A Travellerspoint blog

Pollution

JUne 30th, 2010

Discussing pollution is something that I've meant to do here for a couple of months now. I've kept putting it off because there were other interesting things to talk about and also because I care so much about this topic that I wanted to do it justice. Everyone knows about pollution. Drive less, walk more, recycle, yadi yada... But people still keep doing what they've always done or only make minor changes. Because unless people really understand why they have to change their behavior, they won't.

My students knew about pollution too. It's a very popular topic in our books. So I approached the topic differently with them. I simply asked them, "What do you need to live? List as many things as you can think of." And while, they worked, I drew three Earths on the board. Some of my students only had 2 or 3 items in their list (maybe they knew where I was going with this assignment!). My student John listed "air, water and a weapon" so that he could defend himself against a predator and hunt for food.

"Oh really, you wake up every morning and hunt for your food?" I challenged him.

We don't live like Neanderthals anymore. As we become more developed and more middle class, our needs start to change. We need cell phones, to keep track of our whereabout and in case of emergencies. We need computers to keep in touch with one another and to purchase cheaper goods. We need hairdryers, cars, ipods, rice cookers, pans, air conditioners....

The girls in my class recognized that and their lists were longer than John's. As each of them shared their necessities list, I added a post-it on my drawing of the Earth. By the time my last student was sharing his needs, I was starting to fill in the second Earth.

That's exactly where we stand right now. There are more of us on Earth, more of us wanting more things but unfortunately, the Earth doesn't have enough resources to meet everyone's needs. Especially when the quenching of our needs is accompanied by waste! I still believe it's important to drive less, walk more and recycle. But above all, I think it's important to rethink what we REALLY need. It's unrealistic to think we can make do without modern appliances and amenities. We still need phones and microwaves. But do we really need to change cell phones or cars every six months? Do we really need to use the AC? Could we not put on an extra layer in winter instead of cranking up the heat to tropical? Do we need this many clothes? Each time I walk into one of China's gleaming new malls, I feel ambiguity. I want to shop for the latest fashions but I'm also saddened by what all this consumption means for our future.

Mike claims that the human species only has a 100 years left to live. That the damage we have done is irreversible, even if we start driving solar cars or bury extra CO2 under the ground (as I recently read some geoengineers want to do!). Mike is actually looking forward to being wiped out by an environmental apocalypse (he finds chaos entertaining!). But even if the die are already cast, I'm going to continue bugging my colleagues about recycling paper and wearing my old clothes. And who knows, maybe I'll even become a vegetarian!

Posted by Evil1 02:13 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

The karate kid

June 23rd, 2010

I watched the movie "The Karate Kid" today! This marks my second time in a Chinese movie theater. Few movies seem to be released in theaters in China and even fewer in English. There's been "2012", "Avatar", "Alice and Wonderland", "Iron Man 2" but those are about the only American movies to have been released here. Movie theater tickets are expensive here and I guess most people can see those movies on the internet a few months after their release date!

The first movie I saw in China was "Avatar". I was a bit disappointed to tell the truth. Maybe because we weren't in an iMax theater or maybe because the 3D glasses weren't working properly. Actually, I think I just didn't get the whole connecting through the hair. What was up with that?!

Well anyhoo, "Karate Kid" (a bit of a misnomer since he's actually doing kung fu not Japanese martial arts!) was lots of fun!! It's about this kid called Dre who moves to Beijing, China with his mom (work is hard to find for her in Detroit). And he gets bullied by this mean Chinese kid who does kung fu*. So Dre decides to fight back by learning kung fu too and Jackie Chan is his teacher. For a guy who's nearly 60 years old, Jackie Chan is still really impressive and Will Smith's son is quite a good actor! But really, the cool part about the movie are the scenes shot in Beijing's hutongs and parks. Not to mention, that one scene were they go to the countryside. I have no clue where they are but the place is lush with greenery and absolutely breath taking!! A definite must-see before I return back France!

  • I had a hard time believing this! If kids started bullying one another, they'd get in big trouble with their parents and teachers.

Posted by Evil1 08:01 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Internet

Friday, June 18th, 2010

26 °C

I realize I left things off on a negative note last time. A bit of a cliff hanger. Is she going to stay? Will she leave? So to those out there in the nether who were worried about my well- being in this far-away land, you can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Colin and I patched things up (he apologized) and the reason I haven't been able to blog is because my internet's been out of commission for 2 weeks! I'll spare you the bureaucratic mayhem I experienced trying to get it connected again (it mainly involved harassing the real estate agent). I just have one question: How on earth did we manage before internet was invented?

I was talking to my student Jack the other day about inventions. You know, the printing press, the wheel, windshield wipers, the post-it, etc. (we were debating which one was most useful) and it strikes me now how vital the invention of internet is. I could live without a cell phone. I don't ever use post-its (or rarely). I don't drive so windshield wipers don't affect my daily life. I can and have lived without TV for several years (although it is nice to have during the World Cup!) I could go on but you catch my drift! I cannot live without the internet. As a matter of fact, I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown several times these last two weeks because I didn't have the internet (although I suppose that could also be due to the fact that Beverly left and half the teaching staff at our school is being renewed...!). My relationship with Mike hinges on a good cable connection. And I'm not the only one. I read a while back that Americans are cutting back on many expenses EXCEPT high speed internet connection! See?! Information, communication, creation are all available (no, achievable!) with this one invention! The wheel never achieved that much!

Posted by Evil1 21:15 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

When the shit hits the fan

June 2nd, 2010

overcast 21 °C

Since Beverly announced her departure (her last day is Sunday), three more of my colleagues have also given their resignation. First, my colleague Frank (I forget which alias I might have given him earlier???) who arrived a month after me, then Christina, my Chinese colleague who really couldn't care less about her job and finally my neighbor, the guy I share my computer with, who's going to start working in the US with my former employer in a couple of weeks.

It's been a rough couple of weeks, since my departing colleagues are dear to me and have been in effect my family away from home. Mike tries to reassure me by telling me that the newcomers might be just as fun (and our new teacher Nattie seems nice enough). Still, I’m starting to wonder whether I shouldn’t be leaving too.

For one thing, the people who are still here don’t all share my point of view towards work. I love my job and I love my students (whom I always refer to as “my kids”) but I work to live and find that my volunteering and Chinese lessons are equally as important and satisfying as my job. Now, I don’t expect everyone to share all my beliefs but I don’t want to be working with a bunch of brownnosing, humorless robots either.

Gary in particular doesn’t share my point of view. In his own words, he’s a “workaholic” who refers to his days off as “free days”, lest anybody should think he’s anything but hardworking even in his down time. In one instance when I tried to challenge his point of view, he got defensive and left the room but not before he threw a “lazy European” remark in my face. And now it seems each time I see him, that’s what he calls me. Now, I don’t mind teasing. When my foot got infected and Colin started referring to me as “puss toe”, I found it funny. But this is bordering on racist.

And then there’s the issue of Colin himself, who’s been busy juggling two jobs (teacher and education director). I have no idea whether the pressure of the job is fraying his nerves or whether his cold fish of a girlfriend is rubbing off on him but he’s been acting like a real prick lately, grilling us on our work hours and what have you. Frankly, with 4 teachers leaving and only one who’s been replaced, the last thing Colin ought to do is antagonize those of us who are still here!

So honestly, at this point, unless things start looking up, I’ll be looking around for better things and won’t hesitate to jump ship when the shit really hits the fan.

Posted by Evil1 01:30 Archived in China Comments (0)

Minorities

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

overcast 25 °C

According to my student Jack- who's one of the smartest and most curious 13 year olds I've ever met and who often makes me feel like I'm the student rather than the teacher!- there are 55 minorities in China. The Hans make up the vast majority of the Chinese population (roughly 90%). But considering the size of the Chinese population, even "minorities" can command big numbers!

Well anyways, just the other day, Beverly, my Chinese colleague and I were gossiping away at the Beijing university cafe when we encountered one of these minorities. I was sitting next to a European looking man whose family arrived shortly after we had. His little girl had the cutest green eyes and dirty blond hair. Naturally, we all started fawning over her and asked where she was from. She didn't seem to understand English, so we switched to Chinese, which she did understand. Turns out she WAS Chinese! I was convinced she was Russian or Eastern European but in fact, she and her dad were Uyghur!

The fifth largest minority in China is of Turkic origin, which explains their European features. They live primarily in the Xinjiang autonomous region in the far west of China (one of the largest autonomous regions) but have also come to populate major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. They are muslims and they writing is very similar to Arabic. As a matter of fact, if you look at any currency bill in China, you will notice their calligraphy next to other those of other Chinese minorities!
http://www.maplandia.com/china/xinjiang-uygur/

Posted by Evil1 20:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

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