Friday/ ‘Happy New Year’ one more time

Friday, and a rough week it was, with long work days.  It’s the last day of the new year’s week, and hopefully the firecrackers at night will now draw to a close. It wasn’t really all that bad, though.

Here is  a little Mandarin lesson from our colleague: how to write and say ‘Happy New Year’.

This is 新年好 xīn nián hǎo: ‘new year good’ (informal, for friends, family).
There is also 新年快乐 xīn nián kuài lè: ‘new year happiness’ (formal, for strangers).

new, recent, fresh, modern

year; new-years; person’s  age

good  / well /  proper  / good to / easy to / very /  so  / (suffix indicating  completion or  readiness)

Wednesday/ 丁丁 在西藏 Tintin in Tibet

It was cold in the office yesterday. The new building’s heat pump was not working for some reason. Back at the apartment in Dameisha at night, we still hear a barrage of fire-cracker pops and fireworks go off, as the week-long celebration of the Lunar New Year continues. It is cold in the apartment as well. Our $12 space heaters from Shenzhen’s Walmart are not quite up to the task of warming up the entire apartment, of course.

Anyway, sticking to the theme of cold: below are the snowy cover pages of the English & Chinese versions of ‘Tintin in Tibet’. Tintin translates to Ding Ding in Chinese.

I bought the English ‘Tintin in Tibet’ at Pollux bookstore in Central District. Then I used it to shop around for its Chinese translation, which I found at Joint Publishing bookstore on Queen Victoria Rd.
A panel from the Tintin in Tibet story. Tintin was dreaming about his missing friend Chang, and woke up with a fright. Everything goes flying, but Professor Calculus (in the green jacket reading a book), is unperturbed. 🙂

[From Wikipedia] The Adventures of Tintin (Les Aventures de Tintin) is a series of comic strips created by the Belgian artist Georges Rémi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. Tintin in Tibet is the twentieth book in the series. It is said to have been Hergé’s favorite of the Tintin series (previously The Secret of the Unicorn), and was written during a personally difficult time in his life, as he was divorcing from his first wife. The story is unlike any previous Tintin books, before or since: there is a small number of characters and no enemies, villains, spies or gangsters. This adventure revolves around a rescue mission of Tintin’s Chinese friend Chang Chong-Chen.

It is also unusually emotional for a Tintin story: moments of strong emotion for the characters include Tintin’s enduring belief in Chang’s survival, the discovery of the teddy bear in the snow, Haddock’s attempting to sacrifice himself to save Tintin, Tharkey’s return, Tintin’s discovery of Chang, and the yeti losing his only friend. Indeed Tintin is seen to cry when he believes Chang’s fate, something he is only seen to do three times throughout the entire series (the other occurrences being in The Blue Lotus and Flight 714).

Friday/ 勿 擦 do not erase

So check this out .. I wrote ‘Do not Erase’ on the whiteboard, and then my Chinese colleague wrote it in Chinese next to it, for good measure.   That second one is a 17-stroke character! Wow.  So as the amateur very limited-time student of Chinese I had become, just had to go look up the characters on my translator .. and voila!

cā : do not erase!

must not, do not; without, never

to wipe / to erase / rubbing (brush stroke in painting) / to clean / to polish

 And this sign says ‘Good Luck’ ..  which I hope I will have a little of for my trip this weekend to Hong Kong.  I see the New Year’s Parade was back in January, so I missed that, but even so there should be an exciting vibe there this weekend.  I need it, since I am a little homesick, and that after just one week out here this trip.

Thursday/ avoid peek

This cute translation is displayed on the ATM machine at the apartments.

A more ‘proper’ translation could be ‘Please block when entering password/ Prevent prying eyes’. I say this one is perfect as it is.

Wednesday/ passports and visas

It was rainy this morning, and cleared up later.  I don’t mind the rain at all.  One of Seattle’s monikers is Rain City, after all. (For a while there was Jet City, while Boeing was still headquartered here, and we have Emerald City for tourists, a better one than Rain City, I’m sure).

It was a busy day, but not too hectic.  I bought a Mandarin phrasebook (the inevitable panda on the little guy’s shirt), a Hong Kong book, and a Chinese character study book. Sounds like I’m serious about learning some Chines,  but all I hope for is to make a start with, say 200 or so characters !

My passport and multiple-entry visa will arrive tomorrow (the first visa only allowed two entries, and I have used both).  I also went ahead today and applied for an ‘enhanced’ drivers license that can be used to cross the border into Canada and Mexico by car, ferry or rail (or foot, I suppose) – just in case I had to send in my passport, and then want to go up to Vancouver for the weekend.   I was allowed to smile, see? : ) which surprised me because I thought smiling distorts the biometric data gleaned from one’s face (lines between the eyes, nose and mouth) on the picture.

Tonight my friends & I went to a nice neighborhood bar for cocktails, beers and pub food. It was wonderful – it always is.



Thursday/ seafood restaurant

I love the old-fashioned neon signage at this seafood restaurant in Dameisha.

At the top: 凤凰之王 (fèng zhī wáng) King of Phoenix, the name of the restaurant, I assume. The lettering on the lower level 美味凤之王海鲜餐 (Měiwèi fèng zhī wáng hǎixiān cān) translates to something like Delicious Phoenix King Seafood Meal. (Thanks to Google translate). 

Wednesday/ wǔ jiào

In China, most workers take a ‘siesta’ after lunch (I thought it was only the Spanish, but no) – it is called wǔ jiào and they really have cots here at work on which they sleep for an hour after lunch!  Then they troop back in here and work with us. Not fair!  I want  some wǔ jiào too!

Tuesday/ green tea mug

Green tea is very popular among my Chinese colleagues here at work.
The mugs have lids on, to keep the tea hot a little longer.

My company-issued green tea mug. The crane is part of the logo of the company. The Chinese characters 中国广东核电 Zhōngguó guǎngdōng hédiàn translates to China Guangdong Nuclear Power.

Monday’s done

Back at the apartment, Monday at work behind me.   Today I saw an SAP screen in Chinese alongside the English version.  The English is flawlessly lucid – and the Chinese unfathomably foreign! 🙂   Here is how Chinese characters are entered into any system : a Chinese computer keyboard is very close to a Western style keyboard, but the user types in syllables or English phonetic equivalents of Chinese characters. Embedded software interprets the keystrokes and pops the Chinese character into the application. Even more fascinating is to see a Chinese person actually writing these squiggly spidery characters on a piece of paper or on the whiteboard.  How did you ever learn to do that? I wanted to ask them. (Answer: 15 years of education, at home and in school).


Tuesday/ entrance 入口, and exit 出口

I’m learning a little bit more about the written Chinese language, a language of pictographs.  Many basic Chinese characters are in fact, highly stylized pictures of what they present.
Around 9 out of 10 characters is a combination of a ‘meaning’ element and a ‘sound’ element.
A contemporary Chinese person might know and use between 6,000 and 8,000 characters – but one can get by with as few as 2,000 or 3,000.

The two characters 入口 rù kǒu on the sign below stand for ‘entrance’. A depiction of a person that goes through a door, opening, gate.

‘Exit’ looks like this 出口 chū kǒu. That first character is a foot, coming out from an enclosure! The foot is leaving through a door, or gate.


Saturday/ Walmart in Shenzhen

Well – what can I say? I was Alice, and Walmart was a wonderland of Chinese culture and department store marketing of food, houseware, electronics and clothing.  There we were, 15 of us dropped off with a little bus, looking for household items and food for our apartments in Dameisha.  And did we load up that bus!

Walmart being what it is, the choices were cheap and enormous – and of course, they had Kraft branded food products and Coke & Pepsi, but there were still some surprises.  Dinner plates were hard to find. Chinese food is served up in bowls. T-shirts were not plentiful at all.

The food was the most fascinating, from the ‘wet area’ where one could catch one’s own super-fresh seafood (yes, right there in the store, the way the staff did at the restaurant the other night), to teas of all kinds, milk tea, a limited selection of good coffee, candy, but relatively few chocolate products, noodles of all kinds, root vegetables, fresh ginger, eggplant and durian.

Entrance to the Walmart Supercenter at 2001 Xiangmei Road in the Futian District in Shenzhen. The Chinese characters say Wò’ērmǎ (‘Walmart’) Shopping Plaza 沃尔玛购物广场 Wò’ērmǎ gòuwù guǎngchǎng.
Hazeline shampoo for lovely luscious black hair. The Chinese characters at the bottom says something like ‘Say goodbye to tangled hair’.
Dragon flies on this vest. I could not tell if the fabric is silk; I assume it is.
Cutie-pie characters are built into these humidifiers. That’s a tiger on the far left, since 2010 is the Year of the Tiger.
The signage on the aisles offer a little language lesson for both English and Chinese speakers.
Instant noodles 方便面 (say Fāng biàn miàn) and Chinese noodles 中式面条 (say Zhōng shì miàn tiáo).
Coffee 咖啡 (say Kā fēi) and tea , which has its standalone character 茶 (say Chá).
Alright. The tagline translation is cute ‘The Respectable of Choice’, and that is why I took the picture of this organic boxed milk. But later on I looked Guiyi online. Guiyi is a town further up along the coast from Shenzhen in Guangdong province, and until recently at least, Guiyu was best known in the global environmentalist community for its reception of all kinds of electronic waste, resulting in terrible pollution levels in its surrounding air, water and soil. So is it possible to produce pure and organic dairy products there?
The little guy on the lid is licking his lips for this product, which I suspect is hot or spicey. The characters at the bottom say ‘Famous brand foods from Sichuan province’ 四川省名牌食品 (say Sìchuān shěng míng pái shí pǐn). Sichuan province in southwestern China is famous for Sichuan peppercorns with their tingling, numbing effect on the tongue.
Ah, fruity chew candy from my childhood in South Africa (sugus), and chewing gums from Wrigley company, where I had done work for all of 2005 in Chicago. All of this in a traditional bowl held by two happy little tigers that represent the Year of the Tiger.
Two whole chickens (completely all of the chicken, that is), for ¥ 9 which is the equivalent of US$ 1.37.
These are freshwater eels, I believe.
These are durian, in some Asian countries called the “king of fruits“. The durian grows on trees and is distinctive for its large size, strong odor, and thorn-covered skin. The strong odor has prompted authorities in Singapore to ban eating durian in many outdoor spaces throughout Singapore and to prohibit it on public transport.

It’s Friday ..

.. so we’re getting out of the office! Woo hoo !

There are plans afoot to visit Walmart in the city of Shenzhen on Saturday, so that we can get pots and pans, knives, forks, extra towels & what have yous. My internet access at the apartment is not up and running yet, nor is the central heating working.

We have made a start to our project, though; met dozens of colleagues and client team members, and it was not a bad week at all.

Push is denoted by the character 推 tuī. Does the character show someone pushing against a door, or is that my imagination?