Saturday, January 31, 2009

Visitors in Mengzi

I'm on vacation. Campus is deserted. Katie, Dave, and I feel like we're the only living souls on the entire campus. All the campus restaurants and shops are closed up, so we've been having to bulk shop in town and do a lot more of our own cooking rather than eating out. Thank goodness for our bikes, otherwise there would be no way for us to get into town a lot of times. I'm trying to muster up all the self-discipline I have and still be productive since I have so much free time for a few weeks. The past few years during the winter break, I've always traveled somewhere. Last year it was a slightly over-eager month-long trip to India. This year, due to money and logistics (not due to a lack of time), Katie and I decided against a big excursion somewhere. I've decided that while I still love to travel and would go literally anywhere, I've about had my share of extreme budget traveling (staying in hostels, taking the cheapest forms of transportation, etc.). I think the next big trip I do, I'd at least like to able to stay in a real hotel and fly there instead of camping out in a hut (like we did in India) or taking infinitely long, uncomfortable buses and trains to save money.

Anyways, with all that in mind, instead of traveling, Katie and I have been hosting guests here in Mengzi which is a fun change. First, we had Mary Beth and Jennifer come through. They're friends that live in Yidu, near Yichang, and they wanted to travel down here for some warmer weather. Then Katie had a friend from her hometown and home fellowship come visit. Natalie teaches in China and wanted to do some traveling in Yunnan province so she spent a few days with us. Then, this past week, I had three friends make a stop in Mengzi. Abigail Yoder, who I met this past summer through my Aunt Lisa's family, teaches in the extreme far north part of China. Her sister, Karina, and a friend were coming for a visit, so on their way to Taiwan, they made a week stop in my province and made a quick trip down to Vietnam. The Rices have also had guests come through and have more friends coming in about a week. Anyone else want to come visit?! Anyone's welcome!

While Abigail, Karina, and Susanna were here, we tried to take a group photo at the Rice's house. As always, we have a ton of fun and always end up laughing till it hurts when we're all together.

Victoria's checking out her bicep in this photo :)
Takes a lot of work to get 12 people in one photo!
Rachel obviously has no idea where she's supposed to be!
Finally got everyone in one shot!
Silly pose!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Cow

Happy Chinese "Niu" Year to everyone!! ("Niu" is the Chinese word for Cow or Ox and this year is the Year of the Ox. "Niu" is pronounced almost the same as "new" so it's a rather funny Chinese/English pun.)

Edit: After seeing my blog, my dad told me "Happy Moo Year." Maybe we should leave the puns at that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Audacity of [Censored]

Since I'm on vacation right now and I was out of town for a couple days, I've sort of lost track of which day of the week it is. I totally forgot that the inauguration had taken place until I got in a taxi and the driver (after going through the typically litany of conversation start-up questions) asked me about "my America's" new president (in Chinese they always use "our" and "yours" when talking about the countries we come from--"our China, your America"). After getting back home, I consulted (and a calender) and got reconnected to the outside world.

[As a side note, conversations in Chinese taxis are some of the most interesting Chinese practice I get and one of the best ways to get a feel for what the "typical" Chinese reaction is to just about any subject. And, in general, the taxis drivers are usually overly complimentary about my faltering, limited Chinese skills which is always a confidence booster since I run out vocabulary very quickly when the topic approaches politics or the economy.]

Not all that surprisingly, Obama's speech was censored when it was broadcast on CCTV and when it was later translated into Chinese. Here's the article about it from Foreign Policy. Oh and I stole borrowed their title for my blog post since I thought it was catchy and funny.

China Censors Obama's Inaugural Address

Watch the youtube clip. Do normal Chinese viewers not wonder what's up when they cut out like that and everyone looks flustered and the news anchor asks a completely unrelated question?

And, the Chinese officials have to see the irony in censoring out a line that says, "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history." . . . or maybe they don't. I guess they'd rather run the risk of being on the wrong side of history (in the future) for being on the right side of power (in the present).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chinglish Signs in Xi Shuang Ban Na

Some of the signs in the Elephant Nature Preserve were rather amusing.

The Chinese on this one says "Garbage has a home I can/will send it to. You, me, him (way of expressing "everyone") protect the environment." I love it that "garbage" got translated "refuse" but it comes across as /ri-fyooz/ not /ref-yoos/ in the sign :)

This one should say "We only have one earth. Please take care of the forests."
Translation for this one should be "Wild elephants live here so pay attention and be safe."
And this is just funny . . .

Friday, January 16, 2009

Xi Shuang Ban Na

This past week, I made a trip down to the far SW part of my province, not too far from the borders of Myanmar and Laos to an area called Xi Shuang Ban Na. Although on a map, the distance looks like you should be able to cover it in just a couple hours, there aren't direct highways and some stretches of the road aren't much more than bumpy dirt paths (very bumpy!!). Combined that with curvy mountain roads and stops for food and bathrooms, the trip actually took 10 - 12 hours. Mary Beth and Jennifer (friends from Yichang) took a flight to get down to XSBN. Katie, Dave, and I along with our Chinese friends Jason (who's from that area) and Karry hired a Chinese mini van--complete with a driver and his wife--to make the trip to XSBN.

On the way there we crossed what was labeled as the "highest bridge in the world." I took that to mean they were measuring the distance from the bridge to the ground, not the altitude of the bridge. I am always slightly dubious when it comes to Chinese claims on world superlatives, so I'll have to do some research into world-wide bridge heights .

We visited a beautiful tropical botanical garden area.
Although rationally I know this is completely fallacious, I always pictured rubber trees as being made out of rubber--so that the trees were flexible and "boingy." But in reality, rubber trees are hard like all other trees and it's the sap that rubber is made from. This was my first time to see rubber tapping.Elephant show in the Nature Preserve.

We got to stay in Tree Houses in the Nature Preserve--Swiss Family Robinson style (hmmmm, should I say Chinese Family Wang style? Ha, doesn't quite have the same ring). It was primitive and basic but fun for one night. One problem, when you laid down at night in the bed, you could feel the whole tree house swaying back and forth . . . rather disconcerting. Felt like I was reliving last year's earthquake for a whole night.
There are lots of wild elephants in the Nature Preserve, so much so that you're not allowed off the walkway bridges in the tree houses between dusk and dawn. Sadly, we didn't see any elephants roaming around but we did see footprints.
And we saw monkeys!
These are leaf butterflies! How cool are they?! You really can't tell the difference between them and a brown dried leaf unless you get close enough to see it's body and legs.
Morning after staying in the tree houses, looking a bit groggy and disheveled.
I have more photos to post of the trip which I'll do over the next couple days. If you want to see an web album of all of my XSBN photos go to this link.

Xi Shuang Ban Na Web Album

Friday, January 9, 2009

January Flowers

Outside my apartment building there are several trees that bloomed about a week ago. The trees have beautiful pink flowers all over them. Coming from Indiana, I never expected to see trees covered in flowers in January!

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

International Gaming

Thanks to the miracles of technology, I got to play Trivial Pursuit with my dad and our family friends Dave and Fely Hawkins on New Years Day! We used Skype audio and video and dad set up the computer and so that the game board could be seen by the camera. Dave (China friend Dave, not Dave Hawkins) joined me and together with Fely (since she's from the Phillipines), we made the up the International Team and took on the American team of Dad and Dave. The International Team ended up losing, but we all had fun in the process :) I miss getting to play board games and cards with my family while I'm in China so it was nice to get to be included in the fun this time! It still amazes me that I can talk to and video call with my family on the other side of the world and it all can be done for absolutely free.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Getting "Treated" For Meals

Haven't really felt like Chines food the last few days so I've been enjoying being "treated" to meals thanks to all the great food that's been sent to me in my birthday and Christmas boxes!

Day before yesterday--
Easy Mac for supper courtesy of Kara
Hot Chocolate and fudge for dessert courtesy of Kara and Mom

Starbucks coffee for breakfast courtesy of Grandma
Oatmeal for breakfast courtesy of Dad and Mom

Tuna for Lunch courtesy of Carma

Potato soup for supper courtesy of Bob and Debbie
Mini Reese's cups and mini Hersey's bars for dessert courtesy of Dad and Mom and Bob and Debbie

More Starbucks courtesy of Grandma
Pop-tart for breakfast courtesy of Dad and Mom

Left over potato soup for Lunch courtesy of Bob and Debbie