Black Female UK Travel Bloggers, My Tribe: Where Are You?

 

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What a delight to find this old favourite (HP Sauce) becoming more common across China’s big cities. See, just another crazy thing to note in a blog post. 

 

Any prolific blogger who’s making waves across the virtual world will tell you that there’s strength in unified blogging, as in uniting with other bloggers.

They advise that blogging solo without connects, contacts, partners and other cyber-space peers is akin to a slow death by search- engine.

I don’t really know why they advocate partnerships to be honest, especially as I’ve never been much of a group kind of gal. However, these ‘experts’ insist that being noticed, gaining views and increasing your email list / fan base / loyal readers, is a basic necessity for successful transition from small time blogger to bigwig with influence.

Another benefit is the comfort of knowing that you’re not the only one doing what you do. Kind of like holding hands around the web.

Well, okay then. Here’s to internet solidarity.

However, there is a proviso – natch.

Apparently bloggers of a feather flock together (forgive the artistic license, I couldn’t help myself) and with good reason. It makes sense to partner with writers who come under the same umbrella as yourself.

If I suddenly started making references to my mate Jim who blogs about the green frogs of Tanzania (it’s a real thing, look it up. The green frogs, not Jim), with links to his blog and urging you to spend time reading his posts you’d probably wonder why and with good reason as our topics are poles apart.

If you did want to know about green frogs you wouldn’t be here would you? You’d be off finding Jim all on your own.

 

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See? Everybody’s searching for black British female travel bloggers. 

 

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been much of a group / partnership / let’s all come and work together person, but prior to starting this blog I did check out (and still do) blogs by other black women, with a particular but obvious lean towards black women living and thriving in China.

There’s a quite a few out there, which is great. But what I’d really like to do is dig down even further and link with other black female, British travel bloggers.

We could swap links and readers, form a club, maybe meet up once a year or every five years, build a community and promote each other’s brilliance, but so far my longing is for naught as I can’t find any.

But there must be some!

I am one hundred percent convinced that I am not the only one with a story to tell and the will to commit to opening up a WordPress site and posting on a semi-regular basis.

So (cue violins),  I’ll keep searching and hoping.

In the meantime, if you come across any would you let me know? Ta

 

 

 

You Know It’s Holiday Time In China When…..

 

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Every year thousands, or perhaps millions, of holiday-makers flock to China’s wonderful and beautiful heritage spots. But sadly, judging from the picture above, seems like they’re more likely to get a shot of the back of someone’s head than anything else.

You see, when everyone is off work at the same time this is what happens.

This is ‘golden week’ in China. They occur twice a year initially in Spring for the Chinese New Year and of course, now at the start of Autumn which heralds China’s national week. It’s good to have a change of scenery, but surely the whole point of a break is to reduce stress, not to keep it going?

I wonder what happens when you’re in the middle of such a crowd and you develop a pressing need for the washroom? Or your baby’s crying, or you fall ill, or your granny has a heat stroke? What to do?

Still, my Chinese friends are surprised when they ask me what I’m doing for the holidays and I reply that I’m staying at home where I can enjoy the peace and quiet of my neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, all credit to these brave souls who went for it anyway!  I hope they do have a good time in-between the squashy bits and traffic jams )-:

Credit to ‘That’s PRD’ magazine. Click here for the full article:

http://www.thatsmags.com/guangzhou/post/15647/photos-october-holiday-crowds-swarm-tourist-sites

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This is why the Great Wall of China is great (in my humble and almost meaningless opinion). What other structure could withstand such hoards several times a year, year after year without crumbling?

Did you know that the wall was built during the Ming Dynasty? (not that I’m claiming credit or anything…. well maybe a little……okay. just kidding (-: )

New Rules On Chinese Work Visas

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After much speculation, news recently broke about definitive changes to the working visa for foreigners wishing to work and live in China.

The government has revised the procedures and created an Integrated Work Permit in an effort to simplify and also unify the process, which has to be good news.

Although things have become easier in many aspects over the last few years, generally speaking there are still many grey areas open to interpretation by different provinces and government departments. In addition, many foreign workers feel that the rules are too strict with no room for exceptions.

In recognition of creating a fairer, more level and easier to access platform, the new Visa rules are initially being trialed across major areas such as Beijing, Sichuan, Guangdong and Shanghai before being extended to the whole of the country at a later date, assuming the success of the pilot project. It’s expected that the unified foreigner’s work permit system will become effective across China from April 1 2017.

Previously and at the time of writing there are two visas, the Foreigner Employment Permit and the Foreign Expert Work Permit, which cover foreigners working in China however, within those visas are a myriad of complicated rules and regulations which can be misinterpreted. With these new rules the two certificates will be no longer be distanced,instead they’ll essentially becoming one.

The full declaration is  a  little confusing in places however I’ve found a couple of English speaking Chinese websites which break it down, so I’ll be using them as my source.

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It All Begins on November 1 2016

This is when the government classifies foreigners who wish to work in China in three categories instead of the multiple ones used previously.

These categories are; 

Class A: Top professional, innovative and creative talent. High end personnel.These talents will be encouraged. The paperwork for applying for this visa has been greatly reduced along with the response time.

Class B: Teachers, managers, technicians and other professionals who fit in with China’s economic development plans on a short term basis. These talents will be controlled.

Class C: Unskilled, seasonal or service industry workers whose intake will be strictly limited.

Visas for students and those wishing to set up a business remain unchanged.

In order to determine which Class is most suitable for applicants, points will be assigned according to salary, education level, Chinese language ability, skills and age. 85 points must be achieved to qualify for Class A,  a minimum of 60 for Class B and fewer than 60 for Class C.

The changes have been generally hailed as good news by most expats.

So, if you’re hoping to live and work in China for a while and want the most hassle free route, aim for a Class A or a Class B visa.

Good luck!

Refs: Guide In China. Expats Express

For more reading on this, written previously to these new rules but still holding a lot of relevance, check out my article on Hub Pages; https://wanderwisdom.com/travel-destinations/Which-Visa-Do-I-Need-To-Live-And-Work-In-China

Dear Chinese Teachers of English

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Good Chinese teachers of English aren’t hard to find and are a pleasure to work with.

After a while of teaching English as a second language in China, it’s clear that students tend to make mistakes in more or less the same areas. Of course each learner has his or her  unique and individual difficulties but, in addition to this, there are common misunderstandings which crop up frequently.

When I did some research into possible reasons why, there was no one consensus but it did seem to be a  possible result of erroneous teaching in school. This made sense to me, as unlike an English education system where students may study different texts using various methodology, Chinese students, with the goal of passing the forbiddingly arduous Gaokao exam in order to get into a good university, are generally taught in a more uniform manner across the country. This is to ensure fairness and continuity.

Consequently, with such standard teaching methods, this is most likely why my students who are from a variety of schools and provinces and of differing ages, tend to make the same mistakes in their spoken English.

So, in an attempt to ease the frustrations in the classroom of a foreign English teacher, here’s a helpful note to my Chinese counterparts. If you could stop teaching your pupils these things, everybody would benefit. Really.

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  1. Erroneous Phrases Such As ‘Of Course No!

This is a common phrase which makes perfect sense in Chinese but does not translate according to the same rules. It probably should and probably would if the English language only used one word for no, but as there are many, this phrase would need to be amended to become ‘of course not!’ Saying ‘of course no,’ sounds cute but it doesn’t make any sense.

2. Saying Urally for Usually.

This one confuses the hell out of me, frankly. It just doesn’t add up. Why would you change the sound and the spelling? And why would you change these facets to a word which doesn’t actually exist? Many of my most confident and higher level students have inserted this word firmly into their lexicon and getting them to make a correct substitution after so many years is not easy. But please, Chinese teachers of English, from one professional educator to another; ‘Urually’ is NOT  a word and your students should never say it. Banish it from your teaching materials immediately.

3. Using Google or Baidu translate for everything.

Stop it. Please. Electronic translators often have a mind of their own and are probably more inaccurate than accurate. Recently in a restaurant, the wait staff used a translator which informed my Italian companion that he ‘didn’t have enough gold in his chest’ to cover the bill. What they meant was that he would have to increase his room deposit. I view translating apps as a necessary evil. Generally the ones which are free are pretty rubbish so please discourage students  from depending on them.

4. Omitting the ends of words and other mispronounciation.

Manchester becomes Manchest. Technology becomes Technoledge and so on. Why? No-one seems to know, it’s just the way it’s taught,  but it’s really, really wrong. Please encouage your students to say the whole word in these cases. If the word has a French root then, yes, it may well be pronounced with the ending implied, but generally speaking, English words have endings, please use them.

At the other end of the stick, knowledge is knowledgee and college is collegee according to Chinese teachers of English. In this case, dear colleagues (colleagues; another word which we’ll get to in a minute), the letter e is silent. Write it, but don’t pronounce it. Same with doubt and debt. The letter b is lazy, it wants to be written, but it doesn’t want to be said. Likewise with the letter p in the word receipt.

Colleague is not and will never be pronounced colleager.

5. Know when to use The as a place title.

It should not be used for every noun, but only for some. I’m sorry, I really have no idea why, which is another point; there aren’t rules for all of the idiosyncracies in the English language. It would be great if it could be so cut and dried, but unfortunately it isn’t.

Getting back on point, ‘The’ is not used when naming cities; ‘The London, The New York,’ etcetera. It’s also not used when naming some countries. It’s incorrect to say ‘The England,’ ‘The America,’ ‘The Australia,’ or ‘The New Zealand.’ However, you can say ‘The Democratic Republic of The Congo,’ or ‘The United Kingdom,’ and ‘The United States of America.’ Like, I said, I’ve no idea why. It just is.

6. Neighbourhood is not similar to Childhood.

Most students of English are aware that childhood refers to people, places and a time of life but they also think that neighbourhood carries the same connotations. Dear Chinese teachers of English; this word frequently crops up in English speaking exams so pupils need to know that neighbourhood only refers to place and that neighbours refers to people. A small, but significant difference.

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Eager students! The best type. Give them proper knowledge.

Okay,  so I’ve endeavoured to address the major frustrations of English teachers in China when dealing with students who’ve undergone many years of English training from Chinese teachers.

When all is said and done, we’re all striving for the same goal. May I suggest that in a spirit of friendly co-operation, (as it says on all of my work contracts), we move forward together (whilst hoping for a vast change!).

 

 

 

 

A Chinese Rose By Any Other Name; How Chinese people react to smell.

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A typical Chinese neighbourhood full of sights, sounds and the frequently unpleasant smells of everyday life.

It’s recently come to my attention that some Chinese people have a highly developed sense of smell.

This manifests into holding their noses, grimacing or moving away from the scent they’re encountering.

Obviously no-one likes being around pungent odours but it’s interesting how in China, if the source of the stink is food related, no-one complains.  If the funky smells come from people who prefer to wash once or twice a week in winter because of their belief that undressing fully in cold weather is bad for the health, then, again,  it seems to be perfectly okay to just put up with it and make no reaction.

Weirdly if the strong smell comes from insect repellent or deodorant (yes, deodorant, I’m not kidding), then some Chinese people cannot bear it. They wave their hands in front of their face, sigh repeatedly and, where possible, make a beeline away from the offending, usually mild citrus fragrance.

When I asked my Chinese friends what this strange habit is all about they replied that traditionally Chinese people don’t use deodorant so, consequently, the smell is unnatural to them. They also mentioned that insect repellents whether for the body or the home are thought to be carcinogenic so they’re used extremely sparingly if at all.

I understand these reasons. I may not agree with them, but I can see how they would make sense. What I cannot stand is the rudeness which accompanies these beliefs.

The exaggerated negative facial expressions, hand-flapping, nose holding and ridiculous scattering to another area are unnecessary, uncalled for and completely damaging to China’s staged and much publicised attempts to win over the west with Soft Skills.

Dear Chinese friends I’ve yet to meet; deodorant and insect repellent are part of everyday life in the tropics and people will utilise them in the way they think is best. In any case you’re like to be in whiffing distance for no more than a few minutes so please stop the blatantly impolite reactions and just deal with it.

 

 

 

 

 

Typhoon Nida: Big, Badass, Bellicose.

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Xixiang underground train station, Shenzhen. Closed to the public as it prepares for the arrival of Typhoon Nida, but welcoming to sandbags.

When I heard news of yet another potential storm initially I wasn’t too worried.

Typhoons are common in this region at this time of year. However, reading reports of expected windspeeds of 95-130mph got my attention as it became apparent that Typhoon Nida was demanding nothing less than total respect.

She was expected to reach South East China’s coastal Guangdong province shortly after travelling actoss the South China sea near the Philippines. As well as battering my city, Shenzhen, she’d also affect neighbouring cities including the area capital, Guangzhou and off the mainland, the sparkling, overcrowded metropolis of Hong Kong.

 

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5:30pm. Long queues formed at Futian underground train station as commuters left work early, heading home before the storm hit.

Warnings about safety along with tips on how to secure property and belongings were plentiful. TV news broadcasters promised to stay on the air all night bringing us updates every half an hour.

When I caught myself thinking about how to locate underground shelters I wondered if the media really were there to help or simply to induce panic.

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Shenzhen’s newest underground rail station, Line 11. Commuters crush forward in an effort to get home before the storm. The good news is that authorities have recently announced they’ll be adding extra trains to this line.

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8pm. A deserted Futian underground train station.

The daytime storm force warning given by Hong Kong Observatory hovered at a fairly safe 3 before swiftly rising to an ominous 8 between 9 and 10pm. By then the streets were eerily quiet, emptied of China’s relentless traffic.

The many building sites, some of which begin work at 7am and continue until almost 11pm on a daily basis, were silent. The labourers had returned to their dormitories, probably wondering if the pre-fabricated material used to build the temporary workers accommodation would resist the storm.

Shops which normally remained open until 9 or 10pm closed several hours early. Doting grandparents had taken their grandchildren inside instead of spending time in the outdoor communal play areas according to their usual early evening routine.

Everybody was at home. Acting in concert we watched the skies from behind closed doors and tightly shuttered windows, one ear on the news, thinking of nothing but the storm to come.

We were advised to tape up large areas of glass and to remove loose objects such as plants and furniture from balconies. Ironically there was no official word on what to do about homeless people and animals but I’ve heard about shelters opening during cold weather and I prayed that these places of refuge would not be redundant in the storm.

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Supermarkets cleared of stock as people prepared for the possible effects of Typhoon Nida.

I live in a sturdy, newly built building and my landlord assured me I’d be safe, but being on the 34th floor with only a mezzanine roof above me and a clear passsage to the sea didn’t seem like the best idea, especially when a news cutting I’d taped to the back of my door flew off and eerily bounced across the floor several times courtesy of the wind picking up outside.

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Playing ground of Shekou High School in Shenzhen the morning after Typhoon Nida. Many of its beautiful trees suffered severe storm damage.

The worst of the storm hit overnight with winds of between 96-110mph, ear shattering thunderstorms and piercing lightening. Temperatures dropped so suddenly and to such an extent that in the midst of a tropical summer I was forced to don a thick jumper to keep warm. (for my American readers, jumper = sweater).

Following the storm, today’s social media has been filled with videos of flash flooding affecting cars, small buildings and even people, although I haven’t yet heard reports of any loss of life. Long standing trees have been split in half or had previously sturdy limbs ripped away. The sea level has risen by one and a half metres and copious amounts of rain drenched the area. In addition most businesses and schools were closed for the duration.

All in all, the true and final cost of the storm is yet to be ascertained.

Tropical Cyclone Nida thundered into my town and left her mark, weakening as she moves through Guangdong and Guanxi. But typhoon season is not yet over and who knows what further damage the next one will bring?

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Storm advisory warning issued on Monday 1 August around 11am. The path shows Typhoon Nida approacing South East China from the Philippines, strengthening as it reaches land.

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Some of the gorgeous trees around Shenzhen which suffered severe storm damage courtesy of Typhoon Nida.

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Ghost Writing: Some Chinese Students Pay For Academic Help

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Starbucks Coffee. Caffeinated friend to hardworking students across the globe.

‘The essay doesn’t have to be written in my style, just make it get me a grade A.’

This was the first line of an email written to a friend of mine who’d been asked to ghost write a student’s essay. The instructions were to write a speech for a ten minute video log on why men and women can’t communicate.

The student, a young man aged about 19, had recently enrolled in an American university and was failing in his parent’s eyes, consistently gaining B’s and B+ in his assignments. It wasn’t good enough. He was causing his parents to lose face and they demanded that he do better. Anything less than an A was unacceptable and, if he really wanted them to be pleased with him, he’d need to achieve an A+ on a regular basis.

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Students practice English speeches in preparation for attending international schools.

The student had been considered above average in China where he’d spent most of his free time studying, eschewing common teenage leisure activities such as going to the movies and hanging out with his friends, considering them to be nothing more than ‘a waste of time.’

But now, in America, these same activities beckoned strongly in favour of attempting the much bigger workload and succeeding at it.  It wasn’t that this student was lazy, far from it, he was just overwhelmed. The pressure of studying in a second language with all of its grammatical quirks, assimilating into a foreign culture and pleasing both parents and teaching staff was taking its toll and he was still only two months into a four year degree.

My friend agreed to write the essay, grumbling a little at the short deadline. It was the third request he’d received in less than seven days and he knew there’d be more to come. Once one student had gained an A from the ghost written work, more would flock to the ghost writer freely offering their parents hard earned money.

I asked him if he would write the same essay in different voices so that it was unique to each student. He said that that didn’t matter. Neither the students nor their tutors seemed to care if the essay obviously didn’t match the student’s previous abilities. Schools wanted their foreign students to do well thus encouraging more foreign students to apply and attend paying fairly high fees, while students needed a bank of A grades to move beyond the status of underachiever and keep their parents happy.

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Parents listen to a talk detailing how their children can attend universities in the west. 

Helping students in this way begins even before they go abroad. In China there is a thriving market for writing personal statements and Ivy League Admission essays. Ghost writers are usually ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers who are approached by parents, agencies, school or training centre staff. They are also teachers who spot a gap in the market, do their own advertising and set themselves up in an informal but fairly lucrative business.

Although Chinese students are welcomed and supported throughout their American or UK undergraduate education, the competition for places is still stiff. A Skype interview may be requested by the school along with the written application. Coaching for Skype interviews is common, but the biggest request by far is for help with anything which needs to be written.

Transcribing directly from Chinese to English produces Chinglish which is a mish mash of ideas, prepositions and sentence structure and which does no favours for the person it’s supposed to represent. Hence, the scramble to find an ESL teacher who will re-write a personal statement or, even better, create one from scratch.

Perhaps ethically speaking, being a ghost writer for a struggling Chinese student who’s becoming more and more burdened is not the best choice. Surely doing the student’s work for him or her reduces opportunities for personal and academic development?

However, in reality, most students request only a small portion of their assignments to be ghost written perhaps during the first, very tough year.

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Would you be able to skilfully cover a topic like this in a foreign language? And what the heck is femtosecond?

It’s hard to tell which is worse; the pressure from parents who are spending $60,000 per term or more depending on the college or, complicit lecturers and professors who recognise the stark difference in an essay worthy of an A grade in comparison to student’s previous work but say nothing.

Is this cheating? Is it doing the student a disservice? Is it an ethical or moral dilemma? Should we expect students who obviously cannot compile academic sentences in a foreign language to succeed on their own  at western universities anyway?

Another email request for a ghost written essay this time for a Chinese student at another American university pops into my friend’s inbox. The subject is about the positives and negatives of volunteering. The student has added a badly worded note saying he’s never volunteered so he wouldn’t know what to write about.

It’s clear to me that the market for ghost writers is not drying up anytime soon.