Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Internet Gods Read my Blog

A week or two ago I discovered that I can now access the English Wikipedia (though not the Chinese version) without going through a proxy or using the
service. This morning I discovered I can access the Stanford application page. Just now I discovered I cannot read my own blog without going through a proxy. The verdict is clear. The internet gods have read my blog and took some hints from it. Just not all the right ones. I checked Youtube just now. It's fully accessible, and I was sucked into watching the Llama Song. Beware.



There was a student who asked in her free-writing journal why foreigners so often travel so far.

When I was in Uzkekistan visiting my older brother, his friend expressed a similar thought. Now that friend has also traveled to other countries, but at that time he also thought frequent distant travels are pretty strange. My mother told him, "The foreigners you know are only those who do like to travel." There are many foreigners who rarely travel far.

But there is also a real difference. China is also changing, but the concept of hometown is still very important here. Last week a student club was discussing foreign cultures. There were three foreigners present: a Somali regularly enrolled student, a Yemeni exchange student, and me. They asked each of us foreigners what our hometown was like, and we were all pretty much unable to answer. The Somali was actually born in Saudi Arabia, and has never seen Somalia. The Yemeni lives in England and only rarely goes to Yemen. I also told them I don't have a hometown. This sort of thing is hard for a Chinese person to understand. When a couple marries, the often go to live together with the husbands parents, and if they don't live with them, they shouldn't live very far away. University students don't live with their parents, and some of them must take a bus for five or six hours to return home, but every summer and winter holiday they all return home, and during the autumn one-week holiday, the majority also return home. The majority have also never left Zhejiang province. For foreigners to come to China for a year or more and not see their families, to the Chinese way of thinking seems quite strange.

Mexicans are really like that too. In Mexico, university students return home every day or every week. Riding a bus for over an hour each way every day or five or six hours every weekend is not unusual. However men often pass half the year without seeing their families, because they must travel extremely far to look for work.

The cultures of different cultures each have their own customs, which are a little different, but their hearts are much alike. Although I don't have a hometown, and none of the people I know live in Santa Barbara or Colombia, I still the miss the places I have lived, in addition to the people I have known. The college students of every country, exchange students, foreign teachers, and migrant workers all get homesick.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


People keep asking me about the differences between China and the United States. Usually when people ask me about those differences, I say something similar to what I said on my other blog, i.e. essentially that there isn't a very big difference, and the differences are getting smaller. But for everything there is a season, and the time has come to get detailed about the differences I have observed.

  • People here speak Chinese, and people in the United States speak English. Okay, yes, I know that's kind of obvious, but we have to start somewhere. Of course, that statement is a terrible simplification. Chinese people typically speak two languages: their local dialect, and the standard dialect. For people in Zhejiang province, the difference between their local dialect and the official dialect is something like the difference between French and Spanish, or maybe even the difference between English and German. In addition, university students have typically been taking English classes since they started middle school, some of them since primary school. So even those who have difficulty speaking and writing English can still read English fairly well. So whereas in the USA, most of the multilingual people are immigrants or children of immigrants, multilingualism is fairly widespread in China, even though there are quite few foreign-born residents.
  • In the USA, toilet paper is in bathrooms; in China, toilet paper is on tables in restaurants. In the USA, fairly large paper napkins are widely available in eateries, cafeterias and fast food restaurants. In China, what is available to wipe your hands or face in such places is either a roll of toilet paper, or what westerners could easily mistake for kleenex tissues. In at least one dining hall here, you are given one such tissue/napkin when you buy your food. And yes, almost all public bathrooms are BYOTP (Bring your own toilet paper), and most are squatty potties.
  • In China, it's not very polite to touch food with your hands, and if you do touch food with your hands, you must not lick your hands. You must use your limited supply of tissues. However, it's quite all right to spit bones out onto the table, and to slurp soup from your spoon.
  • Chinese students typically choose their major only once, before they start college. The students of one major take all the same classes, live together with four or six per room, and typically eat and socialize together. American students typically change majors multiple times, and not uncommonly transfer from one college to another. They have many general education classes with students from other majors, and might or might not choose to live with and socialize with people they know from class. If three students have to share a bedroom, they think they have it bad.
  • They don't have Mexican or Italian food here. The closest Middle Eastern food is one hour away. On the other hand, you can get a dozen dumplings (any way you like) or a bowl of fresh noodle soup for 3 RMB (about 40¢), and you can eat like a king for 20 RMB ($2.50).
There may also be other differences, but those are the obvious ones.

Apparently, the post I wrote last week was my 100th post. Yay! I think that deserves some kind of celebratory/nostalgic review of these past two years (has it really only been two years?), but I see blogger has got some new features coming that will make such nostalgia easier. Perhaps once I check them out, we can have a proper party.

Critics among you may also note that the weekend is over without my posting the promised Chinese post. Well, I didn't say when each week I would write such a post, so there. I promise you I've already started. I've written five sentences. Be patient.

Sunday, October 15, 2006





Soy profesor de inglés, y dos de mis clases de inglés son clases de escritura. Les dije a aquellos estudiantes que escribir en inglés a menudo por communicación es hábito muy bueno. Además, les di tarea de escribir un diario en inglés, una página cada semana.

Mi nombre chino es "Lixing", que refiere a un modismo "cuerpo trabajar duro". Es decir, haga esfuerzos si mismo según lo que predique. Porque yo tambien debo practicar escribir chino, voy a escribir un ensayo en chino cada semana. Porque mi chino falta mucho, no puedo escribir un ensayo tan largo, pero con empezar pequeño y lentamente seguir mas largo, espero que pueda aprender a escribir ensayos buenos.

Mi familia no pueden entender chino, y quiero dejarles entender mis palabras. Entonces, voy a traducir a inglés. Porque también quiero practicar español, voy a traducir mis ensayos a español tambien. En esa manera puedo hacer un pequeño corpus lingüístico paralelo.

I'm an English teacher, and two of my English classes are writing classes. I told those students that frequent writing in English for communication is a very good habit. In addition, I gave them homework of writing a journal in English, one page a week.

My Chinese name is "Lixing", which refers to the maxim "body work hard", meaning diligently practice what you preach. Because I also need to practice Chinese, I'm going to write a post in Chinese each week. Because my Chinese is pretty limited, I can't write a very long essay, but by starting small and slowly writing longer, I hope I can learn to write decent Chinese posts.

My family can't read chinese, and I want to let them understand my words, so I will translate into English. Because I also want to practice Spanish, I will also translate into Spanish. This way I can make a small parallel linguistic corpus.