Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Aabservations - Dried kiwi and other miracles of ingenuity

Just a few short (ish) observations:

- Contact solution is sold by opthamologists, medicines are sold by pharmacists (wearing white jackets), and toothbrushes etc are sold in supermarkets. ReNu and Opti-Free dominate the contact solution market, and it's $5 here for a bottle! (And yes, I am no longer using ReNu even though its sold everywhere after the fungal alarm.)

- When school lets out at 5:30 pm, some little kids stand up on an electric scooter between their parent's legs, waving non-chalantly to their friends as the scooter banks a turn. I would be terrified and would likely fall off. These tykes will be good snowboarders some day.

- Attention to anyone planning a wedding: Yeah, rose-petal strewn aisles are nice to walk down to. But wouldn't you rather walk down an aisle lined by girls wearing red toy soldier caps, mini-skirts, knee high boots and fish-net stockings holding sparkling fireworks? I didn't think so either at first, but after going to my classmate's Chinese wedding on Saturday, I've realized that indoor fireworks really make the ceremony. "Kiss the Bride" is nice, but "Kiss the Bride" behind a wall of spewing flame, that's hot.

- They don't sell cottage cheese here. I like cottage cheese.

- The best strawberries ever. Wow. American agri-business should be ashamed. Also, did you know the Chinese word for strawberries is cao mei, where cao means straw and mei means berry -- just like English? Weird, eh. (Caodi is the word for lawn or grass, which is pronounced "Saudi." I think that's funny, that Saudi means grassland. Because Saudi Arabia is a desert!) (And yes I'm just easily amused.)

- Watermelon is the "western" gua while cucumber is the "yellow" gua; funny how I never thought of cucumbers and watermelons as being related, even though they look exactly alike when you think about it. I bet a cucumber and watermelon salad would be very tasty. The "southern" gua is a pumpkin. I don't think it belongs in the watermelon/cucumber salad, but we can experiment.

- I know less than 500 words, and yet of 12 them are "shi," some with the same tone even! They mean: city, the number 10, "is", master, persimmon, eat, time, market, room, gentleman, and world.

- You feel really stupid when you can't count to 10, and even stupider when you can't even count on your fingers. I'm all good until 5. But lost beyond there. Here's a picture:, though 10 is sometimes a fist and 5 is sometimes all your fingers together pointing up. I think.

- There was a show on CCTV 9, "China's only English language news station," about how Chinese chains are trying to standardize their food, Starbucks/KFC style. But why? Don't you think it's strange that every grande non-fat wet cappuccino with caramel sauce tastes the same? I wonder what we are giving up by making sure that all dumplings weigh 5 grams. But then again remember the foundation of capitalism (and advertising): people are wiling to buy something only if they can put a value on it, and they can best put a value on something if they imagine how much "Utility" they'll get out of it, and they can estimate that either (1) through friends (if you have them), (2) through ads/packaging (honest and ubiquitous!), or (3) from having experienced the product or service before (the most reliable way in my humble opinion). So that's the secret to life's mysteries. And the reason the coffee cart guy had better make sure his coffee is never burnt (and why Starbucks' always is).

- Okay, so sometimes the food doesn't agree with me, and sometimes I don't agree with my bathroom's plumbing. So I decided to buy a plunger. Thing is, they don't use plungers here. They have instead long metal coils that you shove down the pipe, and then use a handle to rotate so that it can unclog the toilet. This works about 50 times better than a plunger. So why did rubber plungers become popular in America? My hypothesis is that it involved a smooth-talking handle-bar mustached vest-wearing salesman in the Wild West. But if you a differing view, we can debate.

- Why didn't I think of dried kiwis, dried sweet potato, and dried string bean beans? Many the Chinese invented far more than the printing press, fireworks, gun powder and the compass.

- I was very excited tonight to get an phone survey about my drinking habits. I got to practice listening to and answering thought-provoking questions like, "How many people are in your family? Do you have children? Do you shop for your family? Do you drink milk, mineral water, juice, coffee, milk tea, or soda? If so, how often? Do you use water with your coffee?" And other amazing examples of my budding Chinese prowess. Rad.

- You may have seen the article about how Shanghai is preparing for the 2010 World Expo, by building a lot of new housing and exhibit halls, and extending their already impressive subway. To do this, they have to boot some people from their homes. Because they are mostly destroying lower income housing, these people are finding themselves unable to afford the more gentrified housing that is left in the city center.

But don't think that the Chinese government is abnormal. Just watch Ric Burns documentary of New York's history, and you'll see the same thing over and over again (the Cross Bronx and the World Trade Center being two examples). Essay Composition #1: Respond to the following statement using the 3 paragraph structure: Great cities are built on the backs of people who got kicked out of them.

- Deep thought of the day: Michelangelo (or was it Da Vinci or someone else) remarked that the statue was already in the stone, he just had to remove the rock that was hiding it. Same thing for learning a language -- you already know it, you just have to uncover it.