Saturday, June 30, 2007

Some days I should just stay in bed

First off, to the anonymous comment in my previous post about my former employer in China: No, I wouldn't recommend working there unless you want to be a dancing monkey. It was an alright job for my first year here, but things went way downhill and they are continuing on that path. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever move to Bao'an district of Shenzhen. It is quite possibly the worst place in all of China.

Also, if anyone contacts you claiming to be me, please disregard it. I have not and will not send out any e-mail. I consider this space the only verifiable way to make such contact.

On to the story of the day:
I decided to move some of my stuff out of the apartment to store at a friend's place until I return from vacation and move into the new apartment. On my way out, Jia and I were confronted by one of the worthless security guards who informed us that we couldn't go anywhere because he had to make sure we weren't stealing from my landlord. I just walked away with my stuff. I got around the corner and in came the idiot once more on a bike. We began to yell at each other. Jia got really angry. I simply yelled for him to call the police (I figure I know more officers in Bao'an than this fake cop). Instead of calling the police, he called three of his buddies to stop us from going anywhere. Finally, Jia called the landlord who came by and told the guards it was ok and to leave us alone.

I wouldn't mind the whole harassment thing so much if it weren't for the fact that these guards do absolutely nothing all day long. The security gates in my area, including the building, have been broken the last six months. But of course, the guards never ask anyone for ID or to show their gate cards to prove they live there. If there's an accident, they do absolutely nothing. If anyone asked for help, they might grudgingly get off their asses to help, as long as it didn't require much effort.

Thank you Bao'an brown-shirted security guards, today you proved me right that your jobs are worthless.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Friday's Photo

I almost forgot, it's Friday. It's the whole schedule thing I've got going with Fridays off of work. Plus I'm busy planning for vacation soon and packing all my stuff up for the big move.

Anyway, here's this week's photo:

I will soon be back in Xinjiang province to encounter many more street vendors like this one at Tianchi. That barbecued lamb sure sounds good right about now.

It was a full day

Yesterday was pretty good at work. I got the lower-level students talking more than usual (for some reason they want to listen more than talk, which is the complete opposite of the former class of same level). I also had a lot of fun with the two young women in the high level--they taught me a few Chinglish sayings. I'm just glad they're at the point that they recognize direct translations as being really bad and sometimes funny (i.e. Mao's famous saying: "Good good study day day up.")

When I arrived home I was greeted with a very belated gift: my children's books. I had originally loaned these books to a Chinese teacher and asked the senior teacher at Tsinghua Experimental School to return these books back in January. I would have retrieved the books myself, but I was not allowed back on campus to do so. I made numerous polite requests for the return of my books, but being the forgetful one he is, the senior teacher never returned them. Finally, I got fed up and set a deadline.

Here's where it gets interesting: My books we accompanied by a little piece of paper for me to sign stating that I received them. This was not from the senior teacher, but from the director of studies of the language center at Tsinghua Experimental School. This is the same guy who threatened me a few times. Case in point, I was told I would not receive 7000 RMB and I would be "blacklisted" if I didn't hand over my passport so the school could take it to the police immigration office to cancel the visa (which I have found out is not necessary). I was also threatened in March because of an accounting error that "accidentally" paid me two months salary (I think I deserved that money considering I never received a month's notice, thereby breaking my contract). I was told they would call the police if I didn't correct THEIR mistake. Again, this was a lie because the police do not get involved in such trivial employment matters (yes, I have asked English-speaking officers). This all makes me quite glad that I no longer have ANY connection to that school. I should've left it earlier.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I've always been a little weary of getting haircuts in China. Maybe it's the whole non-Chinese hair thing I have going. I somehow doubt many barbers in this country have much experience with curly-haired foreigners. Although, somehow I have gotten lucky in the last two years.

Well, until last night that is. Everything went well for the first while. The girl shampooing my hair and massaging my head and shoulders was doing a great job--it felt more relaxing than usual. I was feeling great up until she whipped out the Q-tips and began removing some of the cotton from the ends. She was doing some exploratory work in my ear that was just not comfortable. Soon enough, there was a bit of pain and my hearing got a little fuzzy. I told her to get away. Fortunately, she didn't do any severe damage, just a little too much pressure on the old ear drum. It gave me the same feeling I get when I'm congested with a terrible cold. This morning it's feeling significantly better.

Then on to the actual haircut. I'll leave it at: it's much shorter than I wanted it. That barber had no idea what he was doing and gave me the worst haircut since I've arrived in China. I can't wait to move to a more foreign-friendly area that possibly knows how to cut hair.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A few things

First the news: I signed my new contract for the fall. I will officially be professor of academic writing for graduate students (MSc and PhD). I'm quite happy with the teaching hours, contract, and the fact that the Chinese staff in the office speak great English. They also have a school bus that stops right outside my new apartment so I don't have to spend an hour every morning getting to work on the public bus.

The government is being a bit of a pain in the ass about marriage. Jia isn't from Shenzhen, which makes things a little more complicated. Apparently, my marriagability affidavit from the U.S. Consulate isn't enough for the Chinese government. They need this pointless piece of paper notarized--which should cost about 500 yuan. Of course, the notary is being a lazy (censored by multiple governments). I need to provide a whole load of proof that I live in Shenzhen and that I will continue to live in Shenzhen. How does this make him an "international" notary? What about business people who need documents but aren't residents?

Then there's that lovely (note sarcasm) school that Jia is leaving. They are now telling her that she can't quit until July 8 or she has to forfeit THREE months salary. Unfortunately, they never gave her a copy of the contract for her to keep. That means that the contract means nothing and will not hold up in court. Nice to see that they do things legally around here. She'll try to be polite about the situation and explain her intentions to the headmaster. I'm not optimistic on this one. I'm ready to call a lawyer because I know they are wrong.

And there is no photo for this week because I don't feel like searching through the thousands of files to pick a nice one. Don't cry, it'll be ok.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Last night I asked a class, "At what age is a person mature enough to begin dating?" I figured my students were intelligent and would come up with some fairly easy answers. Most answers went along with the official government view of "No dating until you're 18." I was really expecting someone to say, "It depends on the person." Instead I was greeted with the following answer: "I think older than 25." I was shocked. I had no idea how to respond except to laugh.

As a side note: the woman who gave the answer is older than I am and married.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

rolling along

Jia and I are all ready for our new apartment when we return from our little summer trip. Nice quiet neighborhood with plenty to do nearby. I even found out the other day that my Aussie friend (another castaway/escapee of Tsinghua Experimental School) just got an apartment nearby--great coincidence. That means I have a foreigner I can associate with in my extra free time (which I might have even more of starting in the fall).

I also got to check on the progress of my tuxedo at the tailor shop. The shirt is looking quite good and everything should be set by the end of the month (just in time for me to meet my parents in Beijing). If this thing comes out alright, I may just have to get a few suits made.

Only downside lately is that the air conditioners keep failing at work. I don't work well when it's too freaking hot in a room. And I'm sure it's not a great first impression for prospective students to sit in a classroom for an hour with the temperature settling around 30C.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Du Fu on Friday

Things are still going well. It looks like the sun is peeking through the clouds and pollution (just wait, it'll still rain later today). The excessively loud construction noises have stopped and I can actually sleep in every now and then. I also got some great news yesterday (more to come on that next week).

Anyway, lately I've been searching the Internet for some Chinese poetry with decent English translations. I've found some that seems ok. I mentioned it to one of my students last night and he said he'd find some for me and even write the Pinyin down so I can read it. I still have my goal to improve my Chinese so that I can translate some writing. But that's still a long way off.
This photo was taken at Du Fu's Thatched Cottage in Chengdu. I think it's a sign of true civility.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Yesterday was busy. Work screwed up my schedule this week, but sort of fixed it. I'm supposed to have the day off so I can tutor my private student before he makes his trip to the US next month. So, instead, they gave me four hours of classes and then I had to rush home to teach for two more. I was exhausted, but ok (I think it helped me sleep a bit).

It was the first time I got to teach the class of Bao'an police officers. I was warned that they weren't responsive in class--well, I got a response. I found that many of them have fairly decent English skills, but they lack an environment to practice. They are disinterested in the material they are supposed to learn. I pretty much threw out the text as it was filled with poor conversations and phrases that no one would ever utter (such as, "He's such a rascal!"). I changed a lot of dialogues around and joked around with them a bit. They all tried to keep me after class to talk some more, but I had to rush out to my next class.

I sloshed through the downpour to teach my private student after I got home and my umbrella did little to keep me dry. I have found that I am making progress with him. Unfortunately, I know he doesn't study much, which is hampering his abilities. However, I have changed a lot in him. When I first taught him, he always used his useless translator for everything and couldn't form a complete sentence. Now, he only uses the translator for single words that he doesn't know how to say or explain and he can speak in complete sentences (although with quite a few errors). It's amazing what I can do with a student whose Chinese English teacher barely speaks English (and yes, I have met his teacher before when I worked at that school). Since I have been teaching him, his test scores at school have doubled--from a 40 to 80. And that's only since April.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stop this!

Some people on a message board I frequent directed my attention to this Web site: This site is disgusting. They are basically stealing writers' work. They advertise that it's easy to take someone else's work from another site and rework it as "original content." They have a search feature that shows content without any byline or copyright information. This company is apparently based in the US, even though the English quality all over the site is worse than any students I've ever taught.

Feel free to flood their e-mail with harrassing letters and threats of copyright infringement lawsuits. This needs to be shut down.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

wildlife in the city

The other night I was walking to Jia's for a late dinner after work. I caught a glimpse of a rock out of the corner of my eye... but it wasn't a rock, it was a really big snail in a shell. The snail was wandering about the tile steps with nowhere to go. I figured it probably escaped from someone's dinner.
On the way home, I saw it again--this time Jia was with me. She ran home to get her camera. This thing was huge We fed it a few plant leaves and later moved it to the grass in the hopes that no one would kill it for fun.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I certainly have to thank Winnipeg. He saved me a trip to Luohu yesterday to potentially find a tuxedo for my wedding. I really hate walking around the Luohu shopping centers--the store clerks are excessively annoying and there are too many people in the area. Fortunately, my friend let me borrow his tuxedo to take to the local tailor. Apparently, they have never seen one and needed to examine it in order to make one. They checked out the shirt, jacket, and pants and concluded that they probably could make it for me. I just had to pick out some fabric for the jacket and pants. I was quite impressed with the price too. 850 kuai for a shirt, jacket, pants, and vest (exchange rate: 7.70 RMB = $1). If this comes out alright, I may go back and have another suit made.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Predicting the firewall

Yup, blogspot is blocked again by the government. This means I cannot read any blogs hosted here without the use of a proxy server, which runs rather slowly on these old Internet lines (guess I really am impatient).

So, in honor of our overlords who cannot seem to decide whether to block the blog or not each week, I present to you my favorite sign from my neighborhood in Shenzhen. I hope you enjoy "Truth in advertising."