Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Olympic Torch...

...Coming To A Theater City Near You

Yesterday the planned route of the Beijing Olympic Torch relay was revealed. It will traverse the longest distance (137,000 km or 85,000 mile over 130 days), cover the greatest area (all 5 continents) and include the largest number of people.

The Olympic Flame will be lit in Olympia, Greece according to tradition on March 25, 2008. From From March 25 - 30, the Torch Relay will travel across Greece, ending at the Panathinaiko Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. After the handover ceremony in the stadium, the Olympic Flame will arrive in Beijing on March 31, 2008. In Beijing, a ceremony will be held for the arrival of the flame into China and Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay will commence.” (source:

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If you want to have a date-by-date and city-by-city time table go to:

Two side notes:
1) Just after the route was revealed, the chairman of Taiwan's Olympic Committee said the island would not participate in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay because the route announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Beijing was an attempt to "downgrade" Taiwan's "sovereignty."

2) One of the highlights of this leg will be the attempt to bring the Olympic Flame to the highest peak in the world Mt. Qomolangma*. During the arrival ceremony for the flame into China on March 31, 2008, one of the lanterns with the Olympic Flame will be kept aside. The torchbearer team will then attempt to take the Flame to the highest peak on a day in May that presents the best climatic conditions for the ascent. And now China plans to built a highway on the side of Mount Everest to ease the Olympic torch’s journey to the peak. Construction of the road, budgeted at $19.7 million, would turn a 67-mile rough path from the foot of the mountain to a base camp at 17,060 feet "into a blacktop highway fenced by undulating guardrails," the official New China News Agency said.

*Qomolangma in Tibetan, 珠穆朗玛山 or Mt Zhumulangma in Chinese is better known in the West as Mount Everest (named in 1865 after Sir George Everest, the surveyor-general of India who mapped the peak in 1853 but according to the Chinese recorded document the mountain was mapped in 1717 by Qing Dynasty officials). So now you know...You learn so much more than our daily life on this Blog!!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Which Squat Do You Do?

The Asian Squat?

Cindy and Phil are coming to visit us. We will of course do the usual tourists grand tour and a little bit lots of shopping but in honor of their visit and to anticipate any situations to what they might encounter, I wanted to show them/you this little video I came upon on a Blog (sorry forgot which one) and found it again on YouTube…Since it is especially useful to master the technique of the “Asian Squat” before you need to go to the toilet….Enjoy!!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


...or Linguistic Guide

Click to enlarge

After I saw this little family tree in a magazine explaining the different names applied to family members in China I thought I should do a post on yet again the joy of Chinese.

In English it’s pretty simple you’ve got:
Brother and Sister - Mother and Father - Grandfather and Grandmother - Uncle and Aunt - Cousin - Niece and Nephew

Well in Chinese depending on the degree and family side of parenting you’ve got different names.
First it’s easy: mom and dad is mama & baba 妈妈 - 爸爸.
It gets a little more complicated on the brother and sister level:
older brother is gege 哥哥, younger brother is didi 弟弟
older sister is jiejie 姐姐, younger sister is meimei 妹妹.
From the father’s side: grandfather is yeye 爷爷and grandmother is nainai 奶奶
From the mother’s side: grandfather is laoye 老爷and grandmother is laolao 姥姥
And it gets really complicated when you go to the uncle and aunt level not only does it depend on which side they belong but also on their birth place according to the person he/she is referred to!!. For example the uncle on the father’s side is bobo 伯伯 if he’s older than the dad but shushu 叔叔 if he’s younger than the dad…

Well all this is relative since Chinese people must comply with the one child policy since 1989 so not a lot of them have uncles and aunts or even cousins!!! Anyway the only one we need to know is ayi which technically means auntie but refer also to all the helpers we all have in our households and Jeremy loves his

As an example for Jeremy and Chloe:

  • Mamie Bernadette is laolao 姥姥
  • Papy Bruno is laoye 姥爷
  • Grandma Cindy is nainai 奶奶
  • Grandpa Don/Phil is yeye 爷爷
  • Tatie Severine is yi
  • Tonton Eric is yifu 姨夫
  • Uncle Todd/Tim is shushu 叔叔
  • Auntie Nicky is gugu 姑姑
  • Auntie Wyoming is shenshen 婶婶
  • Cousin Jocelyn/Gregoire is biaodi 表弟for Chloe but biaoge 表格 for Jeremy
  • I will let you know when Todd/Wy and Nicky or Tim have kids !!!!

By the way I’m Cindy/Phil and Don/Pat’s xifu 媳妇 and Jeff is Bernadette and Bruno’s nuxu 奴吁. Eric is my meixu 妹婿 (younger sister's husband), Jocelyn and Gregoire are my waisheng 外甥 (son of my sister).

I promise the next post will be more fun...

Monday, April 23, 2007

License Plates

...Not For Color-Blind

A few months ago I received one of those going-around email entitled “Only in China…” with a few pictures included. I couldn’t see the problem with one of the picture:

There is nothing wrong with this picture

Well for me it was obvious that those two cars were different and there was nothing wrong with it. When we first arrived I had noticed the different colors of the license plates and I had somebody explain to me the difference.

Blue are for Chinese

White for Government or Military

Black are for ForeignersBlack with Red are Diplomatic Plates

On a side note: Those two license plates are worth a lot of money. Due to their superstition with numbers, license plates (phone number, etc…) cost more when they have auspicious number. Eight is a really good number and so is nine.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chloe's Birthday...

...My Baby is Growing Up

My baby is all grown up…. 7 years old already. L’âge de raison in French or “Age of Reason” (yeah, right). What I don’t understand is how she can grow older year after year when I, myself, keep on celebrating the same birthday since 2000!!!

Well we had a great party as we visited 7 countries around the world thanks to Birthday Airlines, where 7 is our favorite number!! Here are some pictures of the party theme and Birthday girl.

Happy 7th Birthday

All I want for my birthday is...

Pedicure & Manicure...
Isn't life good when you are 7!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What Do You Do...

...I'm a TaiTai

My friend Jody (yes her again) mentioned in one of her posts about our tai tai luncheon and explained that the Tai Tai were also referred as “Trailing Spouse.” It reminded me of some of the conversations I’ve had at one point or another in each country I have lived in so far.

I really don’t like the term “trailing” since it sounds like a big old ball and chain that our husband would have to drag around the world behind them when I see our role in a different light, more like a rock or foundation, to counter-balance the “ball and chain” image. Because let’s face it: an office is an office (ok maybe the new co-workers don’t quite look or for that matter speak the way you are used to) but you are usually sent to all those exotic places because: a) they need you there and b) you are good at what you do (I even heard the term “expert” used from time to time) or at least that’s how the company sell you to the local staff. So as I was saying while the husbands are all comfortably adjusting in their new environment (i.e. the new office and office policy) we, the so-called “Trailing Spouse” have to deal with all the other environmental issues: the new school (kids HAVE to go to school – there is no transition period), the new house, the new grocery shopping (people don’t stop eating because they are in a new country), the new language on a day-to-day basis (again basic supply and food is needed from day 1). So guess who cries is upset in front of the 2nd package of salt she bought, thinking it was sugar (Yes they are right next to each other here) or the powder sugar instead of flour? Well certainly not the husband who might be upset because he didn’t get the office he thought he would get! The so-called “trailing spouse” will have to get a whole new set of friends if she wants to survive, and when this happens, well let’s say that she’s happy to be the Trailing Spouse because she gets to do all those things while the husband is stuck doing this

And in the same kind of spirit, I especially hate it when people ask: So what brought you here in “insert any city in the world” and you answer: “I came with my husband who's working here” and they turn around and stop talking to you because 1) they assume that you must have dropped out of school in the 6th grade, 2) you know nothing about the world current affairs and 3) you lost all of your working neurons when you quit your last job to follow your husband. No matter what you had achieved before your life as a trailing wife, be a FBI agent, NASA specialist highly recognized in your field, Neurosurgeon or even a Nobel Prize winner they will never know because they stop listening when you hinted to them that you were the Trailing Spouse. The only slight advantage I might have in their eyes is that I have 2 children so I’m on a step higher than the trailing spouse without children. But not as high as the ones with 3 or more kids!!!!
One of our first Tai Tai day or Let's Do Lunch as we call it, back in January:

Sharon (trying to hide), Celine, Jodi, Sarah, Anastacia, Paige & Kim

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A City Within The City...


Since I went with some friends to MuXiYuan (木樨园), which is the fabric district in Beijing, I thought I would write something about the joys of living in "cheap china" as far as clothes are concerned.

Sure China is known for the cheap "made in China" that we all associate with…well cheap, but what I appreciate the most here is that for a few hundred kuai (tens of euros/dollars) you can have custom-made and fitted clothes.
First, I started to just have some of the clothes that I already owned altered, since I’m not a 6 foot tall top model with perfect measurements (dammed close, but not quite... just kidding!!), and the clothes I have usually tend to be a few inches too long. So let’s start with a few examples of what a few bucks can buy you:
The other day I brought to the tailor:

  • 3 pairs of jeans to be hemmed; the really nice thing is that they keep the original hem and “reattach” it to the pants so that it doesn’t have that just hemmed look but more the “vintage”/original feel,
  • 1 pair of trousers to have the waist brought in,
  • 1 dress to have the sleeves slightly shortened,
  • 1 vest which was never my size but I loved it so I bought it anyway thinking that maybe I would grow boobs!!! Well after realizing that it won’t happen unless I paid for them and since I’m not that desperate, I decided to have it properly fitted.

All that for a whopping 150 kuai, that’s 15 euros or 18 dollars (I usually don’t even bother to bargain when I think how much it would cost me elsewhere) and it was done in 3 days (I told Helen, the seamstress, that I wasn’t in a rush because of course she probably would have had it done for the next day at no extra charge if I had wanted).

Another example: I had a jacket made (replica of one that I love and that I’ve been dragging around for far too long in far too many countries) well the labor cost me 300 kuai (again 30 euros/36 dollars), I just picked a nice fabric for a fraction of what it would have cost me in France or the US (so of course you go for cashmere here!!!). Next stop is a leather jacket, I just found out about a leather shop and a little tailor who works with leather... what else does a girl need!!

So sure you can buy a lot of “Gucci”, “Louis Vuitton”, “Dolce&Gabbana”, “Puma”, “Rolex” and all the things you probably couldn’t/wouldn’t afford in the west for next to nothing but the real luxury here is to have things custom-made, things that actually fit you properly. It might cost you a few more Kuai but compare to what it would have cost you back home that is the real bargain and in the end you don’t risk the chance to get caught at the customs with a suitcase full of counterfeit “luxury” items…

Stalls after stalls, after stalls

The Leather Shop

The Tailor (leather specialist)
The sign is there to let you know he's a tailor!!
ShangHai ShiZhuang JiaGong Bu)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

一,二, 三

...1, 2, 3 again

After writing the previous post I remembered the difficulty of learning numbers in Mandarin…
In every language I’ve learned so far (and forgotten for that matter!) numbers have always been easy to “master” but the Chinese have a different way of counting (and not only with floors!!) we count in ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, million, billion. And I think in most languages that’s how it works. Well in Mandarin this is how it goes:

  • 10 (Shi 十);
  • 100 (Bai 百);
  • 1,000 (Qian 千);
  • 10,000 (Wan, 万);
  • so far nothing too difficult to handle… Ok now pay attention:
  • 100,000 is Shi Wan (十万) or 10 [times] 10,000;
  • 1,000,000 (or 1 million) is Bai Wan (百万) or 100 [times] 10,000;
  • 10,000,000 (or 10 million) is Qian Wan (千万) or 1,000 [times] 10,000;
  • and they have a specific word for 100,000,000 (100 million) which is Yi (亿)
  • and another for 1,000,000,000,000 (1,000 billion) Zhao

So here’s a little exercise to see if you’ve been following:

  • We going to start with an easy one: the population of France (let’s round it up to 60 millions)…. Well it’s liu qian wan ( 六千万 ) or 6 [times] 1,000 [times] 10,000
  • How many people live in the USA (302 millions last time I checked)… Tick, tack, tick, tack… buzzzzzzzzzzz. And the answer is san yi er bai wan (三亿二百万) or 3 [times] 100,000,000 and 2 [times] 1,000,000. ok I lost you!!
  • How many people there is in China (hint: 1.3 billion)…. And the answer is shi san yi (十三亿) or 13 [times] hundred millions. I doesn't sound as much as 1.3 billion, does it?

In fact we group our zero in threes when they group them in fours.

On a lighter note, Chinese can count to 10 on one hand and they use it a lot. When they tell you a number it will mostly be shown with the hand gesture. (and not just for foreigners because they think they don’t understand!!)

From Lonely Planet Phrasebooks Mandarin

Yi,Er, San...

...One, Two, Three

A few weeks ago, my friends and I were having lunch (yes again, don’t you eat everyday too!!) and during the conversation it came up that two of them lived right above each other. The conversation went a little bit like: “I live in tower 1 on the 12th floor at suchandsuch....or I live right above you on the 15th floor....blah, blah, blah”. And you know what, nobody even blinked at this exchange because when you are in China the 15th floor IS right above the 12th floor.

You see we live on the 9th floor which is technically an 8th floor (7th for Europe since we start with ground floor!) because there is no 4th floor…. And why would you ask? Well because the sound for 4 (si4 四) is similar for the word death (si3 死) which is not really a good thing. Hence no floor 14th or 24th either. As for the 13th floor, well there is none either and that’s usually because of westerner’s superstition this time. So far I can understand, they have a lot of play on word or should I say play on sound in Chinese, but then that same night I was invited to a friend apartment on the 26th floor (the 22nd floor [21st for European] in fact because no 4th, 13th, 14th and 24th… are you still following?) but they live in tower…. 14th!!!
I realized that in our apartment complex there is a tower 4, 13 and 14 but never a 4th, 13th, 14th or 24th floor; which make me wonder if you have less chance to get struck by bad luck if you share it with you tower neighbor. And when you think about it you shouldn’t really live on the 5th, 17th or 28th (Chinese) floor since you would technically be on the 4th, 14th and 24th floor!!! (need to adjust one floor up for the European!!)

PS: 14 sounds like “must die”, 24 “easy to die”, 44 “dying and dead” and 74 “surely dead”… but 54 sounds like “not dying” so it’s actually a good number

Friday, April 13, 2007


...Sea, SexY and Sun

The second part of our trip took us to Sanya in the Hainan Province which is also an island and is often described as the “Chinese Hawaii”.

Here’s a little map to help you find it:

So that's where the Chinese Hawaii is...

Once you are at Yalong bay you could be anywhere in the world (well, where there is water, a sandy beach and sun of course!).

Paradise looks like paradise anywhere in the world

But what made Sanya really attractive this year was because it hosted the Mr. World Competition!!!

The World’s Most Desirable Men Are Here!!

And the Winner is…
So just to let you know and because I take my job as a blogger very seriously (even if postings are sporadic) the winner of this year competition as “the world’s most desirable man” was Juan Garcia from Spain, followed by Lucas Gil from Brazil (Latinos are Calientes this year) and without any surprise (Do I hear a pinch of sarcasm?!) Lejun Tony Jiang from People’s Republic of China.
And because I know you want to see what they look like here’s the link

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hong Kong

...Part II

While we were in Hong Kong we wanted to make a day trip to Macao but I had vertigo (from seeing too many high rise buildings???!!!) and the doctor advised us against making the 1-hour long boat ride to the former Portuguese colony*. We wanted to see for ourselves if Macao indeed had overtook Las Vegas as the world capital of gambling many headlines/articles suggested:
“It's official. Macao is now the gambling capital of the world, after overtaking the glitzy Las Vegas Strip in takings last year. The tiny southern Chinese city's 22 casinos generated 56.2 billion patacas (US$7.2 billion) total from gaming revenues. In comparison, the 40-odd casinos on Las Vegas' famous main strip generated US$6.6 billion. Gambling earnings have boomed in Macao since 2001 when the government ended tycoon Stanley Ho's 40-year monopoly on casinos in the city and allowed foreign operators to move in.” (China Daily)

"The Ruinas de Sao Paulo"
If we had gone we could have seen it!!

And because, I reminded you that Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, here’s a little reminder about Macao!!!
* Colonized by the Portuguese in 1557, Macao was the oldest European outpost in China. In 1987, Portugal and China reached an agreement to return Macao to Chinese rule on Dec. 20, 1999. They agreed on provisions that ensured the autonomy of Macao, including its right to elect local leaders, the right of its residents to travel freely, and the right to maintain it s way of life for 50 years after the start of Chinese rule

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hong Kong

...Part I

We are back from our week of vacation that took us first to Hong Kong. So here are some of the pictures we took of the numerous buildings architecture.
But first a little anecdote about the name: when I told our Ayi we were going to Hong Kong she had no idea what I was talking about so I blamed it on those famous tones I have a hard time distinguishing and tried to say Hong Kong with every single combination of tone I could think of: 1 and 2, 3 and 1, 2 and 3, 1 and 4 etc…. you get the idea. After 5 minutes of frustration on both part I realized that without a map we wouldn’t get anywhere… That’s when I realized that Hong Kong in Chinese is Xiang1 Gang3!! (“Fragrant Harbor” same signs, different pronunciation)
So I tried to google/wikipedia to see where the name Hong Kong came from since it doesn’t sound English either (because it was an English colony for the one that don’t follow current affairs and HK got “returned” to China on July 1st 1997!!!!). So here’s one of the explanation for the name:

“The lack of a standard Cantonese romanization standard has created different ways to romanize 香港 based upon the pronunciation in Cantonese. Some linguists believe that the English name of the territory, Hong Kong, is an approximate transliteration of the Chinese name based upon its Cantonese pronunciation. However, "Hong Kong" sounds only somewhat similar to the Cantonese, and some believe that the term is derived for the Hakka name for the area, which is romanized as Hiong1 Gong3. This pronunciation is closer to the standard English version, and is spoken as the first language by the natives of many villages in the New Territories.”

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Number Of The Day


That’s a lot of zero (12 in fact) and it reads: 2 thousand billion or 2 trillion.

The number of cigarettes smoked in China annually. That’s roughly 80 packs per every man, woman, and child in China a year.

Assuming women and children don’t smoke? Then the average Chinese man smokes continuously for about two thirds of the year!!! (

Available at every street corner

Update from China Daily (30.05.2007)

“China to make Olympics a smoke-free zone”
China would enforce a ban on smoking in public places; a Health Ministry official told a news conference on Monday, with those places that offer services to children a top concern.
"Smoking will be banned at all Olympic-designated hospitals by the end of 2007," Xinhua news agency quoted Zhang Bin as saying. The ban would also apply to public transport and in offices […]
The ministry's vow comes as Beijing passes the 10th anniversary of its ban on smoking in public places. (I didn’t notice that such a ban existed)
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of cigarettes. Tax on cigarettes contributed 159 billion yuan ($19.8 billion) to the government in 2005, around 5 percent of fiscal revenues.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It's My Party and...

...I'll Cry Travel If I Want To...

…travel if I want, you would travel too if it happened to you!!!

It’s birthday time and it coincides with Chloe & Jeremy’s Easter break so we are off to Hong Kong and its high-rise buildings and Western approach of the Far East then we will go chill out by the beach in Sanya (Hainan) described as the Chinese Hawaii… But I will tell you all about it when we get back from our excursion in a week…

A few days ago Jeffrey took me to The CourtYard overlooking the Forbidden City to celebrate my 27th birthday (I said NO misprint!!!) with an elegant meal.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sheng Ri Kuai Le

...Happy Birthday (to me!!)

Birthday Cake from my Mahjong Team Mates

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Laundry Day

I've had a long string of long posts last month so I'm changing the pace for this upcoming month and I'll try to have a long string of short posts.

Here's one to start with:

Honey...where did you put the goose/duck/chichen?