Tag: romance


01

Mar 2007

Secret Language Motivations

Love can be a motivation. I’m not talking about learning how to say enough for “one night love,” I’m talking about this:

> I am learning [language] so I can tell you how much I love you and have it mean more than if I told you in English.

I wonder how many years of study it will take…

Post Secret is still cool.


14

Feb 2006

V-Day Chinese Mail Order Brides!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, direct shipping service of Chinese mail order brides has recently become avilable. Not only do they ship right to your door, but they arrive wearing the traditional qipao (旗袍). The clear shipping case ensures a few jealous looks from your neighbors as the delivery man sidles up to your door.

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I for one applaud this all-out embrace of ultra-commercialized holidays. Not only do I love the over-priced Valentine’s Day rose bouquets, chocolate sets, and dinner deals that have become so common in Shanghai, but I love the Valentine’s Day mail order bride concept, which, for me, represents the ultimate in commercialized romance.

I think the shipping option pictured above may be a bit expensive, but here’s an insider tip: come live in China, and you save big on postage!

Even if you end up paying a lot in postage, remember: mail order brides are to be loved. Don’t abuse them.


13

Dec 2005

People Who Date Only Asians Comics

OK, so it only takes a tenuous link with China to make me link to Daily Dinosaur Comics. I love this webcomic! (Click the image below to read the whole thing.)

I’ll admit, this one isn’t particularly funny. But many of them are.

As for the real “people who date only Asians” discussion… I don’t really understand why anyone cares. (Cast your vote of disapproval for this boring topic by not commenting about it!)

comic2-710


21

Nov 2005

Chinese Breakup

This is another Chinese “love story,” but without a happy ending this time. It’s called “My girlfriend got pregnant, but she won’t marry me.”

> We had been together for eight full months, and our relationship was going great. But last month I wasn’t careful enough, and my girlfriend got pregnant. I felt truly sorry about that — we weren’t married, after all. When I found out she was pregant, I took a week off work to be with her. Then I saw her back to her hometown so she could spend some time there. But after a month she returned to work and refused to acknowledge me. Maybe it was her parents’ counseling, or perhaps something else? I kept asking her, so today she sent me a text message:

>> The three reasons she wants to break up with me:

>> 1. The problem is that I’m from out of town. Our families are 240 km apart, and her family doesn’t want her to marry someone so far away.

>> 2. It was a mistake that she accepted me. (Loving each other doesn’t count for anything?)

>> 3. It was a mistake that she viewed the issues too simplistically! (Actually, when we first started dating, we thought about the issues: (1) we would live where our careers take us, and (2) whether we could afford to buy a house.)

>> There’s nothing I can say — but I really love her!

Two things that struck me as very Chinese:

– That a distance of 240 km (150 miles) between the couple’s families could be considered an obstacle.

– That the breakup was done by SMS (text messaging)! I’ve noticed that Westerners generally try to do breakups in person. The new generation of Chinese, however, seems to think there’s nothing wrong with breaking up over the phone, by SMS, or even on IM!

Translator’s Note: I know my translation is a little weak in parts. I welcome suggestions for revision!


12

Nov 2005

All Apologies

A Chinese story:

> At 8:40am I called her on her cell phone. “Are you headed off to work?” I asked.

> “Sure am!” she laughed back.

> Choking back a sob, I said to her, “Wen… I’m sorry.”

> After a moment of stunned silence, she replied, “why are you apologizing to me?”

> “It’s nothing,” I explained.

> “Xiao Nuo, you…” she started, but I quickly hung up.


> At ten minutes past noon I dialed her office number.

> “Why isn’t your cell phone on?” she demanded emotionally.

> Stammering, I finally got out, “I’m sorry…”

> She asked me, “why did you send me a check at work?”

> “Wen, I really love you,” I replied.

> Her voice suddenly rose in volume. “If you want to break up with me, just say it. Don’t give me some kind of breakup money!”

> After a few seconds of silence, I hung up.


> At exactly three in the afternoon, she answered the phone coldly. “Your feelings have changed?”

> I changed the topic. “I’m here with your parents.”

> She cried in surprise, “why are you meeting with my parents?”

> I simply replied, “I just feel I need to apologize to them.”

> She took a deep breath, trying hard to suppress her emotions. “Just what is our relationship to you?”

> I slowly replied, “I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me…”

> On the other end she was all choked up. This time she hung up on me.


> At 8:40 in the evening my cell phone vibrated. I pressed the receive button, saying, “you’re home!”

> She asked, “Where are my mom and dad?”

> I answered guiltily, “Wen, I’m sorry!”

> She roared back, “I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry!’ I just want to know why!

> Feigning calmness, I said to her, “I apologized to your parents because you’re their dearest baby girl, and I asked them to allow you to marry me. I apologized to you because I know I can’t be without you, but I’ve never been good at looking after people, so I hope that in the days to come you’ll be with me, looking after me. I’ve given you all the money I have left. I’m making the down payment on our new home, and your parents are helping us pick out the furniture. Wen, I’m sorry. Please marry me!”

> To my amazement, her attitude immediately softened completely. “Xiao Nuo, where are you?”

> Full of joy, I answered, “I’m right outside your door.”

> I later married Wen…

> But that day I proposed, I verified one other thing: it really does hurt to be whacked upside the head with a broom.

This story was originally posted in Chinese. Yes, it’s a cute story, but I have to say… not only does it strike me as a very un-Chinese way to propose, but it seems downright cruel! What guy could do that to his girlfriend?

I let my girlfriend read the story. There’s no way she would put up with that crap. No question. I wonder how many Chinese girls would think it’s romantic. I don’t think any American girl could.


29

Apr 2005

Bollywood Pickup Lines

At my girflriend’s urging I recently purchased my very first Bollywood movie. I only spent 7rmb on it, but watching it was a three-hour time investment. It was with much trepidation that I started viewing Veer-Zaara.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Pakistan was not portrayed nearly as negatively by Indian producer-director Yash Chopra as I had expected, and there were fewer song/dance scenes than I imagined. The story, while not what one would call “realistic,” was not as predictable as I had expected, either. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience. (Did I mention Bollywood actresses are really hot?)

The part I found funniest were some of the lines in a song called “Do Pal.” The song starts with a line which goes:

> Just for two moments, the caravans of our dreams made a stop
And then you went your way and I went mine.

Caravans of our dreams? Interesting lyrics. I was put on high cheese alert. My vigilance was richly rewarded. I found the following lines of the song especially amusing when I realized that they could be used as pickup lines! Here they are, copied directly from the subtitles, in English and Chinese:

> Was that really you or was it a luminous sunbeam?
那到底是你还是耀眼的太阳鸟?

> Was that you or was that the monsoon of my dreams?
那到底是你还是梦中的季风?

> Was that you or was that a cloud of happiness?
那到底是你还是一片幸福的云?

> Was that you or was that just a fragrant wind?
那是你还是一阵香风?

> Was that you or were those songs resounding in the atmosphere?
那是你还是在空中回荡的歌声?

> Was that you or was there magic in the air?
那是你还是在空中得魔力?

Sinosplice readers, you have a homework assignment. Get out there and use these pickup lines! Then report back by leaving a comment.

Epilogue:
The astute observer might ask, “what is a post about Bollywood doing on a China-themed blog?” Ah, but I saw a pirated Chinese copy of this Bollywood movie, and even supplied some Chinese translations. How clever of me!

Related Links: Veer-Zaara IMDB profile, political effect of Veer-Zaara, alternate translation of the lyrics from which the pickup lined were extracted (it’s called “Do Pal,” fifth song down)


04

Mar 2004

Foreign Boyfriend, Chinese Parents

I normally am not very interested in reading Chinese online. I just really can’t get interested in a lot of what’s written about. Recently, though, I found something that caught my eye. The writer is a Chinese girl with a foreign boyfriend (who is also very coincidentally named John). When she told her parents about her boyfriend, they were less than supportive. Below is a translated excerpt from the original.

> Friday, I finally mustered enough courage to tell my mom: John is my boyfriend.

> My mom was shocked, this being totally out of her realm of expectations. Without thinking she responded, “No way! Absolutely not! Your dad and I do not approve!”

> Although I had already steeled myself for her response, I never expected her attitude to be so adamant. Worriedly I asked her, “Why?”

> “He’s a foreigner. Your life backgrounds are just too different. In the future how are we supposed to communicate with him?”

> “He’s studying Chinese, so you can speak to him in Mandarin,” I said.

> My mom went on for some time, almost in tears by the end, saying, “What would you have us tell our friends? You’re not a kid anymore, why can’t you just find a nice classmate? I’m begging you!”

> I couldn’t continue the conversation with her; her words had stung me. It was as if John was her sworn enemy, who wanted to steal me from their side, never to return again.

> My mom called my dad into the room, because ever since I was little I had always listened to him the most. My mom hoped he could persuade me. Dad was calm, hoping I could consider the matter practically.

> My dad said, “You haven’t been dating John for very long at all — how can you understand him? Other than what he’s told you, you have no way of knowing about his past or his family. Westerners are too independent. Your methods of solving various problems are going to be drastically different, and your lifestyles are different. A lot of this can’t be changed over a whole lifetime. He can’t stay in China his whole life; he’ll want to leave, and he can leave any time he pleases. Then what are you going to do? There’s a whole string of problems that are going to be very hard to solve.”

> My parents love me deeply, and I’m their only child. They have put their everything into raising me, keeping me from all harm. All their hopes lie in me, and I’ve always worked hard to perfect myself. Nevertheless, their brand of subtle affection can sometimes feel suffocating. It’s like I’ve broken free from the refuge of their embrace to go explore a strange and wondrous world. I’m not my parents’ property. I should have my own life.

What strikes me most about this story, which took place in northern China, is how completely different it is from my own experience. My girlfriend’s parents’ reaction to me was not even remotely similar. They have always been warm and friendly, and talk to me like I’m a normal Chinese person. My girlfriend’s dad loves having a few beers with me. My girlfriend’s mom makes mental notes about any food I particularly like or mention liking, and next time I go to their house for dinner, it’s on the menu. I could go on and on. While I can never know how my girlfriend’s parents really feel deep down, the evidence seems to indicate that their point of view on this matter is worlds apart from the parents of this writer.

All I’m trying to say here is:

1. China is such an incredibly varied place; you get all kinds of people with all kinds of life circumstances and outlooks.
2. Shanghai is a singular phenomenon in China. There is no city like it, for so many reasons.
3. I am really incredibly lucky.

[NOTE: This excerpt has been translated and published with permission from the author. I am grateful to her for allowing me to share such a personal experience with an English-reading audience.]


09

Jun 2003

Hotel Zhoushan Dong Lu

The main road that runs by Zhejiang University City College is East Zhoushan Road, or “Zhoushan Dong Lu,” as the natives call it. Along this road are quite a few colleges in a comparatively small space. There’s also Shuren University, and the Broadcast/Journalism School (I really don’t know what the English name is — I usually refer to it as the “fine girl school”), and some others. The road is packed with small restaurants, (legit) barber shops*, convenience stores, and other small businesses that appeal to Chinese college students.

It is on Zhoushan Dong Lu that I regularly meet with my tutee, as my school is still being ridiculously strict about who comes and goes from its premises, despite the fact that SARS is not at all a serious threat in Hangzhou anymore. The place that we meet is a small bakery/cafe. We chose it because it’s bright and the drinks are cheap. We can get 2-3 rmb drinks and have our 2-hour session there, no problem. The sleepy staff couldn’t care less.

Anyway, because our usual spot is right in the cafe window, we have a great view of the endless student parade that ambles up and down Zhoushan Dong Lu. It just so happens that the cafe we chose is right next door to a little hotel. This hotel is special for two reasons. One, it’s the closest off-campus hotel to ZUCC. Two, it offers hourly rates.

Don’t get me wrong, this is no redlight district-type hotel. In the two hours that we chat at our table in the cafe, we see all kinds of people going in and out. Many are families. But college-aged couples clearly make up a sizeable chunk of the hotel’s clientele. I know because I’ve seen quite a few either entering or leaving. Some of my former students would probably be pretty mortified to know that I have seen them go in there at around 3pm on a Sunday afternoon with their boyfriends.

But then again, maybe not.

I think in the West, we would imagine that the Chinese are rather conservative, about sex especially. This is certainly not completely wrong, even if such broad generalizations are invalid by default. Still, with modernization and globalization, Chinese society is becoming more and more “open,” as the Chinese like to say. They mean “open” in a good way, in that they can accept new ideas and ways of doing things. They also mean “open” as in “promiscuous.” I would say that Shanghai, in its flashy modernity, is definitely leading the Chinese surge in “openness,” but Beijing and the rest of developed eastern China is trying hard to keep up. Each successive generation pushes the limit a little more.

So I was thinking about the Chinese college students going to hotels on Zhoushan Dong Lu, and comparing this to American college students’ behavior. Maybe a smaller proportion of Chinese college students are sexually active (I really have no idea what the statistics are), but the Chinese students are doing something kind of noteworthy. In the USA, privacy abounds, and intimate meetings are so easy to arrange. If students share a room, there’s usually only one roommate, who can’t be there all the time. It’s a simple matter for the girl to go to the guys dorm, as well as vice versa. A lot of American college students have apartments, which offer pretty complete privacy. Furthermore, there’s absolutely nothing shameful or embarrassing about the girl going over to the guy’s place to hang out. What then goes on behind closed doors is no one else’s business, and the couple can keep their relationship as private as they want to.

Now compare that to a Chinese couple making a visit to the hourly rate hotel. They can’t hang out in the dorms, really. Guys aren’t allowed in the girls’ dorms, and girls generally don’t like hanging out in the guys’ dorms because they’re typically a mess. Since dorm rooms usually house 4-8 students, it’s pretty unheard of to get any privacy at all there. Most Chinese college students don’t have their own apartments. So if they wanna do more than the typical make-out on the campus track after dark or on a bench by West Lake, these hotels are pretty much their only choice.

Even if they tend to serve a similar function, these hotels are not like Japanese “love hotels,” where anonymity is a high priority. There’s no rear entrance. When you go in, everyone on the street sees you go in, and when you come out, everyone on the street sees you come out. Some of these people might be classmates or teachers.

So the fact that college-aged Chinese couples go to these hotels in broad daylight without any sneaking around says something about just how conservative modern Chinese are.

It’s funny, though… in class they all pretend to be such wide-eyed innocents whenever sex comes up.

It’s never quite as simple as “conservative” or “open,” and I don’t pretend to have done more than just barely scratch the surface here…

* “non-legit barbershops” being the ones full of young women in tight clothes that do all their business after dark and don’t actually cut any hair


02

Jan 2003

Poll Mania

As most of my readers know, a while back I had an idea about polling my students. The results have been posted here over the last few months. I also made polls into a class activity that I did with my English major students. It ended up being a great class activity. I had the students come up with their own “mini-polls” which were conducted in class with their classmates. I stressed that their questions should be interesting. I’m posting some of the results here, verbatim.

Format:
Poll results will follow the question, in parentheses and color-coded. “Yes” answers will always be first in blue, followed by “no” answers in red.

> Do you want to lead a rich boring life or a poor happy life? (3, 19)

> Do you like Chinese food or Western food? (21, 1)

> Which president do you think is better, Clinton or Bush? (22, 1)

> Do you like Chairman Mao or Deng Xiaoping? (3, 19)

> Which do you think is more important parents or lover? (23, 0)

> Which food do you prefer, KFC or McDonalds? (18, 4)

> Do you like becoming a famous person or a common person? (9, 13)

> Do you like the life at our campus? (7, 16)

> Do you think Zhou Enlai is a handsome man? (24, 0)

> If you can choose, do you like to be a great person or a common one? (12, 10)

> Do you agree that the college students marry when they are in school? (8, 15)

> Do you satisfy with your present life? (10, 12)

> Money or Friendship – which will you choose? (9, 14)

> Do you wash your teeth with cold water? (20, 8)

> Do you want your kid is a boy or a girl? (13, 12)

> If you have chance to go abroad which country will you choose, America or England? (14, 10)

> If you fall in love with your girl friend’s boyfriend, will you get him as your own boyfriend from your girl friend when the two are no longer in love? (12, 12)

> You have a favourite job but your parents ask you change another one they like. If you don’t follow them, they will be very sad. Do you follow them? (9, 15)

> If you own lots of money, you will use it up all by yourself, or present a great amount to poor people? (13, 13)

> Do you like to be a successful man who is respected by many people and has a lot of money, but only can live for 30 years? (12, 13)

> Do you want to marry a black strong boxing man/woman? (4, 20)

> Do you think Zhou Jielun will be popular for another long time? (11, 14)

> If you can choose, do you want to grow up or go back to your childhood? (16, 8)

> If you are a man, and you get into the women’s toilet, you will say sorry to the women or run away at once? (14, 11)

> If you fall in love with a person, but he is an alien, and he asks you to go with him to go back his planet, which will you choose, stay on earth or go with him? (12, 12)

> If you can choose, who would you like to be, a rich stupid man or a poor smart man? (6, 16)

> Would you live in the forest with your lover like primitive man for one year? (16, 8)

> Do you think it’s necessary to kill all the mice? [explanation here] (6, 19)

> Which marriage do you like? To marry a foreigner or a Chinese? (6, 19)

> Do you want to live once again? (13, 12)

> How often do you wash your hair? (every day – 2; 2 days – 18; 2+ days – 4)

> If you’re very tired of the life in the world, but still you’re young, which will you choose: kill yourself or go to temple as a monk/nun? (10, 15)

> Would you accept one of your friends is a bisexual? (11, 14)

> Do you want to have a boy/girlfriend on the campus? (16, 6)

> Which person do you want to marry: the person who loves you very much, or the person who you love very much? (18, 5)

> If you have a new family member, you like he/she older than you or younger than you? (17, 9)


05

Nov 2002

Ghost Alien Love

In class this week, as a follow-up to last week’s Halloween activities, we had a discussion on Ghosts and Aliens. Last week I provided vocabulary such as ghost, alien, UFO, abduct, monster, egg a house, TP a yard, Flaming Bag of Dog Poo, etc. I also had to give some cultural background about simple things we take for granted. For example, when I asked the class where ghosts come from, most people answered “hell.” I had to explain to them that according to Western tradition, ghosts are the souls of dead people that have not yet gone on to heaven or hell. Angels are what come from heaven to earth, and devils and demons are what come from hell to earth. They seemed interested. They also liked the “trick-or-treating” at the end of class (sans costumes and door to knock on).

Anyway, this week we discussed Ghosts and Aliens. At the beginning of the semester I eased into the discussions with a practice discussion to allow them to practice the discussion techiques I had taught them, and to give them feedback on their technique before any grading began. The practice discussion topic was Internet Romance. The first real discussion was Age Difference in Love Relationships. One of the students commented that the discussions were all about love, and why couldn’t they discuss something else. So this week was their big chance to discuss “something else.” Here are some of the discussion questions that students prepared on the new topic:

Which would you choose as a lover: a ghost or an alien?

If you fell in love with someone and later found out that person was a ghost, what would you do?

If you fell in love with an alien and the alien wanted to take you back to its homeworld, would you go?

I rest my case. I think I’ve stumbled upon an axiom for teaching college-level English in China: Chinese college students love to talk about love. I think this axiom ranks right up there with “Germans love David Hasselhoff.” Those first two discussion topics are tried and true.

One more interesting thing I learned from the discussion is that most of my students don’t believe in ghosts (though some do). Most of them seem to think of it as superstitious, and lump believing in ghosts together with believing in religion. (And, given the topic Ghosts and Aliens, in their discussion preparation homework some students even included questions such as “do you believe in Buddhism?”) However, the matter of aliens is different. Not only do over half believe that aliens exist and visit Earth, but about 5% of my students even claim to have seen UFOs with their own eyes! Interesting stuff.


16

Oct 2002

Tutor Update / River Story / Mr. Manners

A while back I listed a bunch of requirements for the tutor I was looking for. Well, with the help of someone in the Foreign Language Department, I have found him. He’s an awesome tutor. He’s critical. He tells me when my pronunciation is a little off, he tells me how it’s off, and he tells me how, phonologically, to correct it. He speaks to me all in Chinese. He speaks fast, and with good vocab. He’s well-read, and knows Chinese history well. He speaks standard Mandarin. He brings his own materials and demands that I learn this or that. It’s great to have a tutor with definite ideas of what I should be learning. He brings me 12 new chengyu (Chinese idioms) to study every class. He requires me to read from a standard Mandarin pronunciation class textbook, and criticizes my pronunciation, and then makes me read again, and again, and again… He also records his own readings onto my computer so that I can practice on my own for the next class.

After each two-hour session, I am exhausted. He’s a good teacher. I can feel the now unfamiliar soreness of progress once again.

Last Thursday I had my advanced English discussion class at the English Department. Those students are just great. Their English is so good, and the people just have such personality. I thought college students were great for those reasons, but these adult students take it to a whole new level.

Last week we did the “River Romance Story” (for lack of a better name), which I’ve already made famous at this school. It’s pretty famous already anyway, so I’m kind of afraid to use it, always expecting my students to be familiar with it already. But last Thursday none of my students were. Good.

Before I give an account of the discussion, I should tell the story. Here goes.

Long, long ago, in the time of kings and queens, there lived a Man and a Lady, deeply in love. It was true love. The Man was a high-ranking servant of the king, often sent off to new posts to solve problems. Where the Man went to work, the Lady followed. Then the Man was assigned to a faroff village that was only reachable by way of a treacherous river. On the river, a storm suddenly sprang up. The boat was run into rocks, and everyone thrown overboard. The Man was the only passenger that could swim, and he managed to save himself, all the while looking fervently for the Lady. He couldn’t find her. Not a single body turned up; all were lost in the swift current. After searching for days, grief-stricken, the Man was forced to accept the unimagniable. The Lady was gone. With heavy heart, he headed off to the village to fulfill his post.

As fate would have it, however, the Lady didn’t die. She was rescued by an inhabitant on the other side of the river and nursed back to health over a series of weeks from the brink of death. As soon as she could walk, she set about trying to get back to the Man. However, the river was uncrossable. There was no bridge. There was only one way of crossing: by way of the Boatman. He was the only one with enough skill to ferry people from one side to the other. He charged 10 gold pieces each way for his service.

By the time the Lady reached the Boatman, he had long since heard of her. When she asked his price, he told her 100 gold pieces. She had only 10. No matter how she begged and pleaded, he would not bring the price down or even let her pay after crossing and finding the Man. It was 100 or nothing.

The Lady soon met another man, however, named Sam. Sam was a landowner with a good deal off money, but he was a bit of a womanizer. The Lady was beautiful, and he took to her immediately. She made it clear that she wished only to return to her Man, though. Magnanimous man that he was, Sam said he could help her — on one condition. The Lady must sleep with Sam for a night.

The Lady was outraged at this request, and stormed off. She soon sank into despair, however, and quickly came to the conclusion that her life there, on the wrong side of the river was meaningless, and there was only one way out. She would sleep with Sam.

So the Lady slept with Sam. She received 100 gold pieces. She paid the Boatman and crossed the river. She made her way into the village and found the Man. They were reunited at last, and their joy was boundless. Yet, at the back of the woman’s heart gnawed the question: should I tell him? She decided to leave it be for the time being.

After arriving, the Lady met the Man’s new Friend, who also worked in the village. This Friend left the next day for the other side of the river to do business. His business was with Sam, and Sam liked to talk. He had a tendency to brag about his womanizing exploits, but he was known to always tell the truth. Sam told the Friend about his night with the Lady.

The Friend was now in a hard position. Should he tell the Man? He didn’t know all the circumstances of the incident in question, but he could be sure what Sam said was the truth. Finally, he decided that the Man should know the truth, and told him.

The Man was angered by this information, calling the Friend a liar. Still, doubt overtook him, and he brought the “outrageous rumor” up to the Lady. She immediately burst into tears, admitting it was the truth.

The Man was in total shock. Never had he felt so betrayed. He had vowed never to love again when he lost the Lady, but how could he forgive this? In the end, he couldn’t. He parted ways with the Lady.

They never saw each other again.

So that’s the story. The task is then to rank the people, 1-5, from “best” to “worst.” Then discuss. This always yields great discussion. I love it.

After discussing that, you can reveal what each person is supposed to symbolize: Lady – Love, Boatman – Business, Friend – Friendship, Sam – Sex, Man – Morality. Then we discuss whether the activity actually reveals our priorities in life.

Anyway, last Thursday my class got so into this discussion. It was incredible. They were funny, too — when I mentioned in the beginning how in love the Man and Lady were, one of my students said, “what’s the use?” Later, when they were guessing what each character symbolizes, this same girl said the Lady represents weakness! Funny stuff.

Anyway, we had a long discussion on morality. This example really brings out the differences and similarities between Western and Eastern morality. Eastern is much more relativistic. I taught them phrases from Western thought like, “the truth will set you free,” “the ends doesn’t justify the means,” and “ignorance is bliss.”

Chinese girls seem to love to say the Lady is the best (and even that she did nothing wrong), and the Man is the worst for not forgiving the Lady. Some of them also say the Boatman is worse than Sam, because the whole mess was started by him, even if he was ignorant of the drama he set in motion.

So I thought of all kinds of hypothetical situations to test their stances. Unsurprisingly, the girls became quite similar to the Man when I posed the situation of their husband sleeping with his female boss to get a promotion and provide better for his family (which was struggling to make ends meet and had no hope of properly educating the child).

What blew my mind, though, was two girls’ answer to this question: “Would you rather have a husband who was completely faithful to you and made you happy, or a husband who was not faithful, but you didn’t know about it, and so were still happy?” The answer? “Either one is fine, as long as I never find out he’s cheating.” Either one is fine! Incredible.

That class was a blast. I learned so much. It’s classes like that that remind me how much I’m still learning here, and how my life is totally on track.

This past week I also started a third teaching job. It’s for a large department store, only teaching three times, for two hours each time. It pays very well. My job is to provide training for some of the department store employees so that they can do a little job-related communication with foreigners when necessary. I was also asked to give a short lecture, in Chinese, on “how not to offend foreigners.” My first lecture in Chinese. Awesome. I was excited.

The lecture went pretty well. I held their interest with humor well, and they learned a lot. Here’s what they learned:

1. Foreigners value hygiene highly. Do not cough, yawn, or sneeze without covering appropriate orifices. Don’t spit. Don’t pick your nose or ear in public. Don’t scratch. Don’t fart. Don’t have a runny nose (or at least don’t blow a snot rocket!).

2. Be careful with questions. Don’t ask age or salary. Don’t assume people are American or any nationality.

3. Be careful in your actions. Don’t fidget. Don’t yell for any reason. Be patient. Smile. Never litter, anywhere.

4. When eating… Eat slowly, with small bites. There should be no noises coming from your mouth. Sit up straight, never hunch. Put one hand on your lap, with your napkin. Don’t spit out anything if it can be avoided.

5. When communicating… Maintain eye contact, but don’t stare. Don’t be too self-deprecatory. Don’t comment on physical appearance.

Some of these may seem unnecessary, but I personally made this list, and my reason for adding each item comes from my own real-life experiences with people in Chinese society….


02

Sep 2002

Haircut Episodes

I went for a haircut today and finally got the last of the bleach blonde out of my hair. It’s nice to have a barber shop where they know me and know how I want my hair cut without me having to tell them, since it’s kind of hard for me to explain a hairstyle in Chinese still.

Two noteworthy things happened in the barber shop. First, one of the boys that works there wanted me to tell him how to say “I want to make love to you” in English. It was pretty funny. The girl shampooing my hair told me not to tell him, but I didn’t see any harm in it, so I told him. Then I could hear him practicing it in the background for the rest of the time I was getting my hair washed and my shoulders massaged.

Then, while I was getting my hair cut, the barber asked me if we had xishuai in the USA. I didn’t know that word, but based on the context I figured it was some kind of barber shop appliance thingy. Figuring Chinese barber shops don’t really have any unusual appliances that we wouldn’t have in the States, I answered yes. But then he seemed really surprised, and made me doubt whether I had guessed correctly. Finally he told one of the employees to bring one out so I could see. Someone brought out an earthenware pot about a handspan across with the lid on. They put the pot under my nose and slowly removed the lid. What was inside was… a cricket!

Apparently, not only do some Chinese people keep crickets as pets, but they actually fight them, and bet on the fights! I was really surprised to learn this, so I asked some more about it. He said guys will sometimes bet 10-20,000 RMB (US$1250-2500)!!! On a cricket. Insane.


08

May 2002

Apathetic Dialogue

I did some skits in class today. They were supposed to use some of the slang I had taught them, and I told them to make them love stories. (Nothing excites Chinese college kids like romance.) The following is a telephone dialogue from one of their skits:

> BOY: Hello, may I speak to Angel?
> GIRL: This is Angel.
> BOY: Angel, I need to talk to you.
> GIRL: What is it?
> BOY: I need to tell you that I think we should break up.
> GIRL: OK, see ya.
> BOY: …because I found another girlfriend who is more beautiful and nice.
> GIRL: OK, see ya.
> BOY: Bye.

I guess it’s a lot funnier to see the real thing… The girl’s apathy was hilarious.