Leave your nationalism at home.

This is my second year living in China, and also my second year of living somewhere I do not traditionally call ‘home’ but still regard it as one. In these years I’ve met wonderful people from all different countries. My tongue feels well navigated in the thoughts of the North, South, East, and West of this planet’s inhabitants. But there is still one annoying attitude that keeps poisoning social interactions.




Recently I was at a bar in Shijiazhuang, with many expats clustered toward the back end. The alcohol paralleled the flow of conversations. Social lubrication is necessary when you are in a foreign land, because the global platform is rough and dangerous to navigate. Generally everyone was well behaved and discussed the menial drivel of Shijiazhuang pollution and ‘hey what do you do here?’ Later in the night a giant hunt commences amongst the expats to see who is DTF (I mean, if you want it, you can’t really be too fussy in China). It’s usually all well and good fun.


Then the wee hours of the night beckon a darker mood. The conversation started with defining the word ‘ignorant’ and ended with the same old ‘America/England/New Zealand/insertothercountryhere is the greatest, and fuck the rest of you’ chant.


I have seen the same argument happen countless times. In bars, clubs, house parties, coffee dates, picnics, work, play, any time of the day. It’s the same old hash of my country is better than yours because I love it so.


If this is how you think, then you’re an asshat.


Nationalism reflects the sheer dumb luck that you were born into one ridiculously tiny part of the planet, next to people who share a similar accent as you will inherit.


It is the essence of geography and nothing more.


The winning side is not who has the bigger gun, or who has the most money, or who cares most about the environment, or who genuinely feels for humanity, or who has the better life.


The winning side is one who can communicate ideas and emotions without calling into question the place in which others traditionally call ‘home’.


We are all raised upon dirt, don’t drag the power of your words through it.












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?”




“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.




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.




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).



















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.


A little bit of NY in my life.

My first highlight, unsurprisingly, revolves around caffeine. That sweet, sweet, nectar that has giveth my degree and taketh away my sleep many a time. A good friend from England, Ollie, introduced me to this place, and I can safely say that when I learn the words ‘shut up and take my money’ in Mandarin this will be the first place I use it.

Hidden away in the relatively new SW developmental area known as Wanda Plaza (Wanda Guang Chang), is a dark brown, unremarkable wall, with the words COFFEEWE adorned in bold white. Underneath the signage is a glass entrance. So far, nothing special. Step inside though, and you are greeted with an interior that could only have been inspired from a New York Loft magazine. Industrial grey painted pipes and air ducts against metallic furnishings (some natural silver, some bright red), brick walls and wooden cork finishings. Comical porcelain characters are shown in cake displays, and the eco-fresh vibe that every coffee house needs is supported through a mountainous wall of vividly coloured keep cups. Towards the back there is a large techno-lit aquarium with the entire cast from ‘Finding Nemo’ contained within, who I hope are planning a just as elaborate escape as shown in the film.

Behind the glass cabinet by the bar is quite possibly the only real cheesecake you could find in China. I have no shame, or regret, in saying I have tried every flavour. The pumpkin and chocolate flavoured one is by far one of the best things I have, and possibly ever will, put into my mouth. The coffee is absolutely magnificent, and some varieties, like the ‘Four Eyes’, will probably keep most tame tea happy drinkers up for a good 48 hours, easily.

The staff here are a wonderful (possibly newly wed) couple. My banter has been mostly with the guy ‘Toto’. No, we do not talk about the rains in Africa. I reckon he’s been taking some sly English lessons though, because every time I come here, which is every day, he manages to convey more and more information about Coffeewe and life in general. Because many of us foreigners are quite (tragically) addicted to coffee, we recruit any and all we know when we find a good shrine. I can quietly boast I have brought many a foreigner here, which has secured me an ‘under the table’ discount for REAL FOREIGN BEER! Oh, the generous ways of hospitality are universally understood and respected. This commodity is worth more than gold, silk, or oil. Great success for me.

Photos to be posted soon.



I have been living and working in China for almost seven months now.

To say I missed the initial blogging boat would be an understatement. That ship must’ve sailed past a good half dozen times or so, and smacked me with its boom each time. However, living and working in China for this long has let me assess what information I want to people to know.

What I don’t want to write is another ‘backpack teacher’ type blog. There are already enough of those, and to be honest none of them helped me. Frequently I have said ‘I wish I had known that!’ and wondered why the vast Internet had not relinquished any answers. I feel the passing of said seven months, and experiences gained thus far, can back me up with what I will publish henceforth.

Now, let me describe the city I have lived in for these past months. Shijiazhuang is located South-west (or West-south as China would say) from Beijing, which is easily accessible by the new bullet train ‘G train’. It is a city of ~7-9 million people, double the population of my home, New Zealand. The rate of expansion is one of the fastest in China, as it is the city destined to protect Beijing should something happen (why did the chicken cross the road? To get out of North Korea’s missile range). This also means it is the most polluted city in China (read in the world). Underneath this layer of dust and soot do lie many delightful treasures that I promise to describe in depth very soon. Shijiazhuang has grown on me how fungi grows from that yoghurt carton you forgot was beside your bed and fell down the side. But without fungi there would be no penicillin, so it’s a good thing, I promise.

As this progresses expect topics such as –

The actual Visa process, and unnecessary love of stamps.

How to deal with not speaking a word of Chinese prior to arrival.

The places that feel surprisingly like home.

The places that remind you that yes, you are in China.

Q&A’s with foreigners who are not teachers.

Q&A’s with foreigners who are teachers (well, we are everywhere).

What I actually do in China and how you can do just the same.

Everything in between.