When I first traveled to China in 2007 to teach English for a year, one of my favorite actives quickly became taking a walk after dinner with friends and exploring the narrow lanes of the subtropical city we lived in.
With a couple of lamb or chicken skewers in hand, we were set to explore the city for the night. On our nightly walk to the river that ran through the city, we observed the people around us selling clothes from carts along the streets and students playing ping pong in a park.
Everyone was outside doing something (or nothing) and you felt like you were a part of it. One of the best things about China is that you can walk out of your door and everything and everyone is right there waiting for you.
When faced with what music to listen to in China, I have never been at a loss. TV shows, sure. I can count the ones that aren’t terrible on one finger. But with an array of pop singers, folk music in hundreds of the country’s different languages, national hymns (though the words can be obnoxious, there are some great melodies to be found), and plenty of choices for live music of all types in cities big and small, you might catch yourself whistling a popular tune while on a crowded city bus, even if you don’t know the words.
On the second day of shooting we planned to film all scenes with the main character and Bill, a middle aged failure in his home country of Australia, now making it as an English teacher in China. The shoot consisted of three different locations: the classroom from the previous day, some neighborhoods near the center of the old city, and some shots in Bill’s own bar (by coincidence, the actor and character share the same first name).
Before filming this most recent short film, I had a lot of doubts as to whether or not we were going to be able to pull the film off. Would I get kicked out of China for saying something bad about the country? Would people allow us to film in some of the settings I was envisioning? Would we be able to get enough help?
My most recent trip to Hong Kong included swimming at beach known as Sai Wan in the northwest of Hong Kong’s New Territories. Despite a little bit of rain, and no-shark-net swimming, there was still a good amount of sun and warm water to be enjoyed. None of the other twenty people swimming yelled “shark!” even once.
Early May, 2013: In the mountains of old Anhui province, my friends, brother and I navigated the ancient merchant trail used for transporting goods between Anhui Province to Zhejiang Province.
Known as the Hui Hang Caravan Trail, or Huihang Gu Dao (徽杭古道) to Chinese people, the trail is now a travel destination complete with rustic lodging along the path. Owing to hiking during the week, the trial was pleasantly mostly empty, save for old women selling nuts and water. Here’s how the adventure went.
I didn’t find Jiaxing to be so hot when I first moved here in 2011 but it grew on me as I have met more people and developed myself here. Located at the nexus of four major Chinese cities: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Suzhou, Jiaxing will boom in the next five years.
You know when you keep jumping back and forth about whether or not you want to do something for months and never take action? Good times.
I thought about leaving my now-former employer to pursue my own interests in writing and film for six months before finally doing it. When you fear doing something though, as I did, your mind subconsciously sabotages you so that you don’t take action (at least mine does). The mind is very clever in how it preys upon weaknesses to get you to not take action. Below are some counterproductive self-talk techniques my mind employed in order to prevent me from taking the leap of telling my employer, “Well I’ve learned a lot here but I think it’s time for a change…”
One question I sometimes get asked by the townspeople is, “How did you learn Chinese?” or “Where did you learn Chinese?” It is hard to sum this up in only a sentence or two, but usually I tell them 到处都学 (dao4 chu4 dou1 xue2): I learn everywhere. Many of them may be expecting an answer like, at Bejing Language College or Shanghai Foreign Language University. I tell them that I learned most of it from my friends and colleagues and practice it on everyone I meet. Which is true, though some of my friends have definitely taken on a teacher role for a month or year at a time and that is how I really learned. I have also taken a few classes at language training centers these last couple years, some proving more beneficial than others.