Celebrating the year of the Rat in style
Chinese New Year has been and gone, and what a hoot it was! The year of the charming and opportunistic Rat has begun. The year kicked off with China and Hong Kong going into lockdown over a flu. Being a Rat, I smell one. How can China benefit from this, I ask self? Oh! Yes. By using the crisis to ramp up the already intrusive Social Credit system, where everything you do and say is recorded, and points taken off your social credit for jaywalking, spitting, talking about the poor little government behind its back. They are now taking money off the streets to "clean" it, but I'd be very surprised if it goes back into circulation. When people use cards, it's so much easier to control their every move.
But you know what? I do miss China, a lot. So when Chinese New Year rolls around, I feel like cooking Chinese food and lots of it! This year 18 people turned up to celebrate what will surely be the best year in history for the whole world. Yes including the Chinese, if they can only be like the Rat and see this as an opportunity, as their government is already doing.
Meanwhile, all the ingredients for a fantastic Sichuan meal (Sichuan is a province in China famous for its peppercorns and chillies) are available here in Palma de Mallorca. So until this flu dies down (pun intended) I will just cook for myself - and for you!
Screw the flu! Doobie doo!
Use the time you are hiding from the virus constructively
This is the famous cathedral of Palma de Mallorca seen through a forest of masts. Palma Bay early in the morning is truly a magnificent sight. And this morning I was savouring it again, not on a dog walk this time, but on my way to the very cathedral itself. Because today is one of the only two days each year that the following happens:
The sun shines through the window on one side of the cathedral to form the reflection of a rose window right underneath the window on the other side. Pretty cool, and special. I knew there would be a lot of people but didn't expect the line to get into the cathedral to stretch through five streets and all the way to the not nearby Plaza Cort. But I stuck it out, through the second hand smoke and the boredom. That's right, I have no inner life, so find just standing and waiting quite boring excruciatingly painful mentally.
Inside the cathedral were every single local resident of Palma plus most of the tourists. it's a spacious cathedral so that wasn't a problem, and also after a lifetime in Hong Kong
crowds don't really faze me.
Then someone sneezed. Loudly. Right next to me. And suddenly, for no reason at all, I started thinking about Hong Kong, China, crowds... and a certain virus. SARS. That particular rigmarole started with a geezer sneezing in a lift.
A cathedral isn't a lift of course, and no one outside China that we know of has died of the latest virus named after a beer. But still. Perhaps it's better to stay away from the largest crowds for a while?
Poor Hong Kong people! As if the last seven months of protests and riots aren't enough, now this, with shops running out of food and schools closing indefinitely. Haven't they had enough?
But if you live in Hong Kong, or are otherwise confined to your room, why not take this time to learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian - on Skype? I'm giving a discount to everyone affected by the latest product to come out of China.
No es justo!
Chinese New Year has come and gone and it's officially the year of the Rat.
Rats are supposed to be resourceful, opportunistic and charming. I am a Rat. And I have looked everywhere, but nowhere does it say: Rats are particularly unlucky in matters related to ... printers.
Excruciatingly long story marginally shorter: I bought a Canon printer in Hong Kong in 2011, and it was wonderful. Colours, super fast, the works. When I moved to Spain early 2018, naturally I took it with me. Imagine my shock, nay, devastation, when the man in the ink shop told me I couldn't buy new ink, because "Asian Canons were different" (or something.) Kind friends brought me new ink from Hong Kong, but clearly this situation couldn't continue. Suddenly I remembered I am modern now, and got a whole bunch of cartridges on eBay. Sorted! For life!
Except the printer stopped working pretty much the same day as the cartridges arrived. Only eight years old! Bastard. A friend came to fix it, but before I knew it he had coaxed me into a new printer, also Canon, online, from Palma's famous tech shop MediaMarkt.
Ever since that day, I have been plagued with problems. The new printer is so European and modern and techno that it is hyper sensitive, its built-in software is absolutely crap; for example, instead of being able to set it to printing four of the same image on one page, I have to make four copies of the same image on my desktop and import them one by one. The old printer was perfect in every way; the new one is like living with a little temperamental teenaged madam, high maintenance, irresponsible, ungrateful and never looking to grow out of it. But it can print black and white documents, especially if I restart my desktop between bouts. Oh, and just before Chinese New Year I actually managed to make it print the menu for the New Year festivities.
But only just. Because now the ink in the new printer was running out fast. I had 2,000 fresh cartridges for the old, perfect printer now dead, and zero for the new. Then I remembered: The ink shop with the haughty employee! Leg it leg it, only 40 minutes' walk. "No, we don't have that ink." What??? But I bought my printer here in town. "Oh yes, but it's too new. We don't have that kind of ink yet." That's when I exclaimed NO ES JUSTO!!! Which means: It's not fair! It really isn't.
So yeah, happy new year to everyone for the second time in a month. I don't know what conclusion I am to draw from this. Don't buy new stuff?
But talking about Chinese: Did I mention you can take Cantonese lessons from me, on Skype? I'm also working on a Spanish course called Learn Spanish Without Really Trying, which i'm drawing and writing but my partner H will be teaching, but to print out the pages for her students - guess what... I need ink! NO ES JUSTO!
Catholic Priest blesses Birds, Vegans
Do you have a pet owl that you want blessed by a Catholic priest? Then Palma de Mallorca is the place for you.
When last Friday I went to chronicle the fabled festival of Sant Antoni, patron saint of animals, I expected to see dogs, cats, possibly goldfish. Owls and falcons, not so much. But there they were, perched on their owner's arms and glaring. The owl, in particular, looked positively psychotic and ready to kill.
“Is he... afraid?” I asked the owner.
“No, I’m the one who’s afraid!” was the answer.
I would be too! Those claws could dig straight through my arm, and the beak looked like it could take off someone's head. The falcons look bored, more than anything. Well, I thought they looked bored, but actually, I don’t really know what a bored bird looks like. Probably much the same as an un-bored bird.
I also didn't expect three different sets of musicians; drummers, a big marching band and two traditional Mallorquin musicians. What joy! Oh, Mallorca is such a paradise in so many ways.
The procession started outside Palma's mighty cathedral La Seu amid much excitement. It was supposed to begin at 10, and I was afraid to have missed it all when I got there at 10:40m, but fortunately it hadn't even started yet. About 11:15 the music started up, and a sea of dogs, birds (of prey) and proud owners wound its way through the narrow, medieval streets of the Old Town to San Miguel Church. That’s right, San Miguel, or Sant Miquel, was actually a saint, not just a beer. A priest was waiting together with a statue of Sant Antoni, blessing every beast as it padded by.
Some vegans also joined in, with a poster showing pigs, cows and chickens saying: "We also deserve to live." I asked them if I was allowed to have some eggs at least (for I too think that animals deserve to live... in a dignified way, until it's time to humanely slaughter them) but NO, came the categorical answer. Not even an egg? Count me out.
But oh, what a beautiful morning in the stunning city of Palma, and what a lovely tradition. I think all countries should have a day for blessing animals.
The next day I saw a report about a place in China where people had forced a pig to bungee jump 70 metres before sending it to the slaughterhouse.
Slightly Surreal Coffee with Gay(?) Porn
Sometimes life in sleepy backwater Palma de Mallorca can be slightly surreal - fortunately! Yesterday was yet another festival; this time it was Sant Antoni, the patron saint of animals, when people take their animals to be blessed by a priest. That would make for some good photos, I thought, and sure enough. The streets were full of dogs and musicians, and it was really fun. But after a couple of hours of walking and waiting I got bored, and besides there were too many people to get a good shot of the actual blessing. So I dove down a mysterious looking side alley and into the first coffee shop, or cafeteria, for a coffee.
Oh joy, there was a Chinese guy behind the counter! I greeted him with my usual "哥們兒，怎麼了“（'Dude, what's up, in Mandarin). Yes it has come to this - after two years in Spain I now automatically address Chinese people in the imperialist crap language Mandarin. He mumbled something. Then I looked closer. That face! It could only be a Cantonese face. Oh the relief! He brightened up no end when I started with the real language, and we had a good old natter.
I asked him to write his name in Chinese characters, but then he suddenly looked wary: "Are you a missionary?" Ha? No! Only to get the whole world to speak Cantonese. Yes I still haven't given up on that one. Anyway, Mister Lau had been here 30 years and had only been back to Guangzhou six times in those years. The only Chinese food available in his (very Palmaese) café was cup noodles. Waaah. (Expression of admiration/surprise/head shaking in Cantonese.) He spoke fluent Spanish, naturally, and quite excitedly told the other customers about my, or should I say our mutual background, in southern China. The two women by the window listened particularly raptly it seemed, amid much cackling. I talked Spanish too, made silly jokes, got cackles - oh! What a laugh we had! I enjoyed myself tremendously.
And: beer is beautiful again:
When I stood packing up my photo equipment, one of the women (not the one in the photo) came up to me, slyly it seemed: "Do you speak English?" Yes of course. "Good! Look, only for you." She showed me her phone, from which blue swirling lights and some kind of thumping music were emanating. Was it a fashion show? I looked closer. A procession of male models(?) Naked. Very toned. Walking around some kind of stage. The music must have been very thumping indeed or I had missed part of the video, because they were all in a state of bobbing, metre-long tumescent protuberance. OKAY, gay porn. I hope! The cackling became deep roars and screams of fishwifey laughter.
Hm. Did I look like a gay man? If not, what could possibly be the reason for showing me this? But surreal, definitely. She must have been 75 or 80. I know age is just a number. Like, 75 is the new 12.
Still, a new Cantonese person has been discovered! The fourth one so far.
TAKE LESSONS PEOPLE. Save the culture. I'm on Skype every day!