So on the first real day of PUS, DPM Teo Chee Hean came to have a “conversation” with the participants. Simply put, any little respect I have for him before is now lost. Essentially, he skipped over vital topics the youth are interested in and essentially explained the PAP manifesto- the the…
As the birds fly free in the autumn sky,
The kids outside play with such delight.
The leaves are slowly turning from to green to yellow and then to red,
And their presences on the branches slowly fade.
The Chinese lesson on Monday was cancelled because the teacher fell sick. That was one of my favourite lessons as the teacher is really really motivating, in a sense that she makes me proud to be a Chinese. I realised, however, that I usually lose that motivation after the lesson. I am not sure why, but I am going to get my Chinese handled. I have to, anyway. That’s what I am here for.
Dance: My Life’s Passion
On Tuesday, we went to watch some folk dance at the Minzu Unversity of China. I saw some elements of the Paso Doble in one of the Mongolian folk dances, and at that moment I felt some kind of connection to what I do best; a reconnection with the passion I have in me. Other than that the lecture about different dances was rather boring and I was unable to catch most of it because of the Chinese that the lecturer used. My mastery of the language is still not there yet. Throughout the past weeks, I grew a larger sense of confidence in speaking the Chinese language, but still not to the point where it will be my first option when I return to Singapore yet.
On two of the days this week, I tried my hand at some choreography for Cha Cha Cha. It was alright, but something was still lacking in my choreography. It felt half-full and incomplete as well.
I believe that a choreographer’s work reflects to an extent on his personality and his outlook about life. As for that little choreography I did, my life feels incomplete. In a scenario where if I died now, I would die with much regret because I haven’t yet made full use of my life and what I believe I was born for. In other words, the difference I can make in this world is not realised yet, and until that point in time, my life will never be fulfilled.
Not really cut out to do choreography yet.
In terms of dance technique, I have deproved drastically because of lack of practice. This place (the vicinity) is not ideal for dancers as there is very little they can do with their art here. However, I’ve got a glimmer of hope; I might be able to attend the dance lessons of other universities. I got to contact a teacher in this school who teaches Dance Appreciation lessons, and she suggested that I could pay a visit to 北 京体育大学 (Beijing Sports University), among a few others.
I realised that there are some tricks to successful bargaining.
Note that I am in China. So the people here probably have a stronger Chinese language mastery than English language. And for me, I have a stronger mastery of the English language. I am the buyer, they are the sellers.
So I use English for a more successful bargain.
You see, when two people are ‘talking’, it is not them that are talking to each other. It is their souls interacting with each other behind a physical, material living body. This soul can also be referred to as an ‘ego’. So their egos are communicating with each other. When these egos interact in a situation where an outcome is expected, they work their way to an outcome which they desire. What do I mean by this? I’ll explain.
In a bargain, the outcome that the buyer desires is that he purchases the product at a price that is reasonable to him in such a way that the seller also makes a profit. The outcome that the seller desires is to make as much profit out of a sale as possible. So these two egos battle to achieve their desired outcome. Therefore, whoever appears to the other as apparently more superior will get his outcome. Some buyer egos are win-lose oriented; they feel superior when they get the cheapest price in which the seller loses, which is terrible as it exhibits a major flaw in character. In a more conscientious establishment of superiority, language can be a key. Communicating with your stronger language will give you a better edge as it heightens your vocal confidence to duel the bargain out. Such confidence can be felt by the other party and may affect his buying/selling conditions.
Culture; an excuse or grant?
Spitting and littering; a few areas where the culture here is different from that in Singapore.
The people here may be seen spitting and littering, and they may have been doing it for years therefore it may be because of their culture. I fully respect the cultures of other countries. However, I don’t think Chinese culture encompasses spitting and littering as well.
I have come to a realisation that ‘culture’ is not an excuse to do something which is wrong. Logically speaking, spitting and littering are ‘stealing’ of property that does not belong to you; you ‘steal’ the cleanliness of the floor and the pavements by making it dirty with your oral excrete and unwanted items. It is just not the right thing to do. I am always making sure to look out for any phlegm on the floor to make sure I do not step on any, it is just gross to have a little bit of someone’s waste on my shoe and I see it as an equivalent to someone urinating and taking a dump on it. The spitting and littering is partly the reason why I do not want to spend the rest of my life here, unless it is because of work reasons. The impetus of every spit of phlegm and every piece of litter on the street is inconsideration for others and the environment. In short, self-centredness drives the intention of every unhygienic act.
Life is still the same. I am a student, in an overseas university, undergoing the same challenges as the local students. Just that, I am an international student.
More to come next week!
Today marks the 1st month of living as an exchange student in Peking.
Haven’t tried the Peking Duck yet. We have been saying “Let’s go try it one day,” but that “one day” seems to be quite far. It’s alright; what’s more important is that we live comfortably here.
And we are doing so.
When we first embarked onto this city, our first impression about prices here is “*convert price from CNY to SGD* Wow everything is so cheap!”
Indeed, everything here is really low priced when converted to our Singaporean currency. Upon entering the school canteen for the first time, I observed that the meals served there range from 5 – 10 Yuan. Converting to SGD, it is about $1 - $2. We definitely do not see such affordable prices in the food courts back at home. The cheapest meal in SP is probably $2 from Food Court 3’s Chicken Talk. Also, a big bottle of Coca-cola is about 4 Yuan in the supermarket, which is roughly $0.80 in SGD. Really, really affordable.
That’s if you convert it into SGD.
After 4 weeks, I feel the Chinese Yuan seeping into my Chinese blood. 3 weeks ago, I could easily let go of 15 Yuan for a meal. Now, I think twice before ordering a meal that costs that much. That applies to a 10 Yuan meal as well. 15 Yuan and 10 Yuan have become $15 and $10 respectively; they seem to be rather expensive now.
This goes to show that the form of currency doesn’t matter. You’ll take everything for its numerical value after some time. However, I still view a 4 Yuan big bottle of Coca-cola as a good deal because quite realistically speaking, the same bottle of drink will not cost $4 in a supermarket in Singapore.
Where are my parents? Right here.
I go to live in another country not just on my own, but with my unfledged parental instincts as well. Things which I do not do, such as laundry, are now being done by me. Managing money and food are crucial as well.
And to a lesser extent, self-healing,
I experienced symptoms of the cold on Thursday (your usual flu or “falling sick” tell-tales). First woke up in the morning with a sore throat, probably due to consuming too much Oreos on Wednesday. Throughout the day, joint & muscle aches, headaches and an unusual cold feeling came about. A person usually knows that he is falling sick at this point in time. I thought to myself:”This is not good, I don’t want to fall sick here,” because quite honestly, falling sick in a country which is not your home will feel terrible. Therefore, I took the necessary actions. It was an added benefit that my Dad (a TCM physician) equipped me with an arsenal of medicine in case of any common symptoms, and it proved to be useful.
Consumed 5 capsules for heatiness and other symptoms, then went to sleep at 10pm.
Woke up in the middle of the night at 3:40am from an urgent feeling to empty my bladder. Didn’t feel much better.
Then, I remembered that my Mum gave me a box of Panadol Cold Relief. Took 2 caplets, and went to sleep. Woke up naturally at 7:42am (my alarm was set for 7:45am) feeling very energetic. The conclusion?
I consider it a success because I managed to scrape through without falling sick. It felt really good to wake up and have a lot of energy in the morning because the body fought off the bad guys successfully. Another reason to call it a success: The good prevailed!
That’s all for this week, stay tuned next week for more updates!
All the ‘being-in-a-new-place’ freshness has already worn off. I now feel like a normal citizen in this city, home away from home. Due to this adaptation, I feel at a loss of things to write for this weekly reflection because of the familiarity with the place; not much input of new information.
I am doing away with the ‘Lessons’ and ‘Lifestyle’ segmentation for my weekly reflection from now on as it often comprises of information which is irrelevant for a weekly reflection, which is supposed to be a diary for my experiences here in Beijing.
Hang on, let me recollect my thoughts.
Alright, let’s go.
Chinese Reading and Writing lessons on Mondays is really helping me a lot in terms of grasping the language. After 3 weeks, I am able to use Mandarin without hesitation. Well, I have to. How do I communicate with the people here if I don’t? Back in Singapore, I’d rather use English if I could. But now, I think even when a Mandarin-speaking person knows English, I’d still communicate with Mandarin…just to be more in touch with my roots.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I understand your concerns over Singaporean students’ grasp of the Chinese language, and I am working to get that part of my life handled.
Market Fights and Price Wars
There is a very wide range of salespeople here. Let me use a stereographical equaliser to illustrate.
At the two sides of the stereographical equaliser are ‘Hard Selling’ and ‘Passive Selling’. The closer the knob is to ‘Hard Selling’, the more ‘street’ the stall is. Conversely, the closer the knob is to ‘Passive Selling, the more ‘mall-like’ the stall is. This week, I encountered a few from the Hard Selling end of the spectrum.
We were out looking for shoes to tide through the winter with, and decided to enter a particular shop to take a look. After entering, Dexter took a look at one of the shoes. We then asked for a price. The saleswoman was very adamant about getting him to try on the shoe first before making a price offer, which he politely refused. This is where the mania happened; the saleswoman started to corner him. I’ll try to paraphrase what she said.
“Come on, try it on first and see how you like it before asking me for a price. It will be useless even for the price to be cheap if it doesn’t suit you.”
*puts shoe next to his foot*
“See, it looks so good on you! Let me tell you, some shoes may look good on the shelves but look otherwise when worn. Come on, try it on!”
We refused and said that we wanted to look around other shops to take a look at other designs first. She then told us an obvious lie: “All the shoe shops on this floor are owned by the same boss, the designs will all be the same!” Being un-stupid people, we could smell the desperation in her speech. If the shops were really owned by the same boss, it wouldn’t have mattered if we bought the shoes from another shop. But why was she trying so desperately to sell us the shoes?
A ‘price war’ then waged, with her firing all the cannonballs of lower and lower prices…but we didn’t want to get it in the first place. Initial price of the shoe was 100yuan. She sliced it to about 100yuan to get us to buy it if I remember correctly, which we of course refused. After a while more of slicing and exchanging of verbal flak, she finally gave in and made a final offer of 50yuan. Of course, it made no difference in our purchasing decision.
We were then promptly chased out of the shop.
Thereafter, we met with a similar situation in another shop. The only difference was that we offered a price and made the final purchase in this one, where we settled the deal with a price of 80yuan for 4 pairs of shoes. I’d say it is already rather cheap.
My Thoughts About This (M-Fights & P-Wars
It was definitely an unpleasant haggling experience at that shopping building, which was near the zoo. Many negative emotions are exchanged, and incessant amounts of energy are burnt in the process (I felt particularly hot and drained of my energy as though the place was a giant energy vacuum).
However, I feel that there is another side of the coin which we can look at. These people sell their items for a living. Judging by their hard-selling efforts, it must be difficult to make a living here. During E-commerce lesson on Friday, the teacher shared with us that an average citizen’s pay here is about 5000yuan, which can be converted to about SGD1000. That is a very small amount, not even up to par with a polytechnic graduate’s pay! So, if we were to compare the prices of items here with their pay, it is actually not very cheap. We were using SGD to compare prices all along, which is why we perceive everything as cheap.
In a way, I feel sad for the sales people in that building as that is the only thing they can do with their life, and they have to make the best of it. How? By selling more items and gaining profit from there, which explains their hard selling desperation.
Ball, Socket and Service: How are they related?
Just yesterday, one of our fellow comrades dislocated his right shoulder after a skid. After that, he was writhing and grimacing in pain the entire time before his arm was, well, relocated.
This shed some light on something.
Service standard in hospitals: Poor. There was no clear direction of which rooms to head to, which left the poor guy having to travel back and forth through corridors. Also, rendering of essential instruments i.e. wheelchair is not immediate; we still had to get his documents to ‘claim’ a wheelchair for use.
The best part?
Money first, patient later.
The hospital staff were repeatedly pressing for payment after each stage of diagnosis e.g. X-rays, which is rather selfish. Can’t they treat the patient first before asking for payment altogether at the end? And consider a situation: what if the poor chap with the dislocated arm was alone? Does that mean he has to do all the troublesome work first (with the dislocated arm, pain and stress) before being able to receive treatment? There is no sense in this. I have utmost respect for rules and procedures, but this is something which I feel is unacceptable. If it was an emergency, don’t tell me that paperwork has to first be done as well. It is just very unethical. Yes, this may be China and that things may be different from Singapore, but when it concerns healthcare there has to be NO room for delay of treatment. Note the caps lock on the “no”. That is how strong the feelings I have for this issue.
It actually took me 5 hours to write this reflection (with dinner break in between) as I had trouble collating contents to include in this reflection. After I began writing, I found that everything came back to me. I could write much more but I am now tired so I am stopping here.
Week 3 was rather normal, living a normal student life and going out of campus when there is free time. I am now living like a citizen in Beijing. We still haven’t eaten the Beijing Duck though. It will come, I am sure!
That’s all for now, see you in a week’s time!
I can’t believe 2 weeks have passed just like that. It is indeed quick, and time passes really quickly when you’re having good time.
I feel myself slowly being a part of this place as a Chinese. Not fully yet, but still more than I used to. It’s incredible, I tell you.
Changes from last week: our “Elementary” lessons are now “Advanced”.
Alright let’s move on.
Chinese Reading and Writing
It was a motivating lesson, writing about our爱好 (interest, hobby). I wrote about my passion for dance and teaching of dance. Teacher said that I should多讲(speak more) to improve, and should write shorter sentences. I used to think that having flamboyant phrases and words in my essay would give me a higher score. Of course, I was wrong. It is amazing how my classmates can have rather simple sentences, and their essay turned out to be very beautiful in expression when the teacher read them out. This probably goes to prove that “less is more” is indeed true. I should start writing less “rubbish” (as the teacher puts it), and focus on conveying emotions and feelings with simpler words to get more out of my essays.
The contents were similar to those taught in the “Doing Business in China” seminar in SP. Gained more knowledge about segmenting Chinese markets; more segments needed, probably due to cultural and habitual differences between the cities. For example, plates for serving dishes. In the North-western region, people use bigger plates and serve less dishes as they believe that they have to be generous when it comes to serving guests. In the South-eastern region however, smaller plates are used but more dishes are served.
Things like that. Inspiration hasn’t come yet for this one. Patience..
The lesson was replaced with a visit to the National Museum. Took a lot of pictures, and it gave me a further insight into how China developed over the years. In a way, a Chinese Culture lesson in itself.
And by years, I meant all the way from the times of Imperial rule and all the Dynasty mumbo-jumbo. The development of civilization in facets such as eating, transport, architecture, literature, war and pottery etc is incredible. There were exceptionally many artifacts of food containers and wine jugs. Evident evolution of technology over time.
Chinese Speaking and Listening
This was the first lesson with a new teacher. She wanted to know more about us, so she told us to introduce ourselves and our objectives of coming to Beijing. That was to assess our speaking competency.
I’d say my competency in speaking is average, but not very smooth as I still do need to mentally rehearse the words before saying them.
There is this low-lying side-effect that I have when I can’t express myself properly or do not know what to say when it is my turn to do so; my ears and face turn red with embarrassment. I discovered this problem in Secondary school, where I’d get equally red when I could not give the answer to a problem which the Maths teacher directed at me in class. This redness is probably caused when I have unwanted attention. And the attention is only “unwanted” because I do not feel proficient enough to “show” people what I can do. I am a very confident person, but for Chinese this confidence is still in the building phase. I believe it will be on par with other aspects of my confidence at the end of this internship.
Another problem is my pinyin. I hardly spoke any Mandarin back in Singapore, and when I did, the pinyin is usually out of whack. For example, I can say买 (buy) which was “mai3” as埋 (to bury) “mai2” .This is a rather comical problem, but I am glad that this hurdle is now down after the past 2 weeks of using the language. The other hurdles ahead are still there, such as understanding and recognizing Chinese characters and their meanings.
We learnt about B2C marketing here. Things like reactive and partial strategies, and some other things which we have learnt before in SP. At the end of the lesson, we were given an exercise which was to write about the benefits of B2C in e-commerce to consumers.
China’s Financial Reforms
Technically speaking, this was my favourite lesson.
I am clueless as well, especially since I am lost in about half the words the professor says.
From a dancer’s point of view, I feel that the professor has a strong presence and charisma, the kind of person who emits charges of burning passion for his profession into the classroom atmosphere. It is very evident that he really knows what he is talking about, and I think that is the most important part of a teacher. And I am glad that I will not sleep in this class because I’ll need to listen to all I can.
Ever since attending SMU’s open house earlier this year with a JC friend of mine, I have been very intrigued by economics, finance and the general cycle of money and wealth. Terms such as “credit creation”, “money creation”, “austerity”, “stock/shares” and “value” spark a certain unidentifiable interest in me. It is “unidentifiable” because I do not like to read financial or economic news, but can listen to a professor talk about examples and situations in the financial world the entire day.
I am still finding out why.
Respect to service people
Respect is important to service people here. In restaurants and hotels (actually anywhere), the term “服务员” is a polite and respectful term to refer to service people like waiters, counter staff etc. Compare this to “小姐” (for ladies. For men, I’m not really sure because I hardly use my Mother Tongue.) in Singapore. In recent years, the term “小姐”has become a rather derogatory term to refer to female service staff because of its increasing reference to prostitutes, I think. So “服务员” is used as a sign of respect. This term can be applied to male service staff as well.
This respect for service people also became more evident when my room’s toilet bowl got choked because of something stupid I did. Anyway, that stupid thing is out of this topic and I can say I learnt from my mistake.
Back to the topic, I told the服务员about my toilet bowl. She tried using a plunger but it did not work. She then went to make a call, and informed me thereafter that a certain “修马桶师傅” will be coming to fix the problem. 修马桶师傅literally translates to “master of repairing toilets”. It may be laughable to us, but it is rather normal to the people here. They really respect the jobs of people, even a toilet-bowl repairman (or plumber? Not sure, because I thought plumber was for basins and pipes).
EDIT: I just checked the dictionary for “师傅”, it can be a respectful form of address for older men as well. And the repairman was quite a senior citizen so I guess that might be the implication of 师傅.
Just yesterday, we went to香山 (Fragrant Hills). It was a rather long climb, almost 2.5 hours. We then took the cable chair down.
Queuing for the ride took about 1.5 hours. The frustrating part about queuing was the pushing and queue-cutting. There were no solid barriers to the queue, just a cloth belt to separate the queue from the walkway. People could sneak in and cut the queue from walking over these belts, and if they were lucky nobody would rat on them. This is very inconsiderate behavior. Then again, perhaps it is a norm to not cut the queue back in my home country and therefore leads me to see this as a large deviation from my perception of normal here in Bejing. This queue-cutting triggered rather cynical thoughts in my head, that every nudge or force I felt on my back and sides were attempts to cut my queue. Of course now that I think about it, it was a rather stupid thought to have. Back to the queue-cutting, this competitiveness probably evolved within the people because of high population, and everyone has fights for his portion of the cake. It is only logical: when you have many people sharing the same resources, each one of them has to fight to gain an adequate share for himself. But the situation is actually not that bad, I am just using a more dramatic example.
Public Transport (Bus)
Making our way back to the hostel also offered another insight. It was the first time experiencing squeezing onto a bus.
Bus can be seen in the distance, people try to guess where the boarding door of the bus will be when the bus arrives. Bus arrives, people get into tight bundles to try to get onto the bus. Squeezing and shoving ensues. The victors get to board the bus, the losers fail to board the bus.
I believe it is only a pinch of what really goes on in the public transport here, especially in peak hours. The force of pushing is overwhelming. I could not break through the ‘flesh barrier’ to get onto the bus. This is similar to being “kiasu” in Singapore, but it is more developed here because it feels like they are fighting for their lives with all the pushing and shoving going on. We decided to wait for the next bus instead. On a lighter note, it brought about some laughter because of how rough we suddenly got compared to how we normally live our daily lives, and it was a refreshing experience. This can be related to the pushing on board the bus to get out; it cannot be helped and pushing is the most practical thing to do.
The people here are more open to conversations with strangers. Comparing this to Singapore, where if you suddenly spoke to someone on the train you’d be seen as a weirdo. For example, on the bus ride back to the hostel, myself and 2 other guys were in a conversation with a middle-aged woman which began just so casually when we offered her an empty seat. Topics branched out from there, like where we were from and what we were here for. It is all good. And on our way to香山, we were asking an old couple which stop to alight at, and they were very receptive to our questions.
Casual conversation can be started anytime and received rather well.
“There were three instances where people were talking among themselves about us being Koreans.”
I am sure we do not have the Korean look. Judging by the rising trend of K-pop music, is looking Korean a compliment??
I’ll save any non-weekly updates for Tumblr. Feels better.
I’m amazed at how much I am learning about the people here as the days go by.
The foreigner who supposedly took your job? That man who spat on the road?
The main thing is, Mainland Chinese cannot be classified under one trouble-making block called “China-man”.
Because the cultures differ from every city in China.
With differing cultures, you have people who behave in totally different ways. For example in the North-Western part of China, the folks generally use large plates to serve dishes to their guests whereas smaller plates are used in the South-Eastern region (learnt from “Marketing Strategy”). Also, bicycles manufactured for the respective two regions are also constructed differently.
We cannot just lump them in one group and flak them. We’ll be wronging the rest of the good men. Endure, folks. Endure.
The dude who supposedly pushed you from the back? The man who brawled through the train carriage without a care?
It is normal to push through crowds headstrong here. After all, you can fit more people into a public transport vehicle if you use up every inch of space possible. And they brawl through too when on their way out. Why?
Because it gets things done. If one dude doesn’t start making his way out, nobody behind will be able to exit the vehicle. And they do not apologise if they accidentally push you. That might be a bad point. But consider putting yourself in their shoes; if you do not push through the crowd to get out, you’ll get stuck in the train/bus. Not forgetting to mention that bus stops here are rather far apart, if it were me of course I’d just push my way out of the hordes of people than endure and take the bus to the next stop. Makes sense.
"It is normal there but it is not normal here in Singapore! How can they be so impolite? They should adapt to our lifestyle!"
You’re not going to “Excuse me” your way out of tens of people when you’re stuck in the middle of the train carriage in a peak hour train, are you?
Till next post, ciao.
One week has passed since we embarked on our 3-month stint as students in Beijing. Initially, I had concerns about adapting to the lifestyle of the people here. Turns out I am adapting much better than I thought.
Most of the lessons we had this week were rather simple.
The lesson was interesting; we got to learn about the the 四合院 (si4 he2 yuan4), which is the blueprint of construction for houses during the Western Zhou period from 1046BC to 771BC.
It is basically a courtyard surrounded by houses and walls in the 4 directions. The structure of the houses follows a rigid organisation of doors, houses, screen walls and walkways. Each of the elements involved in the structure has its purpose. For example, the screen wall (影壁) is believed to be able to ward off evil spirits with its auspicious patterns and characters, and is also built in a position such that activities within the courtyard will not be visible to outsiders.
Quite honestly, I have never felt so interested in Chinese Culture. Perhaps it is the environment here that triggered my interest.
Elementary Chinese Reading and Writing
By “Elementary”, you can very well take this word literally. This lesson came as a surprise because the teacher thought we had Zero knowledge of the Chinese Language. Well you might have guessed it, we started all the way from the bare basics of the language such as learning simple words like 又 (again), 大 (big), 小 (small), 爸 (father), and 妈 (mother).
It was understandable because we were in a class of International students who had no knowledge of Chinese. Nevertheless, it was a good refresher of my basics, for a language which I have been struggling to grasp in my entire life.
Elementary Chinese Listening
Again, the meaning of “Elementary” is fully-descriptive of this lesson. We did not actually have any lessons for this one; in fact, figuratively we walked out the moment the teacher walked in because she heard that our mastery of the language was way above zero. Therefore this academic portion did not take place.
This was the most, or rather, the only brain-saturating lesson this week. We were introduced to terms like “Money Creation”, “Money Movement”, “Fiscal Austerity” and many more. The thing I remember most about this was the Fisher’s Equation. It goes like this:
Money Aggregate = Money Base x Money Velocity
Having been interested in Physics in Secondary School, this equation caught my interest a bit. It can be quite obviously seen that this was because of the word “velocity”. If I like Chemistry back then the obvious word would have been “base”, but then again that’s a what-if.
The means of assesment for this lesson is demanding and a huge jump from what we do in Polytechnic, but we’ll get used to it and eventually, complete the assesment with utmost dedication. We’re going all out to score in this.
Elementary Chinese Speaking, Marketing Strategy, E-commerce
Haven’t sat for these lessons yet. Looking forward to them.
In the past week alone, I have learnt a lot about the lifestyle of the people here.
The hygiene of the Mainland Chinese is actually a rather interesting thing. Back in Singapore, citizens despise the act of spitting as it is unhygenic. However here in China, I observe this act a normal occurence; people spit onto roads, pavements or walkways whenever their phlegm is ready to be expelled. This hygiene disparity is interesting to see because it concerns what the citizens in both countries perceive as ‘normal’. In Singapore, spitting in public places makes the person liable to a fine. Furthermore, it is perceived as dirty by the citizens. Due to these two factors, it is considered ‘normal’ to not see people spit so freely.
Here in Beijing, spitting can be seen in public places usually after a cough or ‘throaty’ sound is heard. They ease their discomfort without any delay, and I am not sure whether China enforces laws concerning the act of spitting as well. Looking at the frequency of spitting, this was probably the surroundings which the people here grew up in, and this act can therefore be considered ‘normal’ to see in their daily lives.
Another part of hygiene is littering. Using the example of varied perceptions of ‘normal’ in both cities, it is already rather abnormal (abnormal meaning to spark some negativity) to observe bits of trash and litter along paths or walkways back home. We’d despise litter-bugs as well. However, here, discarding waste onto the ground is rather freely practiced.
On our first day here, we explored the vicinity to familiarise ourselves with the environment. We came across a stall which sold fantastic meat skewers. After we were done consuming the meat, we stood clueless with the skewers still on our grips, not knowing how to dispose of them there was no visible rubbish bin nearby. Throwing it onto the pavement ever came across our minds during this time, but we knew it was not right to dirty the environment.
(this is starting to sound a lot like a primary school composition)
Just then, one of the other stall owners saw our situation and simply told us to discard the skewers onto the ground. We were stunned but amused at the same time. After a few moments, we reluctantly left the skewers on the ground. It actually brought us all a good fit of laughter as this act felt, in a way, like a tiny bout of ‘instant gratification’ from the litter because of the strict rules imposed on littering back at home.
Disposing of litter on the street is rather common here. Just yesterday, we were at a street market and the littering was rampant; skewers, disposable bowls and cups and plates, noodles, meat and other stuff both food and non-food were all over the place. One contributing factor to littering here is probably the lack of rubbish bins. I ever felt the temptation to litter just because there were no bins nearby. Bins here are really far apart.
The meat skewers above was one of the first foods we ate here. We were delighted at how good the skewers tasted. This country has really delicious meat skewers. Actually, they have really good food here.
For people who have been to China, do you remember how your friends and family would tell you to avoid street food because they might be “dirty”? Yes, street food might be unhygenic due to the environment they’re exposed to, but on the whole, street food is a must-try here. Consuming some germs is good for you because it give your immune system something to train on. If one totally avoids germs and lives a completely sterile life, when a virus hits, you’re going to go down. In a way, consuming street food has many benefits. If you are unwell however, your immune system should not receive any possible strain and therefore, street food should be avoided to reduce the chances of introduction of new germs.
The people here really seem to love very spicy food. We went to a hotpot restaurant for dinner on Monday and ordered a 微辣 (mildly spicy) soup. Turns out, we were sweating our brains out consuming that and it was only mild spiciness. I cannot fathom the consequences of consuming a 麻辣 (hot and numbing) soup. Our tongues might just disintegrate into thin air. A possible explanation for the introduction of copious amounts of chilli into their dishes is due to the cold climate at this time of the year. Consuming spicy dishes can help offer some comfort and warmth from the cold.
We know that non-homecooked food definitely contains MSG. Food here is no exception but I think they use a lot more, so much that one of our guys had a cube of it in his mouth while consuming his lunch. I don’t think all the hawkers here use that much of it, but it is still quite a lot. Nevertheless, it is still safe for consumption and this is all that matters. I just Skype-d my parents back home, and my Dad told me to drink Coke to “help the MSG go down”. Going to try it tomorrow!!
Communication was a little difficult for me at first as I have very poor grasp of the Chinese language. Over time, it gets easier to convey my messages over to the other party. The trick here is to keep speaking the tongue. That seems to be the only way to get past this subtle language barrier. Armed with my trusty iChinese dictionary App, it is easier to cope with the language difficulties I have here. Though saying that, I still rehearse in my mind the words I am going to say when I want to make a food order.
At first sight, I thought that the people here looked really fierce and unhospitable. Furthermore, with my hampered language skills, they seemed really unapproachable. Over the few days, I have come to realise that they are really nice people. I’d say that their level of service is better than what we have in Singapore. They are nicer, more hospitable and sometimes put up less of a fake front. The “fake front” here meaning that they serve customers well not because it is their job, but because they truly want to. Such intentions can be seen very easily, and each service experience here is very heart-warming.
I suppose their car workshops have to repair malfunctioning horns rather regularly, looking at their frequency of sounding the horn. When we first arrived here, we were taken aback by how much the drivers here use the horn. After a while, we begin to accept it as a norm and are now used to it. They use the horn a lot.
The horn sparks negative emotions when one is the cause. Here, I think the sounding of the horn can be thought of as drivers caring for pedestrians. They sound the horn even at 50 metres away from a pedestrian, possibly to use it for its main purpose which is to warn others of danger. This is congruent with the Communication portion of this post, where the people are actually really hospitable.
More to come next week!
Our forefathers came to this land with nothing but their bare hands and laid the foundations from scratch.
The past few days were exceptionally rich. Rich in knowledge and understanding of the ways of the business world. My drive to start a business has increased ten-fold. No kidding.
Wednesday: Pitched for a $3,000 fund. Second attempt. Unsuccessful, but gained a lot of valuable advice and insights.
Thursday: Sat in with a panel of evaluators to listen to pitches for a $50,000 start-up fund. Every single bullet thrown by the evaluators was a reality check for me. There and then, it struck me that what my buddies and I were doing was FAR from complete. More advice and insights.
Friday: Listening to talks and a networking session after that. Felt really enlightened and driven after the whole event.
In this life of mine, I want to rely on what I can do with things I have. Taking a straw from our ancestors isn’t bad at all…
I want to craft my future with my bare hands. This way, I don’t owe anybody anything, so blame and success is easy to allocate. Whether there is help along the way or not, one thing is for sure; “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I will have to start taking that single step before anything can happen.
There is no “hope”, only “do”.
I hate disappointing people. Especially people whom I am indebted to for the rest of my life.
I’m just beginning to understand what it means to put high hopes on someone and to see that someone lose all the hopes you had in him. Overnight.
"Always look on the bright side of life.", that’s what I tell everyone. In situations like this, it’s hard to just psyche oneself into thinking that nothing is wrong, especially being the cause of it all.
It’s tough when you know you’ve disappointed somebody and can even feel it stirring in your guts. But it’s even tougher handling disappointment when all you’ve done in your life was centered around ensuring that someone lives a life better than yours, with the opportunities you didn’t have because you were too poor, just to see it go up in flames.
And that someone is your son.
You know you’ve been hit when:
1. You immediately halt all course of action and activity, to switch on some music so that you can physically relay whatever just hit you…before you lose it. Most of the time, you won’t feel like stopping.
2.You quickly grab your nearest word-generating hard/soft medium (e.g. paper/phone) to jot/type down everything you just had in your head before it’s gone.
3. You feel like a physical embodiment of energy itself; you suddenly have copious amounts of energy. If it hits you in the middle of the night, you are usually unable to sleep.
4. After compiling all the new ideas, thoughts and information, you wear a subconscious smile on your face.
5. You feel compelled to draft a Tumblr post about it.
6. You didn’t realise your YouTube video has finished loading because you were engrossed in drafting your energy-charged Tumblr post.
Now I understand what they meant by “epiphany”.