Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Current Affairs

First, this whole Google/China tiff is unbelievable. I'm really intrigued by it and can't wait to see how it plays out.

Getting away from China news though, things have been busy for me recently.

The biggest news in my life is that I FINALLY found gainful employment. I started work at a logistics company in Olathe, Kansas on Monday. It's such a relief to find a good full-time position in this brutal economy.

My re-integration into the American economy has been tough. But I feel like my patience finally paid off. I didn't want to take a job that I wouldn't be happy with. The job that I just started, four and a half months after coming back from China, is a good one that I'm really excited about.

So between the new job, moving into a new apartment with Qian, and the holidays last month, life has been hectic. But a good kind of hectic.

When I have down time, I've begun reading a new book - The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence. I'm reading this book per the recommendation of Kaiser Kuo in his excellent lecture that can be seen here. If you have an hour at work where you can put on headphones, check this lecture out. I'm already learning a lot from this book just a few pages into it.

I'm missing China and will surely lament being gone during the Spring Festival coming up next month. Saying that, life in America is good. I finally have a job and feel as though Qian and I have taken a big step towards establishing our new life together.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, good luck in Kansas! I think I'd die after a few weeks there!

Ramesh said...

Congratulations Mark. Delighted to hear that its all worked out well and you and Qian are settling down to a great life. Admire your tenacity and patience in landing a job you like in the midst of a tough economy. Best wishes for lots of success.

Yes, Spence's book is a masterpiece. Its a great perspective on the modern history of China.

Hopfrog said...

Congrats man. I know it must have been stressful and a bit scary to hold out for something you really like in this disastrous economy but that was the best approach and will pay you many dividends!

Is the new job related to China or your Chinese experience?

Mark said...

@Anon - Fair enough. Kansas isn't the most exciting place in the world. But it's not a bad place at all either. And the cost of living... very cheap.

I looked for jobs in urban centers around the country, but couldn't come up with much of anything except for in my home area here near Kansas City.

@Ramesh - Thanks a lot! It's been tough. But am glad that it all worked out.

@Hopfrog - Yeah, it got a bit hairy there a few weeks ago. Thought about going to the grocery store and just being a checker or something (something I did when I was in high school). But I decided against it and eventually found something that should be good for me.

This job doesn't directly deal with China or my Chinese experience. I applied for a fair amount of China-related stuff, and just didn't get anywhere with those. I honestly don't think there's a lot out there for someone wanting to spend a lion's share of the time in the US.

Although I won't be dealing with China directly now, I feel like my experience abroad - managing people, learning to speak conversational Chinese, and even this blog (if you can believe that) - all helped me get the job that I eventually found.

I definitely sympathize with anyone looking for work now. It is BRUTAL out there.

Hopfrog said...

Oh man, very happy that you got this job in time and didn't have to go back to a job you had before your education. I know you like NPR too and they ran a story a couple of weeks back about college grads who graduate into a recession and how a good percentage fall into a vicious cycle of taking that first job below their educational level and staying in a rut. As a fellow recession grad ('92, yes not nearly as bad) I witnessed this first hand and experienced it myself.

With so much of 'China' everywhere its pretty wild that there isn't more demand for that China experience. But as you say, I guess its only valuable if the person is doing something for the western company in China.

The Google story. For me, the most important story in a long time. So happy with the stand Google is taking and they are now allowing previously forbidden searches such as Tianamen. I had been souring on going to China lately as I witnessed not progress, but more oppression by the guv of its citizens. Danwei has also noted the last 6 months has been an increasing time of internet oppression. I am also getting more and more frustrated with the citizenries acceptance and even defense of it and the continuing attitude of 'no one has the right to comment on or criticize China' (a lot of this is of course from the ever vocal fengqings, is that the word?). I'm also concerned with China's continued polarization of itself and seeming attitude that it is fulfilling some kind of destiny as the 'Middle Kingdom' and has seemed less and less open to joining the rest of the world in its effort to work together. I certainly hope this stance by Google helps China to reevaluate where it is heading because I would really love to go over for a few years, but its hard to consider it if the country's attitude is going to be so self-centered. Come on China, get over yourself and join the rest of the civilized world already!

Mark said...

Here's an article one of my friends sent me a few months ago about young people and the job market - http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_42/b4151032038302.htm. It talks EXACTLY about what you're talking about, Hopfrog.

I am really fortunate to have the job I do. I'm not going to go into a lot of details, but given the salary and the responsibilities, it was a complete no-brainer to take.

It is really bad out there looking for work. I was having trouble getting any momentum going. I was networking and applying for jobs in all sorts of different areas. I was getting pretty hopeless.

I really empathize with anyone struggling to get a job right now. It's so bad. Fortunately, my expenses and obligations are low. I know that's not the case for a lot of the unemployed right now.

As far as going to China, Hopfrog, I totally know where you're coming from. I'm pretty sure that's what I was feeling when I left China this past summer. This fall, in the weeks after I left, I often didn't miss the place at all.

But there is a lot more to China than what's going on in current news and its crappy internet and I'm missing the place again right now. It's a wonderful country with great people living in it.

China's "love it or leave it" nationalistic attitude is tiring. The Bush years' similar stance also grated on me. But America is still America and China is still China (ie. good places) despite whatever crazy political fervor is sweeping up the people and government.

Ramesh had a really good post on his blog a few days ago - To Be an Expat. You should check it out.

I liked this section a lot:

I have learnt enormously from the countries I have lived in, and travelled to, by being more social with the local community than with the expats. You learn about the good, and not so good, things about the culture. Without being judgmental, you can assimilate the experience the better. If you treat local practices with disdain and remain smugly superior, you are an ass. If you treat local practices as second only to God and deride your own culture, you are an ass too. Something in between, and you become a much richer person.

That's what going abroad and living in China is all about. It can be a manic affair. You definitely have to take the bad with the good. But it can pay off with great experiences.

I'm not trying to convince you to go. Living in China is not for everybody. I stayed there for 3.5 years, but I know plenty of people who couldn't even stay for six months.

But I would try to not let the recent news coming from China turn you off too much on the place.

Hopfrog said...

Wow, that BW article is echoing exactly what I heard on NPR.

The post by Ramesh was brilliant. Really helped to remind me of something that I lose track of sometimes... no place is perfect and if you want to experience the positives, then you gotta cope with the negatives.

Just a funk, in a week or two I'm sure I'll be gung ho again.

Ramesh said...

Thanks Hopfrog for visiting my blog and your kind comment. Your observation on China is aboslutely on the dot. Living here, it does grate everytime China has a polarized view and trods on others. Soft diplomacy is not a strong point of China. They seem to view everything black and white, with no shades of grey. I believe they are going through the growing pains of being a diplomatic power - they will settle into their groove over time. One huge positive - they are not trying to export their system or "revolution" anywhere - both dictatorships and democracies try to do this and get bitten. China doesn't dabble in this and I think that's a huge positive for the world - a belligerent power behaving like a Chavez would be extraordinarily dangerous.

The rising streak of nationalism is a worry though. Especially when it starts to tilt to blinkered nationalism. None of this, of course, is a dampener to coming here. This is truly a great place.

Mark - didn't realise it has been so tough. Doubly happy that you landed something that was good. jia you !!

Mark said...

This is an interesting discussion.

Political stuff in China can be trying. When the news gets bad (or maybe it's permanent now), things like Google, Blogger (and thus, this blog), YouTube, The Peking Duck, Danwei, Facebook, and a number of other sites all become inaccessible. As far as I know, all of those sites are blocked right now.

Sure, there are proxies, but there they are very annoying and sometimes don't work.

Outside of the internet, if you want to teach English (particularly to adults in a conversation class), you have to watch what you say. I suppose that is the case anywhere in any country, but it really is true in China.

Ceding the difficult things about living in China, it's still an amazing place.

If you really want to go to China, don't get too discouraged by the nationalism and political stuff. Those things won't affect you (too much) on a daily basis. Instead, the good things about day-to-day- life in China are what consume you.

Also... I recommend Ramesh's blog - Business Musings - to anyone reading this far into the comments. It's always a thoughtful and worthwhile read.