Penelope's forum posts

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#1 Posted by Penelope (262 posts) -

It's nighttime here in China. The sun is going down. Pouring one out for Ryan. I hope he likes Baijiu.

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#3 Posted by Penelope (262 posts) -

I live in China. Christmas is about as eventful as any other day here.

I worked today and since I'm away from my family I spent my Christmas Eve drinking beer and eating Korean food alone in a restaurant.

I need a little Christmas.

:(

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#4 Posted by Penelope (262 posts) -

    So my busiest days here are Saturday and Sunday. I work 10 hours a day both days with a 30 minute break for lunch (if I'm lucky and on schedule for my classes). It can get exhausting but at the end I've cleared $600 for the weekend. This is mostly due to the fact that after only being here a year, I'm already the longest held employee this school has (including Chinese personnel). Turnover is high in China. Workers tend to do a couple month stint at a place before either moving back home or finding a slightly higher paying job and moving on. Most of my fellow teachers are college students earning spending money on the side. They cancel classes often, don't know how to give good demo lessons, and really think that English lessons consist of talking at their student for the 50-100 minutes they signed up for. This works in the short run, but after a couple lessons, the student catches on and realizes they are paying through the nose for not really learning anything. They don't sign back up. So six months ago when my company took a minute to look at their books and realized that I was the drastic outlier in successfully actually... uh teaching English, I've been booked straight through. This all leads up to the fact that after looking at the books and total lessons sold and taught, I am responsible for roughly 40% of this schools revenue and responsible for 80% of their returning customers. This is great! For the company at first, but even more so for me.

    Let me explain. It's my micro econ classes being put to good use.

    Since I now know that my quitting would essentially mean an impossible to recover loss of revenue for the company, the company now essentially works for me. Coupling this knowledge with my growing understanding of how the English teaching business here in China works has lead to a drastic increase in wages, quality of work, and management. Today, my company moved to a much nicer, larger more professional space with money earned almost entirely from my students.

    Ego much? Let me have it. It feels good to be really good at something.

    Here is an example where the obsessive number cruncher in me comes in to play in a move I am very proud of. Mom, Dad, if you ever wondered if all those years of playing video games would ever pay off, let me tell you: they have. Just like in a game, once a system becomes thoroughly understood, it can be manipulated to earn the maximum gains for the person. Except now since the company works for me, I also get to tweek the rules of said system.

    For example, the company used to have a policy of paying 200 RMB for new teachers recruited. Approximately $35. That's not much. That's barely more than I make in one 50 minute lesson. So I sat down with the finance lady and told her I had a couple of great friends who were looking for work but I was hesitant to tell them about jobs there.

    "Why not Mark? You'd get 200 RMB!"

    "Yeah, but if in the future, they end up taking even one lesson from me, I've essentially broken even. Actually, I probably stand to lose money in the long run."

    "What?"

    "See, students here have their choice of teachers, I'm pretty much booked and my schedule is hard to work around because of it. By introducing these other good teachers to you, I actually stand to lose money. Therefore it is actually in my best interest to keep these other highly capable teachers away from here."

    It is at this point I should note, that teachers who are actually good at teaching English are a rarity here. The prospect of being able to have more than just one (me) good teacher working for a company makes casino noises start playing in their heads.

    "Okay, so what can we do?"

    "How about for every 50 minute lesson a teacher I refer teaches, I get 20 RMB?"

    "What?! But then you'd be getting paid for just setting it up!"

    "Isn't that how you guys get paid?"

    "...We'll think about it."

    They thought about it, and now I earn roughly 200RMB a week for doing nothing. Also, I am busy interviewing new teachers for the school as I am infinitely more qualified to find decent teachers than the Chinese staff is. Their job has become to find students, and my job is to make sure we have better teachers to make sure the new students keep coming back.

    I like being the puppet dictator of a company. Especially when it becomes apparent to the people in charge that it's actually working, and everyone is making more money.

    It's kind of like after the first 6 months they looked at each other and went "Wow, this kid knows what he's doing. Uh... maybe we should let him keep doing it?"

    If this long boring rant about how I'm manhandling my way up the income ladder has made you think I don't have a soul I promise you that's not true. I started teaching English, and then found out I really actually liked teaching as a job. More than I ever thought I would. I have a passion for languages and I love actually being able to help other people progress in their own studies.

    Some of my fun students?

    Saturday mornings I start with a two hours science lesson with a 10 year old boy named Joe. We spend it reading through a basic chapter from a science book on the solar system, biology, physics, chemistry or energy. I correct his pronunciation, help him with new vocabulary (telescope, lens, gravity, solar system) and finally make him practice some of the grammar he seems to be struggling with. This normally takes an hour and then we spend the next hour surfing wikipedia, talking about outer space, NASA's current projects, the history of evolution, and a million other things. Sunday morning starts off with 75 minutes of teaching a 3 year old boy. We do colors, sing songs, and practice flash cards while I make funny faces and act ridiculous. Want to know how to keep a 3 year old coming back? Act like a raving lunatic. Is the flash card of a gorilla? Act like a gorilla, chest pounding and all. It not only works, it's a hell of a lot more fun than anything in a textbook. Also, the parents (ie: the paying party) will love you. Then there is Caroline. Shes 13, but way too smart and mature for her age. We talk about J-Pop stars, read magazine articles, practice vocabulary and trade manga and anime suggestions. Also she has my exact birthday but twelve years later which means we are both rabbits and Taurus'. It was awesome finding that out.

    My favorite student of all though is John. John is an 11 year old boy I only see for an hour on Saturdays. We started doing science chapters 5 or 6 months ago. We finished those quick enough and now work through several language art books. While we do work through the books, we spend most of our time talking about our lives joking and discussing cool new things (while correcting and practicing grammar and pronunciation I promise). He's way too smart for his age and one of the best children I've ever met EVER.

    I just recently bought my tickets home for my vacation to see my family and to get a new Visa. I'll be gone for all of February as I enjoy some well deserved R&R. I mentioned this to John and was blown away by his reaction.

    "You mean, you'll be gone for February?"

    "Yeah, I need to get a new Visa and see my family again."

    "But... all of February?"

    "Yeah, I guess so, but I'll be right back at the start of March."

    I've never seen a child close the distance between two chairs that quickly. He hugged me, and he hugged me hard.

    "I'll miss you..." he said.

    Few moments in my life have been as rewarding.

    "I... I'll miss you too John."

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    #5 Posted by Penelope (262 posts) -

    @dungbootle: The Youtsuba books are really the only Japanese books I brought with me to Japan because they are amazing and adorable. Absolutely my favorite. I'm just happy to meet someone who knows her not as "that four-chan girl".

    @Zelyre: Yeah, Mandarin is easier than Cantonese, but it's not as useful unless you're going to live in Hong Kong. Mandarin's four tones are wiping the floor with me so when I heard that Cantonese had even more I simply went "Fuck that! Never learning that language!"

    I learned bu pu mu fu in Taiwan as well. Not that it's doing me one iota of good here in Beijing.

    Also, If anyone is planning on learning Japanese and then coming to China like I did... uh... don't bring it up a lot here. Japan is about as popular in China as a unwashed asshole.

    Have fun learning Japanese dude. It's a cool language. Any idea where you'll be staying in Japan? I lived in both Tokyo and Osaka for a year. Loved both of them, but if you have a choice, I'd say aim for Osaka (even though they have a slightly weird dialect, it's awesome).

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    #6 Edited by Penelope (262 posts) -

    @Dudacles: I am the person you want to talk to about this.

    I've attended high school and college in Japan, had an additional year of college in Taiwan, and am now living in Beijing. I speak Japanese fluently and can boast some moderate skill in Mandarin Chinese although my studies are ever ongoing.

    Your post and questions could have been ripped directly out of my head 5 years ago. Let me share some of my experiences.

    As far as languages go, Japanese is a MUCH easier language to learn than Chinese. There are several reasons for this.

    First Chinese is a tonal language. There are 4 tones in Chinese (excluding the 5th toneless variation) so saying the same thing in a falling tone when you should have used a rising tone can be the difference between wanting to ask a question and accidentally asking for a kiss. This is counter-intuitive for most native English speakers as we use tones to imply emotions and this takes a lot of practice and muscle memorization to overcome.

    Cantonese has 9 tones. Fuck learning Cantonese unless you really want to live in Hong Kong.

    Japanese on the other hand has incredibly few sounds. It's very easy to pronounce. Outside of the "n" sound they don't even have regular old consonants. You never just see the "k" sound in Japanese. It's either 'ka' 'ki' 'ke' 'ko' or 'ku'. Think of all the Japanese words you know. Sushi, karaoke, and... what other words do non-speakers know?

    I forget. Either way, it's easy shit.

    The only real difficulty with Japanese is that the grammar differs in one large way. English uses the subject-verb-noun sequence (I eat chicken) while Japanese uses a subject-noun-verb order (I chicken eat). Japanese also has several levels of politeness (keigo, slang, casual) that are used in different circumstances, but that's pretty high level stuff you won't need to be concerned with and don't need to understand to be understood yourself.

    Chinese people will tell you Chinese grammar is easy because they have so few rules. They are dirty liars. The lack of organized structure to their grammar and overwhelming abundance of 'special' rules for certain phrases has been a huge hindrance to my studies, not a boon.

    Which language is more useful? Well they only speak Japanese in Japan, and China has a population of over 1 billion with other countries speaking formal mandarin as well, so Mandarin would be the way to go right?

    Not really. Saying that Mandarin is the spoken language of China is like saying Mexicans only eat Tacos. I started studying Mandarin in Taiwan. At least I thought I had. Turns out Taiwan has a drastically different set of vocabulary, on top of it's own language/dialect (Taiwanese?). This is true for almost every goddamn province in China. Sometimes it's so severe people have no chance of understanding what the other person is saying (I'm looking at you Sichuan and Hunan province!) On top of having its own dialect Taiwan also uses traditional Chinese characters whereas the mainland uses the new simplified ones. That meant that essentially half of the characters I spent a year learning in Taiwan had to be re-learned in simplified with new mainland pronunciations and even tones.

    Also, Beijing people laugh at my Taiwanese accent. It's pretty awesome.

    Chinese only uses Chinese characters, Japanese has three sets of alphabets: Chinese characters, and two sets of phonetic alphabets (hiragana, katakana). Hiragana is used for native words, and katakana for foreign words. The existing of a phonetic alphabet (often used as furigana to give the correct readings of Chinese characters) also makes it an easier language to read, and fewer Chinese characters will get you a lot further.

    As for the gaming culture? Japan embraces it whole heartedly. Game and game culture is everywhere. I loved going to TGS and browsing old game shops and Akihabara for Superfamicom carts and other nerdy paraphernalia. It's not cheap, but game culture is everywhere there. Also, the arcades are awesome.

    China does have PS3, XBOX, and Wii. It's all just bootlegged. They sell modded systems here at electronic shops, and games can be bought in boot leg stores or on the street from poor people who make their living copying games onto discs and selling them. Want to buy a DS? They sell you an R4 right along with it.

    The good? PS3 games and XBOX games can be gotten for around $1 U.S. This is obviously amazing.

    The bad? Forget about using your system to go online. China laughs at the idea. Also, these aren't high quality officially released discs. That means a lot of the time I'd get halfway through a game only to have it lock up in the same place again and again, or never even run in the first place. A lot of times you buy a game, and it won't go past the title or first loading screen. You only lose a dollar though so it's not the end of the world. At least Skyrim worked for me.

    As a side note I brought my Wii from the U.S. here and it looks like China has blocked access to the Nintendo network since it can't connect even though it hasn't been hacked.

    Access to the rest of the internet can be easily accessed with a VPN. I use freegate (it's free and it works fine except no porn!) so save yourself some trouble and download it before you join us behind the great fire wall of China.

    Hope that helped. If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask.

    Languages yo. I speak them.
    Languages yo. I speak them.
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    #7 Posted by Penelope (262 posts) -

    @Video_Game_King: Hmmm. Well I live in China so I need to sleep on this as I work tomorrow. Something is still niggling at me. Might bounce some ideas off of you later.

    G'night from Beijing.

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    #8 Posted by Penelope (262 posts) -

    @Video_Game_King said:

    @Penelope said:

    If not, that feels a lot like criticizing old movies for not having color. I hate people who do that.

    I imagine a lot of older movies make that complaint irrelevant, but no. I don't take into account all that other stuff you mentioned.

    If movies can make that point irrelevant, why not games? And wouldn't Diablo seem like a prime candidate for making gameplay/control/usability issues irrelevant?

    I don't actually know or have an opinion either way. I'm just playing devil's advocate.

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    #9 Posted by Penelope (262 posts) -

    @Video_Game_King: Well yeah, but in what way? On its own now is very different from on its own when the game was originally released. Do you take into account the environment, time period and situations in which it was created?

    If not, that feels a lot like criticizing old movies for not having color. I hate people who do that.

    @YI_Orange: Yeah, that's about where I stand. Just having a hard time reconciling giving amazing classic games middling scores when compared with games that might not stand the test of time this generation.

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    #10 Edited by Penelope (262 posts) -

    @Questionable said:

    @DJJoeJoe said:

    Jail and morals exist during life, so unless you include those as also being none existent then I don't see why anyone should change how they act.

    I can consider (hypotheticly) that killing my wife and running off with the insurance money is worth the risk of 15 years jail, Now if the risk is 15 years prison and "eternal damnation" that really tips the scale even when you take the jail time entirely out of the equation.

    Personally i would feel allot more inclined to take risks that would cross morals. perhaps invest some money in a sound isolated basement in a remote location and see where it goes from there. afteraal, if the only thing that matters is your life now. why not fulfill every curiosity and fantasy you might have or whatever you consider living life to its fullest.

    If there is no afterlife than all that morals are are just rules imposed onto you by your fellow man.

    Uh.

    I'm an atheist. A devout (ha!) one. But just because God doesn't exist doesn't mean I would ever kill or harm someone for money or personal gain even in a hypothetical situation which guaranteed no negative repercussions for myself. If the afterlife is the only thing stopping you from being a dick, I think you probably need to take a look at yourself and you're motives.

    I guess I had always naively assumed that if people had a choice, it would be TO NOT GODDAMN MURDER EACH OTHER.

    As for the sound-proof basement, weird curiosity, and living life to the fullest?

    Uh yeah. Go nuts. That about matches my lifestyle.