斯诺克 Snooker

In Changchun two years ago not many people had heard of snooker beyond a few hard-core fans.

snooker table

Many people would use the words 台球 taiqiu or 桌球 zhuoqiu (literally means table or desk ball, but really means pool) and others would call snooker 大台球 dataiqiu as the table is bigger than a pool table.

This is a good example of how an English word has been assimilated into Chinese, as it’s simply a phonetic translation from the English name .

Infact if you say ‘snooker‘ in Chinese, it sounds like saying the word with a chinese accent or trying to say the word when very drunk. So Sinuoke 斯诺克 , like qiaokeli 巧克力 (chocolate) bailandi 白兰地 (brandy) and many many others – especially names – has its roots in English. The reverse is also true for words such as: feng shui, chow mian, kung fu, tofu and the the phrase ‘long time no see’

I’ve spent many a time explaining that it’s a different game from pool and last week some of my students started to talk about it to me. They said that it’s popular TV sport but that not many people actually know how to play it, or know what it is beyond a name. I then explained the rules. There is no doubt that snooker is fast becoming popular in China, especially with young people and I’m willing to bet that the next generation of world champions will be from China.

Perhaps the biggest reason behind this is a Chinese player calledd 丁俊晖 dingjunhui who is the first half decent player from China to break into the professional game. The Chinese love sports superstars and it’s seen very much as a part of national pride and that is a good thing I think. Also for the first time (and to my delight) the world championships is being shown live on CCTV5. 🙂

Even in Changchun there are now quite a few new places where you can play not only pool but snooker as well. What put me off before was the smoke and the seedy atmosphere some associate with these places, but things have changed. Where I play there is no smoking and the cost is around the 10 yuan an hour mark, though it can be as little as 4 and as much as 50, depending upon where you play.

麻辣烫 Malatang

This is a good example of a Chinese fast food. It’s cheap (3元), convenient and pretty healthy.

There are many of these places all over Changchun, some are restaurants but most are just hole-in-the-wall type outlets. Very near to where I work there must be at least four different malatang establishments and they are always packed at lunchtime. Unfortunately I’m not really a fan malatang but i’m trying to like it! 🙂
Malatang literally translates as ‘hot hot hot’ which really has no real meaning in English beyond expressing somthing spicy.

It’s like ordering from a canteen, you tell the person what you want – extra this, not too much of that – and then you choose what type of noodle you’re interested in. The spices and various sauces are then put into a bowl lined with a plastic bag. Then the noodles and veg are mixed up and boiled in a basket like contraption especially for the job. Wait about 30 seconds and the veg is done ready to be mixed with the sauces in the plastic bag, it’s all very simple and fast.sauces

I just wonder whether this could become popular in the west, afterall its very healthy compared to more traditional fast food. One problem may be that many of the vegetables used I have never seen outside China before and I wonder if its possible to find these (beyond digging up weeds from peoples gardens) on the market at a reasonable price.

Back again

Went home over the winter came back here for thecar stuck in snow start of the semester. It seems that winter has been on strike this year, It hasn’t been very cold and so there has been a lot more snow than normal. It even rained in February -I think the summer is going to be a long one.

Being away from things and travelling back makes you re-evaluate what you’ve never even thought about before. I found myself on more than one occasion saying to myself ‘it never gets light’ ‘where are the people?’ ‘everyone is so fat!’ ‘carpet!’.
Some call it reverse culture shock, however, it’s not like culture shock when you go to a new place.
I was told it would feel like being a tourist in your own country, however, It’s more complicated than that. Things are familiar but as if there has been a rift in the space time continuum, so that some things are different but nobody notices except you. Moreover if you tell people that this is different from how it used to be, you are looked at as if you should be committed!
From this I think you can start to understand where people from foreign countries get the ideas of social stereotypes, as from their perspective that’s how things appear.
The Tube from Heathrow presented a microcosm of sorts. Quiet, everyone reading pretending to be asleep or inspecting their shoes – just as you’d expect. Then at a stop a group of Mandarin speakers got on. (I couldn’t quite work out where they were from though accents suggested they weren’t from the north of china) They talked enthusiastically (and loudly) with each other, I could register looks of disdain and near contempt from some of the other passengers as if to say ‘be quiet!’, ‘don’t you know we Students clearing snow on busy roaddon’t talk on trains’.

One of my students asked me about strangers starting up conversations in public places (i.e. on public transport) and I told him that you often think (wrongly or rightly) the person wants something will stab you or is a nutcase.
Every so often I would have a quite laugh when someone would use language that I had forgotten about, slang or some new words that I haven’t heard.
Overall though, not much about home has changed beyond the obvious and I doubt anything substantial really changes in the UK. I can imagine going back in ten years (bar technological progressions) things being pretty much the same as always.

And there are so many similarities between the UK and China – there are some things done better in China than the UK and vice-versa.
Of course It’s probably me that has changed the most. Obviously that is because I have been in Changchun for over 2 years and I have had many different experiences from others.me on train

I’ve been asking myself is this a good thing, afterall having to re- adapt to different surroundings isn’t easy – is it worth it.
I believe so, experiences change opinions, broaden minds and I believe make you more tolerant of others. It certainly has opened my mind up to all sorts of other ideas and ways of thinking.
Indeed, I couldn’t help noticing how insular looking and narrow minded (to me anyway) many people sounded when I was at home.
Many foreigner teachers complain about how ‘brainwashed’ the Chinese students are, but infact they have much greater understanding about the UK than someone from the UK does about China and that speaks volumes about peoples general knowledge about other countries and cultures.

Sometimes I have written about a situation that has happened to me that I have said wouldn’t happen in the West. This situation would never happen in China. The single biggest problem I encountered whilst in the UK was communication. In China sometimes there are communication problems, which is what you expect from trying to speak a second language. At least in China you can always find a human being to speak with if you have a problem with something and if they don’t want to help another human being etc. e.g at the train station.

skyline from apartmentAt the bank, If I have a problem I can sort things out. Sometimes the process is infuriating and cumbersome but it can be achieved because of the human involvement! In the UK I went into the bank no human beings were available, but i could talk to a machine. There is only so much a machine can do.
I read that both China’s greatest asset and its greatest problem is its population, I think not having enough people is almost as bad.
The langauge barrier is nothing – you can do things. Without a human – even though english is my first language – you can’t.


I’m still alive.

I haven’t been abducted by aliens or struck down by bird flu. The more mundane truth is a combination of being constricted from logging in and editing this by greater powers and that I’ve been too lazy to mess around changing servers.

Anyhow, I’m back online and back in Changchun and just about to start the 5th week of the semester. Once I’ve finished sifting through the 754 (mostly spam) comments, I’ll write more! 🙂