Tag Archives: Benxi

“Master of Minnows” – Taking Huilin Fishing in Benxi

Fishing is part of being a Heath. I had a rod in my hands as soon as I could ask for one. But where we live in China the natural environmental condition is very poor. There are artificial fishing ponds, but sitting for hours in the sun hoping for a bite is no way to introduce a child to fishing. There will be plenty of opportunity to disappoint yourself when you’re older!

So these few years I had not made any great effort to take Huilin fishing. Eventually, however, he began to express an interest and so I asked my cousin-in-law Dandan to take us out when he had time. Dandan is a few years younger than me and an accomplished fisherman in the northeast Chinese style. The fish one typically catches here would be better classified as “bait” in America – they are truly that small.

But a fish is a fish, and fishing is fishing, and my son Huilin wanted to go fishing. So with thanks in our hearts, one brisk afternoon in October we piled into a borrowed minivan and drove out into the countryside. Continue reading “Master of Minnows” – Taking Huilin Fishing in Benxi

May Day in Benxi

May Day Holiday Plan A – Gaizhou!

A little late writing this one up, but I’ve been very busy – which will be explained in a subsequent journal entry. Originally for the May Day holiday I was supposed to go to Gaizhou (盖州, Gàizhōu) with my maternal grandfather-in-law. He’s getting up in years and hasn’t seen his hometown in decades. He also knows that I’m all about the coastal lifestyle and don’t enjoy being landlocked here in Shenyang one bit. So we three – grandfather, mother, and me – made grand plans to go to Gaizhou and go fishing and eat seafood until our stomachs exploded.


The only problem was Gaizhou is a good 3~4 hours away on the train and when the appointed day was on the morrow, Maternal Grandfather-in-Law wasn’t feeling up to the arduous trip. Taking a train anywhere in China is an adventure in its own right, but to do so on a crowded holiday for 4 hours plus queue times at his age just seemed to be a little to much. So we changed plans! Instead, I was to go to Benxi and we were all to go fishing – huzzah!

May Day Holiday Plan A Plan B – Fishing in Benxi!

So off I went to Benxi with my mother-in-law. The train was packed and we had ‘standing tickets’ rather than assigned seats, but we squeezed into a car with sleeping berths and I soon found an unoccupied top bunk and snoozed away most of the 45 minute rumble there. We were met at the station by Dajiu (literally ‘big maternal uncle’) who regretfully informed us that the water temperature up here in the mountains was still a little too cold for the fish to shake off their wintertime metabolism and start feeding. The fishing trip was scratched. Instead, he had borrowed a minivan and we were going to take a trip through the Benxi countryside – huzzah?

May Day Holiday Plan A Plan B Plan C – Scenic Tour in the Benxi Countryside!

Our first destination was Ping Ding mountain, located on the edge of the city. It’s one of those things where you’ve seen it a million times and always said to yourself “one day I’ll climb that…” Well, May Day was the day, except we drove it – ha. According to the massacred English on the park sign, Ping Ding mountain is a nature reserve and used as an outpost both by Japanese and Chinese forces at different times during the War of Resistance. The ruins of the fortifications amount to little more than a few low stone walls at this point, but it’s interesting to stand among them and try and figure out why on earth anyone would ever feel the need to guard Benxi.

Continue reading May Day in Benxi

Chinese Lunar New Year 2008, Part 4 of 4

This one’s going up a little late, but I’ve been busy. My first Lunar New Year has come and gone and I feel confident I can sum it up for you, the foreigner.

Lunar New Year consists of:

  • eating Thanksgiving-sized meals twice a day for 3 or more days
  • drinking amounts of alcohol that would only be appropriate at a State School
  • giving hong bao to children (and me, this year at least, woo hah!)
  • going back to work after a one week vacation feeling not the least bit rested

I think it’s a good holiday. Particularly because Chinese people don’t have as many long holiday breaks as Americans do during which they can go home and be with their families. Is it any good if one is actually looking for a rest? Hell no. Vacation this is not. It’s a family holiday – and family holidays are *never* restful. Just ask Chevy Chase.

Chinese Lunar New Year 2008, Part 3 of 4

Friday, February 8th – Lunar New Year’s Day + 1

After sleeping off the second day of partying at 2nd Uncle’s we packed up our stuff in the morning and headed over to Lao Ye’s apartment – Ma Li’s maternal grandfather. We arrived just after noon and soon settled down to yet another tremendous assortment of dishes for lunch. Ma Li’s eldest aunt and her family were in attendance, the only part of the Li Clan we had not yet seen this New Year’s holiday.

Continue reading Chinese Lunar New Year 2008, Part 3 of 4

Chinese Lunar New Year 2008, Part 2 of 4

Thursday, February 7th – Lunar New Year’s Day

After the big party on LNY’s eve we needed to rest up a bit before the next round of debauchery. Ma Li and I spent the night at 2nd Uncle’s apartment and then lazed around until about 2 or 3pm before packing up and heading over to Lao Ye’s apartment with her mother. Lao Ye means “maternal grandfather” in Chinese, as opposed to Ye Ye, her paternal grandfather. Anyhow, we made it to Lao Ye’s around 3:30 and then it was time for another round of welcomes, long time no see’s, and introductions to still more members of the extended family. This time there was a whole new family for me to meet – Ma Li’s mother’s first cousin and his wife and son were there. I may have said it before, but in China one interesting result of the One Child Policy is that all first cousins are essentially considered to be brothers and sisters, and all distant cousins are never considered to be anything further than first cousins. Thus, I was introduced to this 2nd cousin of Ma Li’s as his soon-to-be older brother-in-law, and he was introduced to me as my soon to be younger-brother-in-law, and that was that!

Continue reading Chinese Lunar New Year 2008, Part 2 of 4

Chinese Lunar New Year 2008, Part 1 of 4

In a departure from the usually polished content found on Drew’s Journal (smirk), I will be recording our adventures on the fly day-by-day.


If you think Christmas is big, it’s got nothing on Lunar New Year. In a country of 1.3 billion people, 300 million take to the rails, roads, and skies to head home for several weeks of much needed rest with their loved ones. China’s developing economy still hasn’t found time to embrace Western standards of vacation. Most of the workers heading home for LNY are migrants – they toil a dozen hours a day or more in the pits (literally) of China’s wealthiest cities to erect skyscrapers and condominiums they could never hope to live in. For 2 weeks, starting today – February 5th – those people finally get a chance to return home and see their families in far-flung & impoverished corners of the Middle Kingdom. The most populous country in the world grinds to a halt. What are all these inscrutable Chinese up to during this brief lull in their efforts to dominate the world? Eating jiaozi (dumplings), drinking, and setting off an un-fucking-believable amount of fireworks… for two weeks.

Continue reading Chinese Lunar New Year 2008, Part 1 of 4