“热闹”

最近一个中国朋友问我:“热闹”英文怎么说?”

这可是个很简单的问题,但答案并没有那么简单。

本来我想是“noisy”但不能这样翻译因为“noisy”是贬义词,而“热闹”是褒义词。

我的美籍同事徐惟说应该是“lively”但我认为这样也不行因为“lively”这个词不一定包括“有声音”的意思。而且“lively”平时翻成“活泼”。“热闹”和“活泼”的确是两个概念。

我和徐惟都用《牛津精选英汉•汉英文词典》。按照它:

热闹:lively; bustling with noise and excitement lively:充满生气的;精力充沛的 活泼:lively; vivacious; vivid

好象最好的翻译就是“bustling with noise and excitement”,英文里面没有一个词可以用来表达“热闹”的意义。有时候很简单的单词真的没有好的翻译,词典也并不是很有用的。

Canadian Cantonese Cuisine

Derrick is still here in Hangzhou visiting/teaching. I missed out the first time Derrick cooked (and he even did it in my own home!), but I got to be here for his encore performance. I gotta say, it was good eatin’!

click for more pics of the food
The vultures pictured above are: Wayne, Amber, me. The dishes were: ma po tofu, qingcai with mushrooms, cola chicken wings, and chicken with snow peas and red peppers. The chicken and snow peas dish was awesome. The tofu tasted like lasagna (Derrick blames the McCormick seasoning packet, probably rightfully so), but it was good that way! The chicken wings were sweet (kinda like honey garlic chicken, as Derrick said), but also good that way. (Who’da thunk cola works on chicken??) The qingcai (I don’t know when this simple word can ever be translated well) was good, but was kinda missing the oyster sauce that we lacked. Oh well. All in all, definitely a great meal. Thanks, Derrick!

More Mini-Polls

I did a poll activity with my students a while back. They were told to choose interesting yes/no questions or either/or questions, and then they polled each other in small groups. It got some interesting results. I did the same activity again with my summer class. Keep in mind these are Chinese kids 18-20 years old, and only 4 of the 25 students are male. (Due to the nature of the activity, results will not always have the full 25 responses.) Take a look at some of the new results…

Format:
Poll results will follow the question, in parentheses and color-coded. “Yes” answers will always be first in blue, followed by “no” answers in red.

Do you think Mr. Chiang Kai-shek had great devotion to the Chinese people? (24, 1)

Do you prefer boys with long hair or short hair? (1, 22)

Can you drink wine [meaning any alcohol]? (11, 13)

Do you like basketball or football [soccer] more? (16, 8)

Do you like gentlemen [as opposed to “bad boys,” I suppose]? (16, 9)

Would you prefer to live with your family or with your friends? (13, 10)

Do you want to have a child? (22, 2)

If you had a child, would you want a boy or a girl? (5, 13, 6 said “either”)

Koopa in China?

I think we’ve all had incidents of misheard song lyrics. You think you hear one thing in the song, but the actual lyrics are very different. I’ve had a bit of that in China.

My first main incident with this phenomenon in China was with the song Nanren Ku ba bu shi Zui * (“Man, go ahead and cry, it’s no crime”). In the song, Andy Lau repeats “ku ba” over and over in Chinese, which basically means “go ahead and cry.” The thing is, it sounds exactly like the way Cuba is pronounced in Spanish. Weird. I know I’m listening to Chinese, but every time it gets to that refrain, I hear Spanish. (Well, they are comrade nations, I suppose….)

koopa troopa

The other incident is for another Chinese song by a male singer. I don’t know the singer or the song, and I don’t particularly like the song. I just know that I keep hearing him sing “Koopa Troopa.” Now, anyone who dutifully played Super Mario Brothers 1 on NES back in the day knows that Koopa Troopas are little turtles that oppose Mario and Luigi on their righteous quest to save the princess (if she’d only stay in one damn castle!). But those wily koopa are making a comeback in Chinese pop. (OK, does anyone know what Chinese song I’m talking about here?!)

* Warning: This Flash “video” is horribly cheesey. But hey, you can hear the song without downloading the MP3. Also, I apologize for my crappy translation of the song title, but, you know… it’s a dumb song anyway.

Laowai Relocated

/~abtom/Wayne, formerly of Goodbye, Laowai, Goodybe (and Hello, Laowai, Hello), is planning to relocate to Taipei soon. He has also redesigned his blog and given it a new name. It’s the latest addition to the Sinosplice Network (so some of you may need to update your bookmarks). I, for one, am very happy to now be able to read Wayne unhindered by the Great Stupid Firewall of China.

Ziboy Interview

It seems almost silly to bother to say that the photos at Ziboy.com are really good. I think most people that read this blog have seen them and know. If you haven’t taken a look before, go do it now.

Ziboy.com Ziboy.com

The photographer, Wen Ling, has very little to say about himself on his site, however. Well, I got curious and decided to exercise my Chinese. I wrote to him and asked if I could interview him by e-mail. He was happy to do it. It’s not long, but it still took me a while to actually get it all done. The interview is now completely translated and online, in English as well as the original Chinese. Go ahead and take a look.

This is but one of the many sorts of things I’d like to do with this site if I only had unlimited time….

Interview with Ziboy’s Wen Ling

Ziboy is a name well-known among those who frequent China blogs. It is the name of a frequently updated photoblog maintained by a twenty-something professional photographer in Beijing. I won’t say anything about the photography; the pieces speak for themselves. The photographer himself, though — Wen Ling — always seemed somewhat mysterious and inaccessible to me. I had questions. I wrote him an e-mail in Chinese and he was very friendly and open to the idea of an e-mail interview. This is the translated result.

How many photos do you take a week?

I take more than about 500 a week.

How do you organize all your images on your hard drive?

Initially I was creating a new folder every month, but later I was taking too many and just started creating a new folder daily.

Have you ever had any formal education in photography?

No, but I have had formal fine arts education.

How do you capture the people in a natural pose without them being distracted by the camera?

Sometimes I use a 70-200 mid-range telephoto lens to shoot while keeping my distance from them. The Nikon 995 camera I once used had its concealment advantages too. Also I just take many photos [of one subject] successively, and there will always be one or two with good expressions.

Do you have any plans to travel, or do you plan to continue focusing exclusively on Beijing in your photography?

I won’t go travelling in order to take pictures, but I would really like to travel.

How did you make the transition from amateur to professional photography? Was it difficult?

Haha, so funny, this is going to give me a big head.

In regards to photographic technique and knowledge, I have learned a fair amount. You know, when I first started I barely even knew what a roll of film was! Since my job was shooting news on the street, it was more or less the same as before when I was shooting on the street, so the transition from amateur to professional photographer was very natural. I also need to be thankful for the friendly, pragmatic atmosphere of the news office. I got used to my job really quickly.

Do you feel very constricted by digital photography and online space limitations?

I think it was digital cameras that made me feel all the joy and freedom of photography that was never there before. Digital cameras’ shutter lag problem is a shortcoming that I really regret, as a lot of brilliant moments are impossible to capture. I think for now using the three media of text and images along with Flash animation for artistic expression is already relatively technologically mature. There aren’t any problems.

What do you hope that the world outside of China gains from looking at your photography?

To understand the actual Beijing and China, and to feel that a new, better Chinese youth already exists.

I’ve noticed three themes in your photography: police, beggars, and common working people. Are there any particular messages you’re trying to get across with your photography?

My photos are themeless. I just hope I can be as objective as possible, fully exhibiting the Beijing that I see. Relatively speaking, I prefer to shoot young people and don’t pay as much attention to older people.

Has your photography ever gotten you into any trouble?

Not so far, but I’m still pretty anxious, mainly over the problem of portraiture rights. I’m well aware that many of my photos are relatively disrespectful to the subjects, but I have no harmful intentions.

Are there any memorable stories behind any of your photos that you’d be willing to share?

Haha, I’m always very happy to show off to my friends the group of pictures of a fight I took on the evening of July 15, 2002. At the time I was at KFC eating dinner, and saw them fighting through the glass of the fast food chain window. I put down my half-eaten sandwich and went right out to take pictures, first snapping through the glass, later running right up to them to get shots until the police arrived.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Get a digital camera and go seriously photograph what you most want to photograph until you’re satisfied with the results.

–Wen Ling 7.19.2003

Interview published with Wen Ling’s permission, 2003. All photos are his.

Counterfeiting in China

I

It was the year 2000, and I had just arrived in China. I had very few Chinese friends at that point, but I was desperate to practice my horrible Chinese. I had ideas.

I sought out people that couldn’t speak English and couldn’t escape. My first such friends were the guards at the apartment where I lived for my first month. They just sat around in the guardhouse all day handing out newspapers, occasionally demanding toughly where cars thought they were going immediately before meekly opening the gate for them. So they were happy to talk to a walking oddity like me.

I also met a pair who worked at the 1-2-3 Taiwanese burger chain. They were cool to hang out with and talk to at night. I seemed to always come as a welcome relief, since they were bored out of their minds in the shop.

Anyway, it was in the 1-2-3 shop that I got my first good look at a counterfeit bill detector. It looked like a large plastic glasses case or something, stuck half open. You run the bills through it, and the appropriate lights tell you if the bill is real or fake. Employees are supposed to check the money when they’ve got nothing else to do. They showed me fake 100’s, 50’s, 20’s, 10’s, and yes, even 5’s (that’s just over $0.50 US). Until that time I hadn’t realized how rampant counterfeiting is in China.

II

Last semester I was buying snacks at the on-campus grocery store. I handed the cashier a 50. She looked at it for a second and told me it was fake. I didn’t get it for a sec. You never really expect it to happen to you. She didn’t accept the money, but she let me keep it. (Some places are required to hold on to all counterfeit money that comes into their possession.)

I showed it to my friend who works at the Bank of China. She identified it easily and pointed out to me all the little telltale signs. She also told me a few stories about some of the ways people try to scam the bank. I asked her what I should do with the fake 50. “Well, if it was me,” she said, “I’d just spend it.”

I still have that 50. I’ve kept it as a little souvenir. It’s stuck to my fridge with a magnet.

III

Wayne

Wayne

Wednesday night I was at a coffee shop (OK, I’ll admit it — yes, it was Starbucks) with some friends. Wayne, one of my co-workers here at ZUCC, was late. When he SMSed that he would be arriving late he also mentioned that he had tried to use a 100 and been told it was fake. He was sure it came to him as a part of the pay for summer work teaching at Zhejiang University. When he arrived, we talked about it a little more and decided he should take it back to the people who paid him and exchange it. They also need to know their money source isn’t completely reliable.

We later ended up eating at a dim sum place. When the bill came around, Wayne suddenly asked, “should I try to use the fake 100?” Knowing that Wayne is not always the most decisive guy in the world, I seized the moment for a little nugget of excitement. “Yeah, do it, Wayne!” I encouraged him. (It is, after all, what any ordinary Chinese person does when he gets counterfeit money.)

Feeling a little nervous, Wayne did it. We were soon on our way out, Wayne leading the way. It wasn’t until our group was just out the restaurant doors that I noticed Wayne was a little bit ahead of everyone else. He was already clear across the parking lot, rounding the corner to the street. “What is Wayne doing?” we all wondered.

When we made it to the street, we saw that the gap had widened further, as Wayne had made rapid progress down Yan’an Road in the time that it took us to get across the parking lot.

“Hey Wayne!” I yelled to him. “What’s the rush? Wait up!” He did, although clearly not without a little anxiety.

Wayne was indeed doing his best to flee the scene of the crime. He kept expecting the restaurant staff to come flying around the corner at any second. The funny thing was that I had been on a long walk down that very road the day before, and Wayne had refused to exceed a “leisurely” pace. What’s more, when Wayne was already halfway down the restaurant stairs, I watched the cashier put the hundred away without a second glance. But here was Wayne, trying his best for a compromise between a mad dash and an unconcerned stroll.

We kept joking with him about hearing the search dogs catching up, but he wasn’t fully relaxed until we walked down the block, turned the corner, and got in a cab. Even then, were we really safe…?

I guess there are still those that get excited about it, but counterfeit money is really common here. So is spending it.

Let the Past Speak to the Present

I found this link via Zod at 905life. The article was quite interesting.

It was Li Zhensheng’s job in the late 1960’s to photograph the happy face of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution for a provincial Chinese daily newspaper. But as he dutifully fed the propaganda machine with uplifting images, he gradually understood that he was also recording history, and so he took a major risk: on his assignments, he began including disturbing aspects of the revolution and then hid the negatives under the floorboards of his home.

I also found the following paragraph heartening.

Today Mr. Li looks back and sees a different China. The excesses and leaders of the revolution were denounced after Mao’s death in 1976. Communist capitalism is now entrenched. Mr. Li, 63, lives in New York and Beijing. He is confident that his book will soon also be published in China.

It’s noteworthy to mention that this New York Times article is not blocked in China.

Laowai Fury

Brendan is wigging out*. Adam is pissed his bike was stolen again. Hank has recently fought off the almost overpowering urge to flee China due to a few particularly bad incidences in Huaibei. Brad has had his share of frustrations recently too.

And me? Well, I’m just great! Of course, I’ve had my unhappy moments here in China too — I’ve posted about them quite a few times. Lately, though, the only things I could find to complain about would be 1) Hangzhou in the summer is HOT, 2) My summer class contains a few students who seem to think they know more than me about how to teach Spoken English, which is just so laughable for so many reasons, and 3) I don’t have much time to blog.

[Ah, blog guilt. It’s so ridiculous, but I think a lot of bloggers out there experience it. You haven’t written in a while, so you feel guilty. Maybe part of it is a twinge of anxiety over the possibility of losing readers? I’m not sure. Although I do feel a bit of this, I think I’ll have to choose a busy social life over a frequently updated, thoughtfully written blog at this juncture. Please understand, dear readers. I will have more time to write soon.]

Despite the fact that things are going nicely for me, I had a somewhat disturbing dream last night. It’s also kind of interesting in that it was entirely in Chinese. I’ll share it here.

I was sitting on the couch in my apartment with a Chinese friend. She needed to take a shuttle bus from Hangzhou to the Shanghai Pudong airport, and we were examining a brochure which offered this service. As were were discussing it, there was a knock at the door.

In came a middle-aged woman with a brochure for a shuttlebus to the Pudong airport. [This is the kind of person you normally bump into when you get off a train. Why she was in my apartment building can only be explained by the fact that it was a dream.]

She started pushing her service when my friend pointed out that we already had the same brochure and were examining it right then. Then the lady started helping to explain how it all works. My friend made a small joke over some point in the brochure, and the lady laughed. I laughed as well.

The lady said to my friend, “Oh, the laowai is laughing too.” Implicit was that I didn’t really understand because they were talking in Chinese, but I was just laughing along for the hell of it.

I told the lady that I could speak Chinese, but she just got flustered, saying that she couldn’t speak English. Then I lost it.

Grabbing her shoulders, I plucked her small frame off the couch and shook her.

“I’M SPEAKING CHINESE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

No response. I shook her again.

“I’M SPEAKING CHINESE! DO YOU UNDERSTAND??”

She was absolutely terrified. “I don’t understand you…” she was trying to say.

“I’M SPEAKING CHINESE!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?”

She got out a weak, “I don’t understand you….”

I was livid. Still holding her in the air, a rushed to the front door, which was still ajar, and hurled her violently from my home.

I’m not a violent person, even in my dreams, normally. There really seems to be something about China that drives people to the brink of sanity. Furthermore, learning the language seems to be a catalyst rather than an antidote.

* Postscript: This entry has since been removed by Brendan. In his own words, “I removed that post from bokane.org because, frankly, it was disgraceful and I’m ashamed of it…. I don’t want to hate China. I don’t want to hate Harbin. I’m not a mean or hateful person, but I see myself becoming one, and it is scaring me.”

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