Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Holiday for You!

It sounded like an article from The Onion, but its writers would've added some amusing fake quotes. China Daily reported that some universities are postponing the October national holiday because of fears of H1N1 on campus. The universities, which were not named, will supposedly extend the already long Spring Festival holiday.

The logic behind this decision stems from students already contracting H1N1, and fears that if they go away for the week-long holiday more students will be infected. But, wouldn't more students become infected if they stay on campus? Wouldn't the universities be better off if they sent all the students home for a week and disinfected the dorms and classrooms?

I also wonder how many students already bought their train and bus tickets home only to have the university tell them that they can't go.

Friday, September 25, 2009

National Day Approaches

I was reminded by friends in China that the national holiday is approaching (most people get a week off). During my first national holiday, which happened to be during my second year because I arrived in China just after the holiday in 2005, Jia and I traveled to Zhaoqing--a three-hour bus ride from Shenzhen that felt a lot longer because the bus was in poor shape, there was a lot of traffic, and there was no toilet on the bus (something I expected because there's one on the shorter trip to Guangzhou, which meant I drank too much coffee prior to boarding the bus).

Other than the bus, Zhaoqing was an enjoyable trip. A large part of our time was spent at Dinghu Park, which was much less crowded than other tourist sites during the holidays. While not the most picturesque park in China, it is still quite beautiful (especially when there are fewer people). Unfortunately, it was also extremely hot and humid--it would be better to visit around December.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

If Palin Speaks... Hong Kong and reporters are supposedly barred from the event, does anyone hear it? Apparently, people do hear it. Worse, the quotes might not be accurate because there's no transcript and no reporters were present. And poor Sarah still sounds naive and incompetent on an international stage.

I'm still wondering why she was chosen to speak at an international investors conference in Hong Kong. Does she have any real knowledge of investing or Asia?

There are quite a few stories online about her speech:

From Time: She "expressed a conviction that the U.S. could help steer Beijing toward democracy." And, "according to many delegates, Palin's home state of Alaska dominated the talk." The last paragraph of the article makes a point of how little the Hong Kong press cares about Palin.

Some excerpts from her speech can be found on the Wall Street Journal blog (mentions of China are toward the bottom).

Of course, as of today, there is no mention of this speech in China Daily. I think we should adopt a similar approach to Palin--just ignore her.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Autumn Welcome

It's officially autumn. Jia reminded me that the Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching and we should do something (my parents think we should go to Chinatown for a festival dinner). We mentioned this at dinner the other night and my brother mentioned he's never eaten a moon rock cake. The next day, Jia and I headed over to the Asian market for some supplies and found a large selection of moon cakes. I decided to be generous and buy a small box for the family.

I haven't kept it a secret that I don't like moon cakes--I think they're too sweet and feel like a brick in my stomach, but I'm willing to eat one every year. This box that we found was made in the US (I can't believe anything is made in the US anymore) and had three varieties: lotus, red bean, and date. Jia says that these moon cakes taste better than the ones we had in Shenzhen, and I have to agree (they don't feel like a brick in my stomach). I definitely think these are better because they're about half the size of the ones we usually got in China.

We still have a few left from the dinner and plan on saving them for the actually Mid-Autumn Festival.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I was perusing Shenzhen Daily and came across a harsh reminder of the worst statistics of China--and it doesn't involve the environment. A sophomore at Shenzhen University committed suicide. Worse than just that single university student is the mention that two younger students committed suicide in Shenzhen in the past week--they were only 12 and 14 years old.

This subject has been discussed by colleagues and expats on forums for the last few years (that I've paid attention to). I've heard many stories of teachers who have taught students who committed suicide. I've been fortunate enough that all of my students were accounted for throughout the time I taught.

The statistics aren't good for China. According to the WHO the suicide rate in 2003 was 13 per 100,000 for men and 14.8 per 100,000 for women. This does not include Hong Kong, which also has a high suicide rate. Only Lithuania and Sri Lanka had a higher rate for women. An article on Asiaone from year ago claims that China has between 250,000 and 300,000 suicides per year.

I've heard a lot of talk about improving mental health services around the country, but I haven't seen any evidence. I hope stories like this force the government to put money into mental health services for everyone in China.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Southern Tastes

Last weekend was Jia's birthday--her first since moving to the US. Planning her birthday dinner was more difficult than I thought it would be as we're not familiar with the better restaurants in the area yet. I did manage to find online listings that were helpful. After some browsing, I decided we should check out Cucharamama in Hoboken.

This South American restaurant is off the main street through Hoboken, which makes it a bit quieter, but not necessarily less crowded. When we sat down around 6:30 there were only a few other patrons--it was nearly full when we left. The warm decor is inviting and adds to the soothing atmosphere. I was slightly worried after reading a few reviews that said the service was poor, but we found no evidence of this during our dining experience--the waitstaff was friendly and quick.

Rather than choose the main courses for each of us, we chose only two and ordered a variety of tapas to share. We ordered choritos (mussels) en salsa cuzquena, Argentinian chorizo, empanadas with onion and blue cheese, Chilean beef and chicken potpie, Bolivian-style braised beef, and Colombian rice with cheese. Everything was wonderful--and there was plenty more on the menu that we could've ordered.

The flavors of some of the dishes were difficult to describe as I've never had anything quite like it--the combinations didn't sound appealing, but worked beautifully together on the spoon. The raisins added a great sweet quality to the potpie. My least favorite of the dishes was the choritos, which had a great sauce (I'm just not that big a fan of mussels).

Cucharamama also has an interesting drink menu with South American liqueurs. I went with an Argentinian beer that didn't taste much different than Tsingtao. If I enjoyed mixed drinks more, I would've ordered something else.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pagodas on a Lake

There were quite a few beautiful sights around Guilin and Yangshuo, most of which are natural. One of the few non-nature sights we were shown by our Red Army guide was the pagodas at Banyan Lake. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to go into the pagodas--we had to settle for taking photos from a single location across the lake.

The only more impressive pagoda I've seen in China was the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, which was not as ornate as these in Guilin. I just realized I haven't posted any photos of the pagoda in Xi'an, so I will be sure to post a story or two soon. Until then, enjoy the pagodas at Banyan Lake in Guilin.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Moved in

Jia and I are fully moved into our new home. We even have a comfortable bed for the first time in four years.

As a follow up to the previous post about PSE&G, one of their employees did come to the apartment last Thursday. He didn't need to show up because the electricity and gas were on--the property management company even told us that PSE&G didn't know what they were talking about because they had been paying the bills while the apartment was empty. I didn't call to cancel the appointment because I didn't feel like waiting on hold for another hour. When the PSE&G employee showed up I told him what happened, and he wasn't at all surprised. He checked the meters anyway.

Somehow Comcast has improved its customer service--any problems I've had since getting set up were answered quickly. The only major problem is that they decided to change their sports package, which meant we couldn't watch the first Penn State game of the season at my brother's house--instead we had to go to the bar.