Update: Disappearing Marvelon

mercilonIt seems like the once ubiquitous birth control pill Marvelon is disappearing from Chinese pharmacies and instead they are stocking Mercilon, which the pharmacists insist are the same (一样呀!).

However, despite this very authoritative (ahem!) advice a quick google search reveals that although it is still a combination pill, the dosage is different! They both contain ethinylestradiol and desogestrel but Marvelon has 30 micrograms and Mercilon has 20 micrograms.

Also, it just happens to cost about three times the price! I think I was paying just over 20rmb per box for Marvelon and this is over 60rmb per box. Gah!

Name: Mercilon
Chinese: 美意避
Pinyin: Měiyìbì
Company: Bayer
Hong Kong website: http://www.mercilon.hk/

Indispensible Chinese Apps: WeChat, Dianping, Sogou, JD.com …

Found my phone! (Stuck on the couch with a sleeping baby.)

Found my phone! (Stuck on the couch with a sleeping baby.)

Well I just misplaced my iphone and turned my apartment upside down looking for it. My phone is virtually attached to my body, but somehow it went missing and the panic that ensued now seems pretty ridiculous. But really everything I need is on it. Anyway, I found the phone and noticed an email notifying me of a new comment on this blog. I replied to the comment but then seeing the front page reminded me that I haven’t posted here in ages and it’s hopelessly out of date. My tag for “social media” hardly makes sense. There’s still no facebook or twitter here behind the Great Firewall, but there is a rich life of apps that are China-specific. There are almost too many to mention.

  • WeChat (微信 Weixin) is your group chat, your newsletters from businesses, your facebookesque wall to share links/photos with friends, and it is your virtual wallet. This last feature is crazy cool. Of course it can do as you might expect — payments for online purchases, but I just used my phone to buy a milkshake yesterday! You bring up a barcode on your phone and the shop scans and processes it like a credit card payment. You get an instant confirmation message on WeChat. Also, it was a 59 RMB milkshake which makes it a stupid purchase.
  • Dianping is your Yelp but also insanely good for coupons and can do delivery. They take WeChat payments.
  • Sogou is your Google maps, because Google is fucked here. If you try to rely on Google maps the coordinates are always off just enough to be totally confusing. And that’s only if you get Google to load. Most Google products are all strangled by the GFW.
  • JD.com is maybe not as big as Taobao but it works better for me. It takes WeChat payments (woohoo!) but also has vendors that will accept cash on delivery! And some products if ordered before 11am will arrive THE SAME DAY. Crazy.

So anyway I’m sure I was looking for my phone to use one of these apps. But now I’ve forgotten what I was doing…

Dragon Boat Festival for One

Today is the Dragon Boat Festival, a holiday about villagers celebrating a corrupt official.

Jeremy and I have inverse holiday schedules. My employer follows the official Chinese holidays and Jeremy has mostly U.S. holidays. This means that most of my days off I’m left on my own. I’m grateful for the time alone, but I’m not always as adventurous when I’m on my own.

Greenpeace published this nice graphic (© 绿色和平/Tai Wang) for the holiday to draw attention to water pollution in China.

Dragon Boat Festival 2013

Toxic chemical pollution is a real and deadly danger for many people in China. Some 320 million people here lack access to clean drinking water, while 700 million more are drinking contaminated water. [Read more…]

[Wikipedia: Dragon Boat Festival]

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor [Amazon]

Recently I finished Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography, My Beloved World. Her voice is so refreshingly understandable. I didn’t really think there was much that I would get out of her story, given her current position of power and privilege. I am usually baffled by the ambition that drives people to serve these kinds of roles, but she is very convincing in presenting her love and dedication to improving the world. I had some idea that she came from a modest background, but humble beginnings don’t always guarantee a continued connection to the inequity and disadvantages that remain in many people’s lives. Anyway, she is amazingly articulate beyond what you might expect from a highly skilled lawyer. She is precise in her language (that’s the educated lawyer in her), but she is also a thoughtful storyteller. I am impressed.

[Wikipedia: Sonia Sotomayor]

Rita Moreno: A Memoir

Rita Moreno: A Memoir [Audible]

At the same time, I finished listening to Rita Moreno’s memoir. Her family is Puerto Rican, like Sonia Sotomayor, but she is from one generation earlier. (Moreno, b. 1931. Sotomayor b. 1954.) Fun to hear the difference in their experiences of PR and growing up in the Bronx, but also many similarities! Moreno immigrated with her mother when she was five, while Sotomayor was born in the Bronx.

[Wikipedia: Rita Moreno]

An Enemy of the People by Arthur Miller

An Enemy of the People by Arthur Miller [Amazon]

Back to the issue of water pollution, I came across a play that Arthur Miller updated from An Enemy of the People by Henry Ibsen about a man exposing a local water pollution scandal. I cannot find an ebook version of the Arthur Miller edition, so I downloaded a free version of the Ibsen original — translated from Norwegian.

From the description on Amazon.com:

Dr. Stockmann attempts to expose a water pollution scandal in his home town which is about to establish itself as a spa. When his brother, the mayor, conspires with local politicians and the newspaper to suppress the story, Stockmann appeals to the public meeting—only to be shouted down and reviled as ‘an enemy of the people’. Ibsen’s explosive play reveals his distrust of politicians and the blindly held prejudices of the ‘solid majority’.

Sigh. Ibsen published this in 1882. Miller updated it in the 1950s. Still topical in 2013.

Anti-Social Media

I feel like I should have more to say about the social media tools in China. Truth is, I find them kind of boring. I don’t know how much that reflects my lack of friends and contacts on these things. I haven’t really found anything terribly exciting on my feeds — most of the stuff I’m interested also appears on my Facebook feed, so I see it there first.

I don’t feel terribly motivated to post things to these sites either, but that is probably because of the lack of feedback. No one responds. No one comments. Or a bazillion people repost, but it’s all spammy.

Back in Beijing

I’ve been really lucky. Since I moved to Beijing in October 2012, I have been back and forth to the U.S. three times. Late last night, actually early this morning, I got back to Beijing from my trip to see my family in Michigan. I bought round-trip tickets for my first couple of trips, so I was starting out each trip as technically a return leg of the previous trip. That was getting confusing, so I finally bought a one-way ticket. Now my return leg was finally to Beijing. So, yeah, I’m back in Beijing.

My trip coincided with the beginning of Tulip Time in my home town Holland, Michigan. I didn’t see any of the parades, but the weather was lovely and there were tulips everywhere.

Grandma Dorothy Hatch with all of her children: David, Nancy, Mary and Eileen (photo by Stephen Jenkins via facebook)I visited with my parents and both of my grandmas. It was great to have them all to myself, without the hoopla of a holiday or big family gathering. This was especially true for my visit with my Grandma Hatch. I think this was probably the first time that she and I spent time alone. She is really frustrated with her failing eye sight, because it means that she can’t do all of the knitting and crocheting that she would like. She was telling me how she just doesn’t watch soap operas and hasn’t ever been much of a reader — “I’m crafty,” she said.

She has always produced tons of crocheted ornaments, dish clothes, and things. We went through her box of patterns and we kept running across all of her old favorites. I get the idea that she can’t manage most of these anymore. She said she can still do little crocheted scrubbies for washing dishes, but they’re pretty boring. She showed me a knitting pattern she recently gave up on because it was just too small for her to see. She tried different sizes of needles and different color yarn, but nothing helped. I hope she finds something else.

She also spent time telling me about her grandfather and her father in Hart, Michigan. I really have only heard bits and pieces of her family story, and I was a little embarrassed about revealing my ignorance. When I asked her if she remembered seeing her grandfather at the thrasher, she looked up from the photo she was showing me a little startled and said, “Oh, I took the picture!” Ha. The sepia photos make it look so far away.

I learned about her “two-week vacation from school” to help pull potatoes from the ground. And her grandfather coming to America from the Netherlands at 18 years old. Growing his farm to 80 acres. Converting it to cherries. Giving it up to homestead a smaller plot of land with his brother. Her father with 40 acres. And, yes, maybe the land is still in the family — a cousin or something.

Anyway, she gave me a couple of crochet patterns to try. I hope I can complete a project and show her by the time I get back to Michigan again.