A topic of conversation that pops up in my staff room is a lovely debate, or rather us shaking our fists at the powers above for lack of common sense. It’s Chinglish and the seemingly impossible task for Chinese workers to translate things into English effectively.

For example, menus at local restaurants written in English are riddled with spelling mistakes or make no sense whatsoever. After my students offered to have a proper English translation done at no cost, they refused. This makes no sense to me.

Another example are posters at my school, which is an English-Chinese joint effort. Every time a huge billboard is printed, it has errors. To a point where quotations from actual English athletes are incorrectly copied (which has nothing to do with translation). The only people that have sense enough to ask for advice are our secretaries who send us little QQ messages to ask if something is correct or not – easy peasy.Why can’t the other members of the admin team do the same thing? It takes 2 minutes and there are about 20 native speakers on site that can fix any errors.

Belly Dnace

The most hilarious and personal example is an avert at my gym. They are advertising Belly Dnace lessons. We mentioned this to the owners and they didn’t seem too concerned and just scoffed it off. This is after the management tried to bribe the administration to making their gym the official gym of the local school just to get free advertising. A bit desperate, but funny enough even without the the official mention, when we all mention we are going to the gym, everybody knows which one.

I guess they think it’s charming, or something… :crazy:

AliPay LogoTaobao Logo

After fiddling around with banking and wondering if I had to forever rely on someone else to buy things for me online in Mainland China, I hunkered down for a few hours and found a way to create an AliPay and TaoBao account for foreigners that doesn’t require a 15 digit Chinese ID.

Now why is this important? Firstly it’s about autonomy, much like what Hong Kong is protesting for right now. Secondly it’s about ease of access to services in China. Finally it’s about cost savings because everyone in China knows they get better products online.

In store shopping is easy but when you live in a small village it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for. I’ve been looking for a stapleless stapler for about 2 weeks and it can only be found online. I bought my chair online. I bought a yoga mat online. I will buy boots online. It’s cheaper (usually by about 20RMB per item) and it’s usually faster as deliveries are within a few days on Mainland China.

So why not right? I embrace my ability to beat the system and use translation services to be able to figure out what the heck is on the page. Maybe with this newfound freedom my Chinese skills will improve. Here’s to being 10% more Chinese and having a TaoBao and AliPay account!

Hip Hop Hurra!

Squatting Man

Upon deciding to move to China I thought of one thing that would be completely incompatible with my idea of civilized society: going to the bathroom in public. I was warned by many people that in China just whip it out and relieve themselves. Having lived in China for a month now in a small village, I can confirm that this was not the case at all. People were very reserved in their actions, and despite the odd habits of the Male China Belly Syndrome, there was no squatting in the streets.

Until last night. It was no more than 24 hours from the moment I thought: “Wow, nobody here goes to the bathroom in the streets like I was told. Great!” There I was, coming home from my daily gym routine at about 21:00 and walking through the commercial plaza to my place of residence when I see a group of five men walking towards me. I took notice because they were young and the demographics of where I live are predominantly older.

They veered off to the right and were very well dressed so I figured they were going out for night on the town. Well within my view one of them went off into the corner, squatted down and in front of about 100 people took a shit. Excuse my language, but it was horrifying. All of my comfort of living in China was shattered at that moment, and what was even worse is that he didn’t even wipe up; he just continued on his way and pulled up his pants.

Shocking – I know. I was always surprised at how well the Chinese can squat (they can even keep their heels on the ground – unlike me). Now I know why, and despite it not being a widespread stereotype, I at least now know it happens.

This must be why here and there you get a funky smell of something – peeeuw!


Some time ago someone asked me where I would never decide to work. A few places came to my mind and my immediate response was: USA, and China. The former for obvious reasons, and the latter for reasons of shock and incompatibles with ideologies. While it’s such a different place, I struggle to grasp the concept of “right” versus “wrong” coming from a Western country into an Eastern country and culture.

And so my employment opportunities at my location of residence were bleak, I completed about 140 interviews in the span of 2 months. Most of which were online via Skype or Gtalk at God-awful hours of the day. I received one offer that was less than favourable but a good professional option. I turned it down and it was not financially viable – perhaps in the future it would make more sense. Stressed and worried about my future career path as a teacher, I called a company recruiter for a school in China.

A lot of my friends got jobs in random places and were moving around to tiny communities in the middle of nowhere. This didn’t interest me in the slightest. Most of my friends and colleagues found jobs in China, and I always laughed saying “Never would I ever.” And in my stress and desperation I called this company, and within 12 hours I had an interview, and within 12 hours of that I got a job offer for a permanent position in a high school for a salary that was well above the local average.

30 days later exactly I was boarding a plane that would take me from Toronto to Vancouver to Tokyo to Shanghai China. From there it was supposed to be a 9 hour bus ride to my new city of residence but we decided to stay in a hotel instead. It was dodgy, and the air was thick and humid and I looked like poop-on-a-stick, but the next day we were in the city of Zhenjiang in the rain lugging our luggage to meet my new principal and administrator that would help with a home search.

It was humid and hot, and I didn’t expect it to be like this, but alas it’s like a jungle every day. I was taken to 5 apartments to choose, all in the Western style in a small village-type location in the New District of Zhenjiang where my school is located. The first one was small and bleh, and the second one was a lovely 3 bedroom with separated kitchen and two bathrooms. At the low cost of 2’000RMB per month, I couldn’t say no to this fully furnished option and moved in 4 hours later without signing a lease or giving any money (crazy eh)?

It was the first moment that I learned a very important lesson and saying: “This is China.” China, much like America, is a land of opportunity and possibilities. Anything seems possible – skyscrapers and built in weeks (though admittedly with shorty construction) – amusement parks are built within a month, cities are created for millions and barely house hundreds – poverty exists side by side with richness and excess. It’s really quite astonishing what has happened and how China has emerged from a largely rural area to be an urban sprawl.

My city of Zhenjiang is approximately 3 million people, the size of Toronto, and nowhere near to be the grandiose importance in the grand scheme of things. Twenty minutes away by train to Nanjing (the former capitol city) and one hour and twenty minutes by train to Shanghai, this little gem of a place is a powerhouse for green solutions and the example that China models after. Though the water is not potable, it’s cleaner than in other cities and the smog is not as bad. We barely see blue skies but it’s still beautiful and sometimes smelly.

I went into my school for training and thanked God for the invention of air conditioning. After a few PD sessions and meeting my colleagues we started our “department” meetings and planning for our courses. Little did we know that what we were hired to teach would be a loose interpretation. I was hired to teach Social Studies (history, geography, civics) and Music (instrumental and/or vocal). When I got the school, much to my surprise I was assigned to teach English to Grades 10, 11, and 12s in the BC curriculum.

Despite my amazing pedagogical training, English has always been outside of my periphery, being a French and Music teacher. I found some resources and went to work on planning a couple courses based on a curriculum that I’d never seen before.

Installed in my apartment with no knowledge of Mandarin, and frequent visits to the supermarket and to noodle houses where there are pictures of the food for me to choose, I’ve lived for two weeks in China.

Never thought I would be here but here I am. To date I haven’t been ill other than some dry throats due to fiddling around with the air conditioning in my apartment. Knock on wood, hopefully getting into the swing of things will be beneficial to my mental health.

On a side note, tuktuks are the greatest invention in the history of mankind. Where a taxi starts at 8RMB and can barely be found, tuktuks are everywhere in my village and can get me to anywhere I want to go for less than 5RMB. For all you folks that don’t know what RMB/Quai/Yuen are, it’s less than a dollar ride to anywhere 5km away. Damn, eh!

As of late I’ve been watching some videos of a YouTube personality, serpentza, who is a South African expat living in China for what seems to be quite some time. He releases videos about “This is China” and is generally a pretty unbiased look at what it’s like to live and work in China.

@serpentza on Male Makeup

During my watching of some of his videos, I encountered something that really struck me as odd or put me off a bit. Being a clearly heterosexual South African I shouldn’t be really that surprised, but then again who knows… He posted a video about what McDonald’s is like in China, and during his metro travels he encountered an advertisement about mens makeup.

Quite frankly his attitude was quite negative towards it; questioning “when has it become acceptable for men to be wearing makeup” and such. Well Winston, wake up because people worldwide have been doing it for at least 5 years. I remember when I was doing my undergrad studies on a super small campus and discussion about it were common and metrosexuals were becoming quite common. While the attitude towards it being “rubbish” or “that’s Asia for you” is negative. The advertisement reads something about being fit for a queen, and then he just makes a homophobic comment about “of course it is…” I’m really not surprised given who he is and where he comes from, but really I’d like to think that South Africans have advance in some regard on this issue. It’s people like this that make the world a little bit less of a tolerant place on some issues.

While I don’t wish to sound negative, because generally I like his videos, it was very off putting to hear someone talk. What really takes the cake for me is when someone who’s attractive and doesn’t need to enhance their looks to get to a “generic” level has commentary on other people’s choices. It’s easy for him to say, given that he’s married, but what about those single people that need some help or at least feel like they need some help (which may or may not be the case). They can wear makeup if they want – it’s not hurting you in any way.

In reflecting on that, I kind of think that he would look at me and say some sort of “rubbish” comment. Well, get over it! :DD

And from what I know about Asian culture, especially Japanese, there has always been a huge wave for pop stars to be androgynous. It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just different.