31 October 2010

Halloween Party

Yesterday we brought a bit of western culture to Baotou Teachers' College. The sophomores decorated the room and about 150 of them came out for an evening of games, and of course lots of candy. Daniel looked and acted like a real ghoul while Diane had the perfect witch's broom, not to mention the nose. Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with these apparitions.
Pin the nose on the pumpkin was a popular game (the pumpkins here are rather small and used in the kitchen, so we didn't have any to carve or decorate). Also popular was musical chairs, candy toss, and pass the orange while the movie "Ghostbusters" was on.
Mummy decorating was a hit, and we went through rolls of toilet paper.
Two of our young faculty came out in costume -- Michael Jackson on the left and Marilyn Monroe on the right. And of course it wouldn't be Halloween without bobbing for apples. We had four bobbing stations and a few hundred apples. The students are already asking when we can do it again!

21 October 2010

From the Window

Our kitchen window gives us a bird's eye view of daily life on our street. We often say to each other this is one of the best things about the apartment we have. When a power outage strikes, which fortunately isn't very often, repair men shimmy up and make repairs. The equipment includes a small stool, a long pole, and men wearing climbing cleats on their shoes.
Each day the potato man cycles over and sells hot yams from his cart while bicycles and electric bikes whiz by. And Daniel's ever-favorite Smart car was even sighted. All this in the sideroad -- the main lanes are across the curb.
This is the season for dried fruit, including kiwi. On the fresh fruit side the oranges we always associate with Christmas, Mandarins, are in season and have become a daily staple.
A large cadre of street sweepers are employed in China. Given the amount of litter in public spaces, they're kept busy and appear to have guaranteed employment.
The pancake lady makes delicious crepes filled with egg, vegies, and braided bread. Excellent fare for about 65 cents. After the lunch rush street vendors and cleaners sit together on small stools, gossiping about daily events.

10 October 2010

Khan and Sand

As part of China's National week holiday we took in more of Inner Mongolia's sights. The Genghis Khan (1162-1227) Mausoleum is a bit of a misnomer since he isn't buried there, but hundreds of larger than life statues of soldiers on horseback and cattle pulling yurts is an impressive sight.
Sheep-herding dogs were part of the Mongol campaigns.
A large map relief shows the Mongol Empire which at one time occupied most of Central Asia and China.
Daniel treks across the singing sand dunes, which weren't humming much this time of year since it wasn't the right mix of humidity and temperature.
A camel train of tourists visit the dunes, with a railway tressle in the background. This is also the sight for the future high speed train which will make the Baotou to Beijing trip in a couple of hours compared to the current 12 hour journey.

06 October 2010

Mongolian Grasslands

A week-long holiday (National Day) gave us the opportunity to head north and visit the Mongolian grasslands. Blue sky, friends, and a new adventure -- what more could one ask for? We stayed with a family in one of their yurts (Mongolian colors are blue for sky and white for milk). Their horses, cattle, and sheep were friendly visitors too. We learned that "yurt" is a Russian word, the Mongolian word is "ger".
We mounted our horses and were off. We enjoyed the slow walk but the trotting and galloping exceeded our equestrian skills. And what's Mongolian for "Whoa"?
Since temperatures drop at night, we slept in our clothes under heavy blankets. Out on the plains the stars were beautiful, the Milky Way outstanding.
Fuel (dried cow dung) for cooking and heating.
Under the gaze of Genghis Khan, we enjoyed breakfast (millet, fried breads, and salted tea) with fellow travellers Lynnea and Tom, who are Amity teachers in the south of China.