Friday, February 29, 2008

Rooftop Laundry

You might not be able to see it here...
I bet you can pick it out here...
Look at all those red towels... maybe from a "footbath" place... Chinese foot massage is very popular and extrememly inexpensive in little shops on the street.
Someone has taken the red towels down now. Driers are something that most Chinese people do not have.

Kota Kinabalu Sunset


Treat, anyone?I tried one, and it wasn't that bad. But I haven't had a second one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Spring in Yu Garden


"On the last day of Chinese New Year, my true love gave to me, a partridge to eat for my lunch."

I don't think there's a song like that, but we did see someone about to dig into this little roasted bird at Yuyuan last week. I showed Mr. Wu this picture later and he told me it was a partridge. Don't you love the little curled up claws? I'm sure they are nice and crunchy! The head is there too, should you care to look closely.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Boys and Booms

On the night of the Lantern Festival, the last night of Chinese New Year, we invited several families for dinner and to share in the fun of the fireworks that Scott, Caleb and Seth had gotten the night before. Here Caleb and Seth and their friends pose with "the goods" right before we head outside to set them off.

All these night pictures are blurry because the shutter on the camera was open so long and I wasn't using a tripod, but I think the effect is cool. Here is the huge cloud of smoke created when the big wheel of 5000 firecrackers Caleb is holding over his head in the previous picture all went off at once! It was quite a noise!
One of our fireworks! These were the ones in the big cube... one wick on the edge of the cube was lit, and then all of the fireworks would shoot off, one after another. One of our friends stayed up in our apartment with a couple of the girls, and she said they came about halfway up the building. To those of us down on the ground, they were directly overhead and seemed huge!
A mass of firecrackers going off in quick succession in the street behind our van. Lots of noise and smoke! There was quite a pile of rubble in the street when we finished with all the fireworks and firecrackers. Right after we finished the last set, while we were still standing around, a street sweeper was already there cleaning it all up. This is typical of Shanghai... always people sweeping the street by hand, with brooms made of branches. I assume they are city employees.

Chicken Dinner

Right before we left for church this afternoon, I put a chicken in the oven to roast while we were gone. I was in a hurry, so I wasn't going to do anything fancy. Just open the package, put the chicken in a baking dish, and get on out the door. I was stopped in my tracks when I found that the chicken's head was still on~ eyes tightly closed, limp necked, with a pale, flesh-colored beak. I did not know the head was there when I bought it, as it was tucked under the body. And I had purchased the chicken at my beloved City Shop, the import store with all the wonderfully familiar products. But chicken with their heads still on aren't part of the 21st century American Mid-west experience.

Now in Shanghai, I see whole, limp chickens in the Chinese grocery stores and markets all the time. I have occassionally seen whole plucked chickens hanging from a light post on the street, awaiting something. I have seen live chickens for sale on the sidewalk, tied to the sellers bike basket by their feet. But never, ever, have I had a chicken with its head on in my kitchen. I think I may have screamed a little when I saw it.

But remember, I was in a hurry. So I grabbed the kitchen shears, cut off the head, threw it in the kitchen garbage can, and put the chicken in the oven. I shivered slightly as I did the deed, but heck, I have given birth, surely I can cut off a chicken's head. I just tried not to look at it too closely.

Fast forward to this evening, when we arrived home from church and were preparing to eat the chicken. It was beautifully cooked, golden brown and moist looking. As Scott began to cut it up for serving, he discovered a little surprise inside the chicken that I had missed when I was hurredly getting it in the oven earlier. The feet. Neatly tucked inside the cavity of the bird were both feet, complete with little claws. Just in case one would want them, there they were, carefully saved, just in case.

I don't think I'll be needing them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Costumed Pictures in Yu Garden

Yesterday when the girls and I were at Yuyuan, we went into the garden proper for the first time. It is a beautiful Chinese style, walled garden with all sorts of rockery, small caves, pagodas, ponds, etc, similar to the style of gardens in Suzhou. We enjoyed poking around in it, especially because it wasn't crowded with people like the rest of Yuyuan. We stumbled upon this spot where they had traditional Chinese costumes to rent for pictures. The girls were very excited to to this... and I had lots of fun taking their pictures in different poses in the garden.

We love these big hats!

I would have enjoyed wearing a costume too, but then who would have taken my picture?! A young Chinese student asked me if she could take some pictures of the girls with her camera, and then offered to take one on mine of all three of us. Maybe when Mark and Mindy come we should all get costumes... do you think I will be able to get the guys to do it?!

Festival of Lanterns at Yuyuan

Today was the last official day of Chinese New Year, the Festival of Lanterns, which is the fifteenth day of the First Moon. The girls and I celebrated by going to Yuyuan Garden, an area of old style Chinese architecture which I've posted pictures of here before. Today it was beautifully decorated for the New Year. Lots of lanterns, animals of the Chinese zodiac, dragons, and of course, money. It was a very busy place today... according to Mr. Wu, the Shanghainese "very like go to Yuyuan" at the Lantern Festival.

I thought this little one it her festive hat was so cute!

It may be hard to see in this picture, but the Bridge of Nine Turns was an absolute mob of people. The girls and I were going to attempt to cross it, but it truly seemed undoable. We went around the back way to take this picture. Everyone was trying to see the displays on the water.
Madelyn found this little sealed plastic pouch attached to a key chain on the ground. Inside were two tiny live fish! We later saw them for sale. Turns out fish are good luck (it's all about luck and money here, it seems) and will bring money to your house! We brought the fish home and released them from their tiny prison into a vase of water which our kitties promptly knocked off the table and shattered a few hours later. I scooped the fish up off the floor into a glass... we'll see if they are still alive tomorrow! The money god himself...

The Year of the Rat... this guy is surrounded by a pile of gold!

The building to the right is many hundreds of years old, and is now a tea house. Apparently many celebrities have had tea here, including Bill Clinton.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jurassic Park

These pictures are pretty poor quality, but I had to post about these weird critters we saw on one of the islands we visited while we were in Malaysia. The beaches were all fairly wooded after a short area of sunshiny sand. On this island, back where the woods started in earnest, these monitor lizards were lurking. We didn't see them at first, then suddenly there was motion in the brush. After we saw the first one, suddenly we realized that there were a number of them hanging around. The thing that made them so cool and scary was that they were quite large, several feet long. They seemed kind of snake-like, but then they would stand up on their legs and could run very quickly. Needless to say, we kept Gwen quite near us that day when she napped on the beach. Fortunately, the monitors kept in the shadows and never ventured out on the sand.
monitor, any of various dragonlike, mostly tropical lizards. A monitor lizard has a heavy body, long head and neck, long tail that comes to a whiplike end, and strong legs with sharp claws. Its slender, forked tongue is protrusible. Monitors range in size from the 8-in. (20-cm) short-tailed species of W Australia to the 10-ft, 300-lb (3-m, 136-kg) Komodo dragon, the giant among living lizards, that lives only on the small Indonesian island of Komodo. Some monitor species spend their lives in trees, and others inhabit lakes and rivers; they can be found on the oceanic islands and continents of the Eastern Hemisphere in all types of warm habitats, from tropical forest to desert. They feed on various kinds of animal matter, including eggs, rats, frogs, and decaying meat. The larger species will attack small deer and pigs. They often tear the prey with claws and teeth, but generally swallow it whole or in large chunks. Monitors lay from 7 to 35 leathery eggs, usually in holes in the ground or in trees. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Squamata, family Varanidae, genus Varanus.

Hair Product Update

Well, I checked out the "Bright Essence of Hair Scale" that I posted about a few days ago. It seems to come out in a stream, rather than a spray, which rules out hair spray. I tried just squirting a little into my hands and putting it on my damp hair as if it were a spray gel. Finally today I asked Mrs. Shi what it is, and low and behold, it is a conditioner that is supposed to be applied to dry hair.

Who knew?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Water and Rocks

This was one of the three little islands we visited in Malaysia. It was different than the other two in that we were able to get out on this rocky area at the end of the beach and explore a little. The rocks had weathered into unusual formations that were fun to see. Caleb found a crab in one of the little tide pools in the rocks, and I saw small fish in one as well. I just thought the way the rocks stretched out into the water was beautiful. :-)

Hair Product

Tonight we did a little shopping at Carrefour after church. As we were leaving the health and beauty care product area, we spotted a spray bottle with a clear liquid in it titled "SHIN DY". It looked like it could be hair spray. However, the only English in the bottle by way of description was "Bright Essence of Hair Scale." All the rest of the information was in Chinese characters.

I bought it. I'll let you know what it turns out to be.

Friday, February 15, 2008

That Face

Between 45 SPF sunscreen and a swimshirt, we did a pretty good job preventing sunburn in our fair skinned girl last week. However, she does have a nice sprinkling of new freckles on her face! These pictures were taken the second or third day we were in Kota, so there are even a few more freckles now. So cute!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jungle Men

Warning: This post contains a lot of photos!

While we were in Borneo, we had the opportunity to visit a sanctuary for young, orphaned orangutans. Orangutans are native to Borneo, but are endangered due to the usual reasons... rainforest being destroyed, hunting, etc. Young orangs need care from their mothers for up to seven years, and if their mother dies or is killed before that time, the baby will not make it either. When these orphaned orangs are found, they are brought to this sanctuary where they are cared for to an extent, but also allowed to remain as wild as possible, in a small protected forest. There some food is provided, but just enough that the animals will still need to forage on their own, while learning from an older orangutan. After they reach seven years old they are transferred to another, larger sancuary in Borneo where they will stay for a time until they are ready to be released back into the wild.

Heading into the santuary.

Look at the size of those leaves!
First view of an orangutan at the feeding platform.

While we waited and watched, a total of four young orangs came through the trees.

The people in our group gathered on the viewing platform in the trees. A limited number of people are allowed into the sanctuary twice a day.
Initially the orangutans were mostly high in the trees or partially hidden from view, but as we waited they moved closer and put on quite a show. They were so expressive that they were really fun to photograph... thus the large amount of pictures in this post! You should have seen how many we took!

Hope you enjoyed this monkey business!