Tuesday, 16 June 2009

7 Month Overseer

For seven months I have been in Taiwan, which is the longest amount of time I have spent overseas away from good ole 'merica. One of the biggest differences is the night life of an average Taiwanese. When I ask students what they did over the weekend the most popular response is 'nothing special". Which leads to me coaxing them into talking by asking if they went out to eat with friends or watched a movie. If they do go out, a popular activity is to spend all night at a KTV.

A KTV is kind of like a hotel but for karaoke. Each room is equipped with a television, a couple of microphones, large couches, and a mega watt stereo. To maximize your karaoke enjoyment, food and drinks are served or can be brought in. In China, KTV's can also be undercover brothels. I once stayed in a Beijing hotel that had a KTV on the first floor. Two friends and myself walked in out of curiosity to see what a KTV was.

It was my first time in China and this was the first KTV I had walked into. We asked the host what people do here and he showed us a room and explained it to us. Our curiosity had been satisfied and we declined to rent a room. As we headed toward the exit he also informed us that they had a bar. We could just sit and have drinks if we liked. He then added that they had "very pretty girls" and waved his hand to point down a long, narrow corridor. One the right side of the hall was about 15 young women all put together very well and wearing evening dresses. In synchronicity, they all turned their head to look at us and most seemed a bit surprised to see that we were foreigners. Two white boys and one Iranian. My immediate reaction was, "ooohhhhhh, i gotta go" then thanked the gentleman for his time while we walked out the door with awkward chuckles. Curiosity sent us into the wrong KTV .

Monday, 8 June 2009

Mud Butt

Who doesn't love the weekend? If you have to work during the weekend then probably you. Also, those people who experience a bad case of mud butt. Mud butt will ruin any day off, holiday, or overall good times.

Mud butt is known by many synonymous terms. Hershey squirts, the runs, the shits, poocano, and Mao's revenge are all common names that we learned as children or through out our lives that we prefer to use rather than diarrhea. Why do we prefer to use these terms? probably because they mitigate an embarrassing situation by making it more humorous than shameful.

My craptastic weekend started Thursday night. I came home from the gym late and ate my last meal. As I was trying to sleep a pain came over my stomach. I thought it might be from eating under cooked asparagus and just let myself slip into the unconscious world of ninja turtles and llamas. Don't ask. Friday morning was like any other. I ate my usual breakfast followed by two cups of coffee at work. Then it started. I left my student to do some fill in the blanks while I supervised some demolition work that, well, just had to be taken care of.

This continued until Sunday. I never felt "sick" except for "the condition" and still hold that god damn asparagus responsible for my muddy weekend.

Monday, 1 June 2009

June Nights

I was six years old, enjoying kindergarten's world of wood blocks and pledges of indoctrination without a care except trying to avoid cooties and learning the lyrics to "Paradise City" by Guns and Roses. On the other side of the globe, one of the most memorable events of the 20th century was happening in the world's largest public, urban "square". The month and a half long demonstration in Tiananmen Square was coming to a savage end in the early hours of June 4th, 1989. When day broke, a man stepped in front of a tank to stop it in its path or be smashed into the asphalt. This is how we remember the Tiananmen movement of 1989. "Tank Man".

Troops stormed in, shots were fired, and the protest was over. Just like that. The government had tried with less forceful, but still armed troops to retake the square before but were unsuccessful due to the students outsmarting them and the blockades of ordinary citizens. Its hard to say how many people died that night because the figures are debated but its most likely in the hundreds. It is also unknown how many people were arrested or executed for being "hooligans" who created "turmoil". However, China's government announced "the last" prisoner from the Tiananmen Square movement was released last month. I don't know if this is the last living, the last incarcerated or the last they will release but at least he's out.

Although China has changed a lot since 1989, many of the same problems that these protesters were addressing still exist. Mainly, rampant corruption and the lack of free speech. Why has no protest risen up since then? Because the opportunity to make money and the power of propaganda, or"education", is a powerful tool. Punishment is harsh for those who challenge the status quo of the political world and are made examples. They usually lose the opportunity to make money and travel abroad. These suffice as good deterants.
Information on June 4th, 1989 is censored in China if it is written in Chinese. Google and Yahoo have agreed to censor this information because apparently, money is more important than people's rights. Remember the tank man.