I leant this phrase yesterday 道貌岸然 dàomàoànrān. It means when someone says good things, but actually does something else. Literally meaning ‘looking sanctimonious’, On the outside one says they can do something but really this is a facade. On the inside they have no intention of doing so, of course it’s very difficult to know that these people are bad until you are In the bad situation yourself.

I’ve been trying to think of a good equlavant saying for this in English, maybe something like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but I can’t think of anything that is nearer, any Ideas?

I’ve experienced this phenomenon time and again right across different areas of life and I have developed a ‘radar’ that helps me sniff-out such things.

Regarding business related matters with people – I know this is cynical – but if someone is too nice to you at first, be suspicious. Look for the deeper reason behind ‘why is this person being so nice to me?’ ‘what do they want?’

99% of the time you can be sure its not just for the benefit of your health!

For me, the many dealings I had with Star Education and simliar like agencies further re-infoces this point. They will be very nice to you at first, promise the world, coax you in, then once you’ve signed up- bang 道貌岸然. My dealings with the good organisations here have been quite the opposite, business-like and straight forward, for they have no need to put on a show.

No time.

So I’m going to quit one of my part-time jobs.  I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks and now I reaslise that I need to have some free time in my life. At present 6 days a week I leave home by 7 and get home after 8 and It isn’t worth it.   

My mind was decided last week when my boss thought it funny to pay me 200元 less than I was meant to get.  Now 200元 may not be that much – when I first came to China I would have let it go – but not now. If he is going to mess with me then I’ll repay him with the same courtesy.  

 I get paid by the hour so he knows exactly how many classes I did,  yet when I told him he said I was mistaken, he simply didn’t listen to anything I had to say.  It’s strange because I have had a good working relationship with him previously, I have never had any complaints. Why would he try this on?  

 I told him in as many ways possible that he still owed my the 200, then I told him in Chinese,  I asked him to him to ask the students whether I was there or not.  He still continued to disagree with me.  I think he must have really been short of cash or something (by skimming the 200yuan) because he knows that if I quit on him he is in a difficult situation.  He also knows that there are lots of other places I could work and that I don’t have to work for him.

 I will tell my boss after I get paid this week that my price has gone up.  So If he wishes to retain my services he must pay me more as my time has now become more valuable.  If he doesn’t agree (and this is what I really want) I will endeavour to find him a replacement teacher but I can’t guarantee anything.   He knows how difficult it will be to get a replacement at this time during the term, especially as his classes are during the week and most teachers in Changchun work during the week.  But this will be his problem not mine. 

By forcing his hand I will either get a raise or I will have some free time to do the things I want to do. Either way I can’t lose. 

Ultimately though it’s the students that will suffer.  It’s very sad but that’s how it is.  The administration at this university desn’t care abut the welfare of its students.  I do care,  but I can’t let that feeling put me in a disadvantageous position especially when it comes to salary.   If I say that ‘I can’t quit because I owe it to the students’  then I cut my own throat as effectively it means I can’t quit.  It’s tough but that’s just the way it is here.

Internet Cafe

I tried to go to an internet cafe this morning but I couldn’t go on-line as I was told that I needed to show my passport!  You’re actually meant to register with the internet cafe before you can go on-line, they take your personal information (name address etc) but this is the first time that I’ve actually had someone try to enforce the law. 

So I walked into another nearby net bar and they told me the same thing – you got to have ID.  This time I asked why and whether all of the internet cafes were like this.  The lady behind the counter then told me that until 4pm today the cops are checking out all of the net bars in town but if you come after 4pm it will be okay – no problem. 

You’re meant to be registered so that the authorities can follow your online movements and if track you down if they feel like it!  Here there’s thousands of government employees whose job it is to spy on others online movements – kind of scary when you think about it. 

Fortunately though,  laws are not enforced like the laws back home.  Nobody really cares to much about them, its a relaxed attitude. That is unless you’re unfortunate (or stupid) enough to caught out in one of the many pre-announced clamp-downs.  It’s funny how such crack downs work here.  You hear all about them on the TV news – they show some poor guy being taken away by the cops – to prove to the viewers how ‘successful’ the operation has been. 

I remember seeing something on the TV about the recent 100 day crack-down on pirated DVDs and them showing statistics of how many discs had been seized, how many people had been fined and how many businesses they have shut down. 

Of course DVDs were still easily available.  They were simply moved to shady back rooms or into little cubby-holes hidden away – out of sight, out of mind.    


2 years…

So it’s 2 years since I step foot in Changchun!

  The last year has been very eventful but generally positive.  Overall though, I think I have learned a hell of a lot about how things operate here.  I have discovered so many new things and I believe this has made me a better person. 

However this will almost certainly be my last year in Changchun as I have other plans that need to be started. Perhaps staying here too long isn’t a good thing as i’m slowly becoming so out-of-touch with the UK,  that I think re-adjusting could be difficult!

Aborted Trip

It never ceases to surprise me how apathetic and harmonious Chinese people are in some situations.  Right now as I type the bloke sitting next to me is puffing away like a chimney, oblivious the no smoking signs plastered everywhere.   Nobody (except myself) seems to care, or even notice this. If he wants to smoke there are other rooms for this, Is is unreasonable of him to move elsewhere?  

To me (and I think most westerners) it’s completely anti-social and unacceptable to do such, as most of us believe that one person doing something at the expense of others is not okay – especially if that habit has a detriment on a third parties health.         

Anyway, I was meaning to get onto where I went during the holiday or where I tried to go at least.  On Tuesday I planned to go to Jilin city with a few friends however we ended up not getting further than Changchun’s suburbs before coming back.

In the morning we went to the Changchun long-distance bus station just south of the train station, to buy our tickets to Jilin.  This was easy, each ticket costing 24 yuan each and a bus leaving every ten minutes.  The bus station really is a complete mess of a building and should be demolished ASAP and replaced with something more suitable for a city the size of Changchun.  Basically to find your bus you have to go back outside  the bus station walk around to the left down a small hutong whereupon you’ll see buses and coaches all lined up back to back.  

It makes the train station seem like a bastion of good organisation, and that’s saying something. 

So we walked down the small lane (called yellow river road or huang he lu 黄河路) trying to find the coach to Jilin whilst avoiding the hawkers and rip-off merchants trying to get their extra jiao.  The buses to jilin were lined up on the right side of the lane and after enquiring with one of the conductors we were told that we have to pay an extra 12yuan per person to get onto the bus – as these buses took only 1.5 hours.  I immediatily (and wrongly) assumed that this was some sort of foreign laowai tax, a scam.  However upon closer inspection they were (all the buses to Jilin) making everyone pay this extra ‘surcharge’ – so there was nothing we could do but pay the extra and forget about it. 

Once upon the bus we sat down and waited. And waited. And waited.  We finally left after 45 minutes of waiting.  Waiting for what I don’t know.  The coach was crammed with people, probably more people standing in the aisles than sitting.  They brought their own fold-up wooden stools with them to make the ride more comfortable. When we finally  started moving the coach must have got up to 20mph maximum.  We coasted for 45 minutes, and it took 1 hour to get out of the city!  I saw a sign It read Jilin City 108km.  

Why this bus was so slow is beyond me, though I think we just got unlucky.  Other buses were overtaking us.  But what annoys me is that nobody else said anything about the bus being slow, they just accepted it –  perhaps deep down they know that there really is nothing you can do about it.  And that there is zero chance of getting a refund.       

We all decided to get off the bus and come home as by the time we got there it would be time to come home anyway!   So we bailed in a small town near to changchun and took a local bus back to town.  It was an experience anyway! 

中秋节 Mid-Autumn Festival

Today is the Mid-Autumn day, the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. It’s a pretty large Chinese festival and people all over the country celebrate it, this year It also happens to coincide with the National Holiday and so I am still on holiday. 🙂

The other day my boss gave me a large hamper of moon cakes or yue bing (月饼) as a gift. These things have been on sale for weeks and many stands have sprung-up all over ther city flogging them. We talk about the over commercialsiation of Christmas in the west, but here the Chinese seem to take this to another level! From what I see – and like in the UK – most ‘festivals’ seems to revolve around the buying of something for somebody.

Moon cakes can be described as looking a little like pork pies from the outside but they are sweet tasting on the inside. They are quite heavy and would probably not be considered ‘cakes’ in the UK – I believe they are from the pie family though the name moon pies doesn’t quite sound as good.! 🙂

I personally don’t really like them much, I think they are quite bland in taste though I shall be eating one come this evening, if only because it’s festival time. 🙂 The cakes have various fillings such as lotus seed(莲籽) orange peel 🙁 or maybe even water melon seeds! (西瓜子)

I think if they considered making moon cakes with chocolate or banana filling they could appeal more to my sweet tastes – and if anyone knows whether you can buy such moon cakes in Changchun please let me know!


 I’ve seen this happen before but not on the same scale as last Friday.  Lots of police, probably one on every street corner. Roads closed.  It can mean only one thing.   

Some government officials were coming to town and so In true Chinese style everyone else has to stop what they are doing to allow them safe unobstructed passage to their destination.  A huge motorcade probably at least 50 Audis and 4x4s, lights flashing, sirens blaring driving at high speed.  It’s funny, I’ve never seen so many policemen in Changchun before!  I guess it giuves the officials the chance to look out through their tinted windows and say to themselves ‘look at all the policemen doing their jobs’

When seeing this, I couldn’t help getting the feeling that the government must be terribly afraid of the people.  I understand the need for security, and the need for people in government to be able to go about their business.  But for officials travelling to a economics conference, to inconvenience everyone in the friday rush hour…    In the UK this would only happen if the Queen or the Prime Minister was coming to town.

New place

So I’m on holiday for 7 days.  

The move is complete! Finally took 6 strong men about 5 minutes flat to move everything from the 6th floor to a blue three-wheeler pick-up truck parked outside the gate to my apartment complex.  It’s quite amazing watching the guys lift the heavy bags onto their backs, strapping them together with ropes and using gravity to keep the bags from falling.  It really makes sense when carrying heavy things to use your back, you can carry a lot more and the load is more spread across the body.  Cost only 80元 and I got a free ride in the back of their open truck. 🙂

The problem is that for the next week or so I no longer have internet access and when they finally do get around to turning it on, I will be on the dreaded campus network connection. 🙁

   Unlike at a UK university the internet connection on campus is pretty slow and most foreign websites are firewalled. I might buy a new keyboard as the F5 (refresh) key is in for a hammering!   However if I go down the road to my local internet cafe, the connection is fast and 99% of stuff I want is available!   I believe it’s a question of the universities simply saving cash, spending it elsewhere on more important things  – luncheons, banquets, gifts etc… 

Maybe that’s a little cynical but I think it’s not too far from the truth.  Anyway I now live in a place that I previously said I would never live in – a ‘Foreign Expert’s Apartment’.  It’s a nice enough apartment, has everything that one would want except any sort of cooking equipment!  They expect me to buy it for myself which is no problem as I already have the stuff from my last place. The biggest advantage of living in such a place is that there is a never ending supply of hot water – the 30 minute shower is no longer a thing of the past!

The downer is that my movements in and out of the building are probably monitored and that they close the doors at 10.30.  If i want to come back later I have to wake-up the man downstairs.  It seems to be okay though.  The guy downstairs is pretty relaxed about things, and I think that as long as I don’t hold an all-night rave or something, there should be no problem.