Tag: personal


02

Nov 2003

Rooftop Halloween Party

So last Friday was the ZUCC teacher Halloween Party at the “Rooftop Bar”:

Halloween Party 2003

The teachers in the pictures are (l-r, t-b): Greg as “Bleeding Face Scream Character,” Carl as “Steve McQueen,” Chris as “David Carradine,” and then in the bottom row John B as “Infinite Loop” (AKA “Guy Drinking Beer”), one of the Australians (I’m not sure which one that is — they’re both tall!) as “a KKK member ,” Alf as a “Drunken Cowboy,” me as a “Badass Ninja,” and Russell as a “Crazy Space Ape.”

The costumes were all thrown together pretty last minute, so some of them came out surprisingly well. I was very pleased with my ninja costume which I made myself out of a 30 RMB bolt of black cloth (of which I only used half).

The party was a mix of foreign teachers, Chinese students, a few foreign friends, and various Chinese friends. The bar let us take over the rooftop for free (including the sound system), and we were even allowed to bring our own liquor! They still sold way more beers than usual. Only problem was the Chinese friends didn’t mingle very well. I would have thought that there were enough Chinese-speaking foreigners and English-speaking Chinese that everyone would have enough people to talk to. Oh well.


12

Oct 2003

Overheard

You can tell by listening in on our conversations that we ZUCC teachers are fully dedicated to our ongoing intellectual development.

#1

“The word ‘bomb-ass’ definitely came after ‘the bomb.'”

“No, I was using ‘bomb-ass’ way before ‘the bomb’ was ever used.”

What?! You’re crazy! ‘The bomb’ obviously came first!”

“No way, dude. ‘Bomb-ass’ came first.”

#2

“But what do you do when the gypsies use the baby throwing trick?”

“You just catch the baby and sell it later.”

“But then they’ve got your wallet!”

“But you can sell the baby.”

“But who’s going to want a gypsy baby?”

“You can always sell a baby.”

The above conversations are real. Names are withheld to protect the poor fools who produced these inane dialogue snippets.


30

Sep 2003

Let the Fun Begin!

Some of you may recall my entry on this subject a while back, but the week-long vacations that are given in China once a semester are somewhat of a sham and a big pain. We’re glad the vacation is now finally here for real.

The October holiday officially begins tomorrow, and we foreign teachers at ZUCC embrace it whole-heartedly. We’ve got the free time, the right mindset, and the full liquor cabinets. We’re all ready to let loose (see Carl’s entry for details).

I just got back from helping Alf haul is big heavy new computer home. It took us hours to get back because there were no taxis due to the coming holiday. There’s little more frustrating than really needing a taxi and not being able to get one. We had to make a long walk to a bus stop, lugging the big boxes, and take the bus home.

OK, before I start mixing some drinks and heading over to Carl’s, I also want to mention that of all the twenty-something ZUCC foreign teachers here, Alf, Carl, John B, Russell, and I all have blogs, and Greg is going to set his up over the break. Wayne is in the nether region between the twenty-something teacher group and the middle-aged teacher group, and he says he’s going to set one up too. This crowd is all about blogging, apparently. The ZUCC teacher page now has links to all the teachers’ blogs.
OK, the party calls…


15

Sep 2003

SMS Surrealism

A little while ago I got this SMS from a Scottish friend who’s also living in China. This was her response, verbatim, when I asked her how she’s been lately:

pretty good apart from boy friends mother very ill hospital a major freak out there was a live chicken in here a few days ago

Ahhh, China….


13

Sep 2003

White Boy Antics

I have thus far neglected to mention that while I was in Japan, two more twenty-something teachers arrived at ZUCC. They are John and Greg. John has his own site as well, which is morphing into something of a China blog itself. (Side note: there are now 3 Johns among the 16 foreign teachers here, one of whom also has a son named John.) Anyway, they’re great additions to the team of teachers here; the new crew is shaping up to be really good.

John     Greg

The new ZUCC Foreign English Teacher page in now online.

Speaking of new China blogs (yes, an update to the list is coming!), Carl would have a conniption if I didn’t finally mention his new site, which he daily spurns as being “the stupidest blog ever.” It’s about China, though, and it’s not nearly as bad as he claims.

In other news, three of us had a mooncake-eating contest in honor of Mid-Autumn Moon Festival the other day. I’ll leave the details for later. I plan to devote a whole page to it (kinda like the Junk Food Review) if I can ever get the photos from Carl. In the meantime, you can get a taste from the Chinese blog if you read Chinese.

I’ll end this haphazard entry with an amusing incident that happened the other night.

> [Scene: a small Chinese bar]

> Me: You should talk to her. Practice your Chinese.

> Greg: But I don’t have anything to say.

> Me: Well just say something — you need to practice!

> Greg: Actually, I learned a great Chinese sentence today.

> Me: What is it?

> Greg: [I like cake.]

> Me: OK, great, tell her that!

> Greg: What? Why should I tell her that?

> Me: Just do it! It’ll be cool.

> Greg: I’m not going to tell her that!

> Me: Why not?

> Greg: It’s stupid.

> Me: But just do it anyway. Something good will come of it.

> Greg: I’m not gonna do it.

> Me: I’m telling you, something good will come of it.

> Greg: Forget it.

> Me (to her): [He says that he likes cake.]

> Her (to Greg): [Really? My family makes cakes! I can give you some cake, no charge!]

> Greg: [I like cake.]

No, I didn’t know the girl or that her family makes cakes. But that kind of thing seems to happen in China all the time.


24

Aug 2003

The Newbies have Landed

So this past week three of the new teachers for the foreign language department arrived. (To be fair, one of them — Alf — is not actually a newbie. But he’s new here. Hangzhou is quite different from backwoods Henan!) Anyway, as ZUCC’s foreign teacher liaison it’s my job to welcome new teachers and show them around. So that’s what I’ve been busy with lately. Fortunately it’s a lot of fun.

New teachers that have arrived so far:
Russell Alf Carl

So far I have greeted them, helped them move into their new apartments, helped get everything distributed and operational (water dispensers, washing machines, refrigerators, TVs, etc.), took them shopping for household necessities, took them out to different restaurants, took them to West Lake, took them to Bank of China to change money, took them cell phone shopping, took them furniture shopping, took them to a super cheap Chinese bar right by West Lake, took them to a nice expat bar on Hangzhou’s lakeside bar street, took them to Hangzhou’s famous student hangout called the “Reggae Bar,” and took them to “L.A. Disco,” Hangzhou’s most popular dance club. Oh yes, I had more alcohol this past weekend than I’ve had in a while.

The expat bar scene is a much-reviled aspect of life here, but it’s certainly something they have to experience. I think this past weekend’s trips were pretty good. There were a few females involved too, the most noteworthy of which we have nicknamed “Biter.”

Some funny quotes from today (each coming from a different person, one of them belonging to me):

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s getting kicked in the nuts.

Ahhh, that blows cold. [Referring to air conditioning]

Tea and water are kind of the same.

Must have more fun!

Yes, these guys are gonna make great English teachers.


15

Aug 2003

Reorganizing

There’s a whole lotta reorganizing going on over here.

HeleneHelene leaves at 7:00am. She arrived in Hangzhou at the same time as Wilson, but unlike him, stayed for most of the summer. She has been my next door neighbor at ZUCC for the past year and a half. She’s now moving out and returning to Miami. She will be missed.

Right after she leaves, some workers are gonna come in and rip up and replace the flooring in her place. Our apartments are really quite nice; it’s a shame that higher quality construction materials weren’t used. Keeping them nice requires frequent repairs/replacements.

The new ZUCC teachers start arriving Monday. (To all the other people out there that wrote to me about working here at ZUCC this coming semester, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. These guys contacted me way back.)

I have to get ready for a week-long trip to Japan (Aug 26 – Sept 1) to attend my homestay brother Masakazu’s wedding. It’ll be great to be back in Japan among friends. I only regret that my visit will have to be so short, as the timing for this wedding was not ideal for me. I need to acquire a “re-entry visa” next week so that the Chinese government will let me into the country when I come back.

My classes at ZUCC start September 8th, and my Chinese classes start soon after. So much to get ready for….

Also, the China Blog List has just undergone a massive update. Highlights include:

  • 11 new blogs added
  • 7 blogs deleted, for various good reasons
  • a bunch of blogs moved around
  • @nonymouse links added via cute little icons for all “Blockspot” blogs

That blog list is a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it. Maybe it sounds cheesey, but I really believe that helping people to learn more about China will promote peace in the long run. Do your part for world peace and learn more about China.


02

Aug 2003

China Risk

It was a wild Friday night out here at ZUCC, as Wayne, Derrick, Lenny, and I stayed home for a homemade game of RiskChina Risk! The game is won when one player’s armies occupy all of China (including Taiwain). The tricky part is that forces can be positioned outside of China as well (Russia, Japan, India, etc.).

Yes, it was extremely nerdy, but pretty fun. Last night was the dry run of the new game. It definitely needs some tweaking, but we will play again. Read Derrick’s coverage of the game. Derrick’s photos:

China Risk

Fighting Over China


28

Jul 2003

Canadian Cantonese Cuisine

Derrick is still here in Hangzhou visiting/teaching. I missed out the first time Derrick cooked (and he even did it in my own home!), but I got to be here for his encore performance. I gotta say, it was good eatin’!

click for more pics of the food

The vultures pictured above are: Wayne, Amber, me. The dishes were: ma po tofu, qingcai with mushrooms, cola chicken wings, and chicken with snow peas and red peppers. The chicken and snow peas dish was awesome. The tofu tasted like lasagna (Derrick blames the McCormick seasoning packet, probably rightfully so), but it was good that way! The chicken wings were sweet (kinda like honey garlic chicken, as Derrick said), but also good that way. (Who’da thunk cola works on chicken??) The qingcai (I don’t know when this simple word can ever be translated well) was good, but was kinda missing the oyster sauce that we lacked. Oh well. All in all, definitely a great meal. Thanks, Derrick!


13

Jul 2003

Laowai Fury

Brendan is wigging out*. Adam is pissed his bike was stolen again. Hank has recently fought off the almost overpowering urge to flee China due to a few particularly bad incidences in Huaibei. Brad has had his share of frustrations recently too.

And me? Well, I’m just great! Of course, I’ve had my unhappy moments here in China too — I’ve posted about them quite a few times. Lately, though, the only things I could find to complain about would be 1) Hangzhou in the summer is HOT, 2) My summer class contains a few students who seem to think they know more than me about how to teach Spoken English, which is just so laughable for so many reasons, and 3) I don’t have much time to blog.

[Ah, blog guilt. It’s so ridiculous, but I think a lot of bloggers out there experience it. You haven’t written in a while, so you feel guilty. Maybe part of it is a twinge of anxiety over the possibility of losing readers? I’m not sure. Although I do feel a bit of this, I think I’ll have to choose a busy social life over a frequently updated, thoughtfully written blog at this juncture. Please understand, dear readers. I will have more time to write soon.]

Despite the fact that things are going nicely for me, I had a somewhat disturbing dream last night. It’s also kind of interesting in that it was entirely in Chinese. I’ll share it here.

> I was sitting on the couch in my apartment with a Chinese friend. She needed to take a shuttle bus from Hangzhou to the Shanghai Pudong airport, and we were examining a brochure which offered this service. As were were discussing it, there was a knock at the door.

> In came a middle-aged woman with a brochure for a shuttlebus to the Pudong airport. [This is the kind of person you normally bump into when you get off a train. Why she was in my apartment building can only be explained by the fact that it was a dream.]

> She started pushing her service when my friend pointed out that we already had the same brochure and were examining it right then. Then the lady started helping to explain how it all works. My friend made a small joke over some point in the brochure, and the lady laughed. I laughed as well.

> The lady said to my friend, “Oh, the laowai is laughing too.” Implicit was that I didn’t really understand because they were talking in Chinese, but I was just laughing along for the hell of it.

> I told the lady that I could speak Chinese, but she just got flustered, saying that she couldn’t speak English. Then I lost it.

> Grabbing her shoulders, I plucked her small frame off the couch and shook her.

> “I’M SPEAKING CHINESE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

> No response. I shook her again.

> “I’M SPEAKING CHINESE! DO YOU UNDERSTAND??”

> She was absolutely terrified. “I don’t understand you…” she was trying to say.

> “I’M SPEAKING CHINESE!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?”

> She got out a weak, “I don’t understand you….”

> I was livid. Still holding her in the air, a rushed to the front door, which was still ajar, and hurled her violently from my home.

I’m not a violent person, even in my dreams, normally. There really seems to be something about China that drives people to the brink of sanity. Furthermore, learning the language seems to be a catalyst rather than an antidote.

* Postscript: This entry has since been removed by Brendan. In his own words, “I removed that post from bokane.org because, frankly, it was disgraceful and I’m ashamed of it…. I don’t want to hate China. I don’t want to hate Harbin. I’m not a mean or hateful person, but I see myself becoming one, and it is scaring me.”


09

Jul 2003

Back

OK, so I’m back. It’s good to be back. Australia was awesome, but I didn’t enjoy being so poor for the last few days. I left the country with $1.20 Australian, and not because I went on a mad shopping spree before I left. But now I’m in China, where money is plentiful again.

As some of you know, countries outside the U.S. don’t use real money. It’s not even green. Instead they use colorful “monopoly money” which can actually be exchanged for goods and services just like real money. Australia’s bills are garishly colored plastic, and dollars are cleverly disguised coins. In China the big bill gets to be pink. I enjoy using this monopoly money and playing the game both in China and Australia, but I just have a lot more of it in China.

Regardless of my monetary limitations, I had a blast in Australia. I really have to thank Ben, without whom my trip would have been impossible. He and his girlfriend Kristy put Wilson and me up in Brisbane and were wonderful hosts, even driving us to Byron Bay (pics of this are on Ben’s site).

I forgot how many people I know here in China. Last night and this morning I was positively barraged with phone calls and SMS messages. It’s good to be back among so many friends (and potential summer employers), although it’s sad to think that I don’t know when I’ll see Ben and Kristy again, or Wilson, for that matter.

I have begun my summer job. It looks like other positions may be in the works, as well as lots of Chinese lessons. I’m getting special tutoring this summer from one of the teachers where I’ll study come fall so I can place higher in my Chinese class and learn more.

OK, that’s all the boring updates you’ll get out of me for now. I just hate seeing my blog stale for so long. And so my focus once again turns to China…


21

Jun 2003

John in Oz

I’ll be in Australia for the next two weeks, so I won’t be updating for that time. Australia’s a big country, so I won’t try for more than a few places of interest in Queensland. For the time I’m in Brisbane, I’ll be staying with Ben, a friend and former ZUCC teacher. Wilson is meeting me at the Brisbane airport. He’s already been in Sydney for over a week.

In the meantime, you may want to check out some of the new blogs in the China Blog List. Brad F’s new blog kind of reminds me of mine. I especially like his “answers” entry.

When I get back to Hangzhou, I’ll be just teaching about 15 hours a week and hanging out, hopefully studying some Chinese in preparation for fulltime Chinese class come fall. Derrick will also be here in Hangzhou for about a month. I might be able to make it to Beijing this August, and possibly to the wedding in Kyoto of the oldest son of my Japanese homestay family. If I do that, it’ll be a boat ride from Shanghai to Osaka. Could be cool. At the end of August I’ll be busy helping the new additions to the ZUCC foreign teacher crew get settled. It’s gonna be a great new semester.

OK, I need to sleep. I leave Hangzhou for Pudong Airport at 7:30am…


20

Jun 2003

Fighting Pollution

It’s no secret that “clean air standards” are not real high in China. Some people complain of sore throats when they first come to China, just because of air pollution alone. Dust is no longer that distant, mysterious substance that accumulates in remote places afer several weeks. Oh, you become very familiar with dust here. I find myself not opening the window at times for “fresh air” because fresh air also means fresh dust. Dust accumulates fast here.

So the air quality is pretty bad here, by Western standards. Hanghzou air is not as bad as some places (such as Beijing), but it’s also not the “pristine garden city at one with nature” that it would have you believe. That said, don’t let your imagination go completely wild on you. I mean, if the air quality was really intolerably bad I wouldn’t still be here. One reason I’m here in Hangzhou is that the air quality is pretty good, relatively.

Chinese Pollution Sucks

Hangzhou pollution

Now to my story. ZUCC is located at the north end of town, in a newly created school zone. Unfortunately, the north edge of town was formerly designated an industrial zone. (That means factories are officially allowed to pollute even more out here.) You can see smokestacks to the north of our campus. Usually the pollution doesn’t really seem any worse here than anywhere else in the city, but around the end of April/beginning of May, those smokestacks went to town. In the afternoon we frequently saw lots of thick smoke pouring out of the smokestacks, sometimes even accompanied by a raging flame atop the smokestack. Naturally, a lot of people at ZUCC became concerned.

The school made a formal complaint but was worried that it was being completely ignored, as pollution is often treated as business as usual here. Hangzhou, however, is a popular tourist destination with a reputation for natural beauty, so it has a little more to lose if the pollution gets out of hand. Still, as ZUCC “foreign teacher liaison,” I decided to act on my own with regards to this issue. Sometimes foreigners’ voices can have a special impact here. I wrote a polite letter to the mayor of Hangzhou requesting that actions be taken. 13 foreign teachers from ZUCC added their signatures to mine. The letter I wrote is below:

> I am a foreign teacher of English at Zhejiang University City College, located on East Zhongshan Road in Hangzhou . In writing this letter I represent a small community of foreigners from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United States, all of whom are living and teaching here.

> I write to you out of concern for my health, the health of my colleagues, and, indeed, the health of all those around me. In the past several months (April, May 2003) we have all witnessed incidents of thick smoke emitted from the smokestacks of factories to the north of our campus. Sometimes the smoke is accompanied by a large orange flame, other times it is smoke alone. When the factories emit this smoke, the air around our school becomes hazier and heavier, and a bad smell of burning permeates the area. We have photographed said smoke emissions and include the photograph with this letter. [see picture above.]

> In addition to health concerns, we also feel that this pollution will harm the development of Zhejiang University City College in that foreign visitors will be given a very poor impression of the school when such heavy pollution is evident so close to the school grounds.

> We know that China is working hard at developing its industry, but we believe that this is a serious case of air pollution that cannot be ignored. Our health, as well as the health of all the Chinese students and citizens around us, is at risk. We humbly ask that the government please take actions to curb such blatant air pollution in this area, and that it inform us of what actions have been taken.

> Thank you very much.

It may seem silly and futile to write this letter. More than one teacher who signed felt that it would do absolutely no good, but signed anyway. That’s why it’s amazing that only a month later, I learned of the actions taken by the government.

As the author of the letter, I was invited to a meeting at ZUCC along with the college vice president of general affairs and director of human resources, a regional and a municipal representative from the Chinese Bureau of Environmental Protection, the municipal foreign affairs representative, and several representatives of the factory in question. What went down is basically this.

1. Everyone got introduced.

2. Everyone got tea.

3. The Chinese EPA guy explained that during the month that the incident in question occurred, the factory actually exceeded its emissions limit and failed its inspection for the first time. As a result, it is being forced to buy and install 1,500,000 RMB (about US$183,000) particle filtering equipment. Non-compliance will result in stiff fines.

4. An account of the history of the factory was given. It is the forging plant for a motor manufacturer. It has already moved once. Hangzhou’s industrial section is being moved to the south, across the Qiantang River toward Xiaoshan, so it’ll probably have to follow suit, although this factory is not technically completely under Hangzhou’s jurisdiction.

5. Kind person gives John a simpler Chinese verion of what was just said, as it was really long and complicated with difficult vocabulary, and the guy giving it had horrible putonghua.

6. Tea refills.

7. John is asked to say something. John expresses his appreciation and pleasant surprise at having been promptly and seriously responded to.

8. Our school’s VP gave an impassioned plea for that factory to please get the hell out of here.

9. The factory spoke in its defense, saying zero pollution was impossible, the factory had a right to exist, and there was nowhere good for it to go right now.

10. A few other random pollution issues were discussed.

11. The mayor’s foreign relations representative stressed that the mayor takes environmental issues as well as foreign relations issues very seriously, and that our letter was translated and acted upon immediately after it was received.

12. The EPA guy stressed that Hangzhou takes environmental issues very seriously, and that the matter will continue to be investigated, with proper actions taken. EPA guy also passed out his card and gave us the number for a 24-hour pollution report hotline, adding that anything reported would be investigated within 30 minutes of the call.

13. Meeting adjourned, in less than an hour!

So, basically I’m surprised that such prompt action was taken. Were the actions sincere? Will anything change? That’s hard to say. But I’d say if serious actions were really to be taken, then the meeting I attended would probably be a part of it. I have hope.


18

May 2003

For many complicated reasons

For many complicated reasons that it’s best to leave him to explain, Wilson recently decided to go back to California and stay there for the rest of the year. He might come back in 2004. Who knows. He drove off today (Monday) at 9:30am in a taxi along with all the material possessions from China that he wanted to keep.

Even though he originally planned on staying only one year and he’s already finishing up his third semester, I didn’t think Wilson would really leave China. His presence has drastically changed my life here, and it’s hard to accept that that era is suddenly coming to an end. Reflecting upon this, I realize that Wilson’s presence clearly delineates the three parts of my stay in China:

1. The Self-Study Era (Pre-Wilson) (Aug 2000 – Feb 2002)

– Lived with Siyuan off campus for most of it, taught full-time
– My life was characterized by intense self-study of Chinese and Chinese practice
– Rapid progress in Chinese
– Not too much dating, partying, drinking, or associating with other foreigners
– Very few foreign teachers at ZUCC; no real “community” to speak of

2. The Golden Era (Wilson) (Feb 2002 – May 2003)

– Lived alone on campus, taught full-time
– Chinese study experienced a slow-down, socializing increased
– Progress in Chinese slowed
– More dating, partying, drinking, socializing with foreigners
– The foreign teacher community at ZUCC was really born and blossomed
SARS marked its end

3. The Formal Study Era (Post-Wilson) (May 2003 – June 2004?)

– Expect to live alone on campus, teaching part-time
– Will be studying Chinese full-time as a foreign student at Zhejiang University
– I expect another boost in Chinese progress, vaulting well into “advanced Chinese”
– Dating, partying, drinking, and socializing with foreigners will certainly continue, but I’ll be busier
– The foreign teacher community will continue to rock on, but it will surely never be the same without Wilson’s socially catalytic presence

Certainly, Wilson’s effect on my life here was great, but it wasn’t strictly cause-effect. I didn’t study less or party more solely because Wilson was here; I put in a year and a half of hard study, and I was ready to coast for a little while on the fruits of my labor. This just happened to coincide with Wilson’s arrival. And it wasn’t that Wilson was the party animal — the sole reason the social scene picked up here. Sure, he’s a very social guy and added tremendously to the atmosphere, but when a group of friends gets along so well, the partying tends to follow naturally. Of course, Wilson was right in the middle of it, keeping it all flowing to the beat of his SF Deep House tracks.

I’m helping Wilson distribute to friends some of the stuff he couldn’t take with him. After he left, I went down to start clearing some of that stuff out. It was strange, seeing that place almost empty, when just a week ago it was oozing life and personality, exuding Wilson. It’s been more than two hours since the taxi drove off, but it hasn’t hit me that he’s gone. I expect it’ll sink in before the week is up.

ZUCC will not be the same. I guess I’d be more depressed if I weren’t sure if I’d ever see him again, but we’re meeting up in Brisbane, Australia next month. Besides, while it’s true that some people come and go in our lives, sometimes you just know when friends have become permanent.


29

Apr 2003

Bathroom Bliss

A while back I was whining pretty hardcore (not once, but twice) about the toilet in my apartment at ZUCC.
click for full sizeI guess it’s the classic case of complaining when something goes wrong but not saying anything when something good happens, but I neglected to mention that the toilet did get fixed. Daily plungings are a thing of the past, I’m pleased to announce. The fix was pretty primitive (chiseling a path through the concrete floor to clear the obstruction) but effective.

Then this past month the new shower modifications were finished. For over a year, the foreign teachers at ZUCC have all been living without shower curtains or anything, really, to keep water from spraying all over the bathroom when we take our showers. (This is fairly typical in China.) I didn’t mind because it meant my toilet was getting cleaned while I showered, and even though the floor was soaked after every shower, it kept the floor clean. I adjusted my routine so I never had to go back into the bathroom for a few hours after I used the shower. The other teachers didn’t like the soaked floor too much, though. The mild grumblings eventually turned to outright demands for shower curtains. Since I’m the foreign teacher liaison, I was right in the middle of it all. Human Resources said they’d handle it, but they had to deal with the ineptitide of General Affairs, which was in charge of the actual labor. Ahhh, Chinese bureaucracy. Meanwhile, I’m daily hearing, “where are our shower curtains?” from the teachers. Although Human Resources initially promised we’d have shower curtains within two weeks , the process dragged on for weeks longer (to Wilson’s outrage). I lost count of how many times they came in and measured my bathroom.

But, it finally got done. And not even curtains, but rather a whole fancy glass case thing with sliding doors. These new showers are great.


10

Mar 2003

You gave your life…

> You gave your life to become the person you are right now.
Was it worth it?
–Richard Bach

Few quotes get me thinking these days like this one did. It’s easy to blow it off without pondering it, but I found it a very worthwhile rumination.

I found the quote in a blog called imo. Interestingly, two of the four quotes on that page are also on my quotes page. (Not the one above, though.) Good quotes.

Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

I became familiar with Richard Bach in high school. I found Jonathan Livingston Seagull rather forgettable, but I loved Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Truly high-octane fuel for the imagination.

It’s often said nowadays that where creativity is concerned, China is a huge gaping void. What has China invented lately? Even books like Richard Bach’s seem to echo the philosophies of a China of lore — so distant, but certain as last night’s forgotten dream. Sure, joining the WTO is good times and fun for all, but in modern China, how can even the will of 1.3 billion parched minds revive creativity’s corpse?


05

Mar 2003

Rensheng AB Ju

renshengABju

Rensheng AB Ju

Yeah, I’m not even going to try to translate this one. Rensheng AB Ju is the name of a television show here in Zhejiang. On this show the beginning of a story is told by video to the audience, then stopped, and the watchers are given two choices: A and B. Which should the person take? The three guests (usually of minor fame) are then asked by the host which choice they think is best and why. After that a few guests from the studio audience are asked their opinions. Then the story continues to the next juncture, another A/B choice is presented, and so on. (For the Chinese-inclined, here’s an introduction in Chinese.)

I bring this show up not because I like it (I’ve actually never seen it), but because I was on it. Filmed it last Tuesday. I was a little nervous about being on the show. It was all in Chinese, of course. What if I didn’t follow the story completely, or what if the discussion took a difficult turn? I’d rather not look dumb on TV, if possible. The man on my left was a psychologist (I think) and professor at Zhejiang University, and the woman on my right was an author. My sole qualification was being a foreign teacher in China. The topic was one particular woman’s extra-marital affair.

The show actually went pretty well, I think. I understood pretty much everything, and the host was very easy-going and easy to understand. The psychologist guy busted into some pretty esoteric stuff now and then, dropping all sorts of chengyu, and at those points I was always afraid they would turn to me and ask, “and what do you think about that?!” but that didn’t happen. I talked less than the other two, but that’s pretty understandable. What I did say I communicated well enough.

The show airs on the Zhejiang Satellite TV Station (Zhejiang Dianshitai Weixing Dianshi), Saturday, March 22nd, 9:45pm, and then again Sunday, March 23rd, 11:40am and 3:52pm. This is the fourth time I’ll be on TV in China, I think, and this time instead of chancing into it they came looking for me. Interesting stuff happens to you when you’re here long enough…


02

Mar 2003

New semester, New music

> head like an empty sterile room, somehow I made a mess
like watching newborn babies crack from work-related stress

-Alkaline Trio, “I lied my face off”

hangzhou rain

Well, it’s the beginning of the semester, a fresh start. New students, new teachers, new lesson plans… Somehow it all seems a little “messy” though. I wonder if it’s because of the constant rain. We actually had nice weather today, but that’s a rarity. The other day I accidentally said “rain forecast” instead of “weather forecast.” Hangzhou winters are like this. Lots of time spent indoors. I’m looking forward to the spring…

Lately I can’t stop listening to this song. This one and this one aren’t bad either. I’m not exposed to a lot of new music these days, so when I find something new I like, I’m all over it. I have access to internet radio, but it usually spews the same garbage across the internet as it does across the airwaves at home. I’m happy I found Dashnine Radio. Rarely have I found a station that plays so much stuff I like. Atom and His Package, Screeching Weasel, and The Transplants, all on the same station? I’m there.

[Note: These MP3’s will be online for a limited time only, so if the links have gone dead, that’s why. To see what music I’ve got online at any given time, go to www.sinosplice.com/music/.]


21

Feb 2003

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.)



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