Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I tried two different topics with my classes this week. After my Tuesday class I decided not to continue using the second topic. According to the news here, an increasing number of students feel that a master's degree isn't worthwhile. I wanted to see if my students were satisfied with the educational value of the degree that they had recently begun. I think I made them depressed with the news of other students around China. I tried to explain to them that what matters is that they take the opportunities that they are provided and use them to their advantage.

One of the questions I asked was, "How many classes do you take and how many of those classes do you think will be useful for the future?" The response was that they take 16 classes and only three would be useful. (I'm not entirely sure if they understood my question because 16 classes seems like far too many to take in one semester. I know they have a lot of classes, but that number sounds too high.)

My other topic for the week was much more fun. I decided to find out how much my students know about the U.S. A big reason for this is that I have heard many misconceptions from people in China (i.e. everyone owns a gun, everyone celebrates Christmas, all Americans are rich). I tried explaining that while the exchange rate of Renminbi to dollars is about 7.5 to 1, the standard of living is far different. The standard of living is closer to 2 to 1 (for every dollar I spend in the U.S. I could spend 2RMB here). J. gave me a great example that he's used: a bottle of Coke was about $1.50 for him at home; it costs about 3RMB here. That example did work well in class.

On language: (1) At the end of class today, a student came up to explain why some students were absent. Unfortunately, he forgot what language to use and began speaking quickly in Chinese--I understood part of it, but the important vocabulary was beyond my comprehension. He noticed my confusion and tried to think of how to say it in English. (2) The cafeteria was out of the good noodles today and the rest of the food has no labels and it's too noisy to ask "What's this?" for every dish. I found a little shop across the street with an English-speaking owner. He was very nice and almost too helpful. For a simple meal, I might start going there for a little variety at lunch. (3) From playing with for vocabulary, I realized how educational The Simpsons really is. The word was "zebu" and the only other time I've seen that word was on an early episode in which Bart saves Mr. Burns' life and the family is rewarded with a giant Omec Indian head.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Feeding Vocabulary

Thanks to some friendly links on some online forums, I discovered an interesting site. FreeRice. This site is set up to help provide rice to impoverished nations through a vocabulary game. It is a sister site of

The way it works (as explained in the FAQ) is each time you click an answer, the site earns money from advertisers on the bottom of the page. Through the advertisers, the organization purchases rice to be handed out by the United Nations World Food Program.

So, get out there and start earning rice for the world. I'm planning on advertising this site to my students--I can hope it'll improve their vocabulary.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Beer Scare

I wish this news story didn't exist. Read original article.

It seems the price of hops, as well as other costs, are increasing a bit in the beer industry. The estimate is that beer prices will rise 10%.

It might also mean that some brews will lose their flavor (I hope it doesn't affect Victory Hop Devil, that stuff is great). I doubt this will have much affect on Chinese beer as most of it has very little flavor and seems to use a minimum of hops.

If this is an effect of global warming, we really must act quickly to reverse it. Save the environment! Save the beer!

Friday, October 26, 2007

One night in Bao'an....

J. was justing getting over his cold and suggested we head out to the old neighborhood for Wave Pizza (cheaper and a whole lot better than Pizza Hut). We still need to convince them to open a store in Nanshan... or at least deliver to us.

During our late pizza dinner, Jia got a message from Mr. Tian about the 6th anniversary of his bar, which we used to frequent before moving. We decided we'd stop by and at least say hello. It wasn't a far walk from Wave--but it was interesting. We found a small sex toy shop along the way and had a good laugh. Jia also had the best commentary of the night as we passed a "massage" parlor: "Oh, such a fat prostitute."

Before we arrived at New Face (also known as Face Alive), Jia called our friend Xiao. While the conversation was in Chinese, I joked with J. about what was being said on the other end. "I bet Xiao is saying, 'Where are you? We've been waiting for you.'" Sure enough, I was right.

It was fun being back at New Face. Mr. Tian and Xiao were so happy to see us, they treated us to a few drinks. We were surprised by the number of foreigners there--I think I counted six others (usually we were the only ones). We headed out early and quickly found an appropriate cab to take us back to the Special Economic Zone. Great driver for once who actually knew the best roads to take. The ride only cost us 32 kuai. If we can get that kind of ride back every time, it's worthwhile to head out there for cheaper beer at a bar. (Note: the cheaper Bao'an taxi to our home last year usually cost 20 kuai. The SEZ cabs have a much higher rate.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things I Didn't Expect

The other day I was walking about and was rather shocked by a sight. I saw the first diaper in China (well, first that I've ever seen). Of course, it was on a dog.

Now for some student answers to my classroom questions:
I mentioned the 17th Communist Party Congress to my students. I wanted them to come up with ideas of what they thought the government should do for the future of China. Monday's class looked a little confused so I asked, "Why is this meeting important?" One student responded, "I don't think it's important. They just want people to sit and raise their hands when they say to."

Saturday, October 20, 2007


We went to a couple restaurants this weekend with friends. Friday, we went to Amigos Tex-Mex in Shekou. I was there last year for my birthday and enjoyed it--the food is pricey, but it's worth it here in China. This time, however, it wasn't quite worth it. The service from the staff was absolutely awful. They tried giving us the wrong meals a few times and then we had to remind them of parts of the meals (for the couple of the group that ordered a set meal). Not only that, but they charged an extra 8 kuai for a little bowl (and I mean little) of salsa. Keep in mind, this is homemade salsa that probably costs about 8 kuai for a bucket. At the end of dinner, we had an argument with the staff about the 10 percent "service fee" that we had to pay. We explained that we would gladly pay it IF they had provided any sort of service. They waived the fee after about 10 minutes of arguing.

Saturday, we found a nice little restaurant in Overseas Chinese Town that got a little write-up in That's PRD. Grey Wolf is a very pleasant restaurant that serves Northern Chinese food (supposedly Xinjiang, but it was missing a lot of the usual dishes). We ordered some spicy lamb kebabs (yang rou chuan) for 3 kuai each and a variety of other meat and vegetable dishes. They even had Xinjiang Black Beer for 18 kuai. Everything tasted great and it was reasonably priced at about 50 kuai per person (much better service than Amigos, too).

The decoration is certainly worth noting at Grey Wolf. It is designed as a prehistoric cave, complete with cave paintings (some of which are rather amusing, like a stick-figure girl in a skirt walking a dog). There are also many framed portraits and historic Chinese scenes on the walls. On the way in, there is a prominent chalk sign forbidden entrance to Japanese. On the wall near the door, they proudly proclaim that they were the first establishment in Shenzhen to deny service to Japanese. Of course, when you look at the portraits on the walls, Hitler shares the same space as Elvis and Charlie Chaplin. It certainly makes for interesting dinner conversation.

Friday, October 19, 2007

China is a sleeping dragon

I couldn't resist that stupid cliché of a title--every Western publication uses that metaphor and it's getting out of hand. But here is the Friday photo from a journey through Guangzhou almost two years ago. This was the dinner plate dragon that wound around a small section of Xiu Park. I think this angle from the foot is the best one I took.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Variety of Travels

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Fart Jokes Anyone?

Alright, I'll admit I don't really have any fart jokes. But I do have some interesting news some people may have missed.

First, there's an article about a new toilet that will convert your bodily waste into fuel and fertilizer. That's fantastic news. Jia told me they have some of these toilets in Chinese villages. My question is, why not have them in cities too? I'll leave that one to government logic.

But that wasn't what really interested me about the article. I was more interested in the World Toilet Summit. I can't believe that this exists. Actually, I can't believe it HAS existed for seven years and I hadn't heard about it. Why wasn't I in the loop on this one? I have to find out how I can attend next year's summit.

The second article I found amusing was about 800 drivers in Beijing who are upset because they've been issued license plates with the letters "WC." Of course, WC is one of the few English "words" that all Chinese know--the others being "hello," "OK," and "bye." I suppose the people complaining are afraid that someone will mistake their new cars for toilets. I have to say, I've been tempted to urinate on a few cars for various reasons (none of which is alcohol related). I brought up this subject in class today and all of my students agreed with the drivers. I told them it could be worse, the license plates could read, "BS."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lunch time

Our welcome lunch was delayed for a variety of reasons. Today, we finally had it. It was well worth the wait.

My boss took us (two foreigner teachers and four Chinese office staff) to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Apparently, this restaurant is next to a hospital where government officials go when they need real medical treatment. The place was very nice--semi-outdoor lobby and large private rooms. Our room had a view of a little lake with some wetland birds flying about (maybe they escaped from the Shenzhen zoo). Of course, the food was also quite good. We had a nice variety of meats and vegetables. Unlike other meals I've had in China, this one didn't involve any organ meats.

Now I can sit back and relax in my office until it's time to go home or until a student comes in to talk (which is usually later in the day).

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I enjoy tracking things related to my blog. Probably not as much as a computer geek, but it's still nice to see what content drives traffic here. I get to see where people are coming from and how much time they spend browsing the pages.

Occasionally, I find some amusing things when checking this out. Most of the amusement comes from the keywords that people use. I'm not quite sure how these keywords manage to bring people to my blog, however. Today, I noticed that someone found me using the following: "Chengdu prostitute massage cheap". I know I've written about Chengdu and massages and many cheap things in China. But, how did "prostitute" get involved in any of that? Well, I suppose it really isn't my place to judge people for what they really want to find in the Middle Kingdom.

Probably my favorite has been: "ride a walrus". This one refers to a great Homer Simpson quote, "The streets are paved with water. I could ride a walrus to work." However, I'm still confused by why someone would use this as a search term.

Also, I'd like to note that I really do appreciate it when I notice that people find me through links from other blogs. Unfortunately, most of the blogs that link to me are on servers that are blocked in China, which prevents me from reading them more frequently (proxy servers are too slow for someone as impatient as me).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Another Friday Photo

I'm just a bit tired this week. It hasn't been difficult or bad, just a bit exhausting. I keep thinking that I really want to go out and travel--get some adventure.

The best trip I took was to Jiuzhaigou. I doubt anything will top that (maybe Tibet, if we get there this summer). It was a beautiful sight. I found this photo interesting--the longda decaying outside of Shuzheng Village. There's beauty in those old prayer flags that the Tibetans place everywhere they go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Transit Breakdown

As if transportation in this city weren't bad enough--it's already the most expensive in China.

Jia bought a metro card for me just before the national holiday last week. It was easier to buy it at 7-11, which meant that the 40 kuai deposit is non-refundable (as opposed to the refundable 40 kuai card you can only buy at some office). Anyway, the card had 50 kuai on it for use on the buses and subway. I have managed to use it five times up until today (total journey price: 12.5 kuai). I got on the bus this afternoon and the card didn't work. I kept getting no response.

The bus driver was saying something to me that I didn't understand because it was way to fast to comprehend. So, I decided I had better pay in cash. Of course, my smallest bill was a twenty. I turned around and asked the first person sitting if he had any change (in Chinese, of course). He looked through his wallet and shook he head. To my surprise, four others around him began looking at their funds. Finally, a high school girl came up to me with change and I thanked her. Of course, it still meant that I had to pay double the fair and try to get the other half from a boarding passenger (that's difficult when I don't know how to say, "I already paid, please give your money to me"). Fortunately, it all ended well.

Sometimes when things go wrong I find the best people around here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Barber Shop

I needed a haircut. It was definitely getting a little too long. Jia and I wandered the neighborhood in search of a reasonably priced barber. This led to the discovery that a simple haircut can cost anywhere from 35 kuai to 95 kuai within less than a square mile. Of course, the nearest shop told us 50, but the guards of our complex said they only paid 25 at the same place.

Obviously, I went with the cheapest I could find. It's a haircut, nothing special. Besides, very few barbers around here have any idea what to do with curly hair.

The conversation around the barber was amusing--all questions were directed at Jia and he made absolutely no attempt to even see if I understood a word of Chinese. Of course, he asked the usual question, "Does he curl his hair?" He was shocked when he found out this kind of hair natural (they don't realize that men outside China do not curl their hair). He proceeded to make attempts at getting more money out of the foreigner. He suggested that I should get a membership card (300 kuai, but gets a 5 kuai discount on all haircuts). He also wanted me to dye my hair. I'm sure he could've thought of plenty more ways to try to earn a few extra kuai, but I would never agree to it. I am of the belief that the ugliest hairstyles in China are on the heads of barbers and, therefore, don't trust their opinions.

Fortunately, this haircut turned out much better than the previous:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

All That Jazz

Jia and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. We first headed over to a nice area with a lot of empty storefronts--a situation that doesn't seem to make sense as it looks like a high-traffic area. What we found was a nice coffee shop and a little restaurant. We'll go to the coffee shop today since we didn't eat there last night (no dinner food). The restaurant was alright--nothing really special, but it was good for the price. Still, I think if we want Western food we'll continue to go to the Seattle Cafe--the food there was excellent.

We walked past the construction area, near the new Carrefour and mall, and found some great places. There's Amber, another coffee shop/restaurant with a nice selection on the menu, and the Athens Cafe, with a hilarious Chinglish menu ("Various Types" and "American digs up the pomfret" plus many more). The best find though was the Musibase Cafe (another branch of Musibase Bar). This one is a very quiet jazz bar and restaurant. The music was pretty good and it had a relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately, the prices are the same as the other branch nearby, which aren't all that appealing for frequent visits. Nonetheless, we'll be heading there every so often to enjoy a relaxing night out.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A little luck

I took a day in Macau yesterday. I needed to get out of Shenzhen for a little while to relax and make me feel like I'm really having a holiday. Of course, it required me waking up early to take the bus to the ferry port in Shekou, but it was worth it. The last time I went to Macau, Jia and I went through Zhuhai. This time I spent a few extra kuai to take the ferry directly to the outer harbor port.

I guess it was a great choice--it certainly saved time on the border crossing and the port was only about a 10-minute walk from Senado Square. I was also surprised with the customs officers on both sides--they were really polite and even spoke a little (the officer on the mainland side even wished me a good trip). I thought it might be a good omen if I decided to gamble a little. Of course, the other omen was sitting on the ferry reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead--the whole opening scene about probability couldn't be a good sign.

I decided to have a look at the new Grand Lisboa, billed as the largest casino in the world. It is an impressive structure that looks like an ode to excess. I like the architecture of the old one across the street much more. The building isn't complete--the top floors are still under construction. The casino is split into a lot of smaller rooms that are rather quiet, probably because the crowd is split into different areas of the hotel.

After wandering around the gaming areas (one sign was "gameing") of the Grand Lisboa, I headed across the way to the Wynn. I was much more impressed. It had more of a hotel feel than a casino. The staff was also more friendly--the Grand Lisboa didn't even acknowledge my existence (except when walking through security to the casino rooms).

Other than those casinos, I wandered around the city. I had no particular destination set, but I found some cool buildings (mostly Portuguese designs) and parks. I also had an interesting time conversing with some shopkeepers (I think I managed to find everyone in Macau who didn't speak English or Mandarin, only Cantonese). For my early dinner, I found a new restaurant near Senado Square--I asked if one of the dishes had pork. The answer was, "It's not spicy." So, I asked in Chinese and the answer was, "meiyou." Sure enough, it had pork. I also went to buy some smoked, dried beef. I asked how much it cost and the shopkeeper pointed to a red blob on a sign. When I pointed out that I couldn't read it, he pointed to another sign that had a red blob. I walked away and went to another store that had clear prices.

The best part of the trip was definitely finding the grocery store with the great coffee. They raised their prices since last year (last year it was 20 kuai a pound, this year 40), but it's cheaper than most coffee in Shenzhen. I still bought a pound of mocha to enjoy. At least the woman working there spoke Mandarin Chinese, even though I didn't understand when she asked if I wanted the coffee ground (vocabulary I don't know).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Day in the Neighborhood

I took some photos some weeks ago around my neighborhood. As I've said before, there are a lot of grocery stores and restaurants around, as well as a few dozen 7-11s. As with the rest of Shenzhen, this neighborhood is still under construction. There's a huge footbridge being built above the major intersection (it's going up quickly and looking nice). There are a lot of new apartment complexes in the area with loads of empty storefronts. I'm hoping that those will fill up as soon as the major construction projects are complete (which shouldn't be too long).

Just down the street--less than a ten-minute walk out the back gate--they are building a new shopping mall next to a new Carrefour, which will be next to a new cultural center. I don't care much for shopping malls--I didn't enjoy them back home in Jersey, and I certainly don't like them here with the enormous crowds they attract. But, I do really want Carrefour to move in quickly--Commie-Mart is a long walk/short bus ride away, and I never did care for them much either. Plus, Carrefour tends to have a better selection (and better prices) of foreign products. I just have to hope they carry cheese.

The photos below are what will be the cultural center. Assuming they hold events there, I might be inclined to visit every now and again.

Monday, October 01, 2007

National Day

It's nice to have a full week off--seven days of rest and writing (and maybe a little traveling). Although, I found out that I didn't need to reschedule my classes for Saturday and Sunday--I could've done that some other time. I could've had a full nine days for my break. Oh well, at least I got the scheduling headache out of the way. Plus, the classes went quite well.

I forgot to post a photo on Friday because we went out to dinner with Mr. W. He treated us to some Beijing roast duck and a little karaoke. We got home late after meeting some more friends in Shekou for a little bit. Also, last night J. convinced us to go out for Wave Pizza--it was great. Aside from the toppings, it's pretty much a real pizza. It comes close to being the best I've had in China (that honor still goes to the Pass By Restaurant's Hutong pizza).

Here's a photo from my journey/wandering home Friday afternoon.