All posts by Devidyal

How Not to be an Asshole About Language

Last night I finally had an encounter with someone that got me fired up enough to really write. I’ve come here to write several times since arriving in Benin but never gotten around to doing it. I’m back.

There are nice people all over the world and there are assholes all over the world. I find them both everywhere I go. This post is not a commentary on Benin culture. I’ve been here 4 months and so far I have absolutely loved it. This post is commentary on human beings.

In my travels I’ve found that when in a foreign country and not quite speaking the language yet you encounter two types of people and these two people exist in every city, every village, every country worldwide:

Type One:

Hi! Welcome to my country! How long have you been here? Are you learning the language? Oh yeah? How long have you been studying? How’s it going? Can we speak a little? Wow! You’re really good! I can’t believe you know so much after only studying for x amount of weeks! I’m impressed. Keep it up! If you ever need to know how to say something feel free to ask. I look forward to keeping up with your progress.

Type Two:

May or may not say something in English first. Immediately speaks high level of their language then looks at me and expects me to respond. I say I’m sorry I don’t understand. He/She says I’m speaking your language you should speak mine. I’ll only speak in English but you should answer me in French. I explain I’ve only been studying you’re language for x amount of weeks. I can’t do that. He/She says how dare you come to my country and not learn my language. I tell him/her they are being rude to me and I don’t appreciate it. Then there’s the inevitable insult and statement about how I am disrespecting his/her culture and how rude I am for coming to a foreign country and not learning the language. He/she repeatedly says insulting/condescending things to me and repeatedly tells me that I’m the rude one for pointing out how rude they are being.

Don’t be type two. No one likes him.

 

 

Yulin Dog Meat Festival: The Liberation

The first thing I want to make clear is I do not have any more of an issue with the meat of a dog being eaten than the meat of a pig or a cow. A common argument made about the protests of the Yulin Dog Meat festival is: Where are all the people protesting the eating of cows or pigs or chickens? And I fully appreciate that sentiment. While it is absolutely not part of my culture to eat dog and I have an emotional attachment to them I can appreciate that in some cultures dog is just another livestock animal. I was vegetarian for 15 years

Dog meat soup.

and vegan for 5 of them. I began eating meat again several years ago and I have made my peace with that. If I am willing to eat a pig, a fish, a snake, an insect, or a cow, I should be able to eat a dog.

Also, as I am sure many of you know already, as part of my research I actually attended the Yulin Dog Meat festival 2 years ago. It was the most emotionally challenging thing I have ever put myself through. I blogged about it here but in short I did not see anything I was expecting. I was expecting horrible cruel people torturing sweet puppy dogs to death. What I found was to this day some of the very nicest people I have met in China. Everyone was kind and welcoming to me and after the cruelness of many of the people in the city where I live I was surrounded by the dead carcasses of dogs and the barking and whining of the those awaiting slaughter and yet I still felt more comfortable and more welcomed there than I usually do in Xi’an.

dinner.

While I was there I did see thousands of dogs. Most of them appeared to be street dogs, dogs raised as livestock, or very old dogs the families had gotten rid of for cash. As depressing as it was I did not see any pure breed pet looking dogs. I also saw hundreds of dogs killed and every single one was done humanely with a slit to the throat. The dogs I saw did not appear to have ever felt the loving touch of a human and they were killed for food much in the same way as goats are. I am sure I have seen all the photos, all the videos, and read all the same articles as you have about the horrors of the Dog Meat Festival. All I can write about is what I saw.

Now on to part two of my research: The Liberation. I have made friends with a very active animal rights activist here in Xi’an. He told me they had stopped a dog truck on its way to the Dog Meat Festival and I said I wanted to see them. I was told there had been about 100 dogs on the truck and most of them had been adopted already. When I arrived there were about 25 left. Some were sweet as if maybe they had been a pet but most were definitely street dogs that would growl, snarl, and snap if you got to close. There was one greyhound.

Rescues from the first truck

While there my friend told me there was another truck coming through tonight and asked if I wanted to join them in stopping it. Are you kidding? Of course I did! I was supposed to be attending a going away party that night but I sent her a nice voice message saying I knew there would be loads of people there and no one would really miss me and the dogs were very important to me, love you and see you around! She understood.

So here’s how it went down: Someone from the rescue group has a contact that works on the highway. They pay him if he calls and reports a dog truck is coming through. Then they know how long it takes the truck to get from that point to closer to Xi’an. There were several cars of us and we sat waiting at the highway entrance to catch the truck. It was a highly suspenseful time. The truck knew we were waiting for them and the car we had tailing it kept commenting to say they were taking alternate routes trying to lose us. We would speed down one road then U-turn, turn left or right and speed down another. When we finally knew we were almost to the truck my friend and I got stuck behind traffic on a road with no shoulder so no way to get around. We were flashing our lights and honking our horn and as soon as we could we sped around them. As we turned a corner we came up on a big brawl in the middle of the road and saw one of our guys jump into a big truck, pull a crazy fast U-turn and speed off. We all followed the truck while a small group of people was left on the side of the road, people that had been traveling with the dogs.

The truck I was involved in stopping

We drove to a deserted road, pulled over, and raised the tarp covering the dogs. It was one of the saddest sites I have ever seen. The only thing I thought about was Jews being sent off to concentration camps. There were over 300 dogs crammed into this one truck and many on the bottom had been trampled to death. There were Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, a husky with beautiful blue eyes, and hundreds of others. These were no street dogs and certainly were not dogs raised as livestock. When we closed the tarp back up so we could drive on the dogs screamed, and howled, and cried like nothing I have ever heard before. It has been over a week and I am tearing up right now as I type this. It was like the most horrifying cries from the pits of hell. I felt so sorry for them.

With the tarp removed

We drove on to the designated stopping place. Everyone contacted everyone they knew to tell them to come out and see the dogs. By now it was almost 1:00 in the morning but about 200 people came out to see the truck. This may seem funny but I was struck by how nicely everyone was dressed. It reminded me of the stories we hear of the first battles of the Civil War when the wealthy would set up seats to watch. The Chinese do like fashion. Women will walk up mountains in dresses and heels and this was no different.

While driving the two hours back to Xi’an I found out we had not only stolen the truck but also kidnapped the “owner” of the dogs. What needed to happen now was he needed to call the police to report his dogs stolen but when the police arrived he needed to tell the policeman he didn’t want the dogs anymore and relinquish ownership to the rescue group. I will leave it up to your imagination as to how they helped change the “owner’s” mind but in the end he did relinquish ownership. After that the truck was driven to a shelter outside of Xi’an where they had agreed to take in the dogs and the guy was given his truck back.

I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was going to do when the police came since…uh…well…I’m kind of a foreign citizen involved in some not exactly legal action therefore risking jail time and deportation but at 2:00 AM when we had no idea if the police were coming in 15 minutes or 15 hours and I was offered a ride home I took it.

Does this look like a dog bred for meat to you?

The next day I got the location of the shelter and paid a driver to take me out there. It was terribly depressing. There were so many pets. These were clearly stolen house pets. They were sweet precious babies that were used to sleeping on couches under the air conditioning while being loved on. They were definitely not livestock. I was horrified. Many of them clearly were street dogs, many seemed to fit what I saw in Yulin two years ago very old pets that no one wanted to care for anymore so they sold it for meat, but oh my god more than 25% of them were definitely stolen house pets.

 

The condition of the truck and stolen house pets is what I am fighting against. My baby boy is laying in bed next to me as a write this.

Stanley

He is not food. I could not kill and eat my dog any easier than I could kill and eat my daughter. He is family. And someone stole other people’s babies, shoved them onto this hellish truck, and sent them all the way across the country to be slaughtered and eaten.

Before anyone asks I have seen trucks transporting cattle and pigs in China. They look just like the trucks in the US do. They don’t shove more than 300 pigs onto one truck and have them so packed in that they are distorted and the ones on bottom are trampled to death. This is a special way of transport just for dogs apparently.

It has been 8 days since then. I have been to the shelter 5 times to help clean the kennel, bathe the dogs, and give them love. Yesterday for the first time some other people came with me. It was very nice to have help. Local Chinese volunteers come out everyday and say they are there to help but just like the night of the heist and hiking up mountains they wear nice clothes and don’t want to get them dirty so they won’t come in the kennel with the dogs. Instead they stand around taking pictures of me working and post them on their We Chat. It infuriates me but on the other hand I remind myself that volunteering and helping others, especially dogs, is not a part of Chinese culture so the mere fact that they are there really does say something. For a short while a group of five locals came in the kennel to help clean. They told me they had adopted a dog on the first day and they wanted to come back and help. I almost cried. It was the first time I had seen any Chinese person other than shelter employees actually come in the kennel and get dirty. Tomorrow a local friend of mine is going to help. I do not mean to have the White Savior Complex and imply the locals that come out don’t care. They really do. Why else would they drive so far to get there? I think they just don’t really know what to expect, they wear their normal nice clothes, and then realize there’s not really anything they can do without ruining them. I hope they’ll all come back next week in their old jeans and help!

Some friends and I bathing dogs

The owner of the kennel and the manager really care. The manager of the shelter was so overwhelmed with emotion the first time I met her she cried, the owner is a Buddhist and has Buddhist chants playing at all times on the grounds. Another way they show they care is giving the dogs bones to chew on even though they are dog bones and that is pretty weird from my cultural way of thinking. I wonder if it’s a Buddhist thing? Waste nothing? I really don’t know.

The kennel itself is a mixture of happiness and sadness. Some of the dogs are badly injured and some of them are very ill. They cannot afford medical treatment so the dogs either heal or die. One to five of them die everyday. Some are in such terrible shape that I arrive in the morning and they are dead by the time I leave in the afternoon but euthanasia is strictly against Chinese culture. They think of it as murder. No matter how much the poor thing is suffering they will just leave it there to die instead of putting it out of its misery. But that’s not a thing with just this shelter. That’s China. Omg when my poor baby cat went into kidney failure at the age of 16 and I couldn’t find a vet to help put her out of her misery I just about went crazy.

My babies

During the first 2 days almost all of the pure breed dogs were adopted. There is still one German Shepherd puppy with a deformed foot, one ancient Rottweiler, one Mastiff, and one adorable Golden Retriever/Mastiff mix, and one Malamute, other than that it’s almost all mixed breeds. Between adoptions and deaths about half of them are gone now. Many of them are so sweet you’d cry if you came and want to take them all home with you. There are maybe 50 that were clearly street dogs and cower and run away when you get too close. I have fallen in love with a couple of them and it truly breaks my heart that I will have to leave them soon. I only have 22 days left in China.

Left overs

I have been so miserable here and for the past 6 months I have been counting the days before I get to get the fuck out and now one month before I leave I fall in love and have the greatest reason to stay. The saddest, saddest thing to me is that when I leave there will be no one to give them love. They’ll live the rest of their lives in that kennel and may never feel human touch again. I don’t blame the shelter at all. Oh my god they care, they really care but there are no more than 5 people there and they have 2,000 dogs to take care of. They don’t have time to give the dogs affection. And other foreign volunteers? They’ll lose interest. Please prove me wrong if you’re reading this.

I just got home from my sixth time to go out there and help in nine days. We rescued over 300 dogs. Fifty to sixty of them, basically all the pure breeds, have been adopted, fifty to sixty have died and I see little hope for the rest to ever find homes. About twenty of them are either sick or injured and about thirty of them are wildish street dogs. In the end was it really worth it? I struggle with that. I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just depressed. I looked around this afternoon and thought to myself these are the leftovers. These are the ones no one wants. It doesn’t matter how sweet their personalities are they don’t look expensive so they get looked over. Out of over 300 dogs 50 of them found homes and the rest are either dead, sick, injured, or will live the rest of their lives locked in a cage. Is taking a sweet, sweet happy little puppy dog and locking it in a cage with little to no human contact for the rest of its life really better than cooking it up for dinner?

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about learning

Most specifically language learning.

So let’s talk a bit about how rude it is to tell a person they must just have a knack for learning languages and it must be easier for them. I think I can explain it best through a story.

When I first went back to college I had not taken a math class in 17 years. And even 17 years earlier math was not my strongest class. I was put in the bottom level of remedial math and I had to work hard to understand it. For 2 semesters of remedial math and then on to algebra, pre-cal, and stats I spent anywhere from 2-5 hours a day in the math tutoring lab. All the tutors knew me on a first name basis. Shout out to Eddy! Love ya!

Math was so very difficult for me. I cried so much in that tutoring lab they probably all thought I was a basket case. I really, really struggled with it. But I worked and worked and worked to understand it. While my classmates would only show up in the tutoring lab an hour before class on the day of a test I was there almost everyday until they kicked me out at closing time at 10:00 and I went in to school early to study several days a week.

I ended up with an A in all my college math courses but one and in class I could almost always answer the questions because I had studied the stuff so much. All my classmates would get mad at me and say things like “you always know the answers…it’s not fair…. Math is so easy for you” I would laugh at them and explain how many hours I spent in the tutoring lab every week just to understand this stuff and how it in no way was easy for me. They always ignored what I said and just went on saying that it was unfair that they got bad grades because math was hard for them.

I feel the exact same way when people tell me that languages must come easy to me. It’s like this complete dismissal of all the hard work I put into learning a language. It’s hard. I study hard at this stuff. I went to Guatemala and worked 4 hours a day one on one with a tutor for  almost 2 whole months to learn Spanish. Let’s break down the numbers: a college 3 credit Spanish course is 45 hours in the classroom per semester. That’s 45 hours with a teacher over 15 weeks. I studied 140 hours in only 7 weeks. That is a fuck ton of work. And it’s hard fucking work. For anyone to say I must just be good with languages is completely disrespecting the work I did. In addition to the tutor I have also listened to over 120 hours of mp3 lessons and done countless hours of studying online.

Shall we even talk about Chinese? It is fucking hard for me. Learning Chinese has been more difficult for me than Organic Chemistry was in college. The first month we lived here I studied Chinese 80 hours with a tutor. For the next six months I studied 8 hours a week, for the next six months I studied 5 hours a week, for the next six months I studied 3 hours a week, and since then I have studied 1.5 hours a week. In less than 3 years I have put in over 500 hours of private one on one tutoring hours. How many credit hours is a college degree? Oh yes: 120. So I have studied Chinese for almost enough hours to have earned an entire 5 university degrees. And you want to tell me languages must be easy for me???? I have made it through books 1, 2, and 3 and I am now 25% through book 4. Not to mention the fact that almost everyone I know only speaks Chinese, no one in any shops speaks any English and I am forced to speak and understand it all day everyday. How dare you say that I must just find languages easy to learn. I must just have a knack for languages. I am “blessed” with a talent for learning languages.

No. I fucking work hard. That’s the answer. I fucking work really, really hard at it. It is not easy and for you to say it is completely disrespects all the work I have put into it.

I am sharing this story because I see people make these mistakes all the time. When an amazing musician performs people will talk about how “blessed” he/she is or how naturally the music comes to them. I assure you that person practices many hours a week. I know musicians that practice 8+ hours a day. That’s why they’re so good.

Sure are there maybe people out there that language actually is easy? Maybe. Are there people that math is easy, or music is easy, or art is easy, or whatever it is they excel at is easy for them? Maybe so but for most of us we have to work really hard to be good at what we do and ignoring our work by assuming it is easy for us is not cool. Everyone that I know that’s really good at something got there through hard work and practice.

Starting in less than a year I’ll be moving to a new country and learning yet another new language. I enjoy the challenge. I like the feeling of overcoming an obstacle and I also know that learning new languages is one of the best things we can do for our brains. But please, oh please, do not tell me that learning languages is hard for you and easy for me. I will be working a full time job in a new country where I know no one, taking extra language courses on the weekends, listening to French mp3s on the way to work and the way home, studying every extra moment I can find in the day to learn the language and be able to communicate with the people around me. I will be working hard. It will not come natural to me and for you to say it does is simply rude.

I’m Done.

All my life I have always been told I am the friendliest person anyone has ever met. I smile at people, I talk with strangers, I help people even when it is an inconvenience for me. I go out of my way to make people happy. If I know I can do something to make someone else’s life a little easier I always do it. That’s who I am.

People ask me frequently how/why my Chinese is so good after studying so little and I credit it to my personality. I am super friendly and I speak to pretty much everyone I see. I think this is a main reason that I have many experiences in China that lots of others seem to not have. Also, I have not been working so I did not immediately walk into an English speaking environment and an instant circle of friends. When I moved here I spent my days 100% alone while my husband was at work and my daughter was at school. I did not meet my first English speaker for the first 8 months I was here. I was in a sink or swim situation. I was either going to be depressed and crying at home or fucking go out, learn the language, and make friends. Anyone that knows me knows I would choose option B.

It has not served me well. As of today I give up. I refuse to speak to strangers anymore. I will not go out anymore unless it is with the very few people that I know and trust and if any stranger approaches me I very well may tell them to fuck off. It has taken a long time and a LOT of bad experiences to make me, ME, embittered but I am finally there.

I’m not the super friendly, outgoing, smiley, helpful woman that I was two years ago. I’m just not.

I have experiences here that others seem to not have. I have people not believe me, I have people tell me that China is the safest place in the world for women, I have expat women tell me they have never had such experiences here and you know what? Fucking good for you. I’m happy for you. I can already imagine now all the comments I’m going to get saying nothing like that happens/happened to me in China. I have thoughts on why that is:

Most expats I know live in expat bubbles. They only hang out with other expats and the only Chinese people they know are their co-workers and perhaps their co-workers’ friends. They also speak little to no Chinese so they have no clue what strangers are saying to them most of the time. Their Chinese co-workers speak English and are college educated and they base all Chinese people off them. According to Wikipedia 6% of Chinese people speak English and 17% of Chinese people go to college. So they are basing all Chinese people off the maybe 10-15 people they know from the top, top, top tier of society. Sure, maybe they talk to the parents of the kids they teach. You know, the kids whose school tuition is at least 3 x’s higher than the local minimum wage. That’s like a Chinese person going to America and attending Harvard for one semester then basing all Americans off the friends they made there.

I have far more interactions with local people than any of them do. They are at work all day and I’m out talking to people. I talk to 15-20 people a day or more. I stop and have conversations with security guards, I talk to the cashier at the market, I talk to the person next to me on the subway, I talk to the other people that are out walking their dogs while I am walking mine, I talk to the person at the table next me at the coffee shop, I talk to the person in the elevator, I talk to the taxi driver, I talk to the waiter, I talk to the lady doing the awesomely huge cross-stitch I’ve been watching for a year now that sits on the sidewalk every afternoon working on it, I talk to the lady at the cardboard recycling place across the street, I talk to my neighbors. I freakin’ talk to everyone. And my Chinese is pretty decent these days. I can have conversations with these people I speak with.

I have lived in Xi’an, China for 2 years, 3 months, and 7 days. In that time here are a few the experiences I have had:

  1. While standing at a bus stop with my husband a man walked over and groped my ass.
  2. While reaching in my pockets to find money a motorcycle taxi driver grabbed my breast.
  3. While standing in line for a restroom 3 men tried to drag me into a room. Your guess is as good as mine what they planned to do to me in there.
  4. In an elevator a man grabbed my arm with one hand and my breast with his other while pushing me up against the wall.
  5. A man walked straight up to me on a sidewalk and molested my breasts.
  6. While dancing in a club a woman dropped to her knees and began giving me oral sex through my clothes.
  7. A woman jumped on me and began dry humping me and I had to fight her off me.
  8. A woman grabbed my breasts with both hands and refused to let go.
  9. A taxi driver, while I was handing him money through the bars, grabbed my hand and began kissing it while repeatedly begging me to have sex with him.
  10. I have had 6, yes 6, taxi drivers ask me to go to a hotel and have sex with him during his break.

Is ten enough? Naw… let’s just talk about my past 4 days. Friday night I went to a concert at a very small venue. I was there by myself and I was seated on a couch with some people I did not know. I was my normal friendly self and all of a sudden after about half an hour the guy next to me just takes my hand. I was a bit startled and before I could even react he asked me to go home with him. That’s not even where the story ends. When I refused and he left angry his friends seemed shocked I did not take him up on his offer. They told me he was rich, he could do anything he wanted with women, and I should have gone with him. I told them he picked the wrong woman.

Then today, and remember that was Friday and this is Monday, I was feeling a bit lonely because my husband and daughter are in the US for Christmas and I went to a coffee shop. The guy at the table next to me spoke a little English and was thrilled to practice it. My Chinese is way better than his English so we spoke about 75% Chinese 25% English. He was very pleasant and we had a really nice talk. We spoke for about twenty minutes when I told him I was going to go home. That’s when he said…drum roll please… “I can drive you home and we can fuck.” (In English)

And I haven’t even touched on how many people here so frequently call me fat and ugly since I already blogged about that a few months ago. It hasn’t stopped.6055443e0392de0f563187a91882cf92

Am I saying that every single Chinese person I meet is an asshole or a disgusting pig? No. I have met some truly wonderful people here. Am I saying that I have met enough assholes and pigs here to make me, ME, an angry bitter woman that does not even want to talk to people anymore? Yes.

Can these things happen to me anywhere in the world, even the US? Yes! They absolutely could but the fact is they have not. This is my own empirical evidence based on my own personal experiences. I have never had such a high rate of such incidents in my life and I have traveled in over 20 countries. I know it’s not a China and only China problem. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is these are some of things that have happened to me while living here. Why do I not write more about all the good times I have here? Because none of the good things need to be changed. If we don’t talk about the bad shit that happens in the world how will it ever get better?

Oh! And here’s the best part. I will have more people call me a racist bitch over this blog entry. I wrote about 12 creepy sexual assaults or comments but if I had to come up with a number I would say I have been either assaulted or been told something sexually crude, called fat and told I eat too much, and/or been called ugly somewhere between 300-350 times. And that’s on the low end. I have lived here 827 days. That means that every 2.2 days here I have been assaulted either physically or verbally. I don’t like it here and I am ready to go. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: maybe I’ll hate the next place too! But I sure am ready to give it a try.

Big advantage of the next place: I will be working too! I get the luxury of English speaking all day and the instant friends.

 

 

 

NAFTA, New Balance, TPP, and Trump

I am deeply saddened from all the pro-NAFTA posts I have seen from my otherwise well informed, left leaning friends. Please stop it. You are doing exactly what the other folks do. Just because Trump is against something does not mean you should love it. Life is not that simple.

Absolutely everything out of Trump’s mouth is not wrong. While the things that he says that are wrong are so very, very wrong I could never look past them, some of the stuff he says is alright. Like NAFTA was a bad idea and the TPP is too. Don’t want to trust me? Bernie Sanders is against the TPP as well. So were many of you until all of sudden now when Trump says he is against it many of you have back tracked and are saying maybe TPP isn’t so bad. I mean if Trump is against it then I have to love it, right? WRONG.

Let me guess… you don’t really, and I mean REALLY, even know what NAFTA is right? Outside of the North American Free Trade Agreement and possibly a middle school level explanation a teacher gave you years ago. It’s okay. No one can see you reading this, even me, so you only have to admit it to yourself.

Let me tell you a little about NAFTA:

Corn farmers in the US get government subsidies. That means the US government pays them to grow corn. Mexican farmers do not get paid to grow corn. That means that in small, local markets all over Mexico corn that was grown in the United States and shipped on trucks all the way to Mexico is still cheaper than the corn Jose right down the road grew on his farm. So Jose goes broke because if you’re a poor Mexican you buy the cheap corn.

NAFTA took land away from the indigenous people’s of Mexico and sold it to US corporations. People that had been living on the land for hundreds, even thousands, of years all of a sudden found themselves kicked off their homesteads with nowhere to go. Men in suits came with papers saying this land belongs to us now, built fences, and bull dozed homes. What were the people to do? (Look into the Zapatista movement)

imagesUS corporations, took the indigenous peoples’ land and built factories on it, told them they could then have jobs paying shit in the factory that was on the land their ancestors had lived on since the beginning, the wages are menial, the products are then shipped back to the US (tariff free) and sold at incredible markup to keep the companies getting ever richer.

When people lose their ancestral homes, or lose their farms due to cheaper US foods coming in they often turn to the only thing they can to keep their families alive: crime. Cartels grow, murders grow, kidnappings grow, theft grows, the gun trade grows and more. These gangs are often formed by families that lost their land and lost their livelihood to NAFTA. Most of the drugs are then shipped to the US to be sold to the very people that took away the only way of life they had ever known. So we, the people of the United States, took what was theirs, called it our own, and now blame them for the crime we created.

Others, the ones that don’t turn to crime, may risk their lives to get to the US. They illegally cross the border, to live in the shadows, bust their asses working long hours and living in shit conditions, under the constant fear of being found out and deported and all the while being harassed by the right just so they can send money home to support the families that they used to support with their farm. Their farm they lost because of NAFTA .

And I haven’t even touched on how NAFTA is responsible for the sad state of Flint, Michigan these days. I haven’t mentioned how over one million US jobs have been lost do to NAFTA. And I won’t. You have Google. Go!

tpp_finalNow the TPP is a plan that will do the same things and have all the same effects but on even more countries. New Balance, as a company, is anti-TransPacific Partnership because of the worldwide negative effects it will have. Donald Trump is also anti TPP. When Matthew LeBretton of New Balance said “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us, and, frankly, with president-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” he was not speaking of hate, he was speaking of keeping factories in America. On this topic I agree with Trump and I am not ashamed to admit it. I am anti-NAFTA and I am anti-TPP. It has been a complete PR disaster for them and we, the left, should stand behind them and show them our support.

I will still wear my New Balance shoes and I will wear them proudly. 960x0

Cassandra is on Self Imposed Exile

So let’s talk about the presidential election. I was not surprised by the results. I know many of you were and I am fully prepared for all the hate that will come my way for saying this but many people simply don’t see reality. I believe it is human nature but far too many people fall for the False-Consensus Bias. That’s what my husband and I call the Look Left, Look Right Syndrome. If all your friends drink a twelve pack a night that’s what you think is normal. In the same way if all your friends lean one political way that’s what you think is normal. Also, most people swear they are not under the bias of False Consensus and that they are realists. Let me assure you my friends, you are wrong.

Most of the people I am friends with, therefore most of the people that will read this, are from major cities. Most people in cities lean to the left. When is the last time you spent any real time outside of the city? Like more than a day trip to the mountains or perhaps a weekend visit to the in-laws? Before leaving the country 2 years ago I had spent the last 5 years in the most conservative county of one of the most conservative states of America. I spent 5 years surrounded by the people that elected Trump. In fact ¾ of my life has been spent outside of big cities in the US. I have always been the outsider, the one liberal in a sea of red.

Many of my friends are from Atlanta so I will share this picture of the Atlanta voting map taken from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-4-54-17-pmYou voted Democrat right? And everyone you know voted Democrat right? So how did this happen? Most likely it is true. I mean look at this map. You live in the city, you have always lived in the city, you spend very little time outside of the city, you’re probably one of those people that after 5 years never once came to one of my monthly parties because it was in the ever-dreaded OTP (Outside The Perimeter), and so the liberal lean you have seems normal to you. But you see where it turns red up there? That’s where I spent my last 5 years in Georgia. ¾ of my life has been in various red areas of our national map!!! I know how they think and I know they are there.

I have been complaining about, and terrified of this growing hate-filled, anti-intellectual, pro-ignorance movement in the US for a long time. When I talk about it or warn about it, as I am often prone to do, I am always met with resistance. I have people tell me I am exaggerating. They tell me I am overreacting. They tell me I am too cynical. They tell me it’s not really that bad, that I should calm down, things are getting better and better. They give me condescending lectures and act like they know better than me. They say things like oh, you just think that way because you’ve had bad experiences. Look! We even have a black man as president! I have warned and warned about this coming and no one listens. Why do they not listen? Because they live in liberal bubbles of the big cities and they think that it is normal for the rest of the country. I saw it coming and I left. Now that the US has elected a hatemongering, racist, sexist, Islamaphobic, pussy-grabbing, reality TV star as our president will I be taken seriously? Probably not. It’s okay. I’m used to it.
Want a feel for what America is like? Get out of your comfort zone. Leave the city and do it often. Choose some random small town and go spend the weekend in it. Eat in greasy spoons. Talk to the locals. You’ll see they are nothing like the people you know in the city. You don’t have to go far. Less than 2 hours from your home and I assure you it’s a different world. If you do that you will begin to understand that the United States of America is not the place you think it is. Well maybe this election made you see that but spending time outside of the city, real time not just the occasional drive through, will make you understand why.

 

Going to the animal hospital in Xi’an

It’s funny. I have recently, very recently, been making some friends I really like here and a jazz bar opened that has live music every Saturday night. My Mandarin is finally to a point where I can make friends with Chinese people that speak no English at all and I can get around town with no trouble. For the first time in 2 years I have actually somewhat been enjoying life here and I have been thinking maybe China isn’t so bad and I might be able to enjoy my last 10 months here.

Nope. All it took was one trip to the vet to be reminded: I HATE IT HERE.

6 days ago I found a puppy on the street. For the first 3 days it seemed like a perfectly healthy puppy. I put him on social media to try and find him a home but then he became ill. At first I thought it was getting used to the dog food but after 2 days of lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting I knew it was serious. I worked in an animal hospital for 2 years and an animal shelter for 5. I am no vet but I know enough to know it was serious. mmexport1473051278131

I know a vet here. I contacted him and told him the story and that I cannot afford treatment for anything serious but I am willing to pay for euthanasia. He said okay bring him in.

When I arrived at the vet clinic the vet that I had already arranged the euthanasia with said omg this puppy is too cute to execute. They tested him and he was positive for Parvo. He said we must treat him. I was like uh… well that cost is on you then. They put loads of pressure on me to pay the full price for treatment and I stood firm. They refused euthanasia no matter what I said. I said okay then. I’m just going to throw him out on the street, get in a taxi, go home, and let him die a slow, miserable death. At first they said okay but when they realized I was serious (between you and me I could never do that) they changed their tune. At that point they agreed that if I would pay the amount the euthanasia would cost they would pay the rest of his treatment.

I have to constantly remind myself that they are so far behind in medicine and they think they are doing best, they simply don’t know any better. I DO NOT in any way believe the vet, or anyone at the clinic, is cruel or that they were only trying to get money out of me. Although several people I have told the story to do believe they were pulling a shakedown. I believe that in their own way they only wanted the best for the puppy and they thought they were doing right. I am under the impression that in China if an animal has a 5% chance of survival and the cost will be astronomical they still insist you try. The only way I think I can survive here another 10 months is believing the best in them.

It’s really weird to me since I have never encountered such a cold, impersonal culture and yet I take a very, VERY sick animal in to put it out of its misery and they refuse. They leave children that have been hit by a car to die in the street, they eat dogs, they keep polar bears in glass containers in shopping malls, in my goddamn city, just last year, med school students performed horrific experiments on dogs and left them on the roof to die, they beat their dogs severely, they

ready to be sold.
ready to be sold.

keep dogs in cupboards as if they are quite literally toys, my dog gets kicked by a random stranger on a regular basis while we are out walking but, by golly, if you take an animal to the vet YOU MUST treat it. Humane euthanasia is not an option. I do not understand.

This is not my first experience with being refused euthanasia. We brought our two cats here from America. One was 16 years old and went into kidney failure. My uncle is a vet in the US and I sent him her blood results. He said it’s over for her. There is no way she will survive this. The best thing to do for her now is to put her down.

But would the vet here listen? No. He REFUSED to put her out of her misery. He insisted we keep trying treatment after treatment. She suffered an additional 2 weeks and we paid an additional 10,000¥ ($1500) before he was finally convinced he was not going to be able to save her and he agreed to euthanize her. Now anyone that knows me knows that I love my animals as much as I love my daughter and I would do anything for them. This was not about money. This was about her quality of life. She WAS NOT going to recover from this and he simply would not do what I was requesting.

And it’s ridiculous because it’s REALLY freakin’ expensive. I mean it’s expensive for me and for them it’s nearly unbelievably expensive. The average Chinese person makes about the same amount of RMB per month as the average American makes in USD so if something here costs 5¥ I can say for them it’s like $5. We spent the equivalent of $10,000 in two weeks to treat a cat that had absolutely zero chance of surviving and today they (a different hospital) wanted more than $2000 to treat a stray puppy.

If someone walks into a clinic in the US with an 8 week old puppy she found on the street that tested positive for Parvo, For the past 2 days was lethargic, had severe diarrhea and vomiting, and hadn’t eaten the vet is going to give the option of euthanasia and would never tell you that you have no choice but to pay $2000 for treatment. Who the fuck has $2000 lying around to save the life of stray puppy? A $50 euthanasia is the kind, humane thing to do.

I do not regret coming to China. I have loved learning Mandarin. I have really enjoyed studying another culture. I have seen some amazing places, and things, and met some absolutely wonderful people but I am ready to move on. Who knows where we’ll be this time next year? Maybe I’ll hate it too! Life is one great learning adventure to me and I love it!

Why are Chinese people so nice?

I talk about the kind people I meet in China often. I have made a friend in the countryside that even invited me to his mother’s funeral because he feels so close to me.

There’s a wonderfully kind little old lady that sits in her wheel chair outside the main gate of my apartment complex every afternoon and she always smiles and waves at me when I pass. There is a nice family on the 18th floor of my building that has invited me for dumplings more than once. The first friend I ever made here has been more than kind to me in showing me around town, introducing me to his friends, and being a nonstop help with my Mandarin needs.

I’ve had little old men get up from their seats on the bus and no matter how many times I insist he remain seated he makes me take his seat. The shop owner where I buy my fruits and vegetables always compliments me on my speaking.

There’s a little boy in my complex that always runs up to me and calls me 老师(teacher) even though I’m not his teacher and I teach him at least 2 new words every time I see him. There’s a restaurant owner that every time I go in she puts her grandchild in my arms and seems the happiest woman ever to see the way I hold and play with the baby.

There’s a bar owner that knows my name, knows my drink, and is always happy to laugh and joke with me.

IMG_0505I understand why Chinese people are so kind. They are a collectivist society. The group as a whole is the most important and since we are all a part of the group we all must be kind to each other. If one member of the group falls the group cannot function properly. Being unkind to one is being unkind to the whole. Confucius wrote “Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.” Confucius also said “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.”

So I’m curious. How many people are going to send me hateful messages for generalizing Chinese people today? I think probably none. No one gets upset when one generalizes in a positive way. Generalizations apparently are only a bad thing if the reader does not like them.

What kind of world are we living in if we can never point out the negatives of life? If we pretend everything is perfect and there’s nothing wrong with the world how will we ever achieve world peace? China is not a perfect place. Nor is the United States or Switzerland or Angola. If we are forced to accept, like, and even respect the very worst of every society in fear of angering others how will we ever change?

I believe that it is our job as humans to make the world a better place for the next generations. How can we make the world better if we don’t admit there’s anything wrong with it? If we have to pretend everything is perfect and we love everything around us at all times?

I can talk about how nice and kind Chinese people are all day long and never have one person call me out on generalizing but oh my god you say something bad about Chinese people and it’s immediately you’re a racist! You’re generalizing! Fuck generalizations! If you don’t like it just leave! We don’t want you anyway.

Sorry people, but generalizations go both ways. If all you want is to read about my positive experiences then you probably don’t want to read my blog because I write about the negative ones too.

This isn’t about me vs. China. This is me vs. the world. Wherever I am living or traveling I write about the good and the bad. I have loads of happy positive things to say about people and places but to leave out the negatives would not be true. For those of you that get angry with me for generalizing about negatives, but not angry with me for generalizing about positives perhaps, just perhaps, the problem lies with you and not me.

I leave with one last quote of Confusius:

“The faults of a superior person are like the sun and the moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them.”

 

Why are Chinese people so mean?

I complain about this a lot but Chinese people are mean and I hate it. It’s days like this that I have to chant to myself over and over again one more year, just one more year and it’s a different culture, they don’t mean to be mean, it’s a different culture.

IMG_20160428_093326By using the standard US sizing chart the average Chinese woman is a size 2. That’s the average sized woman. The woman pictured here is a woman I saw a couple months ago. She is the standard of beauty here.  The thinner you are and the more skeletal you look the more beautiful you are. You only think it is bad in the States. A girl I know here is a size 6 and people call her fat. Her own mother calls her fat. She calls her almost everyday and tells her no man wants to marry a fatty and she’s going to have to lose weight. Size 6!!!!

I am a US size 12 today. That’s a full 6 times larger than the average Chinese woman but the average American woman is a size 14. When they call a size 6 fat just imagine how they treat me. I am brought to tears on a regular basis. Strangers walk up to me in the street, grab my arm and call me fat. In restaurants people at other tables joke that the owner should tell me I can’t eat anything because I’m fat enough, I have even been called a whale more than once. One time a group of children surrounded me pointing and laughing at me while calling me fat. Another time a complete fucking stranger sat down with me at a café and told me I was too fat and too ugly to be out in public and I needed to stay home. I’ve been window shopping before, just window shopping, and the employees come out and shoo me off while yelling at me that I’m too fat and they don’t have anything for me. That has happened several times.  This is me. I took these pictures last week:

megym1megym2

No one in the US would ever call me fat.

The same thing always happens to me. I always start crying on the spot. I have been brought to tears in my two years in China more often than ever before in my life. But today something happened. I was finally able to get angry instead of sad!

As many of you know I had cancer 9 years ago. The tumors themselves weren’t really that bad of a problem but there were many complications with my surgery and I was left with a very serious health problem. VERY SERIOUS. While no one can look at me and see that I am sick I really am. No need to get into details here but my illness prevents me from raising my heartbeat too much which prevents me from exercising too hard or I could oh yeah, you know, die. And I’d kinda rather not do that. I can exercise but I can’t push myself too hard and it has to be light stuff. I walk on the treadmill, I use an elliptical, and I lift weights. I go to the gym 5 days a week. Before my sickness I was a size 7 and while a size 12 is not huge I am very sensitive to it and I don’t need to be reminded 5 times a day that I’m fat and ugly.

Well today I was at the gym on the treadmill and one of the trainers approached me. She didn’t waste any time. The first thing she told me was “你胖了” you’re fat. She didn’t wait for me to speak she just laid into me. You’re fat, you have to run or you will always be fat. You need to work harder because you are so fat. You really are very fat. Run faster. You are fat.

I told her exactly what my Chinese teacher taught me to say. I have a health condition, the doctor says I cannot exercise too hard. This is the most I can do. But she just kept repeating I was fat and I had to run faster. I thought maybe she didn’t understand me so I pulled out my phone translator I typed up that I have a serious illness and I cannot run I can only walk. She told me I was wrong and I needed to run. She told me I was sick because I was fat. She kept saying it over and over again. Of course you are sick. You are sick because you are so fat.

I walked away from her 2 times and she followed me. She kept saying that I was sick because I was fat and I had to lose the weight. You’re fat. You’re really fat. Work harder. You’re fat. You will be sick your whole life if you stay so fat. You are so fat.

Finally I snapped and I said I’m leaving and I stormed out of the gym. She followed me and kept asking what was wrong and why I was leaving. I told her to fuck off. With that she left me alone. I have only cursed at a couple people here in China and they have all been taxi drivers. I do curse often but I do not curse at people. That is different. I must be very angry to curse at a person.

This behavior is very common here in China. If you don’t know about it  and you live here it’s because you’re not of a size they consider fat or ugly, or if you don’t live here no one talks about it with you for fear of being called a racist. Well fuck that. By a Western standard Chinese people are fucking mean.

With that being said I understand that I am coming from a completely Western biased opinion. Don’t forget my degree is in sociology and I understand this stuff. I get it… collectivist society and all that jazz. I had a long conversation with a Chinese friend of mine about it today. He is a sociologist. We agreed that it is a collectivist thing. No one here gives a fuck about the individual, only the group matters. No one cares about others’ feelings and no one cares at all about what they say or don’t say to an individual. Children are not taught to be considerate of others’ feelings. The feelings of the individual simply do not matter and are never brought into consideration during conversation. That’s just how they roll. They don’t realize how awfully mean they come across as to Westerners when they say such things and I’m at least fairly certain that if they knew how mean we thought it was they wouldn’t say it but OMG some days I just can’t take it.

I once read a very interesting article on how traveling the world can make one more elitist and I have to say it’s happening to me. Ever since I was a kid I have been that uber lefty super open-minded accepting and loving of everyone person but living in China is changing that about me.

I cannot say I am disappointed about coming here. I really have enjoyed learning the language. It is so very difficult and I love the challenge. And I have done loads of academic research on the culture. I understand it and from an objective standpoint I can write about what they do and why the do it but on a personal level I do not have to like it. I can absolutely without one hesitation for even a split second say I do not like Chinese culture.

I am not required to like everyone and everything I encounter in life. I fully understand why they do the things I hate so much and I understand that I hate it because of my Western upbringing but that does not change the fact that I hate it. I understand that allowing their kids to take a shit in the elevator is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when they hold their toddlers over the swimming pool to let them pee in it it is not because they are bad people but uneducated people. I understand that spitting on the floor of the restaurant is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when my housekeeper spits loogies up on my living room floor she thinks it’s perfectly fine because she will mop it up later and it is my Western bias that thinks that’s gross. I understand that calling me fat and ugly is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. But the simple fact is I am Western and when I am called fat and ugly at least 5 times a day it does take a toll on me.

I get it. I came to their country I need to accept their standards. But I can’t. I just can’t. I am ready to go. My two years here have turned me into an angry, cynical, overall not happy at all person when this is not who I want to be.

And before any of you go and write me and say I shouldn’t let it bother me I assure you my answer will be fuck off. If you lived in a society where at least 5 times a day you were called fat and ugly I imagine you would struggle with it to. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Yeah. Fuck that. Words hurt.

 

Funeral in a rural village in China 坡头村

So my friend texted me after midnight last Wednesday to tell me that his mother had died. He asked me if I would please come to the funeral. I said of course I would not only because his mother died but especially because of my interest in death rituals around the world. My friend lives in a rural village about an hour outside of the city so I was really curious about what the funeral would be like.

As far as I know I may be one of the only foreigners that has ever been to a rural funeral in China. Of course that is only through my own anecdotal research but I have asked everyone I know here and no one has ever been or even knows anyone that has ever been to a funeral in China and I do know for a fact that I and my family are the only foreigners that have ever visited this particular village.

When I arrived I immediately felt out of place because I was wearing black. I had asked a couple people what I should wear and I was told to wear black and white, or black, or white. I don’t have any white clothes other than a white Tshirt so I wore an all black kind of nice outfit. I was the only person in black and I felt I stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was in white. I think a crappy white Tshirt would have been more fitting than my black outfit.

Family members were wearing white robes and white pieces of cloth tied around their heads that made them look a lot like extras from a kungfu movie. Word spread immediately that I was there, and I mean like I had not been there 15 seconds before my friend came rushing up to me. He escorted me into his house where they had an alter set up to his mom where I was made to kneel, light incense, then bow to a photo of her her. Then I was taken to the guest gift registry room where there were several old men sitting around a table and one had a long scroll in front of him and a paint brush he was using to record gifts and names. I gave 200¥ (about $30USD) and everyone seemed pleased. Minimum wage in China is $181USD a month and these people live significantly under minimum wage so $30 is a lot of money. IMG_20160617_093211

I sat around for a bit waiting for things to get started while everyone was staring at me, touching me, and asking me a million questions about who I was and why I was in China.

Soon we all paraded to the burial place. The casket was inside a really neat looking litter with a big dragon’s head and tail.

IMG_20160617_094646Music was played, there was much weeping, so much in fact I would believe they were paid to be there,

and a bit to my surprise much celebration. It was like a mixture of an old times Spanish funeral with all the wailing and a good ol’ Irish wake. The family was wailing and the friends were having a grand ol’ time.

At some point about halfway to the burial place we all stopped. Immediate family members were guided by some leader type guy in how to pray in front of the casket. They had to hold their hands in a proper way, kneel a proper way, and bow a proper way a proper amount of times. Some guys teased me and tried to get me to go do it too. It was so weird. I was trying to be all somber and respectful but they were all teasing me and having loads of fun.

We got to the burial site and the hole was already dug. The band set up and played music the while time. The hole was different than we do in the west. It was dug about 10 feet down but then they dug in. So the casket was lowered down and then put into the ground kind of like a drawer. Then they made a wall of bags of dirt where the casket was. Then, and this part apparently is very important because everyone made sure I saw it. A guy took a huge gulp of xi feng jiu (rice liquor local to this province), spit it in a small opening towards the casket, and lit it on fire and a huge flame burst out while they scrambled to get out of there.

 

Then the music stopped quite abruptly and everyone walked back to the house.

My friend requested I wait with him. We hung back for about half an hour and were the last people to return to his home. Apparently at Chinese funerals the immediate family are supposed to be the very last people to leave the graveside. I am definitely not immediate family but he wanted me there so I stayed.

When we got back to his home there was a huge feast. There were at least 200 people there and a lot of xi feng jiu. At things like this everyone wants to drink with the foreigner so by 11:30 in the morning I was very, very drunk.IMG_20160617_112529

I left by 12:00.

After the funeral my black taxi driver (illegal taxi) and I went to explore some old cave dwellings people used to live in during the War of Japanese Aggression, better known to most of you as World War II. I will write about them later.