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

“They” learned a valuable lesson!


Whenever I get together with Anders’ team I seem to do things that I’ve never done before. They’re good for me, I think. ūüėČ This post is part of my doing “anything that’s asked of me as long as it’s not illegal or immoral while I’m here” crusade.

Saturday afternoon 14 or so of us met for lunch to send one of his team members off to a new assignment. We met at a Chinese place for lunch that was fantastic. On our way there, Ben told us that this place is #1 restaurant in GZ for serving eel. He didn’t know the English word for eel and I certainly didn’t learn it in Chinese because I didn’t think it was necessary for my culinary dictionary. But he very easily used his hands¬† to explain(I think he’s part Italian) and I figured out that we were going to be enjoying, or at least trying,¬†eel for lunch.

As it turns out we had it 3 different ways. The first way was my favorite which I think was smoked. I don’t even know what I’m eating which is a problem. When the mood strikes and I just gotta have me some eel how will I ever know what to order? It was also cooked another way (no idea how) and served with a wasabi sauce. That too was good but it was a little rubbery, perhaps overcooked? Then we had it in fried rice. They probably just used yesterday’s eel for that because those pieces were small. ūüėČ

We managed to play another game of good person, idiot, and ghost after we were done eating. They were explaining to a few others how to play in Chinese and I caught the word “shagua”. When I so proudly announced that I knew that word they all laughed. That was one of the first words Ben taught me in one of our “cursing” lessons. Although it’s not a curse it’s just not so nice to call someone shagua/idiot/moron.

We then walked a few blocks for karaoke! Yeah, they do love karaoke in Asia and it is a favorite pastime for a lot of people. Anders has done it before with his team but this was my first time ever. Now…I do not sing…for anyone! I think I have an awful voice. Somehow whenever I sing, what I “hear” in my brain doesn’t match with what I hear with my ears. In my mind I’m on key, on the beat, and sound darn good. In reality, it’s quite different. All of the people we were with are quite good. D has a beautiful voice, very beautiful. I managed to skirt the issue despite being very politely asked several times if I would sing.

We played Spoons again! They are so cute.¬† XJ asked if I brought my traveling spoons and cards and when I told him I forgot (I had planned on it) he stopped at a convenience store, bought 2 decks of cards, and we used The Music Box” spoons. If you lost you had the¬†choice of drinking or singing. Needless to say, I chose drinking. In the end I succumbed to peer pressure of the kindest, gentlest sort, but succumbed nonetheless. I took Anders down with me too. We sang “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease, minus the ShakeShack. I hammed it up sufficiently to deflect attention from having anyone actually hear.¬† Some of them¬†were recording with their phones and I bet that poor Anders and I are on Weibo (China’s equivalent to Facebook). Anders deserves someone way better than me in the choral department. And then…we left.

I’m certain there will not be multiple pleas next time we go out for karaoke, provided I even get an invitation. ūüėČ

5PM – 74¬† sunny, glorious, dry¬į

You know you want to know


I know that you want to know what I’m about to tell you but you’re too polite or too embarrassed to ask. Lucky for you I’m neither. Growing up with 5 brothers and living in China will do that! ūüôā

  • What are the bathrooms like? They are hit or miss. Some are clean, some are filthy. They are no different from any country’s public bathrooms in that regard. Some have western toilets¬†but most are squatters. Sometimes stall doors are marked with a representation of a western toilet seat so you can go in there¬† but this is rare. Personally, I try not to perpetuate the stereotype and therefore avoid being seen going into one marked as such.
  • Have you used a “squatter”? I probably used a squatter at the very first place I had to use the facilities upon arrival last April on our look/see trip. ¬†I have easily used more squatters than not since that time. The only thing you have to be sure to have is TP or tissue. You know how in America you’re surprised (and irritated) if there isn’t any TP left in the dispenser? Here, you’re surprised if you see a dispenser, filled or not! You NEVER, EVER go into one without it because chances are none will be provided. If it is, there is a communal dispenser and you have to remember to check before you enter the stall. Soap is not often provided for washing up afterwards either. There is usually a sink but all you get is water and as your mother told you, “You have to use soap now get back in there and USE SOAP!” So…hand sanitizer is helpful.
  • Have you gotten used to squatters?¬†Squatters are so easy. Really. We make way too big a deal of it. It is what it is. That is one of my mottoes while living here. You get used to. Just imagine what the Chinese think when they come to America and see what we have going on. I bet there is some Chinese ex-pat in America right now¬†that is writing a blog post about American bathrooms and how extravagant they are when really all you need is a hole and a flushing mechanism! Now, having said all that, I do use my own bathroom before I walk out the door and I know where the good bathrooms are at the places we frequent. ūüėČ
  • Is there a line outside women’s bathrooms like everywhere else in the world? Yes. We can send men to the moon, make electricity of wind, and¬†I can “video” chat with my kids for free using the phone and iPad like they were sitting in the same room with me but…no one, not one single person in charge of designing public toilets¬†in the entire world, has figured out that women need more toilets than men!!!
  • Do men’s urinals at Chinese rest stops have jokes above them? YES! Who knew? Anders didn’t and I still wouldn’t know if Anders hadn’t come out of a rest stop bathroom on the way to Yangshuo laughing hysterically. (I was a little worried until he explained and showed me his phone) The women’s bathroom didn’t and I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions about what that says about men and intelligence. It also further proves the point that public bathrooms are designed and built by men!

Today’s slideshow is a 2 sets of photos. The first set is the “urinal” jokes and English translations. They are hilarious! Not because the jokes themselves are funny but the translations are priceless. Anders took about 8 pictures in all but I only posted 3. I wonder what the other people in there thought while he was taking photos?!?!

The second set is the facilities at the farmhouse where we had lunch. I said it was rural and real China. Makes me appreciate how spoiled I am.

Reminder: to stop the slideshow, hover the cursor on the photo and a box will appear surrounded by arrows at the bottom of the photo. Click on the box to stop the show. You have to do this in order to read and fully appreciate the jokes. This is mostly for my dad, just in case he’s reading this. Love ya Dad!!!

5:30 PM – 78¬į

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Farmhouse lunch


On the car ride to Yangshou on Friday I was able to see rural China from the comfort of our van. After our bamboo ride on Saturday¬†I was able to see it up close.¬†I have no idea where we were but I didn’t really need to know. I just know that it was someplace along the Yulong River in Gongxi Province and we were on our way to eat lunch.

I still don’t know how our group found this place. It was a restaurant but I never would have known. It was the downstairs of this family’s home. They lived upstairs and kept the main/only room on the first floor for a restaurant. There was a menu board and they served 7 dishes. I think we had all of them with a special one requested?¬†If it seems like I don’t have a clue it’s because I don’t have a clue. We were shown into their home and the women started working. They stoked the fire in the kitchen (separate building) and asked us to choose the chicken from the coop. I missed the killing of the chicken but watched them pluck it. Then she sent XJ to pick the greens and he kindly asked me to help. I was able to pick the greens that were cooked for our lunch! The food doesn’t get any fresher than this.

The kitchen was primitive. Just look at the photos!¬†I will never complain about cooking again after seeing how much work went into preparing our food. Of course, it was a meal for 14 people but still it was accomplished without a stove, oven, electricity, gas, or running water. There were so many times that the younger woman had to empty her water basin and refill it and every time she¬†did she had to walk outside and pump the pump. ūüėČ

This all took about an hour and a half  to prepare so we chatted, played with the adorable little girl who lived there (I will include photos of her another day), wandered to take photos, and soaked it all in.  Anders and I kept looking at each other and grinning. We know that if we were not with his WONDERFUL team that we would not have experienced any of this. As we were walking to take photos we were passed by 3 very lovely cows and their owner.  He stopped and said something with a grin on his face. I have no clue what he said but he chuckled. This all occurred while walking on the sidewalk in the village.

Finally it was time to eat the¬†hen that so graciously gave her life. I can’t even remember what all we had but I think it was 2 chicken dishes, a pork dish, greens served 2 different ways, the taro, and of course, RICE! Let me explain about the taro. It looked and tasted like purple Play-doh. As a child I tried Play-doh (who didn’t?) and can therefore say with all certainty that that’s how taro tastes! Trust me on this, there is no need for you to ever eat it! This is where we had the bee and “I don’t know what berry” wine. Total cost of this meal? $3/person!¬†¬†Let me repeat ¬†lest you think it’s a typo, $3/person.

After we finished lunch we walked back to the river and¬†alongside it for about 15 minutes to pick¬†up bicycles. We rode back to Yangshuo and it took about 45 minutes. It was so cool to able to ride through these little villages and see things that I have only ever seen in Nat Geo. It was an easy ride, all downhill. The bikes were also better than the ones we had a few months ago when we did the scavenger hunt with Anders’ team. When we got to Yangshuo it was a tad scary as we rode through town to return the bikes. There were cars, motorcycles, other bicyclists, and pedestrians everywhere. No one follows ANY traffic rules and it was chaotic. But… it was so much fun! I am living a dream.ūüôā

In the¬†van on the way back to GZ on Sunday when I asked what everyone’s favorite thing was Ben said that this lunch was it for him. I can see why. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it and how many more times I will, but here it is again. I will never forget this!

I think I’ll let the photos tell the story now.

4PM – 74¬į

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