Dating in China 2

After going on so many “bad” dates, it’s tough to get the willpower to go back out there. Sitting at home alone half-naked under my air con watching Netflix and eating Chinese Cheetos has started to sound a lot more appealing than going out to dinner on a date.

“Pressure”

This is our first date

Her: So, you want kids?

Me: I’m not opposed to having them

Her: What about living in China the rest of your life?

Me: Definitely not

Her: So, you hate China?

Me: Not at all, I just don’t want to live here forever

Her: Then this isn’t going to work

Me: Sorry what?

Her: I need someone committed to me, and that means living in China forever

Me: Should we just get the bill now or…?

 

“The Classic”

A typical WeChat conversation

Me: Hey any plans for the weekend?

Her: Sleeping

Me: You’re going to sleep all weekend?

Her: Yes, so tired from work.

Me: Do you want to grab a drink or something?

Her: No, sorry, I’ll be sleeping

This is also a super common response from colleagues I work with. ‘Sleeping’ is often replaced by the word ‘resting,’ which for most Chinese means laying in bed playing around on their phone and not leaving their apartment all weekend. 

 

“Better Salad”

We go to a nice Mexican restaurant around 6pm and both get food and drinks. We both get a substantial amount of food plus chips & salsa (which are not free in China) and no, she’s not fat. After we pay, this happens:

Her: I want a salad

Me: Why didn’t you order one?

Her: Well, I don’t want one from here, I want one from this little café I know

Me: You’re still hungry? I mean, I guess we could ride my scooter there

Her: Great

I just rode 12km to get to the Mexican place, and now I’m taking this girl 10km to some café because “they have the best salads.” We get there, she wants to sit on the rooftop, but their lights aren’t working, so we’re literally sitting the dark while she’s munching away on a salad and I’m drinking a beer. I’m not super excited to be in this situation. After she finishes her salad, she makes it abundantly clear that she wants to go home, so we walk outside.

Me: Well, that was super weird, but nice to see you! Are you going to get a Didi or take the subway home?

Her: You’re not going to drive me back to where we met?

Me: My battery is running low, plus I’d have to ride back here and I’ve gotta be getting home

Her: That’s so rude

Me: You chose this place

Her: Ya but it’s your responsibility to take me back

Me: I’m sorry?

 

“The Vegetarian”

Before the date, she explicitly told me she was a vegetarian and she’d only go out to dinner if I took her to a vegetarian restaurant, but not Indian. I love demanding girls, off to a great start.

Me: I don’t usually eat vegetarian, but I thought that was pretty great!

Her: Huh…

Me: You didn’t like it?

Her: It was terrible

Me: What didn’t you like about it?

Her: I just didn’t like it

We did get separate dishes, but we also shared pita bread and veggies with hummus. She also ate all of her food, so I’m a little confused at this point.

Me: My fault then, I’d never been here before but it has good reviews online. Next time we go out, you can take me to a place that you like

Her: There won’t be a next time

Me: Why?

Her: Because you took me to the worst vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to

Me: Are you serious?

Her: You’re a bad restaurant chooser

I think I dodged a bullet on that one

China's Hutong Renovations: Yay or Nay?

You ever get so busy that you forget to update your blog? Ya, happened to me. I leave for Egypt on July 30, so expect lots of photos of me with my hands in the air surrounded by sand.

Here’s an article I just recently wrote for Expat Guides.




Dating In China

Since I broke up with my ex in October 2016, I’ve given the dating game in Beijing a shot and it’s been a whirlwind of funny/awkward situations, and moments where I can’t even think of how to respond. Here are some of the more “interesting” things that have happened while on a date

 “Already Ate”

Her: Let’s grab dinner at 6 on Saturday

Me: Sounds good!

In the restaurant on Saturday

Me: I’m starving, you hungry?

Her: No, I ate an hour ago

Me: Umm, I thought we had dinner plans

Her: Ya, but I was hungry an hour ago and didn’t want to wait. It’s ok, I’ll watch you eat

Me: …

 

 “Oh, Actually”

Me: So, drinks on Friday?

Her: Ya, perfect.

At the bar

Me: I think I’ll grab a beer. You?

Her: Oh, actually, I don’t drink, but I am so hungry, I think I’ll get Pho

So I sit there, drinking beer, listening to her slurp up Pho while puffing on a vape every other bite and blowing it right across the table. Before I can even start to wonder how I get myself in these situations, she says:

Her: Do you want to buy a vape? I sell them, it’s my side business

Me: Thanks for the offer, but I’m all set

Her: No worries! Anyway, it’s so nice of you to buy me Pho

Me: Sorry, what gives you the impression that I’m buying your food?

Her: That’s how it works, guys always pay

I’ve gotta start vetting these girls better before agreeing to go out

“So Strong”

Her: Oh my gosh, this mojito is so strong

Me: You can order something else if you want

Her: No, it’s ok, I’m just feeling like so drunk already

Me: Alright, well just don’t throw up on me

So we keep talking, and between stories she keeps commenting just how strong the drink is and how’s she feeling drunk and laughing a lot. This is her first drink, so I’m not concerned, but find it odd that she keeps talking about it. After we finish, we head down to the bar and the bartender says “Table 10, one beer and one non-alcoholic mojito”, at which point I turn to the girl and say “Sorry, what the fuck?”

She looks at me and shrugs: I thought you’d like me better if you thought I was drunk

Me: …

 

“Don’t Do Scooters”

Me: Hey, so we can meet around 8 at the subway station and I can pick you up on my scooter and then ride to the restaurant

Her: Sounds great!

At the subway

Me: Hey hey, ready to go?

Her: Actually, do you know any places close to here? I don’t do scooters

Me: … I already made a reservation, I thought you said riding on a scooter would be fine

Her: Ya, but I don’t do scooters, too scary

Me: …

 

“Height Requirements”

Talking to Chinese girls on Tinder (which you need a VPN for) can be tricky, but there’s one thing for certain - they’ll ask you how tall you are

Her: How tall are you?

Me: 180

Her: Sorry, that’s not enough

Me: What do you prefer?

Her: 190+

Me: Out of curiosity, how tall are you?

Her: 150

Me: If you want to date a giraffe, go to the zoo

“Couldn’t Wait”

Me: Hey I’m outside of the KFC where we agreed to meet. Where are you?

Her: I’m inside, hold on a second.

Her: Hey sorry, I was hungry so I got a bunch of stuff.

Me: We are literally headed to a restaurant right now

Her: Ya, but I wanted KFC

Me: …

Words for 2018

Here are some words I liked from 2018:

  • Capricious - Determined by chance it whim rather than by necessity

  • Rube - A person who is not very intelligent or interested in culture

  • Copacetic - Completely satisfactory

  • Louche - Disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.

  • Cogent  - Clear, logical, convincing (of an argument / case)

  • Remonstrate - To make a forcefully reproachful protest

  • Indefatigable - Persisting tirelessly

  • Persiflage - Light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter

  • Inimical - Tending to obstruct or harm

  • Viviparous - Bringing forth live young that have developed inside the body of the parent

  • Pernicious - Having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way

  • Bumptious - Self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree

  • Recalcitrant - Having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline

  • Incipient - In an initial stage; beginning to happen or develop

Contraception - Print Available

Print version of "Contraception", a story about overpopulation in the future, is available from Amazon and can ship worldwide! Get your copy today!

amazon.com/author/degenhill

Single Mockup - White.jpg

WWU - China's Social Credit System

Let’s talk about it. Here are the facts:

The idea of a social credit system first appeared in a document from the State Council of China published in June 2014. The country aims for everyone in China to be enrolled in a vast national database that compiles fiscal and government information by 2020. 

That system isn't in place yet. For now, the government is watching how eight Chinese companies issue their own "social credit" scores under state-approved pilot projects, including Sesame Credit, a subsidiary of Alibaba (they run Taobao). Other companies include China Rapid Finance, which is a partner of social network giant Tencent (they run WeChat). 

A national database will merge a wide variety of information on every citizen, assessing whether taxes and traffic tickets have been paid, whether academic degrees have been rightly earned, overall financial credibility, spending habits, criminal records, and social media behavior. After 2020, each adult citizen, along with their identity card, will also have a social credit score.

The purpose? A social credit system puts people's past history on record, with the goal being to build a better and more fair society. The intentions of the new system are not only economical, fighting fraudulent practices, but also moral. The Chinese government hopes to promote among its citizens socialist core values, such as patriotism, respecting the elderly, working hard, and avoiding extravagant consumption. The government wants to evaluate the behavior of its citizens in various other areas as well, with the aim of “strengthening and innovating social governance.” For example, buying too many video games, as stated in the document, would lower your credit score because those who play vids aren't being productive members of society. 

A citizen’s score affects their eligibility for a number of services, including the kinds of jobs or mortgages they can get, and also impacts what schools their children qualify for.

Opinion

This is all sorts of crazy. Not only will the government have access to every data point of what makes you, you, they’ll also be able to control (even more so than they already do) what actions its citizens make simply by saying - “Doing *insert behavior* will lower your social score”. Most Chinese people I’ve talked to, including those who write about politics, have no idea about this system. In the same vein that I support President Trump, I hope this system fails so the government can rethink its approach to how it governs its citizens. 

I tried to pitch this story to my boss, and as usual, needed to highlight the “positives”, and I came up with this:

China would be the first country to implement a social credit system, compared to other countries who simply issue a credit score based on fiscal responsibility. The system will also use many of China’s high-tech achievements, including big-data research and face-tracking technology in order to track and maintain the social scores of its citizens. Whether the system will work or not remains to be seen, but China’s ambition for the project is worth commending.

However, it wasn’t quite enough as I was told, “The June issue is already full…”

Prez For Life

So recently, during the Two Sessions here in Beijing, China changed their constitution, getting rid of term limits for the president. Originally established by Deng Xiaoping, the term limits, 2 terms of 5 years each, were set in place to avoid another Mao incident. It worked for a few decades, and then along came Xi. Consolidating his power, getting rid of rivals through "handling corruption", and now abolishing term limits, Xi is here to stay.

I've talked with many Chinese about their thoughts on this and they are all supportive of it. I can't be sure of the genuineness of their answer, or if they just don't dare speak their mind in a country where those who do tend to be met with consequences. "We're updating the constitution", "It's refreshing", "The modern age requires it" are all justifications for what has happened. For me, it's frightening. I don't trust China and now that the leader, one who has increased censorship during his time in office, has put himself in place to never be politically challenged, I think it's time for me to start thinking about my departure. 

The United States is not perfect, and to be sure, there is a lot of political bullshit, but at the very least, we have a system of checks and balances. China's NPC is very much a rubber-stamp meant to approve whatever Xi and the Politburo place before them. I don't trust China because I think the country is very manipulative. One example of this is during the Two Sessions, many foreign press were invited and placed at the front of the room when the Premier and other ministers were scheduled for interviews. However, they weren't allowed to ask questions because questions needed to first be vetted (read: they wanted softball questions from domestic reporters). The only reason foreign journalists were invited was because when televised, it would make the Two Sessions look like it was important on an international scale because "Hey look, white people are here". 

If all goes according to plan, I plan to leave China around July 2019. I don't know where I'll go, or what I'll do, but Beijing is wearing me out and I think it's important to make a change in my life before I turn 30. There's still a long way to go before then, so I'll wait before I get sentimental. For now, I'm keeping my eye on my goals, and the Chinese government. It will definitely be an interesting next couple of years in China, but I hope I'm not here to see them.

WWU - Spring Festival

The almighty Spring Festival is right around the corner, officially starting the day after Valentine’s Day. What does this mean for China? Well, most people will work this Saturday to balance out having days off in two weeks. Further, the holiday truly puts China’s transportation infrastructure to the test. Everyone, and I mean everyone, travels back to their hometown for the holiday to meet up with parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Due to the demand, Chinese trains and high-speed rails are completely booked, with zero tickets remaining in the days leading up to and following the start of the festival. Pictures of train stations will inevitably be posted on social media when Spring Festival starts, and they will show a sea of Chinese people all aiming to get home for the holidays.

 

Once home, those who are single will deal with the barrage of passive questions and comments from their family and friends about why they are still single, and how they should get married soon. They’ll do this over a table full of home-cooked Chinese food, including dumplings, which are a must for Spring Festival. Hongbaos, or red envelopes filled with money will be exchanged, and for the cities where firecrackers and fireworks haven’t been banned, the night sky will fill with their explosions of sounds and color. 

 

Most foreigners leave China, taking advantage of their week off to finally get out of the country. However, their desire is short-lived as many other popular destinations for Chinese people during Spring Festival include Bali, Bangkok, and Boracay. Students in China probably enjoy the festival most, as they have the longest vacation, ranging from two to six weeks. For most people, especially those who work, a week is allotted amount of time; enough to go home, visit the family, and leave before growing sick of them. 

 

The festival lets you know it’s here as city streets in China’s capital are now adorned with huge red lanterns and large replicas of the famous Chinese Knot. There seems to be a buzz in the city, like the buildup in an EDM song before the bass finally drops. This is China’s Christmas, and year after year, the country never fails to breathe life into an otherwise mundane lifestyle. Spring Festival is exciting, even for foreigners, not just in China, but around the world. Countries with large populations of Chinese such as Singapore and Malaysia also have huge red lanterns and decorations around their cities, celebrating just as hard as the Chinese in China. 

 

So wherever you are, or will be, I wish you a happy 2018 Spring Festival. May your hongbaos be full, and your stomach too. Wishing you good fortune and great success for the rest of the year!

WWU - Novel Writing

Writing a book is challenging. Initially, I never thought it would be possible, sort of like watching someone free-climb a rock wall and you look at them and say, ‘nope’. Well, I was tired of saying ‘nope’, so based on a conversation I had with my friend, I made an outline of major plot points for a story, researched average word length for novels, and wrote 1,000 words during work days. That’s what I did starting in July and by November, I had over 90,000 words - my starting point. I went back through it myself as it needed substantial editing. It was interesting to look back on what I had wrote at the beginning versus later on, realizing that I had a better sense of where the story was going and who my characters were as the novel progressed, obviously. When I started, anything could have happened. I was building a world and there were no plot lines to connect, yet; I was free. 

I’ve never considered myself to be a creative person, in terms of music, art, or creating something from nothing. But dammit, I wanted to write a novel. So I did it. I hired an editor who is not only making my story tighter, but is also asking me a lot of questions which while writing, never occurred to me. Rewriting is an enjoyable and yet frustrating process. If I change a plot-line in chapter 10, I need to remember what other things will be affected by it, and how to change those based on the initial change I made. It’s a delicate balance which I’m figuring out as I go. 

My editor keeps asking me how I did it, and what drove me to write it. FIrst, I had a lot of time on my hands at work. Second, I just did it. I literally wrote 1,000 words every day whether or not I wanted to. Some days were harder than others, and some days I had no idea where the story was going, but I wrote anyway. For me, it’s sort of like cooking. You can’t start unless you have the ingredients, and you can’t shape a novel without words on a page. I’ve edited, rewritten, and reorganized the words I wrote so much that even looking at my first draft would be almost unrecognizable. 

Has it been frustrating? To be honest, not really. I’ve really enjoyed writing and shaping this novel and hope one day, people will enjoy reading it. Would I do it again? For sure, as soon as the current one is completely wrapped up. I’m trying to write a short-story while still going over my novel edits and it’s difficult for me to keep 2 ‘creative’ projects going at once. I need to dive in, be involved with one creative project, and then detach before I move on to the next. I’m also aware that writing about writing is about as pretentious as it gets. Don’t worry, I haven’t started wearing a French beret and doing slam poetry yet. 

Back to America

For the first time in over four years, I’m going to back to America for my father’s wedding in San Francisco from September 27th to October 2nd. Am I nervous? Sure. Here are some things that I expect to be bothersome or what I think I’ll find strange:

  1. Using American money, and for that matter, money. Everything I pay for, including groceries, my rent, utility bill, drinks, I use my phone. China is truly transforming into a cashless society.
  2. Listening in on other people’s conversations. If I don’t listen carefully, then I can’t understand Chinese people, which makes sitting in a restaurant or bar with my English speaking friends feel very comfortable. But when I occasionally hear another foreigner speak English, I automatically hear and understand what they are saying, which is annoying. 
  3. Not being able to get around on my scooter. I ride that thing around 25km per day. To work, the gym, a bar, a date, to the grocery store. Best thing I’ve bought in China. 
  4. Seeing so many white people. In Beijing, I stand out. At times, most of the time, I’m the only white person in an area. 
  5. Chatting with people whose native language is English, but aren’t my friend. I casually chat in Chinese to the taxi driver or the lady at the bank, but the only English I speak in China is with my friends, girls I know, or the people I work with. There aren't any day-to-day formalities using English
  6. The structure and rigidity of America scare me. The police, people following the rules of the road, no electric scooters, people wait their turn in line. It’s annoying that people here in China don’t do it, but at the same time, that’s what I’ve become accustomed to. 
  7. Shopping. I’m on vacation; I’m going to shop. But even here in Beijing, 90% of my shopping is done online, thanks to Taobao. Clothes, shoes, furniture, pens, it has everything. 
  8. Seeing my family
  9. The air quality. Let’s face it, Beijing has shit air, so it's going to be weird being back somewhere that isn’t polluted
  10. Not having my routine. In Beijing, I have a pretty regular schedule. Work, gym, dinner, and on some days, I have a livestream show (part-time job). It will be weird being on vacation in a country that I used to call home

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

So this is called "Zongzi" and it's a traditional Chinese food eaten during the Duanwu (Dragon Boat) festival here in China. They come in a variety of flavors, but are most often categorized as either salty or sweet. They are made out of a sticky rice, with different ingredients mixed in depending on where you live in China. 

Personally, I think they are super gross and I will never try a Zongzi again. For some reason, most of China's traditional holiday foods, except for dumplings, are not so good. Even some Chinese people don't like them. I have a theory that because it's gone on for so long, everyone just pretends they like them and fake smiles in between bites of this atrocious holiday snack. 

端午节安康~