Showing posts with label language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label language. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Life on the Flip Side: Open Air Markets

Buying food is perhaps one of the most different things about living in China. Not just that many of the western staples we are used to aren't available here, but the whole process. In America now the usual way to get food is just to get in your car and drive to the supermarket, load up with what you need for a week, drive back, unload it, and move on with your day. Buying food from Farmer's markets and such is now an exception and they can be hard to find.

In China, as in much of the world, the most common place to buy fruits and vegetables are street markets. It is actually less common for people to buy their produce (and even meat for that matter) in supermarkets than in open air markets. Many older people won't even consider buying produce or meat from a place like Walmart, preferring to continue their longstanding tradition of shopping once a day in their traditional Chinese markets.

I have friends who have moved from China to more westernized countries and even these young women very much miss going to traditional markets and picking out very fresh produce and meat. One of my friends told me she hates getting her produce already packaged, as she wants to be able to pick out each carrot and potato herself.

Here we often by our produce in open air, farmer's type markets. The produce is generally much better than you will find in a supermarket, although the price might be higher. The selection is almost always better, both in quality and variety of food available. For example, when strawberries first come into season here at the beginning of December, you will only be able to get them in Farmer's markets or from street sellers for several weeks before you will be able to find them at Walmart. So if we have the time we quite prefer the fruit and vegetables at the open air markets.

Watermelons in Walmart

We do still sometimes try to just do one shopping trip at Walmart for the week, because it is simply more convenient. All the prices are marked, so you don't have to ask about each individual item, there is no bargaining, and I have never yet had cause to question the accuracy of Walmart's scale. So if we're trying to be efficient (which is something Americans tend to value way more than here) we will just stop at the supermarket and get as much as we can there.

Old style scale still used in markets

However, even if we are trying to do one stop shopping, it isn't at all usual for the supermarket to suddenly be completely out of something or it will be really poor quality (sometimes for weeks) and we'll make an unplanned stop for sweet potatoes, eggs, sometimes even meat, or something else. One thing that living in a different culture definitely is teaching us is the need to remain flexible. Additionally, we have found some open air markets that offer many other things besides food, some of which are much higher quality than a place like Walmart. They are definitely the only place we've found in a large city like this to offer traditional items like beautiful pots and bamboo baskets.

Large open air market

We do really love much of the unusual produce that are available here and learning new ways to purchase food has taught us many things. We love learning to make new things from ingredients that aren't readily available in the States. We are learning to enjoy eating seasonally as most of the world does.
I am confused about why they wrap the oranges though...

Diana from Saving by Making is currently running a series called Farmers Market Reviews to help people find lesser known Farmers Markets in their area. I think this series could be really helpful for many people living in America. If you live in China I don't think you will actually have a very hard time finding  open air or farmers type of market. But in case you are, I have a broad tip for you that should help you locate one in any Chinese city (Where they speak mandarin anyway). Simply locate an older person carrying a small amount of vegetables (there is a high probability that they shop daily in a local market) and ask them. "Shìchǎng zài nǎlǐ?" (市场在哪里,Where is the street market?). They should be able to point you in the right direction.

In addition to very large markets here it is very common to see produce for sale on a smaller scale anywhere on the streets.  People travel a long way with baskets, carts, or by van to bring in food from the countryside and sell it conveniently all over the city streets. So chances are if you are traveling in China and can't find a large market,  you would still be able to buy local produce from someone like this. It is truly awesome to be able to pick up fresh fruit for a snack on the go, although we usually stick to peel-able fruits for quick snacks.

Personally, I'd love to see America increase the availability of local produce and food products, much like you would find here in the East, but perhaps implement more western hygiene practices for the best of both worlds.

And why wrap oranges but not meat?

Very fresh fish

Dried fruit

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 哥哥 (Older Brother)

Andrew hugging a little brother as they look at the fish
Andrew is growing so fast and seems a lot older lately now that he is speaking in sentences and using the potty quite well most of the time. We've already announced that he has a younger sibling due to arrive on the outside in the fall. But Andrew is already getting called older or big brother (gēge, 哥哥) on the playground.

I've mentioned before that in Mandarin people traditionally use family terms to relate to people even outside their family. This is especially true among children. When we first arrived Andrew was almost always the little brother (dìdi, 弟弟), when we would be out and about. This is in part because they usually don't put kids down to play outside until they can walk well, because well the ground can be dirty from kids playing in split pants. So most of the kids around were his age or older, or they were being carried around constantly and not really interacting.

Now there are different one-year-olds running around, but Andrew is older and much bigger. So now he gets to be the older brother (gēge, 哥哥) to Chinese babies even before he meets his new sibling in the fall and finds out if it is a younger brother (dìdi, 弟弟) or a younger sister (mèimei, 妹妹).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mandarin Mondays:等一等 (Wait a Little)

One of the things I was told repeatedly on Friday during my visit to the Chinese hospital, for my prenatal visit and some extra tests, was to wait. I was told this in a few different ways, but perhaps most commonly was 等一等(děng yī děng).

This made me think of how this reduplication of words is extremely common in Chinese. They often use the same word twice to add emphasis or feeling to a statement.

In the case of a verb like wait, reduplication usually means that it is something done for a short time or that is or should be easy to do. Adjectives are commonly reduplicated to emphasize this certain quality like good (hǎo hǎo, 好好) or small (xiǎo xiǎo, 小小). There are many other uses as well.

At first reduplication can sound funny to English speakers, because we don't commonly do this. It can sound almost like baby talk. But it is used so ubiquitously in Mandarin that you soon become quite comfortable throwing in reduplicated words into everyday phrases.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 感冒 (Common Cold)

I mentioned recently that our whole family caught a cold over the weekend. It really isn't anything serious, and our boys already got over it in one day. My husband and I still have the sniffles, but it isn't anything terrible. We're taking extra vitamin C, eating well, and drinking lots of fluids, and we will probably be over this bug shortly.

To the Chinese people though, catching a cold (gǎn mào, 感冒) is a very serious matter. If fact people often go to the hospital here when they catch a common cold. Usually, they are simply given an IV and sent home, possibly with some pear medicine for a sore throat or some other kind of medicine.

Most people also still really seem to believe that having a cold (gǎn mào, 感冒) is related to being cold (lěng,). That is, your internal temperature is too cold (lěng,) and thus you are sick with a cold (gǎn mào, 感冒). There are other diseases that they believe are caused by too much internal heat. One person I know says this includes pink eye. Even people we know who are pretty aware of germs, wash their hands frequently, and take extra precautions when preparing food, will still pile on the sweaters and blankets when they have a cold. It is just the way it works here. And you definitely shouldn't tell any Chinese people that you have a cold if you are wearing anything less than 3 sweaters and a parka, even in the middle of summer, because you will get harshly scolded and tell you to go home and put more clothes on.

I actually find it kind of ironic that the words cold (gǎn mào, 感冒) and cold (lěng,) in English are the same, but different in Mandarin. I would definitely expect it to be the other way around because this belief is so ingrained into their culture.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 下雨 (Rain)

May is usually when the rainy season begins. Right now, many people are hoping that it will begin in earnest soon because we have had a very dry winter (dōng tiān, 冬天) and spring (chūn tiān, 春天). While this made for a very nice mild temperature and climate, the city could use the water. Today was the first rain (xiàyǔ, 下) this May (wǔ yuè, 五月). We'll see if this starts a trend.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 清明节 (Tomb Sweeping Day)

I'm a little late posting a Mandarin Mondays post again, but this week all days are a little off here. And this time it is not just due to our latest blessing, but everyone's schedule in this city is changed. This is because this week is Clear Bright Festival or more commonly known as Tomb Sweeping Day (Qīngmíng Jié, 清明节). In the city, they are only officially supposed to get one day off, but many people work through the previous weekend so they have three "days off" for the holiday this week. This does make sense for those who feel the need to travel a long way for this holiday but can disrupt a lot of schedules too.

For this traditional festival Chinese, people travel (sometimes a long distance) to return to visit their ancestors' tombs. When they are there, they quickly "sweep" or clear away leaves and overgrowth off of their relatives graves. Then they may offer food and burn "pop-up" houses or other objects to their relatives to sustain them in the next life. This is done by decorating their grave with these items. They may then say a prayer to their ancestors before lighting off fireworks (which they don't clean up) and leaving to repeat the process at their next relative's tomb. How much of these practices is done varies widely by the individual, usually related to their closeness to their ancestors and their ancestors' level of affluence. The more respected and affluent a person, the more ornate their tomb, and generally the more ornately decorated each year as well.

I must admit that this is one holiday I am quite grateful I don't have to participate in, because my Greatest Ancestor's Tomb is empty.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 太贵了(Too expensive)

Meat Market
Both my husband and I recently had Mandarin lessons that covered bartering in the market for fruit, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about bartering here today.

This type of language is really one of the first things that you have to learn here. "How much is this?" (duō shǎo qián?, 多少钱) is one of my most used mandarin phrases, possibly even more than hello, but less than they are not twins.

When shopping in any open air market or relatively small shop, the prices may be negotiable. If the shop keeper gives you a price that is too expensive (tài guìle, 太贵了) you just say so, and they will either give you a counter offer, ask you how much you want to give them for the item, or tell you no this is really cheap. The last means they won't lower the price, and you can take it or leave it.

Often food sellers here won't lower their prices unless you are a Kunming native or have developed a good relationship with a particular seller. So in one nearby market, we often have to ask several people for the price of something like tomatoes, until someone gives us a good deal, or go consistently to the same seller who usually gives us a fair price.

Coming back from buying fruit
But really, we don't really want to spend a lot of time bartering for a few cents off of vegetables anyway, so if we aren't finding good deals that day we'll usually just pay a little bit more or head to Walmart. You don't barter at Walmart, department stores, or KFC in case you're wondering. And yes, it would be weird if you tried to.

Things we do barter for are bigger items like furniture from the used furniture market or a rental prices on apartments. Some people will go down a significant amount on some of these things, and you can actually save real money. And sometimes simply walking away or acting disinterested will make the seller want to lower the price all on their own. This silent method of bartering is one of our favorites, as the seller is lowering the price of their own volition and would never tell you a price that they couldn't still make a profit off of.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: Now (现在)

I recently resumed Mandarin lessons with my tutor. During my last Mandarin lesson my tutor reviewed time words and phrases such as "what time is it now" (xiàn zài jǐ diǎn, 现在几点)

We started class (shàng kè, 上课) in the morning (shàng wǔ, 上午) and finished class (xià kè, 下课) before afternoon (xià wǔ, 下午).

My tutor is a very good teacher. She is having me practice pronunciation and tones a lot right now too. She says it can be hard when you're learning, but I'll thank her later.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: Lantern Festival (元宵节)

Today is the last day of the Chinese New Year (known here as Spring Festival), and it is called Lantern Festival (Yuán xiāo jié, 元宵节). This festival is always held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month of the new year because it is the night of the first full moon of that year. People often go out to appreciate the moon, and round red lanterns are hung to light up the sky as well. Thousands of red lanterns decorate the city right now.

On this day, people traditionally gather with family or friends and eat a special food that is a ball of rice flour that is sometimes filled with sesame or peanuts. These are called tāng yuán (湯圓) and are eaten boiled in water, similar to the idea of dumplings in soup, but it is sweet like a dessert. The round shape of the moon and the tāng yuán symbolize family and togetherness.

Apparently, this is also traditionally a sort of Chinese Valentine's day to celebrate your sweetheart. Nowadays in China, there are three "Valentine's Days" though: Lantern Festival (Yuán xiāo jié, 元宵节), the Western Valentine's Day, and Chinese Valentine's Day (Qíng rén jié, 情人节) or (Qīxī Jié, 七夕節), which is on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month and means the night of sevens. A friend of mine says this is bad news for Chinese boyfriends.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: Happy New Year (新年快乐)!

Huge lantern
Happy New Year! (xīnnián kuàilè!, 新年快乐!)

Yesterday was the official start of Spring Festival (Chūn jié, 春节), which is Chinese new year. This is the year of the dragon (lóng, ). Dragons, lanterns (dēng lóng, 灯笼), and other red (hóng sè, ) and yellow (huáng sè, 黄色) decorations are all over the city now.

The week before Spring Festival was very busy in the city. Everyone was buying new clothes, gifts, special food, and lots of fireworks. Going to the store was like shopping on the day after thanksgiving in the States...all week long. Bringing gifts, food, and money in red envelopes back to the family celebrations is very important here for this festival. People from the city were stocking up before they would travel, and people came in from the countryside to do their holiday shopping too.

Now that the festival has started though, most shops have closed down and the streets are nearly empty. Everyone who is able to has traveled back to the hometown of their oldest living relative. There they will celebrate for several days giving gifts and enjoying family dinners. Not returning home at this time will mean you are considered a bad son or daughter. Our family is wishing we were adapting to the culture and returning home now too, but travel is crazy now with everyone trying to travel at once. So I guess we're bad children right now.

But now that many people have left the city, it is quite quiet. That is, except for the massive amount of firecrackers (biān pào, 鞭炮) and fireworks (yān huā, 烟花) going off almost all of the time. Last night (the actual evening of their new year day, instead of new years eve like we celebrate in the West) they lit off tons of fireworks at midnight and periodically all throughout the night into the morning. Literally at midnight our windows shook, but the boys managed to sleep through it just fine. The boys actually love to watch the fireworks and get really excited when they are awake to see them. We can see a lot from our back porch as the fire department lights a bunch off each night, and we are right behind them.
Fireworks for sale

We learned later that we were kind of confused on the dates. The actual New Year's day this year was January 23, but the festival starts New Year's Eve, so people refer to this as the start of the holiday. So anyway, the biggest firework day is the New Year's Eve night into the New Year's Day.

It will be interesting to see what else this quiet/noisy week holds here. Hope you all are have a great week and have a happy new year!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: Spring Festival (春节)

Spring Festival (Chūn jié, 春节), known as Chinese New Year in the West, does not officially begin until the evening of January 21st, but the preparations are already gearing up. All of the stores have special gifts on display. People are buying special food and gifts to take back on their journey to their hometowns. Everyone is cleaning their houses top to bottom to rid them of bad luck and decorating them with lots of red decorations to bring in good luck, and most women have new hairdos to start out the new year on the right foot.

And perhaps the part of the celebration that Spring Festival is most famous for, the fireworks (yān huā, 烟花) have already begun. People have already begun setting off firecrackers (fàng biān pào, 放鞭炮) and lighting off fireworks (fàng yān huā, 放烟花) throughout the day and into the night. It is a little noisy now, but I'm guessing next week will be really noisy. This will be our first Spring Festival in China, and I think it will be an interesting experience to see all of the celebrations that go along with their biggest holiday. I'll be writing more about the festival over the next few weeks.

Happy New Year! (xīnnián kuàilè!, 新年快乐!)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mandarin Mondays:像

Because of my new goals for studying Mandarin, I've been listening to a lot more ChinesePod lessons. This past week I listened to one about the word xiàng (像) which means to resemble. While we don't hear this phrase quite as much as people asking if the boys are twins (shuāng bāo tāi, 双胞胎), we are often also told, "Your baby really looks like you." In Chinese you would say, "Nǐ de bǎobǎo hěn xiàng nǐ (你的宝宝很像你)."

I think that Andrew's eyes (yǎn jīng, 眼睛) look like mine, but his nose (bí zǐ, 鼻子) and mouth (zuǐba, 嘴巴) more closely resemble his father (tā bàba, 爸爸).

Do you agree?
Nǐ tóngyì ma?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 火锅

Someone told my mom that when they were in Kunming visiting us, they should try the hot pot (huǒ guō, 火锅) with mushrooms (mó gu, 蘑菇), because mushrooms are a signature food of Yunnan. So after Nate and I made a rather amusing attempt of trying to ask a hot pot restaurant for its menu or find out pricing, and it actually looked pretty reasonable, we decided to go there for dinner one night. At this restaurant, you go up and pick plates of want you want to put into the boiling pot of broth that is built into your table. We decided on mushrooms, potatoes (tǔ dòu, 土豆 or, as they say in Kunming, yángyù, 洋芋), noodles (miàn tiáo, 面条), beef (niú ròu, 牛肉), and cauliflower (cài huā, 菜花). We decided to pass on the brain (nǎo, ) and chicken feet (jī zhuǎ, 鸡爪). It was the best hot pot that any of us had ever had. We were glad that this time we were the ones choosing the food that went it and therefore didn’t have fish head or cow hip added to the soup.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 饺子

While my parents were here, we took them out for some of our favorite Chinese food: jiǎo zi (饺子) and bāo zi (包子). Jiǎo zi is usually translated as "dumpling," but they are more like our meat filled ravioli. They can be boiled, fried, or steamed. Traditionally, you can dip them in vinegar (cù, ), soy sauce (jiàng yóu, 酱油), or hot pepper sauce(là jiāo jiàng, 辣椒酱). Bāo zi (包子) are steamed buns that can be filled with meat (ròu, ), vegetables (shū cài, 蔬菜), or sugar (táng, ). Everyone had fun practicing using their chopsticks (kuài zi, 筷子) to eat them with. The boys are getting better and better at it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 再见

My parents came for about two weeks, and we had a great visit together. We were very busy and did lots of fun things that I'll write more about soon. But the one thing that is always hard is saying "goodbye" at the end of the visit, and I've been thinking I should learn a lesson from the Chinese on this one. Perhaps instead of saying "goodbye" we should all learn to say as the Chinese do "zài jiàn" (再见). Literally this means "again see." Saying "until we see you again" seems more positive to me.

So, remember how much we love you (wǒmen ài nǐ, 我们爱你), and we will see you again (zài jiàn, 再见) soon, even if it is just on Skype for a little while.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 洗手间

We're so excited that my parents are coming for a visit really soon. They'll be here on Friday! They are spending a couple of days first touring famous sites on their own, so we sent them some phrases we thought would be useful to know. Nate made a pronunciation guide for each one trying to approximate how you would normally read it in English as much as possible. Since Chinese pinyin uses English letters as a phonetic guide (but certain letters are often pronounced quite differently) this will give you a better idea how these words are supposed to sound. We thought we'd share it with everyone in case you'll be traveling soon and want to impress someone or teach your mouth some new tricks. If you are ever coming for a visit or planning to tour China, at least learn the first one. Even if you don't like their bathrooms (xǐshǒujiān, 洗手间) because of the squatty potties, it's better than the sidewalk. You'll thank me later.

Useful Mandarin Phrases

"Where is the bathroom?"
she show jen zai na lee

"Where is this place?"
jigga dee fang zai na lee

"Excuse me, can I ask you a question?"
ching when

"How much does this cost?"
doe-a shaow ch-yen

"That is too expensive!"
tai g-way la

"Can you make it cheaper?"
pi-yen e di-yen

"I want the police!"
woa yaow jing cha

The last one was by special request; I've never had to use it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mandarin Mondays:交通

One thing that is markedly different about living in a big city in China, instead of the suburbs or countryside of America, is transportation (jiāo tōng, 交通) around town. Kunming is relatively modern and packed with cars (chē, 车). Some foreigners even drive here, although it takes a bit of effort to get a driver's license here and a bit of an expense to purchase a vehicle. However, if you are spending most of your time within the city, you don't really "need" a car unless you just love to drive.

The option we use the most for traveling in the city is public buses (gōng jiāo chē, 公交车), which will take you all over the city for a very reasonable price. Once you learn the bus routes, it feels very comfortable to just hop on a bus and ride to your destination. My husband has even used Google maps to figure out bus routes to and from destinations. If we are going somewhere new, we can figure out ahead of time what number bus to catch, if we need to change buses, and the names of the stops we want to get off at.

Some other foreigners use small motorcycles (diàn dòng chē, 电动车). Motorcycles will probably get you to your destination as fast or faster than any car, but they're not our preferred method of transportation. Regular pedal bicycles (zì xíng chē, 自行车) are more popular and perhaps the most popular method among foreigners. They can get you to your destination on our own schedule quite quickly and have very little fees, other than an occasional very small parking fee.

I think the last option for getting around town is the simplest, although it will take you longer, and that is simply walking (zǒu, ). We often do this to places nearby, and usually push our little boys in the stroller or use baby carriers to carry them on our backs. This is a great option for things that are close to you. It has all of the benefits of a bicycle, and you don’t have to lock your bike. It will take you longer and you'll be more tired, and obviously it is not a good option for getting all the way across the city, but for a quick run to the store, we like this option best. Walmart, fruit and vegetables markets, and a lot of restaurants are all within easy walking distance from our house.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 地理

Because of China's National Day (guó qìng jié, 国庆节), we're studying about China this month. Each Monday I'll be sharing a few of the facts we've learned about this fascinating country. This week we're learning facts about China's geography (dì lǐ, 地理). Since China is so big (hěn dà, 很大), it is not surprising that it had very diverse landscapes and climates.

This vast country has almost every kind of terrain there is. Forests (sēnlín, 森林), coastline (hǎi'ànxiàn, 海岸线), deserts (shāmò, 沙漠), mountains (shān, 山), and even subtropical rainforests (yàrèdài yǔlín, 亚热带雨林) can all be found in different parts of China. From the cold north up by Harbin to the warm island weather of Hainan, China has just about every climate also.

China also has some of the world's highest mountains and longest rivers as well. The world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest (Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng, 珠穆朗玛峰), at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) is on the China-Nepal border, and second-highest point is 28,251 feet high (8,611 meters) and is on the China-Pakistan border. The Yangtze River (Chángjiāng, 长江) is the third longest river in the world, and the Yellow River (Huánghé, 黄河) is the sixth longest in the world

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 很大

Rural meets City
Because of China's national day this month, we're learning more about this fascinating country, and I'll be sharing some of the facts we've learned each Monday.

This week we've been learning about how big China is. China is a very large (hěn dà, 很大) country. It is in fact the biggest country, in regards to amount of people. China is the world's most populous country with over 1.3 billion people. They have a saying here, people mountain people sea (rén shān rén hǎi, 人山人海), meaning sometimes it looks like there is a mountain of people and sometimes it looks like there is a sea of people. However much of China is not densely populated; the rural areas are still quite open and spacious. But if you are in a popular place in a big city, you can feel like you've suddenly become part of a mountain (shān, ) or sea (hǎi, ) because of people (rén, ).

Construction Downtown
China is also big in the amount of land it covers, approximately 9.6 million square kilometers (3.7 million square miles). China is 3rd or 4th in the world in total land area, depending on how it is calculated. The People Republic of China is a single party state governing 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 directly controlled municipalities, and 2 colonies.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 国庆节

Beautiful Country
This week, China is celebrating its National Day (guó qìng jié, 国庆节). The official National Day is October 1st, which signifies when the People's Republic of China was declared a nation on October 1st, 1949. However, National Day here is a much bigger countrywide celebration than America's Independence Day, and they celebrate for a whole week long. This is one of China's two Golden Weeks (huáng jīn zhōu, 黄金周), week long holidays. The other Golden Week is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring festival (chūn jié, 春节).

During these Golden Weeks many, many people travel because it is the most time they get off in a row all year. So if you don't have to travel during these weeks, you may wish to stay home. Planes, trains, and buses will all likely be packed.

Much like America, traditional National Day celebrations include fireworks and concerts. In honor of National Day we are doing a China, or Middle Kingdom (zhōng guó, 中国), unit study for the month of October. I plan on sharing a few things we are learning about this fascinating country's history each Monday this month, so we can learn about it together.


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