Monday, September 25, 2006

Ping Pong & Rock

Drew Jones and got completely schooled in ping pong; we also rocked out at the European pop concert a couple of Sundays back. Here are some pictures:

Just for Kicks

Look what I found parked on the side of the road... the smallest motorcycle I have ever seen! Somehow, I can't picture myself cruising down University Ave. on this thing.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

error fixed

I am able to post pictures again! I added some to the past three blog entries. Enjoy!

Dinner with Germers

Germer: noun, Chinese Origin (slang) (1) an informal word for greeting or addressing a good friend; roughly equivalent to the American slang term, “home boy.” (2) an informal term which Zachry employees have been using to describe persons of Chinese origin.

So two Thursdays ago, I had a dinner date with two germers...

Stephen, Nick and I were invited to eat “real Chinese food” by our hotel’s door man, Leo Sun, or more commonly known to the Zachry crew by his English name, “Styles-Pimpin.”

Let me elaborate on the type of guy who chooses such a unique name for himself. “Styles” is the guy in the red uniform who opens the door for us every time we come back from work and greets us with “Nee-hao, goo-evening, How-sit-goin, what-sup,” and, the phrase I taught him, my personal favorite, “howdy-yaw.” He got his English nickname from two different employees (probably inebriated) at the same time. One called him styles and the other called him pimpin’, and Leo Sun liked both so he took on Styles as his English first name and Pimpin as his last.

Styles is a favorite with the Zachry guys because he speaks decent English; his language skills have much improved during our stay here because every Zachry employee who goes in or out of the hotel will often exchange a few words with him. As you can tell by his chosen name, he especially loves to learn American slang.

I loaned Leo Sun my camera a while back to take a picture with a Chinese TV star who stayed in our hotel overnight, and in return he offered dinner. Now I am not one to refuse an invitation to free food, even when it threatens to be “real Chinese.” Styles brought another germer and Stephen and Nick were the only of my friends who were brave enough to come along.

The food was awesome! We ate lamb leg drumsticks, lamb-kebobs, peanuts and green beans, noodle soup (our hosts said that the noodles were each over a meter long; there might have only been enough room for ten noodles in that big bowl.) and several ping pijio. Styles knows just enough English, and I just enough Chinese that we and our friends could talk and joke together for more than an hour and not run out of things to say.

This is a very unique kind of friendship. Styles and I communicate every day in a blending of English and Chinese which takes a lot of patience and verbal creativity, but is really good practice for both of us. Still, in a friendship like this one, the language barrier still prevents us from talking about deeper, more complicated and abstract subjects like religion, and women.

Last Sunday Stephen, Nick, and I returned the favor and took Styles and his friend to Grandma’s Kitchen for an American feast of steak, fajitas, pepperoni pizza, hamburger, chicken fried steak, chicken cordon-bleu, onion rings, cheese fries, and mashed potatoes. They had never eaten at an American restaurant before, and were quite impressed with the food. Leo Sun’s friend even said that he liked it better than Chinese food (of the veracity of his statement, I am skeptical.)

These are the first two bonafide Chinese friends I have made in this country, and they are a lot of fun to hang out with. I hope that before I leave here, my communication skills develop enough so that I can transcend surface conversation and talk about the more abstract.

Peace y’all.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hohut vs Beijing

I like Hohut better than Beijing. Hohut is smaller (a mere 4 million) and the city is not nearly as flashy and impressive as Beijing. There are few tall buildings, few neon lights, and very little night life. The tourist sights are not as big, as rich, or as ancient. The city is very down to earth; not as full of itself as Beijing is – and there is less in Hohut that is fake.

The people of Hohut are very different. They are much more laid back, not used to seeing foriegners, and they were not all trying to sell me something. They also speak very little English there. I think that in Hohut more people were genuinely interested in where I came from and what brought me here, whereas in Beijing I have become used to Chinese people talking to me on the street only if they want my money. In Hohut, I was on the recieving end of several excited waves and “hello-s!” from fascinated locals. The “hello-s” I get in Beijing all come from beggars, roadside salesmen, resteraunt employees, and hookers.

If I had the choice of living in Hohut or Beijing, I’d take Hohut. The cityscape has not been moulded to impress outsiders and attract foriegn investment. The air is also clearer, and I enjoyed the mountains. The pace of life suits me better there; Beijing is a 20 million man rat race.

Here are a few pictures of some extreme Mongolian hiking:

Long Day

Wow, that's an ugly picture...

My blog may give you the false impression that all is fun and games here in China. I am working ten to twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week. There are evenings when I get in at 7:30 PM and only have enough energy to shower, eat in at the hotel, and sleep. Repeat this cycle of working, eating, and sleeping about three or four days out of the week, and you can see that there are extended periods of time where I lead a very uneventful life. This is why I try to make the most of my days off.

After three months on the job, I will never again take another which makes me come in on Sundays. One Sunday a month is still too many; God knew what he was doing when he told the Hebrews to rest one day a week – and I would really like to have two. So in this time of sifting I have found that one of the those things which I value most in life is the weekend. It keeps me sane.

That said, I still love my job; when I wake up in the morning I never dread coming to work because I like my crew and my boss, and every day brings new challenges. Every moment I have spent in China has been precious, invaluable; I still would not trade places with anyone in the world right now.

Even on Sunday.

Wish me luck at work tomorrow!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lonely Mountain

This is my favorite picture from our hike through the mountains (that's Jay standing on top of the peak). More coming soon, but right now the weather is too nice to spend all day inside this internet cafe. Later!

Destination: Inner Mongolia

I traveled to Hohut with Jay during a rare three day weekend to visit his friend Kelly who graduated from Texas A&M. Hohut is the capital of Inner Mongolia Province, which is part of China. The Chinese call Mongolia the country (not part of China) Outer Mongolia, the capital of which is Ulaan Batur. (This is an example of Chinese percieving things in their relationship to China, the center country) Inner Mongolia is one of the four "autonomous regions" of China, which means there are minorities which historically, have not enjoyed being part of China. Consequently, there is more military presence and the local populous is watched more closely than in other regions without minorities. To me this seems opposite of being autonomous, but whatever. Kelly showed us some great Mongolian food and introduced us to some of her Mongolian friends in the music scene.

Kelly (above, seated next to Jay) is actually quite popular in the province because she has studied and preformed Mongolian folk music for the last two years; she is probably the only white person in the world who does so. Kelly has made several tv spots and participated in a few big music festevals - her neighbors enjoy living near someone so famous!

Here are some photos from the Hui (sp?) Muslim section of town. Walking through the streets here felt more like Qatar than China, except that the people wearing robes and headresses were Chinese!

There is also a substantial Buddhist population in Hohut. We saw some beautiful Buddhist temples and met a group of young Buddhist pupils studying in a monastary at the foot of the mountains north of the city. No pictures allowed inside, so all I can show you is the gate, and a monument outside the monastary called an "Ov-vo." Mongolian tradition says that if one carries a stone to a holy place, or a high place that God will remember their struggles on earth after they die. Ov-vo is a pile of stones which Mongolians have carried to these pilgrimage hotspots.

Brave Soul, Tough Stomach

This is the one picture I have of myself and friends eating American food! Every meal here has been an adventure, but I have enjoyed all of it... without getting sick! God has blessed me with unusual cullinary courage, and a stomach of steel!

Here are some things which I have enjoyed these past few months, some of which I never would have ordered in the USA.

Of course y'all remember the scorpions, I think I got more comments from that post than any of my others! Crunchy and salty like potato chips.

The Colonel is in Beijing! Yes, Kentucky fried tastes just as greasy in China. Mmm good!

This is a shredded pork dish called "jing jiang rou si" I didn't know quite what to do with the noodles, though I finally ended up rolling them with pork; Chinese pig in a blanket!

A spicy fish soup which was very good. Any time you order fish in China, watch out for bones! Almost every fish dish is served with meat still on the bones.

Sushi in Tokyo, one of my favorites!

My friend Jay demonstrating how to properly eat a bowl of noodles. (Spoons are sacrelige.)
Beijing Duck: very good! It is a rare privilage to stare down one's food before eating it.

A bowl of Mongolian milk tea; a mixture of tea, milk, flour, butter, and whatever else you choose to put in it! In this bowl I also added goat cheese, bread sticks, and a spoonful of unidentifiable, but tastey sweet paste which was very good.

Just kidding!!! This kid is playing in a mongolian crockpot, but he's far too cute to eat!