Archive for April, 2012

Racism downunder

April 27, 2012

 If there’s one thing that pisses me off from time to time, it’s how some Australian’s treat foreigners. While of course it doesn’t apply to everyone, there are definitely underlying currents of racism running beneath many ‘white’ Australian’s. Typically these people are our own form of ‘trailer trash’, that we affectionately (and I say affectionately with tongue firmly in cheek) refer to as ‘Bogans.’ Bogans are utter trash, and unfortunately everywhere.

You know that tattooed guy on the train who’s drunk as hell and absolutely stinks of alcohol, abusing people around him? Yep – bogan. Those two young feral girls swearing their heads off in public and talking about playing ‘spot the aussie’ while in the middle of a town with a large Asian population? Yeah – bogans. Those guys parading up and down the shopping centre with no top on and using an Australian flag as a cape while intimidating the Asians as they walk by them on the Australia Day public holiday? Correct! Bogans. 

These people are my least favourite part of living in Australia. It was actually refreshing living in China as there

was absolutely none of this element. While walking the super populated streets of Wuxi at night, the people were completely normal. Minding their own business, wandering around shopping and dining. There were no in your face abusive drunk idiots – and man was that refreshing.

Of course that element is also not so prevalent in Australia that it’s a day to day problem – I have definitely over-emphasised it – but it is there none the less.

I was reading this article this morning about some Chinese students who were bashed by a gang of teenagers in Sydney. These poor guys were not only beaten, but robbed while their attackers said things like, “They’re Asians, they have money,” and other fairly hideous acts such as burning them with cigarettes. I would bet any money that these people who attacked them were aforementioned bogan scum. It is seriously not cool as most Chinese students I know or see around the place, are about the most non-threatening, harmless people anywhere. I can only imagine the terror they felt at the hands of these ferals. Thankfully it appears they were arrested.

There were problems last year with similar happening to Indian students, where they were attacked and robbed for no reason, all the while being racially abused. In the case of the Indian students, there was uproar back in India, and the same is happening now in China. Even old Kevin Rudd has dusted off his Foreign Minister hat and has been posting sympathetic comments in Chinese on various Chinese social media sites.

Old KRudd all across the Chinese social media

Australia most definitely is a secure country. You do not need to walk around looking over your shoulder or worrying that something like the above might happen. However, like in ANY country anywhere (including India and China), you also have to be aware of your surroundings and not take unnecessary risks. It is possible that these Chinese students were simply unlucky, but it did occur after midnight – and well, if you want to exponentially reduce your chances of this kind of thing happening, avoid travelling too late at night.

Anyhow, there is my 2 cents.

Footpath of doom!

April 25, 2012

If there was one thing about China that will always stick in my mind, it’s the sidewalks. While walking along them they were always a source of random ‘fun’. When I came across this video today, I couldn’t help but laugh.

While I didn’t come across anything remotely as extreme as shown in that video, I did experience many things that I simply won’t forget.

My experience of Chinese footpaths is that they were mostly paved with intricately cut bricks. They weren’t your standard cement slabs, but quite attractive brick designs. Most of these bricks were broken because the Chinese love to ride along the footpath on their scooters. Occasionally you’d come across a brick that was sticking up vertically, only noticed when you cracked your toe on it so hard that you were dead certain it was broken. We had one of these little babies behind the school, and I think it got me at least twice.

Other than causing undue damage to the brickwork, the other issue with scooters is they are almost dead silent. You would only ever hear a small whir of their battery powered motor as they got closer, or their luggage boxes rattling as they drove over the broken patches of bricks. I was certain that i would cop one of these scooters up my own tailpipe at least once before leaving China – though thankfully never did.

The most annoying and borderline disgusting part of the footpaths was when water got trapped beneath them. It rained a lot in China and not just your occasional shower, but it often absolutely dumped down – sometimes for days on end. The water would collect beneath the bricks which somehow weren’t connected to the ground beneath them. You would regularly find the bricks would move as you stepped on them – and I still don’t know how this works, but as you pressed down on the brick, a small wave of disgusting black water would slosh out from the brick and OVER the foot pressing down on it. This happened to me twice before I had even any idea what was going on. I was walking along, avoiding puddles, then my shoe was suddenly completely waterlogged, the only trace of water being a lovely black residue. I couldn’t work out what had actually happened until one day I was walking along behind a business man in nice tan pants who stepped on one of these bricks, causing a black smear to slush over his foot and up the back of his nice clean pants. Ahh China.

Tales of a former rockstar.

April 15, 2012

The other day I had a nice little chat with a new staff member who recently started at my company. Her background is Chinese Malaysian, but she’s effectively full Australian. Like myself she had previously lived overseas (in England and Germany) and is also suffering from a permanent case of travel bug. I found it amusing that despite being completely Asian in appearance, because her parents had taken on Australian nationality, she was not able to get an international visa. I am always envious of people who have an international parent/grand-parent which allows them amazing visa options to go live somewhere else in the world. I had assumed that being Asian she would some way somehow maintain some link to possibly go live in Malaysia at the very least, but nope, there’s no chance.

So we were then discussing China, and I was talking about some of the things I had experienced over there. I was telling her about my teaching experience, and my classes of 55 kids and some of the challenges involved in handling them. And finally, we discussed how our trips to China would be vastly different. Despite the fact she is Australian, speaks perfect English (and no Mandarin), if she returned to the Chinese mainland where her ancestors came from, she would receive no special attention. She would simply look Chinese and that is effectively that. I on the other hand would almost be given celebrity status because of my pasty white skin.

In order to make sense of that, you really need to experience China for yourself. It is a country where foreigners are held in high regard and often given special attention. Of course this doesn’t apply to everything and you’re usually also a great big white target to be scammed, but a lot of the time, you feel important.

As the only 'whitey' in Beijing Aquarium that day, I swear she bee-lined to my whiteness to wave - but hey, maybe i was dreaming.

While less common in Shanghai, Beijing and likely Shenzen/Guangzhou, you’re stared at on a regular basis. Not just a sneaky peak from the corner of the eye, but a full body, mouth wide open stare. When you are dining in restaurants, people are trying to have a look at what you’re eating, and get some idea of your chopstick skills. When you’re in shops or supermarkets, the contents of your shopping bags become a magnet for the curious. You’ll often be asked to pose in a photo, or moreso, will notice people trying to take sneaky photos of you. You’ll have students approaching you wanting to practice their English, or lure you off to a scam tea ceremony.

All of the above was pure novelty for much of the time I spent living in China, though it did get old. In Xishan district Wuxi, most Chinese had never even left the area, so seeing real live white folk in the flesh was amazing. We would walk down a crowded street, and all eyes within a 100 metre radius would be firmly fixed on us (and not in a way that made us feel threatened..well mostly). It’s an experience you simply can’t have in most parts of the world, with even some of the most remote villages of Africa and South America still being tourist targets.

As time advances and China becomes even more modern, much of this will cease. There are of course many thousands of foreigners living in China, and even more there on a regular basis for business, but compared to the numbers of Chinese, this is definitely a minority. If you get over to China, embrace this particular experience as unless you’re somehow a TV or movie star, you’re not likely ever to get this kind of attention. For me, the most depressing part about the entire experience was returning home. When I stepped onto that plane, un-familiar with the white folk that filled half the seats, stepping into an airport that was again mostly white, the dominating emotion was one of nothingness. No-one was looking at me, no-one cared what I was wearing, how tall I was, how broad my shoulders were. Once more I was a nobody – the same as everyone else.

In beautiful LiJiang, when they're trying to take a sneaky photo, counter them by photographing them back! In their face!

The art of pissing

April 6, 2012

Earlier today, as I enjoyed a plate of pan fried dumplings, I saw something that I haven’t seen since living in China. Out front of the restaurant, in the middle of town, a Chinese toddler dropped his pants to his ankles, and had a nice big piss. Being a public holiday – like most weekends, the town was busy, yet being 99.9% Chinese, not one eyebrow was batted.

Just for the record, pissing in public in Australia is not considered acceptable – despite many city streets smelling of sweet sweet urine most Sunday mornings – thanks to drunk bogans the night before.

 The confidence in which this kid; who couldnt have been more than 2 or 3 years old just rocked up, dropped em and pee’d not only cracked me up, but suggested he’s done this many many times before. His family members soon flocked around him with big smiles on faces, pleased that their little boy was so smart!

We saw so much pissing in China, and not exclusively young kids either. It was not uncommon to see men of all ages flopping it out in public and fertilising the local flora. I remember one kid of around six years old, standing atop a flight of stairs in a busy shopping street – his piss cascading down the stairs not unlike the champagne fountains of the Chinese wedding we attended; epic piss.

Another fond (or was that foul?) memory was of an elderly woman folding her grandson almost in two so that he could unload his rear into a modern shopping centres rubbish bin. Good times.

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