Saturday, January 11, 2014

Writing Inspiration Photos: Tourists in China!

Okay, it's January, the most blah month of the year.  Plus, I've had the flu.  Plus, it's the end of the term, and soon I'll be swamped with grading and frantic requests from parents who haven't bothered to check their kids' scores for weeks but are now suddenly interested.  Yuck.  Double yuck.
So, let us divert ourselves with amusing photos to inspire stories!
What you do with these is up to you.  One of my cyber friends wrote up a whole blog post on one of my photo sets.  And I know my cemetery photos last October drew hundreds of hits to this blog, so someone must've wanted some inspiration for something.
For today's set of photos, I've pulled up some blurry digital pics of old snapshots.  I'm not sharing these because they're such great photos; I'm sharing these because they might spark a story in someone's mind.  All of the original photos were taken by me in October of 2001, while I was on a UNESCO-sponsored dance tour in China.
Ready?  Let's begin. (Don't forget to click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Not for all the tea in China.....
Yeah, that's an American gal picking tea on a farm in China.
Maybe you've never seen tea being grown before.  I certainly hadn't until the day I took this picture.
I will leave the rest of the story up to you.

Here, an American child poses in front of a statue of a Chinese warrior.  (Yes, I blurred her features slightly on purpose, but enough time has passed that this little girl is now an adult anyway, so I'm not too worried.)  You can make up the story yourself, but I will tell you that, in 2001, a beautiful African-American child was enough of an oddity in large cities in China that she attracted attention everywhere we went.

This is a photo of a photo of selections from one of our meals.  Items on the plate include broccoli, a mushroom, a pea pod, noodles, a bamboo slice, an unidentified object shaped like an olive (but it wasn't an olive), and the head of a baby bird (complete with beak).
Before I went to China, I used to tell people that I liked Chinese food.  Nowadays, I say, "I like Chinese-American food."  It's much more accurate.  :)
I could tell you many a tale here, but that's not the point.  I'll let you be inspired to write your own story about this.

If you are an American and have not traveled outside of your homeland very much, you've probably never seen one of these before.  We always called them "Squatty Potties."  They used to be very common in Italy -- although there they often looked more like shower stalls that flushed -- and these were some of the very nicest public toilets available in China in 2001.  This particular one was (obviously) even clean enough to warrant a photograph.
The rest of the story is yours to create.  (Heaven knows I've got enough true ones of my own!)

And, of course, no photo essay on China would be complete without mentioning the signs.  Even back at the beginning of the present millennium, China had, in touristy places, many signs with English as a second language on them.  The trouble was that no one ever seemed to have bothered to have a native speaker of English check any of these signs.  This one, for example, reads: Protecting Tree: Please Not SIIINNG.   Hence, we came to refer to this language as "Close Enough English."
The rest of the story, my friends, is yours to create.

Have fun!  And if you do get inspired to write something thanks to one of these photos, I'd love to know about it.  Just post a comment.


  1. Ooh, I feel strangely at home here! That toilet--the sign--everything but the baby bird. And 'close enough English'--that's a great term for it. Sometimes it's near-but-yet-so-far English too, but whatever the case, I dearly love it and aspire to produce the same kind of Chinese soon.

    1. Yes, but you will not be making official, public signs in Chinese. That's the difference. I think most people excuse the mistakes of those stumbling about in a new language -- heaven knows my Spanish sounds like a textbook most of the time! -- but when a company or a government is having signs produced in a foreign language, they really ought to get a native speaker to proofread for them. Everywhere we went in China, we saw evidence that this had been overlooked. I saw signs in hotels that read "Expandible items will not be replaced until they are used up." (How can you use it up if it keeps expanding?) "Dinging Room" was in one place. (They paid extra for the extra G, too, as the sign was made in individual neon letters.) And I kept a copy of the beautifully printed -- and horridly translated -- official guidebook of the Hotel Land of Peach Blossoms because it was so hilarious with lines like, "In case of fire, stirring telephone 765. Waiters will come quickly for help" and "No smoking or whoring."
      Thus, while your Chinese might be laughable when spoken, you have the sense not to try to make it even more laughable by making official signs and documents that way. :)
      (I always have a native speaker look over my Spanish on official letters to parents, just in case I've said something unintentionally confusing, stupid, or offensive.)