Discussion:
(life) A Fight in Jiangjin County (Chongqing Municipality)
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Marian Rosenberg
2012-05-27 13:09:39 UTC
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I don't even remember what the circumstances were but at some point in
my first year in China I learned the difference between the words
“fight” and “argument” as they are used by Chinese people. I was right
in my usage but they were also right. Colloquial right versus
dictionary right and if the dictionaries don't quite keep up with
colloquial usage, well, you can't blame the foreigners. With a
different word, I had the same thing happen in college with a
professor from Germany.

I got into a fight yesterday evening.

Not just colloquial American usage of the word “fight” either.

But an altercation that got physical, which caused damage and which
resulted in the police coming.

Anti-foreign sentiment is running high among certain segments of the
Chinese population right now. Anti-foreign sentiment is always
running high among the fifty centers (people who it is rumored are
paid fifty Chinese cents every time they squat on an online comment
thread and make pro-China anti-whatever statements). This is
different however. Noises are being made in national newspapers,
schools and employers are putting up security cameras to watch what
the laowai are doing, and people in Beijing (and other places) who are
living on less than kosher visas are getting shown the way to the
airport.

I'm not entirely sure of the details and I don't especially have any
need to be entirely sure of the details but so far as I know it
involves a British guy raping a Chinese woman.

I'm not sure if last night's fight had anything to do with the current
anti-foreign sentiment.

It could just be an expression of the whole “foreigners in hotels”
problem that got a bit out of hand.

Before I go into exactly what happened, you have to realize I was in a
stunningly good mood. I was not cranky, irritable, fussy, or burned
out from interactions with Chinese people. I hadn't eaten dinner yet
but that was a minor thing. I often don't eat until after 8 o'clock
and my late lunch was the long awaited trip to McDonald's.

The night before last an internet friend in Chongqing met me for
dinner. He'd already arranged my hotel for me and even though the
lobby staff and I had a difference of opinion regarding the
appropriateness of filthy rained-on touring bikes in lobbies of fancy
hotels, I still ended up staying there. I don't know what the room
cost but the room plus deposit was 1000 yuan. Even though my
netfriend is getting some of that money back, you shouldn't need to
see pictures to have a pretty good idea of how awesomely nice a room
it was.

That night's dinner, that night's bed, that night's shower that I
never wanted to leave, yesterday morning's breakfast buffet, yesterday
morning's long phone call with Mike, and lunch at McDonalds... really,
even with getting lost at least three times on my way out of downtown
Chongqing absolutely nothing could spoil my mood. In fact, with the
exception of some stultifyingly boring scenery, it seems as if the
whole word was conspiring to give me an awesome day. I even had
company for the last twenty kilometers. And when I got to the day's
designated tunnel of doom, we rode through in a truck.

I usually try to find my lodging before I find my dinner.
Not always but usually.

In the event of being unable to find an acceptable hotel, I'd already
found an acceptable campsite. But I didn't want to camp. I've got a
very-nearly finished piece of work for Mission Hills and I wanted to
be plugged in and dealing with that. I also wanted to finish updating
my crazyguyonabike journal.

The street which one of my afternoon cycling companions swore had lots
and lots of hotels didn't have hardly any. Restaurants – yes.
Lodging – no. And the restaurants weren't cheap either.

I saw a little pocket hotel that might maybe work but the lady at the
front desk said they were booked full. I've probably mentioned it
here before but I don't believe in hotels in China being booked full.
It's a convenient “go away we don't want you” excuse. Once one hotel
in a town makes that excuses the chances go up astronomically of every
other hotel in town doing the same. I knew then that there was a
distinct possibility I'd be spending the night in my tent on the
grassy verge in the park hoping that it didn't rain like it has the
past few nights.

Three nights previous, on my first night in Chongqing Municipality,
one hotel refused me outright and a second was “booked full”. Plus
it's always the cities where you run into problems and even if I was
no longer in Chongqing City, I was still in a city.

(Back when the weather was cold, I'd've gone straight to the police
station and asked that they find me a hotel but I wasn't desperately
in need of a shower and I have this very nice tent that hasn't been
getting a lot of use.)

I left the riverside street and went prospecting inland for a street
that actually looked like the kind of place that would have hotels and
I found one. In the middle of a whole bunch of outdoor restaurants
that almost certainly would have something delicious for me to eat,
there was a small hotel. Way way nicer than anything I would normally
pick but I was willing to at least give it a try. If nothing else I
could find out what the going price in town was.

Besides which, it's never easy going from luxury back to my usual kind
of accommodation.

Only the receptionist refused to tell me what the price for a room
was. First she dealt with another customer who, I might add, came in
after me. Then, she flat out refused to tell me what the price was.
When it started it was mostly just the “we don't have the license to
accept foreigners” crapola that I've gotten so many times that I don't
even need to think before I start answering. Usually when I run into
those situations I manage them well enough that I get myself behind
the counter and am registering myself on the computer system with the
front desk staff's blessing.

But this time it didn't happen that way.

This time she left me at the desk and got another staff member who
also refused to tell me what the price is. “We don't have the license
to accept foreigners” turned into “we don't accept foreigners”. I may
have gotten loud at this point. I may even have been the first person
to get loud. But even though I was angry, I didn't lose my temper. I
didn't yell obscenities. I didn't get violent. I just kept asking
“what's the price?”, “tell me the price?”, “how much do your rooms
cost?”

And when the new staff member got all up in my face yelling back at me
that this was the People's Republic of China and I was a guest in
their country and I had to respect the rules and regulations of the
People's Republic of China, I got all up in his face and yelled back
that this was indeed the People's Republic of China and this was a
country that had laws and he couldn't make things up just because he
didn't want to accept foreigners and WHAT IS THE PRICE OF ONE OF YOUR
ROOMS?

If this had been taking place in English it would have come out of my
mouth with extra words like “goddammed”, “fucking”, and “asshole”.
Only it wasn't taking place in English and I've been very careful to
never really learn those words. I know a fair few of them well enough
to recognize them when they'd been used but I have not and will not
internalize them. I don't want to be spewing obscenities when I'm
pissed off. It looks bad.

They didn't like me taking photos of them. They really didn't like me
taking photos of them. I managed to get off a snap of the
receptionist and one of the loud men. I never managed to photograph
the big fat guy who tipped things from yelling to physical
confrontation.

The first yelling man told me to leave the lobby. I told him I would
leave when they told me how much a room cost. And the second man
tried to force me to leave.

I'm big. I'm tall. However, as my muscles are covered by a generous
layer of padding, I don't look like a jock. Depending on whether or
not you spend time around athletes and have a concept of just how much
muscle weighs I'm deceptively ten to twenty kilos more than my body
shape accounts for. I also have very good balance and astonishingly
strong legs. It was going to take alot more than a fat slob with a
comb over to get me out of that lobby.

After he went physical, I tried to take his picture. It needed the
flash and autofocus is far more precise about these things than I
might want it to be in these situations and the way in which he kept
batting at my camera and such managed the keep the photo from being
taken. So I decided to take a picture of the prominently displayed
hotel licenses. Which he liked even less. That got him yanking at my
arms and trying (and failing I might add) to hook a foot around my
legs to get me off balance and out of his lobby.

“If you hit me one more time, I'm going to call the police.” I pulled
my phone out of my pocket and he hit me. Only this time the phone
went flying out of my hand and skittering across the lobby floor out
to the street. Phone, battery, battery cover.

He got me out of his lobby. He got me in front of a crowd of
onlookers. You'd think this would mean it wouldn't be so easy to hit
me anymore. But he still tried. Idiot. Wasn't even very good at it.
Back in the days when I had foreign coworkers, one of them was a
steroid junky named John who often got into fights and I'd heard from
him that a lot of Chinese men are shit at fighting but this was
pathetic. Most of what he was doing was shoving and pushing and most
of what I was doing was my impression of a statue mixed with blocking.
I was way better trained than he was. After all, it's only been 25
years since my six months of karate lessons.

I gathered up the pieces of my phone and turned it on. It mostly
looked okay if you didn't count the crack on the screen. It's worse
now but it was there before. Only now the phone's camera wasn't
working. Bastard broke my phone. And I ratcheted up the level of
yelling about twenty more levels. Drew the crowd like a barker to a
circus tent. Invited them to watch fatty try to hit the foreign girl.

And then, I called the police.

He tried to hit the phone out of my hand again but he had friends and
his friends were smart enough to realize that trying to hit the phone
out of a girl's hand in front of a crowd of onlookers while she is
talking to the police is perhaps not the best course of action. They
pulled him away.

I have to give the police credit for finding an English speaking
officer. This was not like the PSB guys in Haikou who show up
whenever there is a foreigner problem but an actual police officer
with the local station. Officer was somewhat dumbstruck by my ability
to talk to him in Chinese and, as a result, did not really use his
English. However, the early questions like “what happened?”, “where
are you from?” and “do you speak any Chinese?” were spoken clearly
enough that I suspect the officer really does speak English rather
than just a few sentences.

Two officers wasn't enough to control my circus crowd and we adjourned
to the police station. As my bike didn't fit in the back of the
police car, I rode while they drove slowly. They made exaggerated
hand signals and called out the windows for “turning left” and “go
straight” which were appreciated. There were turn signals too but the
active interaction with the people in the car set a friendly tone.

I was flabbergasted by some of what happened in the police station.
Not just surprised. Flabbergasted.

For starters, the fat guy never showed up. Then, when the
receptionist got to telling her side of things, she goes on about my
pushing the bike into the hotel lobby, about how she can't speak
English and was unable to understand me when I first came in, and how
it wasn't merely a case of not having the license to accept
foreigners, it was also having no rooms.

All I could think as she told her side of things was I knew I was
acting for the invisible cameras. Most places have a security camera
but that wasn't even the camera on my mind. I was thinking cell
phones and viral videos. I was being damn careful the whole time not
to say a single bad word about China, Chongqing, or anyone's mother.
So while she made up her nice little tale of miscommunication gone
wrong, and a foreigner acting badly, there was no need for me to
refute it. The officers had told the hotel staff to bring the
security camera footage with them to the station.

Bikes didn't come into lobbies. Marian never spoke English. The guy
that came in about a minute after me but who was served in front of me
got checked into an empty room. The license required to accept
foreigners doesn't actually exist. And they hit first.

There really wasn't a whole lot the hotel people could do to make
themselves look good at this point but lying to the police when they
have camera footage of what just happened is guaranteed to make
yourself look even worse.

The owner of the hotel (who showed up in his BMW) paid me 500 yuan in
damages and took me out to dinner. I checked in at a small hotel
close to the police station. For 80 yuan it was probably cheaper than
the other place would have been. Hard to say since I never got around
to finding out how much the other place cost. As per the usual, they
let me behind the counter to register myself. In the last two and a
half weeks, every place that has actually bothered to register me at
all has let me behind the counter.

Prior to this incident, I would have said I know how to play the game.
I know how to talk myself into getting registered by a hotel that's
oh so very afraid of registering foreigners. However, it seems that I
don't. I've just been places where the hotels don't care so much and
are happy to let me wrestle with a system they know they don't know
how to operate. When I finally ended up somewhere that "didn't accept
foreigners" and stood my ground, things got violent.

-M

...

Afterword: I wrote this this morning when I had no internet connection
and couldn't upload it. After writing it, I checked out of my hotel.
During the checkout process, I asked the front desk (owner's wife) for
their phone number so I could tell people what a nice hotel they were.
She wouldn't give it to me.

"We don't have the license for accepting foreigners."

I pointed at the computer where I had registered the night before. "I
registered last night. There was no problem."

"Oh, the police called us in advance and said you were coming. They
said it was okay."

"No, really, there was no problem. I registered. It's a standard
system. Same all over China. There are no licenses required to allow
foreigners to stay in your hotel. Haven't been for nearly a decade."

"Yes there are.... the police told us so last year..."

So I told her about the night before. I told her about the incident
at the other hotel. I told her what the police said to that hotel's
receptionist when she brought up "not having the license to accept
foreigners."

"But the police told us..."

Came to the hotel and told them face to face. Nothing on official
stationery. Nothing with a chop. Nothing in writing at all. Told
all the cheaper hotels in town that they didn't have the license to
accept foreigners (inclusive of people from Hong Kong, Macau, and
Taiwan) and that they were required to turn foreigners away.

She hadn't asked how to get the license. Hadn't thought it was
necessary. But if she had asked, they wouldn't have been able to
answer her. The reason the cheaper hotels in town don't have that
license is the same reason the expensive ones don't. It doesn't
exist. You can't apply for a nonexistent license.

And when a problem came up with a hard headed foreigner who refused to
accept "get out", officers who very well may have been the same police
officers who went around town telling hotels "your hotel doesn't meet
the required standards for getting a license to accept foreign guests"
looked at that first hotel's receptionist and asked "who told you
there was a license required?"

This new information doesn't change the unacceptability of the way
that first hotel acted when I refused to leave but it puts a whole new
spin on things.


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Merton Bland
2012-05-27 14:31:46 UTC
Permalink
Marian Rosenberg wrote of her misadventure in Jiangjin County.

One tactic she used which I have found to be rather effective is to identify the participants. Taking names, taking photos, really works.

Mert - Dr. Merton L. Bland, Arlington, VA, USA


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Don Woods
2012-05-27 15:47:28 UTC
Permalink
perhaps this is overly naive, but the question that pops to mind is "why
not just find another hotel?" A big argument ensued and nobody won, but
there's tons of drama.

Don Woods


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Stefan Penchev
2012-05-28 03:22:09 UTC
Permalink
I can recall at least 20 reasons why a foreigner should avoid confrontation
with local people at any time no matter who or what is right or wrong.
There is always a peaceful way out of a situation.

Stefan Penchev


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Marian Rosenberg
2012-05-28 04:11:52 UTC
Permalink
Every other time I've firmly stood my ground and pointed out that I know
rules and regulations for foreigners better than they do, I get let behind
the counter so they can prove to me that the police system absolutely will
not allow a foreigner to register at their hotel. Then I successfully
register myself.

They apologize, I give them a brief lecture on the applicable rules, and
someone asks me about my trip.

It's always been friendly tinged with a bit of nervous I don't know what to
do so I'll just say no.

-M
Post by Don Woods
**
perhaps this is overly naive, but the question that pops to mind is "why
not just find another hotel?" A big argument ensued and nobody won, but
there's tons of drama.
Don Woods
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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Dodi McAllister
2012-05-31 18:09:57 UTC
Permalink
I read your post with great interest and identification, Marian. Unlike you and most of everyone else on this forum, my experience in China is not as extensive. I spent a month in China last spring. I started in Beijing, went to Chongqing, Chengdu, visited several popular spots like the Giant Buddha and Mount Emei, and finally went to Zhuhai and Shenzhen.

This was my first international travel experience and I went as part of a group from a local university near where I live. The trip was to deliver/chaperone a group of American study abroad students to Chongqing for the summer. My Chinese friend was heading the group. She is a professor at the American university and also tutors me in Mandarin so she invited me along knowing how much I wanted to visit China and I accepted.

I had all sorts of expectations of this trip. It was all I could talk about and think about and I drove my family nearly to distraction with my happy obsessions about traveling to China. I was literally giddy over it!

I was careful to admonish myself not to get too hyped up to the point where my expectations were unrealistic and reality ruined the entire trip. I tried anyway, but I realize now that one can never fully appreciate the realities of traveling to a country who's so vastly different in nearly every possible way from one's own until you actually do it. In some ways it was exhilarating, in other ways it was somewhat traumatic (if I may risk using that word without sounding too dramatic).

Because I went with a group who already had an agenda, I didn't have much of a vote where we went or what we did. A year later, I'm still not sure the names and places where I actually was, and I'm still trying to sort out what actually happened on this trip and whether or not it was me, it was cultural or what the heck happened. Some of what Marian posted about occurred as well.

My Chinese friend has lived in the US for 10 years and up to that point we had met weekly for almost two years. Our families have interacted and my family and I have done as much as possible to help them whenever help or assistance was required. I felt good about the relationship and trusted my friend implicitly to represent my best interests while in China. One of my primary goals for the trip was to visit one college in particular in southern China and establish some connections there as well as strengthen a relationship with someone there I had met here in the states. I had thoughts of possibly teaching there in the future or building a relationship with the college here in the states I was working with at the time. At any rate, the minute my feet hit Chinese soil, I felt totally h
elpless. I knew some of the language, but not enough to be trusted to be out alone, my Chinese friend literally changed persona in front of my eyes! She pandered completely to the interests of everyone in the group but me as if I didn't count at all. Later I realized that a grant coming from one of the other members' departments had paid their ways (and hers) and she felt very obligated to allow them to dictate everything. Worse yet, I trusted her to help me with the money situation. She paid everything up front and then I would in turn pay her (since she knew how much everything cost and I didn't- we didn't want to be cheated since we were foreigners, so we let her deal with that part of it). Before I knew it, she was coming to me everyday telling me how much money I owed her- to th
e cent and sticking out her hand. I couldn't keep up with it or figure out exactly what I was paying for! I quickly realized that I had been led to believe I was an equal and functioning member of this group the same as anyone else, but it didn't turn out to be so.

It turned out my friend was not only pandering for the members of the group that paid for her trip, she was strategically advocating for them in places where I specifically had business. After a morning at the Forbidden City, we were to meet with a language institute there in Beijing. My friend had arranged it for me specifically. That morning I got "lost" and separated from the group (because people were literally dragging me to have pictures taken with them and by the time I could free myself the group had disappeared). When the rendezvous time for all of us to gather and head for the meeting, I used a compass app on my phone and was able to find the group just in time. One of the students looked so relieved to see me she said she was worried sick because her professor (my friend) s
aid she was going to leave me behind if I hadn't made the meeting time and go to the language institute for our luncheon/meeting. The student was appalled and told her that she couldn't leave me that I wouldn't know where to go or what to do! My friend merely said I would be alright. Long story short, my friend took one taxi, put me and some students in another, gave our cabdriver instructions and off we went. My cab driver took us to some place he said was our destination but which was clearly not. The students and I walked for hours until we realized that we couldn't find the institute and then the fiasco of trying to find a cab to take us back to our hotel began.
I had the hotel address written in both Chinese and English and using what limited Mandarin skills I had along with my dictionary I asked cab driver after cab driver to take us back to our hotel. We were tossed out of four cabs, all of whom said they didn't know where our hotel was, didn't speak English, and just basically kicked us out of the cab. It was hot, I had these students that depended on me, and I was worried- bordering scared. One last try, and the cab driver had pity on us. I kept saying "please? please?". I must've looked like I felt, so he took us through some back streets and alleyways, and we ended up back in our hotel in the old hutong district of Beijing in no time flat. I couldn't hugged that man!! In fact, I think I did!:) I couldn't figure out why the others cou
ldn't take us.

Throughout the rest of the trip, my friend (and I was using that term loosely at this point), cut me out of a meeting that was set up by my foreign Chinese friend, invited one of her own group to attend instead after I specifically said I didn't want that to happen and put that kind of obligation on my foreign Chinese friend, and I only made the meeting by minutes because my foreign friend told me what was happening and rushed me there.

After that leg of the trip, I flew with the group to another province where we were to visit another university there. I was just beginning to realize that my friend had not told any of the rest of the group that I was even a part of this trip at all. They didn't know I was coming, didn't know my agenda, and didn't know I had business of my own to attend to during the trip.

With that said, when we flew to the other province, representatives from that school met us at the airport. They were counting heads, and when they got to me they frowned. One too many. My Chinese friend began talking in Chinese- I had no idea what was being said. What occurred was that in every place we encountered, I was not anticipated because they had not been told about me. I was literally shocked my friend had not taken better care of things and to this day still don't understand it at all. Why would she be this way?

They were very skittish about having me "unannounced" and long conversations were had about what to do with me. One suggested that I stay at a local hotel that cost over 200-300 yuan a night. I was told that they DIDN'T ACCEPT FOREIGNERS, but somebody knew someone and could get me accommodations. One place we went to flatly said they didn't have room for one more, so we're all in a van belonging to that school, it's 9PM, and before I know it, we're at a bus station in some city I didn't know (even though I kept asking but apparently everyone was in a hurry)and my friend is dragging me in there, rushing the counter, buying me a ticket to go to the city of my other friend that lived in China. All the while I wasn't sure what was going on and kept asking. Apparently there was no choice-
the school wouldn't let me stay and after all the other venues my funds were limited- too limited for the prices that the hotels that WOULD take foreigners wanted to charge. At that point, I had been in China about 2 1/2 weeks, spent over 3000 yuan and had not stayed one night in a place that was above the standards of "seedy" and that's "seedy" by Chinese standards, not mine.

After a two-hour wait in the bus station in the middle of the night in sweltering heat with no water, and very dangerous looking people hanging around and staring at me openly, I admit I was scared. How would I know what bus to get on and when? Did my friend call my other friend who was at my intended destination and tell them I was coming? How awful for me to be putting her out it was embarrassing and upsetting. In the bus station, no one wanted to help me but the one ticket lady. She seemed to know my dilemma even though she didn't speak English & she communicated with the bus driver on my behalf. I know she did because he was gracious to always herd me off the bus during a pit stop and come look for me when it was time to go. It was a seven hour bus trip in 90 degree weather, with n
o air conditioning after the first hour, the bus overheated twice, and the person next to me was smelling very in need of a thorough shower and was practically laying on me. A couple in front of me had a crying, sick very young baby that sounded like it had whooping cough. It was hard to listen to. The father kept turning her upside down while she vomited on the floor of the bus- nearly the entire trip. I couldn't help but see how listless he was and I was so scared for that baby I prayed for her nearly the entire way as that was all I could do! I had to sit with my feet on my seat the entire night to keep them out of the vomit, and I admit to almost breaking down.

That didn't happen until I actually reached my destination- which I didn't know was my destination. The bus driver said that was my get off point, he pulled my suitcase out, and set me on the curb of a busy intersection. Alone. I didn't know where I was, it was around 5:30 am. I stood with a crowd of women who had exited the bus who were waiting on rides until not one of them was left. I lost it at that point. Frankly, I don't know what took me that long. A young woman on her way to work saw me and approached me. To my amazement and GREAT relief she spoke fairly good English. She listened to my dilemma, took me to a hotel as she said it was not safe for me to be sitting there like that, spoke to the clerk, took my phone and called my destination friend to tell them where I was. I
was actually two hours away from her home and if that kind young woman had not made that call I think I'd still be on that curb today because my destination friend had no idea where I was. My other "friend" apparently didn't get it across very well. (?)

As my Chinese tour wrapped up, my friend that rescued me and brought me to her house is no longer the friend she used to be. I was only to have stayed with her fro a few days, and due to the fiasco caused by my other friend, it was two weeks. I was able to go to work with her which was very interesting but it was really too much to ask anyone and the it has severely strained our relationship. I know because I can tell by the tone of communications in our emails. I'm still studying Chinese with my other friend but that relationship too is particularly brittle. It seems all my connections in China are now depleted due to my first visit to China. I feel awful about it and feel even worse because after running it through my mind a million times I don't know what I could've anticipated pr
ior to actually experiencing it that could've prevented it. I thoroughly trusted someone because I had to. When we arrived in China she was self-serving, devious, money grubbing, opportunistic at my expense and the expense of my other relationships, and was like no one I had ever known.

I was denied hotels, and taxi cabs, and treated with indifference more times than I could count. Yet- without the kindness of those few strangers that helped me, my experiences could have turned out to be quite sinister- who knows?

I swore I would never go back. I sorrowfully regretted that my intense love for China had morphed into something else entirely. Definitely more negative experiences than positive ones, but now I find myself looking at my photos and feeling the fondness begin to creep up on me again. Pictures of the common people I took when they were unaware- the real China- the immigrant workers and their children, and I feel a pull to return and give China another try. I don't know how because my contacts were essentially destroyed during the first trip, but I think I want to find a way, somehow.......

~Dodi McAllister



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michele rosenberg
2012-06-01 00:00:39 UTC
Permalink
I am so sorry you had the experiences you encountered. I feel for you yet
I think it is mre your "so called friends" who should be blamed not China.

My husband and I recently returned from three months in China where we
visited our daughter who lives there. We had a wonderful time even though
there were some strange experiences which happened. These experiences just
make conversations more interesting.

Try China again but make your own arrangements. Don't depend on someone
who you don't trust implicitly.

Michele Rosenberg
I spent a month in China last spring. ... I had all sorts of expectations of this trip. ... I realize now that one can never fully appreciate the realities of traveling to a country who's so vastly different in nearly every possible way from one's own until you actually do it.
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Marian Rosenberg
2012-06-01 01:30:04 UTC
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A last minute problem with my flight and the inability to reach my program coordinator on either her US or China numbers saved my first trip to China from being a similar disaster.

Called the front desk of the University of Maryland AND THEY DIDN'T KNOW
ANYTHING ABOUT MY PROGRAM. Turns out Ms. Coordinator was stealing webspace from them.

So on arrival, my school and me sort things out like the oddly different
birthdate on my passport versus the papers they have for me (I was two
years younger than they'd been told), and sign a contract them and me.

Everyone else with the program left one by one when they couldn't get any help from the coordinator with their problems. But I knew from the
beginning it was just me...

M.


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Marian Rosenberg
2012-06-01 01:39:47 UTC
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I pressed send before I was finished.

There are ways to patch up your relationships with the schools in question. Don't necessarily name names but (much as it hurts me to say this as a translator) blame everything on an incompetent translator. It certainly sounds like your "friend", while she speaks both languages, was not a translator.

It's a translator's job to translate everything for their client. Even when the other party is having a discussion they don't want the translator's foreign client to hear. (In which case a good business translator should take any bribes from the other side, take careful notes, and present both notes and information of attempt to bribe to the client.)

If you come back, I can't promise that you'll have a better time but I can promise that there are people on this forum who will help you as local laowai.

Marian


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alan
2012-06-01 23:29:17 UTC
Permalink
As I have fallen foul of the newly introduced teachers rule of being here longer than five years, plus I have my age going against me, I have been researching forming my own WOFI.

I have several business ideas, from simple to complicated.

One is to start a small scale foreign restaurant. I can arrange assistance to get this up & running.

As I can not speak or read Chinese, I will be dependent on Chinese friends / staff to make it work.

I have also been warned the fastest way to lose money is a restaurant.


Any horror or success stories of others who have taken this route?

Alan Simpson


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Raymond Allan Johnson
2012-06-01 13:48:01 UTC
Permalink
Two particular horror stories:

KC -- whom you met via email -- and Kyle, who had a similar high-end 'western-style' restaurant on the same walking street as KC's. (Mind you, BOTH restuarants were on the popular 'bar street' here -- frequented mainly by foreigners. A third Taiwanse restaurant called 'Zen' (popular in Shanghai) also failed, also located on the 'bar street.'


First problem was the menu -- there weren't enough Chinese people interested on "western food" to keep im busy. Or are YOU gonna try to have a 'Chinese' menu? Who's gonna cook? How will you match your Chinese competitors, on price? Will you use local suppliers, and will their goods be up to your stsndards?
Second was trying to find HONEST Chinese partners
Third was the CONSTANT demand for 'guanxi' from local officials
Fourth was dishonest contractors who did shoddy work
Fifth was finding and training competent (by 'western standards') wait staff and bartenders.
Lastly, I've seen and read MANY stories aboout foreigners who opened business only to have someone undermine them by opening a business that directly competed with theirs, and undercut their prices. (even stories to this effect, on CCTV-9 -- like the one where the guy opened a ski lodge in a particular town, that offered lower prics than two other lodges in the same town. On opening day there were no customers. He learned the competing lodges had lowered **their** prices, in order to drive him out of business.) And how easy will it be to get business permits to open, of all things, a RESTAURANT?

Anyhow, you've heard all this from me before.

KTF
RAY


-----------
Any horror or success stories of others who have taken this route?
Alan Simpson



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Vicki
2012-06-01 22:32:39 UTC
Permalink
In my village there are 4 small bar/restaurant/cafes owned by foreigners. One has a Chinese wife who, I assume, technically owns the business. The others could write the proverbial book about the hassles of foreign ownership. Only one has NO Chinese partner. It can be done. Good luck!

Vicki
Post by alan
As I have fallen foul of the newly introduced teachers rule of being here longer than five years, plus I have my age going against me,
(snip)
Post by alan
I have also been warned the fastest way to lose money is a restaurant.
Any horror or success stories of others who have taken this route?
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alan
2012-06-11 16:15:14 UTC
Permalink
I have held travel / evacuation insurance with World Nomads for the last ten years.

They're good for me as they do not exclude cycle touring.

I have been advised they can no longer offer insurance due to my age.

What do other members use who are over 60?

Alan Simpson


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Vicki
2012-06-12 02:23:49 UTC
Permalink
I have World Nomads & I am over 60! When did they deny you?

Vicki
I have held travel / evacuation insurance with World Nomads for the last ten years...I have been advised they can no longer offer insurance due to my age. What do other members use who are over 60?
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alan
2012-06-29 23:25:23 UTC
Permalink
Re my question below, so far I have only had one quotation from Chartis GlobalHealth at RMB 19,251 which is world wide cover & evacuation.
It does not cover out-patient care.

The university's policy for me is RMB 1,530 per annum (which covered hospital care also as an out-patient) & World Nomad's RMB 3,775, total 5,305.

None of the Australian companies will cover me unless I return to Oz to start my journey.
Any suggestion?


From: alan
Sent: Monday, June 11, 2012 9:15 AM


I have held travel / evacuation insurance with World Nomads for the last ten years.

They're good for me as they do not exclude cycle touring.

I have been advised they can no longer offer insurance due to my age.

What do other members use who are over 60?





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sewbirdchina
2012-06-29 18:08:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by alan
None of the Australian companies will cover me unless I return to Oz to start my journey.
Any suggestion?
Try squaremouth.com for price comparisons or Google "compare trade evacuation polices" and you'll get numerous websites where you fill in the information and they'll give you quotes for various companies.

Nancy US



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michele rosenberg
2012-06-01 00:14:42 UTC
Permalink
Ask Marian to tell you about the experience we (her parents) had in Beijing
when we DID BOOK IN ADVANCE AND PAID FOR a room for three. It's a good
thing that Marian speaks Chinese fluently because we would have had major
problems if she wasn't with us.

Michele Rosenberg


[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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Marian Rosenberg
2012-06-01 01:46:31 UTC
Permalink
I already wrote about it on the page titled "Reserve This!" Over on the
crazyguy site WWW.Crazyguyonabike.com/doc/China2012

Why don't you write about it Mom? I wouldn't mind seeing your perspective in black and white.

Marian
Ask Marian to tell you about the experience we (her parents) had in Beijing when we DID BOOK IN ADVANCE AND PAID FOR a room for three.
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Dodi McAllister
2012-06-01 02:14:07 UTC
Permalink
Thanks for the encouragement:). Yes, I think I will try China again. Too bad I didn't know she was in Chongqing when I was- I had quite a few days when I didn't have a thing to do, and had wandered the same area quite a lot. It would have been fun to meet her!

I would love to hear of your "Book in Advance" adventure! I definitely agree that you need a trusted companion that speaks fluent Mandarin and knows/understands the culture well. Thanks for responding!

~Dodi McAllister


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Raymond Allan Johnson
2012-06-01 07:12:04 UTC
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I hope she will ...

She can always be counted on to tell a story so vividlly that you can visualize it as if you were there.

She told us you were coming; but I don't remember her saying much about what happened after you arrived.

KTF
RAY


From: michel.rosenberg-***@public.gmane.org

Ask Marian to tell you about the experience we (her parents) had in Beijing when we DID BOOK IN ADVANCE AND PAID FOR a room for three.


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michele rosenberg
2012-06-04 19:42:33 UTC
Permalink
With all of the various mishaps that happened in a period of over three months I can still report that we had an experience in China that was phenomenal. We did not come as tourists even though we wanted to see touristy things. We came to visit our daughter and to learn and experience day to day living.

Our time in China, most of which was spent in Haikou included everything from museum visits to appearances several times a week at the coffee house - From A to Z, where we enjoyed cafe machiata, espresso and helpings of tiramisu. I'm amazed that I lost weight instead of gaining because I really did like the tiramisu.

We spent time at hot springs which also included fish nibbling at our
feet. I could only cope with so many fish before I freaked out and felt like I was being attacked by gila monsters.

One of the more unique experiences was attending a festival in the evening where literally thousands and thousands of residents came to watch the fireworks and the dragon dancers. Instead the newspaper reporters and television camera crew decided Mama Rosenberg, one of only three white people visible in this crowd (the other two being Marian and her father Ted (my husband) decided we were more interesting. My picture appeared in the newspaper the following day. Unfortunately I lost it and I don't know what the paper's name is. Now I know what celebrities feel like when the papparazi approach them. I was handed bouquets of flowers and just felt very special.

At the time I was in a wheel chair (and that story is too long to report here) and had a chance probably to see more because I would never have had the energy to keep up with Marian.

Experienced foods of all kinds, at restaurants which were classy but also at ones which looked like hole in the walls but had food that truly melted in your mouth. There are some things I still don't like - tofu being one of them.

Eventually all good things come to an end and we took the train overnight to Beijing. I've been on a sleeper train before but never one where I shared cabin space with three strangers. I was in the bottom bunk, reminiscent of my college dormitory 48 years ago.

Now to the interesting part about hotels. We are now in Beijing. We have gathered our belongings and are in a taxi headed for a place where we made a reservation through Expedia. We had paid for a space for three adults in one room. This normally means either three beds or two beds and a cot

It doesn't mean that we are into kinky and only want one bed. All of our luggage is in the lobby. I am exhausted and Marian is having a conversation with the front desk which looks like it is getting more heated. They say there isn't anything available and it is our problem not theirs. This is even though we have paid. Their answer is that we should deal with Expedia.

I just assumed that the arguing would end and that the hotel would find us suitable lodging elsewhere within the hotel. They just didn't care. Even when Marian said she would take a picture of them and circulate it on media. Just didn't care.

If we did not have Marian with us we would have been shafted. Not speaking Chinese we would probably have ended up making reservations at an international chain with international prices.

Marian found a hotel nearby which turned out to be phenomenal in bending over backwards to provide everything for us. They met us at the cab and brought our luggage inside (at the other place we had to drag it in ourselves), provided us a room with three single bed and were hosts beyond the call of duty.

Incidentally this is not just a China thing. I have made reservations before in the past, for example using American Express and showed up at the hotel and told there was no record and nothing available. I told them I would sleep in the lobby. They found me a room immediately.

Michele Rosenberg


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David Cahill
2012-06-01 09:46:52 UTC
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Dodi, this is a classic account and I'm glad you posted it. I have lived in China for 13 years. If everyone here treated me as badly as you were treated - and you WERE treated badly - I wouldn't still be here. There are many kind and conscientious Chinese people, like the ones who rescued you. But your experience was not a fluke or accident but quite typical for newly arrived foreigners. One oft-related incident (not unlike your airport experiences) is for an unaccompanied foreigner to arrive in China for a teaching job or university-related business and find no one at the airport to pick him or her up, despite being previously informed there would be someone there. This treatment stems from a combination of factors along a continuum ranging from generalized workplace apathy and lack of in
grained civic responsibility to barely disguised contempt for foreigners in particular. This is exactly what I mean when I said earlier that China needs to change if it wants to reap the benefits of internationalization.

David Cahill
Beijing


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Pete Marchetto
2012-06-07 14:19:12 UTC
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Quite a story, Dodi.

It sounds to me as if most of the crises on that trip were down to one individual. A person you knew - or thought you knew - admittedly, which makes it worse... but still, just the one and you did muddle through in the end with the assistance of strangers.

China's strange to me when it comes to the people in terms of their moral behaviour. Not to put too fine a point on it, I've met some of the most disgusting human beings I've ever known in my life here and, too, at the opposite extreme, some of the people I'd be most inclined to nominate for sainthood. Indeed, the extremes are such I sometimes wonder if there's anyone much in between.

I've noticed this too with the Chinese interacting with one another. Some seem to be born takers, others born givers. The givers never seem to ask for anything, the takers never seem inclined to give anything. Perhaps when the givers have had too much they get cynical and turn into takers themselves.

I remember one of my students talking about a discussion in her dormitory. Asked what she wanted to do when she left college she replied she wasn't sure, she just hoped that it would be something where she could bring happiness to the people around her. The girl she was talking with snorted. "You're talking like a child. You should grow up. To survive you must be ready and willing to smash heads." This contrast between extreme naivety and extreme cynicism is another thing you find here.

Finally I would say that here I've found it's often the most charming, the most suave, the most seemingly plausible people who end up giving the most trouble. The sad and sorry thing is you tend very often not to meet the good people here. They're the ones who are shy and would never dream of acknowledging a foreigner. On particularly bad days I have to remind myself that I pass hundreds of people on the street when I go shopping each day and the vast majority of them are probably decent people with whom I never speak. Sadly it tends to be those who introduce themselves who tend to turn out to be trouble. Not invariably, of course, but far too often.

Pete

******
******
******

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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David Cahill
2012-06-11 07:57:16 UTC
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Well put, Pete. I would add a couple points. First, the Chinese notion of "friendship" is different from the notion of it by Western (or American) standards. The Chinese tend not to clearly differentiate between friendship and advantage - "connections," "guanxi." When they call you their "friend," it means they've found or think they've found you useful for something they can benefit from. When they no longer can benefit from you, they drop you. But they're also strategic about it. Making friends often involves their trying to put you into their debt somehow (they might go out of their way to help you with something they know you need, etc.), so that later at the opportune time they can claim the favor back by asking for your help. This continual flip-flopping of mutual indebtedness define
s many "friendships" for people in China. Of course, friendship everywhere contains a bit of this, but it seems to be down to much more of a fine art in China. I find this in its most obnoxious form when dealing with Chinese men, with whom you can't really just have a relaxing conversation or shoot the shit over a drink. Instead, you have to engage in a lot of bragging and flattering each other, punctuated with frequent toasts to your "friendship" (downing the whole glass each time if you don't want to be rude). Foreign male/Chinese female relations are a bit more complicated, as you're dealing with the intangibles of love and sex, but again even romantic relationships are largely transactional. Yes, there are exceptions, many nice people who are not just out to use you; if there weren't
, we wouldn't manage more than a few weeks in this country.

Second, the way people here deal with personal space is very different from elsewhere and clearly conditions relationships. In the West (again I'm speaking as an American), in crowded conditions in public we deal with strangers by deferring to them and giving way. Everybody gives up a little space in public so that it all evens out and we retain some space, in a nice dance-like balance. In China, people do NOT give way. They're not intentionally trying to cut you off when you're walking down the street or riding a bike. They're just occupying any free space they can when they see an opening. It's instinctive and cultural. It may make us angry, but they're not even conscious of it. Once you realize this is their method for sorting out and distributing themselves in space, you can relax and
go with the flow. Human relationships too display something similar. People impose themselves on you and can be very pushy and insistent, hammering away until they get what they want. They don't care much about what you want. When you have something they want and they can't easily get it, they have to adjust and calculate what they need to do to get it (rather than just try to get along with you for friendship's sake). And you're free to interact in the same way with them.

David Cahill, Beijing




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Margaret Curtis
2012-06-15 23:32:44 UTC
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David, this is very insightful. A follow-up question might be: why are the Chinese like that? Are they different than people in other cultures? Are there historical (or other) reasons for this kind of occupation of space, this understanding of 'friendship'.

Clearly, many Westerners would consider the Chinese view on these things (and Western analogues) to be morally inferior. How to deal with this normative question?

margaret.curtis-***@public.gmane.org

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Cahill" <ishamcook-/***@public.gmane.org>

**The Chinese tend not to clearly differentiate between friendship and
advantage - "connections," "guanxi." When they call you their "friend," it means they've found or think they've found you useful for something they can benefit from.
** the way people here deal with personal space is very different from elsewhere and clearly conditions relationships.



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