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February, 2015:

Pedestrian Rhyme



“Cross at the crosswalk with the light, Safely go out and be civilized.”

It rhymes in Chinese, but it isn’t any less corny.

Because nothing says “Chinese New Year” quite like…

…Elmo!(?)

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Yummy street food

Think of a waffle with crushed peanuts mixed into the batter.

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“We make it fresh and to order.”

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Yummy street food!

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You can make booze out of anything!

This is pretty good, made in the south of Taiwan.

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Running outside!

For the first time in months. Clean air, sunshine, friendly people. I must be in Taiwan!

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How cool are these flowers?

They look like Chinese lanterns. My mother-in-law is an amazing gardener.

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Gym Drama

I went to the gym in my building at the usual time today, and saw that the doors to the “VIP” room were wide open. A few employees were clustered around the open gym doors. Now, in China, seeing employees standing around in clusters is not at all an uncommon sight. Sometimes I wonder why supervisors tolerate the obvious waste of time that is caused by employees standing around. Then I remember that there are 1.3 billion people in this country, and they all need a job. Who knows, maybe “stand around” is in a job title here.

So I wasn’t confused by the sight of gym employees standing in front of the open doors. The open doors, however, were a bit confusing. The doors are usually locked, and only we “VIPs” get to use the VIP room. What makes the VIP room a VIP room? you may be wondering. Or maybe not. Well, here’s what makes it a VIP room: the doors are locked. The non-VIPs have to use the non-VIP room; the doors to which, you guessed it, are not locked.

So I approached the VIP room with a little curiosity. When I looked in, I saw large floor blow driers in the room, the kind that are used when carpets are being cleaned. It immediately became obvious to me that the carpets were being cleaned. I guess the employees didn’t think it was that obvious, so after some solemn muttering among themselves, the bravest one approached me and told me that, well, the carpets were being cleaned.

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The cause of the Gym Drama: cleaned carpets being dried by blowers.

They suggested that I use the non-VIP room. I just wanted some time on a treadmill, so I walked into the other room, which is just adjacent to the VIP room. I was escorted into the room by one of the employees, whose job title must have been “escort people into rooms.” It bugs me when people escort me into a room. I know how to walk through a doorway, thanks very much.

Actually, as soon as I wrote that, I remembered that I ran into a glass door this afternoon when I was walking out of a Starbucks. In my defense, I was putting on my face mask at the time, so even though I looked like an idiot who doesn’t know how to use a door, I don’t think anyone noticed.

Or maybe someone did notice, and sent out an alert to my apartment building to make sure to watch out for me as I use doorways, because I apparently haven’t yet mastered the concept of “door.”

But I digress.

All of the treadmills were in use. No problem, I thought to myself, I’ll just go back to my apartment, do my stretches and ab exercises there, and come back down in a few minutes. A treadmill should open up by then.

About 20 minutes later, my doorbell rang. At the door were two employees (they seem to come in pairs in the building. 1.3 billion people, and they all need a job. “Accompany coworker” may be another job title in China).

The employee was holding a tray of fruit. I noticed bananas, apples, and some of the yummy Asian pears that I love. The guy apologized that the VIP gym room was being cleaned today, and promised to call me before they cleaned it next time, so that I could plan ahead. He offered the fruit tray to me as an apology gift.

I realized that the clustered gym employees had seen me walk into the gym, look around, and walk back out. I suppose they thought that I was leaving in a huff, disgusted with their unforgivable insult of cleaning their carpets. They may have imagined me writing a nasty letter to the building management. “Leap to conclusions” must be another job title in China.

I assured them that I wasn’t upset, I was just planning to go back to the gym a little later. We ended the strange interaction as friends.

I would have taken the fruit, but I’m going out of town for a while tomorrow, and I didn’t want food sitting around in my apartment while I was gone.

Besides, the bananas didn’t look ripe.

Valentine’s Day, Chinese style

Today is Valentine’s Day, and on the pedestrian street near my apartment, there were plenty of people selling bouquets of “flowers.”

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But in the northeast of China, the real meaning of Valentine’s Day, no, the real meaning of any given day, is standing around a garbage pail eating sticks of meat.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope yours is more romantic than mine was!

Flabbergasted

The fact that my building finds it necessary to post this notice is mind-boggling.

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New Year party

The Consulate held its annual party to celebrate what they call Spring Festival here in China, but which I am more used to calling Chinese New Year.

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There were the usual speeches,…

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…then there were some performances.

I have to confess something: I am a tiny bit of a ham. Not a lot, just a little. Really. Stop laughing. I like to get on stage and make people laugh. So when there was the opportunity to sing a song and dance of stage, I admit that I sort of volunteered.

The point of the performances was to have a good time. In that spirit, I was looking forward to hamming it up on stage. Nathan, who is also a good sport, and I were the lead singers for our rendition of the Little Apple song.

This is what we normally look like. In my case, the word "normal" should be interpreted with the broadest possible meaning.

This is what we normally look like. In my case, the word “normal” should be interpreted in the broadest possible sense of the word.

In the interest of good taste, I won’t share the video of the performance here, but here are some screen shots:

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In my case, even green hair is an improvement!

After the performances, it was time to eat. The New Year holiday is an opportunity to really feast. We ate very well. And drank. And to be honest, there was a little, tiny bit of drinking before the performances. Just a little. I promise.

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I can’t wait until next year’s party. I have already picked out the skit that I want to do.