By Rob Vlosky
So today I was teaching a module on resume writing to get my third year students sort of prepared for the post-graduation (next year) job hunt and graduate degree application process. These students are smart and many are going to apply for Master’s degree programs in countries outside of China or else begin the search internally for employment, mostly in their field of Management Information Systems.
Yesterday one of the kids came to see me during office hours to discuss her resume. Qidi is one of my better students – her English is nearly flawless, her father is a professor at a university in Shanghai, and her mom is a high school teacher; the kid has grown up around academics, and it shows. So as I’m reading her CV, phrases that jump off the page are “Student Cadre Leader” at University, and another about Extracurricular Activity as “Outstanding (Communist) Party Representative”.
My charge is to teach them business communications from an American/Western point of view, so I made it perfectly clear that I totally applaud their accomplishments in their short lives, but mention about Cadres and the Party would go over like a fart in a space suit in the States. During a lesson on interviewing, I talked about a range of illegal questions that could not be asked in America, courtesy of the ADA, EEOC, etc., and they all told me that in China, prospective employers always ask about age, marital status, plans to have kids, mental issues, disabilities, sexual orientation, etc.
On their current resumes, many of them have their gender, age, birthday (as if someone couldn’t do the math from the birthday), and usually a photograph of themselves. I asked them why many of their CVs had a photo and they all agreed that prospective employers want to know how pretty or handsome an applicant will be. OMFG!
I made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that they were to remove all this unnecessary private information, as well as any reference to them being good and loyal party members. The personal information is not required and the political affiliation stuff would be viewed unfavorably in many places outside of China.
On a different note, this morning at about 4:30am, a raft load of fireworks went off somewhere near my apartment – waking me up and pissing me off. Even though the Chinese are credited with inventing the stuff thousands of years ago, that is no excuse for waking up half the District with high powered explosives well before the rooster starts crowing. I asked my colleagues about this at the morning bus stop and the opinions were split: someone got married, someone died, someone bought a car, someone bought a house, someone forgot that the Chinese New Year ended four weeks ago, etc. My students were similarly stumped. Like, WTF?!?
(Still Wednesday the 28th) This afternoon I went riding the bike for a bit and when I got back to the apartment complex, one of the RIT faculty and two Lancaster (UK) instructors were outside in the courtyard drinking vodka and beer (this gets better, believe me) and they invited me to join them. Soon, another Brit from Lancaster came over with a bottle of wine and then a Chinese gentleman came over and gave us a bottle of beer. He spoke just enough English to let us know he is a professor of mathematics and physics at a regional university, and then we started drinking in earnest.
Then he went to his flat and brought back some snacks and a bottle of Baijiu, the Chinese version of white lightning, and stated pouring us all shots. It was his ”homemade” version, the bottle was stuffed to the gills with hot peppers and it smelled incredibly putrid – something definitely died in there! Then another bottle of wine appeared along with a fresh pounder of beer. The professor sang a song in Chinese – very nicely done, and we drank some more, and snacked, and then drank some more.
As the sun was setting through the pollution haze, we drank even more! Our party disbanded when it got too dark to make out exactly which vile brew was in our cups – I managed to stumble back to my apartment and make dinner which consisted of…….YES, rice and veggies plus fried squid fresh from the Yellow Sea (or so they say). The five kilo bag of long grain rice I bought two weeks ago is steadily dwindling – you can’t imagine how much “necessity is the mother of invention” applies here! It’s a good thing I know how to cook the stuff, and it’s good that the local market has lots of fresh produce that can be incorporated.
One of my colleagues started talking about artificial counterfeit eggs today, which is somewhat of a cottage industry here in China; seemingly real chicken ova that are manufactured in a home lab. I can’t make this shit up – Google it and you’ll see videos of how it is done. The fake eggs have shown up all over China in recent years and are just disgusting to think about. The “Paddy Mafia” has also figured out how to make, incredibly, FAKE RICE out of plastic resin and pass it off as the real thing. This is ripe for a segment of “60 Minutes - Shanghai”!
Since I’ve been here, there are a bunch of things that I have not had, including coffee, cheese, beef, pizza, a burger, bacon, milk or any dairy product, or good scotch whiskey. On the other hand, I stopped taking my ranitidine the day after I got here and have not had the slightest tinge of reflux despite eating a lot of rice (twice a day, usually), fresh fruit, and noodles. I also stopped taking Sudafed for a stuffy nose, probably because I’m allergic to Nike at home and there is no dog hair anywhere nearby here. I have been eating more potato chips, probably because they come in many new and exciting flavors here, including cucumber, seaweed, Italian meat flavor, numb and spicy flavor, smoked dog flavor, etc. Crunchy!!
Today one of the guys from Lancaster told me about the fried wasps he bought at the local market. I actually saw them in the deli-case (eat your heart out Danny Wegman!) and was thinking about giving them a try. Now that my friend Dmitri says the little buggers are “a bit crunchy, with a smoky finish”, they are definitely on the menu for this weekend. I think they are displayed alongside the fried beetle larvae.
I may have mentioned that these kids are virtually unable to function without their smartphones somewhere within their reach. The other day I was asking two students, “WHY do you always need to be on your phone?”, and the young man tells me it is just his “compulsive behavior.” So now, at the start of class, I make them power down their phones and put them on a back table. Some of them don’t do this and I see them texting away during lectures. Ya can’t win in this business. I had my first run-in with a student yesterday. He was actually flagged to me by other instructors as “a very smart kid but sometimes disruptive in class”. During my lecture, he was yakking with another student in the back row, so I stopped talking and asked him to move to another seat. The kid stood up, grabbed his stuff, and stalked out of the classroom. He doesn’t know that I know that the exact same thing happened last semester with another instructor/friend of mine here. What, do they think we came in on the last Peking Duck truck!