Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘QQ’

News from the Zhangs

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2012 at 10:35 pm

The other day I got an unexpected [webcam] call.  I’ve been “friends” with Zhang Lei, son of the foreman on the farm I worked on in Jilin, since I got QQ, but he has always had limited internet access so we rarely talk.

But this call was preceded by the words, “Are you there?  This is Xiao Li.”  His mother!  It was well past midnight and I was heading to bed, but I took the call anyway, and we talked for about an hour.  It was so good to hear from her!  I hadn’t heard her voice or seen her face since I visited Hunchun in May 2010, nearly two years ago. 

She caught me up on all the news of our mutual friends – the big news being that Zhang Lei is married!  He’s a few years younger than me and I always felt like they [not-so] secretly wanted us to get married, so I’m extremely happy for him and a tiny bit relieved :)

The next night, I got another call – this time from Xiao Zhang, Zhang Lei’s father.  It’s hard to describe how I when I saw his face and heard his voice after so long.  He is pretty much one of my favorite people in the entire world.  You know how your mother’s voice is about the most comforting sound in the world?  In my second language of Chinese, that’s the role that he fills – his voice was the first one that I really heard and understood in Chinese.  His Chinese is the standard by which I compare everyone else’s; to me it is perfectly unaccented 普通话. 

And he understands me – yes, we still have a lot of cultural differences but he, more so than any other Chinese person I’ve talked to, can see through the grammatical mistakes and limited vocabulary to what I’m trying to say.  While we chatted, I tried to tell him that we have a Chinese language radio station here in the Bay Area, but I realized I didn’t know the word for radio.  He figured it out immediately from my clues (not the TV, the thing you only listen to) and said the word for me a few times, clearly and slowly.

Xiao Zhang has done a lot of different kinds of work – welding, chicken-keeping, farming, etc. – and I don’t think he’s very highly educated, but as we talked I told him that I think he was born to be a teacher.  Later, though, I thought about it more and reconsidered.  I’m not sure if he was born to be a teacher, if he was born to be a Chinese teacher, or if he was born to be my Chinese teacher.  Either way, I’m lucky to have had him act as such!

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Christmas Eve Cookies

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Yesterday, I was fixing up my collection of Chinese music on iTunes.  (Incidentally, the Android app SoundHound was astonishingly helpful in this, identifying most of my foreign-language songs on the first try!)  Anyway, I came across a song titled “我叫小沈阳".  This reminded me of my friend, 小沈, a guy from the Xiamen church choir (on the left).

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He got on QQ later that night, so I started chatting with him.  It had been a year since I’d last talked to him, probably, so I wasn’t sure if he would remember me.  But he did, and asked if I was in China or the US.  When I said I was at home on winter vacation, he reminded me that Xiamen is also home and said that I need to go back to visit soon.  I asked him about my church friends, priest, and bishop over there, and he said that Fr. Jiang had been in the hospital a lot recently, but that he would be at midnight Mass the next day on Gulangyu.  Then, he added, “But this year we won’t have any of those delicious cookies that you baked.” 

Ah yes, the 300 cookies that I baked four at a time in my roommate’s tiny microwave oven. 

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I brought several batches to Midnight Mass that year to give to all my friends.  Of course, I ended up giving them to a LOT of people that I didn’t know, too, which resulted in even more people around church knowing me (as if being the only foreigner wasn’t enough).  When I left, there were people crying and shaking my hands and wishing me well who I would have sworn I’d never seen before in my life. 

So yeah, I knew that the cookies were kind of a big deal, but I had no idea that they would be a prominent Christmas memory for a guy with whom I had had numerous interactions.  Of all the shared memories we had, he brought that one up.

As we continued to reminisce, he brought up another friend, 传鹭, who I had not talked to since I left China (below, dressed as Santa).

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I got his QQ number, though, and was able to catch up with him.  Since it had been nearly a year and a half since I last saw him, I asked right away if he remembered me.  His response?   “Of course I remember you, you’re the one who baked the delicious cookies the Christmas before last.”

Clearly I underestimated the importance of a chocolate chip cookie, a mistake I will not make again.  Baking for people who don’t own ovens is a powerful thing . . .

Thanksgiving

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving at “home” – that is, on Stanford’s campus where I’ve been living for two months now.  My parents came out here for the break, and for the actual holiday we enjoyed a free dinner provided by the Graduate Student Association.  It was nice because we got to share the meal with Mirela, my roommate, who is from Bulgaria and was celebrating her first American Thanksgiving.

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My parents said it was their first time celebrating Thanksgiving not at someone’s home, and their first time eating Thanksgiving dinner outside (although we were in a tent), which I thought was interesting because neither was a first for me.  In fact, I realized that, of the last 6 Thanksgivings, I haven’t spent any two in the same place – 3 different states and two different countries, in fact – and there are only three people (Mom, Dad, and Grandpa Holland) who have been at more than one of the meals.

It reminded me of how often I’m far away from the people that I care about, and made me so grateful for those people who continue to care about me even when I’m far away from them for long periods of time.

Other things I’m grateful for:

Family, friends, and ways to keep in touch:
I QQ-ed with XuLei last night, something we still do pretty regularly.  How amazing is it that we can catch up whenever we want, talking face to face, for free?!  I’m also grateful for the fact that she said I look thinner, which I’m pretty sure was a first for her.

The circumstances that have allowed me to visit friends, and friends to visit me:
This last year was full of so many opportunities to reunite with friends – from Lester and Denise visiting me in Minneapolis, to my summer trips to Tulsa, St. Louis, and Chicago, and my extended road trip through 2/3 of the country, I got to see so many people that I hadn’t seen in too long!  Every visit was excellent, and there’s not a place that I visited that I didn’t leave thinking to myself, “Yeah, I could live here”.

New friends:
This time last year, I hadn’t realized yet how important the friendships that I made senior year at TU would become.  I was still unsure about the consequences of leaving the country for my senior year, and hadn’t yet figured out that it was pretty much the best thing ever.  Also, I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve made at Stanford, who have helped me through this first quarter!

The opportunities I’ve had to study at three of the most beautiful universities:
I love TU’s matching sandstone, library steps with a majestic view of downtown, and luxuriously spacious student apartments.  I loved Xiamen’s proximity to the beach, neighboring mountains, continually blossoming flowers, and Tall Building.  And now I’m continually in awe of Stanford’s classic Main Quad, modern-but-appropriate new Engineering Quad, the killer view from the Dish, and the insane fall colors.  How have I been so lucky?!  And . . . where could I possibly go from here?

And lastly, I’ve started reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, and this passage reminded me of the way I learned Chinese (although here he’s talking about learning his first language, Latin):

There had  been a time too, of course, when I did not know any Latin words either; yet simply by paying attention I learned Latin without any fears or torments; I learned it in the caressing language of my nurses and in the laughter and play and kindness of those about me.  In this learning I was under no pressure of punishment, and people did not have to urge me on; my own heart urged me on to give birth to the thoughts which it had conceived, and I could not do this unless I learned some words; these I learned not from instructors but from people who talked to me and in whose hearing I too was able to give birth to what I was feeling.  It is clear enough from this that free curiosity is a more powerful aid to the learning of languages than a forced discipline.

Pretty much super grateful for that opportunity that I was given.

If You Fool Your Dog, They Can’t Get Pregnant

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2011 at 11:17 pm

This is an actual, real-life conversation that took place this evening on QQ between me and XuLei, my Chinese best friend.  I translated it from Chinese, leaving only the characters that are important.  There are only two – 骟 (shan, to neuter) and 骗 (pian, to fool or trick).  This is a comedic misunderstanding worthy of Abbot and Costello . . .

Me: I want to show you my dog.  He had surgery yesterday.

XuLei: What’s he wearing on his neck?

Maria: He’s wearing a cone.  There are stitches where he got surgery . . .

XuLei: Oh, so it’s to protect where he had surgery?

Me: Yeah.  You’re so clever!
[After a few minutes of looking for the word online] He was neutered [被骟] yesterday.

XuLei: ????

Me: Do you understand?

XuLei: Was the veterinarian not very good?

Me: No!

XuLei: Then why was he fooled [被骗]??

Me: If you don’t neuter dogs they can have puppies . . . and we don’t want puppies.

XuLei: If you don’t fool them they’ll have puppies??????  What does that even mean???

Me: If he and the mama dog haven’t been neutered they can have puppies

XuLei: How do you fool him?  That’s so weird.  My IQ must be too low, I just can’t understand.  Fool your dogs and cats so they don’t get pregnant

Me: I don’t know . . . maybe I have the wrong word.  It’s like . . . they cut off his penis . . .

XuLei: 骟 [shan]??  I kept reading 骗 [pian].  NOW I understand.

Me: So, do you understand me now?  Neutered, not fooled!  Aren’t you Chinese, can you read characters or not???

XuLei: I understand now!  It just looks so similar that I never paid attention

Me: Yeah, I didn’t notice either that you kept typing 骗

XuLei: 骗 骟  Look closely, don’t they look similar?

Me: Of course they do!  Now you understand my difficulties last year . . . 末未,Look closely, don’t they look similar?  士土,人入 . . . Characters are so complicated!

XuLei: Haha, I understand

Maria: We poor foreigners . . .

I Think This Is the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship . . .

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Random guy (30-year-old male, if his profile is to be believed) friends me on QQ and starts talking to me (translated from Chinese):

Andy: Good morning, Miss

Me: Who are you?

Andy: My name is Andy.  Are you busy?

Me: I’m really busy this week.  Also, I don’t know you.

Andy: Can we get to know each other now?  What’s your last name?  Mine is Zou. 

[a few minutes pass]

Andy: Why aren’t you talking?

Me: Why do you want to get to know me?

Andy: Because I want to be your friend.

Me: Why?

Andy: Because I think your name sounds cool.  Where are you from?

[a few minutes pass]

Andy: Why aren’t you talking?

This is super typical of the average QQ conversation with a stranger; actually many of them are much more creepy.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there are creepers everywhere.

*Note: I suppose I should allow for the possibility that he’s just really lonely, but either way it’s pretty sad. 

Congratulations, Liu XiaoBo

In Uncategorized on October 10, 2010 at 11:47 am

I was following the announcement of the Nobel Prizes this year (wondering if Bono was going to follow in the illustrious footsteps of our president), and was happy to see Liu XiaoBo recognized. 

Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.  For the same thing, he was also awarded a fourth prison sentence from the PRC. 

This prison sentence is for the Charter 08, “a manifesto initially signed by over 350 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists to promote political reform and democratization in the People’s Republic of China.”

The authors and signatories called for 19 changes to improve human rights in China:

  1. Amending the Constitution.
  2. Separation of powers.
  3. Legislative democracy.
  4. An independent judiciary.
  5. Public control of public servants.
  6. Guarantee of human rights.
  7. Election of public officials.
  8. Rural–urban equality.
  9. Freedom of association.
  10. Freedom of assembly.
  11. Freedom of expression.
  12. Freedom of religion.
  13. Civic education.
  14. Protection of private property.
  15. Financial and tax reform.
  16. Social security.
  17. Protection of the environment.
  18. A federated republic.
  19. Truth in reconciliation.

Anyway, China was really upset with a guy like this getting such important international acclaim.  They threatened the Norwegian government with “negative reactions” – to which the Norwegian foreign minister replied that the Nobel Prize nomination committee is independent from the Norwegian government.  He supposedly added that said independence may be difficult for the Chinese government to understand.

Oh, snap.

But anyway, the reason I’m writing about this is because, taking advantage of the fact that I am no longer a resident of China, I decided to spread the news of Liu’s prize.  The Chinese government’s censorship went into full effect immediately after the announcement, so not many Chinese (and possibly even Liu himself) know of the award. 

So I put it on my QQ status:

“Did you hear?  Liu XiaoBo won the Nobel Peace Prize – the first Chinese person!”

Today I got my first comment:

“That should be the second Chinese person.  In 1989 there was a monk, but his name can’t be written here.  He was also Chinese; he never said that he wasn’t Chinese!”

That was not the response I was expecting.  Very interesting . . .

Songs and Games

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I finally got a chance to sleep in this morning! I spent the morning packing in between chatting on QQ. Recently a bunch of people have been adding me on QQ to talk about Jesus, which is pretty interesting. I’m not sure if they know I’m Christian (and how they would know this) but at any rate, there is a veritable horde of these online evangelizers. Here’s a typical conversation:

Him: Are you Christian?
Me: I’m Catholic.
Him: Why don’t you believe in Jesus? Why do you want to believe in Mary? Jesus was God’s son, Mary was just a person.
Me: You don’t know what Catholics believe, do you? You really don’t. We also believe in Jesus.
Him: I don’t know, I just know that Jesus is the Messiah.
Me: We also believe that.
Him: So what’s up with the Lord of Heaven?
Me: The Lord of Heaven is the Emperor on High, they’re the same person.

See, in Chinese, Catholics and non-Catholic Christians have different names for God. Catholics say 天主, or Lord of Heaven, while non-Catholic Christians call Him 上帝, or Emperor on High. There is so little actual knowledge and so much misinformation that sometimes the Chinese don’t realize they refer to the same person. It’s not that unusual to have theological disagreements with other Christians in the US, and sometimes they even refuse to admit that Catholics are also Christians, but usually you have to get into more specific doctrines like the Immaculate Conception or the Communion of Saints before having problems . . . not just the belief of the Trinity.

Jelle called me up in the afternoon wanting to play a final game of Catan. I ended up boxed in between him and YongZhi, and lost with 9 points. It’s probably better this way, as Jelle is super competitive and kind of a sore loser; I guess I can handle him winning once, even if it was my last game in China :)

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I had a little time before dinner, so I walked around West Gate. As I was perusing the street goods, one of the sellers ran after me to get my attention. She started talking about how good it was to see me, how long it had been, and things like that, but despite my head racing I could not figure out where I knew her from. I let her talk, and after a while she mentioned something about Coco. That was it – I could picture her perfectly in an orange polo and khaki baseball cap! She used to work at Coco and was familiar because I went there almost every day. She got fired for a bad attitude, I think (which is kind of funny because the surliest Coco employee is friendlier than the friendliest waitress in any restaurant), so it had been several months since we had seen each other. We exchanged phone numbers, finally learned each others’ names, and I guess we’re friends now!

I had dinner plans with Mr. Hou, one of the men from the dancing group. I hadn’t seen him since he played ping-pong with my dad during their visit, but he happened to walk by during Diederik’s goodbye dinner and I said hi to him. This meal was definitely the most we’d ever talked; I knew he was professor of biochemical engineering, but I learned tonight that he likes to memorize speeches in English. He did the beginning of Bush’s inaugural address, starting with “Chief Justice Rehnquist, President Clinton, Vice President Gore, distinguished guests” and on from there. He also knew more of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech than I did! Surprisingly, he didn’t know the Gettysburg Address so I recited what I knew (which was, thankfully, the entire opening paragraph). Thank you, 5th grade!

After dinner I had dessert plans with BinBin, the youth group leader at church. He had a friend who was heading to America to do a PhD in mechanical engineering, so we met up to talk over shaved ice. He’s going to North Carolina State, which I told them is in the American equivalent of Shanghai, when my university is in Kunming. BinBin followed that up by asking how long it would take to get there by bus, and I had to break the news to him that you can’t take buses like that in America. I had this funny mental image of him loaded up with luggage, wandering Chapel Hill looking for the bus station to catch the sleeper to Tulsa. Hahahaha.

This friend and his girlfriend were also Catholic, but part of the underground church. They were the first underground Catholics I met, and I was happy to tell him a little bit about the Church in the rest of the world where there won’t be this division. (Incidentally, BinBin told me that if I were around for another month, I would be able to witness the beginning of the reconciliation between Xiamen’s patriotic and underground church! Oh, for another year here . . . ) I felt like I was telling him the streets were paved with gold in America when I told him that there would most likely be a Catholic church and student organization on his actual campus!

My new friends joined me afterwards for karaoke. It was Carlos, me, and a bunch of my Chinese friends – but because they were from different groups, I had to introduce them to each other! There were my dancing friends, friends from church, a friend I stole from Carlos, one of Carlos’ coworkers, and my two new friends.

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We sang all the songs I learned after our last karaoke party, plus I sang a few from their English selection.

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Carlos and I did a killer rendition of Circle of Life.

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I did Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You as a sort of goodbye, Anson sang a Chinese song for me called “If There Comes A Day”, and we ended the night with the cheesily perfect Chinese song “Friends”.

这些年 一个人
风也过 雨也走
有过泪 有过错
还记得坚持甚麽

还有伤 还有痛
还要走 还有我

Through the years by myself, the wind has blown and the rain has fallen.
There have been tears and mistakes, but I’ve persevered.
There is hurt, there is pain, we have to keep going, but you still have me

The room was paid for until daylight, but we didn’t stay that long.

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There were lots of goodbyes once the singing ended; while it still didn’t seem real to me yet, one friend obviously clearly remembered Lester’s recent farewell and started crying at the thought of his other foreign friend leaving.

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I didn’t want to sleep. I was leaving 后天 (the day after tomorrow), but as soon as I went to sleep it would become 明天 (tomorrow). So Carlos, XuLei, and I postponed sleep by eating barbecue at West Gate and walking back to the dorms at a leisurely pace. It wasn’t enough; eventually I had to go to bed.

Supply and Demand

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 2:43 am

We’ve put up with our share of crap from the weather in Xiamen this year.  For about five months, if you asked a Xiamenite when the rainy season is, they would respond, without fail, “n月和n+1月” (essentially, this month and next month).  And, from about February to mid-June, it was true.

But the blazing sun and brilliant blue sky have been out these past few days, and it has been glorious.  It’s been hot (35C or 100F) but not as deathly humid as before.  It reminds me of Texas, or (if the wind is blowing) Oklahoma.  Except there are beaches here.

I had my first final today, in newspaper reading.  I was really excited about the class at first but somewhere along the line (between the second and the third teacher) it became newspaper analysis and started to suck.  Glad to be done with it.

I rewarded myself by spending the afternoon at the beach with a book.  A book I’ve already read, granted, but that’s the reality of life in China for me.  I didn’t go in the water, just sat by the large concrete mice (computer, not animal) that are there for some reason.  I had the beach basically to myself, which would have made more sense if it had been during a downpour or a snowstorm or a tsunami instead of an insanely gorgeous day.  But this is one of the perks of Asians’ cultural dislike for dark skin – sometimes understandably mistaken as a downright fear of the sun.

I should admit – one of my purposes in sitting out there was to get a tan.  I feel slightly conflicted about this, because I dislike the importance attached to skin color in societies all over the world.  I guess I think I look better with slightly darker skin (hopefully to cover up those mosquito bite scars) but what I think is more interesting is the connotation that different skin colors carry.

Because of course, skin color is just a convenient proxy for the connotations associated with it.  This is why Americans love bronzed bodies and Asians treasure their porcelain skin.  (See?  Even the words differ; Americans would more commonly say ‘pasty’.)  In societies where many labor under the sun, skin untouched by its rays is a sign of wealth or prestige keeping it from a darker fate.  In societies where many spend their lives indoors, only those with the money and time to exercise, relax, or travel enjoy prolonged exposure to the sun. 

But over time, the connection between skin color and what it signifies becomes so close that the two are seemingly one.  And instead of that skin arising naturally from those circumstances, obtaining that skin color through alternate methods is a way to create the facade of that lifestyle.  So this is why my classmates at Coon Rapids High School were bright orange in the dead of winter, a physical impossibility using natural sunlight.  And this is why my friends who work construction in Jilin wear layers of clothing all summer, to preserve their white skin in spite of the reality of their jobs.

It all seems kind of silly to me; I’m not trying to fool anyone here with my skin color.  I want it to speak the truth – and the truth is that I live 3 minutes walk from a beach.  I want to have enjoyed this luxury by the time I leave, and my tan is just a convenient meter for measuring my progress. 

 

This evening, Carlos invited me to go out with his work friends to play Catan.  We had dinner and [two bowls of] shaved ice and fruit, and then went to their house to play.  Carlos won both games last time we played 6-player, so I warned them not to let him win.  They really believed me, so Carlos got crushed and I won.  I won the second one fair and square, though.  And things are back to how they should be :) 

Catan is such an amazing game, really.  I am continually amazed at how simple it is, how perfectly balanced the rules are, how many times it can be played without ever getting boring.  I want to do research on Catan – what kind of degree program would that be?  Supply and demand, game theory, statistics?  Sounds like economics to me.  Hmmmm. 

We played until 1 a.m. but it didn’t even feel late.  I guess several nights of 2:30 a.m. football matches will do that to you, eh?  There is no football tonight, day one of a two-day break before the quarter finals . . . and its weird.  I haven’t watched every night, but I have generally known who was playing and looked for the results as the games ended.  I haven’t even been a football fan for three weeks, but when Carlos put his head in his hands, groaning “What will I do when it’s over?”, I kind of knew how he was feeling.  True story. 

 

I got home to a few messages on QQ.  Joyce, a.k.a. Worst Friend Ever, is trying to rekindle our friendship; I think she needs to improve her oral English for something.  Allen, a guy I met once at English Corner, is trying to take me to dinner before I leave.  Earlier in the year I would have tried to fit them in, but tonight I was honest and said I was going to be pretty busy until I leave China.  It’s not like I’m dying or anything, but the truth is that I only have a certain number of days left here and, after this long, I have a pretty good idea of how I want to spend them.  I’ve done the fake friend thing here; it has its merits.  But by the law of supply and demand, time with the people I care about has gotten infinitely valuable, and it’s hard to compete with that. 

China In The News

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2010 at 2:03 am

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 . . .

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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?

A Tale of Two Chinese Men

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2010 at 1:16 am

We had a substitute teacher for our Newspaper Reading class today; I hope we never have her again.  She would be wonderful as a grammar teacher, but in a class that’s supposed to emphasize speed-reading and comprehension and skills like that, her teaching method was ridiculous.  I came in 10 minutes late, and we were still talking about the title of the article!  It’s not Shakespeare, lady!  She even explained each [obscure] character of the author’s name – it was really painful.

After lunch, I met a new Chinese friend for ‘coffee’.  Shawn is a masters’ student in advertising, and I contacted him through a poster looking for Americans to help classifying some commercials.  He was offering 300 kuai for the work – not bad pay at $50 or so, but more important because this is an item on my bucket list.  Getting paid basically to be a foreigner seems to be an integral part of the China experience, at least in Xiamen, and I wanted in.  A lot of my friends have worked in bars, taught English, acted in movies, modeled clothes, served as translators, etc.  This may not be the most glamorous foreigner job, but it totally counts.  Check!

Anyway, we went to the little cafe in CaiQingJie and I was immediately happy that I had contacted him.  Unlike many Chinese men, Shawn is calm, confident (even when speaking English), and courteous.  He knew enough about America to say that Minnesota had a lot of lakes, where most Chinese only know the Timberwolves (if that).  He voluntarily asked to switch to Chinese, even though his English is about as good as my Chinese, instead of fighting with me for control over the language.  He suggested we get together again but, instead of simply saying it knowing full well it will never happen, he suggested we choose a day and have dinner every week.  Very interesting!  Silly me, but I honestly thought I was done making Chinese friends . . .

Deni’s birthday was today, so a bunch of us went out for dinner.  I tend to think this about most of the big events we foreigners have here in China, but I feel like the staff at this restaurant is going to remember this dinner.  Eighteen foreigners crammed into a tiny room that literally held a huge island of a table, with chairs added as if an afterthought.  We ordered a ton, drank a fair amount, and made a lot of noise. 

I was seated next to a Canadian friend (dual US citizen, actually), which led to some really good conversations.  At one point, she said “Not gonna lie” which, not gonna lie, made me realize how long I’ve been away from America.  Dang.  What are those young folk saying these days?

Another example to illustrate the length of my expatriation: one of my friends was wearing a shirt that said “Hotmale: Try it for free”.  Obvious innuendo . . . that I totally failed to pick up on.  I’m just used to English on t-shirts not making sense, so I just asked him what it meant – and there was an awkward pause as he tried to figure out how to explain the joke. 

We talked especially about immigration-related issues.  I’m following the news back home as best as I can, but in some ways it doesn’t even seem like news.  ‘Hispanic’, ‘immigrant’, and ‘illegal immigrant’ are used as synonyms; some people would get rid of any difference by making all illegal immigrants legal, while others would get ride of the different by getting rid of all illegal immigrants.  What else is new? 

Living in China this year has given me a new perspective on this issue.  I have come to China for one year, but if/when I were to return to China for a much longer stay, I think the situation would be about the same.  I have made my absolute best effort to learn Chinese.  I don’t expect government agencies or private businesses to cater to me as an English-speaker.  While I often choose to use English in my personal life, I accept that dealing with the outside world requires a basic knowledge of the local language.  I even get annoyed with other foreigners who make no attempt to learn Chinese (although I’m equally frustrated with the government when they bring foreign students here to study other subjects in English and don’t give them the resources necessary to learn Chinese). 

In a similar vein, I understand that as a visitor to this country that I should carry identification on me.  Except for a quick run to Baicheng to buy fruit, I pretty much always have a photocopy of my passport and visa.  While I definitely have complaints about the paperwork requirements here (for instance the visa, which costs twice as much for Americans as it does for anyone else), I understand the need for a country to know who is inside, and [roughly] doing what.  With that said, I would be incredibly mad to be stopped on the street and asked for papers; I’m fine with ID requirements for getting things done or ID checks when people are stopped for other reasons, but not ‘random’ checks that wouldn’t be random. 

Regarding immigration in America, I could pretty much care less.  Let people come to America – to visit, to study, to work.  I have no problems with it as long as they do it legally (which, by the way, I am in favor of making easier).  Illegal immigration, however, pisses me off to no end.  I hate the conflation of ‘Hispanic’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ which, no matter which side it’s used by, is incredibly offensive.  I’m scared of all the unknowns it involves – many fine people, I’m sure, but there are obviously bad guys as well.  And I just can’t understand a society in which the sentence “a state law enacted in 2005 that allows illegal immigrants to pay the same tuition rate as legal, in-state residents” makes sense. 

I view the situations in China and America very similarly.  I wish that entering the countries were easier, even though that means submitting to restrictions governing residence in the country.  I think that, upon discovering an illegal immigrant, they should be set on one of two paths – towards becoming legal, or back where they came from.  I would like to see more proficiency in the local language, because the language barrier has a way of becoming a racial or cultural barrier. 

 

Speaking of language barriers, I may or may not have just been asked by a Chinese guy to be his girlfriend.

Correction: I may or may not have just been asked by the same Chinese guy to marry him.

Online. 

Zhang LiBin is a guy I met in the Beijing train station who asked me for my QQ number.  It sounds like the opening scene of a chick flick – but it’s not.  He’s the one who came to Xiamen last week and took me to lunch, and the one with whom I was discussing drinking habits last night on QQ.  Tonight he told me he’s drunk, and then asked me if I would consider being his girlfriend.  Highlights of the conversation include:

  • 还想问你下,如果让你做我女朋友,你会考虑吗?  (I want to ask, if I asked you to be my girlfriend, would you consider it?)
  • 噢,说实话,我想和你结婚!  (Truthfully, I would like to marry you!)
  • 真的,只要你不闲弃我,我的想法一直不变。  (Really, as long as you don’t reject me, my thoughts will never change.)
  • 我等你,只要你不结婚!我张立斌一直不结婚。  (I’ll wait for you, as long as you don’t get married!  I, Zhang LiBin, will never marry.)
  • 你好好考虑下,只要你需要我,我会第一时间出现在你面前!  (You think about it.  If you need me, I will be beside you in a moment.) 

I am a master of the hilariously awkward boy drama; there will probably be a book someday.  I’m now wondering if tomorrow I will get to see what a Chinese guy does when he realizes he said something stupid while drunk the night before?