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Dreams, Repression and Violence

weight of the world on asian shoulders

This week I taught two seemingly disparate classes: one obliquely encouraged students to dialogue about their inner-most dreams and the other, coincidentally and disturbingly scheduled on the day of the tragic shootings in Virginia, had much in common: Students were asked to differentiate between the words job, vocation and calling and apply it to their own lives. I was deeply moved and, as is often the case, I exchanged my role as teacher for that of student. Those of us who have taught ESL for a number of years know well to listen to the sounds that return to us from across the cultural divide. Chinese students are noted for their silence in the classroom and for their rapid adaptation to accepted or expected classroom behavior. Much of what they will express is meant to be superficial; hence, safe. But, occasionally, if you listen closely enough, you will hear the overflow of the heart become word. The sounds that I heard this week were not the usual echoes of my own voice and I listened carefully.

Most of my students lamented that their jobs upon graduation, if they were lucky enough in an economy hit harder than than the government lets on, were likely to be menial and unrewarding. They expressed an awareness that because they were students at a provincial college the likelihood that they would join the ranks of millions of unemployed graduates was greater than average. Many of them spoke of their vocational “choices” as inevitable: preparations foisted upon them by parents, poor entrance scores, or a lack of financial resources needed to pursue their true calling.

In my class of would-be lawyers, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and those training to be businessmen there were actually singers, visual artists, humanitarian aid workers, writers, Olympic athletes and more….. My students spoke with passion about their dreams now being relegated to mere meditations on what could, or should, have been.

But when I asked them how they felt about giving up or belaying calls of the heart, but they have practiced for so long at giving an outward appearance of gratitude and acceptance that they cannot see the dissonance. For them, to grouse about their lot in life while spending their parents’ hard-earned money on tuition would be to completely dishonor their families. Few Asian students would ever defy the wishes of their parents in such matters. Instead, it is easier to dissociate or suffer in silence than to profess displeasure at one’s lot in life. It is at once admirable and heartbreaking to see students inexorably tied to the dreams of others while abandoning their own.

It is my guess that so many suicides on Chinese campuses are directly related to this sense of familial duty and the inability to express feelings of displeasure. I see student denial of feelings as type of socially induced alexithymia that is pervasive in Chinese culture. Alexithymia is a condition characterized by a disconnect between emotions and actions. Individuals who are alexithymic cannot accurately describe feelings they are having nor are they in touch with how the feelings are being manifested in other parts of their lives. Such disconnect breeds addiction, somatic disorders, difficulty in relationships, or violence.

I have long considered suicide as the ultimate and most devastating act of domestic violence. Suicide is more than anger turned inward: it is rage brought to fruition. And last year four students and two faculty members, unknown to each other, jumped to their deaths in Guangzhou in the same week. I believe that at least two of the deaths were acts of aggression.

Coming: Dreams….Part II


vt

American Poet in China,Censorship,China Business,China Editorials,Chinese Proverbs,Confucius Slept Here,Guangzhou,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,Violence,中国

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Empty Shoes: The Re-Telling of an Important Story

I had thought this story was lost, but thankfully:

January 4th, 2006

Ms Yue will have her final chemo’ treatment tomorrow. She will then be eligible for experimental treatment. The experimental treatment will cost 40-60,000 US dollars: 30-40 years of salary in China.

MS YUE YING

The Pearl River Delta in China is not unlike the area devastated in Louisiana and further East or the hard working towns in West Virginia that the coal industry depends on. It suffers through typhoons, floods, mining disasters, and lives are forever changed by devastation, and death. I am pained for people on both sides of the Pacific. I grieve for the families that twice suffered in West Virginia.

Like the Mississippi Delta, the Pearl River Delta is in the midst of a class four silent storm. It is a cancer zone. It is the dumping ground for every industrial success above it: a slow moving sewage system for dozens of cities.
It was the victim of a cadmium spill far north that made the long journey south. The Pearl River, so beautiful at night, is dark and foreboding in the day. No one would dare eat a fish caught from its banks in our city–and there are thousands of more factories on its shores as it meanders to Hong Kong from here.

When industrialization began I am sure most people in China had no idea that its economy would grow so fast that its infrastructure could barely barely hold on to its hat as the winds of change howled, and continue to howl, past daily. I am also sure that they had no idea that their environment would suffer as much as it has and their people with it.

America has had her growing pains and fights with the environment and governmental ineptitude: coal Mining and the recent immense tragedy in West Virginia, deforestation, erosion, Katrina.

I grew up in a Steel Mill Town where every morning you could wipe orange residue off of the hood of your car. The government never helped–even when people were dying.

China is trying to heed calls from these deaths due to close mines, repair hillsides denuded of trees, and in one neighboring town where the cancer rate is so enormous, officials are finally forcing companies to adhere to strict standards.

The effects of the the issue in China invaded my life: The fight became personal.

Let me digress for a second:

The Japanese have an old ritual that they perform when someone leaves for a long time. It is Kagezen. They will set a place for dinner for the loved one until they return. The metaphor found me today when Yue Ying was being wheeled into surgery for a breast cancer biopsy, a problem that struck as fast and as fiercely as Katrina or West Virginia, they handed her slippers to her family. At the risk of sounding trite, I was struck by how small they were. I was taken over by just how tiny, frail and helpless I felt at that moment.

I went to the waiting room with Yue’s sisters. There were a dozen other anxious families there–all with shoes in hand or set neatly down on the floor in anticipation they would be filled again.

It was hard for me to believe that the delicate slippers I held had carried the weight of such an immeasurable heart, such monumental grace and extraordinary integrity. She is 45 years old and has made much of herself despite the lack of resources that were available for anyone who grew up in China when she did.

Yue’s were the last pair of shoes in the room when Dr. Wang, a wonderful, gentle, professor/surgeon/oncologist who did a fellowship at City Hospital in New York, announced that pathology had confirmed a pervasive malignancy and that she would have immediate surgery. Though I had seen the X-rays and read the reports and had taught at Medical schools/Health Science Centers and clinically directed a hospital in the U.S., I was unable to contain my grief. It IS different when it is you that are affected–even obliquely.

She was in surgery for over five hours. She headed for recovery awake, tearful and typically apologetic that she was trouble for those attending to her.

I went home to change, eat, meet with a few colleagues and head back to the hospital where I spent the night. Probably more to comfort her than me.

Kagazen has long been over. Prayers, good wishes and her determination sent death on his way and the unsinkable Ms. Yue has been back fighting an extraordinary fight.

But, regardless of how optimistic one might be, how tied to faith or hope, something beyond a part of your body is forever lost: A strong sense of mortality takes residence in its place. It has been a tough few months of chemotherapy, and uncertainty.

Her shoes are waiting by her bedside. And I am convinced that Yue will be back in them. She will be as strong, beautiful and grace-filled as before. She is now. She has lost her hair but, not her poise and power. If anyone can keep illness or death at bay it is her.

China has a long way to go, as does the U.S. in thinking less of government than it does of its people. And cancer treatment for women worldwide has even further to go. Here people commit suicide or die these days because of lack of protection with health care. They do not want to burden their families.

My heart goes out to the recent and ongoing victims of both Delta areas and the families who have twice suffered in West Virginia. Here is my wish that, one day, you will never do Kagezen for anyone because of pollution, senseless disease, industrial disasters government neglect.

Cancer Journal,cartoons,China Editorials,In the news,Personal Notes

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What would Buddha do?

Buddha in the sky with diamonds

Several years ago, attending a Jimmy Buffet concert with a Catholic priest (Indian trail, NC, not Margaritaville) , we were discussing ways to raise money for his new parish. In neighboring Georgia a woman was drawing huge crowds claiming to see incarnations of the Virgin Mary. So, we laughingly concocted a never-to-be scheme that involved catching and releasing a trout on the church property that we would say bore some saint’s likeness on its its tail. We would then put donation baskets all up and down the creek. It was sacrilegious, but damned funny anyway.

A few years later I visited Shingo, Japan where they claim to have Christ and his brother buried on a hill above town. Jesus, according to local mythology, let his brother take his place on the cross and then went to rural Japan and retired to a happily married life in the sticks. Surprisingly, there was no marketing involved anywhere near the grave site.

Please bear with me as this all comes together for you in the usual intuitive flash at the end…

I just read a delightful book first printed in 1999 entitled What would Buddha Do? by Franz Metcalf. The pocket-sized tome is rife with well thought out answers to a host of everyday questions, some that made me laugh out loud:

1. What would Buddha do if his credit cards are maxed out?

2. What would Buddha do when making a salad?

3. What would Buddha do to avoid burnout?

4. What would Buddha do about trusting the media?

The answer to last question can be found in the Buddhist writing Undanavarga 22.17: “One’s ears hear a lot; one’s eyes sees a lot. The wise should not believe everything seen or heard.” Buddha must read the China Daily too, where I found the picture above. It seems Buddha hung around for about an hour on Heibei’s Zushan Mountain, but unlike the manifestations in Georgia, he didn’t impart any wisdom to the local tourists.

In another book I reviewed recently, One Couple, Two Cultures, there was a story about a British man and his Chinese wife discussing behavior common in each other’s country. The wife seemed to have no trouble commenting on behalf of the entire 1.3 billion residents of China, while the Brit’ demured on speaking for the whole of England. I can with absolute certainty say that had the Buddha appeared in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia, that every redneck (remember before you shoot that my father hailed from Harlan County, Kentucky), instead of burning him as a heretic would have tried to sell him on Ebay. I still remember the eerie glow-in-the-dark St. Joseph that watched over me as a child sleeping in the dark.

Now I’m not sure what made them think it was Buddha and not Mother Theresa, Confucius, or Steve Irwin. But I continue to digress…

What surprised me the most is that nobody is now selling watches of Buddha waving from the peak or claiming to have private chats with Gautama himself. Another missed marketing opportunity for China. David and I are thinking about sorting through seaweed potato chips until we come up with  some that look like Sun Yat Sen or Lao Zi. We promise to donate all proceeds (and extra chips) to charity.

So what would Buddha do if Buddha were alive today? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be standing around in the Heibei fog, though he might possible blog a few meditations–using a wordpress platform, of course. So I’m off to see if WWBD-in-canton.com is taken. This way, we can answer the pressing questions like:

1. What would Buddha do if someone stole a taxi out from under his nose?

2. What would Buddha do if someone took the food from his plate at a Cantonese buffet?

3. What would Buddha do if he found out he were watching a bootleg copy of Seven Years in Tibet?

4. What would Buddha say if his disciples kept commenting on his weight and skin color?

Now I’m getting ready to read Metcalf’s answer to “What would Buddha Do about that Coffee Habit?” If this post isn’t a call for my spiritual rehab or caffeine detox, I don’t know what is.

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,Asia,Asian Humor,Asian Women,Blogroll Diving,Book Reviews,China Book Reviews,China Business,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,China Humor,China Photos,Chinese Festivals,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Confucius Slept Here,Entertainment,Expats,Greater Asia Blogs,Guangzhou,Guangzhou China,Hong Kong,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Internet marketing China,Japan,Just Plain Strange,past posts,Personal Notes,Photos,Teaching in China,Weird China,中国,中文

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SORRY, DETOXING TODAY….

Some of you may remember my writing this piece a few months ago. Tragically, I have become hopelessly addicted since that time. I now have coffee cola delivered by the case to my door. I would get it myself, but it is 27 flights of stairs to the store and I am afriad that my heart will explode becuause even at baseline it now putters like a Cajun trolling motor.

I am off today, not in detox, but recovering from some real meatball dentistry that had had me ill for weeks. Thank heavens for surgery by Dr. Dee at Can-Am Medical center in Guangzhou who corrected the earlier problems.

I will be back tomorrow with a post on mirth….Meantime, I am resting, drinking coffee cola and learning to levitate…..

From March:

COFFEE COLA CHINA

Idon’tkowwhyIneversawthisstuffbeforetoday.It’sbrilliant!!
TWICEhtecaffeineofordinarycola.It’slikethatBUZZBEERontheDrew
CareyshoworJOLTfromyearsback.WaitasecondwhileIitchmylegandget
myhairtolieflat.HEYIcanstandandtypewithonehand!!!!DidIsay
ithadTWICEthecaffeine???!!

So,wherewasI??

This liquid crack (NO), if it didn’t taste like vinyl on a bus seat smells (No, never up close!), would be a huge hit! It looks like a Safeway logo on the bottle I have (If it would just hold still I could read it…) and I guess is a knock-off of the stuff Coke introduced to France a couple of years ago. That was devilish, aye? The only think the French like as much as cheese and wine is COFFEE! Who has time for women when you are flying around Carrefour like a fart in a skillet?

I am sure this stuff has been souped up a bit and is already available in the prescription section of supermarket pharmacies in Japan.

I am a little disturbed that they engineered it to froth when you put it into a glass. It looks horribly like recycled Guinness (Again, NO! what’s wrong with you people?) with its flat head of foam.

My bottle, It’s Empty! It’s Empty! I want another one! Now!, was made in Beijing and probably flew down here on its own accord. Maybe they will start brewing it with Pearl River water. It will probably taste the same only chunkier.

It terrifies me that Chinese Taxi Drivers might drink and drive on this stuff….Those guys already have a variant hybrid of St. Vitus’ Dance and Turretts-like Syndrome; all they need now is this new artificial symptom inducer and WHOOOOOOO!!!!

Give it a try, but have paramedics on speed (ha, ha,, ha ha) dial….I am of….really way off………………

Asian Humor,China Business,China Humor,China Photos,Humor,Japan,Just Plain Strange,Personal Notes,Photos,Tibet Climb,Weird China,中国

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Long Time Ago!

Hi all!

David and I had been working on the computer until 3-4 AM every morning and finally suffered a collective seizure, a subsequent blackout (sans alcohol) and somehow ended up in Siam. I turned an ankle in a very un-ballet style pirouette and have been huddling near ice and aspirin.

We have been sans Internet until today and likely will not be back online until Saturday. Please accept apologies for not returning emails or posting as there was no way to anticipate the lack of services here.

Despite (or to spite) the extraordinary scenery we have been unable to put down research texts, China memoirs and business guides for very long. I think we are a hopelessly Sinocidal. 

The Dreamblogue is close to official lauch and we are making sure we augment our knowlege of China as much as possible in advance.

More soon…

China Expat,Personal Notes

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Blog of Dreams



The Dream:

Our dream is to travel in 2007 to every mainland province in China. During this journey, it is our intention to chronicle the everyday lives of ordinary Chinese citizens. Our motivation for the trip came from a group of women known as the League of Extraordinary Chinese Women. The LOECW was comprised of 5 women from various walks of Chinese life—wives, semi-professional women, a bookkeeper, and a student. The one thing they had in common was advanced-stage HER2 breast cancer. These women, with little access to formal education and less information from outside sources about the disease they had contracted, naturally and courageously combated their disease with friendship, enthusiasm, meditation, and what medical care they could afford.

One member of the original group has survived, and a newer, younger member has been added recently—a 22-year-old student who lost her leg to bone cancer. Both of the survivors lack the financial wherewithal to apply standard medical treatment to their illness. We devoted time and energy from our blogs and lives to raise money for members of the league. As a result of our initial efforts, we were able to extend the life of some members, and we enabled the student to purchase a prosthetic leg.

During this first effort, we began to think about other Chinese people left behind in the wake of this huge industrial growth. Around this time, we also met Thomas Stader and Laurie Mackenzie, two expats who have devoted their time, talents, and treasures to Chinese, educationally and economically left behind, by giving them access to life-changing education. Our meetings sparked Yanzhi Liu’s interest, as he was (and still is) a board member for the US-based group The Reading Tub. Because we are educators and bloggers actively involved in search engine marketing optimization and education, we sought to find a way to organize the entrepreneurial energy of the people we met and turn it into a force that would help us, and other people, realize the dreams we now hold dear.

We decided to experiment, via the Blog of Dreams, by asking students in our global internet marketing class to take a hands-on approach to global marketing by contributing to a positive world awareness of China while aiding worthy causes. Students immediately drove a brand new blog to the number 23 position (out of 75 million) in the Favorites section of Technorati, the premiere blog aggregator in the world. Students ensured that one of our blogs was nominated for and eventually won Best Asian Blog in the Annual Weblog Awards. This blog already held dozens of top ten slots in search engine slots for keywords related to China business. So, with this kind of early momentum, student commitment and huge volunteer support, we knew we could create a project that would make a difference in other people’s lives via the Internet.

The Dreamblogue is a simple concept. We will contact people through PR Web, Blogger News Network (BNN, for whom we write), Google News, Social Networks like Facebook and our volunteer network. We will also promote an Internet MEME that asks people be to share real dreams for themselves or someone else. After a specified period of time (maybe once a month or once a quarter), we’ll select a contributor who will win a prize donated by one of our charitable sponsors. We hope to give away vacations to China, scholarships for study abroad, equipment, Software and cutting edge gadgets that will appeal to our broad demographic. We want to attract a Postsecret-type (http://postsecret.blogspot.com) interest in our blog that will drive enough traffic that we can generate advertising revenue to give to educational and medical concerns. We also plan a book about China for expat and business newcomers.

The blog will use Feedburner and Blogads as its primary advertising revenue resources. The number of ads that we allow will be limited: no more than 1 ad in our feed, 1 ad in our posts, and 1 ad in our blog ads. All of the money generated from these sources will go directly from Feedburner and Blogads to the charities we support—we will never directly handle the money.

The other advertising that we will be present on the site will be for other corporations and institutions that sponsor our adventure, and those ads will be top listed display ads in the sidebar of the blog of dreams.

Any educational concerns that join us as sponsors for the trip will have direct links on our site to translated pages or individual websites that will advertise to Chinese students and more importantly, their parents. We will do all of the search engine optimization and translation and ongoing support for these.

The Blog of Dreams will have videocasts, podcasts, a China picture contest (to be turned into a coffee table book) , a weekly Chinese horoscope, weekly Chinese recipes (also to be a book), and most importantly, the daily dreams of people from around the world. In all, the Dreamblogue has been created to be a tool of understanding and a place where dreams can be spoken into reality. We also plan a book bout

Click on the stamp above and head for the Dreamblogue. The first thing you can do to help is favorite them in Technorati and then link to them if you have a blog.

ABOUT US:
Who we are:

Lonnie Hodge is a writer, educator and SEO consultant with over 20 years of experience working and living in Asia. He is a past recipient of America’s highest honor given to a poet: A National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Writing. Because of the Unsinkable Ms Yue’s constant inspiration via, her courage in battling cancer, Lonnie, along with David, were compelled to create The China Dreamblogue.
Lonnie has done SEO for corporations and bloggers large or small. His work for non-profit groups is done without charge. To date his clients hold over 30,000 keywords indexed in #1 positions on major search engines worldwide.
Lonnie has been a lecturer worldwide on topics related to Humor and Wellness, psychoneuroimmunology, Psychopharmacology, Personal Communication, Asian Culture, International Trade, Search Engine Optimization, Marketing, ESL and Personal Growth and Development for Universities, small and large businesses, The Kellogg Leadership Program, The Fetzer Institute and more…
He is a Professor with over thirty years of teaching experience at Universities worldwide including: Baylor University, The University of North Carolina, The U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences (while he was a soldier during a few of the Vietnam years), The University of Maryland and Business/Technical Colleges in Asia.
He is currently one of China’s leading Trade Specialists and Consultants. He is one of only two peer- reviewed and accepted SEO specialists in China.
David DeGeest is a teacher, blogger, and educator in China who regularly assists in the editing and writing of OneManBandWidth. He holds a degree in mathematics and English from Grinnell College. He came to China as the recipient of a prestigious fellowship from Grinnell’s Office of Social Commitment. In the past year, he has edited a motivational memoir and an international Bonsai book. He has devoted his time to learning Chinese, language and literature, Martial Arts and SEO while promoting the Dreamblogue.

More information will follow tomorrow.

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Intermediate Yueyinglish….

A few months ago I posted about The Unsinkable Ms Yue’s uncanny ability to render herself understood in any circumstance. I have often used her as an example in my classes to encourage students to forget perfection and work toward progress instead.

ms yue

I long ago set out to catalog the elements of style in Yueyinglish a rare and unusual sub-dialect of Chinglish unique to the only surviving member of the League of Extraordinary Chinese Women. But, I had not seen Ms Yue for some time and heard her and David using an expanded vocabulary that the aspiring Yueyinglish speaker should know.

Some new vocabulary:

curse=of course

turnf the off=turn it on

turnf the on=turn it off

QQ=cute

newshin=new

long time ago=it was intolerably long

cookie the rice=prepare a meal

waidter=weather

rainling=raining

have the small?=do you have change?

you the one people go?=you are going alone?

only the talking, talking!=don’t get upset I am just discussing this with you

craysheen=insane

Seeulateragulator=later gator

OK, now for some practice sentences actually overheard in Guangzhou:

So, how was Spiderman?

Long time ago!

How about the actors?

The movie one people QQ. The girl no beautiful. Bad the man craysheen da.

I am sorry we got out so late

Only talking talking ma. I go one people home and cookie the rice.

The movie house was crowded

Yesu! The man no tunf the on the cellphone.

So you want to go with David to see another movie?

Newsheen the movie, curse! You the one people want to go?

No, David would love your company. See you later

The waidther no way! Rainling! Take a taxi. You have the small? Seeulateragulator.

For those of you anticipating your YYSL certificates: You wait me, OK?

Asian Humor,Asian Women,China Humor,Chinglish,Confucius Slept Here,Guangzhou,Guangzhou China,Humor,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,The Unsinkable Ms Yue,中国,中文

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The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women: And Then There Was One…

league of extraordinary women

The original League lost one more extraordinary woman this week. Ms. 珍 (Zhen) , first from the right, succumbed to breast cancer that spread to her liver for want of appropriate treatment. (There is a still a way to help and it doesn’t cost you anything*)

The unsinkable Ms. Yue is the remaining survivor of her chemotherapy group. None of the women to date have been able to raise the funds needed to acquire the very expensive drug Herceptin needed for a chance of staving off the disease. It is the only available agent that can treat HER2 breast cancer in early and late stage development, butverg wholesale runs $45,000 for a course of therapy–more than ten years worth of an average teacher’s salry in China. This blog has raised only a fraction of the monies needed for these brave ladies.

I was given great life lessons by Ms Zhen, woman who remained ever positive about her chances for recovery. I have no doubt that she survived long past expectations because of her zeal for life, the friendship of the other League members and Chinese traditional medicine combined with what western medicine she could afford.

Ms Zhen, a victim of cancer and an ailing health system in China, leaves behind a loving husband, a boy 14 years old and a girl now 19 year of age.

In memoriam Onemanbandwidth and The Dreamblogue will not post new entries for the next three days.

*Head over to http://blogofdreams.com and favorite the blog in Technorati and also lin to the trip. It takes five minutes and the right people benefit.

Asian Women,Cancer Journal,Charity in China,China Photos,Chinese Medicine,Human Rights,Personal Notes,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,The Unsinkable Ms Yue,中国

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After the applause….

TEACH IN CHINA

I finished a class this week and there was applause. The general reticence of Chinese learners to be demonstrative in the classroom had me thinking their joy was merely over the fact that the period had finally end. Caught off guard, with tears in my eyes, I lowered my head and tried to understand what had brought on such a response.

The class had been a simple one: an exercise that had them speaking about themselves, the origins of their families and the meanings inherent in the elegant pictographs that are the Chinese characters that represent their names. They chalked each one on the board and told the room stories of history, hope and love that had gone into the choices made for them and by whom the names had been given and why.

Let me digress back a week and tell you of an encounter I had with one of the Chinese nationals teaching at our school: She wandered into a conversation I was having with two other Chinese professors and introduced herself with an English name I knew could not be hers by heritage. I then asked, as I always do, her “real” name in Chinese. She replied that it was much too difficult for a foreigner. I asked again and she answered with a simple name, nearly as common in China as is Smith or Jones in America. I was not sure if I should be angry, saddened or pedagogical or silent at that moment. I simply drew the character for her name in the air and then asked if I was correct. She confirmed my choice and left the conversation after quickly instructing, thereby saving face, that Chinese names were richer in meaning and more carefully chosen than were western ones. My three daughters Alizon (named for the beautiful lover in the verse play The Lady’s not for Burning), Adrienne (named for famed feminist poet Adrienne Rich) and Chieko (My “Thousand Blessings Child” nearly lost to a prenatal condition) might disagree, but I nodded acceptance and went back to small talk with my colleagues.

It was later that day that I conceived the teaching lesson I mention above. And I cconceded that it was often true that Chinese families incorporated, on the whole, more thought and care when choosing a name: superstition, family placement, tradition about who in the family normally names a new child, hopes associated with the birth of the child (sometimes even questionable ones like giving the girl a boy’s name because they had hoped for a male child), Feng Shui master recommendations and dozens of other factors that never enter into our decisions in America. I thought that she had made actually made a great case for students (and herself) not using English names. I wanted students to know that some of us are really hungry to know more about Chinese culture and willing to endure being uncomfortable with the difficulties of language acquisition. And I wanted to re-instill a sense of identity and connection with their own culture that I dreaded they could lose if they abandoned their uniqueness because of a fear of not fitting in or being wholly understood for foreigners.

Many foreign teachers, for convenience, give or accept English names from the foreign charges in their classes. They allow students to abandon the most beautiful written language on earth and deny their heritage by replacing their names with handles like “Flash,” Zinger,” Caca,” and “Bush” and “Bin Laden” (who incidentally are really friends)….Some students have perfectly reasonable names and, for whatever reason, ask to be called by the same. In those cases I obey their requests.

Some teachers make the case that they give English names as part of practice in cultural education. I remember doing the same thing in German class in Germany. The difference was/is the English names here usually generally stick with the students for decades, even life. Coversely, I can remember many a foreign teacher in Japan expressing feelings of anger about having their name transliterated by a Japanese into an inadequate and odd sounding phonetic alphabet. Many teachers thought the practice was racist and that the Japanese should learn to correctly pronounce their names.. But, I have rarely heard an ESL teacher take the opposing stance when it comes to student titles.

How can we ever translate the stories of five thousand years written on their faces, hear their fragile voices chime with the long-traveled love of ancestors, or walk down the aisles of the dialectic between us without even knowing their real names?

I had dinner the following day with a British teacher who told me that a wise lecturer of his had once added this question to a final exam: “What is the name of the person who cleans this room for you every day?” Some thought it a joke while others saw it as a call to find learning in the commonplace–that upon examination becomes extraordinary. I don’t know how that teacher graded this lesson, but I know the best answer I could have received would have been: “I don’t know, but I will find out.”

Some of greatest lessons in life and my deepest understanding of any culture has come from taxi drivers, and hospital orderlies–real stories for another post. These kinds of awakenings have been more commonplace than revelations gained through dialogue with supervisors or professional pedants. And too they have come from students, like mine this week, with the onomatopoeia of temple bells, the warmth of summer sun or the synestheia-like fragrance of jade in their names. Why wouldn’t I want to hear the wishes wished for them instead of some silly nickname foisted on them or adopted by themselves because of some misunderstanding of a western movie or TV show?

One of my friends in American, his last name is Lason, has kept meticulous records of his family tree. He comes from Russian Jewish roots. His original family name was Lashinsky. The customs officials at Ellis Island altered it for eternity because it sounded “too Jewish.” While some families changed their names voluntarily, many ethnic minority group members at Ellis had their names altered to accommodate the ethnocentrism of a few in power. If someone opts to choose an alternate pronunciation for whatever reason I can understand it, but I don’t ever want to be the cause.

My class showed its gratitude for being able to share a verbal communion, a common meal of understanding and appreciation with a curious stranger to their past. And after the applause I reflected on my job which I believe is to nurture what is already there: a shy and folded leaf of promise obediently growing toward the light available to them. I feel it is my duty as a visitor in this country to learn as much as I can about the people and places I inhabit. And it is always my mandate as a teacher to instill pride and a sense of identity in students; especially those who feel inferior because they have been affected by the stereotypes of a western media that often ridicules Asian names and customs.

So, after the applause I moved on to the next class hoping to a grateful janitor, taxi driver, and attentive educational orderly and hoping to keep learning from the teachers on the other side of the aisle. There is no requirement to remember my name.

Asia,cartoons,China Editorials,Heartsongs,Intercultural Issues,Macau University of Science and Technology,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,中国,中文

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Wishes, Lies and Schemes of Social Commitment in China, Part I

one-drop.gif

There is a school in America that maintains an “Office of Social Commitment.” Ostensibly, the office is charged with, in part, sending bright, globally aware scholars to regions that can develop and utilize their youthful enthusiasm. Ideally this fosters the “fellows” acquisition of information about local culture and accords them skill building opportunities that can be transferred back to America or generously subsumed into future professional choices.

Here is the rub: The four fellows who come from that particular school are sent to work in two institutions: One is in Macau and the and other is in Nanjing. The former is a third-tier private, for-profit school with most students coming from well-heeled families, and the latter is an elite prep’ school. The fellows in Macau are simply handed a teaching schedule and sent off, without any preparation, to face the Great Wall of Student Silence that is built into most Chinese classrooms. Attempting to scale the Great Wall can repel veteran teachers and injure novices and journeyman alike if they are not well equipped. Chinese administrations will not help teachers to adjust as they have little time and patience for new and, well, expendible teachers. I watched two “fellows” suffer emotional melt-downs (they are somewhat fine now) because they received little or no responsible assistance to problems from their “commitment” office or their Chinese work-site. It seems that social commitment is only an external consideration and does not apply to working field staff.

Dostoevsky wrote: “As a general rule people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are too.” Sadly, that used to reflect my world view, but living in China among opportunistic and the ill-intentioned, posing as humanitarians, has altered my thinking. The head of the aforementioned social commitment office has in his website bio’ a telling metaphor: He ends his long list of organizational memberships and awards (Surely proof he is a good guy) with the announcement that he is adopting an Asian child. The child has no name, no history mentioned and upon close examination seems to be there only to add credence to the director’s bid for earthly sainthood–along with his being a “living kidney donor.”

In Nanjing the fellows are a bit better off, but are as essential to the fulfillment of ideologically meaningful goal as an i-Pod in the Gucci bag of an Orange County co-ed. This isn’t the community building your hippie dad knew in the Peace Corps of the seventies when he dug wells and irrigation ditches alongside poor farmers. The only holes that are dug in the examples mentioned are the emotional ones, like above, that once idealistic fellows will spend years extricating themselves from. The Chinese students at both of these schools, while lamenting environmental issues and social ills in the mainland, often come from families that work in government or head up companies that are part-and-parcel of troubling environmental issues and in financial charge of workers that increasingly need more attention than their designer clothed school children.

When I recommended possible educational agencies that might really benefit from the investment of a young foreign teacher, or schools where poor children may never have seen an outsider like those served by Volunteer English Teachers, I was told that it was just too much trouble to negotiate acceptable new contracts. Since when did social commitment get easy?

If you are headed here to help make sure you have the training and support you need to embark on your journey. And be sure you are not just part of your own or someone else’s need to uphold the appearance of humanitarian interests.

In the next installment I will be looking at NGOs, and Missionary Groups operating in Macau and the Mainland…

Coming:

Addicted to Mediocriy II and Dreams, Repression and Violence II….I lost many follow-ups in the server crash and am now reconstructing…

cartoons,Charity in China,China Cartoons,China Editorials,China-US Medical Foundation,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,Heartsongs,Human Rights,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Macau,Macau University of Science and Technology,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,Top Blogs,Travel in China,Yangshuo China,中国

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SEO CHINA Part XXXI: Matt Cutts on Chinese Food, Adwords and Mom

GoGu

Matt Cutts works for Google and has a blog about how to court their search engine; so, when Matt flaps his blog wings in America there is a tsunami on the far side of the Internet.

This is a spoof on his recent interview on SEO in China….

Matt recently finished an interview with Zac on China SEO and Google that was started in September of 2006. Actually it was done much sooner, but got caught in Zac’s gmail spam filter, but I digress….

I have, via the magic of the Internet, figured out Matt’s answer algorithm and inserted myself and Matt’s probable answers into the interview:
Zac: First of all thank you for doing this interview with me, I believe it will be very helpful for SEOers and web marketers in China.

There are currently lots of misunderstandings about SEO in China. The first thing that pops up in mind is “spam” when people hear the word SEO. Some say “SEO is shortsighted and is like suicide”. From search engine’s point of view, is that true? Is SEO hated, allowed or encouraged by Google? We’re talking about whitehat SEO here.

Matt: I hate pop-ups. Google consides it spam. It’s a common mistake to think that search engines don’t like SEO. The fact is that SEO within Google’s quality guidelines is okay. It is even better if you follow party policy. That includes things like making sure that your site is crawlable, thinking of words that users would use when searching and including them naturally within the content of the site, and doing things like making sure that page titles and urls are descriptive except for stupid things like democracy .

What Google (and other search engines) don’t like is when someone tries to cheat or take a short cut to show up higher than they should. When a site violates our quality guidelines, Google calls that spam. When I do it we call it marketing.

Zac: Google announced its official Chinese name “Gu Ge” (Harvest Song) in April 2006 however the majority of Chinese users do not seem like the new name. It sonically sounds like 哥哥 which means big brother and tian-anmen knows we have had enough of that!

According to China Internet Network Information Center, CNNIC, Google is losing market share from 33% last year to current 25.3%.

http://www.linuxworld.com.au/index.php/id;836499436;fp;2;fpid;1

What do you think of the market share drop?

Matt: Liar Liar pants on fire! What was the question? We spent 190 million on market research and Baiduble 1% of that. Maybe we should outsource to India.

Zac: I noticed there are Chinese employees in Google headquarter. Any idea how many Chinese in Googleplex now? How are they doing? Any advice for Google fans who want to join Google?

Matt: We do have many Chinese engineers at the Googleplex. The ones not under investigation by Homeland Security are doing great.

ZAC: Let’s talk about duplicate content, which is a hot topic recently.Let’s talk about duplicate content, which is a hot topic recently.I see much more content copying on Chinese web sites. Many Chinese webmasters like to “gather” (wink, wink) contents from other web sites, either using software or by hand, then publish on their own web sites. Does Google penalize these sites full of contents you can see everywhere? Is there a percentage or threshold, exceeding which penalty is applied? In other words: just how much can we scam you before we get busted?

What should the original author do so that the original is recognized as so?

Matt: We have noticed that some Chinese web sites have a lot of duplicate content. Users like to get different search results, so Google is looking at how best to provide diverse results. Our algorithms already have some ways of removing duplicate content, and we will continue to look for ways to improve. As of today we have no way to filter out Chinglish modifications of content, so….

The original author should consider imitation the greatest form of flattery–I made that up just now.

Zac: Some web sites use multiple domains with exactly same content , for example, domain.com and domain.com.cn. Is this risky? What’s the best way to do it?

Matt: Use Google adwords. Ad don’t forget that creativity can really help. You could hire some Americans for that. For example, there was a site that made industrial blenders, which sounds like a very boring subject. But now go watch this video at: YouTube and you’ll see something amazing. They threw all kinds of different objects into the blender to prove how powerful their machine was; however, I am easily amused and don’t watch Letterman so I did not catch the duplicate content.

Even things like newsletters, blogs, information about an industry, or other resources can serve as a reason for people to get interested in your site and link to you. Porn sells well.
Continue Reading »

Asian Humor,cartoons,China Business,China Cartoons,China Editorials,China Humor,China SEO,China web 2.0,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Internet marketing China,Personal Notes,Search Engine Marketing,SEM,SEO,Seo China,The Internet,The Sharpest Guy on the Planet,中国

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Dying to win in Macau….

macau gambling

Simon Montlake wrote recently in the Christian Science Monitor about Macau’s “exhilarating” growth of late. Imagine yourself in a town where the GDP rose 17 percent last year and the law mandated that the highest paying of the thousands of new jobs must go to you, a local resident. Desperate casinos are hiring college students before graduation and they are easy to spot as they doze off even in the midst of exams.

One the face of it Macau, with salaries 3-6 times higher on average than the mainland, has re-nationalized and re-located the American Dream Eastward. And land values have increased some 30% this year and restaurants and service sector shops are packed most days.

But, there is life in the darkness beneath the fresh sod of success: Thousands of illegal aliens, mostly Filipino domestic helpers, Chinese mainland construction workers and Russian showgirls and prostitutes, work for under- the-table pay while living in overcrowded apartments. For every undocumented worker deported there are dozens, from the over 200 million migrant workers creating China’s new skyline, waiting to take their place. And there is no shortage of employers desperate to fill critical shortages or other local needs who are willing to bend the rules for a profit.

Last week a man from Wuhan in Hubei province, reportedly despondent over gambling losses, jumped to his death from a terrace inside the Sands Casino. He landed amid players queueing up for a free million HK dollar pull on a house slot machine. The Sands, who made profits staggering enough to pay off all their debts in only a few months, is building a new 3,000-room Venetian Macau at a cost of $2.3 billion and will likely retire that debt in record time. Mainlanders lose the money that comprises more than 60% of the revenue that has already outstripped the take of Las Vegas. Changes in anti-gambling Beijing’s hands off policy could affect the country’s bottom line and leave a populous, vocationally training to need gaming demands, without a fall-back plan. (Like my Irish mom, who likely spoke Yiddish in a previous life, “You need something to fall back on,” but….

It is not the first time someone has taken their own life after yielding to gambling urges and the mainland authorities, this time, have taken some token measures to curb addiction: Visas issuance, according to an official source in Guangzhou, have been limited in number due to the recent suicide. While I am sure this will do little to stem the tide of players it may be a warning shot fired at the captains of greed steering Macau into waters dependent on the very people Macau scorns with governmental controls. It may well cut down on monetary traffic for the upcoming Golden Week holiday.

The increase in real estate prices has taken place despite a huge surplus of available rental space. Thousand of high-end dwellings are gather dust on their price tags as the asking price is far too steep even for most newly affluent Macanese. Affordable housing for newcomers and is hard to come by and the 9-10 Macanese and Hong Kong families that control the bulk of Macau’s property holdings. The rampant land speculation is making decent housing unaffordable.

In an effort to slow real estate speculation the Macau government abruptly stopped its program that allowed outsiders to invest in homes and then qualify for citizenship. Of course, only non-Chinese qualified anyway unless mainlanders bought a passport from an African, Carribean or South American country selling citizenship. Now, many mainlanders are out the cost of an apartment and a fresh nationality. And real estate developers selling space in dozens of new luxury high-rises are owed millions in unpaid commissions now that the lure is gone. What is most troubling is: the new policy does not look like it will lower prices as the moguls have plenty of cash to park in land holdings while betting on the come of outside cash.

Macau has already surpassed Hong Kong as the top tourist destination in the area, but a quick search for the number of people checking on line for lodging in the area shows Macau getting 2/3 less look-ups. Macau is a Gambling Disneyland and good for a day trip, but not a vacation destination.

The homey, cheap places to eat are giving way to gourmet fare at tourist prices as local restaurateurs cannot afford the rent or compete for service workers with the casinos. The Sands starts their toilet attendants at a salary twice that of a mainland college teacher. Area entertainment magazines, paid for by casino ads, laud the explosion of new chefs and high-dollar meals, but the young, and the low-budget, daytripping retired folks think otherwise.

Right now, Macau is a safe bet for locals. But, as always, for someone to win at the tables, someone else must lose.

China Business,China Cartoons,China Editorials,Chinese Festivals,Confucius Slept Here,Holidays,In the news,Macau,Personal Notes,Travel in China,中国

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Heartsongs: The Library Project

“Children’s books are a luxury to have in Asia, and a rarity in an orphanage.”

–from The Library Project

Guest Post by David DeGeest

Thomas Stader has a vision to build libraries for children living in orphanages and rural areas around Asia.

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Stader, is one of those rare people who come to China with big plans and a bigger heart. He came to help and began to put his plan into action in 1993. To accompany Stader’s big heart, is a well organized plan rife with several clever ideas. Instead of trying to organize all of the complex processes that would be required to build libraries, Stader uses pre-existing supply chains and forms cooperative agreements with local NGOs and corporationg for funding and logistics. These tactics, combined with the lower overhead costs in Asia, allow him to build libraries for $150-$300 USD each–without comprimising the structural quality or integrity of the libraries. Welcome to an age when quality NGO work combined with smart marketing and good business sense can transform a philanthropic daydream into a sound reality.

building a library in China

The Project has made remarkable progress. In 2006, Stader was able to create two libraries for approximately $300 USD and some help from Aston Education, JinaLive, and the Dalian Charity Federation. In 2007, The Library Project will expand to do work in Xian and Jinan. By the end of the year, the project plans to create 15 new libraries to schools and orphanages with a total project cost under $15,000 USD.

Here’s a list of the typical costs from one of the recent library projects:

Hard cover book, 100 pages: $3
Soft cover book, 100 pages: $2
Harry Potte Series: $15
Color comic book: $1
Black and white comic book: .5
Book shelf: $25
Table and chairs: $50
Plants, posters, mats: $25

children in a newly built chinese library

The Library Project plans to have 80 libraries running in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam by 2009. You can help by clicking here.

Note: all pictures featured here come from The Library Project’s site.

There will be follow-up articles on this worthy endeavor soon…..

Asia,Charity in China,China Business,China Editorials,China Humor,Heartsongs,Human Rights,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,Photos,Teaching in China,Vietnam,中国

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The funniest man in China….

Who:

Attended Cathedral Chorister School, Durham with Tony Blair ?

Who was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Comedy Performance in 1982 for the 1981 season?

Who once crashed his MacLaren F1, a supercar valued at more than $1,000,000, into the back of a stationary Mini Metro, valued at around $600 USD (the damage was not severe)?

Who was one of the guests at Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles (you would have to have a sense of humor) wedding ?

You know you have been an expat too long when you can discuss, in detail, such trivia about the above referenced English comic, and revered Black Adder member, Rowan Atkinson.

And he has a new movie out:

Mr Bean in China

Ms Yue, a child of the revolution, does not know who the Beatles were, my students would not know Winnie the Pooh from the Pope (he looks like a really old bear, but with a hat, ae?), but even teenage girls would trample Justin Tiberlake enroute to getting a look at Mr. Bean’s mole-like mug. I am headed to the movies tonight to see what all the new fuss is about despite being offered the DVD version by every Chinese person I know. I might even do a review.

I once wrote, in a now lost post, about the Chinese sense of humor. Yes, it has its subtleties in speech (They love and study word play), but good physical stunts are valued over a talented tongue (sinocidal: hands off!).

And it is not just because of language (or my not being real funny) that I have to exaggerate body language or vocal tone to get a class to smile. Here are some examples of some pictures from that lost post that have endured on the net because they still tickle the national funny-bone here in China:

computer addict china

toilet humor

china humor

chins cupid

34.jpg

35.jpg

Asian Humor,China Expats,China Humor,Chinese Media,Confucius Slept Here,Entertainment,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Just Plain Strange,Personal Notes,Photos,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,The Unsinkable Ms Yue,Weird China,中国

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Yahoo!!!!

Yahoo! is getting sued in two separate cases: The wife of a jailed dissident writer and by a human rights/anti-torture group.

Yahoo’s lame excuse to-date has been that Yahoo its own employees in China would be endangered if it did not follow Chinese law (“Ve vas just following ze orders”). If THIS were the most visited website in the world, as is Yahoo!, I doubt I would be shaking in my corporate wingtips. If mean, if a hack like Drudge can bring about the impeachment of the president of the world’s biggest economy….

yahoo censorship

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Confucius slept here…

Confucius Slept here

I happily recovered another older post and will revive an idea I started to develop about a a year ago:

This is the re-start of an ongoing, intermittent series about the daunting task of adapting to China and the Chinese ways of culture and business. The working title: Confucius Slept Here: Meditations on China for Western Newcomers is a series that will look at individual and business norms, mindsets, cross-cultural paradigms, language, and customs in the context of my circuitous path to acceptance in the Middle Kingdom. This will be old hat for many of you. and no doubt it will like the SEO series I have started: Some of you have travelled far beyond the material presented. For you, I hope to solicit feedback on how to better present the material that could one day, with much work, become a primer for visitors to China. It is for the neophite or would-be expat.

Long ago one of my Tae Kwon Do instructors was infamous for teaching three to four hour long classes to to black belted students. I was one of the charges that found myself doing “simple” front punching or blocking for an entire period of training. My master felt that without constant re-examination and practice of the basics that had been essential to development we could not be good teachers nor could we be good citizens in a global community of TKD practitioners at various levels of the art. We had a responsibility to keep revisiting what had brought us to the sport and we were mandated to pass on what we could to those following behind us.

It is no different for me in SEO or in life adjustment is Asia. If you can learn one thing from my stumbling or my limited success then I am happy. I am, after all, a teacher by job, vocation and calling.

I am no expert on China, but now having lived 17 years in Asia, I realize how different China is even other Asian cultures. My time as an expat has given me some sense of what is needed to survive personally and professionally.

As I said the musings will be random though I hope to pull them together at some point as a real book with a more linear structure. Note: This will concern life in the mainland and not Hong Kong and Taiwan though will include unavoidable/salient issues relating to both.

First Things First:

THINGS TO BRING TO CHINA

These are things that you may want to consider bringing and items that you do not want to carry along regardless of what your mother, or neighbor stuck in the cold war, says:

1. A camera. But, unless you are the next Ansel Adams or have a need for a fancy rig, leave the big bucks at home. Bring a digital or film camera (there are tons of places that will put your pic’s on disk for little of nothing) that will take decent pictures. Use one that you are not afraid to lose or have lifted at a train station.
2. Bring an extra battery for any of your cameras. And pop for a a 220V charger while you are here. Anything you have that is 110V is liable to fry like an egg.
3. Medical Travel and Baggage Loss Insurance. Pay the few extra bucks! I have lost my luggage three times enroute to China (the U.S. carrier lost them all) and, even with insurance, only recovered about half of my losses. Medical insurance will ensure your evacuation to the U.S. shoud it be needed.
4. No-Doz if you are a coffee addict. Coffee is incredibly expensive and often not available in restaurants. Except fot the Thai restaurants the stuff you buy in the Jiffy Marts here is not very strong. You WILL get a case of Mao’s Revenge and it will be because of withdrawal, not the water.
5. I guess that #4 means bring some anti-diarrheal medicine as well….
6. Deodorant.
7. Dental Floss. Toothpicks are available at every restaurant.
8. Aspirin, if you prefer it to Tylenol, as it is hard to come by in other than miniscule doses.
9. Yuan/RMB. Two reasons: The dollar is free-falling against the Yuan and you will wait until retirement age in line to change money at most banks.
10. English Novels, Magazines or anything you want to read to pass the time. Hong Kong is about the only place with anything. Most stuff in China that looks English will really be Chinglish or government approved news and commentary–get over it: we have spin too.
11. The phone numbers for the English speaking/Western Medicine Doctors residing in the towns you will visit. You do not have time to be hand-signaling a Chinese physician no matter how good he is. The U.S. Consulate in those areas can provide these numbers. There are plenty of them but, they charge Western rates so:
12. Bring your credit card. China is 85% a cash economy but, the physicians do take plastic.
13. The numbers for your Embassy or Consulate. If you strangle a street vendor and get arrested the U.S. State Department can pretty much only come visit you (they are worse than useless) but, you will at least get a visitor. Keep the number in case you need a document notarized or need your friends interrogated by Homeland Security, prior to a visa, if you invite them to come visit you in the U.S..
14. It is better to bring the contact email and phone numbers of your government representives. Your Embassy may act more on your behalf if you call home first. Diplomats hate extra paperwork.
15. A couple of pens. The pens here are not the ones they export.
16. A muzzle on your need to spread the word for any religious or political views. It is against the law. And you SHOULD be spending your time learning about the culture you want them to replace before you preach about yours. The climate is changing but, don’t push the river.

Forget About:

1. Toilet paper. They use it here too. BUT, do buy packs of tissue at a local store or you may be, uh, cleansing yourself with currency: most of the toilets in public areas do not have T.P..
2. Antibiotics. They sell them at local pharmacies and besides: unless you are a physician you shouldn’t be self medicating! If you do have medications that you take regularly bring plenty and bring it in the prescription or OTC container or you will need the phone number for #13 above.
3. Stationery. They are literate. And they make 90% of the cutsie stuff they sell at Walmart.
4. Mailing envelopes. And don’t do anything dumb like send valuables. The postal guys in your country will steal it because it is easy to blame on the Chinese.
5. Clothes that need Ironing or lots of clothes. They do not have dryers and you can buy anything you need here at a fraction of the cost in your homeland.
6. Any pre-concieved notions about this country. It will shock, bewilder, and wonderfully amaze you daily.

Asia,China Expats,China Humor,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,Humor,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,Travel in China,中国

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A Chinese New Year Resolution: Teach in China

Guest Post by David DeGeest

“In China many families live in extreme poverty. This is especially true of the mountain villages of the Guilin/Yangshuo area of Guangxi Province where many farm families live a meager existence on a bit of land. They struggle to pay the school fees for their children to go to the local elementary school.”

–from the Volunteer English Teaching Program

 

China teems with travel wonders and travel woes. I had made plans with friends to head to Vietnam for the Chinese New Year and ended up, because of visa troubles, in Yangshuo, Guanxi province, home of the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat and the unbreakable Chun Li.

Yangshuo

While the trip was a cascade of logistic mishap after mishap, the beauty of the karsts and the uniqueness of the people I met–from a Guangzhou leather factory owner to a crew of Dutch HKU students–all gave me reason to be thankful for my fiasco.

During my stay in Yangshuo, I had the good fortune to meet Laurie Mackenzie, a man who, like me, is an accidental expat: he decided to come to China on little more than a whim. A retired professor and former officer in the Canadian army, he’s been here for five years building a network of schools and volunteers to help poor villagers and children learn English skills. But he is not on a mission of religion, Americanization, or exploitation–he is on a mission of heart.

Laurie MacKenzie

Yangshuo is dense with tourists almost year-round, and its offers of spectacular scenery, excellent mountain climbing and hiking trails, and good-quality, inexpensive food and lodging draw tourists not just from China but all over the world. By offering economically diasadvantaged children and families English lessons and opportunities for sometimes-shy Chinese children and adults to interact with foreigners, MacKenzie opens up economic possibilities for these families and children. MacKenzie also works tirelessly to secure donations that allow for these students to purchase the basic resources they need for school–pens, paper, books, and other supplies. “Poor schools do not have resource materials,” says MacKenzie on the Volunteer English Teachers website. “Classroom equipment is a sheet of plywood painted black and some coloured chalk. It is often impossible for parents to buy the note books, pencils etc. that every pupil needs.” MacKenzie, his wife, and his volunteer staff of Anglophones from around the world do everything they can to help these motivated children realize their potential.

VET Chinese Child Choir

Children at the VET schools learn oral English through games, songs, and activities like choirs (as seen above). I end this article with some words from MacKenzie about why he chose to begin this work and why he continues:

“The cycle of poverty can only be broken through education. Poor peasant farmers struggle to pay the annual school fees for their children to go to primary school but very, very few can afford the higher costs of sending the children to Junior Middle School or beyond. We know that if the children can learn to be comfortable with foreign visitors and speak some English they will be able to get work. Volunteer English Teachers are committed to helping these children realize a better future. “

Asia,China Editorials,China Expats,Chinese New Year,Expats,Holidays,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,Yangshuo China,中国

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Maybe it was the Chinese tea….

Chinese medicine

China Hands, the expats who have spent several years here, all have one or more stories about questionable medical care in China. One visit to a traditional hospital and a diagnosis of “Palpitation of Hyperactivity of Fire due to Yin Deficiency,” or “Deafness Caused by Exogenous Wind-Evil,”or any other kind of malady for which you might be prescribed snake bile as a cure, is enough to spook any newcomer.

I have long been an advocate of Mind-Body and Non-Traditional Medicine. The iatrogenic (In short: and illness caused by the treatment of an illness) issues caused by many Western drugs had me looking for other solutions. After reading, in Surgeon-Writer Richard Selzer’s book Mortal Lessons, about the uncanny diagnostic abilities the Dalai Lama’s personal physician, Yeshi Donden I was, and am, convinced that there are a great many Eastern healers with skills we sorely need to learn.

But, for all the stereotypical Hollywood hype like Kung Fu: The Legend Continues and its sixty-second healings of fractures, poisonings and such China has a long way to go to return to its traditional roots. Medicine, like everything, has industrialized and mediocrity and greed are more easily diagnosed than illness.

The unsinkable Ms Yue was told that her X-ray showed no abnormalities and they prescribed some herb to help her with some lymphatic pain they attributed to one of the four elements or Feng Gunk or something…. But, a month later she visited the formidable Zhongshan University Hospital in Guangzhou and was told that her X-ray revealed major calcifications indicative of late stage breast cancer.

Another friend nearly died last year when told that his double pneumonia was a simple cold while I was diagnosed with “fatty liver” (they think most westerners only have bad liver scans due to excessive drinking) when I actually had contracted Hepatitis A. In every instance we paid for useless medicines in addition to the questionable diagnostics. With the new industrialism has come cut-backs in medical funding and socialized health care benefits, so the doctors and clinics are looking for ways to make the rent. And they are doing creative diagnostics and treatment for big bucks while many average Chinese are considering suicide in lieu of expensive treatments.

Reuters, via China Digital Times has a great story about the decline of routine Chinese medical care. “A group of Chinese reporters came up with a novel idea to test how greedy local hospitals were — pass off tea as urine samples and submit the drink for tests.

The results: six out of 10 hospitals in Hangzhou, the capital of the rich coastal province of Zhejiang, visited by the reporters over a two-day period this month concluded that the patients’ urinal tracts were infected.

Five of the hospitals prescribed medication costing up to 400 yuan ($50), the online edition of the semi-official China News Service (www.chinanews.com) said in a report seen on Wednesday. Of the hospitals, four were state-owned.”

Me? I see a western MD in Guangzhou then go to Hong Kong to stock up on tried-and-true medications (many of the ones you buy in stores in Guangzhou are fakes) and make sure my medical evacuation insurance premiums are paid up….

For those of you interested in a medical text that does a good job of integrating Eastern and Western approaches take a look at Traditional Chinese Medicine by Professor Chen Keji, MD.

Asia,Cancer Journal,cartoons,China Business,China Cartoons,China Expats,Chinese Medicine,Expats,In the news,Personal Notes,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,The Unsinkable Ms Yue,中国

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40 Years Beyond Saigon…

The Wall Between the Names

I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but if you stand
at the base of the wall at the apex when it is quiet you can
feel a warmth ….It’s as if you’re being surrounded by all the
spirits of the wall.

—The Last Firebase

There is a wall between the names

It is the color of residue in driftwood pockets
The shadow in the soft pocket of a head wound
It is their hair and their eyes dark and full of falling
The oil on worthless roads. Factory smoke and ashes
It is charcoaled faces. Shapeshifting under night flares
The toothless smile of a man who no can longer move his legs
A million fragmented hearts pulled below its granite suface
The veils of widowed girls, telegram ink, short bursts of words
It is the color of disappearance and passing

There is a wall between the names.

— On the 40th Anniversary
of the mortar attack near Saigon
that eventually took my father’s life

For those of you who did not go to Vietnam I know that you too, as said by David Lehman, planned your lives around it just the same. And for those of you who know war, or are obliquely affected by it, I hope that you can one day dismantle the worst of weapons: memory…

American Poet in China,Asia,Personal Notes,Poetry,Vietnam,War,中国

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Asians all sound alike to me….

Speech practice

One of my hobbies ( I have a couple that I haven’t turned into obsessions) is the identification and mimicry of accents. It comes from growing up in a household with an Irish Mother raised in Pennsylvania and a Native American father raised in a Kentucky town so back-country that the Dairy Queen ( I am not kidding here) had outdoor plumbing. More than once I was asked to translate whatever my folks said for schoolmates.

I was blogroll diving again and came across The Cognitive Daily. It is rife with information for the budding and practicing shrink in your household.The authors there are smitten with tests: both are from Davidson College and there isn’t much else to do in that part of “Norf” Carolina. One of their recent polls asked people to ID accents originating from a couple of states in America and from people living in the wee little space outside U.S. borders (Earth) where inhabitants are generally known by most Colonists as “aliens.” But, I digress….

Here are the results:

Accents

“The test required participants to listen to ten people from different parts of the world reading the same English text sample (via the fantastic Speech Accent Archive). Then they had to choose which accent was which from a list of 15 countries (actually 15 countries and 2 U.S. states). Which accent was easiest to recognize? Alabama! Eighty-eight percent of respondents correctly identified this accent (though this result was statistically indistinguishable from Wisconsin, with 86.5 percent correct).” Not hard to believe, aye? But, I was surprised so few people nailed China….

To brush up on your abilities go to the Archives mentioned above where you can listen to all the voices catalogued OR help them out by recording your speech patterns for posterity….

Oh, and I almost forgot:

Irish China Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!: Happy St. Patrick’s Day–in Gaelic!

Asia,Blogroll Diving,cartoons,Chinglish,Confucius Slept Here,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Japan,Personal Notes,中国

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