Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MMMMMMMMM! American Food!

Click the pix for larger picture.
Yesterday one of my classes was on food, so I downloaded some stuff from our pokey intertubes and put them on the class computer. The last picture was my editorial comment on the American diet.
The kids here do like burgers, fries, KFC, etc. Fortunately for them the stuff is expensive by their standards, so they eat the healthier Chinese diet of a little meat and lots of veggies and rice.

Proper Panhandling Position

Click the pix for larger picture.
Back home, I'm sure the numbers of panhandlers have increased. In the local paper there is this about how the local ordinance forbidding freeway exit beggars is unconstitutional. Fwy panhandlers OKThere hasn't been much of an increase here. The beggars around here tend to have a bowl, and are either old or infirm. They always seek out the "wealthy" foreigner, and can be kind of aggressive. Yali says that most of them make a good living doing this, and doesn't like to give them money. I've seen this guy a couple of times, and I have to give him points for style.

Moving soon

We have found a bigger, nicer, and quieter apartment. It's only a couple of blocks away, but it's on a quiet street with no Karaoke bar or gym with mega loud aerobics classes. Best of all, there is no parking garage with the squeaky 5:30 am security gate and morons who think that their car alarms need to go off for a minute before they open their doors at 6 am.
Actually, Yali's parting gift to the neighborhood was to holler out the window yesterday morning at the cretins making all the early morning racket. It was very quiet this morning.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not That Stupid, Thanks!

I read this article today. Scary China. I have to say that I really don't think this is something for the US to get their panties in a wad over. First of all, why would China's military be a threat to the US, or as the article states, "disrupt the traditional advantages of American forces"? Guess what? They hold the note on our debt to fund our military adventures! I think that's a pretty big advantage right there. We are also their number one trading partner. I don't think they are really going to invade.
Taiwan is threatened? Anyone reading the news will notice that Taiwan and China are enjoying a relationship unlike any they have ever had. There are flights to and from the two places. There is open trade. We watch Taiwan TV here! Expect improving relations that will culminate in some kind of Hong Kong type of arrangement. They were smart enough not to mess with Hong Kong's success. You still need to go through customs to go into Hong Kong. It has its own government.
If you are looking for answers to China's military buildup, you might want to look at the countries that border it:
  • Mongolia
  • Russia
  • North Korea
  • Vietnam
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Bhutan
  • Nepal
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Afghanistan
  • Tajikistan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Kazakhstan
The US shares a border with Canada and Mexico, although Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house. Look at the size and scope of our military. Part of China's success has been to avoid stupid military incursions in the last 25 years.
I am not trying to defend its military buildup exactly, but if I shared a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, I think it would be prudent to be prepared for the worst. This paranoid Times article is a little alarmist, and reflects an out of touch cold war mentality. What do they think we should do, borrow more money from China, so we can defend against them????

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wha i yo nay?

Teaching English to a big class of Chinese kids can have its challenges. Since they are taught four days a week by a Chinese person there is a wild discrepancy in pronunciation. You walk around a classroom of 35-50 kids saying “One, two, three, four, five”. From the kids who have a clue, you will get “One, two, three, four, five,” . From most you get, “One, toh, flee, foh, fie”, Maybe a third of the kids will be going “uh, oh, ee, uh, uh”. The future ditch diggers are looking out the window. There have been some shortfalls in their previous lessons. Much to my surprise, a couple of the classes have been allowed to run amok for the year, and discipline seems as scarce as snow flakes.
Now most of the classes are great. They are motivated and well taught. I am able to teach pronunciation along with actual lessons. But there still is that problem of how to teach each kid “th”, “br”, “s”, “r”, and a host of other vowel combinations. They also love to drop the last vowel. “Wha i yo nay?” instead of “what is your name?”. NAMUH, NAMUH, NAMUH, NAMUH! For five minutes. Then, ““Wha i yo nay?” The teachers are often teaching them this! Buddha help me.
Cantonese is the local language here. However, the government requires Mandarin to be the official language and it is taught from the start and used as the language in the schools, TV, movies, and all other media. All younger people speak it. My assistants are from the North and are native Mandarin speakers. Cantonese also lacks certain vowels, so my assistants say that the locals have their own pronunciations of Mandarin, too.
Fortunately, there are kids who do get it, work hard at doing things right and will be the movers and shakers of tomorrow. Just like Amelica!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Recovery (click here for article)

The big fat depressing recession has also hit China hard. 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs. They worked in the factories producing the stuff that we hocked our homes to buy. 6 million recent college graduates are having a tough time getting jobs, too.
Since the banks here are in great shape, and the government doesn't have to wait for the democratic process to muddle along, stuff is happening. They have already been working on infrastructure for a while and they are encouraging people to start their own businesses with financial incentives and training. There are lots of self employed people here.
In the US, it's a lot more difficult to own your own business. Licenses, insurance, permits, labor laws, OSHA, IRS, etc, etc make it a lot more enticing to just get a job. If you can.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eatin' Dogs

After a few more classes discussing favorite foods, I got used to kids saying that dog was their favorite meat, although I'd rather not think about it too much. I doubt you will ever see me trying this delicacy, although I can think of a couple of dogs I've known in my life that I wouldn't have shed a tear over had they ended up in a stir fry.
There are plenty of people here who keep dogs as pets as well. I don't know if they indulge in a little Bowser or not. My assistant is from Northern China and tells me that the folks up there are not so inclined to dine on canine. In the South the people are more eclectic in their carnivorous pursuits, including rat and cat. Two kids claimed to like snake. Heck, even I've eaten rattlesnake. It tastes like alligator.
Now nobody has offered me any of these things to eat here, but I have had some interesting stuff including sea worms, which are really yummy. One of the things that I'm not real thrilled with is steamed chicken, which is the local fave. It's bland, but they also like to get a little work out their chickens before they eat them, so the bird has laid some eggs, gotten laid and run around enough to make them chewy. I prefer duck which is as common as chicken and way better. In fact, I can't figure out why it's so hard to get in the US. KFD could be a big hit.
The three great culinary contributions that the US has managed to insert here is McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and KFC. The only one I have gone to is McD's. It's a little different. None of the workers are fat and they seem to like working there. The Big Mac is more of a Medium Mac, and they have good coffee with free refills. KFC is the most popular, and has burgers, hot dogs (!!??), and fries. Pizza Hut is spendy, and the pizzas I saw through the window looked kind of weird. Maybe some kind of kitty combo.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teaching fun

I teach on the outskirts of town in a district called Nanyo. It's a half hour bus ride and we cross the way cool Zhanjiang Bay Bridge. It's surrounded by farmland and some of the kids are farm kids.
Yesterday I was teaching a fourth grade class and we were discussing what animals and foods are grown on farms. Since we are in the tropics, mangoes, bananas and pineapples were mentioned. Then I took a poll of favorite foods. Mango was the favorite plant food.
When it came to meat, chicken was number one. Two sweet faced little girls readily stood up and proclaimed dog to be their favorite meat. Ohkaaaaay!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Vista bliss

Q: Why did Microsoft call it "Vista"?
A: Because "shit" was already taken.
Right now my laptop, with everything I use, is unable to get online. So I'm writing this on our home PC which has mostly Chinese characters, but has Good Old XP and is very reliable. This is just a little update, which will be followed with something more in depth with video and pictures later.
The weather has turned cool and rainy, which is good since China has been experiencing a drought throughout most of the country. Yali got me a new manly umbrella, since I was using a cheap purple thing with flowers on it. It was kind of gay (not that there's anything wrong with that). My new one is beefy and plaid. Very Braveheart. Speaking of which, I know that we all look alike to the people here, but two people now have said I look like Mel in Braveheart. Talk about ego boost. And I don't have crazy neocatholic bees in my head making me hate Jews, so I feel doubly blessed.
I did well enough as a substitute teacher that I've been hired to finish the school year at the elementary schools I've been working in. Yay! I have some private students, too. I'm actually making a living here! Visa renewal was a piece of cake, too. It is a lot easier to get permission to live here than it is for my Chinese family to do it in the USA. Right now, given the state of the economy at home, I'm happy to be here with food on the table, a roof over our heads and an income.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The 'Hood

It has actually cooled off a bit, with some rain and temperatures in the 60's. Some people like Yali really bundle up.
We live in a kind of upscale neighborhood by Zhanjiang standards. We are a block from the water, which has the wonderful park that follows the shore. Just up the street are a bunch of new high rises that command a big price. Near those is a very nice private park and resort with spa, hotels, bungalows, and restaurants.
A block away there is something that shouldn’t be here, a big open grassy field. It’s a part of the park, and some people use it for flying kites, but it seems its main purpose is that it is a great place to shoot off fireworks whenever the occasion warrants it. There are some nightclubs around here, but the noise is more secondary, with a bit of horrible karaoke drifting in at wee hours on weekends. There is a gym across the alley that has an aerobics class at 8 each night. Techno and a guy yelling “Go, go, go!” He has the technology to make his music go faster, and thusly at a different pitch, too. I actually heard “Country Road” done in techno. I don’t think James Taylor saw any royalties for it.
We live in an older walk up that is only 7 stories high. We are on the third floor. It’s my kind of place, low rent in a high rent district. The neighbors are mostly families and few retired folks. Kinda homey and friendly.
Everything you need is within walking distance. There is a hole in the wall noodle place next door, where you can go down with a pot first thing in the morning and get enough noodles and soup to get you going for cheap. The next place sells beer, sodas and smokes. Bakery store across the street, groceries a block down. Hairdressers, foot massage, clinic, flowers, restaurants, car wash and a McDonald’s down the street in the high rent district.
It is noisy here. It's a city, after all, and the most important piece of equipment on any Chinese vehicle, from motorbike to bus is the horn. I have seen motorcycles drive down an empty street at 7 in the morning beeping their horns every 8 seconds or so. Here is how it works: cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles have the right of way. It’s not the law, it’s just the way things are here. A bus will turn into a bunch of traffic honking his horn. Everyone stops because he is the biggest. When someone passes a bike or motorcycle, they will honk so the 2 wheeler doesn’t meander in front of them. Motorcycles honk so everyone knows they are there and either get out of their way if they are on foot, or doesn’t run them over if they are bigger. It’s rarely done in anger. It’s just the way a bunch of bad drivers keep from killing each other. I’m sure there are horn repair shops in each neighborhood. The owners send their kids to private schools and keep high price mistresses.
At about midnight though it gets real quiet. I don’t think there is much in the way of a graveyard shift in this neighborhood, and if there is, the people who work it can’t afford horns. It stays really quiet until about 6:30 when the people who can afford horns start going to work. Anyway, I manage a good night’s sleep most nights except when someone’s car or motorcycle alarm goes off while they are out of town or drunk.