Aug 31, 2010

Bicycle monopoly

It was big news recently, when Chinese president Hu Jintao's son, Hu Haifeng, was granted an exclusive deal on all bicycle sales in Beijing. Here's a local vendor who must be part of this newly-created monopoly:

I suppose it's also possible that this is just a case of someone translating "自行车专卖" as "bicycle monopoly" when it should really be something more like "specialist bicycle shop".

Aug 29, 2010

Sad cats

Outside the back of a local restaurant I pass by frequently, the kitchen staff have had two stray cats tied up with nylon string for a couple weeks

They appear to be giving the cats food scraps, so they're reasonably fed. My limited experience with cats tells me that these cats probably don't enjoy being tied up near the garbage dumpsters any more than they'd like to go for a walk on a leash.

"These cats are being fattened up for the soup pot, or for the kebab vendor", you say. Well, if this were southern China instead of northern China, or if it were a Cantonese restaurant, then I'd agree with you. But these are most definitely being rehabilitated and raised as pets. They are sad lookin' cats though.

Aug 27, 2010

Chinese albinos

It might be sort of politically incorrect to talk about this, but I am just fascinated when I see Chinese albinos. When I've encountered white folks with albinism, I think they might be able to pass for Irish or Scandinavian, so I tend to not be too interested.

Chinese albinos are something else, though. They have all the typical Han Chinese facial characteristics, but with white-pink skin and bleach-blond hair, as you'd expect. Last time I encountered one, I tried to snap a picture with my phone camera, but I didn't focus properly.

I debated simply throwing it out, but I found that you can still get a good sense of the contrast. And the blurriness maintains the anonymity of the subjects:

I'd say that I come across a Chinese albino every two to three months. Considering that this country is very densely populated, I'd say the incidence of albinism must be pretty low. Or they all stay indoors. On the other hand, I see Chinese little people (I know the politically correct nomenclature there) every few weeks.

When I've seen Chinese albinos interacting with their friends, they seem to be accepted as anyone else in their peer group. There appears to be no special treatment, and no one is over-focused on their melanin production defect. I think that's pretty cool.

Here's a clearer picture of a Chinese albino. (borrowed from here)

Aug 9, 2010

KFC Grazing Bucket

This is seriously a current feature on KFC's menu in China:

A Grazing Bucket! I love it. The Chinese characters translate to "Colorful bucket for the whole family", but "grazing bucket" is so much better.

They should offer this in the US with the same name.

Aug 7, 2010

Dialogue during my last visit to a Beijing KFC

I stopped by the neighborhood KFC to pick up some of their delicious KFC McNuggets and mashed potatoes for lunch one day this week. (I don't think those McNuggets are even on the menu in the US. We just have popcorn chicken and chicken strips if you want something boneless.)

This is the conversation I had with the cashier girl.

Cashier: [举者手] 这边点菜!(Raises hand. "I'm open over here")

[I walk over to the cashier]

Me: 你好! 一个上校鸡块,一份土豆泥,一个玉米玉棒,中杯可乐。在这儿吃。("Hi. One thing of KFC McNuggets, one thing of mashed potatoes and gravy, a corn on the cob, and a medium Coke. For here.")

Cashier: 在这儿吃吗您? ("Sir, is that for here or to go?")

Me: 在这儿吃。 ("For here.")

[The cashier pulls out a color brochure from behind the counter with some new chicken sandwiches that KFC just came out with. She starts to point at the pictures.]

Cashier: 要不要尝一下新出的汉堡? ("Are you interested in trying our new hamburger?")

Me: 汉堡!肯德基现在有汉堡吗?! (Feigning surprise: "Hamburgers! KFC is selling hamburgers now?!")

Cashier: 恩,对。尝一下吗? ("Yes, would you like to try one?")

Me: 那个不是汉堡。里面是牛肉吗? ("That's not a hamburger. Is there beef in it?")

Cashier: 牛肉,是吗? ("So you want beef?")

[This last sentence kind of annoyed me. In Mandarin, it's sort of a passive aggressive way to make fun of a non-native speaker's language ability. She's basically pretending that she's not following my thought process due to the word "beef". This, of course, encourages me to go a little further. ]

Me: 那个不是汉堡,是个鸡肉三明治。 ("That's not a hamburger. It's a chicken sandwich.")

[The cashier looks confused and can't think of what to say next.]

Me: 上面写的是"鸡腿堡"。它不是汉堡。 ("On the menu they've written 'Chicken leg sandwich. It ain't a hamburger.")

Cashier: 哦。 ("Oh.")

[The cashier rings up my total]

Frequent readers of my blog my recall my entry on the misuse of the English words "poker", "hamburger", and "play".

I get just as irritated by the misuse of loan words from English in Mandarin.

A hamburger contains beef. Chicken meat and a bun is a chicken sandwich. Very simple. Irritates me almost as much as people littering and taxi drivers hacking loogies. The funniest thing is that my feedback went completely over the head of the KFC cashier. It was a fun talk though, anyway.

Aug 5, 2010

Henan woman is a dead ringer for Mickey Rourke

I was going through my photos from my recent Henan trip, and I spent a lot of time staring at these several photos of a cucumber vendor:

I thought to myself, "This lady's a dead ringer for Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler." She totally has the same look as him in that scene after he buys some 'roids and shoots up:

Is it just me, or does this Henan lady look almost the same? Please tell me it's not just me.

Aug 3, 2010

Smokin' monkey

Yuntai Mountain in Henan province, which I visited recently, is situated in a lush forrest. There are many macaques that are active in parts of the park. Just in case tourists don't have the chance to encounter any monkeys during their visit, the park management have considerately arranged a massive monkey cage. The cage is constructed from a double layer of oxidized chain-link fence, with a bare concrete floor. Inside the cage lives an entire troop of macaques. The baby monkeys are small enough to slip out of the chain-link of the roof, but the adults are too large to get out.

Along with plastic bags, Coke bottles, and other garbage, some tourists throw their cigarette butts through the chain-link fence to the macaques. The macaques seem to consider the butts to be a wonderful delicacy. Here's a juvenile macaque that sort of looks like he's smoking a cigarette butt:

I find it fascinating to observe primates. I'm like Al Pacino's character in Donnie Brasco — I love to watch animals. You can probably guess what my opinion is on the habitat and treatment given to this particular troop of monkeys.

Aug 1, 2010

An Ohio State joke?

I'm not smart enough to figure this one out. Maybe someone can explain it to me:

I spotted spotted and photographed this clueless girl on a recent trip to rural Henan.

For those unfamiliar with the
Big Ten, what we have here on this clueless girl's head is a Michigan cap using the Ohio State color scheme. This is interesting due to the intense Michigan – Ohio State football rivalry.