Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘tailor’

Some Notes On Money

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2010 at 12:22 am

I went to the tailor this morning to pick up my latest order – a qipao top custom made for me out of beautiful red embroidered silk for $16.  I was considering ordering a full-length qipao as well, but have pretty much decided not to.  It’s not so much what the tailor would charge (certainly not more than $40), but more the associated costs of transporting it home and finding shoes to wear with it.  Also, this is a sort of gamble – me betting that I’ll be back in China some day with less luggage and more occasions to wear a qipao :)


While walking back from the bus stop at West Gate, I stopped at the DVD cart and bought 松花江上.  It’s a Chinese TV show, a historical series set after the Japanese surrender concerning the Communists vs. the KMT.  I don’t know that it’s the pinnacle of Chinese television (a peak that doesn’t seem to be that high, anyway) but I watched a couple episodes with Xiao Zhang and Xiao Li so it has a special place in my heart.  I have a hard time telling apart the Japanese/Communist/KMT characters (which meant I was continually asking “Are they a good guy or a bad guy?”), but their accents are good and they’re easy to understand.  The entire show cost me $2, but when it turned out to only be on two discs instead of three, I got a refund of 70 cents.  Buying Chinese DVDs are possibly the most guilt-free purchase to make here, as they are a) incredibly cheap, b) unavailable in America, c) small and easily transportable, and d) both entertaining and educational. 


I bought tickets this afternoon to Hangzhou at the beginning of July for $130.  It’s a trip to a part of China I don’t want to go to (Shanghai), and during a week when I don’t want to be traveling (last week of classes before finals and goodbyes).  So why am I going?  A friend of mine is going to be there.  We aren’t best friends, but we went to elementary, middle, and high school together and have kept in touch sporadically since then.  I’ve probably only seen him twice since we graduated, one of those times being a chance meeting at Caribou Coffee, but I guess this is a good example of how facebook can actually be used to actually keep in touch with actual people who you actually know.  I know, right?  I saw he was taking a tour through Europe and Asia and knew that I had to try to meet up with him.  I kind of promised myself when I came to China this year that if someone I knew came to Asia (especially China), I would do my best to see them.  Hence the spur-of-the-moment trip to Guangzhou to see the family friends who came to adopt a son, the repeated postponing of my trip to Jilin, and now this.  I am really excited to see Matt and catch up, and have been moderately successful at mitigating the parts of the trip I’m not excited about.  I’ll be flying in and out of Hangzhou, completely avoiding the insanity of Shanghai and the Expo, and scheduled the trip during the week (missing class) so as to be in Xiamen for the all-important Fourth of July and last weekend. 


I also resumed searching for tickets home two weeks later – and it turns out that they all suck.  The cheapest flight available from Xiamen to Minneapolis is $1,052 but most of the cheap stuff involves 4 legs (and sometimes 4 countries) or ridiculously long times between flights.  Yes, I’d like to visit the Philippines but an 11-hour layover wasn’t what I had in mind.  The price isn’t of utmost importance as I have a scholarship to cover it, but is it too much to ask for an journey home that starts in the afternoon, lasts under 24 hours, and is preferably through either Delta or Cathay Pacific?  Apparently.  Nevertheless, it must be done – don’t worry, I firmly intend to return home. 


I took a look at my records and calculated that my 10-day trip to Jilin cost just under $500 total.  40% of that was the plane tickets, a third was food, and the remainder was other transportation.  I was so lucky to not have to pay for a place to stay!  I spent $120 treating people to dinner, but (besides that fact that this is a drop in the bucket compared with what they’ve given me) it’s still less than I would have spent otherwise – on lodging for 10 nights and for food on the occasions that they treated me to dinner!  The only disappointment (again) was that final day in Jilin, which cost $50.  That’s a tenth of the total cost, and a full third of my transportation costs, in one day!

Today’s Menu: Cookies, Mushu Pork, and Rape

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Monday – back to the daily grind.  And by “daily grind”, I mean one class in the morning followed by whatever I want to do for the rest of the day.  Basically, a weekend with a reason to get up.

After class, Aleid and I went to the tailor.  I picked up my white dress and shorts, and ordered my qipao top – $14, super excited!  Then we met up with Eunice and Katrine for lunch at 小肥羊 (Little Fat Sheep) for lunch.  It’s an a la cart hotpot place with quite good meat and some other interesting menu items:


The “selected sheep tail” and “duck blood” (not typos) looked interesting, and we all wondered what “kiss chitlins” are, but the thing that really caught our attention was “rape” – only 5 kuai!  We passed though, and still enjoyed our meal.  It was nice to get off campus and away from West Gate on a weekday for lunch, something we almost never do.

From lunch, I went to my friend Carmen’s house for baking.  It’s a little weird to have to schedule baking and travel halfway across the island to get to an oven, but this is my life in China.  I made one batch of chocolate chip cookies and one of chocolate chip banana bread, mostly destined as birthday presents.  It was good to bake again, and the fact that Carmen has an actual kitchen with actual baking supplies and materials made it so easy.  Can’t wait to get home to my kitchen . . .

It was nice to see their place, to visit a home even if it wasn’t mine.  They have an amazing view, too:


I also enjoyed talking to Carmen, who is one of the nicest people I know.  During the few hours that I was using her kitchen, she took two phone calls from people who needed help and made a soup for the woman next door.  She’s such a good model of a kindness, generosity, and all-around selflessness.

This evening, I went to dinner with Aleid.  We went to one of our usual restaurants, but ordered something new and totally struck gold.  We tried the 木须肉 (mushu pork) because it sounded familiar to me, but I’m pretty sure this was 10,000 times better than any Chinese food I’ve ever eaten in America.  It has pork, egg, carrot, cucumber, mushrooms, ginger, and amazingness.  New favorite!


PS – I added more pictures to yesterday’s post: group photos on the mountain and pictures of my new glasses!

What Part Of 马利亚 Do You Not Understand?!?

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I had a productive morning today, going out to West Gate to 办 some 事.  I dropped off photos to get developed, ordered a new pair of glasses, ate lunch in a new cafe, and bought mangos (obvi).  I also spent time fruitlessly searching for stationary.  All I want is to write a letter on paper that doesn’t look it was torn out of a notebook that I use to practice writing characters, because I tore it out of a notebook that I use to practice writing characters!  Is that too much to ask?  How I pine for the embossed note cards I have at home . . . All of this is even more upsetting because the letter-writing in my future is not something I’m looking forward to.  I leave for Jilin on the 20th and Fr. Zhao leaves for his studies a few days letter, which means my first major Chinese goodbye is rapidly approaching.  Remember how I said I needed to learn to express my feelings in Chinese?  Well, the time has come to express them, write them down, and put them in an envelope with pictures.  Sad face :(

There’s still so much Chinese I don’t know, though; this becomes more and more apparent every day.  For instance, I just recently discovered that ‘nou’ and ‘nuo’ are both valid syllables in Chinese.  Learning a new pronunciation in English (i.e., ‘word’) is not that unusual of an occurrence even for native speakers, but after a year of studying in Chinese – with its 413 possible syllables (i.e., ‘words’) – it is kind of strange to be learning a new one.  They sound funny to me – nou sounds English (just like our negative, ‘no’), and it seems like if nuo were an actual word I would have heard it before . . .

The lesson in Oral class today was about holidays.  Specifically, it was a dialogue between a son and a father about foreign holidays; the son wanted to go to a Christmas Eve ball and that dad thought it was a stupid idea.  I strongly disliked this lesson.  Granted, I’m still harboring some grudges about being told “there is no Easter in China”, but still.  The dad ripped on Valentine’s Day because the translated name (which obviously has nothing to do with a saint) contains a word that has come to mean a lover on the side.  The son said he didn’t care about where the holidays came from because he just wanted to have fun without his family.  It’s not enough that I have to watch my holidays commercialized by people back home who don’t care about their meanings, but I also have to watch them commercialized by people over here who don’t even know the origins.  And then I have to hear about it in class. 

This is kind of random, but I can finally sympathize with people whose names are always misspelled.  You Kristen’s of the world, you Lyndsey’s, you Sara(h)’s, Cathy’s, and especially you Ashleigh’s – I finally get it.  I lived 21 privileged, perfectly-spelled years as a Maria.  But now that I’m a 马利亚, the world is a much harsher place.  At every turn, I am called 玛利亚, 玛丽亚, 马丽亚, and other such variations – even by those closest to me!  Yes, I feel your pain.  But I also feel your joy when I receive a text message or email addressed to 马利亚.  I let out a sigh of relief and savor that warm fuzzy feeling in my heart, because I am known – correctly. 

Aleid and I went to the tailor this afternoon.  There were a bunch of other foreigners over there, which is good for our tailor but kind of a bummer for us, as he’s noticeably busier than when we first started going there.  Oh well.  I ordered another pair of shorts and continued scoping out just the right fabric for my qipao.  Get excited!  We had dinner at a new place on DaXueLu with the best sweet-and-sour I’ve found in China – yum!

I’m finally starting to get into QQ (China’s version of Skype/AIM).  Revelation: chatting with friends is way more fun than being creeped on by strangers.  Who knew?  I gave Yong Zhi a huge list of recommended movies, talked to the guy I kind of like, met a guy who is looking for an American to help on his thesis, and discussed my drinking habits (or lack thereof) with another friend. 

Tests, Both In and Out of the Classroom

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I wore my ‘ne-used’ pants today – the ones that I got taken in by the tailor for $3.  Before: American Eagle khakis purchased at Goodwill for $8, hems worn ragged in the intervening years.


After: straight-leg trousers with clean hems. 


Quite pleased.  I had lunch with some friends at a restaurant I hadn’t been to in a long time.  The food was good, but the conversation was better.  It started out by XuLei saying that Alaska and Las Vegas are the top dream wedding destinations in America for Chinese people?!?  This led to XuLei making a plan to go to Las Vegas to get hitched to a stranger when she’s 30 (if she’s not married by then).  It was good to see her blush after she made fun of me for the same at the gynecologist. 

I had an afternoon midterm– Listening – but it was over quickly and mainly without stress.  Then I took my books over to LunDu, where I sat by the water and enjoyed the view of the sun setting over Gulangyu as I read over class texts in preparations for tomorrow’s midterm.  It was a great idea – beautiful environment, and I even randomly ran into Yerkin over there! 

I came back to campus for dance class, where I continued learning to shake what my mother gave me but never taught me how to shake.  Haha, just kidding.  Kind of.  After class officially ended, a few people hung around to work on their routines for the upcoming dance competition.  I know, my life basically follows the script of every dance movie ever made.  Girl joins dance class without any clue, meets amazing male dancer; one day a competition is announced and because of [insert special circumstance here], they enter together; as they learn to dance together, they teach each other about their different worlds and they learn about themselves; they win dance competition and fall in love.  Only I wasn’t there the day they announced the competition and Lester asked LiXiang first.  He actually did tell me that he was going to ask me if she said no, but today I saw them dance and was flattered that he even considered me a viable backup.  Thing is, I’m not dancing-movie lead-actress material – I guess I’m the extra in this movie? 

Before class I had a conversation with another student.  He’s a law graduate student, and asked me about criminal rights in America.  When I say “conversation” here, I mean that in the absolute loosest sense of the word.  This is the second time I have realized my absolute lack of all Chinese vocabulary relating to the law besides the word “law”.  It’s hard to even work around this knowledge gap, because how can you describe a criminal if you don’t know the words for “crime”, “prison”, “trial”, or “arrested”?  I ended up using more theological language, referring to “sinners” and “really big sins”.  I remember someone writing in a blog post that fluency is best measured by how you handle ‘curveballs’ in the language – topics that you are unfamiliar with and unprepared for.  Thus, while the average Chinese person may be impressed that I know the words to the Mass or names of different dances, my facade breaks down when it comes to things like the law. 

This evening, LiuQin added me on QQ.  In case you don’t remember, LiuQin is the woman from church who drives me crazy – the one who addresses me by saying “hello, foreigner”, who gets exasperated when I don’t understand new words like “bishop” and “invade”, and who speaks insultingly slow when telling me the simplest things.  She is the language barrier, personified.  Yet, she seems to like me (enough to invest the time in mocking me?) and I’m duty-bound to forgive her teasing 70 x 7 times. 

Anyways, I’m kind of glad to interact with her online, where I have recourse to a dictionary and where our conversation is recorded verbatim.  Here’s a translation:

LiuQin: Do you know who I am, Foreigner?

Maria: Of course I know!

LiuQin: Have you decided whether or not to volunteer on May 8th [the ordination of our new bishop]?

Maria: Yes I am going to, but I still don’t know what I will be doing.

LiuQin: I really think you shouldn’t volunteer, you might not be able to get into the church.  I heard there are four sections – A is in the church, but B, C, and D will be watching on TV!
Are you listening, Foreigner?  Do you understand what I mean?

Maria: Yeah, I understand.

And so the conversation continued for a few more lines, although at least she didn’t call me Foreigner anymore.  I guess I’ll be seeing her on the 8th, which is much more of an incentive to work on my Mandarin than my midterm tomorrow . . .

Well Played

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 at 12:32 am

Aleid and I began the day at the tailor’s shop.  She had a cute dress to pick up and I had a pair of pants to drop off.  I brought him my favorite (slash only) pair of khakis in the hopes of of prolonging their lifetime.  They’re kind of old (as in, I bought them at Goodwill several years ago) but so comfortable, so I asked him to update them a little by slimming the legs down from a flare to a straight leg, and to get rid of the tattered-to-hell hem.  Three days and 20 kuai ($3) is apparently all it’s going to take to get a few more years out of these pants!

We made it back just in time for class.  Speaking class was pretty fun today because we did an activity in which students, grouped together by nationality, answered questions from other students about studying abroad in their countries.  I counted; my classmates come from 12 different countries. 

After class, I had a date with Carlos, Kristina, and Maja on the island of Catan.  We began playing outside where, after a brief rainstorm, the weather had cooled down from the afternoon’s intense heat. 


The game went well until the sprinkles started back up and we had to hurriedly move the game inside.  We reconstructed the setup based on a picture, which ended up being a lot of hassle for the remaining 8 minutes or so that it took me to win the game.

I’m not actually sure if my friends here like playing Catan, or if they are just very driven to beat me.  After winning (bringing my streak up to 5, I think), they all wanted to play again.  The second game didn’t go so much in my favor but I still managed to get up to 9 points by the time Kristina won.  Needless to say, she was happy about her first ever Catan victory!


Well played, Kristina.  你有一手.

It’s Easter Everywhere!

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 at 12:33 am

Today is Easter.  Today, April 4th 2010, is Easter everywhere in the world.  Chinese people try to tell me that there is no such thing in China but that’s just stupid.  For instance, the 4th of July will be America’s Independence Day everywhere in the world; whether or not you personally observe it is totally irrelevant to the discussion.  Also, it’s a ridiculous statement to say that “Chinese doesn’t have this holiday” because Chinese Christians, though few, DO exist and DO celebrate it! 

If someone came up to me in the States and told me “Today is Snuffelbarger day!”, I would respond, “Happy Snuffelbarger day!”, and then I would ask how this holiday is celebrated.  This is not how the Chinese approach unknown things, however.  This has been obvious in several interactions over the past few days.  I got into an argument with my taxi driver last night, for instance, when he told me that no Chinese celebrate Easter.  He refused to change his mind even after I told him that the traffic jam we just got out of was Chinese people leaving Easter Mass.  Then today, XuLei told me that the reason no one responded to my Easter greeting, 复活节快乐, was that they didn’t know what 复活节 (Easter) was.  She continued to suggest this possibility after I told her that the people I was greeting were fellow Catholics, immediately after 复活节 Mass. 

Sometimes it’s exciting to be a square peg in a world of round holes, but sometimes I miss the melting pot. 


I was awakened by a phone call in Chinese.  I think it’s up there with fire alarms and “Open up, it’s the police” on the list of Worst Ways To Be Woken Up.  But my Chinese is getting better every day, a progress I can measure every time my caller ID displays a Chinese name and my stomach sinks a little bit less.  I fell quite far from last night’s sugar high, but even sporting that massive ‘Easter hangover’ I managed the call pretty well.  Small victory for a day of great triumph :)

I had lunch with XuLei today.  We went to our favorite restaurant – the one known as the Restaurant with the Green Chairs or Aleid’s Restaurant or The Sichuan Place on Post Office Street No Not That One The One We Went To That One Time . . . basically, anything but its actual name (like anyone knows its actual name anyway).  We ordered the exact same dishes as last time; when the kungpao chicken is that good, you don’t try new dishes.  They brought the rice with the first dish, which gives us hope that if we go often enough they’ll stop bothering us with the menu and the rest of the ordering process.

As we were walking back, I got distracted by the pretty clothes on the street and ended up buying a new dress and a super cute top for 110 yuan ($16).  More importantly, though, I finally have pictures of my Easter dress, the one I got tailor-made!


This evening I went out for dinner for Sietze and Jelle, who just got back from an interesting trip to Quanzhou.  Aleid told me that it was a great trip, cementing forever her status as World’s Most Cheerful Phone Talker EvAr.  Highlights included getting their drinks spiked with Ecstasy and Sietze having his wallet, cell phone, and camera stolen.  Great, eh?  It sounds like a story that someone tells about something that happened “to a friend of mine once” as a warning to others of the dangers of Chinese bars and cheap hotels.  It really sucks for Sietze, but I did enjoy the story of one of the drunk guys asking the taxi to take them to “XiaDa, XiMen”, the West Gate of our university, a several-hour bus ride away. 

After dinner I went to buy plane tickets for a surprise trip to Guangzhou on Tuesday.  Some family friends, the Edmonds, recently came over to China to adopt a child, and are right now in Guangzhou doing the paperwork.  America is so far away and Guangzhou is so close – I just had to go over and see them.  Then once I’m in Guangzhou, Hong Kong is even closer, so I’m going to proceed across the border to see a TU friend who is currently living there on a Fulbright Scholarship.  I’m quite excited for this trip, although I’m a little bit bummed to be missing the epic Easter Octave meals I had been planning in Tulsa.  It’ll be my first time seeing pre-August 24th friends! 

Buying plane tickets in China – okay, doing most anything in China – is quite frustrating on a good day.  Today was not a good day.  Take a culture that uses cash almost exclusively, add in a small language barrier, slow internet, a holiday weekend, and a ridiculous double standard in China’s treatment of Hong Kong, and you have an instant travel nightmare.  Seriously, I’m so over China’s claims to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.  Any place that Chinese can not freely go to, that requires a separate visa, that issues a separate currency, or is considered an international destination is NOT a part of China!  When they stop checking my passport at the border, I will gladly call it Taiwan Province.  When I can book a cheap domestic flight, I’ll stop using 回国 when talking about coming back from Hong Kong.  When I can use my Chinese cell phone in Macau, I’ll ignore the obvious border between it and the mainland.  Until then, I’ll enjoy the free internet that exists in these non-Chinese locations and continue to call it like I see it. 

So, after several hours of 麻烦, we 查得很累.  (Apologies; today, more than usual, Chinese words are coming to mind and the translations all seem too awkward.  The essence is, it was incredibly frustrating and we were drained afterwards.)  We managed to buy the ticket to Guangzhou but still working on getting me back to Xiamen somehow.  There are always buses, so I’m not too worried . . .

A Woman By Any Other Name

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 at 12:31 am

I picked up my dress from the tailor today!  You have to wait until Easter for pictures, but I will say that I was quite impressed with his handiwork and will be patronizing his shop again :)

Quick story from that trip: The tailor is located on the second story of a huge fabric mall.  One of the storekeepers had quite a large open fire going in front of their shop, burning trash I think.  It was terrifying, and reminded me of the workers who would weld in the hay barn back on the farm . . .

After visiting the tailor, I had lunch with Aleid and Liz at a new restaurant.  It feels like I’ve been to every restaurant near West Gate, but it’s really just that I only notice the ones I’ve been to.  This one was . . . interesting.  Basically a manicure parlor with a hot plate out back, I think. 

This afternoon’s listening class featured a very useful text: 称呼女人真难, or Addressing Women is Really Hard.  It’s true; Chinese does not have the simple senora/senorita of Spanish or even the slightly more ambiguous Miss/Ms./Mrs. of English.  Instead, there is a staggering array of choices, each with their own connotations and applicable situations: 女生, 小妹, 小姐, 大姐, 大嫂, 姑娘, 美女, 女士, 阿姨, 太太, 大妈, 奶奶.  Sometimes 小姐 means a prostitute; 太太 can only be used if they’re married; many of the terms include family relations and are only appropriate for people you’re close to; 大妈 and 奶奶 will offend people who aren’t over 60 . . . it just goes on and on like this.  The above list doesn’t even include the gender-ambiguous terms like job titles which, while being nearly fool-proof, do tend to further complicate the situation. 

In getting ready for the events of Holy Week and the Octave of Easter, I spent some time online tracking down translations of the Regina Caeli and Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I was again struck by the serious lack of information in simplified Chinese, but at the same time there is a lot to rejoice about.  I found some amazing new resources including a nice bilingual Bible and a compilation of prayers sung in Chinese. 

Also, I recently read two articles recently that illustrate how far the cause of religious freedom has come (despite still having very far to go).  The 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Kung, one of the first Chinese cardinals, was just observed this month, and reading about his story reminds me of the suffering that Chinese Christians have gone through in their past.  How far do we have to go back in America’s history to find a martyr?  I was also really moved by the story of the first two priests to be ordained from one of India’s minority populations, who are now able to serve their people in their own language. 

Where Are You Going? Have You Eaten?

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2010 at 1:20 am

I feel so official.  Not only do I have a Chinese bank account (complete with ATM card and little bank account ledge), but today I signed up for online banking.  It was surprisingly easy and came with a super-cool, high-security security keychain!  Every time I log on I have to enter my username, PIN, and the ever-changing security code from the keychain.  I’m basically like a secret agent or something.  In reality, though, the security gained by this measure is probably offset by the fact that I have to use IE to access the site, and the suspicious software that Bank of China insisted I download.

In oral class this afternoon we went over greetings in Chinese.  It’s much more than just 你好, as we’re learning – apparently that one’s really just reserved for foreigners.  They often greet each other by asking “Have you eaten?”, “How have you been recently?”, or “Where are you going?”.  Our teacher took great care to stress that these questions are meaningless, and you should answer very briefly without worrying about the truth.  I’m one of those people who actually mean it when they ask you “How are you?” or “What’s up?” (and I try to answer honestly), so this totally rubs me the wrong way.  Are students learning English taught this about our greetings? 

Worst part of class: the fact that we have way too many students and those who come late have to raid other classrooms for chairs.  Best part of class: when the teacher told us that there was no such thing as a free lunch – in Chinese: 没有免费的午餐!

This evening, I went with some friends to the tailor.  (I’m just checking things off my to-do list like a madman these last few days!)  The French had ordered some clothes last week, so we went to pick up Virginie’s dress and place our own orders.  The tailor is located in a two-floor fabric mall, where you buy the fabric you need after consulting with the tailor.  I brought my black dress to get copied in a more colorful print, which is going to cost me 220 yuan (just over $30 – expensive because the heavy fabric required).  I can’t wait to see my new dress, especially after seeing what he made for Virginie – based on a picture!

I left with way more ideas of dresses I want to have.  I am my mother’s daughter and fabric is a secret weakness of mine.  She looks at shelves of fabric and sees a quilt; I look at bolts and see dresses.  I plan to spend some time perusing fashion magazines online; suggestions are most welcome!