Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On the Move...

Yesterday, on my way home from work, I came across this scene. This is an everyday occurrence. As you can imagine, in a city that has millions of people living together in close proximity, getting from point A to point B can be an adventure. For families, this can be even more of a challenge. So this is one way that parents have come up with for getting their children where they need to go. - Frank

Monday, April 11, 2011

Accidents Happen, but Why Me?

As I have stated in this blog before, I have an electric scooter. It is pretty sweet. It has a 72 volt battery that allows me to ride it for about 80 to 100 km (50 to 62 miles) without recharging. It also goes up to 72 km per hour which is about 44 mph. What I like about it most is what it represents. Freedom. How? It gives me freedom from buses. Freedom from taxis. Freedom to go where I want without a lot of headache or worrying about how to get there. Well, Friday after I got off work, that freedom was taken away from me. I was on my way to meet a friend and help him fix his computer, when suddenly a car pulls out in front of me. Some people have said that when they have gotten into an accident, everything seems to go in slow motion. Well that happened for me too. I will try to relive the sequence for you as I remember the things going through my mind...

I see the car.

  • Idiot! What are you doing?

I applied the brakes.

  • Ok. I am not going to stop in time.
  • Oh no, my laptop is in my backpack.
  • Noooooooooooooo!

Bam! I hit the car. I stayed on my feet.

· Laptop is ok.

  • Idiot!

Well, the driver of the car gets out and immediately tries to place the blame. "太快了,太快了!你骑得太快了。This means: “Too fast, too fast! You were riding too fast. Well, I was not going to be out done. I said to him "开不看了,开不看了!为什么你开不看了"Which means: "Drive but not looking, drive but not looking! Why did you drive without looking?" Well, at least that is what I wanted to say. I am sure to his ears it just sounded like Charlie Browns teacher.

Anyway, after he determined that I was ok, he said I should move my bike.
I told him not until we resolved the situation. I was afraid that he would just drive off. I asked him what should we do, he asked me how much money I wanted to fix my bike. Since my bike brand new was 3600 RMB, and I paid 2500 for it, I told him I wanted 2500 RMB ($382 US). You see, I was using negotiating 101. Start high so that they can counter offer, and you can settle on what you really want. Well he must have read the same book, except he was working from the other side. Start really low so that you settle on what you want to pay. His opening counter was 200 RMB ($30US). Ok. What does negotiating 101 have to say about when the prices are too far apart? He and I both agreed that we needed to wait for the police.

The first policeman on the
scene was off duty and just happened to be passing by. He told me that I should avoid bringing the police in and accept the 200 RMB. Hmm. My thinking at that time: As tempting as that is, I think I will take whatever's behind door number 2". Well, soon the next cop arrived on the scene. He too encouraged me to take the 200. I think he did not want to do any paperwork. This time I pointed to my bike and said "这辆车我骑不了. 两百块能做什么?" or "I can't ride my bike. What is 200 RMB going to do?" So this cop said ok but we would have to wait for his supervisor to make a decision. Finally, the supervisor shows up, looks at the situation, and immediately rules in my favor. He is the Chinese Judge Wapner. (de, definitely Wapner) He asked me what I wanted, and I told him I just wanted my bike fixed. So, after an hour and a half of waiting, it was decided that the guys insurance would pay to fix my bike. My only remaining problem was getting the bike to the shop and getting home. I know accidents happen, but why did it have to happen to me?


The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.

Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring has Arrived

The first half of the winter, fom November to January was actually pretty nice. It was usually in the mid 50s to low 60s. But from January until last week, it was really cold. One day it late March, it even snowed. I am very glad that spring has finally come. For the rest of the year it will probably only get as high as the mid 80s. So we will have plenty of oportunities to visit the many parks, and take some nice rides on our electric scooters. - Frank

Ancient Chinese Secrets - The Perfect Pot of Rice

One thing that many people struggle with is making rice. You may think that it is a simple thing to do, but if you believe that you have probably never had to eat gummy, sticky rice. I was blessed to have grown up in a household that had an expert rice maker in it, my mom; hence we were not blighted with that curse. When I got married, I passed the family method of making good rice to Amanda (along with the recipe for making pistachio cake which we will discuss at another time). Since moving to China, we have not had to use that method however, because we have discovered the ancient Chinese secret to perfect rice. As you know the staple food in Asia is rice, so they have come up with a simple solution to that age old problem - the rice cooker. With this amazing device, all you have to do is add the ingredients and hit a button and about twenty minutes later, voila! the perfect pot of rice. Like the refrigerator in America, this appliance is a "must have" in every home. There are probably more that don't have a refrigerator, than those that don't have a rice cooker. What I want to know is that with all the things we import from China, how is it we don't have rice cookers in America? - Frank

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chinese Tea Ceremony

Last week we had some friends visit from Thailand. They wanted to buy some tea, so I took them to a shop where one of our Chinese friends works. As many of you may know, one of the things China is famous for is it's tea. Traditionally, tea is not just consumed, it is experienced. There is an entire ceremony involved in serving it. Today, it is still one of the fluids that lubricates society. It is used at business, political, and social functions as a way for the host to show respect for the guest, and for the guest to relax and savor the subtle flavors of the variety of teas that are available, usually in a soothing and comfortable setting. Our hostess was a young lady named Xiao Zhou. She studied the art of serving tea for six years. How can serving tea be so complicated as to require years of study? Well, according to Xiao Zhou, if you don't heat the water, pour the water, or soak the tea leaves in the correct way, it can drastically alter the way the tea taste. When you are dealing with tea leaves that have been drying for anywhere from five to hundreds of years, your technique is very important. The water must be boiling hot. The hotter the better. You must pour the water onto the side of the tea pot, not directly onto the tea leaves. I was told that doing it incorrectly will unleash the flavors too quickly. You do not serve the first or second steeping. You use the first steeping to rinse the tea cups that you will serve the tea in by filling the cups then pouring the tea out. You do this right in front of the guest. You then add water to the pot a second time and then pour it out too. Finally, you serve the guest. You must be careful how you do this also. The most important person at the table must get served first. Be sure to only fill the cup seventy percent full. This is also very important as it is considered rude to fill the cup to the rim because the traditional tea cups are tiny and have no handle. The guest could burn their hands if the tea is overflowing. I was told if you do this to a Chinese person, it is an insult and they will get very upset. IMG_0227 After Xiao Zhou served us a five year old tea from the PuEr region of the Yunnan province, she then informed us that she was going to teach us how to serve tea properly. I took my turn and quickly came to appreciate her skill. They all laughed at me because my hands were shaking. I wasn't nervous but handling the delicate tools of this trade takes concentration. The most skilled servers make it look effortless, they move with a fluidity that matches the tea that they serve. I now know why they study for so long! In the end, my tea did not taste as good as hers, mine was a little more bitter. After all who wanted to learn got their chance, Xiao Zhou then arranged for us to go to a different store that sold the same tea for a better price. She even arranged for someone to drive us there. Upon arriving at the second store, we again were served numerous cups of tea. So we then discovered that another important feature of a tea shop is having a restroom close to the serving area. I really enjoyed our afternoon experiencing the tea ceremony, and I now want to get a traditional tea set for our home. Who knows, maybe if you come to visit, I will be able to make you a proper cup of tea. - Frank

“The spirit of the tea beverage is one of peace, comfort and refinement.”- Arthur Gray

Thursday, March 31, 2011

China and Japan - Different Countries

I know that it may seem that I am stating the obvious, but I think the time has come to clear things up just a little bit. Why? Well, when many of our American friends hear that we are living in China, they often ask us how learning Japanese is going. Recently, we have been asked how we are doing since the earthquake. You know, we really appreciate everyone's concern with our well being and our studies, but I just want to let everyone know that China and Japan are not the same country. Nor, as I have been asked by some, is China a part of Japan. I guess that once again this shows that for most of us American's geography is not our strong suit. - Frank

"Acquire new knowledge while thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others." - Confucius

PS- Just in case you were wondering, no, I never see any samuri either. You see, they too are Japanese.