Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three groups of people and the one animal you're likely to see in Beijing

 These 4 groups are ubiquitous all over the city. Whether at the public parks, public square, public transportation of the streets, it's almost impossible to not come across these cohorts at least once a day.

So, who are you likely to come across during your day to day business?

1. Babies (includes toddlers and young children)

They are cute and plentiful. They might smile or cry when they see a foreigner. And need I mention they don't wear diapers? 

Cheering for a team. Head band reads "Let's Go China"

 2. Pregnant Women

Even those in the early stage of their pregnancy can be easily recognize by the pregnant uniform they wear, which is an apron and a pair of crocs. It's a bit more difficult to spot them in the winter season, unless she happens to be at a later stage of her pregnancy. You can easily spot them indoors due to their pregnancy attire.

 3. Seniors

Chinese seniors are active and therefore healthy. They like to go for walks, go for morning and evening exercises at public parks and public squares, take their dogs for walks or just engage in a conversation with their neighbours. In other words, they like to spend time outdoors. Seniors can be found performing Taichi early in the morning, participating in ball room dancing at a public square or using one of the exercise equipment at a neighborhood park.
Picture of Chinese seniors performing their public daily workout or fitness exercise on the city square of Xi'ang, Shaanxi province, China, on 2006/07/09.

4. Small dogs
Due to regulations, residents of Beijing are only allowed small dogs, although I've seen a few big dogs.  I'm not sure if there's a limit on the number of dogs they can own, but it's not  unusual for your neighbor to have about 3-4 tiny dogs, such as the case with one of my (senior) neighbours. I'll also suggest you exercise caution around these dogs, as many dog owners tend to walk with the dog leash in their hand or pocket while the dog just runs around free. Though I've never been attacked or saw anyone attacked by a dog, so I'll say the dogs are generally harmless.

So, there you have it, my list of Beijing's major residents

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gifting on Your Travels- Testing this out in Cuba

While preparing for my trip to Cuba in February,  I read online that it's nice to bring some items to gift to Cubans during ones stay in the country. The reason is because items in our home countries that we take for granted such as soaps, diapers, kids toys and the like are in scarcity in Cuba. Sadly, due to the political situation in the country, the only way locals would have access to such items would be through relatives abroad who sends these items through a friend or another relative or just through tourists who brings these items with them to Cuba.

Because I planned to travel light with just a carry on for my week long stay, I looked around my room for new items I haven't used and also purchased additional items to take with me.
I also took some hair beads with me which I gave to a lady who has two little girls. The black flip flops are actually mine :)

I gave all the items to women I came across while I was there. I also gave 2 pencils and a ruler to a 4 year old who was on his bike enjoying the evening breeze at Plaza de Armas with his father. I also gave some pencils to a man who was asking for money. I have to confess that he didn't appreciate them because he would have preferred money, but since I didn't have any change on me, I tried not to leave him empty handed.

While travelling in Cuba, you'll be approached by many locals who would try to trick you into some kind of scheme or just ask you for money. So, it's advisable that you carry some change with you at all times for this purpose. However, if you happen to be uncomfortable giving out money or rarely carry small change on you, you can instead take some items with you in your bag to give to little kids, women or anyone else you feel might use the item. And don't feel shy about it, infact,  I saw a tourist give out a soap bar to a man on Obispo Street. Just make sure you carry multiples of those items with you because the local might end up sending his/her friend to come get his gift from you.

I would go out each day with some of the items I brought with me in my bag.

All the items were well received, infact, I was surprised at the reaction I got because I wouldn't think they would appreciate the pencils that much, but the women I gave them to were surprised that I actually brought them something.

Who should you gift?
Your waiter, waitress, hotel staff, tour guide, museum and other major landmark attendants and just about anyone else in general.

What should I bring with me when I go to a developing country?
I'll recommend doing a research on what's in need in those countries and then take those items with you. Consumable items and other necessities such as hygiene products, clothing, stationery and kids items will be the safest choices. These items doesn't have to be expensive or be the "latest" in style as anything useful will be greatly appreciated. And if the person you give the item to doesn't have a use for it, he/she can always give it away to someone else or even sell it!

Do you take gifts with you when you travel? Who are some of the gifts you've given to locals and  how are they received?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Site under ANOTHER construction!

El Moro, Havana, Cuba
I apologize for any interruption. But please feel free to read previous posts :)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Myth: Chinese in China are all skinny and with skin

After several months of Hiatus, I have finally decided to get off my lazy butt and revive this series.

For those who are just joining, Fact vs. Myth China is a blog series that I started a few months ago to discuss some of the stereotypes, assumptions and misconceptions about the world's most populous and mysterious country.

So a big misconception in western countries is that Asians, particularly those residing in their home countries are all petite and fair skinned, with tiny eyes and tiny feet. Well, this is completely not true!
I mean it might have been true prior to three decades ago before China opened it's gates to the outside world for International Trade. See, before this change occurred  China was just like any other socialist country, where every thing was controlled by the government, from your place of work to your diet! So them being small back then was not genetics but a result of the social, political and economic circumstances they had to live in.
Now, fast forward to the 21st century where people are now free to go wherever, eat whatever and have the freedom to be in control of their own lives. This means many can now enjoy different variety and quantity of food if they wish. Infact, the younger generation are now eating too much food (mostly junk food) that childhood obesity is now a big issue in the country.
Generally, most Chinese are still smaller in comparison to other races, but they are definitely not as small and tiny as outsiders might perceive them to be.

But do they all have tiny eyes and small feet? No! they don't, this is because China is a big country with multiple ethnicity. So, people from the North tend to be taller and bigger than the rest of the country. While those from the south tend to be darker and with rounded eyes.  
I also saw (tall) women with an average (size 8-9) sized feet while I was there.  

I myself was shocked by the variety of shapes, sizes, skin complexion and dialects that are present in the country. Because I had thought everyone would look the same, which wasn't true at all!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Snake

Chinese New Year is Finally here! 2013 is the Year of the Snake! This means anyone born in the year of the snake will wear something red (bracelet, necklace, underwear and whatnot) all year round to attract good luck.

This festival will be celebrated over 15days and will be concluded with the lantern festival. I will be taking part in the festivities in Toronto. Hmm I if the shops in China town will be closed during the entire celebration.

If you happen to be in China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and other countries where the Lunar New Year is celebrated, please do make sure you take in as much of the festivities as you can!

Congratulations! Gōngxǐ gōngxǐ (恭喜恭喜)
Happy New Year! Xīnnián kuàilè (新年快乐)

To read about what I wrote last year about the few things I learned about Chinese New Year, please visit my blog post here