Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Industrial Masculinity

I was researching an industrial company at work the other day and stumbled across this photo:


Perhaps it was the dreadful monotony and tediousness of my work that made me giggle. Or perhaps I'm still just too immature. Either way, I found it humorous that the phrase "mine is bigger than yours" applies to so many things other than bodily organs.


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Byron Yee 余柏仁
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Guangzhou Subway - The Best??

CNN recently listed Guangzhou, China as the #1 subway system in the world. The first line was opened in 1992, just 20 years ago, and now has eight lines, 144 stations, 236 kilometers of track and well over 1.2 billion passengers.

http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/10-best-metro-systems-746919

I agree, the metro system itself is wonderful, clean, fast, and very convenient. However, what CNN failed to take into account in their ratings is the 1.2+ billion passengers themselves.

The subway system makes frequent PSAs about offering your seat to elders - old people are notoriously the pushiest and now feel entitled to get that seat, even leading to fighting and Mike Tyson style bloody ear bites.
http://www.chinasmack.com/2012/videos/bloody-fight-between-chinese-men-for-guangzhou-subway-seat.html

But let's not wholly blame old people for poor "uncivilized" metro behavior. Just last month, a boy was just not mature or old enough to hold it. So he went potty on the subway - Number 2.
http://www.chinasmack.com/2012/pictures/chinese-boy-defecates-in-guangzhou-subway-netizens-shocked.html

All grumpy old people and feces aside, the Guangzhou subway is just an uncomfortable ride due to the sheer number of people who need to commute everyday. It takes a bit of vigilance, agility, and flexibility to maneuver yourself in between and among the flow and push and shove of people.

So, I'm not arguing CNN's ratings of the Guangzhou subway, I'm just suggesting it should also be posted as #1 on the list of "Top Ten Places to experience the subway for people who love unintentional gropage, fighting and biting, and occasional fecal matter" as well.


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Byron Yee 余柏仁
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Taste of Home

Sure, this country has a lot of great vegetable and fruits that we can't get back at home. Peaches, lychees, and bitter melon are in season right now.

However, I always see these beautiful bright red apples that are 3x the normal price on the imported shelves of the fruit stands. Look closely and you can see the bright red sticker with "Washington" written on it. It makes me nostalgic, and so sad that the price is so ridiculously high to eat one of those here. But my buddy took sympathy over my Seattle-pains and brought back a nice juicy one for me from Hong Kong. It was the BEST apple I've ever eaten in my life.

As much as I hate Snow White and her insanely annoying singing voice, I now have an understanding for why she so foolishly accepted that poison apple from the wicked witch. However, her taste in dwarves and princes is still questionable.

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Byron Yee
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Men's Fashion in China

Only in China have I seen men bold enough (and pretentious enough) to flaunt a Louis Vuitton belt and matching murse (man + purse). This is a country which is famous for it's copied/generic products, however, I'm 100% this man spent lots and lots of money for the real thing.

However, after exiting the fancy executive business building, I saw a beggar on the street with the same bag, but I'm equally certain that one was a knock-off.

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Byron Yee
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Foreign Policy

I remember growing up in California and hearing people complaining about how illegal immigrants were taking over jobs and flooding the workforce. Ironically enough, these immigrants they were complaining about were the same Mexicans they were paying to mow their bright green, baseball field quality lawns.

Recently, China's expat population has started to boom, both for higher end management jobs and also for those interested in the wholesale and commercial trade of cheap Chinese products. Quite a few of these expats, many from Africa, are here illegally, and the government is starting to really crackdown on these expats.

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/03/world/asia/china-foreigner-crackdown-florcruz/index.html?hpt=hp_c4

I'm not worried because I have a legit visa for work, but even those are getting more difficult to obtain. I'm not sure why the immigration office is deciding to make this an increasingly difficult process, but that's how it works. So, wish me luck as I'm currently Hong Kong right now trying to sort out my new visa...

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Byron Yee
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chopsticks: the multi-use tool

A couple weeks ago, the door knob on our office was acting a bit wobbly. The next week, it fell off completely. Seeing as how this was the doorway to the regular hallway, but also needed to be kept closed to seal in precious A/C, it was crucial we found a quick fix until it could be repaired.

So a math teacher (of course) took a pair of disposable chopsticks which are always in abundant supply and annoyance, wrapped the plastic wrap around the sticks, and wedged it into the lock mechanism, which when twisted carefully could open and close the latch.

So for any Greenpeace, WWF, or environmentalists who complain that these chopsticks are leading to the deforestation of bamboo forests (http://greenanswers.com/blog/265539/china-and-japan%E2%80%99s-use-disposable-chopsticks-threatens-asia%E2%80%99s-forests), you'll have to complain and whine much louder when you're trapped inside your buildings with broken doorknobs and no way in/out.

The other more environmentally friendly fix is to prop the door open with a broom, which is conveniently how the men's bathroom stays open - because there weren't anymore chopsticks to be found...

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Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Monday, June 18, 2012

College Entrance Exams

Every year in June, the entire country buckles down, crams, and stresses about the the much revered and much feared College Entrance Exams. Similar to the SAT or ACT, its a long, meticulous, painstaking, and mind-numbing experience. Unlike the SATs, this set of exams has the power to determine your educational opportunities, professional life, career, and the general success and prosperity of the rest of your life. So, yes these kids have a bit of pressure.

And the entire country feels this pressure. Special lines on buses and subways are designated for these poor little high school students. School buses drive like tanks or battering rams through the morning rush hour traffic. Families lie to their children about dead/dying family members as to not distract their studies. Wait - WHAT?! True story, check it out:

http://www.chinasmack.com/2012/pictures/student-learns-mother-died-only-after-finishing-gaokao-exam.html

The mom of one of these students perished in a car accident 2 weeks before her son's tests. Rather than tell him and make him more emotionally distressed, the school, police department, and family members all collaborated in a huge lie.

So, imagine this boy, finishing 3 days of intense testing, breathing a sigh of relief once laying down his #2 Pencil, just to be greeted by his family (NOT his mom or dad), saying "Congratulations! You finished! Oh, and by the way..."

The bigger question is, what would you have done????

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Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Monday, June 11, 2012

Commemorating a "Secret" Event

The entire world knows about the events that happened in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 23 years ago.
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/04/world/asia/china-tiananmen-statement/index.html?iref=allsearch

However, the local government is trying their best to still keep things silent, 23 years later...After asking my co-worker if she'd read any news or if there are any special events commemorating this intense demonstration, her answer was "NO." She asked her old history professor about the events and he refused to say anything in fear of job security. Apparently, if you mention this name or talk about this event on the streets, Big Brother's ears can tune in and have authority to arrest you.

Luckily, my VPN is giving me an internet link through San Francisco (I can't even access this blog without it), so I should be somewhat safe sharing the news here. But just a warning and a small little FYI about the People's Republic.

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Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Smoke and Urine

It sounds like a strange combination, but here those two activities go hand in hand.

Some of the nice restaurants have ash trays provided at each urinal and stall in the restrooms. China doesn't necessarily have designated smoking spots, anywhere is fair game. However at public schools, smoking in public is obviously discouraged, so many teachers light up in the bathrooms. It was a bit confusing the first time I stumbled upon a fuming toilet. My first thought was, "dang Mr. Wu, you really need to cut back on the oil and spicy pepper consumption."

What I still don't understand is that these fancy restaurants will pay money to supply their bathrooms with porcelain ash trays, yet they can seem to scrounge up another couple RMB in order to buy a roll of toilet paper. Priorities, people!

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Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Monday, June 4, 2012

Subway Girl Fight!!

No, it's not a new feature of World Wrestling Entertainment in China (unfortunately), just a busy subway ride during rush hour turned sour.

During Guangzhou rush hour (and other times as well), the buses and subways and streets leading to these vehicles are all incredibly full. Pushing is not impolite, it's just a necessity if you wish to make it on the car; being skinny and agile also helps.

Well occasionally, people express their intense discomfort and frustration about these conditions. (Grunts and various forms of the expression "AIYA!" don't count as they are considered a normal part of the experience). This past time, a girl was upset about getting pushed and stepped on and started lashing out at everyone around her. Another girl equally stressed had the fire to reply and soon enough a nice bickering match was in the works. My Chinese still isn't good enough but I picked out the words "awful" (referring to personality) and "stinky" quite a few times. Eventually the train emptied out a bit and things calmed down - so we thought. Turns out both girls were just waiting until they had a more open space to duke it out physically on the platform. Luckily, most Chinese girls' martial arts technique doesn't extend beyond an angry slapping motion (the shrill voices are more harmful),  so no one was truly hurt.

I would've stayed and watched out of pure intrigue, but my personal experiences abroad have taught me to head the opposite direction of those things as quickly as possible. But I was grateful for the entertainment as my mp3 player and Kindle had both died on the commute that morning...

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Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China