Wednesday, June 23, 2010 1 comments

June 22nd: Umbrella Weather

I've complained quite often, I know, about how rainy this spring has been.  Not, of course, that I have a problem with rain, but for weeks on end... I think, no, I know that sunlight really does affect my (and most people's) moods. 

And now that we're well into June, it's still umbrella weather.  However, it's a little different this time--it hasn't rained in day.  In my experience so far in life, umbrellas in June are a bit rare, as everyone chucks them into the closet (where they will inexplicably either disappear or develop bad turn-inside-out and stab-people-with-errant-spokes habits) as soon as the spring rain turns into beach weather.  Not in China!

I think I've seen more umbrellas out now that it's 95 and steamy than when it was drizzling and dismal.  And it's all because of the demands of fashion...

In America, and also in Europe, to a  slightly lesser degree, tanning is important.  We go to the beach, but oil on ourselves to attract rays, and get pink on purpose.  When I know I'm going to be in a sunny location, I wear a sleeveless shirt or roll my sleeves up to avoid tan lines.  My mother and I would sit out in the backyard with our legs in the sun, all to try to make ourselves just a bit darker.  Here, however, being pale is the thing.  My friend Shirley complained several times the other day about how she stayed out at a yard sale for several hours and got a bit darker--I told her it would fade in a couple of weeks, and she's counting the days.  So, on a sunny day, you walk down the street, and ocean of umbrellas.  Shirley and  I made quite a pair at the bus stop--she had her umbrella held close, while I was holding my arms out to sun the other side.  We agreed that it's not fair--I want to tan, but remain one of the palest people around, not to mention burning if I try too hard, while she wants to be pale but turns darker without burning after just an hour in indirect sunlight.  However, I did try out the umbrella-thing for a while as I was holding Shirley's umbrella while she opened her yogurt, and it is cooler. 

It's been steamy hot here lately with temps in the nineties and high humidity, so it's certainly umbrella weather. 

In honor of umbrella weather, or what we like to call 'beach weather' if you're from North America, here's my ramblings on the topic of tanning/sunburns/etc:

Funniest sunburn story:

 One my college roommate and a friend were driving on the interstate from somewhere-or-other to Memphis, or vice-verse, in her 80-something model Cabriolet convertible (don't let the 'convertible' throw you--this was not a luxury car...).  It was one of the first hot days of late spring, so they decided to make the drive with the top rolled back and wind blowing.  However, about an hour short of their destination, there was a major accident and the whole side of the interstate was shut down.  Perfect tanning opportunity!  They were wearing tank tops and were ready to soak it in.  After forty-five minutes of parking on the road, they were finally able to move on. When they got back to the dorm later on that evening, I couldn't help but laugh.  They were moderately burnt--but, K had not realized that her tag was sticking up in the back, so she had a silhouette of the tag burned into her neck.  Even better, she had not thought to remove her seat belt, and so had a white stripe across the front.  It did fade after a couple of weeks...

Reminds me of how, back at band camp in high school (which, for those of you who didn't do the marching band thing, meant spending most of the day every day for a week in August on a blacktop parking lot), we used to make designs on our arms with SPF creme and thus "tattoo" symbols as we burned.

Learn from Someone Else's Pain:

Last summer, I got the worst sunburn of my life, totally from my own lack of foresight and preparation.  I was hiking up in the Tatra mountains in Southern Poland on a breathtakingly perfect day in July, and I don't know why it didn't equate in my mind that higher altitude = closer to the sun.  I think I might have put on just a bit of sun creme before leaving the hostel that morning, but sweated it off withing a half hour of hitting the trail, and I didn't even carry it along to reapply (although, in my defense, keeping the weight of your bag down while hiking is also important).  I have a picture of me taken around lunchtime, and it's obvious I was already turning pink (see picture).  You know it's bad when you can visibly see the burn while you're still out.  But, hindsight is 20/20... By about four o'clock I realized I had a serious burn going.  I was beginning to glow.  July or no, I spent the rest of the hike wearing a long-sleeve black sweater.  It was a little too late; I still ended up with severely blistered arms.  At least it was only my arms--I had taken the precaution of wearing long pants and a hat. 

The next morning I woke up in, I think, more pain than I have ever woken up in.  My arms were extra crispy to the point of being too stiff to lift, my darn hip (that I've had trouble with for years) was of course stiff from the exercise, and both knees were stiff and screaming at me from a fall I'd taken.  I was also a bit ticked off, as my dorm mates in the hostel had come in severely intoxicated at three am, and were now sprawled around sleeping naked, but that's that.  (By the way, I love and recommend hostels.  That was one of the very few annoyances I've ever encountered).  Anyhow, it was all worth it.  Getting to the top of a mountain is a euphoria that is worth an awful lot of pain the next morning.  But remember to get stronger SPF for high altitudes. 
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 1 comments

June 15th: Adventures in Walmart III

Well, I was quite proud of myself today.  I left Walmart with my groceries and hailed a taxi, but there seems to be some sort of jinx on taxis from that location.  From anywhere else in the city, I don't seem to have a problem making myself understood when I say the name of the university.  But outside of Walmart, it seems the taxi drivers always have the blank look of uncomprehension.  They mull over my words, trying to imagine what I could possibly be saying.  Then they motion for me to write it down, which of course I cannot do.  I'm not the only foreigner who has noticed this phenomenon.  Sometimes I'll just get out and go find a taxi driver who understands me.  Invariably, the second drive will immediately understand exactly what I said, which makes me wonder what in the world was the problem with the first one. Today, however, I stuck with the original driver.  While he pondered the mystery of what this foreigner was saying over the cb with other drivers (I understand just enough Chinese to get the gist), I motioned that I would just give him directions.  Go straight on this road.  Motion to the left.  Turn right here.  And we made it!  Even though here are various turns and lane changes and all, I am learning my way around this city. 

And now on to the entertainment section of this blog: oddities in the grocery store, part three.  In the first pictures, there is a nicely boxed and prominently displayed prepared meal of... duck necks?  The fruit section is always a source of interest: the fruit in the first picture were labeled "rambutan." I wonder what a bright red fruit with green tentacles tastes like? Next to those were something labeled "CS Snak Fruit."  Now these looked like armadillo eggs.  Somehow I can't imagine them tasting like bananas.  And finally, just in time for the Dragon Boat Festival tomorrow, there was a special selection of eggs...except these eggs appeared to be covered in mud.  I have no idea what exactly the substance is, and I'm not sure I want to know.  It looked a bit messy. 


Cooking with Students