Chinese vs. Americans (Pt.1)

So who’s better?  Chinese or Americans?  Who is smarter?  Stronger?  Sexier?  More productive and agile?  Which country is better, smarter, prettier, stronger etc.?

What do you think?  Are you able to put away your prejudices, biased thinking and generalisations and make a considered response to the questions above?

The provocative blog title is designed to A) provide clickbait for this blog and B) to get you thinking about the (rather obvious) differences and surprising similarities between the countries of the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America. The blog’s timing is fortuitous considering that both countries are locked in the middle of a trade war. Perhaps the leaders will take note!

 

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Courtesy Getty Images

 

This debate is broken into two parts due to the number of categories. These include friendliness, manners, patriotism, driving behaviour, customer service, and geographical knowledge / interest in other cultures. Each country will “compete” for each section and the winner allocated a point. The country with the most points wins.

Part One covers friendliness, manners, and patriotism.

Caveat

It is suggested that one best read this blog with an open mind. Yes, I’ve lived in China for over 19 years and visited the U.S. on many occasions but both countries are enormous. One cannot compare a Cantonese lawyer with a Beijing bicycle repairman. Nor can one assume that a Manhattan fashion designer shares a lot in common with a lumberjack from Bend, Oregon.

That said, I am in daily contact with people from all corners of China. There are noticeable differences in their dialects, diet, customs, and beliefs. Lifeinlifts.com is going to try and put aside all these potential discrepancies and throw caution to the wind. New Zealanders are rather neutral when debating the merits of Americans and the Chinese. We don’t tend to take sides. At least not with these two giants.

So… let’s compare apples with oranges and conduct the most unscientific research of the year!

Category One: Friendliness

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This category includes smiles, greetings, and small talk. Both countries are pretty friendly once you get outside of the big smoke. Even some of the larger cities here in China will have people who come up to you and say:

“Hello, good morning, sorry, please, thank you”

All in the one sentence! Would you get this sort of approach in Jersey City? I think not. The majority of people here (southern China) seem to keep their heads down and frown earnestly.

Americans seem to be very friendly in some of the smaller places, and in bigger places like Portland (Oregon), and Boston. Other places (looking at you Seattle and Philadelphia) were not quite so warm. It is beyond the scope (or word limit) of this blog to go into any sort of depth about this category. Shall we flip a coin? No, I’ll go with personal experiences.

Winner: China

Category Two: Manners

This includes common courtesies like please and thank you. We factor in other mannerly elements such as queuing in lines, holding the door open for others, spitting and littering in public, laughing and mocking people behind their backs (but in full view of others), talking loudly in elevators, etc.

There are some very polite people here that would put my countrymen to shame but…  the amount of crude behaviour witnessed here on a daily basis is extraordinary. It appears that some people haven’t been told that it is not okay to hurl litter out the car window or defecate in public places. Please note that the data is not influenced by the author’s own cultural bias. If someone is p*ssing on the street at lunchtime then they’re p*ssing on the street at lunchtime!

Other examples of loutish conduct include smoking in enclosed spaces and cursing loudly in front of grandmothers and babies. I hasten to add that most people don’t behave like that in the parts I live. It’s just that I see it every single day. Every. Single. Day.

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Image from China Daily

This uncouth, boorish decorum doesn’t appear to be as common in the United States. Maybe I need to live in a dangerous, lower socio-economic area (Detroit? St. Louis? Baltimore?) for 19 years to provide balance to the findings. However, people still queued politely for Wendy’s in a lower socio-economic part of Philadephia that I visited.

There were pleases and thank yous in the States but too many saying “What?” for my liking. I’d prefer “Pardon?” That’s just me. Every culture is different sure, but I felt the United States might have the edge over China in this category.

Winner: The United States 

Category Three: Patriotism

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Gearing up towards National Day (October 1st)

How much do you love your country?  What do you like about it?  What did the history books say about the founders of your country? How many national flags do you see as you go about your everyday life?

It’s okay to be patriotic, it really is. No, seriously.

I decided to perform a national flag count in two random places. The USA was represented by a largely rural area in Washington State – the drive from Port Angeles to the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon (120kms or 75 miles).

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The Chinese sample was taken during a drive from my apartment building to the Guangzhou South Railway Station (23kms or 14 miles). The distances aren’t exactly similar but we won’t let that skew the findings. There was nobody living in that part of Washington State and those 23 kilometres in the Chinese sample represented one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

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Data results (flags counted):

USA – 32

China – 27

Winner: The United States (a bit lucky too as National Day is upon us in China. I noticed, post-blog, that there were two national flags on every street light – that’s over 100 flags per street! China should really win this but the flags are only here on a temporary basis).

So, at the end of Part One, The United States leads China 2 to 1. Can China come back in Part Two and claim the mantle of Best People, Best Country?

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for Part Two!

The Worst Music in the World

What do you think is the worst music in the world?  The worst genre?  The genre that parades itself as music but, in your opinion, isn’t actually music – but noise?

My father called hip-hop the “travesty of music“. Heavy metal doesn’t rock his boat either.

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N.W.A. – not everybody’s cup of tea

I’d answer that the worst music in the world is Cantonese Opera. There, said it – online even. I’ve been saying it to myself for 18 years now – pretty much the entire duration I’ve lived in Canton / Guangzhou. My parents-in-law love it. I’ve endured it most mornings and feel that it’s time to share this genre with the world.

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Music can grow on the listener. Familiarity often breeds approval. Your pal’s taste in jazz may become less irritating once you’ve become accustomed to the jarring, loose rhythmic instrumentation of a late-sixties Miles Davis album (think Bitches Brew). Country music is another grower with its warm melodies and folkish, working-class lyrics.

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So, what does Cantonese Opera sound like?  There are high pitched feminine squeals, cymbal crashes, wooden tapping, alien instrumentation, climaxes and lulls, artillery fire and lullabies. It’s hard to categorize something that is so very foreign to Western ears. Complicated time structures and banjo-like string instruments, heavy make-up and elaborate costumes, traditional roles, and characters and representations of history. When you consider the included acrobatics, martial arts, and complex footwork performed then one realises Cantonese Opera isn’t as simplistically raucous as it first appears.

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No, that’s not a banjo on the far right.

One cannot say that it is an idiotic genre or music or that it is appreciated by idiots. The Chinese are an intelligent group of people. They wouldn’t settle for rubbish, surely.

Actors need to learn a range of skills to become well-rounded in this genre. Cantonese Opera was also used as a propaganda vehicle by leaders in earlier times. It was also used to tell audiences stories of good moral and ethical behaviour before formal education became widespread in China.

It is well beyond the scope of this humble blog to explain in detail the inner workings of Cantonese Opera. This really would be the blind leading the blind. There is a lot to explain and the truly interested could consult Google or Wikipedia to learn more. The Wikipedia entry bizarrely mentioned a rift between two famous Cantonese Opera performers. It involved cake.

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“You never thanked me for the cake!”

Lifeinlifts.com is able, however, share some photos from the local Cantonese Opera Museum. Yes, there is a museum dedicated to this traditional Chinese art form. I’ve been here twice and remained as puzzled as ever by Cantonese Opera.

A New Zealand-based friend asked me about the popularity of Cantonese Opera. Who actually likes it?  What age group?  The over 50s seem to enjoy it though some primary aged students have taken up the artform in recent years. I’ve asked my students many times:

“Who here likes Cantonese Opera?”

The answer is always (yes always) a resounding “NO!”

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Beard supplies

The museum is actually very well presented, using a mix of open spaces, lighting, technology, and tradition (check out the garden at the entrance – wow!). Cantonese Opera is a royal pain the backside when played at 6am through a distorted transistor radio.  Thank my mother-in-law for that. It’s also pretty bad on a Sunday night after a heavy weekend of teaching. That said, even I enjoyed a visit here.

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I’ll leave you with an interesting video on display at the museum. It features a man, quite an esteemed actor apparently, playing the role of a villain (or wild boar – take your pick). So enjoyable it was – I watched it three times.

Thanks for your support!

Walking to School in China – What’s it Like?

School is out in China. The summer holidays have begun. This means no more homework, parent-teacher meetings, or tantrums. No more early morning starts, no more crowded lift (elevator) rides to the first floor. No more Mrs. Pigeonface.

We’ll be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, maybe a cafe in Portland or the Boeing Museum in Seattle, and my eyes will tear up at the thought of all that we’re missing… until September 1 that is. Six weeks without these colourful walks to school. Sniff.

The daily walk to school is an exercise in people-watching. The armchair sociologist’s wet dream. Here are some of the things I’ll miss.

Belt Man

This fellow sells belts outside the school every second Friday. Dressed in camo pants and military haircut he hectors us about the foolishness of missing out on a deal. “Come buy your belts now or you’ll miss out!”  He’s back again with the same product line a fortnight later.  Even my nine year old daughter can see through his sophisticated marketing strategy.

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Boy have I got a deal for you!

BFP

The Bitchfaced Princess (BFP) takes her son to school at the same every day. She is 30-something and in very good shape. Pity about the permanent scowl she wears. The wind must have changed during a particularly bad moment in time. She sees me coming and looks the other way!

The Effeminate Man

This guy rocks. Not many males here would have the bravery to wear a rainbow coloured polo shirt with earring and necklace in China?  His look is ever-changing but his designer (grey) hair remains timeless.

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Resplendent in fluorescent yellow

Grandpa

This old codger takes his rebellious grandson to school every day. He once called me a foreign devil!  Don’t worry about me mate, fix your grandson’s ill-fitting uniform first.

GG Bond

GG Bond is a Chinese cartoon superhero. Piggish in nature, he has a loyal following of about 200 million kids. GG Bond is a nickname for a piggish-looking motorscooting parent who glares at me most mornings. Never a smile, never a hello – just an unfriendly glare with a pair of GG Bondish eyes!

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Vat n kak in die veld

I never thought this Afrikaans slang/saying would make its way to the blog. It translates into “take a sh*t in the fields”. This little boy didn’t quite get as far as the fields. He was spotted fertilising our gardens one morning on my way home from school.

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Good on you son!

There was a public toilet right behind him.

Sexy Machinery

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Thomas the Tank Engine’s poorer cousin

It smells as good as it looks.

Pedestrian Friendly Walkways

If there’s a road – we’ll dig it up. We’ll also block commuters from getting to work.

 

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They’re using Japanese machinery!

 

Bank Robberies

This caused quite an alarm

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There was a lot of shouting

Until we realised it was just a drill. Pity there weren’t signs posted outside informing the small crowd of horrified passersby.

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Bruce Lee found his way back into the money

Farewell My Little Walk

As we take in the sights of the Vancouver waterfront and natural beauty of British Columbia, I’ll pause for a second and think of…

 

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The rice seller

 

And…

 

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The chicken lady

 

And realise that while those North American places are stunningly beautiful, they’ll never match the Liwan District of Guangzhou for re nao (liveliness) and luan (chaos).

There’s never a dull moment. Enjoy your summer holiday (unless you live in the southern hemisphere and are enduring a bleak and nasty winter).

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

The End of Homework in China!

And there she was, a nine year old in southern China, doing homework at midnight.

Ten of her classmates were also awake trying to complete the same task.

It’s the bane of many parents – homework. It gets written into a little, specially designed notebook. Sections are created for Chinese, Math, and English. It gets worse as they get older. Big kids have to deal with the sciences too. Let’s not forget history. And politics.

It’s now June

Which means that the end of year exams are lurking around the corner like the shadowy monsters that inhabit children’s dreams. This will be our third year of exams in China (as parents). Evenings are filled with mock exam papers, extra math tests, extra English dictation, extra Chinese essays, and extra headaches.

My task will be to keep our preschooler away from the young scholar.

A Typical Day

Kids finish school at 4 or 5pm depending on the weekday. They either go home or head to an education centre till their parents finish work. A typical homework load might contain:

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Homework assigned on June 11th, 2019

 

Chinese – four items (correct and review the previous lesson, preview new characters, a fill-in-the-gaps worksheet, essay)

Math – three items (textbook work, calculation book, double-sided A4-sized worksheet)

English – three items (dictation, reading and writing comprehension)

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If she doesn’t muck around (playing on her grandfather’s phone), gets on with things and does a proper job, and one allows time for dinner and shower (Chinese almost always shower at night) she might be finished by 9pm. If she decides to delay the commencement of the homework…  well we’re looking at a much later bedtime.

Other

There’s also the music and art homework which can be very time-consuming.

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The Numbers

Three

Three hours of homework is the average amount Chinese kids do each night.

Twice

This is twice the global average according to the Global Times.

One-third

The Education Ministry here released a report which among other things highlighted the lack of sleep amongst Chinese primary school-aged kids. Apparently, only 30% of fourth-grade kids are getting the necessary sleep.

A third of Chinese kids spent more than 30 minutes a night on math.

ONE MILLION GRAINS OF RICE!

This homework assignment made national headlines a few months back and caused both students and parents many headaches. Students in Foshan City were expected to count 100,000,000 grains of rice. Some parents even made calculations that it would take a year to count that much rice at a rate of three grains per second. The teacher defended her position and said she was trying to promote critical thinking.

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One-third (again)…

of Chinese students felt under great pressure according to the study. Many struggled with  Math and Chinese which led to enrolment at:

Cram Schools

Very popular now, even after the criticism that was levelled at such institutions. It is not uncommon to see kids spend their entire weekends at these “places”. Ironically these places hand out extra homework which leads to more stress which leads to futher underperformance at school etcetera etcetera….

How do you feel about the Chinese homework situation KJ?

As a language teacher – one can see the absolute benefits of a bit of revision and prep for an upcoming lesson.

As a parent I can also see the absolute hell a three hour homework load can wreak on a family life. Everyone is affected by late night study sessions.

Why the heck would you keep your daughter in the Chinese education system?

Because it pushes her to levels she would never achieve in my home country. Her math is streets ahead of many Western kids her own age. She gets opportunities to perform in front of large crowds (owing to her Western features). She gets to become trilingual at a young age. She gets out of her comfort zone!

It forces her to form good study habits at a young age. She also gets a few international holidays (and expensive presents) a year which softens the edges…

Summer Reading

The blog title was a bit misleading but it points to some essential summer reading. This little gem was written nearly 20 years ago. I am not in the business of subverting the authorities but if I could get this book into the hands of the policy makers here then we might see a reduction in the amount of homework done!

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Or maybe it’s a case of the family that slaves together stays together.

The Ridiculousness of Chinese Elevators

I hate taking the lift here. There said it – no fairy dusting the truth. Sure, the elevator is a great place to meet neighbours and network. You might see a cute kid or two, maybe a puppy or a kindly educated grandmother. More often than not it’s a grumpy old bugger / buggeress that shuffles in and gives you the stink eye.

If looks could kill.

Lifeinlifts.com hasn’t discussed elevators for quite some time. Let’s break the drought and explore areas of “lift ridiculousness” in May 2019.

Lift Advertising

Air China now flies direct to Johannesburg said the advertisement. The accompanying picture showed Cape Town.

 

 

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Advertising is a funny thing here in China. Things sell best when a celebrity is involved. That’s the same anywhere, isn’t it? Here, the celebrity needs to flash the thumbs up or show the Richard Nixon victory sign. Products and services need to be marketed in a  luxuriant way, showing a life of opulence that awaits when you choose the right brand. The West is just as guilty of this sort of manipulation but you wonder if we’re not stuck in a kind of time warp in China.

Marketing experts used to view their target Chinese audiences as being rather unsophisticated. You wonder sometimes whether their thinking has changed…

 

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Water!  Darling you shouldn’t have…

This advertisement for Ganten water (shot by famous actress Jing Tian and American model Donny Lewis) is ubiquitous in lifts throughout the city. My nine year old daughter cannot get her head around the message and wonders why two oversized water bottles are in the backseat. There are some things a father just can’t answer.

Bumrushers

These are the people whose time is more important than yours. They rush the lift before you exit. The humid weather of May has seen a 50% increase in incidents of elevator bumrushing (China Elevator Bumrush Quarterly Review, 2019).

Loud Conversationalists

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It’s really a no-no. Fourteen other people don’t need to hear you and your husband discussing your grocery shopping list at 120 decibels. Nor do they need to know about the paint you plan to use in the kitchen.

Offensive Odours

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Courtesy of Wikihow.com

Curry beef balls are best enjoyed outdoors, not in transit!  Also, take note Mr. Wang – it is not okay to rip loudly / cut the cheese in an elevator, especially when you’re only three floors from your destination.  Do you think that we can’t hear / smell it?

Mobile DJs

This video clip was filmed on Tuesday, May 21. To the right – me. On the left, a middle-aged woman with a loud smartphone stuffed into her pocket. This really was a compulsory concert. Confined space with nowhere to go!  Talk about a captive audience. The video doesn’t capture just how loud the music really was.

 

 

Summary

Well, May is almost to a close. Yes – the weather and traffic have both been terrible in Guangzhou but the weather and traffic are nothing if not consistent.

You know life is going pretty well when all you’ve really got to complain about is the elevators!

Upcoming blog posts include: Trials and Tribulations of Finding a Kindergarten in China, Unlikely Bedfellows – Sex Markets and Primary Schools, and The Daily Walk of Death.

Thanks for reading. Your support is much appreciated.

 

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But you can understand why they do it – surely!  Baselinemag.com

 

 

The Nibbler on the Roof

Something strange has been going on in Canton. It’s a bit like saying that there’s sand at the beach. Guangzhou is, more often than not, a marathon of the weird and wonderful. A telethon of trials and tribulations.

Someone has been eating on an overpass nearby. This pattern became apparent last September when several empty crisp packets were spotted on a flight of steps at one end of the bridge. Their place was taken by oily plastic containers the following day. He (let’s assume it was a male) had dined out on Sichuan hotpot.

 

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This behaviour continued for a few weeks before the author had an idea – let’s document the detritus left by this scoundrel and put it in a blog! 

One only needs a smartphone to capture these gormandic moments. Days of al fresco dining turned into months of munch and mess. Who was this bold banqueter?  Was he a homeless man with nowhere to go or some hapless soul escaping a tiger wife (a local term for angry woman)? Perhaps the kids got too much so he sought solace in food. He could have been on his way home from the pub?

He left his waste (ladies, aren’t you glad this mystery person is a male?) in exactly the same spot every time. He was nothing if not consistent.

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Pedestrians were forced to navigate a trail of KFC chicken legs, instant noodles, cup cakes, biscuits, spicy beef hotpot, curry beef balls, soup, apples, watermelon peel and oranges, french fries, sandwiches, sausages, and bowls of rice. There is more but my memory is not what it used to be.

 

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Don’t waste rice!

 

He has offended for months without apprehension. It seems likely that his feasting has been occurring during the small hours. The cleaners come at about 8:30am and clean up the rubbish. The area is usually spotless during the day. An idea was to go there one night and catch him in action – surprise him mid-mouthful. Then there was another dilemma – ethics (yes, a killjoy word). Could one go up to him and say:

Hello, Mr. Homeless Person can I interview you for the school newspaper?

Or “Stop right there! I’d like to make a citizen’s arrest!

So, the glutton remains a mystery, though I do have my suspicions. Like Jack the Ripper, albeit this one is a rather harmless rogue, he hasn’t been caught in the act.

 

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Peanuts?

 

Last week, a Bob Marley lookalike was seen acting suspiciously on the bridge. I took a photo of him from behind. He wasn’t caught in the actual act of overpass al fresco but a detective would put him on a list of possible suspects.

 

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And there he goes…

 

So, at this juncture, the nibbler remains a mystery. Who are you sneaky snacker and can you tidy up after yourself?

To be continued…..

 

Easter… by China

7am

Was it really Easter?  There was absolutely no evidence here on the streets in southern China. Perhaps it is an unhelpful distraction. One that the hard-working population didn’t need to be bothered by.

Easter Sunday started out like any other day. A dash across the city in a scene reminiscent of 1980s computer games. Avoid slow drivers and careless pedestrians. Dodge oncoming vehicles and wobbly bicycles.

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8:45am

Someone forgot the key to the classroom. There was a congregation of apologetic parents milling about the entrance. It was damp outside and it was suggested that I begin the lesson in the covered area next to the bikes.

Have a seat” I said. They couldn’t – everything was wet. Thankfully the key was found and the lesson proceeded inside.

11am

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No sun for weeks

It was damp at the next venue. This made the students restless. A large black bug rested on my neck and began sucking blood. What was it?  No-one could identify. Larger than a mosquito and smaller than a fly.

2:00pm

The roads were wet and someone arranged a heavy downpour at the exact moment I needed to exit the car. You can go through several pairs of shoes on a weekend here.

Time for the bottom-ranked class. It’s week eight and they’ve been bad in all aspects of their study and conduct.  There were six kids in attendance but only four books.

Sorry, I forgot my book.”

And “I’ve lost it. Ha ha.”  That cute laugh was the pits.

Had they prepared their English speeches? I asked.  The task was assigned on March the 23rd. Twenty-eight days would be enough to complete such a task. Nope, the pressure of computer games and reality TV binge-watching was too much. Only one girl was ready.

Okay, how about your homework on page 100?  Oh, you haven’t done that either?  Right, it’s punishment time – take out your activity books and begin completing the exercises on page 40.

They hadn’t remembered to bring their activity books. Or their pens.

silhouette and grayscale photography of man standing under the rain

It was at this point that I exited the classroom and stood outside. It was still raining. The 25-year-old me would have quit – there and then. Stormed off in a huff. Sulked even. The 40-something me thought about some of the mentally unbalanced people that wander the neighbourhood here. Nutter plus knife – you could imagine the headlines:

Foreign Teacher Abandons Students Moments Before Brutal Slaying and Irresponsible Kiwi Expat Walks Out on Kids – Throws China-NZ Relations Into Turmoil!

I stayed and returned to the lesson. It took a monumental amount of patience not to throw something at them.

4:45pm

Lesson Four (these little darlings were exposed in a previous blog) also had a speech competition. Celia (20 minutes late) refused to budge. Come on, share just a couple of sentences. She hid behind her knees.

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You can’t see me but I can you!

Brother Jeremy invented an entirely new lexicon:

Duplo Mountain in air conditioner” and “Pressure from the Carrot family brought problems with young.”  Deep, though he couldn’t clarify what “pervert Peru” was supposed to mean.

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Duplo mountains in the air conditioner!

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I found myself asking – if this is Easter, why does it feel like I’ve entered Hell?

6:20pm

Then a quick trip home to hide easter eggs for my daughters and a cup of coffee. Last year, they fought bitterly over who got more eggs. On Sunday they cooperated and worked together. The egg hunt proved so popular that they made their mother hide the eggs a second time.

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7:30pm

The final lesson was a kindergarten level class. Thank heavens the kids were good tonight. Each kid received a little egg. The eggs rolled off the table and under the chairs. One girl lost hers and enlisted a number of the parents to search for the missing item. It became a real life egg hunt.

There were tears when her helpers came up empty-handed.

8:45pm

Dreams of neck massages, hearty dinners, and an ice-cold beverage.

9:15pm

Home to Peppa Pig reruns and poorly edited English newspapers.

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Spot the typo

11:45pm

Homework completed!  No, not mine.

Postscript

Did you have a wonderful Easter holiday?  Did the Easter bunny visit your home?  What kind of stories do rabbits like best?  Ones with hoppy endings!

Thanks for reading. Your support is much appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumbo for Dummies (A Chinese Cinematic Experience)

Ah, the movies in China. Flashing lights, suspense, excitement, funny smells, and sound effects – and that’s before the film has even started!

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There’s a cinema a mere stone’s throw from Block Six (our building). It’s often empty and one feels a sense of “social responsibility” to attend such a venue if only to delay its inevitable demise. Many expats now avoid this form of entertainment due to the peculiarities of movie-going in China.

Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings) was no match for the afternoon sun when the cinema door opened. Liam Neeson got drowned out by audience chatter like some hapless politician. We’ve observed Minions (Despicable Me) being sworn at and, most surprisingly, Darth Vader being interrupted by a man on his mobile phone. Who’d have thought?

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Darth Vader in happier times

Darth Vader: “I’m altering the deal, pray I don’t alter it “

Uncouth man: “Lao Xiong, I’m in the cinema watching Star Wars!  Yes, it’s really good though I can’t understand what they’re saying! Tonight?  Yes, I’ll meet you for dinner at 7pm”

Once, the Chinese subtitles were out of sync with the (Western) actor’s voices, confusing many and leading to an audience walkout. We had the remaining 90 minutes to ourselves that day. Bliss.

A Dog’s Way Home, a fluffy family film about a dog finding its way home, was attended by four people (my daughter and I, plus an elderly Cantonese couple who talked loudly throughout). Recent cinematic experiences had seemed okay so we decided to see…

Dumbo (2019)

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Dumbo’s long-suffering mother

There was a choice of Dumbo or the second Lego Movie. We chose the former. Surely there couldn’t be anyone attending the theatre on a Friday morning (it was the Qingming Festival too). Well, there was a good-sized crowd including a former student who bellowed my name and drew everyone’s attention to the presence of a foreigner.

The movie started and we (daughter and I) had the entire fourth row to ourselves.  Pure heaven. Late arrivers were being ushered to their seats in different rows.

The Dumbo movie was 15 minutes in when a middle-aged staff member walked towards us, torch in hand. Perhaps she’d spotted us eating snacks from home. No, she was a solo movie-goer and that wasn’t a torch. It was an iPhone. Perhaps she was seated in our row. Maybe she was sitting right next to me despite the six other EMPTY seats available. She crashlanded in her seat, employed my drink holder for her Pepsi and her drink holder for the popcorn. There was also a faint whiff of body odour. No, I’m not being nasty.

Darn it.

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Deep breaths…

She laughed, slurped, squirmed, wriggled, jolted upright, and at one point turned abruptly to stare at us. It was just like being in economy class.

The movie was engaging. Monkeys, snakes, clowns, a one-armed man (Colin Farrell), a very short man (Danny DeVito), an Oscar winner (Michael Keaton) and plenty of exquisite set designs. Woman-with-glasses was forgotten for the next 40 minutes until she started checking her phone. The iPhone’s glow was more obvious than Dumbo’s ears.

Suddenly, a restless toddler stood up from behind and whacked the woman’s head! Triumph!

Karma they say is a… breath of fresh air!!

Ratings (out of 10)

Dumbo: 8.0

Audience behaviour: 6.5 (Well done Guangzhou!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christchurch Attacks – One Week On (The view from China)

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Cartoon by Shaun Yeo

It is the one week anniversary of the Christchurch Mosque attacks. New Zealand has been in a state of mourning. Our Prime Minister has done a stellar job at bringing the country together.

What has the reaction been like from everyday folk here in southern China?

The reaction has been subdued, though the majority were made aware of the incident through the media.

There has been no comment on it unless I raise the subject first (usually in the lift). You get asked “Where are you from?”  And “Oh, what a beautiful place!

Thanks.” I reply. “Oh, by the way, did you hear the news about the mass killings in our country?”

Yes, yes – dreadful situation” they say. “Are gun laws really that lax in New Zealand?

It has been weird this week being so far from home. Nearly every boy has a collection of realistic-looking toy guns. I flinched at the sight of one boy strapped with three automatic toy guns less than 24 hours after March 15th’s event. He was just being a boy, doing what boys do. He was late for class. This didn’t seem to matter today. His mate had a plastic AK-47.

Older students have found discussions around the subject to be interesting, though their English vocabulary limits much of what they want to say. Some have giggled in parts of my talk. This is not arrogance on their part but more an embarrassment or awkwardness at the sheer horror of what unfolded that day.

A 17 minute video taken by the gunman was circulating China’s most popular mobile app – WeChat. Would I like to see the video?  No thanks. Are you sure?  You can’t see clearly – it’s a bit like watching a computer game. Again, a polite no thank you.

I was able to obtain a newspaper last Saturday (see below). The headline translates into  “The Darkest Day in New Zealand’s History.”

 

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People’s Daily – Saturday, March 16, 2019

 

Life went on as normal for people here. It’s not surprising really. They’ve got their own things to worry about. China has had its fair share of blood too. One can look to the 2014 Kunming Train Station Massacre as evidence. With tight gun laws in place, the perpetrators used knives instead. The result was ghastly.

We’ve had an incident here in Guangzhou too, though thankfully there were no fatalities. It’s an example that no place is exempt from senseless violence.

Thank you for reading. We hope to return with a happier blog when the time is right.

 

 

Chinese Manners

“For the fragrance we’re blessing, to the world we show our affection,

We’ve got “two sessions”, let me show you Chinese manners”

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(Su Han “Two Sessions“)

He is China’s version of Eminem. I hadn’t heard of him before, but then I wouldn’t know many famous Chinese stars. Of course there’s Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, known as much for their martial arts as their acting skills. The former was actually an American citizen. Perhaps he (Su Han) isn’t famous.

I’m not sure Su Han has sold many records or what is status is here. He has been ridiculed on other sites for fronting a clumsy attempt (by you-know-who-I-am-not-at-liberty-to-say) to connect with younger listeners.

A chance to spice up what might otherwise be a very dry event.

The “Two Sessions” meetings Mr. Su refers to are the meetings of the highest levels of Chinese government (the rap sounding NPC and CCPCP) every March. These were covered in my previous blog: The Top 5 Reasons Guangzhou Rocks in March.

The backing track is apparently 11 years out of date but I don’t know – perhaps hip-hop circa 2008 was actually better than the current crop of rap artists. Let’s give Su Han a chance. It’s easy to mock earnest young men who give their heart and soul to a cause, rightly or wrongly, that they appear to believe in.

The analysis:

The song starts off impressively – dramatic and tense (the music video couples this with propaganda shots of a very clean looking Beijing) as the artist shares his elation at the chance to write a “compliment song“. There isn’t a lot of positivity in the rap game so we’ll give him a tick for trying.

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He picks up the tempo and masters the English language like a boss, getting his tongue around some tricky long-windedness before the song climaxes rather prematurely at the 35-second mark. It’s here that Mr. Su looks begins to look like a very lost 12 year old boy.

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Mummy?

The lyrics cover a range of topics highlighting China’s achievements in recent times and there have been many. Landing on the Moon’s dark side, technological improvements like subway lighting (?), satellites, and the Jiaolong submersible vehicle that scaled the depths of the Mariana Trench.

“Joy of success is like a weekend car ride round the pool”

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Excuse me?

He also references more controversial topics such as the cloning of monkeys. That isn’t nearly as bad as the singalong chorus line. A deflating moment after a promising start.

“We’ve got our two sessions…”

He regains composure and momentum with a verse on education. He manages to include a Star Wars reference. Hmmm, Skywalker? Poverty is asked to leave his nation’s borders amidst a visual backdrop of lush green countryside and smiling peasants.

Then that bloody chorus line again.

The lyrics become more absurd. A Kiwi friend of mine suggested that a middle school chatbox program had been employed to help with some of the verses. Check out the screenshot below:

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Nephrolithiasis is kidney related

And the Popeye moment…

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A day has passed since I wrote the above. It turns out that Mr. Su is a very able singer and even participated in the Sing! China TV show. He is also a doctoral student at the prestigious Tsinghua University. He is using artificial intelligence to compose music. Not only is he artistically talented and fluent in English, but he is also a biomechanical brainbox!

The Verdict

The song is a weird embarrassment. Forgettable even – if not for the lyrics. Su Han comes across as a bit of a buffoon to the uninitiated. Score: 4/10

You can watch the video here

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What exactly are Chinese manners?

Postscript – Wednesday

A peculiar thing happened on the way back home this morning. The chorus from a song came into my head and has been stuck there ever since. Which song? Yes, Two Sessions!

Post-Postscript – Thursday

The song is still very much alive and well in my head as the blog goes to air. There’s so much good new music out there and yet I’m being reminded of the “Two Sessions.”

Maybe the joke is on me.