January 30, 2005
Chingrish, and beyond...
Well, I finally managed to cram a good chunk of the stuff I had set aside for China into my suitcase and backpacks by about 4am last night. There's about .5 cubic inches of free space left, the bags weigh a ton, and I have no idea how I'm going to find the strength to drag them 4000km across the face of China. Oh well.
In other news, I was checking my Air China tickets yesterday when I noticed the following advertisement on the ticket jacket:
"Glory Guang Cai International Mansion:
The Center of City, on the bank of the Worker's Stadium Lake, park area where wealthy people reside in. Granite castle, permanent deluxe residence.
Luxurious mansions in every capital around the world have their specific purchasers. Purchasers from all over the world focus their eyes on Glory International Mansion.
As one of the four treasured cities in the world, Beijing, besides London, Paris, and Berlin, is one of the few capitals that you can still purchase luxurious man sions. Glory International Mansion is the precious treasure in the world. Located in anaged park witha history of 50 years in the downtown area, veneered with graniteit has inevitably become the symbol of the luxurious mansions in Beijing.
As renowned people moving in, apart from amenity surroundings, it has a unique and unsurpassable serenity."
So, as you can see, it should be fun teaching English in China. I'm off to the airport in a couple of hours, so keep in touch. Au revoir!
January 23, 2005
Snow. A week to go.
It has been deemed from on high that I should get to see one last, good ol' Northeastern snowstorm before I depart for the East. And so it was that the snow fell to about 8 inches last night, and I shoveled 'til I tired. And it was good, brisk, backbreaking work, and the snows were parted. Now and I was satisfied, and fell into a deep sleep. (Can you tell I've been reading The Good Earth?) Anyway, I'm glad to have been able to get in a final experience of copiously moist weather before I head out to the desert.
January 18, 2005
News today that former Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang, has passed away. Zhao was a rare voice in the Party against the use of violence to surpress Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989. He didn't win that argument, and was subsequently held under house arrest for the rest of his life.
When someone important dies in China - even someone who has fallen out of favor with Beijing - a certain amount of respect is usually shown. A state funeral is held, grievances are aired, and everyone goes home. But since the Tiananmen Square incident is an "official" milestone on China's path to stability, the government has ordered state media and popular websites to restrict any discussion of Zhao's legacy.
From the NY Times:
"The tight control suggested that President Hu Jintao might not permit even a modest posthumous rehabilitation of Mr. Zhao, who enjoyed popularity among some former colleagues as well as many critics of the government at home and abroad. It remained unclear whether the state would allow Mr. Zhao a public funeral."
From the BBC:
"He was never again seen in public after 19 May 1989, when he went to Tiananmen Square and made a tearful appeal for demonstrators to leave.... many will remember him as a symbol of thwarted political reform. But many young people on the streets of Beijing have never heard of him."
The official Chinese line, from Xinhua:
"Comrade Zhao Ziyang died of illness in a Beijing hospital Monday. He was 85. Comrade Zhao had long suffered from multiple diseases affecting his respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and had been hospitalized for medical treatment for several times. His conditions worsened recently, and he passed away Monday after failing to respond to all emergency treatment."
UPDATE 1/20/05: (AP) China will hold a memorial for ousted Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang at its main cemetery for revolutionary heroes but it hasn't been decided whether he will be buried there.
January 14, 2005
More Frequent Hauntings
According to the scientists over at the China National Environmental Monitoring Center, "in 2005 the western regions of the country will be haunted more frequently than the eastern regions."
That's not a reference to paranormal activity, but China's ferocious sandstorms. It's hard to reach any conclusions from this article in the People's Daily Online as to whether or not Korla is in for a good sand season, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Someone remind me to do a sandstorm update in the future.
January 12, 2005
Skill & Stomach
I came across an interesting article last month in Xinhua, China's official news agency. Hilariously titled, "Xinjiang Trip a Test of Skill and Stomach", it reveals a great deal about Chinese attitudes towards Xinjiang and the Uygurs.
It's not so much what the author says, but how he says it and what he doesn't say at all:
"Next was dinner with a Kazak family. The host works for the government of Barkol Kazak Autonomous County in Hami. He introduced himself as Huang Hai, a Han name, although Huang is actually a Kazak. The Kazak ethnic group in Hami has a population of 30,000, making up 30 percent of the region's inhabitants, most of whom are Uygurs. The Kazaks regard themselves as descendants of the white swan. There lies a romantic fairy tale."
It seems strange to me that the author would remark upon the fact that a Kazak uses a Han name, but then fail to give any explanation. The truth is that non-Chinese ethnic groups in Xinjiang often complain that they face tremendous employment descrimination. "Huang" is probably trying to keep food on his family's table by seeming more Chinese. Of course, there's no better way to distract you from all that possible unpleasantness than by telling a fairly tale.
But wait! The best part is how the article is concluded:
"I found the Kazaks had a straightforward respect for visitors that you often find among China's minority groups. The dinner they served me was certainly unforgettable - but unlike the beauty of the Kazak girls, it is something you may need a strong stomach for."
Sure, sure. All the ethnic groups live in peace and love and harmony. And those exotic ladies sure are beauties, eh? Oh, brother!
January 10, 2005
One thing I forgot...you can subscribe to an email list that I'll occasionally use to send updates or info by clicking here. Don't worry, I won't use it very often or send you translations of idiomatic jokes I learn in Chinese.
January 09, 2005
T-minus 21 days
Welcome, one and all, to what I hope will be an interesting and informative first-hand account of my upcoming trip to China. I'll be adding updates and photos here as often as possible. In the meantime, perhaps you'd like to check out the biographical information that I've whipped up. Despite its gloss-over-the-details nature, this is the first time I've ever put together a history of my life.
For those of you who are wondering exactly where I'm headed in China, I'm going to Korla (Kuerle in pinyin), Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Province. I wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't really ring a bell, so I've provided an entire gallery of maps and photos. I've indicated my location on each image with a red star.
In terms of being ready to ship off for a year, I'm feeling pretty confident that everything's going to be OK. All of the essentials have been covered, with a windproof, water-resistant jacket being the only major item left to buy. And an electricity converter. And maybe some hiking shoes. Anyway, think of me often.
Also, for those of you unfamiliar with these sorts of things, you can add comments about this entry (and whatever you else you want) with the "Comments" link below. I will read them and perhaps respond. For a more direct line of communication, you can email me.