“Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle?”

From Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow:

And within all else she was, she was keeper and protector of the grief by which she cherished what she had lost.

I thought a good deal about Forrest Junior and wondered where he was buried and if anybody even knew where. I imagined that soldiers who are killed in war just disappear from the places where they are killed. Their deaths may be remembered by the comrades who saw them die, if the comrades live to remember. Their deaths will not be remembered where they happened. They will not be remembered in the halls of the government.

Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle? They die at home—in Port William and thousands of other little darkened places, in thousands upon thousands of houses like Miss Gladdie’s where The News comes, and everything on the tables and shelves is all of a sudden a relic and a reminder forever.

Here’s a narrated video data visualization of WWII military and civilian deaths by country, in both European and Asian theatres:

You can find an interactive version of this data visualization here: The Fallen of WWII

Previous Remembrance Day posts are here.

Lest we forget.

China Beach Days in October

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The first week of October is a national holiday in China. And the beach is still more comfortable than the British Columbian beaches, lakes and rivers I grew up swimming in. We just spent a whole day body surfing, building sand castles and catching crabs with another foreign family (because our Chinese friends won’t come to the beach in October). I could hardly believe it was October. The view from our tent:

theviewonOct1

qingdaosandcastle1During sānfú (三伏), the 30-40 days of official hotness according to the lunar calendar, we don’t have to invite our Chinese friends to the beach on weekends; they’ll invite themselves. But in May and for most of September we have to go with foreign friends, because our Chinese friends are unlikely to come. Nevermind how the weather is on a particular day, it’s just not the right time of year. On Oct 1 there were still lots of Chinese families on the beach, but nearly 100% of the Chinese kids were in long sleeves, long pants, and double layers. It was only the seven foreign kids who were allowed to go swimming.

littlegreencrabOur giant sand castle usually draws a nominal amount of attention, but stick a naked blond 2-year-old on top (not pictured) and it’s like lighting a candle in the middle of a dark room. His parents were super tolerant though, and the castle was big enough that people mostly kept their distance.

crab hunt silhouette

Once the weather gets too cold for Canadian families to spend Saturdays at the beach, we’ll take our Saturdays to the local mountains for day hikes and picnics. And when it’s too cold for that, there are large local parks for the kids to run around in. It’s really only the dead of winter in Qingdao when you have to try hard to not get cabin fever.

laowaibeachtentcircle

Chinese beach in July?

If you’re a foreign family in Qingdao, it’s understandable if the thought of spending a summer day at the beach makes you twitch. I mean, come on, it’s July in Qingdao; who’s gonna march their little yangwawas through the middle of this?

QingdaoinJuly

Your kids already get more than enough attention on a normal day from the relatively cosmopolitan, local Qingdao urbanites. But throwing them into the middle of a beach that’s packed with domestic tourists like a boiling pot of jiaozi ? That’s just cruel and unusual. And that’s why we know long-term, well-enculturated, fluent-in-Chinese families here who simply don’t do the beach at all.

But when it comes to our family, we’re a little more desperate. Not swimming outdoors in the summer would be… we might as well all be in summer school. So we’ve tried numerous things over the last four years, attempting to make the beach worthwhile. And I think we’ve pretty much got it down. Behold! This is us, on the beach in Qingdao, in July:

wedoqingdaobeach

Where are all the people? Why isn’t there a ring of photographers around your little blond, curly-haired children? How is it that I can see where the sand ends and the water begins? Over the last few years we’ve distilled a few tricks, like our particular place and times, and the result is that photo (four of those seven bodies are us). We do this nearly every Saturday in not-cold weather from June to September.

A “successful” beach day for us isn’t perfect, of course. On the day that photo was taken I had to politely turn away two requests for photos with our kids, and passive-aggressively angle-out photo attempts from two other people. Drawing a circle around our tent and sandcastle works as an effective barrier on about 95% of the people who pause to look, meaning only one person all day stepped over it to try and get their kid to stand next to ours for a photo (this is pretty much always a domestic tourist from an inland village or small town, where social norms are different). Most passersby don’t stop to look, but those who do merely stand outside the circle for a moment before moving on. An ATV drove up once to check us out. But that’s all in 5+ hours at the beach, which imo is a very reasonable amount of attention to tolerate as a foreign family in a wannabe 2nd-tier Chinese city.

You can see less-successful beach attempts from summers past here:

letsallgoswimming
Summer’s here! Let’s everyone go swimming! 夏天来了大家游泳去吧

Chairman Mao on working out

I’m on my third Chinese gym in three years. The first one got kicked out by the landlord (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees). The second one operated with no electricity for over a month before the management suddenly locked the doors and disappeared (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees).

But my third and current Chinese gym has Chairman Mao speaking English:
发展体育运动增强人民体质
I was sold.

It was also the cheapest by far of my remaining options.

But it turns out this quote from some calligraphy by Chairman Mao in 1952 is famous, and was used in propaganda posters:

发展体育运动,增强人民体质
fāzhǎn tǐyù yùndòng,zēngqiáng rénmín tǐzhì

Here’s a little collection of posters and images I scrounged from the internets (click one):

The mysterious Chinese colour “qing”

The colour qīng 青, which we’ve encountered once before, popped up again recently in a story book our daughter’s preschool teacher was reading to her class. It made characters out of each colour, and showed what new colours were created when they touched. All the usual suspects were there — red, yellow, blue, green, black, etc. — plus “qīng.” See if you can figure out how to describe it.

This is “Little Black” 小黑 xiǎo hēi

heise_black

And this is “Little Qīng” 小青 xiǎo qīngqingse_qing

You can see on Little Qing’s fingers, the shirt near the fingers and the water drops, that they’ve tinged black with green and blue.

Our dictionaries aren’t super helpful, with entries like, “nature’s colour,” “green or blue,” “greenish black.” I wonder if the iridescent green of some beetles, for example, would be called qīng by my students, rather than green 绿 .

It’s curious that our daughters are growing up with a slightly different colourscape than we did.

There’s more about qīng here: Language, perception and the Chinese colour “qīng”

When China’s air pollution confuses my preschool students

Sure, we cry too much about the air pollution. But this one’s darkly humourous, I promise.

I routinely ask the oldest classes, “How’s the weather?” while pointing out the windows. And they automatically take a glance and usually reply, “IT’S SUNNY!!!” (“Sunny” is their favourite. But they can do cloudy, raining, windy, snowing, hot, and cold, too.)

So today I ask them. They glance out the windows. “IT’S…” A couple weak “sunny”s peter out among the 30 students. They can’t tell if it’s sunny or cloudy.

Because even though it’s bright outside, THEY CAN’T SEE THE BLOOMIN’ SKY. There are no clouds, but it’s all grey, and where’s the sun?

Later I check, and every air quality monitoring station in the city is maxed out at 500:

Below 50 is “good”. At 100 we close all our windows and turn on all the DIY home air purifiers. At 300 the preschool cancels all its outdoor activities.

At 500… AIRPOCALYPSE! ;)