Wednesday, August 29, 2012
We stood there for at least an hour, comparing the size, weight, translations of each book. We left with two small books: one which translated English to Chinese in roman characters and one which translated Chinese characters to English.
When we arrived back at my brother-in-law's apartment, my son was awake and asked where we had gone. We showed him our treasures. He picked up his ipod, flipped on the dictionary (which not only reads characters but speaks them) and said, Why didn't you just purchase the app?"
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I laughed more than I can remember.
Yet, at the end of it, I came away pondering the more serious themes that Hwang touches on--corruption (on both sides of the Pacific), the importance of understanding culture as well as language, the meaning of 'home.' It's a wonderful play, showing in Berkeley now through October 7th before packing up to make its debut in Hong Kong in March 2013.
Speaking of funny translations, what's the funniest one you've ever seen?
Friday, August 24, 2012
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
I had the whole afternoon planned out--have appointment, pick up dog food, meet sons for an early dinner. The appointment I figured would not take more than 20 minutes, tops.
While we were in China I had heard nightmares of people waiting for their appointments. A three-hour wait for a five-minute appointment. In fact, with the top doctors, healthy people made appointments and then sold them like scalpers at a concert to the highest ill bidders.
But we were back in the US.
At 4pm, though, we were still sitting in the waiting room.
The receptionist mentioned we were "next" and it would just be a "few more minutes" several times. I sat there thinking that the receptionists know my number and in fact call me in advance of an appointment to remind me to be there. Why can't they also call and say, "the doctor's running a bit behind today. If you have some errands to run--some dog food to buy-- you might want to stop and get it. Oh, and that date you have with your sons--one of whom is about to leave for college--cancel it."
When ten more minutes passed, and I realized my afternoon plan was crumbling, I turned to my daughter and said, "Please ask any questions you have. Tell him of any pain or concerns. I need to leave." I went outside, took some deep breaths, called my sons to tell them to eat without us, got some dog food, and reminded myself that at least I didn't have to buy my appointment time...
Monday, August 20, 2012
1. Don’t worry about the dog. Focus on what you’re doing.
(How many times do I get so worried about my kids, husband, other relatives that I forget altogether what I'm doing?)
Thursday, August 16, 2012
There's a lack of water available for play--no jet skiing or scuba diving or canoeing or swimming. The waterways we saw were dirty.
Bargaining (except in department stores) is the nature of life. The seller goes high. I go low. We meet in the middle, theoretically both satisfied.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
When we eventually found the museum, it was not air-conditioned.
"It's to preserve the style of the building," my husband said.
Like I said, I don't remember too much. There were a lot of quack doctors in the beginning, but the science got serious and many discoveries were made in the last dynasty.
We left the oven--I mean museum-- and went into a dispensary where people were huddled on the ground next to a bin of ice water. I saw this one child drink a cup full. I shuddered, thinking there's no way that water is clean. Then another woman did the same. What was wrong with these people, and why was this cholera magnet in the middle of a dispensary?
I looked closer and the people were getting hot cups of tea from a container and then cooling them in this bin of ice water. What a lovely idea. We all quickly did the same.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Wherever we went in the city, there were always large signboards espousing different values: Be kind to the elderly; be environmentally conscious; a girl baby is as precious is a boy; no spitting; be polite and honest; no smoking in public, etc. Given that the government had allowed an investor to ruin the beaches in Fujian, people spit so often that at least two of us had been accidental targets, and we chose restaurants based on which one had the least smoke, I'm not sure the signboards alone did the job. But it seemed a great idea. And I wandered by one, "Be happy in what you do," and was immersed into self-reflection. Perhaps we could use some of these signboards....
Saturday, August 11, 2012
"You need my passport?" I asked, thinking this isn't international travel, just a ride around the lake.
The woman said I could just write down the passport number and that would be good enough. The kids frowned. Nobody could remember their numbers. I quickly made up a sequence of passport-like numbers. It wasn't as if we were going to run off with these bikes.
Later, when we tried to return the bikes to the same kiosk it was a fiasco. Although she was standing right in front of us, she insisted she was closed. I would have left our bikes and gone on, but I kind of wanted my deposit back. She said we could return the bikes somewhere else. We went there. That kiosk was "closed" too. So we tried a third one. The third one was the charm. Not only did the lady return our deposit, but she returned most of the daily-use fee. Instead of $17, she only charged us 1.70.
What was that about? My brother-in-law said that we'd met a kind kiosk woman, someone willing to treat us as locals rather than take advantage of our foreign status. He said the passport issue is common. Some amenities (like bus passes, store ownership, reasonable prices) are only granted to Chinese citizens.
Friday, August 10, 2012
The only downside to second class, was that it was overbooked. People would get "standing" seats, and then as soon as I vacated my seat for any reason, I'd return to find someone else sitting there. Although people were always nice about returning my seat, it was awkward. First class (which was only a few dollars more) was an entirely different story. In fact, the one time we rode it, we were almost the only people in the car, a waitress came by with a free snack, and, oh, the quiet.
By 2015, China plans to have 24,850 miles worth of track, the system connecting every city in China with over a half million residents. What a marvel.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
We all had visions of sandy beaches, warm water, a wonderful afternoon.
The roads once we got off the mainland were dirt, the going not clear. My brother-in-law stopped several times to ask where the beach was and each time got a different answer. So we went this way, then that. Whenever my brother-in-law stopped, he really stopped. He'd get out, ask directions, offer the person a cigarette as thanks, then chat about who knows what. It was almost more fun watching him find his way than people-watching at the beach. (At least for me.) The kids kept asking, "Where is this beach?"
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
So we went to town and found a wire shop. Turned out the owner of the shop used to ride to high school each day with my husband. So the man not only gave us a good deal, but delivered the wire and let us borrow the shop's wire cutters.
Then we started building. Talk about 1001 opinions. I had images of an 8ft aviary. My father-in-law worried about his garden being ruined. My husband said just a small cage was enough. The children all had opinions--make it round, make it square. Dinner was called and my brother-in-law came in, took over, and just slap dash put something together. My father-in-law smiled and thanked everyone.
The next morning when my husband and I got up before 6am to revamp some of the corners, my father-in-law had pre-empted us. He'd been up for hours and had already fixed everything just to his liking. I had to smile. He hadn't protested the creation, but had returned when noone else was there to "help," and fixed the cage to his liking.
Monday, August 6, 2012
When we left Japan, it was onto to China. We arrived in Fuzhou (southern China) not only to a soldier saluting each and every deplaning passenger, but to my brother-in-law who had come to pick us up. We chatted a bit, but it was late and I soon fell asleep. The next thing I knew there was pounding on my window.
"We're at the restaurant," he said. "Aren't you hungry?"
We all agreed that we were not. We were just really tired. So, he got back in the car and took us to his home. I must tell you something about this home. It is six stories high. I once asked my brother-in-law why he'd built such a huge house.
"There's a floor for each one of my siblings," he explained. "So you always have someplace to return home."
We trudged up the steps to the third floor, showered, were ready to climb in bed, when there was my brother-in-law again.
"Dinner's ready," he said. "You must be hungry."
All we wanted to do was lay down and sleep, but he had gone to such effort. So we went down and had noodles, and lychee the size of ping-pong balls. An official --and delicious--welcome.
Friday, August 3, 2012
"Here." this woman said, handing the umbrella to my daughter. "I don't need this. You take it." And with that she rode off.
Umbrella became our code word--for being kind. When the kids would bicker over something, I would remind them of the selflessness of this stranger. I would just say, "Umbrella."
Thursday, August 2, 2012
In the ten days we roamed hither and yon in Japan visiting friends and relatives, we came away with several images:
**Nobody ate while walking, driving, sitting on the train, biking. In fact, eating was a kind of ritual (done at certain times of the day.) Nobody was fat.
What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky
"McBurney-Lin tells a wonderfully entertaining story with the traditional coming-of-age theme (which is experienced universally)...weaving in the cultural challenges of growing up in China's rapidly changing social system."
Mary Warpeha, co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Friendship Association
"The novel ...includes many of the tales and the folk ways of the people living in the rural areas of South China, still followed provincially. The story takes place in current China, but could relate the dilemma of any young woman in rural China through the ages."
Kitty Trescott, National Board of the Midwest Region of US-China Friendship Association. March 2010
"A lot is expected of a young Chinese girl. My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin is the story of Li Hui, a young girl who has just achieved marriageable age. She seeks to make the most of herself, but the expectations all around her make it difficult, as her parents seek to use her as pawn to their advantage, she is faced with what she believes to be true love. She must balance career, romance, and family, all to somehow make everyone happy, a tough endeavor indeed. An engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "My Half of the Sky" is a poignant tale of the modern Chinese woman, and recommended for community library collections.
--Midwest Book Review November, 2008
“It is a rare women’s novel that sensitively describes the life of a young educated woman in modern-day China in its full complexity, without resorting to unnecessary sentimentalism. Jana’s deep knowledge of the realities of life in China and Singapore makes the reading extra rewarding. In fact, with every new page the novel gets harder to put down and you find yourself gobbling it up before you know it. Finally, the author has given a voice to the Li Hui in all of us, as we struggle for the golden middle between tradition and the modern momentum of our world.”
Friends of the Museum Book Review 2008
You'll be rooting all the way for Li Hui as she struggles, ahead of the curve, to be her own woman in an emerging, modern China. Jana McBurney-Lin's My half of the Sky is a beautiful, witty, touching debut novel.
Thomas B. Sawyer
Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
Author - The Sixteenth Man
A complex and mesmerizingly original tale of a young Chinese woman caught between the modern world and the pull of her ancient culture. McBurney-Lin’s intimate portrait of China sparks with insights and is peopled with characters so rich and alive, they seem to breathe on the page. Dazzling and unforgettable.
Caroline Leavitt, Author - Girls in Trouble
McBurney-Lin's debut novel is a gift. Li Hui is a memorable heroine, a young woman torn between her heart and her culture.Her daunting journey is a trip into China's complicated soul, and a deeply moving exploration of love, honor, duty, and loss." Frank Baldwin, Author - Balling the Jack
My Half of the Sky is a wonderfully-crafted story that was obviously written with a piece of McBurney-Lin's heart. A masterpiece."
Lee Lofland, Author - Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation
My Half of the Sky heralds the arrival of a fantastic new storyteller. With artistry and precision, Jana McBurney-Lin's clear-eyed prose takes the reader on a new journey into a past world that speaks to a modern sensibility, a modern world, a modern woman. This is a book to be treasured.
Emily Rapp, Author - The Poster Child
Through vivid descriptions of sights and smells, Jana McBurney-Lin's My Half of the Sky is a haunting, emotional journey of what it means to be an honorable female in modern China. Jill Ferguson, Author - Sometimes Art Can't Save You