Getting My Eat On

More things to know!

8. Restaurant etiquette. You know the Western idea of a restaurant, yes? You are greeted by someone who says “Hello, how are you all?” or something to that effect. Then sometimes they may even tell you they like your clothes or something. It’s all about the presentation and we pay by the service.

In China, a waiter or waitress (generally waitress) comes to the table. She may say something like “Want any water?” and that may be it. Chinese people point to the food they want and will say “zhei ge” which means “this one” or “nei ge” which means that one, instead of talking or saying the food name. They’ll say “na ge” or “zhe ge” if they are formal… and as a plus it sounds a little less like the English “n” word.

On top of that, they may say “kuai diar (dian)” which means “faster!” This happens a lot. “Go faster I’m in a hurry!” and phrases like that. Also, you don’t order for yourself. The dishes come to the table and everyone shares. I really like that about the restaurants- you never get just one thing!

Huoguo or HotPot is delicious. Lishy had me try it stateside, but it really wasn’t quite as delicious as it is in Handan. There’s a boiling pot of soup in the center of the table, spicy or not spicy, where you put anything. Meat, vegetables, tofu, you name it. Once it’s cooked, you fish it out and put it in your delicious bowl of sesame sauce.

There are many people with portable cooking stands, that generally make you a mushu pancake or some dericious quick meal. You can say “Wo yao liang ge.” which means “I want two.” It’s still not correct Chinese, but they’ll understand and ask if you want meat or vegetables to which I say “Bu yao” “DO NOT WANT.” I’m sure there’s the possibility you can get food poisoning from these things, but hey, live a little, and stop being so Western.

Pancake McGhee

Pancake McGhee

Anyway, about my life recently in the motherland.

I’ve been teaching a small class of Spanish over here to fellow teachers and my Chinese boss’s daughter. I really enjoy teaching and I do that at my leisure. There’s something to be said about going the extra mile to enrich the lives of those around you. I think it’s a duty to my fellow man to do this work, especially if I’m getting paid more for less work.

The Chinese teachers here aren’t paid as much as the foreign teachers, not even close. While I understand the reason for this and understand the fairness of it (on some levels) I still believe that a foreigner should work just as hard. The Chinese teachers sign a contract to be at school every day for a much longer shift than any foreigner. I could consider this job a part-time job for the assigned hours given to me. Yet I choose to stay with the Chinese teachers, even if I’m just sitting around or teaching them extra English phrases. They think I’m really strange in general, but I think they appreciate the extra company.

I’m still conscientious of what it is to work the extra mile, what with essentially growing up at a grocery store and having my dad and mom make us help around the house or in the yard. I think some of my cousins are the same way- it’s how we learned to be raised. It taught me many things about working hard, and to this day I often find myself working more than my peers, which is perfectly fine with me.

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The Funny Thing About China Is…

This will probably be one of those on-going posts. From here on I’ll probably just put the number and go right onto what I’m thinking is strange to the lǎowài [foreigner].

First and foremost (thanks Wikipedia):
“In recent years the word ‘laowai’ has begun to stir up controversy within the expatriate community in China. In this way ‘laowai’ is similar to how Americans view the Spanish word gringo and Westerners view the Japanese word gaijin or the Thai word farang. This is because many foreigners in China believe that ‘laowai’ is a derogatory term. This is because some Chinese frequently shout out ‘Laowai’! to foreigners passing by, which may then be followed up with laughter and taunting.”

Just depends on the person, really, just like many things stateside.

Okay, things:
1. Babies have little slits in their pants to do number 2 or number 1 whenever they need to. If you can’t imagine it, just think about someone that’s just ripped their pants at the buttcrack. Yes, just like that. They generally try not to use the bathroom outside, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.

2. There is a culture to clinking a glass with someone at celebrations or large group events. This depends on whether you are male or female, what your rank or status is, and what you think of others. I always go low, haw haw.

3. Milk and eggs aren’t refrigerated here, nor are they refrigerated in a place like Germany, according to Miss Mander. The milk is in an air-tight container and the expiration date is generally a mere suggestion. There are less preservatives in the food and while it doesn’t last longer- it generally is healthier… unless I’m drinking spoiled milk, yeah?

4. Women see money as love holistically. Men try their best to earn a lot of money so they can find a beautiful wife. The reason behind this seems to be a compilation of complexities. I’ve been hearing it called a dowry for weeks ( and men already so obviously take advantage of women here), and it really bugged me to have that extra unfairness piled on, until I realized everyone meant bride price. I believe most of the people I know use the term “dowry” too, when they mean bride price. The dowry is the goods the woman brings to the table such as “Oh hey, paw’s got a lot of land y’all can have.” But the bride price is what a man must offer to a woman’s parents in order to marry. Anyway, this is the payback. If the man cannot pay for the woman’s bride price he generally isn’t allowed to marry her.

This is considering the parents are traditional, which may or may not be phasing out. I think good parents would offer the extra money to their children, and the children will support the parents if ever needed, but who really can say? Sometimes I feel like we are so lucky to be able to say “I chose him/her.” Even if you’re never married to your partner, you still get to choose who you can spend a life with. It’s very nice I think… but maybe there are nice things to “arranged” marriages too, along the lines of “mother knows best,” yeah?

5. Google is strange all on its own. Google and China apparently have an awful relationship. Most obviously, the reason is Google is anti-censorship, and China is pro-censorship. Google wants you to know everything and China wants you to know what they want you to know. Sometimes Google acts like I’m asking it to do a triple-flip into a 5-foot-deep-pool: NOT HAVING IT. It’s tough to use the internet in general. In fact, right now Word Press looks like some sort of graphic design template with nothing in the right area, like a student made the website from scratch or something.

6. The driving here is insane. There is no description worthy enough. However, in my personal experience, it’s not that Chinese drivers are bad. Shit, they don’t wreck constantly so I think they’re doing really well for just how painstakingly close they drive to one another. It’s almost like a sixth sense with good Chinese driving. The same goes for the bike lanes, which you may or may not be familiar with. Lots of bikes and lots of cars surviving the ride (mostly).

7. Food here is not what you imagine it to be. Get the idea out of your head. I’m sure the food’s really good but I haven’t been very adventurous, I’m sorry to say.

I’ve realized that about myself. When I don’t have at least one good friend around, my confidence sinks to zero. I feel almost desolate, which is strange, what with so many strangers saying “HELLO!” (jokingly and in seriousness) The confidence I have borrows from the comfort in my good friends and family members. I miss home something fierce and can’t wait to come back (and have a real Big Mac) but I’m going to stick this year out and do a good job at teaching.

But seriously, when I come back, I assume my family will be there and Kristen, and together we will have 50 Big Macs… mostly for me. And then I will vomit everywhere. Joyous reunion.

I think that’s enough for now. I’ll start with #8 if anything different comes my way.

Goodbye, Bye-bye, Bye, See you later
(if you meet a Maple Leaf student, they are destined to say one of these for the rest of their lives)

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Your Words, They Offend Me

Excellent writing advice, I believe from Kristen Iverson, is that “you must write as if your parents are dead.” Not taking that morbid comment literally, she means that when a good or even great writer puts down a thought, there is no discernment with the external world. There are only two existences when writing about one’s persona- the Self and emotions emitting from the past, present, or future. Sure, it’s always nice to appeal to others’ senses, but for the sake that most people reading also come from America, I find it okay to make this blog devoid of any indiscretions.

I Yahoo searched for the correct author, and came up with this website. Apparently a comic book writer’s professor found the same information as important as me.

Jason Aaron has a good summary “… write for yourself.”

It’s along the same lines of moving out. Your parents know you love them, but there comes a time when you must move out for yourself. That or you’re Latin American and don’t have the instinct to move away from mom and dad! (You know Spanish people often live with their mother and father even after they get married? I kind of love the idea, and then I remember how irritating that life can be.)

Here’s the meat of this presentation  I know I swear. Sorry about that. To be honest, there shouldn’t be any word with any form of power. I believe in “repossessing” words, as beloved Chinese superstar Wang Lee Hom describes it.

Read the transcript below about how Wang Lee Hom describes taking back the word “chink.” This is the same way I think about any racial slur, and kind of swear word. Perhaps that’s a musician way of thinking, like how rappers try to make the “n-word” their own again. I think it’s working slowly, but then again, I’m not African American, and I’m not Asian, and I think that my inhibition to talk about racial slurs is yet again another loop hole. My argument, in summary, is there shouldn’t be any word unused. Not to bring up J. K. Rowling (unfortunately I have to- she’s becoming an easily accessible literary example… and one of her competitors is Stephanie Meyer) but we’re not being simple when we ignore euphemisms, such as the use of “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” as a placeholder for Voldemort. We’re breaking through, -nerd voice- just like Harry Potter.

To further my argument, and bear with me because this might sound sacrilegious, but swearing doesn’t make me feel sinful.

Ephesians 4:29- “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” So when I say [Dude, you’re fucking awesome.] it’s still wholesome and I generally use swear words to benefit others, unless I’m talking about food. Which only means we have other problems, as I’m just being a glutton as well.
Peter 3:10- “For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” James 3:9-12- “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
Again, these interpretations are maybe why the Bible is so undeniably controversial. If I’m not deceiving anyone or doing something wholly evil, and if I’m generally not talking bad about others, except for rude as fuck strangers, then what exactly is a “curse word?” Am I casting spells on people or some shit? When and where do they end and who gets to choose what you can or can’t say? What about the thousands of other languages? Chinese people can teach me bad words, so does it only count if I know I’m saying a swear word? I know that many of you are either one side or the other; completely without knowledge of the Bible or a true believer.

As for me, I’m on the fence. I suppose that would file me in the “skeptic” tab. I love and respect religion, and I think the Bible is so incredibly packed with words of wisdom. However I still don’t really believe and can’t force myself to be that way. When I go to church I go out of habit or possibly duty. I know the Bible well, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a good read at times.

That being said, so many people in China are either agnostic or atheist. I wonder how entire countries could go without God and have no chance at salvation, completely unaware of salvation or a Promised Land for that matter. It just doesn’t really seem fair, you know? Do you think ignorance is fair? It just doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe it’s not fair, and this is what your God intended. And if paradise is only achieved through networking, I don’t want anything to do with your salvation.

And that’s my writing whilst completely disconnected from the outer world. I hope it was interesting at least. Next time I’ll write about more fun China facts.

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你好。我性家一。 我性美国人。我要水!

So for those of us new to the class, I’m living and working in Handan, China, the Heibei Province, for a year. Once again, I’m speaking a language like an angry baby “Me llamo es Jonny. Mes gustan los tacos por favor” como mis professores de Espanol le dijo sobre mi abilidad. I’ve been here about 23 days now, so for now I have nothing short of a fumbled impression to share with you.

As the job goes, the people I work with are pretty stellar. They are probably the nicest people I have ever met, at least by the first impression. The Maple Leaf English School cast of foreign teachers is as follows: Grant, headmaster, Karen, head foreign teacher, Mike, Jason, Mark, Josh, Irish Michael, Elsa, and Kelly, muy anti-social-red-headed girl. But I get that. The Chinese teachers: Liu, headmaster, Joanna, Peley, Alice, Ivan, Tony, Crystal, Lisa, Lydia, Helen, Jo, Tracy, head of Chinese teachers, Ice, Ruby, Jilly, Susan, Sara, and Ann. My best Chinese friend so far is the office boy, Peter. I feel like he and I are in the same kind of life situations (in Master’s school limbo) and are the same age, and might even act the same, if I were too shy to live. Sometimes he asks me “Have you eaten dinner?” and I’ll respond no, with nowhere leading from that conversation. I assume he means to ask me to eat with him, or I assume somebody’s making him ask and then laugh to myself about it all.

Friends here are humble, possibly even infallible people. They’re the most generous people I’ve ever known, kind of what I hope to be to American friends and what I see in some of my closest friends back home. That being said, strangers are rude as fuck. I just want to take all the rude people and put them in a box labeled “genetic cleansing.” Oh lawd- that’s dark. I believe that there is no culture of politeness (ie. waiting in line) but there is a tradition to honor (ie. clinking a shot glass lower than your superior). If you need to know what I mean, stand anywhere near the road in China for a second or two and see who is or isn’t polite to your well-being.

I’ve never been called handsome so much in my life. What’s most annoying about it is I’m not, really. Cute at the very best. Over here, it’s a chant that I can’t get away from, every day it happens at least once, if not a million times. Hundreds of people have asked me to take their picture with them, so I try not to stay still for too long for that reason. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. Maybe I’m just over it. Yes, of course it would be nice to hear that kind of stuff from people, but most importantly I don’t believe it. I can’t equate the feeling to any experience, but to me it feels as though people are saying “Hey black guy! You are so black!” I’m thinking yes, right on, that would be really fucking cool… but no, I’m super white man, sorry. The handsome thing has lost its “umph,” just like the North American phrase “how are you?” I suppose I could say it’s just the feeling of being lied at on a regular basis. Here I’m just different, not especially great or anything, and I hate toady people who try to get on your goodside like that ANYWAY, so why would I be patient about it now? So many sad foreigners I’ve met eat this stuff up. At the end of the day, I’ve never cared for who is or isn’t aesthetically beautiful, and now it’s being stuffed down my throat. There’s something to be said for a nice mind or a quirky personality, and I wish more people said that more often… no, not the beauty queens clawing for a crown or Scumbag Steve trying to get in Friendly Fiona’s pants. I wish more people knew raw beauty.

On top of that, it’s commonplace for men to point out how attractive other men are. Grown women often hold hands or hold each other crossing the street. They’re so Pagan and so not that the word gay or homosexual probably doesn’t appear in their vocabulary… and if it does, most of these people don’t know what it even means. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to worry about the Western fear of homosexuality, but at other times, I know they’re only like this because being gay is so socially invisible. I wonder what a downtrodden or secluded life gay Chinese people may live. I worry for them, and then remember it’s even worse in other countries.

Alright, enough of that. The bathrooms here smell awful. I’ll never forget it for my entire life. I could probably never describe it to you. Lately though, I can’t really smell it anymore.

I’m already picking up Canadian mannerisms and British quips from my coworkers. My chameleon instincts will likely translate me into this unclassified dialect, and I’m okay with that. I haven’t really made a best friend per say; you’re kind of forced into this family whether people like your or not due to the small island syndrome. OH HEY, YOU’RE WHITE, RIGHT? OH YOU SPEAK ENGLISH. My hang out sessions feel like a meeting of the world powers, or something quite to that effect.

I miss my friends. I just want to be in Morgantown playing Balderdash right now. Or eating a god-damned real piece of cheese. Maybe a Big Mac or pizza, even though I can get that stuff here. But traveling does that to a person. I am certain, as soon as I leave China, I’ll want to have some pulled noodles with spicy sauce and beef, or a mushu pancake with vegetables and eggs. I’ll feel more confident about speaking Chinese and I’ll wish I would have taken more opportunities. But I guess that’s how life is. There are regrets that evolve into nostalgia over time. i Hasta luego !

There are women screaming above me. I’ll seize the moment and check it out. Hopefully I don’t get killed… or interrupt… er… something. 哎呀。

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Roundabout Acting

So I was talking to Katie the other day about acting. I have this weird deep love and raging hate for it myself, but I’m pretty sure I understand people that do it and actively pursue it. It’s fun to live a different life in one glittering moment.

Anyway, the most important thing about this post is that I really do have a certain tight-knit relationship with actors. I have thing for creating different lives on paper. The only difference with me is I can’t stand being someone else, and I think that’s why I’ve never really enjoyed acting as much as most of my colleagues. I just like being me too much, I guess (not that they don’t!).

That being said, I’d say the problem with certain actors is they don’t have the ability to snap back to reality. Some of them are so busy living other lives that they never really make any time to have their own personality; they’re just a collection of various writer’s/directors thoughts. At the end of the day, who are you. Do you live your life for someone else?

Haha, the director looks more like a pimp with a strong hand… whatever.

Anyway, I know that my actor friends always have been the type of people to stay grounded. They never have turned into someone else and they never really got too involved in one particular role. That is pretty much the essence of good acting. It’s the ability to change what person you are on command, and returning to yourself when the curtain is called.

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We Could Talk To Each Other About Each Other


That’s right, I’m going there again.

There’s no other way to talk about this subject besides using circumlocution.


I’m an independent thinker. And by “independent thinker,” I mean I generally have a controversial outlook on every topic. A go-getting eccentric and a leader by nature, there’s nobody I’ve met, in great or small ways, that I didn’t feel the need to take care of… or possibly even take under my wing. I am an idealist in friendship, in that I think everyone could love one another if they were just humble enough to say “I’m sorry” and mean it. If that were possible, we could all just live, and not worry about friend termination. If I had one wisdom to share in this life, I would tell you: friendship is just as much art as painting, and apologies are the strokes necessary for great life-altering work.

I love to inspire people, and I love people that awe me in selflessness. It is for that reason that I can’t seem to find it in myself to completely forgive anyone if they’ve really scarred me, unless they’re willing to bridge the “I’m sorry” gap. The most poignant humbling enhancer is that key; the “I’m sorry” key that unlocks that beautiful altruistic spark in people.

This may be shocking (ha ha), but I don’t get along with everyone, though I pretend to on many occasions, but I can find it within me to respect everyone and everyone’s opinions. I seek Nirvana in the friends that teach me lessons, but I so easily burn bridges with anyone that lets me down and doesn’t feel the need to mend the wound. People that aren’t excited by our friendship enough to help me fix it just don’t get me at all.

“A friendship that can end is one that never really began.”

In my mind, I am the firstborn among both my family and my friends- though that isn’t physically true. The problem with me is I demand entirely too much of other people and I push people, just as an elder brother. I have especially high expectations for men, because every met stereotype about American men makes me throw up blood. The fake deeper voice, the disrespect of women, the overall meanness, and general slobbing is disgusting. Trust that I know there are disgusting women too. Also trust that most people are beautiful, depending on how much patience you give them.

Because of my unique thinking, I often cause problems sharing what I think about anything, and I can’t let anyone change my mind. Argue with me, but I’m just too realistic. I know who everyone else is and I know myself entirely too well. That’s the same reason I hate the technique of pointing out my flaws when we’re in an argument. First of all, I know me. And second of all it’s completely impossible to change my mind or another person’s mind, especially through mockery.

There are certain people in the world that I refuse to trust, that I refuse to love, that I refuse to accept, because I know or have experienced who and what they are or at least the archetype that person follows. There are hateful people out there. You may call me stubborn, but look at the place you’re at in life, and think about how much different you really are from your past self. People do change… but in very small increments.

The one thing I think people understand about me is I have the emotional and physical stamina for a great deal of things. I hate whining and I hate laziness. I hate it when people let other people stifle their fun. But people know I will be there to take care of you should your strong personality falter. (Because if we’re good friends, you obviously have a strong personality.) Being a “rock” has been my favorite and the most rewarding recurring role among my friends, and I don’t intend to quit.


Before I go, let’s get one thing straight. I am a very forgiving person, but I won’t waste my precious time on selfish people. Don’t mistake holding grudges for keeping my integrity.

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Appreciate the Sun

Wind torrents within my mind, bouncing like a fast disease running from ear to ear. Go away wind. And you too, sun, go away air, go away oxygen, so I can forget you, too. My soul is screaming to live off of memories. No, just get the fuck out, I’m sick of the wind! Whistling, cutting like a knife, sending a constant chill through my spine. I can only understand; my soul is angry, too.

Did it have to come to this? When I listen to the sun, I feel at one with the world… as if… somehow, everything makes sense The forces of nature chime in and almost seem know what they’re taking about. But then, as strong winds push at my ear canal and shove me, I snicker, because I’m reminded by the bitter nothings in my ear.

I enjoy fighting, keep it coming.

Adaptation in the form of dark black wings sprouts from the muscles and tendons behind my shoulder blades. Suspended in air on new wings, now I know me. Thanks. I know what I have to offer, and I know that I am making the best out of my life. Knowing that forgiveness is a release of the past… we’ll just have to let go of the fact that you’ll never grow, you’ll never change. And while paired with the sun, you’re tolerable- the rest of the time you’re just a nuisance.

I am exhausted, and yet so relaxed.

I am floating effortlessly by the tough lessons I swam through in that sea of memory. I can only understand. I can only live. Can’t I just have my own opinion and float on forever? I don’t want to hear what they have to say, in the “real world,” the sun beating down on me or the clouds sugar-coating a hot day. The wind will always talk bad about me, or lie to me. It will only push and hurt, because it has no other job. We share a healthy, low-maintenance enemy-ship and I’m happy. Happier than one could ever be. I just wish I could explain it to the other guys.

So go ahead wind. Bring your pain and rain, your thunder and hunger, and your stupid storms. Tear shit up. I’ll fix it.

I will still have the sun. And my umbrella.

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