Monthly Archives: March 2004


31

Mar 2004

The Adopt a Blog Project

When the government blocked another blogging service recently, I became nervous, because it means that the government continues to view blogs as a threat. Regardless, bloggers’ responses to the block reveal that they are not going to admit defeat so easily. As a result, I see two possible eventual outcomes: (1) the government decides to give up the blocking effort, or (2) the government steps up its efforts.

What scares me the most is the possibility that what we have seen so far is only a small taste of what is to come. We know the government is working on more advanced internet filtering technology. Every time I can’t access my site for small periods of time, I wonder if I’ve been blocked. When it comes back online, there’s still a nagging suspicion that I’ve been tested and tagged for a future block should the need arise.

Proxies work well enough for the time being, but these services could easily be blocked as well. And where would we be then?

This thought process led to my idea for the Adopt a Blog project. It could enable bloggers to skirt the current blocks, as well as ready the community defensively against a possible bleaker future with regards to freedom online.

It is my strong hope that this project will be accepted by the blogging community globally, or at the very least contribute to the formation of a lasting solution. Please, if you care at all about freedom of speech, spread the word. Adopt a Blog.


30

Mar 2004

Thoughts on the Blockings

Recently Typepad blogs have been added to the list of blog services blocked by the Chinese government. This is already old news. Some bloggers have responded by turning their blogs’ background color to black as a sort of “virtual protest.” I guess that’s cool, but I think they’re going to have to either get used to black backgrounds or just accept the blocks.

Just before the Typepad block, some major Chinese blog services were blocked temporarily. But before that, the last big blocking to directly affect expat blogs in China was the blocking of Blogspot (AKA “Blockspot”). Guess what? Blogspot is still blocked. The big stink bloggers made about it then had little effect, and it seemed to have even gotten more international media coverage than the most recent block of Typepad.

After Blogspot was blocked, many bloggers adopted a less direct approach to the problem. It’s the same one Napster users adopted when that great giant was struck down. They found another service they could use. The Sinosplice Network began, and at the same time the number of other blogging services commonly used multiplied. Things seemed to be peaceful for a while, until the most recent blockings.

Thankfully, due to bloggers’ decision to branch out in the blogging services they used, the most recent block did not affect as large a proportion of China blogs as the Blogspot block did, although some of our favorite blogs were among the fallen (Danwei.org the most notable in my own personal reading habits).

Those of us that follow tech news may have recently read about the biological principle of genetic variation helping to guard populations against disease being applied to the computer world. I think the same principle applies to the blogging community in China.

Yes, they shouldn’t block us, but I don’t think mere ardent idealism is going to get us very far in this case. We need to be smart. We need to use lots of different blogging services. It would be best if every blog had its own URL, each with a different hosting service in a different IP range, but that’s a little unrealistic.

Unfortunately, the existence of the (rather complete) China Blog List could be a big help to those that would thwart us. I can’t really help that.

Also, should the powers that be ever decide to block any blog in the Sinosplice network, this network I put together could easily be taken down in one fell stroke. I can’t really help that either. But it seems that if the new blockings are going to continue (and we currently have no good reason to believe that they won’t), further grouping blogs on one server (like Living in China) is only going to hurt the “blog population” in the long run unless that server has some aces up its sleeve.

Furthermore, even if we can’t keep our attackers from accessing the full China Blog List, we can at least be a little more subtle in our methods of circumventing the blocks. Those outside of China don’t need the information, but those within China might do well to pass the information around a little more privately. There is much more to the proxy solution than the several websites which are most well known, but the full extent of our knowledge need not be publicly displayed.

Let’s be smart. We’re not in our native countries, so our instinctive responses are not necessarily the most appropriate.

A famous Japanese idiom comes to mind: the nail that sticks up gets hammered.

And we know this is true in China as well.


26

Mar 2004

Making the Chinese Face

When I was little, it was not uncommon for kids to make the “Chinese face.” By this I mean they would pull back the skin on the sides of their faces, stretching their eyelids back, and say, “look at me! I’m Chinese!”

That was a long time ago. At that time, “Chinese” still meant “Asian” to us. Since then, I’ve learned that that kind of behavior is considered rude and offensive. I’ve also grown up.

Recently, though, something made me think of that offensive “Chinese face,” and I started to wonder… what would Chinese people think of it? So I explained to my girlfriend that it was something that American kids used to do, although now it’s considered racist (for good reasons). And then I did it for her.

She thought it was hilarious. She couldn’t stop laughing for a minute or so. When she did stop laughing, she asked me to do it again. And then promptly erupted into laughter again.

My point is not that Asian Americans are uptight. Even though my Chinese experience is very different (and much easier) than that of an Asian American growing up as a minority in the USA, I can now much better appreciate how it feels to be a minority. You become super sensitive to every little way you are treated differently, but at the same time, no one takes much notice of jibes aimed at the majority.

I think that this little experiment also demonstrates that my girlfriend wouldn’t even recognize a lot of the more subtle ways that people are racist towards Asians. Growing up in China among all Chinese, she just never came into contact with it.


25

Mar 2004

Cheerios and Wang Lihong

I saw Cheerios in the grocery store the other day. Not at Carrefour, which has all kinds of imported foods that those foreigners who live in remoter parts of China can only fantasize about. I mean the regular Chinese grocery store.

Its Chinese name is “Guduoduo Cuigule,” which kind of mystifies me. Yes, 谷 can mean “grain,” but why such an unnecessarily long name? I would think that Cuigule (“crisp grain happiness”) alone would be enough. (Any Chinese people want to explain that, please?)

Anyway, the price was only 10rmb ($1.25 US). When I’d seen breakfast cereals before, they had always been around 30 rmb, which is kind of expensive for what it is, in China. So I bought it. Chinese pop star Wang Lihong‘s (I refuse to call him “Leehom”!) smug face was on the box reassuring me that I had made a wise purchase.

Well, the morning I tore into the box I immediately noticed that something was seriously wrong. There were 5 small cereal packets inside. Each cereal packet contained a measly 30g of Cheerios! (To give you an idea, a smallish 11 oz. box from back home has over 300 g of Cheerios in it.) I had to eat two packs just to feel like I had even eaten anything.

(There is only one pack of Cheerios in the bowl in the photo.)

Sitting there munching my ripoff Cheerios, I fixated on Wang Lihong. What a pretty boy. I don’t think he used to be this bad. I didn’t find any images of it online, but in his promo photos for the Chinese McDonalds “I’m lovin’ it” campaign, he looks so cosmetized it’s scary. I think this pic gives you an idea of how lame he is.

The worst part about it is that Wang Lihong is an ABC. He grew up in the States. I can only conclude that (1) he has completely sold out, rejecting any American identity imprint he might have once had, or (2) he is just a shameless money grubbing pretty boy.

Either way, he has my contempt. I wouldn’t have blogged about it until he conspired with Cheerios to rip me off, though.


23

Mar 2004

Evil Has a New Home

Take a look at this building:

Evil's new home

I know what you’re thinking: this building radiates pure evil! What on God’s green earth could this architectural abomination be?!

Well, I’ll tell you. It’s Shanghai’s municipal PSB headquarters.

Now I’m not saying that China’s Public Security Bureau is “bad.” All I’m saying is that I think dark forces were involved in the creation of this particular structure.

But don’t just take my word for it. Amy agrees with me. But you must stand before it in the flesh for the full effect.

This building casts its shadow of fear on South Wuning Road (武宁南路).


22

Mar 2004

Foreigners' Names in Chinese and Japanese

I recently stumbled upon a fascinating article entitled Japan and China: National Character Writ Large (via Language Log) regarding the way the Chinese and Japanese languages render foreigners’ names in their own scripts. These are all things that I’ve thought about at one time or another, but it was nice to see it all brought together so succinctly.

It’s true: when I was in Japan, I had no choice about my “Japanese name.” My name was simply my English name pronounced according to Japanese phonetic limitations. There was no discussion. In China, however, choosing a Chinese name is a big deal, and it’s sort of a necessary measure for anyone staying in China very long and dealing with Chinese people frequently.

Here’s an interesting quote from the article:

“China is a big continent and has an inclination to think that it is No. 1 and that others are uncivilized,” said Minoru Shibata, a researcher at NHK, Japan’s public broadcast network. “Therefore, they feel that giving Chinese names to foreigners is doing them a favor.”

Give the article a read.


20

Mar 2004

Happy Birthday, Grace!

little John holding baby Grace

(Taiwan Schmaiwan! It’s no secret that I’m not into politics, but in addition to 95% of the China bloggers covering the election, the mainstream media is too.)


18

Mar 2004

Shanghainese: a Flash soundboard

Not long ago, when trying out some soundboards (normally used for prank calls), an idea came to me. Why not make a soundboard for an educational purpose? OK, so it’s not nearly as funny, but the idea had potential. It wouldn’t leave me alone.

A few weeks ago I made a whole bunch of sound recordings. Then I learned the basics of Cool Edit Pro and edited the crap out of them. In the two weeks to follow I struggled through the process of teaching myself the Flash MX necessary to do what I wanted to do. Timelines, scenes, keyframes, buttons, mask layers, preloaders, ActionScript… I eventually got through it all. To make this “soundboard.”

What this Flash soundboard does is provide audio samplings of a collection of basic Chinese words/phrases in pairs: one in Mandarin (普通话), and one in Shanghainese (上海话). It’s really very simple. Place your cursor over the sentence you want to hear and click. You can even switch between pinyin and Chinese characters, and view my notes on the soundboard.

I expect there to be a few issues with the soundboard, particularly with the Chinese character representations of Shanghainese. The problem is that there’s no real standard, and even native Shanghai speakers do not necessarily know the original (often archaic) characters which correspond to the words they speak (if they even exist). I haven’t gotten around to picking up a better book on Shanghainese, and the stupid bookstore I need to get to closes at 6pm on weekdays.

In essence, it’s a very scholarly notion reduced to a hobby side project in soundboard form. So if you’ve got the Chinese background, just enjoy it. Even if you don’t understand Chinese, you may still enjoy hearing the difference between Mandarin and Shanghainese.

Crank up the volume.

Check out the Shanghainese soundboard.


16

Mar 2004

Heard at Work

Last Friday I enjoyed a number of interesting little incidents at the office.

One of the directors of the company has been visiting from Taiwan, and I overheard him chatting with someone else in our office. The director seems to take it upon himself to enlighten the mainlanders (according to the Taiwan view). I don’t want to go into specific political topics that came up, but one thing he did say was that currently airplane tickets from mainland China to Taiwan are especially cheap. Why? Because a lot of Taiwanese work in mainland China, and the Taiwanese government is trying to encourage those people to come home and vote in the March 20th election. Interesting….

I spent a good deal of my morning trying to explain to another employee here that some things just can’t be translated. You see, she had some songs that she wanted me to help her translate into Chinese. Among the lines that were giving her trouble were “itsy bitsy teeny weenie” (yellow polka dot bikini), “nick nack paddy whack” (give the dog a bone), and “Auld Lang Syne.” I’m not saying these are completely untranslatable, but they certainly require a creative translation to create the same effect in Chinese that they do in English.

Speaking of communicating linguistic principles, at noon my co-worker and I got in a debate with four girls in the office about grammar. We could hardly believe they weren’t joking at first. You see, these four girls’ contention was that the Chinese language has no grammar. Unbelievable. Their claim was that there’s no “grammar,” it’s just that Chinese people have gotten used to putting words together a certain way. (And what exactly do you think grammar is…??)

Since there were four of them that agreed to disagree with the two of us silly foreigners, they considered themselves victorious. But then at lunchtime three of them went off somwhere, and one of them ate lunch with my co-worker and me. Once we had her alone, we pounced on her (verbally) and tore her argument to shreds. That was fun. I don’t think it did any good, though.

Why would Chinese people think their language has no grammar? Is it because in elementary school they spend all the time in “Chinese class” just learning Chinese characters, and there’s no real need to cover grammar in-depth? I’m not very familiar with the curriculum of the Chinese school system at the primary level.


13

Mar 2004

ShanghaiNing

I recently discovered a very interesting site: ShanghaiNing.com. It’s designed specifically for the native Shanghainese. The tagline at the top says 侬白相啥? That’s how you would write 你玩什么? (roughly, “what do you do for fun?”) in Chinese characters to represent the particular words the Shanghainese use.

Translated excerpt from the about page:

> We represent the new Shanghai culture…..
We invite you to our website…
to discuss our concerns in our own language,
to sing our songs to our own music,
to dance to our own rhythm.

This kind of site highlights the strong grip on their identity the Shanghainese have.

Of interest is the Shanghainese rap section. Yes, that’s right… rap in the Shanghainese dialect. It pretty much sucks, but it’s cool that they’re even doing it. Give it a listen; there are currently 13 downloadable songs.

It’s always pissed me off that the only punk scene in China is in Beijing. Maybe Shanghai will develop along the rap/hip hop track?? Well, one can dream…


13

Mar 2004

UNC Buddhist Art

The reproduction of a beautiful sand mandala in the Tibetan/Nepalese Buddhist tradition by two Buddhist monks is photographed in stages at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum. Definitely worth a look. (Thanks to Cindy for the e-mail!)


10

Mar 2004

Shanghai vs. Beijing

Shanghai and Beijing are the two most talked about cities in mainland China, and for good reason. Shanghai is the most populous city in China, a very modern economic powerhouse. Beijing is the capital, the political and cultural center of the nation. Beijing is the emperor’s seat in the north, Shanghai the giant of the south. Comparisons are inevitable.

Obviously, I now inhabit Shanghai, and I want it to fare well in an honest comparison of the two. I’ve been to Beijing twice, but not recently, and never for an extended visit. Today I discussed the matter with an American co-worker of mine. He seemed an ideal, objective observer because he lived in Beijing for a year, and now, after staying in Shanghai for a little over a year, is leaving China. He speaks good Chinese, and he’s a shrewd observer of his surroundings. Here’s the breakdown of his opinions:

Climate. Beijing is colder, but you don’t feel it too much because everyone bundles up like mad, and central heating is quite widespread. In Shanghai the buildings are built with the hot summers in mind, and there’s precious little insulation. That, combined with the people’s strong desire for “fresh air” in the middle of the winter makes Shanghai “the coldest place I’ve ever lived.”

People. Both Beijingers and the Shanghainese feel a sort of superiority toward outsiders. Nevertheless, Beijingers are widely regarded as very friendly, and any sense of superiority is exhibited only subtly. The Shanghainese are not widely regarded as friendly or as subtle in their snobbery.

Culture. Do I even have to say it? It’s all in Beijing.

Language. Beijingers speak Chinese with as much “rrrr” as possible, as if they only “speak with the throat.” Despite the superfluous R’s, Beijingers’ Chinese is quite close to the national standard. The Shanghainese, on the other hand, speak a dialect that could easily be classified as a separate (but related) language. This affects their Mandarin, making it less standard. The Shanghainese, like most places in the south, have much less “rrrr” in their speech, relying instead on other standard variants (e.g. nali instead of nar, meaning “where”).

Western Conveniences. Shanghai’s got Beijing beat hands down. Sure, Beijing has most of the products Shanghai does, but in Shanghai they’re much more readily available. Some things that you can buy in Shanghai’s convenience stores you might have to go to a specialty store for in Beijing. In addition, Shanghai has a lot more late-night and 24-hour stores.

Entertainment. Beijing’s Sanlitun is a bit better than Shanghai’s bar streets. Beijing also has a lot more cheap entertainment options. Going out on the town in Shanghai often will deplete your funds fast.

OK, I think you see the trend. Shanghai is taking a wicked beating in the comparison. I’ve heard other people say it too: “Beijing feels so home-y and special. Shanghai is a soulless concrete capitalist jungle.”

I consider myself a reasonable person. Why, then, when faced with such evidence, do I still feel that I will never even consider moving to Beijing? I want to know this for myself. I think the reasons are:

1. I’m from Florida. That’s the American south (with northern flavor). I like it. I don’t like New York or Boston accents.

When I studied in Japan, my school’s program just happened to be in Osaka — Japan’s southern giant. I like the southern Japanese dialect, and feel Tokyo’s to be boring.

When I came to China, I chose Hangzhou — partly with climate in mind, but largely because I had a Chinese friend from there. Hangzhou was my home for 3 1/2 years. It’s where I learned Mandarin Chinese.

2. I hate the “rrrr” of northern Mandarin. I can’t help it. It sounds really dumb to me. Sometimes I find it amusing (I like hearing actor Ge You talk), but I can’t really take it seriously.

I also feel that it sort of impoverishes the language. The “-r” suffix can go on the end of words ending in a vowel, -n, or -ng. When the “-r” suffix starts going everywhere, you don’t hear the original syllable ending, and it reduces linguistic diversity.

(That’s probably just a dumb rationalization for in irrational dislike of a particular accent, though.)

3. “Beijing” seems so cliche to me. “Oh, you want to learn Chinese? Then go to Beijing! The Mandarin is so standard there. Dashan studied there!”

No thanks. I think I’ll tough it out amongst the hoardes of asshole expats.

4. I like the linguistic diversity of the south. I like that the Shanghainese speak a whole separate language from their northern overlords. It’s badass. It might seem exclusionary or snobbish to you, but then you’re also probably too lazy to learn it.

Somehow, I don’t really think any of this is totally it, though. Everyone says that Beijing is better, but I’m not gonna buy it. I guess deep down, I’m just stubborn. I’m in Shanghai now.

Related Links:
Bokane.org, journal of an American Peking University student.
Kaiser Kuo, a writer in Beijing.
Ape Rifle’s Chinese city comparisons.


08

Mar 2004

Advice for China Hopefuls

By “China Hopeful” I mean someone who is considering coming to China to study or teach (or whatever).

The advice I have to give isn’t as cliche as “bring deodorant” — I hope you all know that you should bring a year’s supply of deodorant if you’re planning to come live in China. It’s also not the “bring clothes if you’re tall or big” thing, because you’ll have a hard time finding clothes in your size here. It’s not even “study Chinese,” because nothing impresses upon you the importance of the issue as actually being here, immersed in the language. It’s something even harder to remedy once you’re here.

So this is my advice to you China hopefuls:

Before you come here, go to a good barber shop or salon in your home country. Go to some place that you know will do a good job. Some place that’s brightly lit. Get your haircut. Now here’s the key. After your haircut, take pictures of your freshly cut hair. From the front, from the side, from the back, the 3/4 angle, etc. Then, before you leave, get those pictures printed. Put them together on a special laminated “haircut card.” Trust me, you will use it.

I’ve been in China for close to four years, and my Chinese is pretty respectable. But how can I be expected to explain accurately in Chinese the kind of hairstyle I want when it’s not even the easiest thing in the world for me to do in English? It’s not just a translation issue. In any case, pictures help a lot.

To this day, I’ve never taken the advice above. That exlains why I keep getting bad haircuts. At least they’re cheap here.


05

Mar 2004

Busful of Lonely

I finally got my passport back yesterday, so I was able to go open my new Shanghai bank account today. My first payday at my new job comes next week, so I had to be sure to get this done. I’ve been in Shanghai for over two full months without any paychecks yet. I neeeeed that first paycheck as soon as possible!

Anyway, there’s a girl in our company that makes daily runs to the bank the company uses, so I went with her. We took the bus there and back.

It wasn’t yet afternoon rush hour as we made our way back, but the bus was quite full. It was one of those long, electric buses, that works like a glorified, overloaded bumper car (usually with a little less bumping).

It wasn’t until we stopped at a light that I noticed it. There were two older men in the back of the bus chatting. They were at least half the length of the bus away from me, so my first thought was, “wow, those guys are really loud, and they’re not even talking on cell phones.”

Immediately after that, it hit me. Except for those two older men in the back, the bus was dead silent. Everyone was gripping a strap, latched onto a hand rail, nestled in a seat, just staring silently off into nothing.

And I thought, “Wow, it’s so quiet in here. This can’t last.” But it lingered on and on, those two old guys in the back the only dissenters.

“Do you realize that out of all the people on this big long bus, the only two people making any noise are those two guys in the back?” I whispered to her. I think half the bus heard me. She smiled and nodded back.

Then the bus got moving, and it was easy enough to pretend that we were all a part of the energy outside that we were careening through.

Soon thereafter some middle aged ladies got on and started talking. It even got close to a normal Chinese bus scene before we got off at our stop. I think some passengers may even have remembered they were alive.


04

Mar 2004

Foreign Boyfriend, Chinese Parents

I normally am not very interested in reading Chinese online. I just really can’t get interested in a lot of what’s written about. Recently, though, I found something that caught my eye. The writer is a Chinese girl with a foreign boyfriend (who is also very coincidentally named John). When she told her parents about her boyfriend, they were less than supportive. Below is a translated excerpt from the original.

> Friday, I finally mustered enough courage to tell my mom: John is my boyfriend.

> My mom was shocked, this being totally out of her realm of expectations. Without thinking she responded, “No way! Absolutely not! Your dad and I do not approve!”

> Although I had already steeled myself for her response, I never expected her attitude to be so adamant. Worriedly I asked her, “Why?”

> “He’s a foreigner. Your life backgrounds are just too different. In the future how are we supposed to communicate with him?”

> “He’s studying Chinese, so you can speak to him in Mandarin,” I said.

> My mom went on for some time, almost in tears by the end, saying, “What would you have us tell our friends? You’re not a kid anymore, why can’t you just find a nice classmate? I’m begging you!”

> I couldn’t continue the conversation with her; her words had stung me. It was as if John was her sworn enemy, who wanted to steal me from their side, never to return again.

> My mom called my dad into the room, because ever since I was little I had always listened to him the most. My mom hoped he could persuade me. Dad was calm, hoping I could consider the matter practically.

> My dad said, “You haven’t been dating John for very long at all — how can you understand him? Other than what he’s told you, you have no way of knowing about his past or his family. Westerners are too independent. Your methods of solving various problems are going to be drastically different, and your lifestyles are different. A lot of this can’t be changed over a whole lifetime. He can’t stay in China his whole life; he’ll want to leave, and he can leave any time he pleases. Then what are you going to do? There’s a whole string of problems that are going to be very hard to solve.”

> My parents love me deeply, and I’m their only child. They have put their everything into raising me, keeping me from all harm. All their hopes lie in me, and I’ve always worked hard to perfect myself. Nevertheless, their brand of subtle affection can sometimes feel suffocating. It’s like I’ve broken free from the refuge of their embrace to go explore a strange and wondrous world. I’m not my parents’ property. I should have my own life.

What strikes me most about this story, which took place in northern China, is how completely different it is from my own experience. My girlfriend’s parents’ reaction to me was not even remotely similar. They have always been warm and friendly, and talk to me like I’m a normal Chinese person. My girlfriend’s dad loves having a few beers with me. My girlfriend’s mom makes mental notes about any food I particularly like or mention liking, and next time I go to their house for dinner, it’s on the menu. I could go on and on. While I can never know how my girlfriend’s parents really feel deep down, the evidence seems to indicate that their point of view on this matter is worlds apart from the parents of this writer.

All I’m trying to say here is:

1. China is such an incredibly varied place; you get all kinds of people with all kinds of life circumstances and outlooks.
2. Shanghai is a singular phenomenon in China. There is no city like it, for so many reasons.
3. I am really incredibly lucky.

[NOTE: This excerpt has been translated and published with permission from the author. I am grateful to her for allowing me to share such a personal experience with an English-reading audience.]


01

Mar 2004

Getting Legal

I wanted to have a blast in Hangzhou all weekend as I’ve been planning to do for weeks, but somehow it turned out to be largely about getting legal.

See, to work legally in China, you need a work visa. In China, it’s called a Z Visa. (Z for 职业, of course.) If you have a full time job in China, your employer has to do the necessary paperwork to get you the Z Visa.

But there’s more. I also needed an Alien Employment Permit (外国人就业证). In Hangzhou I had a Foreign Experts Certificate (外国专家证). Apparently the transition from “American spoken English teacher at a university” to “trainer/consultant fluent in Chinese at a private company” involved a change from expert to alien as well. Oh well, the pay’s a lot better. I got my Alien Employment Permit last week.

But there’s one more important document. As a foreigner, I also need a Residence Permit (居留证). In Hangzhou my school used to repeatedly renew a Temporary Residence Permit (临时居留证). The temporary permit was a flimsy little piece of paper that you can just tuck inside your passport. The full-on Residence Permit looks like a dark green passport and requires a yearly physical examination. Apparently ZUCC found the physical exam requirement too much of a bother. That was fine with me. But now I need a physical to get my Residence Permit in Shanghai.

To make a long, boring story short, my new work institution was too slow in getting all my paperwork processed, so I had to go to the bureau of something or other on Saturday morning to get my Temporary Residence Permit extended so I don’t get fined 400 rmb (US$50) per day. But they took my passport, so I can’t get my physical today, as scheduled. I will have to make a new appointment.

The other reason I didn’t leave for Hangzhou Friday night was that Melody had its company dinner Friday night. It seems to be a tacit understanding that attendance is mandatory. That turned out to be a lot better time than I expected, though. The food was good, my co-workers were fun, and there was a lot of beer drinking. (Too bad it was all Budweiser.)

I did finally make it to Hangzhou Saturday afternoon. I got to see all my Hangzhou friends and made some new ones. Heather had a great house-warming party.

Returning to ZUCC, I somehow feel like I’m returning to the comfort and security of ma and pa on the farm, back from big city life. Life was simple and pleasant all those days at ZUCC. It still is.