Top 10 Things I will Miss

Sunset-Last Night

Sunset in Dali Old Town our last night

As you may have noticed from my previous blog posting, we will be returning to the U.S. following our 2 year language and culture studies in China.  In fact, our departure date is today!

While it would be foolish to believe I can anticipate exactly how reverse culture-shock will impact me, there are several things I “think” will be true.  Here’s my best estimate for a Top 10 List of what I think I will miss and what I will enjoy about returning to the US after 2 years in SW China.

Obviously, I will miss the many special friends and relationships we have developed over the past 2 years.  This will be the hardest part of transitioning back to the US, and I am omitting this most important category to keep this article light and enjoyable (at least for me!).

I THINK I will miss:

  1. Noodle shops (especially “拉面/lamian” which means “hand-pulled” or hand-made noodles)
  2. LOTS of daily human interaction (the relaxed, outdoor lifestyle here includes interacting with people on the street, on the bus, in the vegetable market, shops, restaurants, etc…)
  3. Being able to practice Chinese (everywhere!)
  4. Weekly traditional Chinese massage (< $10/hr)
  5. Riding motorcycle in the crazy local traffic!
  6. Shopping/buying from local shop owners/vendors (not the self-check-out at “big box” stores)
  7. Creative, artsy culture of Dali
  8. Natural beauty of Dali (Cang Shan mountains, vibrant flowers/colors throughout the year, beautiful skyscapes with dramatic light from the clouds as they roll over the mountains near sunset…and of course, Lake Erhai!)
  9. Farmers working in their small village gardens/fields
  10. Time…for spending with friends and building relationships
Version 2

My favorite “egg lady” – How can buying eggs be so much fun?!

Version 2

My last bowl of hand-made noodles…couldn’t resist!

I THINK I will enjoy:

 

  1. No longer living behind the Great Firewall (see upcoming article for why this is #1 on the list!)
  2. Being closer to family
  3. Butterfingers
  4. Ability to communicate with majority of society!
  5. Steak (think Ribeye!)
  6. Riding motorcycle in more predictable traffic patterns
  7. Tacos, Chips, Salsa
  8. Central heating (or effective winter heat of any kind!)
  9. US “standard” height countertops, tables, chairs…even vehicles!
  10. Fewer fish bones and bone shards in meat!

I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises during the coming months (and even years) as we experience life in our previous culture, but one that is no longer our only culture.  So, I hope to share some of those surprises in this blog with those who might be interested.

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

San Yue Jie

1-San Yue Jie GateEach year, our local town, Dali, hosts an event called 三月节 (or “San Yue Jie” which literally means “3rd full moon festival”).  Because it is based on the lunar calendar, this festival is usually held in late April or early May.  For over 1,000 years, people from across China and neighboring countries like Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam and Tibet* have made the trek to Dali for this annual event!  Today, over 1M people come to Dali for this event each year.
Historically, this was the time when people from the region’s villages gathered to buy and sell handmade crafts, tools, Chinese medicine and other special items that would last for the next year.  One source says this is the largest fair of its kind in all of China.
This year, I managed to attend the opening ceremony which features a variety of local minority songs and dances, including the traditional Chinese dragon dance.  One of the things that makes this type of festival special to me is the realization that most of these dancers are local parents, daughters, sons, siblings, shopkeepers, farmers and students.  These are our neighbors!
Horse races are also a big draw each year and this year I went on Day 1 (which features much better horses than Day 2).  With all these people coming to town from all over the SW part of China and beyond, it’s a great opportunity for people-watching.
Rather than write too much more about this event, I’ll share some of this year’s pics in a photo-essay format.  Hope you enjoy!
2-Crowd

Opening ceremony crowd

3-SwatOfficer

After watching this officer for an extended period, I concluded he was genuinely serious about giving his very best to the job of providing public security.  Impressive, since crowd control in China can be a seemingly impossible task!

4-BaiLadies

These are not “costumes” per se.  They are traditional ethnic minority clothing, still worn by many local minorities.  These are local Bai ladies.

5-EthnicLadies

My favorite minority dress at this event.  So colorful!

6-EthnicLadies

7-DragonLadies

Dragon ladies waiting patiently for the official start.

8-DragonLadies

Local Bai ladies having fun with their dragon dance!

9-DragonLadies10-ManinHat

11-BlueDancers

12-GreenBoys

I thought the umbrella and flowers really completed these men’s pretty outfits!

13-BoysinHood

Boys from the “hood”

14-BoysinLine

Boys all lined up for their dance.

15-BaiGirlsinLine

My guess: beauty queens for the event.

16-BaiGirlsinLine

And the winner is…?!

17-VIPs

What’s a big event without the local VIP’s?!

18-DaliDragonLadies

Even after a long event, these local ladies were willing to pose for pics…thanks!

19-Zacheas

Modern-day Zacchaeus!

20-Girl

21-Lady

22-Girl

This little girl was so tired and bored while waiting for the event to begin.  I watched as she tried SO many emotions and distractions to deal with the long wait!

23-Lady

24-GirlwBalloon

Couldn’t resist sharing 2 pics of this cute girl!

25-GirlwBalloon

At times, she seemed fascinated with her new balloon!

26-3Ladies

So glad these ladies were willing to stop and allow me to take their photo.  Thanks!

27-BalloonMan

What would a fair be without a clown making balloons!

28-Granpa+Grandaughter

Such a sweet granddaughter just sitting on the curb with her grandpa.

29-Lady

This lady was very friendly, did not mind me taking her picture and even happy to chat!

30-Lady

31-Lady32-Man33-Lady34-GirlwGlasses35-Lady36-Boy&amp;Father37-Lady38-BoywHat39-Lady40-Girl
41-Lady42-Granpa&amp;Child43-Lady44-ManwHat45-Lady46-LadywChild

47-LadywChild48-LadyCloseup49-Girl

50-MuslimGirl

Young muslim girl…she seemed to have such a gentle, quiet spirit.

51-Selfie

Look, an “old-fashioned” selfie without a stick!

52-ManwHat

I watched this man for a long time, as he stood near me…likely waiting for family or friends.

53-Lady

It took a long time to get a picture of this elegant lady…and it was worth the wait as the camera captured her having a friendly banter with a man who seemed to her husband.

54-Lady

Too bad this photo could not capture this woman’s walk…not to mention the stories I’m sure she could tell of living in China over the past 65+ years.

55-Girl

56-ManwSmoke

Even in a crowd of thousands, it would have been difficult not to notice this striking man walking by!

59-Child60-Lady

61-Lady2

Not sure “who” or “what” she sees…just glad it’s not me!

62-LadywChild

63-Trouble

The photo that almost got me in big trouble!

64-TroublewHusband

The photo that saved me:  June with her husband (they are from LA!)

65-RaceGate

Entrance gate to the horse races

66-CrowdatRace

Crowd-watching at the horse races…

67-RaceHorse

68-SanYueJieGate

Parting shot of the entrance gate to San Yue Jie

Final-BaiHouse

This view tells you this is “Bai country”…more on that later!

In case you’re interested, there are two leading versions of the historical origin of San Yue Jie.  The following story is the most popular among locals today:
“Once upon a time, a young fisherman near Er Sea married Third Princess of Dragon King.  On March 15, the moon was round and bright.  The Princess looked at the moon, and remembered the Yue Jie held by Chang E.  Therefore, she and her husband went to Yue Jie by riding a dragon.  She liked all the goods on the moon, but she couldn’t buy them.  The couple made up their mind to hold a Yue Jie of their own at the foot of the Diancang Hill, so that the civilians could buy anything they liked.  Subsequently, they planted a tree on the slope of the Zhonghe Hill and the fair was held every March 15.”

*NOTE:  Today, Tibet is an Autonomous Region under Chinese government authority.

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

What is it like living in China? – Part 2

LaMianNoodles

Hand-made noodles with beef…one of my favorites!

Remember that line “Life is just a bowl of cherries”?  Well, I beg to differ.  Living in China has taught me that “Life is really a bowl of Noodles”!

This is the second blog in what may become a mini-series that shares a few thoughts re: the question “What is it like living in China?”  This time, I thought I’d share a few Things I Really Like and a few Things I Find Different.

Yes, I’ve heard from some of you that these entries may seem a bit random…but that’s exactly what living cross-culturally is like much of the time.  Different experiences seem to come at you from all angles…unexpectedly!  You may also notice a lot of these entries have to do with food…what can I say?!

Things I Really Like:

  1. Hand-pulled Muslim (wheat) noodles with beef for less than $1.50
  2. Chinese (rice) noodles with pork for less than $1.50
    RiceNoodles

    Big, slippery, spongy rice noodles with pork…another favorite!

    RiceNoodleLady

    Chinese noodle shop owner getting my order ready…yum!

  3. College cafeteria noodles (wheat or rice) with something like pork for less than $1.00!

    DaliUNoodles

    Rice noodles at the University cafeteria…not the very best, but very convenient!

  4. Simpler, slower pace of life – Adequate advance notice (invitation) for getting together with friends is “now”!
  5. Fresh fruit for dessert (e.g., sweet, crunchy, juicy pear…or, just passing a partially peeled orange around the table so people can take a wedge for themselves…or just a bite of fresh strawberry…better than many candies or sweets?!)

Things I Find Different:

  1. Kraft Parmesan Cheese as a delicacy!  (only available at the local “Western Foods Market” and possibly on the “western aisle” at Walmart.)
  2. Wearing the same clothes two days in a row…without your teacher or classmates noticing anything unusual (since there is a good chance they are also wearing the same clothes 2 days in a row!)
  3. Learning to look closely before buying face lotion, since many products on the shelf include active ingredients for whitening your skin (I’m OK with whitening my teeth, but my skin?!)

    FaceLotion

    Sometimes the “whitening” label is not so easy to identify (i.e., not in English)

  4. These days, most trips to the nearby (larger) city include a special treat of visiting KFC!  Can you imagine thinking of a trip to KFC as a special event?!  (In our local valley of 500,000+ people, there are really only 3 visual signs of US presence that I can think of:  1 Walmart, 1 McDonalds and 1 KFC.  That’s it.  Well, I guess I need to add Hilton now, since they had a soft opening for the Hilton Dali Resort and Spa just a couple of days ago.)KFCMenu

    KFCSnack

    Yes, I love Chinese food, but sometimes enjoying the Colonel’s Original Recipe without lots of bones in the chicken is a real treat!

  5. Cutting my wife’s hair (for the first time after 28 years of marriage).  Now, that’s different!  (She has curly, fine hair, but the local hairstylists specialize in cutting extremely straight, thick hair…not to mention the language barrier.)  Good news is it turned out just fine.

Oh, there is one other thing that is a bit different here:   No “live” coverage of the 2016 Presidential Primaries!

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

What is it like living in China?

Version 2

Dried (whole) fish and other special treats at the local Walmart.

We get this question periodically and I thought it might be fun to share just a few (Top 10) items that have been on my mind the last few weeks.  It’s been just over 6 months since my last blog posting, so it seems about time to post an entry.  Language learning has been my primary focus for the past several months (in addition to soaking up culture) so things have been quiet on the blogging front.

These entries are brief, so please feel free to post Comments (or email me at kevin@yunev.co) if you’re interested in more detail on any of the following:

Today’s Top 10 Questions re: “What is it like living in China?

  1. Do you ever find yourself struggling to keep track of different currencies when transferring and tracking funds between various accounts (one in US dollars, another in Hong Kong dollars, and a third in Chinese Yuan)?  Me too.
  2. Do you occasionally find yourself in the shower, ready to rinse off the soap, when the water supply is cut off…without warning…without explanation…with no real certainty when the water supply will return?  Yeah, me too.
  3. Do you ever find yourself at Walmart thinking “Hmmm, I feel like I really want a whole dried fish, whole dried squid, whole dried eel…!”  Me either.
  4. Do you ever wish you could just drop your toilet paper in the toilet bowl (rather than in the waste basket) and flush?  Yep, me too.
  5. Do you ever wonder what’s the best transportation option when it rains or snows?  Our choices are:
    • A.) Walk,
    • B.) take the bus (and then walk),
    • C.) ride a bike (and then walk), or
    • D.) ride the scooter (and then walk).
    • When the weather is bad, we typically opt for the bus.
  6. Do you ever dream about what it might be like to have unlimited access to the Internet?  Even with our relatively modest (low) bandwidth (and a very good VPN), the idea of being able to freely visit sites that you select is virtually impossible most days (and nights).  Some call it the “Great Firewall” effect.  I call it the new “normal”!
  7. Do you ever find yourself without any personal space at all (on all 4 sides) and you’re not even uncomfortable about that anymore?  That’s a big YES for me (remember, one of our family vehicles is the local city bus!).
  8. Do you ever find the temperature inside your home below 50F and you just want to reach for the thermostat and turn on the heat…but there is no thermostat…and there is no heat?  That’s a daily experience for us in Dec, Jan and Feb.
  9. Do you ever find yourself snacking on sunflower seeds with friends thinking “Wow, this is so simple and such a wonderful way to get to know people in a more relaxed setting than our normal busy schedules.”  I love it when this happens!  It’s always a special experience when we visit local friends’ homes and even when waiting for the food at some restaurants.
  10. Do you ever ask yourself “What am I doing here?!”?  (You might fill in the blank with your current “location”, your current “job”, a particular “relationship”, your “house”…or whatever situation you may find stressful or difficult or puzzling).  On the worst of days, do you say to yourself: “This has got to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever done.”?  Then…the very same day, do you realize how thankful you are to have the incredibly rare privilege of disconnecting from the busy-ness, comfort and convenience of life to learn a new language and culture along with all the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and wonderful people that are a natural part of that process?  I must admit I’ve taken a ride on this emotional rollercoaster in China…at least once or twice!  Others tell me it is a normal part of living cross-culturally.

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

Hand-Made Noodles!

Have you ever had fresh, hand-made noodles?  Have you ever seen them being made?!

Well, as much as I’d love to…I can’t offer you a bowl of noodles, but here’s a great video that shows how noodles are made-to-order, on-the-spot in a small street cafe in Dali Old Town.  As you watch, I hope you’ll be patient and realize that this is the age-old process of turning a lump of dough into beautiful, delicious noodles!  It’s worth a few minutes to catch a glimpse of what down-home cooking looks like – China style!  And, this video actually captures the making of both flat and round noodles.  No wonder this shop has become one of my go-to favorites for fresh noodles in Dali:

After all, what would a proper blog be without a post on food?  I hope you enjoyed this quick foodie experience…I’m sure there will be more to come!

BTW, the full length video will be available soon on YouTube (just in case you are interested in the complete process of stretching the noodles!)

Copyright Notice:

© Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2014-2015.  All rights reserved.

It’s a Small World!

Trash Collection in Dali Ancient Town, China – In most civilized cultures, the issue of collecting and disposing of garbage is a challenge that community leaders must face. In our own personal experience, we’ve seen good policies (Fort Collins, CO has a great system) and bad policies (let’s just say “a typical Midwest town”).

In our most recent neighborhood in Michigan, it was not uncommon to see as many as 10 Heavy-Duty Refuse Trucks drive into our cul-de-sac street each week…to collect trash from about 15 homes. Not exactly an optimized solution in terms of maintaining streets and reducing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions!

For a fun example of “cultural differences”, watch this entertaining video to see how trash is collected on Dali’s Ancient Town streets (depending on the speed of your connection, you may need to pause the video and allow time for the download to buffer so the music is clear):

Not only does this local trash collection method include fun and “happy” music to make trash disposal more pleasant, it is also very streamlined, since the residents get a “just-in-time” audio cue that it’s time to get rid of the trash.  As you can see, the workflow is very efficient, since there is very little wasted motion – especially for the driver!  This method also cuts down on unsightly (and smelly) trash cans on Dali’s tourist streets, and generally reduces the inventory of retail/residential trash, since the truck cruises the streets at least once each day.

Now, for the skeptics: I realize this method is not perfect – e.g., it requires that residents be “sitting around” waiting for the trash truck.  But, despite some inefficiencies, you’ve got to admit there are some benefits to this approach.

And that’s really the point – as we learn more about the language and culture here, we find many differences that require us to adapt.  Not “good” or “bad”, just different.  And some differences can be entertaining as well!

Stay tuned as other entertaining and relevant “differences” are shared in future posts!

BTW, many of you have your own “cross-cultural” experiences that these stories may prompt you to recall.  If so, I hope you will drop me a note and share some of your favorite memories.  Please Reply/Comment or send a note to: kevin@YUNEV.co

 

 

Copyright Notice:

© Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2014-2015.  All rights reserved.