Archive for Thoughts

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…….


Practice makes perfect I guess.



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 明天是七夕,我出去逛逛找花店和顺便吃顿饭。我在我的公寓楼下左转向西走。在路上有一家人,父母和儿子,问我一个问题。本来我以为他们迷路,很愿意帮忙跟他们聊天儿一下。我听清楚一点发现他们不是迷路,而在乞求我借钱。爸爸说: “我们来北京找朋友找不到,你借我10块钱行吗?我们就快饿死了,谢谢你,先生。我和我老婆不吃饭无所谓,但我儿子,你看,他肚子痛了。你真的借我10块钱都不行吗?”平时我一点都 不听乞丐说的话,所以我过一会儿说:“不行啊,对不起。真的”,然后继续走路。

我来北京重新开始新的生活,我实在也需要很细心来省钱。上个月我去了我的家附近一个餐厅,在尝尝他们的炒饭。不错,10块 钱能买到一顿又大碟又好吃的炒饭。今天晚上我本来打算去了找花店以后就去那个餐厅吃饭。我不知道为什么,但我一到餐厅门口动不了,突然有一个很内疚的感觉。我已经在门口站了五分钟了,我到底在想什么呢?后来,我终于决定不吃了。我想点的炒饭这么大碟,三个人吃够了。我钱包里的10块钱能养活一个家庭的三个人,再说我吃午饭吃了很多不是特别饿,我真的是这么自私的人吗?我对我自己感觉的很反感,一点胃口都没有了。所以,我决定今天晚上为了那家庭也不吃饭。爸爸,妈妈,小孩儿……我祝你好运。

真 倒霉,原来这个世界上有连十块钱都没有的穷人。你们做父母,怎么会这样的?就算我今天借给你点钱,那明天,后天,下个星期呢?对不起,但是中国有那么多人,假如每个人乞求我借钱我都借,那我自己会变穷了。如果是你的话,你会怎么办?我回家的时候发现我公寓楼下右边有花店。今天我好幸运有这个经验,有时候……



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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:


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It’s hard to believe how quickly the time flies.  My younger brother just turned 22 this month and it boggles my mind.  A couple months from now I’ll be turning 25, that’s a quarter of a century and I have a gut feeling this will be a milestone for me.

I’ve never felt more excited.

I’m not the type to get bitter as I age, in fact it’s kind of a pet peeve for me, that is to hear people complain about their turning 21 and the whole “omg i feel so old” spiel.  I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.  I am where I am in life.  Why are people so afraid to advance forward?  I had a conversation about this topic the other day and shared some opinions with a friend my age in attempt to enlighten myself on the opposite wavelength of perspective.

She was explaining to me, that it’s because society (or Asian parents) say we “should” be well on our way in pursuit of a career at this stage in our lives.  But for many people, in reality we are not quite there yet and that’s the reason one feels “old”.  In other words, the idea is that “I am 25, yet I have nothing solid going for me right now and I am getting older so I feel stressed and really rushed to finally get going”.  I won’t go as far as to say I understand, but it does make a little sense and I can give it a respectable amount of credit though it sounds like such a downer to me.

Personally, I am far more optimistic.

I haven’t always been this way, and I am proud to say that my new perspective on life is largely because of my old pal time and age.  In recent years I have learned to be happy all on my own and I am finding it is changing the way I think about life and the road to self-discovery.  For example, I never used to really take note of all the little things but today I understand the importance of simple enjoyment.  In the past I’d be complaining about being bored all the time ’cause I’d have nothing to do on the weekend, but now something like a peaceful Sunday morning with coffee, music and a newspaper can really make my day.

And it feels great.

In my opinion you’re only as old as you feel, and I feel young and chipper.  I have so many plans for myself this year and I have so many things I have yet to achieve.  With so much going on and so much of it unaccomplished how could I dare to call myself old, frontin’ like I’m experienced?  Me… I look up… Always.  I’m anxious to see what I can do with myself in 2, 5, 10 years from now.  They say that the age 25 is supposed to be somewhat of a bummer.

Fuck that.

I can’t wait til I’m 25 years young.  Bring it on.

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A New Beginning

There it is. The end of the first month on a new year 2010, and boy it’s been a busy one for me. I’m hoping for some change this year and hence made it a new years resolution to exercise more and get back in shape and I guess I got a little carried away. Next thing I know I’m playing both basketball and ball hockey in a league between three different teams, juggling my work schedule and barely being home at all. It almost seems like so long ago when I would spend nearly my entire free time sitting at home in front of the new HDTV playing PS3; now I am finding myself longing for just one day of pure relaxing at home. Not that it’s a bad thing. I spent 2 weekends in the mountains snowboarding above the clouds with a breathless view from the summit and another was spent in Vancouver for a quick visit before my West Jet credentials expire and I drop $300 on nothing.   Now, January is over, my weekends are free and I’m looking forward to getting some light reading done: the source of my blog material.


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