I passed!

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As promised some more sample questions from the driver’s manual are below with more to come. The good news is that I passed my test and no longer need the manual.  I’m so happy and more than a little relieved. Now I can legally drive and rent a car in the US. I can’t wait to see the look on the face of the rental car agent when I plunk my Chinese license down on the counter the first time.

Ben claims that it takes most Chinese 3 or 4 tries to pass the test but I think he was just being nice. 😉 The girl at the computer next to me though? I think it may take her ten times with her strategy. I have no idea what she was doing. She was clicking her mouse four times to every one of mine. There is no way she was able to read that fast. I think she was simply hoping that she was guessing correctly.

 

Question: When encountering a flock of sheep crossing a road, the driver should _______. 

A. Honk continuously to drive away the flock

B. Speed up and bypass the flock

C. Drive slowly and use the vehicle to scare away the flock

D. Reduce speed and go slowly, or stop to yield when necessary

Answer: D   (I would think that the same is true for any flock, herd, or gathering of animals. I’m nut sure why sheep are singled out.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Question: When discovering animals cutting in on the road, the driver should _______.  

A. Voluntarily reduce speed or stop to yield

B. Honk to drive them away

C. Speed up and bypass

D. Reduce speed and use the vehicle to drive away them

Answer: A    (Even animals cut in!)

 

Question: When encountering somebody herding animals on the road, the driver should _____.

A. Honk to indicate him to yield

B. Properly reduce speed and keep a large safe distance

C. Swiftly bypass

D. Follow closely

Answer: B

 

Question: When animals abruptly cross a road, the driver should evade if it is safe for the passengers and goods in the vehicle.

Answer: Right  (Interesting that the safety of passengers and goods are equally important. Hmmm.)

 

Question: When animals cross a road and impede the traffic, the driver may continuously honk to drive them away.

Answer: Wrong

 

Question: When a vehicle encounters an animal-drawn cart on the road, the driver should _______.

A. Suddenly speed up and bypass

B. Honk when approaching

C. Honk in distance and reduce speed in advance

D. Follow closely

Answer: C

 

China is a paradox and makes for a very interesting life.

3:30 PM – 90°

Oh the irony

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WOW, it’s been way too long since I wrote. The only excuse is that I had a busy summer: I started working, Kiersten and Steven were here for 2 weeks :-), and I had a hysterectomy. Everything is fine with the latter but I felt that I needed to check out the health-care and hospital systems in China and Hong Kong. Isn’t that what everyone does? I’m getting back into my normal routine so I need to start writing again or I’ll be on my way back to the US and I won’t have anything to jog my memory of what I did the last few years in China.

The latest escapade is that I’m attempting to get my Chinese driver’s license. I don’t want to but it’s a necessity. Here’s the background story. My Ohio license expires in 3 weeks. I must be present in order to renew unless I’m in the military, I’m not. 😉  I called the American Consulate in GZ and it was suggested that I try to obtain one in VA. I have bank statements sent there and the state would accept that as proof of residency. The problem with that is that my license will expire before I arrive and no longer valid.  I believe that the amount of US income tax dollars that we pay each year more than covers the cost of a US driver’s license…I’m just saying. So I’ve been forced to get my Chinese license. Truthfully, it’s been an easier process than I expected and certainly not without it’s “Chinese” moments and I’ve had a few laughs along the way. Like I told Ben, I find it hilarious that I have to get a Chinese driver’s license so that I can drive a car, not in China but the US! 🙂

The first step was to have my passport and Ohio license translated. Yep, my passport was once again circulating through China for a few days. We had to work that around the need for travelling with Kiersten and Steven, me going to Hong Kong for surgery, and having to re-register with the local police now that we have our new resident’s visas. That  was taken care of and the second step? Gotta get those photos taken. So it was back to Photomax only this time for some reason I had to wear a polo shirt that had the Photomax logo on it. EWWW. It’s been worn by countless other people applying for just about anything in China and it didn’t smell that great. I know you germaphobes are cringing but like so many things here one doesn’t question, one simply does.

The only other step to take before the big test was to get a copy of the manual to study, which leads me to the real reason for this post (and future ones). The downloaded version is 300+ pages and contains 1500 questions to study, of which 100 are selected at random for the test. I spent 4 hours studying for the test. At first I was scratching my head with some of the questions. I didn’t understand why they would feel that you had to know the answer. If the situation happened I’m sure that not one of the 1.3 billion residents would be able to tell you the answer and would have to go to the website and look it up. Fine, like I said sometimes you just have to play the game. But as I moved down the list and started to get into “Knowledge on Safe and Courteous Driving” I found myself laughing. I feel that if I choose to drive here (I won’t) I am now prepared to be a safe and courteous driver in ANY situation that could possibly arise.  So I’m going to spend the next few days easing myself back into writing more regularly by posting some of my favorite questions. What you see in red was copied and pasted from the manual, I have not embellished in any way.

Right or wrong:   When encountering people carrying load on shoulder poles or carrying farm tools on shoulders, the driver should observe their movement, control speed and pass by keeping a sufficient safe distance. Answer: Right

My personal situation: When I see the old man who has a live turtle that he pulled from the river hanging from his pole and is standing on the side of the road trying to sell it to passers-by on our island because as we all know turtle soup is good for acne, I will observe the movement (and I think I need to watch that live turtle as well because I’m not sure when he’s going to bolt), control my speed, and pass by keeping a sufficient safe distance.

Right or wrong:   When encountering pedestrians wearing cotton-padded caps or overcoats in winter, the driver should honk and be ready to brake. Answer: Right-DUH.

The question I thought coming next was: When encountering male pedestrians wearing baseball caps who have their shirts rolled up past their nipples in summer and this includes you Anders (see Favorite people photos – 1st year :-)), the driver should honk, be ready to brake, and yell out the window that no one wants to see that. Answer: Right!!! This question did not come next but I think I should write to the Traffic Control Bureau, Ministry of Public Security to let them know that this is a missed opportunity.

Stay tuned because there are several of these gems. Some involve old men, old men at night, old men on bikes, old people walking, slow-moving old people crossing the road, drunks, animals, AND herds of sheep.

9AM – 84°

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

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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

money

cell phone

ID card

Person 2

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

jewelry

laptop

house deed

Person 3

money

ID card

cell phone

jewelry

Person 4

wallet (which contains money and ID card)

hard drive storage unit

photos

Person 5

photos

award

tea cup

postcard collection – postcards 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. 😉

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°

Chinese haircut

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For the first ten months in China I had my hair cut by a very nice Australian woman. She worked out of her apartment and it couldn’t have been better. Communicating was a piece of cake and she knew exactly what to do. The day that I was dreading arrived and she left Guangzhou. There were a lot of ex-pats that were sad to see her leave. She had a loyal following because she spoke English, did a good job,  AND worked for herself which meant that she was cheaper than if you went to a “western” salon (not saloon ;-)).

Before she left she recommended a place where she got her hair cut (always good to know who cuts your stylist’s hair) but he was expensive because he was in one of those aforementioned western salons. Anders found a place in the building where he works and I thought I’d give it a try. He told me that when I called to make the appointment there would be someone who spoke English and they’ll just call them to the phone. He also told me that his stylist doesn’t speak much English but again, there is someone there that will help translate the first time. (Insert loud, obnoxious buzzer sound.) I called several times and was able to determine in Chinese that there was no one that spoke English and was unable to get past that. D, lovely D, made the appointment for me. Guess what? There wasn’t anyone there when I arrived that spoke English either. It’s just all part of the fun. It’s hair, it will grow back if the cut’s awful. So after much “communicating” which consisted of pointing, making cutting motions with our fingers, a little Chinese, and even less English we were ready to start.

It started with a 15-minute scalp massage/shampoo. It’s heaven! I’m falling asleep writing this because I’m thinking about how relaxing it was. Like any massage in China, they are doing things under the guise of a massage but I think I got my  kidneys cleaned as well as my hair. The person that does the shampoo is not the one that cuts your hair. OK, I can deal with that, that’s not so uncommon in the US. Winnie, not the Pooh, cut my hair. She did a fantastic job, no doubt about that. It just took 50 minutes! I was kind of nervous about having someone who wasn’t as familiar western hair cut it but she did a great job. She was meticulous but it paid off. To be honest it’s the best haircut I’ve had in years. I thought I would be on my way but no…wait…there’s more. How about another 7 minute scalp massage/shampoo? Why thank you very much. A different person provided that. So this was the third person to touch my hair. I’m wonder if that’s the norm or there were that many people who wanted to touch it. Makes no difference to me because…here it comes…I know you’re sick of hearing it…THEY ARE ALL SO NICE! I went back to Winnie’s chair and finally the translator showed up. At that point we didn’t need her, we had managed and I had a great haircut. Somebody else dried it, Winnie put in the gel and FINALLY, 90 minutes later I was on my way.

To recap:

4 people either cut, shampooed, or dried my hair

Combined I had 22 minutes of massage and shampoo

Got a great haircut

How much do you think it cost? This is not Chen’s barbershop on the corner near the wet market where I know you can get a haircut for 75¢, no lie. This is a salon in a large office building. It cost $11 and no tip! Talk about value for money: all the above and a clean set of kidneys. Yep, there are some things that will be difficult to give up when we return to the US.

3PM – 95°

Birthday hong bao

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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. 🙂

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. 😉

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 😉 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°

Mandarin progress

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I had a bit of a breakthrough today in my Chinese class. When I started lessons a year ago I took notes, feverishly too I might add. When I started the second level my teacher started writing things down. It saved time and she didn’t write as many things as I did. I have noticed in the last few classes that the writing has been less and less. Today? Nothing was written! I still have to think about every word that comes out of my mouth and sometimes my head hurts (I can only imagine how E’s head must feel having to listen to me) but I’m pleased that I’ve progressed to the point that nothing is written. As a visual learner that makes me panic a bit but it’s the Berlitz way. Hmmm…it only took me a year to reach that point. Now that I think about it perhaps it’s not something I should be bragging about. 😉

On the down side, in my Mandarin class today my teacher told me that some of my characters look like a 3-year-old wrote them. We had quite a laugh about that. It’s true. Learning to write in Chinese transported me to another minefield. If I make a stroke wrong it looks like a completely different word. I now walk in 2 minefields: spoken language minefield and written language minefield. I get blown up on a regular basis. 😦

I’m so glad that E was able to tease me about it. Our relationship has come a long way and I adore her. We laugh a lot and I love that I can make her laugh in Chinese. I don’t just mean with my mistakes either (although that provides plenty of unintentional entertainment). I get her to laugh by saying something funny. She understands me. She actually squeezed my shoulders today. I know that seems trivial but this is a nation of non-huggers. 🙂

9PM – 82°

Favorite people photos – 1st year

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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”.

ENJOY!

9PM – 82°

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First Anniversary!

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I cannot believe that it has been one year since I left everything familiar behind (except Anders and my cat) in the US and jumped feet first into this amazing adventure.  On my 50th birthday I didn’t do a whole lot of reflecting. I was living  a fantastic life. Kiersten was married and “launched” as Anders likes to say and Andrew had less than 2 years of college left. I loved my life and was quite happy, therefore I didn’t feel the need to make a grand gesture for my 50th. HAH! Little did I know that before I turned 51 I would be living in China.

I have learned so much about so much in the past year!

I CAN learn another language. I never thought I could or would 🙂 have the need after learning French in my 40’s. Chinese isn’t so easy but I’m doing it. 🙂 I just started learning characters 2 days ago, kind of cool.

Very little intimidates me anymore. Not people, not adventures, not situations, lack of language, food, nothing. If I can make such a drastic move then I feel like I can do anything. (If I didn’t have FB or my Kindle I might be writing a different story, but I do have them so this is my story!)

I really like Chinese food. I have also learned that I will try any kind of food. There hasn’t been anything too weird  so maybe it’s easy for me to say that. The only thing that I’ve spit out was a mooncake but I’ll give them another go this year for Mooncake Festival.

China is huge! OK, I knew that before I came here but I didn’t know that there would be so many places on my “To Visit” list. Originally I wanted to use the opportunity of living in China to travel in Asia.  All of the usual suspects were on the list and they still are. However my list of Chinese cities and sights is just as long, if not longer. Just like when we were in Switzerland and were given the advice of not to miss out on the “home” country, I don’t want to miss out on China. Truthfully I am more interested in my Chinese list than my other countries list. Why?

Chinese people are welcoming, funny, hard-working, gracious, and happy. There are women that I buy from regularly at the wet market that I always say hello to or they yell hello to me as I walk by. I have a fruit guy that I always buy from. BTW, he almost never has a shirt on 😉 There is a cleaning woman at work that always has a grin and hello for me. Kids are the cutest. They smile and say hello and are thrilled when you notice them. Their parents get excited as well. Chinese are VERY accepting of any attempt at speaking their langauge. I can name a few countries where that is definitely not the norm, ahem France. Sorry Monsieur C. but it’s true. The people who work with Anders are all so dear and D leads the way. They have gone out of their way to welcome us. One of Anders’ peeps gave Kiersten and Steven a beautiful set of mugs as a welcome to China gift! The people who I work with are so sweet and I adore my Chinese teacher. We always have a good time, even when I think she must surely want to pull her hair out! When I think back to the trips I’ve taken in China there are people who immediately pop into my head that made the experience special.

Guangzhou is the place to be, for me anyway. I’ve been to 5 cities in China and there is no place like GZ. I’m so glad Anders ended up here. It has a more relaxed pace. It’s probably because it’s so stinking hot but I don’t need to know the why of if. I just know that I can’t wait to get back after I’ve been away.

I will NEVER get tired of my view, particularly the TV Tower. I still look at it every night and every night it still amazes me.

I can blog. I didn’t think I could. I kept putting it off before I moved here because it seemed daunting. My nephew K told me I could do it. How could I let him down? So thanks K for giving me the kick I needed to do this so that when I leave I have this to look back on. Not to mention that I made a friend through it and now Anders and I are friends with RHHOG and Mrs. RHHOG.

I will cry my big, round, green eyes out when I have to say goodbye to Ben. 😦 I’m doing it now just thinking of the day. No one, NO ONE  has had a bigger influence on my time in China. He’s my brother from a Chinese mother! 😉 For the record he thinks I’m part Chinese from high up on the family tree. He makes me laugh every day. He told me a joke today about learning characters and all because after my class I showed him my first attempts. I never would have gotten the joke before now but he probably had it in his back pocket and was just waiting for the day when he could tell it to me. It’s a cute joke too.

I wanted to include some of my favorite photos of the past year but because I’m having connection issues today I think it’s best to get this published while I can. I’ll do a photo gallery blog over the weekend.

5PM – 99°

Word Association

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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

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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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