Day 131 - Chinese Kids and Divorce

Friday, June 17th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountain

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Last night, I had bought a small pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups and offered them to Aurora and Bunny. As soon as Bunny laid eyes on it, she instinctively said “Wǒ bù chī!” (I don’t eat that!) while Aurora was a least open to trying it. Aurora’s funny because she’s never left the country and is very Chinese in many ways, and still curious enough to try whatever Western stuff I put in front of her. Her verdict on the peanut butter cup, by the way, was that it was too salty. She’s right; it is a bit saltier than I remember.

After coming down hard on the kids yesterday, they’re more well behaved today, in both classes, and that gives us a little more breathing room to joke around.

False Confidence

One of my CoTeachers tried speaking to me in Chinese and learned quickly just how limited my Chinese is after getting past the initial parts of conversation. “fēi cháng jiǎndān(very easy) to which I just responded with a blank face. Here I thought “hěn” meant very, which.. apparently it does, but the more used word in speech is “fēi cháng”. For some reason, I haven’t actually learned those until today.

Spreading the Basics

In between classes, I wrote out a cheat sheet of the most useful mandarin basics for Dexter. It’s a more comprehensive, compiled form of what I started with, with some tips and tricks I’ve picked up in the past 4 months. If he can get that down, he’ll be on good footing. In the lounge, we discuss the gaming industry and E3, which has been taking place this week. That’s the Electronics Entertainment Expo, by the way, which usually means video games, but also other random things like virtual reality.

Chopstick Duel

After some successful lounging, we find Aurora and Flo already eating in the caf and tease them about not inviting us. So exclusive! Aurora tried to help herself to some of my garlic broccoli. We have a long, drawn-out duel with our chopsticks until she yielded. No one wants a chopstick to the throat, after all. She calls me “stingy,” which is the Chinese-preferred word for cheap. They don’t seem to know that “cheap” means being miserly - only inexpensive. I let her know that cheap can mean both “kōu” and “pián yì”. Nice that I can explain with both words.

Paper Birdhouses I've seen around
Personal Insight

While leaving campus, I consider the contrast between me and Steve. I don’t know why, but this is a recurring comparison over the years. Not in a competitive way, but more as an a contrast to measure against. 

He worked on developing his deep thinking, taking his time, and being very deliberate in his actions, doing them one at a time. The cost of this is that he’s out of his element in fast-paced environments, and has a difficult time multitasking, particularly under pressure of time. 

For me, he theorized that the driving force had been to improve my weaknesses, and that’s half-true. I realized that the underlying core of it was improving decision-making and thinking speed, as well as multitasking. The opposite of his domain. Hell, even in my spare time, my favourite way to spend time is to play challenging video games that rely on reflexes and skill while simultaneously listening to audiobooks. I used to play timed chess so that I could learn how to make better decisions under pressure. Then there is my employment history, including jobs where emergencies could happen at any time and I’d have to stay calm under pressure, and service industry, which always values speed and accuracy. 

Stress and time-pressures tend to shut down higher thinking, and I chose those environments partially so that I could learn how to keep myself thinking clearly while under strain. This all begs the question of why. Best I've got is that the world seems to skew toward being fast-paced and less patient, but also probably because I never was the most patient.


Bunny is hanging out in one of the starbucks in GR Mall (the one across the street, 2nd largest in the world) with another coworker, and invites me over. I join, and the other coworker takes off. I ordered a “lù chá ná tiě” which is to say, a green tea latte. Bīng de, iced. He repeats it back, specifically saying the word “green” so I know he heard me correctly. Boom, I end up with iced milk tea. I forget that you can speak english in starbucks, but that should have been good enough for me to get what I was ordering. Either way, they remade it and I got the first one free. Bonus.

Chinese Marriage, Kids, and Divorce

Bunny and I talk about marriage and kids in China, divorce, parent-child relationships, and general career objectives. She informs me that having a child outside of marriage is illegal and, if it isn’t, it would be extremely difficult. You need to sign a lot of paperwork and show documentation of all sorts. I don’t know if I believe that it’s illegal, since there’s got to be unwed/single mothers in a population this size. What do they do with them? Arrest them and further screw the kid? Unlikely.

Divorce is becoming more accepted here, and seems to resemble how divorce was viewed in North America in the 80’s-90’s. It happens, it’s a shame, and you should try to fight it. Last resort sort of thing. I've been told from various sources that the rate is ever increasing, though I haven’t seen any actual stats. Just a feel that everyone seems to agree on.. so potentially wrong.

The parent-child relationship is obviously different. Parents dump all their money into the kid and push the kid super hard, hoping they’ll be a success of some sort, and be equipped to return the favor. We do this in the West, but not quite to the degree of constant tutoring and classes every waking hour of every day the week has to offer. Of course it doesn’t always work out well for them, but that’s the dream. Side note: being old in China seems much nicer than being old in North America.

Common Occurences

On my way to meet Shimou, a little girl proudly exclaims “Wô kàn le yi ge waì Guó rén” (I saw a foreigner!), but wasn’t a good setup for the “zài nǎr?!(where?!) joke. Plus, it felt like I was stealing material.

Shimou arrives and is too tired to get a massage, but it’s been a week and a half. It’s time. I wander to, and fro the massage in a dream-like state. I’m on a cloud, and float by a man who is floating in a different sort of dream, stumbling and needing his friend to keep him upright. He laughs a frothy laugh and hiccups in the distance. The elevator doors open and I exit the night.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
fēi cháng
[fey chah-ng]

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