May 15, 2018

Beijing welcomes you, and welcomes you, and welcomes you

Uncle’s Shorts #8

People, even after almost seven years, are always welcoming us to China and Luzhou. Is it annoying or endearing? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I personally am trying to take it as a moment to moment affirmation of my presence, rather than an act of othering that implies I don’t truly belong. (Although, on a bad day, it can feel like the latter.) The only word they are actually saying is “welcome.” That’s way better than America does to its immigrants.

“Beijing Welcomes You” is actually the name of a song written for the 2008 Beijing olympics. It’s also the name of a pretty good book by Tom Scocca — written about the 2008 Beijing olympics — which is pretty good. Let’s call it an official Uncle Foreigner recommendation.

May 14, 2018

It’s hot and cold, all at once!

Uncle’s Shorts #9

Springtime in Luzhou … it can be beautiful, but the weather can be very strange. The humidity makes it sweaty out, even when the temperature is not that high. But just wait a few weeks. From the time of taping this video to now, it’s already switched. Now it’s hot and humid. Get ready for that summer heat!

May 12, 2018

A no-makeup look on a no-makeup face

A shopping adventure in China

China is wild about skincare, which is great, because so am I. Sheet-masks, overnight serums, just a plain old lotion … I love it. There have always been health and beauty stores all over Luzhou, but now we have a Watson’s and a Sephora! It’s an exciting time.

May 12, 2018

Hey Drinks are the best drinks

Uncle’s Shorts #7

Who doesn’t love a smoothie? Especially when it’s delivered right to your door.

Meituan Waimai forever!

May 6, 2018

The simple beauty of translated Mandarin

Uncle’s Shorts #6

The menu at the bakery inspired this Uncle’s Shorts musing on language and translation. Also, in the past seven years, there has been an incredible increase in the amount of English that is just out and about all over Luzhou. And more and more, it’s English that makes sense.

May 6, 2018

How can we get there?

Riding around Luzhou

Take a taxi.

May 1, 2018

“Teachers exist in China” the series!

The making of our guide to ESL teaching and expat China life

“Teachers Exist in China” was our biggest project to date! It was a lot of work in a short amount of time, but we’re really proud of what we put together, and it was actually a lot of fun.

The idea grew out of a sort of professional jealousy. I’ll admit it. Another YouTuber whom Uncle Foreigner follows put up kind of a rant about what it’s like to teach in China, and I thought, “I could do that, but way better.” (This is the same reason I got my nose pierced. A sense of superiority drives most of my life choices.) But once we got to work, it was all about figuring out how to best share my experience with those who were seriously thinking about diving into the China ESL game, in a way that would be comprehensive and informative, but most importantly, watchable.

Originally, I had only intended to write the Jobs Guide, which turned into our centerpiece Thursday video. But as Peter and I kept talking about it, we kept coming up with more and more ideas, until we had a six-episode series. We were careful to try and keep the workload balanced and doable: The Preview and Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday videos were of a format that we refer to in-house as “Uncle’s Shorts” — videos that can be written and shot quickly with minimal production. And the Friday video — about the expat lifestyle in China — we decided that I would riff live from an outline. I hate speaking extemporaneously, and would have preferred to write it, but the Jobs Guide took about seven hours to write, three hours to shoot, and a bajillion hours to edit. If we hadn’t chosen a looser format, Lifestyle would probably have taken a similar amount of time, and we just didn’t have it. Also, it’s a good exercise for me to practice “just talking” on camera. Probably.

Anyway, pre-production and shooting took about a week, and editing and posting took another week. We made some mistakes; I said “nature” instead of “neighbor” in one of the videos, but there was NO TIME for a reshoot. And there were definitely some things we’d like to have put a little more polish on. We could have spent an entire month, or more, editing this series to perfection! But part of the experience was to see what we could do given such a tight deadline. And I think we did a lot.

May 1, 2018

Labor Day is a perfect time for a picnic in the park

Outdoor meat is universally a celebration

In China, watch on YouKu.

I met Jessy on a bus, who introduced me to Michael, who invited me to Xi Jiang’s BBQ this Sunday! It was a lovely afternoon of grilled meats and outdoor karaoke. The sun chased us around the lawn a little, but we found refreshing shade in a small grove of trees.

This particular spot of green is right next to the “new bridge”. It’s a piece of land that Peter and I are very familiar with … from the window of the bus that took us in and out of the city when we worked at the countryside campus of Tianfu Middle School. As we drove by, we’d spy people out cavorting there, and wonder about the attraction of hanging out next to a major road. You can see the approach in this video that we took of that bus ride in 2015.

Having now spent an afternoon there, I can say it’s actually quite peaceful. The bridge is far enough away that it just makes for a nice view, and the landscaping is arranged so that when you’re on the lawn, you’re hardly aware of the traffic at all.

Of course, that area across the “new” bridge is hardly countryside at all any more. In the past few years, there’s been SO MUCH construction: apartment complexes, shopping malls, more schools. The People’s Hospital of Luzhou — where Peter and I get our health checks to renew our visas each year — is moving to a new facility out there, Jessy told me. I’m not loving this urban sprawl; the charm of Luzhou is that it was a little more contained (and downright walkable!) than China’s bigger cities. But, as long as the city keeps planning parkland alongside its concrete monstrosities, at least it will still be pretty. And we’ve got friends with cars.

Apr 30, 2018

Eating around the world

Drink Up Luzhou: Pilot episode

We first had the idea for “Drink Up Luzhou” almost two years ago. We had just moved back to Luzhou, and decided that our Chinese hometown was something worth doing a project on. The kind of podcast-y/talk show format of getting a bunch of friends together over a meal to discuss a topic seemed doable enough, with just enough action that there would be reason enough to film it. We had our camera, an iPad and a field recorder, and we were sure that we could make something great.

Well, actually executing the pilot … this was a much bigger job than we anticipated. For one thing, filming on location at a restaurant is as tricky as they say. Peter had to edit around a lot of interruptions, and the sound quality — even with our Zoom H4n! — was spotty at best. There’s a reason they filmed in an empty restaurant on “Dinner for Five.” The other big lesson we learned was that we can do it just the two of us, but an extra crew member, or five, would really help. It was hard for me to run camera-two and host the discussion at the same time, and a lighting and a sound tech would boost our quality a lot. Additionally, a script supervisor would have been invaluable to the transition between production and post.

But, I’m pretty proud of the job we did without those things. For the time being, we’re going to have to keep on doing it without those things. It’s an exciting challenge, and Peter and I are really looking forward to season one. I hope that you are, too.

Apr 24, 2018

KTV with Chinese friends

It’s not your turn to sing often enough

I love to sing, but I really don’t enjoy karaoke — not in America, not in China, not in a box, not with a fox. Well, somehow, going to karaoke with my friend Bruce was always fun. You should go to karaoke with Bruce.

Anyway, if you live in China, people are going to take you out karaoke-ing. In the video above, we’re at a colleague’s birthday party. We didn’t really know him before this night. What happened was that we were both at the same restaurant, and we got recognized and invited along for the sing-a-thon.

Here they call it KTV, for karaoke television. If you’re wondering, they do have some songs in English. You get the most expat points, however, if you sing a Chinese-language song. That’s what I’ve heard.