Dragon Boat festival

It was 34C in Guangzhou and overcast

We went to the dragon boat festival with Mr. Pu yesterday.

The place was packed as usual and everyone had a good time.

I will have to get one of these boats for my Kipawa trip this August so that the entire Poulin clan can come along.

Gerry will complain that we are too many people in the boat to fish, Popo will be terrified of hitting another boat, Richard will want to sing songs, Francois will want to modify the boat, Andrée will want to bring her PC, Maurice will stir the shit, Martine will want to troll for trout, Jean will want to stop for a beer, Dominique will want to nap, Danièle will want to sunbathe and I haven’t even started with the spouses (Neale will say it is unsafe and check all our life-jackets, bailing buckets etc), grand-children and great-grand-children. On second thought, we may actually need a second boat.


A Side Order of Carcinogens Please

Today in Kyoto it was 25°C

I always think of my friends and family while I m traveling. Things I see or events that happen bring a certain person to mind.

My sister-in-law will be visiting soon and she has worked for Health Canada for many years, specifically with regards to the tobacco industry in Canada. She was one of the people involved with the appearance of the “tobacco wall” and the new labeling of cigarette packages.

I think a lot about my sister-in-law here in Japan.

The smokers have it good. There are vending machines everywhere selling a pack of smokes for approximately $5 CAD (a cinema ticket costs $20). You can smoke just about everywhere and where you cannot, there is a smoking room available. The other night we went to a restaurant and just before our order arrived, 4 men at the table right next to us lit up cigarettes.

We tried to move to another table explaining that the smoke bothered us but were told it was not possible. We gestured to all the empty tables and our waiter, not very impressed with us, brought us to another corner of the restaurant to have our meal. Last night we went to a medium sized restaurant to have our request for a non-smoking table denied, they simply had none. Today in the food court of a large shopping centre I had to put up with a couple smoking extra-long cigarettes while I waited to buy a donut, little kids sitting at the table next to them.

It is always fascinating to see how advanced and behind, at the same time, certain countries are compared to Canada. As far as tobacco consumption goes, the Asian countries I have visited have a long way to go. My sister-in-law will have a great time breathing when she comes to visit in July.






Osaka, Japan

Today in Osaka it was 24°C

Today was our first day in Japan and the difference between it and China is like night and day. The Japanese wait for everyone to exit the subway car before they enter. In China, everyone tries to get on and off at the same time creating a human pile up. The Japanese try hard to answer foreigner’s questions even if they don’t understand English while the Chinese giggle (a sign of embarrassment) and run away. Japanese drivers wait for pedestrians to cross the street before driving through the intersection. Chinese drivers inch their way through the pedestrians like they are Moses and the pedestrians are the Red sea.  The Japanese speak quietly on their cellphones while the Chinese speak so loudly you can hear them 100 feet away.

We tried to go to the aquarium today and could not figure out how to buy subway tickets. Even though the ticket master could not speak English, he brought us to a convenience stall and explained to the owner what we wanted. The store owner sold us an “aquarium package” including entrance fee and subway fee at a discounted price.

I believe the difference in the two cultures is a question of population. When you are 1 in 1.6 billion, you have to look out for yourself. Wait politely in line to get on the subway and someone is sure to jump in front of you. In a place where you constantly surrounded by people, the only way to be alone is to create a bubble around yourself and believe you are alone. My experience with the Chinese people is this, “one on one they are kind, respectful and caring but in the masses they are ruthless”.

Martyrs Park

Today in Guangzhou it was 24°C and overcast

Housing is at a premium in Guangzhou. Almost everyone lives in very small apartments without a backyard. So, what do people do with their little bit of spare time? They go out to parks and relax doing whatever they enjoy.

One of these parks is called Martyrs Square but it does not have any grass to walk or picnic on. Instead, it is a great expanse of tiled area. At night, the people come here to line dance, practice nunchucks, roller blade, ballroom dance, bike trick, skate board or just plain watch all the activities.

The video below is a sample of the fun to be had at Martyrs Park.


A Whole Lotta Love to Give

Today in Guangzhou it was 23°C and overcast

It is easy to notice the one child per couple policy in China. Everyday between 5 and 7 pm you can see these little emperors outside with their grandparents. As both parents work long hours, the grandparents babysit the babies all day until they are old enough for school. It ends up that the grandparents are actually raising the baby and not simply babysitting. When the parents finally get home from work, they are too tired to raise the child, playing with them for an hour or two before having supper and sending the baby off to bed.

It is so beautiful and yet so sad to see these children playing outside. Beautiful because they always have someone encouraging them and giving them love. Sometimes there are 4 grandparents watching one child play, talking to them, holding them and giving them everything they desire. When the parents arrive, the little emperor has 6 adults oohing and awing over him or her. Sad because the grandparents have so much love to give and they have only one baby between the 4 of them to give it to.

I find Asian babies really cute but they don’t find me cute at all. It has happened on many occasions that they will hide behind their caregiver when they see my face, refusing to look at me but too curious not to peek at me every 5 seconds. The less brave will break out in a crying fit, screaming until I leave. When it happens in the elevator and you have 24 floors to descend it is funny for us, embarrassing for the grandparent and an eternity for the baby.

The Chinese have 2 customs that I know of for babies. One is the wearing of split pants. These are pants for babies that have a split in the crotch area so that they can do their business with the least amount of fuss. It always makes us smile when we see a babies bum when they are wearing these pants. And we have seen them in use on many occasions, sometimes in the middle of the sidewalk.

The other custom is the wearing of a washcloth by the child. The washcloth is tucked into the neck of the child’s shirt and removed to wipe their face and then returned for future use during the day.

It is great being a baby in China but it doesn’t last. The love they get from 6 adults when they are small is transformed into stress from 6 adults when they are bigger, all 6 adults expecting their one and only shining star to be number one at school, in a galaxy of shining stars.

Jeepers, Creepers, Where’d You get those Peepers

Today in Guangzhou it was 14°C with light showers (may as well be in Ottawa)

4 months and 12 days left in Asia

I have never worn glasses in my life but age eventually catches up with everything. Five years ago I had to get glasses in order to read. It drove me nuts when I forgot my glasses at home when at the grocery or video store. I now have transition glasses (bifocals) and I hate wearing them but at least they serve the purpose of allowing me to see normally and also read.

My glasses bug me and I now understand why someone would get laser surgery to be free of them. I also understand why a person would make sure their glasses match their style or fashion sense. My daughter and nieces ML, Charlo and Gab all look great with their glasses.

But wearing glasses as a fashion accessory? Imagine my surprise when I spotted a Chinese girl wearing glasses without lenses. I call them “Glasses for fashion” or “les châssis de cave” (frames for idiots). Not a day goes by that I don’t see someone wearing them.

For some reason, young women and even some men, will accessorize their look with glasses sans lens. After 7 months in China it is one of the few things that still amaze me. It looks so bizarre especially when they put their finger through the frame to scratch their face. I managed a few photos and even found a store selling the glasses, if you can them that since they don’t have glass.

Guangzhou Electronics Superstore, Gangding

On second thought, maybe glasses without lens’ are pretty sexy.

Pineapple Temple Festival part 3

Today in Guangzhou it was 17°C with light showers

Like any other festival in the world, there are always different foods available at Chinese festivals. It is great when you have Mr. Pu around, to tell you what they are.

There were many stalls selling food in biodegradable packaging, namely banana tree leaves. The food is wrapped in the leaves and then steamed. We bought some rice with fruit that was delicious (photo above). Only 3 yuan or 50cents CAD a piece. No huge mark up like at Canadian festivals and one piece was enough to satisfy us.

Dried fruit and nuts are always in demand. Many street vendors sell them too, usually roasting hazel nuts right on the street corner.

For the meat eaters, there is always something.

Many companies make their employees, usually young women, dress up in ridiculous outfits to sell their merchandise. These are not so bad but the outfits they make young girls wear to sell perfume or cosmetics borders on sexual harassment.

So many traditions and legends in China. They can always find a story for everything they see that is out of the ordinary. Three trees that grew as one inspired the story below.

Below Liebling is attaching a lock under the “Love Tree”, there was a stall selling them right next to the tree, I guess the Luck prayer paid off. The keys are thrown away and the couple stay together for eternitree.

Festivals in China are lots of fun. They are a pleasant social outing where there is something for everyone. The young, the young at heart, the love struck and the gluttonous a like.

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