Mittwoch, 30. Juli 2008

Wisdom and empathy in Chinese society

Chinese government is more and more afraid of losing its power. The mind control (see below) is just one sign of this...
But the helplessness of many people here when it comes to interaction with others is not just a problem on the top - it's a problem that can also be seen on the base:
Yesterday I was out with my girlfriend and her mum. We went to swim, afterwards had some barbecue and then returned home. In the front yard of our apartment building, a petite boy, maybe 18 years old, walked up to us, telling us that we are not allowed to enter the yard waking through the backdoor of the nearby hotel (although we didn't); we shall use the main door. We told him that we actually used the main door.
As a result, he started to insult us, telling us he has got eyes and so on... well, I didn't really take him serious, told him good night and headed towards our apartment building. My girlfriend and her mum didn't take it quite that easy and started to insult him on a volume that was absolutely not suitable for a yard surrounded by apartment buildings in the middle of the night. Well, it came the way it had to come. The guy and his friend started to shout back and I therefore climbed down the stairs, going to persuade my fellows that it was far more comfortable in the living room of our apartment then down here.
Too late - they already walked over to the guys, shouting at their face (some neighbours were getting curious, gaffing out of their windows or even coming down to the yard, some in sleeping clothes.
I was getting fed up with this kind of childish behaviour, so I stand between my them, asking my mates to get back home. They did not even think of listening to them, kept on blaming the uneducated prole guy. Of course the boy finally couldn't take it anymore and so he hit my girlfriend. I therefore took him aside, told him that hitting a girl was the most spiteful kind of behaviour he can show. This was not enough for my girlfriend - she wanted revenge, therefore hit him. He wanted to hit back but I made him get some distance. Then I asked my girlfriend and her mum to go back.
Boiling blood in their veins, they but kept insulting the guy on, asking for apology. The guy didn't apology - he preferred starting to fight again, so I had to walk up to him again, but it was too late - he already hit my girlfriend's mum on her face with her fist.
Enough was enough, the boy needed to be cooled down.
I then took him on his neck and pressed him on a nearby table, asking him not to touch any females anymore (I didn't shout, because I wanted to cool him down). After maybe 10 seconds in this position, he calmed down a little, but the rage in my girlfriend's mum arose and she wanted revenge. Just like a fury, she started to attack the guy, so that I had to take her, put her on a chair and ask her to not get up anymore for the next ten minutes, to prevent her from being hurt even more.
My girlfriend and the guy were meanwhile cursing on another again. I was now getting really annoyed by this, I just wanted to go enjoy my evening instead of playing nanny.
So I tried to get my girlfriend away, but the guy followed - until I asked him to go back. Meanwhile the fury on the chair called the police.
Like this it went on until the police showed up...
When the police finally arrived, the 3 fighters were taken to the police station, I was finally able to go back home.
Later I shall get to know that the went to hospital showing it to the doctor, asking the guy (who earned maybe 1000 Yuan or 100 Euro per month) to pay for it. Anyway, he was lucky, his boss did - but this shows the society here quite well.

People here do not want to give up - they don't want to lose their face and therefore embarrass themselves even more.
Who won this fight in the end?
No one. The guy was hit, the mum was hurt, everyone around was waken up - for nothing at all.
If one party was strong enough in mind to give up for peace's sake, no one would have been hurt, no one would have been waken up, the police could have enjoyed their soap opera they were probably watching in TV and I could have enjoyed my evening.
But this is just the way it works here; I didn't expect the guy to give up - he didn't have any education, he was one of the vast mass of proles, one of the losers here in China. How can he be expected to know hot to express himself?
But my girlfriend and her mum really disappointed me (which I also pointed out as soon as they were back from blaming the guy). He grew up in a patriarchal society, so for him it seems to be perfectly OK to treat women like that - it's the only way he knows to deal with them, the only one to get what he wants. Of course he is an idiot - but this is also his place in society.
Anyway, a middle-aged women who already worked as a manager and a university student should know how to solve a problem like this, they should be able to discuss something out without insulting or even fight. How can a society like this ever compromise, how can it come to a rational solution for problems?

Pressure still is the only strength of many people here - discussion is too difficult. Chinese should learn to understand others, to understand their friends and families - and even their enemies. It's time that this society starts to understand that an ally is better than an enemy and a quarrel will only be won when both parties are friends in the end.

Sonntag, 27. Juli 2008

How to learn

For most people I know, learning means remembering things, building a knowledge stock up there in ones brain and access on it once this knowledge is needed. To the ones who think so: sorry; that's bullshit. That's definitely NOT, what our brain is built for!
Learning means obtaining an ability, understanding how something works.
Unfortunately, most schools and teachers also didn't get it and so they ask students to learn books by heart, even if they know that these students will forget about the content of the book approximately 2 hours after the exam.
So wake up!
And here is how to:

When learning, no matter what you are learning, your brain is linking, not storing. Get rid of the thought that your brain is bio-computer, a huge database - it is not.
So to learn means you gotta let your brain make these links, so understand and use the stuff your learning, get interested in it, go in deep. It's not about learning for an exam - that would just mean you are pushing the responsibility to obtain the skill for you on your teacher. I know that a lot of teachers are often enough not able themselves to remember how they learnt what they know; they therefore teach a some unlinked mess and in the end, the only thing you've got is a bunch of knowledge-chaos which your brain will get rid of as soon as possible.
Let me give you an example (you already know which one I am going to give. Right, learning Chinese).

A lot of people spend hours on learning Chinese without getting any remarkable results, getting frustrated after at most one year and therefore drop it. What makes learning Chinese different from other languages is that it is made up of two parts:
the language itself (words and grammar) as well as learning the characters. I suggest you to learn both at once - one alone is nearly useless and it's impossible to understand crucial parts of the language without knowing the characters.
Anyway, apart this tiny (but time-consuming) difference it's quite the same as learning any other language.
1. Getting started
The most important thing in learning anything but especially in learning a language is to be patient but extremely constant. Don't try to learn 50 words per day - even if you remember them all on some stupid cards or something, you won't remember them in a conversation and you are probably going to forget them very fast again. Be slow. 5 Words a day every day will do it. If you do so and you manage to remember all of them, after year you will know more than 1800 words which would mean that you know the language fluently. So my suggestion for a beginner would be
: start with 5 words and 2 characters per day; after 10 weeks go up to 4 characters per day. Like this you will learn 1000 characters in one year what means that you can read more than 98% of them.

2. Use it!
Now that's the really big mistake most learners do. As described above, they just learn it without using it. Put all the new words in sentences, write a short story using them, use them in a conversation with a native (or an other student) when you are a little more advanced. It's useless to know some words passively in the back of your head, get them into your active vocabulary.

3. Repeat them.
When you write your short story, try to include all the words of the past 5 days in it, also do so in conversations. Only saying them once is just not enough, you gotta try to think of several situations where the new word is useful, so that you explain to your brain: hey, snatch it; it's something crucial.

Keep it up one year and you did it!
But this is another problem for most of us: keeping it up. The 30 minutes everyday are not really much but I know it from my own experience that it is sometimes just too seducing to just place oneself in front of the TV and relax instead (especially after the first few weeks when you're first arise of passion for the new language ebbed down). Well, there is something that helps: Just do it!

Mittwoch, 23. Juli 2008

1984-like mind control in China

If there is something I really hate about China, it is the mind control that the government builds it's power on. I am reminded of it wherever I am, no matter whether I am at home using the Internet and being not able to write my blog because blogspot is blocked once again, or I go out to buy things, being watched by the government's electrical eyes to prevent that I commit a crime against society or against the government.
What is truly amazing me is that people here are often not aware of that they are watched and controlled by their government. For instance, several days ago, I asked somebody why their are cameras everywhere in the street, they haven't been here two years ago. The answer I received was that these were no cameras, these were broken streetlights. On my further question, why all these broken streetlamps have a box with antenna by Chinese telecom on it and the working ones don't, I never received any answer.
Even if some websites are blocked, most people here believe that it was a problem of the Internet connection or of the web server of the entered URL.

This control sometimes gets me kinda paranoid, sometimes I just feel like hiding from all those cameras everywhere.. but except for staying in my apartment all day long, there is no way of hiding from Big Brother Hu's eyes.

Would people here get unhappy if they knew about how much they're watched?
The answer would be probably no. Surveillance is quite common in Chinese society, even in a big city like Chengdu there's no such thing like anonymity in mass, like it is common in Europe or America. Thus people are used to being watched and not taking responsibility of themselves and their actions. Of course it's nice that there is somebody who cares - but it prevents you from unfolding yourself. There are always some people you gotta deal with, no matter whether you like them or not, no matter whether you agree with them or not. Sometimes somebody tells you something that you know is totally wrong but you can not show any disagreement or you may seriously hurt this person, especially when this person is part of a higher generation and therefore higher in society than you.
These social rules limit China's opportunities, but fortunately they're about to change - hopefully the enlightenment in China is not going to cause as much blood shedding as it's European counterpart in 17th and 18 century.

Anyway, these changes go on slowly and it seems that I am going on smiling to the cameras pointed at me, performing my daily Kowtows in front of government and society. China still understands loyalty as self-denial.

Dienstag, 8. Juli 2008

Chinavisa today - how to get it

In order to come here, one needs a visa. Now because of the upcoming olympic games in Beijing, chinese governement made it far more difficult to get a visa. For a tourist visa, for instance, the following changes were made:
Needed for a chinese single entry visa before may 08:
- Passport valid until at least 6 months after departure
- money (around 40 Euro p. p.)
- invitation letter, if available
- flight booking confirmation
- at most 90 days stay

Added for visa after may 08 :
- hotel reservation
- official stamp of the hotel
- no longer than 30 days stay
- if u dont live in a hotel, u gotta visit a police station and inform them about ur address within 48 hours after entering china (which is quite stupid because it is officially impossible to get a short time visa whithout a hotel reservation)
- no express visa

But probably u already knew this and wonder now how to bypass these restrictions. Here is how:

- hotel reservation and official stamp:
The easiest way to bypass this is to just book a cheap youth hostel dormitory bed for maybe 0.5 Euro per night and ask this hotel to give u the reservation confirmation - with their official stamp on it.
Unfortunately my youth hostel was too stupid to do this and I therefore found my self quarelling with them, so I unbooked it and youth the traditional chinese way to get what I want: relations, guangxi. I just asked a friend of mine who has got a friend who runs a hotel for help... and solved the problem without spending money (except for a gift I gave to him to thank him).

- no longer than 30 days stay
In every larger city is a main police station. If you wanna go to china for lets say 50 days, just go there, live there 20 days happily and visit this police station to postpone the expiration of your visa. Doesnt take you more than an afternoon, if your lucky you can make it in 30 minutes.

- address signing:
just do it. If you are late, do it anyway and say sorry. Or use some guangxi...

Have fun in China!