Hello Uncle Foreigner

culture

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.

Jul 4, 2018

Live stream #3: The Husband Scrounge

Less laggy and less chipmunck-y!

Live stream number three was our best one yet! I turned the bitrate WAAAAAAY down, which fixed the lag and hang time. I still don’t know what’s causing the chipmunk-ing, but … one problem at a time.

Jul 1, 2018

Happy Dragon Boat Festival 2018

Celebrating Chinese holidays with kids!

In my mind, Dragon Boat Festival — or duanwujie, as it’s called in Chinese — is a somewhat nebulous festival. I mean, to some extent, I’m going to view all Chinese holidays from a remove, because they are often family activities, and my family isn’t here. Our first year here, our friend took us to a boat race, fed us zongzi and told us the story of Qu Yuan, and in the years since then, we’ve pieced together more of the story. But this year, by virtue of working in a kindergarten, where they are passing all this stuff on to the next generation, I got to see some customs that I hadn’t before had access to. A lot of rituals that have to do with keeping the body healthy and safe. And, my colleague Katherine came out to explain the holiday on video for all us waiguoren.

The biggest thing I learned — that after the fact seems totally obvious — is that Chinese holiday celebrations can be quite personal. They vary from region to region, and even from family to family. To that point, in the video, Katherine conflates two stories that are both part of the origin story of duanwujie — Qu Yuan, poet, and Wu Zixu, king’s advisor. They are both men who died by suicide in a river, according to lore, and are somehow connected with the holiday. Regardless, I’m beginning to think that neither of them are actually all that central to the holiday as it is actually celebrated by real people; every time a Chinese person has shared with me their legends, it’s because they looked something up on the Internet. Not because it was something connected to something they or their family did.

Anyway, next year, I’ll probably learn even more about it. Including that I was wrong about everything I concluded this year.

Jun 29, 2018

How to look like a foreigner

Uncle’s Shorts #18

Here, I pontificate on the most diverse letter, and decide who looks more Chinese between Peter and me.

Jun 29, 2018

Live stream #2

Still not perfect, but much better!

We’re getting a little better at the live stream.

Jun 13, 2018

New Xiaomi 6 Chinese phone and a squat toilet

Uncle’s Shorts #17

So basically this week I got a new phone — a Xiaomi 6! — and I dropped some stuff into my squat toilet. An average week in China.