So I went to my guzheng teacher’s home today, like I do most Thursdays…. As I rode down the alley heading home after my lesson, an old grandpa in his boxers called for me to return. Thinking maybe he needed help or something, I biked back towards the house and asked what was the matter. Can you believe it? This lil’ Yebster asked me where I got my bike. In other words, he thought I stole it from outside their home. I explained that I was there for my guzheng lessons in house number 26. This was indeed my bike, and I had parked it in front of my teacher’s house, not his. Apparently, I wasn’t so convincing. The guy went into his home and summoned a pregnant lady to confirm that my bike did not belong to their family. Sheesh. just my luck. I happen to be one of the world’s biggest goody two-shoes. Hel-lo!! Ah well. Gotta love the grandpa neighborhood watchdog!
Well I had my final class for Cissy yesterday evening. Gave her a 7-page final exam. I had her cramming Monday at lunch and all the way up to the exam at 7 pm, she said. So all that’s left now is grading the exam and writing up an evaluation. Not too bad.
Of course, I AM still out of my laptop. Argh. John and I went laptop browsing yesterday– there just isn’t much to be desired in the PC laptop market, or so John insists. Pretty much, my 3-yr old laptop has a screen better than most of the units out there (which are in the under $2k range). I just hope they can fix my Compaq. I really don’t want to go through getting another computer.
In other news, what’s up with my friends? I haven’t been getting any email for like two weeks! Come on folks. I know you’re busy, but you know working for myself has deprived me of office gossip. I need to make up for it somewhere. Drop me a line or something. Please.
We’re having lunch today with Em at La Seine, a tasty French restaurant with a yummy lunch appetizers/dessert buffet. Awww yeah. Gonna get my sweet tooth on! The other exciting thing about this meeting is Em and I are doing a trade. Nip/Tuck and Curb (which I really HATE, btw) for Six Feet Under and a Reese flick (Alabama). It’s like a book club, but with DVDs. Hee, hee. Speaking of books, have any of your checked out Book Crossing. It’s somewhat confusing but an interesting concept to follow the lives of your books. For me, I just view it as a way to get rid of extra crap clogging up the bookshelf. I’m supposed to release a few into the wild today.
You know, it’s quite entertaining living in the land of mini-peeps. Really, the average Shanghainese woman is probably a US size 4 and under 100 lbs. Last Thursday, I went to my guzheng lesson. I’ve been practicing this new string vibration technique, and it’s frustrating the shit out of me. The elbow is raised, parallel to my shoulder, and then my right wrist is supposed to rotate like I’m using a screwdriver. In turn, my thumbnail touches the string twice– once when my wrist rotates counterclockwise and once when it twists clockwise. Regardless, I just can’t get the technique right. When my teacher demoed it, she made the method look so easy. I felt like maybe there was something physically wrong with my hand. I was right. When I matched my hand with hers, my fingers were a good inch longer than hers. It was as if I had man hands. She said her hand wasn’t even considered small among her classmates. Great, I’m just a frickin’ barbarian.
I’ve had similar issues in the bra department, to be honest. Now, everyone in the States knows I don’t have a chest to brag about. But here? Ha, ha. I’m huge. It took me 30 minutes, wading through tiny lil’ bras with disproportionatly large foam cups to finally find something comfortable (no underwire, no foam cups) and in my size. Actually, it was the largest size they had– probably the equivalent of a US 36. Cracks me up. And it had super wide straps and a hefty clasp in the back– for added support I guess. And my bra only cost $1 US. Can you believe they cost $15-20 in the US?
OMG, did I tell you it was fucking HOT here? Don’t believe me? I have lived through both NC, FL, AND Taiwan summers, and I think this is the worst. And I have Sue Lee Bauerbach, a FL native to back me up. Mostly, I’ve realized that central AC makes all the difference. For example, in FL you are only exposed to the sweltering heat in the few minutes it takes to walk outside, get into your car, and crank up the AC. All buildings are cooled to refrigerator temps. I’m serious. I remember in grad school, I always wore long pants and long sleeved shirts, even during the summer. Though I certainly appreciated the instant relief crossing the temperature threshold, the rest of the day I was a frickin’ slab of meat in the fridge. So back to Shanghai… John calls our bedroom the Oasis. We climb into our netted bed, turn on the AC room unit, turn on the mini ceiling fan under our tent, zip ourselves up, and hang out by the campfire with the wild animals (Rem and Martin) pacing around outside. When we leave the oasis to use the bathroom or get something from the kitchen, we get jolted back to our senses. The rest of the house is a goddamn sauna. Yeah, maybe some people pay to relax in the sauna. Well, there ain’t no relaxing in ours. It’s as if we’re part of some insane gameshow where you have to grab the items you need and then hurry back to the safe zone or homebase. Potty, wash hands, back to the room. Shower, towel off back in the room. Grab bread, a can of peanut butter, a spoon, back to the room. I know, pathetic. But feel free to give this a try at home.
In other news, I’ve been paralyzed since Tuesday. Earlier this week, I was on my laptop. All the sudden, colors started looking funny. On the desktop, all my icons had a trail of red striations going across the screen. At three years old, my laptop has display damage. Mother fucker. I chatted online with my nemeses HP, and they sent me through the hoops– reinstalling the driver, adjusting display settings, blah, blah. Pain in my ass, those “service” people. In the end, I took it to a local Compaq repair shop. They said it’s definitely hardware and will have to send my unit in to the factory for repair. In other words, I’m out of a fucking computer for at least 4 business days. So one would think, “Ok. No big deal. Just a few days. I’m not DEPENDENT on anything. There’s no addiction problem here.” Wrong. I can’t stand being without. For one thing, I rely very heavily on my laptop for work. So here it was Wednesday, and I had my SABIC business writing class in the evening. I still had to edit pieces, write pieces… argh! I ended up waking up at 6 am to bike over to the internet bar. Yeah, so I was there with all the hardcare gamers. It wasn’t so bad though, thankfully. There were actually only a handful of people, and each station has headsets. I had a variety of issues accessing my files, which I took in on a USB thumb drive. Then there was the MS Word in Chinese issue. Fortunately, I’m a big fan of shortcut keys, so I was able to get most of the formatting/functions done. Still, the level of efficiency just wasn’t the same as with my good ‘ol laptop baby. Good news is that the class went fine. I’ll likely be heading back to the internet bar many more times this week. It costs about 2 yuan/hour = 24 cents. My ayi thought that was expensive. I didn’t tell her how much a laptop costs.
So I’m coming clean. I can’t live without my computer. No apologies though. I’m a victim of the technological revolution. So be it.
Oh, you may be wondering why I don’t use John’s computer. First, he uses it for work. Second, it’s a mac and though he always touts the cross compatibility of the two platforms, he’s wrong. It’s inadequate. And I hate macs. I’m not cool enough for them.
I picked up a local magazine today: inside was an article about Chinese parents sending their kids to the plastic surgeon “for their own good.” Here’s their rationale: In a country where the worker pool is so vast, getting the job often boils down to appearances. English is no longer a surefire way on and up the professional ladder. You not only must sound the part, but you also have to look the part, i.e. Chinese women have to possess the Western beauty features. Yes, you heard me right. Forget charges of discrimination– employers here are perfectly free to make such demands, especially for jobs that require “face time”. Image is part of the job, they say.
The obsession with Westerners’ white skin, big eyes, and tall noses is nothing new. Still, it doesn’t make the phenomenon any less disturbing. What’s shocking, however, is the growing trend among children. According to the article, parents are rewarding good grades with a trip or two to the plastic surgeon. In Guangzhou, three area hospitals report that 90 percent of plastic surgery patients are under 16, with the double eyelid surgery being the most popular. The cost can run as low as 1000 yuan or $120. And the parents just chalk it up as another investment into the child’s future: “If getting the surgery gets her a good job, maybe it’s not such a bad thing for a better life.” ARGH!! Yeah, I hate to be judgemental, but this is just too fucked up.
Goodness, these last two days have blown by! A few memorable clashes with the exhausting Shanghai summer heat and bam, the precious weekend is gone. Well today was a good deal of fun. John and I stayed cooped up in the sanctity of our A/C’d office. Actually, we weren’t that lazy: Lenni came over to tutor John and Wu ayi’s daughter Carol came by for her English lesson. The Wu and I are working out a trade: I tutor her daughter and her family watches Remy and Martin next time we go out of town. No more pick-ups and deliveries to the kennel that’s about an hour away. Remy and Martin survived puppy prison just fine, but Jialiang’s services are getting a bit pricey, and they’re never giving me a good deal (without me having to haggle for it every damn time!). Anyway, Carol’s level of English is decent, particularly her reading and pronunciation. It just goes to show– working for a foreign company and being forced to use a new language every days plays a key role. Carol’s pretty young– I think she was born in the 80’s, but she brings a nice energy without any bullshit. For example, she told me that they live with her maternal grandmother. And she said as a matter of factly that she didn’t have much of a relationship with her grandmother. Her gma had wanted Carol to be a boy, so ever since her birth, she wanted little to do with the disappointment. See what I mean? Just another example of women getting the shorter end of the stick. In arguing about “extinction” of the Gou legacy, my father tried to argue that despite my marriage (after which, most Chinese would consider me an Eshleman), I was still a Gou. He said my kids would count as descendants to the Gou line (does it sound like we’re talking about royalty or what?). More over, my father insists that Johnny and I were treated equally and fairly. I’ll admit, the gender preference wasn’t extreme as it could have been, but Johnny certainly wasn’t subjected to curfews post-high school. Nor has he ever been pressured to improve his cooking and cleaning. Nor has he been criticized for being too direct or assertive. Ahh but that’s all water under the bridge right?
Anyway, speaking of why feminism remains relevant today, check out this article on Virgin Airlines’s plans earlier this year to install urinals shaped like a woman’s mouth in their executive clubhouse at JFK Airport. It’s an old story but I’m still fuming about it. Believe it or not, the designer was a European woman. She claimed people were overreacting to her creation, which was intended to be fun and quirky. The public uproar was yet another example of people not having better things to do with their time, she claimed! She then insisted that the picture of a man urinating in a woman’s mouth never even crossed her mind when designing the piece. Meanwhile, Bathroom Mania’s marketing materials stated, “Kisses, the sexy urinal, makes a daily event a blushing experience! This is one target men will never miss!” These people have some nerve!
In happier news, can I tell you that Jaime Oliver is my new hero? I’m not one for cooking (though I am one for eating), so his recipes and cooking tips are of little interest to me. Still, he writes a nice blog– it’s simple yet honest. And after reading about his charity Cheeky Chops and his new restaurant Fifteen, I felt so inspired. From the Cheeky Chops website, “Jamie Oliver had long been thinking about helping unemployed young people by offering them a leg-up into the world of catering. ‘Having not been the brightest banana in the bunch myself, I realized that my biggest weapon in life was the determination, enthusiasm, hands-on and “actions speak louder than words” approach my father taught me, and I wanted to get this across to others, especially those interested in food.’ Jamie’s ideas got whittled down to one main one: ‘to train a team of unemployed kids with an interest and passion for food and to open a new first-class restaurant in London to be run by them.’ And so, the charity Cheeky Chops was born.” Cool dude, eh?
This last week has been very busy for me: I’ve tutored almost every night. No complaints here. My assignment with Cissy wraps at the end of this month, so I’m on the lookout for the next gig. Fortunately, someone heard about me through JobWeek (yes, that publication back from January). On Friday afternoon, I had an interview with a Dutch-Chinese company called Rainbow Consulting. Their managing partner Ms. Zhu Dan is interested in hiring me as an English teaching consultant. Basically, Rainbow does HR consulting– executive assessments to help HR select appropriate workers for their needs, competency training, and organizational management. Dan has an interesting background–born in China, earned her masters in education from Emory, got her MBA in the Netherlands, worked in jewelry sales in Europe, and now heads this training group. We got along quite well during the intereview. We both blunt kinda women. Hopefully, this will materialize into a good opportunity. Dan said she’d get back to me in the next week or two.
Today John and I hit our fave local Chinese restaurant– Dynasty. Had our usual four dishes: fish-flavored eggplant, kao fu (spongy tofu), fried beefchops, stir-fried noodles. AFterwards, we biked to Xiangyang Market– yeah the fake market, the place we try our best to avoid. Well I had to get a watch to replace my Skaagen watch. I love my silver Skaagen, but 1) I can’t read the damn thing– I’m always off by an hour because of there are no ticks on the dial; 2) the mesh band got cut and one of the wires kept catching on everything–including my skin. John and I followed some sketchy dude across the street into an old house, where each room was a fake boutique, so to speak. Anyway, I got myself a fake Omega watch. Nai would be proud– that’s her favorite watch brand. Of course, Nai would think it real– even if the 100 RMB price makes betrays any logic of it being authentic. Needless to say, John was a tough bargainer. They asked 480. I think we could’ve gotten it down to like 60, but I’m ok with 12 USD. I warned them that I would return if I had ANY issues with it. The watch is functional. Not the most stylish, but I’ve learned my lesson. This one has bright, silver big-ass tickmarks against a dark gray face. Hope the thing lasts me a few months. 🙂
After Xiangyang, John and I dropped by Ka De Club where we get DVDs. They actually had Nip/Tuck, which made John very happy.
My god, it is still so damn hot these days. My face is all red from biking today. I wore my hat, but I had trouble keeping it on the whole time. Now I’m sitting here trying to update Goodbers, but my mind is distracted. Sweat beads are running down my face. I know, just turn on the damn AC. But John’s here too, and it’s a competition to see who crumbles first. I know, our silly little games.
My good friend Sue Lee and her family were in Shanghai July 4-5– part of a two-day stopover during their 2-week China/Thailand family vacation. They arrived late in the afternoon on July 4, and the tour had their schedule packed with activites upon arrival. I googled the hotel number she left me to find the hotel name and location. We then trekked northeast on the chiggy (ching gui–elevated rail) to Hankou district. The hotel room was a refrigerator– with the temp set to probably 68 degrees. It’s been so long since I’ve experienced A/C like that, I swear it made me sick the next day.
So we hung out some at the hotel… caught up with ol’ times and then headed out in two taxis to Xintiandi. I know, I’m always bitching about how Anqian loves that damn hoty place, but we had little choice. They were dying for some real American burgers and unfortuantely our top choice, Rendevous, was too far away. So KABB in Xintiandi it was!
John ordered the burger (off the menu), Troy had the chicken quesadilla, Andrew got the steak burrito, and Sue and I shared the pita wedges (mediocre at best). An expensive meal for SH, but hopefully it hit the spot.
The next day, John and I got up early to meet the Lee’s at their hotel. We spent the day with them on the tour bus, shuttling around town. We drove around the French Concession area and visited the White House, which houses SH’s Institute of Arts and Crafts. I was very impressed by the exhibit– a lot of miniature wood and ivory carvings, embroideries, knitting crafts, as well as papercuts and lanterns. Compared with all the shit on the streets, this stuff was very delicate and beautiful. The grounds were nice tool, with a nice garden. Some Englishman named Sassoon used to live there.
Next we went to Xiangyang market. John and I usually avoid that place at all costs, but it’s a standard tourist stop. The Lee family bought a bunch of stuff– Adidas sneakers, swatch watches, a chess set, and Oakley sunglasses. They had fun bargaining. Believe it or not, I’m not into bargaining and shopping that much anymore. I mean, bargains are tough to resist, but as my mother says, “It’s always cheapest not to buy anything at all!”
Afterwards, we had lunch at the Yangtze Hotel. It was Andrew’s birthday; surprisingly, we had a pretty tasty Chinese cake. It was still lighter than what American’s are used to– a sponge cake with a fruit layer and whipped cream frosting. Christine’s brand. I’ll have to remember that. After dessert, I was off to tutor Keiko’s kids. We parted ways as the Lee’s headed for Pudong airport. It was great seeing them, but I wish they could have seen our place and the pups. We’ve still had zero visitors. Sigh. Anyway, next stop on the Sue itinerary? Thailand. Yup, they’ve seen more of China in the last week than John and I have seen in six months. 🙁 Ok, not wholly true. But yeah, we gotta get going on some domestic travel plans.
I’ve been pretty busy this week. Classes resumed full force… and them some. Actually, because of all the courses I missed with Cissy last month, we’re making them all up in July. So Cissy’ll have 15 sessions with me this month. I returned to SABIC this evening–first time in over a month. It was great fun. We went over five writing samples in class. I enjoy that class very much. I brought back a box of Andes chocolates for my students. They devoured the entire package during class. I guess there are not mint/chocolate candies in China. Missing out over here! But at least now I know what to bring back on the next trip to the US.
Speaking of traveling to/from the US, I think the airfares are going back down… at least a little. Heads up buddies: SFO-Beijing is $700. I know, it’s not to SH, but BJ-SH is only about $100. Screw Travelocity and Orbitz on international flights. You gotta check FlyChina instead. Trust me.
Ok well I just got home and am starving. More later.
So I was all eager to get back to work for my first full week back. Unfortunately, as my luck would have it, Keiko cancelled class Monday and Cissy cancelled class Tuesday. Consequently, I was left to non-class activities. I guess I shouldn’t complain… John and I certainly needed several days to overcome jet lag. We’re such wusses with that. The first four days back, we fell asleep around 4-5pm and awoke 12 hours later. But hey, we weren’t the only ones. The dogs were off schedule too. Martin was stopped up for DAYS. Plus, neither dog bothered to wake us for food or trips outside. It was a bizaare few days.
Still, the upside of waking up early is you meet a whole different community. A bunch of retired folk get up for their morning exercises and then there are also a bunch of people who get up for work–delivering produce to the open markets. The street vendors get going early! Bicycles loaded with fresh fruits and veggies flooded the open market. The breakfast people also got going– chopping their onions, kneading their pancake dough, preparing for the morning rush hour lines.
On the other side of town, the streets were barren and peaceful. For once, John and I actually stopped to take pictures. Gorgeous old trees line the streets in central SH and form a beautiful, lush canopy. Breathing the “fresh” morning air was like popping a caffeine pill– we felt so energized. The air was so much better than the usual bus/taxi exhaust during the day.
I’ve started doing yoga in the mornings. An effective jumpstart to the day– not as rigorous as running/going to the gym but still an intense experience. Unfortunately, mybody doesn’t flex like it used to. 🙁 No more nose-to-the-knee skillz. Then again, undergrad was a DECADE ago. Sigh.
John and I returned to some bad news: most of our American friends are leaving China. There’s some kind of mass exodus going on. My friend Em quit her job as an event planner for a British company. She decided she’s just burned out with China. Been here about two years and just needs a break. Her solution? She’s moving to Africa in December. Her boyfriend Zack wraps up his residency this fall and will return to Zambia. He’ll be stationed in a village where he will do community medicine. My friend Anqian, whose been griping about SH since he arrived (against his will) 8 months ago, finally has an escape plan. He signed on with the World Bank and is moving to La Paz, Bolivia to do international economic development. Lastly, my Duke classmate Bill Yen is nearing the end of his post-grad architecture fellowship… I haven’t talked to him in a while but expect he’ll be shipping out as well.
So it’s back to just the two of us– introverts sliding farther toward the anti-social extreme. I know, I have to fight it. We have to build people skills. Add it to the to-do list. Actually, last night I met some friends of Anqian’s. This guy Francis is a co-organizer of ORIENTED happy hours– some global networking group. He said I should attend the next event. I already signed up as a member online so hey, that’s a step in the right diretion. We’ll see what happens.
When we were back in the US, John and I had dinner with some of his coworkers. At one point during the evening, we got to talking about the Myer-Briggs personality test. I figured this was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with my true self. My test result? ISTJ: Introvert, Sensing (vs. Intuitive), Thinking (vs. Feeling), Judging (vs. Perceiving). Codename? Trustee.
Interestingly, the results were even presented on some kind of scale. Supposedly, I was strongly S, T, and J. So nothing’s wrong with the Trustee personality– it describes someone who is orderly, stable, practical, dependable, and faithful. But couldn’t they have selected a more appealing label? I mean, consider some of the other options: journalist, architect (John: INTP), scientist, artisan for crissakes! Yeah, all you other ISTJ’s out there: we got shafted. Big time! And to top it off, check out some of our “suitable” career options: tax auditor, accountant, librarian, mortician! Uh, BO-RING. Boy do I feel terrific about myself.
Well if anything, this led to further interesting discussions. I’m proud to say, I correctly guessed John’s personality. Guess that’s no huge accomplishment when you’ve been with someone for eight years. I know, can you believe it? Summer of 1996. That’s right, both of us taking Engineering Dynamics at UMCP Summer School. Great stuff. Anyway, back to the personality types. You know, I don’t really think I’m that strongly judgemental. I try to empathize, I try to see others’ points of views. I’m not totally closed off to opposing views… What do you think? Friends? Colleagues? Email me your comments. John disagrees with me. He thinks the test is right on. 🙁 And he told me that the test’s creators say you have to wait six months before re-taking the test. Damnit. There goes my chance of getting a better label. Geez, artisan sure has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?