Archive for Musing

提笔忘字

Posted in Beijing Yuantel Internship, Musing with tags , on September 3, 2010 by foundmeinchina

Wired youth forget how to write in China and Japan

Like every Chinese child, Li Hanwei spent her schooldays memorising thousands of the intricate characters that make up the Chinese writing system.

(Via Ouija’s Beijing Zeal)

As Ouija stated, during my high school Chinese years Zhou Laoshi was a longtime proponent of this trend. We never had dictations, instead focusing on character recognition and pronunciation. I am sure that this is why my speaking and listening, and to an extent my reading ,is so much better than my writing. In my time in Beijing I have seen several of my friends, most of them Chinese teachers, forget how to write characters. I’ve even had the embarrassing (for them) pleasure of correcting their characters, though I must admit this is a pretty rare occurrence. Still, it is disheartening when you have to correct your teacher’s characters, as much for the students as for the teacher. I’m curious as to how this phenomenon evolves. I do not think that written Chinese will be replaced by an ‘alphabet’ or anything like that, but I definitely see a degradation in the knowledge base of written characters for people my age versus people of older generations. Ah well, as long as the waiters don’t forget how to write my orders down correctly, I’m okay with it.

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This Learning Chinese Thing Had Better Pay Off….

Posted in Beijing Yuantel Internship, Musing with tags , , on August 26, 2010 by foundmeinchina

Because I have a lot of dreams that I want to realize. I need a way to realize my dreams, and turning fantasy into reality, unless you are Jesus, requires a bit of funding. Those dreams are many and varied, but one very important one revolves around some of the best glass available. Yes, I know–it’s not the equipment, it’s the person. But when Canon releases a new series of L-Series lenses, if nothing else, it helps stoke the dream. It’s one of the few long term motivations that I find myself responding to.

Whatever gets you through the day, right?

It’s Been A Long Time Coming…

Posted in Beijing Yuantel Internship, Musing with tags , , , on August 24, 2010 by foundmeinchina

…but as Aloe Blacc (who covered Sam Cooke) so soulfully put it, change gon’ come. I have neglected this blog for so much longer than I ever meant to. It feels like this is not the only thing I’ve been neglecting–I haven’t picked up my camera or edited photos in about as long as I’ve not posted anything here. I am doing my best to change all that. This next year is going to be a very busy, very important year for me. I am in the home stretch of college, looking to graduate with two degrees, which is all fine and good, but I decided to participate in UCI’s Political Science Honors program, so the extra classes needed for that, plus the extra time spent on researching, writing, editing, and generally preparing that roughly 100 page thesis is going to take a lot of effort and tenacity, but most importantly for me, it necessitates a complete redefinition of time management. Oddly enough, that is one of the goals I hope to accomplish by participating in this program. In order to succeed in the program, I need to be able to pace myself, get work done early and often, all of which I have had trouble my entire life with. I am looking forward very much to the process.

I am back in Beijing at the moment, working at Yuantel Communications, a Beijing-based, you guessed it, telecom company. I am learning about SEO, a little bit about web design, and how it feels to work in an office environment. I am also preparing a presentation on American telecom companies’ product packaging, pricing, and marketing in order to help plan Yuantel’s future aspirations of being a world player in the telecommunications industry. So far I have learned that SEO in America is vastly different than SEO in China. The former focuses on quality content to attract searchers, while the latter still uses some of the older ‘more backlinks, more new traffic’ approach, which not only brings in less targeted traffic (resulting in fewer conversions), but these days can get a website penalized by the search engines. I don’t know what the deal with that is, because I know Baidu just updated their algorithms, and being a search engine with over 60% market share in China will not only catch, but most likely penalize ‘SEO’ like that. Which is why I plan on incorporating this into the presentation I have to present. Another thing I have learned is that sitting at a desk from 9AM-6PM every day staring at a computer makes me want to peel my face off. I have been looking into journalism graduate programs alongside the original plan to get an MBA, just in case. As such, I have started teaching myself html, javascript, and I am in the process of figuring out how to migrate this blog onto my own personal site, so I can have more control over everything that I want to control. I want to overhaul this whole thing, expand it into more than just a photoblog. I’m not exactly sure what yet, but that’s for the future to decide, not the present.

For the past three weeks though, my days can be defined exactly by this photo:

It’s 2AM now, I’ve got work in seven hours, so I’m going to crash, but hopefully this time when I say I’ll be back, I will. I’ve got months of photos to post up, and as soon as I can get a computer that will handle photo editing I will get everything up. As of right now though, my macbook can barely handle Firefox without the CPU temperature spiking to 200 degrees.

Vacationing Stateside

Posted in California, Musing, United States with tags , on January 23, 2010 by foundmeinchina

Dear China: It’s been a while.

As usual, there’s a huge backup of photos that I hope someday will see the LCD-light of a computer screen as viewed on my flickr page, but until then it is just going to be the monochrome of these words on the black white background of this blog.

I have been back in sunny (although yesterday we had a tornado warning) California for what seems like an eternity, although it has only been a few weeks. I remember now why I was so eager to leave America–for the first time, my life, with all its delights and dilemmas, was solely my own to live. Since I have been back, I have the same random things that I need to take care of, except now in addition I have the problems with my friends and family added to my own, complete with the input and the nagging of the rest of my family. That grungy third world country I left behind has never looked better.

Add that to the fact that Claudia is now in Paris, I no longer have my closest friend around to enjoy life with. I feel like I lost my better half, the part of me that keeps me on track, keeps me honest, keeps me in check. I could not have imagined how difficult it would be to see her for a few weeks only to have her so quickly and suddenly fly out of reach again, how deeply that would affect me. I am both so proud of her that she is embarking on an adventure that will surely be life-changing for her, and at the same time worried that I am going to lose touch with her. Ce qui sera, sera.

I have spent the majority of my time in the Western Hemisphere taking care of family, catching up on CSI and Law & Order (both of which are not nearly as interesting as I remember them), and driving. I’ve put over 1,200 miles on my tires since I’ve been back, all of which has been traveling between Santa Monica, Woodland Hills, Irvine, and Pine Mountain. I need a car with better gas mileage, but I love that Xterra too much. It’s become a mobile home, just not in the Midwestern sense. I haven’t gotten to see too many friends, despite the fact that I am sitting here in Yuki’s Newport beach house writing this, he, and everybody else who I’d normally go out to see, are all diligently listening to their professors lecture in class.

Despite all that, it is actually nice to be back in the States. It has put my time in China in perspective, allowed the memories to decant, to mix with the air and oxidize in to a complex, delicious complement of flavors that excite all different areas of the mental palate. I look back at Beijing not as a foreign country anymore, but as a home. In fact, I feel like I am only visiting America on a short vacation trip before heading back to my home. It struck me the other day just how comfortable I was living over there. When I think about heading back over, it is not with the excitement of heading to a new country like I felt on my flight in to LAX a few weeks ago, but that resigned contentment of knowing that I am heading home to the place where I can continue my life that I left off while vacationing stateside. It was a very novel epiphany for me, this reversal of belonging, that really hit home when Scott and I called our British friends last night to check up on the cats while with Yuki and our UCI friends. It truly dawned on me that I have a whole life over in China, one that nobody here in America will ever truly be privy to. It is a very liberating feeling, akin to having divorced parents with separate houses, knowing that I can lead two effectively separate lives. That might sound weak or less than scrupulous, but I do not mean it to be. It is just my reality. This is going to be the reality for the next stage of my life, and it pleases me that I am so comfortable with it already.

Living in two completely different countries that are competing for the top spot on the world stage has laid bare for me the generalizations, the racism, and the ignorance that both countries label each other with. My flight into LAX was on a United jet, and despite the fact that 90% of the passengers were Chinese, there was only one Mandarin-speaking flight attendant on board. I ended up acting as a translator between my fellow passengers and the flight attendants, the latter of whom quickly proceeded to confide in me their distaste and utter misunderstanding of the former. Despite the overt lack of professionalism in this, I did find it somewhat morbidly interesting from a social point of view–just how ignorant of any other culture the average American is, that even these flight attendants, who have made it their lives to serve any passenger on any flight despite their ethnicity, who by the very nature of their chosen occupation come into contact with myriad people from different walks of life, still harbor the same prejudices and generalizations towards people from other countries that my dental technician, who knows not the slightest thing about China, does. Living in a different country lays bare the inherent propaganda built in to the American school system, the American media, the American way of thinking, and even if it is only towards this relatively specific viewing glass of the generally-accepted American perception of the world that I now can look through both sides of, it is a key starting point towards extrapolating this same skepticism towards any other aspect of the American view of things. In the many senses of the word, living abroad has made me much more worldly. I have always tried to get my news from as many different sources as possible, from as many different countries’ viewpoints as possible, in order to get a conglomerate of the general world view of whatever issue is plaguing us at the moment, but coming back to America and seeing the dearth of knowledge in other people who do not follow the same methods of information-gathering that I do more than re-affirms to me that I am on the right track; it also reinvigorates me to continue on my chosen path. It may sound a little sardonic, a little conceited, but I take a certain amount of pride in knowing that for once I actually know what I am talking about when discussing the social and economic issues of the Chinese with whomever I am discussing them with, knowing that I have a much more holistic viewpoint than they do.

I really am excited to head back to China to continue my studies. I tire of having nothing to do over here, sleeping on friends’ couches, not really feeling like I am at home. I also just want to continue studying for my own good. For the first time in a long while, I feel like I am catching up mentally with the speed at which my life is changing. I am starting to get on top of my goals before they have already passed me by. It is a phenomenal feeling, and I plan to keep it up.

Posted in Beijing, Musing, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , on August 31, 2009 by foundmeinchina

I have been in Beijing for four days now. Just a few hours ago, my internet was set up. I can now empathize with all of those 19th/early 20th century Chinese who were hopelessly addicted to opium–I cannot live without the internet.

Chengdu

Posted in Chengdu, Photo, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2009 by foundmeinchina

I have been in China for almost two months. That being said, I have just arrived here. I read before hopping on the plane across the world that Shanghai is China-lite; it is too modern, too fast-paced, too polluted with dirt, trash, and foreigners, to truly convey that tradition-meets-the-modern-world feel that embodies China. I assumed that whoever wrote that was another holier than thou expat with a superiority complex. Continue reading

Mandarin

Posted in Chengdu, Photo, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , , , , , on August 22, 2009 by foundmeinchina


IMG_1058

Originally uploaded by jubbis18

I’ve been on the balcony of this Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel in Chengdu for a few hours now, watching the resident cat make his rounds, begging for food and showing off his acrobatic skills. I have been enjoying the cool, overcast climate (a welcome respite from the Amazonian-like Shanghai humidity that I’ve spent the last 1.5 months in. I don’t even have that inner-elbow stickyness yet!) Since I sat down at 9AM, I’ve seen about 10 12 14 groups of people eat breakfast at the surrounding tables.

I have heard Hebrew, German, Spanish Spanish, Colombian (I think) Spanish, and some other accent that I am not sure of. I have heard a lot of English, some British, some American, some Other, but not a single one of these other people has used a word of Chinese with the servers. In fact, the only other foreigner that I have heard speak Chinese besides me is nobody (Scott has been up in the room erupting out of both ends for the past 20 some-odd hours, so he doesn’t count.)

It amazes me how far a little knowledge of the language will carry you. In a culture as closed off to foreigners as China’s is (although this is not as deliberate as Western education might have you think), and with a language that is so intrinsically tied to the culture, knowing even some basic (more than ‘knee how, ‘shee shee’ and ‘boo shee’) is the key that will unlock a treasure trove of lifelong memories in China. I understand as well as the next (probably better) Westerner how daunting of a challenge it is to try to learn a language like Chinese, and how downright infuriating it can be at times, but (and I am sure this goes for many other cultures as well) knowing even a little bit can open doors that you never even knew were there. If nothing else, it makes the experience so much more fun–catching those snippets of Chinese spoken about you to other Chinese people, and being able to shoot them that ‘I heard that’ glance is worth it enough to at least pick up a phrasebook. In fact, in preparation for this pseudo-backpacking trip, Scott and I went to a market in Qingdao to buy backpacks. The lady helping us quoted us a certain price once she realized we spoke Chinese, and we were most of the way through the buying process when one of the salesperson’s co-workers came up to her and said (in Mandarin) “They’re foreigners, don’t forget to hike up the price.” Fail on her part. She got that aforementioned look, plus a quick reprimand from our salesperson. One of the myriad instances where knowing the language cancome in handy, if not for saving you some cash, then at least for providing a funny story to write about on the internet afterwards.

I know enough Chinese to know that I have barely scratched the surface of the language, and thus the culture, of these people. Chinese culture and language is still a very novel concept to me. Coming from America, a country with effectively no long history, an adopted language, and nothing to really call its own can, it is hard to grasp how a country’s culture and language can be so intertwined, and how deeply tradition can be ingrained into daily life. America is the Salvation Army of countries when it comes to history and culture–there is little to it that is inherently American. Hamburgers are a noteworthy exception even though they’re German, America got the burger so perfect that we can claim that as our own, dammit). Taking and improving other cultures’ contributions is not necessarily a bad thing–improvement, like insider trading, makes the world go round. What makes Chinese so fascinating, and so damn difficult, is the fact that so many terms and expressions in Chinese refer to historical events that took place hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. In order to truly understand the nuances of the language, one has to have an intrinsic knowledge of the history and folklore of China, both of which go back several millennia. There are whole collections of Chinese idioms whose meanings literally cannot be understood unless the piece of history or the person they reference is known. This makes Chinese so beautiful, as feelings that cannot otherwise be put into words can be conveyed through referencing a poem, a battle, a folk hero, etc. Without knowing the culture, then, idiomatic phenomena like idioms also build an almost-insurmountable wall to attaining fluency in the language.

Despite all this, I have definitely noticed my proficiency in the language improving. While I am nowhere near anything but rudimentarily conversational in Mandarin, I have noticed my understanding of natives improving exponentially. There is seriously nothing like immersion to learn a language, and with Chinese, which is so fundamentally different than a phonetic language like English, immersion is imperative if you really want to get a grasp of the language. I have improved more in the past 7.5 weeks than I have in the past few years, and I am looking forward to the coming four months, because after a lifetime of unaccomplished goals, I feel like I am finally doing something that is worth the time and effort I am putting into it: I am finally achieving one of the most important goals I have ever set for myself. I am living in China.