A Blogging Potpourri

This post is admittedly a random assortment of observations drawn from our travels, but not focusing on a specific stop on our itinerary.

Several of the libraries we visited have book sanitization stations where users can zap their books with ultraviolet radiation.  Presumably, the books have nefarious pathogens that need to be destroyed.   These same libraries, and indeed most restaurants, tourist sights, and other public places, have restrooms that fail to provide hand soap (no paper towels, too).  Signs in restaurant bathrooms exhorting workers to wash their hands are, not surprisingly, absent.

I blogged last week about the traffic here and how chaotic it seems.  I have been informed by my two fellow Oregonian travelers that compared to Bangkok, or even Chinese cities in the past, the traffic here is orderly and not so bad.

While the younger generation here will undoubtedly learn more English than previous ones, they will have the daunting task of correcting the English already present on signs.  I would guess that many blog readers have seen examples of humorous signs from other countries, where misspellings and mistranslations result in unintended meanings.  I include here a few examples.  The gentleman below is not likely to be sued for trademark infringement.


The bin on the right probably is supposed to say “organic waste.”


The sign above below suffers from extreme editorial neglect.



And finally, my favorite is below.  Please note the end of the last sentence.


In one of the museums, interpretive signs used words that I didn’t know were English: “caducity” and “circumvallation.”  I would have chosen “senility” instead of the first one, but the second one doesn’t have a more common synonym.  It means that something is surrounded with a rampart.

On to food! Here’s a picture of my breakfast with some typical morning foods. Clockwise from upper right: hot soy milk (unsweetened), steamed bun stuffed with cabbage, tofu, and rice porridge.  The porridge is made from just rice and water; though bland, I would have to call it a comfort food – mild and filling.  Local folks often add stir fried veggies, so I can’t say my new habit of eating it straight is typical.

I was already a reasonably competent user of chopsticks prior to arriving in China, but I have become even more proficient with them.  All my meals have been eaten with them, plus the wide spoon that is commonly used with soup.  Nevertheless, being the rarely-observed white Westerner in these parts, at several restaurants I have automatically been given a fork without being asked if I want one.

Speaking of meals, today we lunched at the Huaqiao University canteen in Quanzhou.  In the midst of the meal, I noticed the smell of cigarette smoke.  Glancing around, I saw two people smoking at a nearby table.  On the wall above where I sat was a sign stating clearly “No Smoking.”  After a brief consultation with Mr. Li Fang, our Huaqiao U. host, and my colleagues, I flagged down one of the servers and in my best English-to-Chinese arm-waving sign language, pointed to the “No Smoking” sign and then to the nearby table.  The server went and brought two ashtrays for our table. (Fortunately, Jian then spoke to the server about what we really wanted; the server asked the other diners to stop smoking – and they did.)

Although I had read about the sizable proportion of the Chinese population that smoked and have seen/smelled plenty of cigarette smoke here, the situation has been much less pronounced than I had feared. Mr. Li commented that the number of smokers has been on the decrease.  Few Chinese accept the notion that second-hand smoke is hazardous, so non-smokers may shrug off the importance of smoke-free spaces as a public health issue.–Richard


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