Nothing of immense importance going on this week, just a brief update and some collected thoughts. I came down to Shenyang on Thursday at the gracious invitation of the consulate to their 4th of July party (held on July 6th, but who’s keeping score?) Huge event. Like huge, over 700 people. Nice food, the theme was American cinema so they had bits from West Side Story, Star Wars, Frozen, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca etc. playing, while a small orchestra played soundtracks. There was also a demonstration by a hula band and the Shenyang Hunters, who are apparently part of an American football league here, completely full of Chinese players. They’re coached by one of the FSO’s who I had met before, and they demonstrated some plays for the audience. Really cool, they knew what they were doing.
Schmoozed, chatted, and then had a nice relaxing Friday full of nothing but reading and writing. I read a whole book! Also read Dickens’ “Sketches by Boz” which are some great descriptive writing and kind of what I want to do with the book project (although at the suggestion of my brilliant sister among others I’ll be trying to do a character-driven story after all). For those interested, the sketches can be found HERE for free.
Also made a trip to daowai earlier in the week, mostly for bao, altho I did get a bit of book material as well. (Partially the same thing actually, I will submit myself to your judgement and potential ridicule here by including a description of said bao that I whipped up and might use in the book). For reference, Fujiadian is the old name for Daowai.
“Zhang of Zhang’s Bao hailed from Tianjin. True to their origins, his bao were thin-skinned and stuffed to bursting with filling; moist, without the soup that filled the squishy bodies of their southern cousins. Most customers ordered those filled with cucumber and egg ones, but monied folk like Shi Chang, Mr. Li, or even your average Fujiadian resident on a special day, would spring for the rib ones. The rib ones, Zhang’s pride and joy, couldn’t help but carry succulent broth inside, such was the tenderness of their filling. Meat, onions for crunch, the odd bone to remind gluttons to slowly savor each taste lest they lose the opportunity and a tooth. The deep flavor of the ribs was topped with sweet-spicy notes of ginger, best muted with a vinegar bath for those unaccustomed. The bao were fat, spiraling into a peak with streaks down the side, much like the domes of St. Sophia.”
Speaking of St. Sophia, I shared this article in Chinese on Facebook the other day, and now there’s an English version. Link here. For those without the time to read, it’s an overview of the dissappearance of Harbin’s Russian architecture. I was remarking a week prior to reading it as well how sad it was to see Jihong bridge being torn down, although I didn’t know the reasons until reading the articles. I actually crossed that same bridge my second day ever in Harbin on the way to Central Street, and it made an incredibly deep impression on my mind. It’s obelisks, one of which you can see in that second picture behind some netting, are absolutely striking, regal even, and the view of the train tracks and railyard as you cross over is really cool for someone from effectively train-less America.
I learned that, as with everything in life, money rules. Daowai is disappearing because they want to build commercial stores. Similarly Jihong bridge is being torn down to make way for a high speed rail as part of “One Belt One Road”. My initial reaction to learning this was outrage. Harbin West has high speed rail, and Harbin is essentially selling its cultural heritage for a few bucks, depriving people of their beautiful city, their homes in the case of residents of Daowai, and tarnishing Harbin’s image, washing it away in the tide of modernity.
Then I stopped to think though. Is this a necessary step? Is my sadness a privilege only afforded to those from developed countries? China desperately wants to better the lives of its citizens, and the Northeast in particular is in an economic slump. Putting in a high speed rail and stimulating local consumption might be the only way to get the people up here the life they want. Who am I as an American to say, “no, you can’t have that because I want to look at the pretty bridge.” Were that how the facts actually were, my secondary train of thought would be completely right. However, as the article explains, conservationists in Harbin have been hard on the government’s case, and blame it for not doing a single thing to help preserve Daowai in its original form, rather letting it decay to nothing, then tear it down and replace it with either soulless block shops, or pale imitative recreations of its original glory. Nor does it stop it the fading away from being heartbreaking. As a result, I stand by my sadness, and was heartened to read about hundreds and thousands of locals protesting against the destruction. Inspired to contact the people in the article when I’m back in town actually.
I also hosted trivia this week. Instead of like last time, I’m going to post the questions now, and then the answers later this week. Watch for them.
1. Name the fifth Marx brother who never appeared on screen.
2.What was Harpo Marx’s birth name that he changed to Arthur in 1911?
3. The band Rush’s song YYZ takes name and opening rhythm from the code for which Canadian airport?
4.What city was the Eastern terminus of the Orient Express in 1914?
5. On the same album as YYZ, Rush recorded another song about which American literary character?
6. Which current member of Rush was not a founding member? Guitarist Alex Lifeson, Bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, or Drummer/lyricist Neil Peart?
7. Which Chinese dynasty most recently moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing?
8. What is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s relationship to Hamlet?
9. How many stories does Moriarty appear in in original Sherlock Holmes?
10. How long was Holmes dead for? I.E. How many years in between him dying in the story and Conan Doyle resurrecting him in print?
11. What country is the alcohol pisco from?
12. Make a dirty anagram out of Richard Nixon’s vice president SPIRO AGNEW’s name.
(There are two answers to this, I found out)
13. “Black tea” in English corresponds to what color tea in Chinese?
14. What does the acronym FILTH stand for? (Hint: It comes from British business)
15. Exstacy is MDMA cut with another substance, traditionally an amphetamine. What is pure MDMA more commonly known as? Bonus, what was its original, legal usage?
16. In the comic series Watchmen, what place becomes the 51st state?
17. Name the four great inventions of China. 1/2 point each
18. Yuan dynasty playwright Guan Hanqing is often compared to which western playwright?
19. Name the three types of fencing swords. You need all three for the point.
20. What is the name of Charles Dickens’ last novel. Unfinished because he died.
21. How many crocus flowers to make a pound of saffron?
22. What does the S in Harry S. Truman stand for?
23. What is the only nonalcoholic ingredient in a corpse reviver no. 2 cocktail? Bonus point if you can name all the ingredients.
24. How many individual pieces per side in Chinese chess?
25. What two provinces were the majority of the first Chinese in Harbin from after Russia started developing it? 1/2 point each.
26. Harbin originally consisted of which three districts? (Not even people at trivia got this, just give yourselves a free point here)
27. Name the Egyptian cat goddess.
28. Where does the name Burma come from?
29. What two colors were removed from original gay pride flag?
30. What was the ratio of sheep to people in New Zealand as of 2015?
31. Name the two main styles of capoeira.
32. Name one of the five holy peaks Daoism (Also known as the Five Yue).
33. Who is Bolivia named after?
34. How many strikes for a perfect game in bowling? Bonus point, how many points is that?
35. Where was the first campus of the University of California?
36. What country is Tom Hanks’ character from in The Terminal?
37. Dom Perignon, who invented champange, was a member of which monastic order?
38. What is the diameter of the earth?
39. What is the painting La Gioconda more commonly known as?
40. The only recorded death during an international fencing bout occurred in what year? Bonus point for nationalities of the killer and victim.