Thursday, December 23, 2010

On the Road Again



I drove on the streets of Beijing for the first time last night. Which was kinda fun, but a bit stressy. Driving some very new very expensive big black BMW SUV. Q's friend has a rich bf. All sorts of new-fangled doohickey's to confuse drivers of regular cars.

She hurt her tailbone, so wasn't so comfy driving. Ok, i'll do it. Don't worry you can drive really slow, she said. Although in the end, it was a bit sketch since she had me doing all sorts of illegal turns and squeezing through the skechy traffic circles, gunning ahead of traffic at the lights and stuff. I wondered occasionally if it really was stupid to be driving considering my lack of license, but then again when the hell else would i have a chance to drive in China?

Also, frankly the roads seem a lot less insane to me than they used to. In fact, not only do i feel more adjusted to the way they are, but i truly think that drivers are less insane than they were 4 years ago. Wish i had some hard data on that...

Gigs and Shenanigans

Had my gig a wk or 2 ago, which was a bit flat, frankly. (well my singing's usually a bit flat, so that goes w/out saying), but the audience (which was a reasonably full house, in a reasonably small venue) was weirdly quiet, i thought. That threw me a bit too. So i raced threw my set, making less mistakes than i'd expected, said thx, and was done. Then my friend's full piece band (6 professional musicians), and sounded amazing, but frankly i still found the audience to be on the quiet side. BJ audiences are like that sometimes, ah well.

And then yesterday was the school Christmas concert/party.

I had my gr 10s sing Happy Christmas (War is Over) and my gr 11s sing Do They Know It's Christmas. I struggled w/ the less than hype 11s to pump their fists in the air and yell "Let them know it's Christmas time at all!", w/ ultimately more success than expected once the audience started yelling too.

Also, my top student asked me to accompany his soul-style version of Oh Holy Night. So i learned that song. He sang it really well, and i did minimal back up. He waved his arms around a bit at my suggestion.

Also two girls asked me to accompany them singing this song, so I learned it. It was ok, but they need more cute smiling before breaking the bigtime.

Also this one somewhat nerdy but sweet student asked me to accompany her singing a song by Queen Sea Big Shark, a pretty decent BJ band i'm surprised any students know about. i was amazed to note the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Sigur Ros on her iPod when she was looking for the track. And i was stoked when she agreed to let me start off the track solo, before coming on stage wearing my pilots helmet as her grand entrance.

Also one other student asked me to play guitar for her, and i said "no." Seriously, how hte hell can a guy do any teaching when he's wasting all his time trying to learn new songs. Gimme a break.

Anyhow, although the very sweet gr 10s sang much worse than normal, it was still pretty fun.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Downer

So the dog Top made an exit a couple nights ago. Rumour was she was going to her owner M's parents', which would give her owners who were largely around. Good.

But apparently M' parents don't like Top. (Huh? Don't like Top???)

So Top is now back at her disproportionately absent owner's apt. Where she gets out once/day, as opposed to 3 times here, occasionally more.

M reported to Q that Top was quite unhappy, sulking, not even interested in going out for her walk. This really disturbs me, but Top always really wanted out for her walk.

So hearing about Top saddens me.

But i also feel selfish, because I don't particularly want the responsibility or time commitment of caring for a very sweet though somewhat needy schnauzer.

i don't know how the hell parents do it. Hats off to parents.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Three Strikes Your ... Still In!


Well, since being employed by SinoBright School, i have (count 'em) three times talked about things in my classes which were deemed too sensitive, and word reached the Chinese staff, who in turn contacted my principals who in turn contacted me.

Once last year in Social Studies, i mentioned Tiannanmen.

This year I apparently overstepped boundaries by mentioning... either Tibet or Xinjiang or the Da lie Lamma or Liu Shiabo.

And the sex ed stuff.

And i am the first to admit, i have lacked cultural sensitivity.

And thus was not surprised when following two administrative meetings (neither one of which was attended by me), I was asked to sign a piece of paper which says i understand that should this sort of issue recur, it will precipitate my dismissal.

Sigh.

Oh well, i don't expect to tackle those topics anymore, and really i can easily teach the required concepts without delving into sensitive Chinese politics.

Sex, pbly no, but that's another can of worms, and one which i didn't really plan on opening in such a big way AT ALL.

And finally: received this email today from my boss to staff.

FYI

We will be given an in-service by the Chinese Visa department, in the near future- I assume, on the boundaries for sensitive issues/topics.

'Should be another interesting Chinese experience.


Apologies to my coworkers. Hope it doesn't take up too much of yr free time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lost track

Um, i missed a day bk there, due to internet probs. And chose not to blog at least once due to bad mood. But anyhow, let me take this overdue chance to say thx once again to you, my most steadfast and hardcore readership.

I know i f'ing zero'd out over summer and for a while, but somehow a gang of you stuck by me and continue to do so.

Well, Nov is over (already? Holy SHIT) but i do have a couple blogs to blog about that i haven't quite gotten around to yet. I'm less than caught up in many areas of my life, i feel.

Anyhow, i should jet. Derrick is marking some quizzes for me (God bless him), and is waiting for me to watch a movie w/ him or something.

Monday, November 29, 2010

29 - Gettin' Giggy Wid It


My plan was
to come to Beijing and start a band.

Which i haven't done.

No time.

But.

I do have a gig scheduled in.

My friend Yuqi, one of the few friends i have in this massivorama city, is one of those few actual professional musicians. Paid to write songs, support bands, invited to play at festivals yadda yadda. Aside: but he's not that professional, 'cause when he doesn't like the band, he looks soooooo bored out of his brains.

He's also buddhist, and often recounts amazing stories about how his master cures his ailments by telling him to purchase and set free animals, and about fish jumping and jumping and jumping for joy in gratitude.

Anyhow.

He invited me to open for him at his next gig, which is a wk and a 1/2 away. i should choose my songs. I should practice. I should secure a digital delay pedal.

I'll bang out some old songs. Like 10yrs + old. Sheesh, i sure hope they don't sound too dated.

Anyhow, it's enough to keep me busy for now.

More on this later.

ps. Weird, that Yuqi's wearing a CBC shirt in the picture, not that he knew that at the time of the photoshoot.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

26 - smoldering


Last spring I was smoking more cigarettes than usual, mostly 'cause it was easy whenever Q was having one.

Summer i smoked a lot of greens, mostly 'cause I was i was happy to exploit the fact that it was easy to.

Then i had my 1 month of pure sobriety, and have had substance use at (imo) perfectly reasonable rates of usage ever since.

A pack of smokes lasts more than a month. Greens maybe a couple times a month. Drinking now and again, though definitely not much lately since i've bn sick.

that said, i had # of beverages last night, topped off w/ a hit of Absinthe, (burns in yr ears, that shit!) and felt pretty decent this morning. Largely, i think it was good to head out w/ my coworkers, Q and big bro for a rare night out. Haven't puked for a long time. Oops, no there was that one time, but it was a really tiny puke, so i'd hardly say it counts.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

28 - bye bye doggie

Top is going bk to her owner today or tomorrow. Well she ain't our dog or responsibility, but it seems certain that she'll have less time, exercise, and love over yonder. So that's too bad for her.

Oh well, maybe we can reconsider later on. Also, my bro's future in BJ is uncertain, and 3 parties to take care of Top has been helpful indeed. So we shouldn't make premature decisions.

And it's weird: it really seems like she knows she's going. She's really mopey and down today. that kinda depresses me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

27 - staggered schedules

Q and i haven't been seeing so much of each other as of late.

1st she was off to Hangzhou for a few days on a work trip, then upon her return to BJ, she was working on the late side, returning bk to house, when i was already asleep. And then it's good to spend some dn time with each other when the work is done, but frankly the different sleep schedules make it all too easy for crankiness to set in on one end or another.

Sigh.

Well, at least there's no alarms tomorrow morning, and amen to that.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

25 - Blow Up In My Face

How the hell is a guy supposed to have fun w/ all the stress that comes from work?

One kid acting up as of late, apparently distressing other students by his disrespectful interactions w/ yours truly. He and principal duke it out, and he refuses to believe that the class isn't all on his side, thus the principal comes into class to ask all students to write on a slip of paper what they feel about his behaviour. (His request, as stated). In retrospect, i'd have preferred to have stated that was inappropriate to ask students to choose sides, and the results of such a survey (anonymous, but not in fact to be made available to said boy's eyes) are practically speaking, ineffectual.

I plan to play a game tomorrow with the intention of having students do some group building, and spread a little love around again. Sheesh.

Add to that, the vocabulary list from the low group's sex ed class made girl X so uncomfortable that she showed one of her Chinese teachers who showed it to my principal, who did find it to be ... unnecessarily hardcore.

Penis, vagina, masturbation, oral sex, HIV, AIDS, condom, semen.

No diagrams, though that obviously would have been the easiest way to get the pt across.

I'm pretty sure girl X was the one who kept seething, "Gross!" when explained oral sex or such. "Oral sex is when someone uses the mouth on the penis or vagina," I boldly proclaimed.

Note to self, and all other interested parties: sex is not a topic covered in Chinese schools, nor is that seen as a fault.

So even I started squirming a bit, thinking about Chinese school administration or parental reactions...

My principal even asked me if i really need to finish my last sex ed session tomorrow. I said, yes, I have to. Because tomorrow is when I will answer the questions which were all put into the Question Box i passed around today.

Sample questions:
"How do gay have sex?" (Great, now i have to add "anus" to the vocab list).
"Can eat semen unhealthy?"
"How old is sex good?"
"I dream sex everytime. Healthy or no?"
"When is vagina good sex?" (i think this means when is a girl's vagina ready for intercourse).
"How to control sex?" (control sex drive? Pbly. But i'll seize the opportunity to tell dudes that women need more time.)
"What is SM?" (pbly a joke, but i'm happy to discuss it).
"What is too much masturbation? Unhealthy?"
"Why is semen smell bad?" Try less meat, more pineapple juice. Or see a doctor.

So generally, the questions seem super sincere, and there's no way these questions should go unanswered. Also, i was thankful to have proof that the vocab is necessary to talk about these things.

So we'll tie that up tomorrow, and let anyone who doesn't wanna stick around opt out and do puzzles/review. I do give myself a hard time for being out of touch w/ the fact that i'm not in North America, a place where sex ed also causes drama in class and staff rooms.

Well that's all good and fun to write about, but seriously, i can't handle this many headaches in one day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

24 - sex ed


With absolute minimal preparation, i threw a sex education class at my low class. It's Planning, and we'd just done Healthy Relationships, so it wasn't totally out of the blue.

Vocab includes gems such as:
oral sex - using a mouth on a penis or vagina.
masturbation - sex fun by yourself.

and other simplified definitions.

Stop saying "gross", MaryJane,sheesh.

What is "sex"? We'll opt for the broad def.

Talked a bit about not-sexual fun to be had, and readiness.

Will throw some more ideas at them tomorrow.

i feel alright about tackling this stuff, since i hear that sex ed in China is rather lacking. As in, not covered in school. And hey kids, something that is so massive in teenagers' (and adults') minds is important enough that we should be able to like communicate about it. Dig?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

23 - Hump Attack

Might i mention that it's a slight hassle taking care of an unspayed female pooch. 'Cause every dog male, and even female is driven to check out her genitals. I don't know why i find myself surprised to find animals acting like animals, but seriously a lot of these dogs Just. Won't. Give. Up.

They mount her from behind.

They mount her from the front.

You pick her up.

They jump towards her.

One humped my leg.

So you try and run away from the other dogs.

But sometimes they just follow you.

Owners truly nowhere in sight.

One big black punk followed her home.

All the way up 6 flights of stairs.

So like any dog she loves getting out of the apartment, and it's lovely to see her have fun...

But also having the responsibility to protect her from gang rape is potentially a bit stressy.

Other than that, i'm a bit sick. More rest? Yes please.

Monday, November 22, 2010

22 - Nothing Witty Today

But nonetheless interesting to say that the pooch is unspayed, and all dogs are annoyingly into humping her and licking her snatch. She even left menstrual blood on the couch, or dripped it onto the floor whereupon she would generally lick it up afterwards. Thoughtful, indeed.

Rumour is she'll go bk to her owner before long, which i have mixed feelings about. She really is a sweet dog, and the little bit of attention she gets here is likely much better than what she gets at home.

Also, I'm too tired, esp after working too much OT, and having little to show for it. I wish i could get more planned out, or maybe just have an easier profession.

Happy to have a cup of ginger tea and an early bedtime tonight! Old man, i am.

Oh, but i'll update the post below w/ a pic of Top, the very sweet and somewhat overpriced dog.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

21 - dealing with the meds

i saw an ad someone placed saying she had a meditation group going on Sundays, so i went to check it out today. Today i was the only other person there.

We sat in chairs, and she showed me a music track we could listen to while sitting. Some new age-y forest elucidations track. (No thanks). So i chose the second track, which turned out to be a guided meditation which was surely used at the end of some 3 day holistic entrepreneurial money-making course.

"Imagine you are in a tropical climate, sitting at the bow of a sailboat... and the black night envelops you..."

funny, my body was screaming at me with aversion as i debated ignoring the instructions and just meditating, or trying to learn something from the instructions, or to at least take it in without my massive personal judgments about what's good/bad.

Luckily, it was only 20 min long, and we both had stuff to do right after.

Inhale, exhale. Whew!

Friday, November 19, 2010

19 - The Top Dog


Last night Q comes into the room, throws on the lights, and says, "Look!"
Through bleary eyes i discern what at first appeared to be a teddy bear but was actually a slightly nervous miniature schnauzer (for those who are into breed names, i found the translation).

It's her boss's. Offered to be taken in by Q since the dog had been forgotten in pet hospital/pet sitter's after a 2 wk stay since her owner was "too busy" to care for her.

So that's cool and fine, esp since it's the wkend right now. But truly, as was the problem with the last dog (and even the cat) I/we really don't have much time to care for an animal properly.

As stated earlier, i really should find a way to stream my teaching work. 10 hrs/day is too much to be average at this pt in time.

Also, weirdly enough, i'd feel the pressure to take good care of this dog considering that he's worth 150,000 rmb. Yes, that would be like TWENTY THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS worth of dog. Q's boss previously worked at a dog farm, and this pup has won competitions, for being a model dog.

Not super obedient or trick-ripping or that, but she really is a perfectly proper extra-cute specimen. Perfectly. Who knew dog eye lashes existed in such lenghths!

Aside: i don't know how i feel about owning a dog whose haircut would exponentially cost more than my own... not to mention the pressure/responsibility to care for a dog who worth a couple budget automobiles and an iPhone.

Anyhow, i concur that our apartment is a much much better place for Top than being forgotten in some animal hospital, even if it's not ideal. Well we'll see what happens in days to come.

ps. Will take a photo tomorrow and will post asap.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

18 - Refuge

So yesterday i drop off names for Buddhist monks to pray for my dad and his dad. Money already paid. Q thinks it's a waste of money, but my bro and i are willing to give it a shot.

At my friend's (where his lama master is staying) he reiterates an offer that i can take refuge if i want, as numerous people have already done. And because who knows the next time i might have an opportunity w/ a good lama.

i hem and haw a fair bit. Don't feel ready. Feel like too much of a sinner. Etc, etc.

But then again, i also like the idea of a lama who my friend vouches for. And i think i expect i'd become a buddhist sometime down the road, and why should i hesitate? Why delay something which could make me a better person or bring more solace into my life? Even if i have less fun due to less sinning?

So i said ok.

So i sit down before the 37 year old Tibetan monk and his makeshift altar. He recites some stuff. I close my eyes and feel wave after wave of energy washing through me. Not unpleasant or pleasant. Just energy. Mind wandering a lot, because i'm already late for dinner w/ Derrick, and wondering what Q will think, wondering what i've gotten myself into, wondering how long it'll take. Also somebody's cell phone starts ringing.

He throws a few pinches of rice over me.

i do my best to repeat some Tibetan lines.

More recitation, and that's it.

Gives me a Tibetan name (to add to my already long list): Yishi San Zhu. Something about wisdom and receiving what i want. Which is alright, though i think i need to want less, don't i?

He says some more stuff, gives me some interesting little gifts, glances at his txt messages, gives me an official Taking Refuge card/booklet. He gives me his card, and says i can call him anytime or txt (since obviously i can't speak Tibetan, and he can get a translator).

I feel fine. Not elated or anything. The idea of being connected w/ a ancient lineage of lamas is really good, though pretty much intellectual.

However later Q says she's a bit surprised i did it since she thinks it's not quite the buddhism that i follow. And it's true, there's a feeling of religiosity that goes w/ this one, and even a bit of... magic.

Oh shit, did i sign up w/ the wrong religion?
Well kids, that's what happens when you impulse shop w/out doing yr research.

Now off to practice my Tibetan prayers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

17 - Predictable, Yet Unexpected

Sort of spur of the moment decision.








Today

i

became

a

Buddhist.

16 - Oops i missed a day

Busy doing semi-secret tasks and meeting with visiting buddhist lama master to ensure semi-secret buddhist prayers are said to aid my less than content father deal with the weight of his own deceased father.

Plus the school inspectors from BC are visiting, stressing out too many people.

Plus I'm sick.

Monday, November 15, 2010

15 - $$$

People who know me may know that i've been raised with enough of a silver spoon in my mouth to feel no particular fondness for money. Quite the blessing for which i thank my parents, and the oil and gas industry which largely contributed to my upbringing.

Also, i've had the good fortune of attending university when it was much more affordable than present times, and was able squeak past my graduation without debt, also thanks to sizable contributions from my parents.

So now, on top of personal indulgences i hope to spread a bit of cash around in a way which spreads its benefits beyond myself. but unfortunately i'm kind of a lazy mofo.

I had big aspirations to invest in some green industries this summer, but that was months ago, and i haven't really got that on the go for no real reason except for procrastination. And occasional internet issues.

I've also gotten into Wokai, a micro-loaning thing. It's like Kiva, but based in China, sending people who need money money, and then they pay it back if and when they can. So it's like doing business with them, but not offering charity. Although there's no profit to be had on this end.

And a few of my loans have been paid back, but then i get lazy and don't redistribute to new folks. Picking and choosing is a bit of a ridiculous game. All the write-ups look like they've been edited by the same person, and all sound pretty sincere. so i tend to loan to farmers instead of people selling cheap plastic toys or shoes.

Good news: in the process of writing this blog, i redistrbuted my paid bk loans, and even tried to figure out some investing stuff (cut couldn't due to internet issues. For reals).

Anyhow. Sometimes i worry that i don't have any long term $ or career goals or plans. Well, i did take off my wallet chain anyhow, so maybe that's a step out of the teen years at least.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

14 - Note from my principal

Dear [sq],

Thanks for doing such a great job on Friday night. I was hoping that the numbers would have been more do-able but it's great PR to have so many parents getting the opportunity to meet and talk with such outstanding teachers!

Four parents commented on a few items- I don't know which students' parents they were ...but in any case it's important to be aware of parent perspective:


The parents are very anxious that their children are quite possibly drawing undesirable attention to themselves in this 'police state' by constantly trying to access illegal sites on the Internet. In order to be a successful business person in China a membership in the Communist Party is virtually mandatory...thus Linda Wong's conspicuous membership. We have students who are members of the Communist Party and the community is constantly being reminded of their responsibility to inform the officials with information on various government policies and concerns- residency infractions etc...You can imagine how students, knowing that 'so in so' is a party member who may feel the need to let the 'powers that be' know that they are spreading or embracing anti government stands etc, might fear the worst about the possible effect that this could have on their future opportunities.

The parents did also add that they would not have any concerns if it were within the context of a history class where a few historical topics came up naturally and necessarily. They would prefer that since this is not necessary in English 10 that it would be appreciated if more comfortable topics could be used. Personally, I have used a survey in the past to identify students' common interests or points of view in order to allow them to 'choose' their side of a debate or discussion. To be given a notorious person to justify as their 'hero' is not the same, especially in China, as singing the praises of one's own chosen role model. N's version of the 'fish bowl' activity would be a great way to organize very valuable classroom discussions -taking some of the focus off the individual as well.


The parents also mentioned that they would prefer a more 'professional' dress..they included mention of the heavy metal chain and ear ring- which they felt was 'young' rather than professional. I suppose this is in keeping with X and Y's dress code expectations- 'shirt, tie and corresponding attire'. Personally I don't think an ear ring is significant -either way.


Well, it all seems pretty reasonable, i admit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

13- Strange Coincidence


Me and my brother caught a screening of Burma VJ, part of a Norway Documentary festival. The movie details the struggles of independent democratic journalists who take the duty upon themselves to report the struggles of Burma (against the govt) and the risks they take on in doing so.

The documentary talks at some length of Aung San Suu Kyi, the house-arrested leader.

And then, in the time span in which we watched the movie, she was RELEASED for the first time since 2003. Released! I was surprised that the film-maker himself seemed so calm about it.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/12/aung-san-suu-kyi-profile

Well, this will roll through the media for some time yet to come. You'll get it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

12 - interviews

parent teacher interviews
okay
then din and drinks w/ my lovely coworkers
now it's late
gotta sleep
zzzz

Thursday, November 11, 2010

11 - Tick tick tick

Broken record.
Would appreciate more time.
Consistently work 10 hrs/day, today more.
Such is my life as a teacher w/ 3 new classes, and daily building materials and resources on top of marking.

Do appreciate my hours off, and could do a lot more w/ them if it wasn't for the necessities like eating, bathing, and sleeping.

Thank god for cheap-o restaurants.
How the hell do people plan and cook meals on top of this?

Next year i could exploit the resources i'm making now.
But that would mean returning to the same school.
And i'd already decided last year that this would be my last year with this less than ideal employer.
But then again, my principal and staff are great.
Can't complain 'bout them kids either.
And living downtown is much nicer than the 'burbs.
Even if it's a big financial hit to move out here.
And annoyingly i'm already at the top of the pay scale.
The not so high top.

Well, money ain't everything.
As i'm financially stable enough to have the luxury to say that.
Lucky for me.

But i would like more time.
To finish my painting.
Meditate.
Start a band.
Run more.
Cook more.
And actually do the stuff that living dntn should enable me to do.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 - blah

Low energy day. Kinda grumpy. Not even the joy of getting two kids suspended for smoking cheered me up. And they deserved it after being caught once, received the official warning, and then had numerous occasions where they escaped being caught by a mere second or two (ie. Cig in hand and lighter poised when Mr W strolled in).

Anyhow, yesterday in explanation of my mood, Q postulated that women have periods, but men also get them (minus the ovum-derived blood).

Maybe. I have felt kinda off for a couple days for no real reason.

Will shower, meditate a few minutes and go to sleep early methinks.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

9 - It's the Bomb!

i never mentioned on this blog that a couple wks ago or so there was a bomb that went off maybe 500m away from my apt. Buildings shook, people's ear drums were rang and there was general local confusion. I was nowhere nearby the explosion. Apparently just one foreigner was injured, not seriously.

i was kinda surprised i even caught wind of it, considering that i'm not very exposed to local news. Later i read that the police arrested somebody for it. No word on how they found him, or what it was about.

End of story. Curiously enough.

Anyhow, this tidbit of knowledge seems downright incongruous with my experience and feeling of living in Beijing. Doesn't change my outlook one bit.

Although it's pbly a good thing that i picked up that heavy duty helmet the other day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 - Night Cap


Last night i went out for dinner, for this sorta hotpot, sorta not food that's really good. Get it quite a bit actually, and i've never seen it in Canada.

Drank the oily broth/soup against Q's warning.

Woke up last night w/ stomach ache.

Took a rather liquidy yet lumpy crap.

Flushed.

Stuck a couple fingers down my throat but it was of little consequence.

Sat down on the couch.

Q woke up and got me some pills and some powdery drink.

Went to bed.

Woke up feeling basically fine.

The end.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Speed of Progress

When I came to Beijing in 2007, this is what the subway map looked like:




Today, the subway map looks like this:



Line 9, is almost but not yet opened, but slated to open this year, so they say. Last night i met some American dude who commented that Beijing is a surprisingly modern city. It is indeed. In fact, much more modern now than it was a few short years ago, as tons of development, money, and futuristic architecture have pummeled their way into this somewhat smoggy metropolis.

It looks good. But it is sad that a lot of historical hutongs and neighbourhoods are being wiped into oblivion because Versace and H&M need brightly chrome accented shopping malls to make their homes in.

I could use this opportunity to talk about "the bubble" or the heavy expectations that "if you build it, they will come," but frankly i'm a bit too tired today. So instead i'll just say that more subways is better, they get great use, they're highly subsidized ($0.30 to ride anywhere), and i almost never use them since i live downtown and have a bike now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

6 - Totally Unnecessary Purchase of the Day


This will likely be my winter bike helmet.
"I feel the need. The need for speed." - Maverick, TOP GUN.

Friday, November 5, 2010

5 - Sponge-ified


My brother came to BJ with a hard drive full of carefully selected Spongebob Squarepants episodes. "Cream of the cream" he stated.

And though i never particularly want to view any of them, they have nonetheless become a reasonably regular feature in this Dongzhimen apartment.

I had my first dose of Sponge Bob this summer, via the feature film. Which i must say is... jaw-droppingly amazing, against all expectations. Kinda like how everybody thought Bring It On part one seemed pathetic until they actually saw it.

The Spongebob movie left me gasping for air, and literally unable to sleep. The episodes aren't quite so fulfilling, but they do kill 10 min of the evening pretty easily.

I think that Spongebob is a cartoon made for adults, masquerading as a cartoon made for children. The episode about the pirate ghost could hardly be more overtly LSD-laden.

In the end, my 40 yr old brother is still pbly the biggest fan around here. He finishes every episode by stating, "Ha ha... funny," to confirm it.

i never feel the need, but would hate to destroy the team-spirit of sitting down w/ the gf and bro family to take in some hyperactive yellow animation shorts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

4 - statusq Does Not Stand Up for Freedom of Speech

Get a call from one of the school owners. Want me to come down to the head office. To talk about something. No explanation why.

This kinda makes me nervous. I meet up w/ the owner. He eventually discloses that an unidentified parent sent him word that a said Mr Wang was reportedly talking about Tibet in class.

Which i was.

Canadian Eng textbook: "Research an incident where a minority group in Canada was discriminated against."

So they did. Replaced "Canada" with "China" in an effort to stay relevant. Possible topics: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Falun Gong, and Tibet.

And apparently (after all presentations were a fait accompli), some anonymous parent contacted the school.

The owner was notably shaken. I felt bad for him. i agreed in fact that i could have paid more sensitivity to the country i'm residing in, and agreed to drop said topics in the future. (insert frowny face).

Next day, i informed 2 students that they will no longer be researching the Dalai Lama or Liu Xiaobo for the Heroes project. "Why? It's ok, we don't mind." "Sorry, it's not my decision. But if yr interested you should learn about it on yr own time." i had given students a bit of advice about hopping the China Firewall.

Staff members were surprised to hear my news, since they all expected Craig to get the call. He's the guy who had every single gr 12 student researching Liu Xiaobo and China viewpoints, and rating him as a patriot or not.

His take is that for Social Studies, he would take the complaint to the BC Ministry of Education, believing that nothing less than Freedom of Speech is at stake.

i take his point, and he concurs that my position and situation is not worth "the good fight" per say...

But if he is asked to self-censor, i'm sure the fall out will be interesting indeed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3 - Meditation Day three

The last 2 wks i meditated w/ a few friends here at my apt. It was good. Today two of the guys are off doing a musical festival in Hangzhou. So i'll just go on solo, or maybe in the company of my bro.

These few brief sessions are the most regular practice i've had in a long long time, so i think it's good. even if it's just a half hour, it's loosely scheduled, and i want more routine in my life.

Routine? That sounds kind of old-man-ish, and frankly lame, but in fact i'm quite happy that after years of being off the daily tooth flossing routine, i've gotten back on track w/ that.

Also for 3 wkends in a row now i've had a wkend run. Even if my run turns more into a leisurely shopping session at the ragtag outdoor market that gets thrown down onto blankets and dirt.

So i questioned myself, "Um, how is this supposed to qualify as exercise?"

"Who cares, this is rad!"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 2 - Workers of the World - Unite! i said, "Unite." "UNITE!" Oh, forget it.


Last wkend Derrick and i went to revisit suburbia and beyond. D was out to get some documentary footage of these recycling communiities we went to before.

We edged our way in and hung out for a couple hours observing people sort through massive mountains of plastic pop and water and cooking oil bottles. It was mind-numbingly repetitive work. They would glance at D's otherworldly tripod and camera set up, possibly smile, possibly not, and then get back to the endless task at hand.

That was the woman's work.

The men's work happened when some young and some old men started dragging these huge bags of sorted bottles over to a shredding machine. They started up this goddawfully loud machine, and proceeded to start heaving and dumping the bottles in, and the quickly scooping the plastic shrapnel into smaller sacks, and piling them up into amazingly vertical stacks, which could reach 2 stories in height.

Anyhow, a number of times i've been saddened about the lack of worker safety happening in China. A pair of ear plugs'd cost you 30cents and could save your hearing for life. Why isn't somebody making this available? Isn't somebody responsible for worker health somewhere?

And while they're at it, could they please also get those welders to put on some sunglasses? Geez, i pity those guys' retinas.

Anyhow, I can only assume that there's people who are better positioned than i who can (and are?) working to make these changes. Really there's little excuse not to get some cheap ass pieces of cotton or something into these dudes' ears, or some cheap ass shades onto the faces.

No comment on bike helmets today. Maybe for a later post.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1 - rev'er up


well i'm in for another 30 days. They say writing is a practice, some say it's a meditation, you do it whether you feel it or not, as a means of building yr foundation. Well i'll hammer this one out for 30 more and see if it revitalizes my practice.

One of the latest news headlines:
Q's Bike Stolen in Dark of Night!

So that's pretty shitty. I bought her this pretty sweet Dahon folding aluminum bike. It really was a well-thought out piece of machinery for a decent price.
Also she had lovingly added a basket and bell and sticker to it. Don't laugh, these details make all the difference!

Anyhow, i sent her a txt msg that i didn't see it the other morning when i was grabbing my own bike to head to work. She was in disbelief to find it truly gone, and got super bummed out. She moped around all day hoping to spot it around, against all odds. Feeling guilty that she had never taken proper safeguards despite several warnings from different people. At any rate we knew it was a target item. i'd guessed it'd be stolen w/in 8 months if parked outside daily, but 1.5 was all it took.

My bad is that i chucked the receipt, making any attempts at reclaiming the bike nil. Also making Q's contact w/ the police pretty unhelpful. She may have some description of hte thief's face, and i suspect that the best case option if she sees him is to buy the bike back. Hopefully his ransom price isn't out of her ballpark.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'll "Nobel Prize" Your Ass!


So Liu Xiaobo got the prize this year. Hey even i had only learned of him a bit last year, and so was surprised to see him thrust into the limelight recdently w/ the Nobel Prize. So obviously, the
the guy who writes Charter 19 is gonna piss off the Chinese govt by criticizing its very dictatorian (not a real word, i know) foundations.

So what exactly is this thing that he wrote?
Wikipedia sez:
Charter 19 calls for 19 changes to improve human rights in China, including an independent legal system, freedom of association and the elimination of one-party rule.

Well sounds like a pretty natural step in the evolution of China, but naturally it's also seen as an attack on the state. I've been surprised and impressed to see that a few students were aware of this guy and the recognition that he might not be the villain that the state media portrayed him as.

Here's a tidbit of his statement to the court last year when he was sent to prison.

But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed 20 years ago in my hunger strike declaration – I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I'm unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities. This includes the prosecution at present: I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on 3 December.

For hatred is corrosive of a person's wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and block a nation's progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.

I firmly believe that China's political progress will never stop, and I'm full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom. China will eventually become a country of the rule of law in which human rights are supreme. I'm also looking forward to such progress being reflected in the trial of this case, and look forward to the full court's just verdict – one that can stand the test of history.

While recognizing that China is pissed off that YET AGAIN (Dalai Lama) that the Nobel Prize seems to be being used as a political tool to hurt the Chinese people's feelings, you have to admit that the statement above kinda sounds like the voice of the kind of person who would be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

the full read is also pretty interesting if you have time, and my coworker even alluded to it being a bit of a tear-jerker.

His class all read LXB's statement as well as the police statement, and compared their msgs. They rated him as a hero 1-10. One student gave him a 9, which was basically calling himself a revolutionary. Another student told his teacher he wanted to give him a 10, but was afraid of his classmate's reaction, so in class, he publicly stated a 5. Who knows: maybe many students want to give him a 10, but are afraid of being seen as anti-communist. who knows.

Just one lucky student of mine will have the opportunity to research and report on him later this wk, in my Heroes research proj, which i'm pretty stoked on. Other heroes to be researched will include Constance McMillan, Harvey Milk, the Dalai Lama, Che Guevera, David Suzuki and other classics like Ghandi, Geronimo, Mother Teresa, Oprah, and the gang. This is what happens when Mr Wang decides who's a hero or not.

More themeless info.

well, i've been remiss.
i've been busy in bj, but not feeling particularly inspired re: writing. Partly because i was hesitant to write about such things like the tensions between Q and i which went on for quite a long time. That was kind of a downer, and had me stewing in my own head more than was comfortable.

But we did work things through, which was very good, not too easy, and required some humility, proper listening, and acceptance from my end for sure. W/out going into details (sorry), it was one of those cases where the 2 sides of the story were both true, but looked so so so different.

At any rate, things seem to be bk to normal now, and we're enjoying a pleasant, if chilly and rainy weekend.

Also, on the plus side, is i have a new friend. My musician friend Wang Yuqi, who's rather a zen figure introduced me to this American guy James and we've been getting on famously. James is a writer, and he largely writes about music and artists in Chinese. Yesterday he and Yuqi came over, we meditated, shot the breeze about animal spirits etc, then went off w/ my brother to see Q's new gallery and its latest exhibit, before heading off for din and a jazz concert.

Trying to get my life bk on track. Trying to floss daily again. Hoping to run at least 1/wk. Hoping to start up a wkly meditation. So far, the floss is going at at least 80% success, so we'll see how the rest falls into place. Wish me luck.

Other + news: instead of buying a reasonably priced slick-looking fixie bike, i decided to just soup up my road bike. Who wants to have fun? I just want to get from A to B fast and safe.

It's still a one-speed since it's never had derailleurs since i got it, but i sawed off the drops, got new brake levers and a less than rock-hard seat. It's rockin' the casbah now. I put a lot of attention into details like scratching everything up w/ sandpaper and using packing tape to make everything look like shit, 'cause now i'll be downed if someone realizes my French bike is better than the piece of crap it looks like and steals it.

Oh grey-looks-like-a-piece-of-shit-bike, how i love you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

lightning updates

Working downtown.
Moved out of the suburbs.
Q found a loft apt dntn.
$$$ but nice.
Many hassles along the way.
Virtually all dealt w/ by Q.
Me no speak Chinese.
And usually at work.
Q is annoyed.
Q moves in tomorrow.
No internet for this month.
My bro arrives Oct 1.
Students at school are pretty nice.
If not all academic.
Biking to school daily.
Getting a bit over cocky.
The air dntn really is shittier than the 'burbs.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Whirlwind changes

Ok, so i'm thrown into a new school, and quickly going full throttle.
Thankfully, i found out on Fri, that as of Mon (tomorrow) i won't be teaching gr 10 math anymore, and will now be slotted w/ Planning 10, a course that will sorta be whatever the heck i want it to be, and will likely include bits on enviro protection and sex ed.

i've bn set up "temporarily" in a rather swank, but mostly empty apt in dntn BJ, but my apparent lack of interest in finding a new pad certainly precipitated the owner to give me 1 wk's notice. i was also less than gracious when she gave me a few hrs notice that another teacher was coming to the premises, and could i please clean the place up? No, sorry i can't 'cause i'm not dntn, and won't be 'til tomorrow...

Anyhow, that turned my wkend leisure time to househunting, as aided by Q. i then learned that rent prices have shot up a LOT in the last 2 years, and the $3o0 from the school couldn't possibly score me an apt, the way it might've before.

Add to the mix, Q was also planning on relocating this month.

Plus, i hadalready told her i think it's better if we live separately. But then present situation included, plus the fact that my bro is coming to live here in Oct (yup!), that really the idea of 3 of us living in 3 single apts was ridiculous... Also, most arguments we have tend to be based on my own selfishness, which tends to be somewhat true. (and boy, if i could count the # of times in this relationship where i despairingly state to myself in all sincerity: "i don't know what to do...")

Anyhow, w/ a bit of what i interpret as being a message from the Divine, i have decided that living w/ Q, and possibly my bro all together, shall be the next step in this life in China of mine. Still w/ some degree of apprehension, but also in good faith to work out probs.

i certainly wouldn't have predicted this, but hey, that's how it rolls around here.

Wish us luck, everyone.



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bk to BJ

Got the job.
2 wks or so ago, got an email.
"i hope this is still considered to be good news..."
and got switched to dntn campus.
(score!)
Missed my plane to BJ. 2:40 is NOT 14:40, apparently.
Luckily, was switched to the next day's flights, no probs.
arrival in BJ, get my classroom and things packed, after my boss and coworker prepacked out my apt.
1 hour of phone calls to convince security to let my stuff out of the gate.
Now in a temp apt dntn, which is pretty rad.
but lacking a fridge, furniture, etc etc.
in a dingy old school in the heart of BJ.
Nice coworkers, small team of 5.
A principal who's always pissed off at power struggles between her and the Chinese admin,.
Found out today, i can stop teaching math
(score!).
Living downtown is ...
pretty awesome.
so far.
Also,
i'm feeling pretty optimistic about teaching
for the 1st time in a long time
really nice kids.
i could complain about a # of things still,
but not tonight.

Long Time No Blog

Yup, i ran off for summer.
Despite warnings, i crashed w/ the folks for 1 full month. Qianqian came with, which was aok. Although occasionally there was a fight/misunderstanding/difference of opinion, which was not unexpected, but such is life. We also had a lot of fun doing things like... going to the stampede w/ my bro, and hiking and biking and going to Edmonton.

Q also skipped off to Montreal and QC for a wk or so, which was good for me to have dntime w/ folks and friends, and also for her to be solo (and free to choose her own way).

Van was good too. Better than i remember it actually. Gay pride: bigger better (and a bit more corporate). Wreck Beach: most epic sunset where seriously TONS of people were LOSING it. Heatwave + naked people + drugs = "Oh my GOD, look at the COLOURS!!!" More bike lanes than ever, and the realized Burrard Bridge bike lane, woohoo.

Q is shocked to see more people in poverty in Van, than in BJ. "The best place on earth"? Well, not for LOTS of people it ain't.

3 day camping trip near Cortez w/ a friend and her bf. Admittedly poorly played on my part, since it was pretty hardcore for Q's first camp trip, and since i'd forgotten how terrifiied she is of heights, and then later she pulled a muscle after crashing thru a layer of snow (also partly my fault), and then had to limp down the steep and rooty mountain for 4 hours in the rain. What the hell is up w/ these Canadians and this camping business???

Other highlights...
blueberry picking
a call to 9-1-1
a secret Brasstronaut concert
mushrooms
napping on the beach

but mainly it was just rad to visit people and feel so grateful to have amazing, cool, and generous friends in my life. Seriously, i couldn't ask for more.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Taking Care of the Environment



Did you know that using computers and digital cameras can help improve the air quality? Yes, it's simple to do. Just a quick adjustment with the lightness/darkness/contrast controls, and jiminy cricket, you can remove hundreds of parts per million out of the atmosphere.

Incredible.

(those are pictures from Lanzhou, reportedly the worst air quality in China)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Denied

In the words of the employer "99% chance" i'll be back at the same school next year.

Which is ok, i guess since basically the only thing which is better about the dntn school, is location. But still it's annoying since the employer didn't have any real reason for doing so except to say "the students here love you." Which i don't think she really knows anything about anyways.

Anyhow, there are a bunch of niggling things at the school which are kind of annoying, which make me feel pleased that i had the sense to only sign on for one more year.

Better Than High School Musical

Background: when i graduated from HS, i skipped the ceremony to go mountain biking in Canmore. I missed the grad dinner 'cause i was accidentally very late, and also got held up when security hassled me and my date for being "inappropriately dresssed", and skipped the parties afterwards. (typical teenage rebellion) In my mom's words: "You passed high school. How hard is that?"

This year was my school's first graduating class. The school's 3 years old, so those gr 10'ers have completed the trial, somehow or another. All 19 of 'em have at least got conditional acceptance at Canadian universities. And the $ to do so.

Yes, i griped about the extra duties i took on, organizing a bunch of media stuffs for the ceremony and dinner party, for a bunch of students i've never taught.

But in the end i must say it was all worth it. Although at least 3 of them were nodding off during the preliminary speeches, as soon as their beloved teacher began a wonderful speech about his years w/ them, the tears started flowing.

Then during dinner and stuff, a few more tears. Then after the boys had a drink or 2, they decided to add 1 more performance to the bill to sing a song (and it sounded a hell of a lot better than when they were sober). Then 1/2 way through the girls decided to jump on stage with them. Then they called their homeroom teacher into the mix, and it shortly transformed into a group hug w/ most of the gang bawling. Then my coworker pointed out all the parents who were crying. Next thing you know, I'm hollering and clapping and misty eyed myself. Music blaring in the background. It was pretty f'ing hilarious. Gosh i really never realized how totally entertaining it can be to watch people's eyes turn into fountains. i was loving every minute of it.

Truthfully, my expectations were quite low, but it ended up EPIC. Yes, there were lame-ass speeches about Studying Hard and The Future Is Yours and other BS by people who don't know shit about these individuals (all made doubly boring by requisite translations). But then vicariously hopping onto their emo-rollercoaster ride was great, as aided by the beer (5 glasses uncomfortably served to me by my own gr 11 students, all wearing unnecessarily sexy server's uniforms). "Hey Ivana, can you go get me another beer? I think my students know I'm getting drunk."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cuandixia





After pretty much all of China worked a 7 day work week, everyone had a Mon, Tues, Wed holiday for Dragonboat Festival. Me and Qianqian head out to visit Cuandixia.

Cuandixia is a tiny and ancient ol' Qing dynasty town a few hours outside of Beijing. A historical spot, which has quickly become a hot little tourist destination.

Quite beautiful, to see these little courtyard houses all slowly cascading down the face of the mountain. I was stoked since i was under the impression that there's nothing to do there but wander around, read books, and possibly have a toke.

i was pumped for a couple days of quiet nothingness and sweating my way up a mountain or 2.

Well the town sure is gorgeous, but upon closer inspection the gorgeousness starts to feel rather forced. For example: like Lijiang and Dali last summer, i started to recognize the freshly laid "historic" cobblestones.

Also 90% of the buildings are now converted into guesthouses and restaurants.

I was mostly disappointed in that I was hoping for a peaceful couple days out, but the music blaring out of the restaurants and karaoke places was a bit much. Shania Twain and Avril? Canadian content: covered.

Oh well, we didn't get to the peaks as i had envisioned as that stairway was blocked off, and Q isn't as inclined as myself to break rules, but after a puff, we were too lazy and rubber-legged to gain much altitude anyhow.

Although the above looks pretty negative, i must say that i was still quite content to get out of BJ, and have a night out and a wander around.

And hey, the more holiday time before school's up, the better. And how.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Future Is In ... Somebody's Hands

I just sent this email off to my employers. Not my principal, but the actual people who write out the paycheques. The woman has a reputation for not caring about her staff, though truthfully i've never had a problem up until this one.

Anyhow, I have requested to move outta the 'burbs to downtown, which is where i was supposed to work when 1st hired. It's closer to Qianqian, and more convenient for pretty much anything i want to do, save riding my bike/running in farmlands etc.

Hello X and Y,
How are you doing? Hopefully everything is wrapping up well for the end of the school year at all the SBS locations.

As June 30 approaches quickly, I'm trying to get ready for Sept next school year. As I have requested to change to #25, I hope to know soon if that will be a possibility so I know if I need to pack up my apartment soon.

I understand from talking with [#25 principal] that #25 has an opening for an English/Social Studies/ Canadian Studies/ Planning teacher. I (and [#8 principal] and other teachers) have always thought that jobs between the SBS schools were transferable.

I hope that the position at #25 is not being saved for a new teacher because it is easier to find someone who is willing to move to downtown Beijing as opposed to Fengtai.

Although I myself was originally hired to work at #25, when you asked me to come to #8, I understood the need to be flexible. I never complained. Indeed I really have had some wonderful teaching experiences and learned a great deal here in Yihai. However, as there will be an opening at #25 which I could fill, I would be quite disappointed to find that another teacher with no experience working for SBS received that position. I have always worked hard and with dedication for SBS.`[#8 principal] , my co-workers, and my students can all attest to this.

I have gained many teaching skills in #8 which I hope to bring to #25. I understand #25 also has many challenges which I am happy to face. I always aim to reflect and grow as an educator.

Please let me know your decision when you make it, so I can begin any necessary preparations.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Peace,

Well, we'll see what pans out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Canada Bound

Yup, Qianqian got her visa!
All systems go.
Tix booked.
Itinerary is liquid, but hopefully will start congealing before long.
Roughly: 1/2 time in AB w/ the parents, roughly 1/2 time in BC w/ friends.
Possibly ok w/ places to crash, possibly not.
If you are possibly open to having me and Q stay with you and entertain you with wild tales of life in exotic locations, offers would be most welcome.

Other than that here's what's planned:
  • hang out w/ my bro and parents in Calgary
  • a canoe camping trip w/ friend Elise.
  • Wreck Beach
  • Sooke (possibly more camping, or at least an overnighter on some beach or something).
  • Midnight Mass bike ride: i hope that's still going...
  • DIYDharma meditation group
  • Maybe Whistler (more for the ride than the destination)
Other than that, just wanna meet up w/ lots of friends, hang out, drink organic coffee, smoke BC bud, ride around, etc.

Oh, and from Calgary, Q will hit Montreal for a week.

Stoked to eat back bacon and drink lots of Molson Canadian!

That's about it.
Yo.
Let me know if you want anything from China.
Like porcelain. Over here, we call it "china". Go figure. Or chinese smokes. No opium, sorry. Too much border hassles. bootleg dvds? Maybe but they might not play in Canada. Other things, no prob, drop me a line.

Lurkers, feel free to drop me a line, we can connect. Ha.

Say, did you know since i came to China, i started using f'ing emoticons a lot? Really i have. What can you do :P Oh well.

Look fwd to meeting up w/ peeps.

Thanks for hangin' in there w/ me and my f'ing more and more sparsely posted blogs. what a guy.

Crickety Cricket


i had this great idea to purchase a cricket from the outdoor market by my house. They sit there all noisy chirping away and it seemed pretty crappy to be crammed into a cage which can hardly contain you and your thorny limbs.

So i bought one of the buggers. Me and my coworkers eyed, it, fed it watermelon, then took it outside to let it jump around.

It bit me through the cage, which caused me to shriek.
"Yeah right, i'll believe it if there's blood," yawned J.
Upon closer inspection, in triumphantly declared that the mofo had indeed drawn blood out of my left index. i gather s/he was not pleased to be jostled so much as of late.

It took considerable poking and prodding to get him/her to come out. When s/he did, i was rather disturbed to note that s/he was missing his/her left hind leg. Oh, shitty. How was s/he going to jump around and entertain us now? No, instead of cavorting instilling us with childlike shrieks, s/he just trudged around on the pavement slowly.

So i took a few pix, and then let him/her go in the dinky patch of grass next to my apartment, which is all the convenient wilderness to be found around here.

In the end, the whole thing was kinda depressing. Is it better to be "free" in an environment where (since yr a bred creature in the 1st place) you have no survival skills, not to mention no left hind leg, and your future is either waiting to get eaten by a bird or something? Or better to live in a cramped cage, cheerful that your missing left leg opens up the space in that feng shui kind of way, singing along with your buddies who all have the misfortune to live in little cages cramped with every natural limb that a cricket should have.

I unscientifically hypothesize that the bugger's got a max life expectancy of perhaps 3 days more. Shit, what a life to live trying to survive crippled in a bizarre and unknown territory. Yup, this teaching business is a cake walk in comparison! It made me a bit sad to think that i could've made things worse for him/her than if i just left him/her alone. Oh well.

Good luck, buddy!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hanging w/ the Band


Q's friends w/ this German guy who's in this band, and they came to BJ on tour.

Quite fun hanging out w/ them. Such a chipper and friendly gang, you'd never guess that (particularly in comparison w/ their previous tour in China) this tour was plagued w/ bad luck, accidents, poorly promoted shows, and had turned into a financial nightmare.

Q helped them shoot footage for a documentary they're putting together. Hit 3 shows in 3 nights in 3 venues.

One show was opening for Marnie Stern who's been getting some extremely impressive press as of late. Funny how as soon as she started, EVERYONE was like, "the drummer's great, but everything else SUCKS." So we made a break for it.

Along w/ a ocunded up hitting up KTV, since nobody in the band had done karaoke in China yet. We all drank lots and sang awfully. Then briefly stepped into a club w/ obscenely loud and disturbingly loud music.

Throughout that night and the next one, it was interesting to hear battered tales about touring. Kinda made me glad i'm not a musician.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Great Wall Marathon. 2.


Sluggy wake up, rushed exit, tense taxi ride to catch 3:30 am bus by small margin.
Sunny coolish morn turns to sunny hot day.
Aerobics warm up.
I'm one of the few people calling out "woo woo" since i feel bad for the aerobics girl sadly trying to get people excitied enough to yell "woo woo".
Although i really wasn't into "woo woo" in the slightest.

Run.
Run up the hill for 5 km.
Run w/ friend Jessica who runs up the hill faster than i want her to.

Run on the great wall.
Up stairs,
Down stairs.

Jessica's knee is less than stellar at descending stairs, and after finishing the wall section, she decides she must walk the rest of the course.

My stomach tells me i should've eaten more than a banana before the race.
i purchase some overpriced chemical chocolate-cookie-marshmallow thing.
Mm-good.

Run through small town, and farmer fields.

Decide to run til the finish line.
Decide to run faster for the end stretch.
The end stretch takes an unpleasantly gruelling time to appear.
(omg, where the f*** is it, already?)

Before: contemplated doing the full marathon next year.
Now that seems like sheer stupidity.

Finish the race.

Wait in uberlongo lineups for food that also deserve a finish line.

Eat a sandwich from the Veg box, but later realize it's beef.
But not much beef.
And who cares, the sandwich is easily 2x bigger than last years.
Plus there was a beer thrown in.
Which i admit, i hardly enjoyed.
Oh well.

But dang, that was one helluva sandwich, that's for sure.


Photo of me and my surprisingly sweaty back by Jessica.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unbelievable Knifings

Turns out China's more violent than anticipated.
Lots of attacks in the last month, most notably, THREE of which took place in NURSERY SCHOOLS, injuring and killing children, in three different locations.

All of this news comes from English news sources, seeing as how 90% of the news i read about China comes from the UK's Guardian. I did peek at China Daily just to confirm, and yes, the news is there, though details are conspicuously absent.

Details such as... numbers of people attacked, number of victims injured or murdered. You know: details.

Disturbing snippet from the Guadian:

Since March there have been at least six attacks on nurseries and schools resulting in 18 murders, two suicides, an execution and more than 40 children being injured by cleavers, knives and hammers.
I haven't broached the topic w/ any chinese staff yet, but am curious to know if they have heard about it. Alongside of increased police presence around schools, teachers have been equipped w/ defensive poles.

Anyhow, it's all pretty nuts.

That's about all i have to say about that, except that i hope that after a (mentally ill or not) scapegoat or 2 gets what comes to them, things become a touch less violent.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Visa Vis

Boy, us Canadians don't know how good we have it.
With minimal hassle we can generally get into most any country we want. We'll complain if we need to get a visa beforehand, which generally amounts to an application.

Not so for Chinese (and other developing country) folks.

Canada is particularly wary of young, educated, English-speaking people hopping over the True North Strong and Free border for fear that people might decide to stay.

So they dug up some red tape and strung it around.

To tell the truth, i haven't been too careful figuring all this stuff out, 'cause there's not much i can do for a lot of it.

What i have had to do has involved things like getting all appropriate and strangely inapplicable info details into my parents' letter of invitation for Q. i secured the current 3rd party confirmed financial statements of my parents' incomes. Collected my dad's proof of citizenship and immigration status. i am currently hassling Q and my dad to start emailing each other so we can print off the emails so as to "prove the correspondence" between inviter and invitee. Trying to get an early contract from work so as to have proof that i too am returning to BJ for Sept. And other less exciting details. I also should try and find pix of Q and i together and maybe try to hack together an album so as to "prove" our relationship.

Q doesn't seem too worried about it, compared to, say H and her BJ bf who is also planning to go to Vancouver this summer. He's actually got his parents to "sell" him their car and put 1/2 their apt under his name, so as to show he's got assets he should be unwilling to leave behind. H has also put together a sickeningly sweet photo album as mentioned above. Unfortunately, it's true i don't have so many of that kind of photo. Generally not my shooting style, which i never thought was a problem until presently :P

Anyhow, it's only a couple months before the plane departs, so hopefully this stuff all pulls through w/ minimal hassles. Feel free to cross fingers for us.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

ByeBye Poo Machine



First, take 4 1/2 minutes to watch the ever so eloquent Dan Savage wax on adoption issues. IMO, flawless.

I have often reflected on this 4 1/2 minute vid clip considering my own issues regarding Hulu, the Weird But Strangely Lovable Cat. Hulu the cat who has developed a frustratingly regular habit of defacating on the floor near the litter box, in the garbage next to the litter box, on the sofa, then on the towel which covered the sofa, then on the cardboard that covered the towel that covered the sofa.

Q expected to zip off to Cambodia for 10 days, so we didn't want the trouble of moving Hulu and accessories back to her apt, just to bring him back here.

Tried a number of things, read multiple websites, but didn't find anything which notably curbed said problem.

Q also at a loss of what to do. She considered giving someone money to take him on, but we both baulked at the thought of someone who wouldn't put up w/ any probs and throw him out. That said, i felt he oughta prepare for potentially spending more time outside, so i started putting him out myself. Hey, you'd think for a cat w/out enough space, this would be a dream come true.

However, his poor eyesight and lack of fighting abilities tended to make him constantly hover by the apartment. He couldn't even get himself down .6 metres out of the cubby hole to take a shit on the ground.

Anyhow, in the end I placed an ad, and found a new owner for him. Often i considered myself like one of the hetero lousy parents mentioned by Mr Savage, whereupon i find myself taking care of a little one, find myself unable to deal w/ the ongoing problems it presents, and decide to shove its responsibility onto someone else.

Yes, the owner knows about the poopoo problem. If however the poopoo problem turns out to be too much to bear, then perhaps Hulu will come back to my/Q's care.

However, the hope is that in a new home where he has more company, much less time alone, and a bigger space, he'll be less inclined to misbehave. As far as first impressions go, the woman seemed to be pretty gaga over him, and has reported already that he poo'd once in his litter box, and once in his travel box, but said "no problem."

Anyhow, i sincerely wish him and his new family the best. Hopefully they will have many long and happy years together, with much litter box sand under the bridge.

Here is a decided un-cute picture of him.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm Back. Sort Of.

Had a lot of ideas for blog posts, but none of them all that exciting.

Here's one that's just a school assignment i had my gr 11's do, as part of their business letter writing project.


Choose one of the following:

  • Write a letter to Linda Wong about how Yihai Garden residents are not correctly using the recycling and garbage bins, and how we can change that.
  • Write a letter to Wen Jiabao about how the government should keep its promises to pay residents who lost their homes during Olympic construction.
  • Write a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell about how politicians should not be drinking and driving.


i guess some of it's old news, but i need to keep myself entertained somehow or another.

Also worth noting is that while writing letters or even emails to the government in Canada is useful and beneficial and admirable, doing the same in China is generally understood to be a waste of paper and pen ink.

If you're pissed off about something or other, the avenues to pursue change seem to be limited indeed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Here Come the Floods

Thursday: wine night w/ a few coworkers. I get a little bit tipsy and drink the sparkling white wine and the red wine that nobody wants.

Friday morning: dizzy in bed. Possibly a bit hung over. But then all day, feel kinda shitty. Chills. Head home as soon as the bell goes.

Fri evening: Qianqian brings back dinner to the apt. I don't eat. Then come the shits.

Torrential waterfall fecal matter that explodes out of the anus.

Blows my mind that so much fluid could exit the body, considering that it was exponentially more than the fluid i had recently put into my body.

Night: Go to the bathroom.
Waterfalls.
Flush.
Wipe bottom.
Stand up.
Sit down.
Waterfalls.
wipe bottom.
Go to bed.
wake up.
Bathroom.
Waterfalls.
Wipe bottom.
Stand up.
Hesitate.
Sit down.
Flatulence.
Waterfalls.
Go to bed.
Wake up.
Repeat.
Repeat.
Repeat.
Repeat.

Morning: Q goes out and gets some medicine, and some watermelon i requested.

Generally feel better though no energy for the rest of the weekend. Minimal appetite.

That night i eat more medicine, but pbly too late. While watching a movie in bed, i take a break to use the toilet. 15 min later i return to bed to find my gf having hit the hay.

Q assures me that I look considerably thinner than i did 48 hrs previously.

I often think about Disco Salamander's post about Dysentery Slim: diarrhoea, an incredible new weight loss product!

Still don't know what caused it, but hopefully it's gone by tomorrow morning. Q joked that i could teach a lesson about waterfalls. Uh huh.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hulu the Weird Cat

Hulu's been at my apartment for a few weeks now. He's Q's cat. Q's presently taking a holiday in Nepal and hiking around and taking large format photos.

Everybody agrees Hulu is a weird cat.

He likes being pet, but he never plays.

He's definitely the loudest cat i've ever come across.

He occasionally yelps or squawks while standing otherwise motionless in the middle of the room. i wonder if he might have gall bladder issues or something.

A coworker insists that he should be legally blind, seeing his tendency to walk into pieces of furniture.

Also, unfortunately, he like to shit around the place. Q and i have read numerous websites which suggest numerous causes and fixes, none of which have had noteworthy results.

My prognosis: the cat spends too much time alone in an apartment. He's got Stockholm Syndrome, where his captors are the only ones available to give him any affection. In addition, he hates going out of doors, and is nervous to step out into the hallway even.

i presume that when he's displeased he's more likely to piss/shit in places he ought not piss/shit, ie. my bed, the sofa.

So he generally stays out of the bedroom, and the sofa has a lovely shit-smeared layer of cardboard on it.

i give him attention and affection when i can. However, he continues to crap in inappropriate locations. Which i patienty clean up the next day. Consistently websites say Don't Stick His Nose In It, Don't Punish Him, Or You'll Make The Situation Worse.

Well i tried it a bit anyways, but it didn't seem to help any, so now i just say "Hulu! Bu hao!" Make him think i'll stick him in it then let him wander off.

Oh well, it's only another wk, and then i'll let Q have another go at it. It's weird, this behaviour only started up when Q moved to her new apt, maybe 6 months ago.

Last night was wine club night w/ me and Heza and coworker Jacq. He got lots and lots of hangout time w/ us, but at the end of the cuddly night i'm SURE he was plenty annoyed that i stuck the cardboard bk on the sofa, and kicked him out of the bdrm.

Tough love after i caught him getting into take-a-shit position on the couch 3 times already that afternoon!

From these experiences i conclude that i'm not ready for parenthood.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stupid SUV Drivers Ruining MY Air!!!

The other day, outside of my school, was a Porsche SUV picking up some student, who i most likely don't know. It was a not atypical day where the horizon and not so distant buildings had been bleached into various shades of white due to particulate matter in the air, particles coming from factories, and vehicle exhaust systems.

So i was thinking, "This is YOUR fault, Mr Porsche SUV driver! You are making this shitty air quality that everyone in the city (and beyond) has to live with."

Of course, after a moment's contemplation i remembered myself. Ok, so this dude has got a shiny expensive pollution spewing machine. He pbly got it in the last 2 years. Before the last 2 years, he pbly had a smaller pollution spewing machine, and when he was young, he pbly had none.

He pbly grew up in a time when luxuries were scarce, almost as scarce as conveniences. Maybe he grew up in a 2nd/3rd world country which held places like energy-consuming Canada up as the ideal.

More likely than not, my own life and lifestyle has contributed more to shitty air quality than his polished black Porsche. The number of times i've been air-born across oceans, the miles covered in auto-vehicles, the energy i've used to live in Canadian climates, goods produced for my consumption before resting in landfill sites, etc etc.

Point being, to get off my f'ing high horse.

No comment about the methane gas which comes out my horse's ass, far too frequently. Ka-ting!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No Lesbo Prom?

Sent off this email today to Itawamba Schools superintendent Teresa McNeece since it bugs me that her school cancelled prom after a girl invited her gf to be her date. And then guess what: the student body all got mad at the girl for ruining graduation. (What a bitch).

Dear Ms McNeese,
I first read about Constance McMillen and the prom issue on The Guardian website. I'm often interested to see how journalists "spin" the news to suit themselves. In this article, i was surprised to see the author's spin was much stronger than usual. However i found myself in full agreement that your school board's actions were "cowardly".

In a world where many people are only now finding the courage to be themselves and to love the ones they love, I find it shameful that a SCHOOL BOARD, which stands as an example for society has chosen to cancel prom in order to avoid any possible problems that may arise from a student whose lesbian date may be deemed by some as unconventional.

i sincerely hope you can rethink your decision, and allow the Itawamba HS (and supporters of this issue) have the best party of a prom ever.

Sincerely,

sq
Dunno. i assume it only goes through some filter where it will be counted as 1 EMAIL ABOUT CONSTANCE MCMILLAN. But that was the brief 2 cents i wanted to say. Thx to Dan Savage (link on the side bar) for Ms McNeece's contact.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Nietzsche Family Circus

When one has not had a good father, one must create one.


A friend just turned me on to The Nietzsche Family Circus, which i think is pretty ingenious. Refresh, refresh, refresh...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Meeting the GF's Parents

So.

After landing dn briefly in bj, i quickly jettisoned off (yes, in a plane) for Lanzhou to meet Q's parents.
Lanzhou, fyi, is a medium-sized city, population 5 million. Interesting place in that for all it's medium-sized population, it's VERY chinese. Meaning, that there's not so much foreign influence as far as i could see. No McDonalds or Starbucks, didn't see any other laowai (foreigners), etc.

Its decorations for Spring Festival far surpass anything i've seen in BJ. Surely millions of yuan have been spent on massive light displays, dragons, and sphinx-sized robotic tigers.

It also has the dubious distinction of being China's Most Polluted City. There's a comfy valley that the chemicals like to nestle in, hence high concentrations, which caused slight dizziness and head tension as we drove through the thick of it after picking me up at the airport. Which rather frightened me, but in the city itself, when we arrived it frankly wasn't so bad. "Hey i've seen worse air than this in Beijing!"

Also of inerest, is that a politician once tabled the possibility of removing... the MOUNTAIN, in order to allow more air flow. i'm not sure if this is still being considered or not.

Anyhow.

Picked up by the father. Qianqian has already forewarned me that THE PARENTS are NERVOUS to meet ME, the first bf they've met. i felt unexpectedly relaxed. Q also forewarned me that her parents aren't big talkers, so i shouldn't TALK so much. Uh, okay. i think i can do that.

So in hte car, it's true, we don't talk that much. It's ok.

At the house, it's true we don't talk that much. No problem.

At dinner, we start talking a bit more. That's ok. Except that Q's not into this much talking, and she tells me and her dad to just eat our food, and stop TALKING. Me and her dad are like, Hey, relax, we're just talking. Quickly becomes apparent that Q is by far the most nervous person in the vicinity, much to the amusement of her dad and i.

It's alright. In the end, the parents regularly expend way too much energy preparing way too much food for me. Not to mention being persistently commited/commitedly persistent in making me overeat. i hang out with some more family. i can usually get my meaning understood, though am often less successful on the receiving end. Q steps in as translator now and again.

i meet some of Q's university friends, who she hasn't seen in years. they tend to converse at a speed and depth beyond my comprehension so i was allowed to snooze at the table a bit.

Family takes me sightseeing. Walk around. Me and the dad seem to get on in a pretty relaxed way. Mother's sweet too, though i admit i don't feel like i understand her quite so well, and i suspect she found me to be a bit of a mystery. Granted, not unlike me and my own parents, Q's parents have also been at times baffled by their daughter who had somehow strangely transformed into an artist.

KTV 2 times. Once with friends, once with family. Both times without a drop of alcohol, though not without my foiled plans to buy a round for the family. Go figure. Anyhow, i think they found my vocal stylings quite amusing. If you've ever heard me sing Moon River, you know what i'm talking about.

Other details:
-slept in gf's teen bed. Alone. She slept in her parent's bed with them. Which weirdly follows the precedent previously set, even with no bf on the premises.
-strangely saw crazier Cosplay kids than i saw in Japan
-Sex in gf's teen bed: once
-fights: 1
-Train back to Beijing: Extremely difficult to secure tickets during Spring Fest, hence was forced yet again to take to the sky.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Missed details and side commentary

-japanese people (women in particular) are so good at being/looking happy. Are you really so overjoyed i walked into or exited the store? It's a bit weird.
-many japanese people are nice. twice i was given a gift within minutes of random acquaintanceship.
-yes there is a strange surplus of model-esque and capital U cUte women in Japan. But in fact many of them look bizarrely similar. Such is the magic of make up.



-chatted w/ a Hiroshima bomb survivor (w/ aid of a translator)
-enjoyed the Hiroshima Peace Museum, but think i learned more from the Barefoot Gen graphic novels (again, highly recommended).
-hiked 8km from 1 historic village to another through layers of fresh snow and forests. Didn't see another hiker.
-got through 2.5 wks in Japan w/out bodily injury. Amen: no travel insurance.
-visited a number of japan's ubiquitous onsen (hot springs), including (imo) questionable electric baths which send AC current through yout body, quickly inducing your feet and fingers to tingle in a less than pleasant way.
-was curious to observe entire shelves of porn movies intended to enlighten the masses about the erotic arts of pissing, shitting, and vomiting.

And if you need any more reason to check out Japan, this trailer is all you need to know:

The Silver Lining

Nice silver linings:
1) As i was putting on my shoes for my evening of solo wandering, a girl recognized me from Kyoto, and started chatting w/ me. So i accompanied her for dinner, and mentioned that earlier i was at that Osaka gay bar. "Oh i love gay bars, let's go find one."

So we did.

And despite commentary from a DJ himself that Umeki has no good bars/clubs, the joint was pretty cool. And how can you possibly go wrong with a tranny DJ pumping out lots of old Pizzicato 5 songs, in a lounge-dance music themed night?

Funnily enough the London girl i went w/ wasn't into it. She would prefer listening to Nickelback, it turned out.

2) On the plane bk to BJ sat next to a Japanese guy who's lived in BJ for 8 yrs. Started getting my mandarin on again. He was decked out like a Ramone, used to work for the legendary bar D22, and Maybe Mars record label. Anyhow, it was quite fun shooting the breeze w/ him, and we'll pbly meet up later.

So that was all better than the piss-off ending to my trip it could've been.