32. Act Your Gender, Girl!

In an environment where everyone is rushing about and cutting into line-ups, it takes a lot of patience and tolerance to get through the day.

I’m usually mild-mannered about people that cut lines and barge their way through to the front. But on one particular day, I couldn’t handle this one guy that tried to bully his way pass me onto the subway.

I was waiting patiently by the side of the door that one afternoon, for my turn to get on when this middle-aged man came up behind me and tried to push pass. I elbowed him back to where he belonged, and that seemed to have lit a fire under his behind because the next second he was railing against me in a loud, obnoxious voice.

“What’s wrong with you?! What’s the meaning of this? Why are you shoving?!”

I retorted. “Why are you cutting in line? Why can’t you wait your turn?”

He continued.

“You’re a girl. Why don’t you act like one?”

I was wholly taken aback.

I’m sorry dear sir. Am I not demure enough? Am I not simple-minded, lady-like, and invisible enough for you? Did I express myself too much? Did I stand my ground too firmly? Did I hurt your fragile, insignificant, grotesque pride? I didn’t realize we were still living in the Middle Ages. But I guess some men will always be a few hundred years behind.

“Are you insane? You’re a human being. Why don’t you act like one!” I barked back at him as he made his way to the other side of the car.

My friends who were with me, pulled me to their side. I saw his face amongst the other passengers, and his small little eyes glaring back at me. This is where the overwhelming anger and hatred boiled to the surface and formed one of the meanest death glares of my life. If only looks could kill.

And because my mind was under a storm surge of red anger, I screamed out a string of colorful curses in English since there was no way I could have handled it all, coming out of my mouth in Chinese. Of course, him and his uneducated big head didn’t understand any of it.

The man soon disappeared in the sea of people and I was able to calm down, though only after extensive verbal death threats to his life.

Later on, when I told my Chinese friend about this incident, she shook her head and murmured about just how Chinese it all was. I thought back to all the times this insult had been used, this immensely sexist “you’re a girl. Act like it.” phrase, being so casually thrown around, and I feel a deep sadness overcome me at how unequal this society, and societies around the world, still is toward women; the fact that that man probably wasn’t even conscious about just how ugly that one sentence came out to be.

Unfortunately, there are millions who are just as or even more sexist than that unfortunate chauvinist misogynist pig (Yes, I am not above calling him names that he deserves). The silver lining is that I’ve probably lived a much more exciting, adventurous, and happier life than his shallow, narrow-minded, boxed-in existence. And I can choose to not surround myself with those kinds of dull-minded nonsense, and instead, be treated, appreciated, and loved like a human being.

So fellow readers, beware. These small sad creatures do still exist. And when handling one directly, be firm and strong. Don’t forget. They are people too, albeit of a lesser mind than others.

Book 09: The Circle

Photo courtesy of Goodreads.

Title: The Circle

Author: Dave Eggers

Genre: Sci-Fi, contemporary,

Summary: Who doesn’t dream of landing a job as high-end, high-paying, and high-flying as Mae’s after graduation? The moment Mae stepped onto the campus of the Circle that was to be her work-time home, she felt the thrill and her privileged position to a part of the world’s foremost technology company. She was part of a community that housed the most brilliant minds of her time. She had access to all the latest of everything, from famous musicians to prototype products. Stimulating work during the day and raging parties at night. It was indeed paradise. All the glam, fame and access was blinding and numbing, but there began an uncomfortable tickle at the back of her mind of something that just didn’t feel right about all this. Young ambition and idealism soon gave way to a whirlwind of nightmares that questioned memory, transparency, privacy and some of the very essence of being an individual.

Eaten Thru On: Sunday, May 30, 2014

Thoughts:

Spoilers. Spoilers everywhere. Nothing but spoilers ahead.

This has been an extremely different dystopian novel. I don’t really know how I feel about this incredible gap between the dystopian books I have read and this one.

It’s all got to the protagonist.

In most of the previous novels, the protagonist struggles against the dictatorship or the dystopic core of their world. For example, in 1984, Winston Smith fights against the regime, Big Brother. If you are a YA fan, in Hunger Games, Katniss struggled and toppled President Snow.

Having been conditioned to these types of main characters, I was expecting Mae to realize how crazy everything has become and to turn against the Three Wise Men and destroy the circle. Even when book 3 came around, when there were only a few pages left, when Mae still haven’t reversed her collision course, I still expected some sort of turn out, some final struggle against the authoritarianism of it all.

It never arrived. She loved Big Brother from beginning until end.

That blew my mind.

Instead of struggling against, she struggled to love the monopoly and all its innovations. She was uncomfortable at the beginning, about all the breaches of her privacy. But slowly, she accepts the “progress” and starts to commend it, admire it, speaks for it. So much so, she was willing to give up everything and everyone that was dear to her in her life before the Circle. It is the story of how an ambitious, idealist girl becomes completely brainwashed and twisted, all the while conscious of and autonomously making her decisions.

The plot definitely took and ending definitely knocked the air out of my lungs. The writing was easy, smooth and simple, with no particularly beautifully composed sentences. And Eggers’ repeated drumming of the utopia of it all got rather irritating, especially by the finale. So the writing got a struggle out of me.

Character-wise, I was disappointed with Ty and whom and how he chose to go about his sabotage. He was one of the Wise Ones, why couldn’t he have done something within the system himself? He was positioned perfectly within and had all the access to everything necessary to un-complete the circle, yet he chose Mae. What for? Especially before she became transparent. She had little power over anyone. Was her spiral down into brainwashed oblivion part of his scheme? Why did he watch her fall and then try and pull her out to help his cause?

I was even more disappointed with Mae, but on another level, I empathize because in her shoes, I would probably gone down a similar path, handed my brain and my life over to the holy Circle. But from a protagonist I expected her to be different from me. I expected her to be stronger, wiser and more vigilant so I can have idols to look up instead of someone just like me (or dare I say, weaker than me).

I pitied Annie and despised Francis. Mercer was too extreme, and went about it all wrong. There really were no characters that I grew particularly close to.

But ultimately, it’s a good book to read especially in light of all the technological advances we have been making and as modern-day tech companies gobble each other up

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

Recommended For: dystopian-nerds, sci-fi chasers, technology-geeks, and anyone up for some high-tech conspiracy.

Next Potential Target: 

31. Into the Ming

Last Friday began before the morning birds even woke up. At 5am I had to crawl torturously exhausted, out of bed, prepare myself and get ready for a long tiring day.

We were heading to a nearby village with more than 400 years of unbroken lineage to the Ming Dynasty.

Sounds cool right?

It was.

It was so amazing in fact, that we decided to remain there overnight.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

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The village is called Cuan Dixia. Attention must be paid to the first character “Cuan” which has 30 strokes all flowing together in perfect proportions, every stroke knowing its place and size.

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As bus No. 892′s engines kick in and takes you away from Pingguoyuan Subway Station on the outskirts of Beijing’s Sixth Ring Road, the bustling capital recedes into rivers, valleys and simple houses. Two hours later, you are pulled out of your daydreams and into the town of Zhaitang.

Stepping off the long-distance bus, you are blindsided by a dozen or so black-taxi operators who pulls and pushes you to get into their cab. You dizzily pick one at random, and he flies you down the remainder of the distance to the village for the price of the entrance fee of 35 yuan. Finally, around the last bend of the mountain road, 90-km outside of Beijing, the village rises into view.

It is sprawled out at the base of two mountain ranges, climbing up one side as if it were liquidated history left to slide off the slopes. Pooled at the bottom are the 76 well-preserved courtyard homes in which inns and restaurants have sprouted up to cater to tourist demands. They provide the markers of a time past, collectively offering up a romantic image of dynastic China.

The village sits on the road that traversed Shanxi and Hebei Province, a passage for trade and transport. Founded by members of the Han clan that were migrating out of Shanxi Province, the area retains its rustic aura, without succumbing to the commercialization that accompanies mainstream tourism.

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Except for that one old road which curves around the base of the village, cars cannot move through the place. Only on foot can you make your way to the very top to enjoy the hollows of what was once the Landlord’s courtyard. The lack of automobile-friendly roads make the village exceptionally quiet and peaceful, especially during low seasons and weekdays.

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So after a mid-morning brunch, we began the day’s adventure in this almost surreal place. Following the meandering stone-paved paths and steps, we found the famed Mao-era quote, an intersection of history. It reads: Use Mao Thought to fortify our minds.

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On this first mount up the village, we also discovered a magical little terrace restaurant that served freshly self-grind coffee held in delightful little cups. We were fortunate to have arrived ahead of the weekend crowd. On that Friday, there were barely more than a dozen tourists roaming around.

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So, perched on the very top of the village, we sipped delightfully at the content and contemplated in silence. The sunlight, the clean air, the quaint houses, the mountains, the bees, the serenity of it all captured us. It was here that we decided to reject Beijing for another day and stay the night here.

The gentle slopes of the mountains around the place have been conquered by a series of footpaths, like veins snaking across and around the heart. These allowing for nice, short hikes up to the top for some head-spinning panoramic landscapes of the village and its jagged mountain ranges. Having been sufficiently caffeinated to ward off the mid-afternoon, post-lunch slump in energy, we headed up one of these pathways.

20 minutes later we reached the top and bumped into a lovely young lady who took care to explain in detail how there was a tiger, a turtle and a bat hidden in the outline of the mountain directly facing us. It took her several attempts before we started seeing these animals ourselves.  Can you see them?

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As we finally hunted out the rocky outlines of the creatures, it was time for the descent. On the spiralling way down, we heaved as the pain of sudden exertion on our joints reminded us of our lazy days in Beijing. But we made it down safe and sound, and decided to pay a visit to the largest courtyard house, the Landlord’s place.

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With its windows and doors opening out onto all the rest of the residence below, we rested our feet and spirits for a while.

Sitting in the well-preserved, hauntingly abandoned chambers of the Landlord’s house, we were all rather exhausted and aching from the excitement and majesty of this place. The talking and joking had ceased and we all just sat in each other’s company, among the historical remnants of what was once the ruling class of this small village.

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For a moment, the wind picked up, dozens of bees rose in unison above the clay-tiled rooftops, and the sun lit up the dust and grasses. There was nothing but silence. Peace. Serenity. The clean air flowed through my body, rejuvenating the polluted system. A calmness washed over me like waves over sand, soaking into my skin and bones, cleansing my soul. I closed my eyes, let it take over, and dreamt.

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A bird chirped. A camera shutter snapped. Someone laughed. The reality of the world came rushing back. It was time for another cup of wonderfully warm coffee at the highest courtyard terrace in the village. As the translucent white strips of caffeinated steam vanished into the peace and quiet, it gave way to the last strands of orange and violet in the sky.

When the last light of day slipped under, dinner was finished and we were ready for a stroll. The lights of all 76 courtyards came on, reflecting the stars sprinkled across the black magic that is the clear, midnight blue. All around us echoed the last sounds of the wilderness. The artificial lights of civilization melted away behind us as we ventured toward the mountains. The night sky paned out above us, so clear that it seemed you could just reach up and touch it. But at the same time, you were afraid that if you did, it would disturb the stillness and send ripples across the celestial lake, splashing the mountain silhouettes all around us.

And there in the middle of this glory, we were drowning in a timeless sea of starlight.

It’s easy to get lost in the daily tug and rush of Beijing’s city life, and forget that a mere 2 hour drive out lies another world of wilderness, simplicity, and peace. So the next time you feel drained, life feels monotonous, everyday a repeat of the one before, take time out to submerge yourself in the calm, restorative environment that Cuan dixia and historical remnants like it has to offer.

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30. Your Opinions Are Wrong

This is a continuation from my last post on higher education in China.

Last Wednesday was my very own 40-minute presentation. It went as about as well as Lady Gaga’s recent musical flops, aka. it didn’t go smoothly at all.

Three occurrences are worth mentioning.

1.

His constant bombardment of interruptions and questions, many of which my presentation would have answered if he had just let me finish. But some of the questions were indeed, already answered, and he chose to ask them anyway.

For instance.

I’ve done my pre-presentation meditative routine, gathered up all my nerves and drowned them with deep breaths and reassurances from fellow classmates, and was well on my way to do a well-laid out, well-prepared presentation.

About five slides into it, things were sailing as smoothly as it could, with me droning on about Specialized Economic Zones and boring the spirits out of my classmate (I don’t pretend to believe that I made an interesting report), when he stops me to ask questions.

“I have two questions for you.”

Alright Professor, come at me. I’m ready.

“From which countries did majority of the Foreign Direct Investment come from?”

“Well, as I’ve previously pointed out in my presentation, majority of it came from overseas Chinese, so at the beginning, Singapore, Taiwan (contentious “state” status), Hongkong (not a country, I know), etc.”

“No no, but which countries?”

“Um…Singapore…?”

“No, which countries?”

“If not Singapore, than I don’t know.”

“FDIs did not come from the US or Europe, it came from…” drum roll please, “overseas Chinese!”

Wait. What? Rewind!

That’s what I responded with. I said that during my presentation, I said that when you asked me that idiotic, repetitive question. And also, “Overseas Chinese” is not a country!

Alright, alright. Language barrier. I’m sure if this entire conversation was conducted in Chinese, he would have understood me much better and wouldn’t have blatantly not comprehend anything I’ve said.

But hold on! If his english was so horribly inadequate, why did the university allow him to host an entire English-based course? Mind you, I’ve edited over all of what he actually said with comprehensible English here.

Which leads to the second occurrence:

2.

“My second question is, why did overseas Chinese invest in China?”

“I guess, patriotism?”

“They love China? Is that why?”

“That could be one of the many reasons I supposed.”

“No, you are wrong.”

“Well alright then…”

“Does anyone know why?”

Another student decided to bravely answer, “I think it’s got to do with shared culture, values, languages and like Jade said, patriotism as well.”

“No, no, you are wrong! Chinese do not love their country! That’s not why they invest in China. They invest because…” dramatic drum roll again please,

“They want money!”

Come again?

“They want to make more money!” A big, toothy, moronic grin accompanies this woefully simplified, generalized and not to mention, obvious answer.

The principal job duty of an “investor” is to make more money. But thank you, for clarifying that, Professor.

His profound inability to listen to students, or if you are a positive person, his amazing ability to ignore any and all student comments, is mind-boggling.

Throughout my academic career, I have yet to hear a professor outright deny the opinions of students. “You are wrong!”; what a great, direct, authoritarian pedagogical style you have there Professor.

But wait, there’s more.

3.

At the end of my presentation, I pointed out the fact that the bureaucratic way in which China decentralized its control over matters of the economy hindered many things, including real competition.

He didn’t seem to grasp that and once again decided to express his incomprehension in the form of a question and a critique.

“No competition? There were a lot of competition. For example, when provinces demanded more SEZs in their area. Competition! See?”

“Professor, indeed that is a form of competition, but not the one I was talking about. I was talking about market economic competition, and those weren’t fully exploited because the central government continued to hold the power of determining the value of the RMB and exchange rates.”

“But without competition, as you say, there would no market economy. This is basic economics! Have you ever taken an economics course before? What was your major?”

“Um…I majored in international relations. And I’ve taken only two courses in the first year of my undergrad.”

“Where?”

“In Canada, Vancouver, at UBC.”

“I see. That’s why you don’t understand this.” He smirked knowingly and sympathetically.

That was not a question. It was a statement. He basically called me an idiot when it comes to international political economy, or economics of any kind, because I hadn’t majored in economics nor taken what he deemed to be sufficient amount of courses on the subject.

Offensive, to say the least. But I admit, I am not particular apt at economics, which is why I took this course in the first place. I wanted to learn from an expert on the subject. Yet, instead, I get a professor who not only refuses to teach properly, or teach at all for that matter (refer to my previous post), but also harshly criticizes the opinions of the students and tramples all whom do not agree with him. Plus, his English is through the floor horrible.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the climax and finale to my presentation.

I wish I could say he was the exception, that I haven’t had other professors with similar attitudes and teaching styles here. To be fair, this one has been the worst I’ve encountered so far. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I am deeply disappointed with my educational experience here.

China, oh how great your long march still is.

29. Education with Chinese Characteristics

The other day’s class began as usual: with a 40-minute long student presentation. Not because that student didn’t know how to summarize ideas, but rather it was required that each student speak for 40 minutes at least.

The class is 3 hours in total, and each class has at least two students presenting. You can imagine how much work the professor needs to do. Or, in other words, not much. He comes, sits back and let us do his job. Most of the time. He also has a habit of interrupting and going on a long tangent about something almost completely irrelevant.

Which brings us to the beginning of my story. We went from decentralization (the presentation topic) to him defending China as a non-authoritarian state. I was not amused, especially when he nearly broke the blackboard banging on it with a fist and drawing vague diagrams that resembled nothing at all and only served to break an innocent chalk. There was no room to disagree with his absolutely-correct-definitely-can’t-be-wrong opinion.

It seems that it is not only the Chinese state that is authoritarian: its education system is as well. From professors randomly changing class times, purely for their own preference without any consideration of the students’ schedules to unprofessional methods of pedagogy and public scolding cases.

In this very same class we received an email from the course assistant with a list of people who were absent from the one class the professor decided to take attendance in. She threatened that if further absences were noted, it would reflect badly on the absentees’ final mark.

It’s all fine and dandy, except the fact that shaming these classmates in such a public format is extremely unprofessional. But that’s not even the core issue. One of the main reasons students are not attending the class is because the professor is absolutely not doing his job properly. It is the fact that I pay thousands of renminbi to the school, to this programme and to live in this city, in order to receive a high-quality education but end up with something as ridiculous as this. And on top of that from China’s reigning top university too!

I have never encountered a course where the students do the majority of lecturing and the teacher simply sits on his behind and enjoys the class as if he was a student. Don’t get me wrong, I love active discussion sessions and questions by students and I definitely don’t have a problem with doing presentations, but having to cover an entire class as if you are the teacher is something else altogether. I did not pay to have students explain to me the areas in which the professor is supposed to be an expert in.

There’s also the issue that for this entire semester, only four courses are offered to us. In the manual there are at least seven options, but because professors went on sabbaticals, didn’t feel like teaching the course they said they would offer this semester, or for some other personal reasons, the list dwindled to a pathetic four. And out of these four, about half are extremely dry and taught by professors with absolutely no clue how to engage a class.

Well alright. “But you are in China and at least learning Chinese and experiencing all that its history and culture has to offer!” Which brings me to the Chinese language courses offered by this program. There are only three to choose from: beginner, intermediate and advanced. With no room to maneuver in between. While Chinese-looking foreign students like me are quickly exempt from the language component without even being properly tested to see if our Chinese is up-to-par, foreign students are all categorized into one class or another even though some of their Chinese is way beyond the level of the advanced course. There is no differentiation between oral and reading capability, so students are stuck in a course which, if you are lucky, matches up to one component but not the other. Worse case scenario is that it doesn’t match any.

It seems they don’t understand the concept that we are not simply here to buy a diploma, we actually want to learn something in the process.

So for those of you considering an English-language programme in a Chinese university, really take into account the student experience and think it through before breaking your bank to get an education here.

Rant. Over.

This post includes contributions from my lovely American friend, who sprinkled over it her magical grammar dust and made it all the more pleasant to read. God bless her courageous soul for tackling my horrific grammatical crimes.

28. Wo AIMUN

Sleepy faces, fresh from a night long with parties and short with sleep, crammed into a five-star hotel conference room for the second day of Model United Nations or affectionately abbreviated, MUN.

Every year, all over the world, high school-ers and university-goers alike busts out the fancy suits and ties and pantsuits and short pencil skirts, and gather together for several days of intense discussion, cooperation, debate and resolution-writing.

This year, I found myself chairing a committee in the Asian International MUN, aka. AIMUN. As moderated and unmoderated caucuses flew around, a crisis broke out and the delegates went into frenzy, so much so that they mistakenly called a tsunami a “supernatural disaster” on several occasions. In light of the fact that none of these delegates speak English as their native language, plus it’s much too early to be awake, I just smiled and let them continue.

You can’t really even call it a room, it’s more of a space between the corridors that they’ve dug out in case of overcapacity. The space started to heat up with all the tension and negotiations bubbling up into the air. Blazers are slipped off and thrown aside and ties loosened to make way for more important items, like draft directives and sponsors.

It can be a grueling few days, especially when it comes down the final hour that will decide the life or death of pieces of draft resolution that contains all the sweat, words and efforts over the past several days. There is no end when the sessions are suspended, only brief moments of calmness in the hotel room to let the brain sizzle down slightly before someone knocks on the door to demand some more hashing out of details and wordings, and the possibility of working in another clause or ten.

There was the constant fear of being left out. As soon as the conference matured, you can see delegates breaking off into little groups, tight cliques that pushed and pulled one another. The nature of the organization makes it impossible to fly solo. On the bright side, it doesn’t matter if you represent a small country or a powerhouse, if you possess a solid knowledge base, a charismatic nature and an articulate tongue, delegates will flock around you. But isn’t that how the rest of the world works anyway?

When all is said and done, the experience is unforgettable. It’s a chance to be diligent, passionate, and laborious during the day and to let loose at night. It’s a chance to work with a pool of vastly diverse people, toward a common goal.

And if you are lucky and privileged enough, it’s an amazing opportunity to sit on the 193 thrones of the UN headquarters and vote on draft resolutions like real-world representatives do.

However, that particular morning I was at the head of the table, watching all the action instead of being an active participant in it. Although it was a lot less exciting and urgent a position, I had the power of the gavel. And that sent jitters up my spine.

27. Everyone’s Business

When my friend was finally able to drag me out of my little room and into the swimming pool for some well-needed exercise last week, it turned out to be a surprising experience.

I was sore all over the next day, not only from the sudden unwarranted exertion I put my body through, but also from a rather pervasive intrusion of my privacy.

At the pool and almost everywhere else, people usually minded their business and went about as if they were the only ones alive in this world. Unless you do something out of the ordinary, like doing slow-motion aerobic exercises in the middle of the lane or swim like you’ve never been in water before, no one cares to even acknowledges your existence. This is just fine by me. I mind my own business and people mind theirs. I was perfectly content with that setup.

Unfortunately, I forgot I am in China. Even uttering the slightest English word turns heads. Being Chinese only in name and appearance, my mandarin was woefully inadequate to carry a long, meaningful conversation with my friend, let along know all the vocabulary necessary to teach her how to do freestyle. So, I used my characteristic Chin-english to communicate with her at the pool and that apparently, got the attention of one nosy swimmer.

At the end of my 20 laps, I looked around for my friend so I can collect her and exit the pool to do some communal showering together in the changing room. Standing at the end of the lane, with my neck stretched out and my eyes roaming over all the swimming bodies, a guy suddenly jumped in beside me in the lane and said in Chinese, “you’re face is red.”

“Yes, it tends to happen when I exercise.” I responded in a friendly manner.

“So are you an ABC?” he continued. For those of you who might not have been in contact with this abbreviation, it stands for American-born-Chinese.

“No, not really.”

“Oh, I heard you speak English.”

“Yeah, I was born here but immigrated at a young age.”

“I see.”

Alright, small talk. I don’t mind.

“So I saw you doing freestyle.”

“Yep.”

 “Your arm strokes are not quite in the correct positions.”

Excuse me?  

To say the least, I was slightly taken aback.

“Really?” Was all I could muster.

“Yes, you see your elbow needs to be like this instead of what you are doing.” He began demonstrating it to me. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, and extending my neck further to try and show him I was rather busy, looking for my friend. I even uttered inbetween our short conversation about where my friend suddenly disappeared off to.

 He kept on instructing me. Then, he told me extend my arm out like I would mid-stroke. Taking my arm, he demonstrated on me how I should move it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being touched by strangers unless it’s for a handshake. In this scenario, it’s even more uncomfortable than usual because I was exposed all over, except for the areas covered by my swimsuit.

I laughed nervously and nodded as he continued his impromptu lesson on me.

“Yeah, I also saw your backstroke as well.”

How long have this guy been observing me?! I was getting sufficiently creeped out. It’s not a crime to look at someone at the pool, but still, I felt my privacy being invaded.

“And why do you wear two pieces of swimsuit?” He even had the audacity to ask that.

So, being the passive-aggressive, conflict-averse person that I am, I kept moving away from him, pretending I was going into the other lanes to search for my friend. By that time I had realized my friend was no longer in the pool, thus, she couldn’t unintentionally help me get out of this situation.

“So, where did you immigrate to?” He asked.

“Canada.”

“Oh I thought you went to America.” Well, dear sir, technically Canada is part of the Americas. But I can see you are disappointed with my un-American-ness, so I won’t point that out, to further your disappointment.

 “Well, I’m going to do another lane.”

 And with that, he was off. And I was finally released from the awkwardness and invasiveness of it all. I ran off to the changing room the second he kicked off from the wall.

Being from a country where privacy is guarded with gates, votes and the occasionally angry accusation, this was way out of my comfort zone. Plus, I was quite offended that he didn’t quite like the fact that I was Canadian rather than from the land of the American dream. Let’s hope the next time I head to the pool, he won’t be there to further his observations.

 China, never a dull (or private for that matter) moment!