Just chilling with the owner of #topshop in HK. Sir Phillip Green #hongkong #nightlife #random #ilovehongkong #fashion
Stories of a philanthropic Canadian girl working at a Chinese factory and traveling the world by weekends
I had a very interesting week. On Monday I got a call from one of my dad’s friends saying that an English teacher at a local college was “let go” and they were looking for a replacement. It would be teaching “Business English” twice a week. Apparently my dad and his friends think I have no life and just sit at home after work and do nothing (which to be fair is true, but still watching Sex and the City and doing yoga still takes time!). Anyways, I agreed to do it for two weeks before my big move to Hong Kong (thats a whole separate post!)
[The second floor is where I teach.. yes theres metal bars everywhere]
All I was told was that they were going to be first year university students, and that the class was for them to practice speaking. I was given a textbook, which I found to be the most interesting thing. I now realize why when doing business with the Chinese it is so redundant, forced and stereotyped. The book does a great job of portraying how a Chinese person does business with the whole “cooperation” “mutual understanding” “gift giving” in every second sentence.
[example of one lecture from the textbook. I dont know anyone who has ever said “but you know learning is mutual”??]
So upon getting to the classroom the kids were playing some kind of karaoke music on the projector. Nice welcome. There were 42 students, only 5 of which were boys. Is this a prime example of girls outnumbering the guys in university and the work place? Now my lesson plan was very vague, since I didn’t know what the heck I was suppose to be teaching or what the other teacher had left off at. I tried asking questions, you know, their names, what they were studying, what hobbies they had. Nothing. Zip. The class room had two microphones, so I forced the students to read dialogues with me to practice their english.
The most interesting thing I found was that they were at their best when I had a list of words on the board and got them to repeat after me to work on the pronunciation. They were flawless. Well actually robotic. They repeated it back to me in perfect unison. It actually surprised me quite a bit when they first did it. My first thoughts were this is why in the work force or in their careers the Chinese in general are so good at copying and doing word for word exactly as they are told. Sure I’ve seen it because I work with the locals all the time, but it really is because they are brought up and taught like this even in university. So how else could they know any different? To think outside the box. To be creative. Well I thought it was something quite interesting.
The class was two hours long, but I thought it was a one hour class with another class coming in after. So upon 50 minutes of teaching (reciting) I told them class was over. They all just sat there. I was confused, they were confused. But none of them left their seats. I called up the secretary and she told me then it was the same students and their class was actually 90 minutes long. If this was in Vancouver the students would have raced out of class so fast. But these kids even though I had mistakenly tried to dismiss them all sat nicely in their seats. I tried to play it off cooly..
Its only been the first week teaching them, but its quite interesting. I think it does remind me of my previous dream to be a teacher. To be able to connect with a student and knowing that you had an impact is something so incredibly fulfilling that corporate can’t provide. I’m not saying in my two hour lesson (technically 90 minutes) that I had some kind of life changing meaningful impact on the students, but it just made me remember that I liked teaching, and I liked trying to connect with kids. So who knows, maybe its a path I’ll venture on sometime in the future again.
It’s been exactly 9 months since my move to China. I wish I could say that in 9 months I was able to accomplish spectacular things, and that after graduation life was amazing, thrilling, and the “real world” was all that I had imagined. I feel like I need to shatter my 13 year old self’s expectations.
The real world, well China anyways, was far from how I imagined it. Who would have thought, that even though I visited China every summer as a kid, I would still have such a huge cultural shock. Even after all these months I’m still constantly in shock. From the top of my head some things I can think of:
1. Love, children & marriage
The chinese view of this is far different from the “western” perspective. For example, in the office that I work there are three girls and one guy. The youngest, 20 years old, has a 4 month old baby, and was married at the age of 19. The two girls who are only a year older than me, at 23, one just got married last month, and the other is getting married later this year. And this is completely normal. What isn’t normal is me. “Where’s your boyfriend? When are you getting married?” Constantly I am bombarded by these questions. And children? Im pretty sure everyone is dying for me to have a kid, its a shame they’ll be waiting quite a while still.. And on love. It is far more important that people get married younger than waiting for “true love”. Hell I’ve never even heard of any of the people here speak of soul mates. Its more of a..convenient marriage it seems. There was a BBC article on “China’s Leftover Women”, and I’ll say, its quite accurate. By 27 if you aren’t married (or at least have a serious relationship), they definitely think there is something wrong with you.
Ok I could go on forever about this one. But seriously, do not complain to me about bad asian drivers until you’ve lived in China. Try driving in a place where all the bad asian drivers originated from, and where half the people probably bought their licenses (true story, the government had only recently in the past year or so tightened up drivers licensing). The number of times I’m driving down a road and freak out thinking I’m on the wrong side of the road because bicyclists, motorcyclists, and stupid drivers don’t care which side of the road they’re on. And then theres the highway. You would think that you know, highways, everyone goes pretty fast, its a constant speed. But then you have the fruit and veggie sellers, who are walking along the highway and out of nowhere decide to park their stand ON the road in front of you. Seriously, dangerous as hell. Then of course theres the motorcycles that have the entire family on them. Every time I see a baby sitting on a lap, I cringe. But hey, thats China for you I guess.
Don’t get me wrong, I love chinese food. Just not everyday, 7 days a week, 3 meals a day. I live in Zhongshan, so yes it is a smaller city, but they should really learn some variety. There is ONLY chinese food. Thats not even what bothers me though, what really bothers me is that no one else is willing to try anything else. They are all so damn patriotic even when it comes to food. They will scoff and say that every type of food originated from China. Yes including Italian food, Korean, Japanese and Russian. I seriously crave “normal food”. Every time I go back to Canada the only thing I bring back is a suitcase full of food. My one love is sushi, and trust me, sushi is horrible here. They also have their own version of everything, which means that most of the rolls you would never have seen before. Such as the corn loaded with mayo, canned tuna loaded with mayo, and just everything loaded with mayo and lets call it japanese.
This maybe should go under the food section, but this is an important one since it is probably the reason I know I can’t live in China forever. Everyone has heard of the whole baby milk formula problem in China. That has gotten so out of hand that all the mainland chinese people go to HongKong to buy their formulas, causing a shortage in Hong Kong, to the extent that local HK people can’t even find baby formula to feed their own babies. Starting March 1st they had implemented a new rule stating that only two cans of baby formula may be brought out of HK. And they are dead serious about it. They arrested some mainland chinese women because she had brought 4 cans of baby formula, but it was some kind of rice milk formula, so there was technicality issues and after a week of being jailed and fined they released her. But thats how serious they are. Anyways, on top of the baby milk powder, it seems like EVERYTHING in China is tainted. Everyday you hear on the news how they have found toxic chemicals in this and that. Did you know that even some toilet papers had harmful bleaching chemicals? Your ass isn’t even safe anymore! Then theres the 16,000 floating dead pigs and 1,000 floating dead ducks. Seriously, do people really not think that eventually it will get into our food system? And after some of my own research it turns out the dumping of the pigs was caused by the tightening regulations of the new government on ensuring that diseased and dead pigs don’t end up on the market. So avoiding being caught this smart ass dumped it all in the river. That means we were all eating diseased pigs at one point probably. The chicken even at KFC and McDonalds are on some kind of super hormones that make them grow really fast. That takes out, chicken, duck, pork..I might as well start becoming vegetarian now.. its only a matter of time before everything else I eat and use becomes tainted. It all boils down to ethics, and the chinese’ drive to increase the bottom line no matter what the cost.
5. Diet & Exercise
This one really bugs me. China has this unrealistic expectation for all the girls to be thin. If you’re 120pounds (no matter what height) you’re considered fat. I’m not even joking. Their ideal weight for a girl is under 100lbs. They don’t care about BMI, body fat, whats healthy whats not. Oh, not under 100lbs? tsk tsk. On their resume they even have a section so that they can put a picture of themselves as well as their weight. Yes on their RESUMES. This would be unheard of anywhere else, but its the norm in China. Whenever I meet my relatives their first comments are either I gained weight or I lost weight. Its basically their version of “how are you doing?”. Their idea of how to lose weight is always, don’t eat meat, and eat less. Oh screw the gym, if you just skip a meal here and there you’ll be skinny in no time. That is actually engraved in their minds. I bring up, well maybe you guys should try exercising, they just laugh and say you dont want girls to have bulging muscles. REALLY?! So thats the reason why you won’t ever see any jacked up asian guy or fit girls. Come to think of it, a lot of the guys at the company are so skinny from the back they look like girls…
I’m still learning to deal with all this, thank god theres Hong Kong. Its weird that this little island an hour half away from where I live is a world of a difference. And for anyone thinking of visiting China, don’t worry if you’re only visiting it’ll be fine. Living here..definitely stay in the major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is still my favorite, its so much more of a giant cultural melting pot and a good blend of chinese and western philosophies.
A picture reflection of 2012. Definitely a great & memorable year.
JANUARY- JDC West
Started off the year freezing our butts off in Edmonton for the JDC West Competition
Team Sauder, first place Academic School of the Year
Finishing first place in the International Business team, this is a moment I’ll never forget. Those 150 hours of case practices and god knows who else was all worth it.
FEBRUARY- Cancun Spring Break
Cancun spring break with these boys. Enough said.
MARCH- 5 Days for the Homeless
Day 1 of being “homeless”
We even made the chinese newspaper! And I attempted to give an interview in my crappy mandarin. Those 5 days though were definitely an eye opener for me. And thanks to everyones support we surpassed our goal of raising $20,000 for Directions Youth Services in Vancouver that helps to get the youth off the street. So everyone who donated, THANK YOU!
APRIL- Grad Night & Bal en Blanc Montreal
With some of the lovely ESSP summer exchange peeps!
And the night out to follow
Montreal for Bal en Blanc, a day before one of my finals. One of the best decisions I made! Who can say no to Alesso & Armin in Mtl!
MAY- Europe trip (London, Sweden, Istanbul, Greece) & GraduationSweden for the annual Cherry Blossoms to welcome spring. Great trip with my little sister and best friend!
Enjoying the rooftops of Istanbul with the little one
Champagne at sunset in Santorini
Graduating with friends, congrats we did it Class of 2012!
JUNE- EDC & Guadeloupe
And it was off to Vegas..
EDC with these two lovelies
Paradise in the Caribbean’s
One of the most intense hikes I’ve ever been on. Almost 3 hours, no water, in flip flops, in an unmarked trail that at times had to be cut with a machete. But definitely worth the view.
Some amazing filming backdrops for our charity project, stay tuned for this in 2013 ;)
JULY-AUGUST: Move to China
The big move to China to work in Zhongshan. A lot of traveling to HK, Macau and Guangzhou in between. Also a trip to Harbin & Beijing up north.
September: Vegas & Vancouver trips
A lovely trip to Seattle with two of my favorite people in the world. Then there was the trip to Vancouver..twice flying back from HK to Vancouver back to HK back to Vancouver back to HK..all within in a week. Great times.
NOVEMBER- China trip (Guilin, Beijing, HK) with Sanja & My birthday!
In front of our scenic hotel in Yangshuo. Absolutely beautiful mountains
Rice Paddys in Yangshuo
This is probably the best lunch I’ve ever had. It wasn’t that the meal was insanely fancy, far from it. At the top of one of the Da Zai rice paddys was this women’s house, from the local village. She literally just cooked us what they had growing in the backyard, and offered us chicken, but when she told us we had to pick which chicken we wanted to get killed..we did vegetarian. And this beats any downtown city view for lunch.
And now here was a killer view of HK for my birthday night with Sanja
DECEMBER- Whistler & HK NYE in LKF
Snowboarding in Whistler with good friends. This is what I missed most in Vancouver
And finishing off 2012 in HK with my favorite person ever! Couldn’t have asked for a better NYE!
And the #1 Lesson I learnt this year? Never settle.
Heres to all the adventures and whatever else 2013 has in store!
A little insight to my life since moving to China- exactly two months ago! Well first off, its a world of a difference. But I like change, and the more drastic the better, just keeps things interesting. Having been in Vancouver for so long it felt like being in a bubble. A bubble of yoga loving fit sea wall jogging sushi eating love. Asia is way more fast paced, and has so much more potential for startups and developing businesses.
My job here is working as the marketing and sales manager of our Shower Door section of the company (check out www.ckb.tm , don’t laugh, this website is a major upgrade from our previous one!! ) . Its my first full time job, and I’ve gotta say going from relaxed student life to 8am-5:30pm 6 days a week is quite a change. Though I do make the most of that one saturday night and sunday day I have off :) Its literally been, HK, Macau, Hk, GZ, HK, Macau, Hk, GZ. Well something like that. Zhongshan thankfully is only an hour something from all three locations.
I wanted to share some things I’ve been adjusting to since moving here:
1. The Great Firewall: Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, Youtube, IMDB ( This one I don’t understand..) are all blocked over here. For anyone coming to China, use a VPN. My UBC VPN luckily still works :) Its the easiest way to get around the firewall.
2. Hot weather: So far its been hot, humid, sweaty, daily. Example, todays weather forecast: “36 degrees, feels like 48 degrees, 89% humidity- Weather Network Canton, China” This means almost two showers daily, and you pretty much just want to run into an aircon room whenever possible. *Note this is in Southern China where I live, Beijing or more north its a more dry hot
3. Afternoon naps: I thought siestas was only a spanish thing, but with our 1.5 hour long lunch breaks everyone at the company finishes eating in less than 15 minutes and then will find a nice shady area or a fan and passes out. It was funny, one time a customer came to visit us during lunch time and I took him to the showroom and one of our employees had found a flattened cardboard box and a fan and passed out in the middle of the showroom. Our customer found it hilarious. Maybe its the weather, after working a couple hours you do get really exhausted. Keeping it to a nap is the hard part!
4. Food: I really miss sushi. LIke really really miss it. Vancouver really spoils people with the quality and authenticity and variety of food available. The one thing thats amazing here is how cheap everything is, if you want a meal could literally only cost you $1USD. And fresh fruit. God fresh fruit. Delicious. Lychee season just passed, but we would be driving and will pass by someone who will cut off the lychee straight from the tree and sell it to us. Talk about fresh.
5. State Media: Its very interesting listening to the news. Everything will be the state media says this, state media says that, or someone on weibo (the chinese version of twitter) posted this or that. Weibo seems like the best way to get information. Though the government will block key words, for example during the Gu Kai Lai trial, you couldn’t even search up her name in Weibo . Thank god for VPN.
6. Driving: Ok you know the stereotype Asians are horrible drivers? Well I have two ways of looking at it..either they are such horrible reckless drivers here, or they are so bad but skilled that they can survive in the weaving and turning and seatbelt wrenching drives. Sometimes when I’m in a taxi I wonder how the hell they DONT get into a car accident. Literally bumper to bumper with an inch between. Not for the faint of heart. But its just the way it is I guess, and they’re all used to it. Oh and interesting fact, your international driver license won’t work in China, probably one of the only countries it doesn’t work in.
Of course there are more cultural differences, but a huge one I want to touch up on in another post is their views toward charity and philanthropy. I promise this will be a good post :) But for now, just a little insight to life in China!
Buying fruits in the morning markets
Sometimes stereotypes hold true..
Constant constructions going on, need space? Lets just get rid of that mountain!