Snickers for Confucius, juice box for Buddha

Wandered around Qingdao’s Licun Park 李村公园 for the first time on the afternoon of the Lantern Festival 元宵 just to see what there was to see. Turns out they have a temple to Confucius, which also accommodates Daoist and Buddhist deities and a pagoda you can climb up for the view. I thought the offerings in the temple were curious.


The incense sticks say, “All things according to one’s wishes” 万事如意 and “Certainly grant what is requested” 有求必应


The sign between Confucius’ (孔子) knees says, “Seat of the most sacred master Confucius” 孔子。The offering box behind the cushion says, “Merits and Virtues Box” 功德箱


Surely there’s a “Confucius say…” joke to be made involving that Snickers bar…


Laughing Buddha 布袋/笑佛 and Guanyin 观音 (on Confucius’ left) were faring much better than the God of Wealth 财神, who was over on Confucius’ other side.


Yay juice box! (Technically: a blueberry yogurt drink.)


There’s also a pagoda.


Chinese mythological beasts, which I can never keep straight, maintain watch over the solar water heaters of the apartments below.

“Special”

This scene at the Temple of the Empress of Heaven 天后 (aka 妈祖) this weekend reminded me that, in China, we’re “special”, and that being special in China is a mixed bag:


(Click to view larger image.).

The picture doesn’t do the scene justice; there were a lot more people around before I managed to get the camera up and clicking. Similar but better pictures from Tianjin are here:

Foreigners are “special” in China, and they tend to both love and hate it. One the one hand, what’s not to love about being special? We get preferential treatment. We’re always the guests. Our mistakes are more easily excused. Supply-and-demand means we have multiple times more leverage than our Chinese coworkers and our salaries and other aspects of compensation reflect it. Guys who rank 2 out of 10 in their home country can find girlfriends with minimal effort. You walk down the street and literally turn heads because you’re special.

On the other hand, there’s the constant “othering” — the staring, the photos, the zoo animal feeling, the “hellooo!”s and “laowai!”s, the invasion of personal space and boundaries, the realization that you aren’t respected but rather just interesting or useful, the daily distancing and reminders that “you’re not one of us and don’t really belong here.”

Foreigners routinely gripe about the negatives while enjoying the positives. It’s a mixed bag that most of us have never faced before coming here, and it’s already on you and affecting you before you’re even aware. Add to that the culture stress (or shock) cycles that everyone experiences, and it can be an emotionally volatile mix. And having foreign children amplifies everything by 10.

Other than being more alert than I used to be (because we have kids now and not all attention is friendly or benign), I mostly just smile and wave and be friendly, even if people are crossing my culture’s personal space boundaries. We tell our oldest daughter she doesn’t have to let people take her picture if she doesn’t want them to, or talk to anyone she doesn’t want to, and we run interference for her if that’s what she wants, while trying to give her a gracious, friendly example. The vast majority of the time, in my experience, foreigners make a much bigger deal of it than it really is.

But then again, I don’t have bright blond long hair. Our friend Shannon (who does have long blond hair) moved back to the U.S. after 3.5 years and wrote “Hero to Zero” about her cultural re-entry stress experience in which she discovered that, in America, she isn’t special anymore.

Unwanted attention can be difficult to handle, positive or not. But as difficult as it can be at the time, all things considered, it’s a small price to pay for existing as the economically privileged minority on this globe. Plus, a lot of the associated stress foreigners bring on themselves. But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to bat people’s fingers out of my kids’ mouths on the Beijing subway. ;)

[Photo Gallery:] Qingdao’s Temple of the Empress of Heaven 天后宫, Spring Festival 2013

Went looking online for something in Qingdao similar to Beijing’s Spring Festival temple fairs. Yesterday we ended up at the Temple of the Empress of Heaven 天后 on 太平。 It’s not the same kind of thing as the temple fair we experienced in Beijing’s Ditan Park, but it was interesting.

If I’d had the time (we had two little ones with us and their clocks were ticking), I would have loved to talk with some of the red-coated employees who were instructing people how to offer their incense. I thought it was interesting that the majority of people we observed who were offering incense didn’t actually know how to do it and needed directions. I’d love to find out more about what kind of beliefs they have and why, and how similar it is to what we occasionally find in taxis. How people decide their opinions interests me in general.

Anyway, click a thumbnail to begin.

According to taxi drivers the real action is at the Haiyun nunnery on the Lantern Festival 元宵。 They apparently have a candy festival (Google image search this: 海云庵 糖球会) — hopefully we can hit it. One guy compared the scene to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Not looking forward to huge crowds, but something festive would be fun with friends.

Related Photo Galleries:

The Great Chinese Airpocalypse of Jan. 2013

(I insist you play this song while viewing this post.)


Our super-fast train back to Qingdao slithers out of the white muck
at the Tianjin South Station on Monday around 2pm.

One of the reasons we left Tianjin for Qingdao was the air pollution. It’s not that Qingdao’s air is good — it’s just not as apocalyptic (though labeling 175 “lightly polluted” is borderline Orwellian).

But in a curious and unhealthy twist of fate, we were visiting friends in Tianjin (30min fast train ride from Beijing) on the weekend of China’s recent Airpocalypse, when the API clocked in at 755 in the Capitol. Previously the API always just maxed out at 500: “Beyond Index”.

On a bad pollution day in Qingdao (API in the 300s) the mountains in the distance are gone. On a bad day in Tianjin, the building across the street looks hazy and the ones down the road gone. API 300 is horrid by North American standards; they’d be canceling outdoor events. But it doesn’t necessarily elicit comments in China, even though you can see it out your window, smell it immediately when you open your door, and, if you spend any time outside, feel it in your throat. The worst we’ve seen so far in Qingdao is mid-400s.

Over 500, however, is just… dystopic. Here’s a shot I took from a Tianjin parking lot during the airpocalypse, around noon:

And here’s a regional API screenshot from the China Air Pollution app:

We’ve done plenty of crying on the blog about the air pollution in China, and the result is a handy collection of links, organized by topic below. My favourites in bold.

Extracting honest numbers from the Chinese government:

Photos & Visuals:

Chinese Air Pollution & Your Health:

The ChinaHopeLive.net 2011 China photo gallery is up!

Click any of the photos below to see the best of our 2011 China photos. Most were taken in Tianjin, but a few are from Qingdao/Huangdao and Guangzhou.

People, places, food, “food”, Chinglish, traditions, festivals, social issues… basically we took photos of anything we thought looked or represented something interesting.

Captions in the photo gallery provide info and links.

You can browse a list of all our photo galleries in the sidebar of any photo gallery page.

And here’s some beer-in-a-bag… Merry Christmas!