Guy Raz is Ruining my Life

The trouble with life is that too often things aren’t black and white enough. Nothing is ever just fantastic or terrible, it’s a sickening combination of both and the combination of the two just add up to life feeling… meh.

The easiest example that comes to mind of something good being mixed with something bad is the podcast “How I Build This with Guy Raz.”

The podcast itself is fantastic because it’s a podcast that talks with some of the best entrepreneurs and innovators in the world.

Who wouldn’t want to hear Sara Blakey talk about what she went through to invent Spanx? The story of her journey selling fax machines door to door at age 27; before using her innovative spirit to transform her life is so inspiring. Her rags to riches story is heart warming and the perfect way to spend my morning on the train.

Then it’s all ruined by Guy Raz.

Guy is a radio host for NPR and is often referenced in very high regards by his peers.

Unfortunately for me I find the high pitched, patronising and twinky porn voice he interviews his guests with makes the podcast almost unbearable.

The worst part is that when you listen to live episodes where he’s unable to lean into the microphone and really work to squeeze out his crackly teen wheeze, his voice is actually normal and completely bearable.

Why he thinks we want to hear this artificial and insufferable version of his voice is beyond me and ruins the experience. Not to mention his questions that amount to not much more than “what?! What?!!! How is that possible??!! Just 20 years old??!!! How did you do it??!! How??? How is it??? How is it possible?!!

Life in China is almost like this podcast. I love the content so much, I love the culture and the food and I have so many fantastic experiences everyday.

Unfortunately for some of us foreigners, the experience is delivered by shady employers that don’t tell the whole truth, food poisoning and power outages.

Well these are my experiences anyway, and they’re weighing on me as contract re-negotiation season is upon me.

Do I listen to the podcast and learn to live with the interviewer? Do I adapt?

Or do I switch podcast and hope that it’s better over on Radiotopia?

It’s been rough lately because I’ve been sick. My work contract doesn’t include sick days so my days in hospital weren’t paid.

This was a hot topic during the first meeting regarding my future contract. I’m lining up options elsewhere just in case this contract renewal doesn’t pan out.

I’m curious whether anyone else drags their employer through a lengthy and demanding contract renewal process or whether it’s just me…. No it’s not just me, it’s lots of people. Luckily for these people though, many of them have way more skills than me.

I’ve learned that to survive here you have to be clear and concise about what you want, and that you always get everything that’s said to you in writing. Nothing is a fact that isn’t in writing. I learned the lesson eventually, but later than I wish I had.

Lately my employers have been giving me the business, but mistreatment isn’t enough to make me leave any job. I stayed at Disney for 4 years after all and Disney are the best employee abusers ever.

Thats because if you pay me enough I’ll take any amount of punishment.

So I say bring it on! I’m in the Chinese Wild West after all; shooting at me might be legal, but I’m gonna to take your horses and all your booty.

When they hear the figure it’s gonna take to keep me here their eyes are gonna water, but between that day and this one; I’m gonna be the best damn employee they’ve got.

Time will tell how his plan pans out.

Contract Re-Negotation

It’s that time of the year again; for many of us educators, tutors, teachers and mentors; the end is nigh.

benjamin-child-17946-unsplash

The end that I’m talking about is the end of the Chinese school year, which like the American school year ends in June rather than November (Aussie Aussie Aussie)

So now that it’s April, some among us (including me) have begun casual conversations about contract re-negotiation that will happen around May/June.

 

Some of us have beautiful contracts that include weeks of no work through the summer (but still getting paid) beautiful high paychecks every month; sick pay, vacation pay, all the pay’s.

My pay isn’t like that, mine is a little on the cheaper side, includes no paid off-days in the year and no vacation time.

This is a bit of an unusual deal for foreign teachers these days, as English becomes more in demand, competition for good teachers increases, companies and individuals get richer so pay for teachers goes up. This describes the golden world of English teaching.

However I’m not here as an English teacher, I’m here teaching drama.

And drama isn’t nearly as golden and shiny in the view of many, and for good reason.

Last semester I taught weekend drama classes every week, my pay was fantastic and I had a ball doing it. Unfortunately (like I’ve mentioned in previous posts) students here study 7 days a week, and courses (such as English, Math, Science, Chinese) are all fighting for their attention.

On top of that, students are all fiercely competing for spots at good schools, the enormous child population outweighs the spots there are in reputable schools.

Someone currently in kindergarten moves to primary, someone else moves from primary to middle school etc, they must fight for a good school. Because of this, schools have exams that students must take in order to prove themselves for entry, the more prestigious the school, the more intense the exam.

My subject (yay drama!) Is not part of anyone’s exam, therefore my class took up 90 minutes each Sunday that could have been otherwise spent studying a subject that would have given the student an edge on these exams and pushed them ahead.

What I’m teaching is a little bit of a glamour subject, fashionable and trendy, but not necessary.

My big advantage over local drama teachers is that I speak English natively, so schools can at least justify my training to concerned parents that just allowing their students to speak with me will give them invaluable education, especially if their school offers only Chinese English teachers (there are many).

cytonn-photography-604680-unsplash

So knowing all this I too am going into contract re-negotiation soon, but as my utility diminishes over time, I (like all of us) am going to ask for more.

I’m going to ask for more money and more benefits, and I’m absolutely losing sleep over it.

I know for a fact that the company is hoping I sign the same contract again, but after a meeting yesterday they now know I have no intention of doing that. The key will be lining up a good backup plan if all my hopes go down the swamp and I become unemployed.

I know this is a bit extreme for some people, and they would definitely advise my backing down if the company doesn’t accept my terms.

But I’ve never been very rational, and what I want is what I want. If I get what I want, I’ll spend all of next year far more positive. When bad things happen I’ll be thinking “Meh! Dollar dollar billzzzzzz” but if I don’t I’ll fall to pieces everytime things go wrong and I’ll shout “I don’t make enough to deal with this!”

So perhaps I’ll return to cruise ships? Or maybe street begging? At least I’m Australian and the streets back home are warm.

Exotic dancing? … perhaps?

Pop Ups for Grown Ups

My computer was supplied by my company and it seems to have been used by people doing similar jobs since the middle ages because it has aged beyond horribly.
My favorite aspect of this pile of junk is the pop-ups.
marc-fulgar-165425-unsplash
Every morning after I turn on my computer and wait roughly six weeks for it to finish booting up, I am greeted by many pop-up ads.
I know the first thing that comes to the mind of many busy professionals is the thought to leave the computer on or in sleep mode overnight, but no, I’m at a company that checks and sends passive aggressive messages late at night so I cannot get away with power wastage here.
Anyway, there are many pop-ups, some for weather and most for news, and always really shocking news at that.
When you’re a pop-up maker in China you need to be the most shocking in the country because pop-ups are plentiful and you need yours to be the most intense to be clicked. Today’s news ad was for a husband waking up next to his dead wife who had died in her sleep. Of course, I don’t know that from reading the ad but somehow there was a large, high quality and well lit photo. I shudder to wonder whether it’s staged with the actual person and his dead wife or whether production companies exist to reenact these things.
Pop-ups are so plentiful here because Chinese companies are encouraged to use Chinese software, which is almost always free, and is written in the Chinese language so what’s the drawback? This software in my experience seems to be completely covered in adware, malware, and all the wares, which results –always –in giving me the slow and mundane task of uninstalling it all.
My favorite pop-ups, however, that I would never get rid of in a million years are the porn ones. Now hold your horses – I’m not a scumbag checking out porn at work. Remember that this is China and porn is illegal.
Because of this, I have porn equivalent pop-ups that want me to click them and they’re seriously hilarious.
In one of these ads the very physically blessed woman in the ad is feeling very cold.
She’s holding her stomach trying to warm herself (never covering the . . . selling points. Although let me remind you that she isn’t actually naked, just very attractive).
After a few seconds of watching her suffer, you, the viewer, are offered a cape that you can click and drag over to drape on her. The video even shows you a scenario of what were to happen if you did.
She becomes extremely happy and wraps (almost) everything up and becomes warm. Suddenly the ad fills with other cold women and you’re swimming in women that need your help . . . if only you would click the ad.
The selection is not limited to only that one. There are many others and although they’re not naked and there’s no sexual act taking place, it’s definitely in my opinion a porn substitute. It makes me feel some level of admiration for whoever could dream these fantasies up.
alexander-krivitskiy-575481-unsplash
In my mind I see porn everywhere here, the clothed kind displayed right out in the open. It’s a whole country of people being protected from actual porn by the Government, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want it.
Instead we get a lot of advertisements, popups and anime that is just so so close, but not quite all the way there.
To me this is actually hotter than real porn that shows you everything, this pseudo porn keeps you wondering about whats hidden and that keeps you thinking about it longer.
I’m sure if they legalised it people would care far less about it.
Although no one would turn up to work for a week.

F*ck it, I’m Writing an Erotic Novel

It goes without saying that whether your Chinese or Wai Guo Ren (foreign) you can’t say just anything you feel like saying while in China.

priscilla-du-preez-105714-unsplash

For as long as I can remember I’ve always lived daily life within a relatively thin bubble of restraint. While on a date for example (unless I’m drunk) I won’t say anything too offensive or too stupid (except a couple times).

But in my everyday life and especially while at work I’ve always said exactly what I’ve felt and at a super loud volume and felt little to no kickback for it.
Luckily for me I’m a performer and for us it’s basically expected, even encouraged. My offensive ranting passes off as stand up and the laughter fuels my confidence to push things even further.

This however has changed since moving to China.

In my first week at my first job in Shanghai I made reference to a coworker about the … negative parts of Mao’s legacy in China and was swiftly reprimanded.
China’s sketchy history is off limits.

The new Chinese semester just started here in sunny Shanghai so we workers had a company meeting where we were given a cautionary tale of a foreign teacher who was fired for uttering the sentence “I love both China and Hong Kong” as opposed to “the Mainland and Hong Kong” (as China feels very strongly about its ownership of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet). Whether that story was true or a grossly exaggerated warning; political, social and historical conversations are all strictly off limits here, and things of a dirty or gross nature are kept quiet. (Which hasn’t stopped me from one or two sex related rants in the office, but they were very PG rated and very rare!)

Now don’t take this as a post of me bashing China, I love being here and have no desire to leave. But I am feeling rather bottled up lately, it’s like I’ve been on a first date that just won’t end..

So does one do?

Dance sluttishly to Beyoncé down a thinly populated street? Absolutely, I mean people really aren’t paying much attention anyway.
Add cuss words to conversations while speaking English with people that won’t pick it up? 100%
But surely there’s more I can do?
My solution? Well here we go.

It’s time for me to whip up a pen name, whip open a word document, and write several years worth of pent up filth, offensiveness, depravity and crass into the dirty book to dirty all books.

matt-botsford-566660-unsplash

I’m gonna write something so despicable I wouldn’t admit to having even seen it with a scimitar pressed against my throat.

But I won’t stop there, to avoid causing an ‘ark of the covenant’ style face melting to a poor unsuspecting editor, I’ll be writing it as a script and recording it into an audiobook where I can really vent all the deep rooted filth and get it all out of my system completely.
Once that’s done I’ll slap a name, fake author name and a quick cover on it and smack it on a digital shelf in the darkest corner of the internet where only neck-beards can find it.

I’ll feel purged, plus I’ll get some practice in for my fledgling audiobook recording career. Win win.
I really think everyone should try this, what better form of therapy could there be? Just take all your pain, rejection, hurt, those messed up thoughts and unleash them on a word document. It’ll be cleaning! Plus there’s a neck beard online somewhere who’ll thankyou for it.
Hey, I’m not judging bro. One mans trash is another mans.. ummm.. nasty smack book.

Remember, if you want your audiobook also recorded by my sultry voice, it’s completely doable, you can source me right here on Fiverr

Making It as a Travelling Freelancer

Once you’ve moved to your dream city and have fled far away from the sticky confines of where you were born, sometimes it’s easy to get the feeling of entrapment in the full time job you took on to make the move possible in the first place.

aaron-burden-398672-unsplash

Often the jobs we take on aren’t dream jobs, but are gateway jobs to a new life. So when that job starts to eat away all your time and strips chunks off your soul, you need to start finding new ways to feel fulfilled.
The job I have in Shanghai is great, so my soul isn’t exactly in pieces, but I feel drained doing absolutely anything in a full time capacity. Plus as a former performer I don’t exactly relish the feeling of being off the stage and at the desk.

So to get the feeling back that I’m creative, useful and independent I turn to online sources of revenue to get that zest in life and fight off the cobwebs of monotony.

The most important thing in life for me is to perform, so the platform I’ve just started using recently is Fiverr.
Fiverr is a website I’ve used for years to source all my design needs, editing needs, lots of my needs. Basically anytime I’ve needed a professional for something that wasn’t in my physical world (like fixing my sink) I jump on Fiverr and find the right one.
Luckily for me, the performance discipline I’ve been craving to do more of (and has no physical toll on my body, praise the Lord) is voice acting. And wouldn’t you know it; voice acting is one of the professions you can find on Fiverr.
So once the New Year ticked around and a deep craving for something new emerged I busted out the old microphone equipment, recorded a few demos and threw my gig up on the site.

Its early days still so not a whole lot of action yet at this present moment, but I’m putting myself out there and trying to be vocal about it. From talking with the friends I’ve made on the site over the years of being a Fiverr customer, I’ve learned that it’s really slow in the beginning for everyone.
No one knows who you are, you don’t have any reviews yet and nobody wants to be the one to take a chance on someone who might be a complete dud. But over time once the gigs start slowly dripping their way into your lap the snowball begins rolling. I had my first gig yesterday (wooo!) and following that this morning I was in talks with three more people who may never have messaged me without the golden review I was given by the first gig.
I’m really hoping this turns into something real because something like this can follow you around the world and you can fulfill orders online from wherever you are. I have a copy editor friend who travels a lot and funds it by spending a few hours a day editing other peoples writing, she’s living the dream!

This really seems to be the trend, freelance workers unshackling themselves from desks and employers and making it for themselves, oh to be on that bandwagon.

My Fiverr Gig that I’m most proud of is the one where I’ll record your book, textbook or script so that you can listen to it and learn it faster. For example when your driving, walking or sleeping you can listen to your book and learn it quickly, good idea right??

rawpixel-com-340972-unsplash

For design professionals there’s another site called Red Bubble. Red Bubble is fantastic because you can take your design, alter it to fit nicely on a t-shirt or any other number of merchy products and list it on your Red Bubble store.

I am not a designer by any means, but I love quotes. So I just type up the quotes that jump out at me from my favorite shows into a design program, use a funky font and a couple of related pictures and wham, I have a shirt design.
I’ve been hocking shirts, hats, stickers and other swag on Red Bubble for years. People order whatever they want, Red Bubble makes it, boxes and ships it to the customer and you the designer get a cut. I’ll be honest, I’ve made literally only enough money to fund my coffee machine and a couple video games off of this, but it’s not a bad trade off for a few hours working out how to use a free design program and formatting words onto a t-shirt template.

The third and final avenue I use is e-books. As you can see from the Books tab on my site, I make a sell short and cheap e-books.

Basically whenever I’m in the mood I sit down and write out a book that details a predetermined period of my life, and what results could basically be read as an extremely long blog post.
The difference between these and my blog though are that I send these off to be edited professionally (thanks Fiverr) have a cover made (Fiverr) and smack them on Kindles Direct Publishing Platform (KDP).

Amazon has changed the game when it comes to self publishing, they’ve made it super easy and are just about solely responsible for transforming e-books from clunky, worthless digital files onto your computer into a respectable and mainstream method of writing and reading books.
There are lots of self publishers who’ve made a respectable career for themselves; I’m not one of them. I absolutely do not have the stick-to-edness to write a long enough book, or the gusto to market it properly and really give it a chance to shine among the masses.

But like with most things I enjoy giving it a go, making a few dollars and spending those dollars on fun things I may not have bought otherwise.

I have given two things a half attempt, and am giving a third thing my proper attention. I hope this inspires you to go out and do a much better job and make it properly, don’t be like me who is so uncommitted I can barely even finish a

Where’s the Beef?

Is it just me or is ground beef the rarest commodity in the entire Middle Kingdom?

When needed I can easily source beef of various forms from any of the large and well stocked Chinese supermarkets surrounding my apartment. I can have it in shanks, steaks, cubes or jelly. I can have the feet, the ears – hell, I could probably have the tail.

But for the love of God why is mince such a rare thing?

No-one anywhere near me stocks minced beef. To buy this rare treat I need to travel on the subway for 30 minutes and change lines twice to get to the Western supermarket I know about. Is it the closest one to me? Not a chance, but I know how to get there and back again so it’s the local one in my mind.

This upscale Western market has all the goodies.

It’s well lit, smells beautiful, spacious and has little cheese samplings! There’s plenty of service and all the Western delights I could ever want.

But clutch my pearls the prices..

For the money I pay for minced beef I could feed a family of four at a restaurant. Short of buying a grounding machine myself and cranking it out, I have to keep buying it there and paying those prices. I could just buy pork I suppose and pay pennies, or even chicken breast which is far cheaper (unlike in my local Australia). But while I continue to cook the food I stubbornly eat regardless of where I am on the planet at a given moment, I need to accept paying the equivalent of $20 for half a kilo of minced beef.

Paying roughly $20 for half a kilo of mince back in Australia would be enough to stop your heart, a butcher would never sell an ounce. But here in Shanghai it’s a luxury imported purchase that doesn’t form a staple of the everyday Chinese diet, so the price is justified.

When I first moved here I took comfort in my friend telling me that his mother makes him lasagne whenever he visits home. It made me feel confident that minced beef must be sold cheaper elsewhere and all I’d need to do is ask her for the location. This theory was great until I actually saw her lasagne..

Beef chunks suspended in mashed potato (substituting the white sauce).

I had to say a prayer.

Beef isn’t the only thing that’s expensive, but it’s the one thing that has me shaking my head and sighing as I put it in my basket. Weirdly paying $8 for a stick of butter or $12 for a litre of cream almost doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Basically at what it’s costing me to make a lasagne in China it’s a damn event eating one. It’s also an event shopping for one.

The Western market that sells my beef is one of those beautiful, well lit and fragrant markets that distracts from its prices with cheese samples and beautiful servers.

My local grocer is grungy and smells, the woman who bags my vegetables scowls and gives zero cheese samples. But it’s cheap.

I think one market is the kind you shop at for your everyday dinners on the bed, binge watching ‘Rick and Morty’, and the other kind doesn’t have cheese samples.

Coffee is liquid gold in China

When everything I eat in China is so inexpensive, why does my coffee cost so much?

Shown above is a screenshot of my payment app AliPay after paying for my Starbucks coffee.

What I bought was a venti caramel macchiato and it works out in my homeworld currency (Australian dollars) to be just shy of $8.

At first I questioned my memory of what things cost back in my home world of Australia, but I’m in New Zealand right now and I’m paying half that!
If I’m going out for a meal in Australia and I pay $20 for lunch, I’m not feeling too vexed when my hot, caffeinated delicious venti sized and flavored beverage costs under 50% of what I paid for the meal.

But when I go out for lunch in Shanghai and pay 32RMB for a meal (what I pay usually) or 28RMB (what I pay on weekends) it feels strange to always pay more than 100% of what it cost to eat to become re-caffeinated.

If nothing else it’s complete proof that I’m horribly caffeine addicted, what lunatic pays more for a coffee than a meal?
Without doing research or finding a related podcast I’m left to speculate wildly about the cause.

I personally feel myself concluding that the reason is because so few people drink coffee here when compared to the amount of people that drink coffee back home in the West.

When I worked in Australia the majority of our office drank coffee, easily more than half. Some of the others drank tea –
black tea with a splash of milk for Becky who’s watching her figure but sneaks a naughty biscuit anyway. Herbal tea for Margery who’s hip has been acting up but is excited for a good weekend because her son always calls on Saturday’s.
Finally there’s Trenton, the super fit gay part time spinning instructor who drinks fruit blended teas and has always had a rough night the night before.

The remaining portion of the office drinks water and talks constantly about burying the rest of us.
When I worked in the US nearly 100% of us drank coffee, enormous ones with up to 6 shots in cups the length of your arm. (Occasionally I exaggerate).

Whereas here in China I’m the only coffee drinker in my office, two of my friends drink it and literally everyone else drinks tea.
A Korean friend of mine drank cold tea from the fridge exclusively for the first 10 years of her life, she thought it was water until she was a tween.

Therefore I conclude that due to the fact that the only other people I see in Starbucks are well adorned rich people and super fly entrepreneurs making it big and business-typing on their notebooks I have to make my non-informed conclusion.

That coffee here is for foreigners, the wealthy and the fabulous young.
Oh God literally everyone in the queue is ordering tea. Bless my dehydrated soul.