Input the Engineer, Output the English Teacher

It all began with a request from my boss to assist in leading an English discussion for one hour three days a week. I didn’t really think much of it at first, just going in to the discussion, speaking when I was required to and not much more. One day I saw a list of what everyone was in charge of leading and I saw my name and another coworker as the leaders for English discussion. About this point it dawned on me that even though I was an intern, I was not being treated as such. I was being given a great opportunity to be a leader while other interns are busy getting coffee or delivering mail. Always feeling that I possessed unrefined leadership, I took this chance and ran with it. 
It started small with the introduction of two or three new slang words and phrases every English discussion. Feeling that I was not utilizing my English to the fullest extent to help them, I pushed on. Next came the introduction of a very useful word game that occupied one of the three days a week. Not content with the setup of the other two days of English discussion I set out to change them as well. Monday became topic day where we would discuss a topic such as travel, movies, and sports. Friday became news with a discussion of one or two topics each week. Content with the state of the English discussion, I sat back and went with the flow. 
With maybe a week of calm, I got a request to setup the game I made within another group. Upon completion of that I was then requested to join their English discussion permanently. A week later another group asked me to assist with their discussion. Within the same week I was asked by my boss to visit a factory in another city once a week to lead discussion and be available to answer English technical questions. Within two weeks I went from leading one English discussion to a schedule filled five days a week with four different groups. 
I never thought that I would have the potential for being a teacher but this experience has taught me otherwise. Patience for people learning things was pretty much non existent six months ago but now I am much more patient and understanding. In time I’ve watched their English transform a great deal. When I first arrived I had to talk very slow but gradually over time I’ve increased my rate almost to the point of where it was before China. The most rewarding moment though is when I hear the slang I’ve introduced in English discussion outside of the discussion when we’re just sitting at our desks talking while we work. While I can’t that teaching is where my career path lies, it has been a great experience to improve leadership and get my feet wet in an area I would have otherwise not experienced.

It’s a Good Day for a Grab Bag

It’s been almost four months since I began learning Chinese and I’ve finally started Chinese characters. My logic for not learning characters was that almost everything is written in English. The grand total of times that I’ve found Chinese characters useful is to order food. I was curious though and asked my teacher about characters. She first introduced me to several simple words this past Sunday. As I went through my daily routine in Shanghai, I noticed these characters everywhere. It would be like I am studying all the time. Since learning these first few characters came so easily, I’ve decided to continue on and try and learn all the characters for the Chinese words that I know. 
Also, incase you were wondering, the title is “small medium large below above.”
On the next train out of Shanghai
This is rather embarrassing to say but I’ve not left Shanghai except twice for work since I’ve come to China. I decided it was time to look at a map, pick a place, and go already. Within a short train ride there are several popular places around Shanghai. A friend suggested Hangzhou, so Hangzhou it is. I haven’t done much research yet but I will be leaving next weekend to explore one of the many wonderful places outside of the main cities. 

Last week, on my first day out of Shanghai to visit another factory in the city of Taicang I looked out the window, soaking up as much as I could see. One thing that stuck out was the amount of large construction cranes that filled the scenery. I decided that the next week I would count the number of cranes I saw. Today, within a span of 25 minutes, I observed 57 cranes. That means that 57 buildings with at least ten or so floors are being built. I could maybe comprehend this number if these cranes were in Shanghai but we were outside of Shanghai. There was no city apparent from the highway, just large buildings being built everywhere along the highway. It boggles my mind just how fast China is expanding. Here is a picture of the difference twenty years made in Shanghai. You have to wonder what will happen to the rest of China. 

Pictures on a Bike

I decided last night to take a quick ride to my favorite Chinese restaurant to grab dinner. A quick ride turned into an hour and a half bike ride with my headphones in, relaxing and flowing along with the bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, and bicycle/truck hybrids. I had no particular aim so I just took the path that looked most interesting. Somewhere along this ride I realized that my blog was lacking in pictures. What better way to use my bike than to incorporate it into my blog posts. Like something out of an activities catalog filled with such things as underwater basket weaving, photographing while biking was born. Sadly I do not trust myself to take my phone, camera, music player, wallet, and keys along for a bike ride, I had to make a sacrifice. If you thought I’d keep the camera you’re wrong. My music player has a camera that will suffice, albeit very blurry. Here are my pictures of the random happenings within Shanghai that I don’t have to motivation to write long posts about. Expect a few new pictures every time I ride. Maybe they’ll be blurry, maybe they’ll be clear, you never know!
Here is a picture of a bicycle/truck hybrid with way too much stuff piled on. Sitting on top of the pile is a man with another man driving. These seem to be much more the norm that regular trucks. The most interesting I’ve seen is one of these carrying a huge pile of Styrofoam which was roughly 10x12x15 feet in size. 
The dog situation in Shanghai is pretty weird. Dogs here for the most part go without leashes. They seem to be better trained than their American counterparts. While on the subject of dogs, there are lots of stray dogs roaming about. The interesting thing about them is that they’ve learned to adapt to the city. One day I was curious so I followed a stray dog around for a few minutes and he would stop and wait for the light to change to red so he could go. 

What does poor really mean?

Never really venturing outside of the United States before it was hard to imagine what life is like on the outside. While there are many aspects of life that vary from country to country, right now I want to focus on wealth. A typical soft drink in America costs about $1.60 and in Shanghai it costs about $0.40. A typical music player in America costs about $300 and in Shanghai it costs about $300. How is it possible? While you would expect a music player to cost about $75 in China such is not the case. It appears that anything that could potentially be a necessity meets the standard of living price adjustment while anything considered a luxury does not. For the people of Shanghai this means that vacations abroad, fancy electronics, and nice cars are reserved for the elite few. Now this doesn’t seem so bad but consider the fact that Shanghai is one of the most expensive cities in China. This means that there is many areas of the country that are much poorer. But this is China, and China is doing rather well.  However, if we continue along this train of thought, we can imagine the best cities in places like Africa might rival some of the lesser parts of China. I know I’ll never be able to walk a mile in the poorest shoes, because such shoes are nonexistent, but I’m slowly starting to understand how truly lucky we are to be brought up in such good conditions. 

Language: Final Draft

Some time ago I expressed dissatisfaction with the state of language learning in the United States. While the United States consists of much English and little else, the rest of world that I’ve been introduced to knows at least two languages. In China and India, it’s the native language and English. In Europe, it is three or more languages. Content with my conclusion that Americans made no attempt to bridge language barrier, I did no further research. It was not until weeks later that bits and pieces of conversations I’ve had with many people slowly started create a new picture. 
The first crack in my conclusion came at a dinner one night with a friend of mine who was born into a bilingual living situation consisting of English and Chinese. ­­­­­I made the assumption that because he knew two languages that he was interested in language learning. As I pressed on in a conversation about language he said to me that knowing different languages is merely a tool for communication and nothing more. While yes, this is in fact a way to define knowing different languages, my choices of words would have added more emphasis for the opportunity to be introduced to knew cultures and ideas. This led me to the conclusion that I might be sitting in the minority of those who have a desire to learn new languages. 
Some time passed and again language came up as a topic, this time with my friends from France. They expressed their frustration in learning the English language and having to pass an English test to get a chance to interview for certain jobs …a test .. what? I pressed on and realized that I naively believed that each company operated within their own language. To operate on a global scale, English is necessary. 
Sitting somewhat in a state of denial about this new conclusion I continued on with more questions. First I went to my Indian friend who informed me that a large part of India is fluent in English. Then it was onto a Chinese friend who knows most of the people in the company I work for. I inquired about the languages spoken within the company. Besides English, there is one Chinese person who speaks French and one who speaks German. And that’s it. 
It finally dawned on me, the United States people do not learn new languages because there is little reason to. With my European friends, multiple languages could be found in their backyards. With my American friends, unless you’re sitting along the border to Mexico, you’re not seeing much language diversity. More importantly than that, which affects all international competitors, is the age of globalization. Sitting as the leader in this movement was the United States. For those wishing to reach the level of the United States, English was a required tool. Sadly, it would appear then that language learning is largely fueled out of wealth and necessity and not by a desire to enrich lives and experience new things.

I Bought a Bike!

In celebration (not really) of my five months stay in Shanghai I’ve decided to buy a bike. Also, only have time for a quick story today, expect more to come soon. I witnessed the other day quite possibly the best way to summarize the driving situation here in China. On a road with two lanes each way, a guy was in the left lane trying to make a left turn. All the cars were honking at this car because he was not making a turn. Finally when there was no traffic and he was clear to make the turn, cars started overtaking him on the left side, while still honking, so that he could not make his turn.

Two Posts in One Day

I’ve had a bunch of random pictures collecting dust on my iPod so I figure now would be a great time to clear them out. Enjoy.
Can’t be too clean I guess.
Desk at work.
$2.70 for a jug of alcohol. At a price like that you’d assume it was water.
Any dinner with many friends or coworkers usually looks like this. Lots and lots of dishes of meats and vegetables.
$2.30 for dinner at a restaurant. This dish has beef, potatoes, peppers, and noodles with a side of some sort of scallion soup. 
These little shops boggle my mind. Everywhere there’s little places similar to this that seem to have no traffic but continue to stay open.

American Vacation

The Right to Bear Arms
In the weekly English lesson/discussion with my coworkers, I’ve introduce the game of Taboo. (If you don’t know the game, look it up, it’s pretty fun.) One of the cards was “shoot.” The hint that the person used was “this can be used to kill somebody.” My brain quickly went to gun, but everyone else, being Chinese, said knife. The reason for this is not that China is stuck in the past but because guns are illegal to own. It’s got me thinking, what would the United States be like today if guns were illegal?

American Vacation

Who knew not having a single native English speaker to talk to regularly would start to get to me after four months. The twelve hour time difference and seventeen hour travel time are also having similar effects. To remedy the situation, I’ve decided to return to the United States for Thanksgiving. Not quite ready to return home for good, I’ll enjoy some good food, friends, and family and then return to China to finish my two months of work and one month of travel in Russia or South East Asia. 

Autumn Festival

The Autumn Festival is one of the few Chinese holidays I got a chance to take a part in. The holiday revolves around moon cakes, which you can see to the side. The whole family will get together and eat these tasty little cakes. They come in lots of different flavors with some wildly different than the rest. I tried coconut, red bean, and one which had a hard boiled egg inside. Each moon cake also has the hidden surprise of being 800 calories for a cake roughly three inches in diameter and an inch tall. And that’s it, that’s the holiday. In the spirit of not being so close-minded I decided to ponder this thought some more. This led to me thinking about American holidays. How exactly do you explain Halloween to someone who has never celebrated it? 

Lesson Learned: Keep an open mind, you’re beliefs and ideas may look just as silly as the person you’re guing with.