Category Archives: Culture

Unique chosen names


It’s been so long since I’ve written regularly that I don’t even remember what I’ve written about. The good thing is that I have an extensive amount in my archives so when I leave I have this to look back on. The bad thing is that I have an extensive amount in my archives. I don’t have the time or inclination to see if I’ve already written about names or not. I’m fairly certain that I have not included this awesome list that Anders, my friend NN, Chinese teacher, and I have been compiling for 2 years now.

When Chinese students take English classes (it’s mandatory, hear that USA?, it’s mandatory that they learn English and they don’t complain about it). I apologize for the rant. ūüėČ they must choose an English name to use in class. Many of them keep this school name if they have contact with westerners when they join the work force.

Frequently they choose something similar phonetically to their Chinese name. Ben is an example. I don’t remember what his Chinese name is but I do remember when he said it that it sounded a lot like Ben. They sometimes, especially women, add ‘-ny’ of ‘-ly’ to their name. Fanny, Wenny, and ¬†Lily are common examples. Then there are those people who like to be different, set themselves apart from the crowd and express their individuality. They are the ones that I appreciate the most. It’s easy to be like everyone else but it takes strength of character to be your own person. I’m just not so sure I would make the same choices but to each his own. My teacher assures me that they knew exactly what they are doing and made a conscious choice with full knowledge of the name’s meaning.

I commented to my Chinese teacher that I think they should keep their Chinese names, even if they need them for work. I asked why they don’t and she said mostly because it’s easier for us AND them. But it also avoids some difficulties or giggles when we mis-pronounce their Chinese names. She gave me a few examples and the best one was Yao Ming, the famous basketball player. When said without using proper Chinese tones and in our natural English intonation it is the same as saying I’m gonna kill you. Uh-huh! Her father’s name is another example of why they sometimes change their name. In China the order of names is reversed; last name first, first name last. If you reverse her father’s names (as is customary in his work) it means dust, as in a speck of.

I successfully avoided speaking/learning/taxing my brain with Chinese in my class on Friday for 20 minutes while we had this discussion. I haven’t forgotten that old trick of getting the teacher off on a tangent. ūüôā

Now that I’ve educated you let me give you the pleasure of reading our favorites. These are all true, no names have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent. I have broken my rule of not supplying full names because in some of the examples you need first and last name to get the full effect.



Kinki Huo (gotta have both names)

Sugar Tang  ****sorry to those who read this post with just Sugar before I edited it. This is one that absolutely requires both names and I forgot to add it the first time around.****



* Mushroom






Swallow (we think/hope like the bird but not sure)





Suker (it is spelled correctly)

Omi (God?)



Maine (US state?)




Peter Pan (see? Only funny with first and last name)

Alger (not ‚Äďia)







Eleven (2 different people)


Phoenix (see Seven and Eleven above)

Windy Wang

Zephyr Zeng






*McKey (formerly known as Mushroom ‚Äď she obviously thought this was a better choice since she made an effort to change it)

Which one is your favorite?

1:00PM – 90¬į


Easing back in


I’m back from my extended stay in the US, and the new apartment is organized and looking fine. The only other things I need to do are start blogging, go back to work,and resume my Chinese lessons. ¬†I start both work and lessons tomorrow so I decided to check all three boxes.

Because it’s been so long since I’ve written anything and I barely recognize the new and improved¬†WordPress web-site, I think it’s best to start off nice and easy.

Bear attack 001

I came across this photo in the China Daily a few months ago and couldn’t stop laughing. Every time I look at it it makes me laugh. I find it highly amusing that the zoo authorities felt the need to have someone don a bear costume to add authenticity to the attack. What kind of bear is that anyway? How authentic is it when the bear is wearing a red hat? Do all bears in Chinese zoos wear red hats? How seriously injured is the victim? Do you think the man playing the victim knows it’s only a man in a costume or do you think he’s really scared? What the heck is the uniformed man in the middle holding: a clarinet, a bamboo stick, or a pirate telescope? Come on, a hose? A hose?! Where’s the dart gun? And if you’re going to use a hose at least spray the bear. ¬†The bear clearly holds all the power in this photo. Why is the victim wearing a helmet when it’s a pretend bear? I watched a man climb into the cabin of a construction crane that is 200 feet above ¬†ground without the aid of a safety harness and this guy needs a helmet? Will the zoo euthanize the bear because it attacked a human? Or is this an attempted case of cannibalism because the “bear” is really a human?

Hey Uncle N. in Virginia, I hope this makes you laugh and that you’re feeling 100%.

6PM – 95 ¬į

Not what I expected (not the first time nor will it be the last)


I noticed a huge cultural difference in one of my recent classes (the kind where I’m the teacher and not the student). I teach a small group of women from a large corporation and they LOVE social English, not so much the business English which is what they’re supposed to be learning. Anyway, for the first 15-20 minutes I try to do something fun with them. This week I did the “Your apartment is on fire, your family and pets are safe, but you can only take 5 items with you that will fit in a suitcase” game. The answers were surprising.

Person 1


cell phone

ID card

Person 2

backpack (which contains money, cell phone, and ID card)



house deed

Person 3


ID card

cell phone


Person 4

wallet (which contains money and ID card)

hard drive storage unit


Person 5



tea cup

postcard collection Рpostcards she sends herself  when she travels (I wish I had thought of that!) and postcards from her friends and family.

*****They couldn’t all come up with 5 items so I made allowances for that. I’m a nice teacher like that. ūüėČ

I know Chinese people are practical but only one person chose all sentimental items. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not judging their choices but their answers were different from what I was expecting. When they asked me (I had not planned on offering up my answers but they asked so I did)¬†I answered:¬†my photo CDs, Bible, treasure box (which¬†contains all the great little cards, letters, and small sentimental gifts from Kiersten, Andrew and Anders,¬†my mom and dad, friends, and former students), and my old passport.¬† I was using the exercise to learn more about them individually and as a springboard to more conversation. As usual, I was the who had my mind opened.

4PM – 93¬į

Birthday hong bao


Ben’s daughter turns 1 today!! and we wanted to give him a hong bao (red envelope with money). Gift-giving in another country, especially one as different from America as China,¬†presents a dilemma or four.

Dilemma #1: Is it OK to give a hong bao for a birthday gift to a one-year old? I don’t know, but I’m going with the “I’m a stupid American and therefore you have to¬†excuse my stupidity” excuse. It comes in handy for a lot of things and the Chinese seem to accept it. ūüôā

Dilemma #2:¬†Is it acceptable to give “old” money?¬†For Chinese New Year¬†when giving RMB one doesn’t give anything but new money.¬†It’s easy to get new money in January or February but not so much the rest of the year. So…I was worried that perhaps that tradition/superstition applies to any gift of money. I ended up giving the newest old money that I had.

Dilemma #3: How much to give? Originally I thought I would give 500 RMB. It seemed like a good number and I had it ready.¬†As I was researching dilemma #2, I learned that it needs to be an even number. OK, I know technically 500 is an even number but the 5 bothered me. I was going to give 400 RMB but the number 4 is similar in pronunciation to the word for death so NEVER give anything with the number 4 in it or 4 of something! 666 RMB fits the criteria of acceptable but nope, can’t do that. It was decided that 600 RMB it is: no death,¬†Satan, or¬†odd¬†number.

Dilemma #4:¬†Which hong bao¬†to use? Way back when we first moved here I bought a variety pack of hong baos. They have different characters on them and I have no idea what they say. The characters are not simplified script either so I was really at a loss. In the past I’ve asked my Chinese teacher but I didn’t plan and I needed to give it to him this morning.¬† That was easily solved, I made my own. It’s about time I used all the scrapbooking supplies I hauled 8,000+miles. ūüėČ

Holy cow! I learned something today. I have been misspelling dilemma my whole life. I always thought it was dilemNa¬†and when I spell-checked it came up dilemMa. I immediately went to that great, reliable resource Wikipedia ūüėČ and learned that dilemMa is indeed correct. The article also mentioned that is has been commonly taught incorrectly in parts of the US. Well I guess I lived in one of those parts. This is quite a revelation for me. Am I the only one?

3PM – 95¬į

Favorite people photos – 1st year


WOW!!! I started to go through my vast “collection” of photos and realized that condensing my favorites from our first year to just one post would require superhuman skills. There are so many that are too good not to post so I decided that I’ll milk this idea for a few posts. I decided to start with people. Everyone likes people don’t they? I’m sure that as I’m laying in bed tonight I’ll think about this and kick myself about the ones I missed. Oh well, I can always do another blog¬† and title it, “The Forgotten Ones”.


9PM – 82¬į

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Who says Westerners can’t play ping-pong?


I can tell you that just about everyone at Saturday’s P&G sponsored tournament thought that when they saw Anders walk in. They changed their minds by the end of the tournament!

Let’s start at the beginning. A few weeks ago T challenged Anders to a game or two or three of ping-pong. Anders beat him and T admitted he was surprised at Anders’ skill. When the notice came around for the P&G tourney, T asked Anders to play as his partner. They practiced twice in the week before. That was it.

Saturday we arrived at the locale. It was not easy to find. We walked through the lobby to a back hallway, down some stairs, followed the sound of ping-pong balls, and arrived at a door that was cemented open. I think it was a former bomb shelter. The door looked exactly like the one we had in our house in Switzerland only I guess the threat of war has passed as the door was cemented in a permanent open position. ūüôā It was exactly like the church basement from your youth. It looked and smelled the same.¬† Again, we were the only non-Chinese. We were also the only ones that we knew and were beginning to doubt Ben. Not long after I found a seat in the corner (the perfect people watching perch), a few people Anders knew arrived and they were soon warming up.

Anders decided to play in the singles¬†division as well but got an unlucky draw. He had to play a qualifying round just to make it to the bracket and unfortunately lost. I’m not just being the ever-supportive wife when I tell you he held his own against the guy. Both games were close.

Then we waited around for the singles¬†division to finish and it was time for the doubles. He and T were great. They served well, returned serves well, and danced around each other like they were old partners. When it was time for the final in the Men’s Doubles, the crowd had gathered to watch the¬†“laowai” and his Chinese partner.¬† There was more than once when Anders managed to make a great shot or return a¬†tough serve and the crowd oohed.¬†I’m embellishing a bit but it was fun to watch the spectators’ faces and listen to them. T and Anders¬†ended up¬†taking second place. The men that won were¬†excellent players¬†and very good sports.

If you’re tired of reading about how nice the Chinese people are just log off now because I’m going to do it again. The Chinese people are so nice!!! All of the people who played were P&G employees but Anders only knew about 10 %. The only people who I knew were Anders (obviously), T, P, and XJ. But…so many people came up and talked to me and chatted. They were all smiles and congratulatory after he took 2nd place.

Yep, Anders is spreading the love one ping-pong tournament at a time here in China!  

4PM – 87¬į

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What? Huh? Are you kidding me?


It is another beautiful day in GZ. The sun managed to shine through the high clouds (might be a little smog mixed in), there is no humidity, a gentle breeze, and so many things are blooming. I decided to walk to the river to read a bit and listen to birds instead of pounding, drilling, hammering, and noisy dump trucks.

There is a huge stone bench on the river walkway that is underneath a Bougainvillea arbor. It’s¬†beautiful and one of my favorite places to sit and think, read, or watch the world go by. It’s probably about 20 feet in length so when a ¬†nice-looking man pulled up on his bicycle I wasn’t concerned that he was going to invade my space. He sat a respectable distance away and pulled out his newspaper. He also pulled out a pack of cigarettes but that was OK¬†as I was upwind from him. He sat, smoked, and read his paper for about 20 minutes.¬†I sensed him gathering his things so when he¬†passed in front of me on his bike I looked up and smiled.

Punchline: He had donned a white, cloth breathing mask.

5PM – 79¬į