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: , , , | 4 Comments

The Pressures of a Culture Not Your Own

Living in another culture makes you change more than just your habits.

Living in another culture makes you change more than just your habits.

Because I’m a foreigner living in China, people often say how lucky I am to not be chinese. They don’t mean it in a negative way, but usually when some pressure is building and they don’t like it. Like, pressure to get married.

“You’re so lucky to not be Chinese. I’m only 25 but my parents are already giving me so much pressure to get married and have a baby.”

Or

“You don’t have a car? Oh, your so lucky to not be Chinese. I need to buy a car before I can find a girl willing to marry me.”

As a foreigner I don’t need to abide by customary rules here. I can stick my chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice, disrespect elders, not eat all of the food given to me at a banquet, give a clock as a gift and all that rudeness will be forgotten with a simple “she’s a foreigner, she doesn’t know.”

And I have said it many times, especially in regards to marriage and filial piety. Many of my friends and students are miserable in their life choices, but it pleases their parents so they continue. “Glad I’m not Chinese!” I told my gay friend when he said he would marry a girl rather than come out to his parents.

But do I really escape the pressures of Chinese culture? The answer is no. Maybe I din’t have as much pressures, but living in a culture, and taking the time to understand it, kind of adds pressures that you never expected to crumble under.

I remember, even in the beginning when I knew very little of China, my ex would carry the bags after shopping. In China the men always carry bags, from shopping to purses. My ex fell under that pressure pretty quickly, because if people saw us walking, him with no bags and me with one or two, they would clearly disapprove. “What’s wrong with him?” you could hear them thinking. So he would carry the bags.

Or my age. In Hangzhou, I started lying about my age. Because the aunties on the street who would talk to me made a big deal out of me being over 30 and not married. I’d have to sit through conversation after conversation about all the single guys they knew who I could marry. (In China, being over 30 and not married is culturally verboten. You are seen as a freak or something is “wrong” with you.)

I find myself falling into this mind frame more than I’d like to admit. When I meet a single guy over the age of 28 I’m always on alert. “What’s wrong with him?” I find myself thinking. Cause if he was normal and cool and funny, he would have been married off long before.

But I hate that way of thinking! And kick myself every time I do it. Maybe the guy just likes freedom, maybe he is fighting his own culture wars and insisting that he does things in life in his own terms. I should be giving him the benefit of the doubt, but usually my first thought is suspicion.

And I’m not the only one. Recently Jocelyn over at Speaking of China wrote how the fact that she didn’t have a car to drive home for Spring Festival brought her to tears. She’s American and in America, owning a car is not at all a big deal. If you had to take a plane, or train back home for Christmas and had your parents pick you up at the station, not a problem. No one would think less of you. But in China, car ownership is a bigger deal. It’s a sign of success. Or if you don’t have one, it is seen as a sign of failure. And her reaction, her tears and frustration, was a reaction to culture pressures. Chinese culture pressures. I don’t blame her at all because I know how she feels.

Even the different local cultures affects me. In Hangzhou, on the bus, people were very stingy with giving up their seat on the bus. Only for a very decrepit person who could barely walk, would they do it. As a result, I found myself being stingy too. But here in Xiamen it is totally different. People pop up to someone with even a hint of age. Children as old as 10 gets seats immediately (even though many times they don’t want to sit.) People here are much more generous with seats on a bus, and as a result, I am too.

And I find myself admiring friends who buck convention. Like the couple where the woman is older than the man (crazy in China) or my friend who is mid-30’s and still single by choice. Or anyone who is divorced. I really admire them because I know how hard it is. And how much shit they have to deal with on a daily basis from a culture that dissaproves of their actions.

I’ll admit that part of the freedom of traveling is not being constrained by the rules of culture. There is a freedom of coming to a new place and just kind of blundering your way through things. But as you get more involved, and as you get a deeper understanding, things change. You slowly, and almost unconsciously, begin to adopt the unwritten rules of the culture you are living in. It’s not good or bad. It just is.

Categories: China, Chinese Culture | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

The Oldest Piece of Clothing I Use Everyday

Let’s get into the “way back ” machine.

The year is 1996. I’m a mere sophomore in college, on a European backpacking adventure with my college roommate Amy. There have been three Wallace and Gromit short films, stop-motion animation done by a Aaardman Animation, a studio based in England. They aren’t very popular in America, but as a film major, specializing in animation, I had seen and loved all the animated shorts. I was a HUGE Wallace and Gromit fan and happy to discover all sorts of Wallace and Gromit merchandise while traveling in England.

I bought a black shirt with Gromit in a yellow rainslicker. (From the short The Wrong Trousers.) That was almost 20 years ago. It’s now lying on my bed next to me as I type this. This shirt has outlasted my marriage, traveled to more than 20 countries, and helps me sleep at night.

In 1996, the shirt, my friend Amy and I got free champagne from the gondolier as it was his birthday. He was drunk as a skunk and crooned us all kinds of songs as we paddled around the canals.

In 1996, the shirt, my friend Amy and I got free champagne from the gondolier in Venice as it was his birthday. He was drunk as a skunk and crooned us all kinds of songs as we paddled around the canals.

I don’t know quite why this shirt survived so long. It’s not especially attractive or high quality. It’s compact, and I love the picture which might be one of the reasons it came with me when I traveled around the world in 1999-2000.

Me and my shirt painting a didgeridoo in the Australian outback in the year 1999 or 2000.

Me and my shirt painting a didgeridoo in the Australian outback in the year 1999.

It was one of the items of clothing I had washed in Indonesia in the year 2000. To make sure the clothes didn’t get mixed up, the washer woman put a small colored thread in each item of clothing to mark the owner. That thread is still in the shirt 15 years later.

The piece of thread identifying the clothes as mine.

The piece of thread identifying the clothes as mine.

 

As time went by it got thinner and softer. I have trouble sleeping when there is any light in the room, and I don’t like sleeping masks. One morning, as the rising sun began to trickle into my bedroom, I reached out for a shirt, grabbed this one, and covered my eyes with it. A habit was born and in 2005, long after it was no longer wearable, the shirt came with me to China to help keep the light out of my eyes.

The shirt now.

The shirt now.

I haven’t worn it in years, but I use it daily. I don’t need to use this shirt to cover my eyes, but I prefer it over others. And it has become a sort of trigger to tell me it is time to sleep. (I wouldn’t go as far to say it has become a security blanket, I don’t bring it with me when I travel and I sleep just fine. But it does make me feel better when I have it.)

What the oldest piece of clothing you still have?

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

The Expat Life of Constant Goodbyes

Toi Anite, On ne t'oubliera jamais.

Toi Anite, On ne t’oubliera jamais.

Being an expat means your group of friends is constantly revolving. Being an English teacher means July is filled with tears and goodbyes and September is filled with hello’s. But in Xiamen, my friend circle includes more that just teachers which means they can leave at any time of the year.

The latest casualty is my friend Anite. I met her a few months after I first arrived at frisbee. She and some of her other friends were the ones who invited me to archery, fun parties with homemade food and night hikes. Since I started hanging out with her I have explored new parts of Xiamen, and made friends with a whole new group of people. She’s French and was in China for two years on a work program set-up by the french government. Her program just ended and Saturday night we had a big part at the batting cages to say goodbye. Sniff. Sniff.

About 50 people gathered Saturday at the batting cages to say goodbye to Anite.

About 50 people gathered Saturday at the batting cages to say goodbye to Anite. Not pictured: batting cages.

This constant saying goodbye to people quickly becomes a part of an expat’s life. And as a result I think it makes all of us a bit more zen about relationships. When you meet someone you kinda never know how long you will be friends with them. Perhaps just for 6-months, like Anite and I. Or perhaps 4 years, like a former co-worker of mine from Lin’an, who is now in Xiamen with me. The point is, you never know.

As a result, I think expats form a different kind of friendship than other people. You learn quickly to just open yourself up to a new person. Back at home friendships start slow. It’s hard to break into a group of established people and things start slowly. A few chance meetings, then maybe a coffee or occasional lunch and then regular chatting and hanging out. But with expats I feel like the whole process is condensed.

You open yourself up quicker. You forgo the usual waiting periods of propriety and start inviting them to do things right away. The normal questions, such as “what do you do?” are replaced with asking about where they are from and how long they have been in China. Truth is I had no idea what Anite did until after her final day. She told me she had her last day at work and I was like, “wait, what do you do?” In almost 6-months it had just never come up. We were too busy just being friends and doing fun things.

Anite was one of the ones to invite me to do fun things like archery. She was pretty bad ass at it too.

Anite was one of the ones to invite me to do fun things like archery. She was pretty bad ass at it too.

I guess you could say being an expat has made me much more Buddhist. Don’t be sad about the past and miss all the people you met, don’t fret about the future and all the people you will have to say goodbye to. Just pay attention to the now. Don’t be shy or coy or you might miss an opportunity for a great friendship, no matter how short. After all, that’s what most travelers and expats look for, right? Change, experience, seeing the world and meeting the people in it. Goodbyes are a big part of that.

So bye Anite. I’m really sad that you are leaving. But I’m even more happy that we met.

Xiamen life

Categories: China, Traveling, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

My Chinese Students Draw Themselves

Like most things in China, getting your schedule and class list is a last minute thing. Despite it being prepared months ago, I didn’t get my schedule until three days before class started. And I only got it that early because I bugged as many people as I could. (If I didn’t bother anyone with several e-mails I would have gotten my schedule the morning before class started. Sigh.)

Even after the first week of class I still haven’t gotten a class list. Something about it not even being in the computer system. But I’m required to take attendance everyday. So what to do?

I gave my students a piece of paper and told them to write down their name and student number. Then I gave them three minutes and said “draw a picture of yourself.”

I was curious to see how they would react to it. They don’t do things like that in class here. And I was afraid if I gave them too much time, like 5 minutes, they would take out their phones and copy a picture from the internet. I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Some students had some trouble with it:

Three tries, obviously not happy with it.

Three tries, obviously not happy with it.

First was realism. Then minimalism.

First was realism. Then minimalism.

Perhaps a bit too shy to go for it.

Perhaps a bit too shy to go for it.

I like to think the expression on this face was the students feeling of frustration of drawing.

I like to think the expression on this face was the students feeling of frustration of drawing.

But some students just went for it. Even though they giggled at how bad their drawing were, and they tried to shy away from me in embarrassment when I collected them, I think they did a great job and I saw their unique styles shine through.

Teaching English

Teaching English

Teaching English

Teaching English

Teaching English

Teaching English

Teaching English

I got the idea from a Lynda Barry book called Syllabus. The book is her class syllabus for when she taught writing. The book has a ton of ideas for sparking creativity and I’m going to try to sneak some into class this semester. These students aren’t used to foreign teachers, and our “wacky” teaching styles. They were a tough nut to crack last semester (especially compared to my babies from last year). But I think after one semester I’ve broken them in a little and they feel a bit safer doing unusual things and saying unusual things.

I’ll let you know in 15 weeks how my grand scheme worked out.

 

Categories: China, Teaching English | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Lantern Festival: Such a Pretty Name for Such a Loud Day

The Spring Festival holiday officially ends on the 15th day of the lunar new year, with the Lantern Festival. This is a day when you look at beautiful lanterns, answer some riddles written on lanterns and eat a special food called tang yuan.

And oh yeah, fireworks.

I think y’all know by now how much I hate fireworks. I’ve been complaining about them since my first Spring Festival in China. Miraculously, this year in Xiamen, it wasn’t so bad! Sure, there was a barrage on New Years Eve at midnight, but I was up and everyone went to watch them. There were a few the next day, but aside from some asshole setting out 3 loud fireworks, every 10 minutes at 1am one night (ensuring you got no sleep), it was a quiet Spring Festival.

But today, during Lantern Festival, the world outside was exploding. I was trying to teach class and had to talk over the constant barrage of firecrackers somewhere in town. When class ended, the fireworks were still going off. I went back to my room and tried to watch an episode of House of Cards but the fireworks were too distracting. I looked, and saw smoke not too far away, and thought I should go look.

“But when I get out there I’m sure they’ll stop,” I thought to myself. 5 minutes….10 minutes….15 minutes later they were still going strong. At 20 minutes I paused Netflix, grabbed my shoes and headed out to see what was going on.

This is what I found:

My first stop was a nearby park where I thought they might be setting them off. I didn't see any in action, but I saw evidence of it.

My first stop was a nearby park where I thought they might be setting them off. I didn’t see any in action, but I saw evidence of it.

As I headed to the central part of town I saw smoking piles showing I was getting closer.

As I headed to the central part of town I saw smoking piles showing I was getting closer.

Following the sound of firecrackers echoing off buildings, I finally saw people moving towards the explosions. I followed them.

Following the sound of firecrackers echoing off buildings, I finally saw people moving towards the explosions. I followed them.

Bingo!

Bingo!

Call me an overcautious parent but I would not let my kid walk around in the remnants of firecrackers that literally stopped exploding 30 seconds before I took this pic.

Call me an overcautious parent but I would not let my kid walk around in the smoldering  remnants of firecrackers that literally stopped exploding 30 seconds before I took this pic.

Fireworks in Xiamen, China

Fireworks in Xiamen, China.

Fireworks in Xiamen

I tried to avoid walking on the wrappers of the recently exploded firecrackers lest one happened to go ff. But seeing as every sidewalk was blanketed in them, I couldn't avoid it.

I tried to avoid walking on the wrappers of the recently exploded firecrackers lest one happened to go off. But seeing as every sidewalk was blanketed in them, I couldn’t avoid it.

I counted almost 2 dozen street cleaners quickly sweep the street after each display.

I counted almost 2 dozen street cleaners quickly sweep the street after each display.

I took a few videos and I’ll try to edit something up to show you, because being in the midst of all this way absolutely crazy. But also totally fun.

At night I ate the special food of the holiday called tang yuan. These are glutenous rice balls with some sort of filling on the inside. Traditional flavors are sesame paste, red bean and peanut sauce. Modern flavors are strawberry, blueberry and I found a new line with tea flavors like jasmine and chrysanthemum.

Fruit flavors!

Fruit flavors!

You boil them in water and the outer glutenous rice layer gets all warm and chewy while the middle gets soft and liquidy. Sooo good.

Gooey, drippy peanut butter type sauce in the middle of my tang yuan. Sweet and chewy.

Gooey, drippy peanut butter type sauce in the middle of my tang yuan. Sweet and chewy.

So I had an interesting Lantern Festival. Turns out most of Xiamen was quiet with my district having the “honor” of all the firecrackers. And I’m glad I got to experience it. But can we stop now? Puh-leeease?!

Categories: China, Chinese Culture | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Spring Festival in Pics or How I Maybe Went a Little Overboard in Preperation

So Spring Festival has come and gone. Though technically not finished (that will be on March 5th with the Lantern Festival) the break is over and classes have started up again.

I usually get the hell out of China during this time period because it is such a pain to stay here. Constant fireworks, all shops closed. Daily life is annoying. The one time I stayed in my former school for the holiday was a nightmare. Every single shop and restaurant was closed for a week except for a little noodle shop, about a 15 minute bike ride away. I didn’t know what Xiamen would be like, but I stocked up on frozen food, toiletries, fruits and veggies. I was ready for anything.

Spring Festival Eve, the night where everyone gathers and eats a big meal, was spent with friends. Mostly foreigners we made ourselves a traditional Chinese dinner, with dumplings, fish and veggies. Then we hung out, listened to my friends music, and watched the cacophony of fireworks at midnight. Dinner taken care of.

Our dinner. Dumplings, (traditional), fish, and veggies.

Our dinner. Dumplings, (traditional), fish, and veggies.

The dinner gang.

The dinner gang. Nothing fancy. But dinner is about friends and family and we met that requirement and had fun doing it. 

Got to hear my very musical friends play some songs. "I'm a scotsmaaaaaan!"

Got to hear my very musical friends play some songs. “I’m a scotsmaaaaaan!”

The next day, New Years Day, my friend Rebecca came over and we made cookies. I had a Betty Crocker mix I got a few weeks ago, and she brought over some oranges (traditional for New Years) and a bunch of snacks. Cookies and snack food? I was stuffed and again didn’t touch my food.

It was the first time Rebecca had ever made cookies using a Betty Crocker mix.

It was the first time Rebecca had ever made cookies using a Betty Crocker mix.

We offered our cookies to the Sheep for good luck in the upcoming year.

We offered our cookies to the Sheep for good luck in the upcoming year.

The next day, my friend Nick and I hiked a mountain with a Temple on the grounds. Tradition decree that everyone goes to temples during Spring Festival, and there were dozens of vendors selling all kinds of food and snacks to the hundred of worshipers. Again, after spending the whole day out, my own food was not touched.

Spring fest 2015

The temples were more like amusement parks.

The temples were more like amusement parks with so many vendors selling things. 

During Spring Festival you should go to the temple and burn money for your ancestors. With thousands of people burning paper all day along, the fires were raging.

During Spring Festival you should go to the temple and burn money for your ancestors. With thousands of people burning paper all day along, the fires were raging.

Lighting incense is also an important part of Spring Festival traditions.

Lighting incense is also an important part of Spring Festival traditions.

The next day was frisbee practice and afterwards my friend invited me over for homemade (friggin delicious) pizza. Again, no dinner at home!

Spring fest 2015

*drool* My friend added so much cheese. It was amazing.

*drool* My friend added so much cheese. It was amazing.

It went on and on like that for days. I think the first time I ate a meal in my own home after Spring Festival was about 6? or was it 7 days later. All the meat in my fridge had spoiled.

Spring fest 2015

I guess the two bottles of shampoo was also a bit of an overkill. 

I guess I didn’t need to worry. Aside from a few nights of fireworks, which didn’t go too late, things were quiet in my neighborhood. I was so busy with friends and activities I barely noticed if the shops were open and closed and I didn’t touch my “disaster supplies.” I don’t know why I thought I would be huddled in my house, alone, for days but that’s what i kind of imagined. The actual event was totally the opposite.

At least I was smart enough to stock up on a lot of frozen foods. Now I don’t have to go shopping for weeks!

 

 

 

 

Categories: China, Chinese Culture, Chinese Food | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

How to Manage a Writer’s Retreat in Your Hometown

I am more tea than man now.

I am more tea than man now.

How times flies! It seems like only yesterday I was announcing my writer’s retreat and here it is all over and done with. It was the first time I have attempted one of these in the place I live, and I was  successful I thought I’d share my strategy with you.

Make it Public

I made a big to-do on all my social media accounts, especially WeChat, the chat app I use the most. This was good for several reasons.

One – I’m a big chatter and announcing I would be focusing on my writing and chatting only at night, stopped a lot of people from contacting me, or they waited until night when I was free.

Two – It forced me to be accountable. When I would meet my friends they would always ask, “How’s the writing?” It gave me a weird sense of duty and since I had made such a big fuss of it, I felt like I had to show something for my efforts.

Three – Encouragement! I put constant updates on my Wechat and Facebook and people were really nice and encouraging me to continue. I wasn’t raring to go everyday. In fact someday I had to drag myself out the door (more on that in a second) and getting encouragement from people was really helpful on the cranky, tired days.

Some people also said I had inspired them to focus on writing and several former and current students asked me how they could start writing too. Thinking that someones article or story wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t made a big deal out of my writing is one of the best motivations ever.

Get out of the House

My place is waaay too full of distractions (damn you internet!) so getting out was essential. I like going to new places and going to new coffee shops and this served a few purposes. It gave me a new environment to write in and I got to explore this city. I am now master of the bus system.

Know Your Creative Times

I’m not one of those writers that wakes up at 5:30am and writes until noon. Neither am I a night owl, scribbling away by candle light. I’m an afternoon writer. Starting around noon is perfect for me. So everyday I would wake up slowly, shower, eat breakfast, check the internet and by 10:30-11 I was ready to go out.

I get antsy and sitting down for 2 to 3 hours is about my limit. I have a built in body timer: my bladder. I’d pee before sitting down, and after drinking tea the whole time I’d usually have to pee in less than 3 hours. So I’d pack up, pee, and take a long walk to clear my head before sitting down at another cafe for awhile. When dinner time would roll around, I’d call it a day and head back home.

The best part of this kind of schedule is that I could get lunch out. I have a few nice cafes that I liked to go to for lunch. Writing on a full stomach was always a way to get a lot done. Which brings me to my next point….

I found a cafe with a bagel with cream cheese and lox! (Thought it's not that good.) Also a bratwurst with sauerkraut. These are rare delicacies in China.

I found a cafe with a bagel with cream cheese and lox! (Thought it’s not that good.) Also a bratwurst with sauerkraut. These are rare delicacies in China.

Don’t be Above Bribing Yourself

Some days getting out the door was tough. I didn’t want to shower, I didn’t want to pack up my bag, and I just wanted to stay inside watching movies. I’d have to bribe myself. “How about a sushi lunch? Let’s get a sushi lunch and then you can go to the Starbucks nearby and write.” or “If you go to Ma’an Coffee, I’ll let you buy anything you want. A giant waffle with ice cream? Sure, not a problem.”

I’m not above treating myself like a whiny 6-year-old child. And it totally worked.

Don't judge me.

Don’t judge me.

Track Your Progress

I had a little book in which I wrote the day number, the place(s) I went and how much I wrote. This also had a few purposes (I like things with lots of purposes).

One – I could track my progress and see how I improved over time. The first week I started writing about 3,000-4,000 words a day and then I progressed to a point I was writing 7,000+ words everyday. (In the same amount of time.) By charting myself I could see that action begets action, and the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.

My friend was in the area and stopped by while I was writing. He also has notebooks so I showed off my little notebook I tracked my daily writing.

My friend was in the area and stopped by while I was writing. He also has notebooks so I showed off my little notebook I tracked my daily writing. I know I look batshit crazy in this pic, but just go with it.

Two – I have a competitive streak. Seeing those numbers grow everyday just wanted me to make then grow more. If I had written 4,000 words the day before I always wanted to beat that. And then 5,000 words I wanted to beat, then 6,000 and so on. I ended up averaging 5,617 words a day. My highest day was right near the end. I wrote 8, 438 words in one day.

Know When to Take a Break

My plan was to write monday-friday and not see any friends or chat at all, then take a break on the weekends. I didn’t strictly follow that. I went out to dinner with friends some weeknights, and I wrote on some weekends. But as the time progressed, I began to feel a but burnt out. One powerhouse of a day, with over 8,000 words written, was followed by a sluggish day with only 2,000 something words. I knew I was close to burn-out and the next weekend I didn’t do a stitch of writing.

Sometimes even whike writing you need to take a beak, like the time I caught my stretched out reflection on the teapot. I took several selfies before getting back to work.

Sometimes even while writing you need to take a break, like the time I caught my stretched out reflection on the teapot. I took several selfies before getting back to work.

My writers Retreat by the numbers:

Days of writers retreat: 28

Actual days of writing: 20

Money spent at cafes: $163 (!!) Those $5 tea lattes add up quick

Amount of words written: 101,100 — that’s 458 pages. That’s more than 22 pages a day. Phew!

The “official” writers retreat is over, but actually I really liked it. So I’m gonna keep it up for the rest of the holiday (though less strictly) and once I’m working again I’ll dedicate a day or two every week totally to writing.

As the well-known mantra goes: your destiny is made up of your habits. I made writing a habit, and I noticed a real shift in my thinking and way of writing. In fact, I think this is one of my favorite holidays since living in China. I know I say it every holiday but this time I mean it! (Okay, I always mean it, hahaha.) But I feel like I really accomplished something more than just writing a book. I feel an entire shift in perception. And I had a really good time! I made new friends, got closer to some old friends, tried new things and explored new places. If that’s not a win for a holiday, I don’t know what is.

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

Uncivilized Foreign Tourists Running Rampant in China

Some things are too funny to let pass unremarked upon. One of the latest gems comes from the People’s Daily, a government run newspaper.

Lately, and with very good reason, Chinese tourists have been in the news. In 2013 a teenager grafffit’d a 3,500 year old Egyptian temple. Then there was the family that let their child poop in the aisle of an airplane instead of bringing him to the toilet. Chinese people littered the Maldives so much that President Xi Jiping had to ask them to stop eating so many ramen noodles and littering. And who can forget the Chinese traveler who opened the emergency door on the plane to “get some fresh air,” and then another one, and another.

Truth is Chinese tourists are so notoriously misbehaved that the government is making it a priority to teach travelers manners, and even other countries, like Thailand, are taking their own steps to ensure Chinese tourists act better. (Thailand has printed up pamphlets in Mandarin to tell tourists not to pee or poop on the street, follow traffic laws, and don’t touch things in a museum.)

So, that’s not the funny part. (For the record, average Chinese people are just as shocked by these behaviors as we are. It’s not at all condoned and yet they keep happening.) The funny part is apparently, someone got sick of Chinese tourists being the bad guys, so they turned the tables.

The People’s Daily published this info graph showing foreign tourists behaving badly in China, and all the uncultured things they have been caught doing. I’ll explain it below.

People's Daily Inforgrapg

I’m the last one to defend the idiot Americans and Europeans that come here, but the examples they picked for the infograph are just so hilariously bad. The first one is about girls in Cambodia who got busted for taking pics of them mooning in Ankor Wat. It’s a temple, and so disrespectful to be naked that the women immediately got deported. But c’mon China, it happened in another country.

The second picture shows tourists camping on the Great Wall (from 2009! Couldn’t they get a newer incidence?). It’s verboten to camp on the Great Wall, but anyone who has been there knows, it is done openly by many people–including Chinese. The locals have a whole market going on for renting sleeping bags and tents to people that want to do it.

The third one is the funniest one to me. It’s a few foreign guys who got off the bus and peed on the street.  That is the kettle calling the pot black. Or more like the color black calling a pot black. You cannot walk the streets of China for more than 5 minutes without seeing someone pee on the street. Actually you can’t even walk the stores of China without seeing someone pee. I’ve seen two, count ‘em, two kids pee on the floor in Walmart. With their parents encouraging them. And if you have ever taken a bus ride and got caught in traffic, you will see the entire male population of the bus pissing on the side of the road, and about half the females. If you’ve been unlucky, and I have, you’ll even see numerous people pissing on the stairwell of a moving bus because they have nowhere else to go and the driver won’t stop.

The next picture shows a foreigner from way back in 2007 swimming where he is not supposed to be swimming. That’s quite common in China. So one tourist who did it? Almost 7 years ago? A stretch.

The last bit is just “gotcha” pictures of tourists doing such atrocities as taking up too much space on a bench, sitting in a tree, doing dangerous things like standing on a railing for a picture and the father and son who dare, dare, to drop a bunch of popcorn on the ground.

I’m the first one to rail against arrogant tourist, and if the Chinese Government actually called some out, I’d be behind them. But these examples? These slightest infraction spanning years? It’s just too hilarious to take serious. I’ve seen foreign tourists do way worse things with my own eyes. (Like being abusive to Chinese people because they don’t speak English, or saying and doing openly racist things, or drunk shenanigans.) Either this newspaper didn’t look very hard to find bad examples or foreigners have been very lucky to not have pics taken of them when they are being dicks.

And really, I’m just disappointing in the government. Then can do propaganda waaay better than this. They must be too busy cracking down on the internet and keeping 50 Shades of Grey off download sites they let this one slip through their fingers.

Categories: China, Chinese Culture | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Nominated! Help a Girl Out!

So I was nominated for the lotus blossom award! It’s for bloggers who write about Chinese love, given by Jeff over at my-new-chinese-love.com.

Please, please, PLEASE vote for me.

It’s super easy, no registration or e-mail required. Just go to this website and click “Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker.” and hit submit. It should take you like 1 second. And if you want to use your cell phone, ipad and work computer to vote for me several times I wouldn’t complain. (I’m guessing you could clear your cookies and vote again as well, if you are really dedicated.)

I was nominated last year, but lost to the rock star who also blogs and is married to a Chinese guy. The other nominees include my friends like Jocelyn, Jo and Sara. All awesome people with awesome blogs. But there are no friends in awards and I wanna beat them! Bwahaha.

Thank you for voting and helping me!

IMG_3953

Every time you vote for me, a new Chinglish is born. Do it for the chinglish!

 

 

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