Dagboek van Moek: 19/20/21 mei

19 mei: WAAR BEN IK??? Ik ruik hier allemaal rare beesten en onbekende geluiden. Vanuit het raam wat in deze kamer is kan ik mens wel zien. Er staan allemaal vreemde dingen in deze kamer. En van die geuren gaat mijn haar gelijk overeind staan brrr…

Een klik en de deur gaat open. Het is mens maar, maar wie neemt ze mee? Een onbekende zwarte kat die totaal geen herkenning bij mij oproept. Bovendien ruikt ze helemaal niet als kat, maar als hond. En het eet van mijn voer! En poept in mijn bak! Een beetje geblaas houdt het tenminste op afstand. Hier zit een luchtje aan…

20 mei: Mens ruikt iedere keer weer raar en anders als ik haar zie. Hoe moet ik haar dan herkennen? Langzaam kom ik een beetje mijn kamer uit, maar het is nog steeds sluipen over de grond en terug sprinten voordat een grote boze hond mij kan opslokken. Gelukkig zijn er in deze kamers geen spullen waar ik niet op mag of niet mee mag spelen van mens.

Als ik naar beneden kijk zie ik daar ook vreemde vormen bewegen. Zolang het vrij rustig en stil is, kan ik ongehoord naar beneden sluipen. Maar die engerds beneden zijn haast net zo groot als ik in het geheel ben. Ze kennen vast hun eigen krachten niet. En ik kwam ook nog een andere katachtige tegen op de gang laatst. Die rook ook niet normaal, dus heb ik ook even direct duidelijk gemaakt. Hij loopt echter zonder problemen zo naar beneden, dus dat heeft hij wel voor op mij.

21 mei: Toen mens net thuiskwam dook ze weer een andere kamer in. Een witte en gladde kamer waaruit ineens een keihard geluid kwam. Het bleek water te zijn, dat in een grote kom ging waar mens toen hij vol zat gewoon in ging liggen. Geheel vrijwillig. En haar ogen sloot. Waarom? Ik zou het niet weten.

Dus toen ze er toch wel een tijdje langer in bleef liggen ging ik eens polshoogte nemen. Met mijn achterpoten tegen de rand en mijn voorpoten op de rand kon ik precies met mijn oogjes haar zien. En ik zette grote ogen op. Mens moest lachen, dus ik liet haar dan maar met rust. Als ze zelfs naakt en geheel ondergedompeld in water blij kan zijn, heeft ze duidelijk andere dingen die haar blij maken dan ik.

Biking Battles: Work never seemed so far away

So you accept your role as prey and see if you need to call on your other bunny friends. After putting down the foot on the pedal, you decide to go for it and join your fellow friends.

The start is a wide road, separated from the main car road. So it should be easy cruising through the sun (when it is there), however in reality it only means that you need to pay more attention to the cars trying to sneak into your biking lane. They are not even being sneaky. Acting like the predators they are (see The jungle road) they push you away while giving you the side eye to make sure you do not even touch their precious skin.

Furthermore, it is not entirely clear to you how much brain power bunnies have, but there are enough moments where it seems very low, yours included. The amount of curves you made along the road and scares you had by suddenly having scooters, cars or even buses making some or a lot of noise because of your maneuvers would make any normal person question your sanity. But adaptability is the highest means the ones lower down the pyramid have to make it, so you go along of course.

And then suddenly you have trees, shade and absolutely nothing else changes. The largest difference it makes is that you can play hide and seek with your opponents and startle innocent pedestrians. A real obstacle are the bus stops on the side. The people getting off seem like real mice crawling around, seemingly walking deliberately in front of your bike or freezing at your first sight. After toying with them for a bit, you decide to go for the last stretch.

It is a bridge. With two roads that need to be crossed, way too many traffic lights and very little patience. Whenever you see the chance, you just hop in between everything. This means paying most or your attention to where vehicles come from, not the stupid lights. You especially need to be careful when going against the (traffic) flow since everyone always seems to act as if this is a rarity. And if worse comes to worse and you need to cross the road without the traffic lights, just inch forward and try to look the drivers behind their wheels in the eye. You are one tough bunny!

You manage all that, and you will arrive at the oasis. Green everywhere, people fishing, cars slightly following the rules (since the military is watching or acting like they are) and silence. Oh and then you need to go to work. Nothing is perfect after all.

Biking battles: The jungle road

So before moving onto the long road, let us take a look at what kind of people are most often encountered on the Chinese roads. A comparison with the jungle is not strange, you have for example the predators:

  • The king of the jungle: Trucks, buses and any other vehicles which are heavy, large and intimidating. They cruise along, sometimes with people furiously shouting and/or honking but almost never stopping. They can suddenly lash out with their legs and doors, just to spite you. You know you should not challenge them too much. They have teeth and they bite. Although eating and hitting innocent people is still illegal of course…
  • Cheetahs: Very fast, lean and mean cars. Except, they belong on the Savannah or the open road. Not the clogged streets of Beijing. They roar loudly to let you know that they are dangerous, but barking dogs do not bite. Unless of course they suddenly have a precious piece of open road in front of them. Oh and you should not touch them. One scratch and you are gone.
  • Hyena’s: They are lagging behind, dealing with the leftovers. They are in great, huge numbers. Diverse, irritating and only slightly frightening. They are the ones tuktuks, scooters, bikers and even pedestrians dare to defy. When they hit, of course they hit hard. But as long as you stay out of reach…

So what about the prey?

  • Birds: You can go very fast, if you want to. You can almost manage to squeeze in between everything and anything. But just like some birds cannot fly, these birds often choose not to fly. Just carry on their daily business as they go excruciatingly slow and even slalom along the road while doing their best not to die multitasking. They do make a lot of noise however, whether they are moving or not. Would be nice if the sounds were as nice as birds’ twitter or songs.
  • Rabbits: They are quite harmless and with a growing number. They are usually a group of cyclists, some really put their foot down making noise, others are less brave and just sway from side to side. When they want to, speed is made and a lot of road covered. However, they are also quite single-minded. Just getting ahead already costs a lot of effort, so often following the rules or watching out are optional tasks.
  • Mice: When they are in a group, they have a lot of power. They can basically cross roads whenever they want, however they want. But if they move by themselves, they are the lowest on the foodchain. Literally everyone speeds past them and they are the first ones to take a hit. It also helps that they do not make it easy for themselves by being easily distracted by either eating, looking on their phone or checking their hair in the mirror.

In other words, the road to work is long, hard and dangerous. How to manage?

Biking battles: The origin

“Let me bike to work today.” Quite an innocent thought, if you might say so yourself. So you pack your stuff, glance outside to make sure it is not raining and go out.

At the bicycle parking lot of your compound you look for a while for your bike. It is black and, like most others, rusty and old so it does not stand out too much. It takes you a while to find it, because you realize the community workers moved things around again. To have a large space in the front of the lot to put nothing. Probably for a higher purpose, or to perform some rituals. Things happen for a reason right?

Nevertheless, you get on your bicycle and bike away with a speed which makes the security guard pause and stare in his morning talks. Your compound is quite old and although they often renovate the roads, the fact that people people do not care and keep walking makes sure that the road stays in the same state.

After having crossed that first hurdle, you enter the main road. Here, the real fun starts of course. The traffic lights designate the invisible race that is taking place here. Bikes, steps, unicycles and scooters are going ahead, because the buses, cars and trucks have speed and mass to compensate. You are eager to get to work, so after making sure the right lights are red, you cross in one smooth go.

It always amazes you with what kinds of vehicles people enter the road and what they take with them. Lately, carrying bikes on your tricycle or truck seems to be the new trend. And you always have the hilarious look of people on folding bikes with an electric motor on it, does that not defy the purpose of a folding bike?, or the ones who can barely sit on their steps because they are so small and lightweight.

So getting on the road is only the beginning. The road ahead is long and you need to get to work. On time preferably. What to do?

I will have hot water, thank you

Walking to work today (with blue skies and in bright sunlight mind you!) thinking about something quintesstentially Chinese: hot water. Okay, hot water is of course not only limited to China, luckily, but the way they use it here is quite Chinese I would say. They drink it. Without any added flavor. Except perhaps for some other chemicals that are in the water here naturally (or not so naturally).

Anyway, I remember that when I started to drink hot beverages, I would drink tea, but with sugar. Not with milk, I did not like English tea like that. And also no green tea, because it was too bitter. Then, when I was 11 we went to China for the first time. None of us, except for the local guides, could speak Chinese (and I dare say my English was quite spotty then too) so most of the times there was no sugar. Furthermore I discovered that there was often not even tea or any flavor in the pot. Plus the water was boiling hot, so that even a full table of foreigners mostly only finished half a pot of tea.

All this mystery continued for a while, but did not leave me unmoved. Sugar disappeared from my tea routine. Milk entered it in the form of milk (bubble) tea (that is milk powder though, not liquid milk) and scorching temperatures no longer became a match for my tongue and mouth.

So after having ample of experience drinking tea and hot water, I am officially trained. I can mostly drink any water directly after it has been boiled, can drink it with or without a flavor and drink loads of it. This is especially helpful in China since you can get a refill of your tea ad infinitum. I heard my friend complain that the Starbucks in the Netherlands charges 30 cents (eurocents!) for it. Ridiculuous!

The advantage of hot water is that you have a hot drink, which does not have too strong a taste and can neutralize other tastes. Very handy in China where strong flavors reign and the tongue can sometimes get a bit too much coming at it.

Also, Chinese teas have so many varieties and flavors. No bitterness in green tea. It is amazing, the best. Although I am too lazy to cook it at less than boiling temperature. I do remain a foreigner of course.

Li’s lievelingswoorden: Dinges

Nederlands is niet de mooiste taal. Het is mijn moedertaal, de taal waar ik het meeste in thuis ben, maar mooi is het zeker niet. Over talen zoals Frans, Spaans en Italiaans hoef je natuurlijk niet te discussiëren. Pure poëzie rolt daar over de tong, ongeacht wat de inhoud of betekenis van datgene wat gehoord wordt mag zijn.

Toegegeven, ik heb wat meer waardering voor Nederlands hier in het buitenland gekregen. Niets zo leuk dan in een in China vrij onbekende taal te praten, roddelen en becommentariëren. Jammer dat het vaak met Engels wordt verward, omdat veel Chinezen dat ook niet verstaan, maar de gezichtsuitdrukking wanneer taal en daarmee ook mijn nationaliteit worden onthuld is onbetaalbaar (vind meer over deze situaties in het Engels in deze post).

En ja, zodra je meer talen leert besef je des te beter welke woorden ontbreken in het Nederlands. Maar je realiseert je ook dat het Nederlands toch wel woorden heeft die je niet zou willen missen. Daarom hierbij een ode aan een van mijn lievelingswoorden: dinges.

din·ges (de; m,v; meervoud: dingesen)
1 (informeel) naam waarmee je personen of zaken aanduidt waarvan je de naam niet wilt of kunt noemen

Bron: vandale.nl

Misschien heeft het met de klank te maken. Het Engelse equivalent ‘thingy’ klinkt een beetje kinderachtig. Dat dingetje, nee dat is bij lange na niet stevig genoeg om een brede categorie aan te duiden. Misschien heeft het ermee te maken dat een deel van de Nederlandse aanwijswoorden met een d begint: die, deze, dit, dat. Dat allitereert wel mooi. Misschien omdat de vorm vloeibaar is. Je hebt een dinges, gaat dingesen, iets is dinges, de dinges in de dinges dingesen, moderne taalkunst.

Ik gebruik dit woord te pas en onpas, in moeder- en vreemde taal. Zo hebben mijn Chinese, Japanse, Koreaanse, Australische, Franse en Duitse vrienden die ik in China leerde kennen tijdens mijn studie allemaal in meerdere of mindere mate ervaring met dit woord. Het is voor een Nederlands woord ook nog eens best goed uit te spreken door buitenlanders.

In zekere zin zijn dit soort tussenwoorden op een bepaalde manier onbelangrijk en tegelijkertijd heel belangrijk voor een taal. Aan de ene kant heeft het geen invloed op grammatica, uitspraak of schrijfwijze. Maar het laat wel zien dat een taal leeft. Genoeg leeft om dit soort woorden nodig te hebben of dat de gebruikers in ieder geval deze behoefte hebben. En ja, als levende gebruiker van een levende taal dinges ik dus met heel mijn hart.

What to do?

Since this is an era of typing instead of writing, I sit behind my computer desk with not an exactly blank screen, but getting close. What to write about today? Actually, I have no idea. Or I actually have a bit too many ideas. That is okay, it is how I spend most of my life. Not actually knowing what to do.

Is that a bad thing? Well, in this day and age where we can plan everything, most people seem to want to have more surprise and wonder in their life. For the Chinese, this feeling seems to be less prominent, probably because people think more short-term (see my previous Dutch post on this topic). Furthermore, moving to a different country is quite a good measure to experience more wonder and amazement. What makes it even more fun, is that in my case it is mutual.

Whenever I exchange more than 3 sentences with a Chinese person, it goes something like this:

/Hi, you are Chinese?

\I count as a foreigner I guess…

/Are you from Hong Kong or Taiwan?

\No, I am not. Do another guess.

/Japan? Korea? Vietnam?

\No I am from Europe, from the Netherlands.

/Really? You do not look Dutch at all!

\Well… Actually I was born in China.

/So your parents are Chinese?

\No, my parents are Dutch.

/But do you speak Chinese at home?

\No, my parents are Dutch.

/Are your parents in China?

\No, my parents are in the Netherlands.

/Is your family in China?

\No, my family is Dutch and in China.

/But you are Chinese.

\No, I am Dutch.

/But you speak Chinese.

\Well, I studied it for more than 5 years so yes.

/Do you speak Chinese with your parents?

\No, they are Dutch.

/But it is great that you returned to China and speak Chinese now! You are Chinese from the inside after all.

\Uhm… No not really though…

So what does this tell us?

  1. Chinese automatically assume everyone who looks like them to probably be like them. Sort of like the opposite of what we have in the Netherlands, where everyone who looks different is assumed to probably be a foreigner.
  2. It is difficult for both parties to grasp each other’s world views and background. How is a Chinese-looking person not identifying as Chinese and not knowing all the Chinese poems and songs? How do the Chinese not see and realize I am not a Chinese person and am quite different from them, more so inside than outside though?
  3. In China, I am seen as a Chinese which I am not. In the Netherlands, I am seen as a foreigner which I am not.

Enough everyday wonder and amazement for me while living in China. You should try it too, honestly I can only recommend it.

Film rewriting: Kubo and the Two Strings

So to be a bit more accessible, let’s add some English to this game!

Last weekend, I went to the movies with a friend and (sort of) by coincidence we saw Kubo and the Two Strings. Without actually knowing it either, it was a beautiful stop-motion movie where you could easily lose yourself in its visuals.

But then the story. It was not that it was terrible, not by all means. But I always keep wondering how they manage to keep these tales so predictable. Being an instantly obsessed millennial internet user, I dove right into the IMDB and review pages. Having read a few reviews, it got me thinking that it would be interesting to see how the story could be changed to follow a more original, possibly more interesting, path.

Let’s take a look at the basic storyline below:

“Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato, Akihiro, and Kameyo.”

“But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey and Beetle, and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known.”

“With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King and the evil twin Sisters, to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.”

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

In one of the reviews I read online, it was mentioned that the hero himself did not have a lot of doubts regarding his fate/travel/destiny. Another thing, that often seems to be the case in these kinds of stories, is the underdevelopment of the villains. They just exist without a background or any other motivation besides being bad(ass). Sounds like a simple way of living, but one that does not incite a lot of recognition. Additionally, I was initially a bit confused with the role of the mother, especially since (spoiler!) she goes from a mentally unstable person to a wise and protective monkey.

So what to do? I propose some simple editing of crucial story elements (spoilers!):

  1. Can we have the mother act a bit more lucid in the scenes where she is not a monkey? Just so it feels more natural once she actually becomes the monkey. That would be very helpful to our audience.
  2. The start of Kubo’s journey starts because he stays outside after dark and can thus be found by the bad peeps. Can we have a better motivation for Kubo to stay outside other than that he somehow does not manage to run the whole way back in one sequence because he just needs to be slow once?
  3. Can we get a look at what Heaven looks like? What is the reason for people in Heaven to be so cold and evil? That is not what I have learned before!
  4. There is no moment of inner turmoil. This guy has his mother turned into a monkey, a beetle as his additional travel companion, is chased by people descended from heaven and has both his parents dying at the same time. How is he keeping his stuff together? Please enlighten me!
  5. Why is there a semi-happy ending with the entire family (even though the parents are in some sort of spirit-form)? Please do not end this movie in such a cheesy way.

Sounds great huh? Now to find some people to shoot this thing again in like 100.000 frames since it is stop-motion. Oh well, it is all about the ideas right?