Job interview questions.

So I might be moving to Beijing.

 

And this thought (irrationally) terrifies me.

 

Update: I am progressing upon the idea of not working at 43 Middle School next year. I cannot deny that it has been a great learning experience, but the time has come for me to move on to something that gets me closer to what I actually want to do.

 

(I’m not sure exactly what it is I want to do, however a change of pace usually gets me closer to it; do not attempt to dislodge this logic as it’s all I have going for me).

 

I have had two prospective work places contact me so far. One is for a high school graduate training school in Shijiazhuang. The other is for an oral English teacher in Kede College, Beijing.

 

Pros for Shijiazhuang:

 

I know the city already.

The city is very cheap to live in.

I have friends here.

 

Pros for Beijing:

 

Hi-tech art school (with their own fricken 3D cinema mayun).

Two days work for twice the money I currently make.

Capital of China.

 

They both have their respective cons as well, but I want to look on the bright side of life when making this decision do doo bedoop bedoop bedoooop.

 

But I must pause on this discussion, and write the reason for today’s post:

 

Today I had to give a demo lesson to the job in Shijiazhuang. They gave me an elementary level book that they have in their curriculum (published by Oxford, so already very promising), and asked for a half hour lesson to be provided. So I biked over with a .ppt in my pocket this afternoon and showed them what I came up with. There were no students to test the lesson on, so I had teacher’s sit in and watch/discuss my methods and approach to the book. One teacher, and the main character of my story, was named Liam.

 

Liam arrived late (already promising) but was polite during my lesson completion. At the end, when we had time to discuss various points, he was very interested in listening to a native English speakers opinion to how the Chinese textbooks continuously have damaging English mistakes, which permeate within the entire English development of China.

 

Then this question appeared.

 

“Are you religious?”

 

While somewhat taken aback, I answer truthfully and said “No.”

His reply to sum up was “That’s great, most of China is not religious either.”

 

I have had this question before, and while it is a little rare it’s still something foreigners are expected to be asked once or twice in China.

 

Then another question, “What is your blood type?” Again a little taken aback I say “B negative.”

 

“B is what a lot of Chinese are!”

 

Ok this is getting weird. But then conversation resumes back to the job so I think the strangeness is over.

 

Alas it was not. The grand finale, complete with a dead-pan serious face, “What is your star sign?”

 

“Aries.”

 

“Ah, the fire sign, I knew it.” And he proceeded to rattle off the many reason he knew I was a fire type. (I didn’t know I had stumbled into Avatar). Then he asks, “What do you think I am, I’ll give you a hint, I am a water type.”

 

And so my brain, not knowing how to play this game, automatically things Aquarius, logic being aqua=water=correct.

 

“Aquarius?”

 

The look of sadness and horror as I said this to him is unbelievable, and hard to describe using the limited vocabulary I know.

 

“Aquarius is an air type actually.”

 

Well shit son, my bad.

 

/story.

 

So that’s a quick update about my brain. Chat to me, what school do you think I should look into? I’ll put on record saying I would be immensely happy with the Kede College job. My inhibitions are currently stuck in the whole ‘moving to another place where I know absolutely NOBODY’ phase. How do I get out of this, any tips guys?

 

Until next time, China you stay classy (and crazy).

 

 

 

E.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bittersweet.

“It smells bitter”.

These words were said by a Chinese friend of mine, well, technically she is my boss for a weekend job, but she is too chill to put into that category so I now upgrade her to ‘friend’ status.

“How strange”, I thought, “can you use the word bitter to describe smell?”
“And if not”, I continued, “What word is there to compare this scent?”

For two minutes I sat in silence in their car. Here I am, a native English speaker, perplexed by such a short, strange, statement.

This made me feel rather inadequate, as I am contractually hired to be an Oral English Teacher.

Uh oh.

As it turns out (agreed upon by a few foreigners I spoke too) the word ‘bitter’ is a little awkward to use when describing scent. The closest word we could think to use was ‘acrid’.

This is one reason I love working as an English teacher in China. The amount of strange English questions I encounter is fascinating, and makes me want to learn more about his language I’ve supposedly mastered. Yet, I feel sorry for the kids, as I cannot give them a proper definitive reason why the word ‘companion’ is better than ‘companies’ when describing the affection felt for a dog. I know that one word is correct, but I do not know why I feel it is.

How is it that I learnt English so well, but this school system in China is so inadequate? What did I do that was different? I wish I could remember. China needs this more than ever if it is to become a global powerhouse. They need people who understand intransitive verbs, and how Past Perfect tense expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in the past (it can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past). I enjoy my job immensely, but I cannot stay here forever, as I will be detrimental to the advancement of English is this environment.

I am paid to be interesting, and nothing more.

(However it is still a wonderful way to spend my early 20’s time and I couldn’t wish for a better experience personally).

What is your opinion? Do you think experiences in different job environments aids you? Should what you study be ‘the’ definer in regards to jobs you undertake, or should you look outwards? Can you really learn on the go? I’m interested in what you have to say.

Thanks again for reading.

E.

The future is dead.

Aside from my usual Tuesday – Friday job, I privately tutor students who want to enhance their English skills. Basically this means I get paid to ‘shoot the shit’ with students about any and all subjects available.

 

Every Sunday I tutor one student, Charlotte*. Charlotte is unlike most Chinese students in the fact that she has recognized politicians indeed have the capacity to lie. This is remarkable for such a young person (she is ~15 years old) and even more so because she is a young Chinese person. Today we ended up in the discussion of how news content is delivered to people. I started by saying it’s common in New Zealand for families to eat dinner at 6pm and watch the national news channels for one hour. China on the other hand has blanket coverage across all channels between 7-7:30pm for national news delivery. Charlotte said there is a running joke about Chinese news that goes like this –

 

The first ten minutes are about the various leaders looking busy.

 

The second ten minutes are about how China’s economy is growing and everyone is happy.

 

The last ten minutes are about how every other country in the world is functioning badly.

 

I then asked if she was interested in becoming a journalist at all when she finished her education. She said when she was younger she loved to write articles about current topics, and the thoughts she had regarding the morals behind these topics. I asked why she stopped doing it. She said that as she got older the schoolwork became overpowering and now she has no interest or motivation to continue writing. I saw the eyes that said these words, and they were dead.

 

The school system has told Charlotte the only careers worth investing your time into are –

 

Teacher

Political Leader

CEO

Scientist

Engineer

 

Five careers. That’s it.

 

Charlotte said there is no more room for doctors or lawyers in China because her parents were told these careers were the only ones worth doing. so everyone did. I asked her where are the writers, the artists, the tradesmen, the chefs, everybody else? She said they do not make money so they cannot survive.

 

Of course, in the land of Communism ‘Cash is King’.

 

This made me really sad. China is losing the potential to have very unique individuals inscribed in its history books, and instead is breeding a future of technically capable yet goalless/soulless individuals. I wonder how many abstract thoughts the world has lost because this education system beats it out of them from the moment they learn to think.

 

Sadly these dead eyes already give me an answer.

 

 

E.

 

*fake name. 

Throwback Friday.

I have booked my plane tickets home. June 24th I will touch down on that sweet, sweet, soil called New Zealand. My lungs are bursting at the anticipation of fresh air. Or maybe that’s the sweet sinus infection in me talking.

However, as I reflect on going home, and knowing I will be back in China for (at least) one year, I decided to look back on the very first thing I wrote when I came here. Before I started this WordPress I wrote occasionally to a .doc document for personal use. I figured it would be nice to have some recollections of what I was doing and learning. Reading it now has made me chuckle something amazingly, so I thought why not share with you all to see just how overwhelmed I was about China, and to show that even someone like me can figure out how to proceed from there.

So without further ado I present the first piece I wrote about China in all its un-edited glory –

22nd August 2012

What have I gotten myself into?

21, finally moving out of home, and moving all the way to China. It was hard not to cry. Held it in until I lay on the bed here in Shijiazhuang, my new home for ~10 months or so. What a sook.

Boarding the plane I was probably one of ten ‘foreigners’ out of a relatively full Airbus bound for Guangzhou. If there had been a black light illuminating the Airbus I can safely say I would’ve stood out in that rave party like nobodies business.

Walking down to my seat I was selfishly hoping there would be no-one next to me, but alas I was met with a very ancient Chinese gentlemen who proclaimed (after I whacked him with my bag/general body parts to get across and into my seat) he proclaimed ‘I know no English’.

And I being the amazing traveller know no Mandarin (I know, I know). So for a while we sat there awkwardly. He did try to teach me how to pronounce ‘Arrival Card’ in Mandarin while I sat there filling out the alien forms.

God (or whatever) loves a try-er.

But something pretty cool did happen aboard that 12-hour flight.

Air China, for the record you have the most ridiculous in flight operating system I have ever had the patience to use. Who seals their remotes into the armchair? Who does that? I sat there like a half retarded chicken, my elbow out to the side, trying to get the arrows up and down to my film and the poor gentleman beside me watched with a sadness, generational technological issues welling up behind his eyes. Looking at this sadface I ‘Chinglished’ my way into asking him to direct me to what he wanted. Our favourite gesture was the double thumbs up when he finally got to sit and watch his film. Our not so favourite gesture was a double slice across the arms when I stuffed up (for the record his remote electronics were up the creek and only wanted to arrow down for EVERYTHING, not my fault).

Next was my relatively short jump from Guangzhou to Shijiazhuang. Basically sleeping through that one I was informed by a lovely fellow that my already broken zipper was broken. We started chatting, as two strangers do, and after learning this is my first time to China he bestowed upon me my official Chinese name. Pass on the pronounciation at the moment but he did write it down on his business card. I will upload a photograph of it when I can. It’s quite a pretty script.

After a car ride from hell I arrived at the school. The school is currently under construction so it’s a wee bit of a mess. My room however on first impression sounds a little like this –

One working powerpoint, out of two that I have found in the entire place.
No hot water to speak of (which I found out just after dinner, so sad).
A bed that has a mattress most likely constructed from granite.
Scary toilet of doom, with a hole in the floor.
Mould city bitch mould mould city bitch.

However the couch is comfy, so if I somehow can’t wrangle my way out of this room at least I have something to sleep on that won’t dislocate every joint in me.

I was then taken out to lunch by the Foreign Affairs Department – two women, one Luanne and one ChinDow (pronounced not spelt like that). Official Peking Duck can be crossed of my list. Successful use of chopsticks needs a lot more work. (Edited: I later found out that Chinese will always invite you to come eat with them with no intention of actually enjoying your company if you’re stupid enough to say yes. Explains the awkwardness now).

After lunch I thought it would be a brilliant idea to get some cleaning stuff for the absolute mess of a bathroom, before I was to ever consider cleaning myself in there. So with a natural assumption in my step I went to the supermarket.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

I think that was when it really hit me that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing in China, for the next few days at least.

Trying to contact home was a mission after that debacle. First I text them to ring me, but my cellphone was then disconnected/blocked due to ‘limited funds’. Then I tried the schools Skype in their office but they had no microphone or camera so I could only type to my parents who didn’t figure it out till the very last minute. Luckily Dad rang Emily who gave them another number and they got through on my ‘home’ phone in my room. Reassurance from home definitely felt good.

Later this evening I had the loveliest phone call ever – from Lisa. She said stop panicking and that she would come pick me up. Soon enough a taxi with her in it showed up. We went back to hers where I instantly developed flat jealousy. She has the best room in Shijiazhuang I swear. She was just about to start tutoring a lovely boy, William, and even asked me to help (silly girl). William was such a delightful character though, and because he was the age group that I will be teaching in a few days time I actually started to like this idea a lot more.

In the evening Emily rang and said we should have dinner with her. Being as tired as I was I still said yes because I really wanted to physically meet her. Giving the taxi driver the instructions (well Lisa did, I sat there like the typical foreigner – stone cold silence) we ended up at ‘the best restaurant in all of Shijiazhuang’ according to Emily. She probably wasn’t far off either it was so very, very good. And I learnt the custom of ‘cheers’ing (gambe I think it sounded like) your drink for everything. It translates to ‘finish the glass’ however and after three ‘cheers’ and a plane trip round the world I was lucky enough to not plant my face in the fish while falling asleep at the table. Emily’s husband Taylor is amazing as well; their connection is just wonderful. And their daughter is so cute.

Overall for a first day experience I feel like across 24 hours I have gone from complete stranger, to someone who just might end up belonging here after all. Maybe.

Zaijian for now.

Sidenote: I’m afraid to say that the stereotype of asian drivers is well and truly….true. I think lanes are just painted on to give the road some character, not to be obeyed whatsoever.

Wow. From that (terrible) writing to now feels like a lifetime ago. Leave a comment if you found it funny, tragic, or both! I’d be happy to discuss anything.

Thanks for the read.

E.

Email with Eduardo.

A week or so ago I wrote to a friend I met in Shijiazhuang. His name is Eduardo, and rather than being a teacher he works in the excitingly busy import/export sector doing trade between Brazil and China. I emailed him with these six questions detailed below –

 

1. If you were to sum up in 25 words or less what you do in China what would you say?

 

2. How difficult was it to establish in China?

 

3. What advantages have you been able to utilise from working with China?

 

4. What have been some disadvantages you initially encountered?

 

5. Are there any future developments you think will happen to foreign business development within China (good or bad)?

 

6. If you could give one piece of advice, something you wish you knew early on, what would that be?

 

 

His reply just came in, and below I have directly copy-pasted his answers –

 

 

1.       Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working, Making money, traveling, Making friends, Working, Working, Working, Working, Working.

 

2.       Not so difficult because I have Chinese relatives and learned Chinese language but it is more difficult to accept and think like them. And the Chinese policy also do not help foreigners.

 

3.       China economy is going well so there are a lot of opportunities to make money in China.

 

4.       Different Culture and language barrier, at least I learned Chinese language.

 

5.       China is developing so fast and do not need all kind of foreign business so they will select and allow only the businesses that are advantage for China.

 

6.       Try to get balance life and enjoy more the life. In China because of this crazy developing we used to work too much and the time flies………..

 

 

 

I appreciate his honesty about how helpful learning the Chinese language has been for him. This is yet another kick up my linguistic bum, as I am again reminded how much I should actually know after a year of living in China, versus what I actually know (which is sweet Jack all).

 

I anticipate China will loosen its regulations and be more open to foreign trade. Understandably, as Eduardo mentioned, it must be of benefit to China (that’s like Business 101) but I feel with its awkward upbringing into the superpower club, and the strict censorships it has, it is still missing a lot of the global ingenuity that other countries have incorporated. Now however it is realising this, and slowly allowing itself to be more open to global business interactions. Of course I am speaking as a foreigner who wishes to tap into this pool of wealth, so I hope another year immersed in this country will be able to focus my attention towards this ‘new China’ development and direct myself into a career that is not teaching English.

 

 

 

 

E.

 

 

 

 

 

NanSanTiao.

NanSanTiao is a fantastical commercial wonderland. Located near the main city centre on ZhongShan Lu it is a collection of, at last count, eight warehouses. (However this is a guesstimate, I still have no idea how deep the rabbit hole actually goes). It is well known by the locals and foreigners as being the place to go for the cheaper side of China.

From the outside it all looks rather inconspicuous. There are many small stores lining the exteriors, most selling drink tumblers, the rest selling cleaning equipment. The street that dominates NanSanTiao is forever packed with cars, tuk-tuks and people. Sometimes the crowd can be overwhelming, but you can navigate yourself around if you follow the one golden rule that is never stop moving.

The main entrances to the warehouses are covered by plastic air shields that distinguish these tunnels from the myriad of shops around them. There are some warehouse signs such as ‘Make-up hall’ and ‘Gift hall’ atop the buildings. These give you more a sense of direction, rather than an indication to what’s inside.

Heed the warning: Enter these warehouses at your own peril. Many wallets have entered armed and prepared for battle (haggle), and left the arena spent.

The Game of NanSanTiao has two rules you must obey if you are to be successful*

NanSanTiao has everything you thought you’d never want (and maybe some things you actually want). Considering a fake iPad? Done. Maybe a large golden statue of Mao? Step right in. Discovered that you must have a large glass Chinese cabbage put in your display cabinet? You have come to the right place my friend.

You will never find what you actually need. Ever.

*success is a lie. So is the cake.

Types of warehouses/shops/items you find in NanSanTiao –

Three storeys of shops filled handbags, purses, wallets, travel bags.
An outside market for bedding, blankets and foam.
A shop dedicated to selling tinsel for those all year round purposes.
Wedding bouquets to make your eyes bleed.
Two floors of stationery stocked with so many pens you could have one for every day of the year.
Derpy dog statues, along with derpy Buddha statues.
Penis lamps.
A store for fruit sealed in glass bottles, complete with wraparound mirror display cabinets for that added WTF.

However tucked within the chaos you will find some beautiful little treasures. There are one or two decent art shops that sell paint, charcoals and paper. I bought my latest handbag, a green giraffe inspired design, from the depths of the bag warehouse (after many, many trips). And again, thanks to Ollie (my favourite coffee enthusiast), I have found a remarkable little shop called Otai that sells Kopi Luwak coffee aka catshit coffee. It is the most delicious little blend and I will be sure to buy it all out before coming home so you folks in New Zealand can experience it.

NanSanTiao is exactly what you expect commercial China to feel like. A maze filled with sensory overloaded visuals, pulling you in sideways, slantways, longways and backways. I wish I had the words to describe it more, but I cannot do it justice. There is just so much time and so little to do there.
Wait a minute.
Strike that. Reverse it.
Thank you.

E.