Tag Archives: Hangzhou

Guest post – I’m ready to move to China* – part 2

14 Jan

*except for that whole “speaking Mandarin” thing

I am pleased to announce that I’m starting the year off with something new on the blog.  My good friend and cousin, Matt came to visit me mid-October and before he left I gave him the idea of doing a guest post.  This is the second segment of the three.  To read segment one with his observations, click here.

Apparently the Chinese Internet Censors are asleep at the switch, because I’m back in the blogosphere! You didn’t think I’d spend over a week in China and only have seven recordable observations, did you? Much thanks to my hostess for allowing me continue my rambling, incoherent jumble of thoughts that I insist is a narrative!

Without further ado, here are some more of my Chinese observations:

  • G and I got foot massages together. I don’t get massages often (or, um, really ever) but I gather that the concept of Chinese massage is sort of a test of endurance. I spent my time straddling the line between relaxation and bearable pain. She taught me “ching e dian” (轻一点lighter) and “jong e dian” (重一点harder). I said “harder” once, held on as long as I could, and then asked for “softer.” Upon leaving, I felt like I had survived, rather than relaxed.  That said, I would definitely go back again (and did, near the end of my visit).
  • Massage sidebar: both of our masseuses agreed that my size 15 feet were the largest they’d ever seen.  My feet barely fit in the pre-massage hot water bucket.  I do like to leave an impression on people!
  • The Shanghai subway system is very easy to learn. Having English signs is a boon, of course, but what really helps are the large arrows on the floor showing where to go to reach your desired train line. I also marvel at the temporary blockades they put up to better control the flow of foot traffic during rush hour. One complaint: you need to know which exit gate to go through, because there’s no second chance. More than once I left through the wrong set of gates, and ended up being forced to go back to street-level from an exit across the street from where I wanted to be.
  • Whether you’re in the shops around Yu Yuan Gardens, or Tiantong Rd., or just off Xizang Rd near Zizhong Rd, or the famed Night Market in Hangzhou, one observation holds true: you’re gonna see a lot of stalls selling the same stuff.  There’ll be differences in types of merchandise from location to location, but within any particular center you’ll find three or four shops selling the same items.  I guess if you’ve got time and can haggle respectably, that means there are deals to be had. If you’re me, it means making a purchase at one shop, then finding a vendor four stalls down offering you the same item for 20 RMB less as a starting offer.  Hmph.
Many stalls around Yu Yuan

Many stalls around Yu Yuan

  • During our first afternoon in Hangzhou, Greta and I ambled down to the West Lake waterfront. Coincidentally we arrived near the water’s edge roughly a minute before a water fountain show was to begin! Some people had arrived early to get available seating for the “Music Fountain,” but we were able to walk up to the first row of “standing room.” The actual show was impressive: a line of rotatable water spouts (plus a circle of spouts to each side) that “danced” in tune with the music being played over loudspeakers. There were three or four songs in total, and the whole spectacle lasted about 15 minutes.
The fountain at work

The fountain at work

I repeatedly came back to two thoughts: what kind of effort went into programming all of those nozzles to perform such elaborate routines, and how much mechanical upkeep is necessary to keep the show running in top condition year round? (Remember, I AM an engineer!) That second thought came from watching one poor spigot without enough water pressure flailing helplessly at the lake’s surface between its functioning brothers.

Hazy view of the fountain

Hazy view of the fountain

  • One of my better accomplishments in China was during our second night in Hangzhou. After parting ways, I wandered back down to the Night Market and successfully pantomimed my way into ordering a delicious grilled squid from one of the many sidewalk food vendors.  The key moments were pointing at the squid, holding up one finger, and mumbling “yi ge.” Baby steps, people!
  • The smaller the diameter of tapioca ball in your milk tea, the longer it takes to finish that tea.
Lingyin Temple

Lingyin Temple

  • The Lingyin temple compound is quite impressive, but it probably spoiled me. Later in the week I visited the Longhua Temple, and found it to be interesting, but underwhelming by comparison. If I was better versed in Buddhism, perhaps I would be able to pick up on the nuances of each temple (and each chamber within the temple). Alas, at this time I can only appreciate them from an artistic (and sometimes architectural) perspective.
Rear of Lingyin Temple

Rear of Lingyin Temple

  • When we got back from Hangzhou, we showed Li our videos of the “Music Fountain.” We wanted to know if he recognized the song being used. Li did not recognize it; he surmised it was some generic composition that Americans tourists would think “sounded Chinese.” He’s probably right.
  • English translations on Chinese restaurant menus can be head-scratchingly hilarious. G and I ate at Yun Se Restaurant in Shanghai, where she spent a lot of time comparing the accuracy of the Chinese names to their English equivalents. Mind you, the food she DID order was delicious, but here are some other options (as seen on the menu): Pepper beer, Basin of hypodermal, Burn the pig feet, Hairtail, The non general perch, and of course, Donald Duck. Bon appetit!

We’ve reached the end of another guest segment. Make sure you stay tuned next week for the final segment. Thank you again for allowing me to write! And thanks to you, the viewer, for boosting both the page views and my own ego. Until next time!

Any engineers out there who want to comment on the pressure in the fountain?  What types of details do you pay attention to when traveling?  Share your thoughts!

A mandarin milestone – traveling and translating

20 Oct

I have been lucky to have had a visitor in town for the last week or so.  Each visitor is a gift – I know that crossing the pond is a big thing and I do everything I can to try to make the trip memorable.

This time, as I have been blessed with some free time I took my guest out of Shanghai to Hangzhou during the middle of the week.  I haven’t had that opportunity for a couple of years as most guests have been in the city while I’ve been working so I can only grab a day or two to  spend with them.

Going to Hangzhou was a revelation – not only because it is a beautiful place but because how I communicated during the trip.

Because my friend doesn’t speak any Chinese – I was on my own in terms of setting the plan, asking questions, ordering food, etc.  I wasn’t with a group of colleagues who let me follow along and I wasn’t with my husband who typically plans our travels within China.  If I didn’t get it right – we weren’t doing it.

I rocked it.

We ate at restaurants where the only menus were listed on the wall.  We successfully navigated the Hangzhou bus system – three times – with me looking at the bus diagrams in characters, choosing the right bus and getting us off at the right stop.  I bargained for gifts and I even chewed out a taxi driver who just didn’t want to take foreigners because they were “too much trouble.”

What I found really interesting was that even outside of my “comfort zone” in Shanghai, I was still able to function – people understood me and helped me and I finally asked questions to make sure things were right.  Sometimes having a guest makes you fearless.  For yourself you can accept certain elements of discomfort – but for your guest – no way!

Over the years I have noticed that this time of year – autumn – tends to be the time when I notice a significant change in my Chinese ability.  I remember my first phone call, my first meeting where I “got it” – my first presentation to a big group in mandarin.  All of those were milestones at the time.  This one was unexpected and very validating.

Have you had a language milestone recently?  Have you ever had others dependent on your translation ability?  It can be stressful – or it can be a gift.  This time, it was a gift.

To read about past mandarin milestones I have had, try the posts below:

Mandarin Milestones

Another Mandarin Milestone

Another Mandarin Milestone (2)

Finding peace in Hangzhou

5 Sep
View from my balcony

View from my balcony

This is the third week in a row I have had a long road trip to a second tier city for work.  Two weeks ago it was Yangzhou, last week Changshu and this week Hangzhou.    Hangzhou was an overnight stay and to tell you the truth, not something I was really looking forward to.

Shame on me!  It was an incredible experience and just what I needed to get out of my funk.

The hotel and conference center was enormous in the Qixi wetland park resort.  Each room had a balcony overlooking water and bamboo.  There was even a comfortable sofa outside with a place to put up my feet.

Cleverly the conference organizers allocated enough time at lunch to go back to my room and rest.  I curled up on the sofa and let the peacefulness wash over me.  Nothing disturbed the quiet save an occasional bird.  It was wonderful.

At peace

At peace

I think that is the amazing part of China – even a business trip can turn into a mini-respite as long as I have eyes to see.

Before we left the hotel gave each guest a box of moon cakes.  I haven’t opened mine yet, but it seems an appropriate gift.  I could see myself returning to take a walk under the full moon and enjoy the autumn weather.

How do you celebrate fall?  Where is your escape?  Have you ever found peace in an unexpected place?

Travel theme: Signs

16 Aug

Last week my post on leading lines got lots of comments and when I saw this week’s theme at Where’s my Backpack? I knew that I would have to join up again.  The theme is signs.

Living in China I have the opportunity to see all kinds of signs that I typically wouldn’t see at home.  The ones I find the most amusing are the signs where the English translation either makes me shake my head or is entirely misleading.  I went through my pictures from the last couple of years to pull together these four signs that continue to make me laugh each time I look.

There’s a lot to be said for a good peer reviewer!  Sometimes I think that if the corporate world becomes too much, I should just charge for proof reading services.  Given these examples – I think there’s a market.

In chronological order:

Export what?

This photo was taken in October of 2010 in Hangzhou, a day trip from Shanghai. It is a major tourist destination for foreigners and Chinese alike with the most famous attraction being the peaceful and serene West Lake.  The Chinese on the sign very clearly says Exit (出口) but somehow the English turned into Export.  Actually 出口 has two meanings in Chinese, one of which is Export, but that doesn’t make any sense here.

So I can litter as long as it doesn’t kill anyone?

This photo was taken during my team outing in June 2011 to Zhangjiajie, Hunan province and was posted on the window/balcony of my hotel room which was on a higher floor.  I know the intent was more of don’t throw things off of the balcony, but this translation doesn’t really capture that.  In Zhangjiajie’s defense – it is an up and coming tourist site made much more popular after the movie Avatar and when we went there were more Korean tourists than other western faces.  On that note though – the sign above has no Korean translation.

I am way too tall!

Taken on a weekend trip to Shenzhen in November 2011, we were touring a large Russian air craft carrier which is permanently docked in the bay.  From the photo you can see that it is not likely that I will be seeking employment on a submarine any time soon, but the sign really made me crack up.

The Chinese stated there is very, very common (当心碰头)and can be found in every single subway station and above most escalators where there is an overhang.  I’d translate it as “Careful of hitting your head” or “Watch your head” so the “Beware…” added an extra smile to my face.  When is the last time you saw the world “Beware” in an English speaking country?

I still don’t understand this one – the English really doesn’t make sense

My final contribution was taken this past June and is in Sheshan, on the outskirts of Shanghai, where there is an observatory and Shanghai’s oldest Catholic church.  From the picture it looks like this is a place to throw rubbish, but the Chinese is – please don’t litter here.  It’s another variation on my “killer littering” above, except even less clear.  I don’t know how a foreigner is supposed to interpret this, but it definitely made my day!

Which sign is your favorite?

If you’d like to see other people’s interpretations of the travel theme, please click on the Where’s My Backpack link at the beginning of the post.

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