Monday, October 22, 2007

Skills Exchange Website 换技能的网站

I recently made a discovery. China has all kinds of cool websites connecting you to whatever you need. You can find websites that connect people looking for carpools, tutors, social/work connections or "Guanxi," and even skills exchanges. I thought this was an interesting idea, so I checked it out. As it turns out, English is the most requested skill- surprise, surprise. Other listed skills are physical training, software, typing, foreign language, music lessons, cooking, etc. I decided to post an ad exchanging English tutoring for lessons in Chinese cooking. I can't come back in 18 months without being able to cook, right?

I ended up removing it in only 5 hours because there were so many requests. Apparently listing that I was American made everyone jump for the English. I set up two meetings, met four people, and turned down a bunch of others. So far so good. And what a great idea! Here's a pic with some of the folks and the food. One day I met two guys, and the other day I met two girls.

Both times I pulled in other friends and we had 4-5 people eating together. I wish we could do this type of thing in the States, but no one would trust each other enough to meet strangers like this in a big city. Just shows how safe China is...

One last picture- I have the most adorable Korean classmates. They took me out the other night for Korean BBQ. We sat outside on tiny little stools and cooked the meat over coals. VERY yummy, and very good company.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Paintball in China! 在中国的油漆球!

Yes, ladies and gents, you can even play Paintball in China. A little American-run operation out of the back of a jeep and viola!- you're in the game. It was a mixed group of friends, some professionals and some first-timers. I was a first-timer, but that didn't stop me from volunteering to being a terminator during one round. This is the oh-so-tough group starting out.

This was the hardest hit I took to the neck, but I took out many soldiers before I died that round...

The only three brave girls. Surprisingly, the Mexican chica on the right was the best of all. Her sniper positions and skills took everyone by surprise! She was the last one off of the field most of the time, lasting long after everyone else came dragging in.

I highly recommend a good round of Paintball if you've never tried. I can't believe my first experience with it was in Beijing, of all places. We had such a good time, that I'm sure there is more to come...

Monday, October 8, 2007

"Thank you" as an insult? "谢谢"是侮辱吗?

From the time I was little I have memories of my father listening to my phone conversations with adults and hollering in the background, "I better hear you saying 'Yes Mam, No Sir, Please and Thank you!'" Polite words were ingrained in me partly because that is how English is used, and partly because I grew up surrounded by "Southern Hospitality."

This part of my culture is something I have been made very aware of here in China, and not in such a good way. Oddly enough, I have had to unravel some of that training so as not to offend my friends. I called a good friend of mine later on in the evening to thank him for dinner and say that I had a really good time, just wanting him to know that I appreciated it. He asked me why I called and said what I was doing was wrong in China. Apparently by expressing gratitude I was saying that I didn't think much of our friendship but considered him more of an acquaintance that I should use polite words with. True friends feel that these polite words show you are keeping track of giving and receiving and should only be used with new acquaintances and more formal situations. Again last night a different friend invited me to eat dinner sometime this week and I wrongly replied to the invite with a thank-you. In both situations I'm glad that they were good friends understanding a cultural difference and helping me prevent offending people in the future.

Finally, I realized that this is very evident in the language alone. Look at the English "You're Welcome." It seems like you should be thanking me, and I'm telling you that you are welcome to whatever I did for you. In Chinese, "Thank you, 谢谢" is followed by "Don't be so polite, 别客气!" Meaning you should not have thanked me, but I should have done what I did. There's a lot of culture wrapped up in little words sometimes...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

October Holiday 国庆节

October 1st was the 58th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Most of China took a week off of work and school and a good 10-15% of the population will travel during the week. A friend and I made a mistake of going to the Wangfujing pedestrian area and Tian'anmen square to walk around and check things out. Easier said than done. This is a picture from the street, turns out walking wasn't so easy. It felt like 1B of the 1.3B Chinese population were in the same city as us.

Tian'anmen was decorated with fresh flower models of landmarks like the Great Wall, the Olympic torch and the Temple of Heaven. Guards were also in formation and very numerous. My favorite was a group of soldiers jogging and the drill instructor stops and answers his cell phone. "WEI!? I'm jogging in formation now!" I nearly doubled over laughing, but answering a cell phone here has a much better connotation than it does in the States. It gives you "face," makes you seem important, so people often answer them in the middle of important meetings and at the dinner table. Takes some getting used to.

Because I didn't travel during the week, Beijing has been slow, relaxing and a lot of getting together with friends for dinner parties, karaoke, etc. I think we managed to fit about 35 people in our apartment Saturday. We had a get-together at our house where a lot of our friends brought a dish, a sort of international pot-luck. The door guards only came by twice to tell us we were being to loud. We don't really have a relationship with our neighbors because everyone keeps to themselves, but if we did, it probably wouldn't be doing to well. Well, it's back to hard labor on Monday. Time to do some studying!