Saturday, October 27, 2007


Here are some pictures of my apartment. Enjoy!

Here's the view from my balcony of the grounds.
(Actually, I have a good view of the city,
but it is a little overcast today, so you'll get those pics another time. )

The living and dinning room area.
Not huge, but nicely done.
Well, 'cept those white floors, they are driving me crazy.
I'm getting a maid, just to mop the floors twice a week!

The kitchen.
Like a galley kitchen, but larger than some I've seen in similar apartments.
The only problem is that hood is so low,
I used to hit my head on it.
My landlord and his wife are both short,
so it wasn't an issue for them, but it is too low for me.

The view of the apt. from the front door.

The guest bathroom.
There is a guest staying with us right now,
so you won't see the guest bedroom.

The study.

And the reason that everyone loves my apartment...
the TV!

Friday, October 26, 2007


I just discovered this website

Here is an excerpt from the price quote page:


Event Rates

• Corporate/Business Rate: $350 per hour

• Personal/Private/Individual Rate: $200 per hour

• Non-Profit Rate: $275 per hour

• Drop-in/Appearances: $100 each

Informational/High Question Volume: add $100 per hour

• Emergencies/Short Notice (24 hour window): add $150 per hour

Ongoing/Retainer Services

• $10,000 Annually
(12 Events, 15 Calls, 10 Appearances, 3 Consultations)

Additional Services

• "Help! I need a Black Opinion!" $75 per call
(30 minute duration) or email (24 hr response time)

• Touch Her Hair: $25 each time

• Touch Her Skin: $35 each touch

• Compare Your Skin Tone to Hers: $50

• Tell her"you look just like..." another black person: $100

• Call her "sister" "sista" "girlfriend" or "girl": $150 each time

• Dance Lessons for the Rhythm-Challenged: $250 hour

• Challenging Racist Family Members: add $500 per person

• Racist Guests at Event: add $500 per event (per racist)

• "Will You Tell Them I'm Not a Racist?": $1500 per vouch

• Certificate of Association: $100
A 8x10" certificate stating your affiliation with a black person.

I think I should start charging the Chinese people 100 RMB to touch my hair. I wonder if I could charge them to answer questions like "How do you get your hair like that?". Hm, maybe I'll give it a try!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Black is Beautiful

So the saying goes, and so too, does the headline of the most recent "City Weekend". Under that bold headline, the caption reads, "As Shanghai gears up for Beyonce's landmark concert City Weekend wonders what it's really like to be black in China." My oh my. "City Weekend" wonders what it's really like to be black in China. I was completely surprised. "City Weekend" is a magazine that is geared towards the "things to do" aspect of expat life - bars, restaurants, and events. Being black in China is not what I excepted to see on their cover. I opened the magazine, and read the following:

"It's not easy being black in China. For that matter, it's not easy anywhere in the world. Modernity seems inherently polarized against people of color, whether in the United States, Africa, or the streets of Sanlitun in Beijing, where people with black skin risk being hassled. At the risk of sounding like a bad Hallmark card, the four people we met in out Black in China story were pretty inspiring. They have a higher bar to cross that most expats and they do it. Everyday. With flair"

That's right. WE do it. Everyday. With flair.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Toil and Trouble

Double, double toil and trouble:
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
as taken from Macbeth

There is a wonderful lack of true toil and trouble in my life at the present moment, and for that I am intensely grateful. I am thinking about this because a few of my friends and acquaintances in Shanghai are currently experiencing double helpings of toil and trouble. The thing that separates me from them is something over which I have no control or influence. A little blue passport.

You see, in China, my little blue passport opens numerous doors. It even opens doors that my brown skin and curly hair would otherwise ensure were locked shut. That little blue passport makes it easier to get a job, change money, get a visa...all essential elements of living in Shanghai. As I witness the things that others without the blue passport (or a few other colors, European countries) experience, I am often saddened.

Although I would never encourage using fake documents, I now understand why people use them. I know people who have fake everything, the passport is fake, the birth certificate is fake, the visa was gotten through a connection (and a bribe), but they are here. And I also know people who try to do things legitimately and above board, and they get denied visas, denied residence permits, and sent home.

A friend of mine just married a man from a certain African country which shall remain nameless. Although his country does not have the best of reputations, he is an honest guy, who lived abroad and doesn't really know the "backway" to get things done. Theoretically, he should have gotten a Chinese residence permit thorough his wife. They followed all of the rules, provided the documentation, went to the Chinese embassy in his country, only to be told by her job, "sorry". The basic reason, wrong passport. If he was the citizen of a different country, it wouldn't have been a problem, but for him, it is a problem. And, to make matters worse, the school employee kept his passport, and waited until his visa had already expired to inform them that he could not get the residence permit. Overstaying your visa is a big deal in China, subject to large fines and/or imprisonment, and they enforce it. So, the next day he went to immigration to plead his case. They gave him a 7 daysextension and told him to "just go home". If only it was "just".

And yet, I know others who do all kinds of interesting things that boggle my mind and rarely run in to problems.
(I will not go into detail here, not tryin' to blow up anyones spot.) I have seen passports that have different names, birth dates, sometimes even the country of citizenship. Yes, I have seen people who had never left Africa before coming to China and yet are the proud owners of European passports. I have listened to conversations where people are discussing which schools give everyone a visa (for a fee), which points of entry are lax (or can for enough cash), and which countries are the best for their particular situation. And as the technology gets better, it gets harder, but people adapt.

One of my friends got a "work" visa for a job that did not even exist, through one of his contacts. He needed to stay in China a little longer, but his visa was going to expire. So, he asked around, and found out how he could stay longer without a "legitimate" reason, according to the Chinese government. As it turned out, he was able to extend his stay, for over a year. Because he had the little blue passport (and a little cash) he didn't run into any problems getting the visa, residence permit, or leaving the country. Smooth sailing, aside,perhaps, from a little anxiety on his part.

Sometimes, I just wish things were different.