*posting test*

Testing a proxy server to see if I can get around the recent block of blogger.com by the CCP.


I've Moved

I will be posting everything posting everything here.


My goal is to only post there from now on, but we'll see.

Sorry for any inconvenience.



Visiting Anshun

Bethany, Bonnie, Dustin, ZhuKui

Bonnie (Country Directory) and ZhuKui (Program Manager) visited Anshun awhile back. We had a nice hike up the mountain behind the dormitories and then around the back of the school. The back gate, a single door, opens like clothes parting in a wardrobe, revealing overturned rice paddies covered with stacks of rice stalks and women picking heads of Chinese cabbage before the frost sets in.

They visited my apartment as well. "What are those?" Bonnie asks, pointing at some disfigured, withered plants that were there when I first moved in well over a year before. "Oh, those. Well, they are... an experiment?"

She looks with curiosity at my walls, and the pathetic hangings whose sole intention of covering the bleak, white, cracking walls is only too obvious. I use one wall for hanging things sent from home, including pictures, postcards, and little notes. The wall threatens to swallow this small display, and the two dead light bulbs in my 6-bulb 'chandelier' certainly don't add to the ambiance. "Where's your bathroom?" she asks, before heading through my kitchen and through the back hallway to take a look.

"I'm ready to go," she says, "but I need to get a picture of your soap sculpture first."

Please don't ask.

She nods towards my bicycle on the way out - another pitiful thing with the seat removed for hauling loads of wood and tires clearly flat from months of disuse. I almost felt like my apartment was some kind of extension of my volunteering skill; like the disorder was a manifestation of my ability and, therefore, my teaching would also be the same in her eyes: a broken down display of ineptitude.

But I'm sure she didn't think so.


A message from Peace Corps (China Staff)

Holiday Greetings to All!

The Peace Corps Staff would like to wish all of you the very best during this holiday season. We thank you for being here, for your willingness to leave the comfort of life back in the U.S., and for the personal sacrifices that you have made to be a Volunteer in China.

It is a time for you to reflect on what you have experienced and accomplished during the time you have been here, the difference you have made in your life and the lives of your students and colleagues. Peace Corps can be exhilarating, frustrating, emotionally lifting and emotionally draining all at the same time. Our New Year's hopes and wishes for you are that you consider the amazing opportunities for you in China, savor the experience and continue to do your best for your benefit as well as those around you.

May you, your families and friends here in China and back home have a safe and pleasant holiday season.

Best wishes,
Peace Corps China Staff


Lecture in Zunyi

I gave a lecture about being an individualist in a collectivist society at Zunyi Medical College in Zunyi (a city famous for being the place where a series of communist revolutionary meetings were held before Mao Zedong led his troops to defeat the Guomingdang). The students were interested to learn what kinds of things made me uncomfortable in China, especially when I explained which American values contributed to that discomfort.

The following is my reflection - sent to Peace Corps as per their request.

Part 3: Site Exchange Report

Note: This form should be completed by the Volunteer who agreed to participate in the exchange and submitted to the respective Program Manager within five days of completion of the site exchange trip. Electronic submissions are highly encouraged. Copies of any relevant outputs such as lesson plans should be attached. Photos are welcomed. Thank you!

Volunteer’s Name: Dustin D. Ooley

1. What organization and/or people did you visit?

Zunyi Medical College (students of Andrew Park and Kari Jefferson)

2. What were the positive aspects of your site exchange trip?

Open dialogue regarding the difficulties of an individualist in a collectivist society. Students learned how western teachers have individual differences, even if they share the same culture, helping them to better understand which characteristics of their foreign teachers are cultural and which are personal.

The chance to better understand student perspectives based on the kind of questions they asked. Students interested in various aspects of my experience had an opportunity to learn more. The next day several students ate lunch with Andrew and me, giving them another chance to ask questions.

I did not fall off the stage.

3. Lessons Learned/Recommendations for other Volunteers?

Don’t forget to have a camera.

Plan everything – even the little things.

Speak some Chinese – they love it.

Little Injustices

Usually traveling is both fun and informative. Trains are the perfect place for conversation due to the family-style seating arrangement and the freedom to walk around. I have had some of my most in-depth conversations on trains, transcending the basic questions like, "How old are you?" and "How much money do you make?"

Sometimes travel can be more cumbersome. Sometimes the people are less willing to talk, due to shyness or lack of interest. Today's trip back from Zunyi was like this; I didn't say much more than "恩 (en4)," an affirmative response to the question from the train worker, "Are you going to Anshun?"

The people around me looked over my shoulder to see me reading my textbook (新使用汉语课本;五册). Even a glance in this book should be enough for a Chinese person to realize that I can speak Chinese. In fact, it's typically a surprise for people that I can read Chinese even after speaking with them for several minutes. Speaking Chinese isn't nearly as difficult as reading (or writing) it in the eyes of a typical Chinese person.

I decided to go back and grab something to eat in the dining car and I walked several cars up, passing the typical stares and furtive elbow-jostlings friends give to one another as I walk by. "外国人 (wai4guo2ren2)" they whisper, "Outside Country Person." When I request a menu at the dining car the waitress happily hands one to me while 3 other train attendants sit at a table smoking and talking quietly. The rest of the car was empty. I sat down, opened the menu, and discovered why. Basic dishes were 4 or 5 times the regular price and I asked if they had egg fried rice. 没有。

"I'll just have those instant noodles," I said, giving the waitress 5 yuan and looking for the boiling water.

"It's outside," she said.

"Ok - I can just eat in here, right?" I said to be polite, not really to ask for permission - I was planning on coming back.

The waitress looked down at one of the train attendants, who was shaking her head.

"You're right, it's pretty crowded in here," I responded without thinking much. "What a strange rule," I added under my breath (again in Chinese). Just because I didn't order the expensive dishes they would let me sit in the dining room.

"Wait," another train attendant at the same table shouted to me as I was disappearing down the dining car corridor, "sit down - it's no problem." I had sufficiently upset them with my snide comments, and that was exactly the result I had intended.

I filled up my bowl of instant noodles at the boiling water container between cars and continued back to my seat through the same sea of whispers and stares. I sat down and hunched over my noodles, slurping them down in several minutes.

When I left the train station after arriving in Anshun, I looked for a cab driver and asked how much to go to the college. "20," he said, and I continued on, shaking my head. "Let him go for 15, he's a teacher at the college," another cab driver said. The first driver yelled after me and said that 15 would be fine, so I turned and got in. Before we left the train station he shuffled a family of four in the back of the cab while I looked at him strangely. "Don't worry, it's on the way," he said. I was still skeptical.

We turned off the basic route back to the college, but not long after he let the family out and we continued on to the college. The family paid 5 yuan, so it was easy to do the math. That meant I owed 10 yuan now. Right?

There's a little trick the cab drivers like to pull in Guizhou. It's happened to me a few times in Anshun and Liupanshui. Drivers will pick up multiple people and force them to pay separate fares, rather than allowing them to share a cab. If you don't know the person, chances are you will have to pay a separate fare.

Once when coming back from a trip to Guiyang something similar happened. I got in after agreeing to 15 and the cabbie said we should wait for students who were also going to the college. "Wait or not, it doesn't matter to me," I said, "it's the same price either way." He looked hurt. And then I helped him recruit a student who got in the cab with us. "Hey, it's 5 yuan to go to the college," he said to the student. "No, it isn't," I cut him off. "Don't listen to him - it's only 15 and I'll take care of it." He looked back at me, "give me something!" he said desperately. "You will get 17, and that's all," I responded, being more generous than I should have been.

And so we dropped the family off and headed back to the campus. The driver tried to make small-talk but I didn't say much but cursory responses. I wasn't excited about getting to know him if I was going to have to shatter his illusion that he was going to get 20 yuan from the combined fares of the family and me. He was still getting 15.

And when we got to my apartment I handed him a 10. He looked confused and then cleared up the misunderstanding by explaining that it was 15. "Yeah, I know - that family gave 5 and I just gave you 10."

"That's not part of the fare," he said angrily, "you can't do that - impossible."

"Pay 20? THAT'S impossible," I responded, and began to get out of the cab.

He muttered a string of dialect that was followed by “老外 (lao3wai4)" another less polite word meaning foreigner. I'm glad I didn't understand everything he said, and I was happy that he didn't get away with double-charging. Many people just fold and give them money (even volunteers). I walked back up the 5 flights to my apartment, not doing much for China during my trip home - but certainly preserving some of my own values for the day.


Why we are here...?

In a recent post, Phil has pointed to the extensive history of human rights violations in China, something that continues today. These violations include unlawful imprisonment and torture, which are condemned by both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Chinese Constitution. The issue remains very serious, despite the fact that Chinese people are freer now than they have ever been in their long, continuous 5000 years of history.

Of course, Phil would argue that the relative merits of the current government do not outweigh the continued unlawful imprisonment of critical, popular bloggers who, as we speak, are languishing in prisons for the words they wrote.

As an American I believe fiercely in my right to freedom of speech and freedom to make changes. What I’ve learned since coming to China, however, is that this is not my place. There are many reasons for this, and I would like to elaborate. Firstly, I am not currently under American law, but Chinese law. Although freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution, another clause protecting the current government trumps that clause. Those who say that China doesn’t follow its own laws needs to analyze this problem and work to change it rather than merely making this statement.

Secondly, I am a Peace Corps Volunteer, sent to China by U.S. tax dollars and, though I am not a government employee, I have been assigned with 3 goals to accomplish as a volunteer.

The goals are (1) to help the country meet its need for trained people (which we do by teaching English students who will go on to become English teachers); (2) share American culture with the host country; and (3) learn about the culture of the host country in order to share that with Americans upon return to America.

According to these goals, I find little or no incentive to be outspoken about my beliefs regarding the government (though, in the past, I have certainly posted my share of information that could probably be used to gather a general idea of my feelings). Finding a reason to be more open with Chinese people about my feelings regarding the government would not help me to better accomplish my goals – even if you argue that this open, honest dialogue is indelibly a part of American culture and, therefore, should be a part of goal number 2. For me, however, the link is too tenuous for serious consideration.

Another reason I don’t rush into a healthy criticism of the government is related to how much the issues have been twisted by both sides. Most Americans still think the Embassy bombing in Yugoslavia was unintentional, or they have forgotten about it entirely. Chinese scholars contend that Tibet has been part of China throughout the Ming Dynasty, while scholars just about everywhere else argue that it’s untrue. Young, ultra-liberal westerners jump on the “free Tibet” bandwagon without understanding the arguments made by China. The same is true of other issues that rarely find themselves brought up in conversations in my part of China.

Again, my feelings on these issues are strong, and I have a large supply of emotion that will likely pour out when I return to America. Perhaps one day I will look back and wish I said more, expressed my opinions more freely, and tried to make some political change. But then, would I be any different than those wishing to spread their faith?

I enjoy Phil’s blog immensely and frankly, I’m happy he is taking a different stance than me. It gives us something to discuss.