Thursday, March 29, 2007

Jia's aunt is visiting Shenzhen this week. She's a really nice woman--it's just difficult talking to her since she doesn't know English and my Chinese is limited. It's also hard to understand some of the simple things she says because it's Sichuanese. Anyway, it seems she understands foreigners quite well. She took it upon herself to bring a gift for me before I become part of the family. She said she thought all foreigners would like this: coffee. Wow, is she ever right.
Only one problem with the coffee: it's finely ground. I only have a cheap French press and the coarse grounds usually go through the screen. ALL the grounds go through if it's finely ground. Guess I'll have to learn to make Turkish-style coffee now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fast Food News

Interesting article about Burger King here.

Apparently, they are going to use cage-free chicken eggs and uncrated pigs for their food. It seems they want to accomodate animals rights activists.

Some problems with their plan: Sure this is a good idea, but animal rights activists will probably never eat at Burger King. And what about their beef? Plus, they will only use 2 percent cage-free eggs and 10 percent uncrated pork.

Does this mean Burger King will be healthier? Of course not. It just says that they are trying to be more economically/environmentally responsible. Will I eat at Burger King (if there was one in China)? Nope. I still don't like fast food.

Monday, March 26, 2007


More bad news lately. My apartment is a little moldy. They sure screwed up when they refurbished this place. The phone line was so damaged that the phone company had to run the wires through the door to hook up my Internet service. The bathroom has two drains--one doesn't work and the other is so small that the floor is constantly wet. There's also a huge mosquito population just outside the door that get in every time I go out. Hmm... I better watch for Dengue Fever soon or invest in a bug zapper.

But mold is getting bad in this humid climate. My wonderful propaganda poster that I purchased in Beijing is growing mold now. This means I have to spend another 15 kuai on a new one before I go home for the summer. So, today I must go out in search of a dehumidifier--I'm told they do exist and I was even given a wonderful note in Chinese about them.

On another note, last week I worked a ton of hours. But it's worth it. In two and a half weeks, I have made enough money to live for well for two months. I also got some positive feedback from my students via my boss. They were worried my classes weren't interactive enough--now they apparently are just fine. It just took a little while for me to get accustomed to my new materials and students.

Friday, March 23, 2007

D'oh! Again!

Once again the all-powerful government has blocked access to the blogs. Due to the "threat" of blogs, many foreign run blogging companies are blocked (including blogspot). This means that I can no longer read any blogs that are on this server or a few others. I suppose I can find some software to get around the great firewall. Until then, just know that if I am a regular reader of your blog, I probably won't be reading for a while.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's nice to see that I'm finally getting respect at work in China. I was asked yesterday if I was free today to teach for an hour that I wasn't originally scheduled to teach. I said sure, no problem. My boss sounded surprised at my willingness. "But you have a lot of work this week," she said. "No, I don't," was my response. As long as they pay me what they say they do and they do it on time, I'm more than happy to work more hours. The students are great, they actually appreciate having class. And my co-workers are still very friendly. I still haven't met any other foreign teachers since my interview more than two months ago. But maybe I'll get that chance tonight.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Wake up call

This is what's been waking me up early every morning:

What you can't see in the photo are the three pile drivers running almost non-stop. Fortunately, they do discontinue the noise at about 8pm so I can have a few hours of sleep before the loud banging shakes the apartment. My apartment doesn't even face the direction of the construction, but it's still loud and clear. I wish there was someplace nearby with Wi-Fi so I could work without the clamour.

Echoing metallic pounding is too cacophonous for my ears.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Kitchen Sink

Friday, the water was shut off in the neighborhood--probably because of all the construction across the street. When the water came back on, I noticed a problem with the sink. The water now trickles out. It seems that I have a block in the pipes, probably caused by all the dirt that got caught inside during the water shutdown.
Yesterday, Jia stopped by the community office to ask about getting the problem fixed. They said they'd be right over. We watched TV for almost two hours and no one showed up to fix the kitchen sink. Maybe today they'll come.
In other situations I'd simply use the bathroom sink (located conveniently next to the kitchen) but that sink has been broken since I moved in. If I turn on the water, it just leaks through the bottom rather than the faucet. Maybe I should do my dishes in the shower.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Turning Chinglish

I caught myself speaking Chinglish in class. It was in my introductory class. These students are fairly capable in English and need reinforcement in grammar and pronunciation and it doesn't help when I'm not speaking proper English. I constantly have to stop and think of words--I think I'm forgetting vocabulary. I better start using the Merriam-Webster word of the day more often. It's even affecting my writing. I'll type up a bit of a story and realize that I haven't written complete sentences or that my vocabulary is on a much lower level than it once was.

On another note: I read an interesting article about Chiquita Bananas. Apparently they were paying money to a Columbian terrorist organization so that the organization wouldn't kill its workers. Now Chiquita must pay a hefty fine in the US for this.
Remember the anti-drug campaign of a couple years ago? "Buying pot funds terrorists." Well, what about buying bananas and coffee? Do we know who Juan Valdez and his mule are working for?

SZ Emergencies

According to an article today in the Shenzhen Daily, the local government has implemented a plan to notify the city's 12 million official citizens about natural and other disasters that can endanger the lives of the people. Of course, that leaves out the millions of migrant workers, including foreigners. It also only applies to the Special Economic Zones, of which my district is not part. I guess this means that when the next typhoon hits, the majority of Shenzhen will know a week in advance while this district gets 15 minutes to evacuate. I just wonder how they'll handle any public health incident. Anyone remember Harbin about a year ago? How long did it take to alert the public?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Musical Interlude

On my bus ride home last night I was listening to some Bad Religion. One particular song fit the mood of the day (I won't mention anything about the current situation until I figure out exactly what's going on, so be patient).

Walk Away

"Walk away / I'll be a parade / And I'll be determined that no one shall be swayed / On my way I'll sure take some time / And burn all the bridges that I'm leaving behind."

On another note, I really like my new job. The co-workers are great and friendly. My boss is quite nice as well, even though her English is pretty poor. My students are the best part--they really do want to learn English and they're not afraid to ask questions. I even got some honest feedback about my teaching from a few yesterday. I really do need to slow down in the lower-level classes, but an hour isn't enough time to teach the material.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chinese Photos

As I've mentioned before, Jia and I are engaged. She decided that we should have our wedding photos done soon. For those unware, the tradition in China is to have wedding photos taken by a professional at any time other than the actual wedding. I've heard of people having photos before and after the wedding--in some cases, after the first child is born.
Anyway, I got dragged to some photography studio last night because Jia heard they had a special promotion going on and this was the last day of it. She found what she wanted and liked what they had to offer. I had some questions of my own. "Does the photo album have to have English in it? This English isn't very good." and "So, what borrowed suits do they have for a foreigner to wear?" Yup, they needed to break out the big sizes for a not-so-big foreigner.
I had my choice of suits: Ugly, Damn that's ugly, and What circus threw that away? So, it looks like I will have to supply my own clothes for this thing. Makes me think that they should charge me less for not using their ugly-as-all-hell wardrobe. At least they'll have some nice dresses for Jia. In the end that's all that matters... no one cares what I look like in the photos anyway.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

All work and no play...

Because another foreign teacher is ill, I have been called upon to start work two days early. I don't mind much, it's an extra six hours for the week. In all, I'll make enough this week to pay my rent. Plus, I think this week is in the current pay period, which means I should get paid at the end of March rather than the end of April.
On another note, I'm trying some of the small-time paying web site out there. My feeling so far is, it was a waste of my time. I think I've made a whole $0.40 in the last three days. Hardly seems worth it. I think I'll stick to writing articles for a little cash and adding Google ads on the side for a few extra pennies. The most worthwhile endeavors online so far have been Gather and Associated Content. Gather has it's glitches, but it's more of a fun thing to use anyway. Associated Content pays a little, but I certainly wouldn't give them anything I could potentially sell elsewhere. Most of the writing on that site is pretty bad and you have to dig deep to find anything worth reading. Still, I'll take $10 from them for a hotel review when I have them. A few dollars does go a long way in China.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Ok, looks like I finished my writing assignment. I think it turned out alright, but I'm not completely satisfied with the results. I never realized how difficult it is to fit so much information and colorful language into 250 words. That is a really small space for a hotel description--especially when these are some fancy hotels with a lot to write about.
Well, I just hope the editor is happy and they pay on time.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Caffeinated Chinese Children

Ever wonder why children in China are so hyperactive in class? I think I may have found one answer today.
As our community is having a performance for Lantern Festival, they also have some vendors. Red Bull has a stand that hands out free samples. And everyone I see with a cup of it is a child! I'm not talking about kids who are 13 years old. I mean 5, 6, 7 year olds are drinking this. And the parents are the ones giving it to them.
Makes me glad I no longer teach children here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Children Rant

Some things are universal... like my philosophy. Stupidity begins at home!

I have decided that the reason for stupid acts of children in my neighborhood are caused by a complete lack of parental supervision combined with apathy.

Case 1 from yesterday: As I arrived home from Guangzhou, I watch the children playing in the garden with the parents and grandparents nearby playing cards. One little girl who couldn't have been older than 6 was playing with some dried sticks and leaves. That's when I noticed she had a lighter in her other hand, which she proceeded to attempt to use to light everything on fire. Not a single adult cared.

Case 2 from yesterday: Jia and I went to fill up some water bottles at the filtered water machine in the complex. A boy about the age of 10 watched as we filled up my drinking water for the next day or so. I heard him run and yell for his mother. He came back as we finished and inserted his money. He had no bottle, but he wanted to waste 5 liters of water to wash his hands.

Now, I'm not saying all children are stupid and inconsiderate. I happen to know a few in this area who are very polite and don't go around doing such idiotic things. I am convinced that it is the parents' fault. Maybe they should stop allowing their children to roam around near midnight while they go play mahjong.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


It seems that lately I've had many more options as to how to make a living in China. Everything seems to be going quite well and I'm happy with results so far. I have been offered some small writing gigs to keep me busy as well as some teaching jobs that I'm still not sure that I really want.

The downside of the options is that none are volunteer opportunities--not much out there to help the public in this immense city. The other problem I'm having is getting a domain for a Web site. Everything looks a little off. On one domain purchasing and hosting site, they say they match up the IP address with the contact/billing address. This leads to the problem that my IP is in China while my address is in the US. I was told to try using Wordpress, but the Great Firewall of China apparently has it blocked. Maybe I'll figure something out soon.

And if you have any suggestions, pass them along.