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

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 背带

Here it is very common to see people wear a traditional Asian type of baby carrier to carry their babies around with them. Some women (particularly the poorer women like recyclers, street sellers, or small shop keepers) carry their babies all day. In some ways, I think these kids are the lucky ones, because while they may lack some physical niceties, they get to be with their mom far more than most of the rich kids who are often sent to live with relatives, even in other towns, while their parents spend all their time working to provide for their certain lifestyle.

However, most people just use these types of carriers to go shopping or run other errands around town. Even though the roads and sidewalks here are much better than most of the smaller cities and villages, there are definitely still times when it is easier to carry little ones on your back instead of trying to maneuver the stroller. This becomes especially true if you want to ride bused or do any hiking off of paved roads.

 This types of carrier is most commonly known as mei tai in the west. This is a version of its Cantonese name miē dài (孭带). In Mandarin they call them bēi dài (背带). Here, they usually just have two really long straps at the top corners of a very large square of fabric.

We'd been thinking about purchasing some for a while, but they are only sold in small markets, and the price they told me was more than we wanted to pay. Also, a baby carrier isn't something you want to buy the absolute cheapest version of either. So recently, we found the fabric market (they like to group almost all of a type of seller into one section of town here), and I made two myself. I made ours with two long and two short straps because I think it is more secure and spreads out the weight more. I also made sure to stitch the strap reinforcements a lot, a lot, to make sure that they would hold up with our big, sturdy boys.

We went for a hike two weekends ago and the carriers worked great. We were able to take a really small bus to the edge of town and then hike up a path in the woods. Both of those things are next to impossible if you have to drag the stroller around. We're pretty happy with these carriers. Andrew was even so tired and comfortable on the way back that he fell asleep on the way back in the carrier.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 家人

Hello little sister
Mèimei hǎo (妹妹)
After you learn how to use basic greetings in a foreign language, it it a good idea to learn how you should address or refer to the people you come in contact with. Just and in America, you don't want to say, "Hey Dude" when you should be saying, "Hello Mr. So-and-so." You don't want to address people in the wrong way in a foreign language.

Here it is very common to refer to everyone using family terms. This means that in general you would refer to everyone, unless it is a very formal situation, the same way you would refer to your family (jiārén, 家人). It is fine for me to refer to anyone who is the age of my grandparents by the names for paternal grandparents. For children especially, it is almost expected that they will call all adults, grandpa (yéye, 爷爷), grandma (nǎinai, 奶奶), uncle (shūshu, 叔叔), or aunt (āyí, 阿姨) based on the particular adults age.

Perhaps the first question asked about any child, besides asking if our boys are twins, is their age. And then if they can't figure out the gender (because the kid isn't wearing split pants, and/or hasn't gone to the bathroom publicly lately), they will ask if it is a boy (nánhái, 男孩) or a girl (nǚhái, 女孩). This is in part because here they have separate words for older sister (jiějie, 姐姐), younger sister (mèimei, 妹妹), older brother (gēge, 哥哥), and younger brother(dìdi, 弟弟), and usually children call all other children by the appropriate relational term.

This can take a little getting used to, because we don't usually refer to strangers as family in the US. However, it does have the advantage of not having to remember quite so many names. Which is really good for me, because I am having a horrible time remembering Chinese names.

Does anyone have a question about the language or culture here? Or a topic idea you would like to see for future Mandarin Mondays? I have a list of ideas started, but I'd like to make sure that I am writing about things that others would find interesting as well.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 你好

Babies greeting each other with a universal cheek pinch.
Perhaps both boys' cheeks have been pinched too often
by Chinese Grandmas greeting them.
Greetings are usually one of the first things you learn when studying a foreign language because how are you going to have a conversation if you can't start one? While it is very good to know how to greet someone, or respond to their greeting, that doesn't always mean that greetings are the easiest thing to learn. Often they can be complicated, because how you normally start a conversation varies a lot culturally, and often there is no good direct translation for what a phrase means.

When you see someone any time of the day here you can say, "Nǐ hǎo (你好)." This literally means "you good," but culturally it means something much closer to our "hello." You are not really asking how they are doing, and they won't respond by telling you how they are doing, but will usually just say, "Nǐ hǎo (你好)," in response.

Now there is also the formal way to say hello, "Nín hǎo (您好)" and the way to say hello to more than one person, "nǐmen hǎo (你们)," but these are rarely used in daily conversation. In fact while these phrases are the most grammatically accurate, unless you are in a very formal setting, you will likely sound out of place using them. This isn't something you can learn from a textbook, but from everyday life, or perhaps a really good Chinese teacher or friend.

Exchanging greetings at English corner
Similarly, while English speakers usually ask "How are you," after saying hello, the direct translation of "how are you" (Nǐ hǎo ma, 你好吗) is almost never used here. Actually, I think outside of a Chinese lesson, I have only heard it spoken by foreigners here. It is much more common to use the phrase "Nǐ zěnme yàng? (你怎么样?)." This means something like our phrase "how are you doing," while the literal translation comes out quite strange: "You how way?"

The Chinese people here have trouble with our greetings too. Most of the children here have learned the following greeting (even if it is all of the English they know): "Hi, how are you? I am fine, sanks." They do not have the th sound in Mandarin, so most people cannot pronounce it correctly, much like we have trouble with the multitude of sounds in Mandarin that English does not possess.

At least we are not alone in our language difficulties. Hopefully, the Chinese people will give us grace as we work continually on improving our Mandarin.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 学校

Today is the first day of school (xuéxiào, 学校) for kids here, so I thought I'd write a little of what I know about the kids (hái zi men, 孩子们) and schooling on this side of the world. Like everything else, it is quite different from the West.

Generally speaking here new momthers (māmā, 妈妈) stay in bed for one month after giving birth.  In fact, they are not supposed to do anything, even shower or read books.  After one month, they usually give their new baby (bǎo bǎo, 宝宝) over to the paternal grandparents (zǔ fù mǔ, 祖父母). Usually the baby lives (zhù zài, 住在) with the grandparents for the first few years of their life, even if they are in a different province from the parents, and the parents may visit as they have time. There are of course exceptions to this, but this is a widely accepted practice here.

At about 3 years old (sān suì, 三岁) kids begin a sort of preschool or kindergarten. This first step in formal schooling is usually about 9 hours a day. The toddler will usually still live with grandparents and/or parents and have the evenings free to spend with family (jiā rén, 家人). Usually, these schools are nearby, although they may commute an hour or so to attend a better school. Getting into a good school is a big deal here, even for preschool. Sometimes getting into a really good school requires special "gifts" that can cost thousands of dollars (USD). This may seem strange, but the preschool they attended could help determine what primary (elementary) schools the child may be allowed to attend and ultimately what colleges they are allowed to go to.

Next comes primary school. I think most children start at about age 6. Primary schools are also usually about 9 hours a day, but the children have a lot of homework (zuò yè, 作业) for the evenings also. These schools are still local and the children continue to live with the grandparents or other relatives.

High school dorm
(housing about 10 girls)
Children typically leave their family home for the first time, when they begin middle school. Most middle and high schools are boarding schools, and children live there, sometimes all year round. A lot of schools have a middle and high school on the same campus. Generally for these grades have classes morning (shàng wǔ, 上午), afternoon (xià wǔ, 下午), and evening (wǎn shàng, 晚上) during the week, and just morning and evening classes on weekends (yes, both Saturday and Sunday). They have about a two hour break for lunch and dinner, as well as many other shorter breaks throughout the day, but the children's time is quite scheduled.

Students in a classroom
(in Lanshan, Hunan)
The middle school and high school children attend is a really big deal, as there is often a limit of the number of students from each school that can get into a university (dà xué, 大学). The better the high school, the more students will be allowed to attend, and the better each students chance at getting into a good university. Geographic location also plays a big part in this since schools usually take more students from their area as well as from bigger cities. Because of this, students may go to middle or high school quite far from their parents or grandparents, if financially possible. They might travel home for holidays or stay with another relative who lives a little closer.
Boys playing with a friend at English Corner

English (yīng wén, 英文) plays a large role in getting into a good university. The university entrance exams (gāo kǎo, 高考) have large English sections, so students are often interested in improving their English through private schools or other means. Here, where there are a lot of foreigners, there are often "English corners" in public parks where people go at a certain time each week to practice speaking English. We all have fun going to these sometimes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 天气

Something that a lot of people seem curious about is what the weather (tiān qì, 天气) is like here in Kunming (昆明). Kunming's weather is one of the mildest climates around. It is far enough south that it rarely gets too cold (tài lěng, 太冷), and its high altitude (1,900 m above sea level) keeps it from getting very hot (hěn rè, 很热). In fact, it is often called the "Spring City" or the "Green City" because of its mild weather and lush vegetation.

Right now in summer (xià tiān, 夏天), it is warm, not hot, with average highs about 75 F and average lows about 62 F. Summer is the rainy season, and it does rain a lot: 7–8 inches a month on average. It can get quite chilly here when it rains (yǔ, ). In fact they have a saying here: "It's winter when it rains." But it warms back up when the sun shines, and this keeps it from ever getting too hot here. Apparently the record high was 90 F.

The rains begin to taper off in September (jiǔ yuè, ). September (jiǔ yuè, ) and October (shí yuè, 十月) are supposed to be still very nice with most days still in the low 70s. Fall (qiū tiān, 秋天) is very mild here.

In November (shí yī yuè, 十一月), the average highs begin to drop to the 60's, and the rains slow to almost nothing. In winter (dōng tiān, 冬天), the average highs are about 60 F, and the average lows about 36 F. The weather can be a little crazy at times, and occasionally there are freak snows (xià xuě, 下). We actually experienced one in March (sān yuè, 三月), but this is quite rare. The record low was 18 F.

In spring (chūn tiān, 春天), the temperature climbs back up to 70–75 F for highs and 45–60 F for lows. Usually in May (wǔ yuè, 五月), the rains begin again.

This climate is great for agriculture and gardening. Kunming is famous for it's horticulture. It produces a lot of different fruits (shuǐ guǒ, 水果) and vegetables (shū cài, 蔬菜), and much of China's flowers (huā, ) are exported from this area.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 二手市场

I mentioned last week that some of the furniture available at the second hand market (èr shǒu shì chǎng, 二手市场) is better quality than a lot of the cheap new stuff and that we are excited to have purchased some furniture from there to finish furnishing our home.

The second hand market near us is a very unique place. It is almost hard to imagine if you haven't been to something like it. You see, it is like a small villiage inside the market. People sell furniture (jiā jù, 家具), appliances (jiā diàn, 家电), and kicthen (chú fáng, 厨房) items, but they also live there. In the back of a lot of the shops are beds that aren't for sale, because they are used by the sellers. This in effect is their home (jiā, 家).

When you go there, people are cooking (zuò cài, 做菜) their food (shí wù, 食物) over open flame, right in the middle of the isles. Children are running and playing all over, except for the littlest ones, who are either being held or are tied to someone's back.
Visiting a place like this makes us realize all over again how blessed we really are. In this city, most people have a lot of stuff. Most people in our apartment complex actually have a lot more material goods than we do. We recently saw someone moving out of an apartment above us and they literally filled a large (probably equivalent to 12 passenger van in the states) with clothes (yī fú, 衣服). Most people in the city are searching for fulfillment in material things that can never bring true happiness. We are blessed in so many ways that aren't tangible on this earth, and we don't envy those who have more things than us. However, visiting areas where they don't have so many possessions makes you even more thankful for everything we do have.

It also makes it even harder to want to bargain for a better price. Everyone knows that we are very frugal, and no one wants to get ripped off; but at the same time, you know the people they don't have much. At least as a foreigner, you know that you will almost always be paying more than a local person at these types of markets.

After you bargain back and forth, and finally agree on a price, you have to arrange for delivery (chuán sòng, 传送). Usually, someone who delivers will be following you around everywhere and as soon they see you making a purchase (or even get close to purchasing something) they'll be asking if you need delivery. Then you have to negotiate a price for delivery.

The price of delivery may depend on whether it delivered by truck (kǎ chē, 卡车)or by tricycle (sān lún chē, 三轮车). When we got our table, desk, and chairs when we first moved it was delivered by a truck. A young guy who just got his truck and his driver's license delivered it, in fact. That was an experience all in itself. This time a guy with a tricycle cart delivered the two sofas (shā fā, 沙发), and table (zhuō zi, 桌子) we got (for me to use as a desk most of the time). He delivered all of these items in one trip too. Nate jogged along beside him to direct him to the right place.

After we got them inside our house (wǒ men jiā,  我们家) and cleaned them off, we enjoyed our new furniture, feeling very blessed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 中国制造

China is known for manufacturing and is the largest exporter of products in the world. The "Made in China" (zhōngguó zhìzào, 中国制造) label can be seen in all kinds of products worldwide, ranging from high quality silks and porcelain tea sets, to cheap plastic toys.

Two-month old potty seat
with three large cracks
But we are finding that there is a big difference in quality even between what is made in China and exported and what is made and sold in China. Believe it or not, the high quality merchandise will be found in an American Walmart, and the lower quality items will likely be sold in our local Walmart (Wò ēr mǎ, 沃尔玛). Buyer beware has never been more true, and a higher price is not always a guarantee of quality.

Not fun to sit on
One recent example of this we've found recently has been our toilet seat. About two months after we moved into our apartment, the toilet seat that came with the apartment broke. First just the hinges and then the whole thing shattered into pieces. Obviously, it needed to be replaced quickly so that Aaron could continue to use the potty himself without injury. So Nate went to a local hardware shop and bought a toilet seat. The one he bought wasn't a super cheap model, it cost about $10 US, so he thought it should last a while. One month later it began to have tiny cracks showing up in it, and two months later it really needed to be replaced again.

While somethings are solely manufactured and not sold at all here, it usually possible to find a higher quality product in a big city like Kunming, if you know where to look and what to look for. The second time Nate bought a toilet seat, he took a bus to the north side of town to B&Q (Bǎi ānjū, 百安居), a British retailer very similar to Home Depot. He also carefully examined a whole bunch of different models of seats. The one he ended up purchasing cost less than the first one, but the plastic is much thicker. We have high hopes that this seat will last more than two months. If it doesn't, I guess that is just what we get for having a western toilet in our apartment in China. One benefit of a squatty potty is that you never need a seat.

Now it may not be surprising that import stores have some of the higher quality items here, but some of the local markets carry some amazingly sturdy items as well. Some of the furniture in the second hand markets (èr shǒu shì chǎng, 二手市场), is much better than new furniture, because it is made with real wood. Baskets and pots at local street markets (shì chǎng, 市场) seem much more durable and unique than similar factory made products at Walmart (Wò ēr mǎ, 沃尔玛).

I really like some of the baskets and pots we purchased from a street market (shì chǎng, 市场), and they have stood up to a lot of abuse from the boys.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 双胞胎

My most used foreign language phrases have always surprised me. In high school, I took Spanish for a couple of years and learned lots of useful words and phrases. However, for a long time my most useful Spanish phrase was not learned in the classroom or a book. I was amazed to find myself saying over and over, "these fish like to eat other fish," as I worked in a pet department through high school and college.

After I graduated and began working as a nurse, this phrase wasn't nearly so useful, but it was replaced with another Spanish phrase that had to be learned on the job: "nursing or bottle."

Now, neither of these phrases, or any phrase in Spanish, will be that helpful to me.

I do use a lot of standard Mandarin phrases here like "hello" (nǐ hǎo, 你好), "goodbye" (zài jiàn, 再见), "thank you" (xiè xiè, 谢谢), and "how much is that" (duō shǎo qián, 多少钱). Although we haven't kept a tally or anything, quite possibly the phrase I say the most when we are out walking around is yet again a very unusual one, that can't be found in any beginning Mandarin books. I find myself saying over and over, "they are not twins, (bù shì shuāng bāo tāi, 不是双胞胎)."

Almost everyone we meet automatically assumes our boys are twins or asks if they are. Even though are boys are 18 months apart and very different sizes, in China most people are only allowed to have one child, especially if the first child is a boy. And for those who are allowed to two children, like minorities, they usually wait at least six or seven years between kids, to space out the school entrance fees (which can be thousands of dollars).

Ben and Nate
And I will agree the boys look fairly similar. Also, together they both look so much like their daddy and uncle's baby pictures it is amazing, and I guess even people in America sometimes wondered if Ben and Nate were twins.

Perhaps if you didn't know them and saw pictures of Aaron and Andrew at the same age you might wonder if they were fraternal twins.
Aaron 19 months
Andrew 19 months
However, one is a head taller than the other. How many twins are that off in size?

We know someone who raised two boys 18 months apart in China and she got this question all time too. In fact she said that she got so tired of it that she started saying that they were twins, she was just doing an experiment and only feeding the bigger one. She was joking about saying that, I think.

Aaron and Andrew
So when we go out I just get to practice my Mandarin by explaining yet again that no they are not twins, (bù shì shuāng bāo tāi, 不是双胞胎). The "older brother" (gēgē, 哥哥), or the "bigger one" (dà de, 大的) is "three years old" (sān suì, 三岁), and the "younger brother" (dìdì, 弟弟), or "littler one" (xiǎo de, 小的), is "one and a half years old" (yī suì bàn, 一岁半).

Sometimes it people still don't believe us or just think we didn't understand their question. But more often than not they just smile and give us a thumbs up. I think that translates the same here as in America.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 交费

Last week, we were finally able to pay (jiāo fèi, ) the last of our utility bills, the cold water bill (shuǐ fèi, 水费). Some things like rent (zū, ) they want to to pay in advance, but other things require long "processing time" or something here. You would think if you lived in an apartment for several months they would want to to pay up right away, but surprisingly when we thought we were late, we were actually early.

The bill system is quite confusing, thankfully it seems fairly forgiving as well. For each utility bill you have to pay you have to go to a separate place (dì fāng, 地方), after a certain day (tiān, ), of a certain month (yuè,). Some bills are due after the 10th of the month and some after the 20th of the month. Some are due on odd months and some on even months. Some other types of bills are only collected once a year (nián, 年). It's annoying to have to pay it all up front, but at least it is easier to keep track of.

We are thankful that we took care of our phone (diàn huà, 电话) and internet (wǎng luò, 网络) for a whole year at a time. Not only did we get a better deal, but we don't have to worry about it getting shut off anytime soon, like happened our poor neighbors who got the months mixed up.

Everyone's electric bills on the door
Some bills like electric and gas they post on the outer door of your apartment building. No, they are not in envelopes. Yes, you can see everyone's bills. Yes, you can go around comparing your bill to everyone's bills if you wish.  Privacy isn't the same here.

But they don't post water bills for some reason. And to make matters more confusing, we have both a cold (or regular) water bill (shuǐ fèi, 水费) and a solar hot water (tài yáng rè shuǐ, 太阳热水) bill. These are due at different times, and you have to go to different places to pay them. This is because we have to pay water company the cold water bill (shuǐ fèi, 水费) and the apartment complex a management fee (wù guǎn fèi,物管费) for the solar hot water. They manage the solar heaters that are on the roof of the seventh floor of our buildings. The solar water heaters do a really good job heating most of the time, but if it rains for quite a while, you may want to wait for a sunny day to take a shower.

Electric office guard likes Andrew

If the system isn't completely clear, don't worry, it is still confusing to use too. Just be glad if you can simply mail your bills out each month. Thankfully, we have some friends who have lived here for a while, and they helped us sort all of this out. One of our friends spent a whole afternoon taking us around to all four places to try to pay our bills, so even though we couldn't get them all taken care of that day, we were able to keep going back to check. Now that we have paid each one once, it should be easier in the future.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 搅拌机

For our 4th anniversary, Nate wanted to get me something that I would use a lot. I told him that the thing I didn't have here yet that thought I would use the most would be a blender (jiǎo bàn jī, 搅拌机).Well he didn't want to pick out a blender for me by himself, so we went to Walmart together. I listened to the obligatory employees standing around the blender aisle trying to explain to me why such and such a blender was better other blenders. Well, I am sure I missed out on much of the sales pitch, but I did understand that the one, which had "three cups" (sān ge bēi, 三个杯), was supposed to be far superior to the jiǎo bàn jī with only one cup" (yī ge bēi, 个杯). And something about this one's knives (dāo,刀) were better than that one's. Mostly I heard a whole lot of "this" (zhè ge, 这个) and "that" (nà gè, 那个). And of course, they highly recommended the most expensive product.
Literally stir mix machine

We figured that buying the cheapest one was asking for it to break within a week, so we ended up deciding on the mid-price model that had the "three cups" (sān ge bēi, 三个杯) and three blades. Now, if you want to purchase any electronics, you have to do so right there in that department, so we checked out there. The man gave us a regular old receipt that looks very similar to the ones in America, except for all of the characters of course, and we went downstairs to do the rest of our shopping.

However, Nate had learned in class recently that these common receipts that they give you at Walmart (and many other stores and restaurants here (some shops don't give out receipts at all)) are called shōu jù (收据), and they are not real receipts, and you can't use them to return an item. The official receipts are called fā piào (发票).  I am not really quite sure why they give fake ones, except to save money. You see, in order to print out a fā piào, the shop must pay the government to rubber stamp it, so they avoid a small fee by handing out shōu jù to the masses. You can get a fā piào, but you have to take your shōu jù to a special customer service desk.
Top: shōu jù, Bottom: fā piào

We decided to try to get a fā piào for the first time, since we wanted to be sure to have the option of returning the blender if it didn't work or ceased to function very quickly (which is extremely common here). So we headed over to the service desk and waited for a while. Then someone cuts in front of us with their own shōu jù, and finally he gets his fā piào, and we get our fā piào.
Mulberry Smoothie
The blender (jiǎo bàn jī, 机) has been working quite well so far, and now we can make lots more lemonade and smoothies and even make our own powdered sugar. But we'll be sure to hang on to our fā piào for the full 90 warranty period, just in case. Oh, and Nate also got me beautiful lilies, not just a blender for our anniversary, and I love both gifts and my husband infinitely more.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 加油

Last Friday as we were returning home, from trying for the second time to pay our cold water bill (unsuccessfully as they told us we have to wait at least 11 more days), we walked past a gas station. Nate said that he had learned something really interesting in class about the phrase to add oil (加油, jiā yóu). It is exactly the same words you use to cheer someone one, like a cheerleader (啦啦队, lā lā duì) at a sporting event, or if you are just trying to encourage (鼓励, gǔ lì) someone. Right this minute, I can hear Chinese grandmothers encouraging their grandchildren who are playing outside by saying,"jiā yóu, jiā yóu."

Literally: Add Oil Station
Saying, "jiā yóu, jiā yóu, jiā yóu," is like saying, "go, go, go," at a sporting event, while saying, "jiā yóu" at a gas station (加油站, jiā yóu zhàn) means add gas (literally oil). I guess we have similar phrases in English like "pump it up," "turn on the gas," or "put the pedal to the metal."

Later that evening on the way to Walmart, we passed a famous "Muslim" restaurant and witnessed the staff getting some encouragement or marching orders (we're not sure which). Before the dinner hour, at almost every restaurant big or small, the staff heads out front of the building in groups divided by their position in the restaurant. Usually, you see the cooks out first, and then the waitresses. Later, the hostesses and parking attendants get their pep talk.

Usually, you see someone with a clipboard, piece of paper, or whistle (to make them more official) talking to the group first. After the pep talk, the employees will usually march around and sometimes shout or cheer like soldiers or play teamwork building games. Encouragement is interesting here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 烧烤

My stomach is still feeling the effects of Saturday's Chinese barbeque (烧烤 shāo kǎo), and the Fourth of July is coming up soon, so I thought it a good time to talk about barbecuing. Like a lot of things here, barbecuing is both similar and different to how we generally do things in America. Also, eating anywhere here has been referred to as a Chinese roulette: sometimes you get sick, and sometimes you don't; sometimes you know why, and sometimes you don't. So, it is possible that it was something other that this barbecue that made us sick.

My husband's school was hosting a barbecue at a lovely park on a lake southwest of the city. The park is beautiful. You can see mountains and the lake, and there are lovely gardens. There are also a lot of man-made tourist attractions and souvenir shops.

When we arrived, we went walking through the park and eventually found the shāo kǎo area, or as the sign says, "blarbacue tribe," and were told where to sit by Nate's teacher. The tables in this area have built-in barbecues, so your food is cooked right there in front of you. It is a convenient, but smoky, setup.

Now they do have hamburgers (hàn bǎo) and hot dogs (rè gǒu) in China, but you aren't likely to find these at a traditional shāokǎo. Actually, they are pretty rare anywhere outside a fast food place or western restaurant. At this barbecue, they served chicken wings (jī chì) and sliced pork (zhū ròu). By the way, the phrase "to eat chicken wings" in Chinese is "chī jī chì," in case you weren't confused enough already. They also had potatoes (tǔ dòu), onions (yáng cōng), and zucchini (xiǎo guā). So far, this is not too odd for barbecue food. Then they brought out some sort of breakfast cake, which didn't look at all like cake, and put that on the grill too. Last they brought out cold rice noodles (mǐ xiàn) in individual dishes. They didn't grill the noodles. Cold rice noodles are a famous local dish.

The food all tasted good and seemed to be cooked well. Shāo kǎo literally means "fire roast," and the food was cooked until incredibly hot, except for the local soy bean and spice sauce and cold noodle dish, which makes them the most likely suspects for tummy upset. The boys didn't see the need to eat for politeness' sake, so they didn't eat anything besides Pepsi and part of a banana. They are still doing fine, so perhaps there decision was wise.

We all had a great time walking in the woods and along the lake. The boys particularly enjoyed the large jungle gym there and throwing rocks into the lake. It was a beautiful day at the park, at least until Andrew filled his diaper and Aaron had a bathroom misadventure. Then is was time to head home.


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