A Travellerspoint blog


Happy Pi Day

overcast 30 °F


Because PiR2

And we R dorks.

And we have no round pie pans.

Posted by Blanchardlawn 02:55 Archived in China Tagged food pi Comments (0)

Happy New Year!

In China, it seems to last until March!

sunny 30 °F

Chinese (lunar) New Year was officially celebrated Feb 9-12, which was a few days before we arrived back in Harbin. However, like Christmas trees that last until February, the Chinese just don't want the fun to end and so remnants of the holiday stay long after the official festivities have ended. Same with the fireworks. And the fireworks here are NO JOKE! It's traditional to set off firecrackers whenever a new business opens up to frighten away evil spirits (or just because firecrackers are loud and awesome). Because we live in a college town, and because most businesses were temporarily closed during the holiday, every day starting at about 8am there's a new business opening or an old business reopening or maybe someone who just went out for a meal returning, so there's a round of firecrackers for luck.



The whole town is covered with firecracker papers.




It's traditional to decorate the house with words of luck or blessing. One of the most common is Fu, which means "fortune." It's hung upside down because the word for "upside down" has the same sound as "to arrive." But, this is only true in Mandarin. In Cantonese the word "upside down" is the same as the word "to run out," so don't be hanging your signs wrong!

Nothing goes uncovered with messages.





And when I said they were no joke about the fireworks, I meant NO joke.


Hawaii, take note. Although I didn't find out how much these cost, I have a feeling they were dirt cheap. These stands were set up on the last day of the lantern festival. That night there were hardly any "small" fireworks. Everyone was having their own Hilton Hawaiian Village show. This was the view of the apartments right behind us (in one of the worst night shots of all time). They were setting off huge fireworks all around our building, and if it hadn't been -10 degrees, I might have gone out to get some better shots!


Posted by Blanchardlawn 22:16 Archived in China Tagged new lunar year holidays fireworks Comments (0)


sunny 10 °F

A group of teachers got together to go buy a "traditional" Chinese dresse referred to in mandarin as a chipao. Most of us westerners have only seen it in Chinese restaurants, but it's really a beautifuly cut dress made from a colorful shiny embroidered, or in the modern era, woven fabric with scenic, floral or abstract designs. For a fuller history, you can check out the wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheongsam. I believe the chipao fabric was the inspiration for the aloha shirt as well.

Let me share the process of ordering a dress in China. First you find the fashion district in the area. In Harbin, it's much like the fashion district in LA, but with more craziness. If you've never been to a "fashion district," let me tell you, it's not very fashionable. There are several blocks of buildings filled with tiny booths selling fabric, leather, fur and cut-to-order garments. Those are the kind we were looking for. We started out at a place that specializes in suits, but we were afraid they might not be as good at dresses, so we walked a couple blocks to another warehouse filled with booths. On the walk, we passed open yards of garment waste. But as you can see, it was not all going to waste. Scavengers were picking through the rubble for odds and ends.


I don't know why they passed up this work of art.


We eventually found this place that specialized in the dresses and jackets we were interested in.




You walk through a few tightly packed aisles looking for the fabric you want, then you look through some pattern catalogs that they nice ladies at the store show you. They have different variations on length, sleeves, collars and buttons.


Here's the fabric I chose.


And my friend Judy's (much more refined taste, I think)...


We got to tell the lady if we wanted any changes. I made my pattern longer and told her I wanted black trim (IN CHINESE - I was so proud).


Then they took our measurements. It's amazing how accurate they could be over our winter clothes.


Pay up front (like everything in China). Only 220 Yuan which is a little less than $40.


Two weeks later they delivered our chipao to the school. Mine fit perfectly.

Our whole group:



Posted by Blanchardlawn 22:48 Archived in China Tagged clothing chipao Comments (1)

Welcome back to Iceworld

sunny 7 °F

We're back in Harbin after a 3 week vacation in Hawaii. It was definitely nice to not have to put on the long underwear to go outside for a change. When we left Harbin, it looked like this:


Why am I showing you an incredibly ugly picture of grey snow and rubble? The street is solid snow that's turned grey from cars driving on it. It's probably a few inches thick. And all of those shards that look like drywall on the side of the road? Also snow. When we left it hadn't been above freezing for a few months, so every time it snowed, it would get trampled by cars and foot and then workers come along and hack away at it and shovel it to the side (I don't think I've seen any snow ploughs, it's all done by work crews of about 20 men and women with shovels. - I'll try to get a picture of that next time I see it). Anyway, they break up the snow and then shovel it to the curb. Then eventually a truck comes along and it's shoveled into the truck as if it were construction material. I'm guessing it's carried off to a snow-landfill to be stored until spring when it will disappear. So that was the picture when we left.

While we were gone, during the coldest part of the year, somehow it managed to creep above 0 °C and for a few days the snow melted for a few hours during the day and refroze at night. Well, you can imagine the result. And if you can't, here's a picture of the sidewalk that we cross every morning on our way to work.


It's solid ice. The sidewalks, the streets, everything. Solid half-inch of ice on top of everything. I have now become accustomed to skating to work every morning and skating home at night. And of course now that we're back it's not expected to go above freezing again until spring.

But check out this beautiful frost from our school window. Makes me want to bust out the fractals screen saver.



Posted by Blanchardlawn 23:15 Archived in China Tagged weather Comments (0)

Snacks I Haven't Tried Yet

But maybe some day.

sunny 0 °F


Haven't gotten around to getting myself a bag of chicken feet yet, but maybe someday when I get a craving for something unusual.


And these aren't really even snacks, but they made me laugh, so I had to find a place for them.

Days around here have been cold as always. We're staying warm, but we're looking forward to our vacation in Hawaii. What better place to spend the coldest months of the year, right? We've also been suffering from the same smog as Beijing (although not quite to the same astronomical proportions). It was pretty bad for the last few days, but today it's been a little clearer. I'm hoping all that dirty air blows somewhere else soon.

Posted by Blanchardlawn 23:07 Archived in China Tagged food snacks Comments (0)

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