Monday, February 29, 2016

Leaving a Mark: Lessons from Jieyang

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when I approached a shopping center in Jieyang today, including the various obstacles in my path such as the motorbikes, the common-in-China stools, or signs indicating a bank's dedicated parking area.

front of a shopping area with parked motorbikes, plastic stools, and parking signs

So as I walked to get a closer look at a storefront sign, I effortlessly weaved my way without much thought. But then suddenly I had a sinking feeling.

Soon I was reminded of two important lessons about life.

1. How you make an impression on the world often happens in ways you don't expect.

large footprint in wet cement

2. You won't be the only person to leave an impression.

small footprint in wet cement

On a more pragmatic note, I'm mildly pleased I decided to wear a worn out pair of shoes a bit longer despite having already purchased a replacement pair.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Sunny and Fishy Day in Jieyang

After a number of cloudy days Jieyang, today's clearer skies inspired some to head outdoors.

woman drying a large number of tiny fish on a table standing in the street in Jieyang

After all, the weather was good for sunning your fish.

drying tiny fish in the sun

Friday, February 26, 2016

Resting on the Go in Jieyang

Last year I was impressed by a man sleeping on a motorbike in Hengyang, Hunan. Today in Jieyang, Guangdong, a similar sight zipped by.

child sleeping on a moving scooter in Jieyang, China

Despite the closed eyes, though, the apparent grip on the side of the motorbike makes me question whether the child is asleep. Either way, it was a reminder there is nothing like an early afternoon nap.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Assorted Links: Hurt Feelings, Less Love, Less Info, and Mao's Holy Mangos

It has been a while since I semi-regularly did "assorted links" posts, and I would like to return to the practice. To kick things off, here are a few links with brief excerpts and little or no commentary.

1. David Bandurski addresses some questions about a common phrase heard from China when it is not pleased with foreigners' or other countries' actions or words:
In 2007, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters that diminutive Saint Lucia had “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

This was quite a feat for Saint Lucia’s 183,000-odd residents, given China’s population of more than 1.3 billion.

Is China really so sensitive? Why must it resort to such petulance? . . . And what on earth did Saint Lucia do?

2. Lilian Lin and Chang Chen report China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has suspended yet another gay-themed show:
The Web drama, which follows the lives of four high school students played by fresh-faced actors, has generated buzz on social media ever since it went online about one month ago. The show’s Beijing-based production house said that the drama was viewed more than 10 million times in the day after it premiered.

3. Edward Wong and Neil Gough report that gay-themed shows aren't the only thing the Chinese government is further clamping down on:
Chinese leaders are taking increasingly bold steps to stop rising pessimism about turbulent markets and the slowing of the country’s growth. As financial and economic troubles threaten to undermine confidence in the Communist Party, Beijing is tightening the flow of economic information and even criminalizing commentary that officials believe could hurt stocks or the currency.

4. Finally, Benjamin Ramm tells the fascinating story of how mangos became "holy" during China's Cultural Revolution:
To quell the forces that he had unleashed, Mao sent 30,000 workers to Qinghua University in Beijing, armed only with their talisman, the Little Red Book. The students attacked them with spears and sulphuric acid, killing five and injuring more than 700, before finally surrendering. Mao thanked the workers with a gift of approximately 40 mangoes, which he had been given the previous day by Pakistan's foreign minister.

They had a huge impact.

It's hard to top the mango story. So that's all for now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Brief Look at Some Movie Posters in Jieyang

Building with the Rongjiang Theater on its upper floors

It has been a while since I shared two movie posters which caught my eye in Shaoguan, Guangdong. So I will mention when I passed by the Rongjiang Theater today in Jieyang, Guangdong, I noticed a poster for Mermaid (美人鱼), a new movie from Hong Kong (a review).

Mermaid (美人鱼) movie poster in front of the Rongjiang Theater in Jieyang, China

On the poster was a schedule for today's showtimes.

movie showtimes at the Rongjiang Theater in Jieyang

Notably, two of the three movies are in Cantonese, a common dialect in Guangdong. Most people in Jieyang speak the local Chaoshan dialect, which is very different, in their daily life. But the few people I have asked told me they are able to understand Cantonese, if not speak it. The third movie is in Putonghua, a standardized form of Mandarin and China's official language.

Nearby were other movie posters. One pair represented future and past movies with a space theme.

Like the Midnight Whispers movie poster I saw months ago, the Star Wars poster includes an error. This one made me think of The Shining (spoiler alert: relevant movie excerpt). Perhaps the error wouldn't have occurred had they used the Chinese poster, though that version raised other questions.

I had intended to see if there was anything interesting to say about the Space Panda movie. But an online search first led me to a potentially seizure-inducing video about the Space Panda video game. I am guessing it is of no relation to the Chinese movie, but it has left me feeling like its best to stop here regardless.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Heading Downstream in Jieyang

Today in Jieyang I didn't see a goat.

But I did see a boat.

boat speeding down the Rongjiang North River in Jieyang
Speeding down the Rongjiang North River

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Question, a Fire, and a Repeat Sighting: One More Goat Post

Yesterday was my first day in a while not to see a goat in Jieyang. But thanks to two readers, it wasn't an entirely goat-free day for me, though, so I will briefly return to the goat topic.

One reader asked "What's with all the goats?" To be clear, Jieyang isn't overflowing with goats. The examples I have shared were isolated incidents during days when I covered much ground. After showing a goat-milking photo to one local, she said she didn't think it was common. That's been my impression as well. But I have seen far more goat milking on Jieyang's urban streets than anywhere else in China.

The other reader shared some rather unfortunate goat-related news. 300 goats recently burned to death on a truck which caught fire near its destination in Liuzhou, Guangxi. I won't be sharing the graphic photos of the fire and its aftermath, but Shanghaiist has them. The incident is terrible regardless, but I wonder where the goats were headed. I doubt it was a petting zoo.

To end this post on a cheerier note (not a high bar there), I will sneak in another photo of goats on wheels, this one from today. It provides more food for thought regarding the goats' diets. One goat was munching on the tarp covering its cart.

Five goats on a parked motorbike tricycle cart. One goat is eating the tarp on top of the cart.

The tarp was one of several clues including the vehicle, the broom, the bucket, and, of course, the five goats which give me the confidence to declare these are the same five goats I saw speeding down the road earlier this week. As far as I can tell, this is my first repeat sighting. I will take it as further encouragement to move onto other topics.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Chinese State Media Tweet About Xi Jinping's Special Visits

The Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily received an important visitor today. They were inspired to report it on Twitter, which is blocked in China.

People's Daily wasn't the only state-media organization in China to receive a visit from Xi today and tweet about it. Xinhua made appropriate use of quotation marks in one of its tweets.

They also shared a heart-touching moment.

In its excitement, CCTV didn't feel inhibited to declare "exclusive" on something which happened within their own studio.

CCTV really loves inspections after all.

Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of commentary on Twitter.

Of course, none of this is a joke.

If these tweets aren't enough to satisfy, one can head to Medium where David Bandurski translated a portion of a poem about Xi's visit written by a deputy editor at Xinhua. Bandurski described it as a "steaming heap of sycophancy". That is also not a joke.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Undoubtedly Trashy: Goats Eating in Jieyang

I thought I might be on my way to a goat-free day, but, of course, this afternoon I came across some goats yet again in Jieyang. A older man had just bought some fresh goat milk and appeared amused when I photographed the goats. We spoke briefly and thinking about the ambiguity of the Chinese character 羊 (yáng) regarding sheep, goats, and other Caprinae I inquired about the name of these fine animals. Not to my surprise, he went with 羊 (yáng) on its own.

What most caught my attention about these particular goats wasn't their number (only two) or their mode of transportation (walking with their human). I earlier mentioned that while buyers like the man I met today could be assured of the source and freshness of their goat milk, there were still unanswered questions which could be of concern such as those pertaining to the goats' diets. So I watched silently as one of the goats munched on . . . something.

goat eating trash on the ground in Jieyang, China

And with that food for thought, I think it can be said not only has the recent goats-on-wheels series come to a close for the time being but now the broader goat series as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Signs of Goat Meat in Jieyang

As was evident with the previous lunar year's zodiac symbol, the Chinese character 羊 (yáng) can refer to sheep, goats, rams, and other related animals. Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Victor Mair uses the term "ovicaprid" when translating instances of 羊 (yáng) which are ambiguous. "Caprinae" may work as well. My earlier idea to go with "Year of the Yang" never took off.

Although adding a preceding Chinese character provides more clarity, it is still common in China to see 羊 (yáng) without one. For example, a man I recently saw selling goat milk in Chaozhou evidently felt that no additional character was needed. But at a market in Jieyang I passed through the other day, I saw several instances of 山羊 (shānyáng), which typically refers to goats.

sign for goat meat (山羊肉) in Jieyang, China

sign for goat meat (山羊肉) in Jieyang, China

They weren't selling milk like the vendors with goats on tricycle carts I saw nearby. The third character in these signs means "meat".

Elsewhere in Jieyang, I saw a restaurant sign which used 羊 (yáng) alone, once again with the meat character following. During my earlier days in China I would have assumed this meant sheep meat was on the menu. Given how I have seen the character used elsewhere in this region, though, I wasn't shocked to see a picture of a goat below.

restaurant sign with goat meat (羊肉) mentioned in Jieyang, China

So what do they write in Jieyang when referring to sheep? I haven't explored this fascinating issue, but I did see one man selling sheep meat who didn't write anything at all. The head and skin did seem to communicate enough on their own though.

meat for sale hanging above a sheep head and a sheep skin nearby

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Undoubtedly Unexpected: A New Goat Cart Record

I hadn't planned on a series of posts about unexpected goat sightings in Chaozhou and in Jieyang. I figured the last post about the motorbike tricycle cart with an impressive five goats would be hard to top and looked forward to moving onto other matters. So even though I saw an electric/pedal-powered tricycle cart with five goats yesterday in an urban area of Jieyang . . .

five goats on an electric tricycle cart in Jieyang

and saw a milking for a customer . . .

milking a goat on a tricycle cart in Jieyang

I probably wouldn't have shared more goat photos today.

But nearby on Ronghu Road, I came across something which made me feel, yes, another goats-on-wheels post was clearly justified.

seven goats on a motorbike tricycle cart in Jieyang

One cart. Seven glorious goats.

Barring seeing something like a school bus filled with goats, which at this point I wouldn't discount, this should conclude the series. I will have something to say, though, about a fate for goats in Jieyang less grand, at least from a goat's perspective, than being milked or riding carts.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Undoubtedly More Goats: On Wheels and On Foot in Jieyang

While taking a series of photographs of a scene at Jinxianmen Avenue in Jieyang yesterday, something else deserving to be captured caught my attention. I was ready with my camera, but unfortunately the arrangement of vehicles on the road was not conducive to a clear shot. But as the vehicle of note sped away there was a break, and I caught the moment.

motorbike tricycle cart with 5 goats in Jieyang

After briefly looking at the small image on my camera, I thought it was a motorbike tricycle cart with four goats — topping the previous carts with goats in Jieyang and in Chaozhou. When I later looked at the photo, I realized it was something even greater, as can be more easily seen in a cropped version of the photo.

motorbike tricycle cart with 5 goats in Jieyang

Yes, make that five goats — all with a view.

The goat appearances didn't stop there. Today near Donghu Road while I had been thinking about matters other than goats, four more goats passed by. And for the first time in my life, I was surprised to see goats because they were not on a motorbike tricycle cart.

woman walking with four goats in Jieyang

Like before, all of these goats were spotted in urban areas. These are exciting days indeed.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Undoubtedly Authentic: More Mobile Fresh Milk in Guangdong

Chaozhou and Jieyang, bordering cities in eastern Guangdong province, share much in common. So after recently seeing fresh goat milk for sale in Chaozhou, I wasn't entirely surprised to see a similar arrangement yesterday at a street intersection in Jieyang.

motorbike tricycle cart with a goat

Like the milk seller in Chaozhou, the tricycle cart carried three goats (in the above photo two of the goats are off the cart mostly out of view). Unlike the milk seller in Chaozhou, the tricycle cart had a motorcycle front end.

Nearby, another seller offered offered milk from a more common source.

motorbike tricycle-cart with a cow

While there, I was fortunate enough to witness a milking for a customer's order.
man milking a cow on a motorbike tricycle cart

Having grown up in an area with many farms, I have seen plenty of cows before. I haven't seen many on motorized tricycle carts in the middle of urban areas though.

With concerns about fake products and past milk scandals on the minds of many in China, even inspiring cross-border trips for milk products, it is easy to think of reasons why this option would appeal to some people. Questions remain pertaining to the milk's quality, including ones about the animal's diet, but there is no doubt about its source, its freshness, or whether anything was added after it left the animal.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Rooster Hoping For Something Better During the Year of the Monkey

A neglected portion of Fenghuangzhou Park (凤凰洲公园) in Chaozhou holds statues for all the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Yesterday, on the last day of the Year of the Yang, the goat statue stood proud.

goat statue at Fenghuangzhou Park in Chaozhou

Hanging out nearby was the statue for the new lunar year's animal.

monkey statue at Fenghuangzhou Park in Chaozhou

I'm don't know what is planned for this portion of the park. It seems to hold some potential despite its curious current state. But hopefully they at least address one mishap before next year — the Year of the Rooster.

knocked-over rooster statue at at Fenghuangzhou Park in Chaozhou

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Last Goats During This Year of the Yang

Not only did I see three goats yesterday, three goats saw me.

three goats

And a girl petted one of them.

girl petting one of three goats on a tricycle cart

They weren't part of a mobile petting zoo though. Instead, the man who had biked them there was selling fresh goat milk.

tricycle cart with three goats and sign indicating goat milk is for sale

It seemed to be an auspicious sign to see goats on the second to last day of the Chinese lunar new year. There was much debate over which animal was represented by 羊 (yáng) — the Chinese word for the year's zodiac symbol. It can refer to a range of animals related to sheep and goats, and additional characters are sometimes used to remove any ambiguity. In this case, though, the seller apparently felt that 羊 would be understood as "goat", not so surprising since we were in Chaozhou — a city in southern China. Of course, if there was any doubt, the nearby goats cleared things up.

Although I had questions about the whether the milk was safe, I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity to end the year in such a fitting fashion. So I told the man I was interested in making a purchase. After discussing the amount of milk I wanted, he asked what I intended to do with it. After I told him I planned to simply drink it as is, he explained that wouldn't be a great idea.

The man with the goats had spoken. And he had passed up a sale in order not to bring me any harm. I thanked him and left milkless but appreciative I didn't end the year on an unpleasant note.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Luggage Ride in Shenzhen

I recently saw many examples of luggage sales at the Dongmen shopping area in Shenzhen. Most buyers likely planned to use their new luggage for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

I saw one example, though, of a more immediate benefit.

Toddler sitting on a piece of luggage being pushed

Thursday, February 4, 2016

More on Foods with Durian

Durian hawker in Hanoi, Vietnam
Durian hawker in Hanoi, Vietnam, five years ago

In response to my first taste of durian pizza and my stated preference for plain durian, a reader in the U.S., a country were I doubt most people could even identify the fruit, shared his own durian-related preferences:
For what it's worth, my first exposure to durian was in ice cream. I didn’t like it. I also tried durian muffins — also not so good. I then discovered that I do quite like plain durian — so long as we’re outside and the smell can dissipate.
I had previously wondered whether treats such as a durian ice cream could be a way for more people to gain an appreciation of durian. The reader's experience made me question that, though the unenjoyable treats may have primed him for a more pleasurable first experience eating plain durian. Perhaps if he revisits the muffins he may now have a different impression. It is also worth noting that people can have strong preferences for a specific durian variety, of which there are many. There are so many variables to consider, but at least the reader's story has a happy ending. He may be heartened to learn I ate the strong-smelling durian pizza outside.

As planned, I ate the leftover durian pizza at room temperature (inside) for breakfast. I must say, it was a great way to start the day. I now see durian pizza in a new light and am wondering if I could get a durian pizza delivered in the early morning — with extra durian, of course.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Joining a Mass Migration Out of the Pearl River Delta Area

During recent days at the Dongmen shopping district in Shenzhen, lint removers were obviously not the only item in demand. One item in particular stood out.

luggage for sale at Dongmen in Shenzhen

So many people walked around with pieces of newly purchased luggage, one could wonder whether the world's biggest annual human migration is underway in China. It is. During a 40 day period surrounding the Lunar New Year, Chinese travelers are expected to take 2.9 billion trips. Notably, that's 700 million trips less than last year.

Yesterday, travelers in nearby Guangzhou experienced some of the pains which occur when transporting all of those people doesn't go as planned. Due to bad weather far to the north delaying trains, thousands were stranded — figures range from 38,000 to 100,000. Part of the discrepancy may be due to some figures including Guangzhou East Railway Station. Whatever the case, it was a lot of people and probably a miserable experience.

Yesterday, I made my own journey. Due to my unexpected return to the area and staying in Shenzhen longer than planned, I was not able to buy a train ticket in advance. They were sold out, so I took a bus at roughly twice the cost — partly attributable to the bus company's willingness to raise prices for the holiday. The bus ride lasted over 6 hours instead of the 2 hours possible on a high speed train, though that doesn't factor in the bus stations' more convenient locations. I am not complaining, though, even with the many unexpected detours the bus took to pick up more passengers. I made it to my destination.

Monday, February 1, 2016

No Donkey Today, Just Durian Pizza in Shenzhen

For a late lunch today in Shenzhen, I headed to the COCO Park — a trendy shopping mall with a number of restaurants. After all of the recent posts about donkey meat, I was in the mood to try something different.

In the mall's central courtyard area outside, an advertisement for a Vietnamese restaurant tempted me.

advertisement for a vietnamese restaurant at COCO Park in Shenzhen

But the restaurant didn't fit the "different" category for me.

Inside the mall I saw a banner inside advertising the Sajiao Chilli Restaurant. It promised "ALL FOODS ARE USED ONLY ONCE!"

advertisement for Sajiao Chilli Restaurant with the claim "ALL FOODS ARE USED ONLY ONCE!"

I typically eat food which has only been used once. So, again, tempting but not different. Or at least I hope so.

Next, from afar I spotted WareHouse.

WareHouse pizza restaurant at COCO Park in Shenzhen

Their pizza was tempting too, but it still couldn't pass the "different" test.

But I didn't have to give up hope on enjoying some pizza. Fortunately, I was able to find an appropriate restaurant next to a large sign promoting it.

La César restaurant at COCO Park in Shenzhen

Like WareHouse, La César specializes in pizza.

More important for today's goal, it specializes in a pizza I had never tried before. No, not donkey meat pizza (still haven't seen that). The main ingredient for their famous pizza is durian — a fruit that evokes a wide range of responses from people. Some can't bear the smell. Some are attracted to the fruit so much they wonder if people have died from durian overdoses. I fall into the latter category, and someday I will write an ode, or perhaps just a post, about durian. Today is just for durian pizza.

The restaurant allows you to order a pizza with two different toppings at no extra cost. So for one half I ordered the standard durian topping (there are pricier varieties of durian available) and for the other half I went for a black mushroom topping with tomato sauce (they have a number of other non-durian options as well).

half durian and half mushroom pizza at La César at COCO Park in Shenzhen

The half and half option is an excellent offering since the durian pizza is sweet and could serve as a dessert. One drawback is that the strong durian smell can coverup some of the smells from the other pizza. Ideally, I would want the durian half of the pizza brought out later, though it's hard to escape durian smells regardless since the durian pizza is a popular choice.

The results? Keeping the dessert theme in mind, I started with the more savory mushroom side. It was good although more fresh basil would have been appreciated. The crust reminded me of Little Caesars in the U.S.

The all-important durian side was pretty good as well. It works, though I'm not sure the cheese was really necessary other than for texture. Which leads to my common impression when trying durian ice cream, durian cookies, etc. I like them but often feel like I would be better off just eating a plain durian.

If you like pizza and you like durian, the durian pizza will probably pass. As long as the half/half option remains, I can see myself returning someday. Tomorrow, I look forward to seeing whether leftover durian pizza works for breakfast.

advertisement with monkeys for La César at COCO Park in Shenzhen