Thursday, January 17, 2013

Introduction: Why China Sweat?

Welcome to China Sweat

I WILL BE migrating stories to here from some of my other blogs and sites. For now let me just start off with this. 

Why China Sweat? Because I lived in *Guangzhou, which is in south China, just above Hong Kong and it isn't just humid; you will walk outside in mid morning and have thick beads of perspiration competing for space on your forhead in moments--it's makes everyone completely torpid. It's so humid that animals look miserable, but then again, the Cantonese eat most of them so that adds to that look too.

But the title also refers to what it's like to live in mainland China. Foreigners like myself, who I will refer to as *expats from here on out, arrive under four main guises (not counting tourists)
  • diplomats
  • company people
  • teachers
  • exporters 
The Diplomats
I was surprised to find out how many there were in Guangzhou.  Although I had read up on the city before I arrived and knew that it was the capital of Guangdong Province and that it was a major manufacturing area, and that a very large world trade fair took place their twice a year, I wasn't prepared for this: Guangzhou is home to more consulates than there are in the alphabet! Currently, there are 29 countries represented there:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cuban, Britain, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Korea, Sweden, Thailand, USA, and Vietnam.

The Company People
This also surprised me but certainly not on the level as the diplomats. It seems China wasn't all that prepared to grow as it has without outside help and expertise. The Russians can attest to that. If it weren't for the Communist from old Mother Russia, China would not have had steel expansion bridges, railroads and power stations during the 50s and 60s. In fact Chairman Mao had a fallout with them during the construction of a major bridge over the Yangtze River that flows beside Nanjing, so the Russians pulled up stakes and left the Chinese hanging, literally--only half the bridge lay suspended above the wide expanse of the Yellow River and they were in a panic. Fortunately for them they found enough local engineers and mathematicians to figure out how to finish it and so they did, and it was a major moral booster for the very insecure Chinese psyche at the time.

The expat men (I don't recall meeting any professional women but I am sure there were some) who made their living in Guangzhou was broad and diverse. Some were there as IT professionals, adding intranet systems in businesses. A number of them were supervising the new subway system. Others were experts in carpentry and welding that lent them to all manner of infrastructure projects, and so on. One fellow I met was there to supervise the construction of a large, lightweight superstructure roof to cover the brand new airport.

The Teachers
That would be my party. I was hoping to meet several seasoned teachers but it seemed that everywhere I went, the teachers were as new as me. Oh, I met a few teachers that had been there a six months to a year, but I really only met new ones, not sure why.

China as most people know, is overpopulated, and it shows. Any given day at any given time (even at night) the sidewalks are crawling with people going to god knows where. There is always an undertone of city noise wherever you are and it takes some getting used to if you didn't come from a wall to wall cityscape. Because of this vast population the government is hard pressed to provide even the most basics of needs throughout the country. Because of a revamping of the agricultural system in 1984, surplus grains were seen for the first time. Education was another matter. 

There are only so many slots available in Universities so Chinese students study like no other students in the world for these very competitive entrance exams. Another situation is, there aren't enough teachers, classrooms, and schools for the entire country. Yet they try. And they also understand that teaching English to their population is essential to compete on the world stage, hence me being in China, along with thousands of other expat teachers.

The Exporters
 Because of the Canton Trade Fair, held twice a year--one in Autumn and one in Spring--Guangzhou changes dramatically at these times. Thousands of businessmen and women arrive in South China to find that great "next product" or simply to re-order goods or re-establish business relationships with factory owners and sales staff. Because of this, the China I got used to became the China I didn't want to be in. These people took over the city, the city I loved and had grown very fond of. Prices go up on beer, food, everything! Fortunately it only lasts a few weeks. For the five years I was there I actually made friends with a few who returned year after year, but mostly I avoided going out while the fair was in session.

I didn't mention tourists in the list because I never met any. Tourist to China take tours, they don't just buy a ticket and travel around on their own. Well almost. I did meet a couple of young Euro-backpackers, but they are usually full of themselves and not worth getting to know.

Even though I am currently in Hawaii, I plan to get back to China very soon, but first I need to polish my Mandarin, and save some flight money. Until then I'll keep posting my past experiences and current observations on present day news and stories on China.

Guangzhou--The third largest Chinese city and the largest in South China, known historically as Canton or Kwangchow — is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province

Expat--An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex ("out of") and patria ("country, fatherland").

 . © COPYRIGHT 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Mike Lovett aka China Mike

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