Long story short, due to Chinese politics I have not been able to access most of the internet lately. Today, I finally got my VPN to connect for longer than 5 minutes only to find my feed overrun with American politics. I just can’t win.
Longer version: For the past two weeks China’s “two sessions” have been holding their annual conference. I won’t go into great detail-there’s more info here for anyone who’s interested-but it’s a very sensitive time politically. So the first thing they do is shut down the VPNs which allow people to access material on the other side of the Great Firewall of China. Which is stupid on so many levels, not least of which is why they allow VPNs to operate at all when they have the power to shut them down whenever they choose? Also, the vast majority of Chinese don’t know what VPNs are, or are too afraid of the law to use them, or don’t bother to question the status quo at all, so there’s no reason the government should go out of its way to control them. The only people I’ve met that use VPNs are foreigners and people who work with foreigners or foreign companies, in which case they can call, text, email or obtain controversial information without a VPN. One more instance of the Chinese government doing something just for show, and I have to say it’s getting old. Also, the sites that end up blocked are completely random and arbitrary sometimes. I can see how Facebook or Twitter might be considered inflammatory (they certainly raise my blood pressure at times), but Instagram?!? Come on. Not to mention my school website-there were days I couldn’t even access my online classroom to do homework.
In addition to shutting down the internet, new rules and regulations have been passed by both TV networks and the government increasing censorship. Now, censorship is already rampant to begin with here. One of the women I started tutoring recently, Olive, works for Fox and told me that in most countries a network receives an episode of a show and it airs within 2-3 days. Here, it takes 3-4 weeks because it takes the network so long to cut and bleep out all the unapproved material. Now, as of two weeks ago, the following are banned (deep breath): anything seen to be related to or promoting superstition, such as witchcraft, spiritual possession, reincarnation, anything that “promotes promiscuity”, any depiction of homosexuality, any depiction of “unhealthy marriages” and anything that might be deemed “morally hazardous” to teenagers, including, but not limited to, drinking, smoking, drugs, or fighting; all subject to the interpretation of the censors of course. I’m actually not sure what that leaves on TV, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to watch it. I’ll just turn on Netflix…oh, oh wait, that’s blocked… And for the duration of the two-sessions conference, networks can’t show anything remotely sensitive; they’re basically down to the weather and nature shows. Fun times, let me tell you.
And now, before I move on to lighter topics, let’s focus on American politics for a moment. What the heck is going on there, people? If things keep going the way they’re headed, I’m staying here indefinitely; that’s right, Chinese communism is preferable over the current American government at this point. Actually, I’m not even going to get started, because I have other things to do tonight and no one wants to read a 30 page diatribe, which is where this is headed. So I’m just going to say, don’t vote for Trump. Very simple. Just don’t do it. And if you are, please take the initiative and delete me from your Facebook, Twitter, email contacts, whatever, because we can’t be friends anymore.
I apologize for my bitter rant. I’m done now. I didn’t intend to write so much there. Apparently I’ve been keeping some things bottled up. But I’m here to report the good, the bad, and the ugly (and hopefully sometimes the hilariously entertaining) so there it is. I’ve mostly kept this blog away from too serious topics, but you may see changes coming, because it’s getting harder and harder for me to keep my mouth shut, or my fingers still, as I get older. But moving on-
My life now consists of a series of odd jobs, with fun stuff and friends squeezed in here and there. Oh, and homework, so much homework. Here are some recent highlights, with pictures:
Jess decided she wanted to brighten up her bedroom walls, so we cracked open a pack of magic markers one night and got to work, drawing all kinds of scenes representing our adventures and funny stories and places we’ve been around Beijing. If you’ve been reading, you may recognize some of these.
Above: A preschool class I sometimes work with. I love this school-only 5 students. I dumped some cornstarch and water in a bowl and we called it science. There are moments teaching is really fun.
Below: Ella and Tony, two kids I tutor individually. They’re both adorable, and really smart. And recess time with Cami, Zachary, Alex, and April.
Last Sunday, Cami invited me to go to Chongwenmen with her and her friends, Peter and Wendy, to see this 3D art gallery. It’s basically a series of rooms with scenes and props, some funny, some more like optical illusions, that you can take pictures in. We were there for hours. It was a blast. These are just a handful of the pictures we took (not great, the lighting was so-so and I only had my phone):
And just some sights around Beijing that caught my eye. There was a lot of increased security lately. As for the rest, just a small sample of Chinese “fashion”. And far from the strangest things I’ve seen here.
And last but not least, my crazy schedule! I finally gave up trying to track it in my head. Not pictured-the roughly 30 hours a week I spend on public transportation. And no, I am not even exaggerating: