Cute Girls and Spring Flowers

I’m back! Did you miss me?

It’s spring here! Earlier than anywhere else I’ve lived, even though it’s no farther south.

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Color!

Last fall, I was assured that winters here were terrible–extremely long and cold. It made me think we wouldn’t be seeing any warmth until maybe mid-June. But apparently, they were wrong. (I think the moral of the story is, don’t trust a Seattleite’s perception of winter. Any winter with more than two weeks of below-freezing weather seems long and arduous to them!)  Mid-March is really early for spring, in my opinion.

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But it’s not all beautiful blossoms and 20 degree weather (of course I’m talking Celsius!). Along with the (one week of) warmer weather has also come more mosquitoes. And guess who they’re after? Yours truly. There must be something about my blood that makes it like crack for mosquitoes–if it’s a contest between me and Jared, I win 95% of the time. You can call me attractive.

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Not on the spring theme, but funny anyways:

In the middle of Beijing, what’s the last thing you’d expect to see?

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Yes, it’s a horse. In the middle of Beijing. It’s generally there every weekend, though I have no idea where it lives or how far they have to come. Sometimes it even has a mule and donkey pal with it. They sell oranges out the back of that wagon, though I’m pretty sure they weren’t grown locally. Some things are just a mystery.

And this little girl was just too cute. She was standing and talking to the horse, and then she leaned over and tried to kiss the horse.  As you can see, it was unimpressed.

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Jared says the girl in the background is like someone from a science fiction movie. You’ll have to ask him for clarification on that.

Any spring flowers yet in the frozen wilds of North America? Or horses trotting down your city streets?

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen in the middle of a city?

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Small, Ugly, and Alone

In China, people love their pets. Specifically dogs. Dogs everywhere.

Now, I’ve heard that there are three categories for being a Chinese dog:

1. You have to be small

2. You have to be ugly

3. You have to be off-leash

Oh, you say those categories fit your small child? He might possibly be a Chinese dog.

Anyways, let’s examine a few pictures and see if they fit those criteria.

Example 1:

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HI.

Definitely small, definitely ugly, and there is definitely no owner in sight. Yet the dog looks very purposeful. Chinese dogs always have a goal in mind and know how to achieve this goal. So, this dog fits our criteria like they were made for him. (Whaddaya know!)

Example 2:

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Obligingly posing for the camera. Except without his face.

Small? Check.

Ugly? Check

Alone? Check.

Folks, we have found yet another Chinese dog.

Example three:

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Look at it waddle!

I know this looks like nothing more than a ball of fur with a tail stuck on it, but rest assured it is a dog. However, I was unable to get a picture of it with its head, so pardon me.

Anyways, by this point you oughta know the drill: small, ugly, and alone? Bingo! (And the fact that it has little rabbit legs sticking out from under its fur doesn’t hurt anything, either).

Now that you know what Chinese dogs are, let’s move on to another example. Crazy Chinese dogs with crazy owners.

This lady (below) had about six dogs. All on the sidewalk. And she loved herding them and making them do “tricks.”

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Yes, that IS a doggie chair. And Jared says the dog in the forefront is not a Chinese dog (too good-looking), lest you should think that I am simply a dog hater and think all dogs are ugly.

Now, we were peacefully walking down the sidewalk minding our own business and getting sticker shock from clothing prices (600 Yuan for a shirt? No thanks!) when we saw this dog family. At the moment, the owner was getting paid by a customer. When most of us get money, what do we do with it? We put it in our wallets or our pockets or our safes, right? Well, you’ll never guess where this lady put it.

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Yes, that is money.

That’s right. She gave it to the dog. And for the next 10 minutes, he carried that money around.

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Who says having money doesn’t make me king?

Anyways, he played around with it for a while before finally getting bored and dropping most of it all over the sidewalk, and then leading his owner on a merry chase before surrendering the money.

After that little show, the dog owner decided we needed to see them doing some real tricks. So she got out her dog treat stuff, and they all surrounded her and stood on their hind legs. Pretty unimpressive after the whole money thing!

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Notice the bored dog on the chair–he’s not falling for any of it.

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After all of that, I expect you to be an expert on what makes a Chinese dog, so tell me: which one of these is a Chinese dog, and which one is American?

A:

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B:

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I have faith in your intelligence, so tell me in the comments!

A Trip to the Beijing Zoo

This weekend, for Jared’s birthday, we went to the Beijing Zoo. We saw all sorts of animals, walked our feet off, and got cotton candy just because we could (though, for the record, I still think it’s weird. It’s like eating disappearing insulation or something).

It was definitely different from American zoos: it wasn’t nearly as well-kept up (the lion and tiger pens were overgrown, and every outdoor pen was covered in weeds) and in some of the indoor cages, paint was peeling off the walls. And then, of course, there were the extremely modern, newly-built exhibits, like the panda exhibit, which was built in 2008 for the Olympics. China doesn’t do in-between well.

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The inside of the Panda exhibit.

There were thousands–it felt like half of Beijing–of people there. It doesn’t look like very many in this picture, but let me assure you: there were plenty of people there. If you want some peace and quiet, don’t go to the zoo in Beijing on a weekend. Half the country will accompany you.

Of course a trip to the zoo in Beijing would be incomplete without visiting the pandas. So visit them we did, even though some, like the friendly fellow down there, didn’t seem to want to be visited.

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Yes, that blob of fur is a panda. Fascinating, huh?

Everyone surrounded his pen, knocking on the glass, trying to get him to move. He (or she, I’ve no idea what it is!) was having none of it. So enjoy your look at some dingy black and white fur taken through some dirty glass that’s been touched by millions of Chinese kids. Yes, you’re welcome.

Oh, you say you want to see a better picture? That’s not good enough? All right, here’s a better picture of another panda for your enjoyment.

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Ok, this fellow was more obliging. THIS is what a Chinese panda should look like!

He seemed a lot happier to pose among the changing leaves for all sorts of tourists to photograph him.

China’s obsession with pandas doesn’t stop with the live animals. Every surface of every gift shop was covered with them also. Panda hats, panda bags, panda umbrellas–even steamed panda buns (yes, of course they only LOOK like a panda!). If you like pandas, head to China. You’ll get as many as you could ever wish for.

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Isn’t it crazy?

After the pandas, we headed towards a gorgeous lake in the middle of the zoo. Instead of keeping their water birds in pens, they let them swim around in a giant lake. It was gorgeous, especially with all the fall colors.

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These ducks were very interesting birds–I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like them before. They were very colorful, and have a ridge on their back that sticks up almost like a fin or a sail.

 

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Any idea what sort of duck these are?

 

 

Beijing bird
One-legged
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Isn’t that a beautiful scene?

After the lake, we stopped for some lunch. All the food stands around advertised their chocolate syrup-covered french fries, and some even had strawberry flavor. We were mighty tempted–but you’ll be glad to know we stood firm.

Sorry for the bad photo quality–I didn’t even think to turn on the flash.

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Looking tasty, huh? Or as the Chinese would say, “Very delicious!”

Instead, we solaced ourselves with  a barbecue chicken pizza, which wasn’t really like any pizza I’ve ever had before–but it was still good. It was more like Chinese barbecue chicken (with soy sauce and stuff) on a biscuit-like crust, with cheese and lots and lots of peppers and onions. Jared kindly ate the peppers.

We then continued on around the zoo. Next up was the bears. They looked small, like bear cubs, and they were very alert. Random Chinese people kept throwing them oranges and other foods, and they would go crazy fighting over them. I’m pretty sure oranges aren’t usually in the diet of brown bears.

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However, they loved them so much that they even started begging for them. Small and greasy though they were, they were still pretty cute. I can’t imagine any US zoo letting people feed the animals. There would have been a security person there immediately to stop you if you tried.

 

Brown bear in China
See, he’s saying “give me more!”

Next up was a very interesting and different animal–the maned wolf. Its pen stank like a skunk had been somewhere around, but we decided that’s because they really didn’t like being penned up. We watched them for twenty minutes and all they did was pace the whole time, when they weren’t peeing on trees.  They looked sort of like a cross between a fox and a greyhound–with really long, slender legs and body and reddish-fox colored fur. Its head and tail looked like they were too small for its long legs.

Maned wolf in Beijing
Sorry about the random red person–lighting was bad for getting a good picture through the glass.

When we were done feeling sorry for the poor maned wolves, we walked on to another lake.  Instead of just ducks, this one had pelicans and swans on it. And boy do pelicans have huge beaks. It almost makes you want to see what they look like full of fish!

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See the size of that beak?
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He almost looks unbalanced.

After that, Jared declared we had to go see the penguins, on the other side of the zoo. So over we went. And we figured out where the security officer who should have been guarding the bears was. He was standing in the middle of a field, guarding some trees. Because of course they were going to run away and take all their fruit with them. Or maybe some misguided zoo visitor would have fed them some food that was bad for them!

Guarded persimmon trees.
See all the orange fruits? They’re persimmons.

It’s nice to feel so safe in China.

Sadly, when we got to the penguin house, they tried to charge us at the door. We were having none of it, so the poor penguins were deprived of our company. I’m sure they missed us, seeing as they only had about 10,000 other visitors that day.

As a consolation, we went to see the reptiles and amphibians (mostly turtles and tortoises, with a few alligators and crocodiles thrown in for good measure–we skipped the snakes). It was amazing to see the giant tortoise, though. It was huge, and very slow moving. It moved its head a couple times for us, and that was it. No wonder they live such long lives!

Giant tortoise in Beijing
Isn’t he huge?

At the end of the day, worn out with seeing so many animals and making our way through so many people, we decided to get some cotton candy. I’m not sure why it’s so popular, except maybe for its oddity.

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Yum, yum!

We wended our weary way homeward after that, with only a few accidents like getting on the bus going the wrong way and not realizing it until we came to the end of the line. At least we were on a bus that had some available seats.  Now we’ve officially done three touristy things in China, after two and a half months. Maybe we should get out more.