Friday, May 29, 2009

Stuff I'm Reading and Writing

This is certainly an interesting time to be in this country right here, and right now. What with the 20th Anniversary of a certain incident at a certain square that may or may not have involved a lot of tanks coming up. Couple that with sabre-rattling in North Korea, rapid development all over the place, and of course those pesky people in the Himalayas that always want human rights, Asia seems to be the place to be right now, and the bloggosphere is keeping it well documented. While I may have been slack at posting on this (and my other) blog, there is no shortage of information out there about Asia. Here are some of my recent favourites that I have read:

Someone I know quite well in real life, Elvina, makes a great post Identity Crisis, which talks all about the challenges of being a Chinese-American while living in China. Needless to say, it's full of all sorts of problems that we may not have expected to begin with.

In that post, Elvina mentions friends complex's having over-zealous guards. Well if you read that friend, Don's, post you will see just how intense the guards can be there. He talks of having a church gathering at his place, and havint the guards come it to see if there were any Chinese people there. This may seem like a strange question, but it has some deep seeded questions about freedom and "foreigner rules" in China. Check out Just Checking Who is Home... on The Arizona Anachronism for more info on that one.

Keeping with people I know, my friend Ryan, also known as thehumanaught, a B-List celebrity in the English language China blogging community, makes a great post about Living Without Trust, where he talks about how difficult it is to find trust in this country. A few months ago, his dog was killed as a result of dog food that went bad, and his new dog got sick, only to have the doctor run a series of expensive tests, when a simple internet search showed that it was nothing to worry about. A frightening read that makes you appreciate some of the wonders of the West.

As I have mentioned a few times, I am also writing for a blog (ran by the same Ryan as above), called Lost Lao Wai. Earlier this week, I read a fanatastic post about a Chinese family and their dirty little secret, liking Japanese food. This is very topical, given the outcry that has came out surrounding the new fim, Nanjing, Nanjing! Read Itadakimasu! by Quincy on Lost Lao Wai.

Now of course, not everythign great is writen by myself, or my friends, there is a lot of other stuff out there. Michael Rines, at the New York Times, did an excellent article called "To Protect an Ancient City, China Moves to Raze It", about the destruction of Kashgar's ancient city. China is starting the demolition of 2/3 of the ancient city, in order to improve it for tourists. As a recent tourist of the region, I am a little torn on that one. On one hand, I hate to see something with so much character destroyed, but on the other hand, I would hate for people to continue living in such sub-standard living. Also, I deeply dislike the thought of having a culture and region get turned into an attraction, but yet I just went there and loved every minute of it...

In an equally debatable post on a vastly different topic, John Pomfret of the Washington Post, makes a great blog entry about the PRC and their strange relationship with everyone's favourite Hermit Kingdom titled "Why China Won't Do More With North Korea". It raises some very interesting perspectives that I certainly had not thought about. It examines China's economic, cultural, and geo-political interests in keeping the Korean Penninsula divided, and it really is a fascinating read that could serve to explain some of the complexities of the Korean issue.

Lastly, I should mention that I have continued to post on Lost Lao Wai, which you can see all of here. Some of these may end up reposted here, but I would encourage people to read them where they are, as the comments are part of the fun (especially for The Bargaining Debate).

Anyway, with that I should be off. I hope that you take the time to enjoy the posts I have highlighted for you, since this is certainly an interesting time to be in this strange, strange continent.

Safe Journeys,


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another Quick Note About China Net

Greetings all,

A little over a month ago, I made a post notifying people about YouTube being blocked (note: it still is). Well it turns out, as of this morning blogger and blogspot have been blocked as well.

You may be asking yourself, "How are you posting then?", and if you weren't, then, surely you need to do a bit of thinking. Well after ranting about it on twitter my friend Ryan (aka thehumanaught) turned me onto a service called Hotspot Shield. For those of you who don't know what it is, it is a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which are designed to both keep your network secure, but also to circumvent any firewalls, including the most comprehensive in the world, The Great Firewall of China, which periodically bans like (like YouTube and blogger, and all sorts of other fun stuff).

Hotspot Shield is a free service, and so far, so good. I can access my blog (obviously) and other sites which were previously blocked. It is a free service, so it occasionally throws up ads as either pop-ups or at the top of a window, but it is far from disruptive. If that bothers you too much, there are several more that you can find and pay for.

Either way, I would highly recommend you make use of one of these services....which I realize, that if you are in China then you can't access such a thing, but it could be coming back on later. This is especially important given that a few weeks from now is a certain anniversary of a certain event at a certain square, where nothing important happened...

So expect further delays for anyone trying to access any amount of truth within this interesting nation.

Safe journeys,


For further info on The Great Firewall, check out Wired magazine excellent article on the subject.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Signs You Like in an Expat Encave

And here we have yet another LLW repost, you can see the original (And the multitude of comments) here....enjoy!

"You know how every major city in the West has a China town? Well, I live in the opposite of that"

Yes, I hate to say it, but I am a resident of one of the many laowai ghettos that exist in the major cities all around China. Whenever my family or friends from home ask me about where I am living, I often have to answer with the above statement.

While I make many efforts to go and explore "Real China" as often as I can, I notice far too often that my friends and colleagues appear to be completely ignorant of their surroundings, and consider going to Starbucks to order their double-mocha-latte-something-or-other in English to be a genuine part of their Chinese experience. To assist these people (or anyone else in their situation) I have devised a surefire 25 point checklist to tell if you are not living in a section of "Real" China.

You might be in an Expat Enclave if:

  1. You give your fork back to get chopsticks

  2. You have no place to sate your craving for squid, starfish, or scorpion

  3. You have no desire to take a picture of any of the signs

  4. You have heard it pronounced “Nee Hey-oh”

  5. The Budweiser costs the same as Tsingtao

  6. There are more ads for Chinese Language schools than English ones

  7. Those Nike shoes, are actually Nike shoes

  8. The parks have 5 soccer games going on but only 1 Tai Chi group

  9. You start to ask Chinese people to take their picture

  10. You enjoy the coffee

  11. The toilets are inside the buildings

  12. You ask someone where the nearest bus stop is and they hail a taxi

  13. A sport other than ping-pong is playing on the TV (exception: Houston Rockets games)

  14. You get less than 5 strangers staring at you when you walk down the street (double if you have blonde hair and/or black skin)

  15. It's safe to cross the street

  16. You start to wonder where everyone is spitting, since it's clearly not on the sidewalk

  17. You wonder the same for using the toilet

  18. The pirated DVDs work

  19. You hear “I'll just have a pee jew” said a to a waiter on more than one occasion

  20. The locals can speak more than one European language

  21. There are multiple restaurants that sell good Western food (or Indian, or Thai, or....)

  22. The “No Smoking” Signs are frequently posted and adhered to

  23. The babies are only showing one pair of their cheeks

  24. Everybody knows your name

  25. None of the above seems strange to you

So if much of the above list applies to you, please, do yourself a favour and branch out, because you're probably missing out on a heck of a lot of this great country.