Day 39 - St.Pats Quiz Night

Thursday, March 17th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Sugar and cream in the coffee - nice to start your day with something sweet. Some sweetness in the morning sure is nice, isn’t it? Sure is nice with some o' that sugga in the morning, doncha think? Is that a euphemism? Am I being dirty? 

No, it’s just coffee. We have to give the kids a test in “oral english,” which is a randomly chosen topic for a month with which we begin each class.* This month’s topic, I think I’ve mentioned, is Geography. They don’t learn anything related in mandarin ’til middle school. Despite that, they now know all the continents, the know that a continent is bigger than a country, they know all the oceans, and some countries from each continent. Which reminds me that I should actually make the test…

Quiz night is every other Thursday, meaning it lands on tonight! Dan says he’s not going to quiz night tonight, but Mary and Tad are both down. Given my lack of sleep, a nap is in order.

Day 38 - Geese Can't Fly

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Ever heard about that thing where Asian people will wear masks over their mouth and nose due to illness? It’s said that they wear them because they don’t want to get others sick. That totally doesn’t seem to apply to China.

A day or two ago, one of the students was waiting to go home sick. Since her parents had to come, she was in class all day, coughing. It seems like an uncommon thing, teaching children to cover their goddamn mouths. Then again, it seems a lot of adults don’t bother with the courtesy either. At the reading table, she’s right across from me, coughing up a storm. No mouth covering. Unrestrained mucous wave straight into my semi-sheilded face (thank you, glasses). "Cover your mouth!" She thinks it’s funny to put her hand on her mouth, and cough through a large space in her fingers. Cute.

Day 37 - Bluffing

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

It’s another day of school. Sometimes I feel like “what am I doing?” when I think about my life, my job, and my future. I’m not sure if it’s evident (probably is) but I constantly feel the pressure of the future weighing down on me. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to learn enough Mandarin to get to the point I’d like. I think that maybe by the end of this, I might end up leaving with nothing but the cash in exchange for time - something I’ve been doing for years and want to move away from. I think about the pollution, and how, fingers crossed, it will only have temporary health effects. In short: this morning wasn’t very nice.

Day 36 - Subterranean Plaza

Monday, March 14th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

It’s a good day today! The wind blows some of the smog away, and I listen to classic Chinese music (the stuff with the really high-pitched women singing) wafting in the windows as we blow the stale air out of the apartment. I write and get some posts up because, hey, the smog isn’t the only thing that decided to clear up a bit! Hello, internet!

EVEN MORE Things I Learned in my 20’s

Yet another edition of my series "Things I Learned in my 20's" you can find PART ONE HERE, and PART TWO HERE.

Be There

A major part in any relationship is simply showing up and being counted. Sometimes bad friends linger in the social circle because they will show up, even though people may wonder why they were invited in the first place! How 'bout that!

Day 35 - Bidniss

Sunday, March 13th, 2016
Smog Level: 1 Mountain

Chinese "Tacos"
It’s Sunday, but not a day of rest. Instead, at 10:30, I have the parents (who had “interviewed” me before) coming back for an unclear reason. They wanted to see me again, but we said it would be best to have one lesson just so that it didn’t waste everyone’s time. The lesson went relatively well once the parents moved away and the daughter was able to focus more. She's quite young, but her reading is pretty good. They say she's "naughty," but it seems more like she just has too much energy.

I had sent Josh a last-minute message, telling him to expect a family in the apartment early in the morning. I thought he knew, but after the lesson, I checked my phone to see that, no, the message hadn’t sent. Whoops. This is further evidence that a new phone would be useful to have. I followed up and apologized, telling Josh I’d give him at least some warning in the future.

Day 34 - QiQi Visits Zootopia

Saturday, March 12th, 2016
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

“I need to start working harder” I thought to myself as I showered this morning. For some reason, I find myself semi-competing with my roommate in learning mandarin, and wanted to get up to his level in the near future. It’s possible, but I’ll need to start taking 1-on-1 lessons several times a week - and soon. Part of me thinks that I’ll feel mentally unstimulated - it’s one of the reasons I have a hard time studying languages. I feel the return is much slower than ideas. But learning a language and getting to a point where I can converse at a basic level with people will allow me to propel myself forward through basic interactions, and require less concerted study. I also need to start focusing on the green tea and additional writing on top of just journaling.

Day 33 - Friday Funday

Day 33 - March 11th, 2016 
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Ah, Fridays.

Fridays are the best day of the working week because they tend to be the last day for those of us who have a normal schedule. Sorry, service industry workers - you’re just getting started. I could probably work this job everyday and not mind it. I’m kind of used to working most days for whatever reason. On weekends, I find myself thinking about what I’ll do in class “today.”

Day 32 - Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise...

Thursday, March 10th, 2016
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Early to bed and early to wise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Early to rise and early to bed, makes a man healthy, but socially dead.

I’ve always been toward the latter, but it doesn’t seem like they’re mutually exclusive. I’ve been hitting the hay around 10 and getting up around 6:40am. 12am used to be considered early for me, while 10pm was blasphemy. This is why I want to push for jobs where I can manage it whatever time I like. For the time being, let’s see if this makes me feel “healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Day 31 - Foreigners and Business

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Shimou went home last night, which made it easier to go to bed at 10pm. Best suggestion for going to bed earlier: avoid naps and use caffeine to get you close enough to the goal. I used to work night shifts irregularly, so getting back on schedule is normally easy for me... but painful.

I was up around 7 and really wanted to go back to sleep, but used my phone to keep myself awake. The “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe (comics), their massive reboot, has only been around a short while, but it's pretty damn good. I’d recommend the new series “Vision” which is about an android family trying to live a relatively normal life in a Washington DC suburb. Very entertaining. I don't know how they keep coming up with new stuff to throw in, honestly.

Day 30 - How to Interview Well in China

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Early morning after late nights on the weekend make for a bad combo. There are four people in our apartment when there is usually two, which makes the morning a bit of a hassle. Josh, Shimou, me, and Josh’s tutor who slept on the couch because the Subway was closed. No biggie, just somewhat unexpected.

At school, my first class goes more smoothly until...  One area of teaching them is "composition." I’m supposed to help them write their own short paragraph using a sample 3-4 sentences. It’s simple for English speakers to take a format and follow it, but the paragraph they were modeled after was.. very specific. The original message was about a girl who couldn’t fly a kite because there was no wind. 

Guest Post: The Art of Masterful Listening

Given my predilection to talk a bit too much, I decided to ask my good friend, Dr.Steve Rose how he puts up with me. He has studied sociology, has performed many an academic qualitative interview, and knows a thing or two about being a good listener. After all, he's had to put up with me for all these years!

It's at the bottom of the post, but I'm going to throw it here so it's easier to find. He has a blog on applied Sociology, speaking on such topics as direction in life, finding purpose in/through work, and dealing with the struggle of ethics and meaning in modern day life.

You can find is His Blog Here
Or, y'know, type in your address bar. 

Suggested readings from his blog:
Without further delay, here's how to become a great listener:

Day 29 - Officially a Teacher

Monday, March 7th, 2016
Smog Level: 2.5/3 Mountains

Today is the first day teaching alone. No Director there to help me. Though, "alone" may be a bit generous - I always have a Chinese teacher around who helps keep the kids in line, and will help when I need it. They let me know what the students have learned so far, and, if need be, can translate. We try to avoid that, as there is no Chinese in the classroom! Be that as it may, they will still slip up or blatantly speak it in front of us. That’s where the stars come in.

Day 28 - Bathroom Differences

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
Smog Level: 1.5/3 Mountains

Sleep in, tutor, and navigate the mall in search of a red pen. The fabled red pen that everyone at Carden needs. Every teacher in China, really, as both students and parents are not cool with anything but the finest, bloodiest red from the tip of the mightiest of pens. Seriously, I've heard stories about writing in black pen “Good job!” or a good ol’ checkmark just will not do. It must be in red!

Day 27 - Live Band in a Western Bar

Saturday, March 5th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

I’m really digging that small dumpling (jiǎozì) place that’s at the entrance of my apartment complex. I brought Shimou there for breakfast, getting some pork buns and pork dumplings. She got some porridge, while I added some "leek and egg" buns. I wouldn’t suggest them.

I found out recently that the internet connection has been garbage because the government has come down on the VPNs while they have this big policy meeting. This means somewhat of a blackout, and a little sweat due to me being unsure if I have posts up until tonight, or tomorrow night. Fingers crossed I don’t miss a posting because of this, but I can't find out for a day or two anyway!

Day 26 - Visa with a Vengeance

No Explanation. Note That The Cars in The Background are Blocked In.
Friday, March 4th, 2016
Smog Level: -1 Mountains (some of the buildings can’t even be seen)

I’ve had better mornings, but I’ve also had worse.

As usual, I am reminded of why I don't often drink, particularly when I have to get up the next morning, but hey.. you’re only in Beijing once! ...That could be a rationalization for nearly anything. Besides, today is supposed to be an easy day where I don’t have to teach! Hooray for justification!

I really don’t want movement or food. I make both happen anyway, eating two bites of an plain egg sandwich that’s making my stomach churn. My theory is that breakfast foods were designated as breakfast foods because of their ability to help with hangovers. Man has a long, long history with alcohol, so… put be back together, eggs.

Day 25 - Quiz Night in a Pocket of Expats

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
Smog Level: 0 Mountains - You can almost taste it.

I’ve noticed a slight cough developing, and ask my roommate if he’s felt anything similar. He said that he’s had a slight cough after living here, and that it went away after 3 weeks of vacation elsewhere. You feel a bad omen when you look at the greyness out the window, like staring into a ghost town. When walking around town, you can see a white film over everything, like you’re developing cataracts, or your glasses need a wipe.

Beijing would be fantastic if it weren’t for the air, but it's still pretty damn good.

Day 24 - Making Friends

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
Smog Level: 0 Mountains - You can smell it

Success! 6:45am wake up and stayed up! The goal for today is simply to stay awake and see if I could get any work done. I didn’t.

After messing around and trying to call home on our shoddy internet, I head into work around 10:30 to grab some lunch and hang out at the teacher's lounge.

Day 23 - Day in the Office

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
Smog Level: 0 Mountains

I was told today that the Chinese Gov has cut funding for learning English public schools. Agatha said that it was because they want to deter citizens from leaving the country. When people go abroad, they tend to want to stay abroad. I guess their solution is to make it more difficult for people to go abroad.. though I don’t see how this will stop anyone - except lower income families. Upper class people are still going to do what they want, even if it means paying for English tutoring on the side. So… the result seems like it would be more of the same, except they’d isolate lower income people just a little bit more from the English internet.

MORE Things I Learned in my 20’s

I’ve been asked to write another one of these posts. If you're interested, you can find PART ONE HERE. Now.. Let’s crack into it!

If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying

I used to think I had a lot of time to do whatever I wanted. You may be like me in that regard. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, after all! But what kind of life do you want? 

Day 22 - Cultural Comments

Monday, February 29th, 2016 (Happy Leap Year!)
Smog level: 2 Mountains

I walk on the elevator at 8:15am and hear a little kid start exclaiming to his parents/various relatives how tall I am. The elevator is full, and he keeps saying variants of the word “gao,” which has been said enough times around me to start recognizing it (Hint: it means tall). The kid kept proclaiming it, and only was told to simmer down because he started pointing. It happens from time to time. Not as often as you think, and usually when a kid almost walks into me because they aren’t watching where they’re going.

At work, the guards wave me through no problem. This one actually cracked a smile without shattering! Agatha went over classroom management with me and taught me a thing or two about the political climate in China. I know there was a cultural revolution thanks to Brad and The Director explaining a little bit over the past week, but I didn’t realize that Hong Kong and Taiwan were not involved in said revolution. This means that HK and Taiwan might both be non-interventioned evolutions of pre-Mao China. I guess that explains why they speak Cantonese, now that I think about it. Maybe.

Day 21 - Day of Rest

Note the Green Circle on the Left.
(Hint: It's a coffee shop)
Sunday, February 28th, 2016
Smog Level: 2 Mountains

Allow me to skip all the boring stuff: work, napping, and lounging. It is Sunday, after all.

I meet up with Shimou, Luke, Silvia at “Mint,” a restaurant in a well-known Beijing Mall, “Joy City.” Though I didn't know the name at the time, we’ve been here on before (Day 11), but not to this particular restaurant. 

Day 20 - Romantic Night at The Lake with The Beef

Friday, February 26th, 2016
Smog Level: 2 Mountains
"Comical Craftsmanship, Cobbler!
Cobble Conscientiously!"

After a pleasant morning chatting with Josh over coffee, I rouse Shimou from her slumber and get things moving. I’m going to tutor a couple people today, so it looks like it’ll be at least a 5 hour work day today. Honestly, none of this feels like work. Maybe that’s because it’s fresh and new, but more likely because I really didn’t enjoy my stop-over situation in Canada. While there, I made the best of it and tried to enjoy it as much as possible, but this.. This is lightyears ahead of that.

Day 19 - Medallions and Microwaves

Friday, February 26th, 2016
Smog Level: 0.1 Mountains (almost invisible)

I walk up to the front gate, approaching the woman in the tiny office. “Lǐpǐn! lǐpǐn!” I repeat, which means “gift! gift!” as I pace the small parcel containing the small medallion cakes from the sweet shop next to my building. The woman at the counter, taken aback, said something that seemed to be “for me? oh, I can’t!” I put my hands up like “well it’s on the counter and I’m not picking it back up,” and walked over to the turnstile guy. "Xìe xìe!" (thank you) she called after me.

I did the same thing with the turnstile guard, though he was much less receptive. However, the girl at the counter leaned out and was like “He’s a teacher!” getting me right on in.

Day 18 - Noodle Shops, Language Barriers, and Cuteness Overload

Thursday, February 25th, 2016
Smog Level: 0.5 Mountains (barely make out 1)

Take two: Attempting the front gate alone.

Closer Look at that Science Rock
 This time I know to throw the word Carden into my sentence. Here goes: Wǒ shì Carden lǎoshì. Boom - In like Flynn. They always seem super bored standing around the gate.

Each day, I get trained by a different one of the Veteran teachers, allowing me to see each of their styles and perspectives. It’s like being welcomed into a Kung Fu movie and each master takes you into their specific dojo to show you how they do. Except, instead of Kung Fu, we’re practicing teaching kids to read English. Much more glamorous, rest assured.

Day 17 - Caged With Ayi

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016
Smog Level: 1ish

The mornings are still a bit rough. After staying up later than planned, it’s even worse. Caffeine is all but useless, but damned if I don’t try to overcome that fact. Josh offered to drive us both on his moped/scooter thing, but I figure two guys over 6”3’ on a small motorbike will be difficult enough to drive without the chaotic Beijing morning traffic. I’ll roll the dice on finding my way on the bus alone.

Day 16 - First Day of School

Teacher's Lounge, Oh my!
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
Smog Level: 2 Mountains

I spring awake at 8:30, thinking I had slept through my alarm. I had dreamt that my alarm already went off. Very funny, brain. Also, effective. 

Roommate Josh told The Director that he would show me the way to school. The School Handler, had told me that there were several buses to get to school. I had interpreted this to mean it would take multiple transfers to get there. Nope, just one ride, but three optional buses you could take. Well, that’s much less intimidating.

Day 15 - Sushi Buffet and Japan

February 22nd, 2016
Smog Level: 1 Mountain

Shimou’s cousin invited us to get Japanese sushi buffet. Apparently Canada isn’t the only place to have this sort of thing, despite what the international crowd in Australia had told me (thank you, god). 

Day 14 - Banks, Bosses, and Bros

("How Adorable is the Little Grass - Don't Hurt Them, Please")
Yes... Look at All That Adorable Grass.
Sunday, February 21st, 2016
Hey Look, The CN Tower!
Smog Level: 0 Mountains

Shimou had ordered stuff from Táobǎo (Literally: "Search Treasure") to find cheaper things to fill out the apartment. We didn’t have any salt, knives, a flat flying pan, a toilet brush, or affordable coffee beans. Well, that’s where Táobǎo comes in: they have pretty much everything, and it will all come quickly - straight to your door! In this case, they arrived at 9am on a Sunday. Luckily for us, the guy was persistent enough to rouse me from bed. Now all I need is a grinder and I can finally stop drinking all this instant. When we had gone to Jiu Jitsu, one of the students had jokingly said you could get a passport on Táobǎo. That might explain why they (banks, etc.) are so skeptical whenever they inspect mine.

Day 13 - Luke’s Birthday

Saturday, February 20th, 2016
Smog Level: 2 Mountains

(Bulletproof?) Glass, Transfer Slots, and Armed Guards
Went to the bank today. I’m pretty much out of cash and still haven’t figured out how to transfer funds this way. This, unfortunately, means I’m leeching off of Shimou. Feels bad, man. But Wait! I still have $100 USD that could be converted to usable cash, so let's, uh.. let's do that.

The Bank of Beijing (my bank) wasn’t the most helpful, saying they weren’t sure if they had the proper equipment to process the cash. I’m not.. really sure what that means. Across the street we go to another bank. This all would have been much, much harder if Shimou hadn’t been so helpful. This bank closed 10 minutes from when we walked in. They advised us of this, but gave us a number anyway.

Day 12 - Blind Massage

Friday, February 19th, 2016
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Ah, yes, the rumored "blind people who are employed as masseuses" in China. Apparently, it’s true - some of them do work as masseuses. Better yet, I’ll be getting one today for ¥66 / $13 .50 CAD for an hour. At this rate, I’m going to get one every week once the money starts rolling in. They’re not the super pampery massages, mind you, but the deep tissue, therapeutic, elbow-in-the-back, want-to-cry-out-in-tortured-contempt ones. Hurt so good.

My roommate still isn't back from his vacation, but he’s been helping me over the wechat messenger app. It’s kind of like whatsapp meets Facebook meets a banking app. You can send people money over it, your current location, or even get discounts at stores for sharing stuff. It’s surprisingly integrated and the west barely seems to know what it is. Anyway, he told me that there was a Walmart near our apartment. Turns out, it's right beside the Massage building.

Day 11 - Rotating Sushi and a Cat Cafe

Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Mandarin seems to be kind of like alchemy. You can say a couple words accidentally and stumble across a new word. Yesterday, I was jokingly saying to Shimou that she “has use” (yǒu (have) + yòng (use) = yǒuyòng) and stumbled across their word for “useful.” It’s strange. Instead of saying something is “bad” you’d say it’s “not good.” To me, “not good” means just that. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s definitely not good. It could be neutral, middling. Another example of compounding words to make a new one is yesterday’s word “delicious” which is  hǎo (good) + chī (eat) = hǎochī (delicious). Literally “Good eat.”

We were slow to get started and ended up finally leaving to get “breakfast” at 2ish. Rotating Sushi! We don’t pick the rotating food because the tables were still covered in dirty dishes. Music at restaurants is really odd sometimes, in this case it’s Christmas music. This isn't the first time, either. The food was pretty good, but one thing I tried was Watermelon-Mango Juice. Unlike the West, it seemed to actually be real juice, complete with little watermelon chunks. Delicious!

Day 10 - Return of the Jedi

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
Smog Level: 0 Mountains to 3 Mountains

Brushing aside the living room curtain, it’s clear that the morning isn’t. Clear, that is. It’s a 0 mountain day, which makes me wonder if I should finally don the surgeon mask, also known as a filter. Shimou and I pack them, but don’t actually wear them because the day is windy and the smog seems to have cleared to a 2.5 mountain atmosphere by the time we’re ready to go. That’s the relationship with Beijing and Smog: It’s like a bowl, so they’ve told me, that fills with pollution and clears up when the wind blows strong enough to push it all out. Not sure how accurate that explanation is, but it does seem to be clear almost exclusively on windy days so far.

The crowds have returned.

Day 9 - Business, as Usual

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016
Smog Level: 2.5 Mountains

Just a Random Giant Vase in the Mall
My sleep still is a mess. I wake up after about 7 hours, screw around online. My internet disconnects every 10 minutes. Disconnecting and reconnecting seems to give me another 10 minutes. It’s a functional workaround. Frustrating.

The top picture is, in fact, the shower/toilet/sink/washing maching combo that the apartment's bathroom. I'm just happy it's not a squatty potty, since I didn't know how commonly those were used in private housing. I wasn't aware that the shower was commonly just a drain and a showerhead, though.