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.

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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).

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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.
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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.
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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.

The Fiverr Life

I’ve been having a blast lately, and making bank doing it. (By bank, I mean enough to sponsor my morning coffee each day).

And I’ve been doing it all on Fiverr.

Fiverr is place I’ve been turning to since 2010 for all my online needs.

I go there to edit my self published writing (not this content though, for my blog you get to suffer through my self editing).

I also go for any sound editing I can’t manage myself, any picture or video editing (I loathe doing that) or anything else that can be achieved online. I once paid a guy in Hawaii through Fiverr to go to a beach and record a birthday song for my friend with his ukulele and it made a great gift.

Unlike that guy, I don’t sing so good so I do voice acting work.

It’s turned out to be a lot of fun, but a lot more time consuming than I was anticipating.

I think the image I had in my mind was of me coming home some days to a conveniently timed Fiverr order offering me tons of money to record a quick and simple character for an indie animated film that I would nail the first take, polish up on my editing program then minutes later be sending to the client as I skipped to the car yard and bought a Lexus.

Ok obviously I wasn’t expecting that.. within the first 30 days, but I also didn’t anticipate reality.

Several days of nothing, bookended with several orders at once, all with urgent messages about their priority, ordered at rock bottom prices, with scripts the length of a Stephen King book written with the smallest possible grasp of the English language.

So I find myself staying up late into the night recording God-awful writing (that for some people is precious and must be recorded word for bloody awful word) to be sent back because the ‘flow’ wasn’t right and maybe some words could be swapped out after all.

So there’s been some stressful nights to say the least, not to mention the clients who swear an order is a mere 15 minutes away, who just need a second with the script, to then have you wait up all night only to send nothing.. without a word of explanation.

I think the way I dug myself into this charming business model is by charging the lowest prices in town, boasting about my low prices among the community of people that shop for voice actors, then including lil perks like free re-recordings for people who change their mind.

This attracts an absent minded and frugal clientele who think the shillings they’re flicking your way are more than reasonable for the hours and hours you give to them in return.

The positive side of all this is that it’s working and I’m attracting any clientele at all. With my lack of super relevant voice training and, much more importantly, my very basic and self built sound recording space, I wouldn’t be getting much of any work at all elsewhere.

Yet through this site I’ve developed friendships and partnerships with businesses all over Asia and the Middle East who need voice talent, and who need to be free to change their mind, but also need to pay on the floor prices.

This gives me a chance to get in some much needed practice, make money while doing it, and most of all distracts heavily from my day job which is growing increasingly lame as I’ve been doing it for more than 6 months which is an eternity in my mind.

I strongly recommend other freelancers to checkout Fiverr.com and see where you fit.

You can also check out my gigs by clicking this link and see how I roll. (It goes to my profile on Fiverr, which is Fiverr.com/misici

Send me a message once your rolling on the site, it’s a pretty fun community and you’ll need the support when the customers come into your lil digital shop and demand the world. I’ll be your shoulder to cry on, before I tell you to get back to work. *cracks whip*

One Sick Bastard

To those who noticed, I’m very sorry for my tardiness. I’ve been unwell and when I’m unwell I’m too moody and divaish to write. I only have time to prop myself up in bed and speak fake Spanish through a raspy sickness tone of voice.

I caught a stomach bug that went a bit viral and threw a party in my lower quadrant, so once again I was back to the Chinese hospital to enjoy another uniquely Chinese medical experience. This time I went to a hospital on South Shanxxi road (a swanky part of town) so it was pretty nice, made nicer by some English words that were peppered into the nurse’s conversations with me, an enjoyable touch.

I arrived at the hospital and lined up at the front counter as usual, and using beautiful Google Translate communicated my wish to see a General Practitioner about my stomach. She gave me a charge card, I paid, then went upstairs and waited in line at my doctors cubicle.

General Practitioners (GP’s) do not have offices outside of hospitals, but in this Hospital they have an enormous room which had been divided up into many little cubicles, each cubicle sporting its own little queue line. My doctor’s number was 5, so I showed a nurse my number and she led me through the weaving and winding cubicle rows and put me in my line at number 5 behind three other people. My turn came and it was pretty straight forward. The doctor pushed my stomach around, prescribed some antibiotics and swiped my hospital charge card. I then went down to the pharmacy on the ground floor, grabbed my medicine and settled my bill.

The next morning I woke up in the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my entire life, I felt like I was in labour. I couldn’t even walk, so my close friend came over and carried me into a cab and held me up as I threw up all over the upholstery. One seriously large cab bill later I was back in the hospital and seeing another doctor. This doctor prescribed a drip treatment for me and ordered me to go to the pharmacy before going to the injection ward. Well of course I knew best and thought I’d just go to the pharmacy and pick up my drugs on the way out once my treatment was over. I went to the injection ward first despite my instructions not to, and the nurses there waved me away with frustrated confusion.

Not knowing why, I decided to follow my instructions and went to the pharmacy. Once I arrived it was painfully clear why this had been the doctors order.

The pharmacy concierge handed me 9 bags of antibiotic liquid and dozens of tiny jars of white powder in boxes to haul in my arms up to the injection ward.

Once there the nurses hooked three of the bags up to a drip stand and fed them intravenously into my hand.

I only needed three of the bags so I was expected to take the rest of the haul home, and bring them over the next two days so that the remaining 6 bags and jars of powder could be fed into my bloodstream.

Why we, the general public, are in charge of buying and storing our hospital administered medication is very foreign to me, but I’m adaptable. I used the private time alone with my meds to take photos and Google how appropriate they are to my symptoms. I’m feeling much better now, hence my willingness to write, but I’m not 100% back to normal.

So I may be buying up more of the pharmacy and bringing another armful of medicated liquid into an injection ward again sometime soon. If this is the case, I’m buying a fashionable medicine shoulder bag to better carry my drugs. I need to have something clever written on the front of it though, something like “Sick Bastard” or equivalently lame. Suggestions always appreciated.

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.

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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.

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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

Samples for Days.

The following is from my sexy lil ebook available now on Amazon about moving to China. Hope you love it!

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Everyday life in Shanghai has some major perks, especially when it comes to tech. People still use QR codes here and they use them with a vengeance. Literally everything is linked by QR codes and more than helping you find websites and enter competitions, they help you pay for everything, order anything, and sort your whole life.

Apps here such as Alipay and WeChat can be linked to your bank account and provide you with a QR code that shopkeepers can scan with the scanners they use on their own products. Even tiny Mom & Pop stores who elsewhere wouldn’t be able to afford credit card reading machines can afford to have the app on their phone to scan your QR code. Smart phones can be purchased here for a steal (they’re made locally and the competition is fierce) so there’s no one left out of the system. Your QR app can also be used to pay for bills that once upon a time made you cry with frustration. I use the app Alipay as it’s the biggest, most popular, and easiest for taking care of all my bills.

When the power, water, gas, or internet bills come in, I tear them open and find them written 100% in Chinese and normally I’d shake a fist at the gods and scream, but now I just find the QR code inevitably printed somewhere on the first page. Give the code a scan with my phone and my app produces the bill in English and with one tap it’s paid. I can even set up auto-pay for next time.

This same app recharges my phone, hails cabs, books hotels, reserves restaurants, I can buy lotto tickets, and there’s lots more. It’s like an episode of Doctor Who set one hundred years in the future; I’m just waiting for the alien monster that eats me at the end.

Opening hours across the city are much later than they are back in my hometown of Melbourne, and there’s a lot more choice in every category, which means a lot more competition for your business, which ultimately drives down the prices. This strange and absolutely capitalist model is really confusing for people expecting to come here and find a purely communist state, but that’s not reality anymore. Just stand in the middle of Nanjing Road or Shanghai Times Square, look around and see the proof: McDonald’s, Burger King, Zara, Forever 21, and every other Western mega chain are here. Once it was thought impossible to be your own boss in the country – now Chinese entrepreneurs are making their dreams come true. It’s like New York but with far more people. It’s perhaps a nightmare for lovers of wide open spaces, but it’s a dream for me.

My favorite app though isn’t Alipay, it’s Elama. Elama is a food delivery app that hosts hundreds of different restaurants in dozens of different categories from authentic Chinese dining to rubbish Western fast food and everything in between. There are of course other apps in the same category but this one is my favorite. And once again, due to the fierce competitive prices on the app, the prices are crazy low. In fact, so low are the prices that many restaurants on the app have costs that work out to be cheaper when delivered than if you had trekked there in person. These restaurants can charge normal amounts on the street but when pushed side-by-side on an app? The bidding war for your money is fierce, and you the consumer are the winner.

My Chinese friends do not appreciate the app anywhere near as much as I do – the app is low brow to them. They are used to extremely fast service and competitive prices; they’re used to businesses trying their hardest, and being the fastest and the cheapest. As an Australian who when at home lived outside the Uber Eats delivery zone, paid outrageous prices for pizza delivery, and endured slow delivery and ludicrous service, I am in love with this element of the city.

Accessibility and speed are not only relegated to the dining industry. When I have a clogged pipe, dirty kitchen, or busted light I don’t need to get on my hands and knees, get a ladder, or spare ten minutes away from playing Overwatch. A few taps on the ol’ phone and you can have anyone in the service industry come same day and take care of your issue quickly and inexpensively. Luckily for me my apartment complex takes care of the cost of repairs and cleaning, so I don’t pay anything.

I’ve found nearly 100% of repair people, cleaners, drivers, delivery folks, or anyone else that comes to my place cannot speak English, but so far it’s not been a barrier. Google Translate works great despite Google being banned in China, and if I was specific enough with the order request or delivery instructions there’s never any need for words, just a sincere smile and a thumbs up.