Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Proficiency Plummeting Profoundly

I just got my computer back and working after literally DAYS without it. It was horrible. I hope you can empathise. This of course now means that my productivity in anything non-computer based, like reading and generally learning stuff, will plummet profoundly.

I was taken to the technology district of Nanjing to go and try and find out what was wrong with the bloody thing by two of my flatmates. They happen to both be gay and make a wonderful couple. This also apparently seemed to give them licence to, pretty much constantly, compliment me and talk about me. I was told I had a great figure, that my skin was so lovely and white, my eyes so wonderfully blue, t’was lovely to receive such praise… but what the hell can you say to that? Fanx lol!

It turns out the fuse in my plug had blown and run out of battery. Therefore, seeing as the retailer I asked had no new plugs of the British disposition, I had to buy a Chinese lead. I groaned at the prospect, expecting the price to be extortionate, it turned out to be 10RMB, the equivalent of £1. I love China!

I am also overly excited about the fact I now have a Chinese plug on the end of my computer. I feel like a local, no longer burdened by the need of chunky adaptors – so liberating!

A part of me is a little annoyed though. I was all set out for a prolonged laptop-fast. I would have been able to read books, study hard for the exams (which are now less than a month away by the way!) and write in my diary (as in a real book, with pages and inks and stuff – not a website), which I have now started updating properly.

But alas! What do I do as soon as I get the VPN on my computer working again? Twitter, YouTube, Facebook; all typed in and loaded in quick succession. When I have a computer with an Internet connection in front of me it’s like dangling heroin in front of a recovering addict.

I am worried a little about how connected I am to the Internet and therefore the rest f the world here. I suppose I would have to be plonked in the middle of the Sahara to get away from it now-a-days, but then there would inevitably be some catacomb with a WiFi terminal.

How much can I really get involved and immersed in China when I have the BBC and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance but a click away?

In other news I am a little frustrated with my Chinese right now. I have just got back from boxing, something I am so glad I took up. At the end of the session I was sitting there, all topless and sweaty and the like, when this guy with whom I have spared with in the past, Song, came up to start a conversation.

I understood absolutely nothing apart from the fact he was talking about my membership card. I then tried to steer the conversation towards something closer to my level of understanding, asking him how old he was and what job he did. His age I comprehended with ease (he is 26) but all I got from asking his profession was that its second character was “术” (shu)…

I just looked it up on and it turns out he works in technology… I have so many questions now! What kind of technology (技术)? Do you work with computers? If I have problems with my computer, could you possibly pop over, figure out that my laptop has run out of battery and then proceed to laugh at me?

As it stands, I had no idea what “术” meant, so the conversation simply petered out into awkward silence. I think he then mumbled something about needing the toilet – I put some clothes on and then left.

It’s so bloody frustrating! I have quite a good reading level in Chinese, along with my writing, and my listening, despite the complication with Song, isn’t horrific. But I just can’t bloody communicate! This is the first time in my language learning history that my speaking has been so bad in comparison with my other disciplines. Oral has always been my forte!

It is I suppose, so much in this country, very humbling.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

On the Nation's Dartboard

The British media have been going potty this week about The Sun Newspaper’s personal attack on Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In short; a woman whose son died in Afghanistan received a hand-written letter from Mr. Brown offering his condolences. She, however, notices that her family name is spelt wrong and that the letter is peppered with mistakes. She decides to take this story to The Sun, who recently decided to withdraw their support of the Labour party, and a week-long offensive on Gordon ensues. The tabloid threw various allegations at him; that he didn’t care about troops and that his letter was an insult, as well as claiming an ‘i’ without a dot in it is an offence to anyone who reads it.

All I can say is that it’s a good job I have never had to write a letter of condolence; I haven’t dotted an ‘i’ since year six!

The Prime Minister then called the woman in question to apologise personally. Apparently, a friend of hers suggested that she recorded the conversation and the whole world got to hear her chat with Gordon. Clearly still stricken with grief she laid into him – it was quite frankly gut-retching to listen to.

She has since accepted Mr. Brown’s apology.

From what I can see from my distant perch in China, this story seems to have back-fired on The Sun. They have certainly come in for a lot of criticism from other media giants and I am personally bloody disgusted with their behaviour. It seems clear to me that the paper has capitalised on a poor woman’s grief for their own political agenda and unfairly attacked a man for sincerely trying to offer his support in a personal, hand-penned letter. Brown himself has deteriorating sight, so it is possible he has not read the woman’s name correctly. Someone probably should have also checked his penmanship before it was sent off, but he decided to sit down and write a letter, not run off another pre-typed one and simply sign the bottom of it.

Okay, The Sun have a go at the PM and Gordon looks a little sad again. But I think this attack has other repercussions.

Since the expenses scandal there has been a massive outcry for a new attitude in politics; for a new outlook, for new blood. What young person is going to even consider going into politics when they see national newspapers beating our leaders to a pulp. Of course our representatives in parliament should be subject to criticism on their policies and to a certain extent their personal lives. But the manner in which The Sun quite frankly bullied Gordon this week is enough to dissuade anyone from a life in the political spotlight.

Politics is something I am interested in, I may even decide to make it a career one day, but this story made me second guess. Haters in YouTube video comments are one thing, they’re a piece of piss to deal with. But in politics all you need is one newspaper to decide to rip you to shreds and no matter how pure your intentions you can have the whole country hating you. I believe Gordon is a genuinely nice guy, who went into politics for the right reasons, but he is the most hated leader in a generation.

Who is going to want to get into this profession and make a difference to the political classes, to deliver the reform that is needed, if they are just going to be reduced to a picture on the nation’s dartboard?