A blog by Guan Ming Teo

Japan II: odd conversations

A list of odd conversations, or just things I found funny.

  • I ring reception to ask for an extra pillow, and a few more coat hangers. The lady doesn’t understand what I mean by hanger, so I ask her to wait while I look up the Japanese word for “coat hanger.” I blurt out the word pronunciation without really reading what it said, which means I said to her “Hangā,” swiftly followed by “wait, that’s just an English word. Haha uhh, it’s those things you hang clothes on in the wardrobe.” I hear her muffle her laugh.
  • I ask a pharmacy staff member “kore wa arimasu ka?” (Do you have this item?) while pointing to a photo of an item to buy for my future sister-in-law. She asks a different lady to help us, who rapidly says, “Gēn wǒ lái” followed by “zhè ge dōngxi ma? Yí ge? Liǎng ge? Nǐ yào biéde dōngxi ma?” I respond in kind and am thinking, Oh I totally understood her, maybe my Japanese isn’t so bad after all, before realising she was speaking to me in Chinese. Because, whether in China or Japan, people assume I am Chinese.
  • Me
    “I’m tired, goodnight.”
    “Goodnight dude, I’ll join you soon.”
    “Uhh, please don’t. That’s totally gay man.”
    “I didn’t mean it like that!”
  • When the table next to us is served their coffees:

    “Hey, they give you candy!”
    “Those are sugar cubes, dude.”
  • Van spouts random Japanese words out in public, for no reason. Like when he says ‘ichau’ (meaning ‘to go,’ colloquial meaning is ‘cumming,’ aka what people say at orgasm) during lunch.
  • After a lot to drink, I said: “there’s something down the bottom. Something warm and sticky.” I was referring to the mochi (sticky rice flour) underneath the soufflé. Van said I have to include this one, since all the other ones ridicule him.
  • Me
    “Yeah buddy!”
    “Are you talking to … your penis?”
    “No, I’m not talking to my penis, who names their penis buddy? My penis isn’t named buddy.”

    I was actually just talking to myself for successfully putting an item into a bag. Because I᾿d had a lot to drink, this seemed like a big achievement.

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Japan I: midnight arrivals

We arrive in Tokyo at midnight, after a shower and brushing teeth (and setting up wifi hotspot, of course: the essentials,) I say goodnight to Van, and get into bed.

I hear a few knocking around noises, normal stuff, and then I lift up my blinders to see Van on his bed, with his laptop, and holding an object in his hands. I peer (I’m very short-sighted) at him and ask, “What’s that you’re holding?” and he replies: “tissue box.”

I groan, and we start a hilarious conversation going something like ‘please don’t, please don’t do that while I’m in the room’ in this thin-walled hotel.

A funny start to the Japan leg of this trip.

(He claims he wasn’t going to, by the way. But we’ll never know for sure …)

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China XIV: I am back

Well, I … was really busy for a while there, and didn’t have time to update.

I visited Xi’an and checked out the Terracotta Warriors, Luoyang to visit the Shaolin Temple and the White Horse Temple, then left China!

I spent the next three weeks in Malaysia and Singapore, spending Chinese New Year with family, getting sick, eating lots of yummy food, and catching up with friends.

All in all, lots of fun.

And that is pretty much it, that’s all I have to say about that.

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China XIII

Got around to resizing some photos. Sort of chronologically ordered, except all the food comes first. Some are iPhone photos, some are Canon IXUS 1100 photos, the rest were taken with my new Canon G15, which is an awesome enthusiast compact camera.

Some food

Sights I saw

I tried to put these in the order that I saw them.

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China XII

For the past week, Beijing has shown me the most pollution on record. The US Embassy measured 883 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air. According to the World Health Organization, more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5—a very small particle that is easily absorbed by your lungs—is considered unsafe. Short-term exposure increases the likelihood you contract bacterial or viral infections, long-term exposure includes tumours.

I’ve been staying inside a lot.

Anyway, classes have been going well, I’m learning a lot more here than in Hangzhou, way more character focus, and getting into more complicated and useful grammar. Already half-way through the Beijing section of the Study Tour, after which I will be travelling to Xi’an, Shaolin Temple, and more.

I have too many photos and I don᾿t know if I can be bothered resizing them all, so I might just pick a few I like to upload.

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China XI: Harbin winter tips

Umm because I can’t put pinyin tones in this blogging platform, I have put a heap of information on Harbin winter tips here:

Harbin winter tips

Good luck, have fun, try not to get frostbite!

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China X

As it turns out, I don’t really like Hangzhou cuisine. It’s a lot of “lake fish” this, “lake fish” that. While I like the Dongpo pork, it’s always too fatty and you only end up eating half of it, the half that’s meat. That one’s easy to fix: use a leaner pig. Another Hangzhou specialty I’ve had a few times is “prawns cooked in tea.” There’s not all that much wrong with it—it’s okay—but it’s certainly not fantastic. Here’s what I think Hangzhou people should do to improve it.

Firstly, the name sucks. It sucks in that I have no idea what the name even is. In English it’s called “prawns cooked in tea” but that’s so long-winded … why don’t you call it “Hangzhou tea prawns” (Hangzhou cha xia or something) instead? That would be easy to remember.

Also, the cooking in tea thing is really not that fantastic. I know Chinese cuisine either: relies heavily on Maillard reaction (fried food!) or doesn’t bother at all with Maillard reaction (every single weakly simmered seafood dish ever.) How about we find some middle ground here.

  1. The night before, brew a pot of green tea. Nothing too pungent, too fruity, or too hard-hitting. A mild one of your local Hangzhou teas, those Longjing green teas. Then, add sugar, and add some pre-iced titanium sheets. Yes, we’re going to make a tea jelly. Come with me on this magical ride.
  2. While you’re at it, brew another pot of this tea, but make it stronger this time, so either add more tea leaves or less water. Add some vinegar, maybe some salt and/or sugar. Then, add a tonne of ice, so you have iced tea. Once it’s cold, 5°C kind of cold, remove the ice and add raw, shelled and deveined prawns. Leave overnight to marinate in the fridge.
  3. The next day, take out the prawns from the fridge and put them on paper towels to dry. Don’t rinse them, just dry them off.
  4. Brew a fresh pot of tea. Yes, another one. Leave it to cool also.
  5. Wash some rocket, plum tomatoes (those are the wee baby Roma tomatoes) and cut up some … mango. Maybe green mango, maybe regular sweet mango, I’m not sure, I’m theorising here.
  6. One part lemon juice, 3 parts oil, perhaps a touch of smashed garlic, chilli and basil, and you have yourself a lovely vinaigrette. Shake that together like it’s your birthday. Drizzle on salad and mix through, but keep it light, drenching salads is awful.
  7. Remove jellied tea from the fridge, cut into 2cm cubes.
  8. In a high heat pan, lightly spray with olive oil and then fry the prawns, 1.5–2 minutes each side, until golden with a beautiful caramelisation/Maillard reaction. Deglaze with that tea you brewed earlier that day. Remove to a plate, salt and pepper as required.
  9. On a plate, dots of dijion mustard would do nicely. Arrange the cubes of jelly in between these. Add the salad in the middle, a smattering of prawns on top of that, perhaps a final grind of salt and pepper, and that’s it.

In my mind, this will taste much nicer than the prawns cooked in tea.

I’ll try it when I get home, and do an update.

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China IX

My interactions with Chinese people are always odd, usually frustrating for everyone involved, and also require me to say “wǒ bù míngbai” repeatedly, meaning “I don’t understand” (I wish I could add tones to the pinyin or just the Chinese characters themselves, but this font and/or charset has a sad at me.) (Found a hack that allows pīnyīn and 汉字 into WordPress!)

While I’ve already mentioned the “you don’t look Australian” one—which still happens many times a day, and is getting on my nerves—here are a few more I found interesting.

  • At some café that served me live ants in my food, I spoke to one waiter who could speak English. The other waiters told him I was Australian, so he decided to speak to me in English, while I was trying to practise my Chinese, so our conversation went something like:
    Where are you from?
    Wǒ shì Àodàlìyà rén. (I am Australian)
    Oh! You are student?
    Shìde, wǒ zài Zhèjiāng Dàxué xuéxí Hànyǔ. (Yes, At Zhejiang University I study Chinese)
    Well, I hope you have good time in China, thank you for dine with us!
    Xièxie! Zàijiàn! (Thank you! Goodbye!)
  • At a Jack and Jones, when I tell the girl helping me that I am from Australia (this is to say “Wǒ shì Àodàlìyà rén”) she has a whimsical smile on her face for the next half hour, repeating “Àodàlìyà” over and over while following me around, sometimes saying it to her coworkers/friends, sometimes just saying it slowly like “Ào … dà … lì … yà” when she probably thought I couldn’t hear her, but I totally could.
  • At a UNIQLO, I was trying to point out a price discrepancy, and the cashier didn’t understand me. She asks the person next to her to help, and the lady glances at me and asks, “Nihonjin desu ka?” (Are you Japanese?) which was surprising, because most people think I’m Chinese, not Japanese. I reply “Nihonjin janai … Eigo wo hanasemasu ka?” (I᾿m not Japanese, do you speak English?) which, to my delight, she could. This lady is fantastic, she can speak Chinese, Japanese, and English, and well too!

P.S.: the end of the world is supposed to be at 19:12.43 GMT +8 so I am going to head out for my last meal, hopefully some super nice Hainan chicken rice. So long, farewell.

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China VIII

I visited the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, which was about a 40 minute walk from the University. It was pretty, for a lake, I guess. Would’ve been nicer if there weren’t dead lotuses (lotii?) in the water, live ones or none would’ve been better. Anyway, some photos:

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China VII

Last week we went to a Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum. Quite a few photos so it took me a while to even work up the effort to resize these. Some gross stuff.

For my family at Accountants Australia:

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China VI

Three nights ago, I had one of the most disgusting meals I’ve ever had, here in China. Before that, I had a nice meal. So, here are some food photos!

I couldn’t finish it, about a third of the way through, I had to leave, it was making me sick.

I will pay more attention to what I order next time! Also, never go back to that restaurant.


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China V

Umm, here are some photos. I forgot my camera, so these were all taken on an iPhone 5. The quality’s not too bad.

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China IV

A list of things.

  • If you can’t access Wikipedia in China, how does anyone … learn anything?
  • I’m not sure why, but a phrase I hear all the time is, “You’re Australian? You don’t look Australian.”
  • While walking with my student tour guides for the Zhejiang University Zijingang Campus, we stop suddenly and I ask why. Turns out, they “are lost.”
  • I wonder if there’s a Chinese version of Facebook so Chinese people can still upload photos of their friends, passed out in a gutter from too much drinking.
  • When I tell people I’m a web developer, that I develop websites for a living, and they say “that’s so cool!” I can’t tell if they’re lying or actually believe it’s cool.
  • When discussing dinner, one of my tour guides asks, “do you like beef?” to which I reply yes. She then says, “well, it’s not really beef, but you can have that then.” I decide to ask, “If it’s not really beef, then what is it?” She replies, “how do you say …” looks the word up on her phone and finishes with, “rat.”

Will attempt using a café’s WiFi to upload photos later.

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China III

It turns out that there weren’t enough people in Level 1.5 or 2 for the administrators to keep it—which means those people get put into level 1 or 3 depending on the skill-level (and I’m not good enough to get into level 3! :/) so I’m most likely stuck :(


In other news, I had a Mango shake that was massive. 16RMB (that’s < AU$2.50!) and worth every fen:

Huge mango shake

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China II

I think I can survive entirely on foodstuffs that cost me 5RMB. There’s a sliver of vegetable there. Some of them even have healthy vegetables, and not just lettuce. Let’s face it; lettuce is a cop-out of a vegetable. May as well take a sip of water.

I’ve spent the last four hours studying in my room. I quite enjoyed myself. I’ve been teaching myself how to write Chinese. So far, I can write really simple stuff which is not impressive at all, but I’m trying. That’s something.

Why am I teaching myself? Because somehow, I have been placed in the beginners class. I was told I’d be heading to level 1.5, where the learning of Chinese characters takes place, for those with understanding of pinyin and know some words, but for some reason, I’m on level 1. Trying to convince them to put me up. Which may or may not work.

The horrible karma I experienced right before leaving is probably because I purposely didn’t give people enough space to get into the lane I was in whilst driving, for a couple of days. Really though, shouldn’t you have thought of getting in the lane a few hundred metres previously? Back when everyone else was waiting in the queue to exit?

I take that back. Screw you, Perth drivers. Screw you.

So anyway, my back’s doing a bit better, in that I can actually stand straight. I haven’t explored much of Hangzhou because I don’t want to walk too far and put my back out.

Nobody speaks English here except for the beginner students, and some of the teachers. It’s been a weird few days.

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