Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cosmetic Reward

The National College Entrance Exam is finished in China. It's a period of time that is full of stress for millions of Chinese students hoping to earn a place in a decent university. Unlike the SATs in the US, the Chinese students only get one shot at their test. They also have to cover more than just language and math--there's plenty of Communist philosophy and history that they need to write about. This exam causes so much stress that local governments have put together stress-relief programs for students to prevent suicides that have been fairly common in the past.

I may have not been under nearly as much stress as Chinese students preparing for the national exam, but my parents also didn't feel the need to reward me for doing well (they did, however, pay for my undergraduate degree--thanks, Mom and Dad). I had two classmates in high school who scored 1600 on the SATs, and their parents gave them nothing for their achievement. 

So, what do Chinese parents do for their children who score high marks on this exam? According to the Shenzhen Daily, they pay for cosmetic surgery. And it's not just the girls who want to look more attractive; plenty of boys are opting for liposuction (and yes, I do recall seeing many overweight students in Shenzhen).

Fortunately, there is some sense being spoken in China about teenagers seeking plastic surgery. There is a discussion in the article about psychological effects and consultations before committing to the procedures. My favorite quote from a doctor was this: "Blindly imitating a celebrity can only harm yourself." More people need to heed this advice, and not just in the case of cosmetic surgery.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peaceful Fields

 Our trip to Fujian is still one of my favorite vacations, even if it only lasted a few days. After spending three years in the ever-expanding city of Shenzhen, it was calming to be away from the crowds. There were a few times that we were confronted with crowds--when I stepped off the bus, a group of motorcycle taxi drivers pushed themselves against me and shouted "taxi" as loud as they could, forcing me to shove a few out of the way and run for cover in a storefront that I didn't realize was also the entrance to our hotel.

After that shocking encounter in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere, our journey quieted. Jia and I took a stroll down the road and through fields that were devoid of other tourists (and even few locals). Once we stepped away from the center of town that housed our hotel, two convenience stores, a restaurant with no menu, and a mobile phone shop, we were struck by silence. We didn't want to head back to our hotel, but we were forced to do so as the sun was setting and we had no light to find our way. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Feeling

It's been a long summer so far, and it just started. I've been working at the tutoring center at the college, but it's rather slow. I'm averaging one student each day--that's one hour of tutoring for a six-hour shift. Fortunately, this leaves me with plenty of time to catch up on reading. So far, I've read Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, and Rudy Rucker's Spaceland. I wasn't impressed with any of them, though at least A Thousand Splendid Suns was culturally intriguing. Now, I'm reading through Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which is far superior to anything I've read recently.

While I drift off in literary wonderland at work, I'm also caught up in my plans for a summer holiday (or lack thereof). Jia is heading off for another business trip to China, combined with a trip to see her family and friends. Unfortunately, she'll return before I have my full vacation from the college (I say "unfortunately" because I managed to find a semi-affordable flight to China during my vacation). Now I have to decide if I take a trip during my time off or if I take a few three-day weekends away from New Jersey. Of course, I can still hope that someone will send me on a travel writing assignment to China.