April & May 2016’s posts

A growl with bite.

7th April 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Let’s discuss dog meat.  My first instinctive response is to yell, I mean absolutely f**king scream at throat-damaging levels, “Why the f**k do you eat dog meat you lowlife, worthless, valueless anti-moral massaging selfish, insignificant malefactoring, dog theft inducing wrongdoing, villainous egotistical venal turd of a mercenary against nature and all things bright and beautiful, you empty and futile hollow soul of canine crunching canine b*st*rd of a supposed man?”  Then, I cool off in the head.  I ask questions, I think.  Why?  Why, oh why?  Why do people consider dog or cat meat?  How did it become involved in numerous festivals?  See Yulin dog, cat and lychee festival on any search engine.

 

On the 21st of June this year, around 10-15,000 dogs and 4,000 cats will be subjected to death by extreme torture at Guangxi’s biggest festival, the 玉林荔枝狗肉节 (Lychee and Dog Meat Festival).  Why?  Who goes there?  How does this even exist?  People in China love festivals.  This festival was primarily a lychee festival but some knobheads in the media said it was “good for the health” in 2010.  Surprisingly, media influence has seen it grow in size and stature.  Dog and cat thefts have risen.  Actors Fan BingbingSun Li and Yang Mi (several Chinese celebrities) have spoken out in opposition.  Even Professors comment freely on this grim event.

 

 

 

Good for the health?  Cortisol levels are higher in stressed animals.  If consumed by humans it can cause heart problems, impotency and general fatigue.  These are the very same things that eating dog meat was reported to solve.  Well done, so called experts.  They fell from the stupidity tree and smacked their heads off every thicky branch on the descent to the ground of dumbness.  There isn’t even a mention of biomagnification and the accumulation of toxic metals in the eating party.  This shit leads to genetic problems, cancers, prionic disease, current disease and viral resistance.  SARS came from bird consumption (that had reportedly consumed other birds), bat consumption led to Ebola, cows being fed other cows ground-up components led to CJD.  Are we digging our own grave again?  Vietnamese medical expert panels are concerned by gastrointestinal problems caused by dog and cat worms.  There are thousands of worm species, some good, but often in carnivores they do bad or fatal things.  Rabies cases on the region are above the normal levels.  Parasites, toxins and viruses can transfer by bite or other means.  With 10,000 dogs, it only takes one bite and the next pandemic begins…

 

To the credit of Yulin Government (an autonomous region) they deny it happens.  Covering signage, offering posters to take care when eating meats and asking doctors or food safety staff not to eat dog meat just n June is far from ending this immensely stupid dietary fad.  It is a fad.  With a ban or serious regulation (there are certificates issued for many dogs from dog farms) it could end.  Because of greed for money, dogs are stolen nationally, fake documentation is banded around freely, and smugglers use lesser roads by bike or truck.  Poison darts, crossbows, traps… the more you read, the more it feels totally inhumane and leaves a bilious nauseous swelling of bile in my stomach.  Should you or I ignore it?  Should we protest?  Should we spread the word?  In China, activists (it is legal to protest for conservation matters – but for animal wefare, I am unsure) post information on social media, cry out to the international community, and cause public outrage.  Some travel to the region.  I read Yang Xiaoyun, spent 150,000 RMB to save 360 dogs and in 2015 spent 7,000 RMB to rescue 100 dogs.  What one does with 460 dogs is beyond my imagination?  I’d imagine, euthanasia is the only path in some cases… maybe, euthanasia of dog and cat meat festivals is the ONLY right path.

Activism threatens businesses and trade.  When someone or something rich is pressurised they fight or flight.  Like a cornered angry dog with snarling teeth, fighting to live, they may bite back.

 

The hype draws people in from all over Guangdong, and even from overseas.  This is the summer solstice afterall, a hot time and an ideal time for a good festival.  As the party commences and before, many cats and dogs battle dehydration, because no one wants a frozen or refrigerated dog/cat dish of the day.  The consumption of dog seems ultimately one of profit.  No care.  Not a thought.  Just cold hard cash.  A thump over the head to end consciousness.  I once witnessed this from a dog here, it squealed a screech so unearthly it made me sick.  They then drain the blood and chuck the dog into a machine.  The fur is plucked and span away.  The dog is boiled.  If it hasn’t died, it is being cooked alive.  Without a machine, this process is done on hooks.  Again, with doomed and barely living dogs.  Each meal should come with a label to say, “All our dog and cat meat is 100% torture guaranteed!”

 

Wine, lychees, dog and cat meat are considered warming foods, important in culture.  That is to say they promote good health.  I can see how wine and lychees fit in the case, but man’s best friend and Tom, the hunter of Jerry don’t belong on plates.  As the build up to the gathering crowds to network, make friends, or even discuss business over a hot plate of stir-fried Yorkshire terrier, I can’t quite believe I am part of this inhuman race.  The businesses market the festival as one to boost blood flow blood flow (fertility and keeping warm in winter) yet all I imagine is slaughter and an invitation of destruction on our species.  Maybe nature will witness this and end our days.

 

When will it end?  If enough voices speak out and then someone massive, like global megastar massive, Jackie Chan or Yao Ming speaks out, then more will follow.  #DOGOFFYAOMING #JACKIECHANLOVESCATS #YULINLYCHEESNOTMUTTS #GUANGXICATSPROTECTION – you get the gist.  Coldplay or U2 can do it better than me.  Maybe Apple or XiaoMi can step in, #APPLEBOBBINStoDOGMEAT.  Yulin has a government progressing bit by bit and they listen to other governments, the media and celebrities.  This isn’t about preaching or taking a highground.  Spain has bull fights, the UK eradicates badgers to fight TB, there are many other hypocrisies in the west.  But this dog massacre is pure evil.  Then, I think about the thousands of scattered restaurants offering dog meat in China, Vietnam, Mexico, Taiwan (banned in 2001 but still on many menus) and Switzerland.  Take out this one for now.  Let the others follow?  Or ignore it?  Something must be unleashed…

 

#STOPYULIN

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

Beyond the wall

10th May 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

It has been over a month since I have written on this blog.  In some ways I have been fighting a battle in my brain.  Half of me wishes to mothball the blog, the other half knows my desire to write is so great.  I have been busy scribing my debut novel and emitting words for HubHao of late.

 

On the HubHao front, a small piece has been compiled based on two weekend trips to Guǎngzhōu.  The first weekend being one to watch Guǎngzhōu Fùlì or R&F, (广州富力).  The latter to watch Guǎngzhōu Héngdà Táobǎo or Evergrande (广州恒大淘宝).  It is set to be published in June, as a kind of comparative piece on watching football in the west and east.  The 3,800 words were selected carefully, with half set for magazine publication and the remainder to be exclusively web-based.  The experience with Guǎngzhōu Fùlì was most welcoming and extremely generous by the blue team’s supporters, involving bountiful amounts of dancing, cheering and drinking afterwards.  After the game, at the red side’s team, which I had to barter for a ticket, it was much more difficult and less-inviting.  “Better dead than red,” is what should be said.

 

I’ve also discharged some words about a wine bar, between two recent matchday reports for the Dongguan International Football League (gameday five and gameday four) under my pen name Indigo Freeman.  I may change the pen name to Indigo Victor Freeman or I.V. Freeman sooner or later.  Back to football, it is safe to say, my Murray’s FC Maine Road are propping everyone up, after gameday seven (written by new writer Aaron Lowe).

 

Prior to this an article on Mark Lotz and A Fula’s Calling was published.  Sadly, at the time of publication it was found to us, that Abu Djigo had passed away.  I was quite pleased with the article and now it is a reminder, that life is precious, take all the beauty you can from it.  Good night, god bless Abu Djigo.

 

Of late open lessons, mid-term exams, prepartions for grade 6 and grade 9 class graduation, an international day and country profile detail have filled my time.  There have been some wonderful moments and the usual lows that remind you teaching is not meant to be easy.  Nor is working as part of a diverse foreign language team.  Culture differences between America, the U.K. and Sweden are just as challenging as that of Chinese-Western differences.  If not, somewhat worse, because you don’t naturally anticipate them or form your own prejudices from previous experiences.  A delayed middle school travel to Dàpéng jiēdào (大鹏街道) in Shenzhen (深圳) happened.  We went to see a museum at dàpéngchéng (Dàpéng Fortress大鹏城), a walled village fortress and have a barbecue at Dàpéng Wan (bay).  There are many people in this area that speak a mixture of Cantonese and Hakka, the Dàpéng dialect (大鵬話).  The area has some of the best coastline in Guangdong, a so called Oriental Hawaii.  The Dàpéng Peninsula (大鹏半岛) sweeps around the east of Hong Kong and looks pretty amazing (The 943.7m tall Wútóng Shān, 梧桐山, is a very distinctive shape in the distance.  Closer by there is the 869m tall Qiniang Shān, 七娘山).  It is a most popular weekend destination.  XiChong (西涌) beach is located there.  You can reach this on foot or by an often cramped bus E11 from Shenzhen North Station to Nan’Ao Terminus 南澳总站; then bus M232 to XiChong village 酉涌沙岗村站).  A famous person who hailed from this region is Jian Ting (简廷)Sadly, we can’t go to the pretty looking offshore island Peng Chau Tung (平洲東), because it is under the jurisdiction of Hong Kong.  At the barbecue, we had to catch our own fish and chickens.  Some students abandoned humane methods of chopping the fish’s head off, for bludgeoning with the smooth flat of the knife’s blade.  It didn’t make sense.  Once I explained the humane ways, they understood and some respected it.  After the wonderful barbecue, in a kind of shanty-village gardens, we explored a geological museum.  A most treasured and bizarre day without shit-sinking and cream-floating like some teachers I have met claim classes can be.

 

Last week, I had a visitor from Beijing.  Esben, a former foreign teacher (from my first semester in Dao Ming Foreign Language School) called by for a break.  He had visited his friend Jason in Fóshān, so the short journey down on the way to Beijing via Shenzhen airport, wasn’t too much of a detour.  He attended six of my classes and my grade 6 students, who he had taught when they were in grade 4, remembered him.  Well kind of.  His beard and longer hair was a tad confusing for some.  A few prompts helped them say his name.  Several teachers, the few that remained, greeted Esben equally as cordially.  Esben was lucky enough to join class 604, who were at half strength due to an outbreak of chicken pox in said class.  Bizarrely most students are allowed to remain in school, whilst several have spent time at hospital.  Most are thankfully better now.  It was odd going into a class, without being told and seeing desks far apart, with no two students inside within a metre of each other.  My class was based around greetings, high fives, fist bumps, hand shakes… with zero actions taking place.  Better safe, than itchy.

 

On the scratchy itchy front of life, this last fortnight has seen a drastic increase in the rise of the winged bastards they call mosquitoes.  I am thankful for no longer sharing an office with my heat-loving colleague Mr Yang Wenbo (Maths Teacher).  Bites have been sighted moreso, because Esben, whilst lodging at my apartment, managed to leave the mosquito nets ajar all too often.  So winged warriors of worry have delivered chew marks to by posterior, anterior and limbs alongside a few buzzes past my ear at night.  There is little comfort in being woken up by a mosquito at night and chasing, actually hunting, like a caveman after the terrorsome Daesh adherents.   I get why they exist, mosquitoes, not Daesh, and fully understand their ecological value but they don’t half incense me.  I’ve even been to the cinema and watched the Jungle Book in a kind of extra-dimensional setting with authentic fly nibbles to add to the experience.  Hell, they even shown up at Captain America: Civil War.  They just love the cinema feel!

 

It is safe to to say that the weather has gone from pleasantly warm to the lower levels of Dante’s Inferno.  The unbearable rung of humidity comes in drips and drabs, literally – as people say.  My apartment’s air conditioning is on for at least 50% of the time I am present.  The sound drowns out the neighbour’s pet hawk sqwarking on the staircase outside.  Yes, the neighbour has been setting their chick loose for a month now, it has grown and is now fearless of me.  The staircase stinks of bird droppings now.  And hawks eat other chicks etc, so it can be pungent at best.  SARS-risk aside, it is quite pleasant to see local people taking on pets such as dogs and cats but to see a hawk is far from unusual – it is practically unheard of!

 

Esben and I met Bright last week for a reunion and meal at Munchalots in Houjie.  Afterwards we met Bright’s friend, drank good tea and fussed a six-month old crazy border collie dog.  Bright’s friend has students at my school, so hopefully I’ll see more of that energetic four-legged friend.

 

On Sunday afternoon, I had my bike fully serviced, a few minor repairs and parts replaced.  A new cycling computer (to replace one recently stolen from my frame) and a bag to fit beneath the handlebars added to a satisfying rebirth of the bike.  The Dutchess of Manchester is as good as new and rolls well.  Far better than last week’s sluggish rides back from football.  I could still race well against electric bikes and motorbikes when my wheels were more strained but it felt like an absolute chore.  The potholes of Houjie and beyond had hammered the bearings and buckled my wheels.  Now my bike seems to float.

 

Football has been busy with many games being played.  All have been a challenge but I seem to be just cresting my fitness right now.  It isn’t easy with the humidity but I am trying to get fitter and faster.  Eddy is back to shore up our inner sanctum board of players (Weng, Alex, Alain, Reuben, Eddy and I).  He has worked hard on securing a game in Tangxia to be watched by 2,000-20,000 students; games in Xiamen; a new league competition and several one-day cup games around the region.  I don’t know how he managed to get engaged with his commitments to Hubhao and a trip to watch Middlesbrough F.C. clinch promotion.  I give my heart-felt congratulations to Eddy and June on their engagement.  May they have long and happily complete lives saturated with joy and smiles.

 

I read many publications on wechat, via magazines and the like.  I am shocked at some of them, not because of their efforts to be outwardly controversial or critical of the People’s Republic of China, but purely because how mediocre and feable some of the text reads.  For example, how do the Chinese see foreigners?  Well a website called GUIDEINCHINA tried to generalise and tie them all together.  I hate being labelled.  They labled the type of foreigners found here.  “Foreign language teachers who can be in turn grouped into four sub-categories: A. genuinely professional, passionate teachers. B. older people in retirement willing to trade comfort for a more adventurous life. C. young people, predominantly male (with or without qualifications) who presumably ‘couldn’t make it back home and thus ended up in China’. D. tourists/stay at home wives-turned language teachers.”  Am I in catergory A or C?  It’d be easy to write a response on their forum and tell them where the horizon is and how to get there using expletives.  However, one statement I could totally relate to: “generally agreed among those surveyed that the attention foreigners get in China is disproportionate.”   Had it have said tall, I would have nominated them for the Chinese equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.  Interestingly, they mentioned the drive to China.  I certainly now have the “love for Chinese language/culture” but I couldn’t say any of the 4 reasons motivated me to come here.  I did like how the fourth question (Source of information to form impressions of foreigners in China) mostly stemmed from media portrayal.  When it comes to the below qualities, I see a few positives from many of my foreign friends here, and many friends who hail from this very nation.  I’d say generally, both foreigners and Chinese are equal here in the below qualities:

 

Open-minded, friendly, polite, well-educated, humorous, helpful, extroverted, sociable, funny, fun-loving, bar hoppers, party animals, sports lovers, financially secure, good-looking, pretty, athletic, creative, ambitious, egoistic, arrogant, superior-minded, rule-abiding, organised, religious, ambitious, straight-forward, progressive, aggressive, loud, selfish, stubborn.

We’re all individuals.  Don’t believe the truth…

#DOGOFFYAOMING

#JACKIECHANLOVESCATS

#YULINLYCHEESNOTMUTTS

#GUANGXICATSPROTECTION

#APPLEsayBOBBINStoDOGMEAT

#STOPYULIN

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Wombling free

16th May 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

A regular Tuesday usually involves a meeting of the foreign teachers, four grade 6 classes from class eigtht down to class five, a ten minute English language video viewing and a VIP class in grade 5.  Today has not been the usual smooth flowing day.  I was late to school by ten minutes because of the profligate lashings of morning.  Even in a rainjacket I did not fancy wading to school.  The meeting was sparse as Wendy, our leader, was unavailable, forsook in the primary school building, unwilling to splash her way to her office building at the fair end of the playground.  Tess (freshly returned from the U.S.A.) was a few minutes late, Beth anxious about her day’s open lesson, and Arvid as relaxed as ever.  With a term end date for foreign teachers set to June the 26th, I am trying to find out my finishing date.  That does mean five or six weeks remain… as it stands.  We shall see…  Following the truncated meeting, I sped to an office and attended class 608 as normal, ish.  My VGA to HDMI cable fell out of my pocket as I walked, landed under foot and resembling a crumbled plastic pancake afterwards.  So, class 608 met chalky chalk and good old fashioned blackboard (even though they are green).  We played games and made sentences.  I skipped to the next class to find class 607 was cancelled and replaced by photographs of each student.  No worries, I spent my time on the last blog post.  After lunch, I had photos with several classes before returning to class 606 for the remaining twenty minutes of the lesson.  That was cancelled only two minutes later.  Class 605 would finish the day… the VIP class capitulated to the now heavy afternoon tropical rains.

 

Following an early evening of unsettled weather, Murray’s F.C. Maine Road kicked off at 9.30pm and drew a game against Red Lions (Dongguan) F.C.  That was our first point in this season’s Dongguan International Football League.  Next up, we have top place Murray’s F.C. ATFC in what we call a “civil war” between our two offspring clubs of Murray’s F.C.  The other offspring Murray’s F.C. Bilbao are also doing very well.  In typical Maine Road spirit, M.F.C. Maine Road are bobbins for results but great on effort and spirit, a little like watching City in the mid to late 1990s.  Murray’s F.C. played at the weekend, and like last Thursday, I took a break.  This week there is the Dongguan International Football League game tomorrow night, a Thursday night game in Liaobu (an exhibition game), and an 11-a-side league game on Saturday in Tángxià (塘厦) also.

 

Thursday’s school day was swept away for the primary school day trip to Vanilla World in northern Guangzhou.  I accompanied Nancy and some of grade 6’s class 3.  By some, I mean 3 students from 40.  28 were mixed amongst other coaches whilst the remainder remained off school with chicken pox.  As I boarded the coach with Tess, Jack and Arvid, a student Mary plonker herself next to me for the journey.  Amongst my pigeon Chinese, it was actually a pleasant journey with much discussed, as best you can with an 11-year old girl.  On arrival at the gardens/theme park, class 603 reconvened.  Immediately, one student Alan, shown how bored he was, and how bored he would carry on being all day.  The tour guide escorting our class around, looked lost and for the most of it, he was.  I offered assistance with directions every now and then, whilst others just followed without question.  He really was a comedy tour guide.  After hundreds of photos and just as many mosquito bites (despite sunblock and repellent) we stopped for lunch.  At which stage, I was allowed to wander free of my class.  I was immediately stopped by five class 603 students who commandeered me.  Annexed we became an unlikely gang, a tribe lurching from ferris wheel to bumper cars to the ghost house (actually, one third of my band were too afraid to enter; and I just walked around laughing at how much screaming the remaining trio of students could do).  After a hyper afternoon, we reconvened by a museum in the park where the students made the custodian look very nervous as they selectively swarmed over ancient artefacts.  Hands touching where it said “do not touch” and camerasa flashing the “take no photographs” signs, with sugary food being consumed and drinks splashing the odd glass surface.  I had told them to obey the rules.  They said they would.  They did for the most part of the ten minutes, then it was fair game.  That museum custodian had her honeymoon period smashed from her foremind.  Boom.  We soon boarded the coach back and joined the procession of traffic jams all the way back to Dongguan’s sunny Houjie.  The hottest day of the year so far had hit 35°C.  It was stifling, yet not so humid.

 

On Friday night, I checked out a band called Deer at 8 Livehouse in Guǎnchéng (莞城).  Pre-music I tried pizza at Zoe’s Tea House.  The pizza was terrible.  The French fries equally so.  The drink was good.  As was the atmosphere with many boardgames and puzzles.  Next door there is a remote control car model shop and racing track.  There is a PADI diving centre nearby and a fake big wheel.  The whole area is filled with upmarket restaurants, cafes and bars.  It feels very plastic, like a movie set.

 

At the weekend, I visited HuYing Park (虎英公园) in Dōngchéng (东城) via bus 54 (2RMB) from Guantai Lu near Nánchéng (南城) bus station, after taking the L1 bus (3RMB) from Hòujiē (厚街).  The park is cleaner than most other city parks.  There are statues, trails and plenty of places to stroll.  The neighbouring hotel complex of Tangla does not interfere and it connects well to QiFeng Park over a bridge to the west.  The problem I have with the park is the noise from the small theme park, located quite centrally, fills most of the air with the sounds of “Xiao Pingguo” and other such non-works-of-art.  The ponds, streams, small pathways to the pavillion are pretty and there is evidence of some good wildlife in amphibians, insects (preying mantids, caterpillars and butterflies galore) as well as many beautiful sounds of singing birds.  If they turned off the mobile KTV boxes lining one hill, some people could escape the city and enjoy the cicadas gently humming – however, the KTV keeps the cicadas on constant alarm status.  It is a good park for someone with a camera and offers plenty of shade from the relentless sun.  Bring earplugs for true peace.

 

On the 28th of May 2016, Houjie (at Shanmei 珊美 and the Exhibition Centre 展览中心) and my local area of Liaoxia (寮厦)shall become more connected.  There’s a random stop a little far out called Chenwu (陈屋) which is barely surrounded by anything.  Line 2 of the subway/underground/metro/MTR trainline opens from Shílóng (石龙) in the north of Dongguan (by the Dōngjiāng river 东江) to Hǔmén Railway station (虎门火车站) in the south west by the Pearl River (Zhūjiāng; 珠江).  The townships of Cháshān (茶山), Dōngchéng, Nánchéng become that little bit closer.  I’m familiar with the two latter townships but have not explored Cháshān (茶山).  Nanshe Ming and Qing village (南社明清古村落at 511700茶山镇南社村) is located there.  A short underground ride will get riders to Shílóng (石龙) and such places as Shílóng Golden Bay (东莞石龙金沙湾) – a nature park.  Line 1 of the Dongguan underground hasn’t even been started yet.  For now, I can visit trees older than 100 years old and one tree that is 300 years old in Shílóng.  There might be dragon boat races there too at Jinshawan.

 

The opening of the underground sees new possibilities for evenings out and gentle walks.  It does mean places like Cháshān will join the growing list of places in this city that I have explored.  Cháshān could offer surprises like Nanshe or something else like Dongyue Temple (东莞东岳庙), you never know!  Now all I need to do is find a way to Yangling Cliff rock carvings (燕岭摩崖石刻)…

 

With respect to next semester, I have had some good, some bad and some terrible job offers ranging from Shanghai, Dongguan to Taipei and Birmingham, but I might have to devote the weekend to the next ride.  I have been insulted a few times with low job offers, and questioned almost every time if I a native speaker.  What I then don’t get is that when they tell me the offered salary, I tell them how low it is compared to mine, and how they then counter offer with something equally as insulting.  What further narks me off is how many offer an incorrect visa.  I want to do things officially to show my experience and level of education – not to to be a cheap commodity!  That doesn’t show respect!  Without an incey-wincey bit of respect, I won’t be knocking on their doors.  Ultimately, I could remain at Dao Ming Foreign Language School… but I need freshness, and HòuJīe (厚街) has changed so much, it really is a city now compared to the town I entered two and a half years ago.  The village of Liaoxia (寮厦) within is a different place.  A new beginning?  A new adventure?

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

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