Published: June 4th 2009June 4th 2009
All is well in the Land of the Misinformed and Comfortably Protected, namely mainland China. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests and for obvious reasons I'm not saying much about what this government does or does not do in response. I'm not on anybody's radar and I want to keep it that way. In the back of my head I keep hearing Dana Carvey's deadly accurate impression of George Bush on SNL, with the President at the microphone addressing reporters, "It just wouldn't be prudent. Nope. Not Prudent." If you want to read about how China is handling, i.e., covering up as much as possible, what happened at TS, you could go here
Also want to throw in a "Thanks, Dad" for guiding me to the NYTimes for most of my online news...too much information to read in one sitting, but a pleasure every morning...
So other than being alienated from our usual blog, and some email, and Twitter, and Flickr, and even BBC has been sporadically dark and unavailable the last few weeks, Jenny and I are doing fine these days, in fact we are thriving! The biggest news in weeks for us has been the opening of another large shopping area here in DanYang with the flagship being a new Chinese version of WalMart, called Auchan
. Now before you accuse us of supplicating to the Chinese masterminds and ignoring the fact we are being spoon-fed our news and are happy instead about a new grocery store opening(?), you would have to live here to understand our glee in being able to shop for food and accessories, like an honest to god frozen dinner, a garlic press(!), more than two varieties of beer, and our new Chinese version of Dante's seven rings of hell includes a whole row of international food stuffs. We are like kids in a candy store, purgatory be damned!
We have actually eaten spaghetti twice in the last month. Like a joke that just falls flat, all I can say is you have to be here to get it.... :)
We cook, well I
cook, Jenny is Little Chef
and chops, dices, cleans, and I act like I know where we are going on our gastronomic voyages. I did find us a small hibachi-style grill so our patio is filled with smoke at least three times a week these days and we are living and dying by instant sauce/spice packages from McCormick, but overall we are eating like royalty and yes, sometimes I even cook us Chinese food. Our chef recommends grilled lamb chops, steaks, chicken fillets slathered with spicy wing sauce, Chinese cabbage, lots of rice and noodles, and the new Auchon even has a selection of elixirs such as Vodka, Cabernet's, and the always refreshing Tiger beer. I've found that we are our happiest when we are well-fed...
Our kids are restless and irritable these days because they have big exams coming up; the entire country is taking the College Entrance Exam (CET4) so they are shutting down both our schools and using the classrooms for study space. The student population lives and dies by these periodic examinations and just like the SAT in the states, if our Grade 3 (Senior) class does not do well on this one test they are certain to not get into a university of any standing and therefore they will will not have a happy life. It's that important, and painfully true. Keep in mind these students don't have the options we take for granted in the USA - not scoring well on this tests means not getting accepted into a top tier university which is paramount to failure for the entire family (who are paying dearly for his pre-college education). Having to be accepted to a lower-level university is akin to not going to college at all and presently there are already three million unemployed graduates from just last year alone (about 8 million a year graduate from university), so finding a decent job will be arduous, if not impossible, and most likely require leaving for a larger city and again, this means moral and intellectual failure to their families.
And our kids are only in Grade 1 (10th grade), they still have two more years before they have to take the CET, but the pressure trickles down like a tidal wave every month or two when they sit for their regular examinations (nine subjects) and things get really tense this time each June when the huge CET rolls around. The campus is quiet, eerily quiet, and steeped in consternation, anxiety, and fatigue.
But, this also means Jenny and I have a week of vacation we didn't plan on!!
So we are planning another adventure and it looks like we will be heading on a fast train to Shanghai for a night of debauchery, then onto a neighboring city named Hangzhou and then onto another city for a weekend of hiking and trekking one of the most famous mountains on the continent, Huang Shan, or Yellow Mountain
. It's huge, and steep, and we are planning to stay in a hotel on top of one of the peaks to see the highlight of the trip; sunrise and sunset above the cloud line. They says this place comes the closest in the world to a Chinese landscape painting so we are really excited. I will be sure and post after we get back next Tuesday.
Also want to give a big birthday hug to my oldest Princess, Aubrey Lynn...Happy 22nd Birthday Aubster!!! Had so much fun last year for your 21st, hope your 22nd year will be even better!
More to come...