Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We Are A Day Late...

...Or Is It Too Early!!!

Yesterday was the 9th day of the 9th lunar month (not to be mistakenly confused with the 15thday of the 8th lunar month ) so it’s Double Ninth Festival or 重九 (chong2jiu3) which means it’s autumn outing and mountain climbing!! But being westerners and not understanding a whole lot about these lunar months we went today instead (the only thing I got is that they have 2 birthdays which I’ll have to investigate… but not now, I have a few more months before my birthday!!!). So back to this post subject: Mountain Climbing.

Let's see what Wikipedia (when it’s not banned over here!) has to say: according to the I Ching*, nine is a yang number; the ninth day of the ninth lunar month (or double nine) has too much yang (a traditional Chinese spiritual concept) and is thus a potentially dangerous date. Hence, the day is also called "Double Yang Festival" or重阳节 (Chong2 Yang2 Jie2). To protect against the danger, it is customary to climb a high mountain, drink chrysanthemum wine […]

Why am I telling you all this (if I haven’t lost you already!) besides for your own culture and cocktail knowledge, well it’s because I wanted to let you know that I went to the Fragrant Hills or 香山红叶 (Xiang Shan Hong Ye) to see the change of the leaves color (a little bit like Vermont but on a different scale and much closer –at least for us!-). Since we went today we were a day too late for the protection against danger, but still there was a lot of people (no surprise here…we are in China!). However, as far as the color of the leaves go I think we were too early but hey that was a good outing and great exercise (those Chinese old guides do climb the mountains fast!!)

Photoshop can enhance anything!!

We even paid a visit to the Chairman !!!

(It said on the sign that he lived and worked here in 1949)

*also called "Book of Changes" or "Classic of Changes", it’s the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. In Western cultures, the I Ching is regarded by some as simply a system of divination; many believe it expresses the wisdom and philosophy of ancient China. (Whoa that’s a lot of information for 1 post!!)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It’s GMT+8 and It Stays That Way!!!

It was very simple: we were 6 hours ahead of Celine’s parents in France. Basically we were having lunch when they were having breakfast and when they were finally catching up with us and having lunch we were already on dinner!!

We were 13 hours ahead of Jeff’s parents in Omaha, Nebraska (USA!) which is kind of tricky because it not a “round” number like 12 hours. So for them it was more like: you sleep, I don’t. I sleep, you don’t!!

But now all this has been thrown out of the window, because of that DST, which stands for Daylight Savings Time. So now France is 7 hours behind us and Omaha is 14 hours behind. Which is NOT easy to remember and I’m sure by the time I have it all figured out DST will be back.

The only constant point of reference in my mini-jet lag is St Barth (where lil’ sis lives) which does not do the DST so it’s still a good and easy 12 hours time difference. I get up when they go to sleep (I’m a late riser and they are early to bed) and when I go to sleep they are at the beginning of their day (the day that I just lived!!!).

PS: Does it mean that I will get a year older a full 6 hours before I was supposed to?

At least we are sure of one thing, Beijing Olympic Games are in exactly:

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Look Who Paid Us A Visit...

French President Jacques Chirac (or 希拉克 - Xi La Ke as he is known here!) was in town on his 4th official visit to China. During his stay in Beijing, Chirac held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and met with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Zu Bangguo and Premier Zen Jiabao. Hu and Chirac signed a joint statement and 14 cooperation agreements ranging from aviation (Airbus SAS, the world biggest plane maker, landed deals worth more than US$10 billion, selling 170 jets to Chinese airlines and building a factory in Tianjin), nuclear power utilization to prevention of infectious diseases. Chirac also visited Wuhan, capital city of central China’s Hubei Province and attended a ceremony there to mark the start of construction of a second PSA Peugeot-Citroen factory. On the last leg of his 4-day visit, Chirac visited local history museums in Xi'an. (Source and Photo: China Daily)

Guess Who is Who?!!

While Chirac is working…

... Bernadette is taking a tricycle tour around HouHai
to get a taste of the life in
Beijing’s hutongs

And for the little anecdote as reported by China Daily:
Amiability is certainly not a universal trait among politicians, but French President Jacque Chirac is an exception at least in the eyes of many Chinese, as a recent street talk by China Daily showed.
"When I was in France, I saw Chirac wave to people kindly, and even stoop down to shake hands with bystanders," said Zhang Qiao, a 26-year-old office lady in Beijing who studied in France for three years. "To me, he is just like a lovely neighbourhood grandpa."
For soccer fan Zhao Kui in Shanghai, the scene of President Chirac yelling and waving at the final match of the 1998 World Cup was so impressive that he personally considers Chirac the most genial leader of all.

On another side note and you know how much I like Jialefu (?!) well 2 post in less in 2 months if that’s not love…Well I really want to make sure you get all the facts (!!!):
Today, Carrefour was opening its 1000th hypermarket in Tong Zhou; a Beijing suburb. It’s the 7th store in the capital and the 84th in China. The opening took place while the French president Jacques Chirac was on his official visit to China (but he didn’t attend, what a shame!).Apparently 2 fire trucks were on site since there were a few collapse incidents!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Paris, Here I Come

After this, Jeff is now in Paris... Hope he didn't take the sign at the entrance of one of his project sites too seriously.

JinTian GongZuo Bu NuLi
MingTian NuLi Zhao GongZuo

If you don’t work hard today,
you’ll work hard tomorrow to look for a job
(Today/work/not/try hard – tomorrow/try hard/look for/work)

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Have To Know Them ALL!!

Searching for an easy way to learn Chinese without too much effort on my part* (dream on!) I found this nice little list:

This is a list of 400 Characters that was described as
"Minimum Level of Characters Knowledge"

And this is the Characters I know very well
(meaning without thinking too hard about it)
That’s 40 Characters

After a simple calculation I realize that after 2 months here and knowing 40 characters (i.e. 10%) I will know the 400 characters by the time I’ll be on my way out of China. And since everybody is telling me that it’s amazing how fast you forget Chinese, two months back home over the summer and you don’t remember anything, why don’t I just quit right now…. Oh yeah I need some more vocabulary for the driver, the ayi, the waiter at the restaurant, the guy at the local shop, etc… and for BARGAINING.

In my defense I’m the only one I know who is even considering learning the Characters. Call me a masochist but I need to know some of them, cannot stand looking at all of those signs and thinking it’s just hieroglyphic. Besides the 4 tons in oral Chinese are not easy on my deaf ear and I found out that writing in Chinese characters (no pinyin here) to my ayi gets my point across a lot faster and clearer. Once again why make life easy when you can make it more difficult!!!!

* it doesn’t exit and I will have to write future posts on some interesting facts I came across (later, later… when I have time!!!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Around China in 6 Days...

...by Philleas Fog Jeffrey

Jeffrey decided to visit the sites of his project… not an easy task as you can see. Let’s hope all the planes are on time and not delayed (yeah right!!)

Click on the picture to enlarge (if you want to know all the details)

Too bad there are no Frequent Flyer Miles!!!

Friday, October 13, 2006

What Happened To Colonel Sanders?

This is 永和大王
(Yong3 He2 Da4 Wnag2)

Don’t worry we have the real thing too!!

Oh it's肯德基(Ken3 De2 Ji1)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This Little French Girl...

...Goes To Market

Today I'm taking you to the open market. You can find open markets in every neighborhood but this one is the “wholesale” open market.

Let me introduce you to the Butcher:

Well sometimes you don’t want meat you want fish:

You can never have enough eggs:

This one only sells Noodles:

That’s where you find the mushrooms (if you dare):

We cannot forget the Vegetables:

…and the Fruits:

Let’s spice it up a bit:

They even deliver!!!

And all the cooking essential are here too
(just need to dig up a little)

Monday, October 9, 2006

Another Typical Day for C.

Typical conversation between me and my driver (I know, I know I’m spoiled…. What can I say that’s what you get when you work as hard as I do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  • Mr Wang: I go downstairs. (really meaning I am downstairs)
  • Me: I’m coming down in 5 minutes.
  • Mr Wang: I go downstairs. (not expecting this answer)
  • Me: I’m coming (going to the essential)
  • Mr Wang: I go downstairs (making sure I understood)
  • Me (shouting down the phone): I come, I come* (forgetting that conjugated verb should NOT be used)
  • Mr Wang: My pleasure

And that’s how most of my days start. Another satisfied customer!!!

* It might not sound funny for non English speakers readers (all 3 of them?) but trust me it is... because of the double sense!!

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Another Day for the Rich and Famous

There must be some celebrities at the Zoo. Could it be 大熊猫 (Da4 Xiong2 Mao1) aka Mr Panda.

How Cute (behind a glass)!!

Well it must be somebody very famous judging by the number of paparazzi.

Oh wait a minute it’s just another day at the park and yet another photo op' for Mr Jeremy and Miss Chloe.

I do feel for (put any celebrity’s name here!!. We stopped counting how many times we were asked to pose for pictures and that’s not counting the pictures taken as we were walking. By the end of the day each time somebody was trying to touch or even approach Jeremy, he would hold his finger up and scream NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

What Am I Supposed To Do?

So you decide to do some laundry (No, it’s not my first load, we’ve been here a few weeks, come on!! I just decided to post this now, that’s all). So as I was saying, you separate your Whites from your Colors, you load the washing machine, put the soap in (or at least you hope it’s the washing powder) and then:

Which one would you push?

For the Skeptic:

  • No the User Guide is NOT in English (why would it be?)
  • An English/Chinese dictionary is not much of an help in this situation because to look up a "word" in a Chinese dictionary you have to A) know how it is pronounced (Pinyin) or B) Know the radical/stroke order...
  • Tuesday, October 3, 2006

    The Business of Business Cards...

    ...or The Importance of 名片(Ming2 Pian4)

    Once again we are complying with the local customs: after buying our bike, we had Business Cards made. Well actually I made them but I did it the proper way: Chinese on one side and English (in fact pinyin, which is “the Romanization or phonetic notation and transcription to Roman script of the Chinese characters”*) on the other side. Since everybody is handing out their business cards to everybody, we just HAD to have some too. It's even better if you can add a little map of how to get to your place. Finding an address in Beijing is not an easy task!!
    Yes I know it is not technically a BUSINESS card…'cause who am I kidding, going around having tea with friends does not qualify as business....or does it? In fact, this is where I meet with potential clients (read: friends), exchange business plans (read: clues to the best bargain places, how to live here, etc) and I sometimes even have business lunches when we discuss potential outsourcing (read: finding the best ayi -babysitter/maid- in town) or where international expansions (read: the next must-do vacation) are debated. Maybe I should rethink my business plan and introduce myself as CEO™ (Chief Everything Officer) for a multinational company (French, American, Argentinean and Scottish) searching for new ventures (expat’ lifestyle) worldwide (North America, South America, Europe and Asia already accomplished so far). What do you think, should I have them remade with my new title?
    So anyway from now on we are known as the 苏特, with daddy 杰夫瑞 "jiefurui", maman 西琳 "xilin", big sister 克洛伊 "keluoyi" and last but not least, little brother杰瑞米 "jieruimi"
    On a funny note my nickname could be "Sushi"…. Let me explain myself. Chinese last names (always listed first rather than last) are only one character and Chinese first names are either one or sometimes two characters. Therefore my Chinese name (not the full translation of my western name) is su (pronounced 'soo') 西xi (pronounced 'she')

    * To give you an idea of what we have to go through to read pinyin go check it out here

    Monday, October 2, 2006

    Moon Festival

    This is our first official holiday since we arrived and apparently 1.3 billion people are on holiday too!!!

    Well to be exact this week is the Chinese Moon Festival which is as everybody knows on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month…. Don’t go get your calendar I can reveal to you that this year it’s on October 6th. At this time the moon is at its fullest and brightest, marking an ideal time to celebrate the abundance of the summer harvest.

    It is also know as the Mid-Autumn Festival or中秋节(zhong1 qiu1 jie2). Just like Christmas or Thanksgiving, it is one of the most important events for the Chinese since it is often an occasion for family reunions. The other important event being the Lunar New Year and this is one of their 3 weeks of vacation they are entitled to.

    Since the traditional food of this festival is the Moon Cake, the exchange of boxes full of 月饼 (yue bing) have started. Jeffrey brings home a full box almost every other night and we are waiting with great anticipation the opening of the new moon cakes to discover the next exotic flavor (savory or sweet you can either get ham, sausage or nut, almonds etc... the choices are endless)

    That reminds me I’d better go buy some to give to our driver and our ayi.

    We can save you some if you want!!!