The Power of Music

I just finished watching “August Rush” – again. What is it about movies with great music that touches me so deeply? Mr. Holland’s Opus, Music of the Heart…they all touch me at a very deep level. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend August Rush.

“Music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.”

Great Scot!

I just finished watching Braveheart for the umpteenth time. Why does this movie affect me so much? Is it my Scots heritage that wells up in me every time I see it? Is it the bagpipe music that skirls in the background, stirring my blood? Is it the Scottish brogue that makes me want to sound like Sean Connery? Is it the desire to cheer for the oppressed underdog? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

(The pic is of me in parade marching with Clan MacKay at this year’s Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina this past summer. And yes, that’s a kilt!)

My Uyghur Daughter

A young Uyghur girl studying at a nearby university has pretty much decided that Wendy and I are her surrogate parents here in Xi’an. She tells me that I look like her father (I’ve seen a photo of him; hmm…); she gave me soup that she had made herself when I was sick; she gave me medicinal tea from her home (near Kashgar).

Her Uyghur name means “princess” and she treats me like a king!

Understanding Chinglish

For those of you who are interested in exploring the wonderful world of Chinglish, you should know that it’s taking Broadway by storm. Well, okay, maybe not by storm, but there is a new play on Broadway titled “Understanding Chinglish” that shows what happens when Chinese is mis-translated into English, frequently with humorous results, humorous, at least, to native English speakers. If you’re interested in reading more about this play, here’s the link:


Yesterday, on November 11, 2011 we just happened to have a pizza party at our apartment. And we just happened to have eleven people at the party. And we just happened to have eleven toppings…no, I’m just kidding. But we really did just happen to have eleven people at our party on 11-11-11. It just turned out that way, unplanned. It was a great party, and fun was had by all.

Sometimes the things that are unplanned turn out the best!

(Cooking pizza with our little oven in the bedroom to make sure the fuse for the kitchen doesn’t blow, since there were two other ovens there cooking pizzas!)

The City of Western Peace?

Not everything is peaceful in the city of Western Peace. Yesterday I saw my first Chinese demonstration. No, it wasn’t a cooking demonstration. It was a group of middle-age Chinese people demonstrating in the middle of the street, including a large banner that said  “Yao Sheng Cun, Yao Chi Fan!” (“I want to survive, I want to eat!”)

These were well-dressed, middle-age, middle class Chinese people who were obviously upset about something, most likely their forced relocation due to the demolition of their apartment building. (Remember Chai Na?) No, not all is peaceful in the city of Western Peace.

But then, do you know of anywhere on earth that is always peaceful? Nope, I don’t, either. I guess I’ll stick around here a while and see what I can do to bring a little more peace in this corner of the globe. How about you?

How Do You Say “Progress” in China? “Chai Na!”

(Conversation in Chinese between me and a taxi driver)

Me: (Looking at all the new buildings going up in Xi’an) Xi’an sure is developing fast.

Driver: Yeah, you see all that new construction? You know what happens before new buildings go up? Old buildings have to be torn down. You know how to say “China” in English? “China”, right?

Me: Yes.

Driver: That’s exactly what’s happening here – Chai na. Over here, chai na (points to one building being demolished). Over there, chai na (gestures over at another building being torn down). Everywhere, chai na!”

In Chinese, the character , pronounced “Chai”, is painted inside a circle on buildings that are marked for demolition to make room for newer buildings. “Chai” means to demolish.

The additional “na” after the word “chai” gives the word added emphasis. So the taxi driver was basically using the English word “China” to make a joke – black humor, considering all the people that get displaced when an old building gets demolished, but a joke nonetheless – about all the demolition that’s happening in China to make room for new buildings.

A Visit to Kashgar (or, “When a visit home isn’t a visit home”)

I was so excited about returning to Kashgar, to see old friends, yet knowing that it wasn’t going to be the same. It had been three years since we lived there, and two whole years since anyone had lived in our apartment. But it was still a bit of a shock to walk into our old apartment on campus to see the thick coating of dust that covered everything, boxes and rice bags that were full of other teachers’ belongings piled high in our living room, furniture placed helter-skelter to make room for the boxes, familiar items in unfamiliar locations…these were all signs that this place, the site of so many wonderful memories, was truly no longer our home.

(Our former living room, filled with items to ship)

And yet, even this was a blessing. Because of this feeling of no longer belonging to this place, it was not as difficult to sell or give away all of our furniture and many other smaller items that we just didn’t have room for in our apartment in Xi’an. Yes, it was certainly a goodbye, but not as difficult as I had imagined.

Hmm…maybe that means I really have made the mental move to Xi’an.