Mao, our fourth protagonist, probably didn't specifically demand the persecution of Chen Mengjia. He didn't need to. (Society also doesn't need to, either, to snuff out undesireable voices.) But he pre-empted some of the Hicks irony with his own form: After being strongly of the mind that Chinese Characters should be done away with in order to increase literacy, he did an about-turn and decided they just needed to be simplified. At the time it wasn't explained why. But Mao had said it and thus it was done. Literacy didn't improve but in death, perhaps, Chen might feel better though not if he knew the whole story: According to Hessler, Mao wasn't swayed by the martyr-like words of people like Chen; he had a chat with Stalin who advised against it.
We can pipe up and pipe down but change often happens in its own way.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Friday, July 27, 2012
The first typhoon of the
Every time has its words. Storms have "fallen trees". When learning a language, to anticipate a few of these words is to grasp a lot. Once you know the context you are in you can apply the knowledge of these key words, signs and signals and understand more about where you are and where you're going.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
When Hu Chunhua sees me coming she's working on the teeth of an old Cantonese fellow and tells me to leave my medical history on the table and wait outside. I barely read a paragraph before she calls me back in and tel;s me to sit in the dentist's chair. The old fellow isn't out of the seat so I hover. They talk as he takes the two inch steps of the elderly. "Come over and sit down!" she says again. He is still making his way through the narrow entrance so I wait patiently for him to be completely clear before I nip in and fulfill Dentist Hu's exhortation to sit.
She's an interesting one. She knows me from my numerous visits to treat ulcers but rarely remembers exactly where I'm from or what I do despite asking. She's always chirpy. She is practical too. Sometimes she does me the benefit of my treatment before payment at the counter. This is one of the most annoying process in the hospital. The doctor establishes your treatment but you'd have to go to another floor to queue and settle the bill before treatment can begin. She also has discreetly done small treatment for me without cost. Don't tell her boss.
She works on the second floor of the community clinic five minutes walk away from our apartment complex. It took us about half a year to be brave and go into the clinic. Chinese healthcare mainly uses horrendously big hospitals to administer the masses. Good doctors go to big hospitals. So there was some scepticism about the quality of care we'd get at this small, often shut, establishment. But it's use became quickly clear. In China, a doctor's note is required for paid sick leave. When you're sick, the thought of the large hospitals and the tribulation of going upstairs downstairs to the doctor, wheezing in queues and whatnot, would only get you sicker. At the clinic though, if you have a common cold, you could get a note within about ten minutes and the cost of about eighty New Zealand cents.
Hua Ming, a doctor, usually takes me for those visits. My susceptibility to colds and tropical flus has taken me out at least once every three months. She remembers me, too, but not my nationality, job or how long I've been in China, despite asking me some aspects of my identity on every visit. She shatters the idea that doctors overprescribe, sometimes giving me nothing, sometimes inquiring what is already in the medicine cabinet, usually she'll give me a blood test and that requires going upstairs to the phlebotomist.
I don't know his name - and he too asks me the same questions, especially where I'm from and what I do. He sometimes isn't even at his station. His station has no bell. His station is an office with a sliding window with a seat outside it. When I have a blood test I sit on that seat put my arm through the window so he can prick my finger and pipette the blood up for computer analysis. But if he isn't there, so I just sit on that seat. My diagnosis can't go any further without it. Someone else might spot me sitting on the seat and hear downstairs for him. I hear his footsteps and the pause in footsteps when he yells gossip back to the conversationalist he has just been dragged away from to attend to me. He looks at me as he disinfects my finger: "You're Russian, aren't you?"
I saw Dentist Hu today. She cleaned my teeth and dabbed an ulcer. She was fabulous. Out of all the places that I frequent, it is kind of sad that it is the hospital where I've maintained the longest Mandarin-based relationships. Reading another's experiences of life in a small town, I realise I'm missing a big part of the Chinese experience. With work worries, a surge to get fit and literature drawing me back, it is hard to find the time and energy for Chinese. At least I can get sick from time to time to rely on my Chinese for things that really matter.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
It has been only a week since my interview for survival. My mood has fluctuated in the aftermath to what I thought was a pretty average interview by myself. Within the coming week, I'll be served some sort of reality - maybe good maybe bad.
One of my friends/erstwhile competitors was philosophical about my criticism that our managers have higher managerial expectations of us than they have of themselves when it comes to change management. He said that we are all managers and need to be able to cope with more able subordinates. True - I'm out qualified by two of my subordinates. Well said, I guess, but it is hard to discern any technique or strategy that has been used to demote three of your most talented managers, and address the ripple effect down the chain. But it can be the worse, right? One has to ask, how would Chairman Mao manage? (HWCMM?)
You might wonder why I'd even raise the fellow apart from this whole being-in-China thing. I've just finished Peter Hessler's two books River Town and Oracle Bones, lovely books that enrich the whole experience of being in China - to hear a voice that is insightful into the, dare I say it, Chinese mind. Mao is always there in the background. Mao is the baggage for a heck of a lot of Chinese people. Mao could manage a revolution! (Though perhaps not a country nor an economy.) And in some ways the new managers are handling a revolution.
Chairman Mao, according to Deng Xiaoping (his successor), was 70% right and 30% wrong, which is a nice way to cover for rather efficient mismanagement. He could run a good revolution - he declared the People's Republic on 1 October 1949 after all. But from that point on made management decisions that led to tens of millions of deaths. He would surely run the company into the ground. But management, especially of a large overpopulated poor nation, is hardly an easy thing. It's a modern fascination to wonder how people of the past would do in the present. We'd all want to know if Aristotle would handle the credit crisis with aplomb, or whether Napoleon would have been a great stock market trader. But my job is important to me so I want to imagine what Mao would do in the hot seat of my company.
So HWCMM? Well, the biggest thing is his dedication to a dogma: Mao hated even the notion of a class structure, of anything beyond the enforced egalitarian of the masses, those who were not class enemies or the communist upper tier. Perhaps Mao would flatten out the structure all together. We are a school and a school should just have teachers, plowing fields and fields of fertile minds. Make it simple: just have your farmers tilling - reduce the "upper class" of management (well, perhaps just the middle level) and occupy them with labour so that there is no chance of revolt. Er, well maybe he's still holding his own with this crowd. It is the way we're going...
Probably the aspect of the interview for my position that annoyed me the most is the difference between expectations and reality. It had happened before. We have been told that we have moved to a Competency Model. This is where every job should have its strengths which candidates are measured by. Sounded good. I entered my first interview with the faulty impression it applied to interviews. It wasn't the case. It wasn't surprising that it was a case for the most recent interview. I still prepared to show my worth under each of the competencies - but it wasn't required. They ask you questions from oblique angles to test out your reasoning - they did that even though they didn't have a thorough understanding of your past or present. I reflected with another friend/erstwhile competitor afterward that we both didn't say our biggest achievements because we were driven away from answering meaningfully by a style of questioning that rarely went near covering the stated competencies. It often was looking for our basic philosophies - which is good but the philosophy they were looking for wasn't stated. Do you conform with the thinking that we haven't told you about. My philosophical friend/erstwhile competitor took it as testing our ability to think, and if we were creative we could pull in our particular achievements.
But this all is speculation, what is more important is HWCMM? Well, the chairman was big on basic philosophy, too. Philosophy was the root of the problem. (But is it a problem?) Even your background may lead you astray. Ability can be misled by philosophy after all so we should evaluate whether people abide by the dogma of the Party. It makes it simpler after all. So, er, well comparing how he managed and the way the interview was run, I can see some similarities... I think he'd like the whole "tell them one thing and then attack them contrary to their expectations" strategy. Reminiscent of the Hundred Flowers campaign.
Maybe Mao wouldn't do a bad job after all... It might be a bit hasty to say that he'd run a company into the ground any faster or slower.
I should really drop this negativity. It isn't doing me any good than amusing me and driving me onto the recruitment websites? I just want the final decision out in the open so I can properly adjust and think what I really want. If I'm demoted, can I deal with a year without solid aspiration? It'd give me time to get qualified to diploma level. I can manage a school now in my sleep. (I'm not prone to boasting but I'm doing terrificly well right now with my school.) It's true that I'm still learning but I can stay in this school forever and my learning is only getting less and less.
I'm an innate optimist though. The thing that breaks me out of my negativity is currently the prospect of being one of the two left standing. It'd be mighty interesting. I do want it. It might be twice the work for the same money. But it'd be well earned money. Growth money. I would love the challenge. Just let me have the challenge. Please. All is forgiven. Mao. Whatever your name would be. I shall serve thee, the party and the company, and shan't make splashy wave-making arm movements apropos your leadership.
I should just work this out at the gym. Warm up. Work out. Cool down. Then and only then is it real.