Saturday, April 25, 2009

"There's basically Nothin" - Here I am in China

Didn't realize how long it had been since I posted. Guess I haven't had much to share. More of the same. To me. To you...well there is no you because I have no fans. I can't write worth a shit, so it's no wonder no one logs on to read my blog. Maybe it's the lack of publicity, but I don't think I have the courage to display that I blog somewhere publicly, such as my Facebook.

The days go by so quickly. I only teach at 川教 3 days out of the week, and then the other two are Elementary School classes. I have one tomorrow bright and early, but today I slept most of the day, and so I won't be going to bed anytime soon. That is unless I take sleeping pills my dad so kindly sent me.

Last week and the week before I was in a great mood. I was confident and feeling pretty and full of energy. I met a lot of people and had fun. I enjoy social gatherings with lots of people...you know...drinking and eating. Now I am on a low-slope. I will just say that. I met someone and it went quickly awrye. Perhaps it was the language barrier, or maybe it was just me being stupid. Anyway, I am not really one to write on a public blog about personal issues, only if I can do such in a discreet way.

I am beginning to understand 四川话。 I cannot speak it, but I can understand more and more of it. It's a lot like 普通话 but words seem more drawn out...almost like an octave lower. I cannot describe the way it sounds, nor can I describe standard Chinese, but I am starting to understand it. And I understand that people, friends my age do nothing about talk about boyfriends and girlfriends and which province has the best looking girls ("Sichuan") and where one can meet guys. It's really annoying. I mean I am boy crazy, but in America, our conversations are not focused on looks and whether we can meet a man to marry before we're 27. Everyone notes how strange it is that Rod, the Englishman, is not married with kids at 42. I have to say this is quite normal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Today

is Tuesday

Demonstrations of Racism in China

The other day I brought a bunch of magazines to class (yes, a "bunch," the classic American counting-word, as my British friend jokes). My parents had sent me a package with magazines and different movies. I told them I desperately needed American entertainment and that I also wanted to show my students magazines, books and movies from back home. The must-have magazines are, of course, In Touch and Elle and a few other girl-ish magazines. Bright pictures of Britney Spears showing off her newer, fuller figure, children and more children surrounding Brad and Angelina, what magazine could be a better way to teach Chinese students about American culture? And I had an idea of just how to do it - they would read the magazines together, in groups, and then their groups would come to the front of the classroom and present an article, advertisement or picture that interested them. Simple enough, yes?

Unfortunately, I only had a limited amount of In Touch magazines (5 I believe), then Homes and Gardens, National Geographic (they kept calling it National Geography), Readers Digest, Conservation Today and then The New Yorker.

Sorry...brief pause. I just got a call from my boss's assistant, Tony, who asked me to come over to talk with him and Rod at the hospital. Rod is "sick," and sice Tony cannot understand his English, I had to go translate into Chinese and Chinglish so that Tony could comprehend the mysterious ailment. (Rod is always ailing. He is plagued and no one can understand him.) This experience at the local hospital is worth noting, not for my sake, but for Rod's. I experienced his culture-shock vicariously. I did not feel the shock of being in a Chinese Western Hostpital, nay, Rod did, for I have spent time in Chinese hospitals in Shanghai, where I was amazed at the smokers in the waiting rooms. Anyway, Rod insisted something is wrong with him and that it might be diabetes. He continued to question why the doctor wasn't diagnosing him with something and the questioning why the doctor did not either check his blood pressure or check his urine. It's because no one understood him! He was shocked, and out of the street, to me, he said, "And that's a Western hospital, right? I mean that's not where they practice traditional medicine, and yet they give me this paper drinking cup to piss in?" So it goes at Chinese hospitals.

Back to my story about racism and magazines.

So I dished out the magazines. One magazine, one group. And then they got to work. I went around to each group to discuss some of the different pictures and advertisements. Some of the magazines were harder than others (National Geographic and The New Yorker), and so I spent extra time with the students reading from those magazines, and also reading from newspapers (both USA Today and the local Bristol Herad Courier). For the easy magazines, I simply told the students, "Ok, for your presentation, you can simply do a skit of buying or selling some of these products, or maybe you want to take a survey of who likes which model more or which movie is the best." The New Yorker did not have much for struggling learners, but they managed with the few pictures and comics the magazine does have (though I seriously doubt they understand joke-pictures such as a man walking in front of a camera saying, "That's my mockumentarist." Ha.Ha.Ha.) Anyway, there did happen to be an article about China in this issue (February issue with John Updike's stories and life after his death), and in this article race and the treatment of blacks is stressed. Really, the article is through the eyes of a Nigerian businessman who has come to Guangzhou for import-export business, but in this giant city (the largest in the south), an African inevitably has to deal with racism. As the article notes, the taxi drivers call an area of blacks, "Chocolate City." The article talks a lot of about violence to Africans over the years, such as in Chinese Universities in the 1980s, and the article also goes in depth about racism present today in China, in Guangzhou, where blacks don't trust Chinese, and Chinese don't trust blacks. I imagine a lot of this distrust is rooted in money. They're trying to rip us off. Those shrink-eyed Chinks. Those filthy niggers.

Ok. Now, here, me, pondering this article after I read it. I am in shock to a point I almost can't breathe. I want to cry out because of all the ignorance and misunderstandings in the world. My throat closes up and my eyes start to water, just for people who fail to recognize something beyond themselves. But what good does trying and trying to understand do? Racism is ingrained in their minds. They have been taught about racial hierarchies throughout their brainwashed lives. I know they are brainwashed because I witnessed it. I witnessed my college students (COLLEGE STUDENTS) preaching about the greatness of their country and the greatness of the government and its policies. Sure, they spoke about the expedited action when the earthquate struck this very province, but they still never question. They truly believe in an omniscient, omnipresent service. The People's Republic and its actions. Can you imagine not questioning things? I am constantly told by Chinese people what is right, what is healthy and what is wrong. Yet when I ask, "Says who?" or "Who told you that?" They get this confused look on their face, like that isn't a question to be asked. I have been taught that, and therefore what I am telling you must be true. The Tiananmen Square Massacre, by God, it's the fault of the students.

Anyway, a slight tangent, but racial typologies exist and will continue to exist - in poetry, in old literature, in culture, in society. It is all there. When they were young, they read the timeless words 4th century B.C. Zuozhuan, who talked about those of a different color having a different mind and those with fair skin having more intelligence. They read poetry about the Shijing princess who had fingers "like blades of the young white grass." Sure, when Mao came along, these racial typologies were challenged, but they still remain today. This is what comes of a closed country, and one day China will suffer from it!

So, I just wanted to let my students know just how racist they are. Sure, you're nice and sweet to me, but, deep down, you are a die-hard racist, and if a nigger walked into this classroom right now, you would call him poor and be distrusting of him. You would think I am rich, as I am a white American, and if this nigger were from America, you would question it. I wanted to let my students know that they're racist Chinks.

And so, as some of my students browsed boredly through The New Yorker (a fabulous piece of literary journalism), I opened to this very passage and dictated. You see, Sally, this article talks about how Chinese people are racist. Do you know what that means? Do you see this picture? These are Nigerians working in Guangzhou. Yes, they are working alongside Chinesemen. What? You don't think they're businessmen? Well, dammit, they are. Just because they're from Africa does not mean they aren't businessmen. Anyway, the article goes on to talk about how racist China is and how it is engrained in your system since...well...since forever. But it also goes on to say that racism is getting better. You, in fact, are starting to like black people more.

And I am just as racist. I make too many points to defend black people here. I have all but convinced my classes that Rihanna is my favorite singer, both her and Beyonce. One of my students didn't like Rihanna because she "doesn't like that type." What do you know - she likes the milky-white complexion type. This is coming from a girl covered in pimples who wears acid-washed, dirty jeans.

I read this article

Suining, China - no man's land


I will further write about my experience in Suining, Sichuan, a medium sized city of 300,000 tucked nicely between Chongqing and Chengdu. 我会在这里当一年的老师, 我学校教四川职业技术学院. I will teach English the remainder of this semester, break all summer, and then teach next semester. I'm here alone.

---

Suining is really an interesting place, touched only by Western thought through commercial goods. There is little Western-living they can imitate, as there are no Westerners living here. (Western is such a bad term, but I use it when speaking of, oh I don't want to say it, I guess the developed part of the world. Japan included.) As I have said, I am one of 3...now 4...foreigners in this city. There is Rod Stevenson, an Englishman who spent the past 5 years teaching English in Thailand. Then there's Dahai, a Canadian whose real name is Gilles, but since he is married to a Chinese woman and seems keen on staying-forever in China, we all call him Dahai. Btw, his Chinese is horrendous. And now, there's a black guy named James. I no little about him, only that either his mother or father is from America and the other is from Cameroon. I am not sure what his native language is, but I am pretty sure it is not English. He kept leaving out important verbs in sentences, such as "to be." Then again, that could have been the alcohol.

Okay, now, it is clear I am not a journalist. I have nothing newsworthy to write about. I can only compare 2 cultures - mine and this backward, timewarped China. And my reflections are noteworthy, mind you. Mind you, you haughty Westerner who has flown to Shanghai, to Beijing and to Hongkong. You haughty Westerner who has stayed in 5 Star hotels and experienced only the best delacacies of China with your English-speaking host. (I am joking. But you may be better groomed than I.) I can only afford to live here, and yet my experiences are immense. What I have gained just by seeing China life as it really is can be a lifetime of cultural knowledge for your average person. I do not know what I am trying to say. But the difference of living between here, Suining, and Shanghai is different.

But there are always just your poor, Chinese men. They exist everywhere, and their lives consist of maintaining a living for themselves and their family. (My previous post comments on living-wages in China and the importance of the family when it comes to living.) Today I realized that I haven't recognized him enough...this simpleton...this average fellow. I have not recognized the tri-cycle man with his worn tennis shoes.

Or maybe he has new tennis shoes, shoes that are white and clean and do not seem to match the rest of his tattered outfit and tattered look. His shoes are new and white, and his pants are gray, rolled up, revealing dirty, tanned legs. His fingers are dirty, as he lifts and cigarette to his mouth and scans the crowd. He is looking for a customer. He is looking for a man, woman or child to board his tri-cycle for a 5-10 minute ride. His pay will be 2 yuan.

I have not thought of this man enough. Aye, I am that haughty Westerner. I walk around with my headphones in my ears. I keep a fast pace. And I wear nice clothes...nice clothes that match and could be expensive...I mean they look expensive. That is because I do not go out of my way to be showy or flashy. Chinese people simply do not realize the paradox of the clothes they wear. In wearing expensive looking jewels and lots of colors, they actually look poorer. The need to understand the age old lesson of "less is more." But, as I was saying, this does not matter. This materialism I obsess over does not matter. I need to consider the poor Chinese man more.

and if the man needs to be considered more, the woman certainly does

Sunday, April 12, 2009

China pics






Wages at KFC go further in America

Back to what I was saying about love of motherland. Maybe the students aren't brainwashed. Maybe their speeches about their love for China is simply the easiest thing they know how to say. I find myself doing that often, when speaking Chinese. I say, "Yes, I liked that movie," when what I really wanted to say was, "Well, I don't really like action movies...I prefer movies with nice imagery and good dialogue." So, maybe, the students couldn't fathom how to say words such as, "Every country in the world is great if you have the right mindframe."

They wanted to say, "So long as you are happy, your country, your people and everything around you is happy." Sure...that's what they wanted to say.

But nah, they are brainwashed. They saw no reason to compare their country to any other country. They see no reason, zero, to question anything. They don't even read the news. Hell, who is to blame them, they can't read the news.

I am beginning to understand China though. I am really starting to get a grasp of the culture and emphasis on family. It call comes back to the population. The population of China is over 1.3 billion. The population of America is 1 billion less. Imagine that! One billion less! For countries similar in size (actually America is slightly larger at 9.8 km2 and China at 9.6). Population can strain a country and its people...jobs, living spaces.

I have pondered living wages here and what they afford compared to that of the states, the the difference is phenomenal. I will demonstrate the living standard discrepancy by comparing wages at an organization in both countries: KFC. Here, a worker makes 4.2 yuan an hour. In the states, around 7 dollars an hour. Now - what can a little over 4 an hour buy you here in China? A toothbrush. 4 rolls of toilet paper. A stack of vegetables. A noodle meal. 4 apples. Next, what can 7 dollars an hour buy you in America? A meal at an inexpensive restaurant. Toothpaste and a toothbrush. Maybelline Foundation. a six-pack. The hourly wage goes further in America than in China! This is appalling. When my student told me about her job at KFC, she talked about it in a positive way. She said, "Actually, KFC isn't such a bad place to work. They give you the day off on your workday and let you have free food." Yeah, great. That is well and great, and I am not trying to make a point about the working conditions. My only point is about the hourly wage and what you can do with that hourly wage.

Since it's been established that you cannot do as much with your money in China, I will go into the importance of the family. Family is needed. You cannot live by yourself living off KFC wages, really. You need to work together with the rest of your family, accumulate your wages, and then, only then, can you have a proper lifestyle. Workers go to America, not to improve their lives, but to improve the lives of their families. It would be a wonder to meet a Chinese American who has completely amputated himself from his or her Asian ties.

Further Culture Shock Revealed

As a judge at an English-speaking contest, I was appalled. Out of 25 speakers, 20 spoke about their love of China. Patriotic, sure, there is nothing wrong with patriotism. But these speeches were completely different. They revealed no questioning of why China is great. There was only the underlying fact that "Hey we live in the best country in the whole world." There were varying titles - some being "I Love China," "Why I love my motherland," "The Great China," and so on. They all gave very similar speeches, praising their homelands beautiful rivers, rolling mountains, friendly people, and revealing to me the sad situation of a half-century of Brainwash.

I scoffed and laughed out loud when some students said the line, "Whenever foreigners come to visit our China, they always say how wonderful and beautiful it is."

I had to congratulate the students who picked topics besides their love for China.

It's no wonder I have a hard time with my students being creative. Creativity is not this country's forte.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Droppings on the street.

Today is just another day. My days seem to go so fast. It's already noon, already Friday, already almost mid-April. Maybe I will be home before I know it. My plans are so up in the air though. Certainly seems my weeks are flying by, and I can't even attribute that to being kept busy. I have somehow fooled people into thinking I am a busy beaver, though. Life is all about time.

Tonight I will be a judge in some English-speaking competition. My students all have pretty bad English, English I cannot understand, as they insist on mumbling and not enunciating. They don't even try most of the time. If I can understand what they're saying - forget grammar - then they will be the winner. Grammar is one thing you have to repeatedly overlook when listening to a Chinese speaker with English. Rather annoying having my days spent with Chinese people who can't speak English. I know I am not one to talk, as my Chinese is no better, but what is annoying is having their words stuck in my head: How do you call this? We will eat what he cook last night. So how about your weekend? So what do you do this weekend? Do you get to Chongqing last weekend? What about this lunch? How do you call this in English?

Phrases and words just stuck in my head, repeated over and over and over. Can you imagine the headache I have? I get annoyed with English speakers! That's part of the reason I hated my last 2 jobs in Bristol. The people just couldn't speak!!

Anyway - I don't mean to sound insensitive. I feel I might come off that way. I am trying to be funny in some way, but I guess my humor is too dry and might offend some people. I have had to learn this the hard way over the years...and as of late.

I am too inhibited right now. I can't say what I fully what to express.

Monday, April 6, 2009

China is choking on growth.

After it rains, the mountain behind my apartment complex is startingly clear. I can see the texture of the trees and the temple and everything around. It's sad that only happens once in a while. Most everything around me is always a dreary gray. Fits my mood.

Seriously though - this country is hugely polluted and the environment is no where near the forefront of people's minds. I am not much one to speak, but now that I am faced with tragic proportions of pollution, I cannot help but be outraged. Yes China is growing stronger, better and is modernizing. But at what cost? And are the people really becoming more educated? They still litter and smoke and pay no mind to the world around them. All they care about is themselves and their families and making money. And here I was thinking I was apathetic.

I dunno...just some thoughts. I am going to go running. Here I go - through the air and dust and smoke and hopefully I will reach the finish line.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Probably going to walk to a temple today and write

Not a lot is going on this fine afternoon. At least the weather has warmed up. Last week was a dreadful chilly mess, and when Rod said, "They honeymoon is over for you," I had to disagree. There was no honeymoon. Everything has been dark, dreary and sad since I got off the plane, and not one day has gone by where I have no desperately missed my America.

So, no, there was no exciting honeymoon. There has been excitement. I am not so low as to say I am depressed beyond salvaging. Sure, I have friends and I have laughs. If what I had was considered a honeymoon, then it will only continue.

I have found that in my life, I look tremendously forward to the future. Let's start back to when I knew I had a future: Probably when I was in America and knew I was going to China. There was that. I looked tremendously forward to my time abroad, and when I was abroad, well, I can say that was a pause. Then, in Shanghai, I did not want to leave what I was doing. I felt truly and completely fulfilled, and that is the most fulfilled I have ever felt in the past 4 years. (Is it that we have a tendency to exaggerate hindsight or is this true? I think it is true.) In Shanghai, I was intellectually stimulated in just the right way (Chinese language classes), I had great friends (all international), and a great environment (Shanghai - a city with a subtle blend of East and West). The days before I left that city, I cried nightly in my apartment. I did not want to leave my experiences there.

Then came VA...good ole RVA. There, I looked forward to leaving Richmond and its high prices to return to Bristol to work for the summer. I felt nothing but anticipation throughout that dry last semester at college. Sure, my classes stimulated me (well, somewhat, there were those I hated and professors who were dull as dishwashers), and, sure, I had friends. But I was indeed lacking what I had in Shanghai, and I was forgetting Chinese faster than I could count. (True, I was forgetting how to count in the 10-thousands and 100-thousands and millions. Still, to this day I cannot remember and have not re-learned.) Then came this opportunity to teach here, in Suining, and I felt very excited. I wanted to get home, save money and let things work themselves out. And they did. I did exactly as I wanted to do in Bristol. God has graced me, I believe. Everything has always worked out so splendidly. Is this God or just my luck and good fortune or am I truly a gifted woman who can perfectly craft her future? I hope my good graces come from my own craft. Or do I hope for a God? Sorry to stray - let me continue. But, in Bristol, even though I had the two jobs I wanted there (office job and working with children), I longed for China. I longed to surely get my future started by learning Chinese. And now, here I am, and I can't wait to get out of it. But now, at last, I have something to look forward to...this summer.

At first I wanted to go home over the summer. Indeed, over the past 2 days I had tantilating fantasies about going home over this summer. I thought intensely about going on long, strenuous runs in my neighborhood. The hills....the long hills of Long Crescent and Glenway and the flat ground of statestreet. What perfect running territory! And what's more, people actually run in America. They don't sit on their asses outside and drink tea and smoke cigarettes (Chinese people reference). I would not feel like an insecure asshole running around in a sportsbra and blue New Balance. And New Balance I could trust! Brands! Names! Labels! Cameras! Everything in America is trustworthy, and I love that country.

But no - I cannot return home sweet home. Would cost too much money, especially when you put my other plans into consideration. Listen to this mess:

I now want to learn Chinese this summer
After teaching next year, I want to study in Taiwan at an expensive school
The school would propel my Chinese language to a native level
I cannot afford such a school!!
I will be 24 by the time I am finished.
Am I too old for this?
No...I am young.
But how...how how how...will I make money? Money money money.
There is also thought, after that, of going to Johns Hopkins Graduate School in Nanjing.
More money money money, and this time more money.
How can I make money?
I would of course have to find a job...a teaching job.
But I want a company job.
I want to do something big and real!

But if only...if only if only if only if only...I could become fluent in Chinese.
Suining sucks.

And then, on the other hand, I need to calm the fuck down. All I have is now. It's just like Lee in Husbands and Wives...I will see what the next few months bring.

Oh yeah, I'll probably just go to Yangshuo and teach English there. I guess that could help me make some money. I need to have 10,000 US dollars saved by the time I want to go to school in Taiwan. And I don't have to go to school in Taiwan. I could always teach myself Chinese and save money in the meantime. And then try to get into a good graduate school in the states or at least find a good company job.

God, why is all this riding on me right now? Why can I do nothing but look to the future? Why 3 months ago I thought this - right here right now right here in Suining teaching English - was my future. I thought this was what I would love. And I do love it, and I am doing exactly, EXACT-FUCKING-LY what I want to do. I am studying Chinese for free and teaching with a great fucking salary. Why can I not be content in life? Life is a constant struggle. If it weren't a struggle we would cease to exist.

I am going to a temple now to walk around and think and adore the Chinese countryside and Chinese culture and those sorts of things.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Been keeping to myself

I have been keeping to myself a lot lately. I don't have any desire to go out and socialize. The only reason I would ever want to hang out with Chinese people is to improve my Chinese, and, I guess that is a good reason. I do, after all, want to become fluent in the language. Such a predicament. Anyhow, I can't very well remain cooped up in my apartment. I am forced to go out every day and talk to Chinese people, although my conversations are not as long and extensive as they would be were a feeling more social.

Actually, I have been watching movies and writing and reading and listening to music a lot. Right now I am listening to Bach F Minor Concerto - mainly because that was what was playing in Hannah and Her Sisters (a movie I have now watched twice since it's arrival from my parents' package). It really is so beautiful.

Another thing I have been doing is going to the gym a lot. I must say I am in fantastic shape and can run for miles. Last week I ran for an hour straight on the treadmill - almost 12 kilometers. The next day I was quite sore, but I have decided I will make this a routine...an hour on the treadmill a week. I work out about 5-6 times a week, every time running 5 kilometers. And I can do 5 pull-ups and lift quite a bit of weight. I guess I have nothing else to do, and it really makes me feel so much better to run...running really pulls me out of my depression. I feel I have a great stride, and I don't feel tired, and really, I just feel exhilirated. Anyway. At least I have that.

I am increasingly annoyed by being here. I have been asking myself lately, "What the FUCK am I doing here? Why am I in China? Why..."

You know...I don't know what to do to pull myself out of this depression. I have tried calling friends, but I have severed several relationships just since my arriving. I guess I would not say "severed," but they just are not the same anymore. I just don't know who to talk to about my feelings, and I have so many things to do. I have so many things that need to be said quickly, and also, some not-nice things to say. This is why I cannot talk about my feelings with a Chinese person. I am too worried about offending them.

Today I am annoyed at my boss. He told me...yes told me...that we would be meeting at 3 for lunch, and now, he has sent me a message saying, "Oh I can't meet at 3. We will have to meet at 5, see you then!" As if I don't have any other plans. This outrages me. Maybe Chinese people here in small-town Suining don't do anything, but I do!!!! I know I just said I didn't, but I guess it is the principle of the thing. You should ask if a person is free. You shouldn't demand time with that person. That's what we do in America.

I have cried many times today. I cried upon reading and EE Cummings poem about love, I cried during a Woody Allen movie about love, and I cried just thinking about...love and things. I miss America. I love America, and no one understands me. I mope around, hoping people will look at me and notice the sad American girl. Gosh she must be homesick. She probably misses her friends and family. She probably cannot tolerate Chinese life any more. She's tired of the mess, the pollution, the grotesqueness of the city, the distress and the eager, annoying people. I am tired.

I did this to myself. Of course I did. This is no body's fault but mine. I wish to God I would have gone to Shanghai, Beijing, or even Chengdu. But, no, my over-idealistic notions told me that the best way to learn Chinese would be to go to a small-time city in the middle of nowhere. I rationalized that I would have an incredible, eye-opening experience. I did not reason my own feelings. God...the head and the heart are in such opposition. "In my case they aren't even friendly."

What do I do now? I have overspent my money...but I always have more money to spend. I could buy a new, second camera. I have been wanting a smaller one, but then I would get upset and depressed to tears again because of the outrageous price and horrible quality. It's true - Rod, the Englishman, bought a small Canon camera for 1600. Extortionate! In America, the same camera would run for about 130 US dollars or 800-somethign RMB. And who is to know if the Chinks are ripping us off?

I have been telling myself that maybe I should find a boyfriend. But I just can't find any at all whatsoever anywher in this whole, godforsaken city that interest me. I need a strong, tall, professional man who does not smoke cigarettes and who does not think that black is the inferior color. It disgusts me that I chose a country where they have been taught about superior races. Racism is engrained, and it disgusted me when I student commented how "ugly" Rihanna is because she, "doesn't like that type." She liked the pale "types."

Cast a pall.

今天我要来说是我最近学到的东西

我最近的生活和一年以前特别不一样。 我现在的生活和六个月以前也完全不一样。 对我来说,我现在的生活是有点理想的。 当然有很多方面我想变,但是我慢慢在注意到我心里真的想要的是什么样的生活。 难怪我在老家的时候我那么郁闷。 我那时郁闷的样子是因为我没有工作, 但是也是因为我那时对我...