He’s Sexy and He Knows It: Kim Jong-Un

Kim’s on a horse

Look at your news, now back to The Onion, back to your news, now back to The Onion.

Sadly, The Onion isn’t real, but it posts funny things like awarding North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.

Look down, now up. But where are we? We’re in China, and the People’s Daily of China quotes The Onion like it’s fact. Anything is possible when real news doesn’t matter.

Kim Jong-Un’s on a horse.

Thank you, Shanghaiist, for making me laugh and think of this video all day.

Mandarin Check! 7 months in Beijing


So despite the fact I look like the living dead and exhausted, I have a new Mandarin Check video. Yeah, I’m a bit tired, but it’s the light, I swear! It’s not the super best, but that’s not the point of the video. I wanted to test my writing skills by writing about my experience directly in Hanzi, then test my fluency by creating a video. I read it over once before recording, and I don’t think it’s half bad. I’ll take it.

Annnnd, my Mexican roommate who can actually speak quite decent Chinese said it wasn’t too bad. I AM WIN!

In summation, I’m halfway through my elementary-B course at Beijing Institute of Economic Management (BIEM), the small university I attend between home and work. I’m way over due for a Mandarin Check, and actually quite miss doing any kind of video work. I’m really enjoying life right now, but my schedule doesn’t allow for as much creative work as I’d like: 8:35 leave house for Chinese class from 9-12:10. Lunch/short study time, then clock in at 1:30-8:30ish. Home around 9. It’s busy and I don’t get as much time for blogging. But I really feel like I’m making progress in my Mandarin, and I’m really happy with life. Had a great Thanksgiving with friends, coworkers, and teachers, and had so much to be grateful for (You’re now included if you’re reading this blog!).

Feel free to critique/give feedback. Included is the English translation.

Mandarin Check Script: 11/28/12










Mandarin Check: 11/28/12 English Translation

Hello! I’m Ginny Tonkin, an American foreign student living in Beijing. Right now, I’m in a small coffee shop using the Internet.

I want to give myself a little test, to test my Chinese. I’m reading my Chinese characters now. Maybe I’ll make a mistake, but this is a small test, no worries. I know I need to practice reading characters. For me, it’s the hardest. So if I don’t read very fluently, this is why.

Also, I’ll tell you, I know I look really tired. Oh well.

I’ve been in Beijing over seven months. I’ll tell you about my life. I have quite a good life in China. I’ve become used to it. But next year, I want to find other work. For me, Internet-related work is interesting. In China, I live in Chaoyang District. I also work in Wangjing.

Why did I come to China? To study Chinese, and to find interesting work. Now, I teach kids, 3 to 8 years old. They’re cute and adorable. Also like my coworkers, they’re quite nice. Also when we don’t have work, we go out together. For example, this Monday we went to see a movie.

Also really like my roommates. We’re used to each other, and we go do fun stuff together. Like two weeks ago, we had a party for Thanksgiving. It was quite good.

Thanks for listening! Have a good night!

Anti-Japanese Protests in Beijing at Japanese Embassy

"Fuck Japan" photo via AlertNet photo cred REUTERS/Jason Lee

"Fuck Japan" photo via AlertNet photo cred REUTERS/Jason Lee

So tensions between China and Japan have truly escalated about the uninhabited Diaoyu islands in the East China sea. I am just fine, but it was a little unnerving biking down my road and seeing riot police and dozens of buses and trucks blocking the road (the Japanese embassy is down my road, past the American one). I am not going to pretend like I really know what’s going on in this situation–I always make a valid effort to keep up with the news, Chinese, international, tech and mobile, my hometown of Erie. However, in China, I find it hard to know what’s reallly going on, and I didn’t really realize how serious this recent development in China was. After seeing riot gear and hearing these reports, I wanted to make a valid effort.

The quick summary is, Japan, China, and Taiwan all claim to have possession of two uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. They have become valuable as important mineral resources have been found in their waters. Recently, Japan purchased the islands from the Japanese “owners.” Chinese, with a history of tension with Japan and an education system that encourages nationalistic pride over Japan, have become agitated. To provide a full picture, the Japanese do have a horrible history with the rest of Asia. Even one of my close Chinese friends who’s normally forgiving, and works to understand the other side mentioned to me that she was not a fan of Japan. Also, when I lived in Vietnam, I had expats telling me of the atrocities of Japan and Japanese soliders on South East Asia, its people and civilians.

Below, I’m just providing you with some information that I’ve gathered, as I’ve tried to decipher what’s going on today. Here are some pics from RT of the protest in Beijing today.

Protests have been happening in several cities in China, but as reported by TeaLeafNation.com, Netizens are tweeting a more level approach to he situation, at least condemning the attacks. First heard about issues with the island situation from TeaLeafNation.com, and the nationalistic streak, surfaced over Weibo.

Not trying to alarm, just updating. Beijing rarely lets people protest (they are supposedly illegal), and as quoted in the NYT:

“I think the government is encouraging this,” said one protester, who gave his name as Uda Chen.

“They could have stopped all of us approaching when we were at the subway station. The government has taught us to be anti-Japanese at school, so if they want us to stop it would be like slapping their own mouths,” he added.

I’d have to agree with this statement; I didn’t see much of an effort by police to keep people from protesting. And in the next cited blog entry, he mentioned the feeling of a picnic… At first when I rode my bike down to LiangMaQiao Lu around 8:30 this evening, I saw people eating what looked like sanctioned cafeteria food, Chinese food in red containers. A larger organization understood what was going on, and people were largely allowed to go and do what they wanted, milling up and down the roped off road (normally a wide, car-filled street). My roommate, who has previously worked with the embassy, says they’ve been protesting in front of the Japanese embassy since Wednesday, although today was just the main escalation.

The Chinese government is going through a leadership change, done once every 10 years, so things are tense in the party to begin with. Having something else for the public to focus on must be quite a relief, especially with Xi Jinping missing for days.

After searching for a good account of events, I found this Sinostand entry by Eric Fish, via Shanghaiist.com.  I posted in its entirety; I think it offers experience and perspective.

Today saw huge demonstrations in front of Japan’s Embassy in Beijing to protest Japanese claims over the Diaoyu Islands. Two years ago when tensions last flared over this issue, I checked out the Japanese embassy in Beijing, where there were no more than about 50 people. This time, turnout was exponentially bigger and more serious.

I got to the embassy at about 1:00 this afternoon. The roads around it were all closed off to traffic with a few hundred riot police, regular police, public security volunteers and lord knows how many plain clothes officers. I estimate there were at least 2,000 people while I was there, although it’s unclear how many actively came to protest and how many were just curious onlookers.

In the middle of the street there was a partition with police directing people to parade around it in long circles. People had huge Chinese flags and banners saying things like “Fuck little Japan.” What I was most surprised by were the number of Chairman Mao posters floating around. I asked a few people about this and the consensus was “Mao would never let Japan get away with this.”

As the crowds paraded around, they sang patriotic songs, chanted “Little Japan, fuck your mother,” “Chairman Mao 10,000 years,” “China 10,000 years” and most significantly “Communist Party 10,000 years.” (“10,000 years” basically means “Long live…”)

This mass outpouring obviously had official sanction. The police’s presence was to direct the protests rather than try to hamper them in any way.

Later things started to get a bit more intense. While the crowds circled around they were allowed to stop briefly in front of the Japanese embassy itself. It was guarded by hundreds of riot police with helmets and shields. At first protestors threw water bottles and eggs at the embassy, which police made no attempt to stop. But gradually rocks and (I assume Japanese) cell phones started to be thrown. Many of them hit the Chinese police, who were covering themselves with shields.

One man brought a bucket full of rocks, which police came and confiscated somewhat violently. After a man chucked a rock, an officer wrestled him away and said, “Enough, they’re Chinese.” He then let him go. I caught up with the man and asked him what had happened. He said, “I just wanted to fuck Japan.”

Finally I went to interview a man on the side of the road holding a sign. As I was speaking with him a police officer grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. “What are you doing,” he asked forcefully in English.

I said I was just talking with people and taking pictures. He pulled me toward a small police post on the side of the road and demanded my passport. He looked at the visa page, handed it back and then seemed to get distracted with something else. I slowly but steadily walked away.

It was very strange. It seemed like coverage was being encouraged. I didn’t notice any of the other foreigners who were taking video/pictures being hassled. I’m not sure why I was singled out.

That was about the time I headed home.  If you didn’t understand what the people were chanting, the whole atmosphere of the protests seemed very festive. People chanted things, others laughed. Families with little kids were out, young people, old people. It kind of felt like a 4th of July parade…until things began to be thrown at the embassy.

This whole uproar is a godsend for the Communist Party. I never imagined I’d see people marching down the street with pictures of Mao Zedong chanting “Long live Mao, Long live the Communist Party.” It was a bit surreal. (Though several people were chastising the government for sitting by too idly)

It’s interesting to speculate on how much of this was deliberately egged on by the CCP. The whole thing erupted when the Japanese government bought some of the islands from a private owner. The move was intended to put the islands under national control so Japanese activists could be prevented from planting flags on the island and stirring up tensions. But it seems that was a huge miscalculation by Japan on the eve of China’s 18th Party Congress.

The Chinese media could have lauded the move as an attempt to ease tensions and work toward a peaceful solution, but it went hard in the opposite direction, portraying it as an illegitimate slap in China’s face. It’s no wonder so many are riled up.

It is important to note that when you see Mao posters being paraded, it’s probably a pretty poor representation of Chinese people. And it’s hard to say how many people present at the protest were active nationalists, how many came because they thought it’d be cool or interesting, and how many just happened to walk by and stuck around.

But there was a lot of intensity. Whenever someone started a chant, most joined in. This is clearly the most serious clash between China and Japan in a long time, and it could be far from over. A few days from now will be September 18th, the anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria. Unless there’s a police clampdown, the protests are likely to continue through at least that day.

With Xi Jinping back and all this intense anger directed toward Japan, I predict China’s leadership transfer can now go off without a hitch.

As a side note, I saw many, many Chinese just out watching the scene, many just with the phones, most likely posting, or planning to post on Weibo. I also saw three (potbellied) men wearing Chinese flags pushing their way past onlookers, as they left the scene.

Again, just sharing what I know. The best thing we can do is stay informed; I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on. I thank social media for providing a variety of voices/content, real time updates, and keeping me in touch with sources that I trust.

**As a side note to the aesthetics of this blog, I’m always tweaking the blog, and embarrassed that certain bugs aren’t quite figured out. But again, this blog is a work in progress, and a learning ground for me. I always welcome your input and criticism.**

Chivalry ain’t dead.

Chivalry ain't dead

Chivalry ain't dead

To the guy who helped me get a cab late on Saturday,

You made my night.

You were a London BBC (British born Chinese), and we had made small talk on the way from the elevator from the club. When you saw me trying to get a cab, you offered to help, and we walked to find one together.

Anyone who knows me knows I am perfectly capable of getting a cab myself, but as it sucks getting a cab in Beijing, I appreciated the offer. But then the kicker.

The street we were walking on was gravely, uneven, and broken. You noticed I was wearing high-heels, and asked to make sure I was okay walking here. Probably the sexiest thing anyone had said to me the whole night. Every woman I’ve mentioned this too since has agreed, noticing a woman’s shoes and ensuring her comfort and safety–without being obnoxious about it–is sexy, and probably the best way to impress a woman. You didn’t want anything from me, you were just being an observant, decent person.

Thanks BBC, for being a gentleman. Chivalry ain’t dead.

Too bad you’re returning to London, because I would have had to cue some Carly Rae Jaspen.


“Wǒ yào qù niao-niao,” I have to go pee-pee.

I’m not sure it’s a good thing or a bad thing; I can understand my students.

Or at least a key phrase or two.

I teach 3-8 year olds, which would have it, is actually a great place to practice or pick up elementary Mandarin phrases. But now that I can understand, especially out of context, what they’re whining about, I’m thinkin’ maybe ignorance was bliss.

For example.

Each month we have a special reading class, where we pick a book and do activities around that theme. This month was Jeremy Draws a Monster. If you may have guessed, we had the kids then draw their own monster.

Fun right? Apparently not. These kids, even at the age of three, are perfectionists. Even when drawing crayon monsters, that don’t/won’t make sense anyway.

“Wǒ bù huiiiiiiiii,” some of our students whine, “I can’t do it.”

Kid, I just handed you a tub of crayons. FULL of crayons. Aren’t you supposed to go nucking futs over this??? I know I did. Don’t tell me you can’t. I see you draw all over the desks and tables whenever you get a crayon. When you do manage to get it onto the paper, you just draw a bunch of circles, then tell me it’s a flower, or your mom, or your house. And I tell you it’s beautiful. Because, let’s face it, what’s cuter than a three-year-old drawing a picture of his mom?

Of course there’s the classic… “Where’s mom?”

“Mama ne? Mama ne?” I once hear through an entire class. Then, right after class running to his mother, “Hui jia? Hui jia? Hui jia?” (“Go home? Go home?”) Counting apples was just too darn hard.

And then there’s the bathroom situation.

“Wǒ yào qù niao-niao,” some will say, “I have to go pee-pee.” All the time. Anytime. In the middle of class. While standing in line. Always: “niao-niao.” And almost always, you let them leave right away, because you’ve seen the alternative. No one likes to hold the mop.

Or how about when you hear your own voice coming out of your students’ mouths? Must be like when, to your horror as a parent, you discover your children have grown up. Exactly like you.

I love putting on a valley girl accent, especially to make my Chinese coworker Deborah laugh (Think, “I knooooow, riiiiight??”). But unfortunately, that falls under one of America’s more obnoxious exports.

“I knoooow!” I hear echoed back to me.

I had been instructing my students to make a line. Except in our line, we had one too many boys named Jason in our line.

“Two Jasons!” said a girl named Britta (Yes, she was named after the TV show Community). I playfully responded in my valley girl banter, “Two Jasons, I know!”

Britta shot right back with my voice and tone, “I know!”

Forgive me–What have I done?

I sound like I hate my kids; couldn’t be farther from the truth.

But sometimes, ignoring their complaints and insistences would make things a whole lot easier.

That awkward moment when… you teach your kids to say “penis” instead of “chicken”

That awkward moment when… you realize you taught the children to say “penis,” instead of “chicken.”


It was my turn to lead the marketing activity. Every Sunday, our for-profit English training center holds a special hour-long class. New comers and current students join together for a seasonally-themed session. We generally go all out to draw new students to fork over a year’s worth of tuition. I had chosen “Down on the Farm,” and planned a farm-filled day full of animal puppets and paper plate cow crafts.

During our planning session for singing Old MacDonald, I was told that the sound Chinese associate with chickens clucking is “jeet.” So I thought in order to be culturally relevant to our students, instead of singing “cheep, cheep here and a cheep, cheep there,” for chick or chicken, I used “jeet.”

Little did I know that “jeet” sounds an awful lot like “jī.” When used doubly, “jījī” (鸡鸡) is Chinese slang for penis.


So, singing “Old MacDonald had a farm,” I had my elbows flapping, strutting around like a chicken, instructing my students to say, “jeet, jeet here and a jeet, jeet there.” Of course I saw my coworkers laughing, but I thought it was just because anyone would generally look like an idiot strutting around saying jeet. And we ran the activity twice.

Only sitting around in the teacher’s room today, TWO WEEKS after the second time we had run the marketing activity did I find out it sounded like I was having the students say penis.

Think Bridesmaids. That scene near the beginning where Kristen Wiig is chatting with Maya Rudolph and Wiig scrunches up her face with her elbows bent back, obviously, like a penis. That’s probably what I looked like.

So, it’s really just the sound, not the word for chicken. And the kids were probably none the wiser. They liked the song; that’s pretty much all that matters.

And I know that’s a mandarin phrase I’ll never forget.