Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life In Beijing - Foreigner's Perspective

Living in Beijing as a Foreigner and Getting a Job Teaching English in China's Countryside

I have lived in Beijing for 2 years and have experienced a lot. I would heartily encourage foreigners to visit Beijing, but having a life here and taking on a job here is a different matter. I came here long ago though, at the tender age of 20, and then I came back again at a more mature 23, then again at 24, and now I am the ripe ole age of 26. This is the age for exploration and language-learning and English-teaching gigs. This is the age of Aquarius.

My Experience

I first arrived in Beijing in 2007 with a group of students from my university. We studied at Beijing Waiguo Yuyan Daxue (Beijing Foreign Studies University) and then at Fudan University in Shanghai. I learned a great deal during this summer and fall terms, as I applied myself to the language in a concentrated manner. I am a diligent study who loves language and study, and I find doing well in class to be my life's forte. On that note, I would highly recommend both Beijing Foreign Studies University as well as Fudan University. I have heard some complaints about the teaching abilities or styles of the teachers, but I learned a lot and would encourage youngsters to apply.

After 2 semesters, I returned to the states, and upon returning, I applied directly to as many Chinese schools in the countryside as possible. I wanted the "China experience" - so far I had only had the big-city experiences, and I was ready to go rural! And that's how I found myself in Suining, Sichuan, teaching English. I graduated from college in 2008, and then decided to go for the school (college) that offered the highest wages, a round-trip flight, seemed in-the-sticks enough, and offered nice housing. How contradictory a Westerner's desires! In the underdeveloped countryside and with nice housing I desired!

I was lacking the appropriate "2-year working experience" that is required to get a job in China, but my boss-to-be had such good relations with the local police department that it didn't even matter! Yay, guanxi, corruption and connections! You will find this to be your life mantra should you ever go to China to work.

I was 22 and had nothing to worry about (yes, I had worked in the US for a few years, but that did not matter. I needed concrete China experience or experience at a proper/large firm in the US). Suining, Sichuan was nice, but after a couple months and much progression with the Chinese language, I got a bit bored and lonely. You can read some of my previous entries about the culture shock I went through while in Suining, Sichuan. Here are some pics of that time period. I was there from 2009-2010 and then I set off for a private language school in Beijing. The school I studied at was called the Global Exchange Center and I went here just to improve my Chinese enough to take the HSK (hanyu shuiping kaoshi, or the exam that measures Chinese language skills). After I took the HSK, I went home for a summer in the states. I got an "A" on the HSK by the way. :)






 By fall 2010, I was back in China for my final stint in Beijing, and this time, I was going to find jobs aside from teaching English. First, I worked at the Beijing Tangla Hotel on Beijing's famous Chang'an Jie. I worked as a Management Trainee, and the reason I was able to obtain a job in management training is, again, because of guanxi! After working here for 6 months and completing my training in every hotel department, I went on to work at Wimdu.com, a website that allows you to rent an accommodation in other peoples' homes. This was a start-up and I had many responsibilities and learned a lot. I basically ran the China office and was responsible for all these hosts and guests and payments for the Wimdu website. After this, I moved onto the Asian Agriculture Consulting company and worked in recruitment.

 Following all of this, I decided my job in China was well-beyond complete. The first time I went to China was 2007 and it was now 2012 and what was I going to do? Live in marry in China? Hell to the no, and so I applied to the first graduate school specializing in East Asian Studies in Europe that I could find, and that's how I ended up in Duisburg, Germany! What a ride it has been! Feel free to email me with questions regarding studying Chinese in China, getting a job in China, life in China, life in Beijing as foreigner as well as getting a job in Beijing.


  ------------------------ 

 (and now for something completely different)


 Lucky you, because today is Friday, May 17, 2012, the year of our lord and what the fuck else - to include - the US Supreme Court decision of racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, and also 5 years after my cherry was popped, you get not one but two posts.

It seems the first post left my wandering brain unfulfilled as I filled your brain with useful nonsense - the kind of thing you would say in polite society, and I will let you know the inner-workings of my mind are not polite society - and I am still craving the movement typing.

It's my love of that spacebar and the pinky letters. Index finger letters find my far less fulfilled than the pinky finger letters. Are we in agreement? To exercise the pinky finger with such far-reaching keys such as "backspace, :;'"+-, and onward not to mention the left-handed keys 121` bla is unsurpasseds and exceeds abounding greatness.

My supposed weekend in Beijing goes something like this: study Chinese with language partner in hopes of a free coffee (of course I am fair and would choose the standard, daily blend for 20 kuai instead of the fancier coffees that I wont spell out in fear of spelling errors and an even greater fear that others will judge me because of my grotesque way of spelling frappachiono and machiato). Shit, I think I just spelled the words anyway; better do something about it. Let's make fun of people. I'm not the type of person to make fun of people. I never have been and I never will be, but the type of people who make fun of others are usually quite popular, so I will give it a try. Okay, so that guy, like, wow, that guy is such a turd. Like, he just acts like he does not give a shit about anything or anyone. He's a complete ass to me, you know, in that he bemusedly nods at everything I say as if he may consider it or me if I were of a more pleasing dispositions, f or useless junk knowledge filtering through his ears. Second person: That fucking bitch acts like a stuck up fucking slut. She has nice hair though, and yes, and teeth, and a killer bod, so maybe that gives her permission to be an uber twat. Though nothing she said was of the twat-saying sort; it was more just the way she said them. And the final person, I will make fun of: What a FUCKING ASSHOLE. How does he think he can treat me like that? Does he think I have no brain and will willfully accept his spruiks at will?

I Met Li Yang, and He's a Dick

Here is my experience working for Li Yang at a Crazy English camp: So when teaching at a summer camp in Chongqing, I stumbled upon Li Yang. Actually, it was his great-big-huge-ass-of-a-camp and he was making a TON of money. He had us foreigners get on the stage and do a little jig and then we got to shake his hand and listen to cheers. I was his favorite laowai and he made me speak Chinese. The crowd was bustling with youngsters ready to get a look, and after the show, we got our pictures taken together! Later on, the chief of the camp told me that Li Yang specifically wanted me to go all the way to warring-Xinjiang teach/perform. I said no (because he's a wife-beater) and that I would instead go back to Beijing. Here is a picture of the horrors of meeting Li-Yang (who beat his wife, Kim).
Liyang loves the American English accent, and every time I pronounced a word in front of our GIANT audience, I got cheers and claps. How marvelous! American English! The whole point of crazy English is mastering your accent, as Li Yang thinks the number 1 problem with the Chinese speaking English is the accent. Actually, the two languages are so incredibly different that just about the entire English language is hard for Chinese to grasp (and vica versa!) Btw, he is not pleasant on the eye. I also listened to those Crazy-English tapes of his he had his kids purchasing, and his wife Kim participated in many of the recordings. All while I was working for Li Yang at Crazy English camps, I was participating in a volunteer project called "Peace for Humanity" and promoting the cause of domestic violence in China. I even made a speech about it at a fancy art gallery one day. Here is an article about the girl, Jennifer, I worked for at Peace for Humanity. She might be disappointed to find out that I left Beijing for the summer to help the wife-beater out. So long! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 


 (and now for something completely different) What are the people to do who can no longer read a bored girl and her half-hearted effort of trying to be a web-savvy citizen who can perform the totality of online communication with outsiders and strangers. What is the one person following me to do when I don't update for days, weeks, months or years? Now back to what I was thinking and about how today's topic will be a list of things and people I hate. First off, I hate Li Yang, the crazy English teaching-methods founder who is, what do you know, actually CRAZY. Of course it's old news he beat his American wife Kim to battered bruises and worst of all damaged her stability and their familily and the woman's efforts of maintaining normality. What is LI Yang's deal with the cross-cultural and supposed "experiment." OH, she just was using me as an experiment to see what it would be like to marry a Chinese man and have Chinese children and bla but NO I was just using her as an experiment to see how Americans raise their children, and after all, the methods of raising them are rather 厉害. So I beat her up. Eating jiaozi the other oh who fucking remembers when, I was watching a Chinese TV program and Miss Kim was a guest. Her Chinese is quite good, I'd say our language level is about the same, although I am less loquatious. Miss Kim went on national television to demonstrate to a non-grieving and and really non-caring China the tribulations of her relationship with LI Yang. She was shaking the during the whole interview and gesticulating in a way that only one on too much cocaine would do. But the woman has been through a horrendous time. And then she went on TV to bash LI Yang too a panel who asked her obvious questions such as "Why didn't you leave him before the beating became so severe?" and "Why did you stay with him?" etc, and her response to unsympathetic ears was that she thought they loved each other and that he loved her. She is a victim, but, yeah, it was sad to watch no one caring and her desperately seeking. If only I could find the Youku video for that show. It really was as if the audience and participating guests thought domestic violence either did not exist in China or was too far removed for them to care. Back to what I was thinking about Alfred Hitchcock. I had read that he in 1919 he wrote a script called "The Woman's Part," about the conflicting emotions a man feels while he watching his wife perform on stage. What a psychological drama the story must be. Back to what I was saying about how all Beijing didao-ers hate foreigners...was I saying that or thinking it? I think I was thinking it and don't believe I've ever said it. If I post, does that mean I said it; why, no, it just means I wrote it, or posted it. But I will one day say it. Back to what I was thinking about how all Beijing-didaoers hate foreigners. Well, they do.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The difference between Chinese guys and foreign guys


I would again like to delve into a this hot topic.

Oftentimes my Chinese friends will ask me 外国男的和中国男的有什么不同? And the correct answer is, well there's not really that much that is different at the heart of we human species. But, okay, you can make long lists of differences that would inculcate cultural and historic differences that serve to produce the types of men commonly seen in America versus the kinds of men produced in China, but fundamentally, there is absolutely nothing different. I hear all the stereotypes: American men are big and tall and strong and confident and hygienic while Chinese men are often shorter and less confident, etc. We all know these differences exist, and so why harp on them any longer?

But deep down, there truly are no differences. The devotion to family and home-ownership exists in both cultures. 对中国人来说结婚是一辈子的事. 那当然. 外国人也有同一的概念. Let's just cut the crap conversation and move on?

We are interested in each other because we are shallow beings who are fascinated. Our innate desire for copulation and our animalistc urges are what provoke us in everything we do in life. Relationships occur between foreigners and Chinese people - just watch the movies and look in magazines or at billboards and you will see all sorts of mixed couples. Who is that hot girl that Jay Chou poses with? How does a pretty white female find males with whom she can mate so that she does not have to settle for the busy-body foreign boy who's either clueless and speaks no Chinese, or if he does speak Chinese and is smart and reliable, then DUH, inevitably he will be like myself and looking for a Chinese femme. No matter, we Western females will live up to our stereotypes of being very 开朗 and 独立 when mainly we're wondering where the Oxford graduates are who are returning to their home countries. Not quite.

Another fallacy - Western girls do not care about money the way Chinese girls do. Utter bullshit. Of course Westerners care about money - we spawned capitalism. We LOVE money and wealth and riches. Look at where we hang out when we go out...look at foreigner-concentrated areas in Beijing...they're all expensive places. Of course, we will remain modest with our spending and expectations, but, yes, I'm sorry, but foreigners do like and intend on having a pretty nice living situation, especially as age and time trickle on and the gust and zeal for living in wild China wears to halt.

He or she can go back to the Upper East side of Manhattan or their plantation in the Southeast or where ever he or she hails from and no matter what, that person will live just as comfortable a life as a successful person from an underdeveloped country. This is a difference between development and "non-development," and boy is Beijing developing. I myself make peanuts. In the meantime, I need to get out of Beijing and breathe.
Take in the air.

 Take on a humanitarian project in the countryside.

So long. So lonesome.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I'm thinking as I walk home from the office




Years ago I went to the hometown of Li Bai. I studied this poem recently, and now I want to go to a mountaintop. Under this poem, I illuminate my daily grievances.

--------

The dew is like pearl; the moon like a bow.

-------

Li Bai - Staying at the Night at a Mountain Temple

夜宿山寺
危楼高百尺
手可摘星辰
不敢高声语
空惊天上人

The tower is high at the top of the mountain
From here one's hand could pluck the stars
I do not dare speak in a loud voice
I feel to disturn the people in heaven

------

It is said that depressives make better writers and artists. Happy people don't produce quality art, and while I applaud myself for no longer being a depressive, I admit that being depressed and aloof brings comfort.
Off work at 6 pm. I shut down the computer and change into my walking shoes. It's time to walk home. So busy though.






My friends have invited me to dinner, but before dinner, I have to run 5k and before running 5k I have to balance my monthly budget and call my boss for the status of that 候先人. I have to read the news I downloaded on my iPad but didn't have time to look over, and I must listen to the Writer's Almanac from today, yesterday and the day before (because I've been too busy to listen to these podcasts lately), and what about PopupChinese and Fresh Air, when can I afford an hour to listen to these podcasts as well?

Fine, so it's 6:30 now, and if I don't have time or energy to run 5k, then I'll just walk the 7+k to the restaurant. Surely walking 7km is as good as running 5, yes or no? This way I could burn off the 300 calories from my second lunch, and maybe they'll have pizza tonight. Had I called Allen to ask how his date was last night? Crap, Sha Sha is calling me now. Can't forget class on Saturday, but I'm free Saturday afternoon, and so what will I do then? Study Chinese, of course, and then there is picking up teaching classes Sunday mornings and Sunday afternoon hashes. Frantic and hyper, I leave the office pondering the schedule of my weekend and my life to come. No moment to consider my surroundings, and absolutely no time for depression.

Beijing Warms Up

Crestfallen.

Another wonderfully temperate day in Beijing with blue skies and warm air. Yesterday was like today, and so was the day before that. Just a month ago I would walk outside and shiver. Now I can wear sunglasses and drape my coat over my arm. I walk home and wonder things.

One nice thing about me right now (my job, my living situation, etc) is that it might be better than it would be in the states. I will compare myself to my best friend. Chelsea, a small girl of 25, has sharp wits and a quick mouth. After graduating with a nothing degree Politics from UVA, she found herself working a few law firm stints in our hometown in rural Virginia. Around this time, I had planned on going to China, and I advised her to do likewise. Chelsea, a lover of Spanish language and soccer, decided she would go teach in Argentina, and I'm not sure how but she found an ESL program that arranged for her to go down and teach on a stipend of 100 dollars per month. She wondered how she would pay back her loans, got a deferrment, and took off. Now she is back and living in Southern California (Spanish speakers aripe) and works for the Agency of Missing and Abducted Children. She lives in a trailer, albeit very nice trailer, just an 8 minute drive from the agency and she is paid 48,000 dollars a year. She has few friends but enjoys soccer twice a week.

It's too bad she has to disappoint her Argentinian friends by adopting the Mexican accent. Chelsea confesses that she will speak to parents who have lost a child and yet she does not understand their Mexican Spanish. Argentines are proud people, especially soccer-playing Argentines. I mean, hello, did anyone watch the World Cup 2010, didn't Argentia do extremely well then? At that time, Chelsea, too was living and playing soccer in Argentina and living with her soccer-playing Argentine boyfriend. They are still together, and takes the piss out of her when she says thigs in her newly-developing Mexican accent.

Our lives are parallel and though she has more luck in the steady relationship department, I do see the two of us one day uniting in a common American cosmopolitan city.

The thing about Beijing is that everyone wants to become an entrepreneur. The desire runs rampant among 20-something Chinese-speaking foreigners. All I hear about are the businesses people are starting, their start-up websites, their blogs, their companies, their aspirations, and it's true, it is quite easy to get something started in Beijing if you have some money and find a good private equities investor. My mind lingers to the guan xi I have developed this past year and a half, and the list is meek but powerful. My roommate, an investment banker, would like us to start a project wherein we undergo the transfer of great works of art to an American museum who is willing to take them. There are thousands of pieces, and the artists, an old couple, are on the verge of death. Unwilling to surrender their works to the Chinese government, they intrust her, my roommate.

Other guan xi I have made include directors, screen writers, producers, actors and rich rich rich Chinese men. This is all in good humor and good company, but I wonder if I hadn't come to China, would the concept of making guanxi in order to start a business and make money etc even exist to me? None of my normal, white-girl/boy American friends think like this, and even some of the elders in my hometown do not say things such as, "well go out there and meet people. Make connections." Sure, there is the phrase, "It's not what you do, it's who you know," but such abstractions are taking on true form as my Beijing-ness spirals into an actual life of comfort here.

As I was saying, comfort. I can walk to work, I can walk home, and I can walk anywhere fun. Sure, friends are fleeting, but am I the most stable of individuals myself? Boyfriends, forget them. I have determined that I will tell my parents to arrange a marriage for me. Yes, when I go back home to the states, a strapping local lad will await me. Perhaps he will be a football player and own a jeep and a good chunk of land. I can wait here and be single, and, oops! No I can't marry you and live here in China forever because back home I've got pickings.

Sound like a familar story? Yes, it's a man's story.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Year in Beijing




Three events have led to the startling revelation that I need to post a blog asap for my Western audience.  The Chinese audience isn't privy to blogger.com, nor to Twitter or Facebook and all the glitz of perfectly open Western media. First event, Boxilai's ousting as Chongqing Communist Party Secretary. Second event, the shutting down of China's Twitter (Weibo) comments as an expression of military and government might, and third, the Titantic obsession.

Actually, I just felt like posting for the heck of it. My China obsession began in college when I was a student of International Relations. Some assigned classes included Eastern Relgions, Chinese Political Economy, Chinese History from Mongul Empire until Mao, etc. These classses coupled with a part-time job as a waitress as a Chinese-owned vegan restaurant inspired an unquenching desire to go abroad and study Chinese language. My major required a foreign language, and while it was popular to summer in Prague or Paris, I decided I was going all the way to China. our college had a partnership with Fudan University, and from what I had read in Chinese Political Economy, ever since the reformist period began in China in 1978, while China's economy was open to foreign investment and hosted a wealth of modernizing cities, the West of China still remained fragmented. I wanted to go there and work. I would become an English teacher.

I was 22 at that time, a fresh college graduate, and I could already speak and type conversational Chinese (I will not boast that I could write Chinese although, sure, I can copy characters with agility an easy). Most importantly, I could talk on QQ to any Chinese friends I made, and I spent my freshly graduated summer doing just so. I found a school in the middle of no where, Suining, Sichuan. I wanted to find a college because, who wants to teach kids, and I wanted to find a school that would provide me with accomodation, visa, a round-trip flight, and a decent salary. Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. I took off, and from my previous posts, you can see what kind of lonely life I lived as a lone Westerner in this small city. Here in Beijing, I hear legends of these type of foreigners - the ones with good Chinese and who are starting a business or doing something else in Beijing most always began their careers in middle-of-nowhere China where they were the star of the town. And so it began, in Suining, I was invited to dinners with city officials and mayors and famous painters who drew scrolls and bamboo and poetry and famous calligraphy for me, and I never paid for my own hotpot. I was invited to KTV 3 times a week and the other nights I usually spent feasting on spicy Sichuan dishes and drinking Baijiu. Since being in Beijing, I have not touched Baijiu.

I don't know what is it is about not having gone home yet. Maybe it's the desire to completely master the language and seek out a balance where a Western lifestyle can fit in perfectly with a Chinese lifestyle, but such a balance does not exists. In most cases of foreigners staying in China, they will strive very hard to fit in with Chinese crowds and never will. Dashan is just a national hero and no one treats hims him like a normal figure. They want to make a statue that praises him for learening perfect Chinese and for trying to bridge cultural gaps. Big fucking deal - anyone wants to do that. If I could have afforded it, I would have continued learning Chinese all the way through Fudan or Peking, where ever, but my disposition is rather shy, and the Chinese aren't likely to give me pressure to learn their language. On the other hand, pressure to learn English is rampant across the globe. Learning Chinese is just a pat on the back, and a foreigner is praised for his or her English abilities and happy and hardworking disposition.

Being in Beijing is tiresome and so is the fact that I have not been able to find a stable relationship or job that I like. Such struggles do not exist in the West. I did hear of a French girl who came here at 18 and now speaks perfect Chinese. At first she worked for some General doing illegal activities, and then maybe she worked in a brothel, and now she owns two houses in central Beijing, all paid for by a famous Chinese artist who is already married. What a very strange dream-like story. As for a normal relationship with a Chinese guy...western standards are for men to be forthright and confident, strong, hygenic and moral, and just strong figures. I haven't seen these qualities in any of the seemingly great Chinese men I have met. They're all too weak and servile and lacking of confidence to actually pursue me. I do give that Western women only like Chinese men who are exactly like Western guys!

That is all for now.

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...