Thursday, June 15, 2006

Aabservations - Shooting for the Starbucks

Ugh, I'm too freaking tired to blog. I just finally booked tickets to China. Leaving on 8/26, coming back on 9/18. Gonna get myself some tasty yak meat fo' shizzle, biatch!!

Here's another installment of Aabservations, originally sent on 5/12:

In a moment of weakness, I went to one of Chengdu's 4 Starbucks for a latte.

One of the workers came over so my classmate and I spoke to her for an hour or so (in broken Chinese) about her life story. Basically, she was born in Sichuan, the province I live in. After high school she moved to work in a factory in Shenzhen. Shenzhen, the Chinese city opposite Hong Kong, has blossomed from (literally) a few hundred person fishing village to a major industrial center since the Hong Kong turned Chinese in 1997. She worked in the factory for just 1 month, living in a dorm provided by the company, and quit. Why?, I asked. "Bu hao," she said, shaking her head and waving her hands. "Not good, not good."

Then her friend introduced her to a job at Starbucks Shenzhen, which was better. Starbucks trains you, provides health insurance, and has better working conditions. She likes it because of the customer interaction. Once she was trained in Shenzhen, she was able to transfer back to her home province of Sichuan, and now works in Chengdu closer to her family.

She studies on her own because she ultimately wants to get a college diploma, but can't afford to actually go to college. She's 21. I think she'll get there.

That's a little story about Starbucks and the Chinese Dream.

* * *

I also learned some English from my British friend. While I taught her the nuanced meaning of "schlep" she taught me the use of "foxed" -- which means confused, like "that grammar structure really foxed me." Another happy phrase is "pop to the shop" which is pretty self explanatory. Feel free to use.

And one other thing I think is funny about language is when Chinese words have the same sense as English ones. We learned today that the word for the center of the city is "zhongxin" which breaks down to "center heart." Heart of the city.

One of the first words that I learned in Russia was "uzhastna" which you generally say throwing your hands up when something awful has happened that you can't really do anything about (forgive the spelling, it's been a while).

I've been here 3 months and haven't been taught any word quite like like that. The closest is "mafan" which means hassle. But I think the difference between Russia and China might just lie in the difference between those two words: Russians (rightfully) complain about the crap they've gone through for centuries (uzhastna!); Chinese see it as something annoying that just has to be overcome (mafan).

* * *

I realized I was totally extremely ignorant about was China's involvement in WWII. I knew they were somehow involved, but never realized they started fighting the Japanese as early as 1937 until a Chinese friend explained that it was China who actually beat Japan in WWII. Funny thing, because in Russia I learned that the Russians won the war in Asia, by helping to cripple Japan with something called Operation August Storm which started 2 weeks before Hiroshima. But of course as we all know, the RIGHT answer is that the US single-handedly won the War with atomic bombs. Thank goodness I was raised in country that doesn't brain wash its citizens with nationalistic propaganda. :)

(Also, I am embarrassed to admit I just learned that Japan didn't bomb Pearl Harbor out of the blue, but that the US had actually put an oil and steel embargo on them several months prior. Hm.)

Okay, that's your Friday morning entertainment for now. Have a nice weekend!

- An Ke Xin

P.S. If you are more interested in the Chinese view of the war, here's an excerpt written last July in the China's People Daily.
"The Japanese aggressor troops suffered a loss of over 1.3 million people in the Chinese battlefield, their various kinds of strategic materials prepared for use in the Pacific war, such as iron and steel, oil, ammunitions and ordnance were forced to be depleted ahead of time, this constitutes one of the major reasons for the final defeat of Japanese troops."

P.P.S. If you want to get a sense of what appears to me to be deep-seated tension between China and Japan, check out this article titled "Japanese invasion 60 years ago put China 50 years back in social progress"