ahhh, china

so nothing of real importance has happened since my last posting, but i figured that it was time to provide a little update . . .

every day is basically the same. i wake up in the morning around 7:30 after around 30 minutes worth of snooze button pressings. i then follow with making some oatmeal and letting it cool while i wash my face (no, i can't shower in the mornings, because the water is not warm yet) and get dressed. i then eat my breakfast, brush my teeth, get my things together, and go outside to pull some grass. yes, i pull grass every morning, afternoon, and night for my newly acquired guinea pigs harrington and mimi. you may ask why i have guinea pigs, so i will tell you the story . . .

so my friend liu jinpeng (james) who i have mentioned in previous posts (the one who sends me around 52 text messages daily) texted me one day and asked if i could meet him on a saturday around 5 for dinner. i didn't have anything planned as of yet, so i agreed. on that day, i hopped into the cab to take me to the city to meet james expecting a nice dinner and then to return to my apartment afterward for a night in with my foreign cohorts. well, i pulled up to the pre-arranged meeting spot and saw james holding a cage with two furry creatures scurrying around within it. i was not surprised as i often see people with an array of animals in varying degrees of life or death all over the city (including chipmunks, doves, mice on strings, etc.). well, james was grinning ear to ear as i exited the car and handed the cage to me. i looked at the guinea pigs and acknowledged that they were cute and told him that he must enjoy having pets to keep him company. well, he then proceeded to say that they were my gift since we were "best friends" and all, handing over the following letter:

dear clay,
how are you? do you like them? they are very interesting and lovely. how about your feeling with them? they like grass best. if you have not grass, the rice or millet or vegetables is ok. they have a good stomach and they eat very much. so you must give them enough food to keep them alive. if you won't let them make your room dirty, you can put a plastic bag under the cage so the dirty will on the bag. you only need to change the bag. it is very easy! put the bag like this: [detailed diagram]. best wishes for you! everything goes well!
your friend,

well, we continued on to dinner with the guinea pigs and all. i set them down on the chair next to me, as this is allowed in china, and commenced dinner. i then said that we each had to name one of the guinea pigs. he named the female mi-mi, which means beautiful and clever in chinese, and i named the male harrington as this seemed like a respectable name for a chinese guinea pig. after dinner, the guinea pigs had proceeded to "dirty" on the chair which i had to clean up. well, that is the story of harrington and mimi. not that exciting, but it has added a great deal of responsibility to my life. i now not only have kids to take care of at work, but also at home. ahhh, china.

oh, yeah, and today all of us went to lunch with our boss for no particular reason. we ended up going to a restaurant that specializes in the preparation of gou rou (or dog). so with our boss's prodding we got drunk and ate dog only to return to have to teach children. ahhh, china.

oh, yeah, and one other thing, one of my boss's secretaries called me a "dreamboat" today. ahhh, china.

from dreary to dalian

as i promised, i will post an entry about the "not quite chinese, yet not quite western" city that is dalian.

the vacation came as a great relief to me as i had been in tongliao for two months and had not left its confines since i got here. for those of you that know me, you know that i don't sit still in one place for very long and thus this momentary captivity leant to an almost claustrophobic sentiment on my part. the promise of sand and sun helped me get through that week prior to setting off for dalian. bleary-eyed, yet hopeful, myself along with a few of my other foreign counterparts boarded the train at 6:30 in the a.m. and prepared for our 12 hour journey to the coast. i, of course, passed out as soon as we got on the train and awoke a few hours later to two small beady eyes staring at me from the opposite bunk. as my eyes struggled to focus, i realized that it was a small child lying on his stomach just staring at me. i was taken aback at first, but then gave him the customary and requisite "ni hao ma?" (sort of "what's up?") and he just giggled. i obviously had gotten the tone incorrect or maybe i had some drool streaming down my chin . . . either way, this was the beginning of another train inspired friendship with a chinese child. i have about 32 pictures of just the two of us playing with my camera and him spitting at me and trying to eat my fingers, but i will spare you. the following picture is the best out of any of them. "le la" as his mother called him was very interested in my ipod - in the following picture he is listening to it. well the train ride progressed throughout the day and into the evening much the same. we listened to music, drew pictures, and drove his mother crazy . . . ahh, to be a child again.

well that night we were required to celebrate mike's birthday in the only fashion we saw fit (i.e. find some random bar and drink and dance the night away). the night began with little success and i soon began to worry that our plans would be dashed, but after walking for some time we found a place called "sky bar". it was already past 10 p.m. when most of china closes up (or at least in our experience with tongliao) and this bar was still raging, so we entered. smoke, lights, loud music, and the sight of western skin flashed before my eyes. it took me a little while to realize that i was still in china. there were tourists everywhere and nary a chinese person anywhere to be seen. the small dance floor in the middle of the bar held 4 black-clad dancers singing every song that came on and trying to get people to come up and dance. the music was familiar, the staff all spoke english, the drinks were international. i could hardly believe it. well the rest of the night is history . . . at least at that bar. after finishing a bottle of jack daniel's between us all, the voice of the night called to us once more. we walked out of "sky bar" one tambourine heavier and found another bar called "alice bar". at this point it was already 1 or 2 a.m. this bar proved to be a glamorized karaoke bar which we stayed at until 4 or so in the morning. singing and dancing among a large german man and his harem of prostitutes, this bar ended our first night in dalian.

the next morning a few of us decided to make a trek to the beach after a highly disappointing breakfast/lunch (i will have to say that the chinese food in tongliao is much better than dalian - or at least where we ate there). just an aside since i am talking about food, i did try some of the culinary delights of dalian which included everything from seahorses, scorpions, and squid to caterpillars, crab, and mealworms all on a stick. the picture below shows just a smattering of the buffet i was confronted with on the streets of dalian. okay, now back to . . . the cab ride to the beach revealed some of the most beautiful scenery i have ever seen. the driver drove through a large park that surrounded the beach which included green grass (as opposed to brown grass in tongliao), tall trees (as opposed to near dead trees in tongliao), flowers of all colors (as opposed to no flowers in tongliao), and even hills (as opposed to the monotonous flatness of tongliao). the rest of the day was spent sunbathing, sweating out all of the garlic, pepper, and oil that had inhabited my body since i arrived in china, and swimming in the water. it was exactly what i needed. despite the fat chinese men, the strangely unattractive russians, a huge pile of trash just sitting on the sand, and a naked baby that ran around screaming the ENTIRE day, the beach was beautiful and relaxing. perfection (chinese style, of course).

well that night, feeling relaxed as it was, pat, mike, and i decided to make a little trip to the all night bath house for a massage. we weren't really aware what was in store for us . . . we walked in paid for the treatment that was not the cheapest, but not the most expensive either. we were escorted into a locker room, told to strip, and then walk into a shower room to rinse off. we obediently followed. after the shower we were exfoliated by a man with a towel. lying naked on a table in front of many other people, the guy exfoliated one's ENTIRE body. this includes places that i didn't even know needed to be exfoliated. well, sleek and smooth, we then were instructed to don some see-through little pajama things and go upstairs to get the massage. mounting the stairs with a number of women just sitting around waiting for their next client, i began to question the exact nature of this bathhouse. not one to challenge culture, though, i followed my masseuse into a private room. the entire massage was completely professional (to my relief . . . and disappointment ;) ) and very rejuvenating. walking out after the hour limit, i felt the cleanest and most relaxed since i had come to china. well, on the way back to the hotel we exchanged stories about our respective massages and mike's proved to be anything but professional. let's just say that she was trying to massage other parts of his body not customarily dealt with by a masseuse. his pleads of "bu yao, xie xie" ("i don't want it, thank you") went unheard at first until it became clear to her that he was not going to have any of it. pat and i of course found this very amusing and proceeded to share it with the rest of the group. and it happened to mike of all people!!

the rest of the trip provided me with more of the same relaxation. after a few days of sun, massages, the purchase of stolen designer clothing, and hot showers, i headed back to tongliao with the sun at my back and the smell of autumn (and sewage - just to remind me we are still in china) in my nose.

a window into my life

what follows is a collection of extremely accurate and valid observations about living in china. i got it off of daveseslcafe.com (just to give credit where it is deserved). all of these events and observations i have either experienced or observed (with the exception of maybe 8 of them) in the 2 months i have been living here. this list is extensive and includes some of the more colorful aspects of life in china. it is no lie that this is and will be my life for the next year. enjoy! i will be posting another entry this weekend detailing my trip to dalian. this list just couldn't wait, though.

you know you're in china when . . .

- you forget what clean smells like.
- you know what time they burn the garbage every night.
- you barely flinch when you see a small child emptying his bowels in the street.
- you know the news you're getting isn't the REAL news.
- a cup of coffee costs more than ten times a bottle of beer.
- you find yourself crying over a menu in a western restaurant because they serve potato salad.
- you haven't eaten anything baked in months.
- you eat every kind of meat off the bone, and spit the bones on the table.
- you speak really slowly and enunciate when you're speaking English, and sometimes find it easier just to speak Chinese.
- you have to ask if the VCD is in English when you rent it.
- you know what a VCD is.
- you ride a bike. All the time. Even in the rain, and people look at you strangely if you're not wearing a poncho.
- you can expertly maneuver your bike through any traffic situation.
- you know the currency exchange between RMB and your home country but not your home country and its neighbor.
- you spend less than 10RMB on a fully satisfying lunch, but might end up eating at a table with 4 strangers.
- you carry a supply of TP with you everywhere you go.
- you know how to use a squatter.
- you know what a squatter is.
- grown men and women often say hello to you, and when you reply they run away giggling.
- you can't decide if you love or hate the country you're living in.
- you realize that the smog-o-meters they use in western countries would explode if they were brought to the colder parts of the country in the middle of winter.
- you see nothing wrong with standing on a white stripe in the middle of a highway while cars whiz past you at 90kph
- you don't slow down when you see someone standing in the middle of the highway
- you never stop for a right turn, particularly when the light is red, although you don't really understand why no one ever crashes into you
- it seems completely normal that some guy on a tricycle wants to buy your garbage
- you don't blink an eye when a complete stranger wants to take a photo of you with his family
- you actually put some thought into which live snake you want cooked for your meal
- you eat soup with chopsticks
- you use Kleenex for table napkins
- you drink warm sodas and find them refreshing
- you are accustomed to seeing people's heads popping up and down in the VCD you are watching
- you no longer use articles when you speak
- you bargain with the grocer over the cost of a head of lettuce
- you no longer question why the expiration date on the milk you just bought is two months from now
- you buy a movie that hasn't been released theatrically yet at home...
- you take cigarette breaks during dinner...
- you complain about the price of chocolate bars...
- you enjoy a glass of dusty brown wine...
- you comment the pollution "isn't really that bad..."
- when you can get ANYTHING to eat on a stick
- when a trim at the barber invloves two washes, a scalp massage, a whole lot of time, and a crowd of onlookers
- When beer is most often served cold in the winter
- When you go to a park and you can't walk on the grass
- When you go to the park and get heavily sprayed with pesticide that keeps that same untouched grass green and strong
- Where the red stamp is all powerful
- when in the case of a driver hitting a bike or pedestrian, the driver showers abuse and violence for the damages to his passat.
- when you are constantly asked if you think simple foods and beverages are delicious. "This is the best boiled water ever!" "fantastic seeds!"
- where every city is (in)famous for some kind of food
- you find yourself spitting in public places (i.e. the street, restaurant) and not thinking twice
- you speak chinese with other foreigners (even if they speak the same language) simply because it is easier
- you can access programs on computers even though there are no english prompts
- you take it in stride when you are offered beer/baijiu at lunch before going back to work
- you start wearing a face mask on windy days and wonder at the "silly foreigners" who don't do the same
- you can play charades so well that it is often not necessary to talk (due to lack of chinese when you arrive)
- people ask if they can keep some of your hair after you get it cut at the salon
- you start to believe that it isn't really a cigarette unless it leaves a yellow stain on your fingers after a night out
- an entire class looks at you with a blank face when you ask them to try and discover something on their own, rather than you just telling them the answer
- you are commonly spoken to in russian and cursed when you don't understand it (mostly in northern china when you are blond and blue eyed)
- the smell of stinky tofu doesn't faze you anymore
- your host offers you silkworms telling you that they are very good, and when you ask if they like them they reply no.
- most of the club stops dancing to watch in fear/horror when you actually start to shake your thing
- you make a scheduled trip to KFC weekly to buy them out of mashed potatoes!
- you complain about that price difference of DVDs/VCDs/CDs bought in the stores and on the streets
- you start to wonder if the chocolate ice cream you find in the store is even chocolate... sure it is brown, but it doesn't taste anything like the stuff back home!
- you are not surprised when your garbage lady answers her cell phone and keeps digging thru your trash!
- you find face lotion that actually bleachs your skin whiter....
- you deliberately block traffic on a highway zebra crossing, because you want to reach the other side safely; drivers actually stop, and some even offer a proletarian-style kowtow (touching their forehead);
- you shove the guy before you back to where he stood half a minute before in the queue, barking a loud "hou mian, hou mian, ni nongmin!"
- you come to an appointment late, fully prepared with a run-of-the-mill explanation such as: "Sorry, but I was the only person standing at the bus stop, and no bus would stop, seeing as they did that I was a foreigner...";
- you dialled the wrong number, and instead of saying "buhao y-she, wo da cuole..." you simply slam the receiver back into its cradle;
- you forget to turn off your mobile phone, and of course, your girlfriend rings right in the middle of your first lesson in the evening class; of course, you answer, and the whole class gets a titillating lesson in what Westerners in love with each other talk about;
- you address the parents of your child charges as 'xiao pengyou', because you actually think they are more childish than their own children; they laugh good-humouredly;
- you have learned to enjoy being stared at
- you stare back especially at knockout women
- almost anything can be "fixed"
- you can open and hull sunflower seeds with your tongue
- you have a jar full of "fen" at home
- you give a beggar a handfull of fen and he gives them back
- you can climb 6 flights of stairs without a rest stop
- you can buy a NEW bicycle for US $17
- people offer you a stool to sit on when you stop in front of a shop
- chairs are never tall enough for you to sit with your legs straight down
- someone hands you a pair of scissors with one of the handles snapped off and you try to use them
- long underwear is a wardrobe staple five months of the year
- you don't blink your green eyes or shake your very brunette head when someone compliments you on your blue-eyed blondness
- you have trouble sleeping when you go home for a visit because it's just too darn quiet
- Nescafe instant with edible oil product topping IS cappuccino
- you stop thinking about the big blood stain on the wall
- a 4% mortality rate seems a safe bet
- when you go shopping for clothes or shoes you often find that they don't have what you want in a size that will fit your big foreign frame. Instead they offer you something bigger and uglier and think it's a fair compromise.
- you're yelling at a kid that's throwing a chick around and you turn to his father for support and all he can say is that your Chinese is really good.
- you can stop watching tv for 2 weeks and when you start watching again they're still showing reruns of the same show.
- you have ten different responses to the question, "Do you like China?"
- you're looking forward to blending in with the crowd.
- you know ten different ways to point out a foreigner in Chinese.
- you point out foreigners to your Chinese friends even though you're foreign yourself.
- you no longer find it humourous that the bus never really stops to pick people up, it just sort of slows down.
- you find yourself asking anyone and everyone if they can make the price cheaper.
- you know which chocolate is real and which chocolate is glorified butter.
- you know words in Chinese for which you don't know the translation in English.
- your students bow and call you teacher when you enter a room.
- if the average salary is 2000 RMB/month, then why are all the apartments costing 450,000-800,000 RMB?(with 100 grand to decorate!!)
- with all the traffic jams, who owns all those cars?
- why does it seem everyone between the age of 21-25 is now either in Australia or the U.K.?
- if students are so stingy to study in Shanghai, why do they put up hundreds of thousands of RMB for overseas studies without question?
- what are all those MBA seekers going to do when they come back?
- where do all those foreign people flooding in expect to work?
- why do most foreign teachers last less than 6 months here?
- your mashed potato has squid guts and fish heads in it...and you think it tastes fine.
- you answer 'China' when people ask where you're from
- you answer 'China' when people ask where you live
- having fingers poked into your ears when you're getting a shampoo no longer makes you wonder at the cleanliness of the 100 who came before you
- you see 'Made in Australia' on products you've never even dreamed of when you lived there
- you answer 'ni hao', giggle, and run away when someone says hello to you
- your Chinese friend Faye has such poor pronunciation you tell her she's speaking feihua
- everyone assumes that if you know one word of putonghua, you know them all
- you pick your nose, burp, fart, and scratch so much even your Chinese friends get embarrassed
- you get a discount if you speak English, but you pay more for putonghua
- you no longer wonder if that guy who's up his nose to the second knuckle is drilling for oil or scratching his brain
- you start thinking that stupid questions are reasonable
- you call home and your family tell you to speak faster and stop correcting their grammar and pronunciation
- you spit on your own floor to save time treading it in on your shoes
- you think that having the runs for 2 weeks is normal
- SARS doesn't worry you; 4% chance of death is considerably lower than eating the food, breathing the air, riding a bicycle or listening to bad KTV
- you don't have any idea what something is, but you'll eat it anyway.
- if you just ate and liked it, you don't ask what it is.
- you have strict mental rules as to when you reply to a hello (ie person must be within a 20 foot semi circle radius and not with a group of men)
- you completely ignore most people who say hello to you
- you have a conversation while sidestepping feces, vomit, and mysterious green puddles on the sidewalk without blinking.
- you dodge urine streams spurting from an infant.
- you stare at dogs that are over 1 foot tall.
- you see a woman with dyed hair and trying to figure out of she's Chinese or foreign by walking fast to catch up.
- you eat cake with chopsticks
- you're afraid of toilets
- you constantly wonder if everything has been boiled long enough.
- you'll sit through a half hour of Beijing Opera on TV because there's nothing better to do.
- contemplate suicide when taking a long distance hard sleeper train.
- you know what it is and you eat it anyway
- you catch a taxi and it becomes a dutch oven
- nobody blames it on the dog
- you stop wondering why the river fish have 3 eyes
- you miss your old apartment, where the roof only collapsed once each year
- you've stopped wondering why it takes a 20 gallon flush to clear a 2 ounce pee
- the open sewer next to your school smells better than the canteen food
- the open sewer next to your school tastes better than the canteen food
- you answer 'So is mine.' when people say their English is so poor
- a family sedan is a mid-size scooter
- you think that pedicab drivers who charge you 100 times more than the trip's worth are cheats
- you think that pedicab drivers who charge you 50 times more than its worth are honest
- you think that pedicab drivers who charge you 25 times more than its worth are poor businessmen
- you think that pedicab drivers who charge you the correct fare are...(don't know - it's never happened)
- you convince yourself that it doesn't matter how dirty the cooks' hands are, cooking will fix it
- you wonder why they bother with squat boxes when everyone pisses on the floor
- you think squats are great because no one can piss on the seat
- you think bottled water is clean, safe, and is bottled by people with high moral standards who put quality before profit
- you think Yang Rei (CCTV9 'Dialogue' program) is an unbiased reporter
- you believe that the HR department of your school actually stands for Human Resources and not Hit and Run.
- you believe that anything done to you is because you're not culturally sensitive enough
- you stop wondering why they're not culturally sensitive to you, their guest
- you are becoming proficient in 4 other languages: Mandarin, local dialect, Chinglish, and gibberish
- if there are only 4 screaming children running around the classroom, you consider it a good primary class.
- if there are only 4 students sleeping, you consider it a good middle school class.
- if there are only 4 dictionary obsessed nerds, you consider it a good language center class.
- if you're only mocked in public 4 times, you consider it a good day.
- you love tofu because there's nothing to spit out and it doesn't have any taste.
- you start saying 'play computer' 'I very like' and other assorted chinglish.
- you know exactly what CS is.
- you're curiously nonplussed when children stick their finger up your bum.
- every town is famous for something or other.
- you hold hands with men and think nothing of it
- you avoid touching women like they have cooties.
- you get absolutely knackered at a 12 year old's birthday party while playing drinking games with children and munching on turtles. Can't get more Chinese than that.
- you whole-heartedly agree with things that you don't agree with.
- you can do almost anything standing on, but not actually wearing, your sneakers (ie change your pants)!!
- you've got a pre-paid ticket with a booked seat for a soft-seat train or plane, but you still run like mad to make sure you get a seat.
- the cure hurts more than the sickness
- you very like saying 'very like'
- you forget that vegetable soup is actually pesticide broth
- smoking does less harm to your lungs than breathing
- you call polluted water and preservatives wine
- living in a 'clean' city means living in one where you won't mutate. At least not immediately.
- you run substantially less risk of picking up a bug by swimming in a toilet than you do by swimming in the local pool
- going to the beach for a swim really means scrabbling over rocks to wade through sludge
- you can wear a t-shirt with a suit jacket and fresh-out-of-bed hair and feel completely normal.
- you laugh and smile when someone calls you a fat pig.
- you point over your back with your thumb when using the past tense.
- you watch TV and not know what the hell is going on but enjoy it anyway because of the women in the shampoo commercials.
- you think that America's '60 Minutes' program is 48 minutes of bullshit and 12 minutes of commercials, but you can't wait for China's '60 Minutes', which will either be 60 minutes of bullshit OR 60 minutes of commercials.
- 'investigative reporting' is either slagging off at America or toeing the Party line
- you're beginning to like fruit salad and mayonnaise
- you've stopped wondering why you only get bread if you order a chicken and mayo (mei you 'nothing') sandwich
- your Chinese friends have such revolting breath you wonder if they secretly eat turds
- you eat chocolate from home and: a/ miss the taste of salt b/ bounce off the walls from sugar overload
- you've learned that it's okay to be 3 days/weeks late for appointments because everyone else is
- you've stopped wondering why restaurants don't clean up the barf right outside their door
- you've stopped wondering why people will step over it to get into the restaurant
- you drop sliced bicycle tyre into the hotpot, tell everyone it's snake, and stifle your giggle when they tell you it's 'very delicia' (delicious)
- you've used those big toothpicks so often you now have circular gaps between your teeth
- if the gaps get any bigger you'll need chopsticks for toothpicks
- you just love it when new brethren arrive and give you their list of what they will and won't do and eat
- you've learned to enjoy the 'list of demands' from applicants who are nobodies going nowhere, but 'will consider' gracing you with their presence.
- Chinese guys think we get the girls because we're white and rich, and not because our breath doesn't smell like shit
- when people say 'You're a foreigner; what country are you from?', you answer 'Foreign'.
- how many foreigners live in Foreign? 5.5 billion less 1.3 billion = 4.2 billion
- you give your students deodorant and they eat it icon_wink.gif
- every village is different from the rest of China but all foreigners are the same
- the thing your city is 'famous' for is the most revolting thing you've ever seen/heard/smelled/tasted
- everyone wants to be your friend - all you have to do is teach them English for free
- everyone wants to teach you Chinese by speaking to you in English
- your Chinese lessons consist of 50 words your teacher wants to know the English meaning of
- you buy a new shirt and have to sew the buttons on
- when people ask if you speak English you answer (in English) 'No, I only speak French', and they believe you
- when people say 'My English is so poor', you agree
- when people say 'My English is so poor', you tell them to look up the word 'atrocious'
- you tell people you don't understand, so they write it for you - in Chinese.
- your boss thinks you're a stupid foreigner if you let him cheat you, but thinks you're a bad foreigner if you don't
- your boss speaks really good English until you ask for more money
- the grocer doesn't understand why you're pissed off at being charged 50 yuan for a chicken, but gets narky when you offer him 10 fen
- you have accumulated hundreds of notes and addresses but you can't read any of them
- you choose one that looks vaguely familiar, give it to the taxi driver, and he tells you he doesn't have 3 kilograms of potatoes, 4 carrots, and 6 tomatoes
- you tell your Chinese friend you want to go to a VCD store and he takes you to a VD Clinic
- you buy some cute little birds to keep at home and your housekeeper cooks them for you
- your doctor tells you it's not serious but you should go home and get some money. When you do, you're whisked into the operating theatre to remove your burst appendix
- the nurse jabbing the needle into you would have trouble finding a road, let alone your vein
- when he's taking the stitches out he says you might feel a little pain, then he drops hot cigarette ash on your stomach
- when you jump and shout and beat it out he says you're very strong and making a fast recovery
- fixing a cavity in one tooth requires the almost total demolition of the teeth around it
- the dentist doesn't offer you a local anaethstetic and later marvels at your ability to withstand excruciating pain
- groups of people find it fascinating to watch you buy an orange at a fruit market. Commentary is provided in case some people don't know exactly what's going on.
- you think it's pleasurable to ride your bike down the road with 10 tonne monster trucks flying past you 2 feet away.
- you have no qualms that someone who thinks you're stupid and gullable has total control over your life.
- the ugliest western man always has a beautiful Chinese girlfriend.
- at the beach women wear bulky swimsuits from the 1950's while men wear speedos
- men apparently smuggle olives in these speedos.
- a hike up a mountain calls for a plastic grocery bag full of junk food. Later you add to the scenery by littering the ground.
- there are fences around the flora in nature parks to keep people from eating it.
- you can buy snake, crab, and donkey meat in little plastic bags with a smiling blonde woman adorning the front. 'eat my brand of donkey, you sexy man.' Marketing genius. Sometimes the bags of spicy donkey meat will have a smiling, anthropomorphized donkey waving at you, beckoning you to come gnaw on his leg. It's priming people for cannibalism.
- someone with bleached white hair with pink dots and dressed like an 80's New Wave reject will laugh at the funny looking foreigners.
- you love and hate children at the same time.
- grown men think it's fucking hilarious to say hello. Hello, haha! I'm a stupid git, hellooo, haha! Me and my mentally-arrested-at-age-13 buddies like a say hellooo, haha! Foreigners go around saying hellooo in high pitched voices like me, hello, haha! I just bought a VCD of nothing but people saying hello, I wet myself laughing! Hellooo, haha!
- you walk into a bar on Friday night at 11.00pm and you are the only one there.
- you approach a bar frequented mainly by Chinese and the bouncers give you a look like you are a potential health hazard
- you walk into the supermarket and the masses part like the red sea before Moses to let the Foreigner through
- people everywhere wear masks with pores the size of 1000 viruses, and then step into a taxi without wearing a seat belt in a country where 12 000 people die per month in traffic accidents.
- the same people who are so terrified of SARS walk blindly across bustling streets as if they believe thay are immortal
- students tell you to wash your hands before you mark their book
- the locals blame every other country and race (The Thais, Hong Kongese, The Foreigners) for the SARS problem, except the one real source - China.
- the Mayor and the Health minister get fired for not telling the truth by a government that still refers to the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet, blocks web sites, bans books, imprisons Beida students for wanting a say in the country's future...
- the major exercises are:
* drinking tea (weightlifting)
* reading the newspaper (exercising biceps and triceps)
* picking your nose (eye/hand coordination)
* picking your feet (bend and stretch)
* picking your teeth (fine motor skills)
- the local teacher's timetable looks like this:
*8:05 - 11:20 drink tea and read the newspaper
*11:20 - 12:00 have lunch
*12:00 - 2:20 sleep after a solid morning's effort
*2:20 - 5:05 drink tea, read the newspaper, and prepare for tomorrow
*5:05 - 8:30 go home, drink tea, read the newspaper, have dinner, and tell everyone how hardworking you are
*8:30 - 11:00 watch TV to help you relax
*11:00 go to sleep - another big day tomorrow!
- the average employee will spend 40 hours in strenuous effort trying to avoid 10 minutes of simple work
- the more you listen to the news, the more uninformed you are
- you suspect your school wants to get rid of you because:
a/ they wrap your lunch in roadmaps
b/ they keep moving but won't tell you where they're going
- you throw your school leaders out of a boat and tell them it's how we teach people to swim
- they ask if the concrete shoes are really necessary
- you tell them the concrete hat is the difficult part
- you don't mind the crime and poverty but you really can't handle the cold
- you give names to your roaches and cry if one dies
- coffee tastes like Chinese medicine
- your neighbours 'airmail' their garbage because walking to their front door is 'tai taoyan' (too much trouble)
- you see the 9001/9002 Quality Assurance logo in the dodgiest restaurant in town
- you know that the New Year's Eve countdown must begin before 11pm or you'll be doing it alone
- you're 4th in the queue but 40th to be served
- you start thinking instant coffee tastes pretty good.
- you realize that all wild animals are to be caught and eaten and/or ground up for medicine.
- when the national news is on, your forty TV channels magically become the same channel.
- no one cares if you wear the same clothes all month.
- absolutely everything that can possibly be eaten is in some way good for your health.
- your biggest decision every morning is matching your tie colour with your face mask.
- you're from Austria or Australia, but nobody seems to know the difference.
- KTV becomes interesting.
- warm beer becomes drinkable.
- local drinking games are your most effective language learning environment.
- buying a DVD is cheaper than seeing a movie in the cinema, and it's available before the movie is released.
- you walk past a river or lake that looks like something out of the Simpsons---radioactive sludge strewn with garbage---and there are people FISHING. Alternatively, you stop at the radioactive sluge and TAKE PICTURES.
- you want to home and watch TV even though you can't understand a bloody word of it.
- you are willing to see a dentist novacaine or no novacaine.
- apples are the size of pumpkins
- the local beauty spot is a concrete eyesore
- buildings were apparently designed by the local kindergarten
- you daren't have a salad 'cause you know what it was fertilised with
- The locals think your family were monkeys living in caves while China was ruling the world.
- you eat your lunch whilst admiring the live baby rat in a cage (complete with watermelon rind for food) your friendly restaurant owner caught and is keeping for a pet.
- student assessment/placement at your school consists of evaluating the student's parents' guanxi rather than the student's level or ability
- only five minutes of prep time for a unannounced class no longer fazes you
- when you grocery shop it looks like you are panic buying to your fellow Chinese shoppers
- evaluating the contents of your shopping cart is the past-time of all the other shoppers in the store
- your housekeeper throws out the chicken breast you have marinating in garlic and olive oil but organizes your empty beer bottles and cans
- you leave your laundry hanging up for more than a day its dirtier than it was before you washed it
- you actually believe you're here to teach English
- Chinese staff from your school are shocked and mystified by the pictures you show them from brochures of the town you all live in and they swear it can't be "*#*@" because in the picture the sky is blue
- at English Corner (aka English Speaker Cornered) a person asks you how to "improve my oral English" and when you tell them the only way is to continually practice they walk away dejected and sad
- you begin to question your own pronounciation
- when children ask if you like Chinese students you reply "Yes they are very delicious." without batting an eye
- you plan to ask students questions they must form their own answers to and you bring reading material along to occupy your time during the long silence that fills the period between you asking the question and the first hand that tenatively rises
- you stare back
- dental procedures are a spectator sport (why else would the chair be in the storefront picture window)
- being served dog when you go out is no longer your greatest culinary fear
- begin giving the staff ratings on the answers they give you based on their creativity rather than their candor or truthfulness
- you no longer expect the truth

my best friend

i met him last saturday at lunch with some of my fellow english teachers and some former students of ours from the summer session that we taught at. he was quiet at first and when he did speak it was only chinese. as lunch that day progressed, he became more and more comfortable speaking . . . that was the end of any shred of shyness he had possessed. the following is an account of the text message conversations we have had over the past week. the bulk of the messages came within the past couple of days (32 in total). i am flattered by his persistence and desire to be friends, but just hope that the deluge of text messages recedes and that a respectable 1 or 2 texts per day will suffice. the following are only some of the more humorous and notable of messages received:

Message 32: September 4, 19:43
"I will need English name. Will you give me?"

Message 31: September 4, 19:47
"James, oh, James, that name is cool! Call me James when you meet me next."

Message 30: September 4, 20:10
"Let us become the best friends and our friendship will be last forever. Are you agree?"

Message 29: September 6, 12:31
"How are you. I am missing you very much. Is everything okay these days?"

Message 27: September 6, 17:58
"How can we get together before you leave?"

Message 22: September 6, 18:32
"Ok I look forward to see you. After dinner we could do everything."

Message 21: September 6, 18:39
"Everything goes well! Bye! I expect that day will be a fine day!"

Message 1: September 8, 13:14
"It is up to you I will listen to you where we go."

well, i actually had to cancel dinner with him tonight because i have a meeting that was just announced (as per usual - last minute). he was sad, but i promised that we would meet once i got back from dalian. my next blog entry will probably chronicle the four day weekend i will be spending in the coastal city of dalian . . . beach, sunshine, cocktails, warm showers . . . paradise!

"crazy english"

so the past week has not been full of the crazy and blog-worthy adventures of weeks past, but there are a few interesting tidbits i would like to relay . . .

first, during one of my regular lunches with my tailor friend (who has altered jeans, shirts, and will be making me some pants in the near future . . . i know, tough life), he showed me the book that he has been using to learn english entitled "crazy english". every lunch or dinner with him is filled with him feverishly writing down everything we say in english and him translating everything into chinese for us. well, upon looking through the book, i came across the following mantra of sorts:

i'm chinese.
i'm from the people's republic of china.
i love my country. i love my people.
our country has a history of 5000 years. i'm proud of it.
our motherland is going through changes now. i'm part of it.

i want to speak good english.
because english is an international language.
the japanese have to learn english.
the koreans have to learn english.
the french have to learn english.
the germans have to learn english.
all nations of the world are learning english now.
we chinese must learn english too.
because we need a common language to communicate!

i enjoy learning english!
i enjoy speaking english!
i enjoy making mistakes!
i enjoy losing face!

i'm crazy about speaking english.
i practice speaking english everyday.
i can speak good english!
i'm an international chinese!

i love chinese language too.
it's spoken by billions of people in the world.
it is a beautiful language!
more and more foreigners are starting to learn chinese now.
i hope to teach the whole world chinese when i grow up.
so i must study chinese well.

this is me.
a chinese high school student!
this is my dream!
to spread english throughout china and chinese throughout the world.
i want to share this dream with all of my friends all over the world.

let's make miracles together!
let's just do it!

hilarious? i think yes. from required military training to mantras about learning english, the chinese people will be well-outfitted to become the next super power both physically and psychologically. i guess it is good to know that they are "crazy about english" though. makes my job a whole lot easier.

the other little morsel just has to do with a certain student that diana named clay after yours truly. he had come into the office crying because he missed his mother. i talked to him, comforted him, and made him laugh as only an awkward funny looking american like myself can with a little chinese boy. his picture follows. he doesn't look too happy, but he carries my namesake. there will forever be a clay roaming the great land of china. with any luck, he will be speaking "crazy english" by the end of the year.