Chinese New Year is one of our favorite times of year here. The weather begins to get warmer. Everywhere you go you see red lanterns or Chinese knots hanging up. There are at least occasional fireworks for weeks and at least hourly ones on 'New Year's Eve'. And 11:30pm to 12:30am is a sight to behold. Here are some more photos. Definitely don't miss the video at the end!
“Are you guys ok? Did you feel the earthquake last night?” Our friend and teacher had called to check on us the day after the earthquake last week. Many people in Xining said that they felt it. Whether it’s because we live in a large, substantial building, or because we were extremely tired, I don’t know; but we didn’t feel a thing.
I have this great little app I use called Sleep Cycle. It tracks your sounds throughout the night and attempts to wake you at the ideal point in your sleep cycle. This isn’t nearly as creepy as the app I tried that actually recorded sounds throughout the night (It turns out either Ami or I snore! I blame her. ;). Here’s a graph from the night of the quake.
Look at the time of the earthquake, around 1:13 am. Some jags in the graph, but they fall right in the middle of our longest stretch of sound sleep. It’s no wonder we didn’t wake up.
Last week I wrote about the New Year's Day bike race we went to watch. What I didn't mention was that one of our new friends lost his glove. I had a pair of thinner gloves, like what he lost, and a pair of fat mittens. Because it was dark and cold when we headed home, I planned to wear the mittens. So I loaned him the right glove from my pair so he wouldn't have to ride home with one frozen hand.
Yesterday, we met so he could return the glove. It was hard to track each other down, but I discovered how Deaf people here find each other. It's actually pretty brilliant. None of this “I'm at the northwest corner of 54 West Street and Sea-Lake Street”. Just a simple picture. We sent several pictures back and forth before we found each other, but we did finally track each other down. It must be hard dealing with stupid, hearing foreigners. 🙂
We were invited to a bike race by a Deaf friend on New Year's Day. Being tall and foreign makes you feel as though you are a celebrity. The first 10-15 minutes I was there was full of people rotating through to have their picture taken with me. Then I got interviewed by a TV crew. And I was only there to watch! Anyway, when people compliment me on my Chinese I often say “我还有很长的路要走。” I still have a long way to go (literally, a long road to walk).
I told my friend who invited me that next time I'd ride for fun. It gives a new meaning to “我还有很长的路要走。” I still have a long way to go…
It's been slow getting back to studying this semester. Our return to China was delayed a month. We were exhausted when we did get back. Then our friend became deathly ill and we helped them through that. By the time we were ready to study, there were no Chinese teachers left. We did manage to find a Sign Language teacher, but I've been studying Chinese on my own this semester. Fortunately I've come across the idea of graded readers. Graded readers are books and stories written for language learners. I've found electronic readers and paper ones. I'm working through them and (re)learning a bunch of characters this semester.
If you're learning a new language, I definitely recommend finding some graded readers that are at or below your current level and going through them!
I can’t believe I’m just now getting around to writing about this. The first year or two that we were here I kept seeing signs above shops when I rode the bus that all said the same thing: “冬虫夏草”. It translates directly as “Winter Worm, Summer Grass”. I had no idea what it meant so I asked a friend. Apparently, there is a kind of caterpillar on the plateau that dies and a particular fungus grows out of it’s carcass.
This fungus is very, very valuable. I've heard it is as valuable as gold, ounce for ounce. It's very popular in Chinese Medicine. Anyway, they aren't all as big as the one in the window. Actually none of them are. They're tiny, maybe ½ to 1 inch.
Christmas is almost here. The kids have all been to the 'mall' at least once. The decorations, while sparse, are all out and around the house.
Shortly after Ami and I were married, she bought those silly characters and put our pictures in them. You can tell it was a while ago, because I look like a twelve year old! Anyway, while we were in the States this summer, we were able to track down smaller versions of similar characters. Three of those and our family is finally complete. 🙂 )Although, I suppose we need to find a dog one now…