Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Being...

Recently I read the book, the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I really enjoyed this book and it was one of my new favorites. It's not exactly a light read but it's entertaining and relatively easy to get through. I won't bore you with a synopsis here... because the main point of me writing this post is to post something that I wrote in a notebook after reading the book. I reread what I wrote the other day and decided that I wanted to share it... So here it is!

"If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all."

I'm not sure how much I agree with this quote, and I doubt Kundera truly felt this way, but it certainly brings up a lot of questions. He makes some valid points... Why bother to live your whole life learning lessons and knowing what you would do with a second chance if you will never be presented with a chance to apply your newfound sagacity? What's the point? Why must we toil here on earth to die only knowing what we would have done better or what we don't necessarily regret? It would make more sense to reenter the world and have a chance to undo your regrets and redo your greatest joys with the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate them more. I'm sure many people leave this world with few or no regrets, but who doesn't wish they had enjoyed certain parts of their life a little more or wouldn't change a single thing about the life they lived? I'd wager not many. I can't help but feel that countless people have figured out the key to a happy and successful life on their deathbed - either at peace at last, or deeply saddened by their inability to put it to use. The bitch of it all is that I don't believe there is a universal key to happiness and a good life... each person has their own. Figuring yours out on your deathbed is not only useless to you, but also to the world around you. Life can be pretty cruel, I think.

Remember... that was written in a notebook so it's not the most coherent writing but I don't feel like redoing it. I still agree with what I wrote, and while I certainly don't agree that we might as well not have lived at all, I agree that it does seem slightly cruel to only have one shot at life. Sure we can apply some lessons learned to later situations in life, but what about those lessons learned that never find a place again in our life? What good did they really do us? Wouldn't you rather just have the chance to not make that mistake in the first place?

Just something to think about... or not...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A 6th sense...

Ever just know that something is going to happen? I get this feeling a lot, and while sometimes it's just my paranoia getting the better of me, often I'm right. As a result, I try listen to my instincts and intuitions when I get one of these "feelings". I figure it's better to be safe than sorry. This morning, however, I didn't. Early on in the cab ride I realized that things weren't going to go well. I was sitting in the back being thrown about as the cab driver slammed on his brakes to avoid the other car... and then pulled up alongside it and rolled down his window to yell at the other driver. They screamed at each other for a few minutes and then we continued driving to my office. We almost made it, too. About 3 blocks from my office I feel the car lurch forward. I look behind me and there is a rather large van smashed up against the back of the taxi. No, this was not the same car. This was an entirely unrelated incident that happened maybe 7 minutes after our earlier incident.

I sort of just sighed, having known that something was bound to happen on this particular taxi ride, got out of the car and walked to work. It wasn't anything terrible or tragic, thankfully, just annoying. The main reason I felt like sharing this was because I knew before it happened that something was going to happen on that taxi ride... This is the third accident I have been in the vehicle for in less than 10 months. That's just shameful.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How is it that time passes so quickly?

Seriously.... I can't believe it has almost been a week since I last updated. I also can't believe that it is already August 20th. I have less than two months left of work... and about two and a half months before I will be in Seattle.

I have decided that the absolute last day I will work is October 21st. Andrew arrives on October 22nd and I want my time to be free to spend with him and enjoy Shanghai a little before I leave.( I'm also determined to make the nursery and apartment look awesome before I abandon the apartment, which will take time.) While he is in Jingdezhen I will probably try and do a bit of traveling around China. I want to make it out to Xi'An to see the terra cotta warriors... and I want to go to Chengdu to see the pandas. I also want to go to Yangshuo, Kunming, and a variety of other little cities I have heard good things about. I have also decided that the day I will leave China is November 5th. I plan on buying my ticket soon so that I cannot talk myself into staying longer... which is a very real possibility.

I really like living here. There are certainly times where it is exhausting and all I want is to be able to hop in my car and drive to the grocery store and drown myself in all the food that I can't get here, but for the most part I like it. It's not as easy as living in the States or somewhere that speaks a language that I am familiar with, but it's not impossible either. I worry that I will be bored out of my skull when I return to the States. There is just so much going on here... there's always something to see or something to talk about. I know for a fact that for the rest of my life a lot of my sentences will start with "In China," "When I was living in China," etc... same goes for any other place that I have lived or will live in the future. It's part of living abroad, and while people will probably come to hate me for it... I'm warning you now. I have been told by others that have lived here and returned to their homeland that it annoys the shit out of their friends after a while, and I'm a little apprehensive about this... but I trust that my friends will embrace and accept me for who I am... Now picture my voice shaking and my knees quaking a little while I say that.. That's better.

Maybe once I'm in Atlanta I can push the "play" button on my life. Lately I find myself playing the "When I..." game that I hate playing. I've never been someone to put off shit until someday or some future goal that I'm unsure is actually attainable or whatever. I'm used to doing what I want... and I hate this limbo shit. I'm looking forward to not having anymore excuses. Now if I could only figure out what the hell it is that I want to do with my life, I would be set!

In other news... the English class that I was teaching twice a week at a cafe was canceled. A part of me is sad about this because that class let me meet a lot of new people and I really enjoyed the students... but another part of me is glad to have those two nights a week back. I really didn't put as much into the class as I should have or even wanted to because I simply don't have the time or energy to dedicate to it. Working full time during the day and teaching 4 nights a week takes a toll... but now that's over and I have free time again! It will be a nice change I think.

Also.. a big change for me is that Renee left for Seattle! She left on Monday morning and will not be back to Shanghai until December 1st or so. I was sad to see her go, and will miss her, but I'm excited for her! I'm definitely set on throwing her a post-birth baby shower that will kick ass. I'll prove myself to be a good sister yet! (I hope..) So for now it is just me and Sage in the apartment, which hasn't been awkward yet and I hope that keeps up. There's no reason that it should be... we just haven't spent a whole lot of time alone because you know.. he's my sister's hubby so she's always been there. I'm not worried, though. He leaves the 4th and is taking the dog to go and stay with Renee and baby, so I'll be alone after that. I'm anxious to see how I'll fare without them here. Hopefully nothing goes horribly wrong!

I'm excited to be an aunt!! :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

A different kind of literacy?

This has nothing to do with China. I will blog about China again soon, but I want to sort of pose this question to you all. Your thoughts are appreciated because I'm genuinely curious what your take on this is.

There was an article in the NY Times recently titled Online, R U Really Reading? that sort of outlines the debate of whether or not reading online is really reading. The article itself is nothing groundbreaking, but the topic in general and a lot of the comments were sort of interesting. The gist of the article is that children are growing up reading articles online, blogs, facebook, texts, and stories written on sites like and rather than actually reading books. Some parents and teachers think that it's great that at least the students are reading and writing... but then there's the counterargument that what they're doing is not really reading or writing.

There was also an article a while back in the Atlantic with the title Is Google Making Us Stupid? Both of these articles argue that we read very differently online than we do when we are reading a book, and that this may be affecting our ability to read. In the Atlantic article, the author says that he has a harder time sitting down and enjoying a long book now as a result of spending so much time browsing online. It is true that the internet can be very distracting, and is not exactly helpful for people with a short attention span. I find myself often skimming articles instead of fully reading them, and bouncing about a lot from page to page. It's rare that I will spend an hour reading something online without flipping to facebook or a blog or clicking on one of the links in whatever it is that I am reading (generally there is an abundance of links either within the body of the text that I am reading, or surrounding it).

While it may be true that we are living in a digital era, and our ability to effectively sift through a massive amount of information online is much more valuable in the professional world than the ability to sit and absorb a 1,000 page book, I still can't help but agree that these children who don't know the joy of picking up an actual book are missing out on something great. Obviously, it would be even better if they were reading authors actually worth reading, but frankly, I would rather see people reading Danielle Steel and the ilk than getting their only exposure to the written word via a site like quizilla. I've spent some time on this site and fanfiction to see what it is the kids are talking about. I wanted to actually do some research before rushing to a conclusion... but I can't say I really like what I found.

Truth be told, some of the stories have amazing potential... especially considering the age of some of the authors. However, they are desperately in need of proofreading and editing. There are so many spelling and grammatical errors in those stories that it's a bit shameful that these kids are in their last couple of years of high school. I don't even mean typos... I mean blatant errors. Using seen, as in "I seen it" and starring instead of staring... every other line. Some of the writers seem to not realize that you're is in no way the same as your and that there are in fact, three different there's (there, their, they're). I'm exceptionally critical of bad spelling and grammar... and I know that I fuck it up often, and I always hang my head a little when I look back and realize my mistake. My blog is not exactly a shining example of how to write... what with the ellipses that don't fit in and the incomplete sentences and awkward sentence structures. I know that I'm not the greatest writer, nor do I pretend to be. I don't proof my stuff until after it's published most of the time, so inevitably it is loaded with errors since all of my blogs are in the stream of consciousness style. I write whatever pops into my head, and I don't think in grammatically correct sentences.

Having said that, I would never want someone to read my blog as their sole source of literature. To me, this is unacceptable. I think there is a lot to gain from reading a book that you can't necessarily accomplish while reading something online. Aside from the fact that an actual book is edited and therefore much more enriching to a student's ability to distinguish good grammar from bad, it's also hard to really get swept up into a story online and to spend hours reading it. The NYT article points out that children's reading comprehension levels are at an all time low, and I hate to admit that I fully agree that it is because most children don't read nearly as much as they used to. Even my generation, a lot more people read online versus reading a printed book. It's a whole new argument if whether or not reading Shakespeare in print varies from reading it online... one that I would like to see made and tested.

I've always loved reading books. I grew up reading all the time, and I still read every chance I get. Sometimes, I don't have the time, patience or the energy to throw myself into a book, but it's still a time that I relish and I can't get into reading novels on a screen. However, I prefer online articles to actual magazines or newspapers. They're easier to read and I can immediately do more research and delve a little deeper into the topic, especially since many such articles come equipped with a bevy of links to similar articles and sources. Lately, I've also come to appreciate some of the stories on quizilla, despite their flaws, because they offer a fresh source of literature from an unlikely source. Blogs are also something that I immensely enjoy reading for this same reason. I like that I can read ordinary people's work and don't have to rely only on the great minds' of the world for my written entertainment. Which is better? It's hard to say...

The Atlantic article's author says that he has a harder time losing himself in a big, thick, book these days. Spending so much time online is affecting his attention span and his ability to settle into a book. Honestly, I have found the same to be true for me. The more I read online and the more I neglect my printed books, the harder it becomes to sink back into them. If I pay equal attention to both and make sure that I am still reading on a regular basis, my reading habits remain relatively unaffected. What does this say? You could argue that my reading material is to blame, or my laziness, but I'm not so sure. At any rate, these articles are thought provoking. I don't fully agree or fully disagree with either one. I think it's important for our youth to be able to read online, but I also think it's important for them to be able to read a good, old-fashioned book. I hope the book never goes out of style... I will never grow tired of cracking a new cover and listening to the pages rustle as I turn the page. Putting down a finished book is satisfying in a way that closing the browser window will never be for me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My birthday!

Today's my birthday! I'm turning 23. No, I don't feel any older.. the main thing is that I can't believe it's only been a year since I moved to China... and I can't believe it's already been a year. I don't even remember my 22nd birthday... it feels like a lifetime ago - which is troubling.

At any rate, today has been pretty great so far. I woke up and was greeted with phone calls from my grandparents and my mom, as well as cheery birthday greetings from Renee, Sage and Bailey (even though she's a dog.. I could feel the birthday love). Then I got some emails and some facebook messages and IMs... all of which made me smile and think how much I love my friends!! Work was pretty mellow, too, which was nice.

Andrew forgot my birthday, of course. I was anticipating this, so wasn't that upset when it happened, as he forgot his own birthday just a week ago. I told him he better be thankful that I am his girlfriend and not some girl that would go crazy about it. I won't say that I don't care that he forgot, because it is sort of annoying... but I just don't care enough to let it really bother me or make a big deal about it. I was expecting it, so it was relatively easy to just brush it off. If we're living together next year and he forgets, though, I'll hurt him. Just saying.

To celebrate, Renee and Sage are taking me out for dinner tonight, though I don't know where. They want to surprise me! I'm excited for a dinner out... it's been a while since I've hung out with them actually. Right after I got back from Australia they left for Beijing so it's been like 3 1/2 weeks since we've spent any real time together. Renee leaves on the 18th, too, so we don't have too much time left to hang out! It will be sad to go from living with her to never seeing her again. Oh well, such is life as a member of my family.

Thanks to those that gave me birthday wishes. I love my friends!! They're the best.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Bloody Fantastic Day

Seriously. Today has been great. Renee and Sage are in Beijing until tomorrow so I have the place to myself. I love living with them and will be eternally grateful to them for letting me live here, but damn it's nice to be alone sometimes.

The low point of my day was being awoken at 8:30 this morning by Andrew calling me. He thought it was Friday (yes, he still forgets that there is a 12 hour time difference and I am ahead those 12 hours). After getting in numerous arguments over the past almost year (fuck!) about me being the one to always call him and me being pretty much fucking fed up with his excuse that he thinks about me all the time but just forgets to contact me... he set an alarm on his phone to call me M-F at 8:30 am. During the work week, this is fine. From 8:30 to 9 is when I am getting dressed and preparing to leave, so I have a bit of time to say hello how are you and do the obligatory I love you and I miss yous. The problem is that his M-F is slightly off from mine... His Monday is my Tuesday and his Friday is my Saturday. This alarm has been in play for 3 weeks, and for 2 of those weeks he has forgotten and called me on Saturday morning. 

The last time it happened, we were all awake, thankfully. I wasn't this time so it sort of pissed me off and then he had nothing to say so it pissed me off even more that he woke me up at 8:30 on a Saturday with nothing to say. For some reason it also bothered me that he made a conscious decision not to watch the opening ceremonies even though he "has watched every one since he was born." Don't ask me why this bothered me, I couldn't tell you. I will tell you, though, that I am incredibly fed up with long distance. I've had it up to here *waves arms way over head* with long distance. Not because we're arguing a lot or anything... I'm just not a "distance makes the heart grow fonder" kinda gal. I just feel single again. The sort of sad part is that my love life right now is exactly like it was when I was single. I was never a girl that dated. No one ever asked and I was ok with that most days. I developed crushes because they're fun and sometimes I'd chase guys just for the hell of it, with no idea what I would actually do if I got them. I never got them, and I'm a bit of a prude, so I wasn't getting any. Yep... it's about the same.
Back to my day... After getting off the phone with him, I decided to shake it off, make some eggs and watch some Olympics. After breakfast, I took Bailey out and she was really quick which was a nice change since lately she's been lying down outside the door refusing to reenter the building until we run around some more. I finished the chicklit book I've been reading, and decided I was in the mood for more of the same so picked up Bridget Jones and read that. Then I put on Bridget Jones 2 (the movie) and walked/ran on the treadmill for an hour, lifted some weights and did some headstands and stretches. 

I've either gained a lot of weight recently or have just become more aware of the fact that I am overweight. Either way, I've decided to stop some bad habits and work on developing some better ones. As of tomorrow, I am swearing off soda. This will be hard for me. Not because I am in love with soda (though I sort of am), but because the idea of not being allowed to have it will drive me nuts. It's for my own good though. Remind me of that when I bitch later about not being able to drink it. I have never dieted or had a real exercise regimen before in my life, but I figure it's about time. I'm only going to get fatter with age so might as well start trying to control that now. (Please note that this is not a plea for compliments. I don't give a fuck if you think I'm skinny, fat, pretty or pretty ugly. No offense... but 85% of the time I don't care what I look like and even less of the time do I care what I look like for the sake of other people. It happens, sure. Just not that often.)
Anyway, working out felt great. I feel weird walking on the treadmill and doing weights and stretches and shit with Renee and Sage in the same room. I don't mind going to the gym, but I sort of prefer to do it in my own living room, by myself. So with them out of town, I had to take advantage of the fact that I have a completely free Saturday and an empty house! I worked out for like two hours and it was magnificent.
After that I decided to do some light cleaning, so I did the dishes, did some laundry and just tidied up some stuff. Despite the fact that I am definitely not the tidiest person in the world, I do really enjoy cleaning. Not all the time, but I get the cleaning bug a lot where I just feel the need to scrub something and to reorganize my closet and wipe down my ceiling fan and do all sorts of other random crap. Considering the fact that my room was always a fucking disaster zone when I was a teenager, this is remarkable and something that my family still doesn't buy. Sadly, living here has deprived me of my ability to have my cleaning binges, because we have an ayi so I feel stupid cleaning up when we're already paying someone else to do it. Plus, this is still Renee and Sage's house so I don't feel as free to just rearrange and tidy up their stuff as I would in a house that was mostly mine or I at least paid rent in. (I've offered many times...) Since they're coming back tomorrow, though, I decided it would be nice to clean up since the ayi won't be here until Monday and I don't want them coming home to a dirty house. 

I put on some music, grabbed the dish soap, and danced around in my underwear and a skimpy tank while doing the dishes. It was nice not to have to get fully dressed in honor of the other people in the house. I miss the days when I was able to just walk around in a bra and shorts and feel ok about it. Renee isn't like that though, and since I'm living with her and her husband, I feel it's weird to just walk out in my bra. Today there was no fear of having to rush to my room to put some clothes on when someone came home, so I proudly danced around rather indecently and tidied up the house. It was glorious. 

It's only 9 p.m. on a Saturday, and I have no plans for tonight. Sometimes I think it's rather sad
just how much I enjoy being home alone on a Friday or Saturday night. Randomly I will feel compelled to go out, but to be honest, a small part of me is thrilled when there are mounds of dishes for me to do or cooking to be done at home so that I can pretend to be busy and not have to go anywhere. On that note:

Signs that you may be lame:
1) You constantly find excuses not to go out partying when people ask you. 
2) You aren't that sad when people stop asking.
3) You look forward to being home alone so you can dance around in your underwear and do the dishes.
4) A good weekend is one where you don't leave the house or talk to anyone, but get a lot of sleep and read a lot. 
5) I think you get the point.

If you, too, suffer from lameness and would like to talk to someone about it, call me at 1-800-IMLAME2. Just don't call on Friday or Saturday nights. I will be terribly busy doing dishes or reorganizing my closet or reading a book or something equally interesting. Speaking of which, the washing machine's beeping... 

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Olympics...

I am currently watching the Opening Ceremonies!!! I can't believe the Olympics are already here... Currently the USA delegation is walking across the screen and I can't believe how many fucking people we have. Most countries have well under 200 people and we have almost 600. Of course, I think we compete in almost every event. I never really paid attention to the fact that there were countries that came to the Olympics with only one or two athletes before. I also never realized how few women there are from most countries. Watching this ceremony, however, I realize that we are definitely the exception. 

I don't think that I will be going to Beijing to see any events there, but I do think I will try and get tickets to some of the soccer games that are taking place here in Shanghai. On Sunday I went to the USA vs. Russia expo game here in Shanghai. It wasn't the best game I've ever seen, but the halftime show was really freaking cool, and we did win. 

The most exciting part about having that game here and the USA vs. Australia game is that the teams were all staying at a hotel near me. (The Ritz in the Portman building) This is the same place as the Starbuck's that I meet my student in, so I got to see Team USA and Team Russia. I saw all the players up close and realized how fucking tall they really are. I also spoke to Jason Kidd. I'm not going to lie, I don't pay attention to players. I love watching sports, but I don't care enough to find out people's names and memorize their faces. Therefore, I had no idea who he was when I spoke to him, I just knew he was a player. It was a brief conversation, and I did not ask for any autographs from any of them because I couldn't give a shit if I have their signature or not. It was just cool to see them. 

The shit part is that they had really increased security in the hotel. The Starbucks doesn't have a bathroom so you have to go into the hotel lobby... and to get into the hotel lobby I had to go through a metal detector and put my bags through a scanner. When my bags came out the other end, the guy wanted to open the spaghetti sauce I had literally just bought at the grocery store in the same little complex. I basically said, "No. I just bought this next door. Here's the receipt." The guy let me go without opening my spaghetti sauce. I'm not sure what just opening it would have done anyway. What was he going to do? Sniff it and declare that everything's good because it still smells like tomatoes? Anyway, I just had to take a piss and I wasn't about to let him open my $6 bottle of spaghetti sauce for that. I would rather have left. 

Security in general in China has gone a little nuts. There have been so many changes here. It's hard to explain and I can honestly say that you have to live here to really understand, but suffice it to say that they are taking no chances. At least on the surface. I really hope nothing goes wrong this Olympics. I can't tell you how devastating it would be to China to have some massive terrorist attack on something public here during the Olympics. I think they happen relatively frequently here, just not in Shanghai or Beijing. They're not letting anyone on buses or subways without checking their bags first though. Getting around in Beijing is probably a bit of a bitch right now if you want to take public transport. The roads are really empty, though, from what I have heard. They took like 90 percent of the cars off the road. 

The level of control here is truly amazing. The fact that they can shut down factories and demand drivers to empty the roadways without offering any real alternative or monetary compensation (which they don't) is pretty amazing. They have shut down a lot of retail outlets that they feel are in vulnerable positions, like in the subways, in order to reduce security threats. The restaurants behind the Portman were closed while the basketball teams were here because they shared an entryway with the courts where the players practiced. 

At any rate, with all of this preparation I really hope that China can pull this off. I think they  can... One story that made me laugh recently though was the uproar over four American cyclists arriving in Beijing with masks on. Chinese people were really offended by this for some reason. I would just like to say that even though, yes, the pollution in Beijing is the best it's been in a while.... there is still a lot of pollution. Despite what Chinese people like to think... it does affect you. Especially if you're continuously exerting yourself outside. I know a lot of people who have developed coughs here or have problems with their asthma due to the air quality. Also, there are a lot of Chinese people who wear masks, though come to think of it, I have seen a lot fewer these last couple of months. 

The weather in Shanghai has been great!! I have been able to see clouds, the sky has had different shades of blue as well as a few other colors peeking through at sunset, and I have been able to clearly see the moon for the past few days. I'm not sure what they're doing, but it's working. It's still obviously polluted, but it looks a lot better. 

Well, that's all I have to say for now I think. I am really excited to watch some events and to see how the US does. For the first time in a long time it slightly matters to me how the Olympics turn out. The last time I remotely pretended to care was when they were in Atlanta, and that was only because my sister was living in Atlanta at the time. Here's hoping I can get some soccer tickets and get a chance to actually go to a real 2008 Olympics game!!! It should be a fun couple of weeks.

Chinese Media

Alright Ronnie, here's your post. Honestly, since I don't speak or read Chinese my ability to address the issue of Chinese media is rather limited. I know that what is available to the expatriates and the people who are able to speak English is at least marginally better than what is available to the average local. I also get the feeling that the countryside media is even more restricted than it is in the big cities where there is a lot of international influence.

Please keep in mind that I'm in no way an expert on this stuff since I can't read Chinese, and in general Chinese news sort of sucks so I don't pay a lot of attention to it. What I can tell you, is that the state definitely controls all the media outlets here.

You've heard me talk about the internet, but what you may not realize is that this is a main source of news for a lot of people. Not just outside news sources, which are often not in Chinese and therefore inaccessible to the large majority of Chinese people, but mainly blogs and message boards. People are still cautious, and I think probably quite a few blog anonymously, but blogs are definitely a growing source of news for people. Even me! I don't watch the news here or read the local papers that are run by the governments, I read the blogs. The expat blogs are pretty informative because they do the research on outside sites, and get tips emailed to them from people actually living here and witnessing things (Chinese and expats). This sometimes causes confusion and we often have to guess at whether or not something is true, but this is true for the national media as well.

I looked on the Shanghai Daily and China Daily (two main papers here) to see if I could find any word of Bush's speaking out against China, and I found only tales of how he has arrived for the opening ceremonies. The news here is heavily and openly biased. At least the Chinese don't pretend that they aren't tweaking the stories or blocking the ones they think will cause a bit of unrest.

If stories like the Bush comments do happen to appear in the press, it is usually under the guise of a critique of the other countries. How dare they accuse us when.. blah blah blah. To some extent, I understand this. Chinese nationalism is intense and people really band together and get a bit riled when someone from another country shows bias against China, so in a way this is really the purpose of a state controlled media. It works like a charm, too. A few months ago there was a boycott of CNN and a lot of protesting against Western media in general when one of the CNN reporters bashed China in his reporting. I remember even seeing an old Chinese man protesting in Chinatown in San Francisco. Granted, it was a bit on the iffy side of journalistic integrity since he completely abandoned his supposedly objective view and gave a more emotional report than was probably warranted, but still. Sometimes I want to just say "Suck it up and take it, people."

We definitely have censorship and a bit of shielding going on in the United States. Our media is not exactly the most reliable in the world, but at least we have access to millions of different outlets if only we look and make a slight effort. Our ignorance is our own damn fault. I actually talked about this topic a bit in one of my English classes. I tried to explain the theories of propaganda (btw the Chinese word for propaganda is the same as marketing... they don't view it as a negative) and bias in the news to my students, I think they got it for the most part. They tend not to really view it as negative, which is interesting. They're also still inclined to believe what they see and hear on the news, which is surprising.

What's funny about people is that often when someone points at us and says, "Your government does this and it's bad", our gut reflex is to say, "Oh yeah?! Well look at yours!" I don't feel this way about everything, but when one of the students told me that all American media is wrong and distrustful I got a little defensive. Later, I thought to myself, "What the hell? Where did that come from? I know our media is biased and not entirely reliable." Even though under normal circumstances I am perfectly willing and able to accept criticism of my country, at this point, when a Chinese person made a comment about American media... I couldn't help but think, "Oh yeah?! Well look at yours!"

I have been in some tense situations where Chinese people ask me what I think about "Western China" and the protests and everything. In all honesty, I think we're all incredibly misinformed about everything and no one really knows what the hell is going on over there. China kicked out all the foreign journalists and restricted entry and exit to the area until very recently, so how would we know? Add in the fact that there are two sides to every story and I am not entirely sure who is right and who is wrong. Don't misunderstand me, what has happened there with regard to human rights is unacceptable under any circumstances, I'm simply referring to the whole autonomy aspect. (BTW did anyone else see this Story)

Having said all that, I can't help but feel that the Chinese are more uninformed (and misinformed) than the rest of the world. During the protests, nothing negative against China was broadcast here. There were reports of the monks acting out against the Han, but not vis a versa I remember watching reports on the news of various successful torch runs all throughout the world... no, or very fleeting, clips of the protesters. There has been no mention of the human rights issues in Darfur that I have seen, other than defensive reactions to events like Steven Spielberg refusing the attend the opening ceremony.

A good example of blatant censorship is the movies... movies that display an anit-China sentiment or anticommunism are banned. Movies like this, as well as any with any nudity or excessive violence, are illegal to produce here in China. Shanghai even recently refused to let a movie film here because it thought that the portrayal was too negative. Thanks to bootleg DVDs all of this gets in anyway, but you won't find it in a Chinese theater or released legally in China. I'm pretty sure the same rules apply to the news. It's not like in America where you actually hear about the gross human rights abuse against Iraqi soldiers carried out by American troops. However, the games are sort of opening China up a bit. Wikipedia, BBC news, and a bunch of other sites (blogspot!) that were previously blocked are now unblocked. There are still a lot more that I wish they would unblock to make my life easier, but it's slowly improving.

Maybe we'll live to see an open China. Hell, maybe we'll live to see an entirely open United States of America. Who knows. The people here that I've spoken to think that it's a positive thing that the government controls what information they have access to. They're all about control. We must control the people in order to keep them happy. Right?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Facelift 2

So... even though I didn't hear anything negative... I thought that the black and purple theme didn't quite suit me. This one seems to fit me a little bit better and I think it's easier to read, so I think I'll stick with this one.

Also, I think I'm going to do some posts about China. Despite me living in China, I don't write about it very often, and usually only when I have something to bitch about. I'm probably doing a bit of a disservice to China by doing that, so I am going to attempt to fix that.

Anything you guys would like to hear about from my time in China? Or just about China?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Obviously, I changed the way my blog looks.... What do you guys think? Is it too hard to read now?

Honestly!! Respond!

Back in Shanghai: Part 2

OK I'll pick up where I left off in my last entry, which is... Sunday! In the morning, we took the ferry from where Ronnie and Kristina live into the city. It was a cool way to see some of the suburbs as well as the city, and they pointed out some different areas and we talked about the ridiculously nice houses that we will all, surely, someday own....

The one thing that I really enjoyed, which everyone probably thought I was a bit crazy for, was the sky. Seriously, I don't remember it looking like that. There were seemingly hundreds of shades of blue during the day, and really varied cloud formations, not to mention the colors that appeared during the sunrises and sunsets. It really made me sad that I couldn't remember if the sky looks like that back home. The last couple of times I went home I don't remember it looking like that, but maybe each time I forget, or maybe Australia's just better. I'll have to pay more attention next time I return to the States. Oh! I saw the moon last night though!!! I don't think I had seen the moon since I got here. I guess turning off all the factories has helped a little because we're having a lot more "blue sky" days now... and I saw the moon! No stars though, that would be asking too much.

Back to Sunday... After we stepped off the ferry I got to see a bit of downtown Sydney. Unfortunately, it started raining soon after we got off, so we pretty much walked straight to a restaurant. We were all really hungry, though, so it wasn't a bad thing. Lunch was awesome, and then we continued to walk around and went to one of the local department stores, Myer, and some other shops in a search for various things. I bought some cute baby clothes for my little niece or nephew and Kristi bought a jacket because it was fucking cold outside. Then we found our way to the harbor again, where Kristi's dad had planned a harbor cruise for everyone.
The cruise was pretty much awesome. We had all just gotten in and taken a seat when this guy comes up to our table and started doing card tricks. At first, I was sort of like umm who let you on the boat? Turns out, he was extremely good, and worked on the boat. There were two, but one was noticeably better than the other and could do hypnotisms. He hypnotized three people while we were on the boat with very amusing results. I'm not sure how much I buy into all of it, but I'm less of a skeptic than I was before. I guess the key is you have to believe you're under his power... which is a bit creepy for me. I don't like the idea of doing that, especially in front of a crowd. At any rate, we all drank and were merry and enjoyed the antics of the magicians and their card tricks.

After the cruise, we decided to head to Star City Casino for a little fun. We started off not gambling but then decided to play a little bit. I decided that I would lose 20 dollars playing slots. It took me all night, but damn it I did it! I probably could have at least doubled my money if I had played a bit smarter, but since I started with so little and was playing the one cent machines there wasn't a whole lot to be won. It was a lot of fun, though, and Sophie was my good luck charm because as soon as she left I lost the twenty bucks I had been clinging to all night.

Staying out late at the casino would come back to bite me and Kristi in the ass since we were determined to go on a wine tasting tour in Hunter's Valley the next day. We had to wake up at close to 6 (Kristi let me sleep a little longer bc she's nice) to be in the city by 7:30 to catch the bus with Ronnie's family. The morning was really rough. We were exhausted, and Kristina was dizzy for some reason, and the driver wouldn't let us sleep!!! He kept getting on the microphone to tell us ridiculously random and pointless facts about our surroundings, which caused us to not be able to get much sleep on the two hour trip to our first winery. As the day went on we felt better though, and I am definitely glad that we went! I didn't fall in love with any of the wines, but there were a few I enjoyed, and I definitely liked some of the dessert wines and liqueurs. The last place we went had this awesome butterscotch schnapps ("Love in a Bottle") and this crazy chili schnapps ("Dragon's Breath") that made me turn bright red and gag.

Afterward we were pretty exhausted and it was still cold and threatening to rain, and raining intermittently so we opted out of the footy game that Ronnie and Tim went to. Instead Kristina and I went to a nice quiet dinner where we ate way too much garlic and cheese. It was awesome.
The next day we went out to Kristina's parents house which is way outside the city and close to the suburb Campbelltown. Their house is nice and on an awesome piece of land. We wandered around there for a while and were fed lots of delicious finger foods. Then we went to a lookout point in Wollongong and looked out over the ocean and the beaches. It was really pretty, and once again I was impressed by how far I could see... We then ate fish and chips at a local restaurant (my only fish and chips meal) and I was extremely full by the end of it. Yeah.. I ate way too much that day. After our late lunch we decided to drive to the Campbelltown movie theater and see the Dark Knight. This was one of my requirements of my time in Australia, so I'm really glad that I got to see it! I really liked it, and I always enjoy actually going to the movies.

Wednesday was the sad day where the rest of Ronnie's family left and so did Tim. I was the only left!! We spent the morning and early afternoon in and near the airport and with his family since their flight was delayed 5 hours. After that we just ran some errands, they cooked a fabulous dinner and I packed my stuff up and found a place to stay in Melbourne. Thursday morning they dropped me off at the train station and I took a train to the airport and three hours later I was in Melbourne! (I would like to say, that the train was faster than I thought it would be, and it is infinitely easier to find your way around a country where most of the people speak the same language as you... I had almost forgotten how easy it can be to travel)

My reasoning behind going to Melbourne was that my flight on the 2nd was from Sydney to Melbourne to Shanghai, and Ronnie and Kristina had their little getaway gift planned for my last two days in Australia. So I figured what the hell?! Plus, I always like seeing somewhere new.

Melbourne is a pretty cool city. It was even colder there than in Sydney, and it was rainy there too. The day I arrived I didn't do too much other than find my hostel and wander around the area a bit. (St. Kilda) I walked to the end of the pier and looked out over the water and shivered like crazy as I marveled at the blue water and the pink sky. I took off my shoes and walked through the sand a bit just to feel it against my feet, and I went into a couple of second hand bookstores and browsed through the books and the bestsellers and gawked at how fucking expensive shit is in Australia. It was a nice afternoon, even if I didn't get to see a whole lot, and I was freezing my ass off. That night when I went back I met the girl that was sharing my dorm room at the hostel and she was really friendly. My hostel was located above a pub that hosted events every night and provided a "backpacker's meal" for 6 bucks so, naturally, I partook in that. I met some interesting people and the backpackers meal wasn't bad. There was a lot of food for six bucks.

That night there was also a texas hold em tournament at the pub... so naturally I entered. Buy in was free and the prize was $50 for first place and $25 for second. Close to 30 people played and it was a lot of fun! I lasted for a few hours, and finally lost a key hand and ended in 6th place. I was the last girl by far though so I got a free beer for being a chick and kicking ass (for a chick... you know...). I drank way too much beer and had a great time that night with a bunch of total strangers and crawled into bed at like midnight. The next morning I woke up at like 8 and showered and got dressed and hopped on a tram to Melbourne University. Their uni is really nice looking and I totally wouldn't mind going there!! The tram's last stop happened to be the uni so I just got off there and walked through it on my way to the zoo. The zoo was good, though a lot of the attractions were missing or closed (maybe because it's winter?) but I did see a wombat, koalas, kangaroos and a platypus!! Mission accomplished.

After I left the zoo it started raining so I hopped on a train back to the city and wandered through the covered arcades in the city center. I really enjoyed wandering around Melbourne. Some of the cooler aspects were the trendy shops located throughout the city and the fact that there are quite a few areas dedicated to displaying graffiti art. I always enjoy looking at good graffiti art and find it refreshing when cities allow venues for the artists to express themselves without being painted over by a boring coat of white. There are lots of outdoor cafes in the alleys around the center and some pretty cool looking buildings and sculptures. It's an eclectic place, but I like it.

For dinner I ordered a steak at one of the little cafes and it was awesome. I had to have one last good piece of meat before sending myself back to China. The next morning I woke up at 6 and made my way to the airport. My trip back was uneventful, but was made entertaining since the guy next to me got sort of drunk off of red wine and blamed me for half the bottles.... Plus when I was waiting in line for a cab I saw an Australian man walk to the driver's seat and try to get in. When he realized his mistake he chuckled, looked at me and pointed to the other side. I nodded and he waved in and got in on the right side.

Well, that about sums up my trip to Australia!!! I had a great time, and I hope to make it back there sometime soon!! I really enjoyed the country and the people and would love a chance to spend some more time there and to explore a bit more. Maybe next year...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back in Shanghai...

Well I am officially back in Shanghai and back at work. I got back on Saturday night after a, thankfully, uneventful flight home. The flight is a lot longer than I thought it would be, with it taking a little over ten hours to get to Sydney from Shanghai. Qantas is a nice airline though... much more comfortable than many of the Chinese airlines so I barely felt like I spent eleven hours in a plane. Ronnie already updated his blog about my time there so if you read his entry you'll get a different perspective and some of the same, but here's what I have to say about it!

Overall, the trip was fabulous. I had a great time. I did not do as much of the traditional sightseeing as I might have had I just gone on a regular vacation there, but I saw a decent amount and I'm definitely happy with the trip. Ronnie and Tim picked me up from the airport at about 9 am on Wednesday morning (July 23rd) and I ran errands with them for the first half of the day. Later was the rehearsal at Curzon Hall (the place they had the wedding at) and a rehearsal dinner at Kingsleigh steakhouse in the city. The dinner was really freaking good. They served steak, which I never eat here in China because it's insanely expensive for not that great of quality, so it was a welcome treat! I also got to meet the bridesmaids and Kristi's and Ronnie's families and enjoy the company of some old friends, which is always great.

Thursday night we went to see My Fair Lady at the Sydney Opera House. The actual play was good but nothing spectacular. Just being in the opera house was awesome, though! The city views at night were amazing and I was glad for a chance to get into the city and see the skyline that Sydney is known for.

After arriving in Sydney and talking to a couple of people, I quickly realized that I did not have an appropriate dress for the wedding. The dress I brought for the wedding was a little casual... and purple, which I had failed to realize was the same color as the bridesmaid dresses. Guys may not understand that this is taboo, but it is. So, Friday morning Kristina was nice enough to take me to one of the local malls and help me pick out a dress. It was fun to see the differences (and lack thereof) in Australian shopping and American, and I did find a dress. I really like it, despite the fact that it gave me a heinous mark on the back of my neck from the halter straps and all the dancing...

I stayed with Ronnie and Kristina during my time in Sydney because they are freaking awesome and let me stay with them (which I'm extremely grateful for!!). They have a cute little place outside the city a bit, and Tim and I got to put their air mattresses to good use while taking up all the floor space in the living room. As a result of crashing on their floor, I got to tag along to some stuff I probably wouldn't have otherwise, such as going to get my nails and toes done with the bride and bridesmaids. It gave me a chance to get to know the girls a bit, which I probably wouldn't have had other wise, and I'm glad I did. They were really nice and pretty entertaining!

Saturday, of course, was the big day!!! Kristina spent Friday night at a hotel so as not to see Ronnie until the big moment... so the other groomsmen came over in the morning and I hung around while they got ready and tried to help where I could while getting ready myself. The boys looked great and it was fun to watch them get all dolled up! The actual wedding was just amazing. The weather had been quite cold and rainy up until this point, but on Saturday the sky was relatively clear and it was a decent temperature outside! This is important since the ceremony was held outside in the area beside Curzon Hall. Kristina looked beautiful in her dress, as did her bridesmaids in theirs. The ceremony was light and fun while being extremely touching. I did a reading, that I did not write or pick but liked a lot, and hope that I didn't mess it up. Everyone said I did fine, but really, who would tell me otherwise? There were lots of tears and some funny moments, like when Kristina almost said fuck while trying to hold herself together.

The reception was right beside where the ceremony took place, so all we had to do was walk inside. Kristina's Dad, Tim, Rebecca (a bridesmaid), Ronnie and Kristina all made speeches and they were all pretty awesome. It's always touching to see grown men and women get choked up at such events and there were plenty of teary eyes present. Then the dancing started. I got to learn the Nutbush... which apparently is a really popular Tina Turner song in Australia and has a dance that is vaguely reminiscent to the Electric Slide. I also got to dance to lots of oldies songs, which I love! It had been a long time since I last danced the Twist...

So... yes! The wedding was great. The ceremony was wonderful and the reception was a lot of fun. Those of you who missed it should be sorry! It was a good time and a great wedding. Our only complaint was that it ended too soon... we felt like we could have danced all night!!!!

In fact, since we felt that way... some of the people from the wedding went out to a bar close by for some drinks. I think the best part about our little venture out after the wedding was the trip there. Danni, Sophie, Tim and I all shared a cab over there, and after Tim safely saw Danni, Sophie and I into the backseat, he walked around the front and started to get in. Of course, after a few drinks he had forgotten that the driver's side is in fact on the opposite side of the car in Australia. The driver started sort of freaking out and was like "whoa man what the hell are you doing?!" and Tim just yells out "I'm an American!!" and throws up his hands. At that point the driver just started laughing (thankfully! I thought he was going to slug Tim) and told Tim he could drive if he wanted to. This just left us girls in hysterics and I am still laughing about it. Tim wasn't as entertained, but I think he still saw the humor in it...

There are still a few days left of my trip that I haven't talked about, but I think I will break this up into two parts and end this one for now. I also have a few interesting things that have already happened since I got back to write about. I have lots to say these days... maybe that's a good thing?

Monday, August 4, 2008


I will update soon on the wedding and my trip to Australia, but first I want to do this post about books. I'm still relatively into it, though not quite as driven as before. I've read like 5 books in the past 3 weeks which is about as many as I had read since I came to Shanghai, so I feel accomplished. I came across this meme today reading the many blogs that I must read for work and decided to do it. 

Bold - read, red- read multiple times, blue-started but never finished.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I've only read 38 out of the 100!! Eek... I have some work to do! I actually own a bunch of the books on here and just have yet to read them... my eyes are always a bit too big when it comes to buying books.