A Travellerspoint blog


Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

sunny 28 °C

Before coming to China, I had a bit of a TV addiction. I'll admit it. A few years ago, I'd come home and plop myself in front of the tube for 3 or 4 hours at a time. TV was not only a form of entertainment, it was also relaxing and my friend (I didn't really click with the people in my school at the time!). I tried to wean myself off of my addiction. The last year I spent in the US, neither my roomie nor I had a TV. But most shows are available online on the channel's website. Since it was a bit more complicated to turn on my laptop, find the website, and choose which show I was going to watch, I started watching less TV (probably 2 hours on average per day).

I have to say though that I'm not the only one who had or has an addiction to TV. On average, Americans watch 28 hours of TV per week (or 4 hours of TV per day). Those numbers don't really surprise me. You can't help but know what the latest, must-see shows are. They're advertised in the newspaper, in glossy magazines in your check-out lane, on the radio in the taxi taking you home, on the TV screens in your supermarket. You can't really avoid the hype unless you're deaf or blind. And naturally, you're curious. Who wouldn't be? I'm not exactly painting the most flattering picture of myself here (let alone of my fellow countrymen!). Hehe! But all I'm trying to say is that it's exceedingly easy to get distracted in the US and to lose focus of what truly matters.

Since I've been here, my TV's been unplugged. I have no English speaking cable channels, nor DVDs to watch (and even if my Chinese were up to par, I'm not into soap operas!). Youku (the Chinese version of Youtube) only has a limited selection of TV shows and movies. As a consequence, for the first time in a very long time, I feel as though my brain is unclogging. There's no more noise, no more fluff distracting me from my thoughts and my interests. And I find that I have many interests and opinions, that I might just be a little bit smart after all!

Posted by Evil1 01:47 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Back from holiday

Wednesday, May 12th 2010

sunny 15 °C

AHHHHHHHH, bliss!!! There's nothing like a holiday in the sun and on the beach to recharge your tired batteries! Feel reinvigorated and ready to tackle these last few months of classes!

I got back Sunday night after a magical two weeks holiday with my parents. Well, technically 2 weeks for them and 10 days for me. They hung out in BJ (that's Beijing for you uncool folks!) while I worked. I still got to do cool things with them here that I hadn't gotten a chance to see (shame on me after being here 8 months!) like the botanical gardens (although admittedly that's nicer in the spring!), the 798 art district (really, who wants to travel that far in winter?!) and a rickshaw ride in the hutongs (again, in winter it's not great!).

But my REAL vacation was on the beautiful tropical island of Hainan. Palm trees, pool, sea, and spa. What more can you ask for? Although to be honest, for the first three days of sun roasting and vegging, I actually freaked out a bit. "What? I don't have to rush to finish a lesson plan? What? I don't have to run to Chinese class? What? What?" But eventually, murder mystery book helping, and in spite of the mild incident with Russian Mafiosi and Anorexic Girlfriend (he rammed his lounge chair into mine because he claimed my chair obstructed his view of the ocean!), I started to relax and had a wonderful time! (For all of you thinking about visiting Hainan, I recommend you go in March or April though!).

After Hainan, we flew to Shanghai. Shanghai is a fascinating city, where communism and the rift between China and Taiwan originated. It's also the biggest city I've ever seen. It's like 50 Manhattans stuck together with high rises in all directions. I don't like Manhattan to begin with so I wasn't really enamored with Shanghai. But I did LOVE the Shanghai Expo! We were only there for a day and didn't get a chance to see all the structures, much less go inside them all (as there were hourlong lines outside many of them) but here are my thoughts nonetheless:

- best architecture: SPAIN (with a structure made entirely of woven wood)
- most moving exhibit: USA (with fun movies of Americans attempting to say "welcome to the USA pavilion in Chinese and filmed appearances from Kobe Bryant and Obama himself who did a great job describing American values)
- most intelligent and comprehensive exhibit: BELGIUM (the pavilion didn't look like much from the outside- just a square box- but the exhibit was great. Who knew Belgium conducted so much research?)
- saddest pavilion: HAITI (actually they didn't have a pavilion, just a slot in the Caribbean pavilion and there was no one manning it!)
- most disappointing: FRANCE (From the outside, the pavilion looked like a pale imitation of the Bird's Nest and inside the exhibit featured black and white photos of Paris only - as if Paris were all there was to see in France!- and excerpts of 1950s French movies! Granted the Chinese have this idea of France as a romantic country and the French didn't want to disappoint them but this could have been a great opportunity to highlight France's strengths and values. Or do the French really not know what these are?)
- best inside and out: CHINA (From the outside that resembled a traditional Chinese structure, to the inside which was richly decorated and exhaustively documented, the Chinese pavilion really impressed me!)

Posted by Evil1 18:35 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

On holiday!

April 30th, 2010

sunny 13 °C

Yeah! I'm on holiday!!!!!! Woo-hoo! It's been a long time coming! My parents have been in town since last Saturday but I can only take vacation days now. So we're off to Chinese Florida (ie the tropical island of Hainan) tomorrow and then to Shanghai where we're hoping to see the Expo! And hopefully, my parents won't drive me too crazy and I'll come back from my break rested and energized!!!

Posted by Evil1 21:05 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Chinese and the gang

April 27th, 2010

semi-overcast 12 °C

I think we would all agree that Chinese is one of the hardest languages out there. Even if we haven't ventured to learn it, just seeing those little picture thingies that are supposed to represent objects we see but actually look nothing like them, is enough to convince us. Still, ever since I was a child I've had an aversion to people telling me what to do and what not to do. So why should all this noise about Chinese deter me?

I took private lessons when Mike was here and was frustrated with our private tutor's refusal to teach us characters (Mike was grateful for that!). So after Mike left and partly in an effort to occupy my new found free time, I signed up for Chinese lessons at a Korean school in Wudaokou.

How is it? Both frustrating and fun. Frustrating because of the uncountable "hanzi" (Chinese characters) that we have to learn each week and that just won't sink into my brain; because of the irritating apple polishers who are false beginners and should be in another course; and finally because of the amount of work our teacher expects from us. (I don't care how many times she says "Chinese characters love you", that won't make me remember them any better!). And fun because of the cool people in the class. Like Darrin, the British bloke with the infectious laugh. Or the teacher who compliments us regularly in Chinese, only to remind us that it was "just an example" of how to use that particular language structure!

But more than anything, these Chinese lessons are really starting to pay off. I felt immense pride two weeks ago when I used my newly learned vocab to inquire about where and when to pay my water bill. It when something like this:

Me: Ni zhidao shenme difang wo keyi jiao wode shui fei?
Lobby guy: something something zai zher.
Me: Wo xianzai keyi jiao ma?
Lobby guy: Bu keyi
Me: Xingshiji?
Lobby: Xingshilio
Me: Wo bu keyi, zhomo wo gongzuo

... etc, etc. But I don't want to brag!

Posted by Evil1 07:33 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Another one bites the dust

April 16th, 2010

overcast 9 °C

My colleagues are like my family. Given the language barrier (in spite of my best efforts, Chinese just isn't the type of language you can gain fluency in in 6 months!) and our work schedule (Thursday through Monday), my colleagues have been my most logical source of friends. Not to mention, 3 of them are also members of my gym and 2 of them live in my apartment building, so I was bound to bond with them! Sure, I've met some wonderful people volunteering and some hilarious folks in Chinese lessons (more on them another time, I promise!) but I've yet to establish the same camaraderie with these people as I have with my colleagues!

So now, here comes the time for yet another desertion! After Danielle, the bubbly South African and Nick, the distant Brit, it's now Beverly's turn to take a bow. The alpha female of the group, the gossip queen with a positive outlook and friendly demeanor is leaving. She's returning to the United States to finish her online masters degree and pursue middle school teaching. May 31st is her last day and when she announced this yesterday, everyone's mood changed. As if she'd just announced we'd all been fired. The gang went out for drinks last night but I passed. Beverly's announcement made me realize what I'd been sweeping under the carpet for a while: what am I going to do next? This job is so taxing and transitory. What will I do back in France? Do I also want to pursue a graduate degree? Will I still want to teach? These questions have been floating in my mind for a while and I hope Beverly's announcement will finally force me to answer them!

Posted by Evil1 20:35 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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