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You Know You’ve Been in China Too Long If…

Here, on the Seven Castles blogsite, is a list similar to one posted some time ago on this blog but more comprehensive with 130 criteria to help you sort out whether or not you have been in China for too long. Many of the conditions are old hat but some are quite delicious and raised a smile for me. Here are a few that applied to me before I finally made my escape . . .

4. You would rather wait on the street for an extra ten minutes for a small cab, than pay the extra for a big cab

7. You have absolutely no sense of traffic rules.

10. You no longer need tissues to blow your nose.

13. Other foreigners seem foreign to you.

21. You start cutting off large vehicles on your bicycle.

60. There are more things strapped to your cycle than you ever put in a car.

75. Forks feel funny.

76. The shortest distance between two points involves going through an alley.

119. You get offended when people admire your chopsticks skills.

Read the full list here.

Related posts – ‘You know you have been an expat in China too long when . . .

Alternative Olympic Games

Many thanks to Beijing Olympics Fan for alerting us to this webpage of wonders on the Mental Floss website.

The sports/activities/antics [delete as required] depicted on this page, each with a demo video clip, beat diving, dressage, and most other Olympic sports hands down. Shame upon BOCOG for not selecting wife-carrying [if you really think this is a time-waster just take a look at the prize] as an alternative event to hurdle racing and underwater hockey surely beats synchronised swimming every day of the week. Some of the names are self-explanatory, such as underwater hockey but others take a little thinking about. Ga-Ga for instance isn’t something that happens to grannies and granddads but is a form of Dodgeball, played in an octagonal pit. And for all the tired and jaded baseball watchers out there pesapallo is just what’s needed to turn a rather repetitive mediocre activity into genuine entertainment. No more neat and tidy circuits of the diamond to score, instead the players run an apparently random zig-zag route to make their points. It looks quite chaotic but apparently there are real rules [somewhere] and they are just as precise as those of the original game. Almost on a par with Extreme Ironing – now there’s real sport for real men [and women]. 🙂

Repetitive Responses Repel Repugnent Rebels

How’s this for a bit of frivolity – click here.

An Italian Hero

I was passing the time in a reading room recently, working my way through the newspapers of the day, as one does, filling in bits of crossword puzzles, dozing and drinking tea, though not necessarily in that order. Stuffed away in a corner was the remnants of a backcopy which I idly glanced through until I came across an article about a marathon runner. This was a character who had been briefly introduced to us at school but I had never really got acquainted with him as he was quickly pushed back out of my mind to make way as we moved on to Corn Law, Tariff Reform and other more important matters. This was not the original marathon runner, Pheidippides the soldier who fought in the battle of Marathon, ran to Athens to deliver the good news and then dropped dead, but a pastry shop assistant whose achievements were no less remarkable in that he completed the 1908 event, lost the gold medal, but won the hearts of millions of people around the world.

Dorando Pietri began his running career in an almost casual fashion, perhaps by accident, when, in 1904, he took part in a local race at Carpi which featured Pericle Pagliani, the then top runner in Italy. According to accounts available Pietri was still in his working clothes when he ran but he beat Pagliani. A few days later he participated in a 3,000 metre race at Bologna and won! What had prompted him to do that, bravado, a bet with his pals or Italian dottiness and eccentricity, is unknown but during the following years he began his rise to international fame. In 1905 he won the Paris 30 km race, his first international success and in 1906 won the qualifying Italian marathon for the Athens Olympic games, held later that year. During the Athens marathon he retired from the race, due to an intestinal illness, while he was in the lead by 5 minutes. By 1907 he was the undisputed long distance champion of Italy, for every event from 5,000 metres upwards.

At the 1908 London Olympics the day of the marathons race was an unusually hot one by UK standards (78 degrees F) and this took its toll on all of the 56 starters. Three-quarters of the way in to the race Pietri was in second place and several minutes behind the leader but when he was told Hefferson was having trouble he increased his pace and a few miles later overtook him. After entering the stadium for the final lap his troubles began when he took a wrong turn and was redirected by an official. He then fell from exhaustion but was helped back to his feet and struggled on. Different stories give varying counts of the times he fell, all we know is that it happened several times and each time he was helped on his way by officials and Arthur Conan Doyle, no less, who happened to be standing by. Of his 26 miles and 365 yards, taking 2 hours, 54 minutes and 46 seconds the final lap had taken 10 minutes to complete [no one actually timed this section so we only have anecdotal information]. And only in the final moments had any other competitor entered the stadium!

Several theories have been put forward to explain his condition on entering the stadium – excessive heat, his efforts in the final half of the course to speed up, gargling with wine during the race – but these are speculative. And the nearest he got to using drugs was to take balsamic vinegar during training.

From any of the BW photographs available of those final moments many differences between Pietri and a modern athlete can be seen. There is even a difference between himself and the officials surrounding him. There is no imagery or PR at work, he is noticeably small, skinny, one might say weedy, the very picture of the underdog and this had an immediate appeal to the masses. He had finished by will and determination.

Immediately after the race the USA team lodged a complaint which was accepted by the committee and Johnny Hayes, who came in second, was awarded first position. Undoubtedly the USA [why are they such poor losers?] complaint was technically correct, Pietri had been redirected, assisted and helped to his feet by officials who should have had no influence on his performance. But whatever anyone wants to say no one can alter those staggering ten minutes when he was in the stadium alone. That is an impressive lead to have gained, coming up from behind, by any standard.

In the months following he was invited to America to compete in a tour of races. Twice he competed against Johnny Hayes and twice he beat him. Of the 22 races he participated in on tour he won 17. He continued his professional racing career for another 3 years and retired after winning his final race at Goteburg, Sweden.

He died in 1941, at the age of 56, of a heart attack.

You know you have been an expat. in China for too long when . . . .

– you have a collection of umbrellas.

– you give a beggar a handful of fen and he gives them back.

– you tell people you don’t understand when they speak so they write it down for you, in Chinese.

when you visit home to see your family you have difficulty sleeping because it’s too quiet.

– at a restaurant you actually put some thought into which live snake you want cooked for your meal.

– you drink warm sodas and find them refreshing.

– you believe absolutely everything that can possibly be eaten is in some way good for your health.

– you forget that vegetable soup is actually pesticide broth.

– you begin to like fruit salad and mayonnaise.

– you love doufu because there’s nothing to spit out and it doesn’t have any taste.

– you comment that the pollution today “isn’t really that bad……..”

– you start wearing a face mask on windy days, and wonder at the “silly foreigners” who don’t do the same.

– you no longer use articles when you speak.

– you know words in Chinese for which you don’t know the translation in English.

– you reply “So is mine” when people say their English is poor.

– you telephone home and your family tell you to speak faster and stop correcting their grammar.

– you use expressions such as : “I very like . . ”

– your boss thinks you’re a stupid foreigner if you let him cheat you, but thinks you’re a bad foreigner if you don’t.

– your boss speaks really good English until you ask for more money.

– you have no qualms that someone who thinks you’re stupid and gullible has total control over your life.

– you bargain with the grocer over the cost of a lettuce.

– you see nothing wrong with standing on a white stripe in the middle of a highway while cars whiz past you at 90kph.

– you buy a movie that hasn’t been released yet at home.

– you complain about the price differences of DVDs/VCDs/CDs bought in the stores and those sold on the streets.

– you point out foreigners to your Chinese friends.

– you answer “China” when people ask where you’re from.

– you burp, fart, and scratch so much even your Chinese friends get embarrassed.

– you eat cake with chopsticks.

– you ask “Into what?” when people say China is developing.

– you hold hands with others of the same sex and think nothing of it.

– you avoid touching those of the opposite sex as if they have bird flu.

– you’ve got a pre-paid ticket with a reserved seat on a train, but you still run like mad to get there first.

– everyone wants to be your friend – all you have to do is teach them English for free.

– your Chinese lessons consist of 50 words your teacher wants to know in English.

– you too think that the ugliest western man always has a beautiful Chinese girlfriend.

– the more you listen to the news, the more uninformed you are.

– it fascinates you that when the national news is on, your forty TV channels magically become the same channel.

– only five minutes of preparation time for an unannounced class no longer fazes you.

– you believe you’re here to teach English.