The saleswoman knew enough English and body language to
show me how to play it, but seemed to think I was doing it wrong when
I experimented with blowing techniques and fingerings. In Xiamen,
I bought an erhu for my brother who'd previously suggested that Molly
should "Learn to play an unusual Chineese instrument like the erhu."
Is musical justice like poetic justice?
- Drink a Chinese beer - 2/2
- I'm told there are no really good Chinese beers. The standard beers
in the country (Tsing Tao is probably the best known in the U.S.) are
similar to a medium-quality American lager; a step up from a bottle of
Coors or Budweiser. 70 cents for about 20 ounces of alright beer isn't
a bad deal.
- Say something in Mandarin while eating a mandarin - 2/9
- With a slice of a mandarin orange in my mouth, I announced "Hau chi!"
(Literally: Good eat! Translation: Tasty!)
- Observe someone walking backwards - 2/5
- Americans are way ahead of the Chinese on "Don't smoke and you'll
be healthier." But the Chinese are way ahead of the Americans on "Get
daily exercise and you'll be healthier." Walking backwards and clapping
hands are apparently a nutritious part of your complete exercise regimen.
- Eat spicy fish stew - 2/20
- On Gulangyu Molly asked in Chinese how much the eel and shrimp were.
The restaurant employee responded in English "nineteen" and "fourteen,"
so we had him kill and prepare an eel and half a kilo of shrimp.
We also ordered a big bowl of spicy bony fish stew from the menu, thinking
it would be the most expensive item. I'd never eaten bony fish before,
an interesting experience. When the bill came, we were shocked to see
a number close to 200. The waiter (different person than the guy with
the eels) said (in Chinese) that the eel was 90 and the shrimp 40.
Jing! After paying, Molly cornered the fishy guy in front of his
boss and loudly explained that when he told us "nineteen" he meant
"ninety" and when he told us "fourteen" he meant "forty." The lesson?
When you ask a price in Chinese, make sure they answer in Chinese, even
if you're white. For extra clarity, use Chinese
- Use a Chinese hacky sack - 2/14
- Somewhat between a hacky-sack and a shuttlecock, these toys are two
or three heavy coins at the bottom attached six or seven feathers about
six inches long.
- Walk through/under a very fancy gate - 1/30
- Fancy gates are quintessential Chinese building elements. The gate
at Long Men (Dragon Gate) wasn't especially fancy, but earned points by
being carved on the face of a cliff.
- See a child peeing on the side of the road - 2/1
- Chinese parents don't use diapers, instead training their kids
to communicate the need to pee and poop whenever they need to go.
The parents then help the kids use the nearest bush or sidewalk edge.
- Have someone say "man you" (go slowly) to you - 2/17
- People probably said this a lot, but I didn't usually pick up the
words, just the context. Molly instructed me to listen as we left a
second-floor restaurant and, sure enough, I heard it. Being cautious
when descending stairs is good advice.
- See a Chinese TV commercial - 2/11
- Long distance busses often show martial arts action films. Maybe
Greyhound should start doing that. City busses often show music videos
and commercials. RTD better not start doing that. Chinese TV has a
lot of the same things American TV does: stupid game shows, political
talk shows, nature programs, and annoying commercials. I don't think
Mao would be pleased.
- See a dingle-dangle in a doorway - 2/3
- Known more formaly as
dingle-dangles with a hanging string, a decorative knot, a distinctive
object, and a red tassle are the universal good luck charms of China.
Most automobiles, including busses and transport trucks, have one hanging
from their rearview mirror. Businesses usually have one hanging from
the wall, and they hang in people's apartments. I brought back over
forty dingle-dangles as gifts, most purchased at liang kuai stores.
- Become proficient at saying "Xia Da Bai Cheng" - 2/17
- If I'd gotten lost in Xiamen, I could've hailed a Taxi and given
that destination to get home. It's good to have an emergency plan.
- Eat dumplings or something round for New Years - 2/6
- We chose Mama Naxi's vegetarian option for New Year's because all the
meat on the menu looked overwhelming. We ate quail eggs, chicken eggs,
tomatoes, peanuts, carrots, and a fwe non-round vegetables.
- Notice a woman wearing a jade bracelet - 2/2
- A popular fashion item. I probably would have seen more if they
weren't covered by the sleeves of purple coats.
- Drink a fresh fruit smoothie - 1/29
- The Kunming fruit drink store loved to play an album by The
- Observe a girl who's convinced she's fashionable - 2/2
- Lots of girls thought they were fashionable. Many were. But some
were hopelessly misguided.
- Be observed by people who're convinced you're strange - continuous
- I wonder if I'll stumble across a picture of myself on a Chinese
person's website with the caption "Look at the furry white guy!"
- Hear the "happy birthday song" out on the street - 2/17
- Just as ice cream trucks have particular jingles, the water trucks
that wash the streets of Xiamen play an instrumental Happy Birthday
melody as they cruise the town. Someone alert the copyright holders;
I doubt the water trucks are paying royalties.
- Observe someone in green/yellow in the middle of traffic - 1/28
- Trying to make our way in the rain outside the Guangzhou tran
station surrounded by tens of thousands of Chinese whose trains home were
canceled was the defined low point of our trip. "This is so
much better than a Guangzhou train station" we'd announce when a minor
frustration got in our way in Yunnan. As a symbol of the futility of
train travel from Guangzhou, city workers were trying to sweep the water
off the streets with brooms.
- See an army-green motorcycle w/ sidecar - 2/21
- Most of the farm produce vehicles I saw in Yunnan looked like they
used to belong to the army. I'm not sure if the sidecar motorcycles in
Xiamen have particular uses.
- See a boy carrying a girl's purse for her - 2/12
- She's got him wll trained.
- See a restaurant with a live menu diorama - 2/1
- Buckets of vegtables and fish on the sidewalk let you know what
you're getting. Make sure you know what you'll be paying, though.
See the entry under "Eat spicy fish stew."
- See a monk on the street doing something unmonklike - 2/8
- Even though I grew up in Boulder, I'm not an expert on the rules
of Buddhism, especially not in the Hinayana tradition. I know that
different Buddhist sects have different rules on everything from food
to sex, but the stereotype of a quiet, vegetarian monk removed from
contemporary society remains. I saw monks in saffron or gray robes
- Buying spicy chicken feet
- Riding a motorcycle
- Playing pool
- Talking on cell phones
- Notice a shirt with English that seems nonsensical - 2/8
- Learning English is very popular in China and Chinglish translations
are often quiet amusing, so I expected a lot of T-shirts of befuddling
English. But the only one I saw was on a Polish girl (though it was
purchased in China). Maybe there are more nonsensical English shirts,
but since nobody takes off their coat in the winter, I couldn't tell.
- See a sign for a KTV - 1/29
- Karaoke bars are popular in China. Singing poorly while drunk is
not limited to just one culture.
- Ganbei someone and be ganbeid - 2/19, 2/6
- "Ganbei" is said at the end of a toast to tell the person you're
toasting to empty their glass.
- Hear a song that contains the words "wo ai ni" - 2/15
- I've heard that songs with "I love you" in the lyrics were banned
by the Communists until the 1980s. I heard "Ni ai wo" ("You love me")
more often than the other direction. I'm not sure if that's a reflection
of Chinese culture or just the snippets of sappy pop songs that I managed
to make out.
- Watch the sunset over water - 2/20
- Very few places in China have water to the west, but Molly can watch
the sun set over the sea from her bedroom window on the southwest corner
of the island. A bee and a goat watched without worrying that dishes
needed to be washed.
- See a statue with/of a book - 2/18
- The statuary of Xiamen doesn't stop at bronze sculptures of
people. Books are glorified in several artistic statues in and near
the university. And the botanic garden has a section devoted to many
styles of calligraphy carved into stone.
- Notice red lanterns hanging together - 1/27
- I'd managed this before I even had a list of things to do. Red round
lanterns are easier to find than street signs in China.
- Learn these ten characters & write them here - 1/29, 2/18
|Sun (ri) ||日 ||A window to a nice day|
|Moon (yue) ||月 ||The sun with feet|
|Bright (ming) ||明 ||Sun and moon|
|White (bai) ||白 ||Sun with a stem|
|One hundred (bai) ||百 ||White with a top line|
|Understand (mingbai) ||明白 ||Bright white|
|Mountain (shan) ||山 ||Three peaks|
|Sheep (yang) ||羊 ||With six legs and horns|
|Goat (shan yang) ||山羊 ||But how do you say "mountain sheep?" And is a "mountain goat" a shan shan yang?|
|Xiamen ||厦门 ||Tall building gate, the city where Molly lives|
|Stone (shi) ||石 ||I'm glad my last name is so easy to write|