Maria Holland

[Insert Title Here]

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2010 at 1:40 am

My breakfast today – a bowl full of strawberries and three bananas – cost 50 cents.  Have I mentioned loving fruit (and their prices) here in China?  I tried a new fruit today – the small mangos – and was reasonably impressed, but I think the discovery of a kumquat vendor right next to the malatang soup place was more exciting.  Polished off a pound of those today . . . Katrine also tried a new fruit (heard of the custard apple, anyone?) which was good, but also randomly ridiculously expensive – one of them cost nearly $4.

I went to lunch at the malatang soup place with some friends, those who made it out of bed before our 2 o’clock date.  I thought me and my friends back home (okay, mainly me) could be pretty lazy, but I have never seen people like my friends here.  I think the only times I’ve slept past noon were times when I was really sick, but here it is not unusual at all.  Part of it may be the drinking . . . Growing up in America, I was always led to believe that we drink irresponsibly as a function of the high drinking age, but based on my experience living in China with a bunch of foreigners I would like to say that is utter bull.  Maybe Europeans grow up sipping a glass of wine with dinner, but once they’re my age, they drink like fishes.  Maybe it’s something about people who choose to come to China, maybe it’s something about China (goodness knows I sometimes try to drown my frustrations in a glass of milk tea), but it is definitely something.  I’ve heard more stories of hangovers, throwing up in inappropriate places, bruises one can’t remember, and incriminating photos here than I ever did in America. 

I live between Muslim families.  There is absolutely no sense of community in NanGuangWu (my dorm) so I barely even notice (other than to wonder how whole families live in rooms this size).  But since I’ve been home, I’ve been noticing.  I think the kids are on break from school, and they’re quite loud; their favorite game seems to be Bang the Headboard Against the Wall.  Also, the men pray throughout the day.  Several times every day, I hear chanting in an unfamiliar language, so at least I assume they’re praying.  It doesn’t bother me, and it helped me feel okay about starting to chant the Salve Regina before I go to bed.  At least I don’t bang the headboard against the wall!

I went to church with Andrea from Romania tonight.  She’s Orthodox, but as the nearest church is in Shanghai, she comes to Catholic Mass.  When she told me she had consulted with her priest about it, I said I had too – but then I had to explain about the Chinese Patriotic Church and all because she had no idea.  There is so much misinformation about the Church in China, but this was perhaps the first time I ran into a lack of information, wrong or right.  Is this because she’s Orthodox?  European?  Just her?  I don’t know.

The Gospel today was Jesus being tempted in the desert.  No idea on the first two readings, but 1/3 is about as good as I get.  I also understood a good part of the homily because a) it was the same explanation of the significance of 40 days as every beginning-of-Lent homily, and b) it contained a lot of numbers.  Father He (visiting from Taiwan) walked us through the calculations for the dates of Easter and Lent.  In case you were wondering, Easter is the Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.  The Chinese calendar is also lunar, which I’m guessing means that this overlap between the New Year and Lent occurs annually?  Lame.

There was a woman nodding off during the homily.  Then all of a sudden she sat up straight, and I thought she had heard something something interesting and decided to pay attention.  But then she leaned to the right . . . and then I heard a farting sound . . . and then she went back to sleep.  Also, three people answered their cell phones during Mass.  Remember my first Sunday as choir director with Cell Phone Man (whose transgression was so infamous that he was named after it!) answered his phone during Mass?  Yeah, it wouldn’t even register with me anymore – much less texting.  The Venn diagram of “Actions that are permissible” and “Actions that are permissible in church” basically consists of a single circle here in China. 

Diederik invited me to dinner with the French and a new Dutch guy at 8.  I usually really hate such late dinners (darn Europeans) but tonight it was perfect.  I was happy to see Diederik, just back from the Netherlands, and went up to hug him.  It ended up being awkward, as he was expecting to exchange kisses.  I miss hugs!  Again, darn Europeans. 

We ordered hotpot cabbage, braised eggplant, cold chicken, and fish.  The waitress told us they were out of that kind of fish, so I told her to bring us whatever kind of fish they had.  She brought squid.  In what world is squid an appropriate substitute for fish?? 

Back in my room, I finished watching 花木兰, the Chinese version of the story of Mulan.  There are some differences with the Disney version.  I mean, right off the bat, they’re speaking Chinese.  Also, the songs are way less memorable; I can’t think of a single one that I would sing with my friends.  But seriously, it’s a live-action historical drama, so there’s less color, humor, and physically impossible physiques.  The story line is quite different – for example, two guys (including the love interest) find out she’s a girl in the first 10 minutes of the 100-minute movie!  She is portrayed as a natural for taking her father’s place: she actually fights (well!) and is promoted to general, from which position she leads her troops for twelve years.  I followed it pretty well, but wasn’t able to figure out the random foreigner in the Hun’s court or where the crazy sandstorm came from.  I did like the fact that the memorable lines were more moving than funny, but in the end I was disappointed with the film.  The lovers part ways!?!  That’s just crap, China; next time, add a happy ending . . . and a dragon.

I think I am more addicted to Google Reader than to any other site.  It’s where I catch the news, read friends’ blogs, and get some laughs. is a classic, 1000 Awesome Things makes my heart glow most days, but I don’t know that anything can top The Onion.  Almost every headline makes me laugh out loud – before even reading the article – which is good, because I have to use my proxy and sometimes the Great Firewall figures out that I’m not actually in San Francisco.  Examples:

  • Sports: Construction Restricts Daytona 500 Traffic to One Lane
  • Ford Recalls 2010 Mustang For Being Too Cool
  • NASA Scientists Plan to Approach Girl By 2018
  • Family Concerned After Aging TV Show Has Another Terrible Episode
  • Hometown Boy Makes Good Enough
  • Miss Teen U.S.A. Declares Herself Miss Teen U.S.A. For Life
  • Best Thing That Ever Happened to Area Man Yelling At Him About Socks
  • Sports: Saints, Colts Hoping To Resolve Super Bowl Through Diplomacy
  • Secondhand Smoke Linked to Secondhand Coolness
  • In Focus: Wal-Mart Announces Massive Rollback on Employee Wages
  • Self-Defense Tips That Will Only Make Him Angrier
  • Friendship Between Caterpillar, Horse Exploited For Cheap Children’s Book
  • Make-A-Reasonable-Request Foundation Provides Sick Child With Decent Seats To Minnesota Timberwolves Game
  • Dubai Debt Crisis Halts Building of World’s Largest Indoor Mountain Range
  • Jews’ Covenant With God Is Up For Renewal

I could go on and on (in fact, I think I did), but you get the picture.  The Onion is unblocked [today] in China – celebrate by checking it out!

Usually I write a post and then look for the unifying theme to help me choose a title.  Most days, surprisingly, have unifying themes.  I’m most proud of my post “Digging Our Own Graves”, which contained an account of the self-service hot sand therapy and my thoughts on the dangerous consequences of China’s One-Child policy, but I make do most days.  Today, though – I have written, I have looked, and have not found.  Sorry. 

  1. People coming out of bed so late definitely has something to do with alcohol. Although for me today it must have been the jetlag:) I agree that most Europeans drink more than Americans, but in our defense, I do think we drink more responsible. Cause I’ve seen it a couple of times when Americans start drinking that they go completely crazy. Like the guys on the beachparty in Xiamen who force another guy who already drank more than he could handle to finish a liter of beer in a minute. Personally I’ve never seen a Dutch guy do something stupid like that, even though I’ve seen Dutch people do stupid things due to drinking. That said it’s a sad thruth that most violent crimes in Holland are alcohol related.

    Despite the awkward meeting I was also happy to see you again too. It’s interesting to read about the culture differences between Europe and the US, usually we only see one side.
    Because there where also a few differences with the Chinese in church and your muslim neighbours, I think you should have a title like: “dealing with other cultures” or something similar.

    • Yeah, I guess I’ve just discovered that no country or region has the monopoly on drinking. I know people from Europe and America who drink responsibly, and people from both places who do stupid stuff.

      See you at dinner :)

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