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谢迈克在中国 » Culture

谢迈克在中国

Mike Shecket Goes To China!

Bad

June 13th, 2008

Yesterday morning, the Olympic torch passed through Guiyang. I’d heard that its planned swing through Jinyang had been cancelled, but clearly I either misunderstood or was misinformed. In any case, at a time when the torch was about to pass probably no more than half a mile, a mile tops, from the school, the foreign teachers were all roped into an interminable, pointless early morning meeting (only the second one we’ve had to go to all year). Some of us get the sense that this was done intentionally in order to keep us off the streets. One of my colleagues, frustrated, cleared out of the meeting and tried to get outside to see what was going on. The guard would not open the gate to let him get out. Finally, when he started climbing the fence, the guard let him out, but the torch had already gone by.

As for the rest of us, we were stuck with watching live TV coverage in one of the classrooms, where we recognized streets and buildings that are probably a ten-minute walk up the street. We were mad. In fairness, however, none of the several thousand students were allowed to go watch, and neither were their Chinese teachers.

In the end, it still seems like an insult, because the rest of the time, we’re pretty much allowed to come and go as we please.

Good

June 13th, 2008

Pictures and videos from my last teaching day with my “public” classes (click for bigger pictures):

Class 11 sings two popular favorites:

Here they sing the Chinese national anthem (”March of the Volunteers”):

Jinyang revisited

May 20th, 2008

As much as I disliked living here before, these days I’m finding it pretty sweet. In fact, unless I’m forgetting something, I haven’t left Jinyang in nearly a month.

In addition to the availability of Western-style fast food (as previously mentioned…many times), there are better grocery stores here now, plus several farmers’ market-type places and a convenience store that’s open until midnight. There’s also a bar that has karaoke, although I haven’t been there in some time. I think the last time I was there with some of the other teachers, we exhausted all the English songs they have that we know.

Come to think of it…having not left Jinyang in a whole month, that probably means that I have also not used any motorized form of transportation for a whole month (including elevators). That’s got to be pretty healthy and green. Or it would be healthy if I wasn’t eating huge amounts of fast food chicken and ramen noodles all the time…maybe it’s a wash overall.

It didn’t start out that way, but life has actually become pretty good here, and there are a lot of people and things I’ll miss.


It’s just a tad over 48 hours before I celebrate my first birthday outside of the USA.  I’ve had my birthday in Chicago before, and I was in Argentina on Christmas in 2005 (not that I do Christmas), but this is new.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to be far from family and friends on my birthday; it’s just part of the overall deal that allows me to come here and have this experience.  I can’t really think of anything so wonderful about it…it’s not like I get to experience special Chinese customs related to Mike Shecket’s birthday, in particular.

I don’t think birthdays are a big deal in this culture…I was telling the students about the different US presidential candidates in one class, and I showed them their birthdays and asked them to tell me how old the candidates were…they consistently neglected to take into account that none of the candidates’ birthdays had yet rolled around this year, and instead they calculated by just subtracting the birth year from 2008, as if everybody is counted as one year older on New Year’s Day.

Tattoos

April 17th, 2008

For a number of years, I’ve daydreamed about the idea of getting a small tattoo, and thought about what I could put on my body that I would really, really be sure to still like and believe in 50 or 60 years down the line.  One idea I’ve had is to get little flags representing the countries I’ve visited…even if some countries cease to exist, I’d have a record that I visited them when they did exist.

Anyway, the last few days, I’ve come up with a new idea.  A lot of Western folks get tattoos of Chinese characters, not really knowing what the heck they mean, or trusting someone else who doesn’t really know or care what they mean.  Fortunately for me, I’ve actually learned a bit of the language and writing system.

So…my idea is to get a tattoo with a local slang phrase.  I’ve found the correct hanzi for one of them: “太尖啊”, pronounced “tài jiān a”, which literally means “too sharp” in Mandarin, but which in Guiyang dialect means “very clever”.  The “a” part of it is sort of like Canadians’ “eh?”.

Tattoos are not a popular part of Chinese culture…in fact, when I mentioned my idea to some of my students, they told me things like “tattoos give you cancer” and “you know they hurt a lot, right?”  One student, an NBA fan (like most of them, at least the boys) told me that he thinks Allen Iverson has a tattoo “addiction”.


Man, these kids know I’m a pushover.  All they have to do is say I’m handsome and a good teacher and I let them get away with listening to music and playing cards in class.

Three interactions

March 9th, 2008

  1. I was on a crowded subway in Shanghai. On the plane from Guiyang, I had listened to a ChinesePod lesson that explained how to really, really politely offer your seat to someone. So, when I was about to get off the train, I noticed that there was an older gentleman, not elderly, but distinguished, who was standing right in front of me. So as I stood up to get off the train, I gestured to him and said “nín zuò (您坐)”, which just means “you sit”, but with the formal “you”. The guy was absolutely delighted. He smiled and put his hands on my shoulders and repeated back to me as I stood up, “nín zuò!” Then, in English, “thank you!”

  2. One night I was at the expat hangout bar, South Park, and there were these sort of hip-hop dudes hanging out. I don’t know why, but I think this guy I bumped into might have been Japanese. But anyway, I was headed for the outhouse/hole in the ground that passes for a restroom at this place, and in somewhat broken English this guy said “where are you from?” And I said “America”. (You tend to say “America” here more than “the US”, “the States”, “the USA”, and so on because “America” sounds more like the Chinese word for America.) And he responded with this whole thing, it was like…”Yeah, American dream, East Side, West Side, one love” and he made these sort of hip-hop gestures. Amused, but totally out of my element, I thought for a moment, and then I gave him the V-sign and said “Peace.”

  3. The other day, I went shopping with one of the other teachers. We bought a whole bunch of stuff, and took the cart down to the street to try to catch a cab which either of us could usually do without too much trouble. But for whatever reason, we weren’t getting a lot of them to stop, and when we did, they were not very receptive to negotiating what we thought was a fair rate. So there was this security guard guy working for the store who observed our pitiable attempts, and he came over and asked us where we were going. We also indicated to him how much we were looking to pay. He flags down a cab, and starts a rather vigorous discussion with the driver, which is soon joined by another fellow working for the store. We just stand back and let them do their thing. Finally, the guard nods to us that it’s OK, and the driver pops the trunk. Just as we’re about to load our groceries, I see the guard slip the cabbie 10 yuan. That’s a lot of money for somebody with that job in this town! So we finish loading up, I pull out my wallet, and I fish for a 10 of my own. But as soon as the guy sees me doing this, he runs up the drive back towards the store. I burst out laughing, and later, in the taxi, my fellow teacher and I concluded that it was probably well worth the money for him in terms of face to help out (show up?) the laowai.

Chinese fire drill drill

December 8th, 2007

Just outside of my apartment, on Monday, I witnessed what I perceived to be a fire drill. Later, I realized that it was literally a Chinese fire drill. The next day, however, I saw a real Chinese fire drill. What I had seen on Monday proved to be a Chinese fire drill drill. Tuesday they had the conference table, under a canopy, with bottles of water on it for the dignitaries. They also had a big red banner that said 2007 Guiyang Fire something something. So that was the real drill, preceded by a drill for the drill.

By the way, I have not seen fire trucks anywhere else in Guiyang. I have also not seen any fires, except seemingly intentional (and possibly Buddhism-related) ones.

November 5th, 2007

Whoa, they changed the eye exercise music!  That, or they’re playing the old music way sped up.  It doesn’t sound very relaxing anymore.  I’ll have to get a copy of this music for you all.


Led Zeppelin (such as it is) reuniting?  Didn’t hear about that one until pretty much just now.

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