Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today, I miss my culture. My sweet Canadian culture

Becky, My sister-in-law, worked at Smitty’s Restaurant for a few years. One day she needed a ride to work. On the way to work I put Radiohead’s “Creep” on the stereo. She kindly asked that I wouldn’t because she didn’t want to start her day with that kind of language. I agreed and put something else on. Thus is the cool way that my sister-in-law goes about life; trying to keep things positive, trying to get the day off on the right foot. I admire her for that kind of stuff.

This week, after much confusion, Ryan Smyth aka “Smitty” has rejoined the Oilers. I didn’t get that much sleep for a few days there because I kept checking to see if the trade really went down or not. But sure enough, he’s on the team again.

This is a really nice thing. He is a really great player, a nice guy, a good leader with experience and his mullet flows like a flock of doves over the morning dew on the prairie wheat fields. But we all know that. Tell us something we don’t know, Brett.

Well, that’s a difficult thing to do for a bunch of know-it-alls, but let me take a stab at it.


Did you know that there are more tennis courts in this city that are not used than there are ones that are? Actually, throw basketball courts in there as well.

I was reminded of this today while on a bike ride. I rode through Kai Fa Qu and saw the 6 beautiful tennis courts that sit empty all week. The guard said that they are for the workers of a nearby China Mobile building and that they are used on the weekend. I highly doubt that they are used on the weekend.

Then I came around the corner to some sort of Police Academy. They have the nicest outdoor tennis court in town. All fenced in, filling up with dust. I am sure that in 50 years, that tennis court will be in a museum. The oldest, untouched tennis court in the world. I would encourage them to get American/Chinese tennis legend Michael Chang to do the ribbon cutting.

In that same yard is a really nice basketball court that sits. The hoops even have mesh on them. Really nice stuff. Wouldn’t want to ruin it.


But what can you do? Things work differently here. I think that I am at a different place than I was a while ago. Here is what I think:

You never get used to another culture. I don’t care if you get dropped off of a boat as a baby; you are not made for the Jungle. This was confirmed when we watched Tarzan with the boys last night. Sure, Tarzan and Jane stayed in the Jungle (sorry for the spoiler) but the main problem that started the hold mess was Tarzan being mad at his “gorilla mom” for not telling him that there were other people like him. He got curious about his own people, since there was something in him that could connect with that.

So, you never get used to it, but things do seem to get better. Slowly you start to expect certain things to happen. When they do, like the traffic and other things they do differently, you start to think that you are slowly getting used to the culture.

But the main thing I have noticed is that all of the things I enjoy about this place are the things that I get used to. The things that I do not enjoy are the things that actually grate on me more. So, eventually, there is this great chasm between things that I enjoy and things that I don’t. That is why I can go out on a nice bike ride and then suddenly get angry that at police car just cut me off and has now decided to park in the middle of the road that I was trying to ride on. I enjoy bike rides but I don’t enjoy getting cut off by police.

What I need to do is to not let the crappy driver take away my bicycle riding enjoyment. This is the battle. This is the key. The struggle. This is why it’s so hard to live in another culture. It’s not because they eat different food or because you don’t speak the language. It’s because they are spoiling my bike rides. It’s because there are misunderstandings that go beyond language.

It’s because there are misunderstandings that go WAY beyond language.


I’ve talked to people that have lived here for 10, 15, even 20 years. These are the people that usually laugh it all off.

“Oh, you want to pick up my kid and put your dirty hands all over his face? No biggy”

“Oh, you mean that your pizza comes with corn and cauliflower? Sounds good.”

“Right; I forgot that the grass is for dogs to poop on. My bad.”

I admire these “legends of Xining” that can let it all roll off their duck backs. I, on the other hand, often feel like a duck swimming in motor oil. Though, I guess, eventually all of that oil can get hosed off. Actually, wouldn’t the oil help with the stuff rolling off my back?


Sister-in-law Becky is also very prudent with going to bed on time. If she goes to bed too late then she will usually tell us about it in a Skype conversation. Maybe she even has a bedtime, I don’t know. But why do I stay up until midnight every night? Who made me the boss? Sure, it’s nice to stay up late but it’s not nice to look like you stayed up late. And, most importantly, it’s not nice to feel like you’ve stayed up late. Staying up late is for rockers and I am 30 now so I guess I’m more of a folker.

We people need sleep. We need nice sounds entering our ears, like birds and coffee percolating. We need these things so that we can survive the bike rides.


I told Barbara the other day that I am restructuring a few things. I’m going to add going to bed on time. I don’t think that I can just start going to bed at 10:30, so I’ll need to work my way to that type of goal. My music is usually “rap free” so I don’t need to worry too much about the language. I’ll have to put a limit on how often we watch The Wire though. That will be tough.

Other things I am restructuring?

Well, praise the Lord, I will be finished with school in 2 weeks. New work visas next semester mean that I don’t need to cross the “Death Zone” cross walk twice a day anymore. That kind of stress should melt away like a big brick of butter. Serenity now!

I am also going to battle the bike ride twice a week. It’s my favorite sport at the moment and I need to stay active in order to keep this locomotive a’ chuggin’.

My local friend, who is a teacher, said that his boss told them that they cannot spend all day inside, so he took them all outside to play volleyball. Volleyball is lame, but bless his heart he cares about his workers. I admire that man. He should be in charge of this place.

Now, I’m not really a “label guy”, but I am a pretty introverted fellow. I fight it now and then. I think it’s good to socialize with people so that they can know that you don’t hate them. I find it nice to get personal with people, one at a time, and often avoid the big group get togethers. I am not a regular at “Club Socialize”, their drinks are too expensive and their music is too synthasizery.

So, part of the restructuring involved some more “me time”. I am working on another script at the moment. I am also getting things together to take a stab at writing a book. These kind of things are in the “me time” category.

My favorite author is Douglas Coupland. My favorite artist is Wilco. May favorite movies are Coen Brothers made. I find that I admire these people not because they are famous, or successful, or even creative. I admire them because I feel like I know them. I’m going to work towards letting people know who I am. What am I waiting for?

So, if more sleep and more "me time" can help me enjoy my bike rides a little more then I think that it’ll be worth it. Thanks, Becky.

In any event, I look forward to listening to Ryan Smyth play for the Oilers this fall.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fruit Salad for the Lao Wai soul

First of all, I love fruit salad. The season is upon us and I have made a batch of the sweet stuff no less than 10 times since my birthday. Delicious, healthy, colorful, fresh. Like eating a rainbow.

The more you make fruit salad the better you get at it. Your senses zero in on the important parts. You quickly learn that there is no room for bananas in a fruit salad. They soak up too much of the juice and they dominate the flavor of every bite. They are like a stinky friend in a long elevator ride. "I'll catch the next one."

Mangoes, strawberries, apples, cantaloupe, honey dew, peaches, nectarines. I would add grapes but they are a little too pricey right now. cherries are nice, but way too much work.

Watermelon is the lettuce of the fruit salad. It holds the whole thing together and keeps it from just being a large bowl of cut up fruit. Thinly sliced, it is easy to take the seeds out of watermelon. After the seeds are removed you may proceed with the cubing of the melon.

Finally, a dash of lemon juice. You want citrus, but not too much. Let's be honest, your going to be eating multiple bowls of the stuff until it's gone. There is no need risking a canker sore to put you out of commission.


It had been sunny for well over a week. plus 30 degrees Celsius. Beautiful stuff.


Yesterday it rained all day. Today was nice but, as we were driving to the park, it started raining again. I like rain, but I think that along with the rain I have started to see a few bad cases of "the grumps" here and there, and even all around the square.


So, let's conclude with a little bit of frustration. You might want to grab a bowl of fruit salad for this one.

Last week I was riding my bike through the campus. Suddenly, I heard some nice music coming from the far end of the square located behind the library. Well, I made a sharp turn, hopped the curb, crossed about 2 feet of grass and rode on the square towards the sweet music.

At this point I started to hear the yelling. I could tell that someone was very angry. Soon enough, I realized that the man was screaming, "Lao Wai! Lao Wai!" from the very bellows of his being. "lao wai" means "foreigner" in Chinese. So, I stopped my bike and turned around to see what all the fuss was about. The man, in his 40's, was standing over where I had cut across the tiny patch of grass. He continued to scream, pointing down to the grass like Jon Gruden might have done when pointing out a discrepancy with the referees while he was coaching the crappy Raiders of the NFL.

He screamed that I could not ride my bike on the grass. I knew this, though at the time I figured that it wouldn't be a big deal to cut through such a small section of it, and would most certainly not endanger any political ties that there may have been between my country and this beautiful one. I might have underestimated things a tiny bit.

Once I knew what he was talking about, I waved and called out "Dui bu qi", to him, which is "sorry". As I turned around to continue I realized that he wasn't finished with me. No, he was even angrier. I wondered what I was going to have to do to make this right. A public spanking? I don't know. Stranger things have happened.

In the end, the problem wass that I should definitely not ride my bike on the grass OR the square. The square in question is about 150 yards long and 100 wide. It is mostly cement with a fancy looking rock in the middle. Because of a lack of benches and tall trees for shade, the square is usually deserted. On this day, the only people I saw on it were the people in the choir on the other side.

So, needless to say, I was stopped again by the very angry man. It took me a moment to understand that I could not ride my bike on the cement. It took me longer to calm him down. Furious, he continued to berate me as though I was a 3 year old child. I held my own for a while, apologizing and explaining that there are not any signs prohibiting bikes on the square and that I am a foreigner and have yet to completely memorize the rule book of this country. On his part the cursing continued. I laughed a bit, which was not good.

I wanted to know what happened to him that day. I wanted to know why cement was more important to him than manners and courtesy. I wanted to know why this guy hated me for such a simple, understandable misunderstanding.

A couple of local guys I knew came up to see what was going on. I asked them why he was so mad. They simply said, "Because you can't ride you bike on the square."

Exhibit B

Today we had a little picnic in the grass behind our building. We had about 8 adults and 6 kids there. We had blankets spread on the grass and were trying to enjoy ourselves before a storm rolled in overhead. A few local people, as they usually do, stopped to admire the kids and guess what kinds of strange foreign foods we were eating.

After a while, one of the neighbors came up to us. He might have been in his 50's and he was out walking his dog. He went out of his way to tell us how rude we were being for having a picnic. That we were making a mess and that it was very rude. That we should not be on the grass wasn't really the point, as he said that it is fine that the kids play on the grass but that to have food on the grass is very rude and inconsiderate to the rest of the people who used the yard.

Time out.

First of all, there is not a lot of grass in this country. When someone plants grass they usually put up a cute little sign which translates into "We are tiny blades of grass, please don't hurt us". What they really mean is "stay the %@#* off the grass!". So, as it goes, there are little patches of grass in a lot of areas in this city that just sit there. The only thing you will ever see on a patch of grass are dozens of piles of dog crap. I joke that the grass is only for looking at and for dogs to crap on. So, when we went to picnic, and knew that there were not any signs prohibiting going on the grass, that the kids could play on the grass, that dogs could use it as a bathroom, we figured in our ignorance that it would be okay to enjoy what little piece of grass we could find that had yet to be defiled.

Anyways, it got a little weird. The guy asked where Dustin was from. He said America. The man asked if we would do something like this in America. He actually asked if we would have a picnic in America. Dustin said "of course" and the man laughed in disbelief. "Bu Ke Neng!" he laughed. "There is no way!".

Anyways, we packed up and got out of there. We were basically done eating anyways and it was starting to get colder out.

I wonder why these two men chose to yell and insult before asking politely. I wonder why they decided to be so hostile in such a simple situation. Maybe they had a bad day at work, who knows? But, the simple fact that we needed to dance around dog crap to eat our food and then have a grown man yell and call us rude for using the grass in a far less destructive way than most dogs would is something that I will ponder on this evening. Ponder I will.

After a few moments of pondering I realize that, at times, I am just as unreasonable as these.

But still...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day... the 4th!

Happy Father's Day to all of the Dadeos out there. This day is a unique day in that most fathers probably forget about it until it actually arrives. Mother's Day, on the other hand, is an important day as everyone knows, and one that is anticipated and planned for many days in advance. Father's Day is a little sneakier.

For me, it sneaks up after my birthday. I have come to appreciate the day as they are slowly being tallied up. Today I was given these beautiful gifts from Barbara and the boys:

Beer and paperweights make my day.

This is my 4th Father's Day, even though Miles isn't quite 4 yet. I remember it being this time 4 years ago when a close friend sent a Father's Day greeting to me. Barbara was just 2 months pregnant but our friend was kind enough to point out that it has already begun. At the time I already had fathering responsibilities. The primary one was to make sure that Miles was well taken care of. The only way to do that, at the time, was to take care of Barbara.

I have friends right now in the middle of the long process of adopting. I've only heard a few of the many things they've had to do in order to get ready and "qualified" for this child. It's amazing to see them already mothering and fathering this child without even knowing him/her yet. The love and care that go into filling out forms and buying fire alarms are all ways of expressing their love to this child. Happy Father's Day to Justin!

Adoption has always seemed like a beautiful thing to me. When a movie has adoption in it, or when I meet people who have adopted, I am just in awe of how amazing and loving the whole thing is. Someday, lord willing, we will also be able to provide a home and family for someone who needs it.

Not only was it important to take care of Miles' mom at the time, but it was important to get into the mindset that I was going to be busier. I was going to have to sacrifice time and energy for this little guy. At first, it was easy to take care of Miles. He slept a lot, weighed about 10 pounds, and his mom did all of the feeding. I changed diapers, but even those weren't that bad at the beginning.

Now, Miles is 3 and a half, but I think that his smarts is more around a 5 year old's level. He's doing math now! I've got more responsibilities, and not only that, but when they get older it is easy just to put a movie on. It is easy to not play with my kids all day. It's easy to feed them instant noodles every day. It's easy to do all that because it's not right and the easy thing to do is usually the lazy thing. They need even more input and wisdom from me than they needed at the beginning. On top of that, they want to play with me. They are people and they actually like me. Who am I to ignore that kind of love?

Anyways, I am pretty, pretty happy that we had these two little boys. I am thankful that they are growing strong and that they love their mom and dad. I hope that I can limit my father screw ups to the minimum and that they won't hold them against me when they become cool teenagers.

Happy Father's Day to my dad, my mom's dad, and my wife's dad and the other dad's that I know.

To misquote Bruce McCulloch:

"These are the dads I know, I know, these are the dads I know."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Respect for the real losers

I kind of dreamed about this post. Like it would never come true so I might as well have thought about what I would say since it wouldn't come true and a dream is all I had. Now that it has come true, I forgot about everything I was going to say.

I am referring, of course, to the Vancouver Canucks being upset by the Boston Bruins in their own building in front of a sell out crowd inside and a rowdy sum of 100 000 outside. I often look at such instances with a skewed brow, poetically fulfilling. I'm not quite sure why I think this way at all. It is similar to when I was rooting for the NY Giants to ruin Tom Brady and his perfect season. There is a deep, raw, and curious taste to these kinds of events that I, for some reason, enjoy.

I am by no means a Bruins fan. I don't hate them, I just don't really care. The truth is that it's kind of nice that they won the Cup. They hadn't won it since 1972 and the last time they were in it I was watching it at my piano teacher's house for reasons I cannot recall. I took piano lessons for a few weeks and it is strange that I remember watching hockey on one of those evenings.

So, when the Canucks unexpectedly forgot to show up to game 7, I was at a loss for words. The fight in the dog was thrown a bone. Make no mistake, Tim Thomas was a human magnet. Unbelievable goaltending that was ultimately, but not exclusively, the reason that Canada remains cupless since 1993. The Bruins came out onto the ice and willed the cup into their hands. The Canucks stood around and watched them take it out of their own building. I actually think that they had a hand in presenting the award.

I thought that I would feel joy. They could finally take the "Canucks Cup Quest" sign off of the TSN.ca website. The 1st round comments of "Ryan Kesler being in the Conn Smythe trophy conversation" are put to bed. All of the anticipation, all of the biting and diving and whining and game 5 post-game trash talking are all whispered away in the salty Vancouver sea winds. But the feeling remained... I felt really bad for the Canuck's fans.

I'm not talking about the people in the streets with the jerseys on their backs and the weapons in their hands. I'm not talking about the thousands of bystanders who did nothing but Youtube the whole thing to death. I am talking about the Trevor Linden fans, the Cliff Ronning and Pavel Bure fans. The ones that have had to sit around and listen to Oilers and Flames fans talk about the cups they won many decades ago. These are the real losers. Well, the players are the real losers, but they get paid millions of dollars and have a nice 3 month break starting tomorrow.

And by 'losers' I don't mean 'losers'. The real 'losers' are the ones that were taking turns beating up a helpless Smart car, or the teenage girls who were trying to bash a Sears store window in. The real 'losers' will hopefully be getting punished for destroying their city.

Now, the criminals are the ones who beat up a helpless security guard, like a page out of Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus!., only the security guard didn't shoot anybody. These people should actually see jail time. You'd think that with thousands of cameras circling the mob there would be ample coverage to throw a lot of these guys in the slammer.

Anyways, back to the 'losers', the true Canuck fans. The one's who watched it at home because there is no way they could pay $8000 for a ticket to a sporting event, and if they could, they would do something wiser with the money. The ones who are sad today, but not hungover and incarcerated. The ones who look forward to next season with optimism and, hoping for a few tweaks and a bit more muscle, will most certainly enjoy their own celebration within the next few years.

If there is one good thing to come out of all of this (and you really have to look for it) it would be that a lot of people that don't really like the Canucks will feel sympathy for their real fans. It will take a while before the dignity that was stolen from them will be restored. Stupid riots. Go to a country that needs more rioters and protesters because all of theirs are dead and go riot there. They need more help.

After the dust settles, for Vancouver fans, I see a fresh start rising over the nation towards the West coast. New sympathy that will hopefully lead to a mutual respect between all Canadian fans.

"Sure, I hate the Canucks but man do I feel sorry for their real fans."

Like my sister-in-law, Krista. She's been a fan since she was little. She used to have a crush on Trevor Linden, maybe she still does. She felt pretty horrible that they lost, but definitely more horrifying for her was to see the ugliness that took place in the streets. She is embarrassed for her city. She deserves better than that.

Or Jim Hughson, the CBC's "homer" announcer. You can't blame a guy for being born in a city and then cheering for that city's team, can you?

I would mention other Canuck fans here but, quite frankly, they aren't the kind of people that I regularly associate with so I can't think of any others. But for Krista and to a lesser extent, Jim, I respect you as real hockey fans.

But now that the dust is settled, I have to say that I like the Canucks a little more than I used to. Maybe it's seeing their broken hearts in the locker room, slowly pulsing away all of the hope for a championship. The tears in Luongo's and Kesler's sexy eyes. The Sedin twins showing the emotion of two Swedish robots. Or 1 Swedish robot standing at an angle next to a mirror.

Thus begin the post-playoff traditions; packing up the locker room, All of those beard shavings littering the dressing room floor, scooped up, stuffed into a commemorative pillow and sold on eBay. Sweeping up riot trash and boarding up windows. The Value Village aisles, full to the brim with $150 jerseys. People starting to pretend that they care about the CFL.

I am an Oilers fan. For me, the season has been over for at least 2 months. Actually, it's technically been over ever since Ryan Whitney went down for the season sometime in January. I listen to the games on CHED's website. They lose every freaking time! And, I come back and listen again. I'll be there again in October. The team will most definitely continue to be horrible for years to come. But cheering for a team like that somehow gives me the same feeling as cheering for the Bruins or NY Giants does. In the same way, No Country for Old Men is my favorite movie. There is something about the carnage and tension that draws me in.

I stand with the real Canuck fans because I know what it is like to be a loser.

And, if one day the good Lord and the Oilers find themselves cuddled around the Stanley Cup again, I will celebrate all of the years of heartache culminated into one sweet moment of contentment. Then, and only then, will I check the baseball scores.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


This city is a beauty!

Yesterday I walked from our complex all the way down to the road where the train station used to be. It's a decent distance, I strolled and it took about an hour.

Our city is changing at a break neck pace. If you are in a taxi and zoom by some new developments, be careful while you look or you just might break your neck.

Along the river is just one of the places where there is a huge contrast between the old and the new. Sitting below the giant apartment buildings being constructed are old ping fangs made of brick that would surely crumble with the slightest of earthquakes.

There are still farmers living in the middle of the city, herding their sheep. There are still old style coal ovens firing away on the family meal. These people will soon be gone, replaced with the new developments. In the end, with the safety factor, this is a good thing. Though, as it usually is with change, this is kind of a sad thing. Where will these people go? What will they do with all of their sheep? Will they know how to use a gas stove without blowing themselves up?

I took some photos along the journey and I have added a few descriptions here and there. If you want to read them, and see the photo set on Flickr, then please click firmly on this area.

Check out the other photos while you're at it. More to come.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


June is here. Jonas turns 2 next week. I am still 30.

Last night, plenty of my relatives went to see U2. From my research I have concluded that Mom, Bryce, Barry, Cousin Rob, and sister-in-law Becky were all at the concert. Maybe that isn't so many after all, but at the time it seemed like everyone this side of Uncle Roy was at the party.

This is funny:

Friend Curtis and cousin Rob taking almost identical photos.

When Miles and Jonas found out that their Uncles went to U2 they asked if we could put in "The Bono DVD". It is a U2 concert DVD that the boys are quite fond of. It was almost like being there. Almost.

U2 is interesting in that everyone likes them. If someone says that they don't then they are lying and they secretly sneak a little Joshua Tree every once in a while to let loose on the drive to work.

I once read a Biography about Bono. I went in expecting to read about all of the amazing stuff the guy is apart of. Basically, I went in expecting it to be good, but nothing that I did not already know. Well, the book blew me away. A great read. I'm not sure which Biography it was. All I know is that the interviewer/author was a guy that has known the band since the beginning. He could have been wearing sunglasses and a black hoodie as well, I'm not sure. With that information I am certain that you can track down the title.

The thing I have that all of the concert goers do not is that I "See China right in front of me." So, even if I don't always feel like it, in a way, everyday is a beautiful one.


How about those Canucks? They were 'biting' and clawing their way to a victory earlier this morning. What can you say about a player like Burrows? Everyone who has ever played sports can think back and remember there always being a guy like this in the league. I guess it wouldn't be the same without them.

I coined a new phrase in the Gitzel home today. Whenever Jonas gives Miles a little push or a shove and Miles overreacts by having a fit, which happens a lot, I say that Miles is "Pulling a Sedin." I think it will stick.

Barbara from the other room: "What's all of that crying and whining that I'm hearing?"

Me with the boys: "Oh, Miles just got Sedined again. He'll be okay."

Seriously, this could be a good series if everyone stayed out of the penalty box. Actually, I think that the Bruins could be the stronger team 5 on 5. If they keep giving the Canucks powerplays then this will all be over very quickly.

One final hockey note. Luongo is playing lights out right now. Someone once called him 'Jesus with pads' and I tend to agree.


Every night we sing the boys some songs before they go to sleep. The boys have a new favorite song for me to sing. I sang it once and they immediately got hooked. Why I sang it once? I have no idea what it was doing lounging around in my mind. But, now that it's out there, it's pretty funny:

This is the song