Sniveling Forms Scrapped

Last year I wrote about the quarantine forms that visitors are required to fill out upon entering China: 

Upon entering China, there are many forms that need to be filled
out.  An Immigration Entry Form.  A customs Form.   A Health Form.  On
this form, the arriving traveler is asked to list all the diseases from which
they currently suffer, along with various symptoms that might be
present.  Of course there are the usual things, like fever, coughing,
and mysterious rashes.  But recently a new one has been added:
snivelling.  I presume that both idiots and non-idiots alike are
supposed to report their snivelling.
So, if you’re coming to China anytime soon, remember, NO SNIVELING!!

Today the General Administration of Quality
Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the General
Administration of Civil Aviation issued a joint statement that these forms will be scrapped. Instead of filling out the forms, travelers will have to make an oral declaration to the border officers if they are sick……or sniveling!

In the run-up to the Olympics I suppose they thought it was easier to scrap the forms than it was to change the spelling!

Long Live the Talented

Last week David Brooks wrote a brilliant op-ed piece published in The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, titled "The Dictatorship of Talent," describing the social-educational-political system that has evolved in China today.  It starts like this:

Let’s say you were born in China.  You’re an only child.  You have two parents and four grandparents doting on you.  Sometimes they even call you a spoiled little emperor. They instill in you the legacy of Confucianism, especially the
values of hierarchy and hard work. They send you off to school. You
learn that it takes phenomenal feats of memorization to learn the
Chinese characters. You become shaped by China’s intense human capital
policies.  You quickly understand what a visitor understands after dozens of
conversations: that today’s China is a society obsessed with talent,
and that the Chinese ruling elite recruits talent the way the NBA does
- rigorously, ruthless, in a completely elitist manner.

Please read the entire article.  It’s well worth your time.

“This is Insane”

I could be wrong, but unless you were one of a small group of people who attended my niece’s wedding  last weekend, you have probably never heard a bride utter those words into a microphone just before reciting her vows. Don’t worry.  It wasn’t a reference to those upcoming vows, but most likely was a reference to the fact that we were all standing outside along the shores of Lake Superior in a blinding snowstorm.  We Minnesotans spend most of our winter existence walking a fine line between being hardy and insane.  I guess at that moment my niece surmised that we had all crossed the line into insanity, never mind the fact that she and the groom were leading the way. Her statement notwithstanding, however, the consensus among the guests was that it was the most fun wedding.  Ever.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the headlines in the local newspaper read "Beach Wedding in a Blizzard."  When it was all over, there was a foot of new snow on the ground and a happily married couple.  And, as far as I know, no one caught pneumonia, which is a good thing as well.

To say that the wedding of Kari and Pierre was unconventional would be an understatement.  But then again Kari has never done anything conventional in her life, so there was no reason to expect that her wedding would suddenly be conventional.  To start with, neither of them like to be the center of attention, so the thought of the typical American "princess for a day" wedding was out of the question.  They wanted something that would be fun — for their friends, not just them, and something that would allow all of us to get in touch with our inner Minnesotans.  The logical place then was outside, and in Minnesota, "outside" doesn’t get any better than the north shore of Lake Superior, that greatest of Great Lakes.  And along The North Shore there is no finer establishment than Lutsen Lodge, a historic resort nestled in a cove where the Poplar River runs into the Lake.  Never mind that the date was December 1.

The weekend wedding festivities began on Thursday night, with Pierre’s father preparing a home-cooked Lebanese meal for the families and the other early birds who had arrived.  Stuffed zuchini, pita, bakhlava—all in the heart of lutefisk country!  Friday was a day for "playing" (as the Chinese would say).  Some folks went  to Sven and Olie’s Pizza in Grand Marais, some played hockey, and others just enjoyed the beauty of the shore.  Friday evening, the guests convened again for  dinner at a restaurant at Lutsen Mountain.  Another unconventional aspect to this wedding was that there were no groomsmen or bridesmaids (they didn’t want friends to have to spend money buying outfits they would never wear again).  And since it was to be a short ceremony outside, there really wasn’t anything to rehearse, so instead of this being a rehearsal dinner for members of the wedding party, it was a groom’s dinner for everyone.  Pizza, buffalo wings, and dart-games were the order of the evening. 

The wedding announcements had stated that the ceremony would be held outside "weather permitting." If weather didn’t permit, then it would be held in a conference room in the lodge.  Saturday morning we awoke to news of a major snowstorm headed our way.  A big one.  A "ten-incher."  Would this be the impermissible weather that forced us indoors? Not likely….that would be far too conventional for this couple. By noon the snow was flying.  By 3pm, it was flying horizontally….off the lake!  Never mind.  At 3:30 all the guests gathered down on the shoreline, sipping coffee and hot chocolate. Then Kari and her dad walked down from the lodge.  I probably don’t need to add here that the ceremony was short, and as soon as it was over we all fled back to the lodge for a wonderful sit-down dinner. I think one thing is clear—this wedding has forever raised the bar on what is meant by "weather permitting." 

After dinner, the plan was to gather around a bonfire on the beach.  But there was this little problem of a raging blizzard.  Could one actually start a bonfire in a blizzard, and if so, would anyone in their right mind actually go out and enjoy it.  Well, we learned that the answers to both questions for this group were a resounding YES.  It wasn’t easy, but eventually Ken became the hero of the weekend and got the fire going.  The bride and groom changed back into their ice-fishing clothes and joined the party by the fire, singing and dancing to Johnny Cash tunes (Pierre had driven his truck down to the beach) late into the night.

The next morning we bad the bride and groom farewell as they headed off on their honeymoon….to Ely, Minnesota!  The rest of the family loaded up the vans and cars and headed back to the Cities, still chuckling about the beach wedding in a blizzard! 

Congratulations, Pierre and Kari.  We love you!   

Go here to see some photos.