Friday, January 07, 2011

Majiang Mania

Over the holiday break, all of our grandparents stayed at our house. During this time, Julie and I had the chance to introduce some more Chinese culture into our grandparents' systems. We took the time to teach them how to play Majiang, basically a Chinese version of cards using tiles.

We started by teaching our grandfathers the rules, instructions, and what each tile means. Afterwards, Julie and I played several games, helping them until they got the hang of it. Soon they were able to play without any help or advice from the two of us.

Several days later, we taught our grandmother how to play. After playing many games with her and our grandfathers, she got the hang of it. One night, Julie, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, and I played a marathon of Majiang. With snacks and drinks near by, we played for several hours. At around midnight, we decided to hit the sack, as we all felt tired. We wanted to be rested for another day of Majiang!


Thursday, January 06, 2011

2010, The Year In Review: Part 1 - Best Purchase

I've always believed that it is so important to take care of your feet and your peepers. While the latter sometimes show their age (like when it's time to read the fine print or thread a needle and my arms just aren't long enough to put the distance between my eyes and what I am trying to see!), the former started becoming problematic over the last year. As a teacher I am on my feet a lot and can't afford to slow down, so when a friend of mine (also a teacher!) suggested I try a new pair of shoes, by Dansko, I decided to check them out.

Usually a Payless girl, it was a bit out of the ordinary for me to traipse to Nordstrom. But in my quest for comfort I was greeted by a salesman who guaranteed my satisfaction. "Try these for three months and if you don't agree that these are the best shoes for your feet, I'll take them back." While it wasn't difficult to argue with his offer, the $114 price tag was a bit steep. Reflecting for about a millisecond, I decided it would be worth it to give them a try.

All I can say is that these babies are never going back. In fact, I vow to get a new pair at the start of every new school year. I wear them every day and not only do they feel great, but they are very durable.

My Mom reminisces about taking me to Buster Brown on Wood Avenue in Linden to buy my $40 baby shoes so that my feet would grow properly. I guess I did the same thing with Stride-Rite for Julie and Z. Now it's my turn again to pay attention to my feet so I'm listening...and happily paying for their well being.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ancient Chinese Jades And Bronzes

How do you describe, in Mandarin, this two thousand year old piece of Chinese bronze? This was the happy (and challenging!) task that the four of us were confronted with the other day at the Freer and Sackler Galleries down on the National Mall. For one hour, our excellent new Chinese teacher, 何老师, led us on a tour of artifacts of some of China's earliest dynasties.

The first step in the translation process had nothing to do with language whatsoever. Before we could even begin contemplating explanations in Chinese, we had to figure out just what each of the artifacts were actually used for in their day.

Any ideas on this one, gang?


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What To Do With Cold War Bomb Shelters

We have posted on a number of occasions about the often bleak job prospects for China's university graduates (see here and here for two examples). Now comes this report from Al Jazeera. You should absolutely click on this link and watch the less than two minute video that is attached.

The short of it is that Mao-era bomb shelters are being used these days as sources of cheap lodging for migrant workers and recent college graduates. This illegal practice, like many others in China, has emerged without much government attention. Now, however, officials in Beijing are seeking to crack down on these underground (literally) arrangements, much to the consternation of landlords and tenants.

For those paying attention to the debate over illegal immigration and the underground economy in the United States, the fundamentals of this story will seem really familiar, in spite of the specific Chinese characteristics that are present.