Archive | March, 2012

China Post

30 Mar

Or, why I never got that box/letter/postcard you sent: an essay in three pictures.


This is actually how post gets delivered to a majority of the students living on campus. Hell if I know how it works. But every Monday, a dude will unload his motorbike full of boxes at the corner of the ping pong tables and hang around. Sometimes there’s someone to keep an eye on things, but mostly the boxes are left there for anyone to paw through them.


Explains a lot about why that box never arrived, doesn’t it?

Historically Hardcore

28 Mar

These aren’t real ads for the Smithsonian, but by god they’re awesome. History nerds are the best.

Apparently, the Smithsonian wasn’t too happy about these (from a branding perspective) but frankly, anything that gets people interested in history is a good thing.

Images from the Historically Hardcore imagr.

Keep Calm and Carry On

26 Mar

Here’s the story behind the meme. It’s fascinating, and I never knew how the whole thing started until now.

I’m a big fan of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters. And the parodies. It’s almost hard to believe that it was never officially used.


h/t to Anibundel.

Great Wall

23 Mar

You guys have seen this, right? I mean, it combines dubstep, awesome dancing, and the GREAT WALL OF CHINA. It’s like the Internet knows me or something.



H/t to Kasia von von, of Atlantic fame.

Handmaid’s Tale

21 Mar

I don’t really know what the hells is going on with the Republicans. I really don’t. Better minds than mine have taken a stab at what the hell they’re doing. Listening to Santorum, Romney, Gingrich, Blunt, etc is scary, like they read Atwood and decided her dystopian epic was an excellent road-map for political victory. Of course, this is a fertile breeding ground (pun intended?) for fiction and non-fiction. Here are some of my favorites, in the sense that they freaked me out and inspired me to action

ILU-486, by Amanda Ching

This is long, but totally worth it. It works under the premise that contraception and abortion are outlawed and it is completely and utterly terrifying in its plausibility. “In the not-so-distant future of Virginia, the Personhood Act has outlawed abortion and chemical birth control. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, though.”  Read it.

Reproductive Parts, by s.e. smith

This is series of shorts that interconnect to a horrific end. Great writing with a chilling message.

“Dear GOP: You do know how pregnancy works, right?”, by Emily L. Hauser

Emily is awesome and tells it like it is. She looks at the Republican’s emphasis on the women and how they forget that it takes two to tango.



Planned Parenthood.

Donate. Please. (Also, have you heard of Women’s Strike Force? Kickass, I say.)

Gender Inequality

19 Mar

Back in January, my minor project at the time was a translation for China Development Brief, a non-profit that brings Chinese journals and science articles to a wider audience by translating them into English. My article was on sexual harassment in the workplace, and how gender inequality is a social and economic problem in modern China. It went live over the weekend and can be found here.

I have to say, it is incredibly gratifying to see my name in print. Webprint. Whatever. What’s even more gratifying is the portions that I translated and were more or less left intact. I look at it and think smugly to myself, “uh huh, I still got it”. There might have even been a minor Snoopy Dance of Joy. Maybe.

So, if you’re interested at all in feminism, gender inequality in China, or seeing how my Chinese translations look, click click click away.




Food Friday: Hospital

16 Mar

Hospital is the name we have for the tiny, hole-in-the-wall dive that is located next to (in?) Sichuan University’s terrifying local hospital. The hospital itself is pretty ganky; god forbid I ever have to go there for treatment of any kind. The restaurant is a total dive and if “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” came to Chengdu, I’d point them in Hospital’s direction. It’s a family run place, and since it’s cheap and right next to the old dorms, it’s a particular favorite. Ann, Katia, and I had our order down to a science. We come in, sit down, ask if they had kong qing cai (a stir fried veggie, spinach maybe?) and when they said no, we’d order the same damn thing every single time.

Tang su lian bai. Sweet soy cabbage for Katia.

Fen qie ji dan. Scrambled egg and tomatoes for moi.

Hui guo tu dou. Spicy pork and potato for Ann.

Sometimes we’d mix it up on our fourth dish with a soup or another veggie (wan dou cai, pea plant), maybe with a fried potato concoction that looked like a plate sized hash brown doused liberally with red pepper spice, but for the most part, we got those three dishes and a bowl of rice each. And oh my god, they are so amazing, you need to find your own hospital to go to.

Let me be the first to say that if any of these dishes had any nutritional value to start with, they lost them in the cooking process. Salt, fat, bad cholesterol, whatever poisons live in Chinese wok oils*, all added to make each dish particularly delicious. I personally blame hui guo tu dou for any extra pounds I might be carrying and you can’t convince me otherwise. (No exercise and too much chocolate, you say? Blasphemy.)

The orders usually come out lightning fast, unless it’s super busy. This is normal for Chinese diners, in the sense that most dishes take about three minutes to stir-fry tops. Mostly, it’s a question of timing and whether or not another table ordered the same dish.

Sweet soy cabbage is technically a vegetable dish, but is sort of sweet, like getting a really sugary carrot. The cabbage is cooked, but not mushy, and the sauce is light and not stew-like. It’s nothing like Panda Express.

My personal favorite is fried eggs and tomatoes. I have no idea why. It’s basically scrambled eggs. But there’s something in the eggs – crack, probably – that makes me devour it like there’s no tomorrow. I’m betting it has something to do with the flavors of the wok itself. Then again, I also go like crazy for egg and tomato noodles, so it might just be me.

Ann managed to get the rest of us hooked on hui guo tu dou, which is potato slices with pork and awesome. It’s a spicy dish. The potatoes are soft on the inside and deliciously crisp on the outside. The pork is like 95% fat, like all cuts of meat here in China, but still yummy. Basically, hui guo tu dou is bacon and french fries with soy sauce and chili pepper. Enough said.


*Supposedly, something like 3 out of 10 woks are using recycled oil. This is not a good thing or being green. This means it’s oil that was thrown out, and then scooped up by some enterprising soul from the gutter.


14 Mar

Well, I haven’t done this in a while, but hey, filler’s filler. Here are three earworms that I have obsessed over and you probably should too.

David Guetta ft. Sia, “Titanium”

David Guetta’s been blowing up my music playlist recently. I know he’s been around for ages, but he’s been a perfect storm of this and “Turn Me On” with Nicki Minaj (shut up she’s awesome). This is all Ann’s fault.

Madeon Que Veux Tu

This is also Ann’s fault. I mean, the dancing is hilarious, the music fun to ride my bike to, and it’s irrepressibly cheerful. I have no idea what they’re saying in French, but I have a long history of not caring with this sort of music.

Coldplay, “Paradise”

For something a little less dupsteppy, I give you Coldplay. Not exactly an unknown here; what can I say, I’m excellent at jumping on the bandwagon. This one’s Trish’s fault. What a terrible sister. /sarcasm.

Life in the Dorms

13 Mar


Well, I hope you all enjoyed the travel posts about Sydney and Bangkok. It was a nice diversion from the craziness going on here in China. But now that we’re done with the travelogues, let’s dig in, shall we?  Due to some High Drama (re: fine print’s a bitch, ain’t it?), I am still in the dorms. I have complaints. Oh do I have complaints. But dammit, I’m not going to let the bastards win. (And there goes the PG rating within the first paragraph.) Three points of interest:

My wireless internet cuts out at random points. They give you a handy timer, to track how long you’ve been logged on, and for the longest time I was cut off at precisely 37 minutes. Then, yesterday, the China Mobile gods give me two whole uninterrupted hours. Today I haven’t managed to keep a connection for longer than ten minutes. I don’t know what sorts of offerings these gods desire, but I’m imagining a little shrine with a tiny cell phone tower and a router, with those “rollover minutes” from those ATT commercials as the sacrifice. Coincidentally, China does not believe in rollover minutes.

The humidity is making my laundry mold as it takes four or five days to dry out. Seriously. I’ve got blooms of yellow on some of my clothes and it is gross. What isn’t molding has that sour mildewy smell. I don’t know what else to do except spend some quality time re-creating a desert-like environment with my cheap hair dryer and my laundry rack. China also does not believe in dryers. You should be able to hang your clothes out to dry and let nature take care of the rest, even though I haven’t seen the sun in three weeks and the humidity is at about a hundred-twenty percent with a nice chilly drizzle..

Food Deserts? You want to see a food desert, look at where I’m at. Nothing within a ten minute walk. Within fifteen sure, but you’re eating out and possibly at the expensive places. Grr. On the upside, I now have a much shorter drunken stumble back from Bar Street and Mooney’s. Eh, let’s call this one a draw.

Also, the majority of the fuyuan* here are annoying and knock on the door all the freaking time for no good reason.

Pictures will go up when I have access to a better internet connection, since mine has been pretty unstable recently. Sorry folks.



*Written as fuwuyuan, it’s usually shortened to fuyuan, and means waitress / maid. Almost exclusively feminine. In this case, it means the five or so ladies who man the front desk, deal with paperwork, and keep tabs on us for the Chinese government.

Observations from Bangkok

10 Mar

I don’t really have another full post, and I’ve already uploaded all my good pictures, but here are some random thoughts to close up my trip to Thailand.

THE MAP IS A LIE. That place you want to go to might look like it’s nearby, but it is an hour’s walk. And it is hot out. Suck it up and get a cab.

Do not over-pay the cabs. I had a guy try to cheat me for 200 baht for a 1km drive. The starting price for cabs is 35 baht. (Asshole.) DO not listen to them if they tell you a number, and insist on a meter.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi is nice, but the food there is super expensive. There’s a 7-11 on the arrivals floor. Their banana bread is delicious and cheap. You will not regret it.

I never saw any street food that looked good enough to risk dysentery. After six months of readily available shao kao in Chengdu, Thai street food seems distinctly unimpressive.

There are a lot of foreigners in Thailand. In Chengdu, it’s kind of a shock to see white people in an abundance on the street. I don’t think I ever went more than twenty minutes outside without seeing another Westerner there. Maybe since I was favoring tourist-friendly areas? I don’t know, it still seemed like a lot of white people running around.

Bangkok has some serious malls. Like, Hong Kong-level seriousness. I was impressed and terrified.

I was the most retarded candidate for a Thai massage ever. Clearly, my ESP is non-existent and I should pass on any future games of charades. Also, I’m pretty sure the place I went to was also a brothel, given all the foreign guys heading upstairs to another floor, following the hot young things. (Oops, my bad.) FYI, my masseuse was an older woman, maybe in her later forties/early fifties. It was pretty funny for the both of us.


I liked Thailand, but I don’t think I ever got over the whole “Asian people speaking and I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going on” thing. I more or less get along just fine in China, so this threw me for a loop and then some.

Basically, the part I will never, ever forget about Bangkok was at the airport on my last day. I was waiting for my flight out and the plane to Guangzhou had been delayed. Seated at the gate, I was working on my knitting when a family of four sat down opposite of me. The daughter and son were about my age and engrossed in their cell phones, but the mother was staring at me. I smiled blandly. The woman took it as an invitation. She got up and came over, looking curiously at my progress. She grabbed it out of my hand and inspected the stitches, proclaimed loudly in Chinese “You’re doing it wrong,” before starting to knit a few rounds.

I stared. What. The. Fuck.

Her daughter looked up, shrugged apologetically, and took my picture. Somewhere, there is a Cantonese family with a picture of me sitting confusedly next to an older Chinese woman who had commandeered my project and was knitting my sock*.

She eventually handed it back, two rounds later. She then proceeded to treat me like one of her children, chivying me onto the plane during boarding, and making sure I got my bags at luggage pick up.

It was simultaneously super weird and super sweet.

*I’m almost finished with this pair of socks, btw. Three weeks of no internet at the dorms + no classes = very productive Jane.

All in all, it was a fun trip. Weird, unexpected, and awesome, but fun.