December 2009 Archives
Thomas T. has pointed out on facebook that this puzzle is a little 囧, and several others have reported that it's too hard. I now officially refer these people [and whoever else is still down] to my original hint with certain words now emphasized:
"...I'm not going to put everything on the TABLE now, but maybe I'll PERIODICally post some ELEMENTary hints if no one can figure it out."
Look at the following photo and say the first thing that it reminds you of, ready go:
If you said "penis," shame on you. It's obviously just someone's fatty pork jerky drying in the sun by the athletic field. Let's zoom out a little:
See? Just a couple strands of pig flesh hanging off the gate, enjoying a nice afternoon sunbath. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Let's zoom in again:
I can't believe you thought this looks like genitalia. You disgust me. Please stop reading my blog.
But seriously, plenty of strange things could be found hanging in various places around HuaFu this week, like this poster recounting the exciting final round of the recent student talent/popularity contest:
The line which caught my eye is in the middle: "...把比赛推向了一个又一个的高潮!" ("[the contestants] brought the competition to high tide after high tide!"). And here "high tide" is supposed to mean "excited moment" or "rousing chorus" or something, but "high tide" is also the only way I (or the online dictionaries) know how to say "orgasm". So to me that looks like "the contestants brought the competition to orgasm after orgasm!" But apparently it's just me because the Chinese people I've asked say the sentence is totally devoid of anything sexual. Similarly [sort of], I recall a certain period in middle school when I gasped anytime someone said the word "hubris" because I thought it meant "penis" (that was after reading this Onion article).
One more item hanging in the foyer of HuaFu (which I swear does not involve innuendo), is this photograph of a recent HuaFu graduate on a poster for the Intel Science Fair, at which she won second place:
What makes Jon and me uncomfortable about this poster is the quote on the right: "我不够聪明，也不漂亮，但是我有梦想." ("I'm not smart enough, and I'm not pretty, but I do have a dream.") What?! I think this is a great example of one of the most in-your-face cultural gaps between China and America: beauty. In America, a girl is absolutely not allowed to say that she isn't pretty, dream or no dream. Even if the ugliest girl in the country (and btw the girl in the photo above is nowhere near what I would call ugly or even "not pretty") were to say such a thing in public, the only appropriate response would be "No! Don't say that! You are beautiful!" Even to say, "Well, you may not be pretty on the outside, but it's what's on the inside that counts blah blah blah" would be unacceptable, because it would deny her the physical beauty that we believe everyone is entitled to. And until you realize that this taboo just doesn't exist in China, Chinese people can seem pretty rude: Our students told us that I am more beautiful than Jon if I take my glasses off, but I'm worse with them on. People tell me whenever my acne breaks out. Taxi drivers tell me their wives are ugly. At a party I was once put on the spot in front of everyone to name who the most beautiful girl in the room was. Of course I didn't answer that; how could I? Even if the question itself was only a joke, Americans still wouldn't even think to say that. The idea that some people are just objectively more beautiful than others is one that I think we are deeply uncomfortable with. For the record, I'm not saying Chinese people are right and we Americans need to "loosen up" or anything like that. I don't know what I'm trying to say. Hmm....
Anyway, congratulations to Miss Pan here. You go girl.
Readers familiar with my previous puzzles will be aware that being the first to send me (by email, not in the comments please!) the correct solution to this puzzle will earn you a prize in the mail. This is for real; ask Sakura C. or Ben F. and they will no doubt testify to my prize-mailing prowess.
There are actually two puzzles here, and the first person to solve either of them will win something (though I'm considering the first to be a warm-up to the second which is the main puzzle). The methods for solving each are basically the same. Although the answer to the first puzzle provides a slight hint toward the variation applied to the second puzzle, you could theoretically skip the first one altogether and still do fine on the second.
To win, send me:
the 7 Chinese characters that comprise the first puzzle's solution
the 4 Chinese characters that comprise the second puzzle's solution
Or both. Here it is:
As for hints, I won't put everything on the table now, but maybe I'll periodically post some elementary hints if no one can figure it out *huge Lucille Bluth wink*
Stopping by the copy shop is usually an in-out sort of affair, but I knew it was going to be different last night when a man, later to be identified as Hunanese, offered me this:
Thanks to a random China-related article I read about a year ago, I actually knew what this was. It's a betel nut, and people all over Asia chew it like tobacco. Wait a minute, I said, remembering out loud, isn't this bad for your teeth? The man from Hunan replied by peeling back his lips to reveal his front teeth, all of which were speckled yellow and brown, not unlike a banana. But what the heck, I'll try anything once (anything except crystal meth and buttsex), so I accepted.
Report: it tastes pretty much exactly like it looks like it would (like Listerine and shoe polish, am I right?). Not that great, but not that awful either. The kicker is that first-timers tend to experience a constricting sensation in the back of the throat which makes it kind of difficult to talk/breath. The man said it was a good thing he didn't give me the really 厉害 (lìhài "powerful") stuff, or else he'd probably have to take me to hospital afterwards. Ha-HA! Anyway, the swelling went down within fifteen minutes but the fumes stayed on my fingertips and tongue even after multiple brushings/washings.
One of the more memorable bits of conversation to come out of that otherwise positive and jovial cross-cultural experience was when the man asked me if I love (actually he said 崇拜) Mao Zedong.
"Not so much," I said in a self-surprising burst of honesty, "Most Americans don't love him."
"You Americans don't love heroes, then?" I realized at this point that Mao was also from Hunan.
"Uhhhhh no! I didn't mean it like that; well, he did good things and bad things...." the man was no longer listening at this point, and asked me if I had heard of an NBA player called Allen Iverson. Yes I had.
"He's got a tattoo of Mao on his shoulder."
"What? Weird, is he a Chinese Communist? Haha!" Nobody was laughing with me, and the conversation turned to less sensitive topics like tooth decay and other ways that chewing betel nuts long-term will fuck your shit up (like mouth cancer).
Editor's note: Allen Iverson doesn't have a Mao tattoo. He's got one on his neck of the Chinese character for loyalty (忠), but no Communist revolutionaries. You know who does have a tattoo of Mao Zedong, though? Mike Tyson!
In my haste to publish the other night's graph, I neglected to include two important experimental protein shake bases:
Pu'erh tea and bubble tea. These concoctions are important for me to mention not just because I drank them but also because they happen to make great puns. Bubble tea mixed with protein powder is "prubbletein", and 普洱 (Pǔ'ěr) tea plus protein powder equals "普洱otein". Chinglish pun of the year contender right here.
Jon and I bought some cheap ass-soy-based protein powder a few weeks ago, and now that we're just about down to the last of it, I'd like to release the results of the scientific study I've been conducting along the way:
Surprisingly (or not surprisingly, depending on how much you use the ol' noggin before you pour a whole Tsingtao into a glass of protein powder), beer protein shakes (or as I like to call them, "brotein shakes") get poor marks for drinkability. Coke float protein shakes (or as I like to call them, "coke flotein shakes"), however, are actually kind of delicious.
In case you were wondering if all the protein powder and pull-ups Jon and I do are making a difference, they are.... big time! Jon and I are ripped. The fact that I, ahem, have no photographic evidence for this should of course in no way deter you from believing it. Repeat: we are stacked.
You guys! We can study fun things now! No more math, science, or musty old history! Finally we can turn our attention to wacky objects like grasshoppers perched whimsically on misshapen red gourds!
I've already forgotten what the real news story was. Something about a man who collects quirky art objects, but whatever it was, it can't beat the headline. I love the China Daily.
I don't usually write about my oral English class, but this past week has produced some rather silly student responses which I would be remiss for not sharing. The topic was "strange customs."
First we introduce the topic by explaining what we mean by "strange customs" (cultural traditions or habits which outsiders might find strange). As a pre-task, we ask students to solicit questions about American customs which they find strange. We reply with joke answers first before try to give a genuine explanation. Then we split the class into four teams and ask them a series of questions which a foreigner might ask about Chinese culture. The team that responds with the funniest joke answer wins a point for that round. Then we solicit the real explanation and move on to the next question. The team with the most points at the end of class receives a hearty round of applause.
That was the idea, anyway. Soliciting questions about America during the pre-task was teeth-pullingly difficult, but I got a few good ones:
"Why do Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving?" ("To control the deadly turkey overpopulation. Hoho, just kidding; it's because the pilgrims and Indians ate it at the first Thanksgiving")
"Why are Americans allowed to own guns?" ("Because they watch too many cowboy movies! Hoho, just kidding; we made that amendment back when guns were muskets and we used them to gain our independence blah blah blah")
"Why do Americans kiss each other when they say hello?" ("Actually that's French people, hoho!")
"Why do Americans like football?" ("Because all American men are gay and they need the extra excuse to hug and tackle each other. Hoho, just kidding; we just love hugging and tackling each other."
"Why do Americans like to talk about human rights so much when they also kill innocent people in Iraq?" ("Uhhhhhhh [20 seconds of me trying to thinking of something jokey to say].... well that's not really a custom..... [20 more seconds of me quietly considering whether or not I can competently and diplomatically give a serious answer].....nope, sorry, next question. Hoho!")
Yes, that last question really happened.
Now let me read you the questions I asked during the game, followed by the best joke responses I got, followed by the real answers:
1. Why do Chinese people hang a character upside down over their door?
Joke answer(s): Because the wall is upside down! (wait, they get better)
Real answer: The character 福 (good fortune) is hung upside down because 福倒 (fortune is upside down) sounds like 福到 (fortune has arrived).
2. I saw a man with big dark circles on his back; what's that?
Joke answer(s): His wife bit/hit him, or wanted to imitate a panda.
Real answer: Moxibustion.
3. Why is the train station so crowded at the end of January?
Joke answer(s): People get bored on the train and start making babies.
Real answer: Spring festival.
4. Why are phone numbers with 8 in them so expensive?
Joke answer(s): Because 8 looks like the shape of a beautiful woman, or because 8 is 八 "bā" in Chinese, and Chinese people love McDonalds, so, "八八八八八... I'm lovin' it!" (I swear, it was hilarious in class)
Real answer: 8 is a lucky number in Chinese because it sounds like 发 "fā“ (to get rich).
5. What's inside the red envelopes Chinese people give each other?
Joke answer(s): More red envelopes (it's red envelopes all the way down!)
Real answer: Money.
6. Why do Chinese people eat mooncakes?
Joke answer(s): Mooncakes sounds like moon "aches" which is what the moon gets at the end of its "period" (would not have expected my students capable of producing menstruation puns in English, but they continue to surprise me).
Real answer: Mid-Autumn festival.
7. Why do some Chinese men have long pinky nails?
Joke answer(s): For self-defense, to drink soup with, to pick their noses/ears/teeth, to pick other people's noses/ears/teeth. One student said "to pick my ass", which would have been outrageous enough if he hadn't misspoke and actually said "to dick my ass" before correcting himself.
Real answer: No one knows. I read somewhere once that it's a sign of wealth (wealthy men don't have to do manual labor and thus can afford to grow a nail or two long). But who knows, it may well be for nose-picking.
8. Why do Chinese babies wear crotchless pants?
Joke answer(s): So China can show off how "well-developed" it is (get it, Chinese babies have big wángs?), or so their penises can breathe/take in sunlight for photosynthesis.
Real answer: For anytime, anywhere pooping and peeing. Yes.
On the rare occasion that one's former and current PiA coworkers are gathered together at one table, it is customary to pour them each a cup of tea:
This was taken at the Somethingth Annual Guangzhou Tea and Coffee (but, mostly Tea) Expo last weekend. Jon and David (who was back visiting for a few days) and I had decided to go out of sheer curiosity (curiosity for free tea), but the posturing you see in the photo above was not our idea. It was the woman with the camera in the white jacket with blue sleeves's. She spotted our pearly white skin from across the convention center, and asked if we might pose for a photo for an evening newspaper (we don't know which one). She really wanted to shoot one of us pouring the tea for the others after having "learned" the delicate art of tea pouring from one of the tea wenches. However, she neglected to get their approval, and there was a good bit of me waiting awkwardly under this increasingly impatient woman's armpit while she served the other attendees:
Awkwardness aside, we had pleasant time wandering about the stalls and listening to the patter of the tea sellers. In two hours we sipped Pu'erh tea from Yunnan, high-altitude mountain tea from Taiwan, honey tea which wasn't actually flavored with honey but whose leaves grew next to lychee fruits and thus absorbed some sweetness molecules in the process, and a little bit of coffee. More than a little jittery after the tea expo. Turns out old Chinese people who drink a cup of tea every 20 seconds can sleep at night because they're washing the same leaves over and over again, thus not getting any new caffeine. Whereas if you go from stall to stall at a tea convention and drink five cups of each variety, you're really pumping those veins full of it. Especially if you're a lightweight and can't even drink two cups of milk tea in one day without clawing away your shirt and jitterbugging into a busy intersection. Which I am.
The photographer in the first photo was not the only journalist who noticed we were Caucasian. We were also interviewed for a TV station, which sadly could not inform us when the program would be aired. They asked us questions like "Do you think it's weird that they have coffee and tea at an exposition together?" "What are some similarities and differences between tea and coffee?" "Why are you here?" That may not have been the exact order of the questioning, now that I think of it.
Here are some other images of the Expo, starting with Jon showing us the proper way to sniff tea leaves (you put your nose near it and breathe normally):
Breaking out the H1N1 tongs.
Taiwanese mountain tea.
There was almost a riot to get in the door. No, really.
We're considering buying a stump table for our apartment.
In other news, America represented itself poorly at the HuaFu Teacher Sports Meet on Saturday:
Jon covered it pretty thoroughly already, which is good because it means I don't have to re-re-enact our huge embarrassing failure to athletically outperform a group of 40-year-old academics with shorter legs.