Posted by: schmivian | September 1, 2009

appropriate displays of mourning

America, I know you miss the king, but China’s truly outdone you this time.


Posted by: schmivian | August 31, 2009


The University where I am studying Chinese is called Minzu Daxue. It’s a state run university which is designated for the Minzu, or Chinese ethnic minorities. There are fifty-some different ethnic minorities recognized by the Chinese government, some of the more well known are the Mongols, Tibetans, Turkic Uighurs, Manchu, Miao (who call themselves the Hmong), and Naxi. While some would deride the tourist-targeted promotion of minority cultures as exploitative, I personally have found that it’s resulted in an excellent variety of dining options around my campus. This afternoon, a few classmates and I tried a Dai minority restaurant for lunch, where the waitstaff was dutifully dressed in traditional costume and the food delicious. The Dai are found throughout Yunnan province in China and continental Southeast Asia, and meals tend to revolve around rice (often stuffed inside yummy things like pineapples and bamboo) and freshwater fish.

Probably the biggest problem with blogging about food is remembering to take a picture before gorging myself, so here is a fortuitous shot of the fish we had for lunch with soy sauce, green and red peppers, lemongrass and garlic. The second biggest problem is that I find it hard to beat a 4 kuai (60 cents or so) basket of dumplings on the way home from school – so my diet may not be varied enough so as to warrant a blog. Here’s to noms!


Posted by: schmivian | August 27, 2009

sometimes in Beijing –

you get to see your friend’s bluegrass band play at a bar where you’d never know you were in China
you realize the irony in the fact that the only thing that’s made you sick so far was something you tried to cook for yourself
you end up salsa dancing with an old Ecuadorean man named Billy who has managed to get his tour guide drunk
your Chinese landlord tells you to hop on his bike rack and you go for a nerve wracking ride through morning traffic

one week down.

Posted by: schmivian | August 24, 2009

Today is not a blue sky day.

Window ViewBeijing’s frenzied airing out in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics garnered an enormous amount of international attention. The efforts included such drastic measures as relocating chemical plants to neighboring Hebei province and banning half the number of vehicles on the road at one point. One year later, however, an estimated 1,200 new cars are still being introduced to Beijing every day and vehicular traffic is responsible for 60% of this atmospheric pea soup. So, let’s hope that whatever air quality progress was made during the Olympics season is not lost as Beijing presses onward and upward (and outward) – because despite an Air Pollution Scale (API) of only 71 (on a non-linear scale to 500), today is not looking like a blue sky day.

Posted by: schmivian | August 21, 2009

Tokyo Toilets

Of all the fascinating variations of cultural phenomena, the way people treat their daily doo is perhaps the most interesting. I’m at Tokyo Narita airport where I’ve just discovered that the toilets have not one, but two buttons for ass-splashing. There’s the standard ‘bidet’ and a more generic butt sprinkler with a very amusing picture. Additionally, there’s button with musical notes which will simulate a flushing sound complete with total volume control for those embarassed by the noise of their business. This however, had the unintended side-effect of totally embarassing me as I could not for the life of me figure out how to get it to stop…Can’t wait to see which Beijing toilets have in store for me.

Posted by: schmivian | August 4, 2009

Tian Wai You Tian

“Tian Wai You Tian” is a Chinese proverb (Chengyu) that translates roughly to “There are Skies Beyond Skies.”On the one hand, the expression implies limitless possibility; universes beyond what we currently conceive and the grandeur of new experiences… On the other hand, the proverb is often used in Chinese culture to admonish the prideful. The expression also means that no matter how good you think  you are; how knowledgeable you imagine yourself to be; there will be someone or something greater, brighter and more knowledgeable out there.

Given the dynamism of today’s world, I think this sentiment perfectly captures the particular combination of wonder and humility with which I hope to convey my experiences in Asia.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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