now with video

Apr 29, 2019

When the water goes out

A farcical shower in China

Follow all the action on our YouTube channel: Hello Foreigner.

In February, Peter and I tried a couple of experiments in fictionalized scenarios on film. In this one, we dramatize what happens when the water goes out, but you’ve got soap in your eyes. I hope you enjoy it!

Feb 17, 2019

You have got to live somewhere

We chose China

The place you live is always somewhere.

We continue to consider the fact that we are not leaving China, for now. It’s a tricky business, choosing where to live. Every society has its flaws. But I think that puts on us the responsibility to to the good we can, where we can. When we can. How we can … How do I get out of this loop?!

Feb 12, 2019

New China vlog channel, same China vlog fun

We cyber-moved on YouTube

The giraffe premieres!

Here’s the news: We moved our YouTube channel. I’ll get into why at a later date, but for now, update your bookmarks to Hello Foreigner. It’s the same great China vlogging, without the bias towards Uncles!

Nov 25, 2018

You’re eating fat birds

Thanksgiving in China, behind-the-scenes

Presenting our very special Thanksgiving episode! Which features very little of the real, traditional American Thanksgiving!

Our friends were so great to help us out filming this. You may not be able to tell from the video, but none of them are professional actors. They’re just our friends ;)

Also, I am notorious for overestimating people’s level of English reading. Back when I was writing lessons for middle schoolers, I’d have to revise them at least three times to make them simpler. The same happened here, but I was able to do some quick rewrites on the fly to find everyone’s level. And, as you can see in “Behind the ‘Facts,’” they practiced like mad to get it perfect!

When working with friends and amateurs, Peter and I try to be as organized as possible, so we’re not wasting anyone’s donated time. We also try to keep an eye on the fun level in the room. Originally in our script, we had a few more sequences to film, but by the time we go all the individual lines filmed, we decided to call it a wrap. Everyone had worked really hard, but they were still enjoying the evening. I felt like we could have pushed it and gotten the extra jokes, but the mood would have turned from “friendship through a difficult challenge!” to “this slog is never-ending and we’re not friends after tonight.”

Something that always impresses our non-filmmaking friends is our slate. It’s such an iconic signifier of the movie business, that people are really impressed to see one in action. The real reasons we use one are two-fold. Firstly, when you’ve got a lot of video files to sort through and upload, it’s helpful to have a literal signpost stating “Scene 1, shot C, take 3.” This way, you don’t have to scrub through the entire file to figure out what’s going on in a given shot. Secondly, the clap gives you a spike in the sound that is incredibly helpful in matching video with the recorded audio. Our software is OK at doing that automatically, but I have had to do it by hand more than a few times.

So another Thanksgiving has come and gone. For the past few years, our actual Thanksgiving celebration has been going to Peter’s Tex Mex for the expat turkey extravaganza, and this year was no different. Except, this year they comped us our meal! Thanks, Peter’s! Luzhou is always welcoming us, all over town.

Nov 23, 2018

Instagram always: Cast photo

Our Thansharing friends have a fabulous meal

Our friends came together for a hot pot Thanksgiving, to help us make our Thanksharing spectacular. It was a lot of fun to make!

Oct 19, 2018

Under the Jade Dragon Mountain: No murders today

Uncle’s Shorts #34

We’re upping our game this week; For the past month, we’ve been working behind-the-scenes on some new features for the Uncle’s Shorts. This week, we’re super excited to be rolling out some of those new bits: interviews and city shots … with much more to come in the future! It’s a way to move my face out of the spotlight, and put the focus more on Luzhou, and the cool and interesting people we know here. Both personally and creatively, it’s already been very fulfilling. We hope you like it, too.

But we don’t really mind if you don’t.

As for this episode: A massage and a supermarket cause and relieve anxiety for Emily this week, but not in that order. And, we talk to our old friend Jessi about her life.

The Kung Fu Boys were filmed in Black Dragon River Park, Lijiang in 2015. They wrote this movie for our English class. Filming was never completed due to attendance issues.

Oct 14, 2018

Hello Uncle Foetus: Nine months of video blogging

This baby’s ready for the world

Time flies when you’re making videos! It’s been nine months of short filmmaking for Uncle Foreigner and we’ve been oh-so chuffed to watch our baby develop.

To celebrate the growth so far — and in anticipation of exciting changes to come — we’ve put together a compilation of all of our videos since we first started posting in earnest last December. The clips are in order of posting, so you can chart our journey from those first embryonic ideas onward. Look at those teensy, little toes on Uncle’s Shorts No. 1!

Next week, we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled, all-new programming … this baby’s taking confident steps out into the world.

In the meantime, have you subscribed?

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.

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.

Mar 26, 2018

Toys R Us China, still going strong

We still had to order Iron Fist on Amazon, though

Our latest Special Report looks at some of the hubbub around the closure of Toys R Us — which here in Luzhou is nil, because Toys R Us is still open. Babies gotta have their toys. Toys R Us has actually been a big part of our China life, because Peter likes to hunt out the Marvel Legends figures. In addition to Toys R Us Luzhou, we’ve been to two in Chengdu, one in Shenzhen and at least two in Hong Kong. It’s actually given me some insight into the appeal of collecting as a hunt, rather than an act of acquisition.

That being said, we also recently figured out you can find Marvel Legends figures on Taobao for cheap.

In the video, we also go into the Bret Michaels Effect, which may explain why so many people are heartbroken by the loss of a corporation, and give you the scuttlebutt on what other western chains are coming soon to Luzhou. It wasn’t until we shot this video that I realized that the Starbucks was going in right across from Mix C — home to our beloved Peter’s Tex Mex — and next to the Dairy Queen.

It’s weird to think that just five years ago we had trouble consistently finding sliced bread.