An Aleutian Adventure

My niece and her husband are spending the winter caretaking a homestead on the absolute most western point of North America — a tiny spit on the Alaskan Penninsula, just a mile or so away from the 'city' of False Pass, on the first island in the Aleutian Chain, called Unimak.

This past week they had a visitor from Minnesota, who managed to make it in an out on schedule, despite an Arctic hurricane that descended on the them shortly after he arrived.

It was quite the adventure and you can read all about it here.

And while you're there, go ahead and subscribe to her blog.  You won't be disappointed.



Christmas in China

How does a thoroughly secular society celebrate Christmas?  Well, by shopping, of course.

The Christian Science Monitor recently posted a collection of photos showing Christmas celebrations around the country.

(Xidan Commercial Street, Beijing)   Follow the link above to see the rest of the photos.

BBC News also published an interesting article called ‘China Succumbs to the Glitz of Christmas.’

“Children are celebrating Christmas. As parents we have to buy gifts for them so they won’t feel neglected.” So says Qian Liu, who is buying Holy Apples for her son from a street stall in Beijing.Only an estimated 2% of China’s population are practising Christians so, for people such as Ms Liu, there are no religious reasons whatsoever for celebrating Christmas. Yet in recent years, there has been an increased focus on Christmas in China, particularly among young people who regard it as an important and fashionable day to celebrate. “We simply just want to have some fun on this day,” explains Sai Wang, who works for an IT company in Beijing. “Western holidays are more trendy for young people. There is no other sophisticated reason at all,” he adds.

As they say, read the whole thing….

And Christmas in Minnesota this year can best be summed up this way:  LET It SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW!






Christmas Trees in Shanghai

One of my favorite China blogs is China Scrap, written by Adam Minter, a fellow Minnesotan. Today he put up a fun post titled 141 Shanghai Christmas Trees. Here's his introduction to the post:

"It’s that time of year again – the time for Shanghai Scrap’s annual (2nd) 141 Shanghai Christmas Trees post (last year’s post, here). There’s not much to explain here: basically, we’re talking 141 photos of Shanghai Christmas trees (in a handful of cases, multiple trees per photo), snapped over the last couple of weeks, and uploaded to Shanghai Scrap. It’s a lot of fun, actually. Time consuming, but fun."

My personal favorite is the tree made out of paper cartons and Sprite bottles. 



MacDonalds and North Korea

I just ran across an article put out by Reuters that says MacDonalds plans to double the number of restaurants they have in China by 2013.  (GZILLIONS SOLD)

As I read it I couldn't help thinking about a cultural outing I took with a Chinese professor many years ago.  At least twice a month we would go to one of Beijing's museums or exhibition halls.  They were fantastic language learning experiences and a great way to view some of these through the eyes of a Chinese person.  One of the fun things about my professor was that he was open to discussing any topic.  On my first day studying with him he'd informed me that since he wasn't a party member we could discuss anything I wanted.  He had a unique ability to look at and analyze Chinese culture and society objectively, without spouting party or cultural platitudes. He also had a great sense of humor.  My four years of studying with him was like spending time in socio-linguistic gold mine.

One spring day we headed off to the Military Museum, on the west side of Beijing.  We worked our way through all of the exhibits of military hardware and eventually ended up on the top floor, which was dedicated to a special exhibit titled "The War Against American Imperialist Agression in Korea." I could tell this was going to be interesting.

As we walked through the room, we had a great time comparing notes as to what we had been taught about this particular war.  Needless to say, the version of events depicted were pretty much opposite of what I had studied. 

Having had my fill of reading the term "American Imperialist Agression,"  I stopped to look out one of the giant windows facing ChangAn Avenue.  The first thing I noticed was a MacDonalds across the street.

"Teacher W," I said, "come over and look out this window.

He did.

"What do you see?" I asked him.

"A MacDonalds restaurant," he replied.

I said, "Does that mean we won?"

He let out a good laugh and said "I think so."

After touring the museum, we popped over to the MacDonalds for something to drink, the irony not lost on either of us.

The Day After

This afternoon I went for a walk in the park near my mom’s place.  Not only did Roseville get all it’s streets cleared, it also got the walking paths in the parks cleaned off.  Now that’s community service!





Community Service?

I've been thinking more about how annoyed I am that I got a ticket yesterday for leaving my car on my own street while I waited for friends to come and help.

What exactly is the function of the" Roseville Police Department Community Service?"  To sit in a heated truck not 20 feet from 3 citizens who are trying to free a car from a snowbank, writing a ticket for the car of one of the shovelers which is 50 yards down the street and has only been there for 10 minutes?

If you've got "Community Service" on the side of your truck, it seems to me that a wave, or offer of assistance, or at least a word of encouragement might have been in order. 

Or a question:  "any of you folks know anything about that car at the end of the street?" 

Of Blizzards and Breakfast

This morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was to look outside to see if the blizzard that the weather forcasters had been warning us about all day Friday had materialized.  It had, and I was thrilled. I love snow and had been hoping, (not so secretly, much to the annoyance of my family and friends) that we’d get a “ten-incher” while I’m in Minnesota this winter.

The second thing I did was to call a couple of friends I was planning to meet for breakfast to discuss whether or not to really go through with it. It will always remain a mystery as to why, but we decided that yes, meeting for breakfast at MacDonalds (!!) in the middle of a blizzard seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

It reminded me of the first blizzard my family experienced when we moved here in 1973.  We were definitely NOT natives, having recently transplanted ourselves from Karachi, Pakistan, where the temps dipped to 75 on a cold winter day. Learning how to handle snow was a big dealbut a blizzard was a downright adventure.  My main memory of that blizzard, in January 1974, was that for some reason, my dad, sister, and I decided we needed to walk two blocks to the Burger King for a burger and fries. My mother of course thought that we were certifiably insane, a judgement from which she has never wavered.

Unfortunately, she was once again proven correct today.

Having decided that our breakfast was on, I bundled up and set out.  Upon opening the garage door and staring out at a white ocean of snow, a sane person would have lowered the garage door and gone back inside.  I didn’t do that.

I backed out into the unplowed street and headed down the small hill that is my mom’s street. When I saw two cars spinning away at the intersection with the road at the bottom of the hill, I was jolted back to my senses and realized that I shouldn’t be going anywhere.  I stopped, somehow got turned around, and tried to drive back up the hill to my mom’s place.  That was a silly thought.  The snow was just too deep for me to get anywhere, so I backed down a bit and off to the side in order to get out of the middle of the road. I trudged back up the hill to my mom’s place, and called my friends to tell them that I was stuck and needed them to come and help rescue my mom’s car.

In the meantime, a neighbor who was coming home after working the night shift made it up the hill and almost to her driveway, but almost wasn’t good enough, so I joined her son in helping dig her car  out and push it up the hill to her garage.  While I was doing that, a police truck  came up the hill, around the circle in the cul-de-sac, and sat for 5 minutes. Given that it said Roseville Police Department Community Service on the side, I was quite annoyed that he just sat there while we were shoveling and never came to offer assistance.  Then he flew off in a blaze of 4WD glory down the hill.

By the time we got my neighbor’s car into her garage, my friends had showed up and were at the at the bottom of the hill surveying my mom’s car.  I grabbed three shovels and the keys and headed down there to begin the excavation of the car.  Unfortunately, when I got to the car and saw the bright pink POLICE TOW flyer tucked under the windshield wiper, I realized what the cop had been doing –WRITING ME A TICKET!!!   I was not amused.

We got to work on the car, and after 30 minutes of shoveling and pushing and shoveling and pushing, we finally got my mom’s car safely back into her garage.

Now what?  Insanity descended once again, and we decided that since we were out, and the main roads were passable, we’d press ahead towards breakfast at MacDonalds.  It was quite the adventure because the wipers on my friend’s car were barely functional, so we had the windows rolled down and were all hanging our heads out like dogs just to see where we were going. This also made it easier to see all the cars in the ditch or spinning out at intersections.  “Stupid people,” we muttered as the snow smacked us in the face. “What are they doing driving around in this kind of weather?’

When we got to MacDonalds and sat down with our pancakes and coffee and suasage biscuits, we just looked at each other and said “we risked life and limb for this?” Fortunately we all made it home safe and sound (well, that’s debatable).

I guess I’ve just got a thing for blizzards and breakfasts.

Hey!  Let’s go for a drive!!