Sunday, May 31, 2015

Oh Yeah BTW I Moved To China (Month 14)

Once Again, It Pays To Be A Foreigner

This month started off similar to April, in that my pale skin and big nose earned me some extra cash and free entertainment. I was invited to attend a May Day Festival in the outskirts of Foshan, a place called Shunde. Not as glamorous as the previous engagement with Cheryl Sisters, no Russian Leonardo Dicaprio look a likes, or endless Spanish wine, but still fun. If they had asked, I would have attended this event for free. However, getting paid to watch Dragon Boat Races, eat free food, watch Kung Fu demos, and being interviewed by local T.V. and Radio isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. 

Richard doing a radio interview about the days events.
They actually asked weird questions that had nothing to do with what was going on.
Disregard my TV interview and the VIP treatment my white skin granted me, I suspect Shunde does not have many non-Chinese visitors. Even before we arrived at the event, people were stopping to stare at us. One guy pulled over the side of the road and took pictures of us from his car. Others were less shy, or rather less creepy, and they asked to take pictures with us.

The entrance to the park.
Go, go, go, go, go!
Preparing for the race.
Lunch was served at a really fancy hotel.

Lunch time.
It's also good to foreign because I don't have to put up with the shit my Chinese coworkers go through. The management of this school treats the teachers like they are disposable. Maybe it's just the way business is done here in China, but it's strange to see such a clear, night and day difference between the concept of a  Boss, the concept of a  Leader. There are no Leaders here at the school, just Bosses. The teachers I work with live in fear of the Principal and her hoard of obedient Minions. The principal is constantly looking for ways to save money. But instead of looking for ways to be more efficient, they look for small, petty, bullshit reasons to dock the pay of their workers.

Here are is just a sample list of offenses that will result in your pay being docked:

  1. If your hair in longer than shoulder length and not in a pony tail while on school grounds.
  2. If you live on campus, you must be inside the gate by 8:30 on a weeknight. I'm not joking.
  3. If you live on campus, you are never allowed to have guests. Even if it's after hours or on a weekend when no children are present.
  4. You must attend meetings after work, AFTER YOU HAVE CLOCKED OUT!
  5. You can't ask for leave on a Friday. If you do, your check will be deducted by three days. Yes, I'm serious.
  6. You cannot chew gum.
  7. If the air-conditioning is on in the English office, one of the foreign teachers must be present. Again, I'm not kidding.
  8. If in the English office, YOU MUST be standing when you work. Because as we all know, if you're sitting down to do work, you're not really working, you're just looking at porn.
  9. If you want to leave campus during lunch, to you know, maybe try a new restaurant or have lunch with a friend, you must ask a week in advance. I've been told that this request is usually denied.
Thankfully none of this applies to me. I can't dress all crazy or show up drunk to class, but I have much more freedom than my Chinese coworkers. I've also been told by a few people that many of the above policies are illegal, but my coworkers don't know, and of course the school isn't going to tell them. I used to get really involved and emotionally invested in the drama hear. Mainly because I can see what it does to morale and I care for the people I work with. 

I've had this conversation at least 30 times:

"Come on, stand up for yourself! You can say no!"
"No I can't, they will take my pay! It's China, this is how things are done."
"But remember when Sunny left and they tried to cheat her, and she got a lawyer and they got scarred and she got her money? And now she's much happier at her new job!"  
"I know but I just can't..." 
So now I just do what I have to do, listen if they need to confide in me, and count down the days until my contract ends.

Random Stuff

1. Have you ever been leaving a sushi restaurant in a mall and noticed Michael Jackson lyrics on the wall outside a public bathroom? 
Me either.
But in China it's normal thing I guess.

Showin how funky strong is your fight, it doesn't matter who's wrong or right! Just Beat It! Beat It!

2. Have you ever been in a decent Turkish Restaurant and thought, 
"You know what would make the meal complete, strippers!"

Again, me either.

When they started to clear the stage I was hoping a band was going to go on. But instead, this lovely creature came out and started to do her thing. I'm never not in the mood enjoy the female form, but the timing was really off, and the whole scene was kind of uncomfortable. 

It wasn't a strip club, or a night club, it was a restaurant. It wasn't even after-hours, it was 7:30pm on a Thursday: 

She didn't get all the way naked (sorry fellas, phone ran out of battery power before then) but she did get down to her bra and panties, which let me state again, I'm a fan of. But in a restaurant with children? Really?

3. China will appropriate anything!

Look out H&M, you have some competition in the men's underwear game! 

H&L is on the scene! 

And it's a 2 pack!
And they have a celebrity endorsement! None other than the almighty Taylor Swift!

Taylor Swift Approved!
Oh China, your English translations are priceless!

In case you can't read what's above, it says:

"Haoliang underwear, selection for the plot, the design constant with international brands philosophy and the simplicity of style.  
At the mean time, the design concepts include the value of fresh and naturals, elegant  carefully selections of comfortable and softly material of high quality for all the city's men."

4. Maybe his parents don’t know about weed/stoner culture and they just thought it was a cool shirt because it’s Western.  Or they are colossal potheads and use their son to advertise that they smoke weed. Either way, Lawrence from my upper kindergarten class was all smiles.

Ironically this was the most calm I've seen him all semester...
...maybe the shirt was laced with THC!

My Birthday

California is going through a terrible drought, and this part of China is getting Biblical, Old Testament category rainfall on a weekly basis. 


Yeah, this is real.

And this video is also real. I was on this bus, kind of freaking out. 

Everyone else seems to think it's normal for seven inches of water to be on the bus, except me. Then again, it's China, things are different here. More crazy rain video below.

I spent a majority of my birthday drenched from the rain, but I did manage to squeeze in some good meals and entertainment with my friend LG. 

Sampled some local, homemade wine.
Not for the timid. It's REALLY strong, but quite good.
The real back streets of Guangzhou. People were looking at my like they'd never seen westerners before.
Want a backpack? They got you covered.
Local flavor.
Birthday beer.

This was so spicey! But sooooo good!
Very typical here in China.

I can’t believe I am almost 40 years old. In a few short years, my life, statistically speaking, will be half way over. 

I go back and forth between, 
“This is exactly where I’m supposed to be. This trip to China has expanded my horizons and pushed my art in a new, exciting direction. Be patient and just keep painting...
Things will happen.” 
"I’m almost 40! I’m running out of time!"
"Something needs to happen soon or else that’s it!” 

The time I’ve spent here has taught me to be patient when it comes to other people, but in regard to my own personal timeline, how I think my life should be, my ego says "I WANT IT NOW!"

Does anyone else feel this way? For those of you that are 40, or almost 40, or older than 40, how do you feel about timelines? 

Is it normal to feel this way or am I completely insane?

Monday, May 04, 2015

Oh Yeah BTW I Moved To China (Month 13)


Welcome Mr. Jeff From London

One of the essential things needed to enjoy life here in China is the attitude of, “Hey man, just go with flow.” This belief has served me well in America, where many random opportunities came my way. “Only you Musser" or “how they hell did you get involved in that?” are common things said among my friends.  It seems that the “Only you Musser” has carried over across the ocean to “Zhong Guo” which translates to “Middle Kingdom” aka China. 

See, my Mandarin is improving!

Early in the month I received a message from my friend Albert via Wechat, which is a mobile app here in China, sort of like a combo of Twitter and Facebook. Albert's friend William was planning a party for the employees of his company Cheryl Sisters and he needed two foreign “models” to attend the party. Would I and Richard be interested in filling the role? Free food, free drinks, cool people at a nice hotel and yes, I would get paid. 

When I messaged William to confirm my involvement, the description changed slightly. He told me that, I wouldn’t actually be modeling; I would be playing the role of their “Online Marketing Executive from London.” The story was, I had flown in for a few days to celebrate a good quarter of sales, and then it was back to London to keep the "Cheryl Sisters Ship" a float in the UK.

Welcome Mr. Jeff "from" London!

What if people wanted to talk about the company and my role in it? He assured me that out of the 70-80 attendees, only a handful of people would be able to speak English. What about my “Non British, very American accent? Wouldn’t people notice?” Probably not. I was going to say no, but then I thought, “Hey man, just go with flow. This whole thing will probably be a good story.” 

William was correct in that almost no one spoke English, but he didn’t tell me how many pictures I would be taking or the fact that I would go on stage to present a novelty check!

Me in the middle slightly confused but going with it.
Cheryl Sisters "Core Strategy VIP Exclusive" Fashion Mister Dinner Party.
William on the left was my "boss."
Rich the "Head of Development and Research" from LA.

Some of "our" products.
One of the many Cheryl Sisters employees that had no idea I was a fraud.
I did a lot of toasting.
One of the perks of the night was the food.
mmmmmmm, Lobster :)
Pre-dinner gathering.

Later on after the party I found this article on Yahoo that talks about how the "Hire A Foreigner" business is a widespread thing here in China. In case the teaching thing doesn't work out, I can always be a "Foreigner for Hire."

These two non Chinese folks are actually real models from Guangzhou. The tall guy I nicknamed "Russian Leo"
Susie & Russian Leo.
More toasting. 

One of the many skin care products "my company" sells.
Product shot.
Posing, quite literally.
I don't know what any of this shit says.
"Focus On Skin For 100 years."

Let Me Buy You A Drink Mr. Handsome

I have lost count of times a Chinese guy has told me how good looking I was. On numerous occasions I have been at a bar or club and a Chinese guy, between the age of 18 and maybe 25, has offered to buy a drink. “Oh you are so handsome. Please come and meet my friends.” My is this guy gay radar goes on high alert, but I don't wan to be rude, so I say yes. And when I meet his friends, I find that his friends ARE ALL GUYS. Not one girl in the group! Now the gay radar system is on high alert, Defcon 5No big deal of course, but here is the thing, they aren’t gay. Or they don't want me to think they are gay.When I bring up the question of being gay or not, they come back with a firm, almost confrontational NO!

I’ve asked many people here about this, men and women, and their answer is, well Chinese guys are just friendly like that. If a man I don’t know says hello at a bar in the states, offers to buy me a drink, and introduces me to all his guy friends, he’s testing the sexuality waters. He wants to know if I play for his team or not. It’s a very clear scenario that I’ve adapted to. Which is fine of course, because no amount of free gin & tonics are going to erase the fact that I’m a vagina only type of man. And who knows, maybe his friends are art lovers? Potential collectors are everywhere! Anyway, I’m like a fish out of water with this “Chinese guys are just friendly like that” thing. 


When it happens, I do the Chinese thing, I act modest, smile and say, “Oh no. You are too kind.” I appreciate it, but here is the thing, I think they are just excited to meet a white foreigner. Foshan is the size of Los Angeles, but it's still considered a small city in China, so foreigners are still a novelty for a lot of Chinese people here. And truth be told, I’m not that handsome. I’m not a twisted hideous freak, but I’m not movie star handsome either. I could never do any type of modeling, despite the "modeling" I did for Cheryl Sisters from the previous paragraphs. Nor am I unusually tall. In the looks department, I’m that happy medium, a 6 on the 1-10 scale. Which is fine because this is the packaging I came in and I love it. Now my friend Micah in Sacramento, now he’s a good looking S.O.B. He could easily do run way or print modeling. As could my friend Ryan, who actually does do some modeling. Both of them walk into a place and women loose themselves to the point they freeze. I walk into a bar and women think, 
“Hey, that guy looks like a younger Ira Glass.”

This is me in about 15 years.

Irs'a not a bad looking dude, but in the looks department, he's no Clooney. I do however look decent in well-tailored suit and I’m not a complete bag of shit, so it bumps me up to a 7.5. 

Plus it could be worse, people could say I look like a young Gary Busey!

Busey's portrayal of Buddy Holly in 1978 brought him fame.

What about the Chinese ladies? What do they say?
Women don’t say a goddamn thing here! 
It’s just like in America in that 99.999999999999999% of the time the man has to make the first move in order for the courtship to start. There are the drunken exceptions, but that’s never a good thing. 

And the non-drunk assertive ones here in China are prostitutes:

Beware or women that message you on Wechat with a picture like this.
They will ask if you are good man and will say, "Dear Brother I buckle." 
Which doesn't exactly make sense in English, but you get the idea.

Speaking of hookers, saw I this loving lady at the ATM, 2 o' clock in the afternoon either before or after a shift.

I guess she dropped something...
Hookers need to put their money somewhere.

And I'm not sure if she was a working girl, or if she just had a wardrobe malfunction.


If You Want Kids To Behave, Give Them Chocolate

I have learned that if I want my students to be focused and well behaved, they have to compete against each other for some sort of prize. To keep them from going off the rails, I use a team vs. team, points system approach. But when I introduced chocolate imported from America, I saw an enthusiasm in their eyes I have never seen before! The following weeks Easter projects were a breeze with the promise of chocolate for the best behaved.

Thanks mom and dad for the lovely treats.

American chocolate! Fancy as hell!
Easter fun.
One can never go wrong with Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut.

Jerry makes me crazy sometimes, but I love him.

Vivi and Angel.
Finally, chocolate time!
More next month :)