Monthly Archives: November 2009

Job ads

Maybe it’s that I’m bitter that I haven’t yet landed a job in Shanghai, or maybe just coz I got nothin better to say at the moment, but I’m dedicating this post to some of the cringe-worthy job postings I’ve come across on the web during my job search so far. Apart from the obviously offensive (not to mention illegal in many parts of the world, I think) English-teacher recruitment ads that specify “Caucasian only”, “we want Americans from northern part of the US or Singapore”, “no overseas Chinese”, and so forth, every day brings a smattering of interesting ads that make the hunting a little less tedious.

Some of them are plain cases of a lack of familiarity with English words + having spell-check turned off, like:

We need native Philippean for linguistive review work -job in Shanghai
We need native Philippean speaker for linguistive review work. Part time. If you are interested, please send your CV to (…)


Others make it pretty clear why they desperately need native English teachers:

Canadian people we need you -Shanghai teaching job
We are now lack of teacher who’s at 40’s,majored in economics or finance,love language teaching jobs.If you are fit,send us your CV right away.

(Good luck finding someone that fits all the criteria: age, major, love of language teaching jobs (why’d you major in finance then?), oh and of course, fit.)

And some of these are just puzzling, and thus hilarious:

Part time, an Italian girl or lady -Shanghai PT job
There’s a performance in our client’s event. We need an Italian girl or Lady to act an Italian housewife cooking pasta on the stage. Just Act, Not Really Cook.

find single gentleman do part time
find single gentleman do part time. We need single gentleman do part time,if yu are single the gentleman the right one send us

These are the ones that make me laugh. Then there are those job wanted ads posted by self-proclaimed native English speakers advertising their English expertise, which not only pollute the job list stream with their irrelevance, but are inflicted with all sorts of language errors that make me want to pull my hair out… or something. For example:

Content writing and editing
Hi all, I am a professional content editor currently living in Shanghai. Seeking for a revelant job in Shanghai. I have an experience in editing english documents. I can write as well as proofread content on any subject.

(Seeking for? Revelant? English editor? Riiight.)

Harvard Graduate English Teacher and Essay Editor
Hello! I’m an American with several years of experience teaching English and SAT prep to Chinese students. In addition, I can help you with perfecting your essays and reports and preparing for interviews for colleges or jobs. (…)

(I dunno about you, but I wouldn’t want this Ivy Leaguer flooding my essay with sentences like that. Surely a Hah-vahd graduate could do better than that?)

And then the punctuation outlaws:

English Teacher, Resume and Cover Letter Editor
Hi if you want an American English teacher please contact me RMB 200 hr. (…)

Native English Tutor (Australian) Available: Xujiahui area
(…) Focus should be on spoken English however written vocabulary, grammar and phrases are also important.

I’m not saying my English is perfect*, but seriously, if you’re gonna pretend you are everything you say you are, at least be a little more careful? Or better yet, just stop wasting any more of our time, kthxbye.

/end of rant

*whoever spots the most errors in this and previous posts wins!

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Owed to autumn

Autumn really didn’t get a fair shot in Shanghai this year. I fear I may have jinxed my high hopes for my favourite season in a mid-September journal entry:

In one of my classes this week we discussed our favourite season(s). Maybe because it was the season featured in the textbook, but there was much talk of spring, and what happens in spring (花开了,草长了,people fall in love, etc.). But spring to me is, though glorious, a gust of fresh air that is in too much of a hurry to turn humid, a tease, an undecided customer. It’s a kid who, every few days, knocks on your door but runs away before you can open it. By the time everyone’s agreed that it’s arrived, it has left again with barely a scribble in the guestbook. Autumn, on the other hand, and at least in the places I’ve lived in, is no-nonsense, mature, too old for pranks. When it comes you appreciate the gradual drop in temperature and takes enough time bidding farewell that you’re ready for what comes next. It begins the school year and reignites all the possibility that comes with it. Though the shrinking day makes me sad, it also makes me want to be productive while it lasts, and to write pointless emo entries like this.

Instead, I was shown yet another example of how one just cannot carry preconceived notions to China and expect to use them as currency. “Autumn” this year ended up fitting exactly the qualities I used to describe spring, which is to say, barely existent. We had a few beautiful days back in October, but other than that, it’s basically gone from humid and hot to wet and cold and windy in a matter of days. Autumn–with its changing colours, cool crisp air, and days that make you want to stay outside forever–never even got a chance.

Maybe it’s typical Shanghai, and I’m just grumpy because I was spoiled in Philly–which is gorgeous in the fall–these last five years, and nostalgia is getting the better of me. But according to Shanghaiist, the city is experiencing its earliest winter of the decade. Boo. We’ve had nothing but grey skies, wind, rain, and numb feet & hands for the past week. I can only seek comfort in the words of a favourite poem (holler at Keats) while holding out hope that this might mean spring will come early, be lovely, and play fair. (Yearite.)

[Edit 11/29: The past week ended up being really nice and warm and beautiful :D]

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The Walk Home
















On my way home from class, taken 10- and 11-2009.

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Playing hooky

I didn’t go to class yesterday. Overslept by about 20 minutes, resolved to go to my 10:15 听力 (Aural) lesson even if I missed 口语 (Oral), then a glance out the window persuaded me that it wasn’t worth venturing out into the wind-swept, wintery wilderness for an hour and a half of chit-chat. Our 听力 teacher is awesome, mind you, funny and nice and will tell you about her schooldays reading Marx and Stalin and the difference between 80后 and 90后 (the stereotype for Chinese born in the 80’s and those born in the 90’s), but we haven’t progressed in (the incredibly dull) course material since the start of the month. She assures us that we’re still ahead of the game.

Whatever the case, I stayed in. And surprised myself by spending the better part of the day reviewing vocabulary and copying them into a little notebook I bought for the purpose. (Unfortunately, because I spent particularly few RMB on the notebook, a good part of the time was spent taping pages together as they fell out like my hair has been since I got to China.)

As I huddled in my heated room writing down characters with their respective pinyin and definition, the tedium of the task was tempered by a feeling of gradual liberation–one that I attribute to the power of language learning. Forging links between a taken-for-granted English word and its Chinese equivalent (aha!), or between a character’s pinyin and its Cantonese pronunciation (ohhhhh), I felt as if I were making discoveries, finding never-before-seen pieces of an infinite puzzle, taking small but sure steps towards a parallel language world that has only ever been populated by other people. The possibility of possibilities made me optimistic. In my mind I caught a glimpse of the day, albeit a considerable ways into the future, when I could proudly count myself a member of the Chinese language world.

It is a little dramatic, I’ll admit, but language learning is a dramatic process with deep social, psychological, and emotional implications. A second language, particularly for adults, is not merely “acquired”, as the somewhat misleading term second language acquisition might imply. Reflecting on the Chinese immigrants I spoke to for my senior thesis on their English-language learning experiences in the States, I’ve come to appreciate their efforts and sympathize with their struggles a little more since coming here. The language barrier is daunting and not easily defeated, and without the luxury (that I have) of being able to devote oneself full-time to one’s studies, making even a dent in the wall must feel like an impossible task.

Obviously, growing one’s vocabulary is meaningless if not put to use, and the fact that I did not go outside at all yesterday makes my revelation a little ironic. But in a world where knowledge is power, if my efforts mean that I can read one more street on my Shanghai map, or understand a little more of the propaganda on CCTV, I consider it progress made.


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Thames Town


Early in November Sean and I went to check out Thames Town (or “Hameston”, as it seems to have become). It was fashioned in quaint ye olde English style, being one of the new satellite towns designed as part of Shanghai’s “one city nine towns” program (read more about it here). A 1.5 hour trip by metro & cab transported us out of Shanghai and into what felt like an abandoned film set:



In spite of a banner on its website claiming that “Commercial area is opening”, we came across all but 1 convenience store, 1 cafe, and several wedding costume/photo stores containing any sign of life. Since the temperature had gone from about 25C the day before to a windy 10 on the day, we were left with little choice but to slip inside the two-storey cafe, where we were one of two groups of customers. The fare wasn’t cheap or particularly good, but presentation was loverly:


[Two groups of Americans came in at various points in our stay, wanting hot chocolate to go. The first group, quite possibly NYU students on exchange, were told they didn’t serve it, but the second (a little older) succeeded in their quest, perhaps because they actually made an attempt at Mandarin, a toneless “wo yao hot chocolate”. They went back outside to wait for their drinks, playing hacky sack to pass the time. Remarked Sean: “One of the things I don’t get about white Americans is why they love wearing t-shirts and shorts in winter weather.” Anyone?]

Although the town was meant to house some 10,000 people, the place was practically deserted, save for a group of youngsters playing a Chinese version of red-light-green-light, security guards in red British guard uniform (minus the hats), and clusters of Chinese people in wedding/English period garb posing for photos, with their respective photo crew. As the wintery gusts mangled my hair into knots, I said a prayer for these women’s backs.


More pictures:


The 'Thames'.


Sean poses with Princess Diana.


First church funded by the Shanghai government?

Strange and eerie as this veritable ghost-town was, it provided a much-needed break from the rest of humanity back in Shanghai proper, and that quality alone is enough to induce me to make a second trip.

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The Capital

Sean and I recently made a short trip to Beijing, taking an express train there and back. We hung out with some very cool people (though sadly JPhan had to leave the day we got there); checked out some parks and hutongs; hiked the Great Wall from Jinshanling (金山岭) to Simatai (司马台) complete with cable car, rope bridge, zipline, and boat ride; and had both disappointing duck and delicious 东北 food.

Some sights from the trip.



Entrance to Forbidden City by night



We were very surprised that Bimbo bread made it all the way to China (and on a bicycle too!)


Sean expresses our shared unhappiness about the continuing demolition of hutongs.



Serious or ironic?


Inside the Palace Museum



Now we can all be emperors!



Taking the cable car at Jinshanling up to the Wall



Great Wall at Jinshanling (note the beautiful lack of crowds!)



My two lovely fellow companions, Sean and Matt


One of the 20-something towers we passed, this one a little worse for wear than the others


STEEPNESS. (stepth?)




Looking out the window of a tower.




Nearing the end: looking down onto the rope bridge


Hour-long wait for a table + hour-long wait for food during which a Happy Birthday remix played on repeat in the background + (200Y not-so-great duck + 8Y/person condiments + 60Y pot of tea) = worst Peking duck experience ever! But a hilarious bonding experience in hindsight, esp. as it was redeemed by dirt-cheap take-out dumplings.




There's no escaping Haibao.


Don't these look potentially delicious? Like crepes...


Guards galore at Tiantan (天坛), following the appearance of some Swiss minister who came to visit.


Tiantan at dusk

There seem to be some very strong opinions about Beijing vs. Shanghai, at least among some of my friends, but I have to say that judging from the short time I’ve been in either city, there is no clear winner. At several points during the trip, strolling down Beijing’s generous streets and relaxing in one of its many pretty parks, I did think that maybe I could live there–until the intense pollution, cab drivers who knew less about the city’s geography than we did, and hints of a long and painful winter to come reminded me that the unyielding crowds, motorbike swarms, and tacky glitz of Shanghai are but mere inconveniences.

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I know I’ve been neglecting this blogging business for over a month now, and every day it gets easier to be like meh, there’s always tomorrow, plus no one’ll really notice.

But recent acquisition of fairly reliable access to sites like wordpress (facebook is still iffy) has again sparked that ephemeral inspiration/motivation that I’m now trying hold on to by making something of it. So I’ve crawled back to my desk, registered on wordpress, and am now consuming spoonful after spoonful of sweetened condensed milk (now in a handy squeezy bottle):


Only a matter of time before I abandon the spoon in a fit of barbarism.

Speaking of food packaging, it irks me no end that despite China’s very giant, very pressing trash (and in turn landfill and incinerator) problem, great care is yet taken by companies to keep our trash cans overflowing with superfluity:


It's like asking if someone would like their gift-wrap wrapped.



Snap-open disposable spoon? Are we meant to consume 450g tubs of yogurt on the go?

Unfortunately, I did spot a young woman on the street the other night eating from one of these tubs, digging with the tiny plastic spoon in a most nonchalant manner. So perhaps there is a market for them–but they could still at least ditch the plastic wrapper, dammit. I just know that our collection of neatly wrapped spoons will soon overtake our metal cutlery set, and that makes me (and Mother Earth) unhappy.


Filed under food news & issues