Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)

Things That Are Awesome (in sharply descending degrees of awesomeness):

#2. The views on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain (浮山).

FushanviewQingdaoshibei Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)

#3. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China.

#4. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain.

#5. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain playing We Are The World:

Aaaaand…. #1! Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain playing When a Man Loves a Woman when you’ve hiked up there to celebrate your 12th anniversary.

Snogging pics in

3…

2…

1…

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Being Obnoxious With Monks

Actually, it was a nun, and I was arguing with her handlers. It was an irate customer who was yelling directly at the nun. (It looked like the customer got some money back in the end, but I couldn’t tell for sure — she’s in the orange jacket, near the centre of the photo.)

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A Buddhist fortune-teller eyes my camera in a Qingdao market.

Usually my conversations with Buddhists and Daoists are mostly me asking questions. I try to nail down what they actually think, and get a sense of how their beliefs and practices function in their lives. Because I want to understand them; I want to understand the worldviews we encounter on their own terms. (The “high” Buddhism and Daoism we studied in school seems to have precious little to do with the Buddhism and Daoism we regularly encounter at street level in China.) Since there are lots of little god shops around, when I have a few extra minutes I stop in to chat. It’s never been confrontational. Until the other day.

My almost 5-year-old daughter and I have just finished lunch in the market. We’re going to buy trees to plant in the public grass/dirt area outside our first-floor apartment’s windows. I have a bag of tomato and húlu (葫芦) seedlings in one hand and my daughter’s hand in the other.

There’s a crowd around something on the sidewalk. Actually most of the street and sidewalk is basically one big crowd, but Something is Happening up ahead. I peer down into the circle of heads (6’4″ lǎowài can do this in China) to discover a Buddhist nun doing what’s called 算命, where they tell your fortune and then, for a fee, perform rituals to help you avoid the bad things headed your way. (Apparently, so my friends tell me, you pay even more if your future predictions are good.)

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Reading futures, selling fortune

Judging by the surrounding interest, this seems like a minor Big Deal, so I pull out my phone and start taking pictures.
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Claiming a patch of sidewalk.

Wish I’d taken video; it’d be fun to have this exchange recorded:

“No! No! You can’t take pictures!”

(A handler comes toward me waving her hands.)

“Why not?”

(I wish I’d kept taking pictures.)

“You can’t take pictures of this. It’s bad for your ___.”

(Wish I could remember the exact term she used, but the idea is that me taking pictures of this nun in action would negatively affect my life/fate/etc.)

“No problem! I don’t believe in this superstition.”

(I’m feeling a little ornery. I don’t know why. Maybe being born on the Protestant side of the Reformation means I have a low tolerance for people selling indulgences. Or maybe (yes, actually) it’s because my hands are full, I’m with my daughter, and I’m in increasing need of a public restroom. At least I didn’t use the Mao Era term “feudal superstition” 封建迷信。)

“You can’t take pictures! This is a problem of belief.”

“Right, I don’t believe this. But what are you afraid of? This is a public–”

“We don’t have the same belief. In your country you all–”

(This is common point of worldview disconnect. In China, many people consider your heritage a perfectly valid reason for believing something; in the West, it’s usually the opposite — telling someone they only believe something because of their heritage is a way of saying that person has no good reasons to believe what they claim. Because — speaking very generally — when a North American says they “believe in X”, they usually mean they “think X is true”, but a Chinese using the same phrase isn’t necessarily making a truth claim. Personal convictions about the true nature of Life, the Universe and Everything (and ‘staying true to yourself’) just aren’t as high a value in China, compared with, say, getting along and getting by. And when personal convictions do matter to a Chinese, it can come off as really selfish. Anyway, it sometimes rubs my fur the wrong way when people assume that I think what I think for (what I think is) no good reason.)

“This has nothing to do with my country. Why can’t I take pictures? What are you afraid of?”

(I’m in a hurry, I suspect this whole thing is a scam, and I’m curious what objections they’ll raise since they couldn’t make me fear for my fate. But now the argument that’s been simultaneously happening on the opposite side of the crowd erupts into yelling and accusations of cheating people out of their money. The crowd starts thinning out, maybe feeling a little awkward between me/my camera on one side and the irate customer on the other. If you look closely at the above photos, to the the fortune-teller’s right you’ll see three handlers wearing hats facing away — they’re dealing with the angry woman, whose face can be seen in all the three crowd shots.)

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[Photo Gallery:] It’s Fú Time! Get ready for Chinese New Year 2014!

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Qingdao’s canal bed Licun Daji traditional market is epic on a normal day (see photos here). But on the last market day before Chinese New Year, it’s “here a , there a , everywhere a -” — like a ginormous red, yellow and black ant colony that some kid has just poked with a stick, all charged up and buzzing with Chinese New Year colour, food and traditions.

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Have a fu.

On locals’ advice, a coworker and I squeezed around back and forth through it during xiūxi time (aka after lunch siesta), when the crowds weren’t as lethal as in the morning. We weren’t aiming to document the whole thing, just look around and chat and take pictures of whatever caught our eye, and ended up with a lots of red and religious stuff (in which Chairman Mao makes an expected strong appearance), along with the usual things that make foreigners stop and take pictures.

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财神,the money god, for sale.

(Aside from one pile of pig heads, there aren’t any other photos of piles of animal parts, though it was interesting to see shoppers inspect piles of cold, shiny intestines the same way you would check over tomatoes — i.e. with your bare hands.)

apples [Photo Gallery:] Its Fú Time! Get ready for Chinese New Year 2014!
Apples grown with stickers to make the sun shine “riches” , “respect” , and “advance” into the peels.

Anyway, here you go!

More photos from this market: Licunji – Qingdao’s most epic market

Chinese New Year photo galleries:

Chinese New Year songs to learn:

Lucky Panties & Fu:

Hole in your Chinese vocabulary? Hole in your neck

Not understanding what people are saying sometimes allows one to feel safe when one maybe shouldn’t. We have enough Chinese now that China is sometimes a little more frightening than it otherwise would be.

Like at the hospital the yesterday. I was there to get a cyst cut out of my neck. And this hospital, as you can see, makes a point to reach out to English-speaking foreigners:

fertilizinghealth1 Hole in your Chinese vocabulary? Hole in your neckethicsrules1 Hole in your Chinese vocabulary? Hole in your neck
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I find the Chinglish endearing. Can you imagine attempting the same thing in reverse?

At 3pm I’m talking with the surgeon. We’re using Chinese. She’s treated me for a similar thing before and I actually really like her. She’s the kind of person where being decent and polite gets results. I’d already thanked her for the good job she did when she cut on me a couple months ago. So far so good.

We’re in her office; I’m sitting on a stool at her desk, she and her nurse are standing in the doorway discussing my imminent operation.

“Oh,” the nurse suddenly remembers, “We’re out of clean surgical equipment. You used the last set this morning. He’ll have to come back after Chinese New Year.”

I pretend not to understand — it’s a reflexive, passive-aggressive expat response to unwelcome news in Chinese. Sometimes playing dumb means they’ll decide that solving the problem is less hassle than trying to make you understand why you can’t get what you want. (Not saying I’m proud of this…)

“Did you understand what she said?” asks the surgeon. “We can’t do the surgery today. You’ll have to come back next week.” She knows I understand. And if she wanted to she could tell me in English anyway.

“There’s no more? This is a big hospital! And I came all the way from Licun…” We live in what’s more or less an all-Chinese district that’s not near downtown or the foreigner district. It was almost a 40元 taxi for me to get to this hospital.

“Well, our dept. doesn’t have any more…” She turns back to her nurse, “He came in from Licun. What about…” and they discuss who to call and where to go look. A second nurse goes off to ask someone somewhere.

And then the first nurse gets an idea, “Or maybe you could just use a ______.” They both stop and turn, eyeing the lump on the side of my neck from across the room.

“Hmmm…” the surgeon mulls it over, her eye still on me. And it’s in this moment that I wish I had a bigger vocabulary. I don’t know what a ______ is; technical medical terms are outside my Chinese vocab range. I probably don’t even know what a ____ is in English. But I’m sure it’s something sharp. And not what they would normally use to cut a hole in the side of my neck. In fact it took them a while to even think of it. What could it be? Is it big? But I don’t dare say anything, since they seem keen on finding a way to not send me away until next week.

In the end they just took me to the O.R. on another floor and used that dept.’s stuff. I thanked them profusely for finding a way, and for using extra anesthetic (last time they used too little — ow). If I grow anything else that needs cutting out, I’d be happy to go back. I like this crew!

stitches Hole in your Chinese vocabulary? Hole in your neckP.S. – Apologies for the blood. But it’s my first time to get stitches (apparently I’ve lived a very cautious life). Is it normal to do four holes per stitch?

P.P.S. – If you liked this (I mean the writing, not the gross picture), you’ll probably also like:

Hate flagging down taxis in China? Problem SOLVED [Updated!]

I don’t know about taxis in North America; I can’t remember ever being in one. In China they’re relatively cheap and common, faster than the bus, and you probably don’t own your own car. We take the bus as much as we can, but that still means at least one taxi per week.

Taxis save a ton of time if you don’t get stuck not being able to get one. Flagging down a taxi in China can sometimes be a major pain. They’re all full. Or there aren’t any. Or someone “steals” “yours”. Or — most annoyingly — they’re empty but they inexplicably wave you off. Turns out there are reasons why empty taxis pass right buy you. Sometimes they’re about to change shifts. Sometimes they fear the hassle/awkwardness of a foreigner who might not speak Chinese. But more likely, they’re using one or both of these two free smart phone apps: 快的打车 and 嘀嘀打车. And now that we are, too, our arm-flapping on the side of the road days are mostly a thing of the past.

Taxiapp Hate flagging down taxis in China? Problem SOLVED [Updated!]We’ve been using both these apps for weeks now, and they’re genius. It basically means you never end up wasting time waving your arms at the traffic while trying to out-position all the other roadside arm flappers. You enter where and when you want to be picked up and your destination, it notifies every driver instantly, and they choose whether or not to accept. So far it’s only taken seconds for us to get a reply. You can talk to the drivers directly. And they’re motivated to follow through: this app means they have much less empty car time, but if they fail to show up you can ding them and they risk getting temporarily banned from the software.

dididachelogo Hate flagging down taxis in China? Problem SOLVED [Updated!]UPDATE: Turns out these apps are having an app war, and Zhīfùbǎo is involved, too. That means some great promotions for drivers and riders. You can set them up to use your bank card or 支付宝 (sort of like Paypal). Right now if you use both apps you get 10元 off your fare five times per day (two times with 快的打车 and three times with 嘀嘀打车). Plus you earn points that you can redeem for phone charging or hotel discounts, etc. The drivers get 10 or 15元 for every five people they get to pay with 支付宝,depending on which app they use, which is why they’re all suddenly asking us if we want to use Zhīfùbǎo. – 2014-01-26

This going on our China essentials short-list, along with Pleco (Chinese language learning app), the China Air Quality Index app, and DIY air purifiers.

taxiapp2 Hate flagging down taxis in China? Problem SOLVED [Updated!]

[Photo Gallery:] Licunji – Qingdao’s most epic market

We’re celebrating one whole year in Qingdao! So here’s a photo gallery from the most epic market I’ve ever seen anywhere (scroll down past the blahblahblah and click a thumbnail to begin). It just happens to be a 20-minute walk from our place.

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The middle third of Lǐcūnjí.

李村集 has occupied a usually (but not always) dry canal bed for over 100 years, stretching between four bridges. You’d need a few hours to see everything. It’s a site to behold any day of the week, but “big market” days (大集) — lunar calendar days ending in 2 and 7 — bring breathtaking scale and variety (and near-apocalyptic traffic jams). For anyone who wants to learn about China, the amount of culture on display here — relating to food, medicine, religion, leisure, etc. — is just incredible. The streets immediately parallel to the canal are also packed. But two streets away you’ll find spanking new upscale malls, trendy shopping streets (步行街), and a forest of in-progress highrises. Lǐcūnjí is an old-school island in a sea of rapid development, and who knows how long they’ll let it stay.

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On one of the two middle bridges that stretch across Lǐcūnjí.

There are many ‘Chinas’Lǐcūnjí is one that foreigners encounter less often, and that perhaps represents (economically at least) a larger slice of China’s population than the university-educated urbanites foreigners are most likely to interact with. I couldn’t find anything online about it in English. So it’s almost like I get to play Marco Polo with this. If you’re a lǎowài and you visit, you’ll be the only one for miles. And chances are good you’ll see some things you’ve never seen before. Lǐcūnjí isn’t for tourists, domestic or foreign. It’s China unedited.

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Tiger paw, horns and assorted dried penises (tiger, deer & seal).

Photos are all by me or Lindy (a good friend from our Tianjin days), taken on her real camera and my point-and-shoot and iPhone. We spent most of a morning there, and I’ve accumulated some pictures over the months because I pass through there almost every week. This doesn’t come close to documenting or even summarizing the entire place. Still, it’s an eyeful (though not for the easily queasy!). Photos are loosely grouped by theme: marketscape (7), gods (10), pets (4), people (14), places (5), medicine (11), lunch (20), trinkets (3), meat (10), produce (9), and more marketscape (14).


When living in Tianjin we stumbled upon a different but similar sort of place:

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At Lǐcūnjí’s under-the-bridge BBQ pits, they’ll prepare whatever meat & veggies you bring from the market.

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The “Bridgehead Bathhouse”

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The south-west third of Lǐcūnjí.

InstaChina & InstaQingdao — Our China Instagram feed

So we’ve moved to Qingdao. And we’ve started using Instagram. Our actual Instagram feeds are private because they have lots of family pictures, but you can see all our public China Instagram fun at ChinaHopeLive.Tumblr.com. And here’s the RSS feed.

licunji InstaChina & InstaQingdao    Our China Instagram feed

octoescape InstaChina & InstaQingdao    Our China Instagram feed