Friday, December 23, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Cambodia

I'm here, I'm here! And in about 12 hours my family will be too. The flight and customs were all really easy. It makes me laugh that although the airport is new, they basically have the same system for processing tourist visas as they did 14 years ago - which is you give your passport to one dude, and he passes it down the line to nine other dudes, and then they hand it back to you with a little paper receipt. Ah, Communism.

On the flight over I thought back to my first trip in 1997. I remember all day counting down the hours until I might possibly meet my sister (it was supposed to be a girl back then ... big surprise). I can remember the humidity and the sort of vegetal way the air smells down here, all exotic and new for an Alaskan kid. 

My taxi driver today spoke great English. He told me about his three kids, one in college, one just graduated and one doing graduate work in Japan. He told me his idea is that school is very important, but that most Cambodians think it's important to get married young, 19-20 for women and 21-22 for men. "If girl is 25 they say TOO OLD, TOO LATE ... TOO OLD, nobody love you." I got a kick out of that.

In unrelated news, the citizens of the happiest country on earth are pretty bummed out today. I can't say I understand their pain, but I did spend a few moments reflecting on the dear leader here. Pour one on the ground for that homey, he shouldn't have worked so hard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Terrible Work Phone Etiquette

Me: Hello


Me: Yes, hello?

Caller: HELLO?!?!?!

Me, now in Chinese: Who is this?

Caller: HELLO?!?!?!?

Me, still in Chinese: WHAT DO YOU WANT?!


SLAM. Me hanging up the phone.

God help me if I ever have to work in customer service.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Chinese Education

A Chinese magazine had an article about a couple, father is American, mother is Chinese, both have degrees from prestigious US universities, and they've decided they'd rather their child get a Chinese education.

One of my favorite translation blogs, Ministry of Tofu, has the scoop.

It's funny to me, because I graduated high school early and as a teenager believed there were serious, fundamental problems with the American education system. Our system is far from perfect, but now, having lived in Asia for three years and having worked in education, I know that if I had to, I would pay through the nose, do whatever it took, in order to give my child an American education as opposed to a Chinese one.

American education emphasizes independent thinking, creativity, critical analysis and confidence-building. Plus, American kids have time to play. I'd rather raise an individual than a worker bee.

It's very interesting to me that people, especially those with experience in the US education system, could come to the exact opposite conclusion of what's best for children.

But then, there are a whole lot more rich Chinese people who send their kids to high school in Canada or pay for private education here, this couple is an outlier.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blogs? Who has time for writing blogs?

Not me. Maybe next year. I'm thinking after mid-January I might actually have free time again. Can't wait!

In the interim, check out my fourth and final cover story of 2011, New Frontier, all about innovation in China.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

House Coat Time

It is now that special time of year where if I don't warm up my coffee cup with hot water ahead of time, my coffee goes cold a minute after pouring. We have heaters, but it's drafty in our place. Thankfully last Christmas my parents gifted me a really excellent house coat. It's blue with snow flakes, couldn't be sexier, and really locks in the heat. 

Good news: We've had a pancake house down the block that delivers for about a year now, but now another little fast food joint on the corner has started offering breakfast, meaning I can get pancakes, stuffed french toast OR huevos rancheros delivered on a weekend morning. Shanghai is so not real China. I love it.