Saint Petersburg

Please like me

So, today I found out that my German sucks.

I mean I was already told like 5 times that it is not good enough for me to work with German clients. But I did not stop answering messages in German if I got one.

I did not want to admit that my diploma means squat at the moment, that not using German for 6 years was a fatal mistake, that I cannot really call myself a linguist with a BA in German studies because it sounds like a joke.

People from work complained. It turned into a whole ugly little mess. I had to talk to people, explain myself and apologize. And most importantly, I had to admit that my German is just not good enough, it is not at the right level.

My ego is bruised. I am annoyed that it bruises so easily. I am annoyed that I take it to heart. I am annoyed that 2 years (this September) of individual therapy did not solve this issue. I am failing therapy, or therapy is failing me. Anxiety. Self-criticism. Apathy.

Fuck it.

Why can´t I give myself some time to get back to where I feel comfortable using German again? Why do I have to rush, to demand immediate progress from myself? Nobody else is asking for it, nobody else is expecting me to start answering German clients in German.

I do not know how to manage my impatience and perfectionism. I do not know how to accept my flaws without turning to self-loathing. I just want people to be impressed with me. I want them to like me and be on my side. Even when I am not on my own side. Especially when I am not on my own side.



Adult shopping

What do you usually buy without thinking? You know, when you are standing there in line, bored, looking at the colorful packaging… Do I need something else? Gum? Candy? Tissues?

In China, for some bizarre reason, in every minimart near the counter you can see a stand with condoms. A whole range of them, also: lube, vibrators, rectile rings… No, I am not 13 and I don´t giggle when I see someone buying controception, but… who the heck needs a minimart vibrator? When did lube become a sorta thing you buy absentmindedly along with a pack of skittles?

I am a great supporter of safe and pleasurable sex for all parties involved, however, I can hardly imagine picking out a sex toy in clear view of a cashier and strangers buying their microwaveable lunches… but maybe it is just me.




On Sunday we went to the Science & Technology museum in Shanghai. It´s a very cool museum – three floors, various exhibitions for children and adults alike (there are several routes for different age groups: kids, teens, grown-ups and elderly). A lot of interactive stuff – touch, push, pull, smell and so on.

At first, we were a bit overwhelmed by the number of children (it is a good museum for children and it was a Sunday), but the museum is designed so that you can avoid the crowds if you want to. Mostly.

Anyhow, it was all fun, until we decided to make a detour and go look at the spiders (which weren´t on the ¨adult¨ route for some reason). I was anxious as I have a very deep fear of arachnids. Well, a fear of one of them suddenly jumping on me and taking a bite. I don´t think I would become a spiderwoman as a result.

The spider exhibitions was very fun, they are amazing creatures, creepy, but amazing. We were leaving the exhibitions, when I turned around and saw it. A mother was lifting her 5-6 year-old daughter over a trash can IN THE MUSEUM so that she could go pee or poop. Yes, it is even worse to watch than to read about it.

Well, what can I say? After seeing strangers´ children defecate in public more times than anyone should (and the number of times is zero), I am still not used to this sight. It is a freaking museum with free public bathrooms, it was an old enough child for it to not be an emergency. It is just not acceptable to ruin my memories of a nice day-off  in a cool museum with my fiancé.

And if you think that is not a big deal – follow the link.


Giant Baby Nation

For many years reading fiction in Chinese after many attempts remained an unreachible peek for me. When you need to look up a word (or two) in every sentence, reading becomes a chore rather than pleasury. Luckily, it seems my self-confidence is going to be saved by non-fiction.

A book called ¨Giant Baby Nation¨ (巨婴国)by Wu Zhi Hong (武志红)can not be called a national bestseller due to the fact that the book, published in the end of 2016, was prohibited in Mainland China in early 2017. However, I was able to obtain an ¨illegal¨ copy thanks to one of my Chinese professors (who told us about this book in the first place), you can also still but it in HK, Macao or Taiwan.

The book that officially doesn´t exist has stirred a lively discussion online: Are Chinese people really giant babies? Does their collective development seize on the infant level? Is this the source of all social problems in China? To know the answers one will have to read the book and either agree or disagree with its author. And here is the best part. I can actually read this book in Chinese! Unlike short-stories and novels in Chinese, ¨Giant Baby Nation¨ doesn´t have complicated adjectives or verb describing a specific movement (my greetins to Mr Lu Xun), the therminology of the book is intuitive and I can enjoy reading a whole paragraph without looking anything up in the dictionary. This can actually be called reading a book.


China, Saint Petersburg

Queen of the Desert

Yesterday we watched a rather dull bio film about Gertrude Bell, portrayed by the incredible Nicole Kidman. The film, of course, got me curious about Bell´s endeavours in the Middle East, and I think I will read her biography and her letters (available on Project Gutenberg). But, at the same time, watching Nicole Kidman head into the desert on the back of a camel made me feel weirdly guilty about my own studies of China and its language and culture.

I currently have a few ¨projects¨ connected to my study of Chinese language and culture, but I find it hard to dedicate even 30 minutes to each of them daily. Maybe I expect too much from myself, and I should just pick one thing and stick to it (lingq seems to be the perfect answer), or maybe I just don´t have enough passion for Chinese. And that´s what I feel guilty about. For not being as passionate as Gertrude Bell. Oh, well.


Racism or Reality?

Today I am still angry.


When I first went to Taiwan, the lessons were fantastic. There was a partner rotation system – you didn´t just stay partners with one classmate the whole time; you had to change every day. Homework was graded every class – if you didn´t do it on time it affected your final grade. Students were required to make an oral presentation once a week. We talked in class, we learned grammar, we wrote letters and essays. It was a normal learning process, as confirmed later by my language courses in Germany and England…

Here, in Mainland China, I have spent 3 (three!) years in the Chinese language program of one of the best universities in the country. Sometimes I am the only one in class. Nobody takes attendance. The ¨written¨ Chinese class became a talking club for me and the teacher. She hasn´t assigned a single essay since the midterms, and even before that I was the only one who submitted them regularly. Why did I stop? Mainly because she couldn´t explain my mistakes to me. By the way, we still don´t know our midterm grades. She said she gave everyone around 90%.

This is but one example of how people in China don´t care about their jobs and just go with the flow. I am tired of complaining about things not being done properly in this country. I had to complain about another teacher, who instead of giving a class, decided to watch my (much younger) classmates engage in an arm-wrestling contest. For 20 (TWENTY) minutes. Call me a bore, I don´t care – I paid for these classes.

The hotel where we are currently staying doesn´t serve lunch at lunchtime (even though the in-room menu says room service is available from 10 am till midnight), because they are ¨too busy¨. The maid doesn´t wash the provided cups for tea unless you make an obvious hint by putting them in the sink. The cleaning lady at our previous apartment would come knock on the door and if we were in, she would go away and never come back to clean (unless you asked her specifically). They wouldn´t do this or do that, they would just literally sit at their job and do nothing until they are caught and someone complains.

Today a customer left a dirty plate at the part of the hotel buffet for drinks.  I don´t know why it was put there, but I couldn´t pour myself a cup of tea, as it was in the way. I gave the plate to the hostess. She just put it back, a little bit further. I guess, she thought it was beneath her to give it to a waitress or to take it away herself.

Is calling a majority of Chinese people lazy and irresponsible racist? Or is it just stating the obvious?