Friday, 29 February 2008

Leap months, language and balut


Today is 29th February. In the Gregorian calendar, the current standard calendar in most of the world, most years that are divisible by 4 are leap years. In a leap year, the month of February has 29 days instead of 28. Adding an extra day to the calendar every four years compensates for the fact that a solar year is almost 6 hours longer than 365 days. However, some exceptions to this rule are required since the duration of a solar year is slightly less than 365.25 days. Years which are divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they are also divisible by 400, in which case they are leap years.

The last paragraph is from Wikipedia. I find calendars interesting because the Chinese and Gregorian calendars are vastly different. In the West we have given up on using the moon to mark our months, thus our '1st of the month' has no bearing on the position of the moon. We focus purely on the Earth's solar orbit. We use a solar calendar. Conversely, in China they do keep their months in sync with the moon. They use a lunar calendar. This is why Asia has so many lunar festivals. However, a problem arises when trying to fit the Moon's orbit of the Earth (27.3 days - 1 month) into the Earth's solar orbit of the Sun (365.25 days - 1 year). The Chinese scholars circumvent this issue by inserting 'leap months' into their calendars at certain times. The rules that govern when a leap month is inserted are very complicated - like everything else seems to be here! Interestingly, as this calendar stuff overspills into everyday language, the word for month and moon are the same (yue, 月).

Language barrier

One thing that is fun here is the language barrier. Many funny things happen that I forget but I want to mention a couple here that made me smile. Zi Ting's Mother is currently in hospital. I asked what's wrong with her? Zi Ting said: "He is having his baby-house removed". I couldn't help myself but I laughed even though this is a serious operation. She asked what's so funny? I explained how your Mother is a 'She' - not 'He'. We call a woman's 'baby-house' a 'womb'. I knew what she meant but it just sounds funny - His baby-house!

The he/she problem stems from the fact that in spoken Chinese you don't distinguish between gender. An example is "He/She is good". In both cases you would say "Ta shi hao". This is why they muddle up he and she so much. They also don't conjugate verbs depending on tense. This is another huge problem but that's another story.

This next one made me laugh too. When I woke up the other morning I had a lot of sleep in my eyes. The name for sleep is 'Yeng shi'. It translates as 'eye shit'. Haha. She then went onto explain that ear wax is ear shit and snots are nose shit. How mint is that? .....eye shit, ear shit and nose shit - cool!


I forgot to mention on the last post how I ate a thing known as Balut. This is a Philippine delicacy. It's also eaten in Vietnam but I bottled it there. Not this time though. Balut is basically an uncooked duck's embryo still in the egg. I ate it on my last night in Manila. The Filipinos in the hostel were offering them to us pussy Westerners and since nobody would rise to the challenge I said "Bollicks to this, give me one". I did it partly to taste the only food I've bottled in Asia and to show them that us Westerners are not, in no uncertain terms, pussies! I was determined not to chuck up during my attempt.

When I think of the things that have passed through my gullet in the last couple of years, it's enough to make one's stomach turn. If you can block out the thought of what you are actually eating, it is possible. If I can do it, anyone can. Jeez man, I remember not even liking Sunday dinners as a bairn!

I tried the baby duck's head of the first egg just to show my fearlessness. I enjoyed it, so I finished the whole egg which turns out to taste pretty good. I then asked if there was any more Balut left, much to the other Westerners astonishment. They were almost vomiting asking "How the f*ck can you eat that sh*t man?"


Tonight we are going to a lantern festival which I'm looking forward too. Loads of stuffing our faces - great.

I have to say that in rural Taiwan you do not have access to any bars or discos. The thing here is KTV or karaoke but you have to go there as a group and listen to shit singers all night. I just wanna sup a pint in a quiet bar on me Jack Jones but they just don't exist. Well, they do but you would have to slog all the way to Tainan, and frankly, I can't be arsed. So, unlike Manila where I almost killed myself, I am a model of healthy living here in Cigu. I haven't touched alcohol or nicotine for two weeks - Champion.

再见 Bye

你想知道什么 ni xiang zhidao shenme? What do you want to know?

眼屎 yen shi - eye shit

鼻屎 bi shi - nose shit

耳屎 er shi - ear shit

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