February 19th, 2010 by tungsai

eating my last breakfast for this tip. 3 weeks go by in a flash! didn’t get very good sleep last night as usual before a big flight. packing till 1am, mia waking crying as usual. stressed about not being able to pack everything as usual. but i’ve got my fried instant-heart-attack yummy fried elephant ear/egg type thingy and a cup of coffee so i’m happy for the moment.

hongie’s sister & mom just got here and we’re re-packing some crap in boxes that we forgot to pack before. throwing up random pics.

Thursday Adventures

February 11th, 2010 by tungsai

We got up and tried on a traditional hat.

Mommy and Daddy hopped on the bus with Bao Qi to go to the bookstore across town. We saw a girl sporting the latest fashion: Glasses *without* lenses. Next: Coats that don’t keep you warm, watches that don’t have a face, and Beer that doesn’t get you drunk. Oh, wait…. they already have that.

At the book store, mommy put her bag into a locker outside the store. This is pretty usual for “fancy” stores. This one dispensed a bar code receipt, and you showed your receipt to the scanner to re-open the locker.

Upon returning from the book store, the bus was extremely crowded. People were jamming into the exit-back door, and still jamming in more. The bus driver kept getting up to yell at people to move back. We were already in the back, as far back as we could possibly go. A certain Weird Al Yankovic song comes to mind….

That didn’t stop somebody from being all tuckered out:

On the way back home from the bus stop, we discovered a Popcorn vendor! This stuff was expensive: $0.80 for the whole bag!

MMmmmmmmm…. Chocolate!

In conclusion… the iphone served well as a point-and-shoot for the day. I think I’ll start carrying it around some more.

February 10th, 2010 by tungsai

Mia's New Friend

We went to visit Hongmei’s friend Zheng Qi, and her son Wang Chuan Yi. We had fun playing! For dinner we had Mongolian Lamb Meatballs, so yummy!! Mushrooms, Chinese-style tofu tortilla with pork & eggplant; little stir-fried fish, and corn with sweet syrup.


February 8th, 2010 by tungsai

Videos have been published to an FTP site.

If you are interested, E-mail me.

Day 6

February 8th, 2010 by tungsai

Day 6. It’s been impossible to keep up with the blog. Pretty much the past few days have been jam-packed with activity, and little time to sit down to devote to writing. Right now, though, Mia’s getting ready to take a nap, so there’s nothing to do except hang around the apartment.

Going back and doing a day-by-day “What we did” is too difficult now… it’s all run together already, and we’ve only been here six days. I’m just going to write about things in general so far anyway.

So- Today, we’re at Hongmei’s Sister, Hongyen’s, apartment. She is married with one daughter, Bao Xi, age 9. They live in a small town north of Tianjin. It took about an hour to drive up here from Hongmei’s Aunt’s apartment. It’s a lot more luxurious here! We have an actual sit-down toilet, more rooms for privacy, and a marble-tiled floor.

It’s really interesting to observe how many of the details of things are here. I’m not talking about social stuff; I’m talking about refrigerators, outlets, cooking methods, toys, shopping carts… America prides itself on ingeniuity, but I’ve seen so many things here that are so clever, it makes you want to slap your forehead and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Still, conversely, some things are done in a backwards, inefficient manner as compared to how they’re done in America, that I think to myself, “Why in the heck do they DO it that way?”
For example, it is quite common to see people sweeping the street, or floor, with an old, careworn straw broom, with a short handle that forces the user to bend over. A shop push-broom would probably increase the sweeping efficiency on a scale of 500-1000%, but push brooms are simply not a common item. I saw ONE for sale, the last time I was here 3 or so years ago, but it was a sad, neglected item carelessly placed in a dusty corner of the entrance to the supermarket, for sale.
Electrical outlets are, of course, 220 volts here. However, there are two formats for plugging in: Your basic 2-prong plug-in, identical to ours; but their three-prong plug-in is such that the two positive/negative prongs are at angles from each other. In general, all power strips contain two 2-slot outlets, one 3-prong outlet, and another two-prong outlet on the end face. This is an example of a clever design: Should one only desire to use it as an extension cord to something with two prongs, you can plug it into the end, creating a more streamlined connection, space-wise. To date, I have never observed such a device in America.
Another example of the small engineering differences are the flush toilets. The most common type of flush toilet has two buttons on top of the tank lid. They are designed as two halves of an oval shape; giving a more elegant design to the buttons. One button, usually bigger, is for a full flush; exactly what you’d expect when you flush a toilet. The smaller one simply opens the tank valve as long as you’re pushing it, only flushing for as long as you hold it. This allows you to control the amount of water you’re flushing with.
Cooking is mostly done with older traditional utensils and pots, pans, etc. As I’ve mentioned to lots of other people before, Chinese do not bake anything in their homes. Nobody has an oven. Everything is either fried (stir-fried, or pan fried), boiled, or steamed. Wood and bamboo steamers are used.
Chinese love to drink hot water, and thus her sister’s apartment has a water cooler/heater in the living room; the typical office-type water cooler with the big 5-gallon tank on top of it. The refigerator is also in the living room. This is probably because there is no room in the kitchen; which is actually in a balcony area. The dining area is more like a wide hallway leading to the kitchen, so there’s no room for the fridge there.
Milk is not a commonly purchased item, and it’s actually somewhat of a luxury item. It’s sold mostly in small cartons about the size of a Juicy Juice container, complete with straw, and the straw actually has two tubes so that it’s extendable. It is not necessary to refrigerate it as much as American milk; I’m not sure why; it’s somehow processed to last longer at room temperature. However it will last longer in the fridge so we keep it in the fridge. At the supermarket, I saw all the milk for sale. It was all packaged in very fancy cardboard boxes with glossy print around it, a ribbon stuck to the front, and a plastic window showing the cartons inside, thus further exemplifying it as a luxury item.
Cheese is a rare luxury food item too, being as expensive here as it is in the U.S. I actually saw genuine American “Land O’ Lakes” brand American Cheese and Butter for sale, but they were prohibitively expensive. More expensive than they are in the U.S.! We bought a slightly cheaper brand. I knew it was genuine because the package had no chinese characters on it whatsoever.
Another random example of small engineering differences that seem clever, is the sink stopper in the bathroom sink. Rather than being a long stand with a chrome hubcap on top and a rubber seal, it’s a thick disc fitted in the drainhole and permanently fixed on an axle, so that you can flip it and it comes un-stopped. Hard to explan. I’ll probably make a video of this stuff anyway. This design does force you to stick your hand down into the water to drain the sink, but if you’re that particular about your sink water, then you have problems. Besides, this design is much more maintenance-free, as I can personally vouch for, having replaced some sinks in my past.

Day 3. Sightseeing, Bus-Riding, and Computer Diagnostics

February 3rd, 2010 by tungsai

I woke up this morning around 7 or 8. Mia woke me up. Hongmei was already up, washing clothes old-fashioned style, with a washboard and a tub of water. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of that. We had breakfast, and I made a video. I still haven’t gotten the videos to work uploading to the blog. So, after eating breakfast, we had a web conference with Grandma & Grandpa, which worked flawlessly for the second time. Amazing!

While making the video, I also happened to notice a toilet set that I could unfold and use on the squat-style toilet in the water closet. Wow, was I pleased to notice that. For some reason my complaints about having to squat all the time was falling upon deaf ears. Perhaps there’s some sort of language barrier problem? 😀

Yes, Hongmei does provide translation services, but her attention is often elsewhere, talking to her family members about who knows what. (Certainly not me, although I do pick up keywords and usually it’s obvious if they’re discussing something nearby). This trip, I also have Mia to keep me company, if her attention is not getting taken away too! So, anyway, back to breakfast.

I was also pleasantly surprised that a coffee maker was found! We installed it post-haste and I enjoyed my first cup of coffee since arriving. Too bad I still haven’t had a shower! It takes time to adjust to the time change. Lots of fatigue, dietary adjustment, psychological adjustment… just dealing with all that took much attention and energy, I don’t have time for such luxuries until I get my body and mind adjusted.

After the web conference with Grandma & grandpa, we got all bundled up, packed up the diaper bag and the camera, a few snacks and water, and of course my $100 Ultraviolet Water Purifier (TM), and headed out to our first real day of “doing stuff”.

We put Mia in the stroller and rolled across the avenue, caught a bus over to the “Yang Liu Qing” Tourist district. The bus was very bouncy, and it was a manual shift vehicle (All busses are manual here). The driver drove in a very Speed-Up/Slam-on-the-brakes style, and, well, poor little Mia had enough of that jostling: Her breakfast ended up on her scarf… and mommy’s gloves. 🙁 Fortunately, it wasn’t exceedingly long and we arrived there shortly.

There are many hotels there with the traditional Chinese-style roofs and outside arcitecture. Upon reaching the area, we walked a few more blocks and went to our destination: The “Shi Jia Da Yuan” Mansion, built by a Senator in Tianjin in the 1900’s. Actually, I would call it more of a “Compound” than a “Mansion”. It had several buildings, about 20, all surrounded by a wall, complete with multiple Wife quarters, the Accounting Department, a garden, guest rooms, a wedding room, and a auditorium. I tried my best to take advantage of our somewhat dated “Prosumer” camera, propping it up for some longer-exposure shots.

Well, I started to get hungry, and so did Mia, so we headed off to … KFC! Yaay, Meat! American (sort of) Food! It was pretty crowded, and of course we were stared at quite a bit. That’s normal: I get stared at everywhere I go. Not everybody stares; but everywhere has at least one person who double-takes, or blatantly stares, or whatever. Sometimes it’s not creepy; sometimes it’s friendly. Well, toward Mia; not usually toward me. they just stare at me. Hongmei says, “Just pretend like you’re a celebrity!” Well, being a celebrity isn’t really my idea of a good time; people bugging you in public all the time. I don’t know who, if anybody, would really appreciate that sort of attention. Maybe those who seek fame… ah, forget it.

Click Here for Photo Album of Day 3!

Now, Mia has woken up from her nap and is quite cranky. Time to see if I can actually get a good blog entry published.

Now Playing: Gord’s Gold… Ribbon of Darkness.

Day 1 – The Journey Continues…

February 3rd, 2010 by tungsai

here we are in the something-or-other airport in Korea. Apparently it’s 6:38 PM back home.

Ate at a Bi Bim Bop restaraunt in the airport. They had many interesting ammenities. For instance, to get water with your meal, you retrieved a stainless steel cup from a cabinet that had ultraviolet light to disinfect them, and they were also heated. You had your choice of hot or cold water.

Day 1 – Video 1

February 2nd, 2010 by tungsai

Day 1…