I have a few too many pictures of the backs of Chinese people with funny quotes on their clothing. Creepy? Maybe. But they do the same to me much more regularly and it gives me great blog titles.
It’s another update post! Now that classes have started up and pesky (read: amazing) distractions like the Taiwan conference are over, I’m starting to get a feel for what life is gonna be like here. Most important is that I have a concrete research timeline to go with my concrete research question. So reading 1+ academic papers a day, taking notes, and then I hope to start writing something preliminary sometime in May. A couple of classes were cancelled this week due to the pre-defense for the master’s students in my department, so I sat in on that instead and learned a little bit.
As I’ve mentioned, Fulbright’s sent me here not just to research, but to foster cultural exchange as well. As a white American, I’ve had no small amount of friends, acquaintances, and random people ask me to teach them English. I could certainly make a lot of money doing this, you can easily charge 300+ RMB per hour as a foreign tutor, and I have a decent amount of free time (less than in January, but still substantial). I have a lot of issues with this. First of all, Fulbright doesn’t let me make money from anything I do here, as a real job takes away from my two responsibilities, and they’re already paying me more than enough to live here. So even if I did want to go that route and supplement my income, I would risk losing my funding. Secondly, I don’t want to. I don’t particularly enjoy teaching English formally, and I have no education training so I’d be relying entirely on my status as a native speaker which is certainly not enough to give a given person a good English education. Lastly there’s the ethics. 300 RMB is just under $45. How would y’all like to make $45 an hour in a country where the cost of living is super low? The thing is though, that’s waaaaaaay above the median income for Chinese people, people do hard labor all day long and make maybe a half to a third of that. Median income for the *private sector* is around 28,000 RMB ($340 per month roughly). You do the math. It would just feel wrong to take that much money for simply chatting with people in English for an hour. Yes, it’s supply and demand, but no one ever said economics was moral.
I couldn’t completely deny my friends access to the resource that is my English conversation though, so I started an English corner at the cat café. I figure two hours of speaking English with Chinese people a week won’t kill me (I usually refuse to do it), it’ll give people a practice space while fulfilling my cultural exchange responsibility. The first week was almost entirely attended by English interpretation master’s students who had pretty good English. I had a lot of fun talking and we jumped from the starting topic (food) to hardcore politics pretty damn fast. Unfortunately my roommate, Jichao whose only a sophomore felt a bit outclassed and didn’t say much (he said he can’t really talk politics by his own admission), so hopefully with more people we can split into smaller groups with smaller skill gaps. I’d also like to welcome a new cat to the café, Hamburger! Named such in hope that it’ll grow up nice and fat and cute. He also resembles the I can haz cheezburger cat, who kind of started the whole trend that is cat pictures on the internet. Plenty cute already though IMO. Despite only being three months old, it’s pretty chill with people and is making friends fast. Excuse the atrocious picture of me.
Also, Zaizai is in a cone while his neck heals. He doesn’t quite get it and is always trying to lick himself through it. Poor guy.
In sports news, I started swimming again this week! I finally got my student card which lets me use the pool, so my three month dry spell (pun intended) is at an end. It feels amazing to be back at it, and I’m working on diversifying my workouts.
In other news, I attended English trivia at a bar (not something I intend to make a habit of), did a good amount of good writing, the local night market is back in full swing (nothing on Taiwan’s, but I’ll take it), took some cool pictures, and a lot of good things are happening in the lives of a lot of people that I love. So congrats to all of you reading this and keep at it. Love y’all.