Dienstag, 27. Dezember 2011

Last Christmas,.....

Although we`re not that much in all this Christmas Mumbo Jumbo, we`ve decided to invite guests this year to compensate our being far from home, families and friends. And the clubs or bars for the After-Mumbo Jumbo.

In my girlfriend`s company about a dozen of her Chinese co-workers sacrifice half their lunch break every workday to meet and build up a DIY (or TeachIY)-german class, with one of them having lived in Germany for two years being their teacher.

Everybody knowing what role food is playing in Chinese culture ("Eating is the heaven of the simple man") can understand how big the sacrifice is these guys take.

As we`ve been out with them for Karaoke and Dinner before, we knew they were a lively bunch of wonderful and nice people hanging out with would be fun . So my girlfriend invited them, ten came, two bringing their children.

A few days before Christmas invitations made by the Chinese circulated through the company`s intranet, speaking of "exclusive outfits and masks welcome". Well, we didn`t bother much explaining that this is a different celebration a couple of months later, we weren`t planning a contemplative evening anyway.

What we had to put some thought in was what we`d serve for dinner, as of course the menu should be as german - or at least european - as possible.

For the food selection we were lucky in two ways - local short supply routes and support from Germany. With Ikea, Metro, Carrefour and Walmart all within 20 minutes walking distance as well as having received a 5 kg Christmas package from my girlfriends` parents we were able to provide German chocolats, lebkuchen and almond biscuits as traditional Christmas sweets for decoration and to shorten waiting spans. For dinner we offered Köttbullar (yes, from Ikea) with sauce chasseur, mashed potatoes, self-made red cabbage, salad and pudding as dessert (made from instant powder, I must admit, but as you hardly get that in China it was exclusive enough :-)

But dinner was just a tiny part of the eclectic Christmas Eve programme. When you invite Chinese people over, you should have that -  a programme, that is, a plan, a schedule what you`re about to do in the time you spend together. There`s seldom a mere casual "hanging out" - Chinese guests want to be entertained.

So we started in the afternoon with jointly decorating our Christmas tree - a 2m plastic fir from Carrefour.
What became a rather short activity as a dozen Chinese scurrying around a tree left it fully decorated less than five minutes later :-)

After that came the first highlight - we asked them to prepare "O Christmas tree" in German two weeks before, and they did. One of them even could play it on our piano (yes, we have a piano in our living room like every sophisticated burgeois is supposed to. The previous tenants left it there. Of course we ourselves can`t play a single note.)

So we had twelve Chinese standing in our living room singing "Oh Christmas tree" in German. Fantastic. Made a short video of it, just follow the link:


As I already mentioned, I´m actually not that much into Christmas, maybe because I´m coming from a rather small non-religious family where Christmas never was that big a deal, and we never really sang songs. So this Chinese-German Christmas choir become my maybe most remarkable Christmas experience so far.

So far away from home - weird.

After that we exchanged gifts - as we had prepared one for everyone I put on a Santa costume (30 RMB at Metro :-) ) and gave them out. Was fun. Unfortunately (or luckily?) we have no picture of that yet, as Santa had no time taking pictures while handing out gifts. Maybe I´ll add a picture here when we`ve exchanged photos with the Chinese, as they made plenty.

After dinner we went on with playing games, like a mixture of charade and Chinese whispers (funny that`s it`s actually called like that, for Germans: "Stille Post"), which wasn`t that easy because there were mainly 成语 "chengyu" to guess, Chinese four character sayings. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them, and Chinese kids learn them in school, but they`re not necessary in everyday Chinese, so as a foreigner you mostly only know a few, if any. Still was a lot of fun, as they performed wery lively. Although most of the time I had no idea what they performed.

 This liveliness and action went on as we started playing "chocolate eating" - a game I´ve played last when I was a child, but as our Chinese guests haven`t had heard of it, it was time to refresh some childhood memories. For anybody not knowing the rules, they´re simple. You wrap a chocolate in several layers of newspaper. Goal is to eat as much of that chocolate as possible. You roll a dice. If you don`t roll a six, you pass on. If you roll a six, you can start unwrapping and eating the chocolate until the next person rolls a six. Of course you have to be fully equipped for chocolate eating - by putting on a winter cap, a scarf, and gloves. And you have to unwrap and eat the chocolate with fork and knife.....

It was a great success, as was the whole evening who went on for a couple of hours more with more games,games,games, later on also inluding loads of beer. We got so much out of it, co-workers became friends, we had tons of fun and everybody got opportunities to improve the languages they`re learning. Christmas 2011 is over, but it was an awesome one - the memories will stick.

Sonntag, 18. Dezember 2011

Defend to walk down sincerely....

I would have liked to do this very much, but somebody must have already taken it away. Thank god there were stairs, too....... (click on pictures to enlarge them)

 Actually, the english translation is, except for the grammatical order, not THAT wrong as the character 梯 (tī) can have the meanings ladder, steps, stairs. And are in exactly that order to be found in the dictionary....

Please defend to pick sincerely - picking hypocritical, on the other hand, won`t be tolerated.

Well, the Chinese says something like "cautiously prevent getting robbed". Pretty close. Funniest "translation" of "Beware of pickpockets" I´ve seen so far.

Freitag, 9. Dezember 2011

Prepared for everything.

Finally fully equipped Shenyang style for a long hard winter. Or street riots - whatever comes first.

(not in the picture: my long johns)

Mittwoch, 7. Dezember 2011

Does it smell funny in here?

 O.k., I admit it, you need to go a pretty long way over two languages to connect those two pictures thematically, but as we "dschörmans" are almost all bilingual, it should work.

The pictures show the fronts of little clothes stores in my neighbourhood.

For all those who can`t speak German - "Furze" is the imperative of the verb "furzen", which means "to fart".

 I don`t blame the first shop because in north-east China it`s not really necessary to speak German at all (except maybe you work for BMW) and actually "furze" in English seems to be an alternate expression for gorse. In the UK they even name schools after it:

 the meaning in german being "fart flat senior school".

Wouldn`t send my children there.......

and still wondering  about why the second store gave itself this name.

An explanation might be that the Chinese owners mistranslated the character 味 (wèi) as it can have the meanings flavor, taste, fragrant or sometimes smell to choose from.

And they chose wrong......

Sonntag, 4. Dezember 2011

In winter, everybody can be Jesus.

 Last week I strolled through one of Shenyang`s bigger parks, namely the "Olympia Park". It`s down at the Hun River that`s crossing the city in the south.

When I arrived at the river bank what I saw surprised me and made me happy as a child at the same time - as what I saw I`ve seen the last time when I was exactly that, a little child.
A huge river, almost completely frozen. With ice thick enough for carrying a person and a vehicle crossing the river. At the beginning of December.

Had to think way back to remember a winter in Germany where it was possible to completely cross a river on ice.
  And I was sceptical at first. But after having seen the dude on the third picture and the bike on the second one, as well as having remembered temperatures having been below zero the whole week and having hit -10°C exactly that day, I dared to walk on the river for a while, as you can see on the last picture.

You can easily recognize me by wearing bell-bottoms.

VERY uncommon in China...

(Click on pictures to enlarge them)

Mittwoch, 30. November 2011

It`s cold today. And smoky.....

The picture shows the difference in temperature between the town I lived before in Germany and the town I´m living now. Local time here in Shenyang was 10.30 am when this screenshot was taken. Makes 3.30 am in Germany.

And yesterday in the locker room of my fitness center I was wondering why nearly all Chinese were already wearing long johns.  Guess I have to catch up soon....

Still curious about whose standards the "Smoke" follows. If it`s according to European standards, hell, I guess you would have to write it about almost every bigger Chinese city almost every day. If it`s according to Chinese standards, well, I already had "smokier" weather here. A lot "smokier".....

Sonntag, 27. November 2011

Snow doesn`t bother us....

About ten days ago snow fell for the first time this.... well, it`s not even winter yet, so this fall, and temperatures dropped below zero during daytime. 

That`s about one month earlier than I´m used to, but we knew before that winter in Shenyang was supposed to start early.It did. 

I realized that especially Shenyang car owners didn`t seem to care as I haven`t seen a single car with snow tires yet.  Although I must admit at least the streets get cleared pretty quickly here, they even use heavy machinery like power shovels, which imho is pretty rare as you seldom see big machines on construction sites in China - with it`s huge workforce here it`s often cheaper to use manual laborers. But not for removing snow from the streets,no.

For clearing the sidewalks of course.

 Anyway,last tuesday we were on our way through the city by car when again heavy snow fall started. About five minutes later traffic was jammed because several cars were stuck. Enough time for a little chat about that topic with the two Chinese sitting with me in the car:

They: "It´s like that every winter. It snows, and the traffic gets jammed immediately.
Me:  "Do you have special tires for winter here?"
(didn´t know what snow tire meant in Chinese)

They: "Yes we have."

Me: "Do you have to use them?"

They: "Yes, you are obliged to use them". But very,very few people do that."

Me: "I guess there are no controls by the police? And no fines?"

They: "No."

Me: "Does this car have snow tires?"

They: "No."

Me: "Will you get tires this winter?"

They: "Probably not."

After having not moved for over an hour we turned around - we had missed the appointment anyway. Inbetween the driver had blamed everything and everyone for being responsible that the traffic was jammed. Except the fact that nobody had prepared for winter....

Well, I missed an appointment but learned about Chinese mentality - and like most things, also not caring about winter having started can have a good side. One day later I was strolling through a park to take some pictures when I encountered this group of dancers. Dancing couples in a park are quite common in China, but those people here had to clear loads of snow before having enough space for their pirouettes.

I accidently made a short video instead of a picture, but for this occasion that`s even better to show the liveliness and vitality of this Shenyangers, I guess. Since two days the snow is melting as it got a tiny little bit warmer again. The dancers probably won`t mind.....

Dienstag, 15. November 2011

Disney`s total mobilization

The characters 总动员 (zǒngdòngyuán) stand for "general/total mobilization". So a rather militaristic expression. Knowing this, the following Chinese translations of this little collection of Disney movies appear a bit strange:

Ratatouille - "delicious food total mobilization"

The Incredibles - "super humans total mobilization"

Finding Nemo - "seafloor total mobilization"

I´m wondering - is this coincidence? Was the same person responsible for the translation of all the three movies? Was this person just not that creative or has a military background? Or is this an attempt of subconsciously influencing little children to later join the Chinese army? Or is the similarity in the titles just for ensuring good feng shui on your DVD shelf?

Well, I don`t know. And don`t care. Somehow feel the urge to fill out an army registration form right now....

Samstag, 12. November 2011

Sea intestines, anyone?

Last week we went out with about a dozen of my girlfirend`s Chinese co-workers for dinner and karaoke. The latter will be a story for itself here anytime soon, today it`s all about the advantages of eating out with locals. Firstly, of course, there`s the opportunity to train your language skills - although Chinese working for international companies are able to speak English (and some even German) more or less fluently, with a ratio of two Germans to a dozen Chinese eventually a lot of Chinese was spoken and had to (at least tried to) be understood. Or not.

Anyway, secondly, there`s the chance to try dishes you so far didn`t know of, couldn`t read on the menu, that didn`t look appealing or until then you did not dare to order. But the Chinese do.

In China, when it comes to eating animals, there are no boundaries like "too cute" or "too disgusting" that would hinder them to increase their menu variety. Personally, I find that very consistent - once you`ve decided for yourself that eating animals is o.k., be it as an individual or a society, why not eat all of them. Although when going out by ourselves we mostly stick with our western socialization of ordering beef, chicken, pork, sometimes fish. 

In bigger restaurants like the one we went with our Chinese friends it is often usual that the big variety of seafood is displayed in big basins to choose from. And honestly, who of us would have ordered those little fellas in the middle of the lowermost row in the picture on the right? (click on pictures to enlarge them) Well, I wouldn`t, besides the fact that apart from being displayed in Chinese restaurants I haven`t seen them anywhere else before. But they definitely look like they`re called in Chinese - 海肠 (hǎicháng), the word-by-word translation would be "sea intestines" or "sea sausage", as the character 肠 (cháng) can mean both, intestines or sausage. Yeah, let`s you sometimes think twice before ordering something having this character in it`s name. For the fellas on the picture in my opinion "intestines" fits better. For increased disgust imagine them moving like worms, as that`s what they did in this basket.

Well, one of the Chinese obviously considered them looking tasty enough to order. To make a long story short, of course we tried them - to learn that they don`t taste as disgusting as they look - rather "harmless",with no real distinctive taste. But pretty tough to chew, though, having a stringy consistency like a rubberband. Definitely won`t become one of my favourites........

Sonntag, 6. November 2011

Ein Beispiel, bitte.

Aus einem chinesischen Buch für PRAXISORIENTIERTE deutsche Grammatik. Man beachte die Beispielsätze Nr.2 und 5.

Mittwoch, 2. November 2011

A warm tip....

What do you mean, no STAFF over the trolley? Am I supposed to carry those guys around?

Sonntag, 30. Oktober 2011

Harvest time

 For a couple of weeks now the streets and sidewalks of Shenyang are almost literally paved with vegetables. It`s harvest season for the most common  produce in China, 白菜 (baicai), Chinese cabbage, or white cabbage, as the Chinese call it themselves. Every day you see trucks loaded with cabbage or leek like the ones on the pictures on street crossings or in front of main gates of residential complexes, selling their load directly from the truck beds. And pretty cheap, too - you pay around 3 Mao for a cabbage, which is about 3,5 Eurocents nowadays.

 People often buy them in dozens or even more to lay them out in the open to dry (called "shai" ) . And obviously don`t fear theft, as they put them everywhere, in house floors, in backyards, on porches, on the sidewalks, in front of their shops, on roofs, or, as the last picture shows, even on statues. But who would steal cabbage even in China worth nearly nothing anyway?

Most of the cabbage will turn into delicious kimchi during the coming winter. After all, we´re still only about 250 km east of the Korean border.....

Samstag, 22. Oktober 2011

A small step forward.....

Hanging above urinals in several public toilets in the metros of Shenyang and Beijing :

 "A small step forward, a big step for culture"

Dienstag, 18. Oktober 2011

(silent) protests in my hood

When something new is about to be built, often something old(er) has to go to make room for what is to come. In Shenyang, as in many bigger Chinese cities, this happens a lot these days due to the fast pace of the country`s economic development and modernization. And of course, if you`re living in one of this older somethings that has to go, in this case a residential block, you`re not willing to leave without at least making a statement of disagreement - sprayed on your walls or displayed in your windows, for example.

 "I want security - oppose demolition by force"

written in black: "oppose demolition by force"  written in red: "my home"

"oppose demolition by force - protect our homes"

"Give back my security"

"oppose demolition by force
protect legal rights to the end
give me back security"

I don`t know why this block is about to be teared down, one reason might be the expansion of the central train station nearby, and these houses would be in the way for a passage into this district - so far the train station only has one entrance on the other side. Another explanation might be that often land or house owners get ample compensations for giving away their usage rights to the government or real estate project developers - and occupants get nothing but a date until when they have to move out. But don`t know if that`s the case here, haven`t talked to people living there so far.

Another strange thing - a real estate agent was showing my girlfriend an apartment in this block just six weeks ago.....

Sonntag, 16. Oktober 2011

A Trojan horse...

In China, they put meat in everything - even a sausage into a sweet waffle on a stick. Much to my girlfriends chagrin.

Samstag, 15. Oktober 2011

New Home: Iron West

From now on living on the "Iron West corridor of industry culture". Tiexi, translated Iron West, is the name of the quarter where we`ve settled for probably the next two years. So far Shenyang appears to be like many other big Chinese cities: a noisy, dusty, crowded, air polluted huge construction site. At least there`s fewer traffic jams as in Beijing, as far as I can tell after the first two weeks. Definitely fewer Westerners - even when walking through the city half the day you encounter maybe one or two non-chinese faces. Which so far appears to be a good thing - the Shenyangers seem to be more open-minded, patient and friendly to foreigners than what I´ve experienced in bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing so far. Or maybe I´ve just become a people person.....