I think the Chinese have a different perception of what is an illness, they visit the ‘hospital’ for the smallest of problems when I would either grin and bear it or stay at home for a few days.
I have had this discussion many times in class and the believe the reasons behind such thinking are complicated. From a western perspective this could be considered a form of hypochondria, but I think it is more likely due to a a lack of understanding/ basic education when it comes to medical issues and a fear of getting sick.
I have noticed that much ‘knowledge’ on such issues here spreads through old-wives-tales, conjecture and of course the media. TV adverts , especially for the older citizens, maybe the only ‘education’ they get when it comes to medicine, and we all know how misleading they are. Also I believe questionable medical ethics have a part to play in this – the more things prescribed the more money made. Perhaps doctors not being able to say ‘just go home rest and keep warm and drink plenty of fluids’ without first prescribing something.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some really nasty bugs going around here that warrant seeing an expert and drugs being prescribed. But its how things are done that disturbs me. Here, the medical staff will give you an saline drip for pretty much anything.

Does this work? I’m told it does but I’ll take thier word for it! 🙂 Is it necessary? Who knows.

Maybe if I’m dying or something like that then I’ll have to have it, but before then I won’t. I’m not a great fan of needles but I’m more concerned of contracting something from a dirty needle, especially so here. I also believe in not doing something to my body unless it is really required, is it effective, will it work? Or is it just a way to get me to spend more money?

Most of my students think I am weird in having such beliefs, for them it is totally normal and all of them have had this at one time or another. I’m no medical expert but It begs the question: If this is such a wonderful way to make you better, then why have I never seen people in the UK walking around with colostomy bags like I have in Changchun?

The good side to this distrust is that it has gives me an opportunity to try out various alternative remedies.

Recently I’ve been taking this really good Traditonal Chinese Medicine (TCM) for a cold I’ve been trying to get rid of for the last week or so. Before I came here I knew very little about TCM and I was pretty cynical about whether it actually worked.
I have become somewhat of a fan of Chinese traditional medicine and I believe that there is much to be learnt from this.

I have previously relied on these black compound licorice tablets to relieve a bad cough and have found them really effective. They cost less than 4 yuan for a bottle with over 100 tablets, but what is more appealing to me is that this remedy is 100% natural. At the moment I am taking some yellow coloured tablets that are made from the extract of apricots. This apparently has some medicinal values that I was previously unaware of, as my cold and saw throat disappeared within 24 hours of taking the pills.
Luckily I have been pretty healthy throughout my time here in Changchun so I’m yet to try out some of the more ‘exotic’ solutions – I’ve been told that snakes gall bladder is one of the best things to cure a fever.


Been ultra busy of late not had much time to think.  The weather is still very mild, it broke freezing today.  They say the North Pole is going to totally melt by 2040,  I can believe it.   

As part of my job,  I am obliged to give a final mark to all of my students. Anything over 60 is considered a pass, however all of their marks over all of their subjects are averaged to come up with a final score. If they fail they ‘cannot’ continue to the next year and will be required to take a ‘make-up’ exam to compensate for this.   Actually, I refuse to fail any of my students.  The lowest mark I give is 61.  The reason for this is that if I do fail them, they will simply take the make-up exam and pass anyway.    The make-up usually  consists only of giving the the dean of the school a brown envelope in exchange for a pass. 

 Perhaps one of the most important things for the students are the scholarships that are available. From what I understand, all public universities have a government scholarship available to the students just for passing all of their subjects. It’s something tiny like 60yuan a semester, but better than a poke in the eye. The universites also offer a scholarship based on the scores, though they may differ depending on the institution. where I am now, if a student scores over 90 in all areas they will get something like 1000yuan for the year.

At a previous university  I gave all the students written and oral exams as well as taking into account their general attendance. I gave the department the information at the end of the semester, satisifed I had done everything as equitably as possible. Come the next semester I had perhaps 20 students complaining about their marks; they either had a very low mark or not one at all!

So I went back to the dept, got the copies of the mark sheets from the office only to find that they had been changed. Not only just edited, but these were not the sheets I had handed in previously!  I scanned down to the bottom to see that my name had been forged, somone had written DAVID in large child-like handwriting as if to indicate my signature!

Anyway these poor students eventually got a mark and everything was ok. But I was annoyed as it questioned my competance and made me look like an fool.  The students seemed relativly unperturbed by this, suggesting to me that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to them.  Looking back I’m sure it wasn’t!

The Chinese academic institutions aren’t great at accountability, so when you get into a problem it’s often difficult (if not impossible) to get a straight answer from anyone. Nobody wants to know.  It’s not their problem.  I’ve heard tales of students not being able to graduate just because their exam scripts were ‘lost’  by the university.  Or the student that told me her grade was 100% wrong –  she had been given the wrong mark  by her teacher and was unable to change it as the university was unwilling (or more likely unable) to get the original script. 

No re-take. No second chance.

Here extreme strict liability applies, the burden falls on the student. 



There’s something seriously wrong with the weather at the moment, It almost feels like summer to me. 

Yesterday I had to take off my jacket and strip right down to my T-shirt because I was sweating just like it I was last summer.  It got above freezing yesterday and tomorrow they say the high is -2C!! 

It should be -10C to – 20C by now,  If it continues like this I’ll have to consider moving to another city with real weather!! 🙂  

 One of my students told me that the hot weather is due to some natural phenomenon that has something to do with the wind patterns, though I’m not sure whether this is true of not?


Yesterday evening on the way back from the supermarket I found a mobile phone lying on the ground. I looked around, picked it up and put it into my pocket. Once I had got home, I kept the phone on expecting the owner to call it the moment they realised it was lost.

I checked out the number by calling 10086 and discovered that the SIM had over 200yuan on it, so I was expecting a call. I checked the phonebook for possible contacts but found that it was empty.

Come the next morning the owner must have realised what he or she had done because the SIM was blocked. There was never a call made to the phone, the owner probably figured that ‘what good would it have done anyway!’ and simply made sure to cancel and transfer the SIM to a new phone.

I’ve had experience with this before and It doesn’t really surprise me that nobody called the phone back. When you lose a phone it’s gone, whether that be in the back of a taxi at a restaurant or in any public place (I’m yet to hear of anyone getting their lost phone returned). Even if you can place where you last had it, this is of no use. Nobody will accept liability, the chances are much more likely that it’s been switched off and sold for a couple of hundred yuan at the black market.

I think this touches upon a vein of dishonesty that runs through so much in life here, a type of selfishness that most outsiders consider obnoxious. People acting without conscience and being able to justify almost anything.

The ‘If I don’t do It then somebody else will’ attitude.

Sure there are always dishonest people anywhere in the world, however I find it difficult to believe that there is another country where it is so rampant, for me it is like a disease. Perhaps this stems from a basic lack of morals and/or spirtual influence being replaced by raw materialism. Money = morality. Maybe having no rule-of-law and a corrupt justice system makes things very easy to get away with. It is fair game; finders keepers, losers weepers.

It’s probably a sign of how conditioned I am, that I don’t feel bad about this anymore. I do have a conscience and I do have morals, though I you have to be pragmatist. But I still believe that once I chose to pick up the phone and put it into my pocket there was nothing more I could do. If the person won’t even call their old phone and ask for it back it is no longer my problem.

I certainly won’t be handing it to the police, that’s for sure. There probably isn’t even a system in place for handing-in lost property and I might end up get accused of being a thief!