Saturday, January 28, 2017

Two Lunar New Year Displays in Macau

A Lunar New Year display at Taipa Village in Macau:

Lunar New Year display at Taipa Village, Macau

And more Lunar New Year fun at Largo do Senado in Macau:

Lunar New Year display at Largo do Senado in Macau

Lunar New Year display at Largo do Senado in Macau

Yesterday the weather was wonderful in Macau. I covered a lot of ground and ate much food — both Macanese and Portuguese.

Happy Lunar New Year and all that. More on the topic after I have caught up on sleep.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Stand or Walk? Escalator Safety in China

Signs on metal floor panels at the bottom and top of escalators at the Kaihong Plaza shopping center in Shanghai inform riders "We have already checked the area for you!"

sign on floor just after moving part of escalator with "We have already checked this area for you!"

The notifications are presumably a result of a mother's death over a year ago elsewhere in China when an escalator floor panel collapsed at a shopping mall. I haven't noticed the signs elsewhere, and wonder whether they raise anxieties more than reassure people

Collapsing panels haven't been the only source of injuries and deaths on escalators in China. And Josh Chin recently reported a practice once encouraged in some cities is a potential hazard:
Subway commuters in some of China’s biggest cities had just begun to embrace a key tenet of escalator etiquette—standing to one side to let others pass. Now, officials have another message. Never mind.

In a recent spate of newspaper articles, commentaries and social-media posts, elevator experts have warned the practice represents a danger to public safety. That’s because of the uneven wear to escalators caused by so many people standing on the right side, which increases the chances of breakdowns. Besides, they say, escalators were never meant to be walked on.
I wouldn't describe "stand right, walk left" as common in Shanghai. I normally see people standing on either side of the escalator and on numerous occasions have quietly bemoaned not being able to catch a metro train due to it. I mostly associate the practice with Hong Kong, where it has been debated as well.

Chin quotes Zhang Lexiang, general secretary of the China Elevator Association, as saying escalators could be built to withstand the unbalanced use. But Zhang believes walking on escalators would still be dangerous due to their steepness and large steps.

Curious to learn how it compared to other escalator risks, I tried to find statistics for injuries specifically due to walking on escalators and came up mostly empty handed, except for a no-walk campaign in Japan which reportedly led to reduced accidents. On a side note, one study found that 50% of the men admitted to a hospital in Switzerland for escalator-related injuries showed signs of alcohol intoxication. Perhaps there should be a "don't drink and escalate" campaign.

Safety isn't the only possible reason to support a no-walk ban on escalators though. One test in London found that more people could ride escalators during busy times if everybody stood still.

So I am thinking about whether I should reconsider walking on escalators. But I plan to remain a strong supporter of the "stand right, walk left" rule for moving walkways.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Faded Glory in Xiapu

American-flag design socks with Walmart's exclusive Faded Glory label for sale
Socks with Walmart's exclusive Faded Glory label for sale at a Walmart in Xiapu, Fujian Province

Paper-Cut Portraits from an Earlier Time

The previous post "Tied to Trump in China" includes a photo of a paper-cut portrait of Donald Trump I recently saw for sale at Yuyuan Garderns in Shanghai. The post also mentions paper-cut portraits of Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Michael Jackson, and Edward Snowden I saw at Yuyuan Gardens two years ago. Concerned about interfering with the flow of the post, I didn't include a photo I took of those portraits. For the sake of evidence and posterity, here it is:

red paper-cut portraits of Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Michael Jackson, and Edward Snowden

Snowden's paper-cut portrait is based on a more flattering image than Trump's, but maybe that is just my opinion.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tied to Trump in China

The woman sitting across from me looked out the window as the train crossed the unusual border between between Hong Kong and mainland China. We had 18 more hours before the train would reach its destination in Shanghai where we would pass through an immigration control point within a country we hadn't left. As the train later made its way through the city to Hong Kong's north, Shenzhen, the woman and I began a conversation. Upon learning she was from Shanghai I said, "Nong ho!" — "hello" in the Shanghai dialect.

Upon learning I was from the U.S. she said, "Trump."

The outcome of the U.S. presidential election had been decided more than a week earlier and the news was still fresh. Shortly after the one word statement, the woman expressed her disappointment in the election's result. At one point, she sharply outstretched her right arm, tilted her head slightly to the side, and contorted her face. I couldn't place the expression, but it was clearly made in a derogatory manner. The unmistakable Nazi salute left a much larger impression.

Her expression then became somber, and she quietly said, "I'm afraid of him."

During the next couple of weeks in Shanghai, almost every time a stranger asked me about my nationality, whether while waiting in a breakfast line for deep-fried dough-sticks, riding a metro train, or doing another everyday activity, I heard the same one word response. Sometimes people expressed a wish that Hillary Clinton had won. Sometimes they asked how Americans could make such a choice. Only one time did somebody express positive feelings about Donald Trump.

Then Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and raised questions about the One-China policy — surely not a way to win over the hearts and minds of most people in China. Presumably anti-Trump sentiment in China has only grown since then. After leaving Shanghai and traveling to several other cities in China, I have heard Trump-related comments less frequently, but they continue to be negative. For example, while I was at a street market in Xiapu, a county of small fishing villages in southeastern China, a woman angrily derided Trump over his Taiwan comments. All I had said before, in response to another person's question, was, "I'm from the U.S."

People who inquire about my home country and express their feelings about the President of the U.S. don't necessarily represent all Chinese people. But I haven't had regular experiences in China like these since the days of George W. Bush's presidency. Trump hadn't even been sworn into office yet, so I wonder what may be in store for the future.

I may have little control over my government, but it is far more than the Chinese people I meet have over their own. So I refrain from complaining that occasionally I have to answer for the decisions made by my country. Sometimes I will see a silver lining in a nonthreatening negative response and use it as an opportunity to share some of the diversity of views in a country far away. Particularly with people who rarely, if ever, meet foreigners, impressions are made when an American explains that they too believe invading Iraq was a huge mistake. That they too are deeply troubled about what their president-elect may do.

At Yuyuan Gardens, a popular destination in Shanghai for tourists, a few shops and stalls sell paper-cut portraits. You can have one custom-made or buy an already-finished portrait. Old standards and some more contemporary options are typically offered. Two years ago I saw a portrait of Edward Snowden grouped with the more common portraits of Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, and Michael Jackson.

When I recently returned to Yuyuan Gardens with a visiting relative, I wasn't surprised to see a portrait of Donald Trump displayed — a small sign of how much the world had changed since my last visit. But I was surprised by the familiar image of Trump used by the artist. The portrait's spirit significantly differed from the others.

And I suddenly had an answer to a question I had long given up trying to answer. That was the expression the woman imitated on the train to Shanghai.

That is what China won't let me forget.

portraits in style of traditional Chinese paper cutting including one of Donald Trump with an unusual expression

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Another Encounter with a Territorial Duck in Xiapu

There has been a goose carried in a bag, baskets of chickens and ducks, a cage of ducks, a roaming chicken on an ancient street, and a chicken on a far more recently built sidewalk. To conclude this recent series of fowl posts, I couldn't do any better than a return to the duck with an inscrutable stare.

Three days after first encountering the duck, I returned to the same location. I didn't see it around the same store as before, so I walked to a neighboring area where several people were shelling a large amount of oysters. There amongst the empty oyster shells I spotted the formidable duck.

Like before, the duck saw me. Unlike the timid chicken nearby, the duck was ready for confrontation. Immediately following us making eye contact, the duck marched straight towards me with the determination only a mad duck on a mission can have.

duck walking towards me from an area with many oyster shells

In other words, it did briefly stop midway to check out something of interest on the ground.

Now much closer, the duck hissed at me and then settled into position just a few feet away where it ruffled its feathers.

duck with ruffled feathers standing on nets

Then it moved to another nearby location, and I dared to get a little closer. The duck gave me a look indicating I was lucky it wasn't more like some of its dinosaur relatives.

duck giving me the evil eye

A powerful display of wing flapping followed.

duck flapping its wings

My expertise in duck identification and behavior, based upon skimming a few webpages, leads me to conclude the duck, likely of a non-quacking variety, was defending its territory.

Fortunate for my physical well-being, things did not escalate further. In fact, after the displays of might, the duck switched to the seemingly nonthreatening act of preening itself, even when I was close enough to touch it.

duck preening

I felt like a barrier had fallen. Perhaps I had gained the duck's acceptance. Or maybe the duck felt it had sufficiently made its point.

Since I didn't expect to return to this location in the near future, if ever, I assumed this would be my last opportunity to spend time with the impressive duck — now my favorite in Xiapu. I wished the moment could last longer, but, alas, I soon had to bid farewell.

The duck didn't shed a single tear.

victorious duck

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Chicken's Interrupted Meal in Xiapu

While looking for a duck I had encountered before, in the same area I saw a chicken enjoying a fine meal.

chicken next to a bowl of rice

After the chicken noticed me noticing it, which happened quickly, it made some odd clucks and then decided to leave. The situation had a "chicken just wanted to enjoy a nice meal and then a human had to ruin it by watching" sort of feeling.

To the dismay of some and the joy of others, the recent series of posts about chicken, ducks, and geese will come to an end soon with the next post: the story of my second and likely last encounter with a special duck in Xiapu.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chicken Walking on an Old Street in Dajing

On an ancient street in Dajing Village I saw another example of freely roaming fowl in Xiapu County, this time a chicken.

chicken on Zhongjie in Dajing, Xiapu

No staredowns were involved, but the chicken still displayed some bravery. Soon it was walking towards me.

chicken walking towards me in Dajing

Why did the chicken walk right by me? Perhaps the answer is the same as the one for a more popular chicken-related question.

Not far from here, I heard what sounded like a person saying "Hello!" repeatedly in a peculiar voice. I discovered it was a freely roaming rooster with a rather unusual crow. After we made eye contact and I started recording, he became quiet and shyly walked away. So, sad to say, I have no video to share of the incredible event.

Someday I will share more about Dajing, an often beautiful 80 minute bus ride from Xiapu's most urban area. Lately I have been more focused on thinking through and writing another piece, which partly explains my recent penchant for short, simple posts about fowl. Plus, birds are dinosaurs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cross Stitch on a Small Bridge in Xiapu

vendors on bridge in Xiapu, China

Today I crossed a small bridge in Xiapu where a few vendors sold a variety of items. One of them sold knitted slippers.

knitted slippers for sale

While I observed activity on the bridge, the woman selling the slippers asked me if I would photograph her holding something special. People don't often make such requests, but it happens from time to time.

I said I would happy to photograph her and soon she was unfurling* something.

woman unfurling cross stitch design

With the help of another vendor, she displayed what she wanted photographed.

two woman holding a large Chinese traditional-style cross stitch design

Admittedly, I didn't see this coming. Although I presumed she used a guide, as far as I could tell she hadn't used a preprinted pattern. She said the large cross stitch work was the result of more than one year of effort.

*Photo is her folding up the piece since I missed capturing the actual unfurling moment.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Peaceful Staredown with a Duck in Xiapu

Not all fowl I have seen in Xiapu were constrained, whether by bags, baskets, or cages. I saw one lucky duck as night fell while I walked past a convenience store. The location struck me as unusual for a duck, so I stopped for a more extended look.

And the duck stopped to look at me.

duck standing in front of the entrance to a convenience store in Xiapu, Fujian, China

We both seemed to be unsure as to what would happen next. After about a minute, the duck took a few steps and then stopped again.

It kept looking at me. And I kept looking at it.

Concerned this might turn out like a Wallace and Gromit horror scene, I decided to continue onward in my original direction. But it was quickly getting darker, so I soon decided to head back. I crossed paths with the duck again and risked a closer look.

Of course, the duck looked at me.

duck in Xiapu, China

Thus concludes the dramatic story of my encounter with an unruffled duck.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Choosing a Duck in Xiapu

In addition to bags and baskets, while walking the streets of Xiapu I have seen fowl contained in cages as well. One photo of a relevant example involving ducks came out blurrier than I expected, because just as I was about to take it a woman reached into the cage.

woman reaching into a cage with ducks

The ducks did their best to avoid her grasp, but there wasn't much they could do. They were sitting ducks, even if not literally.

Very soon the woman was examining the duck of her choice.

woman examining a live duck

After the inspection, she took the duck elsewhere. Although leaving a cage sounds like a good thing in general, I assumed this was a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. Perhaps I should have stuck around to learn its fate, but I ducked out, which seems a bit ironic now.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Baskets of Chickens and Ducks in Xiapu

They say don't put all your eggs in one basket. They don't say what to do after they hatch, other than that it is OK to count your chickens then.

baskets full of live chicken and ducks on a street in Xiapu, China.
On Hewei Street (河尾街) in Xiapu, Fujian

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Goose to Go in Xiapu

Today near a narrow alley leading towards the entrance and exit of one of Xiapu's bus stations I heard a familiar but unexpected honking sound. I looked around trying to locate the source. Fortunately I wasn't on a wild goose chase, and I quickly found it. For a short period of time I was able to have a gander. Soon the honker, now much quieter, was carried away, and I wondered about its fate. As with some of its kind I saw at a live bird market far away in Yueyang, Hunan, I would guess its goose is cooked.

woman carrying a bag with a love goose sticking out its head

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Homemade Mijiu in Xiapu

Last night in Xiapu, I stopped by a small independent convenience store to pick up some bottled water. I have been there several times and am familiar with the people who run the store. While chatting I asked if they sold any locally produced alcohol. I am a fan of trying any local foods or drinks wherever I go. They showed me one bottle of baijiu which costs only 3 yuan. Even a smaller (though stronger) bottle of imitation BOMB erguotou costs more than that.

After I looked at the bottle skeptically for a few moments, they suddenly announced they had something else for me and I wouldn't be paying for it. The woman said they were treating me to her parent's homemade mijiu, a type of Chinese rice wine. Soon glasses were poured for all three of us. This was definitely not something I would (or could) refuse. I was reminded of when just over a year ago I was similarly treated to homemade mijiu in Xiamen, also in Fujian province.

man pouring mijiu from a large plastic jug into a plastic cup held by a woman at a store in Xiapu, China
Now that is a jug of mijiu

They gave me a seat, and the glasses never stayed empty long. The mijiu tasted stronger than usual but went down smoothly. At one point the woman said she had to get something and insisted I didn't leave. Not long afterwards, she returned with a bag which made me think of duck heads. But there weren't any duck heads inside . . .

Soon we were all eating rather spicy duck feet. And the special drink continued to flow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Xiangqi in Xiapu

What better way is there to get things rolling here this new year than an addition to the series of people playing xiangqi? The latest example comes from Xiapu in Fujian province.

men playing and watching a game of xiangqi on Zhi Street (直街) in Xiapu County, Ningde, Fujian Province, China
On Zhi Street (直街)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Year Holiday in Xiapu

I spent the last day of 2016 in a more urban area of Xiapu, a county with many fishing villages in Fujian, China. Not only did I think a bit about the past year, but I was also reminded of 2015 and the Year of the Yang.

2015 and Year of the Yang celebration arch in Xiapu, Fujian.

I walked through the historical arch and down a semi-pedestrian street. Soon I walked through a similar, though more faded, arch.

2015 and Year of the Yang celebration arch in Xiapu, Fujian.

No matter how great and arch-worthy 2015 or the Year of the Yang may have been, 2017 was coming regardless. After 11 p.m. I went out again to see a bit of what was happening in Xiapu.

During my walk, I saw a music club with a New Year celebration.

music club in Xiapu, Fujian

I walked in and saw a typical Chinese club scene packed with younger people.

After a couple of minutes, I was back out on the street. Soon, I heard fireworks exploding not too far away. I wondered if more time had passed than I had thought, but I saw it was still 10 minutes before midnight. Perhaps some people were really eager to put 2016 behind them.

More fireworks exploded around midnight. To my surprise, some launched just a few feet away from me. After retreating to a slightly safer distance, I enjoyed the scene.

fireworks launching from a street in Xiapu, Fujian

fireworks exploding in Xiapu, Fujian

Good times and I didn't nearly lose an eye (a Shanghai Lunar New Year story there for another day).

Soon things were much quieter, and only a few signs remained of the festivities.

The area I had wandered to had a number of late night seafood restaurants, most with outdoor tent areas. I figured I would take advantage of the situation, and chose a place based on being a bit busier and having a charming Pabst Blue Ribbon sign.

seafood restaurant in Xiapu, Fujian

After looking at a long table of various uncooked items, I chose two, one of which I had not eaten before.

Before sitting down, I noticed the kitchen was mostly open to view, so I checked it out.

kitchen at Xinmeiweiyuan Restaurant in Xiapu, China

They looked like they had everything under control. I sat down and while waiting for my food drank not a Pabst Blue Ribbon but a Chinese beer I don't so often come across: Dry & Dry.

tall can of Dry & Dry beer

Soon, my dishes had arrived. One was a lot of tiny snails.

snail dish in Xiapu, China

They were all in tiny shells which slow down the eating process. But the snails came out easily, and the sauce was delicious.

The other dish was worms, of course.

a dish of worms — 土強 (tuqiang) — at a restaurant in Xiapu, Fujian

When I first asked I was told they were sand worms (沙虫). But they didn't look like the sand worms I had eaten before, most often in Guangxi. I was then told they weren't really sand worms, but there was only a local word for them that they insisted would not be familiar to people elsewhere in China, even if said in Standard Mandarin and not the local dialect. I was told this unfamiliar-to-most name is 土強 (tuqiang). I have no idea if they have a name in English.

They were surprisingly crunchy and tough on the outside and slightly gooey inside. I far prefer the less crunchier sand worms or the mud worms I have only seen in Zhanjiang to the south. Still, it was fun to try something new to start the new year.

Happy New Year to all, whether worms are involved or not.