Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chinese Netizens

In the news today . . .

Not only does China have the largest population in the world, but it has just passed the U.S. in internet users with 253 million Chinese internet users at the end of June. Wow, no wonder my internet connection always seems a little bogged down over there . . . According to the article, China passes the U.S. in internet users with only about 19% of its population online while the U.S. has about 71% of its population on the web. I'm sure there are many ways to analyze that statistic and many projections to be made from it, but it just reminds me once again of how many Chinese people there are.

Trip to G'burg

This past Sunday I drove out to Katie's house in Galesburg, IL. Together we did a China presentation Sunday night and got to share about our work there, what's happened over the past year, and our future plans. We also tried to teach a couple songs in Chinese to the people who were there and we had a Q&A time. The previous Sunday, Katie came to my house to help me with my presentation so I was glad to be able to be there when she did hers. It's always better to have someone with you when you have to talk in front of people!

Teaching a Chinese song. Somehow the camera caught me looking very stern and serious (I think I was concentrating on the words) but Katie has a great smile :)
I was only in Galesburg until Monday evening so it was a fast trip but still fun to get to hang out with the McGunnigal gang and visit G'burg again! And we had a profitable trip to Goodwill where Katie's younger sister Kristy helped us find good buys and we all came away with some bargains. Yeah for cheap clothes! (um, but those aren't are our Goodwill clothes in these pictures)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies

One thing I love about coming back home is the blue American sky. Yichang's weather patterns and pollution made for haze and dense clouds most days. Rain and gray skies could last for days there without the sun peeking out. Most days ended with what I call "China sunsets" where the sun looks small, a dull glowing ball blending into the gray of the sky. Last night, driving home from Indianapolis, there was a brilliant sunset. Huge, bright red, flaming sun surrounding by pinks and purples sinking into the green corn fields. Today the sky is brilliant blue with white puffy clouds slowly making their way across it. Makes me happy to be back in Indiana.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Family Photo

Edit: In case you don't know my family . . . that's my mom Eloise, my brother-in-law John, and my dad Kevin standing, with me sitting on the left and Kara, my sister, sitting on the right. Kara's holding Sophie who belongs to her and John. The schnauzers are my parents, Lucy next to me and Heidi laying between me and Kara . . . I got reminded that not everyone who reads my blogs knows my family :)

Here's my family together for the 4th of July. This was the fifth or sixth picture attempt . . . finding a camera with a charged battery and posing with three dogs isn't easy. We decided this was the best pose even though Heidi is looking a bit depressed. Mom got us these USA shirts for a $1 and we did our best to give her a hard time about them but I guess they look fun in the picture. The dogs even got patriotic bandannas. I look at this picture and just think, I got a great family :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

China Reunion

This past week I got to have a Yichang reunion in America with my good friends. Marty and Selena Pagano, who lived with me in Yichang from 2004 to 2006, now live in Minneapolis but they were in Indiana visiting some friends and relatives. Katie drove out from Illinois and Carma, who also used to live in Yichang, came out from Colombus, Ohio. We all met on the north side of Indianapolis (glad Indiana is the "Crossroads of America" and that everyone decided to come to my state!). It'd been more than two years since I'd seen Marty and Selena and now they have two children--Yllana, who is a little over 2, and Leila who is a month old. It was so nice to get a chance to see everyone again and get to catch up. We were just missing Mindy. Mindy is back in the States, but sadly Indiana isn't a crossroad when you live in Connecticut.

Here we all were back in 2004 when we traveled to Guilin.

Now in 2008 (minus Mindy). Yllana made it in the picture, but Leila was asleep in her car seat and it was better that she not be disturbed (for her sake and for her parents' sake).

Here's a picture with Leila.

Marty and Selena were staying with some other former China residents, Shawn and Kim Swingle, who live in Indianapolis. Shawn and Kim went to China on the same summer team that I did back in 2001 (Marty and Carma were also on that summer trip, Katie met Kim the next year on the 2002 summer trip). They got married the following year and then moved to Tianjian for the next five years. We found this relatively-authentic Chinese restaurant in Indianapolis with spicy Sichuan food. When we first looked at the menu we were all a little dissapointed, but when the waitress heard us talking in Chinese she told us there was a separate "real" Chinese food menu. I think the owner and the waitresses were rather stunned to have seven white Americans come in who could all speak Chinese and who'd all lived in China and who all wanted really spicy food. Yllana even says "ni hao" (hello) and counts in Chinese and loves spicy food.

The Chinese man standing in the back is Steven, a good friend of Marty and Selena. Steven worked his way out of the coal mines in his village in China, got into college, moved to Shang Hai, improved his English enough to come to the States, got a master's degree at the University of Minnesota (where he lived with Marty's parents for about a month), and is now working in Colombus, Indiana so he decided to come up and meet us.

Another interesting note . . . in the winter of 2004, Katie, Carma, and I traveled to Thailand. While we were at the King's Palace in Bangkok, we randomly ran into Shawn and Kim Swingle . . . in Thailand! "It's a small world afterall . . . "

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Above the Fold

Wow. So many interesting news articles today in my daily Google News "China" update.

Mao Dropped From New China Note
This just proves yet again that China is OVERBOARD with their love of hosting the Olympics. Mao is even being bumped in favor of Olympic symbols! China is printing 10 yuan bills with the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium on them. Oh the insanity that is the Chinese Olympics. And I return to one of my earlier points . . . what are they going to do once these games are over!?

China Prepares Olympic Bible Giveaway
And if this is not the very definition of the Chinese word 矛盾 (mao dun = contradiction, problem, conflict, clash), then I don't know what is. And, once again, OVERBOARD . . . the giveaway Bible pamphlet containing the four gospels has the Olympic rings and the "running man" logo on it!

China Media Clamps Slammed a Month Before Olympics
Again . . . 矛盾 (conflict). How can you ostensibly promote your country's freedom and give away Bibles with one hand, while muzzling the media with the other?

China Trains 200,000 Cheerleaders--For Other Teams
So, for example, let's pick a country . . . um, Peru. So the Peruvian Olympic athletes are on the plane flying to Beijing in a couple weeks and they look around and suddenly realize . . . "Oh no! No tango cheero-leadersitas! (We don't have cheerleaders!)" Never fear . . . you can borrow a Chinese cheering squad who will magically become loyal Peru fans. That's right 200,000 Chinese cheerleaders are being trained . . . to cheer for other countries . . . you know, just in case. Oh and there are 28 elite squads training 4 - 6 hours a day. There are so many bizarre aspects to this article that you'll just have to read it and be amazed yourself.

And last, and thankfully, unrelated to the Olympics . . .
Pandas Born In China
One of the pandas that was temporarily lost after the earthquake just gave birth to two cubs. As a side note, newborn panda cubs look remarkably like grub worms. Glad they don't look like that their whole life.

Cookie Comparison

Today I made monster cookies at home. Monster cookies are so good and my mom has perfected her recipe so that they are, well . . . perfect (the desired resulted of perfecting, I suppose). For some reason, I can never get my monster cookies in China to turn out as well. Chinese monster cookies taste ok, but they're missing that perfected quality. I was pondering this today as I was baking, wondering if I'll ever be able to isolate the correct variable in the Chinese cookie cooking equation. Here's a comparison (I wanted to make this a two column chart, but don't see that as an editing option in Blogger. Hmmm.)

American Monster Cookies
Large oven
Bake 15 cookies at once
Cookies correct distance from heating element
Reliable temperature gauge
Readily available chocolate chips
Spoonful of corn syrup (mom's secret ingredient . . . um, formerly secret ingredient after being posted on my blog)
Real butter
Eggs of equal size
Arm&Hammer Baking soda
Chinese Monster Cookies
Toaster oven
Bake 6 cookies at once
Cookies dangerously close to heating element (burned bottoms, gooey tops)
Unreliable temperature gauge in Celsius
Inability to purchase chocolate chips (must bring from home or chop up a Dove bar)
Directly translating "corn syrup" into Chinese gets me "corn juice" (a novel popular new drink at our Yichang supermarkets)
Butter of suspect origin and quality (says butter, looks and tastes like margarine)
Eggs of assorted sizes (probably all from chickens)
"Arm&Hammer" Baking soda purchased at the underground "scary market", probably well beyond its suggested shelf life

Saturday, July 5, 2008


After a long few days of traveling and arriving in Indianapolis 4 hours late at 3:30 a.m. without either of my checked bags, I did made it home. As always, it's good to be back. So good to see mom and dad. Kara and John came down for July 4th so I got to see them too and Sophie, Lucy, and Heidi (the doggies). I did a fast re-acclamation back into American life and society by making a trip to the Greencastle Super Wal-mart the day after I was home. Talk about culture shock. Anyways, culture shock is less and less each time I travel and I usually can just step back into whichever side of the world I'm currently living on. Mom's food has tasted so good! Loving the food . . . grilled chicken and ribs, corn on the cob, cantaloupe, real brownies, real milk!, cheese and crackers, non-oily veggies, so much good stuff. Must utilize that new treadmill that mom and dad bought while I was gone if I keep enjoying the food so much.

Anyways, I have a few old posts about things that happened in Yichang those last few weeks when I was too busy to blog. Hopefully I can get caught up on some of that stuff.

'merica . . . and U-S-A . . . as always, it's good to be back.

Hope to see lots of you soon.