No I DO NOT Want to Drink F&%#%$ Hot Water

One of the nice things about being sick is one of my friends made a homemade meal for me. He lives far away and came all the way to my apartment and left it on the doorstep and ran away. He called me when he was already on the bus back home. It was the first time he made curry and soup and it was sooooo good.

One of the nice things about being sick is one of my friends made a homemade meal for me. He lives far away and came all the way to my apartment and left it on the doorstep and ran away. He called me when he was already on the bus back home. It was the first time he made curry and soup and it was sooooo good.

I just got over a cold, and not just a cold but like, a major disgusting, hocking, snotty nose, bleary-eyed flu. When you have a cold in China it’s basically better to keep it to yourself lest ye go mad. Why would you go mad? Because you hear the same few things over and over again and your already sick and cranky it’s easy to lose your temper.

What are some common things you hear when you are sick in china (For those of you in China, your already laughing aren’t you? Because you know exactly what I am going to say.)

“Drink more hot water”

This is the most annoying piece of advice you hear ALL THE TIME when living in China. My friend smashed her elbow, the bone, and went to the hospital. Their recommendation? Drink hot water. (Seriously, the doctors told her that. As if it could heal bone. They didn’t even give her a splint or anything just ‘drink more hot water.’)

I had to cancel 3 classes and many students kindly contacted me to see if I was okay. When I said I had a bad cold, their advice? Drink hot water. When I ran into people outside they took one look at me and said ‘drink more hot water.’ When my co-workers found out they said ‘drink more water.’ (But in an ironic mocking way as they also hate this piece of advice.)

Later in one of my classes I managed to drag myself to, a student admonished me. I had a water bottle filled with ice water and she said cold water was bad for me and I should drink hot water. I told her it soothed my voice which was hot from speaking and then I told her it was “traditional American culture.” (Any sort of different culture thing can be explained away if I say this.)

Just a small smattering of texts I got from students. Notice the water references…

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“Wear More Clothes”

I have to remember to take deep breaths when a student says this too me because the first thing I want to shout is, “YOU DON’T THINK I KNOW HOW TO DRESS MYSELF?!” They are just saying it to be caring and considerate, but this one really pisses me off. Xiamen is quite hot. It’s still short-sleeve weather, and I was wearing a long sleeve button-down shirt when I ran into a student who told me to “wear more clothes.” I was sweating, drips of sweat literally running down my face and I said, “Oh really? I should put on more clothes despite the fact I’m sweating so much?!” I know it’s just something to say, like “get more rest,” but as an American it often feels like an insult. As if some 20-year-old punk knows what to do better than me.

“Weather is Changeable”

This is the most common reason I hear of “why” I got sick. It’s fall so  “weather is changeable” is a common refrain. Sometimes I just grind my teeth and put on a fake smile but every now and then I lose it and kinda freak out and say, “Changeable weather cannot give me a germ. Students who don’t cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough, or pick their noses and then hand me papers are the reason I’m sick! Or the people spitting just a few inches from where I am standing, or the people that shoot snot rockets. Not the goddamn weather!” Seriously, their sense of hygiene is totally wack here.

So I appreciate the sentiment from my students and friends, but next time I get a cold? I’m keeping it to myself.

 

 

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Go Check Out my Guest Post

LindaLiving

My guest post on Lind’as blog. Go read it!

So I wrote a guest post over at Linda Living in China blog. I had read another one of her guest posts, (about a girl learning Chinese by traveling by herself) and I realized that one of my best methods of learning Chinese was dating Chinese guys. I actually wrote the article for my blog, but seeing as it was Linda’s blog that inspired me I e-mailed her to ask if she wanted a guest post. She did and hopefully she’ll be writing one for my blog too.

So far the comments seem to misunderstand my intention. I was just writing about dating from a language acquisition point of view, but some people thought I was writing about my entire dating philosophy. For the record I don’t date Chinese guys for the sole purpose of learning the language. There has to be attraction and interest first, and let’s face it, THAT’S the hard part. I don’t fall for every Chinese speaking guy I meet. In fact, it’s quite rare.

So anyway, go on over to her website and check it out! Linda’s blog is also really interesting. She lives and works in China but has a Korean boyfriend, so somehow she manages to juggle three cultures and three languages. Not bad.

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Maybe Sometimes I make Living in China Sound too Easy

This summer, when I was in America, a lot of people said a lot of nice things about me. They said they admired me for living in China, or they thought I was so brave or cool, for making this strange country my new home. And that’s nice to hear but I’m not deluded enough to actually believe it, because I know the truth.

Since I have no shame, I’m going to pull back the curtain. Just to show my life isn’t so cool and I’m not nearly as bad ass as you think. Things are easier than when I first arrived but I wouldn’t say I’m flawlessly living my life everyday.

Here’s a little story to prove my point…

I was on my way to Walmart which is located in the bottom level of a mall. There was a little restaurant in the mall too, and I wanted to eat something quick. It was a little noodle/rice place, pretty typical.

I walk in, hold up one finger and say “yi wei,” which means one person.

She holds up one finger and says “yi tiao?” Now, I don’t know what the heck ‘tiao’ means but I just nod anyway. (That’s my favorite trick here, just nod and eventually you get something.)

She shouts “yi tiao!” to the waitress who picks up something wrapped in a plastic bag, grabs a few napkins, and puts it in front of me. It’s some sort of wrapped roll, like a spring roll but not fried. Inside was veggies and it was pretty good. But, I’m kinda confused at why I got it. Is it some sort of appetizer? Is it free? Did I accidentally order it?

I finish pretty quick, but I’m not sure if I’m expected to order anything else. The waitress didn’t come back, but I decided to play with my phone until other customers came in, just to see. A few college kids came in within a few minutes, sat down and didn’t get this spring roll. It wasn’t some sort of freebie appetizer.

So, I kinda looked around, decided to just stand up and go to the cash register. The owner met me there and I paid a few kuai for what I had eaten (about .60US), then I left, really confused. I really have no idea why she assumed I wanted that. Do other foreigners go there only for the spring roll? Or is there one blond foreigner that goes there for the spring roll and she assumed I was her?

Who knows. I’ll never know why I got that random spring roll and that’s kinda life in China. Even though I’m fluent, even though I have lived here for more than 5 years, I don’t know what’s going on half the time. I’ve got it figured out enough to get what I need, even if it’s not exactly what I want (I needed to eat, but I probably wouldn’t have ordered the spring roll).

And that’s okay. If I wanted a comfortable easy life I would have stayed in america. I don’t care that I have awkward situations, or feel confused often. In fact, I kinda like it. It keeps you on your toes and ensures life is never boring. So thanks for the compliments this summer you guys, I’m just sad to tell you it’s not true and I am as awkward and clumsy in China as I was in America. Ha!

 

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White Guys in Asia

Julian Blanc would choke women as some sexy pick-up technique. And he taught other guys to do it as well.

Julian Blanc would choke women as some sexy pick-up technique. And he taught other guys to do it as well.

You may have heard the recent news of Julian Blanc, a pick-up artist that put a video of one of his seminars online. It shows him bragging about how easy girls in Japan are and how white guys can do anything in Japan and the girls love it. Then in the video he shows himself pushing girls head’s down to his crotch, forcing girls into hugs, and literally “necking” with a store clerk.

He thinks because the girls are giggling and not slapping him instantly they “love it.” But it’s clear from even the short clips with the girls eyes blacked out, they are horrified. It’s pure sexual assault and these girls are too freaked out to know what to do. He also had some pictures on Twitter of putting girls in choke holds and bragging about choking women all over the world.

Luckily when this video became viral, women (and men) all over the world struck back. He was in Australia doing a seminar series and first was forced out of many venues as hotels didn’t want him to promote sexual abuse at their businesses. Then the Australian government ended up revoking is visa and kicking him out of the country. “This guy wasn’t putting forward political ideas, he was putting forward abuse that was derogatory to women and that’s just something, those are values abhorred in this country,” said the Australian immigration Minister. Kudos to them!

Julain Blanc’s video (Youtube)

 

He’s supposed to go to Japan and Canada within the next few weeks, but people in both locations are trying to prevent it.

And that’s great, I think that it’s great people aren’t putting up with him and even governments are coming to the defense of women. But I think it’s all too sad that he is not the first foreign guy to do this. It’s well-known that if a foreign guy, especially a white guy, comes to China he will have his pick of girls. This fact is often the reason many guys come to China in the first place, and I’ve seen this way of thinking far too many times.

I don’t usually talk about foreign guys dating Chinese women because it’s a well trod road. An asian woman with a (usually older) western guy? Not a shocker.  But it is something all western women in China need to deal with and something us ladies talk about.

If a western woman wants to date a western guy in China, they have stiff competition from all the asian women that also want to date western guys. And, in all honesty, it is the rare westerner that chooses a western woman over an asian. And women know it.

It’s kinda a joke. If a western couple comes to China together people joke about how they will soon break up, because the temptation of chinese girls is too much. Or, on message boards when women are talking about coming to China they are actually warned not to bring their boyfriend/husbands because he will probably cheat.

I know, it’s not giving guys much benefit of the doubt. But if you’ve been here as long as I have, you’ll see why it’s easy to get cynical abut this. The stereotype has proven true in a vast majority of cases. And if my friends meet a western guy in China and start dating? They constantly worry too. Even when a guy says he doesn’t care for Chinese girls, no one fully trusts him. And when a friends boyfriend goes out to a club or bar without her, my friends always worry. “Is he meeting a chinese girl?”

Because there is lots of temptation. Some girls might legitimately fall in love with the mans personality accidentally, but most of the time it is a deliberate thing. There are ton of “foreign men chasers” who look for a foreign guy to stick their talons in. To be married to a foreign man is seen as prestigious. Everyone assumes they are rich and successful so it is a good thing for the girl. (Also bi-racial babies are seen as being “born” smarter and better than just Chinese babies.)

My guy friends told me of one story in which a girl, so desperate to snag a foreign boyfriend called all the male foreign teachers one night. She called one guy first to hang out and when he said no, she called another. He also said no and she called the third. She didn’t know they were all hanging out with each other at the time!

 There are also some girls who have snagged a foreign boyfriend but kind of use him to meet other foreign guys in hopes of getting a “better” one. I’ve seen that a few times and it’s pretty painful to watch.

And I don’t want to make all western guys out to be cads. Sure, I’ve known plenty of the predator type that just sleeps with as many Chinese girls as they can, but there are plenty of decent guys here too. I really like my male co-workers (they are not cads) but almost every single one of them (close to 30) has a Chinese girlfriend or wife.

Which just illustrates my point even more. Predators have their pick of woman night after night. And those not specifically looking will get hit on again and again, and even just normal nice guys end up with asian women, so what’s a western woman that wants to date a western guy to do? Several women I know have left china specifically because they couldn’t meet a man and wanted to settle down. (Or  they should just date asians like I do, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant for another time.)

And if you guys really need some dating advice, or lessons from a pick-up artist, don’t support assholes like Julian Blanc. There are lots of good coaches out there including JT Tran and The Love Life of an Asian Guy who actually respect women (and multicultural relationship.)

Becky out. *drops mic*

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High Speed Trains in China

High speed trains in China4 years ago (has it been that long?!) I wrote two very long, detailed posts about train travel in China. It explained what a train station was like, how to get a ticket, the different classes of seats etc, etc. And at the time it was quite useful. Now? It’s basically outdated.

Sure, you can still find some of the old, slow trains chugging about, but they are less and less common as China is being taken over by the high-speed train craze. Several years ago, I took my first high-speed train. It was somewhere up north, near Beijing (the capital city was first to get the main lines and since they they have been concentrating on the east coast where the bulk of the population lives.)

I remember the high-speed train ticket was pricier than the regular train, but worth it. There was a special waiting area for high-speed train customers only which took us far away from the unwashed masses that take the slow train. It was a cleaner waiting room, with tiled floors mopped till they shone and employees in sharp uniforms. Everyone was given a free bottle of water, and when we boarded there wasn’t the frenzied pushing and shoving because everyone had a seat (on the slow trains they sell standing room only tickets, but not on the high-speed trains.) The train ride itself was quite comfortable. Clean, fresh air (no smoking allowed anywhere) and plenty of room to stand up and stretch out. It was like flying in first class.

Now, high speed trains are nothing special. In fact, you often don’t even have a choice. There is only high-speed trains available.

Take, for example, my “local” line of Xiamen to Shenzhen (Shenzhen is the port city to Hong Kong).  Despite the train opening a mere 10 months ago you now can’t take a slow train if you wanted. The high speed train has cut the travel time from 11-15 hours down to just 3.5. Talk about an improvement.

Some experts say the costs of China’s rapid high-speed train line increase won’t ever meet demand, and it will take years to make back the investment. To give you an idea, it’s estimated the Xiamen to Shenzhen line costs 41.7 billion yuan (a little more than 6 billion US$–the government is mum on the exact price, but media outlets have estimated). The train costs 150 rmb one-way for a regular seat (about $25. A first class seat is a few bucks more.)

When the only way to get to Shenzhen was by a 11-15 hour train ride, most people opted for a plane ticket. But now, they are taking the train instead. I was told to buy my ticket early as they all regularly sell-out despite the fact there are 27 trains daily. And they recently announced they will be adding even more trains due to demand. The upside is taking away all those flying passengers is a win environmentally. The downside is that migrant workers and poor people can’t afford the new trains, and no longer have the option of a slower, cheaper train to take.

The inside of the trains are airplane-esque.

The inside of the trains are airplane-esque.

Since there are now so many high-speed trains, they have been building new high-speed train railway stations. Giant, shiny new facilities with modern technology which makes the lines (and the pushing and shoving) less of a hassle. The train ticket acts as a sort of subway card, which you have to swipe to go through the turnstile instead of pushing your way through the giant gates waving your tickets frantically for the worker to check. (You also need to swipe it to get out of the train station.)

As for a customer, I like the new trains. They are clean, convenient, and open up a lot of the country to me. I can pop on down to Hong Kong for the weekend, something I would never do if I had to take a plane or a long train. Even before, when I would buy the first class seats in the slow train, you still had to wait in the dingy train stations, fight to get on, and deal with smoking passengers and dirty bathrooms. Since these trains are new they are much cleaner and people treat them nicer (You see less spitting and throwing garbage on the new trains).

But now the masses are riding it, they are beginning to show a bit of wear and tear. Both bathrooms on the train car I rode in recently were broken, and there was piss and water everywhere. Not so nice. (And none of the fancily dressed hostesses were taking care of it.) But I forgave that issue when I heard that China has the highest passenger rate in the world with 1.33 million people per day. Per day. That’s about the population of America riding a train every two-days. And that data is from 2012, the last statistics I could find. I’m sure the number is higher today.

Someone mapped out all the high-speed rails to make a mock subway-like map.

Someone mapped out all the high-speed rails to make a mock subway-like map.

China isn’t slowing down with their high speed trains anytime soon either. In fact, they are breaking out of the confines of their country and going global. There are plans to connect China with most southeast Asian countries by train (right now the lines connecting China to Laos and Vietnam are underway. The Malaysian and Singapore lines will be built later.)

Their ambition doesn’t end there. They want to build lines that connect China with Africa and Europe and they are even mulling over an idea that would connect China to the US via a 125-mile long tunnel from Russia to Alaska. They also won a bid to be the builders of a new high-speed rail line in Mexico.

Not to suggest that everything is rosy with the high speed trains. The giant crash in 2011 of the Wenzhou line made major news and put a damper on things. What happened was one train had been struck by lightning and stalled with mechanical troubles while the train behind it, blissfully unaware, smashed into it. 40 people died, hundreds were hurt and the government tried to, literally, bury the evidence so it didn’t get out. (They were caught burying some of the wreckage while the search for survivors was still on. They were more worried about embarrassing news getting out then saving lives.) That wasn’t bad enough but of course the entire industry has been plagued with accusations of corruption for years.

So, it’s not the flawless, perfect model to hold up to admire, but as someone who has been living here for awhile, I have seen big changes, and I’m all for it. China’s a big country with a large population that needs to get around. As a consumer it has become not only easier, but more pleasant, and as cars become more and more of an environmental issue here, these trains can only play a bigger role.

And who knows what’s gonna happen in the future. Maybe one day I’ll be going back to the US via a train. Seeing as how that plane flight is one of my least favorite things in the world, I might be willing to give it a shot.

 

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A Dream Weekend in Shanghai

Even though I’m a small blog, various companies contact me from time to time, to sell services, or offer deals. I usually ignore them, but the other day I got a very intriguing e-mail about a blogging contest. Sponsored by Club Carlson, a travel and hospitality company. All I need to do is write about my ideal weekend in Shanghai and I have a chance to win a weekend getaway at the super fancy Shanghai Radisson Blu hotel.

Hell to the yeah! You know I love Shanghai and have been dreaming about going there to see all my friends. And to publicly write about my dream with a chance to win a weekend at the fancy hotel? No brainer. And this hotel IS fancy. Like, phone next to the toilet in the marbled bathroom fancy. It’s the Radisson Blu Shanghai New World hotel which surprisingly I know exactly where it is located.  I tend not to notice hotels, but this is one place that even a casual visitor to the city would notice. It’s near the glittery Nanjing West shopping street, but the eye-catching feature is the big round top of the hotel (which I found out houses a rotating restaurant.) Shanghai is known for unique architecture and this building stands out for sure.

I even found a picture of it I took last spring cause I thought it looked cool. The building with the round top is the hotel.

I even found a picture of it I took last spring cause I thought it looked cool. The building with the round top is the hotel. Shanghai has really interesting architecture that even a dummy like myself notices.

So what would be the first thing I’d do on my dream weekend? Well after checking in I’d jump straight into the tub. Call me a redneck but do you know how rare it is to find a bathtub in China?!  The last bath I took in my life was more than two years ago when a friend used her credit card points in Taiwan for a night at a fancy hotel and was kind enough to share it with me. This hotel has those big sexy baths and, I’m assuming, a bottle of bubble bath which I would gladly use up.

So, I’d take a long bath and then invite some of my friends over to show off. We’d probably help ourselves to the mini bar or go the hotel bar, appreciate the view and pretend we are rich and hang out in places like that all the time.

The next day, I’d wake up and hit the city. Did I mention that this trip would be for two? And did I also mention that I have someone specific in mind? No? Well, it is, and I do. But it’s still on the DL so the less said the better. *Ahem*

Let’s just say, that there would be a certain someone with me (hopefully) and one place in Shanghai I’d like to go with him is a little painting studio. For a couple hundred kuai they give you all the materials; canvas, paints, a teacher to help you and source books to inspire you, and you listen to jazzy music while painting to your hearts content. I’m no Picasso, but in America I had a healthy collection of art supplies to play around with. Here in China all I have a box of colored pencils. So I’d like to get my art on, and have some fun. Afterwards we’d walk around the french concession area, eat some lunch and head back to the hotel for an afternoon spa visit.

Yep, this weekend would include a trip to the spa. (See? How could I not enter this contest?) I love massages, and I’m guessing I’d chose some hot stone massage type thingy and maybe even fall asleep during the massage (and feel like jelly afterwards). Then we’d get dressed up and have an early dinner at the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel. I’ve been to a revolving restaurant before and luckily they go slow enough that I don’t feel like puking.)  We’d have to eat early because we would need to get to the Shanghai Grand Theater (located across the street from the hotel in People’s Square).

As this is my pre-Christmas dream weekend, I feel like a fancy ballet or Christmas opera performance is in order. And since this is my dream we’d have tickets in the front section, not the nose bleed seats. Also in my dream I’m wearing a fancy red dress with a mink stole, but I’m me and don’t wear dresses (and I’d never wear fur) so I guess normal clothes would do.

prom when I was a junior. Perhaps the last time I wore a dress? I think I wore won to an award ceremony in college, but after that I can't think of any occasion. I've worn a skirt on maybe a dozen occasions. (or a sarong posing as a skirt.) What can I say, just not a fancy dresser.

1993 people! Prom when I was a junior.  Perhaps the last time I wore a dress? I think I wore one to an award ceremony in college, but after that I can’t think of any occasion. I’ve worn a skirt on maybe a dozen occasions since youth (or a sarong posing as a skirt.) What can I say, just not a dress person.

The next day would start early with a dip in the pool and a walk across the street in People’s Park. Sunday is the best morning to go there, with the marriage market, and old people doing exercises. Then I’d like to go meet my friends for brunch in some little cafe. (I’m a sucker for Shanghai’s cafes). Luckily, the hotel advertises late check-out which I would take advantage of to do one more thing: shopping.

I’m not such a big shopper, but in China Shanghai is the only place I can reliably find western brands in western sizes. So I’d have to go to some of the chains to stock up on pants, bras and maybe a few shirts. I’d actually consider this part of the trip a bit of a burden (I know, I’m am a freaky girl as my species usually loves to shop) but I know from living in China so long you gotta do it when you have the opportunity. Then I’d try to squeeze one more bath in, pack my stuff and fly away.

So that would be my dream weekend. Even if I don’t win it, according to science I’ve just made myself happier. Researchers have discovered that just planning a trip can make you happier for up to 8 weeks. In fact, you don’t even need to take the trip. The simple act of planning is where the happiness comes from. (Because you don’t have to deal with the actual stress or extra workload that comes from taking time off.)

So what about you? Want an extra boost of happiness? Tell me about your dream weekend in Shanghai.  Do you agree with my plan or would you do something else? Share it with everyone in the comments! (and I’ll let you know if I win. Thanks again to Club Carlson for the opportunity. Fingers crossed!)

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A Firsthand Look at the Hong Kong Protests

One month ago, the streets were packed like this BBC News photo. I didn't see anything like this.

One month ago, the streets were packed like this BBC News photo. I didn’t see anything like this.

In my recent trip to Hong Kong, I was quite curious to go see the protests. I was a little worried, not for my safety, but for for the trouble the protests would make in traveling. I had heard that the streets were blocked, and even the subway had stopped running to certain parts of the city.

That was true, but only just kinda. (I had no problems with transportation anywhere.) The protests started almost a month ago and by the time I arrived they were clearly losing steam. The movement was called “Occupy Central” but Central (a part of Hong Kong island) was devoid of any protester activity. The area near my hostel, Causeway Bay, had some very sleepy activity. The most active part was in Mong Kok, which isn’t actually on Hong Kong island. (Like New York City with the different boroughs, Hong Kong is divided into several parts. Hong Kong island is just one of the parts, and is well, an island. Duh.) Mong Kok is on the mainland part in an area called Kowloon.

So what are the protests about?

When Britain handed HK back to mainland China in 1997, the two governments signed an agreement saying that Hong Kong would remain a special economic zone. Officially called “One Country, Two Systems” it separated Hong Kong both politically and economically from mainland China. (For instance, the bank system is totally different. If you use, say, Bank of China in Hong Kong, it is actually a separate company than Bank of China on mainland. I had to pay an “international surcharge” when I took money out of my Chinese bank, at my Chinese banks ATM in Hong Kong.)

And for the most part, Beijing has left Hong Kong alone, which you can tell when you go there. It has a very different feel and attitude than China. But in the past few years, things have been changing, and pressure has been tightening.

Hong Kong protests

There have been several scuffles between Hong Kongers and mainlanders in recent times. Specifically, as more and more mainlanders are flooding into Hong Kong for shopping and economic opportunities, the HK’ers are fighting back. First I heard HK’ers were protesting pregnant mainlanders coming to HK to have their babies. (If you have a baby in HK, you are not under the “one-child” restriction. So many people were coming over they were flooding the maternity wards, making it harder for HK’ers to have their babies.) And several months ago, the internet erupted over “pee-gate.” (This was a scandal in which a mainland parent allowed her kid to pee on the streets–a common practice here in China. But some local people admonished the parents and the whole thing was caught on video which went viral. Then mainlanders actually supported the peeing kid which caused a bigger backlash in Hong Kong against the rudeness and unsanitary behavior of mainlanders. It would all be hilariously ridiculous if it wasn’t true.)

So, in general, tempers are simmering just below the surface. Like New Yorkers in America, Hong Kongers feel like they are more educated and cultured than their mainland counterparts and resent the “locusts” (as the call mainlanders) from taking over their streets and resources.

Can't have a protest calling for peace without a little John Lennon.

Can’t have a protest calling for peace without a little John Lennon.

So last month when Beijing reiterated it’s control over Hong Kong, saying it would only allow elections of officials approved by the Beijing Government, the shit hit the fan. The “One Country, Two Systems” policy clearly states free elections in 2017. But Beijing wasn’t going to allow it totally.  And that’s when things got crazy.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets, setting up road blocks so no traffic could move. The police responded with violence, throwing tear gas and pepper spraying the crowd, which the protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from (earning the protest the nickname  “The Umbrella Revolution.”)

The government quickly realized the violence was a bad idea, and backed off. And the protests have been largely peaceful. Students sit and do their homework, or read books as they occupy the streets, and protesters are cleaning up after themselves and even recycling. I saw a scuffle with someone and the police, just a small thing in which the police grabbed someone and started pulling him away. But the dozens of onlookers, with dozens of cameras taking video, started shouting and the police stopped and just said some angry words.

Another time I saw a group of policemen just sitting around, chatting, smiling and laughing. So they were clearly not stressed out.

My friend at a Hong Kong university said the school is supporting the protests. Teachers wore yellow ribbons on their clothes (another symbol of the protests) and encouraged students to join the protests. I went to her school and saw hundreds of handmade Occupy Central signs pasted on every available wall.

Protests signs are even hung up on the cafeteria windows. My friend said her school supported the protestors and teachers were even encouraging students to go out and protest. She said for a few weeks classes were very empty, but now things are more normal.

Protests signs are even hung up on the cafeteria windows. My friend said her school supported the protestors and teachers were even encouraging students to go out and protest. She said for a few weeks classes were very empty, but now things are more normal.

The Chinese government has responded with the same clunky hand they respond to everything with. of course facebook, twitter, Google etc is blocked, but they blocked Instagram too, to prevent images of the protests getting out. But instead of totally ignoring it, they are covering the protests from the “poor hard-working Hong Konger” perspective who’s livelihood is being ruined by these “annoying, pesky protesters” who are preventing businesses from running.

In fact, there was a scuffle a few weeks ago between “small business owners” and protesters. The small business owners were incensed that they couldn’t freely operate their businesses with the protesters taking over the streets, and they were losing lot of money. Some physically attached the protesters.

During the day the area in Causeway Bay was very quiet. They also had one lane of traffic open so buses could operate normally.

During the day the area in Causeway Bay was very quiet. They also had one lane of traffic open so buses could operate normally.

But then accusations of the “local business owners” being mainladers paid by the government surfaced. This wasn’t helped by the fact that CCTV, the government news channel, aired footage of these “local business owners” who happened to be speaking Mandarin. (Hong Kong people speak Cantonese.)

So what’s gonna happen? I’m not sure. The protesters want the current leader to resign and they want a promise of free and open elections. But knowing China, I can’t really see that happening. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

In Mong Kok the people erected barriers to prevent cars and buses (and the police) from being able to drive on the street.

In Mong Kok the people erected barriers to prevent cars and buses (and the police) from being able to drive on the street.

 

 

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Sorry for the Radio Silence. I’m Still Here

How times flies. Has it really been almost three weeks since my last entry? Whoopsie.

I’d like to blame my friends and my social life. They’ve been keeping me plenty busy.

One of my former students (who was a sophmore my first year in China) lives in Xiamen so we got to catch up with each other.

One of my former students (who was a sophmore my first year in China) lives in Xiamen so we got to catch up with each other.

Couchsurfing Xiamen

Couchsurfing is a pretty active group here in Xiamen and they have several events. This was a BBQ/KTV party for foreigners and locals to meet. 

Of course, there has been plenty of fun, especially with the ladies.

Of course, there has been plenty of fun, especially with the ladies. We’ve instituted a girl’s dinner every tuesday night and spend almost every weekend together. 

 

I’d also like to blame classes, and random stuff I need to do.

I broke a tooth when I was in America and I finally found a decent dentist and how to get there. Because I'm new I gotta kind new doctors and dentists to deal with my many ailments. And it takes time.

I broke a tooth when I was in America and I finally found a decent dentist and figured out how to get there. Because I’m new I need to find new doctors and dentists to deal with my many ailments. And it takes time.

nanowrimo1

I decided to participate again in National Novel Writing Month. In the 30-days of November I need to write a 50,000 word novel. I decided to write a detailed outline of my novel idea and on my free days I’ve been going to cafes with my ipad to plot the book.

I’d also like to blame a recent trip I took to Hong Kong. We had sports meeting day (no classes) so I had 4 days off.  I went to Hong Kong to see some friends!

I met Ray, a Singaporean, last winter in Thailand. We met again in Hong Kong and ate dim sum together.

I met Ray, a Singaporean, last winter in Thailand. We’ve remained friends and we met again in Hong Kong and ate dim sum together.

 

Also in Hong Kong, I got to hang out with students spanning several years. Emma, (on the left) and Sara (next to me) graduated last year and are now in Hong Kong getting a masters degree. Danlee (in the middle) graduated 4 years ago and we've been good friends since then. The two younger students didn't know Danlee but with a shared background (and a shared former foreign teacher) we all got along amazingly and had a super fun dinner.

Also in Hong Kong, I got to hang out with students spanning several years. Emma, (on the left) and Sara (next to me) graduated last year and are now in Hong Kong getting a masters degree. Danlee (in the middle) graduated 4 years ago and we’ve been good friends since. The two younger students didn’t know Danlee but with a shared background (and a shared former foreign teacher–moi) we all got along amazingly and had a super fun dinner.

On my way back from Hong Kong I went to Shenzhen (the border city) to visit another friend. I felt so lucky that in just a few short days I got to see so many friends from so many different parts of my life.

On my way back from Hong Kong I went to Shenzhen (the border city) to visit another friend. I felt so lucky that in just a few short days I got to see so many friends from so many different parts of my life.

I’d like to blame all of that. But I can’t. It all comes down to good old fashioned laziness. bad Becky *shakes finger at self.*

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National Day Holiday

These two porcas have become my closest friends. We don't go too many days without seeing each other.

These two porcas have become my closest friends. We don’t go too many days without seeing each other.

I haven’t written much about my social life here. Of course, coming to a new place with no friends did put a damper on things for a few weeks. I was busy meeting people, and getting to know them, and finding people I really clicked with. (Actually, I did have one friend here already but he didn’t arrive until several weeks later so he couldn’t help me in the beginning.)

But six weeks on, things are humming along nicely, and this National Day holiday proved it. National holiday is one of China’s “Golden Weeks.” Everyone in the country has a week holiday. So traveling is a nightmare. Every bus, plane, hotel and passenger car is filled to the brim.

So I don’t travel. And anyway, I live in Xiamen. This is the place people come to visit, so why would I leave? I relied on my friends to keep me entertained, and they did not disappoint.

We started the holiday off with a delicious dinner at a local Greek restaurant. Actual Greek food that wasn’t “chinese-ified” at all (except the sweet mayonnaise on the salad). Then we went out to see a fancy DJ at a local club. There was a big electronic music fest in Shanghai and they were sending some of their international acts out across majors cities in China to drum up interest. We saw Eva Shaw, also known as DJ Bambi.

Ritz Club

 

The next day was supposed to be chill and relaxed (it was a busy travel day and a good idea to stay off the roads and out of the way of the travelers). But I heard some piano tunes wafting out of a nearby window and I went out to explore. I found two of my co-workers writing original music and practicing. It was such a surprise. I had no idea these guys had musical talent, much less could play the piano. Now I’m their first groupie.

The next day was frisbee. There’s an ultimate frisbee team in Xiamen with both Chinese and western players. I’ve joined them when it’s not too hot outside and this was my first big weekend practice. Because of the holiday several people from different parts of china came to Xiamen, and we had a great time running, jumping and leaping for the frisbee. (My team even won a few times, despite my horrible skills.)

We play frisbee in a public park, and accidentally became an attraction. Most Chinese think frisbee is something you do "with a dog" so lots of people stooped to watch us play. Luckily, its getting more and more popular and some little kids joined us and tossed the frisbee around.

We played ultimate frisbee in a public park, and accidentally became an attraction. Most Chinese think frisbee is something you do “with a dog” so lots of people stopped to watch us play. Luckily, its getting more and more popular and some little kids joined us to toss a frisbee around.

After frisbee, hot and sweaty, we went to an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant where we definitely got our money’s worth. We ate our weight in sushi and tempura.

frisbee dinner2

 

The next day was the big camping trip. A friend said she knew a good place to camp, and I was a bit dubious. This was one of the busiest travel weeks in China, I expected the place to be packed. But I didn’t have any other plans so with tents, water and enough food for 24-hours, eight of us squeezed into a little seven-seater van for the 2 hour drive.

When we arrived we just kinda parked on an abandoned stretch of road, hopped down a fence, walked across a sandy expanse and found ourselves on the edge of a huge, wide open beach. The waves were crashing, the wind was blowing, and there wasn’t another person in sight. Un-fucking-belivable.

Our camping spot. This is where we set up the tents and bonfire. We roasted sweet potatoes and corn directly in the fire.

Our camping spot. This is where we set up the tents and bonfire. We roasted sweet potatoes and corn directly in the fire.

We found a great place to set up camp, with low brush on one side for us to go to the bathroom, and we pitched the tents. We also collected copious amounts of driftwood for our bonfire and after a dip in the water, we set up shop.

It was one spectacular night. Everything went perfectly. The bonfire lit, the food was sandy, but delicious, and we just laughed the whole night. Of course we brought plenty of alcohol but we barely drank it. We were having so much fun, it was like we almost forgot we had it. Secrets were told, games were played, swimming was swum. We had plenty of space around the fire, but I found we all kept gravitating towards each other; heads on shoulders, laying in each others laps, arms slung around each other. It was a night out in nature, no lights, no buildings, no people to break the spell, and in that expanse we all remembered what was so awesome about being human.

It was perfect weather, even at night. Not too hot, not too cold.

It was perfect weather, even at night. Not too hot, not too cold.

We thought we were gonna stay up all night, but with no electronics or lights we all felt sleepy around midnight. A few slept in the tents, but most of us just laid out on the sand, next to the fire, under a full sky of stars. Between light pollution, grey skies and air pollution seeing stars in China is quite rare. But that night the clouds blew away and the heavens put on a show. Hundreds and hundreds of stars came out to shine, including a few shooting stars. We had blankets but snuggled together to keep away the chill. I dug my toes into the warm sand next to the embers of our fire, snuggling next to a warm body, the sound of crickets and crashing waves filling my ears. I almost couldn’t sleep because I was so dazzled by it all. Throughout the night I tracked Orion moving across the sky.

I woke in the morning to two deep chinese voices. I looked up groggily to see two middle aged men looking at us bemused. One came into our camp, picked up the empty water bottles, and walked away with his friend, throwing one last look at us, laughing.

Aside from the two middle-aged men, we woke to this beautiful sunrise.

Aside from the two middle-aged men, we woke to this beautiful sunrise.

It was butt early, but the sun was up, so were we. We felt groggy, sandy and sore. The beach might be a beautiful place to fall asleep on, but its not so comfortable to wake on. We made PB & J sandwiches on smushed bread, packed up our stuff, and called the driver to meet us. The beach had a ton of trash

strewn everywhere, but we dutifully picked up our trash, put it in a big box, and left it on the side of the road, away from the beach. We knew it would probably end up being kicked over, rooted through by recyclers and the rest left to blow back onto the beach, but there was no garbage cans anywhere, and hey, we tried.

We squeezed back into the tiny van and fell asleep on the ride back. After that, the holiday was pretty much over. We still had a few days (one friend cooked dinner one night, we also went to a bar), but basically it was over. I’m paying for the late nights with a cold but it was totally worth it. This was without a doubt the most fun I’ve had on National Day since I’ve been to China, and I have my new friends to thank for it.

And all this just after a few weeks? What will the following year bring?

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A Peek at How I Meet Guys in China

Okay, so I know you gossip mongers wanna know about my love life. New city, all new group of guys to meet, right?

I’m a modern woman, and the best way to meet people is online. I use an app called momo. I’ve written about it before. Its a dating app, location sensitive, and you can talk, send pics, chat etc. It’s entirely in Chinese, no english version, so you gotta be fluent-ish to use it. And not a lot of foreigners are on it, especially foreign women. Also in my profile I say I can speak chinese (in Chinese) so I get a lot of people contacting me. How many? Well, in 3 weeks I have over 500 contact requests that I didn’t reply to. So yeah, a lot.

So how do I chose who to respond to? Well, I have two little rules.

First, no one under 24. I live on campus and there are a few universities in the area, and I think anything with a student, even if they aren’t mine, is just wrong. Also, that’s one hell of an age difference.

Second, they have to have a real picture. Of themselves. It’s unbelievable how many guys just have a picture of a car, or a tree, or a Japanese cartoon character. What girl is ever going to respond to that?

Although even if they do have a picture, you gotta learn to spot the fakes. One guy had a pretty cute picture, but his age was 35. His picture looked younger. But maybe he aged well? So I asked. He said it wasn’t a real picture, just one of some guy he thought was good looking.

“I’m uglier than this picture,” he said. “I’m old looking.”

“Don’t girls get mad at you for lying when they meet you?” I asked.

“Luckily, I’ve never met a girl from this app.” He said

“Isn’t that kind of the purpose?” I asked.

“You meet people?!” he asked me seemingly shocked. Our conversation didn’t last long, but I appreciated his naive honesty.

Some profile pics are real, but not exactly attractive? Does this guy really think his gut is going to win him dates?

Some profile pics are real, but not exactly attractive? Does this guy really think his gut is going to win him dates?

Those two rules weed out the bulk of people and the rest I chose, quite shallowly, on looks and their profile. Some guys admit they are married, directly in their profile. There is only one purpose of momo, and no married guy should be looking for that. So those guys I avoid.

But sometimes they don’t say, so it’s a question I bring up pretty early in the conversation. “Are you married?” One guy said, “yeah.” And then, “Wanna go on a date?” When I replied that NO I didn’t want to go out with a married guy he defended himself by saying “It’s okay because my wife lives somewhere else.” No buddy, that ain’t okay.

Another guy told me he was married, and several days later asked me to go out. I said, “No, you’re married.”

He said, “No I’m not, I’m single!”

“You already told me,” I replied.

“You have a good memory.”

Yeesh.

But if I like the looks of a guy, and his profile, I’ll chat back. Some guys are interesting because their approaches are more unique. Most of the time I just get “hey beauty,” or “I really want to meet you” or even “make love?” But those I tend not to respond to. Instead I like the people who start with something more interesting.

One guy I was chatting with said that I wasn’t a foreigner, but in fact we were from the same hometown. “Oh, I’m Chinese now? ” I asked him.

“We are neighbors,” he replied. “We’re living in a global village, so of course we’re neighbors.” I thought that was cute and way better than the “I love America, especially the NBA,” which I hear all the time.

And instead of asking me if I’m really a foreigner, another guy asked me if I was from mars. And could I speak martian? Points for making me laugh at least.

Momo in china

This was a weird approach, It says “are you there?” and then he calls me “mom” twice.

I chat with a guy for several days before I agree to meet them, just to get a feeling for them. If they start to say stuff like, “I miss you” before I even meet them, or insist on me doing things, like cooking for them, I think they are too clingy and not what I’m looking for. I usually give them a little warning like, “You shouldn’t say that,” or “I’m not your wife, I’m not going to cook for you.” But some don’t get the message.

I was chatting with this guy and he just wasn’t getting it. One night he asked what I was doing and I said making dinner. He said “Why didn’t you call me! I’ll come right over!” I was like no, not interested in making you dinner and he kept saying, again and again, “You can make me dinner everyday.” I kept saying no, there was no way I was going to do that, and finally he said, “I can make you dinner.”

“Great idea.” I replied.

“I was just kidding,” he replied. “I only eat your food, I don’t cook.” I haven’t chatted with him since.

And then there was this guy. He failed my profile picture test (the only pic he had was of a tree.) So I didn’t respond. But that didn’t put him off and he kept contacting me day after day. Notice the dates as you read through them.

 

momo convomomomomomomo in china

momo in china

momo in china

 

momo in china

momo in china

Finally, just to get him to shut up I wrote back in Chinese saying I didn’t respond to people without pictures. He then asked if I was Chinese. I said no. Then he asked if I was a foreigner.

“If I’m not Chinese then obviously I’m a foreigner, right?!”

He had been contacting me non-stop for days and THIS is what he asks me when I finally write back? It was just a bit too dumb for me and I stopped writing back. He STILL continues to contact me.

I’ll admit I have a really good time using this app and chatting with people. It’s great for my Chinese, especially my writing, and I just like meeting new people and getting to know things about the area. Even if I never meet them I just get a good idea of the area, and have gotten some great information about things going on. And I get to meet a bunch of handsome guys in the process? Win-win.

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