Hello Uncle Foreigner

culture

Aug 10, 2018

What gender is your Dragon Fruit

Uncle’s Shorts mega-compendium: Nos. 20-27

This week, after a brief hiatus, we welcome back Uncle’s Shorts with a vengeance! Or, at least a compendium. There’s a lot of ground to cover, a little complaining, a little explaining … you know, the vlog basics. Just remember, your suspicions are correct: All foreigners know each other. Noodles to you!

Aug 9, 2018

China LIVE STREAM 08: What’s your workflow?

Working with a bedsheet green screen

Due to a website error, I’ve had to type this description out five times. The video is good. Please watch it.

Aug 5, 2018

Luzhou summer

Beat the heat the baby way

My continuing fascination with why I am the only one who sweats in Luzhou kind of gets some answers in this one. It’s not just me, it’s also babies. Who are conditioned out of sweating by blowdrying all moisture off of them from an early age. It’s totally scientific. I’m totally scientific!

It’s hot, man.

Aug 4, 2018

Live stream #7: A plug for absentee voters

Also, how hot is hot, really?

Our weekly roundup is becoming a thing! We’ve got regular segments, catch phrases, banter, and a ukulele. Also, we seem to have figured out the chipmunk effect; YouTube says to use a sample rate of 44.1kHz, but 48kHz is what works for us. So, there.

Aug 1, 2018

Beat the heat of the Luzhou summer

Babies must be blow dried

This one’s a lighthearted exploration of what happens during the Luzhou summer. (SPOILER: It’s hot. People deal with it.) But on a more serious note, one of the most unsettling things for me to deal with in the chasm between my native culture and the one I live in, is the tendency — that I perceive, anyway — to dismiss one’s own self-reported feelings in favor of an authority’s judgement on the situation. Which for me, mostly manifests around temperature control. I’ve been in many situations over the years where someone has told me, “It’s not cold, you can’t turn the heater on.” Or, “The parents don’t want the windows open. We don’t believe in ‘stuffy’.” Or, “We have to have the windows open even though it’s freezing, because the parents don’t like the smell inside. Just wear your coat.”

We can do what we want at home, so at least there’s that. But it’s a little frustrating the degree to which other people have strong control over my environment. Like, I’m not allowed to decide for myself how I feel. Maybe I’ve just worked with jerks. But I’ve seen it happen to the children, too. It’s me and the babies, everywhere and always.

Jul 27, 2018

Live stream #6: Steely Dan and some other stuff

Return of the Chipmunk Voice

The live stream is starting to really take shape, with recurring segments and everything! It’s getting easier and easier to talk for a full hour — because I take notes all week of things I want to talk about.

This week, toward the end, we have a riveting discussion about Steely Dan and their presence in Barrytown and elsewhere. And, I tell the saga of our electric bill, including what it takes to run enough air conditioning during the Luzhou summer.

Jul 19, 2018

Live stream #5: Even more babies and cheese

not at the same time, though

Our fifth live stream! We’ve got a lot to talk about, and somehow the chipmunk voice is back.

Jul 15, 2018

Ordering on Taobao, avoiding the scams

Wait ... how much is the shipping?!?!?!?!

We order all manner of things on Taobao, the online marketplace of choice in China. It’s a buyer beware situation, but mostly you’re going to get what you pay for: imitation Crocs, real Tabasco, Oscar Meyer ham, Swiss cheese. There’s a middle eastern deli — hello Voski! — that sells excellent flatbreads and hummus. And the Good Friends Store stocks a great selection of American condiments and spices. (Though I wish they’d get that dill relish back. I hate sweet relish.) We place a grocery order about once a month from various vendors on Taobao.

For big-ticket items, we usually order through 京东 — another online shopping platform that is a little more expensive but a lot more into genuine brand namery. But recently we’ve been plumbing Taobao for some pretty fun items. Peter collects Marvel Legends figures … and he doesn’t mind if the box has been opened, so he’s found some good deals on figures whose build-a-figure part has been harvested. And I’ve found some fun Korean stationery. I love stationery!

Sometimes there are hiccups, though. We talk about a clever scam we stumbled onto in the video above. So, be safe out there.

Jul 14, 2018

Live stream #4: Baby and dairy news

Also, a lot of bathroom chat

We got our sound working and no lag! But our VPN cranked out at the end, so we had an abrupt departure. But, I think that we’re getting the hang of this live streaming business.

Jul 6, 2018

English names for Chinese kids

And naming myself in Chinese

The way this video came together … well, originally I had intended it to be a short. Peter was encouraging me to film my thoughts on my way to and from work with my cellphone, straight-up vlogger style. So one day on my way home for lunch, I filmed the first piece (which I think appears third above; it’s the bit with the gray T-shirt, about the process of giving out names to my students). But this led to more and more thoughts, so I kept adding pieces. It turns out, I have a lot of thoughts about names.

It can be a fraught topic. I have had students decline to take an English name; for whatever reason, they don’t want one. Which I can understand. As a kid, I didn’t like it when people made nicknames out of my given name — everyone has a preference of how they’d like to be addressed, and I try to respect that. It’s much easier now that I have a little more Chinese, but also that my class sizes are no longer 60+ kids. If one out of eight wants to be called by their Chinese name, I can make that happen. It does take me longer to commit their name to memory, but I get there.

Another theme, that only briefly touched on in the video, is that the English name is far from permanent. Our friend Patrick has gone through a few different names in the time we’ve known him as his relationship with English has grown and changed from a high school student tucked away in Luzhou to a citizen of the world who interacts regularly with people from other countries and cultures. I think he’s living in Mexico these days. We also know a couple of students who’ve grown up and chosen to be exclusively called by their Chinese name. For example, I don’t think Curly answers to that name anymore. But that’s all part of the fun of trying out a new identity.