Friday, May 16, 2008

Reveille, reveille! or perhaps not....

As far as I can tell, there is a general ban on trumpets, trombones, and other brass instruments. There isn't much to a Chinese marching band, I guess.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Cup of Coffee...

....that sustained me through the mind numbing throes of the final draft of my thesis:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eating Korean in Chinese

I love this little Korean place that is bird flu alley (thus named because of all of the chickens in cages and ducks with their feet tied together for sale there). It's tiny and run by this Korean guy who is super nice. There was also an old Korean lady that used to work there that would give me free food sometimes. While of I was eating she would bring me a little dish of whatever someone else in the restaurant had ordered, or she would slip a little triangle shaped rice and kimchi roll into my to go order and not let me pay for it. She was awesome, didn't speak a word of Chinese but always smiled at me. I love going there because the food is good, and also because the people are nice and not sullen (like a lot of Chinese waiters). Anyhoo, that day I had a tuna and veggie roll. Every meal comes with little dishes of different kinds of food. This day it was potato sticks, pickled radish, egg and onion omelette, and bugs of some sort. No, not bugs, tiny shrimps!

Me: It was you wasn't it?! Just admit your guilt and I'll let you go!!!
Him: No! No! There's been some mistake! I'm innocent I tell you!!!

Me: Mister Tough Guy, eh? Well if you want to play tough, we can play tough!
Him: No! No! Listen to me! I'm innocent!

Me: It doesn't have to be like this. Tell me what I want to know, and everything will be forgotten.
Him: I'm telling you, I don't know nothing!

Me: It pains me to do this, but you leave me no other option!
Him: blub blub, gurgle....

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Collection

Illustration Friday:



The Squid and the Birthday Cake


Angsty College Sketches

Folding Book 2

Shipwreck and Salvation


I think this is the chain that is attempting to challenge Starbuck's domination of the Chinese over-priced coffee drink market.

I like them. Their coffee is good, the internet is a bit slow, the brownie sucked. But on the whole it's decent, and it's closer and less crowded than Starbuck's. Plus, when you walk in the barrista's all call out "Hello Welcome to Costa", but because of their accents it sounds as though they are saying something in Japanese or Korean. It took me a few times of hearing it and thinking "that's strange, I guess they must have a lot of Japanese customers" before I realized what they were actually saying.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Breakfast Deliciousness!

Man, there is nothing better on a warm summer morning than a huge bowl of noodles in soup with a big pile of pickled vegetable on top. Add a little chili sauce and dash of salty vinegar, and maybe a soft poached egg and you're in heaven.

These noodles are available right outside the main gate of my apartment complex. It's a little stand with a couple of tables and benches and an umbrella, crowded up against a wall in the little alley. The couple that runs it live right across the alley in another complex. After I finished my noodles, the lady and one of their friends both criticized the way I was carrying my school bag on my bike. They then helped me arrange it better so it wouldn't get stolen while I road along. Basically this consisted of putting the strap around the seat post, but it was nice of them to warn me.

All the ways China will kill you: part zwei

Now, this picture seems rather boring doesn't it? Just a tree branch and a dark city street. I wish that there were a biker riding along the little bike lane here to illustrate just how high (or rather, low) this thick brain-bashing limb is. Which is not very high. In fact I think it's the crack your skull open while riding a bike height exactly. Seriously, if you're not paying attention you're going to end up on your back on the street while a stampede of cyclists ride over you. There is another one that is even lower, but it's on the other side of the street.

Friday, May 2, 2008

If you're feeling a little short on reading material...

...stop here. Or at any one of the three little stands that are all within spitting distance of each other. They have magazines galore, usually some gum, a thing of lollipops, sometimes bottled tea and water, and China mobile cellphone cards for sale. Sometimes, the more entrepreneurial will also have a little crock pot full of corn on the cob or zongzi (little pyramids of rice with any variety of fillings, wrapped in leaves and steamed).

The day before yesterday, I stopped by this stand to buy a refill card for my cellphone. Unfortunately the laoban was engaged in a raging card game with a crowd through the window on the opposite side. I had to yell "laoban!" (which just means owner/manager /boss guy) until he came over to my side, still holding his hand of cards with a very unhappy look on his face. I almost laughed, but I didn't. This guy had been very nice to me before. When I first got here and didn't know how to recharge my cellphone, he just took it from me without a word and did all the work. I guess he must get that a lot since his stand is right next to the foreign students dormitory of Nanjing University.

No Reason to Get Lost

This is a street sign in China. They are very useful when there is one. The street name connected to the arrows is the street you are on. It is pointing towards the next intersection, and what two streets you will encounter if you turn right or left, and the name at the bottom of the sign is the nearest street you just came from. Unfortunately these only label the main streets, and there might be any number of tiny streets and back alleys that aren't clearly marked. When I was looking for my gym for the first time last year, I couldn't for the life of me find it, and they had to send a little Chinese girl out into the pouring rain (wearing high heels) to guide me in.

Everyone Deserves a Stolen Clown Bike

This is my trusty bicycle. It has gotten me all around Nanjing. And it hasn't been stolen! (knock on wood) I think I can chalk it up to the kryptonite u-lock I brought over with me. I like using a lock that was more expensive than the bike itself. I would be pretty bummed if that lock was stolen. I'm also going to miss this bike when I go. The back brake screeches like a banshee now, but I still love it.

Of course it would only be karma if my bike were taken. Apparently the street I bought it on is famous for selling stolen bikes. But when I bought it, it looked brand new, so I'm not sure if mine was a stolen bike or not. I call it a clown bike because I am so used to riding a road bike, that this sort of upright posture while riding seems really funny to me. I feel like there should be circus music playing whenever I ride.

I've also mastered the Chinese Moving Bike Mounting Move. What you do is stand on the left side of the bike and put your left foot on the pedal and scoot along and then when you have enough momentum you swing your right leg over the middle of the bike to the right pedal (if you have a man's bike you swing your leg over the back tire). It's harder than it sounds.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Favorite Street in China

I love Hankou Lu. I love it more than any other street in Nanjing. Although I am also a big fan of Zhongshan Lu. But for tiny interesting shops, interesting food and sights, this is the street for me. And the good part is really only a block long! It's amazing and cool and filled with good things to eat and buy. This is what I love about China, the hundreds of small businesses and eateries all crammed into 100-200 yards. It so much more stimulating than an American street.

Of course that giant building going up in the background will probably squeeze out the tiny fruit stand huddled at its foot. It was already forced to move once. It used to be right next door to the bakery. I like this fruit stand, it's run mostly by women, and they will often round down your purchase price to the nearest kuai. Which is nice.

A ubiquitous sight on a Chinese street:
I think they build everything with these red bricks. I've never actually seen so many cranes in all of my life. They're everywhere, you can't turn around without seeing this:

Need some radish? Or maybe some live eels? What about some congealed duck blood? Any part of a pig that you can think of? Live chickens, fresh noodles, fresh tofu, live fish?

If so, then you should head to the wet market on Hankou Lu. It's below the fancier supermarket, Suguo. If you look in my last post, that picture from across the bakery shows the supermarket and the wet market directly below. I like the wet market, I buy veggies there. I am a little grossed out by the blood and fish scales on the ground though.

A Love Hate Relationship

Yesterday morning I was having breakfast at a bakery on Hankou Lu. I sat at the window looking out on the constantly busy street and thought about next month. I'll be leaving China and coming home and it struck me that I will really miss being here. I will be relieved to leave as well, but I will miss it too. It's exciting, and dirty, and difficult and wonderful at the same time. Where else can you buy women's panties from an old lady on the side of the road? Where else will the old beggar out front of the bakery offer to watch your bike and bags so you don't have to lock it up and drag them inside with you? And where else can you actually trust this guy to watch your things? Where else can you have this:

across from this:
and next to this:

No, that is not bark, that is human hair from the barber shop next door.

I love this. I love the contrast and contradiction. It's fascinating, and will probably soon disappear. I'm grateful to have been able to see this. It's been a great source of creativity for me.