Monthly Archives: July 2012

Word Association


What do the following words have in common?

hurt, kilometer, bell, tower, cute, adorable, dead, actor, fun, hip, tickle, and loud

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Well, they are the words I had to look up on Google Translate (and in the correct order) when Anders, Kiersten, Steven and I were getting foot massages in Beijing. In case you hadn’t heard, last Saturday in Beijing they had the worst rainfall in a 24 hour period in 61 years! Yep, we were on the Great Wall when it started. After a very long car ride back to the city we decided that the only indoor activity that would make the Great Disappointment better was to have a foot massage. Our wonderful tour guide knew right where to take us and we signed up for the cheap option. The price difference was the years of experience that the masseuses had. As it turns out, we were incredibly happy with our young uns. They were 19, 22, 22, and 20 years old and had less than 2 years experience. Kiersten and I had guys and Steven and Anders had girls. It only added to the fun factor.

We had a room to ourselves which turned out to be fortunate for the other clientele. I have never laughed so hard for 90 minutes in my life. AND they didn’t even speak English! I’m not sure whether I had a good massage or not because I was too busy laughing, speaking Chinese, and translating. After I introduced myself to my little cutie the fun started. I did a good job of communicating with them but it was highly entertaining. My masseuse had some acting talent, when I couldn’t understand he mimed and it was so funny. Anders’ masseuse told me that he was her first foreign client! Yeah, we had a laugh over that.

So here’s the reason for looking up the words:

hurt – I had to tell them that our feet were killing us because we had done an 8 kilometer walk the day before because we were unable to hail a taxi. Real problem in Beijing!

kilometer – see above

bell and tower – the sight where the above hike started. They were amazed when I told them where our hotel was and they realized how far we walked/hiked. 🙂

cute – I had to tell them how cute they were.

adorable – cute didn’t seem a strong enough adjective to describe them so I looked up adorable.

dead – Steve Jobs. We got into a discussion about pop culture and his name came up. What can I say, it’s not meant to be disrespectful.

actor – after the above word my masseuse decided to mime dead for us. I had to tell him that he was a good actor.

fun – as if they couldn’t tell how much fun we were having by the amount of laughter, I wanted to be sure they knew.

hip – where Steven’s masseuse determined he had a problem based on his feet.

tickle – I found out that my quadriceps are EXTREMELY ticklish.

loud – I apologized for the decibel level we were generating when Steven saw a man look in the frosted glass door for about 3 minutes. I didn’t want them to get in trouble and I was assured that it was OK.

All too soon our time was over. Unfortunately the only photo I took was of Anders and his masseuse. I really wish I had gotten a group photo but even without one it’s an experience that none of us (I mean all 8 of us, not just us Westerners) will ever forget. Talk about a great memory.

12PM – 81°

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Duanwu Jie explained


As promised here is a brief history of the Dragon Boat Festival.

Duanwu Jie does not translate to Dragon Boat Festival. It actually means Double Five. The festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. In 278 BC, Qu Yuan committed suicide by throwing himself into a river to protest government corruption. Qu Yuan was a poet and scholar. To prevent his body from being eaten by the critters that live in the river, people raced their dragon boats and banged drums to scare them away. They also offered rice dumplings (zongzi) as food sacrifices so that they would eat the zongzi instead of his body. It’s also common to drink realgar wine as well. What, you never heard of it? Me neither and all my Chinese teacher could tell me about it was that is was made from a poison. She didn’t know the English word for the poison. Well, it’s arsenic! Yes, drinking arsenic laced alcohol is a tradition. It helps to ward off mosquitos and people  dab it on their skin as an insect repellant. I ate the zongzi but did not partake of any arsenic wine!

Because it’s basically Chinese summer solstice there are some other traditions. Standing an egg on its end at noon will bring good luck for the coming year. NO good luck for me because I failed 😦 People wear little bags that contain herbs to ward off mosquitoes, they hang herb wreaths on their doors, and make bracelets with 5-colored thread.  The 5-colored thread has its basis in Feng Shui. Red, white, yellow, black, and green all relate to the 5 earth elements and the 5 points on the 3-dimensional compass (I know I haven’t explained that correctly but I don’t know how else to say north, south, east, west, and the Chinese include the third dimension of center). There’s more to it but it gets very involved and I can’t possible explain it easily in a blog post. I will say though that it’s fascinating.

Red =fire & east (think of the sun rising)

Black=water & north

Green=wood & south

White=metal & west

Yellow=earth & the earth’s axis (It’s not called the Yellow River for nothing)

“D”, Anders’ wonderful admin, made zongzi and sent 2 home for us to try. I don’t know if she’s psychic or not but Berlitz offered a cultural class on the history and traditions of Duanwu Jie. Ben handed them to me after he picked me up!!!  Zongzi are rice dumplings with a sweet or savory filling. They are then wrapped in leaves and steamed. The ones that we had were made with a red bean paste filling. They were bu hao, bu huai (not good, not bad). It was very kind of her to think of us!

Anders and I did not make it down to the river for the finals. So sorry! It was hot and it was “some crazy”. There were a lot of people and not much room because the grandstands took up so much of the available viewing space. That’s OK though because we had front row seats for the prelims.

10 AM – 88°

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Duanwu Jie!


June 23 was Dragon Boat Festival in China. We had planned our trip to our friends’ wedding so that we would return in time to watch. There was no way I was going to miss it! We arrived home the week before it started and I was pleasantly surprised to see a dragon boat “parked” on the river across from our apartment. The joy didn’t last past the next morning though because at 7AM as they departed for practice they set off a bunch of firecrackers, continuously, until they were out of sight down the river! Normally that’s not a problem as I’m awake long before that but I was a tad jet-lagged.

Saturday came and we were awakened not only by firecrackers but drums as well. I was like a kid at Christmas, I couldn’t wait to get down to the river to see what was going on. Neither Anders nor I were even sure where the races were to take place on the river but we lucked out. The finish line was just across from our apartment complex!! I think. 😉 Like most things in China, it seemed to be organized chaos, heavy on the chaos, light on the organized. There were a few times that 2 or 3 boats came down the river and it was obvious that they were racing. Other times 2 or 3 boats came down and it looked like they were out for a leisurely ride on the river. And then there were times that a single boat came down with the occupants paddling furiously. This went on all day. I couldn’t begin to guess who won their heats, who was a serious competitor, or who was even trying to win. It didn’t matter one bit, it was exciting even without having a clue.

At lunch time several boats pulled up right in front of us and their support team either helped them out of the boat to get lunch or they dropped lunch into the boats for those that didn’t want to climb the ladder. I have to say, their lunches looked and smelled quite good. Of course, it was also prime time to get those smokes in. Lunch was over, back in the boats and they were off for more non-racing. 🙂

Around 3:00 the skies opened up and it started to rain. I held out as long as I could but then it started to pour and there was a thunder-storm. I left and evidently so did the boats. Even the Chinese respect the power of lightning and water.  (I’ve seen on more than one occasion, people welding without safety gear AND a cigarette hanging out of their mouths!!!)

Some how, some way, some one was able to figure out who the heat winners were and the finals were to be held last Saturday.Unfortunately we had a typhoon warning last weekend and they were cancelled. It was the typhoon that wasn’t because we experienced wind, blue skies, and gorgeous clouds. My very reliable source informed that they are to be held tomorrow. Not sure I’ll make it for the final but I might mosey over to the other side of the island (grand total of about 1/2 mile) where they have grandstands set up. Only VIP’s get to sit there and I ain’t no VIP. I suspect it will be more organized chaos but on a bigger scale.

Next post will be about the history of the Dragon Boats. There is a story for everything associated with the holiday and its origins date back to 278 BC. Of course food is involved!

5PM – 97°

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