Categories
personal stuff

Top 10 (mostly wholesome) Animes to watch that is not made by Studio Ghibli

  1. Your Name – 2016 – directed by Makoto Shinkai

    A boy and a girl found themselves randomly becoming each other for a day over the course of a year (or two?). The plot gets even more complex and finely woven when they try to find each other in person.



  2. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – 2006 – directed by Mamoru Hosoda

    A high-school girl acquires the power to travel back in time, and decides to use it for her own personal benefits. Little does she know that she is affecting the lives of others just as much as she is her own.



  3. The Place Promised in Our Early Days  – 2004 – directed by Makoto Shinkai and Yoshio Suzuki

    In an alternate postwar timeline, Japan is divided into the Union-controlled North and the US-controlled South. One summer, three middle-school students make a promise that they’ll cross the border with a self-constructed plane and unravel a tower’s secret, but their project was abandoned after the girl, Sayuri Sawatari, became mysteriously ill and transferred to Tokyo. Years later on the brink of another war Hiroki Fujisawa finds out that Sayuri had been in coma since then, and he asks Takuya Shirakawa to help him find a way to wake her up.



  4. Wolf Children – 2012 – directed by Mamoru Hosoda

    After her werewolf lover unexpectedly dies in an accident while hunting for food for their children, a young woman must find ways to raise the werewolf son and daughter that she had with him while keeping their trait hidden from society.



  5. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – 2001 – directed by Shin’ichirô Watanabe

    A terrorist explosion releases a deadly virus on the masses, and it’s up the bounty-hunting Bebop crew to catch the cold-blooded culprit.



  6. Tokyo Godfathers – 2003 – directed by Satoshi Kon

    On Christmas Eve, three homeless people living on the streets of Tokyo find a newborn baby among the trash and set out to find its parents.



  7. Summer Wars – 2009 – directed by Mamoru Hosoda
    A student tries to fix a problem he accidentally caused in OZ, a digital world, while pretending to be the fiancé of his friend at her grandmother’s 90th birthday.



  8. The Boy and the Beast – 2015 – directed by Mamoru Hosoda

    When a young orphaned boy living on the streets of Shibuya stumbles upon a fantastic world of beasts, he’s taken in by a gruff warrior beast looking for an apprentice.



  9. The Legend of Hei – 2019 – directed by Mtjj

    In bustling human world, various of goblins live peacefully with mankind. Luo Xiao-Hei, the cat demon, begins his journey of wandering because his forest home is destroyed. With sympathetic goblin partners and earnest human master appearing one after another, Hei is in the dilemma of which side will be his true attribution.



  10. A Letter to Momo – 2011 – directed by Hiroyuki Okiura

    Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, young Momo moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio.

Categories
songs and lyrics

Jacky Cheung – 月半弯 Yue Ban Wan – Lyrics and Translations

月半弯,  倚于深宵 
Yuet bun waan, yi yu sam siu

A half cresent Moon, appears deep in the night


晚风轻飘
man fung hing piu

the night breeze softly blows

一张俏脸泛着, 半点的醉意

yat jeung chiu lim faan jeuk,  bun dim dik jeui yi.
A pretty face flooded with a touch of drunkenness
.

夜已醉了 夜已醉倒了
ye yi jeui liu , ye yi jeui dou liu
The night is drunk, the night has fallen drunk

让它安静到天晓
yeung ta on jing dou tin hiu.
let it be quiet until dawn.


我记得 与你一起 
ngo gei dak yu nei yat hei

I remember being with you


我心高飞
ngo sam gou fei

My heart was flying high


会急促跳动说真需要你
wui gap chuk tiu dung syut jan seui yiu nei

It would pound rapidly saying it really need you.

让我看你 让我细赏你
yeung ngo hon nei, yeung ngo sai seung nei

Let me look at you, let me admire you

陪你身边 今晚
pui nei san bin, gam maan

Let me accompany you tonight

——-

让我靠着你的臂胳
yeung ngo kaau zoek nei dik bei ngaak
Let me lean on your arm

流露我热爱心底说话
lau lou ngo yit oi sam dai syut waa
And reveal my love, words from the bottom of my heart

孕育美丽温馨爱意
yan yuk    mei lai wan hing oi yi
Creating a beautiful and warm love

做梦 都是你
jou mung,  dou si nei
All my dreams, they are of you.

——

夜已深 我心思思  你的丰姿
ye yi sam, ngo sam si si, nei dik fung ji
As the night goes deeper, my heart keeps thinking of your graceful posture

只想你便是 我的天使
ji seung nei bin si ngo dik tin si
Just thinking that you are my angel.

未见半秒 便控制不了
mei gin bun miu, bin hung jai bat liu
Even if I don’t see you for half a second, I would lose control

难以心安 于今晚
naan yi sam on, yu gam maan
And its difficult to feel peace.  Regarding tonight 

让我靠着你的臂胳
yeung ngo kaau zoek nei dik bei ngaak
Let me lean on your arm

流露我热爱心底说话
lau lou ngo yit oi sam dai syut waa
And reveal my love, words from the bottom of my heart

孕育美丽温馨爱意
yan yuk    mei lai wan hing oi yi
Creating a beautiful and warm love

做梦 都是你
jou mung,  dou si nei
All my dreams, they are of you.

Categories
songs and lyrics

死了都要爱 (Si Le Dou Yao Ai) – Translations and Lyrics

死了都要爱 (Si Le Dou Yao Ai- To Love even in Death)
by 信乐团 Xìn Yue Tuan

死了都要爱 不淋漓尽致不痛快
si le dou yao ai bu lin li jin zhi bu tong kuai
To love even in death, if you don’t love vividly you won’t be happy

感情多深只有这样才足够表白
gan qing duo shen zhi you zhe yang cai zu gou biao bai
Show the deepest emotions, only this way are confessions sufficient

死了都要爱 不哭到微笑不痛快
si le dou yao ai bu ku dao wei xiao bu tong kuai
To love even in death, if you don’t cry until you smile you won’t be happy

宇宙毁灭心还在
yu zhou hui mie xin hai zai
Even at the destruction of the universe the heart is still there

把每天当成是末日来相爱
ba mei tian dang cheng shi mo ri lai xiang ai
Love everyday like it’s the end of days

一分一秒都美到泪水掉下来
yi fen yi miao dou mei dao lei shui diao xia lai
Every minute every second is beautiful that causes tears to fall

不理会别人是看好或看坏
bu li hui bie ren shi kan hao huo kan huai
Don’t care if other people think it’s good or bad

只要你勇敢跟我来
zhi yao ni yong gan gen wo lai
As long as you are brave and follow me

爱 不用刻意安排
ai bu yong ke yi an pai
Love No need to arrange it deliberately

凭感觉去亲吻相拥就会很愉快
ping gan jue qu qin wen xiang yong jiu hui hen yu kuai
To kiss and hug with feelings will bring you extreme happiness

享受现在 别一开怀就怕受伤害
xiang shou xian zai bie yi kai huai jiu pa shou shang hai
Enjoy the present don’t be afraid of getting hurt once you open your heart

许多奇迹我们相信才会存在
xu duo qi ji wo men xiang xin cai hui cun zai
Many miracles that we believe in will exist

死了都要爱 不淋漓尽致不痛快
si le dou yao ai bu lin li jin zhi bu tong kuai
To love even in death, if you don’t love vividly you won’t be happy

感情多深只有这样才足够表白
gan qing duo shen zhi you zhe yang cai zu gou biao bai
Show the deepest emotions, only this way are confessions sufficient

死了都要爱 不哭到微笑不痛快
si liao dou yao ai bu ku dao wei xiao bu tong kuai
To love even in death, if you don’t cry until you smile you won’t be happy

宇宙毁灭心还在
yu zhou hui mie xin huan zai
Even at the destruction of the universe the heart is still there

把每天当成是末日来相爱
ba mei tian dang cheng shi mo ri lai xiang ai
Love everyday like it’s the end of days

一分一秒都美到泪水掉下来
yi fen yi miao dou mei dao lei shui diao xia lai
Every minute every second is beautiful that causes tears to fall

不理会别人是看好或看坏
bu li hui bie ren shi kan hao huo kan huai
Don’t care if other people think it’s good or bad

只要你勇敢跟我来
zhi yao ni yong gan gen wo lai
As long as you are brave and follow me

爱 不用刻意安排
ai bu yong ke yi an pai
Love No need to arrange it deliberately

凭感觉去亲吻相拥就会很愉快
ping gan jue qu qin wen xiang yong jiu hui hen yu kuai
To kiss and hug with feelings will bring you extreme happiness

享受现在 别一开怀就怕受伤害
xiang shou xian zai bie yi kai huai jiu pa shou shang hai
Enjoy the present don’t be afraid of getting hurt once you open your heart

许多奇迹我们相信才会存在
xu duo qi ji wo men xiang xin cai hui cun zai
Many miracles that we believe in will exist

死了都要爱 不淋漓尽致不痛快
si le dou yao ai bu lin li jin zhi bu tong kuai
To love even in death, if you don’t love vividly you won’t be happy

感情多深只有这样才足够表白
gan qing duo shen zhi you zhe yang cai zu gou biao bai
Show the deepest emotions, only this way are confessions sufficient

死了都要爱 不哭到微笑不痛快
si le dou yao ai bu ku dao wei xiao bu tong kuai
To love even in death, if you don’t cry until you smile you won’t be happy

宇宙毁灭心还在
yu zhou hui mie xin hai zai
Even at the destruction of the universe the heart is still there

穷途末路都要爱
qiong tu mo lu dou yao ai
Even when desperately poor you still need to love

不极度浪漫不痛快
bu ji du lang man bu tong kuai
If you aren’t extremely romantic you won’t be happy

发会雪白 土会掩埋 思念不腐坏
fa hui xue bai tu hui yan mai si nian bu fu huai
Your hair will turn white, you will be buried in the dirt, but the memory will not rot

到绝路都要爱 不天荒地老不痛快
dao jue lu dou yao ai bu tian huang di lao bu tong kuai
Even coming to a dead end you still need to love, if it’s not to the end of time you won’t be happy

不怕热爱变火海
bu pa re ai bian huo hai
Don’t be afraid of your passionate love turning into a sea of flame.

爱到沸腾才精采
ai dao fei teng cai jing cai
To love until it is boiling is even more spectacular.

Categories
songs and lyrics

Saigon Oi Vinh Biet Lyrics and Translations

Sài gòn ơi, tôi đã mất người trong cuộc đời
Dear Saigon, I’ve lost the people in my life

Sài gòn ơi, thôi đã hết thời gian tuyệt vời
Dear Saigon, the time of greatness has ended

Giờ còn đây, những kỷ niệm sống trong tôi
The time that remains are the memories that live within me

Những nụ cười nát trên môi
The smiles that were imprinted on our lips

Những giọt lệ ôi sầu đắng.
The droplets of bitter tears

Sài gòn ơi, nắng vẫn có còn vương trên đường
Dear Saigon, does the sunlight still lingers on the road

Đưòng ngày xưa, mưa có ướt ngập lối đường về
Roads of the olden days, do rain  still flood the way home

Rồi mùa thu, lá còn đổ xuống công viên
And then in autumn, are the leaves still falling in the park

Bóng gầy còn bước nghiêng nghiêng
Do the skinny shadows still take slanted steps

Hay đã khóc thương cho người yêu
Or are they crying for past lovers

Tôi giờ như con thú hoang lạc đàn
Now I am like a wild beast wandering

Từng ngày qua, từng kiếp sống quên thời gian
Every passing day, every lifetime forgotten

Kiếp tha hương, lắm đau thương, lắm chua cay
Life in exile, very painful, very bitter,

Tôi gọi tên em mãi thôi.
I’ll keep calling your name forever.

Sài gòn ơi, tôi xin hứa rằng tôi trở về
Dear Saigon, I promise that I will return

Người tình ơi, tôi xin giữ trọn mãi lời thề
My love, I promise I will keep my vows

Dù thời gian, có là một thoáng đam mê
Whatever the time, there is still a glimpse of passion

Phố phường vạn ánh sao đêm
The city of a thousand lights from the starry night

Nhưng tôi vẫn không bao giờ quên.
But I will never forget

Categories
songs and lyrics

Nicholas Tse – Fei Jau Bat Ho – Lyrics and Translations

I think Nicholas Tse is a good looking guy, charismatic, and a decent actor in certain roles. But I think his singing is just so-so. Sadly, the wifey loves him and wants me to learn his songs for KTV sessions. She won’t let me touch her boobs until I learned two of his songs! This one is for the left boob.

谢霆锋 – 非走不可
Nicholas Tse Ting Fung – Fei Jau Bat Ho (Must Run Away!)

不舍得伤心 伤心怎将你抱起
bat se dac seung sam, seung sam jam jeung ni pou hei
Not willing to be sad, how can sadness pick you up

不舍得开心 留来给你欢喜
bat se dat hoi sam, lau loi kap ni fun hei
Not willing to be happy, I’m leaving the happiness to you

以为斜阳定会昇起 会令奇迹感染你
yi wai che yeung ding wuih sing hi, wuih ling kei jik gam yim ni
I thought the setting sun will rise up to infect you with miracles

差点为甚么呼吸都忘记 也不舍弃
cha diem wai sam mo fu kap dou mong gei, ya bat se hei
I almost forgot why I should breath, but I still won’t give up.

装饰的鲜花 一般都不会结果
zhong sik dik sin fa, yat bun dou bat wui git gwo
Freshly decorated flowers, generally still will not have good endings

休克的躯体 仍能给你生火
yau hak dik keoi tai, ying nang kap nei sang fo
The unconscious body can still light a fire for you.

我用残余力气抚摸 证实你转身擦过
ngo yong san yu lik hi fu mo, jing sat ni jeuhn san chat guo
I am trying to use the last of my strenght to touch you, but actually you have already passed by

将生命承担不起的难过 放手给我
jeung sang ming sing dam bat hei dik nan guo, fong sau kap ngo
The difficulties of life that you can’t handle, let go of them, give to me.

也许相恋这条路 挤迫的怀抱
ya hui seung luehn je tiu lu, sai bik dik wai pu
Maybe this road of love, this overbearing embrace

不够让我高攀进内才摔倒
bat gau yeung ngo gou paan jun noi choi sat dou
Are not enough to rise to your standards, so I fall

踏上分手这条路 才令我突然看到
dap seung fan sau je tiu lu, coi ling ngo dat yin hon dou
After going on this road of breakups, it suddenly caused to me see

你的天空宇宙只够我流泪 不可跳舞
ni dik tien hung yu jau ji gau ngo lau lui, bat ho tiu mou
Your universe can only make me cry.  I can no longer dance.

回头路窄 然而肉眼总找得到
wui tau lu jak, ying yi yuk ngan zung jao dak dou
The way back is narrow, but the naked eye can always find it

要走得比你早
yiu jau dak bi ni jou
I have to leave earlier than you

Categories
personal stuff

Homemade Treasure Hunt

I am going out of town for about a week and decided to create a little treasure hunt puzzle to amuse the fiancee while I’m gone. Here is what I came up with:

Before I head out the door, I put a little sign on the drawers next to the bed that says “Look inside baby!” Opening the drawer, she’ll find a rubik’s cube that she has to solve.

IMG_6710

 

Once she solves the puzzle she can read the message that says “Look for the thing I bought for your phone when you first moved here”.

IMG_6709

 

Which is that little cute creature on the shelf winking.

IMG_6726

 

Inside the little guy there is this piece of clue.

IMG_6712
On the back it says:

IMG_6713

She’ll have to figure it out it came from this soap box in the bathroom.

IMG_6714

Inside the box is the next clue.

IMG_6715

The cold place is the refrigerator …

IMG_6716

Inside, the thing that doesn’t belong is the box of tissues (the previous clue was also written on a tissue from this box).

IMG_6717

There is this clue inside the tissue box.

IMG_6718

Which she should figure out points to a photo on this wall.

IMG_6719

This photo in particular.

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One the back of this photo there is this crude map :o)

IMG_6721

She should figure out that the X points to those boxes above that cabinet in the corner.

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Hidden behind those boxes she’ll find her prize.

IMG_6723

Which is a pair of shoes she’s been eyeing but reluctant to buy because it’s too expensive 🙂

IMG_6724

 

This is what the card says

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This only took me a couple of hours to think up and implement.  But hopefully she’ll get a kick out of it! Heehee

Categories
language stuff

Learning Chinese: The Structure Of A Sentence

Learning just the vocabulary of a language is not enough.  We have to be able to put the words we learned together to form coherent sentences. Knowing the correct word order is an important milestone on a student’s way to language fluency.  Indeed, it is one of the last pieces of the puzzle that, when fall into place, would illuminate every crook and cranny of an unfamiliar language.  In this article, we will analyze the structure of a Chinese sentence, and from there create a foundation upon which we can build our language mastery.

Let’s start simple and pick an object for our example.  The word for “house” in Mandarin is “fángzi ” (房子).  The word for “one” is “yī” (一).  To say “a house”, you would say “Yīgè fángzi” (一个房子).

This simple declaration of a thing has already taught us our first lesson, the use of classifiers, or measure words.  Whenever you want to express the number of objects, you have to insert a measure word between the number and the noun.  Furthermore, each type of object has its own measure word.  One dog is “yī zhī gǒu” (一只狗); A piece of paper is “Yī zhāng zhǐ” (一张纸).  The measure words act as an extra descriptive connector between the number and the noun. Papers are “zhāng” (“张”) , flat pieces, while books are “běn” (本), stacks of documents. There are some rough rules of when to use which measure word, but they are not definitive, you will just have to commit them to memory.  Here is a small sample of some common measure words.

Object type Measure Word Example
Packets or Parcels bāo (包) bāo mǐfàn (a bag of rice)
Things bound together běn (本) běn shū (a book)
Animals and parts of body zhī (只) zhī gǒu (a dog)
Leaves or sheets of something zhāng (张) zhāng zhǐ (a piece of paper)
Long, thin, or winding objects zhī (枝) zhī bǐ (a pen)
Generic word, people and small objects gè (个) rén (a person)

A nice trick is to lump the classifier together as the first syllable of the word: “zhāng zhǐ,” (paper), “zhī gǒu ” (dog), “běn shū “(book).  If someone mix up the measure word and say “zhī shū ” or “běn gǒu”, your brain should do a double take and cry out “that doesn’t sound right!”, because a dog is not a stack of documents bound together, nor is a book a long, thin, or winding object.

Let’s add a descriptive modifier to our object.  “A yellow house” in Mandarin is ” Yī gè huángsè de fángzi” (一个黄色的房子). This step teaches us two more things.  First, the adjective comes before the noun.  The word for yellow is “huángsè”.  And just like in English, you cannot say “house yellow” (“fángzi huángsè”), but you can say “That house is yellow” (“Nà ge fángzi shì huángsè de”).

Second, we introduced the usage of the word “de” (的).  You will hear or see that word often in the Chinese language.  The particle “de” has many usages. It can be used as a possessive modifier, i.e. ” Wǒ de fángzi” = “my house”; ” Nǐ de fángzi” = “your house”, “Mary de fángzi” = “Mary’s house”.  It can also be used as a descriptive particle, linking an adjective to a noun: “Dà de fángzi ” = big house; “huángsè de fángzi ” = “yellow house”.  And lastly, “de” can be tacked on to the end of a phrase to emphasize a declarative statement.  “Wǒ huì zǒu de!” means “I will leave!”

Next, let’s form a complete sentence with what we’ve learned so far.  We can say Yǒu yī gè huángsè de fángzi” to state “There is a yellow house.”  The word “yǒu” (有) means “to have”.  To say “There is”, you really should say “Nàlǐ yǒu …”, where “Nàlǐ” (那里) means “there” in a physical sense.  However, we can omit the “Nàlǐ” if we want to, it can be implied if we don’t care about the location.  Saying “Nàlǐ yǒu yī gè fángzi” calls to the fact that a certain location has a house, whereas “Yǒu yī gè fángzi” merely states the existence of a house.

Let’s get more advanced and add another piece of information.  To say: “There is a yellow house next to the river“, we would add “… zài hé biān” to the end of the sentence.  “Hé” (河) means “river”, “pángbiān” (旁边) means “next to”, and “zài” is the linking preposition.  “Zài” (在) is an extremely useful word, equivalent to the prepositions “at, on, in, under, to” in the English language.  Also, notice the preposition “biān“ (next to) is tacked on to the right of the subject: “… zài hé biān,” and not before (e.g. you can’t say “… zài biān hé”).  Our sentence now becomes “Zài hé biān yǒu yīgè huángsè de fángzi” (在河边有一个黄色的房子).

Lastly, let’s alter our sentence to express possessiveness of this wonderful house we’ve been describing.  How would you say “The yellow house next to the river is ours”?  From the lessons above, we’ve learned that we can add the word “de” after “Wǒmen” (we) to make it possessive: “Wǒmen de”.  So let’s get rid of “yǒu …” (“There is …”) and replace it with “…wǒmen de” (“… is ours”) to the end of the sentence.  This changes our sentence to “Zài hé biān huángsè de fángzi shì women de“.

There are a couple of subtle lessons shown in that last step.  First, there is no word for “the” in the Chinese language.  To say “The teacher”, you simply say “teacher” (“Lǎoshī”).  To say “The Bell Tower,” you simply say “bell tower” (“Zhōnglóu”).  This is why Chinese speakers have such a hard time learning this rule in the English language.

Second, we have to put all the modifying information of an object (“next to the river”, “yellow”) before the noun.  “The yellow house” is “huángsè de fángzi”. The house next to the river” is “Hé biān de fángzi”.  And because we have to keep “huángsè de” connected to “fángzi”, we have to move the piece of information regarding the relationship of the river to the front of the sentence (“Zài hé biān huángsè de fángzi”).

The Mandarin word “is/are/be” is “shì”.  The information we add after “shì” is of course the main piece of information we are trying to convey.  For example, we could say “Huángsè de fángzi shì zài hé biān” to express that the yellow house is next to the river (as oppose to next to a mountain or in the river).  Or we could say “Zài hé biān de fángzi shì  huángsè de” to express that the house next to the river is yellow (as oppose to white or red).  In both cases, the piece of information after “shì” is the main point of the sentence.  Hence, back to our original exercise, to say “The yellow house next to the river is ours”, we would say “Zài hé biān huángsè de fángzi shì wǒmen de” (在河旁边黄色的房子是我们的). Tada!  All the words fall into place in their correct order to form a coherent sentence worthy of a fluent Chinese student.

Categories
Uncategorized

Memories of Lunar New Years Past

I am going to tell you about my experiences of the Chinese New Year while growing up in Vietnam.

Even though we are Chinese, both of my parents were born in Vietnam. My grandparents were from southern China and immigrated to Vietnam back in the late 50s. My memories growing up were of poor but simpler times, filled with carefree days and happy moments. During the holidays, whole communities celebrated with each other. An air of festivity permeates every nooks and crannies of every street and alleyway. The populace takes to the streets en-mass in their best clothing just to stroll around and greet each other. Couples walked with hooked elbows while families stroll together in groups. There was usually not enough room to even drive a motorbike around, so mostly everyone walked during the whole 15 days of festivities. I remember being with the kids in the neighborhood lighting firecrackers and running amuck and causing general mayhem. I remember visiting relatives after relatives to collect red pocket money just so my parents could take them away to give to other kids. But I am getting ahead of myself.

On the night of December 30th, in Cantonese we call this (Nien sam sap man) (The year’s 30th night), everyone would try to stay up all night long, and when I say everyone I mean the whole country. My parents would lay a big piece of cloth on our concrete floor and pile bottles of alcohol and plates after plates of “drinking” food on it. My dad and all his friends would sit on the floor around the food and booze drinking and hollering and being drunks all night long, while groups would break off to play cards or dice board games for money. (Gambling is huge during the Lunar New Year in Vietnam). I usually try to last through the night but I am sure I didn’t quite make it through during one of those years and would fall asleep in the wee morning hours amidst the festivity.

On the first, we get dressed in our best clothing to go visit our closest relatives, my grandparents and my aunts from my mum’s side of the family. They were a district over, so we usually have to fight our way through the crowds and firecrackers and celebrations on the streets just to get there. Traditionally, only the married adults were supposed to give kids red pockets, but I think my brother and sister and I all received red pockets even from our older aunties. The adults usually cooked a big old feast while the kids munched on New Year snacks such as strips of candied coconut and powdered candies peanuts and melon seeds called “gua zi”.

The New Year celebration usually lasts 15 days. In Cantonese, we say “Chzo yat sap ng” (the first and fifteen) to indicate the beginning and end of this period. The next 14 day are filled with visits after visits to every friend and relative my parents know just so my brother sister and I can collect our red pocket money, which my parents would then take away from us. They gave us a small portion of the money in return, the rest they would put into other red pockets to give to other kids. We weren’t particularly well off but my parents had so many friends, they would’ve gone broke every year if they hadn’t done so. My parents were very practical.

The 15th day of the New Year is the day of Lantern Festival. The name for this day in Mandarin is “yuán xiāo jié“ (元宵節), in Cantonese it is “yuen xiu jit”. There is usually a big reunion dinner with all our closest friends and family at a restaurant, and lanterns and mandarin oranges were a big part of the theme that day. We would eat sweet round balled dumplings to celebrate the first full moon of the New Year. The kids would count all the red pocket money we received and brag about how well we made out with that year.

The Chinese New Year holidays, also called “The Lunar New Year holidays”, are celebrated throughout many countries other than China. The list includes Singapore, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia and most of the South-East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, and even parts of Japan and Korea. For me, it marked the end of the dreary months of winter and brings with it the hope and excitement of new things to come. Even though it has been many years since we have moved away from Vietnam, those memories of celebrations will stay distinctive in my mind for as long as I live.

Categories
personal stuff

The funny stuff my girlfriend says

We’ve only dated for about 3 months, and I am still discovering certain quirkiness about her.  But one thing that I’ve noticed from the start is that she loves to laugh.  She is easily amused, and laughs at almost everything, that is one of the many things I love about her.  She is so optimistic, like a ray of sunshine, it really brightens my day every time I hear her laugh.

At the same time, she can sometime make me laugh so hard I could barely breath.   For instance, tonight we just came back from an expensive Korean BBQ dinner, filled to the brim.  Full as I was, I still wanted to show her the Michael Jackson dance moves I learned earlier on youtube, which ended with me hugging my stomach, panting on the couch, looking like I was gonna throw up, while she was laughing her ass off and asking “Are you okay baby?”.

Then she said “Don’t throw up baby, that food was expensive!”

The both of us busted out laughing hysterically, realizing the absurdity of it.  We laughed so hard it hurted … I managed a “yea!  It was 153 kuai!” before another round of laughter hit us and we were rolling all over the couch hugging our stomachs trying to breath.

Another time, we had a couple of friends over for movie night.  One of the friends was getting sick, and was sneezing and coughing throughout the movie.  At one point, my girlfriend grabbed a half eaten tangerine that the sick friend had touched, peeled off a piece, and offered it to me.

“I don’t want it baby.”  I said, so  she plopped it in her mouth instead.  I said “Now you’re going to get sick because Jojo had touched it.  She laughed and said in a mocking tone, “well now you can’t kiss me because you will get sick too.”  She then moved as if to kiss me, and I covered my mouth with my hand.  “Mmno!”

“Come on baby!”  She made to try to kiss me some more but I dodged her until she finally gave up.

“Aww,” I said.  “Looks like we are not going to be able to kiss tonight.”

Then she said “I know baby!  You can put a condom on your mouth!”

It took us a second.  Then the image of me with a condom covering my mouth and she trying to kiss me was too much, and the two of us exploded laughing uncontrollably hugging each other for support.   We laughed for a few minutes straight!  I couldn’t stop thinking of the ridiculous image!  Our two friends were wondering what the heck was wrong with us.  I mean, we were like dying from lack of breath.

And the thing is, she is not even trying to be that witty.  Most of the times it seems she doesn’t realize what she had said until after she said it, and then realizing how absurd or funny it was, starts laughing like crazy at her own joke.  It’s really hilarious.  And I can’t help but to laugh with her, because it is so contagious.

Moments with fits of laughter are worth remembering, I am going to try to jot them down so I don’t forget.  Thanks to my hilarious girlfriend, the inadvertent clown, one of the wittiest people I’ve ever met even if she doesn’t realize it herself.

Categories
songs and lyrics

Andy Lau – 最後妳也走了 – Zhui Hou Ni Ye Zhou Le – Lyrics and Translation

Like most Hong Kong movies in the 90s, the script of The Prince of Temple Street turned to crap half way through the movie. But it did leave behind a decent song and some wonderful images. A young Andy Lau and Joey Wong made a pretty nice on screen couple as well 🙂

最后..妳也走了
In the End … You Left as Well

凝泪盖住了视觉 而思绪带来了动荡
Ying leoi goi ju liu si gok, yi si seung dai loi liu dung dong
Condesation from the tears covered my sight, and the mind brought only turmoil

寂寞在舞动侵占欢乐
zik mok zoi mou dung cam zim fun lok
Loneliness is dancing, invading happiness

怀疑她于身边 彷徨将心寄托
waai yi ta yu san bin, pong wong zoeng sam gei tok
Suspicion beside me, Hesistation brings a stillness to the heart

然后再发觉她早已是幻觉
yin hau zoi fat gok ta zou yi si waan gok
In the end, I realized that she has long been an illusion.

明白妳让我付托 怜惜我爱情已没落
ming baak ni yueng ngo fu tok, lien sik ngo oi cing yi mut lok
I understand that you trusted me, it’s a pity that my love has waned

尽量地替代 给我欢乐
zeon loeng dei tai doi, kap ngo fun lok
Have to try a little harder to replace my happiness

然而她的影子 仍无声牵引我
yin yi taa dik ying zi, ying mou sing hin yan ngo
However, her shadow silently dragged me along

无论你再似都不过是幻觉
Mou lun ni zoi ci dou baat go si wan gok
Whether you see similarities or not, they’re all illusions.

前事至今并未忘记 如刀锋心里乱割
Cin si zi gam bing mei mong gei, yu dou feng sam lei luen po
Events of the past I still haven’t forgotten, like a blade cutting at my heart

愿妳抽身归去吧 毋要我欠太多
yuen ni cau san gwai heoi baa, mu yiu ngo hien tai do
I want you to turn around, don’t let me owe too much

门内看着妳伴那影儿荡向雨声中飘泊
mun noi hon zoek ni bun na ying yi dong hueng yi sing zong piu bok
Watching your profile at the door, it’s drifting away in the sound of the rain

在妳消失以后更冷漠
zoi ni siu saat yi hau gaan laang mok
After you left, the rain became more cold and indifferent

Categories
travel stuff

Congratulations! “Lived-In-Xi’an” Graduating Class of 2012

Leo, Guy, and Lee are holding the mics, belting out their rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, while the rest of the room joins in.  Empty beer bottles and snack plates litter the table in our dark-light enhanced KTV room.  About twenty or so energetic singing lunatics are crammed together, declaring that they got a moose and asking each other to do the Fandango.  It is our Going-Away-KTV-Party-Palooza, in honor of those leaving, and those being left behind.  One last KTV session in Xi’an, demanded the swaying mass.

The past few weeks have been a flurry of farewell parties, and the next few a flurry of goodbyes.  The “I Survived Living in Xi’an” class of 2012 are graduating and heading home to their various corners of the world.  It is really a diverse group, representative of the awesomely dynamic community we have here in the walled city.  Over the past months we drank together, studied together, worked together, hiked up mountains together, struggled to communicate with the locals together, and experienced the excitement and hardship of living in a foreign country together.  But alas, all good things come to an end.  Our time together will be just another blurb on our Facebook timeline.

Our classrooms were held in bars where cultural perspectives mingle, on the streets with the organized chaos dance that is the Xi’an traffic, and on midnight street food stands where glimpses into souls were revealed. Through hazy and already fading memories of hash-runs and pub crawls, mountain excursions and raucous house parties, we learned that we can make a foreign city our own.

I sent out a mass text to those who are leaving asking “What is something you’ve learned while living in China?”  Their responses, funny and insightful, are these nuggets of wisdom they have acquired from their lessons living here.  I hope they can be useful to the next generation of newcomers passing by or coming to live in this dusty ancient city these forlorn graduates once called home.

What I’ve learned while living in China

– by the “I-Survived-Living-In-Xi’an” class of 2012

  1. “I’ve learned to carry tissue with me everywhere I go.” – Jen Lundstrem.
  2. “Street food is best when drunk and in the company of other drunkards.” – Bogdan Ditoiu.
  3. “People love saying ‘hello’.  And when you say ‘hello’ back they giggle like little schoolgirls.” –  Fleur De Bondt.
  4. “I’ve learnt how convenient it is to roll my shirt up over my belly when it’s hot.” – Wayne Bates.
  5. “Companies who hire white people don’t actually listen to what we have to say.”  – Tom Enns.
  6. “After the May Hash Run which I conducted in a pink bathrobe, I can conclude that Xi’an is not quite ready for a western style gay parade.” – Matthjis A. Bos.
  7. “My ‘taxi Chinese’ is probably the most fluent of all.  Drivers ALWAYS ask the same questions (Where are you from?  How long have you been here…?)”. – Fleur De Bondt
  8. “I’ve learned that there is no limit to the number of people who can ride on one bike.” – Jen Lundstrem.
  9. “I learned that living as a waiguoren, you always get the ‘special’ treatment…as a foreigner you really should make an effort of making local Chinese friends.  Stay in a foreigners’ circle and you might miss the real China.” – Omar Diallo.
  10. “I’ve learnt how easy it is to communicate here, not language wise, but the fact I can go sit in a park, sit in the metro, walk in a shop, or even climb a mountain and naturally just strike up a conversation with a stranger.” – Wayne Bates.
  11. “I’ve learned, after living in China and the Middle East, the vast and unjust differences between the people of the world, where I’ve been positively amazed by the poor and frequently disappointed by the rich.”  – Matthjis A. Bos.
  12. “In China, time never stops so don’t let it go.  Classes in the morning, noodles with friends at lunch, discovering a disheveled pagoda on a basketball court, then drinks and maybe climb the city wall, or waiting for the sunset on a roof.  Do it all.”  – Bogdan  Ditoiu.

As for me, I’ve learned that you can make friends from all over the world by living in a city with people from all over the world. The shared experience of living in a foreign city serves as a strong bond among those willing to travel abroad. Perhaps one day I will see them again on their own turfs. Until then, go forth and spread the Xi’an love, my Facebook Best of Friends. Our times together, however brief, will be cherished, freakin’ forever.

Categories
songs and lyrics

Beyond – 光辉岁月(The Glorious Years) – lyrics and translation

光辉岁月
gwong fai seui yuet
The Glorious Years

钟声响起归家的讯号
jung sing heung hei gwai ga dik seun hou
The clock bell chimes the signal to go home

在他生命里, 仿佛带点唏嘘
joi ta sang meng leui, fong fat dai dim hei heui
In his life, there seems to carry a small sigh of regret

黑色肌肤给他的意义
hak sik gei fu kap ta dik yi yi
Dark skin gives him the meaning

是一生奉献, 肤色斗争中
si yat sang fung hin, fu sik dau jang jung
of his life’s devotion to the color struggle.

年月把拥有变做失去
nin yuet ba yung yau bin jou sat heui
The years have changed possession into loss

疲倦的双眼带着期望
pei gyun dik seung ngan dai jeuk kei mong
The set of fatiqued eyes still carries hope.

今天只有残留的躯壳
gam tin ji yau chan lau dik keui hok
Today there is only the remains of a shell

迎接光辉岁月
ying jip gwong fai seui yuet
To welcome the glorious years

风雨中抱紧自由
fung yue jung pou gan ji yau
Holding fast to freedom in the wind and rain.

一生经过彷徨的挣扎
yat sang ging gwo pong wong dik jang jat
A lifetime of loss and struggle

自信可改变未来
ji seun ho goi bin mei loi
Believing in one’s ability to change the future

问谁又能做到
man seui yau nang jou dou
Who else can accomplish this?

————————-

可否不分肤色的界限
ho fau bat fan fu sik dik gai han
Can we make no boundaries between colors

愿这土地里, 不分你我高低
yun je tou dei leui, bat fan nei ngo gou dai
On this earth, don’t make distinctions between you and I

缤纷色彩闪出的美丽
ban fan sik choi sim cheut dik mei lai
A riotous diffusion of colors emits beauty

是因它没有分开每种色彩
si yan ta mut yau, fan hoi mui jung sik choi
Because there are no distinction between each individual color.

年月把拥有变做失去
nin yuet ba yung yau bin jou sat heui
The years have changed possession into loss

疲倦的双眼带着期望
pei gyun dik seung ngan dai jeuk kei mong
The set of fatiqued eyes still carries hope.

今天只有残留的躯壳
gam tin ji yau chan lau dik keui hok
Today there is only the remains of a shell

迎接光辉岁月
ying jip gwong fai seui yuet
To welcome the glorious years

风雨中抱紧自由
fung yue jung pou gan ji yau
Holding fast to freedom in the wind and rain.

一生经过彷徨的挣扎
yat sang ging gwo pong wong dik jang jat
A lifetime of loss and struggle

自信可改变未来
ji seun ho goi bin mei loi
Believing in one’s ability to change the future

问谁又能做到
man seui yau nang jou dou
Who else can accomplish this?

Categories
language stuff

Learning Chinese: Things You Shouldn’t Say In Polite Company

Did you know you should not say the phrase “chuī xiāo” (吹箫 – literally “blow flute”), even though you really mean to express the act of flute playing?  I learned this, embarrassingly, during one of our content design sessions, in which I was tasked with designing the lessons teaching musical instruments to our users.  When translating the sentence “I can play the flute,” I said in Mandarin “Wǒ huì chuī xiāo” (我会吹箫).  Our Chinese employees cracked up laughing.  Seeing the confused look on my face, they explained that chuī xiāo has become slang for ” blow job”.

“What should I say if I really want to express the activity of flute playing then?”  I asked.  They told me I should use the more formal “Chuī chángdí” (吹长笛) instead.

I’ve since learned other words and phrases that, when translated literally, are innocent, but have idiomatically morphed into something which are not.  For example, you should never say any words that are pronounced “ba” after any words that are pronounced “jī”, as in … “Let’s eat some chicken” (Wǒmen chī jī ba).  “Jība” is slang for the male genitalia, so you can imagine what “chī” (eat) “jība” implies.

Even using the wrong format grammatically can get you in trouble.  When expressing someone’s mother (innocently), you should use two “ma”s (你妈妈) or inject a “de” (possessive connector) between the pronoun and the object, e.g. “Nǐ de māmā” (你的妈妈), “Tā de māmā” (他的妈妈).  The “de” and the second “ma” are very important.  You should not omit them, such as saying just “Nǐ mā” or “Tā mā”, or moving the “de” to the end by mistake… “Tā mā de”.  All three of the latter phrases are the shortened form of the curse phrase that involves inappropriate behaviors toward someone’s mother.

Another mistake I’ve learned not to make is to call a woman “xiǎojiě” (小姐), even though the word means “young lady”, “miss”, or “waitress”.  “Xiǎojiě” is slang for “prostitute” in many parts of China, calling someone that will likely get you slapped.  But, you can still use it along with a surname to address a person, as in “Wang Xiǎojiě” (Miss Wang).  Just don’t go around yelling “Xiǎojiě!  Xiǎojiě!” on the street to get someone’s attention.

Here are some other common slangs and phrases for you should watch out for:

打飞机 (Dǎ fēijī): literally means “to fight aircraft” or “shoot airplanes”, but is slang for male masturbation.

飞机场 (Fēijī chǎng): literally means “airport” or “landing strip”.  But if you call a girl this you’re saying she has small breasts.

玻璃 (Bōlí): literally means “glass”, but is slang for a gay male.  The term is a play on the English phrase “boy love”, morphing into the phonetically similar “bōlí” in Mandarin.

带绿帽 (Dài lǜ mào): literally means to wear a green hat, but refers to a man whose wife is cheating on him.  It came from laws used in China from the 13th to the 18th century which required the males in households with prostitutes to wrap their heads in a green scarf (or later a hat).

小三 (Xiǎosān) or 二奶 (Èr nǎi) – literally “Little third” or “Second lady”.  Slang for mistress, as in the third member or the second woman.

大姨妈 (dà yímā) – literally means “the eldest aunt”, but can refer to a woman’s menstruation period.  As in “Wǒ dà yímā lái le” (my eldest aunt came to visit).

You can find more of these slangs by running a quick internet search.  Two useful pages I found include:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_Chinese_profanity and http://www.chinasmack.com/glossary.

Slang and profanity can bring color and character to any language.  Studying the slang vernacular of a language, and their origins, can give insight into the culture from which they derive.  It may not be wise to utter these words or phrases in public, but it may be useful to look them over, not only for your amusement, but also to avoid any potential embarrassment.

But should you inadvertently utter something inappropriate, don’t worry.  Most Chinese speakers are quite forgiving when they realize you’re just learning the language.  The Chinese are very used to ignorant laowais.  Just don’t laugh hysterically after you’ve said it, because then you’re saying it on purpose, and deserve to get a slap in the face.

Categories
language stuff

Learning Chinese: The Importance of Tones

The word for “mom” in Mandarin is , in the first tone (high pitch). And the word for “horse” is , in the 3rd tone (falling-rising pitch). An American friend of mine once tried to insult someone in Mandarin by suggesting inappropriate behaviors to another guy’s mom. But he inadvertently proclaimed himself to be a horse lover instead. It was quite embarrassing.

Learning the tones in Mandarin is crucial. The number of sounds in the Chinese vocabulary is absurdly tiny compare to other languages. As such, tones are also used to differentiate meanings. For example, the word shi, using different tones can have over 60 different meanings! The famous poet Zhào Yuánrè (趙元任) once wrote a poem called Shi Shì shí shi shi (The Lion Eating Poet in the Stone Den), which is a 92 words poem made up entirely of “shi” in different tones:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion-Eating_Poet_in_the_Stone_Den.

But this shouldn’t be such a strange and alien concept as some Western students studying Chinese make it out to be.  Tones are just the correct pitches we use when saying a word.  Languages like Mandarin, Vietnamese, Swahili and a dozen others formalized them and make them an essential part of the pronunciation of each word.  But there are less strict tonal features in all languages.  In English, imagine saying a sentence like, “Hello, how are you?” in a different set of tones, such as using a low pitch on the “Hel” part and high pitch on the “lo” part of “Hello”.  Sounds ridiculous right?  When you use the wrong tones in Mandarin you sound ridiculous too, and some times it could even have a completely different meaning than the one you intended.  For example, instead of asking “Where can I buy some pants?” (zài nǎlǐ kěyǐ mǎi kùzi?), just by changing the tone of one word (mai), you could be asking for the complete opposite question.  “Zài nǎlǐ kěyǐ mài kùzi?” (Where do I sell my pants?” ).

There’s really only one set of correct pitches when saying a word in any language, tonal or otherwise.  Granted, in English it is rare to have alternate meanings to words with the same phonemes (parts of sounds a word makes), but with different tones.  It is much much easier to guess the meaning of an English phrase even if the pitches aren’t said correctly.  So, next time you hear someone say,  I can’t learn the tones!  It is so hard and weird, my language doesn’t have this!  Just smack him or her upside the head and point out this fact.  Learning the tones is just like learning the correct pitch of each word, and it is important in any language, not just Mandarin.

Here are the 4 tones in Mandarin (not including the Neutral tone).  Learn them well.  Like everything else, practice makes perfect!

It can be frustrating at first, but keep at it.  Your ears will eventually grow accustomed to picking up the different tones if you keep on practicing.  I’ve mentioned before, the human brain is wired to learn languages naturally.  It’s just a matter of time and continual usage until those neuro pathways are formed and fortified. Until then,  努力加油!  (Nǔlì jiāyóu!)

Categories
language stuff

So You Want to Learn Chinese

As kids, my brother, sister and I knew how to speak both Vietnamese and Cantonese growing up in Vietnam as Chinese immigrants. And instinctively we always knew they were separate languages, without having anyone really explained to us the intricacies of being bilingual. When we moved to the U.S., we picked up English easily, and were speaking English to each other after only a few years.  We were trilingual by age ten not because we’re super smart or anything (believe me my brother can be such an idiot sometimes). It was because we didn’t view it as a difficult task. We just saw it as learning a different variations of something we already knew.

The biggest obstacle you will face when learning another language is yourself. I’ve met so many students creating hurdles in their minds thinking that learning Mandarin is this monumental task, akin to rocket science! But it really isn’t. As many astute observers have pointed out, Mandarin isn’t hard … 1.6 billion Chinese people speak it everyday!

Words represent meanings, that’s all they are. Tools for our brain to put labels on objects and ideas. Language is the building blocks of thoughts, a trick invented by men to facilitate the sharing of our experiences. At the fundamental level, we’re just agreeing on the same sets of symbols and utterances to convey the same thoughts, it really doesn’t matter what language they are in. Even with English alone we can have many different words to represent the same meaning. Father, papa, dad are some examples. You can easily add baba in Mandarin or padre in Spanish to that list. Thinking about languages this way will help you overcome that hurdle of thinking that a foreign language is this alien unattainable thing.



Now for our first tip, try not to translate a Chinese word to your native language before deriving the meaning from it. I know you do it, we all do. When learning a new language as adults, often times we do these mental tricks to help us remember new words more quickly. Get rid of that middle layer! When we learn our first language as kids, we had to attribute direct meanings to each word we learn. Be a kid again. Think of an image or an experience when you hear or see a Chinese word, not your native language counterpart. Granted, this isn’t very easy, especially at first, so it’s okay to use this mnemonic trick sparingly as crutches. But do strive toward the ultimate goal of ridding yourself of that extra layer and you’ll find the retention rate much higher than before.

And practice, practice, practice. Even if you’ve only started learning for a short period of time, it’s never too early to start using what you’ve already learned. Our brains are wired to naturally pick up a language, but it doesn’t magically happen overnight. Form those neuro-pathways! Make them stick! Next month we will dive into the fun aspects of the Chinese language. And by “fun”, I mean, WhatTheFreak!? Why is this language so weird!?

Categories
travel stuff

Xi’an City Wall Marathon

November 5th, 2011.  people from all over the world came to the city of Xi’an to participate in the Xi’an International Marathon held on top of the city wall.  Thousands of people participated, from hard core athletes who are actually there to compete, to running enthusiasts there for the experience, to out-of-shape guys like me who are just there so we can get on the Party Bus hosted by Xianease after the event.  It was a great experience 🙂

For those of you viewing from China, here is the YouKu link to the same video:
http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzIzNTU5NDYw.html 

Categories
travel stuff

My First Hash Run

You would think that running and drinking wouldn’t go well together.  But there is this weird club for runners and drinkers call The Hash House Harriers that does exactly that.  The Hash House was started by a bunch of Brits living in Malaysia in the late 1930s and had spread throughout the Far East, Europe, Australia, and North America over the years.  Funny that I’ve never heard of it before until I moved to Xi’an.  When asked what exactly does the club do, the general consensus was that they are a bunch of drinkers with a running problem.  According to the wiki article, the club’s constitution consists of the following goals:

  • To promote physical fitness among our members
  • To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
  • To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
  • To get rid of weekend hangovers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_House_Harriers

I attended my first Hash Run last month, by the urging of various “characters” that I met at the Belgian Bar in Xi’an.  It sounded like a good time.  We met that briskly morning in front of the Northwest University, a diverse group of expats and locals of different ethnicity in our best running attire, looking like we were having a demonstration against the non-existent chic fashion of Xi’an.


The two “hares” for this run were “Hot Karol” and “Rock Fondler” (members are given unflattering names after their fifth run).  Hot Karol explained that they have designed a trail for us “hounds” to follow, and had left clues on the streets of Xi’an by way of arrows drawn in chalk.

Follow the trail to the beer, they said, straightforward and simple.  What they failed to mention was that the trail would split, lead to dead-ends, circle back, and would eventually cause a bunch of exhausted joggers to loudly curse their names in frustration and scaring the locals.

We ran through crowded intersections, dirty alleyways, and residential parks.  We ran up flights of stairs, across bridges, through the inside of a museum, dodging cars and pedestrians all the while yelling “On!  On!” every time someone saw a new arrow.  The bewildered locals must have thought “What the heck is wrong with these crazy foreigners?” as our group huff-and-puffed our way through the heavy Xi’an traffic.  Because of the numerous dead-ends the sadistic hares left us, it took us almost two hours to complete the run.

After the run we had what they called a “down down”, where we took over the sidewalk in front of a restaurant and proceeded to drink ourselves silly.  The “Mismanagement” team lead us through various club traditions such as welcoming the “virgins” (new members), giving out hash names, and reviewing “infractions” (penalties) for the run.  We must have looked like we were gathering for some important event, a few bystanders wandered by and looked on curiously.  It was quite amusing.

And then they made those of us unfortunate enough to wear new’ish looking shoes to our first run to drink beer out of them.  It was disgusting, tasting the beer mixed with the sweat of a foot that had just ran a few kilometers.  Don’t worry man, someone reassured me, alcohol kills germs!

Afterward, we gathered our empty beer cans and headed into the restaurant for dinner and some more drinking.  Everyone seemed energized from the run, or maybe it was the buzz from the alchohol.  The food was delicious, the company delightful, and the beer satisfying.  It was a great day.  I look forward to the next run, where I’ll remember to leave my new shoes at home.

=======================================

Here is a video of the run. It is quite amusing to watch 🙂

Categories
songs and lyrics

Beyond – 海阔天空

海阔天空 – Beyond

今天我 寒夜里看雪飘过
Gam tin ngoh, hon ye lui hon suet piu gwoh
Today I saw snow drifting through the cold night

怀著冷却了的心窝飘远方
Waai jeuk laang keuk liu dik sam woh piu yuen fong
With the cold, my heart and mind drift off to faraway places

风雨里追赶 雾里分不清影踪
Fung yue lui jui gon, mo lui fan bat ching ying jung
Trying to catch up in the wind and rain, in the fog you can’t tell the shadows apart

天空海阔你与我 可会变(谁没在变)
Tin hung hoi foot nei yue ngoh, how wui bin (sui moot joi bin)
Vast sky wide ocean, you and I, who would change?  (Who wouldn’t change?)

多少次 迎著冷眼与嘲笑
Doh siu chi, ying jeuk laang ngaan yue jaau siu
Many times I’ve faced the cold with eyes of ridicule

从没有放弃过心中的理想
Chung moot yau fong hei gwoh sam jung dik lei seung
Never have I gave up my heart’s hopes and ideals

一刹那恍惚 若有所失的感觉
Yat saat na fong fat, yeuk yau soh sat dik gam gok
A moment of absentmindedness, there’s also the feeling of loss

不知不觉已变淡 心里爱(谁明白我)
Bat ji bat gok yi bin daam, sam lui ngoi
Without realization, it faded, the love in my heart (Who understands me?)

原谅我这一生不羁放纵爱自由
Yuen leung ngoh je yat saang bat gei fong jung ngoi ji yau
Forgive me this life of uninhibited love and indulgence of freedom

也会怕有一天会跌倒(OH NO)
Ya wui pa yau yat tin wui dit do (oh no)
Although I’m still afraid that one day I might fall

被弃了理想, 谁人都可以
Bui hei liu lei seung, sui yan do ho yi
Abandon your hopes and ideals, anyone can do

那会怕有一天只你共我
Na wui pa yau yat tin ji nei gung ngoh
I’m not afraid if someday there’s only you and me

今天我 寒夜里看雪飘过
Gam tin ngoh, hon ye lui hon suet piu gwoh
Today I saw snow drifting through the cold night

怀著冷却了的心窝飘远方
Waai jeuk laang keuk liu dik sam woh piu yuen fong
With the cold, my heart and mind drift off to faraway places

风雨里追赶 雾里分不清影踪
Fung yue lui jui gon, mo lui fan bat ching ying jung
Trying to catch up in the wind and rain, in the fog you can’t tell the shadows apart

天空海阔你与我 可会变(谁没在变)
Tin hung hoi foot nei yue ngoh, how wui bin (sui moot joi bin)
Vast sky wide ocean, you and I, who would change?  (Who wouldn’t change?)

原谅我这一生不羁放纵爱自由
Yuen leung ngoh je yat saang bat gei fong jung ngoi ji yau
Forgive me this life of uninhibited love and indulgence of freedom

也会怕有一天会跌倒(OH NO)
Ya wui pa yau yat tin wui dit do (oh no)
Although I’m still afraid that one day I might fall

被弃了理想, 谁人都可以
Bui hei liu lei seung, sui yan do ho yi
Abandon your hopes and ideals, anyone can do

那会怕有一天只你共我
Na wui pa yau yat tin ji nei gung ngoh
I’m not afraid if someday there’s only you and me

仍然自由自我
Ying yin ji yau ji ngoh
Still I am free, still I am independent

永远高唱我歌, 走遍千里
Wing yuen go cheung ngoh goh, jau pin chin lei
Always loudly singing my song, traveling thousands of miles

原谅我这一生不羁放纵爱自由
Yuen leung ngoh je yat saang bat gei fong jung ngoi ji yau
Forgive me this life of uninhibited love and indulgence of freedom

也会怕有一天会跌倒(OH NO)
Ya wui pa yau yat tin wui dit do (oh no)
Although I’m still afraid that one day I might fall

被弃了理想, 谁人都可以
Bui hei liu lei seung, sui yan do ho yi
Abandon your hopes and ideals, anyone can do

那会怕有一天只你共我
Na wui pa yau yat tin ji nei gung ngoh
I’m not afraid if someday there’s only you and me

被弃了理想, 谁人都可以
Bui hei liu lei seung, sui yan do ho yi
Abandon your hopes and ideals, anyone can do

那会怕有一天只你共我
Na wui pa yau yat tin ji nei gung ngoh
I’m not afraid if someday there’s only you and me

(Repeat Chorus)

===========================================

Some of these words were hard!  And my Cantonese is rusty.  Leave a comment and let me know if you spot a wrong translation somewhere.  Thanks a million!

Categories
language stuff work stuff

Teaching English, part 2, tips and tricks

< Read part 1 of my teaching adventures

Kids are harder to teach than adults.  Their attention spans are shorter, they are not very obedient, and often times they’re forced to be there by their parents to sit in a dreary classroom instead of playing outside with their friends.  It is one of the toughest things I’ve had to do.

But, despite my rants on how tough it is to teach little kids, I hope you can tell that I actually love it.  Sure you’re drained by the end of the class, but afterwards it feels so rewarding you wouldn’t mind doing it all over again.

Recently I picked up two tutoring gigs from a school call Tomi’s English, a one-on-one tutoring school by day and a bar by night.  I don’t make much money from these gigs since I only teach one hour a day, four days a week, but I wanted the experience and figured it would be fun.  Also, the knowledge I gain from teaching these kids will help us make our English learning website better.  Hey!  Free beta testers!

One of my students is a five-year-old girl who is extremely shy but extremely intelligent.  She is also very obedient and enthusiastic about learning English.  I have a blast teaching her every time, because of how quickly she learns and how easy going the classes are.  Right now her English is probably better than all the first-graders in all of Xi’an, and she’s still only in Kindergarten.

Now compare that with my other student, a 6-year-old boy spoiled by his rich parents, who has his own study room and his own iPad and countless toys and distractions vying for his attention, I learned that the teaching experience varies widely from kid to kid.  This boy is a hyperactive machine on legs.  His attention span is less than five minutes, and to top it off he isn’t very obedient at all.  I can’t get him to sit still long enough to go through a proper lesson.  But he is also extremely intelligent, and I think he gets bored easily because of it.  Sometimes short attention spans doesn’t indicate ADHD, it just means the kid is bored with what you’re teaching him.  So I’d had to invent quite a few tricks to get him to learn.

Make learning fun, use games and activities to hold their attention

Kids get bored easily, you can’t just go through a lesson in a book and expect them to stay focused.  Best way to keep their attention is when you’re doing something fun together.  Here are some activities we’ve done.

1. Hands-on activities.  Kids love making stuff and doing stuff, such as drawing and coloring and cutting shapes out of construction paper.  I bring a set of “tools” that includes construction paper, color pencils and crayons, safe plastic scissors, glue-sticks, and masking tape.

Have them learn their shapes and colors by cutting them out of construction paper.  All kids like to draw, so do some drawing activities with them.  They also love being to choose what they like, so ask them to pick their favorite colors and ask them to draw their favorite animal or some other objects.  You can write the English word on the page after they’ve drawn it, teaching them the written version of the word.

2. Play games with them.  For example, I teach numbers by playing Bingo with my students.  I have an iPad app that chooses and calls out the numbers, but you can easily make them out of construction paper.  There are free bingo card generators online you can use to print out your game cards.  If the kid’s number knowledge is only up to ten, read out the numbers higher than ten individually, say two, one instead of twenty-one until they start to get the concept of the higher numbers.

3. Reading is essential.  If you want the kid to retain their English vocabulary, you have to teach them the written version of the word.  Just being able to hear it and say it isn’t enough.  The best way to teach the written language is to read story books to them.  My favorite books are Dr. Seuss books, because they’re fun, simple, and they rhyme!  Kids love rhyming stuff!

But don’t just read to them straight out, have them interact with you as you go through the book.  Ask them questions, make them repeat a particularly fun sentence in a funny voice.  The key is to keep them engaged.  You can pick a random word and ask them to spell out each letters, saying the sound equivalent of each letter at the same time.  Huh-H!  Aah-A!  Tuh-T.  Hat!  Once you’ve done it enough they’ll start to get the concept of reading and recognizing the printed words.

4. Sing!  Most kids love singing.  Some kids are too shy to sing, but they almost always love to hear it.  The human brain is just naturally drawn to music, and singing is the best trick to help them learn new words.  I like to teach The Itsy-Bitsy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  You can write the lyrics down in huge letters on pieces of paper and point to the words as you sing with them.  You can also make it fun by doing the corresponding dance with each song.  Make up your own if the song doesn’t have a traditional dance associated with it.  🙂

5. Cater to the kid.  The personalities of each of your student varies greatly, but if you can afford to teach them one-on-one, or spend a little bit of individual time with them in a classroom setting, you can use what they like to gain their enthusiasm.

The boy student likes Thomas the Engine, so I read Thomas the Engine books to him and show him Thomas the Engine videos on my iPad.  The girl student likes Disney princesses, so I teach her Disney songs like Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid and A Whole New World from Aladin.

6. Everyone loves taking pictures and videos.  One trick I learned is to use my iPhone to get them to act out the lessons I want them to learn.  This particular video I’m particularly proud of, because I didn’t think the kid learned anything at all from our lesson.  He was always running to his computer trying to play video games or play with his toys as I tried to teach him the words.  But then he surprised me by showing me how much he learned.

There are a million ways to teach a kid.  Just experiment with different methods until you find the ones that work for your students.  And remember to keep learning fun!

Categories
language stuff work stuff

Teaching English to Chinese kids

I thought teaching English would be easy. Holy Cheesestick it’s harder than trying to put a sweater on a wild panda! At least that’s how I feel after the recent stint at the J Plus English school and the tutoring lessons I’ve done here in Xi’an. Kids are like monsters on little legs!

Granted, I’ve never taught this age group before, but how hard can it be? I thought.  A few weeks ago I answered the plea of a desperate friend in need of a substitute teacher, he couldn’t make it to class that weekend due to the flooding in his town. They would pay me 100 kuai an hour, I would teach classes of 4 to 7 year-old kids for a few hours each day. Cake walk, I thought.

Nothing went as planned. I had a whole lesson in mind when I walked in to the classroom, and managed to get through about 10 minutes of it before the classroom became a circus of clowning kids vying for attention. First, it was questions after questions of, Are you Chinese? Why are you from the U.S. when you look like you’re Chinese? To … “Look at me teacher look what I can do”!  Luckily, the experienced assistants knew what they were doing and were there to dig me out of the hole before things got out of hand. I would be strung up like Gulliver and his little people otherwise.

They did warn me not to be too nice, or they’d walk all over me.   But I couldn’t help it, how could you be stern to these adorable kids?

I reviewed their ABC’s by using The Body Language Alphabet Dance, imitating each letter with my arms and legs.  I taught them how to sing the Itsy-Bitsy-Spider Went Up the Water Sprout song. I had them pick their favorite colors from the box of crayons I brought, drew pictures of bears and cars and houses, played hot potato while counting up, played Hangman with the older classes, and read them the story of Sleeping Beauty and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.  We must’ve done a million things.  I swear Einstein’s theory of relative kicked into full gear, as the speed at which time passes was proportional to the hyperactivity of the kids.  I was drained by the end of the first class.

I did enjoy reading the stories to them as they gathered around huddled on the cushioned mat floor.  You don’t get the same enraptured attentiveness from your adult friends.  They were all wondering why the princess was so stupid she let an ugly old hag pricked her with a spinning wheel.

They also taught me this joke:

What kind of “ma” (horse) has only two legs?
Answer: ObaMA!  Ahahahahaa!

At the end of the second day, a little girl and her mom came up to me to say their goodbyes.   The girl tugged at her mom’s dress, she had something to tell me but she was too shy so she was making her mom do it.  The mom said, “She wanted to ask if you will come back next week to teach the class.”  I told them I didn’t know, it depends on if the school still needed me or not.  Then the little girl said something quietly to her mom.  The Mom repeated it to me, “She said she wanted you to come back because she really likes you.”  And then the little girl ran away.  That was so sweet, but it broke my heart knowing that I would probably not be back anytime soon.

> Read part 2 of my teaching adventures

Categories
travel stuff

The Great Xi’an Scavenger Hunt

This past Saturday, Los Tres Stooges that are Patrick Antony, Shane, and Daemon organized our very first Great Xi’an Scavenger Hunt to great success. There were 11 teams of three’s and four’s comprising of over 30 participants! Everyone chipped in 20 yuan toward the pot, grabbed the hunt list from Patrick, and proceeded to “discover Xi’an” by means of this epically bizarre method.

From 2pm to 7pm on that sunny Saturday, the city saw funny sights of groups of Laowais and Xi’anese alike doing ridiculous things such as chugging shots of baijiu at KFCs and doing shirtless crap flexes in the middle of bewildered crowds. The scavenger list composed of many items, from easy tasks such as finding a Mao hat to absurd items such as getting a permanent tatoo or getting a local to kiss a team member on the cheek. And even though the participants were reluctant at first, by the end of the day we were doing tai-chis with the locals and performing on the street to elicit a measley 2 kuai from a passerby. All in all it was great fun.

Here’s a video of what I could capture that day. Unfortunately I couldn’t be everywhere all at once so I couldn’t get some of the funnier stuff that the other teams did. But you should be able to get the gist of the general absurdity that occurred by looking at the photographs from the various teams.  They will probably put them up in the next month’s edition of Xianease.

Thank you Patrick, Sean, and Daemon for a great Saturday discovering Xi’an. And thank you everyone for a ridiculously fun day. Hopefully the next one will be even crazier. Until then, enjoy the video 🙂

Categories
songs and lyrics

Nǐ zěnme shěde wǒ nánguò – huáng pǐn yuán

你怎么舍得我难过-黄品源 
Nǐ zěnme shěde wǒ nánguò-huángpǐnyuán

对你的思念 是一天又一天
Duì nǐ de sīniàn, shì yītiān yòu yītiān
The thoughts of you I have day to day

孤单的我还是没有改变
Gūdān de wǒ háishì méiyǒu gǎibiàn
The lonely me still have not changed

美丽的梦 何时才能出现
Měilì de mèng, hé shí cáinéng chūxiàn
Beautiful dreams can still appear

亲爱的你 好想再见你一面
Qīn’ài de nǐ, hǎo xiǎng zàijiàn nǐ yīmiàn
My beloved, I want to see you once more.

秋天的风 一阵阵的吹过
Qiūtiān de fēng, yīzhèn zhèn de chuīguò
Wind of autumn, waves after waves blew by

想起了去年的这个时候
Xiǎngqǐle qùnián de zhège shíhou
I thought of  this time last year

你的心到底在想些什么
Nǐ de xīn, dàodǐ zài xiǎng xiē shénme
Your heart, in the end, what was it thinking of?

为什么留下这个结局让我承受
Wèishéme liú xià, zhège jiéjú ràng wǒ chéngshòu
Why did you leave, this outcome caused me to suffer

最爱你的人是我 你怎么舍得我难过
Zuì ài nǐ de rén shì wǒ, nǐ zěnme shěde wǒ nánguò
The person that loves you the most is me, why are you willing to let me suffer?

在我最需要你的时候 没有说一句话就走
Zài wǒ zuì xūyào nǐ de shíhou méiyǒu shuō yījù huà jiù zǒu
When I needed you the most, you left without saying a word.

最爱你的人是我 你怎么舍得我难过
Zuì ài nǐ de rén shì wǒ, nǐ zěnme shěde wǒ nánguò
The person that loves you the most is me, why are you willing to let me suffer?

对你付出了这么多 你却没有感动过
Duì nǐ fùchūle zhème duō, nǐ què méiyǒu gǎndòngguò
I’ve suffered so much for you, but yet you’re not touched

Categories
language stuff

Language Exchange Meetup

Recently I joined an online community (talkxian.com) that is geared toward English speakers living in Xi’an.   There are both expats and locals visiting the site, bantering and helping each other out on the online forum.   For the most part it is a fun and friendly community.

One of the things I missed from my Austin days is the weekly Chinese Language Meetup group that I used to go to every Tuesday.  It was a great way for like-minded language lovers to get together and help each other with our language needs.  I met many wonderful people through that group, they made my Austin experience so much more enjoyable.  Not only that, my Mandarin improved greatly because I had an outlet to practice in.  I miss you guys Austin Chinese Language group!

On TalkXian.com, there was a group created called the “Language Exchange” group, which I assumed was created to get people to come together and help each other learn a different language.  But they did not have regular meetings or organized events, which was what I was looking for.  After recruiting the help of some older members of the site (Thanks Ed and Rita Wendy!), we were able to organize a weekly meetup group that meets on Thursdays at various locations around town.

Here is a video of our second language exchange meetup.  We had a great time making fun of each other as they try to read the “script” I prepared for them.   Good times!

Categories
travel stuff

Journal Entry: Bell Tower Starbucks

July 31, 2011
Xi’an, China

Sipping a latte at the Bell Tower Starbucks.  There are four smokin’ hot Russian models sitting across from me, all tall and skinny and European looking.  How do I know they are models?  I talked to one of them while we were both mixing sugar into our coffee.  I asked where she was from and if she was visiting Xi’an for fun.  “No, we are models here to work for a few days.”  And being the biggest dork that I am, I stammered “…Yea, I thought you were a model.”  She nervously said thanks and we exchanged a few more words before she escaped and rejoined her group.  Eeek!

You can meet a lot of different kinds of people here at this Starbucks.  Just being here for an hour, I’ve talked to a Chinese tour guide with an English name “Laura” who majored in English but has forgotten a lot of it because she hasn’t used it in a few years.  I’ve talked to two guys from England who now live in Beijing and Zhengzhou, respectively.  One is a manager at a Softel, and the other works for the British embassy in Beijing.  I think one of them was gay but I didn’t ask.

Then there was this whole group of young Americans who are here for the summer working at a camp for orphans for an organization call Bring Me Hope (http://www.bringmehope.org).  I might have to go check them out.  Talked to them for a while about China and Xi’an and about the volunteer program they work for.  We exchanged email addresses.

Funny story, one of the girls, Natalie, first came up to my table and said “You ren ma?”  (Anyone sitting here?).   But I couldn’t understand her and she had to repeat it several times.  I mean, her pronunciation wasn’t that bad!  But I wasn’t expecting Mandarin coming out of her mouth and for a second there I forgot I looked Asian!  So my brain was trying to figure out what English words she was saying.  I actually thought she was European with a very thick European accent.  She turned out to be Irish with an excellent American accent.

But yes, I love this Starbucks.  Seems like one of those places where a lot of people from all over the world may pass through once or twice in their lives.  The latte and the scenery aren’t bad either 🙂

Categories
travel stuff

Video: Xi’an Surroundings

Made this video for family and friends to get a glimpse of my surroundings in Xi’an.  It wasn’t too hard to make, I just whipped out my camera whenever there’s something interesting to shoot or talk about.  Footage from 3 different days.