Archive for Raging Rants

Year One

Wow, how time flies!  Today, it’s already been a year since I left Canada with the crazy idea that I could live and find work in China and to date I’m pretty pleasantly surprised with the outcome so far.  Before I left I thought I knew what I was getting into but it’s been quite a lot more difficult adapting to the new lifestyle than I initially had thought.  Take food for example, since I grew up in a Chinese family I wasn’t prepared for any culture shock in that department.  I remember thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could live without western food but soon after I landed I realized all the Chinese food I grew up loving was really just Hong Kong-ese, and it hardly even exists in the mainland.  They have a few gimmick restaurants in town but I haven’t really found any one restaurant with the same quality as one would find in Hong Kong… or Mom’s kitchen.  Just last week, I found myself roaming around Shanghai for hours looking for a hotdog stand to no avail.  Though I’m not as well-travelled as I would like to be at the moment I’m amazed with the diversity here even just between provinces, pretty much everywhere I go I find something unique to that region.  I noticed, however, that in general there are a few rules that seem to apply everywhere in China, and the following is a list of subtle or not so subtle differences that I have personally experienced and how I have adapted to them in this country:

1.   Sunday Stroll

This wasn’t the biggest slap in the face.  On the weekend I like to spend my mornings going for a walk on the way to grab some grub.  What is a peaceful nature walk in Canada has become an endless venture through a maze of people.  I tune out the noise by putting on my headphones and hang on to me wallet.

2.   Single File

When it’s time for lunch, don’t start lining up like a chump.  After a week of “Um, excuse me sir, uh excuse me ma’am, um hey, excuse me? But I was fir… OW, exc…” I quickly learned to blend in with the rest of the apes.  There’s room for creativity, but I recommend a sword fight to the death.

3.   Exotic Dinner

Even a whopper costs an arm and a leg compared to Chinese food.  If you’re craving an All-American meal there’s no such thing as cheap average-joe prices, only I’m-a-filthy-rich-expat-living-in-China prices.  As a result, I rarely go for western when I eat out unless I really REALLY need it… and I do get a craving every now and then I’m afraid.

4.   Mealtime Convo

Okay, alright.  This one applies to the Hong Kong-ese as well.  What to say but monkey see monkey do?  Want a quiet supper?  Wait ‘til payday.

5.   Hot or Not

In the west we enjoy a nice turkey sandwich here and there all throughout the year.  Unless it’s a blazing hot summer day in China, it’s usually hot or not.  If you know me then you’ve seen me in the summer: cloudy with a chance of showers.  Rollin’ out the head band baby.

6.   Soft Drinks

Speaking of summer, who in their right mind wouldn’t want an ice cold glass of water when it’s 30 degrees outside?  It appears the Chinese prefer their drinks hot, regardless of the temperature outside.  They even drink warm beer, because Confucius say cold drink bad for body.  I’ll stick to my Coca-Cola.

7.   Everyone’s a chimney

‘Cause they’re always smoking.  Many people aren’t aware, but it’s actually illegal to smoke indoors in Shanghai.  The unsuccessful bylaw was passed last year but I don’t think it’s catching on.  After all, it is a part of the culture:  Eat drink and smoke.  Where I come from people usually smoke after a meal, but here I seen ‘em puff during.  I also find it amusing that the sign used to symbolize “No Smoking” in the west is sometimes used to symbolize 灭烟处, meaning “Butt Disposal” in China.  Enjoy it or suck it up.

8.   The Scouting Report

When the sun is shinin’ ladies bust out the umbrellas and the fellas got a thing for chicken legs with pasty, ghost-like skin.  No competition from me on that one.  I’ll pass, now where the beach at?

9.   Rush Hour

Remember how Mom taught you to look both ways before crossing the street?  Clearly, she ain’t Chinese.  ALWAYS look ALL ways, 360 degrees, red OR green.  The fast guy has the right of way, a four lane road fits six and the crosswalk means dodge.  Play Frogger with care.

10.          Baijiu

The locals drink baijiu, this rice wine that’s like 65% and tastes like rubbing alcohol mixed with formaldehyde.  At 3 kuai a bottle it gets you smashed for a low price, so it might appeal to the cheap drunks out there.  Otherwise stay away.

11.          Crouching Tiger, Hide the Dragon

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I can’t do it.  Thankfully I haven’t encountered many in Shanghai, but sometimes they are inevitable.  You can see how easy it is for everyone everywhere.  They don’t sit on the bench in the park, they squat on it.  They squat while texting, they squat while smoking.  How do they do it?  The answer is simple and there’s only one logical explanation…….

Evolution.

Practice makes perfect I guess.

WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

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South China Blues

Thus my journey begins.

It’s May 2010 in Hong Kong and I take my first step onto Chinese soil to find it feels oddly… different, from a year ago.  This is no five week vacation… this time I am here for good or at least until I’m satisfied with my accomplishments.  I’m not here to shop, nor am I here to party… too much.  This time, I am here in hopes of finding an opportunity to finally kickstart my long awaited environmental career.

My first impression: gotta love this city.  I fell in love with the architecture, the urban lifestyle, the professionalism, the efficiency… the ocean.  I don’t get a lot of chances to see the ocean where I’m from so curiously I spend my off days at the pier, staring out at the horizon.  The world is such a beautiful place.  I love the bustling nitelife and how a beer costs me a great Canadian buck a 40. I love the late night dai pai dongs and how I can wake up at 3am, walk downstairs for a bite and be back in bed in a half.  For all my fairer colored friends  (oh, and also my darkness brothers), a dai pai dong is an old school Hong Kong style food joint.

There’s no such thing as perfection in this world, however; I seem to dislike the attitude of some of the locals here in this city.  My flight arrived at 6am on a scorching Friday morning and I am in a rush to catch the 7am bus.  I approach a ticket stand and Buddy at the counter tells me I’m at the wrong place.  So I ask, “Then, where do I go to purchase a ticket for bus A41P?” He points at a counter down the hall.

“Alright, cool. No problem.”

So I go there and ask for the ticket.  Dude tells me I’m at the wrong place.  So I ask, “Then, where do I go to purchase a ticket for bus A41P?” He points at a counter down the hall.  I’m like wait a minute, isn’t that the one I just came from?  Confused, I walk around the airport for a bit to find a sign that explained everything: the ticket stands weren’t open for another 15 minutes; Buddy and Dude were being total douchebags.

Whatever. That’s nothing, really.  What bothers me a lot more is the immediate response I get from a lot of people when I tell them I am on my way to Beijing to look for a career in the environmental industry.  Apparently to them, there is no such business.  People here don’t care about such a thing.  I should pursue a career where I can make some real money… otherwise I should go home.  But I’ve done my research.  You didn’t.  I did.  I have a real idea of what’s out there and I know what I’m getting myself into, as long and arduous a road as it may be.

It’s unfortunate it appears that people here think that the world revolves around a giant wad of cash.  Their mindset is so financially fixated that they seem to forget the single-most important rule in life:

Rule #1: Enjoy the simple things.

I find myself increasingly disgusted by the lack of public concern for environmental management.  To say that I am angrily annoyed with people would be an outrageous understatement, but I like to retain a sense of professionalism in a scientific blog.  I see glimpses of hope here n’ there and I send my props to the government for making an effort, but have they really done enough to initiate change?

Sure, the city has tried to reduce plastic waste by charging people for grocery bags.  They cost 50 cents each, so let’s see… 0.50 HKD divided by 7.417 equals 0.0674 CAD.  Doesn’t really sound like it’ll dissuade a lot of people to me.  I’m not about to conduct a feasibility study in Hong Kong, but perhaps the encouragement of reusing more durable bags or bins like we do in Canada is a smarter alternative than a miniscule financial deterrent.

I notice a few recycling bins scattered throughout the city, too.  They come in trios: one for paper, one for aluminum, and one for plastic.  But what about glass?  I have to point out, I’ve never actually peeked inside one of these bins either and it’s difficult to say whether or not people are actually using them for its intended purpose or if it’s just another waste bin for them to stick their trash.  Trash cans and their associated ashtrays can be found on every other street, but these recycling bins are far and few in between.

There is a hefty fixed penalty of $1500HKD for littering which is a lot more than a slap on the wrist, but if environmental legislation and the people of Hong Kong are anything like a parent and child, well… if you punish a kid by taking away their favourite toy, they’re not going to be very happy and I think it could create a lot of unnecessary tension between the government and the public.

With that said, I think things are slowly but surely on the right track.  Instead of employing destructive preventative measures like fines, Hong Kong has initiated other, more constructive ways to prevent pollution.  There are educational institutes in the city such as the Lung Fu Shan Environmental Education Centre at the peak of Hong Kong University.  I do have to admit, though, this centre was borderline lame.  Maybe I didn’t visit the centre thoroughly because of time constraints but my first impression was, well, I guess I wasn’t very impressed at all.  And I chuckled a bit as I left at the thought of the actual number of people willing to make the 15 minute hike to the top of a steep grade in the heat to visit this tiny place.

Furthermore, I’m glad to see some investment in the eco-tourism industry with the establishment of the Hong Kong Wetland Park.  I haven’t yet been there but it’s nice to see the city attempting to increase the number of nature lovers out there.

If only my Chinese were as good as my English then maybe I could reach out my ideas to the public more effectively, but I guess that’s another really good reason why I am here right now.  C’mon people, I know that I am not alone here.  What can one man, an over-ambitious Chinese Canadian 25 year old going through that dreaded quarterlife crisis searching for the right career opportunity, possibly do to change the mindset of over a billion people in a developing country struggling to coincide economic growth with sustainability?

Yes,  I understand that I am ultimately Canadian inside but I come from a country where multicultural diversity is the norm and lost as I am in this giant of a world I do indeed feel a sense of belonging to the city of Hong Kong, my birthplace, and I do have a right to care.  I absolutely refuse to believe that there’s nobody out there who shares the same views as me.  There has GOT to be an organization out there somewhere.  And I’m not talking people who work for an environmental company as just another job.  I’m talking about a small group of like-minded individuals who genuinely have the desire to try and make a difference in the world, and it’s about time I put my networking skills to the test.

I would like to take a moment to be blunt, just to make sure I get my point across:

JUST BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE DON’T CARE DOESN’T CHANGE THE FACT THAT ALL OF THIS IS GOING ON  DURING OUR EVERYDAY LIVES .  WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE SOIL IN WHICH WE GROW OUR FOOD?  WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE WATER WE DRINK (NOT TO MENTION THE CHINESE SEAFOOD INDUSTRY), AND TO THE AIR THAT WE BREATHE? IF WE DON’T TAKE IMMEDIATE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES THEN THE HONG KONG YOU KNOW NOW WILL NO LONGER EXIST 30, 50, 100 YEARS FROM NOW.  SEE THE BEAUTY OF HONG KONG THROUGH MY EYES:

Comments (2)

Seasick

Stolen trees make me so seasick
Ocean breeze make me so seasick
Is this the way we chose?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)
Dying cars make me so seasick
Fly to Mars I’m gettin’ seasick
Is that the way it goes?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)

No nooo woooooah
There goes my last red rose
free flow rivers kinda slow
ecosytems runnin’ low
dumpin’ sewage in the ocean
spillin’ oil up on the coast and
melting ice that once was frozen
really, Man it’s time to grow
coping plants that need the light
hoping Man can lead the fight
So what, I can’t complain?
Green house gases, acid rain
devastate the coral reefs
Yes but can we all believe?
I’m cryin’ out ’til this is over
why’s my fate rest on your shoulders?

Stolen trees make me so seasick
Ocean breeze make me so seasick
Is this the way we chose?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)
Dying cars make me so seasick
Fly to Mars I’m gettin’ seasick
Is that the way it goes?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)

cuz I believe that I can do
all I put my mind into
all the things that I been thru
everything is tried and true
we really must achieve the dream
everybody’s going green
it’s not a game there ain’t no reset
you know you make me so seasick?


Please forgive my misdemeanour
Jeez I’m feelin’ sick with fever
I’ll take you where grass is greener
shakin’ off the disbelievers
Climb on top the G8 summit
Recreate when we had nuttin’
Thoughts do count but there’s no funding
Guess what? Ya, they keep on running
I’m gettin’ really tired of livin’ life this way
On an honest day I put it on display
You can bet I never make the same mistake
sit n’ wait, better let it dissipate
I been lookin’ for a remedy
Better yet, Imma try to find a recipe
Imma set you free, you can rest in peace
Yes indeed, I been feelin’ like it’s destiny

Stolen trees make me so seasick
Ocean breeze make me so seasick
Is this the way we chose?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)
Dying cars make me so seasick
Fly to Mars I’m gettin’ seasick
Is that the way it goes?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)

cuz I believe that I can do
all I put my mind into
all the things that I been thru
everything is tried and true
we really must achieve the dream
everybody’s going green
it’s not a game there ain’t no reset
you know you make me so seasick?

Now we flyin’ thru in a hybrid coupe
Just kidding. Man, who you think you lying to?
I’m really gettin’ restless, so wreckless
asbestos leavin’ everybody breathless
Evolution, what a helluva thesis
move the world forward like it’s telekinesis
intelligent species, we lost a few
overburning fossil fuels and now the flaws in you
stand out like class distinction
hand out, some mass extinctions
ecofootprint like a giant’s
must reduce don’t be defiant
Better get your practice on
We only have til’ crack of dawn
I hope you know your path is wrong
If not then feel the wrath of God.

Stolen trees make me so seasick
Ocean breeze make me so seasick
Is this the way we chose?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)
Dying cars make me so seasick
Fly to Mars I’m gettin’ seasick
Is that the way it goes?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)

Stolen trees make me so seasick
Ocean breeze make me so seasick
Is this the way we chose?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)
Dying cars make me so seasick
Fly to Mars I’m gettin’ seasick
Is that the way it goes?
It’s all around the globe
(I think everybody knows)

Written by Calvin Cheung – Sept’09

the_world_in_your_eye_by_TheBestEffect

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Legally Blonde

legally_blondeWho here hates to fly? I do, for one.  Having just recently returned from my post-education vacation, I’ve just about had it with the crying babies, annoying toddlers, and touchy couples.  Not to mention big man who just happened to choose the middle seat next to me, hogging the armrest, and the lady with the restless bladder by the window.  Just to top it all off, I was reading in the Journal today that small pets are now allowed as carry-ons: Air Canada’s latest abatement in the list of restrictions for the legally blonde.

I might sound like a hypocrite in saying this, but as unethical as it may be, I think pets should remain as cargo.  I’m already frustrated enough without the yapping of a dolled-up poodle coming from underneath my neighbours’.

“This is the latest of our customer-friendly initiatives that underscores our renewed commitment to listening to our customers and offering a competitive product that meets their needs.”

Fair enough… Thanks I guess.  In all honesty, Air Canada should instead invest in improving in-flight meals, which were significantly inferior to the coconut curry duck on rice I had on board the Thai airline coming from Phuket… which was, sadly, tastier than anything I’ve had in Edmonton so far.

Food for thought.

References:

Fur set to fly as Air Canada gives OK to pets in cabin.  Thursday, June 18, 2009.  Edmonton Journal.    pp A4

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