Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Not quite right" Sightings.

A friend of mine suggested the title for the kind of English that we often see here.  I thought it was fantastic so thanks, Christie!  Christie is actually my former next door neighbor that I grew up with.
So here a few that cracked me up.

These are from some offices/apartments going up near our language school.

GuangRong Stree No.22 Centeris becoming prosperous in all directions.  That's actually not bad!

Live in the city center commanded the whole world.

Constant dripping wears away the stone. (A very Chinese thought)  A smashing gift made by Huarai Estates.  I'm just not sure what this has to do with the building in question.  

Another apartment complex going up.  There is actually nothing wrong with the English.  The strong sentiment or hyperbole is so interesting to me.

This is in a new and expensive mall where we actually did some "dinning."  

And finally-some truth in advertising.  Indeed, drive your own way!  On the side walk, blowing on the horn, any speed limit, any way you like!

Add a "d" to "appropriate" and it will make sense.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9
Last summer, an e-mail went out around our city.  A young orphan needed to get out of the orphanage and into foster care immediately.  He literally was at death's door.  Despite having three very young children of their own, our friends took him in and literally saved his life.  They fed him, got him the medical care that he needed (often at their own expense) and loved him back to life.

And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.
Matthew 18:5
Now, this sweet little guy has been declared "adoptable."  He has officially been given the okay that parents can be found for him.  That means that somewhere out there, a family is praying for a son...and this is him!  

You are the helper of the fatherless. LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.
Psalms 10:14,17-18

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.
Psalm 68:5-6
Pray for this little guy.  Pray that a family would be found for him as soon as possible.
He is just one of many that need a forever family.  Remember them!
I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!
Matthew 25:40

Friday, March 26, 2010

Going to Korea while staying in China.

Today I went to Xi Ta  with my friend.  Xi Ta is the Korean part of our city. Xi Ta means West Tower and there is an ancient pagoda there. We aren't very far from North Korea and there are a large number of Koreans here.  There are Koreans who are here for work or business.  There are ethnic Koreans who grew up here and speak, read and write Chinese.  There are probably some North Koreans here too, as is not uncommon along the border.
Xi Ta is a fun place to shop.  They have a Korean market where you can get some things that you can't get in a Chinese grocery store.  Sometimes the prices are better, sometimes not.  It's always an adventure to go.
So my friend and I got on the bus to go across the city.  She showed me a house that Paul and I ride past every day.  Apparently it used to belong to an old Chinese warlord who wanted to start his own country.  Not surprisingly the government frowned on this idea and he was put in prison.  The house still stands though - I'll try to take pictures some time.

When we got to Xi Ta, we stopped at an outdoor market which is next to the  actual pagoda.  There used to be four of these in Shenyang but they haven't really been preserved.
Entrance to the market.

The pagoda


Dried fish and sea creatures.

More dried fish and sea creatures.

Then we went out to lunch at the Summer Christmas Restaurant.

See the small print that says "Korean Bakery" and "Fusion Restaurant." Notice the mix of Chinese and Korean characters. It turns out that the restaurant had changed since my friend had been there.  Now it's a hot pot place!

You pick up what you want to cook from these little boats going around the restaurant.  Then you cook what you picked in your own little hot pot.  We had shrimp, beef, mushrooms, sea creatures, cilantro, and more.  It was fantastic and really a fun place.

Next we went to the Korean Market.  It was just a plethora of fun stuff to take pictures of.  I would have taken more but security is really tight there and I was afraid of getting in trouble! Here are a few.

Rice day shampoo.  Enjoy your Rice Day.  Play on "Have a nice day?"  We'll never know.

There is nothing like a chemical in the name to make me want to drink coffee!  Or to add to my well being!

Guts and chocolate.  My favorite!

Naming a chocolate bar after an African country seems a little odd.  But if it's only "half & fun?"  I only want whole fun.

The glare makes it hard to read but it said "Soundless merriment with friends getting together."

No thanks.  Believe me, everyone here knows that I am white.  This is soap, BTW.

Durian Milk Candy.  I am curious what it smells like.

Again, chemically named candy.  My friend said it's actually really good.  At least they are honest about the fact that there are chemicals in the food!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Signs of Spring

Our days are getting longer.  The government controlled heat goes off in less than two weeks.  We still have some snow and some really solid ice on the ground.  We wear hats and gloves and scarves to ride our bikes to language school.
However, the park and street barbers are back.

And that gives me hope!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wo ting bu dong nide hua OR Nide Putonghua hen hao?

So which is it?  My neighbor (whom I like and talk to on a regular basis) said the first thing to me.  It means "I don't understand your speech/words."  We were talking about fireworks and I am not surprised she couldn't understand me.
The next day, I was told by a taxi driver the second thing - "Your Chinese is very good." Generally, taxi driver's say that to anyone who can spew out a few intelligible words or phrases.
One day, I ordered tea in a restaurant.  The restaurant owner didn't understand a word I said.  And "tea" is a pretty easy word.
Another day, I asked for napkins- a much harder word.  The waitress understood me immediately.

I've taught ESL in the US for many years.  I've taught young kids, high school students, immigrants, refugees, academics, doctoral students, international teaching assistants, pre-TOEFL students and visiting scholars.  I'd like to write them all a letter that says this:

Dear Former Student,
Everything that I ever told you about learning a language is true.
Teacher Sandy

What have I told them?  What reality am I living right now?

* Learning a language is hard work.  Chinese has few similarities with English.  One of the few is that it is a Subject/Verb/Object language.  However, time goes in a different place in  Chinese.  In English you say "I went to church today."  In Chinese you say "I today went to church."  It took me about three months to grasp this and I still struggle with it.  Chinese and English have no shared cognates and only a few loan words.  You can not figure out a Chinese word based on how it sounds.
*  Languages are not translations of each other.  The word "pinguo" is not a translation of the English word "apple."  It's the Chinese word for the fruit apple.  That may seem wrong but language learners have to get away from translation.  It doesn't help to tell the teacher "That doesn't make sense in English."  It's about Chinese grammar, not English grammar.
*  The burden of comprehensibility is on the language learner, not the listener.  It is not the job of the person that I am talking to to try to understand me.  It's nice when they really try.  But it is really my job to work on my pronunciation.
Chinese is a tonal language.  The tone that is used changes the meaning of the word.  A Chinese language learner must believe this completely.  "Qing Wen" can mean "Excuse me" or "Kiss me" depending on the tone used.  I just hope I haven't asked any strangers to kiss me!
In graduate school, I did research on teaching Chinese speakers how to improve their English pronunciation.  English is a stress-time language.  We use word stress or intonation to change the emotional meaning of the sentence.  So think of the sentence "I feel angry."  The word you stress "I feel angry."  "I feel angry"  "I feel angry" changes the semantic meaning of the sentence.  In Chinese, changing tone means changing the meaning of the word completely .  It's like asking for an apple and saying the word orange and being upset when someone gives you an orange.
Here is a great article about tones.

Why is important to learn the language of the country where we live?  Well, this is where we live!  This is the language of our country.  This is where we have come to love and serve people.  Chinese is the heart language of the people here.

People have asked "Don't they speak English?"  No, "they" don't.  Only 1% of mainland Chinese people speak English fluently enough to have a really high level conversation.  Many of them live and work overseas.
Other people ask if the signs and directions are in English.  No, they aren't.  They are in character's and pinyin and sometimes English.  If you are in a big city that has many tourists, you might get lucky.  But we don't live in one of those cities!

Learning Chinese has been a huge challenge for me.  Despite my background in teaching and linguistics, it's been very slow going.  I am in language class 15 hours a week and work with a language helper three hours a week.  Plus homework and real life practice.
I cringe at the mistakes I have made.  Twice in class, I have said accidental obscenities- one for a male body part and one for a female body part.  I often call my husband the wrong name.  His Chinese name and the word for "carrot" sound alike to me.
I recently found out that the way that I have been saying "Come in" to my sweet language helper is what you say to animals and children.  She has never said a word.
I have days when conversations just seem to flow.  I understand the people who are talking to me and they seem to understand me.  Then there are days where I just feel like I'll  never get it.  As I was trying to say a word correctly, one of my teacher's kept saying "It's fourth tone, it's fourth tone."  I finally had to say "I know it's fourth tone!  I just can't get it out of my mouth."
One day, writing characters so hard that I had to step out of the class during the break and going down to another floor to compose myself.  I thought I was going to cry in class.
I told a friend of mine that some days I wanted to walk around with a sign on my chest that says "I have an advanced degree."  Except I don't know the characters so someone else would have to write it for me!

But it's worth it.  The hard work, the blank looks, the simple conversation that are at a two year old's all progress.  Learning the language of another country is a way of honoring that country.  It's a way of understanding the thought and culture of your new country.  It's hard work but worth it just the same.

Now off to do homework.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Going to the Park.

Yesterday Elisabeth and I went to Sports Street to get new soccer cleats and shin guards.  If you think shopping here is like shopping in America...well, you would be wrong!
Sports Street is a actual several streets and an underground mall of small stores selling sportswear.  There is store after store of Nike, Adidas and other name brands.  It's hard to know what is actually a name brand and what is a fake.  We generally believe most are fakes.

It took us almost two hours to find soccer cleats and shin guards.  I know the Chinese words for "soccer," "play soccer" and "shoes" but not for "shin guards."  We only found one store that actually had women's soccer shoes and that was after texting and calling a friend to get explicit instructions where that store was.  It turned out we had walked right past it.  Getting shin guards required going to yet another store and acting out "shin guards" to three really delightful store clerks.  Prices for cleats and shin guards were pretty much the same as in the USA.

Before we went to Sport's Street, we walked through a beautiful park.  Paul and I ride past this park on an almost daily basis but have not gone very far in.  So Elisabeth and I took the bus to the park and walked through.  It was beautiful.

First we saw this man painting characters on the cement with water.  He has a huge brush and a bucket of water and he paints very artistic versions of characters.

These are actually poems or proverbs.  It's in moments like this that I am really, really aware that I live in China!

Next we saw a statue of the man the park is named after.  Forgive me for not knowing my Chinese history better!


Same statue the next day after a Spring snow storm.

Next, we saw this man chopping at ice with a pick ax.

We saw huge groups of people playing cards.

This will be beautiful when Spring really does come!

We hiked to the top of a hill.

And down the hill to this solid ice path.

We averted our eyes (but not the camera) at this kissing couple.  Extreme public displays of affection are not all that unusual any more.  Young couples have very little privacy so they usually take it outdoors.  It can be quite uncomfortable, especially in a bus or other enclosed space.  This couple didn't stop even when an elderly couple walked by.

We heard music so we walked over to see a group of people dancing.  We see people dancing in parks all the time.  It's really lovely.

A man doing Tai Chi with a statue of a girl doing gymnastics behind him.

An elderly man exercising.  These fitness machines for the elderly are in every park and many apartment complexes.  They are in constant use.

Finally, basketball, right outside of Sport's Street.  Basketball is hugely popular in China.

That was our Sunday afternoon in the park!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Raising a TCK

In our household, we have a very special person- our daughter Elisabeth.  She moved with us to China last summer and has handled the move with a grace and maturity that is beautiful to see.

Elisabeth is a TCK- a third culture kid.  Basically, a third culture kid is someone living outside of their passport culture.  Their identity is not necessarily with their own country or the country where they live.  They form a unique identity as a Third Culture Kid, with a unique skill and gift set.  Being a TCK also can have many challenges.
See this link for more information on TCK's.

Elisabeth spent the ages of two until six in a Korean environment.  She went to Korean Sunday School and was loved and spoiled by the community there.  What she learned in that environment was love.

She can't read but it doesn't matter.  She is so is Pikachu!

She spent the next part of her life in a Chinese environment and then in an international environment (still in the US).  In 2007 we decided to take a trip to China.
There we marched her around Beijing and took her up to an English camp in Inner Mongolia.

Exhausted at the Great Hall            Dad is always happy to give      New friends made at the camp from
of the People.                                 a history lecture.                       Tianjin International School.

When we returned to the US, we began to consider seriously the possibility of moving to China.  I didn't believe it was the right thing at the time, but slowly God began to work in my heart.  My primary concern was whether it was the right thing for Elisabeth- would she thrive?  Would school work for her?  Would she resent us later for taking here away from a "normal" American life?
I considered friends who had raised their kids successfully overseas- places like Jordan, Germany, Papua New Guinea.  I thought about the international school kids we had met at the camp who were living in China and thriving.  I contacted a friend who was raising her kids in Papua New Guinea - they had moved as slightly older kids.  Her advice- Go for it.
So we did.

In the summer of 2008, we came back to China.  We visited a few cities to consider where we wanted to live.

Elisabeth met kids that she would be going to school with.  The apartment where she is playing hockey is actually where we now live.  She began to really see that it was possible to live here..and so did I.

So we moved here in the summer of 2009.  Has it always been easy?  No.  Has it been worth it?  Yes.

Paul and I were given a gift a few years ago when we were at a retreat in SW Missouri.  It was the gift of hearing a speaker talk about raising kids.  He actually was a Chinese man who had lived in the US and raised his family there.
While he was speaking, he told the story of his teen son.  One night they were playing pool.  He could tell that his son had something to talk about but wasn't quite ready.  So they kept playing. And playing.  And playing.  Finally, after midnight, the son started talking.
When we heard this story, Elisabeth was about 7 or 8.  But it made a huge impact on us, and that's why we consider it a gift.  Creating an environment where your kids can talk, really talk makes such a big difference.  We have tried to make that true in our family.  There is no taboo subject except for meanness about other people or gossip.  I truly believe that has been part of Elisabeth's success here.  She was and is allowed to say whatever she wanted about the move (and she had a lot to say as the two year proces of getting here went on!).  She (and all of us) are allowed to be sad-we miss our family, our friends, our pets.  We miss driving and other things about living in America.

We have two and a half years left with this terrific kid.  My friend who is married to a Bolivian man says that I only think that because I am a "Gringa."  Hispanic and other cultures don't think that way.  But it's true, I am a Gringa and I do think that way!  I hope the two and a half years is rich and full of memories.  We are so thankful for the daughter that we have.