Friday, July 25, 2008

NOTE: I'm not trying to discriminate against anyone or spread intolerance. I certainly hope I don't alienate or offend anyone. It's just been something that has been on my mind.

Some people don't know this but in the US, there are generally two types of Chinese people: FOBs (Fresh Off the Boat/Boeing) and ABCs (American Born Chinese).

According to Urban Dictionary, FOBs and ABCs are characterized as the following:

- You were not born in America
- Your parents do not speak any English
- You speak your native language fluently and so do most all your friends
- When you speak English, you like to make everything plural
- Your fashion sense comes from whatever country you're from and you incorporate little from American fashion into your wardrobe

- Besides your nationality, there is little to distinguish you from white people
- You are embarrassed at family events because you cannot speak your language and everyone has to switch to English to communicate with you
- You claim yourself as Asian, but real Asians think you're whitewashed and non-Asians see you as a foreigner. You fit in nowhere.
- You are confused about your cultural identity and express this frustration through spoken word performances at your college
- You drive a Ford or some other domestic car and if you drive a Honda, it is stock

Note of course that there is a huge gray area. These definitions are more like general guidelines. And if you click on the link above you can see that people subdivide us into even finer categories.

These categories are nothing new to me. I've always known and considered myself an ABC. In fact, I'm like a super ABC because I'm a third generation Chinese-American (i.e. my grandparents immigrated from China to the United States). And usually when I tell people that, they're like, "Wow, a 3rd generation-er!" as if I were some sort of endangered species or something.

Of course there's categories flipped when I got to China. Suddenly, I'm the foreign one here who wasn't born here in China. I'm the one who doesn't speak any Chinese, but can speak fluent English. My parents can barely speak Chinese and they definitely don't know any Mandarin. And it doesn't help that I sticks out like a sore thumb. I'm taller and have huge feet compared to most Chinese. (I haven't even tried to shop for clothes or shoes yet.) If you think about, in China, I'm a FOB.

Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with being an FOB. For me it's just a fact. I don't speak Chinese that well and I wasn't born here in China. So by the definition of "fresh off the boat" I would be a FOB. It's got its pluses/minuses and ups/down. I like standing out and being different, but sometimes I wish I would just fit in. I like wearing my familiar Costco white tees and my button down shirts, but I don't really like standing out so much when I'm walking down the street. I mean I like how fresh and new everything seems to my senses, but I still miss home and familiar.

If anything being a FOB here has made me realize how hard it is to assimilate in a foreign country. I mean I'm only here for six months. I can only imagine what it must be like to move your life to a completely different country that speaks a different language and has different customs/culture. It kind of gives me a new respect for immigrants in the United States, be they Chinese or not.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

So I was working on an entry and I decided to finish it later. It's about 11:36 P.M. and my brain isn't functioning so well. I need to let the topic stew a little longer anyway. I want to make sure it's a solid entry before I publish it.

Here are some pictures to keep you entertained:

Here is picture of yoghurt milk. I swear every time I see it spelled as yoghurt I crack up a little. I used to think it was just a terrible misspelling on every milk carton. You know, like terrible Engrish or something. Then I found out people actually spell it that way. I feel dumb, but I still find it funny. Oh yeah and those are chocolate covered Oreos. Bomb-diggity!:

I finally cracked open one of those bad-boys with the weird top. It actually detaches and comes off the can. I'm not sure what people do with it. See how its China, people probably just litter:

Here are the DVDs I bought. In case you were wondering what b**tleg DVDs looked like:

Tomorrow will be an actually entry, but no pictures.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

As I've said before, I work for the biggest company you've never heard of in the US. Foxconn is literally a $40 billion dollar company. And tonight I went to their first and largest factory: Longhua. It was huge!

Usually I take this special shuttle home. It's this little 12-seater van that drops us all off at our apartment complexes. Needless to say, it's a special van reserved for people higher up on the food chain, not the "regular workers." Now the shuttle doesn't leave at the same time everyday; it depends upon availability of the shuttle. It's usually somewhere between 6:30 and 8:30 P.M. Tonight's was at 8:30 P.M., so my friend suggested we try an alternate method of getting home. We took the general worker bus that goes from our plant (Guanlan) to Longhua.

Now when I say Longhua is huge, I'm talking about 300,000 workers huge. It's something that just has to been seen to believed. I thought walking through Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley during noon was bad. Well it was like that, but on crack. Oh and we just got there when all the workers were getting on/off work. It was like fighting an ocean current. I mean you just walk out and all you can see is a sea of heads coming at you all in the same direction.

And that's not even the craziest part. This plant is so big that it's like its own small city. And I only scratched the surface; I only walked about 3 or so blocks though the factory. It's got on-site dormitories. The place basically has a branch for every known bank in China. It's got a post office. It's got a supermarket. It's got a general cafeteria and independent restaurants/cafes. We're talking about chain restaurants AND like nice sit down restaurants. There was even a bakery! And all this was on the premises of the factory. You basically walk around and forget that this is a factory where people work. I tried to place myself in their shoes and I couldn't. It's really like living where you work.

The most memorable part of the night? The book store. I had some time to kill so I walk into this bookstore. Wasn't planning on buying anything and I figured all the books were in Chinese anyways. As I was walking around, it was surreal. It was crazy because every single person in that store was just standing there reading with a book in their hand. And there was literally about 4 people in every single aisle. Little heads popped up everywhere in the store. And it was so quiet; no one was moving around. It felt like time had just stopped in place. Never seen anything like it.

Oh, and not surprisingly, the English speaking section was huge.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When people think of China, there are a number of things that come to mind:

The Great Wall
B**tleg Movies/CDs

I'm serious! We always joke about b**tlegs from China. I never realized how crazy it was until tonight. I went with some coworkers to a b**tleg movie place. One of my coworkers needed to pick up some DVDs for his girlfriend before he heads back to Taiwan this Friday. Apparently there's this really good b**tleg place that everyone goes to. Needless to say, there's a reason that everyone goes to this particular store.

We walk into this seemingly normal video shop. I'm looking around at all the racks trying to find some American movies, but I can't seem to find any. I follow my coworkers to the back of the store near the cashier. They converse with her and then she opens up this hidden door. I mean I just thought it was a wall with some posters on it! She opens up the door and we all walk though. We end up in some back alley place. We walk up two flights of stairs. After passing though two locked doors we arrive in the DVD room.

Now DVD is probably a misnomer, because they had Blu-Rays, HD DVDs, Wii games, and PS3 games there as well. I didn't even know they had b**tleg Blu-Ray movies! I feel like a kid in a candy shop. And they have all the latest movies that just came out...except The Dark Knight, which I am incredibly sad about :(.

Now when people say b**tleg videos in China are cheap, they are not kidding. I spent about 280 RMB = $41 US Dollars for:

All four seasons of House (DVD)
Planet Earth (Blu-Ray)
Wall-E (DVD)
War (Blu-Ray)
Knocked Up (DVD)
Harold & Kumar 2 (DVD)
The Forbidden Kingdom (DVD)
Wanted (DVD)
Speed Racer (DVD)
Hancock (DVD)
The Incredible Hulk (DVD)

Now that's incredible!

Actually the movie place is in this really interesting area that I had never been to before. It's only about a 20-30 minute walk down the street from where I live. Kind of like a street market/mall type of place. There's also this really cool looking park with a giant pagoda. Hopefully I get this Sunday off to explore it. Things are a bit crazy at work right now so I doubt it :(

Monday, July 21, 2008

They need a real life search engine. Imagine looking for your lost keys/wallet. Poof! Done! Instant directions. If such a thing exists (and I pray one day it does), I think I'd ask Google to help me find out where my blog is going...

Some of the best traveling advice I got was from a photojournalist. Imagine if an alien crash landed in your backyard right now. Upon exiting his saucer, what would he think about Earth? What things would seem like familiar sights? What things would be out of this world :p? I'm not a extraterrestrial expert, but I'd be willing to bet almost everything would be interesting it. Even the little everyday things that we find mundane.

Well that's kind of what it's like to be traveling in a foreign country. What kinds of strange things do the local people do? What kinds of weird smell foods do they eat? Even the familiar things? Are they exactly the same?

So when you're out somewhere new, you need to photograph and write as much as possible. You want to document all those strange feelings and observations before they seem normal. I mean all the things that I find weird and quirky about China won't stay that way for six months. Well some of them will be weird haha.

That long winding tangent brings me to the topic for today. (This is going somewhere. Bear with me.) I'm at this point where I've been in China for little over a week and I'm not sure where to go with this blog. Now it's not like I've run out of things to write/photograph already. I've got plenty. I actually carry around a moleskine notebook with me all the time. Then I can jot down little anecdotes or ideas I have before I forget them.

Really this blog is for my friends and family. It's for us all to keep in touch. It's also so I don't have to tell the same story 50 times to each one of you when you ask "How's China?" (I'm not even sure how to tackle that question. Where do you begin?) So I want to hear from you for a change:

What do you like or dislike about this blog?
How would you change it?
More/less photographs?
More/less writing?
More/less entries?

I've got thick skin. I can take it. Or if you're really worried you can comment privately or anonymously. You all can be my google maps to help me find directions.

P.S. Tomorrow I'll resume with a regular blog. Maybe about driving in China.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

So tonight I went to dinner again with coworkers. They took me to this restaurant that serves "American-style" food. At least I think so. It was called U.B.C. Coffee, which confused the hell out of me. What an odd name for a steak house.

My coworkers are really nice. They are worried I'm not eating enough and that I'm homesick. They are trying to take me to nice places that serve lots of familiar food. And they keep paying for my meal as much as I insist. I'm gonna have to get better at grabbing the check first.

Here are some photos. Way to be a tourist again Alan:

This is a New York style steak with an egg and some vegetables. I guess this is what Chinese people think American food is like. Notice that it was served on a skillet, pretty cool. Where's the A1 sauce though?:

These are some of my coworkers:

Mmm. Strawberry milk tea boba:

Overall, it was alright. I've definitely had better steak. It's okay, it is China after all. I didn't come half way around to world to have amazing steak.

Four updates in one day. That must be a record.

Click here for more food pictures.

Technically this is my second Sunday in China, but I had to go to training last week. This is my first day off from work! You're probably wondering what kind of cool stuff I did today. Honestly, I spent most of the day sleeping or siting in front of my computer in my apartment. I did manage to finally leave the apartment in the afternoon to just explore the area around my apartment. Listening to blaring hip-hop, I brought along my camera of course. Here's my surprising adventure:

This is the entrance lobby of my apartment building. Spacious huh?:

It turns out that there is a park located in this apartment complex. Hidden literally right across the way. I'm surprised I never noticed it until today. It's very cool. I can't wait to explore it some more! Never seen anything like this in the U.S.

This is one of the many gazebos located in the park. Pretty cool huh?:

There is a huge swimming pool. My coworkers told me its kind of dirty though. And you have to pay to get in. And it's probably not that refreshing because it's just so HOT. An outdoor pool will never match my apartment's air conditioning:

There are also some basketball courts. I'm really excited. This will be my exercise. I need to go out and buy a basketball. It's time to rock some fools:

So there's this lake right in the middle of the park with this steep bridge to cross:

This is just a street scene of a pedestrian footbridge around the corner from my apartment building. (Low shutter speed = blur = awesome)

I basically spent about 2 hours just walking around a 2 block radius area. Hopefully, I can explore other areas of the city soon! I'm mean these were only from the park in my apartment complex.

Click here for more pictures of my adventure!

In other non related news, I finally used the bathroom at work yesterday.

I hadn't needed to go for like 48 hours so I was pretty worried. I stopped using my SteriPEN to sterilize my water. Plus too much starch and junk food I think. I need to start eating my fruit/vegetable 5 a day.

I'm extra happy because:

1) I had amazing aim.

2) I didn't fall in.


UPDATE: I managed to take a picture of one of these "squat toilets." I went to McDonald's for lunch today. Notice that there is no toilet paper. Very few places have toilet paper. I don't think Chinese people like paper or something. Few places have toilet paper or paper towels. Restaurants also don't really supply napkins. Even the hotel I stayed at cheaped out on the paper. Most hotels have pads of paper with the hotel insignia printed on it. That place only had like 2 sheets.

It's Sunday in China and what am I doing? I wish I could say something fun, but I'm processing photos I took last night. Last night, (Saturday night), I went to a AYCE (all you can eat) Japanese restaurant with some coworkers. Impressions?:

1) They don't have a lot of AYCE restaurants in China. That makes me incredibly sad :( I think my coworkers worry about whether I'm eating enough so they decided to take me to this place. My coworkers said, "I don't want your mom freaking out about you not eating enough and not letting you ever come back to China again!"

2) They don't have a lot of rolls at Japanese restaurants here. Maybe that's an American thing. I mean I didn't really care. I don't like seafood.

3) Since I don't like seafood I just ordered a grip of meat. That's what I miss about eating in the US. Not enough meat here in China. They had other dishes that I wouldn't consider Japanese. Obviously there's the teriyaki and katsu. But they also had like regular old steak and like pork chops...not that I'm complaining.

4) It was fun to be a tourist. I hadn't had a chance to really take pictures all week.

Anyway, let's get to some pictures. I've spent the last couple hours processing (Multiple types of light sources + low light = photo processing from hell. I had to manually focus which explains a lot of blurriness.):

This is picture of the stairwell to the upstairs part of the restaurant:

This is a pictures of some sashimi:

What would Japanese food be without sake? Man, my coworkers made me drink up. And you all know I don't really drink:

Some more not delicious looking hand rolls. I mean I don't like seafood, so it just wasn't floating my boat. But it looked nice:

Here is some of the decor/ambiance. I'm not sure which one I liked more:

Here is a picture of some sort of lamb/pork chop. At least I think that's what it was. Notice the back part is wrapped in tin foil. Like a little mitten to keep your hands clean:

Here is a picture of the dessert. Man I miss fresh fruit. It was beautifully presented:

Now that I've finished updating I'm going to go out! Take more pictures.

Here is a link to more pictures.