10 books

So Kelli Bowlden nominated me to:

"list 10 books in your status that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard. They don't have to be the "right" books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends, including me so I can see your list."

I figured this was a good chance to fire up the old blog, so here goes. My only regret is, of course, that only 10 books is like only three walls when the typhoon starts blowing - not nearly enough. Also, by the way, I might have cheated just a little bit. Don't worry about that! On to the bookses!

So, in no particular order:

Otherland Series by Tad Williams (Series count as one entry, right?)

Hamlet by Shakespeare (Plays can be published as books, see? Yes?)

Complete Poems of E. E. Cummings (See, they put them all in one book, it totally counts. As one.)

Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (Ok, ok, yeah, that's 7 whole books. But they put them in one box, see? No? Fine. I'll tell you a secret. My favorite is Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

This was what my copy looked like:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

1984 by George Orwell

MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood (Can I just put everything by Atwood here? Pretty please?)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

As for who I tag, um, do I have 10 readers on this thing? Yes? You? You are reading this? Awesomesauce. I tag you. What 10 books (or let's broaden it a bit, written works) have stayed with you? Go!

Missing my Stop

Yesterday my favorite barista was out for an early meeting with the guys and didn't have time to make me coffee, as is traditional in our household. Without the loud noise of the coffee bean grinder, I woke up late. It was ok though, I rushed around and made it out the door in five minutes flat. I even managed to bring my keys AND my phone, which is an accomplishment I still sometimes struggle to achieve even on days when I get coffee.

I made it to the street just as the bus was pulling away from the stop, but the driver recognized me and kindly stopped so I could leap aboard. My bus transport card was in my hand AND it had money on it! I was seriously winning.

It's always a toss up for me where to sit for my morning commute. I get on at the second stop on the line, which means there are always plenty of empty seats to choose from. I love that. Sometimes I sit in the single seats on the right side of the middle of the bus. The ones on the left are reserved for passengers who are elderly, pregnant, sick, disabled, or carrying small kids. I don't go near those. The ones on the right aren't reserved, and I like them a lot because nobody can sit next to me and eat their stinky breakfast and breathe their stinky breakfast breath on me the whole way to work. Unfortunately, a LOT of elderly people like to ride my bus. Probably because it goes to Carrefour. So I run the risk of having to give up my seat halfway there, and have to stand the rest of the way. It's not a huge inconvenience, but I decided not to risk it and go for my second favorite seat - the very last row, next to the window.

I tucked myself carefully into the very back left corner of the bus. There was no way I was going to have to give up that seat, which was good, since I was still not feeling awake enough to stand up AND have to hold on to something so I didn't fall down. Sure enough, a few minutes later, somebody came and sat next to me, but it was ok because they weren't eating stinky tofu for breakfast. Or anything at all! Bonus. I already had my headphones in and was listening to Popup Chinese, while I alternated between playing a round of Candy Crush and doing several minutes of Skritter Chinese practice. I don't mind my commute so much as long as I can be doing something useful while I ride. Candy Crush is useful, right? I mean, who is gonna crush those candies if I don't do it?

In fact I got so absorbed in Candy Crush diligent Chinese practice that when I finally looked up from my screen, I had no idea where I was. I was on a street I did not recognize. That was not good. I pretty much know all the streets on the 44 route between my house and my office extremely well. This wasn't one of them. I did a quick panic check to be sure I was actually ON bus 44 and not some other random bus. Nope. Right bus. So...

Yeah, I must have missed my stop. Turns out I was so into my Candy Crush, ahem, Chinese practice that I missed it by 3 whole stops. This was not good on a morning where I was already kinda pushing it on the getting to work on time front.

By the time I did rush into my office, I was actually a whole 10 minutes late. I missed my stop, I explained to Zhi Wei, the network guy, who was luckily the only one there before me that morning. Whoops, he said. Just one stop though right? Nope! Three stops! I didn't even know where I was! Wow, three stops!  How did you get back here? I crossed the street and took bus 44 back the direction I came, I explained. Three stops back. Then I got off and ran!

He was very impressed. That was such a smart idea, he exclaimed. Really smart! And you aren't even very late! Wah you crossed the street and took the bus right back! And you got here before Director Li, so it doesn't matter at all! So very smart!

I hadn't thought of it that way. I WAS very happy to have gotten in before Director Li though, that is always a very good thing. And how awesome to have coworkers who think you are amazingly brilliant for simple things like figuring out how to solve basic problems like missing your bus stop....by three. What a great way to make me feel smart after doing a dumb thing like missing my stop! I love my coworkers!*

*As long as you just don't consider what kind of base level I'd have to be starting from to make figuring THAT out make me look like Sherlockina Holmes, ok? Shhhhh... Back to the happy thoughts! Hooray!

Valentine's Day, Lantern Festival and Flower Exchange Festival All in One Holiday Bonanza

This year, due to the Lunar Calendar, three holidays will be celebrated on the same day in Hainan. Valentine's Day, although imported from the West, has grown quite popular in China, and many local restaurants will offer special menus for couples celebrating the romantic holiday.

Lantern Festival marks the end of the traditional Chinese New Year Celebrations. It also falls on February 14th, and is marked by large displays of bright New Year's lanterns, and the grand finale of the 2-week long firework frenzy.

In Haikou, the locals will also be celebrating a special Hainanese holiday, the Flower Exchange Festival. In Haikou's Qiongshan District, the streets will be ablaze with distinctive and unique New Year's lanterns. Lion Dances will be held to bless the event. Traditional Hainan Opera, as well as other performances and events will be held for the enjoyment of the crowd.

This is a great opportunity for everyone to get out, join the crowds of locals and experience the joy and friendliness of Hainan culture.

Translated by Nicki Johnson

Visit Hainan

Source: 0898

Embassytown by China Mieville

Published in 2012, China Mieville's Embassytown* is a science fiction book set on a world where the natives, called Hosts by the colonizing humans, cannot lie. They are double mouthed, double voiced creatures who speak Language. Language,  not to be confused with any other run of the mill language, is unique in the universe, and the Hosts cannot begin to communicate with any other race until the humans, in pairs, learn to speak with two voices but one mind. This is a nearly impossible trick that requires specially bred clones who act as Ambassadors between the Hosts and the inhabitants of Embassytown, the (mostly) human colony city-within-a-city. The book renders this unusual speech pattern in an unexpected way - two lines of dialog are presented at once, one above the other, like a fraction made of words.

The Hosts become fascinated with the humans, using them to stage elaborate scenes which can be later used as similes. As the Hosts cannot speak anything that is literally untrue, they need these scenes to be acted out physically, to make it possible for them to think, and express, the new thoughts they dream of thinking. The humans who acted these scenes become minor celebrities in Host culture, as living breathing pieces of Language walking among them. The Hosts are also fascinated with the humans' ability to lie, and hold elaborate Festivals of Lies where they can hear humans speak thrilling untrue words, and attempt (and fail) to speak these lies as well.

Personally as someone who is fascinated with how language works, who is also engaged in work in a land and a tongue that is not my own, who crosses the border between two languages and cultures daily and seeks to assist others in crossing, I found Mieville's exploration of what it really means to speak Language, what it costs the Ambassadors who do so, and


what it finally costs the Hosts to learn to lie completely absorbing. This is a definite must read for any and all language and literature geeks, those of you who thrill at learning new figures of speech, who do the grammar dance or who are most excited when you discover a new word, and rush to put your shiny treasure into use. I found myself stopping from time to time as I read, to repeat an excellently phrased sentence or two, or to think, for a moment, about one of the many big ideas I came across in the book, and I'm looking forward to reading more Mieville in the future.

While this book was lots of fun and a worthwhile read, I do think it's important to note that there were a few aspects I disliked. For me these flaws were not large enough to overcome my overall enjoyment of the book, but they did pull me out of the story at times. This is a decently long book, 368 pages in paperback, and the pacing often felt slow, especially in the first section of the book. Also, and worse,


the human colonists introduced the Hosts to lying, corrupting and ultimately destroying the Hosts' original culture and even their ability to speak Language. They become physically addicted to the sound of a particular Ambassador's voice, and cannot live without hearing it, or committing terrible self mutilation to break the addiction. This threatens the entire Host population, and there is nearly a complete Host genocide during the addiction-fueled war between the Hosts and human colonists. As much of a Trekkie as I am, the old and tired idea of humans going out and teaching the innocent natives all our vices and causing widespread change, corruption, and destruction in native culture while being, on the whole, unthreatened and unchanged themselves very much bothers me.

Perhaps it bothers me so much because of the very real Earth history of Western colonization, the loss of native languages, cultures, the genocides that took place in many places, and the idea that Western culture continues to corrupt more "innocent" native cultures. That isn't a tradition I want to continue, and I don't believe that the transmission can or should be only one direction. Cultures do change when they meet, when new words and new ideas cross borders. That can be positive or negative, depending on what's exchanged, but it has to be an EXCHANGE. I personally have been changed greatly by living in China, by struggling to understand the culture and the language. I was disappointed that Embassytown, while it had many refreshing and thought provoking ideas, didn't manage to include the idea that "corruption" and indeed also enrichment, happens in both directions when two cultures clash.

* Note: the above link is an Amazon Associates link. It hasn't happened yet, but theoretically in the future I could scrape together enough Amazon credit to buy (what else) moar boooooookses!

Rescue at Baishamen Park

Warning - this post contains potentially disturbing images and themes including suicide.

Yesterday Erik and I were walking the dogs, as we do every afternoon, in Baishamen Park. It's a beautiful park and we love living across the street from it.

Just as we were approaching the lake yesterday, we saw someone in the water, close to the opposite bank of the lake. There were several high school students calling to her from the bank, and at first we thought she was also a student, and that they were playing in the water. Just as we realized she was in distress, she weakly lifted her arm out to the students, and they waded into the water, grabbed her, and pulled her out onto the bank, where she collapsed.

A woman was standing next to me, holding her cell phone, and debating with her mother about calling for help. Call, I told her. Call right now. She got on the phone with emergency services, and I took both dogs' leashes while Erik went across a bridge to the far bank to check on the woman. The students were very anxious to get any adult help, as they had no idea what to do now that the woman (who it turns out they did not know) had collapsed.

Erik checked her pulse and respiration. She was breathing and had a good pulse, he shouted back across the lake, but she was unconscious and he couldn't rouse her. I relayed that info in Chinese to the lady who was on the phone with emergency services. She had to call two different numbers - one for police and one for an ambulance.

After a few minutes we heard sirens, and the high school students hightailed it. They wanted nothing to do with speaking to the authorities. Since China has a history of blaming good Samaritans for victims' injuries, and forcing them to pay medical expenses for injuries they had nothing to do with, I understood why they left. Unfortunately now Erik was the only person staying with the victim.

The lady standing next to me told me that they had seen the woman approach the lake, take off her shoes and socks, and just walk right into the water. Nobody knew why, but there was speculation that she had mental issues and or was trying to commit suicide. A few minutes passed before the police were able to find our location. During that time, the mother of the woman who called for help kept urging her daughter that they should leave. "Let's go home," she kept repeating. "It's getting late." I knew she was nervous about being blamed, too, although she and her daughter only witnessed the event from the opposite side of the lake, and never even approached the victim. I asked her over and over to please stay and give a statement to the police when they arrived.  We hadn't seen the whole event, we were not native speakers, and Erik was at this point the only person on the far bank with the victim.

They did stay and give a statement. After the police arrived and took over the scene, I took a couple photos (from the far side of the lake, my dogs were going crazy with all the loud noises and stress in the air and there was NO WAY I was bringing them across the lake into the middle of the rescue operation to get in the way of the first responders):

Sorry for the poor quality. The dogs were yanking my arm and there was so much going on.

Erik can be seen standing next to the policeman on the left.  As you can see, once the police arrived, lots of people approached the scene. After another few minutes, the ambulance came and the police told us we could go. We don't know the woman's condition now, but we hope she makes a full recovery, and if she was indeed attempting suicide, that whatever it was in her life that prompted that action can be resolved.

Here in China, suicide is unfortunately very common, especially among women. While we don't know the specifics of what happened with this particular woman or why, many women in China are victims of domestic violence, rape, harassment, unfair labor practices, and crippling societal pressure, leading many to end their own lives. There are very few trained mental health professionals, and visiting one carries an even greater stigma here than it does in the US, stopping the people who could benefit from seeking treatment.

Here are a few resources for further reading on these troubling issues:

China's Young People at Increasing Risk of Suicide

Women and suicide in rural China

Life in Shadows for Mentally Ill in China

Unable to Cope: China's Inadequate Care of the Mentally Ill

Good Samaritans pay the price for rescue gone wrong

The fogmonster lives...

I often like to joke that Haikou has three seasons:

1. The Sun - it burns, oh, it burns

2. Typhoon - rain rain on my face, hasn't stopped raining for days

3. Fogmonster - the Fogmonster is coming for your SOUL.......

For those of you who have only been in Haikou for a year or less, you haven't experienced the true horror of the fogmonster yet, as we had a very unusually light fogmonster season last winter. Your souls may even yet be intact!

It was then, with great amusement, that I listened to the most recent episode of Pseudopod.*

Pseudopod 356: The Night Wire

by H.F. (Henry Ferris) Arnold

“The Night Wire” first appeared in the September, 1926 issue of Weird Tales.

H.F. Arnold was born in 1901, worked as an author and journalist, and died in 1963. As far as is known, he published a total of 3 stories under the name H.F. Arnold – “The Night Wire” and “The City of Iron Cubes,” in Weird Tales and a “When Atlantis Was,” in Amazing Stories.

Your reader this week – Eric Luke – is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film EXPLORERS, and the writer of comic books GHOST and WONDER WOMAN. His latest project is INTERFERENCE, an audiobook about an audiobook that kills… and you’re listening to it. Available as a free download on iTunes.

“There is something ungodly about these night wire jobs. You sit up here on the top floor of a skyscraper and listen in to the whispers of a civilization. New York, London, Calcutta, Bombay, Singapore — they’re your next-door neighbors after the streetlights go dim and the world has gone to sleep.

Alone in the quiet hours between two and four, the receiving operators doze over their sounders and the news comes in. Fires and disasters and suicides. Murders, crowds, catastrophes. Sometimes an earthquake with a casualty list as long as your arm. The night wire man takes it down almost in his sleep, picking it off on his typewriter with one finger.

Once in a long time you prick up your ears and listen. You’ve heard of some one you knew in Singapore, Halifax or Paris, long ago. Maybe they’ve been promoted, but more probably they’ve been murdered or drowned. Perhaps they just decided to quit and took some bizarre way out. Made it interesting enough to get in the news.

But that doesn’t happen often. Most of the time you sit and doze and tap, tap on your typewriter and wish you were home in bed.

Sometimes, though, queer things happen. One did the other night, and I haven’t got over it yet. I wish I could.”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

The fogmonster lives!

Which, if you've been paying attention to the China news lately, you'll know it was recently sighted in Harbin.

From Shanghaiist:

Photos: Harbin shrouded by darkness as extreme haze leads to suspended schools


Some 21 schools closed this morning in Harbin City due to an "off the chart" amount of fog and haze blanketing the city, with visibility less than 50 meters in certain urban areas.


The PM2.5 Air Quality Index reached up to 500, reports say, a level that is considered "seriously polluted".



Run. Run while you still have a chance!

*Pseudopod is a short fiction horror podcast. It has two siblings, PodCastle (fantasy) and Escape Pod (scifi). The three are awesomesauce, and you should go have a listen or three.

Escape PodPodCastle

...by Nicki Johnson

Hi all, I'm very happy to be able to post an article today that I wrote as a result of being invited to do an interview with my friend Eddie Smith. Although this was my first interview and article with a byline, I think it turned out very well! This whole process is a bit of a dream for me, as an English major to be publishing articles!

The other wonderful surprise was the interest it's generated - it looks like I'll be doing a few more articles on upcoming events soon! If you have a story that you think would be of interest that you'd like to share on our site, or something you'd like some publicity for, please do get in touch!

Alright, enough of that, here's the article!

First expat receives yachting license in Hainan, plans to open Haikou Sailing Club

No pen

In order to prepare my students for their various summer trips abroad, we read an article in our class about the Chinese teenager who went to Egypt and carved graffiti on the Luxor Temple:

‘Ding Jinhao was here’: Chinese teenager scrawls graffiti on 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple in Egypt

Reporters descended upon the 15-year-old’s home after he was identified on social media website Weibo.

 A 15-year-old Chinese tourist defaced a 3,500 year old stone sculpture in the Egyptian Luxor Temple. temple with graffiti. He carved 'Ding Jinhao was here' in Chinese.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/uproar-china-teen-defaces-ancient-egyptian-temple-article-1.1355940#ixzz2cHAW3N5q

After they got back, we were looking through Jenny's vacation photos and came across a photo of the wall of a castle in Europe that had lots of graffiti all over it, mostly the "I was here" variety. I asked Jenny if she had added her name.

"No," she said.

I grinned.

"I didn't have a pen with me."


Conversations with students


Me: So, Owen, what did you do yesterday?
Owen: I played basketball with a foreigner!
Me: Where is he from?
Owen: America!


Me: What's his name?
Owen: I don't know, but we all call him Chocolate. Because he's black.


Me: .....