Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Well, due to my lack of good recent posts, I've been knocked from the 10 Hottest Blogs list on the China Blog List. Oh well, my rise to fame climaxed at the 3rd most popular blog in China. Not bad.

Anyway, at least I have my residence permit now and we have heat in the office.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Drinking money

Wow... we had a going away dinner last night for my French co-worker in our new restaurant (oh yeah... our new office has two apartments and two restaurants in it).

Anyway, after dinner I found out that the tea we were drinking costs 8,000 元/kg. That's about $460/lb, people!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chinese Proverb - part 1

There was a rich man who was deliberately hard on his farmhand. He gave him a bottle and said, "Buy me a bottle of wine."

The farmhand asked, "How can I buy you wine with no money at all?"

The rich man said, "Anyone can buy wine with money. It takes real skill to buy wine without money."

After a while the farmhand returned with the empty bottle. He handed the bottle to the rich man and said, "Enjoy the wine, please."

Staring at the empty bottle, the rich man asked, "There is no wine, how can I enjoy this?"

The farmhand said, "Anyone can enjoy wine if there is some. It takes real skill to enjoy wine When there is none."

Choking, the rich man was unable to utter a word.

Because we wouldn't want our citizens to be able to learn now, would we?

China, in its infinite and unfallable wisdom, has re-blocked Wikipedia and unblocked, yet again, blogger. Apparently Beijing is worried that the open editing features of the online encylopedia will serve as a platform for pro-Democracy, anti-Communist, rants; thereby corrupting the masses and toppling the government in a tidal wave of mouse clicks.

I just use it to read about panda bears.

The Great Firewall of China seems to operate with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. The "blacklist" is controlled both by local districts and Beijing; a webpage can be banned because the local censor didn't like the font or because some bureaucrat says it is subversive. The very next week, the censor's son wants to start a blogger blog, so the censor removes it from the list.
The list of what is allowed and what isn't changes so quickly here that even CNN can't keep up. Last week they reported that Wikipedia had finally been unblocked in China, despite the fact it had been unblocked here for at least one month. Then, just one week after CNN reports it is unblocked and that China finally buckled under international pressure for free speech, it is blocked again.

I suppose if CNN had reported it one month earlier when I had actually happened, China would have just re-blocked it that much sooner.

Oh well... thankfully, Anonymouse allows me to still view Wikipedia. Did you know that the Giant Panda has one thumb and six fingers on each paw?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Various other forms

Obtaining a residence permit in China without the help of some serious guanxi is a mind numbing experience. I've spoken to plenty of English teachers at Yantai University and other schools who have said, "What's the big deal? I gave my passport to my school and had mine in two days. The police even hand delivered it to my house."

For those English teachers out there who didn't have to do anything (or pay anything for that matter).... bite me.

Here is a summary of what it has taken me to get my residence permit (god-willing, will be waiting for me next Monday):

  • Get full medical in Yantai (700RMB)
  • Obtain Work Permit from Yantai Labor Board (required 6 forms, all with official red stamp)
  • Obtain Temporary Residence Certificate from Yantai government (required 6 forms, all with same red stamp)
  • Obtain (yes I'm serious) form granting permission to apply for a residence visa (required 4 forms)
  • Go to Hong Kong to obtain Z-visa (700 RMB, plus travel expenses, required 2 letters of introduction, official permission to apply for residence visa, photocopies of passport, work permit, and official company license to conduct business)
  • Go to Laishan Police department and obtain Guarantee of Social Order Responsibility for Aliens.
  • Get the ID card of my landlord
  • A copy of my lease
  • Go to Muping Police station for next permit... am told that I have to go back to the US.
  • Go to Yantai Police station and told that I don't have to go to the US, but I do have to go to Yantai Human Resources Market (presumably where they sell humans) and obtain my Employment Permit for Aliens (300 RMB, required 10 forms, all signed in triplicate and stamped with those damned official red "chops")
  • Go to Muping Police station and be told that my Company work permit (not to be confused with my Employment Permit) is not on nice enough paper and needs to be presented in a decorative red folder (I'm dead serious). Also told that my passport photocopy must be oriented in a landscape orientation, not portrait orientation.
  • Have a Chinese staff member write a letter in Chinese, declaring that I feel safe enough in my residence, and waiving my right to have the local police install surveylance cameras in my home to monitor me 24 hours per day and ensure my safety. (As it has been pointed out to me, I ruined a major opportunity to have some fun with the Chinese police by performing a naked dance ritual everyday in my living room).
  • Go back to the Muping Police station with 10E14 forms, 800 RMB cash, and a partridge in a pear tree. They placed it all in a manila envelope, stamped it 57 times with their official red chops, and told me to deliver it to the police station in Yantai.
Theoretically, I will be able to pick up my shiny new residence permit by next Monday... by when it will be time of course to start again for my renewal next year, if I expect to be finished collecting all of the paperwork in time.

Exit-entry organ?

Guarantee of Social Order Responsibility of Aliens... one of the many, many, many forms I had to fill out in the lengthy, godless process that is obtaining a residence permit in China.

Below are some of the items I signed my name to. I am listing them for the sake of amusement and to illustrate the dire need for better English grammar education for government translators.

I am willing to take the following responsibilty:

  1. Whoever lodges at the apartment must carry valid passport or residence certificate or other identity card.
  2. No permit to lodge other persons at the apartment except the relatives. The relatives who are Chinese continent residents shall report to the local police station. The relatives abroad shall report to the exit-entry organ in conformity to the related regulations.
  3. To sale or lend or rent it to other person, the host must report to the original approving organ and while to the local police station for filing.
  4. Carefully to carry out the safety measures in accordance with the demands of the public security organ. At once to report to the related organ if finding out the hidden danger.
  5. To refrain from conducting with the non-accommodation or non-status behavior or other illegal activites at the apartment.
  6. Persons at the apartment take any behavior or play music or sounds shall not make so big noise that effect the work or rest of the neighbours.
  7. Persons at apartment shall not set up communications facilities without permission.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Why does my Chinese-English phrasebook have Donald Duck listed under the "Key Words" section, especially considering the book was published 7 years before Disney Hong Kong was built?

New Photos up

Check out my Germany and France photos on webshots. I also put up some pics from our Halloweek Party at Alibaba.

(see sidebar for Webshots link)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Brass Monkeys

I shouldn't be able to see my breath as I sit here in my office typing this.

That's all I'm sayin'...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Strange Prize

My girlfriend participated in a tug-of-war competition a few days ago and won three cups of strawberry youghurt for her efforts.

I guarantee I am the first person in history to ever write or utter that sentance.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Liquid hell

I have mentioned before the pure evil that is baijiu, and I have been wanting to share with everyone the best description of it that I have yet found.

This is a passage from Tim Clissold's Mr. China, one of the best books I have read about the business experience in China.

Baijiu looks like gin but it tastes much stronger. It is distilled from grain and sorghum and there are many famous bands of the drink in China. Wuliang ye or “five-grain liquid” comes from Yibin in Sichuan, and Maotai, the most famous in China, comes from Guizhou, farther south. At the lower end of the market, there is er gou tou or “the top of the second wok”, which is distilled in Beijing. A really good bottle of maotai can cost the equivalent of several months’ salary. Baijiu is always taken neat but, thankfully, in small doses. The idea is to knock in back in one go with a cry of “Gan bei” “Dry the cup!” The problem is that drinking baijiu at a Chinese banquet is compulsory; it is slightly viscous, has the smell like exhaust fumes mixed with a trace of chocolate, and seems both fiery and sickly at the same time. It burns the inside of your mouth and throat and leaves you with a sensation rather than a taste. There is an immediate feeling of heat and tingling that creeps up the back of the neck and radiates out all over the scalp. I already knew that these formal banquets entailed elaborate drinking rituals designed to get the guests hopelessly drunk, so I braced myself for the deluge.

Baijiu loosens tongues almost immediately although I’ve never met anybody, even at the heights of alcoholic derangement, prepared to admit that they actually liked the taste. After drinking it, most people screw up their faces in an involuntary expression of pain and some even yell out. But there were plenty of people who liked the sensation and the atmosphere that a couple of bottle of baijiu produced at a dinner. It created the best parties and the worst hangovers imaginable and the smell seemed to seep out through my pores the following day. A German friend once summed up the experience perfectly. She said, in her perfect Hochdeutsch, that when her husband had been out drinking with his Chinese colleagues and had hit the baijiu, it was as if she had “woken up the following morning next to and oily rag that had been soaked in diesel.”

I am giving this description of baijiu as a segway (yeah, I hate people that use that word also) into a recent experience.

On November 1st, my company moved from its old offices into our new office/dormitory building. Of course, we had a large banquet complete with huge fireworks display. The Chinese manager invited all of his friends and competitors to show off his accomplishment.

The #1 Host at my dinner table was Mr. Wu, former head of marketing. His new job is Guest Reception Manager. It is quite literally his job to take business guests out to dinner each night and drink them under the table. He is extrodinarly good at drinking and was boasting that he can drink nine wine glasses full of 53% Maotai baijiu, no problem.

Anyway, Mr. Wu was sitting next to me and made it his mission to break me. Break me, he did. I woke up the next morning in my apartment, having no idea how I got there. My wonderfully forgiving girlfriend Louise said I was a mess when I came home and not the nicest of people. When I got to work later, I was told "Ahh, you drink so well, you strong man, very good job!" I was also told that I had thrown up somewhere in the hallway and then tried to walk the 20 kilometers home. The driver had to argue with me to get me into the car.

At first I was really embarrassed, but just last week the Chinese president threw up all over himself in the car on the way home; for Chinese businessmen it almost seems to be a badge of honor! "You strong man!" I have explicitly been told before that if you can drink as much as the host at a dinner, you will receive better prices/service/etc from the company. If you cannot drink as much as the host, or refuse, you may possibly kill all potential business between the two companies. If only it were't forced on you quite so strongly... no one wants to drink themselves sick, but the combination of baijiu and ritual in China makes it is extremely difficult not to.