Thursday, April 5, 2012

country pictures


rest stop for bathroom break! breathing is temporarily discouraged

mother and child at the market. this is the usual method of carrying a child

Meat market. with the crowd of kids behind who were so amused with the two of us.
 

Home next door to where we stayed

The village (note the concrete buildings. as well as the road)
 

Playing needs no language :)
 
 

Carrying over the shoulders, the usual technique for heavy loads
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coal stove. for warmth, cooking, and basic gathering location. note the main bed too.
 
 
 
 
 

Don't forget etiquette while eating!!! finish your bowl (except for a bit of rice perhaps) and never finish what's in the pot in the center.  
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Out in the Country, Feb 23-24

Feb 23-24

Visit to the Countryside!

Not entirely sure where I ended up, but for someone who doesn’t have an affinity for buses I sure do go places on them.

E, a lady from Europe who has been living here for 4 years and speaks Chinese very fluently. We went to visit a friend of hers who lives in the country. Her family is there, and she is working in the city. She only gets to visit once every week or so.

Using the bus for the very first time by myself (sounds simple, but it feels like an accomplishment. E texted me the stop in Chinese where I needed to get off at, as well as the stops before. So I played the matching game! With the different stops on the sign above the seats for me to count and match the mysterious signs with the ones on my phone, to sign, to the flashing marquee above the driver with the current stop. ) We met at her apartment, met up with the lady we would be staying with. I was told to call her something in Chinese which is pronounced “Jay-Jay” which means “older sister”. E was called “may-may” (again, pronounciation) which means younger sister. And I was referred to as “su-may” which I think was something like “little younger sister”.

From there we got a bus together to the train/bus station. We waiting on the alternative bus (the main one had already left) until it had enough passengers to depart. We then spent 4+ hours on the highways and eventually back roads that took us through towns and villages that became smaller and smaller as we wound around the hills, and weaved into the other lane as we passed slower vehicles in front of us (yes, sharp bends and passing in the lane that was for traffic going the opposite direction we were traveling. Picture that sentence right there.) no worries though, we honked a warning before going around the vehicles.

A couple short stops at Fill Stations (aka gas stations. Sometimes with a tent or two set up selling hot food). There was one stop that the driver was spraying water underneath the bus. Not sure why…I suppose the high amounts of mud. I went to the bathroom. And by that I mean ducked around the corner where there was a curtain hanging. Perhaps five concrete walls that were maybe three feet high occupied the narrow space. Those would be the western version of “bathroom stalls” and instead of a western toilet, two boards perpendicular that had several inches of gap between them. BYOP…Bring Your Own Paper. Thoughts: be sure to balance carefully, and for goodness sakes whatever you do never breathe through your nose!

At the town we tumbled off the bus at was perched high upon a hill. Walking through to where we were to catch the van to where our hostess lives, we gathered a small crowd of mostly children. They have probably never seen foreigners.

Another not short enough drive down the winding hill and we had arrived. The pavement abruptly ended and we walked a bit down a dirt road, then inbetween houses on narrowing, slick paths. We picked our way through the muddy barnyards. From pens beneath mud buildings, often a few steps lower into the ground, a bull, or few pigs would stick their noses through their wooden bamboo gates to look up at us. Chickens scattered ahead of us as we picked our way between concrete homes and buildings made of mud.

When we arrived close to the end of the town to her house. Well, her house was the one made of bamboo type structure, and had mud plastering outside of it. Her, and her family, were now in her brother’s house. (the government provides funding for homes in the country. to encourage moving from cities perhaps?) this one was two stories and made of concrete. Four rooms in the bottom, and the top either unfinished or not in use during the cold season. Two rooms had beds to sleep, a large bowl filled with flour or ground rice, and a hot plate. The other room had a small alter, with candles lined up, and decorations running up and down the sides…built to burn in honor of the gods or ancestors or something. The back room had the coal stove, the bed, and a cupboard for a pan for cooking, a few dishes, television, and small filtered water tank. One light bulb lit up the room. I suppose we were not that far out since there was some electricity. Often remote places share a generator that is used to provide power one section at a time, Or for only one for a few hours in the evening.

The concrete floor, though frequently mopped, was covered in mud. A kid or two would come through, mud splattered. It was impossible to avoid, with no separation besides a doorway from the fields and barnyards. Her toddler wore the split pants that most kids that age wear around here. Diapers are not in high use, and since the floor is already dirty….it is not an issue to clean that up as well.

We walked around the fields they farm. Here, that is what they do. Often the grandparents will stay and work in the fields, the kids may work with the crops as well or go to the city to work. If that is the case, their children are cared for by the grandparents.

We followed a small winding mud path that was on a rise between planted fields, and we clambered up a rocky hillside to overlook the nearby hills. It was so quiet and peaceful.

Once back in the house, six of the ladies wandered in, joining us around the coal stove. They talked rapidly in Chinese (E brilliantly translated). I watched them closely. Seeing the differences in ages (represented in various stages of teeth: no teeth, small teeth, rotting teeth, and no teeth!) They watched me too. Commenting on how nice I looked with glasses on (the Chinese think glasses look very nice and smart. I wore them just to better see the countryside outside the window). They asked if I had a boyfriend, excited to set me up with their sons. I tried not to panic, E explained this was their round about way of saying they like having me around.

E told me, while we sat there that they were comparing us. They often do that here, with the person of interest often standing right next to them. This tactic is even done around children, comparing behavior or intelligence bluntly. (a tactic to encourage competition? and therefore achievement?) Between E and I, our relationship statuses, language capability, the length of our time in china, and our ages were all being compared.

Dinner was simple, and very good. I tried to pick the vegetables and doufu from the center of the bubbling hot pot on the warm coal stove. E was offered stay at the grandmothers house, in her bed. Here, it is very common for close friends (same gender) to share a bed. It is an invitation of friendship, and closeness. Like saying that all is well between two friends. We stuck together though. Bed was a double in the corner of the concrete room, and comfortable despite the cool air wafting in through the open gap above the door.

Oh, and the toilet. Well we would have had to find the path that led around a few buildings to step in between the narrow walls with a low husk- thatched roof. Luckily, there was a bucket nearby. very accommodating for their visitors

All those camping trips and out-doorsy moments… just became valid.

Before leaving the coal stove, we followed the tradition of most households here to wash our feet before bed. A tub with hot water (from the stove top) and a towel was given for us to rinse off then pat dry. Then clean shoes/slippers to wear to walk over to the bed.

Friday, February 24

Morning started early. This was a rooster based alarm system. When I shuffled over to the stove, I was handed another clean wash cloth with which I was to wash my face in the hot water. Refreshing! Breakfast was hot spicy rice noodles. We were served plenty, our hostess graciously filling our bowls generously before her own.

We headed back to the main road, back on the narrowing paths that linked between the muddy road and cut between houses and barns, past small gardens fenced in with dried bamboo. While waiting for the van that would take several people from there into the city, we stood around in front of one of the concrete houses that had a small paved area in front of it. Some of the newer homes are like this. We were invited in, this is being polite. And if they joke about you not having visited, they are not actually put out or upset.

Eventually we did go into the one ladys house. 9 people from the town, as well as the three of us. We went through a room with a couch, a room that had bags of rice I suppose, and other crops to plant, stacked in one corner. A large open bowl of a ground up grain. Lines of hot red spices strung up to dry. The back room had the coal stove, the bed, television and several small narrow benches that were pulled close to the center stove for people to perch upon. They chattered away in Chinese, and I sat there rather comfortable in the oblivion to the conversation. I was told by E that they said I should stay longer here and in China…that is the round-about way of saying they like having me around I suppose J I guess I make a nice room decoration/obstacle course for the kids hah.

They walked us to the van that would take more than 5 people back.

It was a long drive. The windows had such thick tint over them I could only see the shapes of the hills. The driver smoked, often, so that the inside air was stale and heavy. And the same 7 songs kept playing on repeat.

Absolutely worth what I got to see and experience.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The group from dinner out at the restaurant we ate the fish (right off the bones....which believe me is tricky with chopsticks. but worth the effort). below is a pic of me with the people outside the restaurant dressed up in the Miao minority traditional wear.


QUIN YAN had these huge fossils on display! below are other pictures from the visit to the walled city.











Musical instruments!!!



The horses right above are the 7 horses typically seen in art in this province of china.
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Pictures of XIOU LOU...that really awesome old building!
and the bottom A and one of the kids where we ate. note the two bowls....one of rice the other of spices and peanuts. (With chopsticks for extreme dexterity challange). You take the noodles, dunk them into the spices, then shovel into mouth as gracefully as possible. There are also the bowls in the center with pickled radish, more spice, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar that one can add.
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feb 20th

Monday February 20th –visiting QUING YAN

This
wonderful little place was over an hour and a half by bus outside the city.
Though this included sitting and waiting in the bus for enough passengers to
accumulate for departure. I was taken by a girl studying to teach English here!
I was asked at dinner the other night if I wanted to see this place. A phone
call was made and voila! All set for the next morning!
Inside
the gate, there were all kinds of touristy sales on both sides of the walkway.
I was cautioned by my guide (who was seeing it for the first time) that these
things would not only lack in quality but would be expensive. I figured as
much. Among the souvenir type places there were also places to eat….such as
balls of fried doufu, and pigs feet!
I was assured that the latter is very good…but we did not buy some to try. Oh
the disappointment is overwhelming.
I did get some of the rose
candy, particularly famous from here. various kinds were offered sprinkled
with different kinds of seeds I think? It was chewy and very good!
We
visited all 10 locations that the ticket got us in to see. The city was
walled…most of the pieces of it are still there, and we walked along parts of
it. Various buildings consisted of: where the president’s father lived
(including the ornate bed and desk), a temple (with large gold painted statue
of dude/lady sitting upon an alter where various flowers and candles were
placed, incense was burned and there was a place to kneel as well. Outside of
it were the prayer flags strung up across the courtyard and red flags that the
monks (?) give to people who pray or something, as a symbol of binding), there
was a place for students to come and take their examinations (which can last
for days/weeks and they are not allowed to leave the given room), hotel type
rooms (surprisingly unlocked. And I employed Jill’s Mr. Cuddles Rule! “when you
can take a free pee, do so!” on a nice toilet was a bonus..although an
illegitimate one), various other buildings that looked rather lovely with all
their archways and decorated woodwork carvings of dragons and other designs,
inside there were all kinds of fossils on display inside (of huge plants or
dinosaurs), and a building that had the minority artwork of the Miao people, as
well as a few other minorities crafstmenship on display.
One
of our last stops was the one with the minority art. A very nice lady was
there, and when she saw me looking around. Pulled out (FOUR!) thick books that
had samples of various types of weaves the Miao people do. Each type of
stitch/weave depicted images …and an English description of the picture and the
story that was depicted. It was absolutely beautiful. From some of the minority
art on sale, my companion of the day bought me a small whistle in the shape of
the horse…the Chinese year I was born J
We
had some tea and noodles with pork for lunch that we ate before getting on the
bus, sitting around the warm coal stove as a table.
Watching
out the bus ride back I saw the various farms worked amongst the hills. And the
bases of the hills dotted with the white tombstones. Only saw a few cows/bulls and mostly people
working their way through the fields. We passed through a town or two, or just
clusters of houses/buildings.
One thing is for sure though…highways here are pretty nice!
Relatively straight and even, at least, initially.

It was a rainy day, which is typical…though the forecast on
the weather channel usually calls for 70 and sunny…
Guiyang translated means “Precious sun”. because sunlight
here is so very rare and appreciated!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feb 16th-19th

Thursday, February 16th
A
surprise for S and R! Their kids, who have been in the states, decided to
surprise their parents with a visit!!! They are pretty awesome too!
One
of the first things we did was go to the police station to register. I was
supposed to do that as soon as I arrived… but the important part is that I am
officially registered here now. It was in an un-obscure building. Well, at
least to me, who cannot read the characters. And compared to the busy street,
was quiet, clean, and ordered inside. It took no time at all for our names to
be entered into the computer along with the address where we’d be staying.

Went
to a gym here this evening! With C (their son) and a couple other of the
foreigner boys. Like anywhere else, I
was the only girl. Again, general pale dermatology, and the placement…should be
used to it. Whether it was confusion or irritation, I had a good workout, as I
tried to go through without drawing attention to myself.
And…they had a punching bag !

Friday, Feb 17
Woke up just as A and C (S and R’s daughter and son) were
heading out to breakfast. Since I have not experienced breakfast here, I
figured it would be good to try. One of the Ah-ee’s suggested a place. We
walked along until we ducked through the plastic coverings to one of the eating
places. We sat at the small table and A ordered for me. goat meat on rice
noodles, with onions, greens, spices, garlic..and optional more spices!
Yes, for breakfast. But the broth was hot, and the spices
hotter. The warmth was worth the breakfast very contradictory to the U.S. norm.

We, along with a couple kids in tow, went out to the JIA
XIOU LOU one of the oldest buildings in Guiyang. Built somewhere around the
1500s, by the monks. The first building we came to was the watch tower. It’s ornate structure had decoration in the
finely carved lantern replicas (with painted designs on the slightly
transparent paper covering the gaps). Paintings were on the ceilings. Stone
dragons were at the base of each pillar of the entry arch.
Further
into the compound, we walked through a few of the wooden buildings. At the entrance of each, the doorway had a
wooden board one has to step over. It was at least a foot high. And apparently,
sometimes there is a wall inside the
door one has to enter around. I am told the reason for this is because one of
the many Chinese traditions includes a lot of involvement with spirits. For example, burning of paper money, in order
to provide for them in the Other World. There is a lot of respect for the spirits
of the dead here. They can be good or bad. I do not fully understand it myself.
Anyways the purpose of these walls is to protect a house
against ghosts/spirits since they can only travel in straight lines (who knew
right?).

Before lunch we stopped for coffee. A very high end
place. We had espresso…and it was awesome. Very smooth and rich. It was a…gold balancing vacuum espresso
coffee machine. Google it!
It was all kinds of fantastic.

Lunch was egg noodles! Okay, this was important. We
ducked into one of the restaurants on the street…where all are. We sidled past
the full tables to a bench across from a couple of Chinese people. Yes, it is
okay to sit with people you do not know!
Chop sticks (all meals outside the house…and the dishes
with lunch…are eaten with chopsticks) from the community box *cringe* but
because the noodles and doufu are served extremely hot… you stick it in there
immediately to (kinda) sterilize. The dish of noodles was brought around on a
tray and you are given a smaller bowl that has La Jiou (the hot spice in
EVERYTHING here!), peanuts and onion chives and probably garlic with some oil.
What you do is (keep in mind, with chopsticks) put some noodles in the spice
bowl and then eat it from there.

How one eats noodles here:
1.
Add spice
2.
Two add soy sauce/vinegar, some pickled radishes
that they frequently have set out in bowls, and maybe cabbage
3.
Grab some toilet paper from the roll they have
in a holder to use as a napkin.
4.
Bend over so that face is near bowl when using
chopsticks to eat noodles. This is not only an acceptable technique, but
frequently used as well. You may also pick up the bowl with one hand while
using chopsticks with the other
5.
If meat is in with the noodles, chew
carefully…there is probably bones, or (if your lucky) chicken feet.
6.
Unwanted food (like the bones) goes on the table
7.
If you need the spit the floor is available (the
is true anywhere)

Dinner was several dishes, Rice in your bowl and then the
various dishes are passed around to put in with your rice
There was:
Ø
Wosen -a green vegetable from here.
Ø
Ziergen- a bitter, but flavorful root frequently
used here. They say that it takes eating it 3 times to start to like it
Ø
Mapodoufu –a spicy doufu dish
Ø
Eggplant!
Ø
Spicy chicken (with peanuts!)


Sunday February 19
For dinner, we were invited to a restaurant by the
brothers and the families of some Chinese who teach English! It was a Miao
restaurant (of the Hmong minority people).
The waitresses and staff were all decked out in colorful
traditional costumes. Complete with silver head pieces and necklaces.
We were seated in a back room, around a table that had a
bowl over an open flame (to make it boil)
> put into the bowl was the fish our host picked out
when we arrived. (carp I believe??) it is called SUAN TANG YU…sour soup fish!
The whole entire fish was cut up and put in there, displayed very nicely.
>There was warm
corn milk (which is sweet) to drink.
>A dish that had doufu and flat pieces of Chinese
sausage.
>Of course, your own small bowl of spice to dunk your
fish in!
>A small bowl of rice. (at very nice restaurants,
there is not much rice and a lot of other dishes. Rice is a filler…) and
potatoes
>XIAO MI ZA was on a plate. It is a type of grain.
Brown and sticky and sweet
>TANG YUAN
served in individual bowls that had a sweet broth and balls of sweet and
sticky dough floating in it.
It
was an absolutely delicious evening! I made sure to finish everything in my
bowl (leaving a little bit of just rice behind to be polite. But made sure to
finish everything else in my bowl) and made sure not to take the last of
anything in the dishes that we all passed around the table. That would be rude!
It is like saying there was not enough food ordered for everyone to have their
fill!
The company was fantastic. And I was told by A that I did
a good job in table etiquette J
a compliment I took to heart. So many little things are different…though the
people we ate with would be forgiving of mistakes. No reason to be ignorant. I
was so very happy I could be a friend that is not an embarrassment to take
places or accompany when invited out.

Feb 12th-15th

Sunday, February
12th
I have to word this bit very carefully, since one is
allowed to be Christian, and meet as such.
I was picked up today to get together with a few other
foreigners in the area. We met in someone’s living room. She served us little waffles
(like a quarter of a piece of normal size) …in the shape of a heart ^_^. And
tea! (there was no tight time frame, no countdown of the clock or
anything) we sang several songs, mostly
in English, but some songs in Dutch (since that was the main language for most
of 10 people). There was a small message
and quiet time.
Afterwards, we ate Chinese food. Rice with two different
mixes ontop….neither of which could I tell you what it was nor what was in it.
But let it be known..it was good!!!
Then, spoiled rotten! She came out with a plate full of
pancake Crepes!!!! ((I have the recipe and am determined to practice flipping
until I can make them look nice. Until then, anyone who would like to help me
eat them while I practice…just let me know when I get back!)
More tea! Black tea…not green (non Chinese house).
When I left the house, very full I might add… I left with
two of the girls from Holland helping another couple who fosters children. We
took a bus (or two?) to a café type place called Createa.
First time experiencing a bus in China!
It wasn’t bad at all. Crowded of course, and the smell of
people crammed together. I watched the streetside speed past and realized,
without my guides, there would be no hope for me. I could tell you what city I
was in..and that is all. I wouldn’t even
know where to look for a bus schedule…and even with one would not be able to
discern stops, or which bus number to take. Even visual is of little use, since
no word is recognizable to me, and without a picture on an advertisement…visual
recognition of location is of hardly reliable.
This is daunting. And a little frustrating too.
With no sense of direction by bus, I realized most of my
adventuring would occur on foot.

For today, I tried the hot chocolate at Createa (a western type place crowded
with a younger crowd). I don’t usually go for hot chocolate…coffee being the
craving of my heart..but it was recommended. And pretty good! (though Ruth
makes a wonderful cup here with Cadbury’s hot choc. Mix).
In the back corner, we swapped stories and discussed ways
in which culture differs, as well as dissenting points of view. Sort of, our
world versus this world kind of things.

Several buses later, one of which included a double layer
bus (yes, I wanted to ride on the top, though it was enclosed) we eventually
made it to Lannigou. In between buses we need purchase dumplings from the
street. (served very hot, just off the stove….and hopefully the heat killed
anything alive). There was a cabbage type in the center (perhaps leeks and
onions???) and the bread around it was warm and soft and had a unique flavor.
It was rather good. (nearly worth the risk…though I am writing this over a day
later, so I think I am safe).
There
was a huge traffic jam, so we got off the bus, along with the other half of the
occupants and walked the distance to where the house was. Some rooms heated,
others not. Mostly kids with special needs. I got to meet some of them, the
nicest kids. A little cautious, but before long one was tucked under my arm,
and we played games with our hands,
hummed songs, and got along just fine J
too bad it was almost bedtime.
Dinner,
of bread and cheese…as well as bread and nutella!!!! (yes, even Chinese nutella
is better then what we have in the states) before I was driven back home.
(because as it goes*sings* wherever I put
my sleeping bag is where I call home!) even at 7 in the evening, the rush
hour traffic was just dwindling.
Amazing
how just 10/15 min. drive from the very developed area I am at. Here most
sidewalks are paved, or have tile and stone grout on them (the stones large
and therefore just as slippery as the
tile!) There, mostly dirt and much more…construction. Not the tall scaffolding
with steel and machinery here, but the cinderblocks with the concrete half
covering most of it to make a wall of a house. Tarp and aluminum altered on
some rooftops. Gutters are full and run down the sides of streets, where a
water drain is built in next to the road for runoff, garbage, as well as who
knows what-else. The roads are more narrow, but traffic still crams the hectic
street. Stores offer more practical services, such as for cars and functional
things. Buildings are in various stages of repair, or the need of.

Home,
curled up in a few blankets, next to the heater to fall asleep in the living
room before curling up in my bed.

Monday Feb 13
Ventured out on a run. Yes, it was wonderful. I followed
the river, there’s a concrete path next to it…comparatively level and good
footing. I counted the bridges I went under them, so I wouldn’t forget where I
was. I prefer city running, but with so many crowds slow you down, and traffic
that has few laws that it follows, plus the sidewalks are uneven and comprised
of slick tiles that I struggle just to walk on successfully. The river was what I expected, 2 parts water,
1 part unknown. The river bed is full of long tangles of weeds. (I couldn’t
help but consider in my head those things I learned about pollution and high
waste increasing certain gases or was it decreasing? Inflated growth in the
water decreases oxygen available to fish and other possibly living creatures…)
despite my suspicions…I did see a few white birds stalking the riverside and
diving into the water. So…something must be considered edible.

Later, after the kids went to bed. It was so nice outside!
(even my room warmed a little with actual sunlight!) I went for a walk.
Sticking to main roads, the basic square type pattern. Getting lost here is not
like getting lost most other places.
So, here is what I gathered….
1.
There are in fact street signs!!
2.
Shop signs are generally unknown, unless there
are windows showing me what they sell. Then …I guess!
3.
I will get stared at..either because I’m white
or because I keep looking dorky and struggling to not wipe out on that wet, slick tile. Could be
the combination.
4.
Construction is everywhere. Watch where you
step. Watch what you walk under.
5.
When crossing the street. Look all directions.
Simultaneously. If able, cross with others.
6.
Every now and then, a girl (usually younger)
will give a shy smile and say “hello”
7.
They sell these little hotcakes, look like they
are made out of potatoes off of little carts on wheels. Sometimes stationary,
sometimes going down a street (either with or against the traffic).


Tuesday, February
14th- Happy Valentine’s Day <3
A pretty fantastic
day of love. Though all I did to celebrate was bake cookies for the kids and
everyone else. However, the drool of little children provides love for the
heart in way nothing else can.
It did, for the first time in the week, make me miss
home. Except it’s not home I miss…A big bear hug would suffice.



Wednesday, Feb 15th
It does not feel
like a week. It is going by too fast!
Went for another short run this morning by the river,
passing several Chinese women and men who were doing Tai Chi. I watched their
slow, controlled movements. It was like they were moving through water.
I joined Ruth and a friend of hers for coffee and was
invited along to get my hair done with them. Not my usual scene…and I said I
did not need a haircut or anything..
I was led to a side room, where there were several
comfortable reclined chairs (reclined to the point of laying down) and a sink
at the head of each. I sat there waiting until one of the many Chinese men who
work there came and tucked a towel around my neck. My head was guided gently to
the sink (that was nearly flat, so no uncomfortable digging into the neck. I was asked a few
questions…none of which I could answer. But Ruth had said they would ask if the
water was to hot…so that one I nodded to. But the others I could only smile
sheepishly. The man shampooing my hair had on a surgical mask covering half his
face, but he smiled humorously at my incomprehension.
The shampoo was worked thoroughly through my hair and
around my scalp, similarly with the conditioner. My head was then spectacularly
messaged! Never had that done…but it was inarguably great..
Once
the Chinese man had strongly removed every fiber of tension from the surface of
my cranium, he gently sat me up and tucked a towel around my head (somehow
securing the towel and all my hair as well).
It was surprising how delicately the previously granite grasp on my
skull became. I was led to a chair in front of a mirror and he began combing
out my wet locks. I was handed a small glass of hot water, the top was covered
with saran wrap, and a straw poked through.
I am told they do that everywhere.
Most
of the employees were male, all wore black dress pants and a black suit jacket.
Most had the stylish hair-do of short sides, longer hair on-top, and product in
order to volumize. Often orange tinted.
The ones whom dry, cut and such had a type of tool belt around their
slim waists, only instead of any useful tools, it was full of brushes, combs,
and scissors.
Once
my hair was thoroughly dried and fluffed, I was released. All for the cost of
15 yuan, called Kuai (the currency here… which is equivalent to $2.38)

On a
walk before dinner, I managed to get slightly turned around. Luckily I
accidentally created a loop that brought me back to where I intended. While on
an unintended side street, I passed the glass fronts of shops. Well, they may
have been shops. Many looked like people’s living rooms (table, food, small
stove, tv, heater, couch). Others looked more like small businesses with a
desk, and a couple people on chairs around a table, sipping tea of course, or a
woman working on a sewing machine. Some
were clean and soft. Others, were dirty and crammed full of miscellaneous junk. Several had people crowded around
tables where chips or similar type pieces, were being shuffled across the
surface. Perhaps a kind of gambling??
I
passed several open garage types, open and overflowing with cardboard, scrap
metal, or junk…any mass amount of material was being sorted through by a few
men and women. These are jobs one normally does
not see people doing. Yet, if the job pays, does the “ends justify the
means”? is it justified for people to work in dirt, and garbage…if it’s a way
to survive?

I will try and send pictures. Difficult to do with the
internet over here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On to the other side of the world

Feb 7th-Feb
8th
Got
my visa yesterday and spent the rest of my afternoon booking flights,
(rearranging flights too). Packing.
Errands. There was a required wings and beer break worked in there in the
evening (while waiting on confirmation of flights….)
Got
about 45 minutes of sleep before grabbing my two carry on bags and heading to
the airport. Flying standby is stressful. But once again, I guess God was
really a-okay with me going, because everything worked out smoothly. With even
less of a layover in Newark!! (this was appreciated). And I didn’t even crawl
off the plane! Yes walked off with hardly a wobble. Was assigned a window seat,
and got comfortable for the 12hr and 55 min plane ride. Sandra Brown was chewed
through. Got to catch a few movies on the mini screen in front of me. and
studied that mega strength and conditioning book. Plus I put my incredible
skill at sleeping anywhere to good use. Only waking when I lost feeling in my
leg, arm etc. Nice seat mates, the nicest yet. A Chinese lady and a businessman
from America. Both were very pleasant when I stumbled my way out to the isle.
Arrived
in Beijing at 2:30 (14:30).
Customs were a breeze. The shortest line and least amount
of questions yet! Got to stare down a camera. Then, minor heart attack as I had
to locate where my carry-on luggage had been sent. (there wasn’t room above the
seats, so they put it under the plane). But then…I HAD TO FIND IT! It wasn’t
waiting when we got off. I was told something barely understood that I needed
to go to such a gate. Right. No problem. And everyone else I asked in the
airport looked at me like I was speaking jibberish. A nice man from Germany
told me where to check first…to keep the panic at bay. Praise Him!! Found it at
designated gate (with checked luggage) duh. See, this sounds mundane to
type..now. but imagine. EVERYTHING …all clothes etc for the next MONTH of my
life were in that bag! Tackled that thing! Then, with a sigh, set off to find
bus to Terminal 2 where I would wait 5 hours for the next flight to
Guiyang. Again, sounds easy, sounds
mundane, sounds simple. I followed
pictures, pointed and held up two fingers until I was pointed in the right
direction.
Short
flight. Just 3 hours. I was so tired I fell asleep on my hand, leaning to one side. The stewardess knew a
few English words to communicate with me.
My plan: to be met with the Shocks at the exit.
Back up plan: taxi??? Though I realized I was stupid
beyond all possible belief and had only printed the English address, not the
address in Chinese. *sighs* and I quickly caught on…outside of the airport the
only English signs is the occasional advertisement.

Luckily, tall, red haired Sam Shock met me at the
airport. The only white person there. And me, with my innate pale-ness was easy
to see I’m sure.
We made it to their apartment. It is distinctly possible
I sleep-walked up all 7 flights. Met Ruth.
Information intake of the evening:
1.
I have my own room! In a single bed with a lotus
on the headboard. I was so excited I almost didn’t realize or care that
2.
The Chinese really really like a firm mattress.
Firm as in, I knocked on it to check if it was actually plywood. Nope. Mattress/stone
slab.
3.
The heat here cannot be turned on. Something
about electricity and volts.
Moral of the story. I arrived safely and slept like a
rock…on a rock. With almost half my suitcase (carry on size) already donned and
hat pulled over my ears buried under what I deemed too few blankets. Didn’t
matter, I slept until 8am the next day..and I may not have rolled over.
Beds, no matter what the form, are wonderful.


Thursday, Feb 9th
Zombie Jet-Lagged Anna stumbled into the main room where
six kids, all ages 3 and under were already awake, getting changed and starting
breakfast.
There is a system they have going here…and it rocks!
There are two (one day a week, three) Chinese ladies who come and help. I can
tell they are pretty fantastic. They only speak Chinese, but laugh at me when I
mess up, so I figure we will get along.
After coaxing breakfast into one little girl who was
suspicious of Unknown Anna I nearly kissed the teeny coffee pot I found in the
kitchen.

The kids call the helpers “ah-ee” (pronunciation) which
means “aunt!” I call them by their name then put “ah-ee” after it. Since they
are older then me. Otherwise I would
use a term (like the Shocks) that means sister.

They go out to the market for lunch, and I asked to go
along (asked Ruth who translated). I just couldn’t wait to get outside. So,
like a silent bumbling shadow I followed them. Down the short side road.
Concrete was under-foot. Along with some dirt. Smoke with all kinds of smells
was in the air, mostly coal. Possibly some other burned garbage. It was cold
for the area. I was fine…but then again, I was well layered.

Market has numerous stands (tables with someone behind
the stacked table) placed together along walls and in the center. Not very
crowded, but more people came just in the short time we were there. Vegetables
stacked up. Roots like ginger, and all other unrecognizable kinds. Peanuts,
tofu, cabbage. Fish swimming in tanks ready to be snatched up and eaten.
(goldfish and carp were the only kinds I recognized). A man sat behind a table,
which was stacked with pasta, and he cut long thin slices making more from the
sheets of dough. Next to him, a similar approach but with rice! Copious amounts
of rice, in all kinds of forms.
Still closely following the ah-ee we got meat from a
woman behind a plastic (or glass)
barrier who pulled a large bone and chopped off chunks of meat. There
was blissfully few flies/smells/dirt in general. Different from India.
They have this nifty technique. When you ask for
something, they put a plastic bag in a little bowl then dish, cut,
spoon..whatever requested substance into bag that is neatly waiting in the
empty bowl. When desired amount is distributed, they simply remove the bag, tie
it up and hand it over. Nifty!

For lunch, something called “hot pot” we each have our
own bowl of rice, and in the center, the items retrieved from the market (I recognized about 2 from the mix)
cabbage and tofu, and meat/animal fat. They ladle out, or pull out with
chopsticks, from the bubbling pot whatever is wanted into your bowl.
They did not add spicy to the main bowl. That was in a
separate little dish of red-hotness that you can dunk pieces of food into.
There is no escape of spicy over here. I did dip a very little on the corner.
And yes, my face turned a little pink and my eyes watered when one piece of
tofu fell in and was covered.
Table Rules:
1.
Food is never touched with fingers. (until it is
on your plate).
2.
Chopsticks were encouraged by the ah-ees. Who
had a good laugh as I struggled and ate slowly.
3.
The bowl is not fused to the table. It is
encouraged to pick it up to decrease bowl to mouth distance when using (and
abusing) chopsticks
4.
If asked a question with your mouth full…answer!
If you don’t, this means you think food is more important than the person
5.
Empty bowl means you get more.
6.
Empty bowl is also very rude. It means your host
did not provide enough
7.
Chewing and smacking lips together is completely
fine. Practically a compliment.

The kids woke up from their nap. Warmed up to me a little
bit. I was at least liked for my ability to read the English books to them. One
after another was lined up to be read, while my lap was constantly filled.
Sometimes with three at once. The oldest was the most attentive to the books.
Pointing out the colors she knew for one, and never stopping the book line-up.
Yes they are adorable with those big brown eyes.

Once they were in bed, I was fighting to stay awake…made
it until 8:30 in the evening and zonked out. My head tucked under the blankets
since it is 4 degrees C in my bedroom. 45 degrees F. (the main room is a toasty
9 C!...like…almost 50!)


Saturday, February
11th
With Ruth went to the Bird and Flower Market. It has
apparently just moved there. The taxi driver (black taxi…meaning unregistered)
dropped us off and pointed in a direction of people and haze. Ruth let me
wander where I wanted, as we strolled down isles packed with booths selling all
kinds of things. The beginning and main areas were crammed with both people as
well as merchandise. Side isles were narrow with wares coming from the “shop”
into the walking area. Smoke hung in the air from the cooking fires. Cheap toys
were on display. Flowers of all kinds, fake blooms, and many kinds of potted
plants. A favorite seller here seems to be cacti. Especially one with
florescent highlights and sparkles tossed on.
Animals
were for sale here on several isles.
Small turtles crawled around in boxes. Goldfish filled containers. Small
round ones. And longer kinds too. For decoration, and a distinctly probable
chance of eating. Birds were sold in cages. Here, the bird cages are actually
pretty, as are the food bowls! Painted and pretty as you can imagine! Cats,
Dogs (of all shapes and sizes. But the majority were small breeds. The kind I
fondly refer to as “rat-dogs”) to their credit, there was at least one german
shepherd I saw for sale. And I understand
in a city of this size how a smaller dog is more practical.
Spices
of every kinds imaginable were for sale, on display in bags, either small or
large. Some roots, or large dried plants, sometimes in chunks, sometimes ground
up powder. I had no idea what I was looking at, but it was interesting. There
was tea for sale as well! Leaves of tea as well as flower teas dried up and on
display for purchase of your own tea melody.
People
sold medicinal, or other merchandise, their sales pitch into a small microphone
and amplified over the crowd. We also passed a couple dentist offices. A few
displayed teeth, dentures, false teeth, perhaps whitening too? and a
professional (complete with white lab coat) sat behind a table…offering their
services. ( I still remember a picture my mom has of a dentist when she went
through China, nothing but a bag of pulled teeth next to his table!) Rut told
me there are dental clinics as well as these available street side.
One notable
difference, no one tried to push anything under my nose due to my radiating
white skin. That was pretty nice. But
probably only due to location. Touristy cities would probably be more prone to
this sales technique.

Noticed:
baskets are carried on the back. Rather frequently. Straw baskets that can hold
whatever is desired, or a bundled up baby. They are very large in size
sometimes. And when empty, can be sat upon (flat side down, open part towards
the back) around a fire with a circle of others.



Mall:
Western food downstairs in the food court.
Ordered a Chinese (green) tea. It was in a tall clear
glass, the leaves were loose at the bottom as they steeped into the hot water.
I do not think tea has a high redeeming quality as far as caffeine goes, but it
has some good flavor and the warmth is very welcome J it is also very prevalent. In
houses, in shops, I can see tea being served while I walk past the open
storefronts
After eating I wandered around the mall. It had to have
been 6-plus floors. Each plateau offering several stores. Escalators in the
center, as well as some elevators. I wandered into a place or two, but when
sales ladies approached I could nothing but smile and shake my head. Realized a
few things…primarily that I need to learn some basic Chinese phrases. Cuz I got
nothing.
I liked watching the people. Chinese ladies are very
stylish, even in the winter. I look like a mini blimp all bundled…they manage
to look cute as well as warm! Perhaps that façade is similar to in the States,
the cost of beauty and all. I should probably step up to this mindset…but
somehow I don’t see that happening in my own life.
Chinese men seem to (more frequently) be fashion
conscientious. Not only in styles of clothes, but hair as well.

Later:
Went on an errand with Sam for lightswitch..and
electricity …something was frying. Something that would fix the light…not the
continued heating issue.
We brought alone one of the kids along. It took three
different stores to find what was wanted, specifically. There is no standard
here…
By store I mean, those crowded, but organized, square
stores, that the whole front is open to the street. Sometimes level with the road, sometimes up
or down a few steps. Most had those thick plastic strips covering the front
(keeping in the warmth!). others did not.
One thing I noticed, there are certainly more “pretty”
versions of lights here. Or perhaps I just have not looked at many back home.
But there are long light settings, circular ones. Color tinted ones. A
translucent flower or butterfly decorated many.
Also, pretty nifty, LED lights…but not in a covered bulb
in a rope or strand of lights. But rather, you can buy the LED lights on a tape so all one needs to do is buy the
desired yards and one side is tape. No need for anchors and hooks! (and for all
who knew about this previously, just humor me okay? I think it’s pretty great,
who cares which country! :P )

Back home:
Heat still broken. 40 F in my bedroom. And nearly 50 in
the main room. I just rotate layers to sleep in. once curled up under the
blankets its fine. But it takes a few minutes, with nothing by my nose poking
out.
I created a new game with the kids! I get down on the
ground and tell the kids it’s time to play horse-y! one will sit or lay on my
back while I do a few push ups. By the time everyone has a turn they are
giggling and I am nice and warm too! Functional and fun as well!

Monday, February 6, 2012

China :)

When you get God involved, one tends to be hurtled farther then imagined.

Now, this location is going to be a little more ...closed off...then previous countries. websites (such as this) may or may not be available. and perhaps in an abbreviated form.

Here's a vague idea of how I ended up hopping on board a miserably long flight to Guiyang China
Mid January: mom gets a return e-mail from some friends welcoming me to their home
Jan 26th: friend with inside loop informs me, if I'm going to leave the country, I need to return by the end of feb. flights open. cost...effective
spend weekend with Lydia, my lovely sister who just turned 19. We danced. we sang. we ate too...
I returned, researched travel/costs.
Tuesday (Jan 31) sent out for my visa to China. This is no small feat! it took 2 and a half hours! two different Walgreen (both Zelie's and Cranberry's were jammed or out of chemicals to print) AAA was closed until 10am and the goal was to get it out before then. Rite Aide-twice (the pic printed may or may not have been too light) and the cranberry post office= 3x.

and then...I waited. It was like a emotional limbo. physical too. I need to learn to just roll with things, take it easy. I have a friend really good at that. the aspirations I have are great...
this approach was vaguely reflected in vaccination fest friday! that followed extensive calling to old pediatrician, new doctor, CDC, Allegheny County Health Department, new doctor again..a nice extensive hang out in a waiting room. THEN two separate walgreens before I landed with a lovely nurse practitioner. with whom I did not hyperventilate at all. but may have exhibited exceptional yoga type breathing.

Monday, Feb 6-visa received. flights booked.
and then...the proof that freaking out makes you dumber than a door-nail (bless her heart). because I misread the flight information and somehow imagined the entire rotation of the sun going the OPPOSITE direction.
3 am and without much pinching, flights are fixed:) and all that I have left to pack is shampoo!