Now It’s the Eggs???

After the big melamine-in-milk-powder scare of the summer, this week brought word that melamine has been discovered in some eggs sold by a certain Dalian-based company. Hong Kong ordered Chinese eggs off the shelves and the chairman of the company involved was all over TV yesterday apologizing and saying that his company never put any melamine in their eggs.  Well, someone put it there!  Today the story broke that melamine is routinely added to animal feed here to make it appear higher in protein!!!    

Does this mean it's time to stop eating eggs?  And chicken?  And beef?  And pork?  Good grief, maybe it's time to consider a strictly imported pop-tart diet.  No, wait a minute, that's a dangerous thing to do as well!!!

One Last Kan Hong Ye Post

So I like to write about kan hong ye (seeing the red leaves).  Hey, it’s autumn!  Here’s one last post on the matter.  Below is a a photo from the China Daily of tourists in the Fragrant Hills outside of Beijing kanning the hong ye.  Now you know why I made sure to get my red leaf viewing done in Minnesota and New Hampshire!!!

Not too many hong ye, but I sure see a lot of hei toufa (black hair).

Slippery Legal Monopoly

As I was cleaning out my billfold today I came across a very funny business card that a market vendor had given me this summer.  It was in classic Chinglish. 

On one side of the card was the name of the company: 

Slippery legal monopoly of wheel Store

The other side listed the products:

cardinal Manage product wholesale and retail

Dry skates, ice skates shoe, sliding way car, sliding
way, Star sky wheel, suddenly and violently walk
shoe, the aviation shoe…etc. and an etc. of various
helmet, protecting equipment, wheels are various
Brand product.

I don't know about you, but I'm particularly interested in the 'suddenly and violently walk shoe.'

Oh, and in case you're wondering what they in fact do sell:  skateboards, in-line skates, roller-skates and the attendant accessories!

Burger Wars Coming to Beijing

My hometown newspaper (Mpls. Star Tribune) had an article today about Burger King's plans to enter the China market.

China may boast a 5,000-year-old culinary tradition, but when it comes
to fast food, Western-style outlets rule. For this you can thank — or
blame — changing consumer tastes, and the breathless expansion plans
of chain restaurants, which are eager to grab a bigger slice of the
country's estimated annual $29 billion fast-food market.For two decades the battle for the modern Chinese stomach was fought
between two American giants: McDonald's, the world's largest fast-food
chain, and Yum Brands Inc., which operates the KFC and Pizza Hut brands
in China. In April Burger King had only 12 outlets on the mainland, including
nine in Shanghai. But after this cautious start, the company is pushing
ahead with a faster store rollout: In June it announced plans to open
between 250 and 300 outlets in China over the next five years,
including another 10 restaurants in Shanghai. As in other markets, 90
percent of them will be franchised and one-tenth owned by Burger King.
For comparison, KFC has more than 2,200 outlets in some 450 cities and
McDonald's has 950 outlets.

Now this is a battle that I can sink my teeth into!  The article goes on to write about Beijing's first Burger King, which opened at the new airport Terminal 3 about a year ago.  Of course many of the local Americans were thrilled, and I know some who even made special trips out to the airport just to eat there.  Not me, of course.  But I did manage to check it out in August while I was at the Terminal 3 meeting some friends coming in from the US.  For the expressed purpose of eating at Burger King, I made an early trek to the terminal.  Since it was my first time to Terminal 3 (which is HUGE), it took me a bit of hunting to find the place, up on the second floor overlooking the check-in area. Once there, I encountered a long line.  Never mind.  I was just happy to be standing in a BURGER KING line in Beijing.  Unfortunately, it was a big let-down.  I asked for some extra mustard and they told me that they didn't have mustard.  Not at all?  NO!  NO MUSTARD FOR YOU! Sure enough, my burger did not have any mustard on it.  Can you imagine???  I'm sorry, but a hamburger with no mustard has no meaning.  Period!!!  One thing is certain—I will not make special treks to Terminal 3 to eat mustardless hamburgers!

Now, if I can only persuade Culvers to come to China…….a Beijing Butter Burger……OK, now I'm dreaming!

Peasant Olympics

Some headlines and stories are just too rich to  pass up.  Here's one:  China Kicks Off Farmer Olympics.   And here's the story, from Reuters: 

Fresh from hosting the Olympics, China opened its "National Peasants' Games" on Sunday, showcasing the athletic achievements of its 750 million farmers. Around 3,500 rural residents from around the country will compete in
sports ranging from the more traditional basketball and athletics to
tailored ones such as tyre-pushing and tug-of-war, the official Xinhua
news agency said. "Unlike most games that highlight the limits of physical strength and
competitiveness, the games for peasants emphasise more on recreation
and less on the results," Xinhua said. Authorities in Quanzhou, in eastern Fujian province, built or renovated 15 venues to host the events, Xinhua said, with a price tag close to 1 billion yuan (92 million pounds)."A successful national Peasants' Games showcases the achievements made by the Chinese people
in the 30 years of the reform and opening up to the outside world,"
Xinhua quoted Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai as telling the opening ceremony.

Yup.  Nothing like peasants playing tug-of-war to show the world how far we've come.  JIAYOU!!! I'm rooting for Farmer Wang.  I wonder if they're selling tickets on Craigslist.

UPDATE:  go here for a more detailed article from Xinhua, and some photos.  I doubt China will ever again do a sporting event without shooting off fireworks from the roof of a stadium.

Never on Sunday

Never again will I make a foray 'downtown' on a Sunday afternoon, as I foolishly did today.  I don't know what got into me.  I should have known better.   After church this morning, and lunch with some friends, I decided to head 'downtown' to get my haircut.  There really is no downtown Beijing, so what I'm referring to is the east side of town, where most of the western commercial enterprises are located, and where my hair-cutting lady works.  If I'd only called her shop to make sure she was there before heading over (I didn't and she wasn't) I would have saved myself much heartache and sanity.  I decided to take a cab, and my friend came along for a ride to a subway stop near where I would get my haircut. 

Unfortunately, it seemed like all 20 million Beijing residents were out (it was a gorgeous autumn day), and certainly everyone that owned a car was driving.  Within 5 minutes were were stuck in traffic.  After about 20 minutes of getting know where fast above ground, we paid off the driver, got out, and headed to the nearest subway stop at Tiananmen Square.  She would take it to the transfer line, and I would go on to get my haircut near the following stop.

The train pulled in and it was CROWDED!  My heart sank.  I just wasn't in the mood to fight my way onto a subway.  But fight we did, and on we got–jammed in cheek to cheek (upper and lower) with more people than you can imagine.  So much for personal space.  The train pulled into the next station, and came to a halt.  Our little band of sardines looked out the window and saw two dozen people standing on the platform ready to fight their way onto the train to join our little party. Almost in unison, everyone inside the train let out a big groan! 

It was a good reminder that even though they are more accustomed to it, Chinese people themselves can sometimes be overwhelmed and annoyed by the crowds. 

If Breathing were Optional

Today is one of those days I really wish breathing were optional.  The air is thick and with something that has a very evil look to it.  Fog? Smog? Smoke? Dust? Mist? It's impossible to tell.  I wonder what would happen if I tried to hold my breath for the rest of the day.  Nothing good, I suppose. 

A Night Light

Last month, while I was in the States, I rummaged through some of my many boxes that are stacked in my mom’s garage.  I came upon some interesting things—old yearbooks (scary, those are), stuff from my early days in China (way back in the 80’s), and a box full of all the letters that I sent to my parents in those early days.  Yes, they really kept them all.  It was easier to do back in the day when letters were actually written on paper.  Once the electronic era hit, saving them became more problematic.  I think I filed away my emails somewhere on a floppy disc, but a lot of good that will do me now!  Anyway, as you can imagine, I had some good chuckles looking at the junk from that time and reading the old letters, being reminded of adventures I’d long forgotten about.  Be warned:  I’m going to revive some of those old stories here on this blog in the coming weeks.  It can be sort of a ‘Back in the Day’ series of posts, of which this will be the first.

First the photo…

…then the story…..

The year was 1984, and we were 6 very green, very young, and very clueless teachers getting ready to spend our first Christmas in the People’s Republic of China.  Unlike today, Christmas was unheard-of in China at the time, and still considered a bourgeois capitalist ritual, so we were very unsure of how our school officials might acknowledge and help us celebrate our most important holiday.

The first thing they did was help us get a “tree.”  Actually, it was just a tall plant (in a pot) upon which we hung a few cut-out snowflakes. A nice gesture, really.  A few days before Christmas we were informed that the college president would host a Christmas party for the 6 foreign teachers.  We had no idea what to expect.  We had in our possession gifts to give the president and other officials, although to this day I can’t remember what they were.  At the appointed hour, we were ushered into the conference room of the administration building, and welcomed by the president and other various college officials.  The table was arrayed with the ubiquitous items of the day:  teacups, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, fruit, and candy (hey, some things don’t change do they?).  The officials said some nice words to us about wishing that we would have a happy Christmas in their country.  We said nice words in appreciation to them for helping us celebrate.  Then came the gift exchange.  The 2 men on the team were given a little box of fuzzy chicks made out of pipe cleaner.   All different colors.  The 4 women on the team were given these nightlights.  Seriously.  We stared at our gifts dumbfoundedly, lost in a swarming mass of cultural confusion.  Were these serious gifts?  How could that be? Or were these gag gifts—the officials pretending they were serious just so they could see the confused looks on the foreigners faces?  You know, to this day I have never been able to answer that question to my satisfaction.

What I do know is that I never dared to actually use the night light.  The thought of waking up in the middle of the night and getting a glimpes of that was just too scary.