Friday, March 30, 2007

The End is Nigh

Sandstorm expected to hit tonight and tomorrow. If there's truth to this, expect the next update to have post-apocalyptic fun and joy for all. In photo form. God, sometimes I wish I didn't have to work Saturdays...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Life is extremely weird here

There's no compelling reason for the reason the title is what it is for this update, other than it's the truth.

Living in China is so weird. Always. I mean, almost too weird. Everyone here is pretty dang weird. The majority of the time it's the good kind of weird, with a few dashes of annoying weird. But all in all, fun weird. Which is one of the things I was looking for.

I'm not so much learning how to speak, read, or write Chinese in the formal sense at the moment, but I'm rocking out the understanding what people are saying. And that part is the scariest part. While I was in Zhongguancun getting my Wii tinkered with... umm... wow that just came out wrong. The sad part is I'm afraid of being more specific than that, so lets just say it involves the installation of some hardware to make my Wii better... I'm just going to stop saying Wii. Anyway, I was there being slightly impatient because I had a party to get to. I overheard the local proprietor mention something about me hovering over him like a hawk waiting for him to finish. He said, "laowai" alot, which is what I am. I could tell he was using it in the slightly pejorative sense. So I kind of laughed. Then both shopkeeps looked at me wide-eyed, and said in Chinese, "Does he understand Chinese?!". Bwahaha. I just kind of nodded.

Then a couple of days ago while waiting for my ride to school, I heard the security guard outside the apartment mention to a passerby, "Hey, there's that American standing by the gate." Said passerby turner 'round and stared right at me. I just sort of nodded and acknowledged that I was apparently the subject of great fascination. They both laughed at me of course.

Here in China, if you look like a whitey, you will instigate some incredibly odd behaviors. Ranging from stunned bewilderment to steadfast discrimination, it's always a surprise to me the extremes that many people go to when you're in their presence. While it's funny sometimes, I do feel highly uncomfortable most of the time. Heck, I could swear that my discriminates against me sometimes. I'll be waiting patiently on the eighth floor after hitting the button, and the elevator will come up and pass me by to the tenth floor, and then again on it's way back down. No way is it going to have some burger-eating white devil pushing its buttons with its greasy, hairy fingers. Not in a million years.

So I've been debating making some sort of comic about all the strange happenings in China. Because most of it is so surreal that I feel like it can only be best expressed through some sort of comedic medium. I'm just not convinced that: A.) I'm funny enough, B.) I can draw, or C.) I'd actually do it. Time will tell.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Absolutely Ridiculous

Tonight I got a game for the DS and decided to reward myself after having gone shopping and cleaning my apartment by indulging for a few minutes of quality game time. Please fast forward through this update if you don't want to read about a video game, or may think about playing this game and don't want anything spoiled.


So I got this game called Elite Beat Agents for the DS, which is one of those rhythm games that I've been enjoying lately. The types of games that make me think that if I really, really wanted to I could dance or have rhythm. But yeah, probably not.

Anyway, I knew that it was a Japanese game, involved manga-style comic book graphics, and was full of cheesy plots and dialogue. It's about a trio of super-secret agents that go around solving people's problems by dancing. By dancing. There apparently isn't a problem that can't be solved by cutting rugs.

So as I expected, most of the levels were hilarious oddities one right after another. You help these ridiculously rich sisters ensure that they can maintain their shallow, materialistic lifestyles after crashing on a deserted island. You help an old-fart oil tycoon who's lost all his money (and his gold-digging wife kicks him out of his mansion) by getting him to be come filthy stinking rich again, and basically "buying" back his wife without a second thought. It was all good fun, which is why I was blind-sided by what happened next...

Spoilers If anyone were ever thinking of getting this game and wants a good surprise, don't read anymore. A story comes up, and the whole ambience of the game becomes somber all of the sudden. It was an episode called "The Christmas Gift". It begins with a happy widdle family getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Daddy's leaving, and daughter says she wants a girl teddy for Christmas. He promises he'll be back for Christmas, and he'll put in a good word with Santa.
Well then, it says, "Six months later..."

The girl mentions something about when Daddy was going to come back. Mommy then says, "He's not coming back, lets not talk about this." That's right, Daddy's freaking DEAD.

Then the music kicks up. It's "You're the Inspiration", by Chicago. In and of itself, the song wouldn't have done anything for me. I mean, Chicago's all good and everything. I have nothing against the musical group, OR the city (I do have something against the movie though). But the context with the little plot of the game caused me to FREAKING CRY! What?!?! I have only cried about a game once. ONCE. And I was thoroughly ashamed by it (It was Final Fantasy III just so you know). Not only that, but no form of media has made me cry in months. It wasn't a single, poetic tear either. There were wells...

So I played through the level, which you can't pause during. The whole song of the level plays as you show your Mom how to keep on living, and that as long as you never forget, he'll always be there. I made it out ok, just to all those who were concerned. And though I had the usual aftermath feeling of being manipulated, I felt especially annoyed that it was a freaking game. Not only a game, a handheld game. That's simply not allowed in my book. I was already embarrassed to admit that I can't not cry during Angels in the Outfield. This is worse. Trust me.

But, that's ok. I stand by my original proclamation that it was because this little story came out of freaking nowhere. It caught me off guard. Just... shut up. Don't look at me!!


Anyways, everything is ok. I downloaded "You're the Inspiration", so that I never, ever forget. , I'm such a dork.

Ok sorry for the non-China post. I'll post something substantial soon.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Whoa! As you may have noticed from the last set of comments, Dr. Hughes and Dr. Pitts commented on my writing! Do you know what this means? They read it! I'm so happy about this, but at the same time I'm going to have to start being more careful with throwing my psychology around with reckless abandon. As a preemptive method to distance myself of any mistakes or flaws in my comments I'd like to go on the record on saying that I write here on a sort of unhindered flow of thoughts. That's why many of my posts may seem (how do I put this?) strange and disjointed.

Now that I feel that I've distanced myself from fault or liability, I may continue! Furthermore, Mariana reads this, so mental note to say one flattering thing about Brazil in my posts.

On that note, I'd like to vent on some issues that I've recently been thinking about.

This semester, we've started having one-on-one teaching sessions with the Chinese TAs here. As some of you may know, when I taught Intro to Psychology at App State, I realized that it is the first real job I've had that I've actually loved. I'm not bashing carpentry, HR guys, technical assistance, Blockbuster, hotel front desks, or Old Navy (well, maybe some of those), but I really felt like I gave my all with teaching. It was like going to class and leading a discussion everyday! So after doing that for two years, I knew that I really liked it. I didn't realize until recently that it's likely what I want to do for the rest of my life (apart from traveling). Once I started these little classes, I immediately went into teacher mode and started presenting the topics we have to talk about. I just feel way more comfortable than, say, appeasing snooty hotel guests with a fake smile plastered on my face.

That said, it's more clear to me that I want to go back and get a PhD now. That was something I was definately struggling with before. I remember many of my professors presented me with the idea of that possible career choice, but I kind of shrugged it off. The idea kind of intimidated me at first.

In China, however, there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in psychology. That is, real psychology. When I mention that I have my masters in psychology here, a lot of people seem to kind of be taken aback by it. I've actually had (Chinese) people my age outright ask me why I chose a field that was basically worthless. Many seem to see psychology and even human resources as a bunch of gobbledygook and hocus-pocus (not their words exactly). It can get a little old, as it has come from quite a few people, but I miss people being ok with it. I miss people thinking it's useful, and not just a bunch of common sense.

Anyway, just a little rant. Not China related exactly. I'll mark it as such.

By the way, I bet Brazil is awesome!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Hong Kong

So we went to Hong Kong, you know? We as in Dad and I. We left after about three weeks of American good times of eating fast food and watching movies and such. Home was good, and I did some very home like things. I had nightmares before I left that Atari (my cat) was pissed off at me for leaving her alone and all. I was happy to know that she didn't seem to hold a grudge.

The flight over was easily the best flight I've had out of the three. The time pretty much flew by (get it? Like a plane...) since there were a lot of empty seats. I was able to actually lie down. You can't beat that. Those fancy-pants first class losers did not know the simply joy of taking up
three seats. My time was divided nicely into watching movies, watching Buffy on the Mp3 player, and playing hefty amounts of DS games. It's amazing how long it takes for Sudoku to get old, I'm tellin' ya.

When we got to Hong Kong, everything was pretty easy to navigate. Once we found Nam and her Mom, we got on the train and made our way for the city. Almost everything I saw in Hong Kong was significantly more friendly than Beijing. It was easier to get around, people didn't spit everywhere, and the air was so freaking clean. I was impressed. Like,
car wash, impressed (NOTE: The writer of this e-chron profusely apologizes for the very inside joke he just made, that basically two people will get [Nicole and Rachel, I'm lookin' at you] and will, henceforth, refrain from doing such things.)

Let me go on the record for saying that I'm not badmouthing Beijing. I love both cities for different reasons. And although it's hard to quantify, I'll do my best to explain with a tenuously applicable analogy. Hong Kong is like a cute little kitten. Very clean, very likeable, and you fawn over almost everything about it. Beijing is like a gross little pug. It's so ugly and comically uncouth at times that it's simply endearing for all the opposite reasons. Honestly it sounds like an insult, but really it's not. By the way, this is the dog that came to mind with the Beijing analogy.

Hong Kong was honestly, though, like all of the best aspects of China and Britain all smushed together into one ball of deliciosity. They had freakin'
Ribena there. How could I not love it? Anyway, Nam's parents were totally awesome too. They showed us around everywhere, and always had stuff to do. They were such good hosts. They always had stuff to do for us, one of which involved gambling in Macau, however, which was my first true experience doing such. It wasn't a good one really. I mean, I don't really like giving money to a machine for shortly lived gratification. Unless it's in an arcade. Which, of course, is a totally different thing... shut up.

So some highlights of the trip included hitting one of my short list of things I actually really, really wanted to see in China. The big ol' Buddha on a mountain. It was pretty freaking awesome, especially the approach. You could see him way up on the mountain in the background.

This honestly was my favorite part of the trip. The countryside was misty and mysterious looking, and I'm a big fan of mist. Because mist = humidity. Humidity = easy breathing and less sore throats. What can I say? I'm a big fan of water. Only when you breath it though...

Also apparently, inside this Buddha is like a crystal that is sacred. When the Buddha was burned, several parts of his body were unburnable and crystalized. Apparenty there are a few thousand that exist somewhere in the world, and each one hold's the unique property to appear as a different color depending who looks like it. Which makes me think that Dad's old BMW is somehow one of the crystals. No one can decide if it's green or grey.

We also went to the aforementioned Macau. This is where the gambling went down. I liked all parts of the trip except for the gambling parts. Macau was interestingly a mish-mash of European city and Chinese city, which I guess makes sense since it was owned by Portugal for a bit (hehe, sense since). I really dug the layout of the city, it was pretty.

Not to say that I didn't
like the gambling. It was interesting. But in the way I thought pigeons pecking keys at to get food despite increasingly diminishing returns was interesting. Which was essentially the same thing. One of those moments when I really thought that the argument that Skinner's research was faulty because it assumed that pigeons and humans behaved in the same way wasn't completely unfounded. People were freakin' zombies in there. There was one poor, poor soul making round after round to several roulette tables dropping thousand of Hong Kong dollars every 10 minutes or so. What a tool.

I'll talk more Hong Kong later, please allow this last post to sink in. Savor it, for it is the finest wine of online life-chronicling. Take it in, swish it, and spit it out. Just, you know, don't do it anywhere near me. I'm sick of spit.