“Be careful of hospital scalpers”

beware_hospital_scalpers_China
“Guard against hospital scalpers.” 谨防医托

To find out what a “hospital scalper” is see this article: Scalped: At China’s creaking hospitals, illegal ticket touts defy crackdown.

Took this photo during my misadventures at a local Chinese hospital earlier this week. I wouldn’t say the place was an Orwellian nightmare, exactly, but “creaking” definitely sounds right. Didn’t notice any scalpers, but I was plenty distracted at the time.

When you dare take your week-old infant to the neighbourhood vegetable market in China

The days following a birth are up and down, so Jessica tells me. Some days it’s all, “I love my baby!!! I love my kids!!! I love my husband!!!” while on occasional days the smallest criticism can provoke tears. Jessica was feeling good and feisty today. She was also tired of sitting inside and so decided to brave our neighbourhood streetside vegetable market for the first time since giving birth — with our 9-day-old son in a Ergo carrier.

baby_in_the_marketShe knew it’d be pushing the buttons of every Chinese auntie and grannie in sight and generate non-stop commentary from the moment she stepped out the door (because she’s done it before), but she didn’t care. Besides, it’s not like she hasn’t already been accused of being an evil stepmother. ;)

Here’s what she was repeatedly criticized for during her fifteen minutes in the market:

  • being outside
  • bringing the baby outside
  • wearing short sleeves (it’s 20’C and sunny at the end of May)
  • buying tomatoes (they’re a “Cold” food, as in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory “Cold”; eating “Cold” things is exactly what post-partum women aren’t supposed to do)
  • being so thin and losing weight since the birth (how much weight exactly?)
  • being too active during pregnancy and not eating the right things (and that’s why he’s so small) (he was 3kg at birth)

She opted not to mention that we’d already been to Beijing and back for an embassy run. ;)

This is our third time to have an infant in China, so none of this is a big deal and it’s completely understandable. It’s certainly not our first time to draw a crowd with a foreign baby or receive well-intentioned-but-unsolicited-and-annoyingly-personal criticism (criticism often conveys concern or interest in China; it’s not usually meant to be mean). But it’s still kind of funny, especially because her sister-in-law is here from the States to help out — a ‘fresh’ foreigner encountering China for the first time.

Way back when we were preparing to bring our first infant to China, Australian friends who’d had their kid in China around the time ours was born in Canada sent us a list of everything we had to look forward to/brace ourselves for. It’s still funny (and full of valuable information)!

Links in this post:

market_flower

Beijing rain, sunset and morning

Three photos from our recent overnight embassy trip to Beijing. First, driving north from the Beijing South Station:
rainy_Beijing
Two photos from the 15th floor of our hotel in the embassy district:
Beijing_sunset
Beijing_morning

Chinese belly button voodoo

Took kid #2 to the local hospital because of some stubborn tummy trouble, and came home with some Chinese medicine:
bellybutton_voodoo2bellybuttonherbs
Of course herbal belly button plugs are a thing:
bellybuttonplug
I hope we’re doing this right:
bellybutton_voodoo1 According to my Weixin pengyous, we should be OK. (And to be fair, China’s not the only place that comes up with novel health remedies.)

Not in my backyard

Shǐ just got real.shijustgotrealOne of the side-effects of planting lots of trees around your building is that it attracts people looking for some token privacy. I think I can emotionally empathize with these neighbours now.

Maybe it’s like gun laws in the USA; the people who would actually heed these signs aren’t the ones making the problem. But at least acquiring them lets off a little culture stress steam. I’ll put them up, along with some “Don’t throw garbage” signs, but our real plan is to make our own sign that says something like, “If you need to use the bathroom, you’re welcome to ring Unit 101.” The culprits are workers who are temporarily in the neighbourhood on a job (construction, installation, etc.) and who literally have nowhere to go. So we don’t really hold it against them, but I’d rather not have the ground literally right outside our windows used as a bathroom (or for naptime).

Watching Chinese TV for language learning

So I’m sitting on the couch about five minutes into an episode of this one show that’s supposedly the Chinese equivalent of Friends (爱情公寓) when Jessica, who’s sitting opposite where she can hear the dialogue but can’t see the screen, suddenly says, “Hey! I know that scene! They’re totally ripping that off!” Turns out this show isn’t just a similar; it actually copied parts of the script and story from the original Friends so blatantly that Chinese viewers complained on social media and the producers apologized.

american_Friends
(So does that make it extra Chinese?)
chinese_friends

I’ve never even seen a full episode of the original Friends, but it’s really popular in China for learning English — the dialogue is simple, filled with digestible one-or-two-liners, and the canned laughter tells you how to understand the context (funny, sad, touching, etc.). That’s what we need, only in Chinese: something that’s easy to follow because it’s simple nearly to the point of stupid. We’re not aiming for challenging content; we’re aiming for lots of content. (And the reality of it is, nearly any Chinese TV show is challenging; you’ll need intermediate/upper-intermediate Chinese to even attempt to follow most mainstream Chinese media.)

In addition to Googling through the language study blogs, I asked on Weixin what TV series we should watch for language learning. Here’s what the first 26 responses suggested: 人民的民义(x8)、西游记(x3)、琅琊榜(x2)、欢乐颂(x2)、大宅门伪装者父母爱情芈月传甄嬛传三国一仆二主大头儿子,小头爸爸小别离我爱我家康熙王朝神探狄仁杰海尔弟兄

At different language levels, you need to study in different ways. I’m in the middle of revamping my study routine — much in the spirit of what Hacking Chinese describes here — and part of that is regularly consuming more Chinese content.

Are there any Chinese TV shows you’ve actually found helpful to your language study?

We haven’t picked anything to follow yet, but we’ll take a look at 欢乐颂我爱我家大头儿子,小头爸爸 and 人民的民义,along with 爸爸去哪儿?, 快乐大本营 and 爱情公寓。And for whatever we watch, we’ll also try to get our hands on the subtitle files.

Market day in Qingdao

Market days (大集) are every five days, on the lunar calendar’s 2s and 7s. If you’re going to 赶集, those are the best days.
marketday
This new location for Licunji (李村) doesn’t compare to the old one, but market day still brings out tons of people.