Tag: Shanghai


06

Dec 2004

Legend of the White Ferret

You ever hear the stories about the alligators in the New York City sewers, or the monkeys and boa constrictors living in the wilds of the Florida Everglades? What would you say to a story of a white ferret living in the bushes surrounding an apartment complex in downtown Shanghai?

The white ferret of legendI probably wouldn’t pay much attention if I heard such a story, but I never did hear it. Rather, I’ve seen it multiple times with my own eyes, scurrying from one clump of bushes to another, always at night. Unmistakably a ferret.

I’m moving into a new place in Shanghai next weekend (there’s a post about that coming soon), and I’ve been thinking about what I’ll miss about my current place. I’ll miss its convenient downtown location. I’ll miss the view of the city lights out my bedroom window. And, I suppose I’ll miss the mysterious white ferret.


09

Sep 2004

Internet Experiment

I’ve been whining quite a bit lately. First it was about not being able to find someone to work with me at my company. Then it was about the Great Firewall of China picking on me.

I’ve now found Micah to fill the laowai void at my company, but my internet access remains in a deplorable state. Thus the whining continues.

I was recently researching the problem, and I read what Wang Jianshuo had to say about it. (His site is a great reference for all matters Shanghai.) He’s been having problems too, and he also uses ADSL. A Chinese friend in the IT business informed me that her friends have been having similar issues lately (especially with Google), but that those using cable broadband service (有线通) weren’t having the same issues.

Since the internet access problem is mostly specific to Shanghai, I theorized that China is trying out its newest internet filtering technology in Shanghai, with ADSL service in particular as the guinea pig. My troubles are a side effect of what Wang Jianshuo calls “bugs in the great firewall,” which exist because of the newness of the technology. Surely any filters applied to ADSL will also be applied to cable broadband, but maybe only after this initial “tweaking phase” is completed. And who knows when that will be.

So I took a gamble. I signed up for cable service, paying 340 rmb (over $40 US) for installation, the cable modem, and a month of service. The service itself is slightly cheaper (120 rmb per month instead of China Telecom ADSL’s 140 rmb per month), and the speed is about the same. But my website might be once again freely accessible. If not, I wasted 220 rmb for pretty much the same service I was getting.

The installation was finished this afternoon. Once connected, I tried to access my site via FTP. No go. I went to my blog page. My site loaded slowly, pretty much the same as before. Experiment over.

One difference, though, is that Metafilter seems to load better than before. That’s a plus. Also, sites seem to be timing out less often, and just loading slowly instead.

Anyway, I’m through with this crap. I’m changing hosts again. If my site is down for a little while, or the comments don’t work or something like that, you know why. Hopefully soon I’ll be back online proper, blogging about things less boring and negative.


13

Aug 2004

Superstition?

Yesterday I went to a kindergarten to teach a few classes with a co-worker. The kindergarten is inside a walled community. Not the kind of rich walled community you may be thinking of, but rather a big collection of fairly run-down Chinese apartment buildings which happen to be surrounded by a wall.

On the way out, we passed two men burning stuff near the garbage. My first thought was, “Just great. As if the pollution wasn’t bad enough, people also burn garbage for no apparent reason when they could just throw it away.”

Then I noticed a middle-aged woman and a rather old woman, who appeared to be just passersby, arguing with the men. It was all in Shanghainese, and I couldn’t understand it at all. Especially the old lady looked pretty upset about the exchange. I saw that what the men were burning was several large sheets of folded yellow paper. I also saw a bundle of white cloth which appeared to be next.

I asked my co-worker what they were saying.

> Me: What were they saying?

> Her: I think maybe someone died, so they’re burning things. The old lady told them they shouldn’t be doing it because it’s just superstition. The men told her it had nothing to do with her and she should mind her own damn business.

> Me: Why do you think someone died?

> Her: Well, in China, after someone dies we often draw a circle on the ground and place some of their clothes and other belongings in the circle and then burn them so that the person has these things in the afterlife.

> Me: So is that superstition too, or tradition?

> Her: Tradition, I guess.

> Me: Where do you draw the circle? Just on the street?

> Her: Yeah.

> Me: And what do you use to draw it?

> Her: Chalk.

> Me: Just regular white chalk?

> Her: Yeah.

This is the kind of thing you see less often in Shanghai, but you still see it if you go to the right parts of the city.


14

Jun 2004

Dashan in Shanghai

Ever since he wrote to me, I’ve been in communication with Mark Rowswell (AKA Dashan) via e-mail. Well, this past weekend he came to Shanghai to shoot a few commercials, so we got together for a chat.

As a public figure, he really has to watch his image, and there’s a lot he doesn’t talk about publicly. It was really interesting, then, to meet Mark and hear some of his opinions. We talked about a range of topics, including English education in China, the meaning of the recent loss of the Stanley Cup to Canada (go Tampa Bay! — I guess), what it was like to be a student in Beijing in 1989, and running a website (he manages his site and all its content all on his own).

I spoke with him on the set of his commercial in between shots. I have to say that observing the shooting of a commercial is both interesting and very boring. Once is enough. I’d hate to have to do it to pay the bills.

After the commercial he treated my girlfriend and me to dinner. I never would have guessed where he wanted to eat — Malone’s! It’s quite the expat hangout, and although it’s not the cheapest, the burgers are really good.

I was also curious if he was going to be recognized as we walked the streets of Shanghai. He wasn’t, for the most part, although I did hear some of the staff whispering as we went into Malone’s, “isn’t that Dashan??”

Dashan shooting a commerical in Shanghai With Dashan in a Bar Dashan and me in Shanghai

Anyway, it was good to meet someone so high profile and yet so poorly understood as Mark. We also discussed some small projects we may be collaborating on in the future. Stay tuned.


18

Mar 2004

Shanghainese: a Flash soundboard

Not long ago, when trying out some soundboards (normally used for prank calls), an idea came to me. Why not make a soundboard for an educational purpose? OK, so it’s not nearly as funny, but the idea had potential. It wouldn’t leave me alone.

A few weeks ago I made a whole bunch of sound recordings. Then I learned the basics of Cool Edit Pro and edited the crap out of them. In the two weeks to follow I struggled through the process of teaching myself the Flash MX necessary to do what I wanted to do. Timelines, scenes, keyframes, buttons, mask layers, preloaders, ActionScript… I eventually got through it all. To make this “soundboard.”

What this Flash soundboard does is provide audio samplings of a collection of basic Chinese words/phrases in pairs: one in Mandarin (普通话), and one in Shanghainese (上海话). It’s really very simple. Place your cursor over the sentence you want to hear and click. You can even switch between pinyin and Chinese characters, and view my notes on the soundboard.

I expect there to be a few issues with the soundboard, particularly with the Chinese character representations of Shanghainese. The problem is that there’s no real standard, and even native Shanghai speakers do not necessarily know the original (often archaic) characters which correspond to the words they speak (if they even exist). I haven’t gotten around to picking up a better book on Shanghainese, and the stupid bookstore I need to get to closes at 6pm on weekdays.

In essence, it’s a very scholarly notion reduced to a hobby side project in soundboard form. So if you’ve got the Chinese background, just enjoy it. Even if you don’t understand Chinese, you may still enjoy hearing the difference between Mandarin and Shanghainese.

Crank up the volume.

Check out the Shanghainese soundboard.


13

Mar 2004

ShanghaiNing

I recently discovered a very interesting site: ShanghaiNing.com. It’s designed specifically for the native Shanghainese. The tagline at the top says 侬白相啥? That’s how you would write 你玩什么? (roughly, “what do you do for fun?”) in Chinese characters to represent the particular words the Shanghainese use.

Translated excerpt from the about page:

> We represent the new Shanghai culture…..
We invite you to our website…
to discuss our concerns in our own language,
to sing our songs to our own music,
to dance to our own rhythm.

This kind of site highlights the strong grip on their identity the Shanghainese have.

Of interest is the Shanghainese rap section. Yes, that’s right… rap in the Shanghainese dialect. It pretty much sucks, but it’s cool that they’re even doing it. Give it a listen; there are currently 13 downloadable songs.

It’s always pissed me off that the only punk scene in China is in Beijing. Maybe Shanghai will develop along the rap/hip hop track?? Well, one can dream…


10

Mar 2004

Shanghai vs. Beijing

Shanghai and Beijing are the two most talked about cities in mainland China, and for good reason. Shanghai is the most populous city in China, a very modern economic powerhouse. Beijing is the capital, the political and cultural center of the nation. Beijing is the emperor’s seat in the north, Shanghai the giant of the south. Comparisons are inevitable.

Obviously, I now inhabit Shanghai, and I want it to fare well in an honest comparison of the two. I’ve been to Beijing twice, but not recently, and never for an extended visit. Today I discussed the matter with an American co-worker of mine. He seemed an ideal, objective observer because he lived in Beijing for a year, and now, after staying in Shanghai for a little over a year, is leaving China. He speaks good Chinese, and he’s a shrewd observer of his surroundings. Here’s the breakdown of his opinions:

Climate. Beijing is colder, but you don’t feel it too much because everyone bundles up like mad, and central heating is quite widespread. In Shanghai the buildings are built with the hot summers in mind, and there’s precious little insulation. That, combined with the people’s strong desire for “fresh air” in the middle of the winter makes Shanghai “the coldest place I’ve ever lived.”

People. Both Beijingers and the Shanghainese feel a sort of superiority toward outsiders. Nevertheless, Beijingers are widely regarded as very friendly, and any sense of superiority is exhibited only subtly. The Shanghainese are not widely regarded as friendly or as subtle in their snobbery.

Culture. Do I even have to say it? It’s all in Beijing.

Language. Beijingers speak Chinese with as much “rrrr” as possible, as if they only “speak with the throat.” Despite the superfluous R’s, Beijingers’ Chinese is quite close to the national standard. The Shanghainese, on the other hand, speak a dialect that could easily be classified as a separate (but related) language. This affects their Mandarin, making it less standard. The Shanghainese, like most places in the south, have much less “rrrr” in their speech, relying instead on other standard variants (e.g. nali instead of nar, meaning “where”).

Western Conveniences. Shanghai’s got Beijing beat hands down. Sure, Beijing has most of the products Shanghai does, but in Shanghai they’re much more readily available. Some things that you can buy in Shanghai’s convenience stores you might have to go to a specialty store for in Beijing. In addition, Shanghai has a lot more late-night and 24-hour stores.

Entertainment. Beijing’s Sanlitun is a bit better than Shanghai’s bar streets. Beijing also has a lot more cheap entertainment options. Going out on the town in Shanghai often will deplete your funds fast.

OK, I think you see the trend. Shanghai is taking a wicked beating in the comparison. I’ve heard other people say it too: “Beijing feels so home-y and special. Shanghai is a soulless concrete capitalist jungle.”

I consider myself a reasonable person. Why, then, when faced with such evidence, do I still feel that I will never even consider moving to Beijing? I want to know this for myself. I think the reasons are:

1. I’m from Florida. That’s the American south (with northern flavor). I like it. I don’t like New York or Boston accents.

When I studied in Japan, my school’s program just happened to be in Osaka — Japan’s southern giant. I like the southern Japanese dialect, and feel Tokyo’s to be boring.

When I came to China, I chose Hangzhou — partly with climate in mind, but largely because I had a Chinese friend from there. Hangzhou was my home for 3 1/2 years. It’s where I learned Mandarin Chinese.

2. I hate the “rrrr” of northern Mandarin. I can’t help it. It sounds really dumb to me. Sometimes I find it amusing (I like hearing actor Ge You talk), but I can’t really take it seriously.

I also feel that it sort of impoverishes the language. The “-r” suffix can go on the end of words ending in a vowel, -n, or -ng. When the “-r” suffix starts going everywhere, you don’t hear the original syllable ending, and it reduces linguistic diversity.

(That’s probably just a dumb rationalization for in irrational dislike of a particular accent, though.)

3. “Beijing” seems so cliche to me. “Oh, you want to learn Chinese? Then go to Beijing! The Mandarin is so standard there. Dashan studied there!”

No thanks. I think I’ll tough it out amongst the hoardes of asshole expats.

4. I like the linguistic diversity of the south. I like that the Shanghainese speak a whole separate language from their northern overlords. It’s badass. It might seem exclusionary or snobbish to you, but then you’re also probably too lazy to learn it.

Somehow, I don’t really think any of this is totally it, though. Everyone says that Beijing is better, but I’m not gonna buy it. I guess deep down, I’m just stubborn. I’m in Shanghai now.

Related Links:
Bokane.org, journal of an American Peking University student.
Kaiser Kuo, a writer in Beijing.
Ape Rifle’s Chinese city comparisons.


15

Jan 2004

Shanghai Gloom?

Jocelyn at Speaking of China recently painted a rather dismal picture of life in Shanghai:

> I think of those 10 or so months I’d spent in Shanghai. Somehow staying in that “booming metropolis” had swiftly beaten much of the spontaneity out of my life. There’s something inextricably stifling about Shanghai. The people hardly smile at you. The shopkeepers at times seem reluctant to utter “Welcome” as you walk in the door. Most entertainment options offer little for those interested in something non-conventional. Oh, there is a multitude of cultural activities around the city, from traditional opera to music and theatre. But there are few “scenes” in the city that bring together a group of people with similar interests. I believe I grew tired of the little available and the difficulty of making friends there. I chose to become a “hermit” of sorts, finding pleasure instead in the small subtleties of everyday life. It satisfied me nevertheless.

(She wrote this in the context of a comparison of Shanghai to Taipei. Check it out, it’s good reading.)

Reading something like that, I can’t help but feel a little bit anxious about my new life here in Shanghai. But then I think, HA! I’m going to kick Shanghai’s sorry big ass. I am going to have a damn good time here, I’m going to continue to improve my Chinese, and I’m going to make more Chinese friends here than I ever had in Hanghzou. And they’re going to be cool.

One of my secrets for accomplishing this will be in learning Shanghai dialect. Comprehension at the very least. I made friends on the bus yesterday with a Shanghainese guy. I was reading my book on the Shanghainese dialect, and he started talking to me about it. It’s really complex. The subject of me teaching him English for free never even came up. Anyway, I got his number. BOOM, new friend! It was almost as easy as getting a Chinese girl’s number. (hehe)

Then later that day my girlfriend’s mom gave me a lesson in Shanghainese. My Chinese name in Shanghainese sounds like “Poogie.” Haha! Awesome.

And my sister Amy arrives later today (wow, I need to go to sleep!). It’s gonna be a great 2 weeks!


12

Jan 2004

Why Shanghai?

A lot of people have asked me why I decided to move to Shanghai. A few years ago I would have laughed at the idea of myself making a home here. But, things have a funny way of working out…. Some of you might be wondering the converse, though — why not Shanghai?

When I first came to China, I chose Hangzhou (over Shanghai) for a number of reasons.

  1. Climate. Hangzhou is not too cold in the winter, and the winter doesn’t drag on too much. [Shanghai’s climate is virtually identical to Hangzhou’s.]
  2. Environment. Hangzhou is surrounded by green hills and wooded areas, and, of course, it also has the famous West Lake. [Shanghai has parks, but it is still the big bity. Concrete jungle.]
  3. Size. Although its population is close to 7 million, Hangzhou is a “mid-sized” city in China. In addition, the actual area the city covers is not really that large. Living there, you really feel that it’s not a big city. [Shanghai’s population, on the other hand, has topped 20 million. It is huge in all senses of the word.]
  4. Language. Hangzhou has its own local dialect which is virtually incomprehensible to those merely versed in Mandarin, but the dialect is not as widely used as you might think. Since Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province and also very much a “college town,” Mandarin is very widespread (if not always standard). This makes it a better place to study Chinese. [In comparison, Shanghai dialect is much more widely used in Shanghai, and knowledge of it is much more integral to success there. Also, there are many, many Chinese people that speak good English in Shanghai, which doesn’t help if you’re trying hard to learn Chinese.]
  5. Girls. Believe it or not, Hangzhou’s reputation for beautiful women was not a factor in my choice of Hangzhou. Furthermore, after being in China a while, I think it’s all a load of crap. Many places in China are famous for this reason (Hangzhou, Suzhou, Sichuan, Dalian, etc.). It’s just a variation on the “the grass is always greener” phenomenon. One thing Hangzhou does have going for it in this category is that it’s a college town, so there are tons of college-aged girls. [Shanghai women know how to dress well and wear makeup. They are hot, hot, HOT. It seems like the hottest ones are often either working girls or out for money, though.]
  6. Pollution. Pollution is a huge issue for foreigners in China, so I wanted to pick one of the cleaner Chinese cities. Relatively speaking, Hangzhou fits the bill (there are some nightmarish cities out there), but it’s by no means pristine. [Shanghai does not at all seem more polluted. I guess it’s because factories are largely located in the countryside (like right behind ZUCC).]

For the reasons above, as well as the fact that I never felt like a “city person,” I chose Hangzhou over Shanghai. It was an excellent choice. My number one goal here in China is attainment of a high degree of fluency in Mandarin, and Hangzhou has been a great place to pursue that dream. As my language proficiency pushes into the “advanced stage,” though, I have had to re-evaluate the situation.

As a university English teacher in China, I can’t justifiy the use of Chinese in the classroom, so my job (with the exception of the minor “foreign teacher liaison position”) was conducted entirely in English.

I’ve never been good at befriending my students, and I always found the language issue problematic. They want to practice English, I want to practice Chinese.

As my Chinese got better and better, I just felt that if my aim was mastery of Chinese, the most logical way to further my goal was to find a job where I could use Chinese on the job, all the time.

Thus Shanghai. Hangzhou has very little call for foreigners that speak Chinese. The fact that jobs in Shanghai pay way better is a small added bonus, but far from a driving factor for me.

Often in jest, expats in China sometimes refer to foreigners living in Shanghai as having “sold out.” I’m sure many do come here for the pay. You can earn a Western salary here (if you’re lucky). And I remember when I first came to Hangzhou and met other expats who had been here longer, I learned about the phenomenon of foreigners abandoning Hangzhou in favor of Shanghai after they’d been in China a while. And I remember thinking to myself, “Not me! Hangzhou is the city for me.” Whatever “the real China” may be, Shanghai is most definitely not it. So I can’t help but ask myself, “have I sold out?”

The answer is, of course, NO. But I have to make sure I keep focused on my goals. I wouldn’t be the first disillusioned Westerner to embrace the mystic, ascetic East for whatever reason, in all its third world charm, merely to get caught up in this new red capitalism. I wanted out of the rat race, not merely into a new “race.”

So I guess that about sums it up. Yes, my girlfriend also lives in Shanghai. And yes, that was also a factor (and a catalyst). But of course it wasn’t that simple. And I will definitely miss living in Hangzhou.


08

Jan 2004

Coming Soon…

Happy New Year, everybody. It’s been a while since my last entry, I know. In the meantime a lot has happened (although really, not much).

I have completely moved into my new apartment in Shanghai, and it’s awesome. My ZUCC co-worker friends were all going to help me with the final move, but they all bailed on me at the last minute for lame reasons like “no money,” except for Greg. He was a great help, and strong as an ox, that lad. Alf tried to placate me by later showing up with a potted plant for me. What a charmer.

Anyway, I don’t hold grudges, so I’ll be happy to put any of them up should they feel like coming to visit me in Shanghai. Those guys are great, and I’ll really miss them. Sometimes it’s hard for me to explain even to myself why I would voluntarily leave such a great community of people.

I also met the notorious Brad (of BradF.com) recently. Very chill guy. Much more into music than I expected (if you read Chinese, make sure you check out his ideas for his new band!). Hopefully I’ll be hanging out with him again soon.

I finally bought a new hard drive yesterday. 80 GB of Seagate goodness. Works like a champ so far. I’ve actually found that I didn’t lose as much data as I thought I did, due to my inadvertently backing important documents up in the past for various reasons. That includes my book, to my extreme relief. My publisher has just recently informed me that they’ve finally made the official decision to publish it. Cool. Only took 3 months.

Hmmm, every paragraph is beginning with the word “I”. But not this one.

My ADSL internet access will be installed tomorrow, and then I can finally quit with this internet cafe hanky panky.

I paid a huge wad of cash for my apartment on Christmas Day. My new job doesn’t start until after Chinese New Year. I was getting paid very little all last semester because I was teaching very few clases to make time for my full-time Chinese studies. That all amounts to me being pooooor. My older sister Amy is coming for a visit next Wednesday. Fortunately she’s bringing funds. Everything’s gonna be cool, I’m sure.

Things are looking good. I have lots of ideas for Sinosplice in the months to come, but I’m gonna need that internet access first. Expect more pictures. My new surroundings have imparted new inspiration to me.


21

Dec 2003

Christmas?

It’s hard to believe that last year at this time I was arriving home in Florida for a surprise visit. Prior to last Christmas, I had been in China two Christmases in a row. Yet this year I feel more divorced from this “Christmas” thing than ever before. This year Christmas is just that Western holiday between the HSK and my move to Shanghai.

Speaking of the HSK, I think I did “OK.” I think I’m borderline between 7 and 8. Maybe it was unrealistic to expect to be able to learn enough vocabulary in one semester to get an 8 when I don’t read literary Chinese all that often at all. In any case, I’m not getting my hopes up too high for that 8.

So now I have that huge HSK weight off my shoulders, and a whole three days between today and Christmas. But I have to give my students final exams those three days.

We have a pretty decent-sized foreign teacher community here at ZUCC, but I don’t think any of the younger crowd is celebrating Christmas in any Christmassy way. No Christmas trees, no Christmas lights, no Christmas songs, no gift exchange. And there’s sure as hell no eggnog. There’s Christmas mass even in Hangzhou, but it just doesn’t feel the same.

I might even run off to Shanghai on Christmas Day to check out my new apartment there*. My girlfriend’s mom is awesome — she found me a killer pad at an amazing price (and she also knit me a cool cap). But I have to go hurry and check it out to close the deal. As chance would have it, Christmas also happens to be one of the few days my girlfriend isn’t working. So that’s that.

The thing is, I’m not really bummed about any of this. China does not really have Christmas, it just has enough little reminders everywhere to alert you to the fact that Christmas really is going on again elsewhere in the world. So my co-workers’ attitudes, rather than seeming all bah-humbuggy to me, seem perfectly natural. Enlightened, even. Why bother to celebrate Christmas?

I guess to me, Christmas is something that happens at home. And when it happens at home and I’m actually there for it, like last year, it’s just all the more special.

So does the fact that I’m fine with there being no Christmas for me here in China mean I’m more adapted to China? Does it mean China has really become a second home for me? Or am I becoming a soulless Scrooge?

Rather than dwell on those questions too long, I think I’ll just go get me an apartment in Shanghai. Merry Christmas.

*Oh yeah, I got a good job in Shanghai — more on that later. This post is supposed to be somewhat “heavy” and “introspective.” No room for good news here!


02

Nov 2003

Revolted in Shanghai

Three of my esteemed colleagues made a pleasure trip to Shanghai recently. They managed to have a decent time, but they returned somewhat disgusted with the portion of the expat community that they came into contact with. I listened with grim interest to the recountings of their interactions with other foreigners. This is the city I’m moving to soon!
Greg’s account on Sinobling is verbose (and just a bit crude) but hilarious. Carl’s account was more centered on “the facts” but amusing and telling as well. (Alf fans should also check these out.)
A few excerpts:

Carl:
The way I see it, is that all these middle-class, recent college graduates from the western world flood into Shanghai and are instantly flung into the upper echelons of society both socially and monetarily. And how do they react? Like total assholes, that’s how.
Greg:
After leaving the bathroom I joined up with Carl and encouraged him to leave (which for the record took very little cajoling). The price, pomp, and pretension was a bit more than I could stand. Furthermore, if being “seen” means being ignored and looked down upon by legions of charlatans content in wallowing in their own mountebankery I’d just as soon stay home and get drunk in my bathrobe.

Of course, I’ve been to Shanghai, so such accounts come as no surprise to me. But even though Shanghai’s bar scene is not one of the reasons for my move, now that I’m actually going to move soon, such accounts linger in my mind a bit longer….
[NOTE: I’ve got a few good possibilities, but I’m still looking for a job in Shanghai that starts in January. Any leads would be greatly appreciated! Please e-mail me.]


15

Oct 2003

Shanghai-bound

This decision has been a long time in the making, but I’ve finally committed to it. Come January, I will leave my beloved ZUCC and continue my life in Shanghai. I am still looking for a job.

This is a call to all my friends and readers! In China, the best jobs are always found through connections, so if anyone can help me out, I’d be eternally grateful.

My qualifications are basically over 5 years of teaching experience, understanding of linguistics, and high level Chinese language ability. I also have experience working within a Chinese bureaucracy, as I have worked as foreign teacher liaison (and partly as recruiter) for the past year. There’s more in my resume, which is online. I really hope to find something where I can use at least some Chinese on the job.

Thanks to the information on Wang Jianshuo’s site, I had an interview with Microsoft Global Technical Engineering Center on Tuesday, which went well. Unfortunately, they would need me to start in mid-December, and the ZUCC semester runs until January. So I couldn’t take that.

I’ll probably talk about the reasons for the move, etc., later, but for now I just wanted to get it out there. I need a job! Please e-mail me.


14

Mar 2003

Friends and Pics

Wilson

Wilson

In the past I have done a little introductory mug shot page for the English-teaching foreign teachers here at ZUCC. This semester Wilson did it. It’s hosted on his site, but since his site is blocked in China and mine isn’t, it’s also mirrored on my site. Check it out! I’m sure I’ll be mentioning these people on here in the future.

During his time here, Wilson has gotten really imaginative with his photography and web design. I envy his creative eye, his Photoshop skills, his awesome camera. Even if these talents don’t rub off on me, though, at least I can enjoy his results. Don’t miss: Jade Emperor’s Hill [mirrored], Viewing Fish at Flower Pond [mirrored].

I mentioned recently that I’ll be on TV in China March 22nd. Being on TV is a pretty common occurrence for foreigners living in China. Frequent readers/commenters of this blog will be familiar with my friend Ray. He was on TV in Shanghai some months ago when he still worked there. They did a bit of a bio on him. Anyway, he sent me some vidcaps of his 10 minutes of glory, and I think they’re pretty funny, so I’m sharing them. I don’t think he’ll mind everyone having a look at his studly countenance. If he ever put up a site of his own, I’m sure he’d put these pics up.

ray1

“So I want to write a book, right? …”

ray2

(That’s mantou, a kind of Chinese bun.)

ray3

What a fascinating lesson, eh? The students are riveted!

Speaking of commenters on Sinosplice, “Prince Roy,” a rather new regular commenter here, now has his own blog too. Check it.


26

Dec 2002

Home for Christmas, finally (part 2)

Sunday, December 22nd. I get to the airport at about 8:30am. Check-in goes smoothly. Before long I’m on a plane. The only snag is that what I was told was a nonstop flight from Shanghai to Detroit was actually a flight with a stopover in Tokyo. Maybe I wouldn’t have to get off the plane, at least, and I could just sleep. I was ready for that.

On the plane I notice there are a lot of young people. Turns out there are two singing groups from universities in the U.S. which had been invited to Shanghai to perform. That includes religious Christmas songs. Kind of interesting; not interesting enough to keep me awake, however. My last thought as I drift off is, “I hope they wake me when they serve the meal….”

I awake as we’re arriving in Tokyo. I ask the girl next to me if there was a meal. “Yes, she tried to wake you. It was like you were dead to the world.” D’oh! Oh well. I was dead to the world. It’s the best way to sleep.

They make me get off the plane and wait around in the Tokyo airport for two hours. It’s strange hearing so much Japanese again so soon, when I wasn’t planning on it at all. Mostly, though, I’m just tired and hungry. I fall asleep in my chair and awake to the boarding call.

The flight starts off pleasantly enough. To my left is a silent Asian man. To my right is a large Marine, headed home from Okinawa with his family for Christmas. His family is behind us. He seems nice enough.

It isn’t long, however, before the trans-Pacific ennui sets in. I succeed in sleeping for a while. I devour a decent in-flight meal and sleep a little more. Soon, though, my Marine friend’s little 4-5 year old son “E.J.” becomes possessed. He is noisy. Then he starts this thing where he lies on his back in the seat and pummels my seat from behind with his feet. Not exactly conducive to restfulness. I can’t really complain because his parents tell him to stop. Thing is, he keeps just waiting a little while and then starting up again.

There is a mother and two nice young boys in front of me. They all love to recline their seats. I suppose that’s their right. My long cramped legs are forced into straddling the seat in front of me, my knee caps jammed up against the back of the arm rests of the seat. Then they come up with this fun game of repeatedly putting the arm rests up and down for no discernible reason. Are they doing it solely to keep painfully whacking my knee caps? Thanks.

My agony is interrupted by a new form of torture called Santa Who? — a “heart-warming” story of an amnesia-inflicted Santa who meets a selfish news reporter who needed a holiday change of heart. I watch the whole thing. I want to die.

Wait — now E.J. is pummeling me again and my friends in front of me are crushing my kneecaps with renewed vigor. Now I want to die.

There are only two good points to the flight. First, there seem to be an unusually large number of attractive women onboard. Not seated next to me, of course, but they are on the premises to give me something else to focus my attention on and help me pull through it. Thanks, ladies. Second, the airline serves ice cream after Santa Who? ends. Ice Cream! All right.

Silent Asian man is Chinese, as it turns out, and can’t figure out his immigration forms. I help him. He seems pleasantly surprised that I can help him with that in Chinese. His English doesn’t seem too hot. I found myself wondering if he always asks for Coke because he likes it, or because that’s all he can say.

Scooby Doo the Movie comes on. Vowing not to make the same mistake again, I refuse to put my earphones on. Still, my eyes stay glued to the screen, however, and I’m soon angry over the stupidity of the film. I manage to sleep a little more.

Hope comes in the form of the second in-flight meal. Not only does it satisfy my hunger, but with it comes peace to the whole plane, for a short time.

For the remaining stretch E.J. tests my patience. But I hold out. I don’t crack. We land.

Things start getting better after that, because I am actually in the U.S.A. I have just eaten, but I decide to spend some of my 3-hour layover in Detroit eating. I get chicken tacos with chips, salsa, and guacamole dip. You can not get that stuff in China! As I’m eating I notice someone else eating chilli cheese fries and I almost regret my choice of food. The discomforts of the past 13 hours quickly fade into the background as my stomach takes the spotlight. Plus there are more hot women in the Detroit airport. Hot American women. All right.

Before long I’m on my final flight, bound for Tampa. Is it just my imagination, or is the leg room shrinking with every flight?! My legs are really uncomfortable, but at least this flight is relatively short. As the plane lifts off the ground, I gaze out over the landscape. No snow. It looks like a sepia world, all in browns, tans, grays, drabs….

Despite the short travel time, my level of discomfort seems to rise proportionately. It is all I can do to keep from flipping out. I can’t sleep. I try to pass the time with the new issue of The Economist. Biotechnology in China. Hmmmm… (Ouch, my knees!)

In the end, after 24 hours of travel, I make it. As I arrive at the baggage claim, the familiar face of Paco greets me.


25

Dec 2002

Home for Christmas, finally (part 1)

My Christmas this year has been an event partially shrouded in mystery since the summer. It was then that the idea to surprise my whole family with a Christmas visit home began to formulate.

Saturday, December 21st. I had meant to get on a bus to Shanghai as early as 3pm, but it wasn’t until 5:30pm that I finally make it out the door. I have been buying lots of Christmas presents and otherwise just preparing for my two weeks’ absence from school. Wilson graciously offered to cover my classes. He had the good idea of combining all our classes and throwing them in a multimedia room at night for those 2 weeks. So all I had to do was plan the content and put it into a wonderful PowerPoint presentation, which was then burned onto a CD and left in Wilson’s hand the day I left.

So I step out the door at around 5:30pm. It’s raining, as it has been for days. The shoes which I have purposely not been wearing for the past 2 days in order to make sure they’re dry for my trip home are wet within 10 minutes of stepping out the door, despite my umbrella. The guard on the ground floor of our building says this damn rain is going to continue for another 3-4 days, at least. All I can think is I’ll be home soon….

I get out to Zhoushan Dong Road just in time to miss a taxi. And then it’s 30 minutes of trudging through a gray, wet world, my rolling suitcase reluctantly trailing behind me on this misadventure. I timed it just wrong: 6pm is when taxi drivers get off their shifts, so around 5:30 the drivers are all heading back to the station and refuse to give anyone a ride, even if the car is empty and the “vacant” light is on. It’s almost impossible to get a taxi at this time of day, but I was standing out in the rain with a heavy suitcase full of gifts and a backpack, and I was going home. Unfortunately, the taxi drivers don’t seem to realize this. Empty cab after empty cab whizzes right by my wet, frantically flailing figure, my furious curses unheard.

Eventually, someone does stop. For some reason, when drivers are getting off duty, they do this thing where they pick up a friend (?) before getting their last ride, and then drop off their friend on the way to your destination. It’s definitely not legit, but they all do it. After waiting 30 minutes in the rain, I wasn’t going to complain.

On the way to the bus station, there’s a traffic jam. All the huge construction trucks in Hangzhou seem to have congregated on the road we need to take to get to the East Bus Station. Our driver doesn’t seem to have much regard for our personal safety, or at least not for the structural integrity of his vehicle. Our windshield repeatedly comes scant inches from the lower end of the huge truck in front of us. Time wears on, and my driver quickly learns I am not in a chatty mood. I am beginning to wonder if there are still going to be buses to Shanghai by the time I get there.

So I finally arrive at the East Bus Station. I loathe that place. It’s hard to explain exactly why, but the scalpers that assail you before you’re even out of your taxi would definitely be high on the list. Shanghai, Shanghai! they yell in my face. The fact that I was actually bound for Shanghai makes them all the more annoying.

When I get to the ticket office, there is a small crowd outside, but no one inside. All the ticket windows are closed up. “They’re closed,” the scalpers gleefully announce, a grinning pack of vultures descending upon me. “Shanghai…”

Defeated, I begin reluctant negotiations with them, and 80rmb is the cheapest I’m hearing. I start following that offer, but as I trudge past the Shanghai-bound waiting room, on a whim I duck in to investigate. The girl at the front tells me I can still buy a ticket to Shanghai. I’m not getting her convoluted instructions to the last remaining open ticket window, so she kindly takes me there herself. I buy a legit 55rmb ticket to Shanghai that leaves in 10 minutes. I am ecstatic.

So I try to sleep on the bus to Shanghai, and to dry out my feet a little as well. Both efforts only meet with limited success. I am chagrined to notice that although the VCD being played is not showing up on the screens (evidently the video out isn’t working), the inane Chinese soap opera dialogue nonetheless spews on. Greeeeat….

I get to Shanghai and meet my friend. I had a good dinner. Get to see famous Hong Kong director Wong War-kai’s movie In the Mood for Love, and I gotta say, I am not impressed. Yeah, I can see the artsiness of the cinematography. I suppose it is cleverly filmed. But in my mind no movie can be forgiven for failing in its primary function: entertainment. This movie and its endless parade of qipao bores me.

Sunday, December 22nd. Probably partly due to In the Mood for Love, I fail in my effort to stay up all night. I do that so that I can be blissfully unconscious for the 20+ hour journey home to Tampa, Florida. I inadvertently get a few hours of sleep. These few hours almost make me late leaving for the airport. I leave in a rush.

My friend told me that I should ask for a 20% discount to the airport since it was so far. I was aware that in Shanghai you can sometimes negotiate cheaper taxi fares, but in my experience that only happens at night. So when I stop the first taxi I come across and tell him I want to go to the Pudong International Airport and I expect a 20% discount, the driver is a little surprised too. “In the daytime?” he says. “I’ll give you 10% off.”

“Never mind,” I say, and start walking.

A minute later my luggage and I are in the taxi. 20% off it is. It is 7:30am, and my flight leaves at 9:30am. It might be as much as an hour’s drive to the airport. I am a little nervous.


22

Nov 2002

Women and Children

My blog entry entitled “Ghost Alien Love” got quite a few interesting comments related to love and women in China. I have also discussed love/women issues with my Thursday night advanced conversation class, and I learned a few interesting things about Chinese law and society:

1. It is illegal for a woman to have a baby out of wedlock in China. An unmarried woman is required by law to get an abortion if she somehow gets pregnant. (But that couldn’t happen in this conservative society, now could it?) Well, until recently… (see below)

2. If a married woman is pregnant, it is illegal for her husband to divorce her until well after the delivery.

3. If a married man is found to be cheating on his wife, and the wife doesn’t want a divorce, she can force him by law to give her monetary compensation for his infidelity. (Yeah, I’m sure that gets used a lot. No colossal loss of face for the woman or anything…)

Kinda crazy, eh? But there’s this new law in Jilin province (way up north) that allows unmarried women to have a baby through a legitimate fertilization clinic. I’m wondering why?? Is there a big demand for that up there?? And it’s not like this is a democracy, so even if there was a big demand, that doesn’t guarantee results in legislation. This is still a rather conservative society on the surface, so I find this bizarre. I couldn’t find any English news on this, but here’s a Chinese link if you can handle it: [Yahoo News China, Nov. 11, 2002].

As crazy as I thought all this was, though, a Chinese friend recently told me about a female cousin in Shanghai, late twenties, who wants to have a baby on her own. And get this: not the Jilin way. She’s out looking for “Mr. Right” to do the deed and plant the seed, and then she’ll just raise the baby on her own! You may not find that outrageous, but you have to realize that an illegitimate child in China has a hard life. They can’t be properly “registered,” and so aren’t eligible for schooling. There are all kinds of headaches. Not something you choose, if you can help it.

But hey, this is China. It’s changing fast.


10

Jun 2002

The Return

BIG NEWS! I’m returning home to the USA soon, and then going to Japan before heading back to China. Here’s the timetable:

– 28 June 2002 :: Shanghai -> Tampa
– 01 Aug 2002 :: Tampa -> Tokyo
– 24 Aug 2002 :: Tokyo -> Shanghai


28

May 2002

Dazzled in Shanghai

Well, I went to Shanghai last weekend with Wilson to meet his parents and grandparents. These people know how to travel in style, and they graciously included me in their plans for Shanghai. We stayed in the Shangri La Hotel (5 stars) with a nice view of the Bund from the 18th floor. We had an EXCELLENT buffet-style Western meal, with tender steak chunks, succulent jumbo shrimp, various cheeses, juicy roast beef, real sushi, delicious desserts, etc. I was very full. That was the best meal I’ve had in I don’t know how long.

Wilson’s mom and grandparents were a lot of fun. Very energetic people — go-getters — and fun to be with. I don’t know, maybe it’s the California style… but I enjoyed it. We also hooked up with Ray (also from California) while in Shanghai, and he and Wilson finally got to meet.

Lemme say one thing about Shanghai that strikes me every time I go back: Many, many beautiful women. You need sunglasses.

Check out Wilson’s pics of the weekend here.



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