Ping Tracker

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Comments and Suggestions - A Two Way Conversation

Hey, everyone!

So, yeah, I've been updating you guys about my situation and when I'm gonna go back to China (June 13 - July 9 and late August 2012 - July 2013).

But in the meantime, it's hard to know what to really write about....

I want to make this blog experience more interactive and more of a two-way conversation that YOU can be a part of.

I know that there are things that I miss, things that I get wrong, and things that I just flat-out don't know about!

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it's a great tool for people to share ideas and opinions and learn more about the people and the world around them. I like to think of myself as someone who's contributing to that just a little bit, and I'd like for you to contribute to it as well.

I write for you.

If you haven't noticed, I ALWAYS reply to comments and I love to get into conversations about what people believe and why. How can we ever truly learn about each other if we don't?

All this to say, I want you guys to comment and to share your ideas with me. I've made it so that you don't have to log in, sign up, or anything - just fill in your name and website and comment. I think you also have to do a captcha, but that's no big deal, right?

What should I make videos about while I'm over there?
What should I write about now?
What are you guys curious about?
What kind of stuff do you find fascinating about China?
What totally confuses you about China?
Do you think Chinese girls are hot?

haha I don't know - answer any or all of these questions, and I will reply to all! Again, I write for you.

And Now Prepare For the Generic Feeback Sign!

Yep.........there it is.

See you guys next time!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Update: I'm Officially Going Back to Lanzhou!

Hey, everyone!

So.....things have rapidly changed in the past week or so! I have been offered a position at Lanzhou Jiaotong (pronounced "Gee - Ow - Tong") University, and I am going to take it! I signed the contract last night and sent it back to them!

I couldn't be happier about returning to Lanzhou! Although I will not be returned to Lanzhou University of Technology, a position at a reputable university in a city that I have already lived in and have connections in is a great thing for me!

Some of my friends will still be in Lanzhou for another year, so it will be great to be able to hang out with them again.

I miss the city - I really do, and I'm pumped to be able to get back to Lanzhou.

This opportunity will be a great chance for me to really get to know Lanzhou really well. It'll give me the opportunity to explore new places, revisit old haunts, and travel throughout the Northwest, which is my favorite region of the country thus far.

In regards to the Always English School in Zibo, Shandong, I really appreciate them being honest and open with me about everything, but this ultimately is a business and career decision. A year of experience as a university professor in China will look better on a resume than a year as an elementary school teacher in China.

It will give me more chances to hang out with people around my age, see them outside of class, and talk about deeper subjects of life than Hello Kitty or whatever it is that elementary school students talk about.

It'll also give me a chance to continue my language study in the same area that I learned it initially. That way, I don't have to worry about mixing up dialects and people communicate with each other in a way that I'm familiar with. As part of the deal, they offer free Chinese lessons!

I'll be getting paid more for working less hours as well as better benefits! It really seems like a win-win situation to me.

Although I am saying goodbye to Lanzhou University of Technology at the moment, I will still have the chance to see friends there and hang out in my down time.

I will meet new people at Jiaotong, of course, and I might see Lanzhou a lot differently as a teacher with responsibilities and a real job rather than as a student who didn't really have a care the world, but I am grateful for the opportunity to go back.

Please leave comments below - I want to hear from you guys about how you like/dislike the blog, how I can improve, and what you want to see from me!


Feel free to comment or to subscribe to my blog - it's totally free and no sign-up and I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Always in Zibo? (Lots of Photos!!)

Well, it's been a long time since I posted anything! Well, it seems like anyway.

So, as most of you know, I've sort of been MIA on Twitter and Facebook. I've been on Facebook some, but I haven't posted a lot of stuff except Harry Potter memes haha.

So.....down to business.

I've been talking for a few weeks with a number of schools in China, but things have not really gone in the direction that I anticipated.

I have been largely ignored by universities (my first choice of where to teach), which is understandable, because I do not have the qualifications for teaching in universities in China.

I was told that a TESOL certificate (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language certificate) was just a bonus for teaching in China, even at the university level, but it seems that that is not the case.

I do not have the certificate (but I'm working on it!) and I have no teaching experiences, so I've been largely ignored except for the "we'll call you" sort of thing.

However, strangely enough, I seem to have (sort of) unintentionally gotten quite a few elementary schools (or "primary schools," if you're not American) interested in me. I posted my resume and a few things about myself on sort of a website for ESL teachers in China, and have gotten hits from a number of different schools, and the one that I've settled on is called "Always English School" in Shandong Province. All I have to do is send an email (to be done ASAP), and I'll have the job, visa permitting, of course. Probably by the time you read this, I'll have already sent it.

Here's Shandong on the map:

It's about midway up the east coast, and the city that I'll be living in, Zibo, is about 3 hours south of Beijing by train.

Weather-wise, it's gonna be freaking cold in the winter, nice in the spring, fairly hot in the summer, and nice in the fall. So, that's cool - four seasons!

Here in Texas, we have summer and a 2 month winter haha

Anyway, about the school - it's called Always English School, or Always Education and Exchange Center. It's part of a sort of chain of English schools that were founded by some Australians.

As you can see from the picture, it's mostly kids, but apparently they have a few adults there too, in "VIP" classes.

This is an English-specific school - English is all that is taught here.
Since English is all that is taught there, classes are mostly on the weekends and there are a few scattered throughout the week.

So, basically, for me, weekends will be really long and difficult, but the rest of the week will be pretty much cake.

I'm just gonna use these two pictures from the school and give you the website if you're really curious.

Click here to go to their website.

I'm gonna get some really good benefits from working there, which I am really excited about and are on-par with the benefits/salary of a university. Free housing, paid vacations, etc.

It seems like a great place to work, and I've had the opportunity to talk with a foreign teacher as well as their general go-to lady who've both told me about working there and what to expect as far as what's difficult and what's awesome about it.

I do have a number of concerns, but they have been voiced in the previous blog post, and will probably be voiced again, just in case you don't feel like going back and reading the previous one.

 For now, I'm just gonna talk about what you guys should expect to be hearing about if I do, in fact, take the job, which I'm only a couple of days away from deciding.

Zibo itself is in the Northeast of China, close to a city called Jinan, the "City of Springs," because of its numerous springs and rivers that surround and run through the city. Coincidently, my favorite blogger, Poise On Arrows, actually just finished a year of studying Chinese in Jinan.....weird, huh?

Zibo is also blessed with a decent amount of water, which is a far cry from the deserts of Gansu, where I spent my time last year.

 It's a city of a little more than 5 million people, so it's a decently-sized city by Chinese standards, although some may still call it "small."

It seems like a great place - it's growing and expanding rapidly, and it's known for safety and being a "harmonious" place, even being named in 2009 as one of the "Most Harmonious Cities Which Enjoy Sustainable Growth In China," which sounds pretty official, I guess hahaha

In my opinion, it's kind of a strange place to take a shot like this.....the front half of the photo is pretty much bare.......

A cool thing about Zibo is that it's close to Mount Tai (pronounced "tie").

Mount Tai is one of China's "Five Sacred Mountains" and is arguably the most important of the five.

The Five Sacred Mountains originated from the body parts of Pangu, the creator of the world, with Mt. Tai being formed from his head.

Because Mt. Tai is located the furthest east, it is associated with the rising sun and the idea of rebirth and renewal, and is therefore considered the most sacred.

 Zibo is a modern city, but it still has its share of traditional streets such as this one.

I can't wait to go exploring in this place!

If I decide to take this job, it'll be for a one-year contract, so I'll have plenty of time!

Shandong is also home to the Karst Caves, which are a set of 300-something caves that are all connected.

Cool, maybe I'll have a chance to go!

One last thing about Zibo, and this might be the coolest for all of you non-Americans.....Zibo is the home of the oldest form of soccer (football) known to man.

Its earliest mention in literature comes from the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) and has been seen in many painted and drawings such as this one from the 12th century AD.

How crazy is that??? I had no idea about that until about 30 minutes ago when I started looking up some more stuff about Zibo.

I was told that soccer (football) was first created in England, but I never thought about a parallel game being created somewhere else. Let me be clear that cuju is NOT soccer (football), but there are some similarities.

So, there you have it! There's a little information about where I'll be heading for my next adventure!

Who knows, I might actually come back to the States in a year as some kind of badass super soccer player........haha who knows?

Anything could happen!

Here is a sort of video time capsule that I've made for myself. I don't know if you'll find it interesting, but here it is!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Important Updates From "Let China Sleep"

So, there's a few new things going on.....

I kept telling myself that I was going to get myself out there and look for a job as a teacher in China, but a couple of weeks ago or so ago, I finally got off my butt and actually started looking, and I've got a couple of good prospects.

I've talked at length with the principals and recruiters for two special and reputable English language schools for children. Umm....yeah, children's schools. It'll be interesting to see if I actually end up going there. There's a few things I'm thinking about.

1.) I have no experience teaching children

2.) There are some skills dealing with children that I may not have.

3.) I don't have a teaching certificate of any kind (I'm working on getting it, though.)         <-------------------

4.) The schools that have seriously talked to me are in cities where I know NOBODY.

5.) Do I really want to take a chance when there are young minds that I could make or break their love of learning English?

Okay, yeah, those are serious questions that I need to deal with and talk with the right people about. My sister thinks I could never do it and shouldn't try it, but I think I could.

1.) I remember meeting so many children in China and loved talking to them - they are so bright and happy, and my family would never have believed the way I acted around them. (I'm well known for disliking infants and children)

What happened with the kids on the train back from Yinchuan is a great example, but there are many more. That is a great memory that I won't forget any time soon.

2.) Just because I don't have any experience doesn't mean I can't do it. I'm getting my TESOL right now, so I'll at least have the theory to guide me.

3.) If I was in China and was having a new experience, which this would definitely be, I would try my damndest to not let those kids down, because it's about them, not me. My needs and wants are secondary to theirs.

4.) These schools that I'm talking to are in "urgent need" of English teachers. From the language they've been using, it seems like I would be the only foreigner applying for the job when there's 2 or 3  or more vacancies available. They're not in highly-traveled or highly-talked about parts of China.

5.) Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without taking a little risk.

There's a lot of things going on in my head right now concerning all of this. If you guys have any thoughts or comments, I'd love to hear them! Just don't troll me, please.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Daily Life in a Chinese City

I've been really surprised at the number of views on my posts concerning what Chinese cities are like, so I thought I'd post a little something about the subject, since it seems to be a topic of interest.

[by the way, the blog hit 10,000 total hits a few days ago! Great milestone for me!]

Although I'm not in China now, I can remember very well the daily routine of the life of a foreign student in mid-sized Lanzhou (3.3 million people) when school was not in session. Some of the stuff is not exactly pretty, but it's part of what's really in China. I love China just as much (or more) than America, but there's no such thing as a perfect country.


Breakfast usually consisted of 饼子 of some kind (sort of like if a pancake and a crepe had a baby. A wonderful, tasty, baby), and then a short walk to the bus stop to either the West Campus of 兰州理工大学 (Lanzhou University of Technology) or to 西关, a downtown region of Lanzhou. It could be any other place, but for this post it'll be 西关 (pronounced "She-Gwan") and Zhongshan Bridge.

The Bus

In Chinese cities, the bus is what most people take to get places. Depending on where you're at, they can be air conditioned and clean with a few people in them or hot, dirty, musty, smoky, and crowded with all of the migrant workers of the entire city.

It's different from place to place, and you never really know what it's gonna be like when you step on - you just hope to God that it's not so bad.

On an average day in Lanzhou, you'll be standing up in the bus. Only one bus line in the city has air conditioning, and I think it's bus line 1. How appropriate, right? The #1 bus is the only one with air conditioning.

Most buses have windows you can slide open if it gets too hot, but it's generally not too unbearable unless it's the weekend and everybody's going downtown to shop. God forbid. I really didn't enjoy the weekend crowds.

The Streets

Just like every section in this post - it depends on where you are. If you're in Guangzhou or Beijing or any other city that sees a lot of tourist and/or foreign business activity, it's pretty clean and organized with a decent amount of English speakers.

However, if you're in Lanzhou, Huan Xian, parts of northern Beijing, or any other place where not many tourists go and no foreigners "dare to venture", it's a little different. Many streets are dirty or under construction, there's a lot of trash in places, and you can see a lot more of China's poverty. It's in these moments that you are forced to confront the fact that you're in another country. Not many streets in America will have kids wearing only dirty t-shirts run through the street and playing in trash piles and peeing on the street. Seen it.

The People

When walking the streets of Lanzhou, I was usually left alone except for the occasional "Hello," but it was whenever I was idling about by myself or just standing alone looking at the Yellow River that people usually came up and talked to me.

(Okay, this photo is's actually on a train, but he DID just start talking to me)

It's true - it's not just some funny story we tell people for fun. People really do come up to foreigners and try to practice their English! If they don't speak English, you'll get to practice your Chinese. This is especially true in certain situations:

1.) The person who comes up to you is alone.
2.) You are alone or are only with other foreigners.
3.) You are just idling about and not really doing anything.
4.) You say you can speak a little bit of Chinese and are friendly.

If you're with another Chinese person, it's rare that a strange Chinese person will approach you if they speak sub-standard English. They'll assume your Chinese buddy will be fluent and that they'll be inferior. Best advice - go alone to a place where you know you can just hang out and chill.

For me, that was the area around Zhongshan Bridge.

The area on the far side of this picture is green, shaded, and dotted with small beaches and areas where you can sit and buy a drink and just chill.

Along that street, you can see a lot of older people in the morning doing Tai Chi, and in the afternoon you can see some doing different types of martial arts or playing the Erhu or any number of activities.

It's a great little area that reminds you of why you wanted to come to China in the first place.

After hanging out and talking to a few people, it's always cool to go to 西关 (pronounced "she-gwan"), which is the most cosmopolitan area of the city. It's mostly pedestrian roads and has a lot of shopping centers and restaurants and tea houses. It's the perfect place to go for a snack. I don't really have any pictures of 西关 itself, which is something I'll have to rectify, but I've got some video of it here and here if you want to check it out.


Usually, after that, I'd go back home to the apartment and just chill until dinner, which was at one of the local restaurants, but I'd also do laundry every couple of weeks or so. Very involved process you can see here at my YouTube page. If YouTube's blocked in your country, sorry....I'll put them up on Youku eventually

You'll get a few (or a lot) of strange calls. I've gotten calls from:

1.) The International Office of L.U.T. asking if I would hang out with a high school kid who wanted to practice his English

2.) From a local TV producer asking me do participate in a segment about my culture shock in Lanzhou

3.) From a primary school asking me to come down to participate in "English Adventure Day"

4.) From a VERY wealthy businessman who wanted me to help him in some very lucrative (and possibly illegal) business ventures

5.) From many random people that I never met or talked to before.....just to chat! "You're a foreigner in Lanzhou? Oh, what's your name?......etc."

6.) Calls from anyone and everyone inviting me to dinners, parties, just to hang out, help with schoolwork

7.) To travel to Tibet......wait, what? Yeah, I got a series of texts/calls from some random guy who wanted to take me to Tibet. My friend Elizabeth would've jumped on it in a heartbeat haha. Yeah, I don't think I told you about that one, did I? Maybe I should've called you, yeah? haha

I'm a pretty friendly guy, and once I got over there, I made it a policy of mine to never refuse an offer for a new experience unless it was: physically dangerous, illegal, or if I was really ill. I never once did, and I don't regret any of it - I had a lot of interesting experiences, and you've got to be open.

When people find out how open you are to try new stuff, you'll get more and more friends, more and more calls, and you'll be a popular dude! (or chick).

So, if I had to sum up my Lanzhou life in a nutshell, that'd be about it!

See you guys next time,


Sunday, March 4, 2012

100 Posts!! And Language As A Living Thing

Just a quick post. Thought you might like it and/or agree with it.

So I've been learning Chinese steadily and fairly hardcore for more or less one year, and sort of as a side-gig for maybe a year and a half/two year. After all that I've learned and all the mistakes/successes I've had, I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed with a lot of language-learning programs out there in one regard.

They do not treat language as a living thing - they do not allow the possibility of lingual adjustments that come with the adjustments of society as well as teaching multiple words for the same thing. They teach one word for "good" instead of "good/great/alright/so-so/not bad/awesome/super" etc. and all the words people use in daily conversation. I understand the difficulty, though.

And just for the record, I'm not hating on language-learning programs!! I understand that it's nearly impossible to keep updating and updating and updating language programs with new slang, vernacular, etc. I understand that you need to form a base of common-knowledge "phrases" in order to get a fix on how to adjust yourself within the 'real' language. I get it.  

I guess that what I'm really trying to get at is that language changes as society changes. A great example of this appears in Chinese greetings.

你好,你好吗?"Hello, how are you?" seems to me to be rarely used except when maybe meeting someone for the first time. It's incredibly formal and a little stiff-sounding.

It became 你吃了吗?"Have you eaten?", which is still pretty popular today. It doesn't literally mean "Have you eaten?"......well, yes it does, but it's used as a kind of greeting. Kind of like "What's up?" in America. You don't really want them to say "the sky is up" or "the sun is up"....they just say "Not much, how about you?" and then move on.

It's got a base in the history of China, where, in many places in the past, and even today sometimes, it's hard to get food due to rising costs, famine, drought, etc. It was a legitimate question then, and it's still used today, although it's shifted into a greeting.

Now, things have shifted again - "Have you eaten?" and "How are you?" are being replaced with "你忙吗?" - "Are you busy?" or “干什么呢? -What are you doing?" or 你去哪儿? - Where are you going?" 

These seem to more personify the modern Chinese city-going zeitgeist - all work, no play.

It's just one of those intangible things about language - these weird little shifts that happen that no one really takes notice of until years later. They, all of a sudden, realize that people don't talk the way that they used to. It's a weird thing and is something I'd like to brood on for a while and think about. Maybe I'll do a full post about it later.

It's neat to see how little things have changed as time goes on, and it'll be interesting to look back on this post in 20 years (if I'm even still around - you never know, people) and see what's replaced these.


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