Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Statues in Hengyang and Zhanjiang

statue of a male holding a Coca Cola glass "speaking" with a statue of a female

The above pair of statues, one holding a cup of Coca Cola, near the main railway station in Hengyang, Hunan province, reminded me of the statue below I saw in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, wearing a shirt with the Chinese characters for "Zhanjiang" followed by "Very Good".

statue of Western-looking man with a camera and wearing a shirt with the words "湛江 Very Good"

I suspect there is an interesting story or two to tell here, but, at least for now, I will just say it was another unexpected connection.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Fourth of July in Hengyang, China

If I had been in Beijing, Hong Kong, or Shanghai on July 4th, I would have had many well-suited options for places to celebrate America's Independence Day. Off the top of my head, I can also easily think of such places in other Chinese cities such as Changsha, Kunming, Nanning, Xining, and Zhuhai.

However, enjoying a bit of American spirit proved more challenging in Hengyang, Hunan province, and required some improvisation.

My attempts during the evening to find proper American-style food not from a fast food chain restaurant were not fruitful. But a beer at a cafe caught my eye, and I decided to drink my first American Budweiser in a rather long time.

An bottle of American Budweiser with a Chinese label

Unlike Zhuhai, I have yet to see anything approaching a hoppy beer in Hengyang.

Not by design, I later continued the beer theme and picked up a Pabst Blue Ribbon World War II memorial beer with an explicit US military theme.

A World War Two edition of Pabst Beer in China with an image of a soldier and "Yes We Can"

Pabst Blue Ribbon World War Two beer in China

I first saw this beer in far away Changchun 4 years ago, and I still would like to speak with the team who designed the can.

At the same supermarket, I picked up another item. The BBQ steak flavored Pringles definitely had much more of a taste than the beer despite lacking a military theme.

A can of Chinese BBQ Steak Pringles

I wasn't sure how I could properly followup beer and potato chips. When I saw a Dairy Queen the answer became obvious—an Oreo Blizzard.

Dairy Queen Oreo Blizzard in China

I was now ready for the main meal. I thought my best option would be another supermarket where hopefully I could buy ingredients to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But by the time I arrived it had closed.

So I gave up on avoiding fast food and headed to KFC for some fried chicken to wash down the beer, chips, and ice cream. Protein, grains, vegetables, and dairy—a good American diet, right?

After waiting in something approximating a line at KFC, the server explained it would be another 30 minutes until the fried chicken was ready. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something incredible about that.

Whatever the case, I didn't want KFC that much.

I decided to call it night. The earlier delights combined with a long walk in extremely muggy weather had decreased my appetite anyway. But later I noticed a store with a selection of foods similar to the Bart Simpson themed snack store, so I picked up something to top it all off—Filipino coconut water and Chongqing spicy peppers.

Can of Philippine Brand 100% Coconut water and bag of Chonqing crips peppers

I just pretended I was enjoying freedom water and freedom peppers.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Table Dancing in Hengyang

A scene tonight at one of my favorite restaurants in Hengyang, Hunan:

little girl standing on an outdoor restaurant table in Hengyang
Server video recording a girl dancing on a restaurant table

Tomorrow I will share a little about how I celebrated America's Independence Day. For better or worse, it did not involve me dancing on any tables.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Marching for Vivo and Oppo in Hunan

Two days ago in Hong Kong, thousands joined a pro-democracy march. On the same day I saw a group of people in Hengyang, Hunan province, also marching down the street.

group of people marching down the street wear Vivo shirts and hold Vivo promotional signs

I feel safe saying democracy was not at all on the their minds, though. Instead, the march was part of a promotion for Vivo mobile phones.

A few minutes later, I saw another group of people who were taking a break from their own march.

group of people wearing Oppo shirts and hold Oppo signs and other promotional material

Again, it had nothing to do with democracy. Again, it was a promotion for a mobile phone brand—this time Oppo.

Vivo and Oppo are two Chinese brands of mobile phones often not mentioned in discussions of China's mobile phone market. Yet as the above scenes suggest, in some parts of China their presence can be easy to see.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

More Blue Skies In Hengyang

Blue skies in Hengyang have not been frequent during my time here, but fortunately today was another exception.

blue sky and white clouds over a building in Hengyang

kite flying in a blue sky with clouds

More about blue skies (or lack thereof) elsewhere in China, mobile phone sales, and other topics soon . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Second Floor Views in Hengyang and Ho Chi Minh City

My view from a cafe in Hengyang this afternoon:

view outside from a 2nd floor Bont Cafe in Hengyang

As I looked outside and pondered a variety of topics, a view I had from another 2nd floor cafe one morning last year in Ho Chi Minh City came to mind:

view outside from a 2nd floor cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Like experiences I had in Alabama, Mississippi, and Seoul, the unexpected connection provided me more to ponder.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Assorted Links: Internet Cafes, Johnny Cash, Needing Google, and Discouraging Protests for Democracy

Now seems like a good time for some assorted links. Here we go:

1. One man dreams of a salaried job. Another man never wants one again. They both live in a Japanese Internet cafe as featured in a video by MediaStorm.

2. On a musical note, one man:
had never been a huge music lover. His musical taste was broad, covering Dutch-language songs, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with a preference for the last named. While music did not occupy an important position in his live, his taste in music had always been very fixed and his preferences stayed the same throughout decades.
But as described in a Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience paper, with a bit of technology he "developed a sudden and distinct musical preference for Johnny Cash following deep brain stimulation".

3. Several years ago I spoke to a student in Guiyang, Guizhou, who was concerned if Google "left China" that her academic research would suffer. With most of Google's services now blocked in China, Offbeat China shares that others in China are expressing similar pragmatic concerns.

4. Finally, but definitely not least . . .

Many Hong Kongers seek a level of democracy that Beijing has indicated it won't allow, regardless of any past promises. In response to plans for large-scale protests in support of more democracy, the international Big Four accounting firms decided to pay a leading role and placed public ads in Hong Kong.

They basically say, "please don't protest for democracy, it could hurt business".

Good to know where Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte Kwan Wong Tan & Fong (Deloitte's Hong Kong unit), and PricewaterhouseCoopers stand.

A Nearby Place in the Middle of Hengyang

It did not have the solitude of the pavilion where where I saw two men playing xiangqi (Chinese chess) in Yangjiang and felt more connected to the surrounding city, but one location where men were playing xiangqi in Hengyang still had its own charms.

two men playing xiangqi next to an electric box with a drawing of a woman

two men playing xiangqi next to an electric box with a drawing of a woman

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Numerical Bart Simpson Snack Store in Hengyang

A local chain store with a notable sign in Hengyang, Hunan, sells a variety of snack foods, many imported.

527 零食汇 store sign with image of Bart Simpson's head

The use of Bart Simpson's image on the sign raises the common issue of trademark and copyright infringement in China. And the store's name, 527 零食汇, highlights how technology has influenced the use of numbers in Chinese language. In Chinese, the numbers 5-2-7 are a near-homophone for the phrase "I love to eat". Combined with the first two Chinese characters, the sign reads "I love to eat snacks". For more about how technology has influenced the adoption of numbers for expressing Chinese language, see the piece "The Secret Messages Inside Chinese URLs".

I took a quick look inside the store. I didn't see any snacks I wanted at the time, but due to the hot weather I was especially happy to pick up a brand of bottled water I would not expect to find in Hengyang.

Bottle of Vita pure distilled water

Vita bottled water is from Hong Kong and, like other products from the Special Administrative Region, would typically be considered an import. I doubt I could distinguish it in a taste test, but, like the image of Bart Simpson, the branding connected me to a far away place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Scholarly Hengyang Ice Cream

A girl found her own place to enjoy some ice cream underneath statues of Chinese scholars near the Shigu Academy in Hengyang.

small girl eating ice cream while sitting below statues of Chinese scholars in traditional clothing

Presumably she had already finished her day's studies.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A People's Dinner in Hengyang

Where I ate tonight along a narrow street in Hengyang, Hunan:

"百姓排档" restaurant in Hengyang, Hunan

Some of the ingredients for the various dishes they could prepare:

a variety of meats and vegetables in bowls and plastic containers

The view looking outside from where I ate:

view inside a small eatery in Hengyang, Hunan

A dish of pumpkin and snails:

sliced pumpkin and snails

A spicy fish head:

spicy fish head dish

I would not have thought of mixing snails with pumpkin (I remain unsure of the exact type of pumpkin). The dish was surprisingly tasty, though, and the fish head was excellent as well. The name of the restaurant "百姓排档" (Bǎixìng Páidǎng) could be translated as "The People's Food Stall". If you happen to be near Changqing Road (长青路), I recommend it as an inexpensive option for trying some of the local fare in Hengyang. You can't go wrong with the pumpkin and snails.