Posts Tagged 'Homefront'

Senseless slaughter

We come across unusual sights here, many times dealing with different standards of animal treatment.  We will never forget the little stray bird being kept on a leash by the toddler at our favorite noodle shop, nor the boiling vat of water with chicken feet sticking out above the rolling water.

A few days ago Liz walked by our local vegetable/edible animal market, only to be nauseated at the sight of scores of bullfrogs being slaughtered by hand.  Blood was running over the sidewalk, but no one seemed to mind.  People like their food fresh!

Today on my walk down the nearby street known to us local foreigners as ‘bird flu alley,’ an animal peddler was hawking ducks, eels, and a few other kinds of animals for sale.  I arrived as he was skinning a pair of small birds, one halfway finished, the other with its head pinned underneath the man’s sandal.  The operation was carried out with a small pair of scissors over a black tarp to catch most of the entrails.

I was interested to see an animal skinned, as my previous city life relegated my experience of animal flesh to the meat section at Kroger’s.  This little bird had already lost its main appendages, feet, tail, and most of its skin.  As the flaying continued I marveled at the deft experience of the farmer’s hands, reducing an animal to its edible parts.  And then he finished with a last *snip* – and there went the head.

What??  The poor bird had been alive during that whole painful flaying!  I too couldn’t suppress some nausea, and left quickly before the bird’s unlucky partner began his turn.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the live flaying of animals is simply a cultural difference here, but I have to wonder if this incident weren’t a little extreme.  There’s no sense in animal cruelty- what a way to die, having one’s body dismantled while still living to experience it!

Further food for thought as we continue learning about our new home here in Nanjing.

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Finally!

Sorry for the dry spell in our postings. We have been rather busy with things lately, moving house, finding work, and finishing classes. But to top things off, Internet connections have seemed to become more strictly monitored. It is getting harder and harder to access blogs; even the list of working proxy sites has been shrinking. It took about an hour before I found one that worked well enough to make this post. So please keep checking our site- we still continue to have the most interesting experience here in China!

Hot dogs.. and so much more

China does sell hot dogs! There are some local stores that feature them, and even some traveling hot dog carts just like you’d see in New York. Well, almost like New York. They gather in the high traffic areas of town, which is pretty much everywhere.

The most ubiquitous hot dog carts in town in fact do not sell hot dogs. These mobile wagons are run by local fix-it workers offering services of many kinds, from tinkerers to bike repairmen, locksmiths, even one making hard candies in the most fantastic shapes imaginable.

The bike repairmen are the most numerous cart business in town. Every single street corner seems to have one at the ready for a broken chain, flat tire, or rusted axle. All of the bikes in town (some number in the millions) are old, weather-worn rusty hunks of metal. The idea is to own the worst-looking bike possible, so the thieves will not steal it. ‘They have all the keys to the locks anyway,’ my students have told me.

Today, however, I did not need bike repairs. My favorite windbreaker has had a broken zipper for the longest time, but I have insisted on wearing it anyway. Walking down a side alley to get home after class, I passed another hot dog cart worker, this one streaming with pieces of cloth, ribbon, thread, and presided over by a jolly looking woman at a portable sewing machine. There was even a bundle of new zippers strung across a bar that normally would have been a station for condiments.

Showing her my zipper I asked, “Can you fix this?” “Sure,” she said. “How much?” This was where I got skeptical. Being a foreigner, I have many times been given the standard 1000% markup on prices, leaving me in the position of bargaining hard or simply walking away.

“Only 3 yuan.” Wow- this sounded perfectly fair. Less than 50 cents for a new zipper, repair cost included! I agreed, and out came a jar filled with spare zipper clasps. She found one my size, and with a pair of pliers and a few minutes of wiggling, my windbreaker was rehabilitated! I gave her the three coins, thanked her, and went on my way.

Only in China, I was thinking to myself, do you follow a blind instinct leading you down an alley, thereupon finding the exact sort of cheap, reliable labor you’re in need of.

I will keep an eye out for the next hot dog cart when need arises. If only they had a remedy for not being able to read Chinese characters!

In the thick of things

We haven’t been keeping up very well with this blog lately. We realize you will all get bored and find better things to do with your time than keep up with our mundane happenings. The reason we’ve been out of the loop is simply a busy schedule, going to school every day, studying in precious spare moments, and child rearing.

Work opportunities also pop up in many unexpected places. JM has been doing TOEFL lessons and translation on the side, while Liz has found a nice weekly speaking practice class to teach. English jobs pretty much have constant openings, for anyone wanting to know what the situation is like on the ground here. There are far more students of English than there are teachers, which means one can be fairly choosy about the work taken on.

Keep checking back, as we have plenty of other interesting stories to tell, if only we could find the time!

The last few weeks

Hi to everyone!

Sorry we’ve been behind on posts the last few weeks. You’d think with having the whole week off of Oct. 1st for National Day we’d have time. Instead we spent time visiting parts of town that we had meant to see, and enjoyed watching Leo grow bigger and smarter all the time.

We’ve been watching the news back home of all the financial turmoil. People on this side don’t seem too affected in day to day life, probably because the average citizen here doesn’t own a lot of stock, if any at all. We hope things stabilize pretty soon.

For some more interesting updates of what we’ve been doing, please check out our picture post on our other blog:

http://polis7.blogspot.com

And on another note, we leave you with one more comment from our outspoken speech teacher. After a Russian classmate delivered a speech in the front of the room, she said with a smile:

“I hear two things about Russian men. One, they drink liquor. Two, after they drink they like to beat their wives.”

The Ayi Diaries, cont…

So our Ayi has been with us for three months, and I thought it was time for another installment of “The Ayi Diaries.” We have had our share of bloopers over these past few months, as we sort out our differences and find a routine. I’ve been around the house studying the whole time, and next Monday marks the beginning of school. It’s been wonderful to have the time to get to know each other as well as work out some of the inevitable kinks in such a relationship.

Leo adores Ayi, and is happy to see her every day, which is a relief to me! I have to admit though, as a Mom, the first time he reached out his arms to her while in my arms I thought, “Oh, so soon you forget who carried you in the womb and fed you night after night!” ☺ Just kidding, sort of.

We almost parted ways when she fed him a bunch of her lunch one day without telling me. Without being too explicit, let’s just say there was “evidence” that he had been fed something very strange. We had to confront her with this (very interesting to confront anyone in China about anything, by the way) and at first she just said, “Well, he really liked it.” (I thought to myself, “Well, he would really like to eat ice cream for breakfast every day too.” ☺) I kept pushing the issue, because she knew that I wanted her to only feed him our food (I’m neurotic about food because we’ve had two bouts of food poisoning and I’m not anxious for Leo to have this experience!). Finally, she admitted that she thinks we don’t feed him the appropriate foods, and thought he needed more fiber. We then had another conversation about his poo habits (yes, at this point my potty vocabulary ROCKS), and settled the issue. She promised to never do that again. That’s the only time I thought our relationship wasn’t going to work out!

She has taught Leo how to dance and how to clap! He responds to the Chinese for “dance” and “clap” and still doesn’t know these words in English. We’re really interested to see how his language develops, and it seems he’s having no trouble. He can speak about 4 or 5 words now – all in English so far. But it’s great to see that he’s assimilating the sounds and is beginning to show understanding of some Chinese words.

Otherwise, there have been some interesting cultural encounters. We’ve made a point not to fuss too much over him when he hurts himself. In China, the babies are really fussed over when they fall, and they tend to cry quite a bit. So she likes it that he’s not quite that easily flustered. She also told my tutor that she likes my methods that I get from books (she thinks we’re a little book crazy because all we do is study and read), and that it seems that the methods work very well. She asked me to go the bookstore with her to pick out a Chinese book so she could read about it herself. I told her that I don’t think they’ve translated them into Chinese quite yet! Now that he’s walking and has turned one, he’s turned into a bundle of busy-ness – enough for any one person to handle. I’m not so sure there’s a book that covers this territory! We joke that we now live with ‘Animal’ from the Muppets ☺.

Although sometimes it’s still hard to communicate, it’s gotten so much better over the past three months. I understand her fairly well now, and she’s really patient with my choppy Chinese. It’s a complicated relationship, both because of the language and the culture. Some things don’t translate that well no matter what you say! However, we’re working it out a day at a time, and at the end of the day – she’s pretty cool. She recently came to his birthday party, and we were glad to celebrate with her. Cheng Ayi is a big part of Leo’s life and ours.

A walk down our street

Please take a look over at our picture blog to take a little walking tour of our street here in Nanjing.

http://polis7.blogspot.com