Sunday, April 17, 2016

FAQ and Interview Request

I would like to make a comprehensive FAQ of questions that you may have about living in Zhengzhou. These can be about where to find employment, the process, places to go, basic services available, tourist information, what to expect from people there, what to expect from employers, visa questions, food... If you have a question, please put it in the comments of this post and I will try to answer it. I may even dedicate an entire post to your question.

I am also looking to interview you about your experiences living in Zhengzhou so that I can provide more perspectives beyond my own about what it is like to live there. If you are willing to be interviewed, please let me know in the comments.

Also, if you are a native of Zhengzhou, i'd like you to give me a native's perspective in an interview as well.

Thank you!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The End (?)

Wow! It's been a long time since I wrote anything here. I'd like to give a bit of a postmortem looking back at my experiences in China and to give some sort of closure to this blog. There are a couple of  things I'd like to touch on: a little bit of an update as to what happened to me after the last post and a critique of what I have posted here from my current point of view.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Catching Up 2

Sang's village turned out to be a metaphor for all of China - a showcase for all the progress its people have made, but a stark testament to how far China still has to go before we can truly call it a developed nation. Sang proudly showed me the progress his village had made. The central road of the village of 3000 people now had pavement and streetlights, most of the buildings were "western" instead of traditional Chinese and many had more than one floor. For Sang, this was an indication of the great improvements Chinese people have had since the times of Chairman Mao.

Though Mao himself is still widely revered in China as a man who founded the modern Chinese state, most Chinese acknowledge that his later economic and cultural policies did a lot of harm to Chinese people. This does not diminish their respect for him, however. They are inclined to forgive him for his mistakes. This is compounded by the fact that the official Chinese government narrative about Mao does not allow a completely clear or accurate picture of his life. They don't tell outright lies about him, as many people in the older generations of China remember his policies all too clearly, but neither do they articulate them particularly well to educate the younger generations. As a result, people like Sang absorb a conflicting message to "think of him as a great man, despite all his mistakes".

Despite the improvements that Sang pointed out to me, this was my first true instance of culture shock.

Catching Up 1

Just prior to Spring Festival in January, I went with Sang and his friend to his tiny home village of Gu Fo Si (古佛寺) which is about a 10- minute drive outside Chang Ge, a town of about 100000 people an hour's drive southeast of Zhengzhou. The drive really should be an hour, but it actually takes about two hours because of terrible driving conditions, insane drivers in China and the fact that said bad driving conditions and insane drivers means that all vehicles drive extremely slowly to avoid massive fireballs of death occurring at regular intervals. As it is, more than 100000 people die in car accidents in China annually. I'd rather have a slow trip than add my name to the statistics.

Chang Ge is a well-known town in China as it was the chosen capital city of the famous Cao Cao, a major figure in Chinese history and ruler of the northern kingdom of Wei in the warring states period depicted in the famous novel "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms", which is one of China's four great novels. While many westerners would condemn Cao Cao for his cruelty, in China he is widely admired for his ambition. Cao Cao is particularly beloved here in Henan, where he spent a large part of his life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Cultural Commentary

Comparison of Google Maps with Baidu (China's leading search engine and Google clone/pirate), to scale.

View Larger Map

(Sorry, don't know how to embed the Baidu map, but this is a great way to hide the spoiler!)

Please draw your own conclusions!

Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31 - Exams, Customer Service, and New Firsts

January 4th was the day of the final exam, which was to be held from 10am to noon. I had drawn up more than one version of the test and had been hoping for a gymnasium test so I could properly keep an eye on all my students. I had written up rules of conduct and allowed materials. I had given notice of my zero tolerance policy for cheating and had gone over my plans with the school administration. The administration told me they could not accommodate my plans for using a gym for all the students at once and, in fact, had never even heard of such an idea before. Instead they wanted to divide my students into several classrooms in one building with a couple of invigilators to watch over each room. This meant, of course, that I had to divide my attention among different rooms, so I couldn't ensure the rules were followed adequately.

My students all cheated blatantly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 31 - Christmas and New Year's

I spent my first ever Christmas away from my family this past holiday, which was quite sad. I did manage to get on Skype and give them a call to spend some time with them, but it's not the same. I think my parents must have been very lonely too. My brother was also away in Europe at the time on a last-minute vacation, so they were hit with their first ever empty-nest Christmas.

圣诞节(sheng dan jie; holy birth festival) is the Chinese name for Christmas, and they celebrate it exactly the same way we do in the West, albeit far more commercially and no pretense at all of any relation to religion. 圣诞老人(sheng dan lao ren; Christmas Old Guy) is their name for Santa, which I completely cracked up about when I first heard it. My friend couldn't understand what was so funny, so that was a bit awkward, but I couldn't stop smiling. I think it's cute.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Missing photos of dumplings from previous post

So here are dumpling photos. Good lighting was at lunch, harsh lighting was at night. Gratuitous pics of ice cream and booze.

January 28 - Winter Solstice Festival

They have a festival here in China called 冬至 (dong zhi; winter's arrival), which is their name for the winter solstice. There doesn't appear to be any real folkloric aspects to celebrating this festival, but a requirement is that everyone must make their own 饺子 (jiao zi; dumplings) for themselves and eat them in massive quantities. Some restaurants will accomodate large groups and some will provide the filling and dough for the dumplings in addition to boiling them for you, while others make you bring your own food which they will boil for you once you've put them together.

I was invited by some of my students to take part in this festival which I am tempted to dub 'Dumpling Day', but will refrain from doing so since I think it devalues the real happiness Chinese people in the North derive from this special day (in the southern parts of China, they don't really experience winter, so they don't celebrate the festival).

January 28 - Catching up (and going all the way back to December 19!)

So this is the first in a series of back-logged things that I wanted to post, but never got around to doing. I'll hopefully get it all out soon.

When I arrived here, back at the end of October, I was planning to stretch about $500 I had brought with me until my first paycheque arrived, supposedly one month later. As I learned, however, that is frequently not how things work here.

It started out simply enough. I was advised to bring enough money to cover one month's expenses before the first paycheque, and $500 turned out to be way more than I needed to cover my first month's expenses, especially since my students were always paying for things for me at that time in the rush of paying their respects to their new professor.

However, payday arrived and no money came. I wasn't worried, but I fired off an email just the same to my employer in Canada. After that, things got ugly. Apparently, my employer thought it was only their responsibility to pay me if they had received payment of my salary first from the university in China (I have a middle man arrangement whereby the recruiter in Canada pays me to work at a university in Zhengzhou). The university here, for there part, were bureaucratically bumbling incompetents who weren't getting their act together. This process dragged out, and I ran out of money, to the point where I was living on my food stores (white rice, instant noodles and water) and $6 for three weeks.