Adventures teaching English in China

It was the end of another long day teaching English in China. I’d spent the last five hours trying to help a group of ten-year-olds decipher some American common core 6th grade reading and science textbooks. At this point, they didn’t want to learn, and I didn’t want to teach. So, I did what any good teacher would do: I organized a paper airplane throwing contest.

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Is Winnie the Pooh Illegal in China?

Is Winnie the Pooh illegal in China? Well, that depends on what you mean by “illegal.” It also depends on what you mean by “in China.” Or what you mean by “pooh.”

The story goes that Chinese President Xi got upset at comparisons made between himself and a certain lovable, yellow bear. Soon, Winnie the Pooh became a symbol of resistance against government repression. The government scrubbed all references to Pooh from China and even banned the new Christopher Robin movie. Western media ranging from South Park to more reputable news agencies have repeated the sad tale of authoritarian paranoia so much it’s become common knowledge.

Except it isn’t exactly true.

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Inside a Chinese Wet Market

Chinese wet market in Shanghai

Chinese wet markets are large open markets where vendors sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, unpackaged and unprocessed. Ever since the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was identified as an early source of the COVID-19 coronavirus, they’ve been vilified in the Western media. Numerous U.S. politicians and officials are calling for wet markets to be shut down. They’re portrayed as grimy, vile, places full of viruses and disease; seedy dens packed with suffering doe-eyed animals waiting to be slaughtered.

So, of course, I wanted to go see for myself.

Spoiler alert: it was great.

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How is China reopening after the Coronavirus?

two men on scooters wear masks, How is China Reopening?

When the Covid-19 virus first hit, we had friends and relatives telling us to come back to the U.S. To be honest, I thought about it quite seriously. But we took a gamble, and we stayed in China. Now, the numbers are slowing to a trickle in China while rising to crazy levels in the U.S. Yet, despite the numbers, both countries are now reopening. From what I’ve been reading, the U.S. approach seems to be to just open the doors and letting what happens happen. So, how is China reopening?

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How to Survive a Self-Quarantine

Spending two weeks at home will surely teach you how to survive a self-quarantine. In the end, it wasn’t so bad, really. In the end, I was surprised at how quickly those two weeks went by.

Now, the coronavirus is spreading around the world. Here in Shanghai, things are slowly but surely getting better. New cases have dwindled to a relative trickle. Restaurants, parks, and bars are starting to reopen. People are actually leaving their homes and going out into the streets. It’s probably going to be the best spring in years.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even novel coronavirus pandemics.

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How to Vote in the Primary From Overseas

UPDATE: The 2020 overseas primary is over now, so if you just came here, sorry you missed your chance. Results still aren’t in.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/2020-democrats-abroad-primary-results/story?id=69437036

Wondering how to vote in the primary from overseas? It’s actually not that hard. I’ll tell you. It might actually be easier than voting from home, because unlike those suckers still back in the old U.S. of A., if you’re overseas you can vote in the primary on your computer.

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The Coronavirus: We’re Surviving the Quarantine

When I first heard about the Coronavirus, I said a hearty “meh”. Every year it seems like there’s some new horrible virus to be terrified of, and every year the new horrible virus fails to effect my life in any way whatsoever. It’s like the story about the boy who cried wolf.

You know, he says “oh hey, there’s a wolf” so many times that when a wolf finally comes nobody believes him and all the sheeps and children get eaten. People have been crying wolf for years about various deadly diseases. Fear sells newspapers (or generates clicks), and there isn’t much scarier than a deadly pandemic.

But, now, here I am in the middle of an epidemic, quarantined in a small one-bedroom apartment for the next two weeks.

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Gang of Four: A Market of the Senses

Some dramatic lighting for Gang of Four in Shanghai

I’m not talking about the rulers of the Chinese Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_of_Four). The Gang of Four I’m talking about is the late ‘70s British post-punk band.

They’ve been a favorite of ours for a while, and the album “Entertainment” is probably one of the best albums. So, when we read that they were coming to town for the 40th anniversary of “Entertainment” and playing the album in full, of course were going to go. Even if the show was a 40-minute subway ride away way up in Hongkou. Even if we had to work the next morning.

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Learning Chinese, but Still Tīng Bù Dǒng

Neon lights of Chinese characters in Shanghai, also a McDonald's sign

(click here for helpful resources to learn Chinese)

What has been the most difficult thing about moving to China?

Culture shock is a real thing, of course. Every culture has its own quirks that take some getting used to. In China, people spit on the street. Sometimes kids will poop on the street. They have squat toilets. People shove in the subway. They eat frogs.

Sure, these are all different, unusual, maybe even weird to someone coming from the West. Fundamentally, though, they are all superficial. I have been pleasantly surprised with how quickly I’ve grown accustomed to all those things.

You ignore the spitting. You laugh at the kid pooping. You build up your thigh muscles for squatting, and you learn to either shove along with everyone else. Or else find the toughest old lady you can and follow her. Oh, and frog meat is actually pretty tasty.

None of those things, or any of the other superficial cultural differences, are really that difficult to adjust to if you’re able to keep an open mind.

The biggest difficulty is by far the language barrier. I swear I’m learning Chinese, but damn it, it’s hard!

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