Chinese Caption Contest #457

Written on April 2, 2010 at 11:47 pm, by DK

Chinese Caption Contest #457

This one even has some English and I have no clue what it could mean…

Two questions:
Where can I get one!?

Where can I get another one?

I finally ate at KFC

Written on March 31, 2010 at 12:12 am, by DK

If God grants me longer life, I will see to it that no peasant in my kingdom will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot every Sunday.
-Henri IV

I Finally Ate at KFC

There it stood.

That multi-level “western” food flashiness: K. F. C.

I knew I shouldn’t, but its power was too great. I was on my way home and too tired to try and wok it up Chinese-style that night.

Excuses are stinky; I caved.

As I walked into this chain restaurant netherworld, I felt every single eye glaring at me. The place was packed, but I was completely alone in my inner humiliation. The walk to the counter was even more disgraceful. It looked exactly the same as the infamous fast food joint back home and I hadn’t been in a KFC for years.

What was I going to order? How was I going to order it!? These are questions that you think of way too late for impulsive crack moves like this…

The cashier said something in Chinese, which I understood as, “Welcome to KenDeJi, may I take your order?”

I had the fried wonderland at my finger-lickin’ fingertips, but I had no idea what to get. I quickly composed myself and a Chinese sentence, “I want a chicken hamburger.” (That was the only food I could translate at the time. If I had said, “chicken fingers,” I’m afraid they may have gone the literal route.)

The young lady didn’t have time for my poor Mandarin. She immediately handed me a full-page menu with color photographs and pointed at which “chicken hamburger” I really wanted. Honestly, none of them looked appetizing. Under so much pressure, I just randomly picked one. Note to self: never randomly pick one at KFC.

In total, my meal was about 35RMB, the same price I’d pay for many dishes of delicious Chinese cuisine. The sandwich was tiny. The meat was dark. And they only gave me a small napkin and one little ketchup packet, which I was warned about.

As I sat and ate this pitiful meal, I had lots of time to reflect… friends don’t let friends eat at KFC. Period.

Shame.

Heartburn.

More shame.

(It’s been almost 6 months, though… that ain’t too bad, right?)

A Subtle Reminder – My Birthday is April 9

Written on March 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm, by DK

That gives you a week or two to get a little somethin’ somethin’ in the mail. I posted back in October my mailing address, and many of you have sent some amazing things! For that, I am very thankful. Receiving postcards, cards, letters, and packages is the highlight of my week – keep ‘em coming!

I just thought I’d remind ya’ll that my birthday was coming up just in case you wanted to send something…

Anywhere is walking distance, if you’ve got the time.
-Stephen Wright

You could click the Amazon Wish List for a few ideas, or consult this subtle list:
1. Anything handmade or handwritten (gotta love the gifts from the heart)
2. Pictures of you that I can put up on my wall (my wall is so bare)
3. Fortune cookies (so many people have asked what these are, I’d love to show ‘em!)
4. Books (literally, anything)
5. Starbucks Gift Cards (yep, they work here!)
6. Easy Mac (I can get the boxed stuff, but it’s difficult to get good milk and butter)
7. Sunday morning comics (except Family Circus)
8. Pants (36 waist x 36 inseam, but I’m losing weight fast)
9. Shoes (they really don’t have size 13 here, folks… aren’t they made here, though?)
10. A wife (I know what you’re thinking)

That is all.

My First Chinese New Year

Written on March 10, 2010 at 8:27 pm, by DK

The fireworks have stopped.
All but one of my favorite noodle shops has reopened.
The old man barber down the street has started to cut people’s hair again.
I got a letter in the mail that was sent over two months ago.
The new teaching semester at school has begun.
Is the New Year celebration finally over?
Let’s hope.

I’ve had quite an eventful couple of weeks and I’m glad to be back to the normal routine, whatever that is. The week before the Chinese New Year, I got invited over to a family’s home. And I wasn’t even trying! I was just at work, minding my own business, when my boss asked me what I was planning to do to usher in the Year of the Tiger. I told her that I didn’t have any plans and was just going to lay low and stay inside to avoid the craziness I anticipated outside. Well, she wouldn’t hear of it! She started calling around asking her friends if they had room for a large foreigner to join them. Sure enough, after class was over, she cornered me as I was sneaking out and told me that I had agreed to go to her friend’s house for the party! I really don’t remember agreeing to this?

The afternoon of New Year’s Eve arrived, and I hopped in a taxi to Chloe’s house – my Chinese boss’s Chinese friend and her extended family. Let the awkwardness begin!

Little did I know, but there were three daughters in the family: all cousins, all in their 20s and all spoke perfect English. One minor problem: two of them already had American boyfriends. Another minor problem: the aforementioned American boyfriends were also at the get-together. One more minor problem: I didn’t realize what was going on until it was too late.

The extravaganza began with food and lots of it. (My kind of party!) It was one of those meals where the entire table was filled with delicious dishes, and those were just the appetizers. Once one dish was finished, they’d bring another out! Chloe taught me how to eat crab, and I think I ate about six, 4 females and 2 males. The dumplings were homemade and seemingly bottomless. The Chinese ladies were almost having as much fun watching me as I was having eating. The Chinese men just gave toasts to each other the whole time. Oh, and the American guys were talking about politics.

After hours of dinner, we moved to the living room and they turned the TV on. The CCTV New Year’s Gala was on, of course! Imagine a four-hour long performance of song, dance, acrobatics, xiangsheng comedy, and magic shows. Besides being completely in Mandarin, the show was actually pretty entertaining. I even recognized one of the singers. And there’s a huge controversy around the illusion during the magic section, or so I’m told.

This did get old after a while, considering I understood next to nothing. So I decided to throw my two cents into the politics conversation. Big mistake. Before I could give my opinion on the current President or the previous one, they turned to me and said, “So, aren’t Chinese girlfriends awesome!?” Hmm. I like to think that I’m a smart guy, but this took a while to sink in. When I finally figured out the grand scheme of my boss trying to set me up with Chloe, I had already made myself endearing to her father and her uncles. I’d have to make a clean break before it got out of hand and start talking about my secret wife in Italy.

After hours of TV, we moved outside for fireworks. Words cannot describe how insane they were. So I’m not even gonna try… watch the video!

And the fireworks didn’t end on New Year’s Eve… they continued for weeks.

For the rest of the Spring Festival, pretty much everything was shut down except places to go shopping. I got to play some basketball indoors and I actually looked pretty good. I think I went to KTV three or four times. And I got a new roommate. Dangit! I hear more fireworks! When will these little demons stop!? Seriously.

Chinese Caption Contest #453

Written on January 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm, by DK

Chinese Caption Contest #453

“Global warming: destroying penguins’ earth-shaped umbrellas for centuries…”
What do YOU think it means?

The Beijing – Tianjin Bullet Train

Written on January 21, 2010 at 9:00 pm, by DK

The Beijing - Tianjin Bullet TrainRemind me to tell you this awesome train story from Italy some day! It involves 20 teenagers, 20+ American-sized luggages, a closed train bathroom, and a 6 hour train ride. Actually, don’t remind me of that. Never ever remind me of that.

Feel free to remind me of the bullet train I took from Tianjin to Beijing (and back), though! Thirty minutes and about ten dollars later, I had successfully taken this modern feat of Chinese engineering. The names of the train translates to “Harmony” and that’s exactly what I was thinking the entire trip. Travelling 120 kilometers has never been so easy! For all my Minnesota readers, this would be like travelling from St. Cloud to downtown Minneapolis in half an hour! For my Texas readers, this is like going from Garden Valley to Dallas in that same amount of time.

At top speeds of 350 km/h, it’s revolutionized the way middle-class Chinese travel and was very useful during the Olympics last year when most of the soccer events were held in Tianjin. I’ve heard stories of people that live in Tianjin but commute to Beijing every day for work. Maybe I should do that?

The one I took only got up to 329 km/h… I was only slightly disappointed.

Fares
Second class = 58 RMB (be sure that you’re given a seat number, or you’ll be standing)
First class = 69 RMB
Deluxe class = 99 RMB (only 8 seats per trip)

You can easily purchase your ticket at the station the day of your trip; they also take reservations up to 20 days before your trip.

Timetable
From Tianjin: Trains leave every half hour from 6:25 in the morning to 10:45 at night
From Beijing: Trains leave every half hour from 6:35 in the morning to 11:00 at night
(subject to change, obviously)
(and I think it’s closed during the major holiday weeks) (EDIT: Nope, it’s open during the holidays.)

I’d recommend getting to the station about an hour before your intended departure.

Chinese Food 101: Basic Ingredients

Written on January 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm, by DK

“Never eat Chinese food in Oklahoma.” – Bryan Miller

Agreed. I would add Wisconsin to that statement as well. To get the best, most authentic Chinese food, you need to know what you’re looking for. If you’re not from China and you’ve never been to China or Chinatown you might lack this ability, but not always. The local buffet down the street may be tasty, but it’s likely to not be very bona fide. For instance, in the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul area there’s less than a handful of genuine joints.

My first post in this series listed the Basic Cooking Utensils and for this second edition, I’ve decided to list some of the rudimentary fixins’ you’ll need to have around the kitchen to provide the best, most legitimate Chinese meal. OK?

1. The Rice
Back in the day, people in China only ate rice. Many Chinese people that I’ve asked around Tianjin say that rice is their main course when they eat at home. And they buy it by the bag-full here. It’s quite easy! I have a nice little outdoor market on the way home from work. I haven’t figured out the measure word for rice yet, but the rice lady always smiles and asks me if the amount is okay after she puts in a load. I wouldn’t even know how to buy rice in America! The grocery store? In a box? Costco?

Relative Links:
How to Cook Rice
Ancient Chinese Food

2. The Fresh Fruits & Veggies
Note, I said “fresh.” Over the next few months, I might start taking for granted the fact that I can walk a half a block away from my apartment and buy the cheapest, most delicious fruits and vegetables I’ve ever bought or eaten. Hopefully not. I noticed, though, that one stand was selling some Red Delicious with the Washington sticker on it. That made me suspicious! Until I can adequately communicate and ask where those apples came from, I’ll keep assuming they were locally grown by the person who sold it to me.

In addition to what’s in this picture, make sure to have tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant around too; they were absent for the photo shoot.

Relative Links:
Pictures of Chinese Vegetables
Made In China Fruit

3. The Eggs
Whether you want chicken, duck, or goose eggs, you can get them at the market. I think I’ve only been getting chicken eggs, but who can really tell anyways? (Especially an ignorant foreigner like myself.) Oh, and if you see some chickens running around the KFC on the corner, assume they’re only being used for the eggs. (wink)

By the way, eggs are essential. Some of my favorite dishes, so far, all have plenty of eggs in them.

Relative Links:
The Century Egg
Eggs in Chinese cooking

4. The Cooking Oil
I think there are different kinds of oil, but I’m unable to translate them all. I just got the biggest tub of oil I could lug back so it would last a long time. It’s not lasting long at all. Oil must be its own food group here. Oh, and be careful when you heat this stuff up. Not that I’ve burned myself or anything. The pros make it look so simple!

Relative Links:
What kind of oil?
Cooking with Oil

5. The Soy Sauce, Vinegar, Peanut Something, and MSG. (Lots of MSG.)
Ah, the condiments. Admit it, no one really knows how to correctly use soy sauce, right? Well, neither do I, that’s why we’re starting with the basics here. I just know it tastes good and a requirement for authentic Chinese cooking. In the market here, there’s an entire row of different sauces. It’s like the cereal or toothpaste aisle in America. I just picked the one that had an English translation on it.

MSG may have a bad rap, but I think it contributes a lot to the enhancing of neurotoxic flavors in Chinese food! If it’s supposed to cause health problems, why are Chinese people generally pretty healthy? I have no answers on this one, just questions. Leave your lawyers at home.

Relative Links:
Soy Sauce Secrets
Monosodium Glutamate

Meat, tofu, and chicken feet will all be addressed later. That is all.

R.I.P. Laptop The Dog, my dog

Written on January 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm, by DK

My dog of 12 years, Laptop, has gone where all dogs eventually go… and I wasn’t there to be with him his last months. His breed was Schnoodle. He was the best and only dog I’ve ever had. He was loved by many and feared by few. He was a crazy little mutt who thought your lap was the best place in the world. He wouldn’t even ask. He liked to eat chocolate (and later, un-eat it). He loved going on vacation with us and he loved looking after my niece.

This past year, his old age got the best of him and he could barely move on his own anymore. He was in so much pain. From the first year of his life, Laptop was literally a miracle dog and no one in my family thought he’d last this long… I’ll miss you, buddy.

R.I.P. Laptop The Dog (photo circa 1998)
^ April 1998. I’ll never forget the day I finally got a dog. I had prayed for a dog every night for 14 years. This was a very special thing. My mother came up with the name “Laptop” and it just fit so perfectly.

R.I.P. Laptop The Dog (photo circa 2000)
^ Circa 2000. He liked to drive my truck. And ride in the car in general. He would never leave our side. Whatever we were doing, he wanted to be right there with us.

R.I.P. Laptop The Dog, Jan. 4 2010
^ January 4, 2010. Last picture ever taken of him. He didn’t even open his eyes for the picture. So sad.

Please leave your condolences and memories in the comments or send them to my email…
Peace.

Chinese Caption Contest #449

Written on January 3, 2010 at 9:38 pm, by DK

Chinese Caption Contest #449

What the crap is this!? I know it doesn’t have any Chinese characters to help try to figure it out, but I still can’t even imagine…
This is all I came up with: “Santa’s New Pet of Choice” or “The Big C Gov’t has finally banned reindeers”
What do YOU think it’s for?

My Favorite Songs, Albums, and Live Shows from 2009

Written on December 31, 2009 at 9:48 pm, by DK

If you couldn’t tell, I love music. And I’ve only come to really love it in the past few years… way too late in the game, I tell you. In my opinion, appreciating and enjoying music is an art that can help you in numerous ways. For example – music increases brain function. It relieves stress. It could possibly start a revolution too. When I was younger I took music lessons but must’ve lost interest somewhere along the way. I wish I hadn’t given up on them, but this is something that can change! Maybe with all my free time here in China, I can pick up an instrument again and not just my iPod.

Do you think it’d be possible to go all of next year only listening to music made before my lifetime? It’s a nice thought but probably not. I have this dilemma that I keep “discovering” “new” music only to find out it came out in the 90s or something. I’m getting better at keeping up with current music coming out, but then there’s this Bob Dylan guy I discovered… … alas – it keeps me busy.

This year did wonders for my music collection! Lots of good tunes, and hopefully my vinyls will stay in tact as they wait until I find a cheap way to get them and a record player to China.

My Favorite Songs:
Animal Collective – My Girls
- The song I listened to 20 times in a row the first time I heard it
The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
- From 500 Days of Summer, I think
La Roux – Bulletproof
- The song I listen to every time I meet a new girl here in China
Phoenix – Listzomania
- The song that introduced me to the The Breakfast Club
The Lonely Island – I’m On A Boat
- The best SNL song ever written and the best use of T-Pain
The Phenomenal Handclap Band – 15 to 20
- Redundant but memorable
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll
- The song I dance to down GuangDong Road
Amadou & Miriam – Sabali
- The first time I heard this song on the radio, I txted all my music-loving friends about it
We Are The Willows – A Funeral Dressed As A Birthday
- Best song when you miss Minneapolis
Andrew Bird – Oh No
- This reminds me of the roadtrip for some reason, probably the whistling

My Favorite Albums:
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome
The Swell Season – Strict Joy
Mute Math – Armistice
Haley Bonar – Sing With Me (album cover art pictured)
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeaus Phoenix
Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You
The Temper Trap – Conditions
Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

My Favorite Live Shows:
Lykke Li @ The Varsity
- Up front and close to the stage, this Swedish songstress impressed (pictured above); I heard it wasn’t so good from the back, though?
White Ghost Shivers @ Lee’s
- Possibly the best live show I’ve ever seen, and I didn’t even realize it
A Night In The Box @ Kitty Cat Klub
- All 11 times I saw these guys (truth) was a great show
Caroline Smith & The Goodnight Sleeps @ The Varsity
- My friend and I weren’t even there to see them, but new fans were created
The Tallest Man On Earth @ Turf Club
- I saw him here twice this spring… he’s not tall at all, it’s a metaphor
Haley Bonar @ The Walker’s Sculpture Garden
- Haley has long been the favorite part of my Minneapolis summers
Fleet Foxes @ First Avenue
- Hearing these harmonies come together live, is an amazing experience; and to think, I almost overslept this one
Phoenix @ First Avenue
- My last show in Minneapolis
Mute Math @ The Majestic
- So electric, so creative, so worth it… Mute Math continues to impress with their live shows
Au Revoir Simone @ Beijing’s Yu Gong Yi Shan
- First live show in China! And it was awesome…

Any thoughts? Am I totally off my rocker? What were some of your favorites this year?