Monthly Archives: December 2006

Our Christmas Day

All the rest is anticlimactic!  On Christmas eve there was not a taxi to be found, but we rode the bus and arrived home at about 10:30 PM.  There was not much left to be done except go to bed.  Although we had been keeping two different Advent calendars, both had already been switched to their new day.  (I think the calendar with chocolates in it had actually mysteriously run out a few days earlier.)  J wanted to check Santa’s location using the NORAD satellite. (I’m not sure how or where she learned this little trick, maybe from her Dad.)  Anyway, the animation was very cute, but as a result of that we came to realize there was some urgency. 
 
The link is here:  Go to Norad Santa Tracking
 
The NORAD satellite image showed Santa was already making his way through the Himalayas and was soon to be headed south into India.  This meant, he had already been through China!  Fortunately, J didn’t know this and so we were able to smooth it over.  She wanted to hurry up and go to sleep ASAP so that Santa could come.  Perhaps he could make a double loop back through Southern China. 
 
We didn’t read "The Night Before Christmas," we recited it from memory.  Can you?!!  Ha, ha.  I’d like to report that we read the Christmas story, but I have to confess I was so tired that we forgot.  However, we had already done that earlier, during our Advent season. 
 
As soon as J was in bed, I assisted in hunting up all the various items we had stored during the Christmas season shopping.  Fortunately, D had already wrapped most of the presents.  I busied myself preparing the Christmas casserole (see recipe, earlier Blog entry).  Since C was still awake and on her computer, we sang some Christmas carols, but we gave up on getting her to bed early.  I crashed, leaving D to do all the rest. 
 
The next morning, I was the first one awake, at 9 AM!  I couldn’t believe it!  I had time to come downstairs, take some photos (see Blog photo album), make coffee, and get settled in before the rest of the family made their appearance.  Of course, J was the first one down the stairs.  We actually had to rustle C out of bed so that we could open presents together. 
 
I confess, one nice thing about being here for Christmas is that there is no travel.  Just a quiet, peaceful morning.  We open gifts, then have our breakfast casserole.  One of the special gifts from S was a new CD of Christmas music played on a harp.  It is a really nice CD.  Our Christmas candles smelled great, our house was relatively clean, our tree was nice.  The weather was perfect, so in the afternoon we got to go try out the 2 new bicycles that Santa had left.  There was not even a bicycle crash, or at least no big ones.  J had already learned how to ride by using Ines’s bike, so it was a matter of practice and gaining more control. 
 
And so Christmas was peaceful and anticlimactic, as has been the rest of our week.  Santa brought D some water colors which he has been using.  He could have a second career as an artist.  It has been a quiet, relaxing week, a time to regroup in preparation for the coming new year. 
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Our Christmas Eve

In one entry, I wrote about our Christmas preparations, so now I’ll write about our Christmas proper.  First of all, as I mentioned, Jesus was notably absent! 
 
Of course you realize I write that a bit tongue in cheek, to get your attention.  But if we don’t "watch it," we’ll end up with a holiday like they have over here:  a whole lot of commercial emphasis on shopping, vague talk about family gatherings, everybody wanting their picture made with Santa, but nothing — absolutely nothing — about "the reason for the season." 
 
If there’s no reason for the season, why have it?  Why not just have seven little tiny men sitting on a castle in a snowy landscape resembling the north pole, exhorting people to shop?  Or, here’s another scene:  I was so pleasantly surprised to see an Angel Tree in front of a store, but when I went to get a card off the tree I found that all the cards were identical advertisements for a car dealership.  For those readers who don’t know what an Angel Tree is, it is a Christmas tree filled with cards.  Each card has the name of a child, along with that child’s age and a suggested gift from their "wish list" for Christmas.  For example, the card might say "Amy, age 8, size 8 clothing, would like barbie doll."  A person shopping for Christmas would take the card, buy and wrap the gift, and then deliver it to a designated location.  On a certain day, the Angel Tree gifts will be delivered to all the needy families who participated.  This is one way the "real" Santa visits children:  a spirit of giving and celebration of the true meaning of Christmas, which is all about the greatest gift. 
 
Let me assure you, that if we are not guarding our cultural traditions, nobody else is!  So here’s a small challenge:  in your own mind, what are your most important Christmas traditions?  (And while I’m on this thought, I want to say "Thank you, thank you, thank you to my home church youth group for sending me photos of their Advent and Christmas activities, especially delivering Angel Tree gifts and other community service activities!"  It really made my day — honest!) 
 
I’m not so vain as to think that MY religious tradition is the ONLY one that includes giving and charity in its box of attributes.  But I certainly want the charitable and deeply sincere impulse of Christmas — along with the underpinning of that gift-giving impulse — to be recognized with candor rather than brushing off the whole business as meaningless superstition!  I don’t want my religious tradition to be relegated soley to the category of quaint, somewhat pagan commercial traditions like Easter eggs and Santas, either.  Whoever wants to preserve Christmas in any authentic, meaningful fashion, needs to begin at home, and also at church, and beginning not just at Advent but at all seasons of the year.  Otherwise, our children will grow up like some other children I know, who think faith is some archaic notion that belonged to their grandparents and nominally to their parents. 
 
 
(E.g. can you find ANY mention, any at ALL, of "the reason for the season in the following little piece:   ?)
 
 
Okay, enough of the soapbox.  Ever heard of the guy who was "so heavenly minded he was no earthly good?"  I’ll try to pull my feet back on the ground! 
 
On Christmas eve, we ended up with 23 people at our house for our Christmas carol sing, including ourselves.  It was a jolly time with lots of music, friendship, and good food.  Everybody brought a dish to share, and we had a lot of fun visiting.  My biggest mistake was that I was so nervous about my guitar playing skills that I told C we needed to sing first and then eat (she wanted to do the opposite).  Problem was, that if people arrived late they missed the songs.  But no matter, we sang some twice or three times!  Then, we had great desserts and fun talking, and then at about six thirty, we left to go out for dinner. 
 
Our particular family Christmas tradition has become that we always go out for dinner on Christmas eve.  No cooking for me!  It’s just too busy!  This is partly in response to our tradition of traveling and spending many hours in the car during our Christmas holiday.  (Plus, in the USA we normally go to a church service on Christmas eve, somewhere, somehow.)  The first year we went out for dinner, it was because we had just come home from one or another set of parents houses.  We had no food purchased or prepared, and all the stores were closed.  So we went out.  It was a lovely and memorable, quiet dinner at Olive Garden.  We enjoyed it so much, we began doing it every year.  And so now, Italian food has become high on our agenda for Christmas eve dinner.  This year, in keeping with that tradition, we decided to go out for Italian. 
 
Now, in Guangzhou we are spoiled because the Italian restaurants are run by Italians.  This year we went to Oggi’s.  Even our Chinese waiter spoke his English with an Italian accent, we supposed because he learned English from his Italian restaurant manager and Italian chef.  Since we had just eaten lots of snacks with our party, we decided to decline the 230 RMB set, full course meal and instead to split a couple of things.  C and I split soup, salad, and ravioli, D and J split lasagna.  The four of us ate for less than 200 RMB (about $25). 
 
Our waiter was in a really happy mood.  He said it was because all of his customers were so pleasant and happy tonight.  He had figured out that it was Christmas and that’s why they were happy.  He asked us, "There’s something to this Christmas, isn’t there?  I mean, it’s more than just the New Year, right?"  We told him that Christmas was about Jesus’s birthday, but he didn’t want to discuss any more than that. 
 
I think he was just fishing for a big tip.  He’s in a western restaurant, and a lot of westerners leave tips if they don’t know better.  In China, however, we don’t tip as a general rule.  First of all, it is rude.  When one is served in a restaurant, one expects the person to do his job and give good service.  A tip implies that this might not be done otherwise and, while the money is welcome, the insulting implication is not.  Second of all, we tip in an entirely different manner, which is to give "Lucky Money" at Chinese New Year.  This is the accepted way to bestow favor upon people one likes or whom one wants to bless, particularly single people, employees or people in service profesions, and to children of friends.  Instead of giving small tips all year round to the waitresses etc., we prepare red envelopes ahead of time for the waitresses and service people we have developed personal relationships with.  This is greatly appreciated, and in fact I like the tradition better because it acknowledges more of the long term aspect of the relationships we have developed.  In fact, I now get rather affronted when I sense a waiter angling for a tip, because it is alien to his culture and very forward and rude of him to presume that he can get by with seeking a tip from a westerner.  So we all left happy:  he didn’t care about Christmas, and we didn’t care about leaving a tip. 
 
There was one small damper on our Christmas spirit.  There was a recent campaign in the Chinese news media to denounce Christmas as a dangerous threat to traditional Chinese culture.  That’s because it’s "western" and not "Chinese."  You can read in between the lines "colonialism" or you can read "two legs good, four legs bad."  Either way.  Now, contrary to media assertions about lack of authenticity, I think there is something about Christmas that transcends culture.  Our housekeeper told me "Chinese don’t do that, it’s purely a foreign thing," but in fact there are lots of Chinese who celebrate Christmas.  They are here, but they don’t celebrate the same way as the Westerners.  Here, it’s very much just another day.  They go to work, they come home.  They might attend church or go to a special service.  Last year there was a candlelight service at one of the local churches, although I don’t know of anyone who attended there this year.  But there is no tradition of having a birthday celebration, making an issue of Advent, or of giving gifts.  The big celebration associated with this time of year is the Winter Solstice. 
 
The Three Wise Men from the East could well have been Chinese, because astrology is big here, in traditional Chinese thinking at least.  There are auspicious dates for weddings, one can have good luck and bad luck based on one’s date of birth.  Indeed, overall one’s date of birth can be good or bad, leaving that person with indelible and inescapable good or bad luck for life.  A spouse should be chosen according to these calculations, names for children are chosen accordingly, businesses planned around these dates and fates, placement of objects in houses to counter or assist these forces (feng shui).  And the winter solstice is significant in astrology.  The big event at the end of December, in traditional Chinese culture, is the winter solstice.  On Christmas eve, there were many people out on Saturday night, celebrating the first evening after the winter solstice, one of the biggest unofficial holidays of the year. 
 
After dinner, we decided to go out for a stroll, because I wanted to see the lovely lights.  Those pictures are on my blog.  It was a beautiful evening, with temperatures in the low to mid sixties, clear air for a change.  And literally tens of thousands of people out on the street.  at 9:30 P.M., I was shocked to find myself shoulder to shoulder for blocks on end.  I took some photos (see photo album, this Blog).  Do you notice that the photos say "Happy New Year," not "Merry Christmas"?  Last year they said "Merry Christmas."  But plenty of people on the street said "Merry Christmas" to us, which impressed me to no end.  If a Chinese person were out on the street in your home country on the first night of Chinese New Year, how many people on the street would be able to say "Happy New Year" in their language?  Even though we were aware of a danger of pickpockets, or that we might look a bit odd in our Santa hats, we felt welcomed by the ordinary people.  And, we decided to indulge C for her favorite treat, a coffee from Starbucks.  And not just that, but cheesecake too.  There were so many people out!  We were shocked that we were able to get a seat. 
 
There were in fact so many people out, that as 10:00 approached we began to get nervous about being able to find a taxi to get home.  We decided to cross the street to a place where there is a big book store (five stories high).  People arrive in taxis and leave in taxis, so there are usually taxis waiting, but a few less crowds.  Bad move!  The book store had just closed.  There were no taxis coming to let people off anymore, but there were hundreds of people there trying to catch the few taxis that did come by.  A couple of times, bitter arguments broke out between people competing for the few taxis.  We knew we couldn’t compete, so we decided to walk to the bus stop and catch the bus home. 
 
This is when the only disconcerting event of the night happened.  Walking to the bus stop, along the busy road and with a sidewalk wall to wall with people, we were crossing by the entrance to the city-center stadium.  D quickens his pace and says, "Let’s hurry up and get past this miltary stuff."  I looked up and realize he is talking about a caravan of about five miltary trucks that are pulling within arms reach of me, loading into the parking lot at the entrance to the stadium.  I don’t think think too much of this, until I see that each truck has a cage with bars, holding the biggest German shepherd police dogs I’ve ever seen, in the back.  I don’t think too much of that, either, since I’m not doing anything threatening etc, and I see no signs of anything threatening.  But then I realize that there is nothing, nothing at all, warm and fuzzy about these dogs.  They are all snarling and lunging at the bars of the cage.  It puts a knot in my stomach, and I feel ill.  In all of the thousands of people I had seen that night, I hadn’t seen any sign, no drop, of unrest or unruliness.  But the contrast of the vicious dogs with the otherwise complete normality of a quiet, pleasant night, just rubbed it in that this is not a free place.  One must always be aware: there is no right of assembly and no freedom of press or speech or thought.  If you express a thought outside the mainstream, you could be branded a public enemy.  You might even disappear or be branded as dangerously lunatic, literally. 
 
How is this linked with Christmas?  I don’t know exactly, but I think it is linked, in the same sense that all our cultural values are tied together into a bundle, each influencing the other. 
 
In my value system, you have value as a human, not merely as an instrument of the state, not because of some benefit you might bring to me.  I value your freedom of conscience, not merely your capacity to contribute to my factory quota.  And where do these values come from?  Well, because the "big man in the sky" values you and me individually, that’s why.  There is an order in the universe and we fit into it in some way.  We each are valued, individually, so much that X sent his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  However we interpret those words, it’s definitely the major thought that counts on this holiday season.  Here is this little baby, born for this fate.  And there I shall end.  You are loved and valued; I am loved and valued.  Inceed, loved so much, and that core value drives many of our western attitudes and traditions!  That’s the real message.  The rest of our family Christmas is yet another story.  Therefore . . . to be continued! 

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Christmas Casserole

Make up this casserole the night before, then pop it in the oven for an hour while opening Christmas presents.  It makes a special treat, part of our family Christmas tradition.  The original recipe is called "Cheese Pudding" from my mother’s 1960 Charleston Receipt book, but it has now been extensively modified with some other recipe ideas thrown in over the years.
 
Ingredients: 
 
10 slices white bread
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated, or a similar amount of cheddar and monterey jack combined
4 oz cream cheese, softened 
1 pack your favorite sausage (about 1/2 to 1 lb, depending on shrinkage) 
about 1/2 cut chopped onions and / or sweet pepper (any color), only if desired
Two dashes of nutmeg (about 1/2 teaspoon total)
10 eggs
16 oz milk
2 Quart casserole dish, earthenware is best
 
The night before: 
 
(1) Cut sausage into bite size pieces and brown it, then set aside. 
Saute onions and peppers, if you are using these ingredients. 
(2) Cut crust off bread, then cut bread lengthwise and crosswise cut breat into bite size chunks. 
Use a very sharp knife and try not to squish the bread as you cut it!  
(3) Mix eggs with a fork or whisk, then add milk, set aside
 
After the ingredients are prepared, then:
 
(4) layer the first five ingredients as follows:
Half the bread (should cover bottom of casserole), then half the cream cheese spread as thinly as you can manage (use your fingers, this is messy), then half the cheddar cheese, then half the sausage, and half the onion and / or pepper.  Sprinkle with half the nutmeg, roughly "one dash" (very scientific measuring, eh?). 
 
(5) Repeat this process for a second layer:  bread, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sausage, onion, pepper, nutmeg. 
 
These "dry" ingredients should fill the casserole dish, more or less.  Then,
 
(6) Pour the egg and milk mixture over top, being sure to wet all the bread as you pour.  Don’t be alarmed if the liquid totally disappears, the bread will soak it back up like a sponge. 
 
(7) Cover and pop in fridge to soak overnight. 
 
(8) Set up coffee, juice, and get fruit ready to slice fresh for breakfast. 
 
The next morning, preheat oven to 325.  (If casserole appears dry on top, the panicked cook may decide to mix up a bit more egg mixture and pour it over for good measure, but this is most likely unnecessary.)  Then cook (uncovered) for about an hour.  After everyone has opened their presents, serve the casserole up on your best Christmas China (or the best you have) with coffee, juice, and fresh fruit.   Everyone will love it. 
 
Chuck, Manager of S.C. Home at Montreat, NC, serves a variation of this recipe using leftover grits in place of bread.  He also leaves out the meat and serves bacon or sausage on the side, instead.  This basic recipe of cheese pudding will do fine with whatever you choose to put into it.  If you don’t want the meat, or if you prefer a different kind of cheese, feel free to experiment and invent your own new recipe! 

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Here’s One For James Brown

In Memoriam: James Brown, May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006
 
South Carolina.  A land of contrasts, a land of conflict and tension, of strident harmony.   
 
A land where vibrant Black African rhythms grind against White sensibilities, where the Jitterbug becomes the Charleston, a land where the Shag is the state dance.  A land where Soul and Blues and Hip Hop are mixed together like sea marshes and oak trees and shrimp nets.  A land where the sound of cicadas overwhelms the senses at dusk, a land where a mixture of shrimp and sausage, potato, onion and corn simmers under the heat of a blue sky and a white summer sun, taking on local names like Frogmore Stew or Beaufort Boil.  A land where Gullah is spoken and voodoo is practiced. 
 
A land where one’s heritage is revealed, one’s identity forged, by whether one is Episcopalean or Baptist or African Methodist Episcopal.  A land that until fifty years ago still had Jim Crow laws, and where we know what that means.  A land that produced Strom Thurmond, Lee Atwater, and the Hunley.  A land with timeless Rhythm, a land of deep Blues, a land seething with Soul.  Ours is the land where Moonshine appears on Saturday night and then gives way to Gospel and loud "Amens" on Sunday morning. 
 
A land where everyone knows that BBQ is a type of meat that has been smoked for 24 hours, not an afternoon activity involving a backyard grill.  (And we know BBQ is short for barbeque and we would find it sacreligious to pronounce it as Bee Bee Que, the best we will do is Baah-buuh-que.)  A world where this smoked meat is our national dish, with our regional boundaries demarked by vinegar, mustard, or tomato base BBQ sauce. 
 
The state which fired the first shot in the war for Southern independence, two full years before the Emancipation Proclamation, and whose capital was burnt in an effort to demoralize and defeat the populace during that war.  A state where battles still rage over the proper place of that battle flag in its modern history.  A land where the word "diversity" is a code word which really means "Black, White racial desegregation."  Where the rice culture of West Africa abounds in the lowcountry marshlands and one can hear the traces of "Negro Spirituals" on the breezes as sweetgrass baskets are woven in the shade on a hot summer day or as shrimp are eaten with grits. 
 
South Carolina.  The State that gave rise to the "Father of Soul" James Brown. 
 
James Brown:  Born at Barnwell, living near Edgefield.  An impoverished child who grew up to own a Lear Jet.  We’ll claim him, even if he did some outrageously bad things.  We forgive him for being a man of contrasts and complexity, for this is something we understand implicitly. 
 
A man who, like most of his fellow South Carolinians, whether White or Black, grew up in a land of segregation and poverty, its economy burned to ashes during or in the aftermath of the civil war, a land crippled by disenfranchisement of half its citizens (not all of them Black, but most).  A man who served a couple of jail terms, who needed drug rehab, who was arrested for beating his wife, who left "at least" four children (who knows how many more), was part of the civil rights movement, who just last week participated in a charity concert.  Just like our state, a man of complexity and deep rhythm. 
 
We’ll call him ours, just as we also are proud to claim Sterling Sharpe and George Rogers and Ron McNair and Charles Bolden and Jesse Jackson (just a few of our famous Black South Carolinians, see http://www.scafricanamericanhistory.com/honorees.asp for a few more).  OURS is the man who proclaimed, "Say it Loud, I’m Black and Proud." 
 
No matter what we think of James Brown, we can’t help but be impressed.  James Brown is larger than life.  Our feet move when we hear his music.  In China, we hear his song and shout with him, "I feel good!" and know that we share part of that soul.  He is one with us.  A fellow South Carolinian.  Striking a common cord in China, in every country.  May his vibrant, pulsing soul live on in our music.  May his music live on in our soul. 
 

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Our Christmas preparations

Our Christmas preparatons literally began months ago, because it takes a long time to ramp up over here.  First, a year in advance, we learn from experience exactly what we can’t get here and exactly what we miss the most.  Like, perhaps, the smell of a christmas tree, singing Christmas carols, and some certain special kind of food.   And so those items are what we single out to carry over here in our suitcases.  Christmas napkins, decorations, special foods and spices (like cloves and nutmeg), santa gifts, music CD’s, christmas scented candles — even movies like "Miracle on 34th Street," and "Frosty" — were purchased months in advance during trips to the USA and carried back here by hand.  Don’t even think of asking how my British friend got her English parsnips and sweet turnips here, because I have no idea myself! 
 
Then, there’s the local shopping.  It takes six to eight weeks for gifts shipped from here to reach the USA, if they’re shipped by boat.  So our Christmas shopping almost literally needs to begin in September and be completed by early October.  I didn’t make the deadline this year, but I did better than in previous years.  This year, things got shipped about two weeks before Christmas, which means my relatives will get their Christmas gifts in late January.  I gave up on being a perfectionist years ago.  In fact, I’ve hit the wall (of my own limitations) so many times in my life that I’ve just learned to decrease my expectations of what I can get done.  So, sorry to say, but four weeks late is as good as it gets this year!  Looking on the bright side, it gives me room for improvement next year! 
 
After living here a few years, I learned there isn’t really Christmas over here, after all.  Our traditions are as strange and outlandish to non-X’ns as voodoo might be to our mainstream people in the USA.  My mind has been expanded by learning about my Indian friends’ celebration of Diwali.  In like minded spirit, I decided that, now that my feet are on the ground here, it was time for me to share some of my traditions with my neighbors.  Even the Europeans have very different Christmas traditions.  So . . . I volunteered to play Christmas songs at J’s school, and I also volunteered to speak at the YWCA about American Christmas Traditions.  
 
J and C went with me on the morning I spoke at the Y.  These are ladies who are in training to be housekeepers for foreign families.  It is helpful for them to have some knowledge of foreign festivals and traditions.  C wanted me to emphasize how the gifts are all a big SECRET that is saved as a surprise for Christmas day.  She wanted to emphasize this particularly because even this year, the third year SY has worked for us, she gets so excited when she knows there is a gift in the house for someone that she pulls it out and gives it to them as soon as they come home.  The first year, SY gave J her Santa gifts about three different times, which meant that we kept having to shop for new Santa stuff.  Even after we told her, she didn’t seem to catch on.  For instance, this month I purchased a belt for C and put it in my room to wrap up for Christmas.  As soon as C came home that day, SY brought it down stairs, handed it to C, and said, "Mommy!  For you!" 
 
The housekeeper trainees were particularly enthralled with J’s joyous, obvious anticipation of Santa.  I’m strictly not allowed to proselytize or teach, and I follow that rule.  But I am allowed to share.  And so, I share honestly from my own experience.  My last talk at the Y was about Thanksgiving, and I told them our Christmas preparation begins right after that, with Advent.  I told them about the four Sundays of Advent, the five candles in the Advent wreath, that Advent is a time of anticipation, anticipating the birth of Jesus.  This leads in a circle back to the child’s anticipation of Santa, and how the original Santa was a celebration of the gift of God’s love through Jesus. 
 
Christmas as Jesus’s birthday?  What a novel idea!  You certainly could have fooled me, for all that anyone mentions it over here, Americans or Europeans alike!  I did mention this crucial fact about the origin of Christmas, since it’s the underpinning of everything that Christmas stands for, including our tradition of giving gifts.  I also shared my family’s Advent traditions, including our activities in our USA church, our advent wreath, our Christmas tree and its decorations, our scented Christmas candle, poinsettias (which we carried to the classroom), home made Christmas cards we showed, an Advent calendar that had a piece of chocolate for each person.  I read "The Night Before Christmas" even though nobody knew the words.  And then, we sang some Christmas carols.  (I confess, I get so tired of "Here Comes Santa Claus" being the only Christmas song one hears around here!)  
 
I also tell them about other Americans who don’t celebrate Christmas at all.  For instance, I told them about my Jewish friend Mark, whose Christmas tradition is takeout pizza and a movie.  And I told them about Hannukah and menorahs and Kwaanza.  I believe, and think most Americans agree, that first Amendment freedoms are also a crucial part of our Christmas traditions.  It’s important for non-Americans to know that not everyone in the USA is the same religion and we protect that right of freedom and freedom of discussion and belief.  And, with great enthusiasm, Julianna told them exactly about how Santa would arrive and when, and she shared her Santa list with them.  They loved to hear about it.  They had a good chuckle when they heard thingshe included on her list such as makeup and an IPod.  Exactly what is on my list, as well, they said! 
 
It’s very flattering to speak to these ladies.  The last time I was there, they asked for my autograph.  I’m not sure how much English they understand, but I do think can be a valuable experience for them.  Even, just to know that someone cares for them.  After my talk at Easter, one of the housekeepers sent word through the grapevine she was glad she had heard my talk about Easter, because when her family sent her out for two dozen eggs, she knew to buy white ones for dyeing. 
 
Returning to the subject of how we forge our new Christmas traditions while we are in a foreign land, there is also the issue of eldest daughter now alone in USA.  Her main Christmas gift this year was her ticket to Ireland, plus a few small things, but there were things to be done to help make sure she didn’t get too homesick!  Her dad supplied a stocking and small artificial tree for her room  . . . . to make things a bit more cheery during those dismal dark days of late fall, when it turns dark so early, coupled with her first experience of college final exams.  She finished her last exam on December 16, and she told us she wanted to celebrate a family Christmas together on December 17.  So, on December 17th, Christmas with S was our first real, family "Christmas event."  Thanks to Skype (http://www.skype.com ) we were able to have S "join" us at our dining room table on the Sunday before she left for Ireland, and we had a family Christmas celebration together. 
 
It’s a bit odd to have your daughter embodied as a talking head on a computer screen, and then to carry the computer around the room to show her things on the camera.  But, it’s a lot better than nothing; in fact it seems nothing short of a miracle for an ordinary family to be able to have a child join them for a wireless teleconference at the dining room table, linked from room in a university just about exactly on the other side of the earth!  We did the same thing Christmas morning, while she was in Ireland.  Miracles never cease!  You can see the photos on the Christmas photo album (also this Blog). 
 
Music is always a big part of our Christmas, and our celebration with S was no exception.  There was a time delay as S sang along with us from the other side of the world (kind of like the lag between the microphone and the crowds cheering in a football stadium), but we all just ignored it and enjoyed the moment for what it was.  It’s not really about quality of the music, but about sharing it all together. 
 
Then, we needed to plan our party.  There was this burning question about when to have the party and who to invite.  After all, we actually don’t even know the religious bent of most of our friends here.  Additonally, in their home countries, most people who care about Christmas would have been with family or at church on Christmas eve, but here nobody has a family or church, to speak of.  We calculated, what better time to plan something than when people would have a hole in their traditional schedule.  So, we issued invitations to everyone in our address book to come sing Christmas carols with us from 2 – 4 on Christmas eve.  We got RSVP’s from 6 people that they would be joining us.  So then, I typed up song sheets to use for singing.  And started practicing my guitar.  What I do is literally hum and strum.  This works okay with first graders, but maybe more is needed if adults are present.  Old fingers might actually need to make cords and hit the right strings.  Okay, so practice a bit every day. 
 
In the meantime, friends K and J with their children arrived in town from another city, and we scheduled dinner together.  Our kids had such a good time they extended their pizza night to include a holiday sleepover.  D offered to make pancakes for everyone when they return to collect children.  We had a wonderul time! 
 
Then, there was planning a menu and buying food for the party.  My neighbor managed to find English Stilton for HER party, but the best I could do was Georgia Pecans (thanks to my friend Betty who sent them in D’s suitcase).  How do these relate to one another?  Well, what is your best approximation of a party food that feels like comfort food?  Mine is a cheeseball with extra sharp cheddar, cream cheese, some worcestershire sauce, some shallot, some hot pepper, all rolled up in roasted pecan pieces and served with ritz crackers.  Hers is English Stilton cheese with fruit.  We both had it.  I even had enough roasted pecan halves to put out a dish of them.  And boy, was my Yankee candle that smells like Christmas a big hit!  I must say, we are "The hostesses with the mostesses!"    Would you believe, we had carried over a Stover fruit cake and forgot to put it on the table?  More for us on Christmas day! 
 
We were off to a good start.  As they say, the spirit of Christmas was abundant:  sharing, caring, good food, friends, music, and yes even the Christmas story. 

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Age Defying Fitness

I read an article today in NY Times.  The article itself may not be so important, but certainly the idea is.  No matter what your age! The article, by Jane Brody, begins with the headline:

"To Avoid ‘Boomeritis,’ Exercise, Exercise, Exercise." 

It then continues:  “An apology to all baby boomers and beyond: I’m afraid that in our efforts to get everyone to become physically active, we’ve sold you a bill of goods. A 30-minute walk on most days is just not enough. There is much more to becoming — and staying — physically fit as you age than engaging in regular aerobic activity. (Of course, the same applies to those younger than 60.)”  

The article says that musculoskeltal injuries are the #1 cause of seeking medical care in the USA and that falls are the #1 cause of accidental death in the over-65 age group.  The author makes the point that, by their 40th birthday, most people have developed musculoskeletal vulnerabilities that are prone to injury.  These vulnerabilities originate even during teenage years because of slight imbalances in posture or movement that are compounded over time.  Because baby-boomers are staying active longer, they get injured when they put stress on those vulnerabilities.  The article suggests specific ways to avoid injury, and I thought it was important enough that I wanted to share the information.  The full text of the article can be found at: 

<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/19/health/19brody.html?ex=1167282000&en=ef71ffb713cd1413&ei=5070&emc=eta1" target="_blank"/a>
The author recommends a specific book, called Age Defying Fitness (see link below), written by two physical therapists, Maryln Moffat and Carole Lewis.  This book uses a questionnaire to help you assess your personal vulnerabilities and then develop an exercise routine which will help correct for those weaknesses.  The article further makes the point, “flexibility [is] not optional” as you age. To prevent stiffness and maintain joint mobility you should stretch daily for 15 to 20 minutes, using slow, controlled movements, before or after your exercise program.”  The book can be found at:  <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Age-Defying-Fitness-Making-Most/dp/1561453331/sr=1-1/qid=1166662439/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-0433747-0324931?ie=UTF8&s=books" target="_blank"/a>

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Fun But Not Frivolous

What’s your personality type?  Try this test:

<a href="http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp" target="_blank" a>

 .  

When you answer the questions, just say what seems natural, without a lot of introspection or puzzling.  There are no right or wrong answers.  This is about your preferences and what is a good fit for you personally.  

After you take the test, you can read about yourself at <a href="http://typelogic.com" target="_blank"/a>

(There’s also a popular book, called "Please Understand Me" that lays it out, but you can figure it out for yourself just as easily.)  

The four scales are: Introvert vs. Extrovert, Sensing vs. Intuitive, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Perceiving vs. Judging.  Most people fall somewhere in the middle on these general scales, but some are very strongly one way or another.   

Young people thinking about a potential career can especially benefit from the insight these tests might provide about types of work that might appeal to them.  Additionally, these tests can be helpful to get a quick insight into compatibility with potential business or marriage partners.

Leave a comment and tell me, what’s your type?   Can you guess what I am? 

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TIC is short for “This Is China”

I was tagged to bring 20 cupcakes to J’s class for their Christmas party.  Except, I’m not such a great cupcake baker.  The bakeries around here do a great job with cakes, so I decided to order cupcakes. 
 
Two years ago, I ordered cupcakes for J’s birthday party.  They made a HUGE cake, cut it into slices, and then decorated each slice.  Then each slice was individually wrapped and packed back into the cake box.  Oh yeah, it was delicious cake.  And each slice would have been enough for about three little children.  Plus, that the whipped cream on top was messy, and not to mention that there was neway any kid could pick it up to eat it.  It simply wasn’t finger food and it wasn’t kid food.
 
Not wanting that to happen again, I decide to ask S Y if it’s even possible to get cupcakes.  If I can’t get CUPCAKES, I will make them myself. 
 
These things always start with, "I just wanna know."  Remember my previous Blog entry about suspending expectation?  Well, I just want cupcakes for my kid’s party.  If I can’t get that from a bakery, I’ll bake it myself.  So please, just be up front and tell me.  If the answer is "no," that’s okay, and I can take care of it myself. 
 
So, don’t pretend that you understand when you don’t.  Don’t tell the the answer you think I want to hear, if you know it’s impossible.  In this culture, these two things happen a lot when someone could "lose face" by telling you the honest truth.  But, there are no issues about cupcakes that are risky enough to involve losing face, are there? 
 
On Thursday, I take SY into the kitchen.  I pull out my cupcake baking pan, I pull out the little paper cups to go inside.  I tell her that in the USA these are called "cupcakes," and I say that word as it literally translaes into Chinese:  "bei dan gou."  I ask her if you can get these in China.  "Oh yes, of course." 
 
I tell her that J’s class is having a party on Friday morning and that I want to order 30 to be ready by 9 AM on Friday.  "Sure, no problem." 
 
I am envisioning cupcakes, right?  What is she envisioning?  Visions of sugar plums?  The problem is, I can’t read her mind.  All I can do is trust her when she tells me she understands. 
 
There’s some technique I learned in which you’re supposed to have the person tell you in their own words what they understand, and then you know if there’s a miscommunication.  I use this often; I need to exercise this technique more where translation issues are concerned.  One challenge is that it’s a bit trickier than it sounds when one of you speaks Chinese and the other speaks English.   
 
SY says she’ll go order them on her way home, and then pick them up on the way to work Friday morning.  That way, they’ll be here by 9 AM.  She says they’ll be 1.8 RMB apiece.  I give her 50 RMB.
 
8 AM Friday morning, SY arrrives back at my house with 30 muffins, wrapped 2 to a pack.  No frosting.  Oh, heck!  I don’t have the ingredients to make frosting; I can only get that from the foreign grocery store and I might have to look a couple of places to get it.  I’d have to make a special trip, which involves telephoning the driver for an appointment and of course we can’t interfere with his lunch hour or his nap time.  And then brave the crowds and hope that one of the numerous import shops will have the ingredients I need.  If you’ve read my Blog entry about J’s birthday party, you get an idea of the challenge.  The simplest thing is to get the bakery to put the frosting on.  They make a great whipped cream frosting. 
 
Since D hasn’t left for work yet, I’m greatly relieved that he is here to help me.  Life is always better when he’s around.  He says it’s a simple fix, call the translator!
 
Our translator, M, is great.  Sometimes I’m amazed at her mental flexibility when, knowing that she’s at work, absorbed in something completely different, I call her out of the blue and ask her, "Please tell the taxi driver to turn right immediately!"  She just switches gears and does it. 
 
She isn’t god, though, so she’s not omniscient.  English is her third language.  We have to explain to her what frosting is.  This involves looking for the word "Icing" and "Frosting" in my dictionary.  As luck would have it, the word is in my little dictionary.  Then M gets on the phone to SY and explains what we want. 
 
No problem, SY says.  She will take them back to get them frosted.  But it will cost 3 RMB apiece.  D says no problem and gives her 100 RMB to pay for it.  ("No problem" is a common word, "mei you wen ti," it literally translates as have no worries.  One expat we know joked, "Why do my hands start to shake when someone says "no problem?") 
 
Okay.  SY insists on riding her bicycle to the place rather than taking a taxi, but she delivers them back to be frosted.  I have my misgivings, because I’m wondering how she will safely transport 30 iced cupcakes on a bicycle.  She takes a very long time.  When she returns, she has no cupcakes.  She tells me they will be ready by 2:00.  This won’t do, I tell her, because the party is at 2:00.  I need the cupcakes by 1:30. 
 
They say, when you negotiate in China, double your price and cut your time in half, that way you have room to move on both.  Well . . . she says, she’ll have the cupcakes there by 2:00.  At 1:00 she leaves to go get the cupcakes . . . on her bicycle again.  She says she’ll deliver them to the school at 2:00.  Again, I decide to trust her judgment about the bicycle and delivery issues.  After all, she KNOWS this is a party for 20 little kids, and she has a brain, so she has an idea what is needed.
 
At 2:00, I’m at the school but there’s no SY.  There are 20 kids.  Fortunately, the other 3 volunteer mommies have arranged crafts.  I am also the music: I’m playing guitar and doing a Christmas carol sing along.  We decide to do the crafts first, then music, then eat last.   I call SY on her cell phone and ask what’s the status.  She says she’ll arrive in 10 minutes.  At about 2:45, while we are doing music, she arrives with the cupcake boxes.  I am so busy singing songs with the kids that I don’t notice her arrival.  The other mommies put the cupcakes out on the tables. 
 
When I turn my attention to it, I see that they are beautifully decorated slices of cake.  Each piece is individually wrapped in plastic.  There is whipped cream frosting all around on top of them.  Lovely purple and yellow decoration on half, lime green and pink on the other half.  And absolutely no way it can be picked up to eat it.  Not only would you get whipped cream all over your hands, the cake itself is too soft to pick up.  And zero forks.  Just like J’s party 2 years ago, except there’s nothing to eat them with this time. 
 
J’s remarkably creative teacher says, "Hold it by the plastic!"  I see a few children digging in face first, like dogs.  I use my big, grownup hands to use the plastic to hold the cake slice for a few highly motivated cake eaters.  In the back of my mind, a little voice reminds me that I’m not meeting American hygiene standards since I’m not wearing latex gloves. 
 
I have plastic forks at my house, it will take SY at least 10 minutes to get them to the school.  I call her and tell her, "There are no forks!"  ("meiyou chaozi!")  At first she thinks I’m saying chopsticks ("meiyou quaizi").   (I recall the first time I gave her cake at my house, and she ate it with chopsticks.)  Then she catches on and says she’ll be right there.  She arrives just as the other 3 mommies are helping the kids pack their things to go home. 
 
And this story doesn’t even include the part about the fake Chinese printer that wouldn’t print the songsheets I spent hours compiling and typing.  When it piles on, it really can pile on.  
 
I had volunteered to bring my guitar and sing Christmas carols for the kids, but since these are not western kids, they have no idea what a Christmas carol is.  But after all, it IS the AMERICAN school, and they are in the school because they want to learn about American culture and traditions and . . . of course . . . learn how to speak ENGLISH.  So, they don’t give a rip about political correctness and whether they get to sing Kwanza songs.  They want a Christmas party with Christmas songs, and I planned to give it to them.  I typed up words to about twelve Christmas songs, including secular ones.  I set it up to print in brochure format, I spent hours adding in cute clip art.  And then my printer wouldn’t print it. 
 
Last year, when we needed a computer printer, I asked the factory IS department to price out a "four in one" HP with a flatbed scanner.  They responded that I should get a 3 in one, because I can always scan and then e-mail files, and they recommended a little model that they said would work just fine.  Deferring to their expertise, I said "okay."  Mistake! 
 
When you scan a file, this printer converts the file to some huge number of megabytes in a strange file format.  It’s impossible to resize it to something that another person’s computer can actually open and read.  And the instructions are all in Chinese.  I have never figured out how to scan a single document.  My poor husband who works 60 hours per week has figured it out, and he wrote me out a list of instructions on how to do it.  That list, taped to my office desk, literally takes up an entire sheet of notebook paper.  D struggles weekly with this contraption to file things like expense reports and medical receipts for insurance, adding another ten hours worth of paperwork every week.  When we went to try and download "English speaking" software, we learned that HP doesn’t make this model printer.  Wow, sure could have fooled me from the logos on the box (they’re really good at faking stuff here).  But the printer is here now and it does work to print.  It’s paid for, another $100 down the tubes, and we use it.  But it sure wouldn’t work to print my brochures. 
 
So, I’m flipping out not just about cupcakes, but because I’m playing guitar for 20 kids, I’ve spent hours preparing a really nice brochure that they can take home, but now I have nothing.  No cupcakes, no music.  There is a class room full of kids counting on me, and I’m a failure!  I’m imagining chaos.  I remember S’s second grade Christmas party, when I also played guitar, but when none of the kids were interested.  That year, we switched gears really fast to a movie.  Therefore, as a backup, I grab a copy of "The Night Before Christmas" so I can read it in a pinch.  (Even though that’s such an American book that even European kids can’t relate to it.  Like the archaic language of nursery rhymes, it’s something you have to be raised with.)
 
And so, now you know what a TIC day is.  When expats say "TIC," that term is laden with meaning.  It means:  "This is China.  So, don’t expect it to be like home.  Get used to it, suck it up, do it their way, sometimes the communication and cultural differences are insurmountable.  Cope as best you can." 
 
I realize it seems selfish and whiney to put this discussion in the context of daily triviata like cupcakes with no icing and printers that won’t print.  On the other hand, that’s the way we experience it.  Small, insignificant frustrations are such a large part of life that they become overwhelming.  Multiply two incidents times fifty, and you get an idea what everyday life can be like.  Like a small splinter that just rubs.  You look at the little speck in your hand, and you can’t believe that something that small could cause so much discomfort.  Or, it’s like a pebble of sand in your shoe that isn’t so horrible, but it just doesn’t feel right.  Yes, there’s joy, excitement, adventure in living in a very different land.  On the other hand, you can’t even assume the most basic of things, for instance that anyone else knows what a cupcake is, even when you use a translator to explain it.  
 
Our family once had a friend who broke down in tears when she learned that Pizza Hut here couldn’t serve a certain type of salad dressing.  Now, the logical perspective is that we should be grateful to have a Pizza Hut at all.  It seems ridiculously funny to cry over a certain salad dressing.  On the other hand, everyone in our family could relate to her tears with the utmost empathy:  when you just want something to be like home, when you get your hopes up or your expectations that it may be like home, and then your hopes are dashed.  And this happens many times per day.  The girl in tears was having what we call a "TIC Day." 
 
Every day, there are countless opportunities for things not to be like you expect; no comforts of home unless you make them.   We can make it like home to some degree; we make trips to five different stores to get ingredients for a birthday party.  We can adapt to make it a different home; we learn how to make brownies in a microwave.  We adjust our expectations and our methods; in doing so we make the world we inhabit into an authentic home, even if that home has no cupcakes in it.  
 
Somehow, things do seem to work out in the end.  The kids ate their pretzels.  Some of them got a few bites of cake, some took their cake home.  There were enough un-touched slices of cake — 16 to be exact — that I could send some home with the teacher and with the other mommy helpers.  We sang about ten songs, or maybe more.  In fact, the teacher already had song sheets that she could share with the class:  Frosty, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Jingle Bells, Here Comes Santa Claus, The First Noel, Hark the Herald, Rudolph, Joy to the World, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  I’m still a lousy guitar player, but I can fake it with little kids pretty well. 
 
Yah, somehow it does always seem to work out.  Either that, or you’re dead. 
 
Speaking of dead, remember my Blog entry about the car wreck?  My friend D put the fear of god into me on Thursday, when we met for brunch.  I told her about the problems with our driver driving too fast and not carefully enough, and about my not knowing what to do about it.  She says, if some accident happens, in China the person being driven (not the driver) is the one who is held personally accountable.  Yep, personally, as in "you are a rich American, you pay $$$."  Me.  And then she also told me about westerners injured in car wrecks and unable to get anyone to take responsibility.  And then, as I’m crossing the street to get to my house after our brunch together, a speeding car (typical Chinese driver) careens around the corner and almost runs over me.   I hope nobody ever has to collect my life insurance while I’m living in China.  It’s one thing to get hit by a car and killed in your own country, even worse in a foreign one. 
So yeah, the alternative literally is to be dead.  So far, things have always worked out okay for me here.  Knock on wood. 

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Uncle Dave’s Perfect Spuds

This recipe is dedicated to Denise, and to Denephew, too.
 
"Uncle Dave’s Perfect Spuds""
 
Select one large baking potato per person, or two small ones.  Put enough water in a cooking pot to cover potatoes and bring the water to a boil on the stove.  While the water is heating, wash the potatoes and cut out any bad places.  Also, preheat the oven to about 350 farenheit (about 160 celcius). 
 
When the water comes to a boil, put the potatoes in it.  Be careful not to let the water splash you when you put the potatoes in!  After they are in the water, bring the pot back to a boil, and boil the potatoes for exactly five minutes. 
 
While the potatoes are boiling, get out some butter or margarine.  After the potatoes have boiled five minutes, remove them from the pot and put them onto a plate or other flat surface.  As you wait just a minute, you can see all the steam evaporate off the potato, leaving it mostly nice and dry.  Then, coat the outside peel of each potato with butter or margarine.  After this is done, sprinkle each potato all around with salt and pepper.  Do NOT wrap the potatoes in foil.  Place the potatoes in oven and put them on to bake at 350 for between one half and one hour, depending on size.   
 
While you are waiting for the potatoes to bake, prepare some "goodies" to go on the potatoes, whatever you like.  I suggest any or all of the following: (1) grated sharp cheddar cheese, (2) diced onion of your choice, (3) some type of meat such as crumbled fried bacon, hamburger, minced sandwich meat, (4) diced sweet pepper, (5) chili, (6) sour cream, and (7) your favorite hot sauce.  Put each of these goodies into small bowls on the table, with a spoon for each bowl.  Set the table with knives, forks, and spoons.   
 
After one half hour, check the potatoes.  Small ones will take only about 30 minutes, but huge ones will take longer, as much as an hour for the biggest ones.  To see if they are done, poke them with a fork.  They should feel soft all the way through.  You want them to be nice and "mushable" when you put butter etc on them, but you don’t want them to be overcooked.  
 
Serve piping hot.  Each person uses the above condiments to fix their own potato just as they like it. 
 
Easy supper!  Yum!  Uncle Dave is a good cook, eh?! 

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Bad Luck on the Road

It happened.  I already wrote about my personal dread of this event. 
 
I send D an SMS (text message) on his cell phone just now: 
 
"Having a good day?" 
 
He replies, "I guess." 
 
I reply, "That doesn’t sound very enthusiastic." 
 
He replies:  "I saw a person this morning who had been run over by a truck.  She looked to be in a lot of pain." 
 
                  —<>—
 
For us, end of story.  There’s nothing we can do about it. 
 
Or is there?  When something terrible happens in our lives, can we change the future by using that experience to gain insight and live accordingly?  So, how would I change things? 
 
Well, did you catch that?  A bicycle flattened by a truck
 
Bicycles getting flattened by trucks is not unique to China.  One of my law school buddies was severely injured as he bicycled from Jacksonville, FL, to Greenville, SC.  While he was pedaling along a back country, Florida road, a semi truck ran his bicycle off the road and didn’t stop.  His bicycle was destroyed and my friend was left unconscious, deep down in a ditch.  Fortunately, a stranger passing by noticed him and took him to a hospital, where he spent several days.  I once witnessed a car in my home city run a bicyclist off the road.  He fortunately was able to jump off the bicycle and grab it to pull it, too, out of the way of the aggressive driver, and then I saw him go angrily over and pound on the window of her car.   
 
But, in the USA it’s already too late, in a sense, to set things up so they are bicycle friendly.  Cars are deeply entrenched in the culture and bicycles are an anomaly.  Deep cultural and infrastructure changes would be required to create tree-shaded streets and reduce urban sprawl so as to make bicycling more convenient.  Here, it’s the opposite.  Bicycles have been the norm for a long time and cars the anomaly.  Cities are already compact, streets are already lined with shady trees (a wonderful feature of China).  China is in the midst of an industrial revolution-type boom, with all the risks and opportunities inherent in that rate of growth and development.  The country could adopt transportation policies that remain friendly to bicycles, or it could adopt policies that are hostile to bicycles and favor motorized vehicles. 
 
Would it be a good idea to encourage bicycles?  Why or why not?  And, if it’s a good idea, how can we keep it safe for bicyclists while meetng the needs of truckers to be able to transport goods? 
 
Hmm.  Okay.  In a country with an energy crisis, no huge infrastructure already built around cars and urban sprawl and parking lot issues caused by cars, and with serious pollution issues, wouldn’t it make sense to encourage people to use bicycles?  Especially since everyone already owns and uses bicycles. 
 
And, common sense says it’s dangerous for bicycles to be weaving in and out of heavy automobile and truck traffic.  Especially when the automobiles and trucks have no respect for vehicles smaller than themselves (in China, size does matter). 
 
Let’s imagine for a moment that we are the "powers that be" in a communist country.  That means, whatever decisions we make happen.  If we say, "move this mountain so we can run a road through here," by golly it will happen.  If we say, "Let’s take this small fishing village called Shenzhen just over the border from Hong Kong, build skyscrapers and turn it into a city of 8 million people," well, that will happen too.  If we conclude certain geographic locations have always been a part of our kingdom through all of history and that there is no precedent to claim otherwise, then by golly every web site or book that says otherwise will be blocked or banned (e.g. now including not only all of English language Wikipedia but also Lonely Planet China, apparently).  If we say, "let’s reduce pollution by eliminating all motorcycles from Guangzhou city," that will happen too. 
 
And not only this, it will happen expeditiously, with no pain in the rear public debate, no nosey press and no Freedom of Information Act compliance to worry about.  Whatever our decision, we can just make it happen.  So, what do we want to happen, when it comes to transportation policy? 
 
Well first, let’s build good public transportation. Check, done.  Trains and buses all over China.  Air transport, too.  Second, let’s build roads.  Done.  Now, how to help people move themselves and their goods locally.   
 
Well, wouldn’t it make sense to have some roads devoted only to bicycles,  with different, larger, roads available only to trucks and large vehicles?   You wouldn’t have to "change" anything, just make certain roads off limits to heavy vehicles, only allowing them to use the road the next intersection up from here.  And since we already know that drivers don’t obey "rules" about dedicated vehicle lanes, even where we decide to allow both light and heavy vehicles, separate the lanes by dividing them into separate roads, even if they run parallel to each other? 
 
I guess I didn’t make the world.  And besides, bigger is better isn’t it? 
 
Perhaps the view is that she should have just gotten out of the way.  I guess she is now out of the way, so in a public policy sense the objective of efficiency of transport has been achieved.  Score:  Truck — one, Bicycle — zero. 
 
And then, at 6 PM, I get another text message:  "I had M [translator] ask A [driver] about the person that was run over.  It was a 20 year old man.  The truck I saw had stopped to help.  He was hit by a car that left.  The man died." 
 
For one person, anyway, it really is end of story. 
 
For what it’s worth, approximately 100,000 people per year are killed on China’s roads, with another 400,000 injured.  And that’s just the reported ones. 

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