Waving turtles at traffic

After so many years here, we rarely see anything “new.” But this recently made me do a double-take:


I’ve passed this woman twice now, and each time I asked about her on Weixin (what we use in China instead of Facebook). It’s a handy way to get interesting answers to cultural questions (like that time my superstitious neighbours made me uproot trees I’d planted in our shared grass area). Also, “What turtle?” 什么龟 and “What the heck?!” 什么鬼 are near homophones (shénme guÄ«/guǐ), so it’s fun. You usually get a variety of answers because even if various regions share similar traditions, sometimes the stories and reasons behind them are different. But I couldn’t get much of a consensus on this one, except for: “It’s a scam!”


Weixin friends gave me various explanations. Here’s a sampling:

  • She’s advertising a traditional turtle soup (very nutritious!) 炖汤很滋补。见过有人停车买。
  • She’s selling turtles 路边卖老鳖
  • She’s extorting Buddhists, who will pay her to let the turtle go free (but then she’ll go catch it again!) 悲催的乌龟先生被人贩子以积德行善名义高价卖给有缘人(一般会是信佛教的人)去放生,然后他会偷偷的跟着买家等放生后用一种技巧召回乌龟,继续卖。周而复始……我弟弟亲眼见过,而且这样的人喜欢在河附近的大马路上卖乌龟。有人会做大补的食物买去,也有人会被卖家说服了去放生。“Miserable Mr. Turtle, kidnapped in order to be sold at a high price to those fated to accumulate merit through good works (usually its people who believe in Buddhism) who buy them to set them free, and then he’ll secretly follow the buyer and wait until after its been released, and use a special trick to call the turtle back and continue selling it. Over and over again… My younger brother saw it with his own eyes, also this kind of person likes to sell turtles near rivers. Some people make a really nutritious food to sell, other people will be convinced by the seller to release it for merit.”
  • Chinese medicine 中药
  • She’s scamming people by passing off raised turtles as wild turtles. 骗人的 / 忽悠人的 / 这个人是骗子 / 这些人是骗钱的,很便宜的价格买进鳄龟,然后把它们身上搞上点泥土,再打扮成农民工的某样,说这龟是在河里干活捉到的野生龟,可以卖高价格,千万别上当。 “These people are scammers, they purchase cheaply priced turtles and put mud on them, then dress up like migrant peasant workers and say they caught this wild turtle while working at the river, they can be sold for a really high price, by all means do not be taken in!”

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun Chinese propaganda posters!

“Weird Al” Yankovic is promoting his latest album Mandatory Fun with two Chinese propaganda poster spoofs. One poster has Chinese. To find out what it says, mouseover the Chinese characters here or scroll down:


“I’m not wearing underwear”
wǒ méiyǒu chuān nèikù

And here’s the other one:

Click the images for the original source.

Honked Awake (first time to call the cops in China)

It’s last Friday night and I’m dreaming a China dream. We have fellow foreigners for guests and they’re taking showers full blast, not realizing that using our first-floor apartment’s full water pressure will make the hot water run out in less than ten minutes. Alarms are going off because the hot water’s almost gone, and the alarms keep going and going and going, any second now there’ll be no hot water, wow I can’t believe the hot water hasn’t run out yet, don’t they hear the alarms…?

…and then I wake up and realize it’s not the shower. It’s 2:30am and some dipstick is outside laying on his horn, I don’t know for how long. It’s echoing off the buildings all through the neighbourhood. I think surely he’ll quit soon, but ten full minutes later he’s still going strong. So I get up and run out in my coat and plaid flannel pajama pants, wishing I had a paintball gun or eggs or something less damaging and illegal than the bricks that are always strewn around and temptingly handy for times like this.

I can hear other neighbours yelling about it to each other from their balconies as I walk. It’s not hard to find the offending motorist, obviously, a couple buildings over. One guy is standing near but a little ways away from the car. I ask him what the driver’s problem is. He doesn’t know.

“Has anyone called the police?”
“Maybe not.”

Maybe not? I stand where the driver can see me and call the police: “We’re in XX neighbourhood and there’s a crazy guy. You hear that noise? He’s been doing this for 20 minutes straight and has woken up everybody!”

I let him see me take a photo of his license plate. Then I knock on his window, which he rolls down.

“Hey what’s the problem? People are sleeping here! I’ve got a baby and a three-year-old at home. What are you doing?”
“Someone parked in my parking space! What else can I do?!” He rolls up his window and continues honking his horn.

I knock on his window again, and as soon as he rolls it down far enough…

“Don’t take my picture!”
“Then don’t honk your horn.”

I’d be happy to make that deal. But someone seems to be having trouble comprehending cause-and-effect, and it’s about to cost him.

One of my students’ fathers, Mr. Zhang, shows up. He knocks on the window, gets the same answer, tries to reason with him and gets nowhere. A third neighbour shows up, with his hoodie pulled tight around his face. He knocks on the window, gets the same answer. Then he starts yelling and cursing and kicks a huge dent in the front driverside door before bouncing a brick off the back window and running off into the night.

The driver starts yelling at us not to leave and gets out his phone like he’s going to call the police. So we leave and Mr. Zhang calls the police. They’re almost here. They find us and we lead them to the driver. The door-stomping brick-throwing hoodie-wearer shows back up to watch, grinning at me and chuckling.

The cops don’t even try to mask their incredulity. One repeatedly turns to us with an exasperated look as they listen to the guy’s explanation. I double-check with Mr. Zhang that they’re for sure taking him in for an alcohol check, and we walk home.

Mr. Zhang seems to think this is all rather humourous. Or maybe he’s laughing at my pants. Either way, we have a good time chatting on the way back to our respective beds. The End.

Our Cross-World Friends 5k Run

jessrunningpeace.JPGIn keeping with the theme of August around here, which seems to have been all things Olympic, six weeks ago I decided to take up my own “Olympic” challenge – to begin training for and run a 5k “race.” Seeing as there were no local 5k’s scheduled, I decided I’d just make my own…to be run on the treadmill at the gym. Yes, I know that the air outside was good enough for the Olympic athletes to breathe…but they were only here for a month. Since I live here and value the long-term health of my lungs, I decided to stick to the indoor running for now, but to try and tackle a longer distance than I had previously ever run. I had run more than 5k (3.1 miles) distance wise, but always with some (more than a few) walking breaks in the middle of it. So the goal was to run 5k without stopping…and, if possible, in under 25 minutes.

I’ve never been a runner…I took it up a few years back, just to see if I could “learn how” to run or at least learn how to not HATE running. I got up to distances of about 2 miles…though not loving it, I at least learned to tolerate it (and love the feeling AFTER the run). Then we graduated, moved away from the school’s gym that we always used, and then came to Asia…which meant that when we joined the gym in February, it had been at least 2.5 years since I had run at all. It was much easier to pick back up than I thought it would be…so I’d already been running several times a week when I decided to challenge myself to this treadmill 5k.

jess5kwave.jpgI was inspired by my friend Ruth…a mom of three kids who will hit 40 this year, and is in the middle of training for her first marathon (26 miles). She already ran a half marathon on July 4th this year. As I started to think about my running, it seemed like if she could run for that long, I surely could try to do a 5k!!! Then I decided to try a 5k, with the goal of doing a 10K eventually (now scheduled for November). So the training began. And as I trained, I told Ruth about it and she decided she would run it with me but in Texas.

nicoles-5k-010.jpg And then I told my friend Nicole about it…and she decided she would also run it with me, but in Washington. And thus, our Cross-World 5k Run was born!!! It was so encouraging to know that I had friends in other places training and planning to run with me. We planned to try and run it at the exact same time…but that’s kind of difficult to coordinate due to both time differences and to the general unpredictability of life, especially for Ruth and Nicole, who are both mothers. As proof of this unpredictability, one of Ruth’s kids came down with a stomach bug in the week of the “race”…and then passed it on to Ruth. In the end, we all ended up running it in the same 24-hour period, which counts as “at the same time” in my book.:D

jessrunningpose.JPGEven though we all participated in this “race” the goal was not to compete against each other, but to race against ourselves…to challenge ourselves to run harder, faster, better…and to enjoy it! Nicole and Ruth really got into the spirit of it and made “race numbers” for themselves. While running, we all had our challenges to face…Nicole raced while dodging middle-school kids who were playing football ON the track. Ruth, still in recovery from the stomach flu, had little energy with which to race. I, being a little nervous and excited about my first “race”, overestimated my beginning pace and went a little too fast…which meant that I hit a wall at about 2.5 miles and felt like I was going to throw up and pass out if I didn’t slow down a bit. But we all made it…and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it for the first 2.5 miles. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that way before about running…and definitely not for that long.

I reveled in the feeling of how natural it felt to run, and felt my heart resonate to the the lyrics of “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot. “I dare you to move…like today never happened before.” And I felt bold and proud…that I had dared myself to move and to take on this challenge…and that today, on this new day that had never happened before, I was both living out that dare and enjoying the results of it.

Now…none of of us are in the league of the Olympic 5k ladies, but then again…almost nobody is in their league. Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia ran the 5k in 15:41.40 in Beijing this year, which is pretty darned impressive. That’s a 5 minute 3 second mile pace!!! But we all did really well….Nicole finished in 27:12, Ruth in 30:28, and I finished in 25 minutes even. I am so proud of us all, for taking up the challenge and for finishing it (even with the flu and football players on the running track!!!), and am especially thankful that I have the kind of friends who are willing to both encourage me in this kind of challenge and participate in it themselves!




If you want people to read your blog, you have to have issues, preferably personal issues that masquerade as concerned citizenship. And you need to complain about how certain people are mean and/or stupid and are messing up the world. And say things that make people mad. And tell everyone how think. Sort of like what I’m passive-aggressively doing right now. This is especially effective if you’re young, white, and rich, and maybe a little paranoid.

We make a conscious effort not to do that on here too much, and we’ve sworn off politics – our blog is doomed! But by golly if this one didn’t just burn my biscuits…

In parts of Africa fat women are sexy. In Japan, it’s slender men. But in the West? We like ’em fake. We might think this is normal and no big deal. Call me paranoid, but I think living with stuff like this really messes us up. From CampaignforRealBeauty.ca:

And, of course, we can always ask questions about emotional manipulation, reverse psychology, and why a company that makes beauty products would care to fund something called “Campaign for Real Beauty”:

I’m convinced that the media to which we expose ourselves affects us deeply. But bigger questions remain, like “Where does a person’s worth and value really come from?” And, “How do we decide what is ultimately, truly beautiful?”

Chinese cell-phone parrot

On the way to work we heard these strange sounds – one was like a really loud cell phone. Then we walked past a parked scooter with a parrot chained to the seat. It said hello to us in Chinese – “你好!” – and then made the cell phone noise again.