Saturday, May 24, 2008

Halle Halle Lujah

I have a new favorite song! This one has just popped up on the radio in the past several days and so far I've heard it three times in various taxis. As the song opens, a Chinese man sings peppily with a repetitive techno beat pumping in the background. The man has the type of singing voice that belongs on Lambchop or Barney; you can tell he has an giant grin on his face while he belts out the song. Anyway, then the best part comes... the chorus:

Halle Halle Lujah
Halle Halle Lujah
Halle Halle Lujah

Halle Halle Lujah
Halle Halle Lujah
Halle Halle Lujah

Halle Halle Lujah
Halle Halle Lujah
Halle Halle Lujah

The choice of English words in these songs is always very interesting (see above for example). Conversely, restaurants and bars often play different versions of familiar English tunes with the words removed. Saxophone renditions of Greensleeves are popular all year round in upscale restaurants; my door buzzer plays Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee. Considering China is an officially athiest nation, its people sure have an appreciation for Christian music!

Monday, May 19, 2008


I just realized my school has a Web site! It's all in Chinese of course, but if you click around you can see some pictures. At the top of the site, you'll see 湛江财贸学校. Here's what that all means:

- Zhan 江- Jiang 财- cai (finance) 贸- mao (trade) 学校- xuexiao (school)

Hence, the ZJCX Web address: ZhanJiang Cai Xiao.

An Introduction to Zhanjiang Normal University

My friend Kevin was recently chosen to narrate a promotional video dubbed in English and Chinese entitled, "An Introduction to Zhanjiang Normal University." The movie is filled with unrecognizable shots of some incredibly beautiful college campus that's certainly nothing like the ZNU I've come to know and love!

Below is an excerpt from the English script. My favorite phrases are in bold:

Zhanjiang Normal University is a provincial university which is located in the southernmost of the Mainland of China. Carrying forward the spirit "being courageous and competent, pursuing excellence" and working with diligence, enterprise and pioneer spirits, Zhanjiang Normal University has made brilliant achievements.

Zhanjiang Normal University is the institution of higher learning which people in the south of China yearn for. The university has a long history and has accumulated a wealth of culture. Every brick, every wall, every grass and every tree all witnessed the history of the university's development. From the noble and generous front gate of the university, and Banyan Square with long standing, to the centennial normal education memorial tower showing the university's history, and Cunjin Square with modern flavor, everywhere is full of humane concern and academic and cultural content.

The red-brick buildings, green banyans and the imposing architectural style all transmit cultural information and its primitive simplicity. The campus, with bouquets of flowers and thick branches here and there and coconut trees whispering in the wind, conveys the delicate intellectual atmosphere and presents vitality and vigor of a higher learning institute --- a spiritual homestead.

It is here that students' quality of science and humanity, their cultural deposits about China , their world views and their research habits and manners are meticulously cultivated and their talent and potentials are fully developed and greatly improved. They have great ambitions, broad and solid elementary knowledge together with cross-discipline knowledge, and good abilities of knowledge transfer and innovation so as to be competitive in their career.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Boys & Girls

I've recently become good friends with a Chinese English teacher at our school. She and I have spent a couple of Saturdays together; this past weekend, we went bowling and had dinner. Her English is excellent, and we were able to carry on a very interesting conversation. Throughout the course of the evening, it came up that her works in Internet censorship at the local police bureau. According to my friend, "he searches the Internet for information that is not safe for the country" by monitoring Internet cafes for people who are looking at pornography.

Enter any Internet cafe in Zhanjiang and you're bound to see several young men viewing sexually explicit material online, and making no attempt at discretion. The English online version of the state-run news, China Daily, claims that the education system is partly responsible for the trend towards Internet porn. One article quotes a Shanghai student, "Porn websites are rooted in young people who are thirsty for the facts of life, on which education is so deficient in the nation."(1) Lack of sexual and ethical education in schools often leads to confusion and immaturity about relationships.

A myriad of extremely rapid social changes have accompanied economic development in China. It's the year 2008, but the country is just now experiencing its industrial revolution as well as the side-effects of a huge economic boom taking place in a short period of time. While traditional romantic relationships are extremely conservative, more and more young people are moving out of their villages to East coast boomtowns such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou to pursue their fortunes independent of family ties.

Away from the rigor of hometown life, recent graduates are free to do as they wish. However, as mentioned above, innocence of "the facts of life" is encouraged during high school and college. Many colleges prohibit students from dating or socializing much with the opposite sex. Students go from an isolated village to a college environment in which normal interaction between the sexes is discouraged. At the mention of the word "boyfriend," my college students are instantly reduced to giggles! After graduation- at which point they are none the wiser about relationships- students emigrate to modern cities of 10+ million people and are immediately expected to become adults and function in the "real world."

Another problem that is confounding traditional male-female relationships in China is the One-Child Policy. Instituted in 1979, the policy attempts population control by heavily fining any family with more than one child. The rule is focused on heavily populated urban areas. There are exceptions; for example, minorities (non-Han Chinese) are exempt, and those in rural areas are permitted a second child if the first is disabled or a girl. Yes. Disabled or a girl. Needless to say, sons are much preferred to daughters. That means that if a woman in an urban area knows she's about to give birth to a girl, she has a very high financial incentive to abort her daughter and try again for a boy.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the current male/female birth ratio is 1.11; the under- 15 male/female ratio is 1.13 (compare to the U.S. and U.K. rates of 1.05 in both categories). (2, 3)The result is a serious deficiency of females; for many young men, a relationship with a Chinese woman is just not an option. At my school, far too many teenage boys react to this discrepancy by behaving like hooligans. They compensate for their innate insecurity with buffoonery: harassing any girl who walks by (foreign or Chinese); wearing their hair in the "finger in the electrical socket" style; and refusing to take part in academic studies or better themselves in any way. All teachers dread a class full of boys, and for good reason! The female students, on the other hand, are almost universally attractive, respectful, and diligent in their studies.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Last Round Trip to Hong Kong

Last week was May Day, so we had Tuesday April 29- Friday May 3 "off." I say "off" and not just OFF because the Chinese concept of vacation is different from ours. They require tortuous make-ups. Officially May 1 (May Day) is the only free day, so the weekends prior to and after the holiday we had to make up April 29, 30, and May 2 and 3. So to earn four consecutive days off, we held classes Sunday- Sunday for two weeks. NOT really worth it when you consider that I have Fridays off anyways... but that's China for you. Even the vacations are complicated!

Anyway, once we were finished with Saturday and Sunday classes, Scott and I headed to Hong Kong for the week. Eight hours and two borders later, we were in a whole different universe. It's amazing how much my quality of life increases when that big red bus pulls into HK. I didn't do much of anything, just the simple things I miss so much in Zhanjiang: a movie and popcorn, shopping without being stalked by little girls, sitting at Starbucks, browsing the book store and being able to read everything, and going for a solitary walk. And we just couldn't NOT go see the Olympic torch, which this weekend made Hong Kong its first stop in China before proceeding to the mainland. Scott managed to snap a few pictures over the sea of people wearing red T-shirts and waving Chinese flags.

It's surprising how easy it is to forget about the real world outside of Zhanjiang when you're here for just a couple of weeks. This place is so isolated and so backwards in many ways, that before long you start sinking into the depths of the often lonely and frustrating existence as a Zhanjiang foreigner. I love to go to Hong Kong, because it grounds me. I remember that I'm actually the normal one- there are lots of other English-speaking, non-Chinese people out there- and there is nothing wrong with me for feeling annoyed and bored with Zhanjiang life.

My next trip to Hong Kong will be one way; just a stop on the way home to Florida for the summer! Two more months... :)