"China – The Real Facts"

[Lifted from Dave's ESL Cafe. Non-italicized, non-indented comments by me.]

So, you’re thinking of coming here to teach. Know this advance. 1) With some rare exceptions, your salary at 90% of schools will be no more that $500 US dollars a month, if that. Many schools pay far less than this. China is a poor country. Your accomodation is likely to be on par with what the Chinese themselves would have – a real shocker, by any standards.

This is mostly true. Pay is that low. Accomodations, however, can sometimes turn out to be “a real shocker” for the opposite reason. This was true for me, Wilson, and Jay Peterson (a guy I met in Yunnan).

2) Outside of the modern cities, the Chinese have disgusting personal habits and most provincial cities are filthy shitholes. The Chinese (men and women) spit everywhere and constantly. They piss on the streets and I have seen them shit behind walls. Unless you have a very strong stomach, you may find yourself throwing up. I am not making this up, by the way.

OK, this is based in truth, but it seems exaggerated. You do see public urination a few times a month if you go out, but I have yet to see public defecation.

3) By western standards, they have no ‘manners’. They push and shove. They scream ‘Hello’ at you, snigger and then run away. They stand behind you in Internet cafes – groups of them – and watch your screen. They have no concept of privacy.

Once again, based in truth, but garnished with a liberal helping of culture shock, it seems. Still, the pushing and linelessness is definitely hard to get used to.

4) North of Guanzhou (ie: 90% of China), prepare for savagely cold winters and blisteringly hot summers, untempered by humidity).

Pre-Yunnan me actually wondered if anywhere in China actually had pretty good weather year-round. Now I know.

The people are basically very kind and friendly, but not in a reserved, western way. This is a great country to experience ‘life’, but bear in mind what I’ve said. Personally, I can deal with the downside and am enjoying my experience, but many would not. Nothing personal, but my remarks are objective and I hope, helpful. Posted: February 19, 2003

I think this is post is a good demonstration that there’s no such thing as objective remarks on China, but it’s a good read and certainly represents how a decent-sized portion of the West would view China.

怪物眼睛

�ѿ����中国人,我求你们–不要买彩色隐形眼镜!!!你看这个照片。好看吗?当然不好看!好看个屁!我觉得亚洲人染头发偶尔会好看。但彩色隐形眼镜呢?不可能!我还是觉得自然的颜色最好看。

有时候中国人会问我:“为什么你没有蓝眼睛?”好象他们以为因为我的头发是黄色(其实也不是黄色…),我的眼睛也应该是蓝色。但我这样是天生的。我才不要 蓝眼睛!棕色最好看,给你一种温柔的感觉。蓝眼睛好看是好看,但给你一种冷清的感觉!中国人应该很高兴他们都有天然的最好看的颜色眼睛。反正我很高兴我有 棕色眼睛。

我也 染过头发,但我还是觉得天然的颜色好。(人家也这么说。)

Random News

Man, lately I’ve been bad about responding to any e-mails, writing in my blog, and reading anyone’s blog. I also have tons of pictures from Yunnan that I want to get online. (Despite my whining, I actually took a lot of pictures, and a lot of them are decent.) But the school semester starts Monday, and my new job as ZUCC foreign teacher liaison has already begun. I’ve been running around today doing stuff for that, and I’m going to the airport tomorrow to meet one of the new teachers. In addition, there are a few other things I’m really happy about this semester: (1) I only teach 14 hours, (2) I have no classes Fridays or Tuesdays, (3) my largest class size is about 22 now, as my 30 student classes have been split in half (at my repeated urging). Same amount of class time for each student, but less students per class. That means class is easier to teach, and the students get more out of class. Having lots of foreign English teachers (12 total this semester) is a very good thing.

Alf

Alf

Alf was here in Hangzhou for a visit Tuesday and Wednesday. Unfortunately winter is not the best time of year to witness “the beauty of Hangzhou,” but we had a pretty good time anyway. It was pretty funny how whenever he told Chinese people here that he’s teaching in Henan province, they were all like, “Henan?! Why are you teaching there? It’s a dirty place full of thieves!” Alf doesn’t exactly agree, but to get one guy off his back, he explained that he came here through a program and he didn’t have a choice. “Oh,” the guy said. And then, in English, “bad luck!

Noriko, one of the Japanese teachers here, invited me over for dinner tonight. She’s really cool and sweet, and a good cook besides. What I didn’t realize was that it was an all-Japanese gathering, besides me. So my Japanese got a healthy 4-hour workout. The conversation went all over the place (and I admit I was a bit distracted at times, especially since she had, for some reason, left a movie of the stunning Norika Fujiwara running in the background), but they touched on quite a few interesting things, like wedding customs and costs, Chinese students’ obsession with insignificant features of Japanese pronunciation, and what nationality they were often taken for in China. Noriko said Chinese people were always shocked to learn she’s not Chinese (because she “looks so Chinese”), and usually make a comment like, “well, you’re definitely not Japanese, so what are you, Korean?” Apparently the Chinese often ask Japanese people if they are Korean. What I couldn’t say was that perhaps they always guess Korean because Koreans might be offended if they’re taken for Japanese (and the Chinese would be sensitive to that), while the reverse is not true.

Anyway, Yunnan photos are coming. (And e-mails, to some of you.)

Dashan

dashan

Ray posted a nice long comment to my last entry. Unfortunately, Haloscan seems to have lost it. [Update: the "lost" comments are back.] One thing he touched on, though, was “that big dork Dashan.” Dashan is pretty much completely unknown outside of China, but almost universally known within China. This man has become a real nuisance to students of Chinese everywhere.

Dashan is a big white Canadian. The thing is, he speaks Mandarin Chinese perfectly. I mean really, really well. He basically decided, “yeah, I’ll take on Chinese,” and then just competely kicked Chinese’s ass. He has done xiangsheng for years, a kind of two-person traditional Chinese standup comedy. “Dashan” means “big mountain,” which I always thought was an incredibly stupid Chinese name, but then a Chinese friend explained to me that it’s sort of a joke, and that Chinese people like the name. Ah, Dashan… you win again, with your superior understanding of Chinese “humor” (which really is unfathomable)!

According to the chronology on Dashan’s site, he majored in Chinese studies, graduated in 1988, and has been in China ever since. He was in an independent studies program at Beijing University, and he also served as a public relations advisor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. The hilarious conclusion to the chronology: 1995 – Founded Dashan Incorporated and began full-time career as Dashan. OK, I don’t know whether it’s just me, or it’s a foreigner-in-china thing, but I find that very funny.

OK, so you’re probably wondering what the deal with Dashan is. Why am I bringing him up? Well, there are several reasons. First, he is the bane of caucasian students of Chinese everywhere. About 60% (yes, that’s a hard statistic!) of Chinese people you know here will ask you if you know who Dashan is, as if revealing his mere existence to us might show us the path to enlightenment. On the contrary, it’s just annoying. Yeah, so another whitey could do it — it’s still annoying!

Second, I get told I look like Dashan all the time. I do not want to look like Dashan! When I deny it, they insist, asserting that I’m handsome like he is. Okayyy…

Third, his mere existence is an enigma. What can this man really do? Speak Chinese. Yes, but what can he really do?? Speak Chinese. Really well. In the USA, immigrants get no credit for speaking perfect English, unless maybe they did it in less than 48 hours solely by watching MTV. Meanwhile, Dashan is a national celebrity. Furthermore, he’s not the only foreigner to speak perfect Chinese, but he seems to be the only one recognized. He has the monopoly on Chinese skills. I think the Chinese find it amusing and touching that a foreigner can speak such perfect Chinese, but then simultaneously find his singularity somehow comforting. It goes without saying that the hard work and bitter struggle of any Asian that becomes fluent in Chinese is hardly acknowledged.

A while back a producer of a CCTV show was trying to talk me into being on their show. It’s a sort of showcase/gameshow of foreigners that can speak good Chinese. When I mentioned Dashan, she rolled her eyes. She said Dashan is old news, too perfect, no longer interesting. That’s all well and good, but the grinning spirit of Dashan is alive and well in Chinese society.

Obviously I envy this guy. He speaks amazing Chinese. He must be very disciplined and hard-working. I have yet to really “master” any foreign language, though I’m well along the way in a few. But images and accolades of this dorky guy forced down my throat do not foster affection.

But this is China. Home of Dashan. He was here first, anyway.

Related: Sinosplice’s Derisive Dashan.

On being a Foreigner

It’s been said before, by different people, in various ways, from multiple angles. but it’s such an inseparable part of the expat experience here that I thought I’d share again. So, from behind the Great Firewall of China without further ado, the words of Sam:

I should note that laowai is Chinese for ‘foreigner’ and heard several hundred times a day in various tones: respectful – I understand it is meant to be a respectful term; amazed – not too irritating this one; demanding: (‘hey, you, respond now.‘); amused – I hate that one, doesn’t everyone hate being laughed at?; and finally, matter-of-fact – just the word that floats to your ear in a conversation of passers by (‘oh look, there’s a foreigner!’, in the tone you might use to point out a six-foot pigeon). I’ve written loads on this on days when it’s annoyed me most but it’s back on my PC in far-away Xining. Sometimes it’s charming and friendly, don’t get me wrong, but the line between that and fists-clenching-in-the pocket shifts depending on mood, temperament and how long you’ve been here. Ironically, it’s when you’re in a bad mood, hungover or similar that you get so many more comments and “hello”s. Then you start asking yourself: “Am I here for your amusement, eh? Did I come here so you could take the piss? Eh?”

I can definitely identify.

满载而归

我回来杭州了。旅行真有意思,很丰富一个人的生活,但我觉得这次也让我很累。回“家”的感觉蛮好。我受够了云南的网吧,现在可以愉快地在家里上网。啊~!

我发现了昆明的书店很不错!本来我不想在旅游当中买书因为书特别重,但我忍不住买6本新的书!我刚买的书包含:新闻汉语导读,Get a Grip on 哲学,和茅盾小说选。(不告诉你另外3本的名称,免得你们以为我是个非常无聊的人!)我特别喜欢茅盾的故事!现在最喜欢的是《创造》。精彩,精彩。我要承认,茅盾小说选是英汉对照版。我看的是英语。但因为特别喜欢,我读完以后会再学这些故事的中文。我特别要学词汇。茅盾的用词真好,我已经学了:姨太太,混账东西,狐狸精,骚货,臭货。呵呵… 还不知道这些生词有多坏,多过时了。

Strange Old Man

The other day I was wandering the streets of Kunming, and I came across a strange old man. He was walking slowly, arms raised in front of his chest, clapping a slow and steady rhythm. For no apparent reason.

I gave him a curious smile, and he tilted his head back in acknowledgement, smiling broadly as if to say, “don’t you worry — I’ve got all the random clapping under control.”

So I didn’t worry.

I'm Being Watched…

Although this internet cafe in Kunming is amazingly cheap (1.5 yuan/hour, or $0.19/hour), they have a police force in here! There are these uniformed guards roaming around, looking at people’s screens! Most people in here are playing games, so they’re watching the handful that are actually surfing the net more closely. This is bizarre.

Hey, people in other parts of China — have you seen this before?? I’ve noticed that it’s not only in this internet cafe, but in all of them in this area (I’m in sort of an “internet cafe complex”).

Haha, little do they know that I’m reporting on their efforts at thought control even as they watch me! I’m gonna try to snap a pic on my way out. Let’s hope I make it!

Begone, Stinkypants!

For a short time, I was Mr. Stinkypants. You see, before departing for a several day trek, I left some laundry with the Banna Hotel in Jinghong. When I came back, not having showered for 2-3 days and quite filthy, I picked up my clean laundry (or “clean,” I should say), changed clothes, and gave them the new nasty bundle to wash. I didn’t notice for a few hours that the “clean” jeans I had changed into stunk! I didn’t smell them when I was standing up or walking around, but if I sat down, vile whiffs would reach my nostrils. I guess they had put them in a plastic bag still damp or something. Seriously nasty smelling.

So I complained. They seemed to think it was funny. They wouldn’t take me up on my offer to let them smell my jeans that they had washed (so what if they were on my body at the time). They wouldn’t even give me a refund on just the jeans. Jerks. So then I brought up that despite the fact that their fine establishment offers “24 hour hot water,” every time I turn on the tap I get only drips, if that. Certainly not enough for a shower. They tried to tell me that if I let them know, they can usually take care of it. Well that’s not 24 hour hot water, now, is it?? Stupid Banna Hotel. Customer service has a long way to go in many places of China, even the highly touristed areas.

Anyway, I had to go on wearing my stinkypants for 2 days because my other pair was in the wash. I began to wonder if people I met could smell them. After all, most people in Yunnan are considerably shorter than me, so their noses are closer to my pants than mine is. I was a little nervous about meeting new people. Could they smell my stinkypants? Maybe I should just tackle the issue head-on: “Hi, I’m Stinkypants John. Don’t worry, that vile odor you smell is emanating from my jeans, not me. I’m actually very clean.” Right.

But after a horrible 18-hour bus ride, I’m now in Kunming, and the stinkypants are in the wash. I hope they have what it takes to combat that evil stench. I’m just happy I can’t smell my own pants anymore, though.

动物园

我还在云南省西双版纳州景洪市,今天去参观民族风情园。有少数民族“村寨”,有少数民族表演,少数民族会员(呵呵,我不清楚怎么叫他们… 少数民族人?),热带动物园,热带鸟园,等等。门票是有一点贵(30元一个人),但我今天除了上19:00到昆明的卧铺汽车没事干,所以就去了。

我在那边先看了跳舞歌唱表演。很不错!当然演员都是帅哥,美女。然后我去学习少数民族文化。我看了他们的服装和照片,进去了他们的模拟房子,也问了不少的 问题。最有意思的是瑶族的“咬手定情”习惯。为了表达爱情,谈恋爱的人会互相唱歌,然后咬情人的手。咬得越深,爱得越深!那边只有两个人:一个年轻女性瑶 族导游和我。所以我可以随便问她很多问题。我问了她有没有咬男的或者被咬。她笑了,说没有。她说这个习惯年轻人已经不做了,大部分已经汉化了。

那边的中饭(炒米干)好吃,不过太辣了。她说稍微放了一点点。哇~!我还以为我能吃辣。好象错了。

后来我进去了版纳热带动物园。好恐怖啊!那些动物太可怜!条件又差,空间又非常小。有鳄鱼,孔雀,黑熊,猴子,还有一头老虎。特别是黑熊,老虎,猴子好可怜,眼睛里只有绝望。像它们想死似的。我觉得非常伤心,但没办法,只能对它们低声说:“I’m sorry…”

我不知道去那里的中国人会不会有这种感受。好象很多亚洲动物园是这样。在泰国我也去过,那边更悲哀。那时我发誓了再也不去那样的动物园。我才不要用我的钱支持这样的地方。我就是不知道民族风情园里面也有。 其实这挺复杂的。我觉得我们应该有这样的地方,可以去看动物。我们这样才能发展对动物的爱情。在地球上它们是我们的兄弟。但如果动物园的条件不是非常好,我觉得太残忍。最好没有动物园。 反而热带鸟园蛮好的!有很多我从没看到过漂亮的鸟。里面很大,鸟很自由。感觉不错。 好,我不写了。我要去吃饭然后到昆明去!(不知道今晚是否能睡觉…?)

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