Don’t touch my flowers! (or else…!!!)

Literally right around the corner from our door:

no_picking_my_flowers
Plucking flowers is plucking your lifespan*. Please watch yourself!!!
折寿 好自为之!!!

折寿 (“snap life”) is a phrase meaning to have one’s life shortened, usually by indulging in excesses.

Signs like this pop up every once in a while. I even have some myself! For example:

Psalm 23 in Chinese

好牧人Two of the most spiritually formative parts of the Bible are Matthew 6:9-13 (the Lord’s Prayer) and Psalm 23. And sometimes memorizing and meditating in a second language helps you pay attention to what you’re saying. So here’s Psalm 23 (Chinese New Version/新译本/CNV) with pinyin and English (mouseover or tap), and a downloadable 汉子/pīnyīn cheat sheet (PDF).

诗篇23
[1] 耶和华我的牧人不会缺乏
[2] 使躺卧草地
安静的
[3] 使我的灵魂苏醒
为了自己的引导
[4] 虽然山谷不怕遭受伤害
因为同在
你的你的竿安慰
[5] 敌人面前摆设筵席
膏了我的
使我的满溢
[6] 一生的日子恩惠慈爱随着
耶和华殿直到永远

You can also read it alongside two other Chinese translations at Biblegateway.com (for phone Bible reading in China, I prefer the 精读圣经 app).

P.S. – I did the same thing with the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed.

Happy Red October, comrades!

It’s that special time of year again.

vpn-issues-in-china

If you’re wondering why your VPN is acting worse than usual, ask your Chinese friends about the 十九大。 Or see the links below (if you can, ha!).

  • China’s Communist Party Is About to Meet. Here’s What You Should Know.
  • Beijing Calls for an Internet ‘Fire Moat’ for the City Ahead of 19th National Congress
  • Leaving nothing to chance, China increases security, social control before Congress
    “We must hold the line for social control, eliminate all destabilizing factors, hold the line for cyber security and resolutely crack down on political rumors and harmful news,” Cai said.
  • Preparing for Red October
    At the 19th Congress, delegates will gather in Beijing to “select” the Party leaders for the coming five years and will no doubt allow Party General Secretary Xi Jinping consolidate his power over the Party and the nation.

    In preparation for the meetings, the entire country is being mobilized to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch. Security measures are being put into place. Internet filters are being turned up. Neighborhood committees are being deputized to keep an eye on everything that happens at the street level. Party slogans will dot the landscape, as the people will be reminded of the importance—no, the necessity—of the Party in the life of the nation. Decisions are being put on hold, and Beijing will slowly turn itself into a 20-million-person armed camp; China will, for all intents and purposes, be closed.
    […]
    The first week of October may be dubbed “Golden Week,” but the rest of the month will definitely be red.

  • Link Roundups: 19th Party Congress — one, two

How we end up living better every time we return to China

Maybe it sounds a little weird to think of making the most of a transition back to China. The goodbyes, 36+ hours of travel door-to-door, jet lag, and downward re-adjustment in comfort all make returning to your overseas home something to merely endure and survive, especially when young kids are involved. That’s still true for us. But we’ve also found there’s a great opportunity buried within each of our family’s sad and stressful biannual transitions back to the far side of the world.

Every second summer we spend two months visiting family and friends in Canada and the US (four states and one province). It’s great and we love it; lots of food and fun and camping and swimming with people we love and don’t get to see even close to near enough. But it’s not healthy in the sense that it’s a break from intentionally established daily routines that include sane sleep, eating, exercise, and relating. Plus, the leaving and the returning each have their own special stress.

Saying goodbye is one thing, but making your kids say goodbye to their grandparents at the international departures gate is just about the worst thing ever. It’s even worse than international travel with kids, which usually includes a long-haul flight followed by a layover followed by another flight that you barely make because your first flight was delayed (“Just hold it, OK?! Better wet pants on the plane than dry pants in the airport! Let’s move!”). Then there’s the step back down in convenience, cleanliness, and familiarity, plus all the stuff/dirt/bugs that has broken/accumulated/infested-and-died while you were away. We return to China physically and emotionally exhausted, out of shape, and relationally disoriented (for an extended period of time our kids haven’t had their usual amount of regular attention from us, and we haven’t had normal couple time, either).

It’s kind of funny: bracing for all that stress during our last two days with family in Canada is almost worse than actually going through it during the first week back in China. Sure, the first couple days of jet-lag and apartment cleaning/repair while trying to not take it out on your beyond-exhausted children aren’t awesome. But the level of discomfort I imagine each time never actually materializes, despite accurately predicting the general level of 麻烦 that awaits us. Each time, we slide back into our life here quicker and more smoothly than I expect us to.

And every return to China gives us an exciting opportunity that we plan for each time: the chance to intentionally alter our lifestyle for the better. Since our previously established routines and habits have been blown to smithereens by over two months of travel, it’s a prime chance to intentionally rearrange them as they start falling back into place, before they re-solidify. When your habits and routines have all been uprooted, it’s a chance to plant different ones.

Every time we come back to China, we end up living better than we had before. When we have about a week to go in North America we start thinking and talking about what we can improve, physically, psychologically, and relationally (I’d say “spiritually” but in my opinion it’s all spiritual one way or another), and keep adjusting it for the first few weeks we’re back.

Here’s some of the things we did this time, after returning to Qingdao a month ago on September 8:

  • Healthier eating: Mostly thanks to recommendations from my health-coach sister (not the product-pushing American-style health coach; the holistic, integrative kind), we tweaked our family’s diet, again.
  • Enhanced workout routine: I soaked up all the advice and info I could from my brother who’s a black belt in multiple martial arts and does judo and jujitsu training, and friends who do hardcore circuit training and strength training, and now my workout routine is more effective and time-saving.
  • Smarter family routines: Sometimes there really are engineering solutions to behaviour problems. Turns out you can avoid some common points of conflict just by adjusting meal/washing/clean up routines and staying on top of them. We talked it over from the vantage point of being outside our life here, and managed to identify and eliminate a couple of the kids’ daily opportunities for whining and noncompliance.
  • Smarter Chinese study routine: One way to get out of a study rut is to not study for two months. The last routine got me through the HSK5, but it didn’t feel good. I’m not going back to what I was doing, and instead have started a simple, doable, but more effective study routine that targets my weaker language areas and begins preparing me for the HSK6.
  • Long-neglected home repairs: For a very brief period of time after leaving the cleanliness and convenience of Canada, my tolerance levels are lower, and that means stuff gets fixed (gotta strike while the iron is hot, you know?), like the water barrier on our bathroom floor that keeps the shower water in the shower, the smoke fan in the kitchen, and the exhaust fan in the bathroom. I also thoroughly cleaned the DIY air purifiers, vacuumed, mopped and dusted the whole apartment and cleaned all the mold that had grown over the summer. And replaced all the dead houseplants with better ones. This would never happen in Month 2.
  • Healthier personal practices: I had personal practices before — what people usually call ‘spiritual’ practices — and those continue. But now I’ve also begun other ones. These are the kinds of things that intentionally set the direction and shape you’re going to grow in — the kind of person you’re going to become. Time will tell how far I’m able to grow into them. (Step 1 in becoming legit spiritual is Get Enough Sleep. We have an infant. I’m working on it…). But being captivated by a liberating, positive, all-encompassing vision is unlike anything else, even when Kid #3 is making you tired. (I’m happy to share details. Spoiler: Jesus.)

The end result is: our life is on a slightly better trajectory now than it was before we left for the summer. And it was the same deal after we returned from the summer two years ago. It makes us excited for where the next few semester will take us.

When the Communist government wants the People to have faith

Like English, the Chinese word for “faith” or “belief” (信仰) doesn’t necessarily have spiritual,religious, or metaphysical meaning. I most often encounter this word in two ways. First, from random men like taxi drivers and people on the bus who give a thumbs up and say, “Religious belief is good!” in response to finding out what I think about certain things. They almost always don’t have any 信仰 themselves, but nonetheless have the general impression that believing in some religion – whatever religion – is a good thing.

The second way I often see this word is on the propaganda posters like the one above, which increasingly saturate public spaces from sidewalk vendors’ booths to hospital waiting rooms:

社会主义核心价值观
Socialism Core Values
人民信仰国家力量
When the People have belief, then the nation has strength.

The Core Values get laid out in three categories: *国家 Nation, **社会 Society, ***公民 Citizens:

*富强民主文明和谐
Prosperity, Democracy, Civilizedness, Harmony;
**自由平等公正法治
Freedom, Equality, Justice, Rule by law;
***爱国敬业诚信友善.
Patriotism, Dedication to one’s work, Integrity, Friendliness.

Although using 信仰 this was might not be an explicitly religious reference, it does seem that the government sees its package of traditional Chinese culture, ethics (most emphasized: filial piety) and patriotism as direct competition for the spot formal or informal religions/ideologies/worldviews (including “Western values”) would occupy in the hearts and lives of the People.

In a similar but more eye-popping line of posters, the Chinese literally reads: “[Insert Core Value here] is a belief.” To read more about how the government uses “belief/faith” you can click that link, and also see Joann Pittman’s, In Democracy We Trust..

Songs about Qingdao! 青岛小嫚 by MC沙洲 & 爱青岛 by The Qingdao Allstars

Somehow we discovered MC沙洲, a local Qingdao hip-hop artist who has songs like 美丽青岛, IN青岛, 青岛MC青岛的夏天 and 青岛小嫚, all of which feature a heavy dose of Qingdaonese。

He also has a cameo in 爱青岛 by The Qingdao Allstars, in which a bunch of foreigners sing about Qingdao in English, Chinese and Qingdaonese (so I guess we’ll call that Qinglish?). Videos and lyrics for 青岛小嫚 and 爱青岛 below. Favourite lyric:

You’re my clam, I’m your hot pepper
Stir-fried together then it’s Qingdao flavour

你是我的蛤蜊 我是你的辣椒
放在一块儿炒才是青岛的味道

《青岛小嫚》
她是个青岛小嫚 动不动就生气 不愿意了甩了脸就走人
我站在原地还不知道怎么回事 手上拿着半个冰棍儿往下滴水
今天天气不错 该出去约会 我的青岛小嫚不弱 她是个辣妹
她最喜欢吃的就是路边小吃 最喜欢干的事儿就是没事找事儿
但是我不冲她发火 她比个男的有劲儿 还老穿个小裙子化装淑女
有的时候她也会温柔似水 那说明她饿了想让我喂她吃食 Oh
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
打个啵 (Mua)
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
一块儿唱 一块儿唱
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
一块儿唱
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
她买个破拖鞋要逛到晚上九点半 还老嫌我走路慢 她一个一个看
去游乐园玩那些奇怪东西 转呐转 转的我都头晕 她还不算完
有好好座不坐她让我买个摇篮 每天吃那么多饭也不怕坐断
白天上班的时候装的那么能干 下班回家就往床上钻 也不做饭
怎么那么懒 怎么她妈也不管 怎么她就成了我的心肝 我的陪伴
见不着我想她 见着我又烦 本来有个好灵感都让她搅乱

不唱我爱台妹我唱我爱青岛小嫚 爱她漂亮的大长腿和她说话口音
不化妆就出门 不愿意就打人 说她是个女屌丝她还那么恣儿
我唱歌那么好 她就跑调 去洗海澡她游我就狗刨
一个汉堡我吃饱她还得要 想去哪都问我我不认识道
你是我的蛤蜊 我是你的辣椒 放在一块儿炒才是青岛的味道
爱这里就要爱这里嫚 爱就要爱我的青岛小嫚

《爱青岛》
Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

come on every one
lets drink some fun
party all night
cheering the morning sun
spring skipping alright
waiting for the summer
fell back to sleep
cuz the winter is a bummer
ya need to be reminded
that your city is beautiful?
walk slow, watch her sunsets grow
lighting up the clouds like a rubies glow
drink your fill don’t spill your drink doh

请你开你的口
举起酒杯
先听李清say
Go with the flow
时间飞
废话甭说任何的时候
醉月如梭

像水流,no不是,像啤酒
哥们儿和朋友
饮一杯酒
不知不觉时间就被偷
喝多了
喝high了
看这个小妹儿穿得那么fly的
哦surprise了
中美关系好起来啦
希望青啤的新产品是苹果cider(赛达?)
小哥小心不要喝得那么快嘛

Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

我们来自青岛
我们热爱青岛
我们从来不在大街上尿尿
这是蛤蜊的调 这是小村庄的调
用我四方的口音唱个吆吆切可闹
我从来没去过 new york
我就去过胜利桥
跟我伙计们子吃个烧烤
我们看上去很屌 其实很表 哈大了酒就回家睡觉

我第一次到青岛(was love at first sight)
这个地方这么好
有山有海
(She be my cup of tea, I mean…)
它就是我的菜
还有青岛的扎啤就是我的最爱

外国的老巴子
听我嘻哈说一下
我想教你们
一点青岛话
牡蛎是海蛎子
蛤蜊是gala
烤肉是烤you
还有喝是哈

有蓝天碧海 红瓦和绿树
有喝的有吃的还有看的cool
你白恶银了你快白叨叨了
没见过老外说青岛话
太搞笑了

(I’m almost all out, but I got a couple more words-
They’re only for the cool kids, and not for the nerds)
叫哥们小哥,叫姐们小嫚
(And) 过来是个来 (let’s drink a BERR)

Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

Comrade Papa

At least they don’t actually call him “Big Brother.”

comrade_papa_xi
“Staunchly unite around Comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the Central Party Committee. Unceasingly initiate fresh progress in the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
坚定团结在以习近平同志核心的党中央周围,不断开创中国特色社会主义事业新局面
(They call him “Papa Xi” 大大.)