Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Time Off

So I open up my email the other day and this is what I get.

Dear All

The college has decided the new year's holiday as following:

We will work on Saturday (29th, December) and make up classes for Monday(31st, December). The holiday will be on 30th, 31st, December 2007 and 1st January 2008.

Thanks.

xxxx


I have withheld the name to protect the innocent, but does anyone else see what is wrong with this? There are two things, for one how can they call it time off, when you are working those days, you are just working on a different day, also one of those days (30th) is a f@#$!@# Sunday, no we don't work on Sundays here.

It stipulates in my contract with the school that I get 3 days off, two of them are made up and one (the 1st) is not, they are trying to pull a fast one on us.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Layers, Layers, Layers


Everyone says that if you want to stay warm you must wear what?.......Layers. Well ladies and gents it has begun to get cold here (last night it was 32/0 depending on who is reading this)brrrrrr. But come on it is not that cold, I mean I might be from Florida, but it gets much colder than 32, right?

So I went to class today and my four senior students show up (that's a whole 'nother story), and they are covered head to toe in clothes. This is nothing new, in fact, it seems there is a date when people start wearing their winter coats (November 1 is my guess, although I can't ever get a straight answer). It doesn't matter that it is still 50 degrees outside by god it's November 2nd and I need to wear my coat or I will get sick. Sound familiar? Isn't that what your mother always tells you?

Today was different however, I decided I was going to get to the bottom of my students clothes wearing habits. Because they always ::gasp:: when I take my coat off (inside), I mean why would I take my winter coat off when I am inside a heated building? Then, inevitably, they ask me if I am cold, and I always say, "If I were cold would I take off my jacket?, and, why do you care anyway?" They say it's because they are worried about me. So then I invariably ask them, "Why don't you take your coats off?" And then they always answer in unison as if rehearsed, "Because it's winter silly." I added the "silly" but it might as well have been what they said.

There are some things in China no foreigner will ever understand and the layers issue is one of them. I asked them how many layers they had on, they answered 4, keep in mind these are healthy twenty year old kids. Four layers!!! An undershirt, Shirt, Sweater, and Jacket (that's the top) then the bottom, regular underwear, long johns, another set of long johns, wool socks and finally pants of some sort. I mean my god two pairs of long johns it was 34 degrees outside, not -34. To top it all off, this is indoors!!!! indoors!!!! Crazy, crazy there is really on word and it is crazy. They almost fell died when I told them I was only wearing jeans.

The best part of all is that they will sit there and sweat in the classroom while I am more than comfortable. Ahh China, gotta love it.

Riley GwiX

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Great Haze over China

I'm not talking about being hungover either. The pollution here is something else, it's really crazy. It's hard to really show people how bad it is other than the sunsets and now this image from NASA that is honestly astonishing, I have modified it a little so you can see exactly where I sit in all this.


According to NASA (Click the Picture to enlarge)
Thick haze collected in eastern China, south of Beijing, in mid-December 2007. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite took this picture on December 17, 2007. In places, the dull gray haze is thick enough to completely hide the land surface below. The haze appears confined to low elevations, only cresting the Taihang Shan Mountains in a few locations.


Here is a picture of a beautiful Chinese Sunset. (Don't stare you'll go blind.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Red Pajamas




While on the topic of superstition, I thought I would mention a funny one that my students told me about. Apparently nobody here where's red pajamas, I didn't believe it either but just like green hats they are impossible to find. There is a supersition that says if you die wearing red clothes at midnight that your soul will be stuck in this world forever. That you will haunt where ever it is that you die.

Strangely enough they sell an insane amount of red underwear, while I consider underwear ,clothes they are not included in this superstition because you are supposed to wear red underwear when it is your zodiac calendar year. So because I was born in the year of the pig (this year) I have gone out and bought a nice pair of red undies for good luck.

Crazy Chinese

Translated Brands

So I have decided to start a new blog devoted to Chinese Western Brands. It is one of my favorite things do when I am bored here and that is find brands I know and recognize. So if you are bored there will be some more content for you to look at. "Misadventures" will be personal observations "Familiar Brands" will be more formulaic.

Leave me a comment to tell me what you think.


Riley

Green Hats

So recently I started wearing this beanie that one of the teachers who likes to knit made for me. It is just a normal green hat nothing special but in China nothing is at it seems.

I had been getting this snickering when I walked into class and kept seeing students pulling their camera phones out trying to be slick and sneak a picture of me. Normally, (it is normal by the way) when they do this I will try to embarrass them and make wacky poses. But, it seemed the wacky poses were only adding to their excitement.

Strange as it may seem, I couldn't seem to shake this. So, I kind of forgot about it. Then yesterday one of my Chinese teaching colleagues asked me if I knew anything about the green hat in China.

Here we go I thought, what is going to be this time? Apparently she told me, that no Chinese men would ever wear a green hat, even the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had changed the color of the hats their soldiers wore. Now, if something can get the PLA to change it habits it must be big.

Turns out that there is a saying in Chinese that goes like this 戴绿帽子 or (dai lu mao zi) "to wear a green hat". Apparently it means that your wife or girlfriend is cheating on you, or basically you are a cuckold. Crazy Chinese...apparently in the Ming and Yuan dynasties men whose female relatives were prostitutes would have to wear green head coverings.

So the lesson is don't give a man a green hat in China unless you are trying to tell him that his wife/girlfriend is cheating on him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

So I have picked a new Chinese name, it is 韦一(wei yi) which means like the one and only or special. Pronounced way eee, it kind of sounds like my name and has a cool ring to it. Plus since there is only one Riley I figured it would be a good representation of me. There is a big emphasis on the meaning of names here. The name must mean something or the child will be a mess "supposedly".

Plus the name is easy to remember and easy to write.

That's all for now.

From the Middle Kingdom

Riley

Monday, December 10, 2007

So I have had a hard time trying to express the naivete of my students and just yesterday had a prime example pop up for use with my western audience. So I was talking a student of mine he is about twenty I think (maybe older). And, we were watching a movie about Africans.

So Edward let's call him turns to me and asks, "When Black babies are born are they dark or do are they white and then turn dark?"

After hearing this I was flabberghasted. He was totally serious and had no idea. This is what we are dealing with....most of the world is that uneducated.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Funny Chinese Sign

If ever there was a sign that summed up China it is this one. Tell me how much of this is common sense? Bear in mind that I found this in a very nice, prestigious Museum. The Henan Museum in Zhengzhou is regarded as one of the best museums in China. So you would think that people would act accordingly, right?

I really want to get a T Shirt of this made and sell it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

So I went to the old grocery cornerstore on campus, today to find some dishwashing soap. They didn't have the brand I like, so I had to search through the remaining brands to find something worthwile. So like any human I pick them up and sniff them. First one I see is ginger scented, hmmm must be interesting, (not my cup of tea), the next one pardon the pun is tea scented, then of all things GARLIC! for your dishes? Oh China, WTF is that all about? So I settled on papaya the most "normal" of the scents.
Oh Yeah, just on a quick note I have decided to grow a beard just because:

a. I can.
b. The locals can't.
c. It is getting cold.
d. I'm lazy.
e. There is no hot water in the morning. I don't know if you have ever tried to shave without hot water let's just say it is torture.
f.Well there is no f, but I just liked the roundness of having an f in my list.
There are some things in China that I wish they would export to the states. (Now isn't that a strange statement.)

But I'm serious, for instance the water bottles (big 5 gallon variety) have these little plugs on the bottom that are pushed in when you set it into the dispenser. When I used to work at Apex Systems we would always play a little game and see if the chump who picked up the bottle would spill it when they set it into the fountain. Here that is not an issue, the mirror-world of China is not all bad.

Second, and this is something that would make life so much easier driving in any congested area. The traffic lights have timers on them telling you how long you have until the light turns red/green so you know that you are not going to make it and there is no need to speed up if there are 3 seconds left and you are a 1/4 mile away.

Third, well let me come back to a third one, there really isn't anything I can think of off the top of my head that is more logical here. Yeah that's pretty much it but if I think of something I will be sure to update you when I get a chance.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Mistaken Identity

I guess it is a compliment when someone from a foreign culture is not recognized as foreign. I have two different examples to give you. For one, I saw one of my students in the street and I did the old look them in the eye waiting for them to recognize me. However, to my surprise they walked right by me, and I said, "Hey Ann, what did you not recognize me?" She whips around and said, "Oh, Riley?....Sorry I thought you were Chinese." I don't know if this is a compliment or an insult maybe the world wide web can help me interpret this.

Then on the same day as this whole coming off as Chinese thing, I had two separate students tell me that I sounded Chinese when I spoke Mandarin. That I thought was pretty cool considering the whole reason I came here was to learn Chinese.

Anyway, that's all for now.

Over and out.

Riley

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Point Out Those Differences

The scary thing to me about China, is its potential. Currently it leads the world in manufacturing but just wait until it becomes a service oriented economy because that is when the money will be made. If you want to read an article that articulates the difference in economies it is this one here in the NY Times. The story is a simple compare/contrast on the music industry. It is something that is so puzzling to me, the popular musicians here literally all sound the same. If you were to close your eyes you would think that they only release one album about "love".

When they decide to respect intellectual property law you will see this economy explode (as if it is not already).

Good Night and Good Luck

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Update on MSG

(This counts as the first post for the week the last post was just an admission of guilt)

So I needed to buy salt for cooking. Pretty simple right, I mean salt is salt however when all of the minerals are in clear plastic bags on a shelf and you have no idea what the character in Chinese means it can be pretty daunting. So I went online and found the character for salt (yan, 盐). Perfect I thought the mission is now set and I will be able to go get some salt. I go to the store find the shelf and grab what looks like salt it has the character on it and everything. I get home and just to make sure I was correct decide to taste it.

Low and behold, what I had bought is not salt and it tastes nothing like salt. I couldn't believe it the thing said 盐(salt) so why didn't it taste like salt.

After further inspection of the packaging I found that next to salt was a mysterious character (无) what was this about? I went online again and found that this meant wu or (not). So on the packaging it literally said wu yan (无盐) or not salt. Great what is this crap then. I find the characters look it up and what had I bought you guessed it MSG.

So I can say that I have bought crystalline MSG and now have a lifetime supply of the stuff.

Peace and Love

Riley

Slacking.............

So I have been slacking recently, in more ways than one. For some reason I have a hard time finishing things; don't know why that is but I do. This blog is a prime example, I should be updating it more often not for the readers but for myself. Alas, as is obvious from the posts I have not been doing that.

Why is it so hard to change what seem to be like simple aspects about yourself? Is it because changing is hard or because we don't really want to change and just lie to ourselves about wanting to change. I started this blog with the intention of keeping people updated on what was going on so I didn't have to have 20 of the same conversations. If people could read what my experiences had been then they would know and I wouldn't have to explain everything.

However, I think that the essence has changed and the reasons for keeping what has become a journal are now more apparent. Have you ever read an essay or letter or anything you wrote a long time ago? I mean so long ago that you forgot you even wrote that essay about Napoleon's conquest or the recipe for chopped liver that Aunt Hilda gave you. It is really bizarre (at least to me) to read your own words and I think that this experiment in journal keeping has proved that to me. To read what my thoughts were 2 months ago has been a really positive experience.

What is cool is that I have been getting mostly positive comments, reviews etc. So I am now excited to write this stuff down. I will try my best to be less of a slacker for that reason, problem is that I am so good at slacking. I wish I could retrain myself to not procrastinate.

So that is what I am going to attempt to do, retrain myself, and the first step is to update this blog at least twice a week and pay my bills on time, return my students papers on time, hell even not be late to things for a week.

Anyway sorry for the long rant but sometimes it is important to be honest with yourself, and so now I am going to be, "I Riley Edan Gelwicks, am a slacker". There now I hope I can change that aspect of myself and stop underachieving.

P.S. the chips were cucumber, I will try to show you more bizarre flavors from your favorite American brands.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy birthday to me, today is my 24th birthday, however I don't really know what hour to celebrate it. Is it the east coast time? Or is it the date? Because I am 13 hours ahead of the east coast of the US, when does one actually celebrate it? I was actually born at 12:01am November 6th, 1983; so it is kind of a tough question to answer.


Anyway I wanted to do a tribute to American-Chinese brands today. These are some familiar brands you might all be used to. Tell me if you can guess what flavor those chips are in the middle. I bet you would never guess that they would make chips of that flavor.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cultural Misunderstandings

So when three cultures clash people tend to step on each others toes. It is hard to keep from offending people when it is just your culture but when you have to take into account three it is just bad news. There were 3 cultures that were mixing last Saturday, for our annual Halloween festivities. I would say they were western, African and east-Asian. I will come back to this point in a bit don't forget about it. It started out festive enough with everyone showing up in their respective homemade costumes. There was punch and h'ors derves and it was like being back in the west if only for an hour or two. Maybe about 9 o'clock two hours from the beginning of the party the two African guys decided they were going to be festive too, by sacrificing a chicken. You read that right sacrificing a chicken!!!! They did not realize that it was possibly not that good of an idea to do this but they started to go through their whole ritual. Meanwhile, no one is actually thinking they are going to kill this chicken they would just to do a little dance say some chants and that would be that. Next thing you know this chicken has its head off and there is blood all over the floor. Needless to say that this was an instant buzz kill and about 5 people immediately left the party. I was kind of indifferent/drunk and stayed because I figured there would be more booze for me, but nonetheless when these cultures mixed it did not turn out very pretty. And I can now say that I have seen a chicken with its head ripped off (disgusting by the way).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween


Happy Halloween to one and all, how am I celebrating, well tonight there is nothing to do, if I wore a costume I feel like I would be put into an insane asylum. Other than the lack of Halloween stuff to do, everything else is going smooth like butter. I am now a fountain pen enthusiast, given that they are like $2 here they are fun to buy and use, after going fountain I will never go back to a ball point. The internet here is still hit at miss, it goes from being ultrafast to a snails pace. Some days we have it some days we don't it can be kind of frustrating. Um other than that I don't know much else, my birthday is next week and I have bought a bottle of real wine to celebrate I am excited can't believe that I am going to be 24 feels like I just graduated from high school not college, crazy part is I have been out of UF for 1 1/2 years, nuts I say. Anyway that's all for now take it easy for sheezy.

再见

Monday, October 22, 2007

Musings

Ok a few things that are really vexing me about not being at home, one is the lack of knowledge of sports here among the locals and the other is the blindless love of Yao Ming (he's busted too). Unless I want to talk about the NBA mainly the Houston Rockets (yawn!!) I can't talk sports with anyone. Nobody to say holy shit did you see that play or I can't believe that LSU pulled it out. Or how much do you hate the Yankees/Red Sox? None of this is possible here. Because of that, I have now taken up Badminton you heard right, that beast of country club lawn sports. If anything it is because I love to beat the locals at the sports they love to play. They look at me and say wow I didn't know you knew how to tie your own shoes you uncivilized westerner. Also I love talking shit to them (they don't know what I am saying) because if you go to a basketball court I have never heard a quieter place in my life. It's great because they are really reserved, I love to play up the crazy American stereotype.

On another note my video I posted for my brothers birthday has gotten a comment from someone named Geesus, I have no idea who that is and it is pretty sick. I am pumped that people are actually reading my drunken rants, pretty crazy really.

P.S. that video is of my Freshman students they are so enthusiastic it scares me!!

That's all for now, I'll keep more coming I promise.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My New Favorite Toy

Last.fm is f-ing sick, you just type in whatever artist you like and they make this radio station built around it. Honestly I have been listening to it for like the last 3 hours check it out www.last.fm it is pretty sick.

Also check this out it's webcam software that doesn't require any downloads it's all in browser. And people can talk to you if they don't have an account I'm telling you in like 3 years this is how everyone is going to talk online (buy now).

TokBox

Best part is they are all free.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Happy Birthday

Happy 29th Birthday to my brother. video

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Grading Papers

So I have graded 80 papers on "My First day of School" and have a new found respect for teachers. It is like the most boring thing I have ever had to do. I appreciate all of my teachers that I have ever had because this sucks.

Chinese Toilet


The next time you are driving and have an "emergency" don't hesitate about that gas station because after seeing some of the toilets here in China I would lick those floors.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The ol' bait and switch

So a few weeks ago I said how I was going to be singing in this talent show for some foreign teachers. Turns out I was a little mislead, we get to this dinner/performance and I see these dudes carrying cameras and cables and shit into the hall. I ask myself I wonder why all of these cameras are going where I am going. So I ask the secretary who is acting as our interpreter and she begins to tell me that we are being televised, to Henan province. I ask oh is it live she says I think so. Henan has more than 100 million people living in it. So I was literally televised to a potential audience of like 80 million people. Not exactly what I signed up for, and of course we had to follow this proper Opera singer and we looked like total amateurs. Here that is kind of how things work, people always undersell everything, telling you just enough to get you interested then by the time you agree to do it, it is too late.

On a more positive note I ordered my first meal in Mandarin without pointing at the menu was pretty proud of myself and I didn't have to repeat myself either.

Still missing Primanti's

Riley

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Food

There are a lot of things that I expected when I came here, language barrier, jet lag, being a psuedo-celebrity etc. But there are a few things that have happened which I have not expected. For instance, I have these powerful food cravings. It has been more than three weeks since I have had any western style food, basically (cheese, pasta, hamburgers, french fries, ketchup, sliced bread, a salad, a proper sandwich, hard liquor, tacos, burritos, salsa, chips, nachos, hot pockets, uncrustables, well you get the idea) and I have been having intense cravings. I feel like this must be how a pregnant woman feels waking up and wanting pickles at 3 in the morning because I am not joking when I say I have had dreams about food. I never would have guessed I would have a dream about food. In them I am usually eating a pizza or taco, although for one of them I was in Primanti Bros., and it tastes so good I mean unbelievably good better than anything you have ever tasted before. THen I wake up and realize oh more rice yay!!!! It is one of those things that I never would have expected. But, this will probably subside because I just got paid and am going to splurge on the essentials, Jim Beam, Good Cheese, Pizza Sauce and Bread "hmmmmmm bread".

Adios y Vaya con Dios,

Riley

P.S. i figured out a way around the Great Firewall of China so I am now able to read your comments although I think I have a whopping one.

P.P.S. I will try to update this every day or two to keep you entertained while at work/class for you people in law school.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Life in a foreign country

I would say life here is interesting, if not compelling. The way the Chinese live is strange to say the least. They are the nicest people you have ever met really sincere even in the most naive way, but they do some really retarded shit. It is kind of hard to explain without specific examples but just the fact that you go to a bathroom and realize that place probably hasn't been cleaned since the restaurant opened you realize how nice the west can be. By the way those bathrooms are not really bathrooms, just a glorified hole in the floor that happens to flush. I like to call them squat pots but there are other less dignified names for them. What is ironic is no matter who you ask here they love to tell you that they have been a civilization for more than five thousand years, ironically they are not really all that civilized. They eat crap food, have no real manners (i.e. spit on the floor in a restaurant, blow snot rockets in public, stare incessantly at you, and oh yeah have their less than 5 year old kids shit and piss right on the sidewalk). However I digress, life here is really not all that bad just really different I think that is best way to describe china, different. I mean it really is one of those things that you have to see to believe. What is crazy to me is that I have been here just about a month and most of this stuff just doesn't faze me anymore.

That's about all for now.

Riley

P.S. oh yeah just so you know safety and hygiene are words that just don't translate in the Chinese language.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

So I guess I was wrong

China in its infinite wisdom has blocked anything with .blogspot.com in front of it however I can still access it on the backend. So while I might not be able to actually see what my blog looks like in the finished state I can actually make posts to it. Weird I know but anyway now I know that I can make posts to it and hopefully someone out there is reading them. I can't, however, read any comments so just email me. Anyway, I have to go plan my lessons for the week, I was thinking about playing taboo with the kids and then having them compete with each other. I can basically choose any thing I want to do. The leeway they give me is ridiculous, but hey that's China. The more time I spend here the more I realize there are somethings you will just never understand. Oh yeah we are performing in a talent show next friday so I will be singing Hotel California in front of like 500 people, should be interesting. Anyway that's about it for now. I will post more cool stuff. Oh yeah one last addendum we are going to this mountain on saturday so I will take lots of pictures and post them on the internet.

Over and out.

Riley

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Anxiety

Stress is a powerful force on the human body. I woke up this morning less than 24 hours before I leave for the other side of the earth and I literally have what I guess was a panic attack. I couldn't think straight, had shortness of breath, even had some tightness in my chest. So I guess you could figure that it is normal to be nervous before a trip like this, and I knew that but I couldn't logically calm myself down. I kept thinking "what the fuck are you doing?", "are you crazy?" then I told myself you didn't come to this decision overnight so chill out everything is going to be ok. So here I sit t-6 hours before I dip. I am still really nervous but excited at the same time and don't plan on sleeping tonight (hopefully that'll help me with the 15 hour!!! flight to Seoul). I think it is cool I'll be in Korea for a bit, then on to Beijing where I have to find 14 hours to kill. And then on to Zhengzhou. I am prepared for it to be a little rough as far as civilization goes, hopefully I have imagined it worse that it will be. Anyway that's it for now I'll try to update this a lot I don't think it will be that big of a deal.

Peace Out, and I will miss you all.

Love,
Riley

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I have seen Dennis Rodman sing James Brown in Person


So I am going to start this little Journal or whatever you want to call it with the most recent of my observations at Dicey Riley's in Fort Lauderdale. After leaving work at a decent time 11:30pm (good by melting pot standards) I decided to spend my 2nd to last friday in the states out with some friends. I meet up with them at Brick (it was kind of boring) and bar hop to San Loco get the best tacos in town, while igor decides to run out on his bill, and then we moved on to Dicey Riley's. Which was packed, I mean sardine packed why I couldn't figure out. They had some live band playing with a tall ass singer who happened to be black. He was so tall in fact that I couldn't see his face because the top of the bar was in the way. Next thing I know I can't believe my eyes and I see dennis rodman singing James Brown at an Irish Pub in Fort Lauderdale. Surprisingly he wasn't even all that bad, even claiming he that he was famous enough to still get a ton of ass. So that is pretty much it, trying out this blogger thing. Signing out.

Riley

My Life as I See It

I decided this would be a good idea to post and share stuff with a lot of people back home while I am abroad. I will add to this as much as I can and also try to keep everyone up to date on what is going on in my life etc. So that concludes my first post there will be many more to come.