Then again, kangaroo in Chinese is called Pocket Mouse, so this is obviously a language that likes to keep things simple. Why bother with Rooster, Cock, Hen, Broiler - and Prostitute - when you can call them all 'Chicken' 雞?
I feel sorry for the two of my students, Snow Dragon 雪龍 (in Sydney) and Jasmine Tea 香片 (in San Francisco), who started taking Cantonese lessons because they are language nerds and Cantonese was the most difficult thing they could think of. I can't tell you how much their faces fell when they realised it's the simplest language evvaaaah. They still love it though. Naturally. You will too!
Ox years: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, and 1937
(Taken from China Highlights with spelling and other mistakes intact.)
As the strongest animal of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, known as "the good helper" in Chinese farming, the Ox is a symbol of diligence, strength, honesty, down-to-earth persistence, and wealth.
Having an honest nature, the Ox is known for diligence, dependability, strength and determination. These reflect traditional conservative characteristics.
Female Oxes are traditional, faithful wives, who attach great importance to their children's education. They would achieve their career success easily with their strong personality.
Male Oxes are strongly patriotic. They have strong ideals and ambitions for life, and attach importance to family and work.
Having great patience and a desire to make progress, Oxes can achieve their goals by consistent effort. They are not much influenced by others or the environment, but persist in doing things according to their ideas and capabilities.
Before taking any action, Oxes will have a definite plan with detailed steps, to which they apply their strong faith and physical strength. As a result, people of the Ox zodiac sign often enjoy great success.
Oxes are usually not good at communicating with others, and even think it is not worthwhile to exchange ideas with others. They are sometimes stubborn and stick to their own ways.
Oxes are strong and robust; they can enjoy a fairly healthy and long life, which is fulfilled with little illness.
Because of their hard work with a stubborn personality, they often spend too much time in their work, rarely allowing themselves enough time to relax, and tend to forget meals, which make them have intestinal problems. So enough rest and a regular diet are needed for Oxes to work efficiently.
Are you born in the Year of the Ox? Then you can come to my Chinese New Year party on February 5th. Or take Cantonese lessons from me. Or both.
Are they asking each other what star sign they are, basing their judgment of the other person on that, like we did when I was young? Surely it can't be a thing anymore.
But bugger me if it isn't! At least according to one young person of today that I have access to, Snow Dragon in Sydney. Snow Dragon, 雪龍， was the Chinese name I gave her when we first started Cantonese lessons a few months ago. It wasn't until I started teaching her the wondrous thing that is Cantonese that I realised how much I had missed that aspect of my life in Hong Kong. Cantonese had been my life, and 'the only Norwegian Cantonese teacher in the village' my identity.
I lost my life and identity moving to the other side of the world.
But now they are back! I now have six students on four continents, but more about that later.
Now I want to talk about the zodiac; the Chinese one. Yes, Chinese New Year is coming up, the Year of the Tiger no less. I was so happy a couple of years ago when it was the year of the Rat - MY year. Ha! Was it the day after the change from Pig to Rat that covid broke out?
Still, the idea that everyone born in the same year, not even the same month like in the Western zodiac, should have the same characteristics is not only ludicrous but downright frivolous. So in the name of innocent, frivolous fun, let me present the various Chinese star signs.
1. The Rat.
The first of all the animals, the Rat caught a lift on the head of the Ox when the Jade Emperor had summoned the animals to cross a river to see him. When they reached the other side , the Rat jumped off first and legged it up to Jade Emperor to get his little paws on all the goodies before everyone else.
Here is a quick rundown of the Rat personality according to China Highlights:
"Rats are quick-witted, resourceful, and smart but lack courage. With rich imaginations and sharp observations, they can take advantage of various opportunities well.
In Chinese culture, rats represent working diligently and thriftiness, so people born in a Rat year are thought to be wealthy and prosperous." (Lack courage my arse!)
With good insight and a sharp perspective, Rats have good judgment in what they do, which enables them to prevent unnecessary problems. Rats are cautious and meticulous, so they tend to show a serious attitude toward their work.
General (sic) speaking, Rats are healthy. They are full of energy and active, which helps them keep fit and avoid illness.
A balanced diet and regular exercise benefit Rats. With enough rest Rats can keep high spirits at work, which can improve work efficiency. When in stressful and tense conditions, Rats are suggested to take a tour [walk?] to free stress and tension."
So there you have it. I will present all the animals before Chinese New Year when everything will change - the weather, for one thing.
I am also planning a mega Chinese late lunch on February 5th. If you are in Mallorca, sign up!
No, not this market, unfortunately - unlike Sichuan and Hunan provinces, Palma doesn't have enormous outdoor markets selling only various kinds of dried chillies. But the headline is Nostalgia, isn't it? Anyway, I gagged with excitement when I in my Chinese supermarket, only 45 minutes' walk away from my gaff, saw this:
Chinese peanuts with Sichuan peppercorns and chillies! A staple of my almost weekly trips to the Chinese mainland when I lived in Hong Kong. It's difficult to describe a taste, so I won't. Just, you know, heavenly.
That Chinese supermarket! I don't know what I would do without it. They have absolutely everything I need for cooking a proper Chinese meal, and now also peanuts! But the Qingdao ("Tsingtao") beer has gone up from 80 centimos to 1,20 euros since last time I looked, so I'm buying up what I can of rice, noodles and other dried goods so my dinner guests won't have to pay exorbitant prices.
When I lived in Hong Kong I used to cook for parties up to 22 people. Those were the days! Doing the dishes afterwards was brutal, especially since I didn't have hot water in the kitchen, but had to boil and boil all the dish water in an enormous kettle. On the other hand, the water in Hong Kong was so clean I could just let the glasses air dry. Here in Mallorca, I have to dry each individual glass with a dish towel to avoid grey stripes and spots. Calcium!
In Hong Kong I had a rather fantastic roof terrace overlooking the South China Sea, where I also gave cooking lessons.
And now I'm finally getting to the point of this nostalgic article: If you want to try or learn to cook proper Chinese food with the real ingredients, come to meeeee! I'm not very far away, in El Terreno, Palma de Mallorca, where I am eking out my China-less days in exile with only memories of a glorious past.
Only memories, yes, but the food remains!
You don't have to show any fascist papers to come to my house. Your medical history is really none of my business. Just stash a small amount of euros in your pocket and turn up - hungry. And while you're at it - why not take a couple of Cantonese lessons, learn a bit about the Chinese language and how it works? It's fun! And, as an added bonus, is an irritant for the Chinese Communist Party.
Hong Kong's demonstrations typically attract(ed) hundreds of thousands if not more than a million people, whereas the demonstration I went to on Monday, Spain's Constitution Day, had only a few hundred. Until the fateful year 2019 when Hong Kong people's reaction to the constant overreach by their communist masters turned into riots and violence, (conveniently quelled by Covid), big demonstrations in Hong Kong normally took place on July 1st.
July 1st 1997 was the day of the "handover" of Hong Kong from Britain to China, which China calls 回歸 The Return, and it was made a bank holiday in Hong Kong. The Chinese government probably thought Hong Kong people would use this day to celebrate the glorious return to the motherland with dancing in the street, throwing petals, perhaps with some singing. You know, like the other minorities do.
But Hong Kong people are an ungrateful lot. Instead of dressing up in their most colourful business suits, dancing their funny folk dances while singing the praises of their communist benefactors, they demonstrated against what they mistakenly see as loss of freedom. Every 1st of July, the hottest day of the year, out they came in an endless stream of people of all ages, calling for freedom, democracy and what not.
So I got into the habit of demonstrating too, although it was hugely inconvenient what with the teeming millions crowding the ferry and every public transport, not to mention the 100% humidity and the procession getting stuck between trams and buses while participants darted in and out of air conditioned shops to cool down.
But the demonstration on Monday! Not only could I walk to the starting point, a leisurely 40 minutes' stroll from my house; the march itself was so un-stressed and not at all sweaty, no one fainted and there was ample space for each marcher. Instead of being pressed up against howling traffic on the bottom of a canyon of 80 floor buildings, we had the winding medieval streets to ourselves, not counting the people waving and filming from balconies and bystanders clapping, maybe smiling behind their face nappies to guard against the dangers of sun induced vitamin D.
Yes you guessed it - it was yet another call for freedom by an ungrateful people - this time the Mallorcans who don't agree with the idea that a waiter has the right to check your medical history. I know, right? And what else, oh yes, something about "Don't touch our children" - apparently they have this morbid fascination with their children's health and not using them for some experimental drug. Something like that.
"Libertad, libertad," yes, I joined in of course! When in Rome, right, and it was a good chance to practise the one word I know in Spanish. Libertad. So you can see, I joined the demonstration because I like demonstrations and they are good exercise.
But I have to say, when I notice with which complacency and glee some of my fellow humans are willing to give up other people's freedom, I think I will stay on the side of libertad for everyone. Yes, even those who want to choose what substances are injected into them and their children.
Marching for miles and miles, year after year, sweating through my eyeballs in Hong Kong had zero effect, it turns out. But it was also good exercise, and great for the skin.
Nowadays, no one can demonstrate against anything in Hong Kong - not even for something. But if you want to start a little, un-sweaty demonstration in your brain while sticking it to the Man, you should take Cantonese lessons from me. After only a few weeks you will be able to have quite sophisticated conversations (Cantonese has no grammar) and there will be one more of us, one fewer of them.
And hey, didn't they receive several meals a week and had a roof over their heads? Why give up a tolerable life to follow Moses into the desert and an almost certain, brutal death just for a brief moment of freedom? You can see their point.
I was thinking about that earlier today when I approached Plaza Espanya and heard cries of "Libertad! Libertad!" and saw a large group of people protesting against the latest attack by the local government on individuals and businesses: The Covid Pass. The mandated showing of papers (yes, yes, a QR code, but what's the difference) to prove that you aren't one of the Untouchables - the people who refuse or are unable to take the "vaccine."*
The speeches went something like: "We are human beings, we don't want to be experimented on, if people want to have the "vaccines" they can, but they should be free not to, this is unconstitutional, how can you segregate people like this, freedom, freedom, just say NO".
It was an uplifting sight indeed, because I had thought the easy-going Mallorcans would just go along with this as they have with all the other rules and restrictions this socialist government has cack-handedly forced down on people. Maybe the Israelites allegory isn't correct though - more like boiling a frog. A little bit here, a little bit there, and before you know it you are trying to claw your way out of a cattle car headed for Auschwitz.
The funny thing was, I had to leave the protest before it was finished because I had been invited to a birthday lunch at Marina Bay, an upmarket restaurant. I had made a present, bought the flowers, was in a good mood as I sauntered into the premises, empty apart from my two friends.
I sat down, ordered a café con leche, and there it was. The waitress, showing signs of discomfort behind her mask.
"Do you have a Covid pass?"
"Er... can I see it?"
Now, ever since this thing started two years ago, I have tried to see the funny side of this, and I have gone along. I have jeopardised my physical and mental health by being shut inside my house alone for months. I have worn the face nappy breathing in bacteria outdoors and indoors. I have run out of restaurant terraces when the "time's up!" bell went at 16:45. And yes, in order to travel to Norway I have even taken the Moderna jab twice.
But this is where I draw the line. Show my medical history to a waitress in order to be allowed to be in a restaurant?
NO. No and no. This is not about a virus and hasn't been for ages, it's about control.
So I left. After all, I didn't want to get the restaurant in trouble by helping them to do something unconstitutional.
The noose is tightening. The chipping away at personal freedom, isn't it so very like China? So if you believe in freedom, I advise you to learn Cantonese! There is a connection there.
*Yes "vaccine". How can you call it vaccine when it doesn't give immunity, nor prevents spreading?