Oct 30, 2009

Monastery anecdote

We visited this beautifully decorated place, Songzanlin Monastery in Zhongdian:

Outside the temple, there is a box labeled "功德箱", as there are at many temples. I would translate this into English as "Box O' Donations". Next to the donation box, there was a notebook where people who donated money could record the date, their name, where they're from, and the amount of the donation.

You might need to double click on the photo below to see all the details:

I happened to glance at the page as I walked by, and something jumped out at me. A jokster filled out a line like this:
Name: "From USA"
Hometown: "Katie & Bill Jones, America"
Donation amount: "13:50"

If this was an intentional joke by someone, I'm impressed. It's very creative and amusing, and I'm going to imitate this joke in the future.

Is it a joke, or was this a real person? Leave me some comments and let me know what you think. Are Katie & Bill real Americans? Or did some clever Canadians or Brits pull a fast one and take a funny jab at us obnoxious Americans?

Some things that occurred to me:
  • If the surname was Ricci or Zielinski or Cohen, I'd suspect nothing was up. But "Bill Jones"? Come on, who has a generic name like that?
  • They wrote the time as "13:50". We don't do that in America; it's those crazy Europeans with their kilograms and meters and Celsius who use military time. Americans would normally write "1:50 PM".
  • The line says "From USA" in the Name column. Then they list "America" again in the Hometown column. It seems like the writer is trying extra hard to make sure people know that some stupid Americans did this.

Oct 28, 2009

Tibetan mastiffs

In Tibetan areas, you'll run across more than a few Tibetan mastiffs. Most of the time, they're mutts, like this one, around the size of a black lab:

One of our cab drivers that we hired near Songpan took us by a dog kennel that had a few purebred Tibetan mastiffs caged up. This sucker was big. You need a large dog if it's going to be able to fight with wolves.

I think when this dog stands up he'd be as tall as a man. Not to mention, his craps are as big as a full grown man's. Not a dog you'd want to come across when he's angry.

Unfortunately, some idiots with too much money are purchasing Tibetan mastiffs as status symbols. I've seen a halfbreed in a fancy pants villa in the suburbs of Beijing recently. This fat cat's daughter paid almost $600,000 recently for a purebred. To add to the fun, Ms. Idiot managed to piss off the common folks in Shaanxi by sending a parade of Mercedes to the airport to pick up the new pet. I predict that with all the idiots getting over their heads with these dogs, we're going to see some Diane Whipple -type dog maulings in the near future in China.

Oct 26, 2009

1th of October!

Check out this picture I took of a LED bulletin board at Emei Shan:

I love the auto-formatting of the English language date at the bottom "1th of October". Cute. Probably a Perl script written by a third grader.

For the Chinese language part, the characters read:
Celebrate national day!
Celebrate the mid-autumn festival!

Long live the motherland!
Do we really need so many exclamation marks? I get a headache from reading it. I feel like I have a socialist cheerleader shouting in my face.

Imagine if our LED bulletin boards in the US had messages like that. Could you imagine the cultural equivalent? We'd end up with something like this:

It's so bizarre that it makes me laugh.

Oct 24, 2009

Meats and animal parts

During my recent Kham trip, I saw more yaks, both live and slaughtered, than I've ever seen. For this post, I've picked out my best photos of local meats, most of it yak-related. Enjoy this photo set on your laptop while eating a medium-rare hamburger.

In Zhongdian, Yunnan: a halal yak meat store with all sorts of yak parts. In the photo you can make out a rib cage, a head, black hair, and a bunch of organs.

In Songpan, Sichuan: the hide of a freshly slaughtered yak, laying on the street behind a pickup truck whose bed contains several yak heads.

Here are the yak heads inside the bed of the pick up truck.

A Songpan local man, feeling up some fresh yak parts for sale by a street vendor. Next time I go to Kroger or Safeway, I'm going to ask the butcher, "Can I unwrap this package of beef? I need to feel it up to get a better sense of the quality."

A sign outside a restaurant in Songpan reading "鲜牛杂", which I would translate as "fresh miscellaneous yak parts". Below the sign sits a basket of said parts.

A close-up of the miscellaneous yak parts.

Chengdu, Sichuan: spicy rabbit heads.

Check out the chompers on this one!

Chengdu, Sichuan: spicy duck heads.

Oct 22, 2009

Event report: Beijing International Marathon 2009

This past Sunday was the annual Beijing marathon. It was very much the same as in the past. The route started on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square, and roughly followed a clockwise loop around the city, ending in the Olympic stadium. Runners could choose from the full marathon, half marathon, 9 km, or 4.2 km. The morning pollution was so-so. I'd say that running 9 km was the equivalent of smoking two Lucky Strikes.

Here are my firsthand observations from this year's race:
  • There's still some pretty major discrimination going on with this marathon. Chinese citizens, as well as Taiwanese and Hong Kong folks, pay only $13 to register. Citizens of other countries pay $60. The standard work-around is to get a Chinese friend to register using their ID number. It's still really stupid though that they still pull this kind of stuff.
  • You may know that mainland Chinese are taught to despise the Japanese. Test this theory out if you don't believe me. Despite the hatred of the Japanese, the Beijing government has no problems letting a Japanese corporation act as the major sponsor of each year's marathon. In past years, the sponsor has been ANA. This year it was Ito-Yokado. Come on, China, this is making you guys lose face, big time. You've got tons of companies doing very well for themselves. Kick the Japanese sponsors out. Japan is so 1980's, anyway. Sponsor this thing yourselves next time.
  • This year's race was a major pee-fest.
    • In my post from the 2008 marathon, I showed a Belgian with a bladder infection, peeing where he shouldn't be. This year, there were more guys peeing in bushes and on walls than you could count. I suppose it indicates a lack of porta-potties.
    • In Tiananmen Square, there were around thirty guys lined up in a row, standing on the lip of a planter with some bushes, peeing together into the foliage. As soon as the group was done peeing, thirty more guys would take their place. The bushes, the concrete planter they were in, and ground— all soaking wet with disgusting urine. It was gross. The cops should have gotten off their butts to hand out some citations for public urination.
    • It was amusing to see that a dozen or so Chinese dudes were peeing on the outer walls of Zhongnanhai, where the Chinese president lives and where the government is headquartered. Can you imagine someone peeing on the White House fence?

Oct 20, 2009

Storefront symbols

If you happened to be an inexperienced Westerner strolling around the base of Emei Shan, you might come across this storefront:

Nothing too out of the ordinary. But then you might look more closely and notice that they have two right-facing swastikas under the sign:

What's going on here?, you might wonder. Is Emei Shan some sort of hideout for Third Reich Germans still on the run?

You'd be mistaken. It turns out that the swastika is actually an ancient Buddhist symbol, which was later corrupted by the Germans. Wikipedia, the source of all truth and fact, points out:
Buddhism originated in India in the 5th century BC and inherited the manji or swastika. Also known as a "yung drung" in ancient Tibet, it was a graphical representation of eternity. Today the symbol is used in Buddhist art and scripture and represents dharma, universal harmony, and the balance of opposites.
Emei Shan is in fact a sacred Buddhist mountain, which would explain why they've used a swastika over their storefront.

Oct 18, 2009

World's worst toilet?

You thought that Ewan McGregor used the world's worst toilet in Trainspotting? I think this is a new contender for the title:
This shack was about two hours outside of Kangding, Sichuan. Note that this is not a free toilet, as you can see from the Chinese characters under the sign for "women" on the right. You actually have to pay to use this one.

Oct 16, 2009

Who's still down with Chris Brown?

Chris Brown is still popular with one demographic: female Tibetans. Brown may have slapped Rihanna around a little, but some of his fans still love him.

I caught this worker at Jiuzhaigou chowing down on lunch while sporting a slick Chris Brown cap:

I'm guessing, actually, that this gal is in one of the following two categories:
  • hasn't heard about Chris Brown's domestic violence case
  • ore, more likely, never actually heard of Chris Brown, and just bought a pretty pink hat
Yo, yo, Chris! You still got fans in southwest China. Come on out and do a concert!

Oct 12, 2009

Like a rolling stone

This random dude I saw in Daocheng, Sichuan has to be the Tibetan Bob Dylan. Obviously the hair makes him a dead ringer:

And then to seal the deal, he rode off on his motorcycle with his girl on the back seat, holding onto his waist. I thought it was reminiscent of the cover from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, where his girl's holding onto his arm as they walk down the street.

Oct 10, 2009

Kham trip

In the coming weeks, I'll post some photos and stories from my trip to Kham, in eastern Tibet. During the October first National Day celebration, the PRC government heightened security and restricted non-PRC citizens from traveling to the Tibet Autonomous Region. For us, this was no big problem, since Kham lies to the east of the TAR boundary drawn by the PRC, in what are now the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.

To give an idea of the Tibetan cultural sphere, here's a map of what Tibet used to look like, in yellow, before its partitioning by the PRC.

Here's our trip route, superimposed on the map:

To give a sense of the travel time involved, the bus ride from Shangri-La to Daocheng is about 12 hours over bumpy, muddy mountain roads. Daocheng to Kangding is a 14 hour bus ride. Chengdu to Huanglong/Jiuzhaigou is a one-hour flight.

Oct 7, 2009

Bizarre KFC ad at a Beijing bus stop

Two comments on this KFC ad I seen at a Beijing bus stop:
  1. Who goes to KFC looking to get shrimp? Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  2. Those anthropomorphic shrimp are freaky. Who wants to see people dressed up as the animals they're planning to eat?

Oct 3, 2009

Going through the motions

As most people know, the Chinese government screwed up their handling of SARS back in 2002 by not sharing information. To make themselves look better this time around with the so-called Pig Virus, H1N1, they've implemented rigorous measures to protect their citizens.

I've documented some of these measures, which I observed recently while attending a wedding banquet at a Beijing hotel. I think that the safety measures at this hotel can be considered representative of how the H1N1 preparedness situation is being handled throughout China. It can be summarized in the title of this post, "going through the motions".

Here's a fancy, color sign telling everyone about the great care the Chinese government is taking to protect the citizenry. What a swell group of leaders. If I were a citizen, I'd vote for them next election. They take care of us so well.

To the right of the large color sign, the hotel has set up an infrared temperature scanner. Guests are supposed to walk through the set up as they enter the lobby of the hotel. The scanner is being manned by — you guessed it — exactly no one. Not to mention, there are doors on either side of this entrance with no scanners in place, so you don't even have to walk through this one. The scanner is for appearances only.

I was curious about the infrared technology they were using. I stood behind the read-out of the temperature scanner as guests passed under it and into the hotel. No matter who went through the scanner, it read a consistent 34.0 °C (93.2°F).

Job well done, Chinese government. Looks like we're all safe. No need to worry about the Pig Virus today. We're all stable at 93.2°F, clearly in the normal range.