Suddenly I Hate Xiamen

See the temperature? Not so bad, right? Well, notice the "real-feel" is more than 10 degrees hotter. That is ALL humidity. It's the kind of weather where your sunglasses fog all the time and you drip sweat even if you sit in the shade unmoving. Truly the worst kind of weather. (And this picture was taken at 8:30AM and it was already this hot!

See the temperature? Not so bad, right? Well, notice the “real-feel” is more than 10 degrees hotter. That is ALL humidity. It’s the kind of weather where your sunglasses fog all the time and you drip sweat even if you sit in the shade unmoving. Truly the worst kind of weather. (And this picture was taken at 8:30AM and it was already this hot! It was over 100 before noon.)

So you know how I was living in this bubble of perfect days, with perfect friends and perfect food and perfect fun?

Well, that bubble just popped.

No, my friends are still fun and amazing, the food is off-the-charts delicious and everyday has a million fun activities. But now I don’t want to do anything because of the GODDAMN HEAT!! It’s like somebody flipped the switch from “mild and pleasant” to “hot humid hell.”

And I just fall apart in humidity. Always have. My face turns beet red even if I am not exerting myself. And it stays red long past the point of normalcy. I get a lot of concerned “are you alright? Your face is so red!” comments in this heat. It’s embarrassing.

And there is more than just a cosmetic problem, but an actual health danger. I get heat stroke quite easily. Once I get hot, even if I get into a cool room, my body can’t cool itself down properly and I’ll end up puking or pooping from the heat. I’m most worried about this in the classroom. With 100 degree temps and no a/c, 2 simple classes can turn into a 4-hour endurance test.

I have gotten heat stroke before from teaching in such hot temps. With only 4 weeks of class left, I’m crossing my fingers I can make it before the temperature is too high.

Because that’s the problem, it’s not even summer yet! And already I’m falling apart! The actual temperature isn’t even that high, but with major humidity the “real-feel” temp is almost 10 degrees hotter. My body just pours buckets of sweat out of my pores. My clothes sop up most of it, but my face is left on it’s own. It actually sweats so much that it drips off my face and I didn’t even know it. (Lovely picture eh?) And yes, this is happening now. And yes, I dripped on a student today.

It’s not even normal “hot” here. Only those who have lived in the swamps of Florida could probably understand. This is the kind of heat that after your clothes dry there is actual salt rings left on them. That salt being your body salt. And that can be as little as two hours after you left your house. And wet, you are wet all the time. Your shirts become soaked and the waist band of your pants get so wet it takes hours for it to dry. And with air conditioning not available in many places, and having to walk everywhere and the buses being a sauna (they don’t start the air conditioners until June 1st and even then it is up to the “drivers discretion” and I’m pretty sure they are told not to use it to save money because the buses are usually saunas.) it doesn’t take very long to be totally soaked.

And then there is my mood. Let’s just say that when my body is overheating, my hair frizzing out and buckets of water are pouring out of my body, I’m not all rainbows and sunshine. I’m a cranky, whiny son of a bitch. If I know I have to be outside for a certain amount of time, I can handle it. But the second I am expecting to be inside with a/c I better be inside with a/c or you will not hear the end of it.

Bacon Becky. While other people got red faces from climbing a mountain, I was the only one to keep my red face after our long break. Once it gets red, it takes forever to go back. Even a cold shower won't fix it.

While other people got red faces from climbing a mountain, I was the only one to keep my red face after our long break. Once it gets red, it takes forever to go back. Even a cold shower won’t fix it. “Bacon Becky” was born.

Last weekend I was out all weekend for a ultimate Frisbee tournament. One day at the beach, one day in an outdoor stadium. I expected to be out all weekend, I dealt with it, but the second it was over on the last day I tromped home and pushed a cute kitty out of the way my friend was petting. (We have a kitty living in our building that is kind of a group pet.) As I stormed past I heard my friend say to the other, “She just needs her air conditioner.” And the funny thing is the friend that knew that about me is one of my newer friends. She has only known me since winter, when the weather was nice, and hasn’t seen me in ‘summer mode’ before. But I have been complaining about hot weather for the entire winter so even she knows.

And speaking of friends, mine aren’t helping that much. We took a hike up a mountain recently for our Hash walk. It was 700+ steps straight up. The day wasn’t too hot, but sunny with a good dose of humidity, and with all the exertion my face turned bright red again. And then my ‘darling’ friends gave me a nickname: Bacon Becky.

When I exert myself in the winter, I get a kind of cute, red flush. My body likes being cold, and when it is cold outside (or no humidity I should say) my body is so happy to be active. I barely sweat, but warm up nicely and get a rosy, healthy glow. But summer it all goes wrong. The cute rosy glow turns to Armageddon on my face. My hair tries to flee my scalp in all directions and conversations consist almost entirely of me reminding everyone how hot I am.

So for the hot summer months I’m going to be hiding in my room with the air conditioner cranked very high. Hope I still have friends when I emerge next winter!

This is me after climbing a mountain in winter. Flushed rosy, red cheeks, hair that falls naturally down. Totally fine, like a normal human being.

This is me after climbing a mountain in winter. Flushed rosy, red cheeks, hair that falls naturally down. Totally fine, like a normal human being.

This is me after climbing a mountain in summer. Hair going everywhere, pores open, and a shade of red more resembling Elmo than an actual human.

This is me after climbing a mountain in summer. Hair going everywhere, pores open, and a shade of red more resembling Elmo than an actual human. At least I entertain people as they all laugh at me!

Categories: China | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m on a Podcast

badge_ChinaOMG, I was interviewed and now I’m officially on a podcast! I haven’t been brave enough to listen to it, but hopefully you don’t hate hearing my voice as much as I do, so feel free to have a listen.

It was supposed to be a quick half-hour interview but Stefan (the host) and I ended up chatting forever. Like, hours. Time just flew by. Of course I was nervous, but we got along really well, and honestly, it is always nice to talk to another expat who kinda “gets” living in China. We had a lot of similarities and could talk about things that others might not understand, and we had really similar feelings about things.

Anyway, we talked so much that 30-minutes wasn’t enough and he ended up making it TWO episodes! Holy cow.

Here’s the first one

Here’s the second one

Also, more good news I was recently picked as featured blog on Inernations.org! Internations is a website for expats all over the world to connect with each other, and a place to learn and answer questions and such. They have a special section just for China and they interviewed me as a featured blogger! Anyway, it is super cool and really nice they wanted to do it. So check that out too! Click here. 

Besides that, things are going great. So busy it’s been hard to fit in blog-writing time. The temps are really starting to soar here in Xiamen, which I am not a fan of, but things keep forcing me outside all day so I have to deal with the heat. (Heat rant is coming up in another blog post.)

We played on the beach which was so fun but also so hot!

We had an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on the beach. It was so fun but also so hot!

 

Hope your having a good spring/summer! And hope wherever you are it is cooler than here!

Categories: China, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Going to the American Embassy

The American embassy in Shanghai is located in this shopping mall. There is nothing on the outside to indicate it is an embassy at all. No American flag, or big sign. Just a totally normal looking mall. But flashing my passport got me into the mall before shopping hours to go upstairs.

The American embassy in Shanghai is located in this shopping mall. There is nothing on the outside to indicate it is an embassy at all. No American flag, or big sign. Just a totally normal looking mall. But flashing my passport got me into the mall before shopping hours to go upstairs.

I’ve been to more than 20 countries and have lived outside America for more than 7 years total in my life, and yet I have never found the need to go to an American embassy. Luckily I have never been in a place with political turmoil in which I needed to be rescued, nor been arrested. But amazingly I’ve never even had a petty bureaucratic problem until now.

You see, my passport is totally filled up. It’s not even an old passport, I got it right before I came to China. But to get my residence permit every year I need two blank, facing pages. And that is something I don’t have anymore.

Luckily, Americans can get pages added to their visa (for now. They will end this program at the end of the year.) It costs $82 and according to the website takes only 30 minutes with an appointment. (You need to book one ahead of time via their website.)

The hilarious (iroinc?) thing is the United States Embassy in Shanghai is located in a mall. Yep, a mall. Gucci and fro-yo on the bottom floors, embassy on the top. Oh sure, I think they have one of those fortress-like buildings somewhere in Shanghai that could protect me if I needed it, but they don’t do the visas and such there. Instead, you go to the mall.

Walking in with an American passport made me feel like a boss. Like everywhere in China there were millions of people waiting in line, but I got to go to the front, no questions asked. Just flashed my passport and locked doors were literally opened for me.

I’ve been to the Chinese embassy in New York City, and they make you turn off your phone (they watch you as you do it.) But America went one step further and took away all my toys. My phone, my kindle, my battery charger, the cord I charge my phone with and a USB the x-ray turned up hidden in my bag. It sucks because you end up waiting for a bit and have nothing to distract you.

There are two sections at the embassy. One, a giant room snaked with lines and many windows for Chinese trying to get a visa to America. Total chaos. Then there is a little room for American’s who need passport services. Only 4 windows (one of which was the cashiers) and seats for you to wait.

It took forever for me to get to the window. With no kindle to while away the time I just sat and listened to everyone else’s problems. I listened to the one ABC guy as he explained (in a pitch perfect California accent) how he lost his passport yet again,

“Well, see, I was drinking. And it was in my bag. And, ya know…”

“Sir, I see this is your 3rd replacement passport,” said the embassy guy.

“Well, yeah, I keep losing them.”

I also had to listen to the American dad with his Chinese wife and trying to fill out an application for their young baby to get citizenship. Of course you are supposed to have your application totally filled out by the time you arrive but this guy had some few questions.

“I couldn’t finish the application because I have a few questions. Where it says address, what do I put?”

“Your address sir.”

“Okay, I see.” He was quiet for a moment as he filled it out. “And here where it says relationship to applicant I say father of the child?”

“Yep,” said the woman very patiently.

“And here where it says phone number I put…”

“Your phone number.”

It was tedious as hell. He hadn’t filled out a single line in the paperwork himself and he stood at the window doing it line-by-line. There was only one window open and this guy set us all back a good 15 minutes.

There was also a window for notary services which wasn’t very busy. An old man, with dirty jeans and his white hair covered by a trucker-style cap, took the opportunity to talk to the woman behind the counter about “when I first came to China 20 years ago…”

I also watched several people raise their right arm and “swear” they told the whole truth for whatever service they were getting. (The dude with the lost passport had to swear it was stolen, and not sold.)

As for my issue, it was over in a second. I handed in my (totally filled out) application, had to pay a fee (interesting thing was the accepted visa/mastercard but not unionpay, the Chinese credit card company), and waited fifteen minutes till I got it back.

They just stitched in the pages, they are a lighter blue then the rest, and now my passport isn’t as pretty as it used to be, but it’s not a problem. Overall I was impressed with the efficiency of the embassy and rate it higher than other American bureaucracy like the DMV. It was much more efficient.

And now I have so many new pages, guess I’ll have to start traveling to fill them up!

My passport is now twice as thick! Ready for travel!

My passport is now twice as thick! Ready for travel!

Categories: China, Traveling | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Thought on Aging (with a Babyface)

Rebecca and I (who you have seen in past blog posts), were born the same chinese zodiac, only 12 years apart.

Rebecca and I (who you have seen in past blog posts), were born the same chinese zodiac, only 12 years apart.

My whole life, age has been a problem. Not because I wish for my youth or long for the days when I was smooth skinned and young looking. It’s the exact opposite. I have always looked young for my age. In high school, people thought I was in middle school. In college, they thought I was in high school, after graduation, they STILL thought I was in high school, and now people think I am a student or just graduated college.

“Oh, how lucky,” I hear many of you think. But no. You’re wrong. It is not at all lucky. Just think about it. You are a 28-year-old professional reporter and someone asks you, “why aren’t you in high school right now?” It negates your years of experience and hard work. Or the look of surprise when someone you have only dealt with on the phone sees you for the first time and their estimation of you drops. Suddenly, this person who treated you as an equal on the phone starts responding to your suggestions with a patronizing, “isn’t that a cute idea,” or “that’s a great little project.”

And then there is the five-minute conversation I have had again and again since my teens. “You’re how old?! No way. I don’t believe it. Oh my god! You look so much younger. Did you know you look so much younger?” Yes. Yes I know. (Of course that is better than the conversations where the other person refuses to believe you and thinks you are pulling a joke on them.)

I used to work my age into every conversation. Trying to get it out there early, so people would treat me age-appropriately as an experienced worker, not an intern. But blurting out your age is strange, especially in America where we tend not to ask. So my age interjections would always come off as awkward, and made me look more like the kid I was trying to distance myself from.

Zo and I look [pretty much the same age. But actually we are 15 years apart!

Zoe and I look pretty much the same age. But actually we are 15 years apart!

And as I get older, I feel like sometimes I am robbed out of aging experiences that my peers have. In general my friends are younger so I can’t gossip about “waking up with neck pain,” or any of the common problems of aging. Also, when I DO talk about aging my friends kind of discredit my experiences. Because I’m “not really” my age. Or, because I’m young looking and therefore my experience of aging is different than what they’ve heard. (Although honestly I think a lot of my high school and college classmates look younger than our age.)

The only person who every really “got me” was a woman in my hometown. When she found out my age instead of saying “wow, you look so young,” she looked at me with a wry voice and said “do you still hate it or have you started to play with it yet.”

“Still hate it,” I said. But she gave me a little hope that maybe, someday in the future, I wouldn’t totally hate it. And I think that time is slowly arriving. I’ve begun kinda fucking with my age. Dating is the obvious place to lie. I settled on 29 being a good general age for me. I once got away with 25, but then I had to lose too much of my actual history so 29 is a good sweet spot.

My bestie in Shanghai is almost 10 years younger than me. At his last birthday party I joked he is finally catching up with me.

My bestie in Shanghai is almost 10 years younger than me. At his last birthday party I joked he is finally catching up with me in age.

 

I also lie to the aunties on the street. They are the most troublesome, asking me a million questions and when they find out my age, and that I’m not married, they freak out and talk about every single guy they know (“My friend who owns a noodle shop has a nice boy.”) It’s very annoying, so I either lie about being married or my age.

With this more “fluid” age even my friends get confused. “How old are you again?” is a question I get from my good friends regularly. And they like to mess with me too. A few times I have told a new friend my age. “Bullshit!” they say. “Ask anyone,” I say. They then ask my friends how old I am and my friends say “29” and laugh uproariously at their joke, but meanwhile the new person believes them and not me!

My friend Ray and I are almost the same age. Just 6-months apart.

My friend Ray and I are almost the same age. Just 6-months apart.

And one of the worst parts is, I can’t see it. I can’t look in the mirror at myself and see any age. I see the wrinkles, I see the pimples, but I don’t see age. So I have no idea what people are talking about.

I know this whole post might come off as seeming a bit braggy, because people refuse to believe that looking young is a bad thing. We live in a youth obsessed culture, how could it be bad, right?! But it is. I have, without a doubt, missed professional opportunities and have had a harder time in general. When I hear the words “you look so young!” I don’t feel happy or proud. In fact, I seethe a little bit.

Here’s hoping that when I’m 50 I’ll be happy about it.

me and the boy in the middle have a whooping 25 year age difference. Yes, he looks quite old for his age, but I could literally be his mom and it wouldn't even be that weird.

me and the boy in the middle have a whooping 25 year age difference. Yes, he looks quite old for his age, but I could literally be his mom and it wouldn’t even be that weird. I’m 5 years older than the other girl in the picture. 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Going “Home”

After six years in China (and 12 holidays in which to travel) I finally filled up my passport. Even the last two “endorsement” pages is filled with visas, stamps and residence permits. Before the school can re-hire me I have to get more pages added.  (Fun fact: Americans will no longer be able to add pages to their passports by the end of 2015. So if you need pages, add them quick. Starting 2016 you’ll have to get a new passport entirely when your pages run out.)

So I have to go to the embassy to do it. I could go to Hong Kong, as that embassy is closest. But is it the most fun? No. Shanghai would be the most fun for me. And with friday being a national holiday, and with me having to cancel class anyway for the embassy, turns out I ended up with a 6-day holiday. So I’m going to Shanghai baby!

Over they years, several of my students have ended up in Shanghai. Last winter holiday I hung out with Wendy, one of the students in my first class in China and Oak, one of my "babies." They are years apart, but got along really well.

Over they years, several of my students have ended up in Shanghai. Last winter holiday I hung out with Wendy, one of the students in my first class in China and Oak, one of my “babies.” They are years apart, but got along really well.

And I’m excited. Soooooo excited. And I realized something funny. To me, going to Shanghai feels like “going home.” Even more so then America at this point.

Shanghai is a city that I am intimately familiar with over years of visiting. When I was in Lin’an I went at least 10-12 times a year. I stay at the same place (my favorite hostel), I go to the same places, and most importantly, I see my friends.

I never lived in Shanghai and yet it is the place I have the most friends. Not quite sure how that happened, but I’m not complaining. And these friends have known me for years. I’ve known one friend, Hannah, almost the whole time I’ve been in China. We met at the end of my first year and have seen each other regularly since then. There is also my bestie, Ben, an American, who I’ve been close with for almost 3 years.

The epic "purple shirt guy" night in which Ben and I first met. Hannah. Nick and my friend from Kunming were also hanging out with us that night. While Hannah and Ben aren't close, they get along well and we hang out sometimes together when I'm in Shanghai.

The epic “purple shirt guy” night in which Ben and I first met. Hannah. Nick and my friend from Kunming were also hanging out with us that night. While Hannah and Ben aren’t close, they get along well and we hang out sometimes together when I’m in Shanghai.

 

And that’s meaningful to me. The longer I’ve been in China, the more I and other expats move, the more I find comfort in people who have known me a long time. I love that Hannah knew me when I was with my ex, knew me when we broke up and saw me as I changed. She’s also met all the important people in my life (I ended up bringing my closest friends to Shanghai with me). I love that Ben has seen me through all my dating drama’s and I’ve met all his favorite co-workers who have since become friends of mine.

Hannah with my friend Anmol in 2012. Not only is Hannah really fun she is also super hot. Every guy friend I have brought to meet her falls in love with her immediately.  ;)

Hannah with my friend Anmol in 2012. Not only is Hannah really fun she is also super hot. Every guy friend I have brought to meet her falls in love with her immediately. ;)

One of my favorite things of traveling is going to new places and meeting new people. The baggage of your past doesn’t have to go with you if you don’t pack it. But as China becomes my home, my real home, I also like people who know me. I like our shared history and our shared past. I get tired when I’m around the same people year after year. But I don’t have to worry about that in China, so I like the few rare people I have known for a long time.

Ben and I the first night we met and became "besties."

Ben and I the first night we met and became “besties.”

Ben and I last winter (three years after we met) still hanging out and having fun.

Ben and I last winter (three years after we met) still hanging out and having fun.

And the city has a special place in my heart. Since I’ve never lived there, I never had any disappointments. It’s like my playground of good food, good shopping and the best time with amazing fun people. It’s a place I never lived and yet, when I go back, I feel like I’m going home.

 

Categories: China, Traveling | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Writing and Teaching Update (or, What I do When I’m not Eating or Playing Sports

I know based on my last few post you’ve probably been thinking I’ve been only eating and playing. And while I have, no doubt, I’ve also been busy with writing and teaching.  In fact I’ve got a few exciting things to tell you.

Writing

First, I wrote a guest blog over at mytefl.net! It was originally going to be a post for this website about how I learn Chinese culture through my English class. One of the admins (or is he an editor? I’m not sure) asked me to submit a guest post for their site and I realized this post I had already written would be perfect for them.

So go check it out! It’s actually been edited for a change, so there shouldn’t be half as many grammar mistakes as you find on my blog. (Yes, I’m aware. No, I don’t care.) Teach in China: How to Really Learn the Culture

Also, speaking of writing, I have officially finished the second draft of my book. You know, the one I wrote in a mere 20 days. It took me 6 weeks to edit it into something slightly readable. The first draft was also 500 pages. I managed to cut it down to 425 pages and then somehow added another 25 pages. God, I’m a chatty bastard.

My second draft all printed up!

My second draft all printed up!

 

I have a few first-readers reading it now to give me feedback and I’m eager to start draft three! (I’m forcing myself to take a two week break from working on my book and it’s killing me. I had arranged everything in my week around writing, and now that I don’t have that anchor I feel adrift with my new free time.)

And, I (kinda) ended up in a magazine. We had a beach picnic a few weeks ago in request of a magazine. They wanted to take pictures of a “foreigners” picnic. We hung out in the beach, played frisbee and ate good food. All while being photographed. Well, the article finally came out, though I haven’t actually gotten my hands on a copy yet. They really featured my Spanish friend Ivan with his Spanish Omelettes.

The magazine me and my friends were in. Hopefully I'll get a copy to take a clearer picture and read the article!

The magazine me and my friends were in. Hopefully I’ll get a copy to take a clearer picture and read the article!

Teaching

The teaching side of things has been going well. Not one, but THREE classes chose me as their favorite teachers (out of all the teachers that teach them this year). It was a super nice honor, and totally unexpected.

IMG_8362

The funniest thing was these classes contacted me monday and required me to give them a little write-up about myself for the higher-ups. It’s not just like, “we like you,” but an actual official thing. On Wednesday I was told unexpectedly I had a meeting. I assumed that the meeting was in response to this “award” and it would be a little award ceremony.

In fact, before the meeting I complained loudly to some co-workers about the annoying ceremony that was going into all this. “They totally chinese-fied a nice sentiment from my students,” I complained.

Then I got to the office and it turned out to be a normal meeting about final exams and stuff. They never even mentioned my accolades and I’m not even sure they knew about it. So here I was annoyed by the unwanted attention, and then annoyed by the total lack of attention. Ha!

Also, thought I’d show this brief video. I gave the students a genre of music they weren’t familiar with such as dubstep, new age, jazz etc, and they had to prepare a fifteen-minute presentation introducing the style of music. This group got reggae as their genre.

That’s the big news these days but soon I’ll have even bigger news! I’ve done a few things that will come out next week or two weeks. So you have to wait to hear about them. So see? I’ve been a bit busy besides just hanging out and eating.

Okay, there's been a bit of relaxing on the beach as well...

Okay, there’s been a bit of relaxing on the beach as well…

 

 

Categories: China, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fat Life in Xiamen

So I wrote about the fit life in Xiamen and how my days are filled with sports and active things. And the logical conclusion to all of this is that I would be super skinny and fit. But that is not at all true because of the other half of my life.

I am fortunate enough to call some amazing people my friends. One is head pastry chef at a French patisserie. Another is a manager at a French bakery. A third imports fancy goods from Spain. Even my friends who aren’t working directly for food companies are foodies. (The benefits of having a mostly European and Chinese friend group.) In fact every week we have a homemade dinner at someone’s house where we eat like kings.

Clemente makes amazing cakes.

Clement makes amazing cakes.

My friend Adam. When I want something he saves it for me because they sell out often. So yeah, I got a bread guy. This is a fresh baquette just out of the over. I tore into it right then and the crust was crisp while the inside was all warm and soft.

My friend Adam at his bakery. When I want something he saves it for me because they sell out often. So yeah, I got a bread guy. This is a fresh baquette just out of the over. I tore into it right then and the crust was crisp while the inside was all warm and soft.

A recent beach picnic. We had potato salad, baguettes, spanish omelettes, veggie and chicken skewers and small cakes for dessert.

A recent beach picnic. We had potato salad, baguettes, spanish omelettes, veggie and chicken skewers and small cakes for dessert.

Spanish sauage, ham and cheese with fresh french bread and chinese tomatoes.

Spanish sausage, ham and cheese with fresh french bread and Chinese tomatoes. This was just the appetizer to dinner….

...then this was our dessert.

…then this was our dessert.

I guess you could say we play hard and eat harder. (Not a lot of working hard, which is okay by me.) Birthdays are celebrated by 30 people for dinner, and frisbee practice is followed by a European sandwich with ham, dijon mustard on a fresh baguette. Even my neighbor Will regularly makes homemade pizza and invites me over for a piece or two (or three or four or five.)

Rebecca and I after frisbee practice visiting out friend and rewarding ourselves with a delicious sandwich.

Rebecca and I after frisbee practice visiting out friend and rewarding ourselves with a delicious sandwich.

Homemade Pizza! *drool*

Homemade Pizza! *drool*

Also, we go out to eat a lot. Xiamen has a much better foreign food scene than Hangzhou with dozens of foreign restaurants owned and operated by foreigners. Not the usual “foreign style” food but legit amazing foreign food at very reasonable prices.

Last Monday found us at the F Bistro, and amazing French restaurant where we got the steak tartare. Other recent international places have been Indian, Greek, American and German.

Last Monday found us at the F Bistro, and amazing French restaurant where we got the steak tartare. Other recent international places have been Indian, Greek, American and German.

Add that with the fact I still write 3 days a week, at cafe’s, where I have some food or snacks, and you’ll see why I’m not losing weight at all despite being so active. But you won’t hear me complaining! Not while there are baguettes, sausages and cakes to be eaten!

Categories: China, Chinese Food | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Fitter Life in China (With my Xiaomi Fitness Bracelet)

A few months ago I wrote a blog entry about getting fit in China. How living in China has made me healthier than I ever was in America and how easy it was to walk 10,000 steps a day.

10,000? Now that seems adorable to me. Soon after I wrote that article my $100 fitbit bracelet broke. (The charging part broke and since I’m in China I can’t replace it.) But I ended up with something better: Xiaomi fitness bracelet.

Most people go out to eat and party on a friday night. Us? We hike a mountain in the dark. (And then go drinking after.)

Most people go out to eat and party on a friday night. Us? We hike a mountain in the dark. (And then go drinking after.)

Xiaomi is a Chinese company taking the Chinese technology market by storm. (They aren’t available in America yet, but maybe soon will be.) They take the most popular products (iphones, fitbit, goPro cameras) improve them, and slash the price. For example? The xiaomi bracelet has more features than the fitbit and costs a mere $13. At that price it can break every other month and still be cheaper than the fitbit.

Still afraid of re-hurting my calf muscle I sit out playing Ultimate frisbee but go every week and throw.

Still afraid of re-hurting my calf muscle I sit out playing Ultimate frisbee but go every week and throw.

One of the best features of the Xioami bracelet is you can connect it to Wechat. Every night, around 10:30, it sends out a message on your wechat showing you how many steps your friends have taken. My friends are very active, and many of us have these bracelets. Competition, especially such a public display, is the best motivator.

Just a recent example. I'm not even in the top four despite walking an average of 14,000 steps a day.

Just a recent example of my friends totals. That’s me at number 5 despite a high step count.

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Me and Rebecca showing off our frisbee jersey’s at frisbee practice. (We have almost the same name and almost the same number! No, we didn’t plan it.) If you look close you will see we both have black bracelets. That’s our xiaomi bracelets. In fact, if you look close at many of my pictures with friends you will see they have xiaomi bracelets too.

And my friends are monsters! I’ve been a bit quiet on my blog recently because I’ve been just too damn busy to write. We have a weekly activity schedule that includes two nights of badminton a week, hiking, beach parties and picnics, homemade dinners, paddle boarding, archery and frisbee. Not in a month, weekly.

Badminton is my new favorite sport!

Badminton is my new favorite sport!

With this type of schedule I barely have to try for 10,000 steps. In fact, I’m on a role. I have met my goal 50 days in a row. My average is 14,000 steps a day (which is 10 kilometers or about 6.2 miles per day). And compared to my friends I’m super lazy. On my nightly update I am usually 4th or 5th with my friends getting 25,000+ steps! (That’s more than 10 miles walked in a day.) One friend got tired of always being so low on the list he started running at night and now he regularly beats me.

Even when we have a big party we do something active like batting cages.

Even when we have a big party we do something active like batting cages.

I even went out and bought sports clothes! I was doing all these sports in my regular clothes, jeans, khaki’s etc. But playing badminton in jeans just ain’t cool. So now I own sweat wicking shirts, fancy leggings and speedy shorts. Soooooo much better. (In fact I’m thinking of wearing the sweat-wicking shirts to class in the summer when it gets hot. Better than wearing sweat-soaked shirts like usual.)

Actually, I’ve been getting mistaken for a jock more and more. At the Xiamen frisbee tournament last fall (Which I sat out due to being unable to walk, much less run, with my torn calf muscle) two, count ’em, TWO people asked me a question about frisbee strategy and play. When I answered “beats me,” they both looked at me and said “but aren’t you an expert player?” Other people have (mistakenly) asked me to join teams and stuff thinking I will help them. This is an unbelievable thing for a book-ish nerd like myself. And once they get to know me, or actually watch me play, they get over that notion pretty quick. But still, I’m pretty psyched people think I’m sporty if even just for a moment.

So it would stand to reason that with all this activity I’d be super fit and skinny now, right? Well, no. And that’s due to the other activities I do when I’m not playing sports. You’ll have to wait for my next blog post for that!

Not just life in Xiamen is active, but even when I travel I now end up doing some sports (like frisbee in the park during a recent weekend trip to Shenzhen.)

Not just life in Xiamen is active, but even when I travel I now end up doing some sports (like frisbee in the park during a recent weekend trip to Shenzhen.)

 

Categories: China | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Let’s Get Something Straight (aka: what I like about China)

When Fran and Christy came back, Fran picked me up in her fancy car. Not bad.

I smile a lot. And not just for the camera, but everyday. I like living in China, so suck it haters! 

So, just for the record, I want to get something off my chest.

I tend to be a positive person. My general life philosophy is keep the good things close, and ruthlessly cut out the bad. (I’m said I’m positive, not kind-hearted.) I maintain this attitude in all aspects of life: guys, job, hobbies, friends. And China.

Look, I like living in China. I like talking about China and I like to show the more positive side of things. This has led some people thinking I’m naive or a wumao. But I’m not. I live here, remember? I deal with the pollution, the spitting, the shitting and pissing on the streets. I deal with VPN’s to get unblocked internet and try to find open websites for my students to use. I see people shooting disgusting snot rockets at the bus stop and I walk over piles of garbage everyday.

I’ve seen the documentaries on the poorest of the poor, I know about Xi Jinping’s corruption crack-down. You don’t need to send me links to articles about Tiananmen Square, the pollution, or how some rich guy knocked down and killed a police officer who stopped him for speeding. By the time you read about something in the New York Times, I’ve probably not only heard about it from multiple sources, but I’ve lived with it. (We have news here too you know.)

Buses in Xiamen are rarely emoty though. This is the same bus, the same day, only 2 stops later...

The bus. Not during rush hour, or a holiday. During off-peak “slow” times. Everyday it is like this. You know that “inhumane” one-child policy western media rails against all the time? It’s not as black and white as you might think. 

There are so many problems here (as everywhere). I just don’t see the need to talk about it. If you want to find the negative articles about China, about the pollution, the worrying economy or crack-down on dissidents, there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of sources on that. It seems like not one news article can be written in a Western newspaper without at least one sentence on Tiananmen.

What there isn’t a lot of is sources for more positive stories about China. Stories of everyday life. Of the wonders and oddities of the country seen through, not a critical, glaring eye, but a positive and open eye. Stories of dating Chinese men, trying new food, seeing new things and struggling with the language. That’s the hole I’m trying to fill.

So have I “drank the kool-aid?” Well, if drinking the kool-aid means that I judge a country based on the people and the culture I have experienced rather than the actions or policies of the government, then yes. I have. I don’t want people to judge me as an American based on what our congress is doing, or what Americans have done in the past. And I’m not going to do that in China.

It doesn’t mean everything is coated in a Pollyanna sheen. I complain and get frustrated regularly. (I’m working on an article about the pollution right now.) But it’s not something I focus on, or want to focus on. Deal with it.

Becky out.

 

Categories: China, Dating, Learning Chinese, Traveling | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Forget Big Brother, Little Sister is Watching

It’s no secret that in China is a bit of a police state.More than 2 million people monitor online activity and block all mention of sensitive topics and forbidden language. People who speak out against the government are silenced, and foreigners are warned to not discuss “the three T’s.” (Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen Square.) This fear, of big brother watching our every move, has led to many rumors in the foreign community. Rumors of phones being tapped, hidden cameras in apartments and a “party monitor” in every class (a student who reports directly to The Party Director any inappropriate behavior done by the teacher.)

I know this isn’t true. I’ve talked about Tibet independence, shown “tank man” and spent two weeks talking about sex with hundreds of students and never got in trouble. China is a huge country. Even with 2 million workers trying to control just the internet, information still gets out.

But there is a dark sinister force watching my every move. A million eyes in the alleys and dark corners watching and reporting on everything I do. That force? Students.

Here’s an example. The other day, on my 30 minute break between classes, I went outside to munch an apple and read a book. Nothing thrilling. And then I got this picture sent to me:

This student was far away and still noticed me and thought to take a picture to show me. A bit creepy, but I'm used to it after so long.

That tiny figure is me. Little sister is watching, indeed.

Foreigners stick out in China. And student love to see us, and tell us what they have seen other teachers doing. I used to get updates of all the activities of my former co-workers. When they were seen at McDonalds, Walmart, eating outside the school gate I heard all the gory details.”She was eating a hamburger!” “He was with a sexy girl,” and “She buys the same shampoo as I.”

And no embarrassing moment is spared. The “excitement” of seeing a foreigner out in the wild, overrides propriety.

“I just saw Angus at the cafeteria,” one student wrote to me. “The workers weren’t paying attention to him and he was too shy to say anything so he was just standing there.”

“Did you help him?” I asked.

“No.”

Because I’m so connected to Chinese social media, I see a lot of what students write. I see what the other foreign teachers are doing, even seeing their blackboards in some instances, and I know way too much from haircuts to outfits.

“He is much more handsome!” said several students every time my co-worker Iain got his hair cut. (Now Iain is growing his hair out and several students also remark on how it is not as handsome as before, ha!)

Sometimes I'll make a comment about something one of my co=workers did in class and I'll sometimes freak them out. "How did you know, I literally did that 10 minutes ago!" It's because I've seen it on  social media.

Sometimes I’ll make a comment about something one of my co-workers did in class and I’ll sometimes freak them out. “How did you know, I literally did that 10 minutes ago!” It’s because I’ve seen it on social media. The students are never shy about sharing what we do in class. 

And not only is our every action being reported to our students, but a wider audience pays attention as well.

“Long xiao bing?” a boy said to me while we both got off a bus. I looked at him and he was definitely not a student. And he called me by my chinese name. How did he know that?

“Wo zhi dao le ne?” I asked. Do I know you?

“No,” he said. “But I know you!”

It’s creepy for sure. But after all this time it’s a creepy I’m used to. No one means the spying and gossip maliciously. They don’t mean to embarrass us or make us feel stupid. (That’s an unintended affect.) They are just genuinely curious and interested in our behavior inside and outside the classroom. Like seeing a panda in the wild after only seeing them in zoo’s before.

 

 

Categories: China, Teaching English | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments