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Erin is always talking about her jobs so I figured I would inform people more about my job. I work in a cultural exchange company, which basically recruits and sends students from China to study abroad. The company that I work for primarily sends high school students to study at high schools in the USA, but we have many other programs like summer camps, work and travel programs, a program for foreigners to come study in China, etc. My office is in southwest Beijing, a place that foreigners basically never venture to, so it has a somewhat “Tangshan-ny” feel to it, which is fun. Now that the weather is warmer, I can ride my bike to work which halves the amount of time it used to take on the bus, plus I eat enough carbon and dirt on the ride over that I don’t need to have breakfast. I get to ride past the Temple of Heaven, one of China’s most famous landmarks, and almost everyday I look over and think, “Wow I live in Beijing,” similar to living in Washington, DC and seeing all the monuments.

I am the only foreigner at my office of about 10 people. Almost all of them speak good English, so there is no difficulty communicating with people. Although I go to the office everyday, I don’t always have a lot of work to do in the office (hence me writing this post right now (shhhhh)). Unfortunately, the planet that we live on is an imperfect sphere, so there are times where the sun is shining on one side and not on the other. Seeing as I am the only native speaker of English, it is my duty to deal with the foreign partners that we work with, trying to coordinate our existing business as well as create and establish new projects. This sometimes means staying up late or getting up early to coincide with other time zones, but it isn’t too bad for the most part (I hate the west coast of America though). We have stopped working with some of our old partners and started working with new ones since I have started working here, and I assume that in the future I can add a lot more partners. Now that I have been in Beijing for a while, I am meeting more and more people interested in working together, and I think that there are some potentially exciting possibilities for future projects and such. As I always say to people, there is a never ending sea of Chinese students that want to study abroad. Let me tell you why.

First, there are more than a billion people here. Second, the Chinese education system is strict and outdated in many ways, so some students and families really want the best education they can find. Third, success in the Chinese education system is completely reliant on doing well on tests, especially the “Gao Kao”, literally meaning tall test, which is given at the end of high school. If a student does well on the Gao Kao, they can choose what and where they want to study, but if they do badly, they will potentially have to study something that they don’t want to at a place they don’t want to. Not only that, the job market isn’t exactly ripe for new graduates, with about 20% unemployment for college grads, and the people with jobs aren’t making a lot of money for the most part. So, we provide a service primarily to the students that are not going to do well enough in China to study at a good school, and either their parents are really rich and want to send them abroad, or their parents are willing to make a gigantic sacrifice to give their only child the best possibility of succeeding. As we have mentioned before, having one child tends to leave Chinese children spoiled and unprepared for adult life, but you can also see the pressure that is placed on these children from a young age. If a child doesn’t succeed, not only will the child suffer, but the parents of the child, who are relying on their child to care for them when they get older, will also suffer. It is a complicated and different attitude then in the USA, but their society demands it in a way.

The job isn’t always exciting but the people I work with are pretty solid. It is a fairly laid back atmosphere, in large part due to me being a foreigner. People here have treated me well and we get along, which is better than almost every other place that I have worked. I also have a chance to meet a lot of enterprising and interesting people, which is really the best part of the job. Many of the students we send really don’t “get it,” never even attempting to embrace American culture or talking to their host families, but some of them really do. Some of the students are really special and it is really refreshing being able to help them pursue a dream. I do think that programs like this are important for developing the relations between China and the rest of the world, and, obviously, it is a field that is only starting to open the floodgates. The number of Chinese students that studied abroad grew by about 30% SINCE LAST YEAR!!!! I really can’t explain how many students there are (more than 1.2 million), but just know that almost every boarding school and university in the USA is bombarded by applications from China, and it is only the tip of the iceberg. It is a pretty exciting field these days.

Only about a month before I become an uncle! Can’t believe it. Hope that everyone is doing well and enjoying the spring weather. Our rabbit is doing well, getting fat, and starting to really gain confidence in his exploring of our house. He has learned how to climb onto our bed by jumping onto the nightstand or climbing up a backpack, pretty clever little guy. Whatever he can do to spread his little turds to as many places as possible it seems. Another post coming up soon, as they say in China “Bye bye.”

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

“Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.”

-Laozi (aka Lao Tzu)

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Despite proclaiming, “I would’ve never taken this rabbit home,” the new rabbit owner has proven to be just as cute as his cuddly companion. I just had to post this email chain between David and I:

On Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 10:13 AM, Erin Henshaw wrote:
is just sitting on the ground where the sun comes into the window.

On Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 10:48 AM, David Jacobs wrote:
haha funny little poop machine. we need to get him a litter box asap, start training him. its not very hard but we need to find his favorite place to poop. we could maybe get two cages, one for sleeping one for pooping and playing

On Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 12:28 PM, Erin Henshaw wrote:
we don’t need two cages, r u crazy? how would we ever go away if his litter box isn’t in his regular cage? anyway it’s fine:
Use a cage large enough to contain a small litterbox (along with bunny’s food and water bows, toys, etc.) and still allow enough room for the rabbit to stretch out. Place the box in the corner of the cage that he goes in. With a litterbox in the cage, when the rabbit is confined to his cage when you’re not home, cage time is learning time.

ok…I will try to go back to Lee pet. just finishing up a few projects and a blog post!

On Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 1:20 PM, David Jacobs wrote:
the thing needs to be able to run around and jump. if they only give store credit to lee pet that is fine too cuz he will need tons of hay. i wanted to maybe make him a play area like this… *Note* Must read this document to fully understand hilarity of this post.

From: Erin Henshaw
Date: Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 1:27 PM
Subject: Re: tutu
To: David Jacobs

hahaha good thing we are moving…perhaps the whole upstairs can just be a rabbit playground! I added a litter box to the cage that’s a plastic carry out container. now we know why he liked sitting in the bowl!

I have also included some photos of the one-week older Tutu, who has almost grown out of his rabbit leash already! Check out the photo where he’s asleep with his head on the computer.

And yes…we have a rabbit leash.

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There’s a new member of the ToneDeaf family! Yes, it’s a baby…and no, it’s not a human. It’s Tutu, our little xiao tuzi (rabbit!) We visited Tangshan this past weekend to see our pregnant friend Ada, the school, and our Dongbei Mama Baba. Upon arriving I ate hot pot with old friends, and tried a new delicacy…duck blood. The blood comes in a bowl, and you scoop out little pieces and boil them in the hot pot. I was definitely disgusted by the bright red appearance and gelatinous consistency of the blood, but as my Harbiner friend insisted, it really wasn’t too bad. I have to give the Chinese credit for eating every part of the animal.

After Hot Pot we stopped at the Dongbei restaurant and found that they had a cute little white bunny. He had been dropped off by a young girl who wasn’t allowed to keep him (her?), and he wasn’t eating, drinking or moving too much. I immediately picked up the little cutie and he slept in my arms. My previous experience with rabbits is that they nip and always run away from humans, so I was surprised that this one was so calm and friendly towards people. To make a long story short, the suggestion of the Dongbei ren to take the rabbit, its friendly personality and David’s comment that he thought he may die if he stayed in the restaurant without proper care prompted our adoption! We took the little guy home on the bus where he slept on my chest for 2 straight hours, and he has been pooping on our floor and putting love in our hearts ever since!

Seriously though, he’s a really cool pet so far. I embarrassingly admit that I almost killed him during our first half hour home because I put him under the warm faucet to clean off his feces. Apparently rabbits can go into shock from water. I didn’t throw him in and he didn’t even resist, but he stopped moving for a little while before David rushed in and said, “You may have killed the rabbit…it says not to wash them.” I know, I know, my Dad is a veterinarian; I just figured he was like our ferrets…very, very wrong. Well, now that he’s alive and well I love him all the more. He often rests in between my arm and side, or nestles in between our legs. He actually follows us around the room a bit, and is quickly gaining weight and healing his hurt leg. David is like a proud new father, and has already bought him two new cages, two huge bags of food, a bunny leash and has researched how to appropriately train him (even potentially to swim!) He must sense that I’m writing about him, because he is sitting at the side of the bed looking at me.

OK, now he is on my lap sitting nicely as I type.

I never thought I would own a rabbit, but so far so good! I will take him to the vet shortly, and perhaps even to visit America one day…as rabbits are in the category of carry-on luggage, woo! How ironic yet perfect that we would acquire this little during the year of the rabbit. Despite the fact that we don’t know his gender (I think it’s a girl but I’m notorious for calling animals by their opposite) or age, it seems we will be hanging on to this guy well beyond our China experience.

So back to the story…

Ada is doing great at 6.5 months along in her pregnancy. We gave her a mini baby shower with gifts I brought back from the states. (Especially the $1 store baby bottle made in China, bought in the US and brought back to China…just because I thought it would be funny.) She’s so darn small I had to take a few pictures to even show she was pregnant, and of course she makes us miss Christine. She says if the baby is a girl, her English name will be Erin. Our Chinese friends are so darn nice!

David also met with his old student, Sunny. This little girl loved David so much that she shaved her head last semester after David shaved his in Hong Kong! They played games at an ice cream shop together, and she drew him a cute picture with umbrellas on it. There are also some funny photos of David welcoming people to the Dongbei restaurant with promises of “Hao Chi” and some really inappropriate pants on a little baby, ha. I saw one of my favorite students, Ben, who is twelve but still ran up to hug me and said, “Teacher, I am so happy to see you!” That made my day. We also managed to eat at our favorite Afanti restaurant, which has a new sign, doubled in size, and gained its own new member of the family, a baby boy!

I also have a million other stories from Beijing this Spring…but clearly the baby theme is dominating! For now, back to working planning all sorts of events with a bunny on my lap. O yea, and Tutu may have big ears, but he’s donedeaf too, so it’s all good.

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Wuddup. I haven’t posted in a while and can’t think of anything of particular importance, so I am going to make a very “bloggy” blog post that discusses what I did yesterday. The day started early with Erin and I heading over to The Hutong for a quick tour of one of the local markets. We were led by master chef Joel who took us through the market explaining what everything was. We have been to a lot of markets so it wasn’t anything new, but it was good to learn what some of the questionable looking spices were and what they are used for. It was a pretty beautiful day for Beijing, the sky was a bluish gray and it was pretty warm. After the tour, we headed back to the Hutong for a Thai cooking class, where we were going to make minced pork, a green curry, and a papaya salad. Our teacher was Ling Pei, a Malaysian chef that obviously knew a lot about Thai cooking, and I was pretty amazed at how good the green curry tasted. The class was a good example of a foreigners outing in Beijing; there were 4 Americans, 2 Russians, a Spaniard, a German, a Malaysian, and a Chinese ayi (literally means Auntie, in this instance the woman who helps the class and cleans).

After the class I went to Jingshan park with a friend to enjoy the day. The weather was nice but the sky wasn’t really clear, and a normally stunning view of Beijing was only mediocre. I will attach some pictures of when we came to the same park on a clearer day. I had some food a little bit later and walked around some of the old parts of Beijing for about an hour. On my way to the subway station, I saw an unfortunately all too common scene.

Two old foreigners were trying to talk to a guard and a driver and I already knew what was going on. Many taxi’s and 3 wheel “cars” prey on the old foreigners in this area and offer them rides at seemingly fair prices. Upon arriving at the destination, the price which was originally 3 turns into 300. I saw what was going on and asked them what was going on, and they told me that the driver said 3 and they said OK, and then was asking for 300 when they got there. I don’t know why, but these things make me so angry that I can barely control myself. I picture my grandparents or parents coming to China for a visit and getting ripped off by some scumbag that intimidates them and acts like his price is a fair one. It even happened to Erin, the other Tangshan teacher and I, with us almost getting run over by the angry driver after I kicked the door open and we paid him nothing. That being said, I got into the driver’s face and told him he was a cheat, a bad person, and to leave now. He tried to act like his price was fair but as soon as I started speaking Chinese, he realized the jig was up, and basically ran to his little bike and rode off. The young guard that was approached by the old couple just laughed at the whole situation, and I yelled at him too, saying that he knows the price isn’t fair and the old couple asked him for help. The French couple was happy that I arrived, and I hope that this blog post can help someone avoid these scams in the future. A very drunken Chinese man then talked to me on the walk to the subway, telling me I was a good guy and that he hopes I don’t think everyone in China is a cheat (I don’t). I stopped for some street food (dinner for $1), and went back home.

So that is a fairly typical non-work day I would say. I am not taking cooking classes and fighting with drivers on a daily basis, but you get the picture. Hope everyone is doing well and I am thinking about home a lot more recently with my brother and his wife soon to have their first baby! I can’t wait. That is all for now, 再见 (this means goodbye).

“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”


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