Good thing I went to class today, otherwise who knows when I would have gotten around to learning the Chinese word for placenta? (胎盘, because I know you were wondering.) I also learned that an acceptable euphemism for “to die” is “to go see [Karl] Marx”. If someone actually used that in a sentence, I would not be able to express the appropriate sympathy (“don’t be too sad”, not “I’m sorry” because that implies it was your fault) because I would be trying too hard – and most likely failing – to contain my laugher.
One of the most interesting parts of my day is reading the news. I will go down in history for this quote of mine that is repeated in everything ever written about me: "The intimate connection with a community in another part of the world has given me a different perspective on domestic and international issues that I could not have gotten any other way.” Not what I want engraved on my tombstone, but it’s true. I read the news in a slightly different way, and a surprising amount of it relates, directly or indirectly, to China or to my experiences here. For instance, today:
- In the comments on an article discussing classical education, I found an old stereotype: “For example most Asian countries by the time a student is out of high school has already studied multivariate calculus and linear algebra.” I can’t say that I’ve had in-depth discussions with my Chinese friends on the level of their math skills (which is not to say that I don’t now have plans to do so tomorrow!), but I’m gonna go with a ‘no’ on this one. I have two friends who are ME and Math majors, and when I listed the classes I had taken (I’ll admit, partially just to show off that I know how to say “partial differential equations” in Chinese), it seemed like they had taken them about the same time as me. But, enough with my gut feeling – expect evidence soon!
- I’ve been following the news of the strikes in Shenzhen and Shanghai, and the results they’ve been getting. Interesting points include the fact that the government is allowing these strikes to take place, the doubling of salaries that has been among the concessions and its potential impact on the assumption of Chinese labor, and the absolute numbers provided on their salaries. The new salaries are 2,000 RMB per month (plus many benefits like lodging and other stuff); this is about $300 in US dollars but a better comparison is my living stipend, which is 1,700 a month and just manages to cover my food, cell phone, and internet in Xiamen.
There’s also been some local news causing quite a buzz – a double murder by the Marco Polo Hotel last weekend. Even more shocking, it was a foreigner who killed two other foreigners.
I was having a slightly down day, but thankfully Aleid got back from the Expo today and we went out to Paradise Bar. It was my first time going to a bar on a weeknight – I mean, I don’t even go regularly on weekends. It was Ladies’ Night, which meant two free cocktails for us girls. If it was intended to attract women, was a raging success; if they were hoping to use us to attract paying male customers, this bar will be bankrupt within the month. A friend asked me at one point, “This is any American guy’s dream, right?” I looked around and figured she was probably right. This many beautiful foreign women, dressed up (to show off new items from the tailor) and slightly buzzed . . .
But unfortunately (for the bar) there were only three men there to appreciate it – one definitely taken and the other two gay.
I got back home and was delighted to see a few emails, responses from messages I had just sent this afternoon. Considering there a point not too long ago when I thought maybe my email wasn’t working because promised messages were not coming when they were supposed to, this was a fantastic surprise. I also got to chat with a few friends on gmail. I’m glad someone was on gmail because as soon as the clock strikes midnight in China no one is left on QQ – literally 0 out of 32 friends. This is partially because the undergraduate dorms lose electricity at that point. Now you’re thanking God that you’re American, aren’t you?