Since I don’t have internet access in this new 100RMB/night hotel on Hainan, I get up every morning at 5:00AM, trek the 2 miles to the Lost Hostel and use their wi-fi. Have to do it early, since the speed of the internet connection slows down as more people wake up and get online. So, off I go today, whistling a happy tune, walking the empty morning streetlamp-lit streets of Hainan…..
Yep, just me and my thoughts….an occasional car…..a few chickens….a rat….
Wait a minute!
What’s that? Up in the road…..a head?
Yep, it’s a head allright…and a neck, a torso and a body!
See? I’m not the only one who’s prepared to sleep on the beach to make a point.
He looks European.
Let’s hope he didn’t have a suitcase, backpack or laptop next to him when he went to sleep last night, ’cause this morning…….
I’m not the only one….
February 5, 2011 No Comments
For those who have asked: Jamaica’s language is English. As a former British colony, the Jamaican political and educational system culture, habits, worldview, and social norms are influenced by British culture. (I believe my aunt in Kingston still has her 4pm cup of tea every day)
If you’ve visited Jamaica you might think otherwise, but trust me the local “patois” spoken in Jamaica is English, but it also has elements of European (British, Spanish, Portugese) African (Ghanaian, Ethiopian), and Asian (Chinese, Indian) languages thrown in because of the range of influences–colonial, captive and immigrant–that have passed through Jamaica, its people and history.
Patois is not a full-fledged language, per se, but shares many elements of a distinct language.
In much the same way that two speakers of a shared language can cloak themselves in a bubble of privacy in a foreign land, (while it may be considered a bit impolite to do so), two Jamaicans in the middle of a group of people who also speak English can do the same. If you, as a native English speaker are trying your best to eavesdrop on a conversation in patois, you will have an increasingly difficult time to follow because once the Jamaicans are aware you are listening in, they can dive deeper, speak faster, even use non verbal sounds (Jamaicans: think “kiss teet” ; others: stay tuned for audio and video) and other slang to avoid detection. The speed of delivery of patois, the choice of contractions, as well as the intention behind its use all affect how decipherable it is to non-native patois speakers.
Patois is associated with the average man, the common folk. Therefore, when someone of more elevated status in Jamaican society uses it, he or she is going back to basics, forging a bond with his audience based on the essence of Jamaicanness that unites all Jamaicans regardless of their individual social status.
When a person speaks in patois, she wants to let the listener know that this is something heartfelt. This is something serious stripped of the pretense, pomp and parade (and even duplicity) often associated with the Queen’s English. (mek mi tell yu someting weh come fram mi ‘art)
However, because patois IS essentially English, everyone in Jamaica understands it, and everyone in Jamaica speaks it to varying degrees of convincing authenticity. Jamaicans often joke that the unique thing about being a Jamaican educated in the Queen’s English, but speaking Jamaican patois is that “I can understand the English man, but ‘im cyah unnastan’ me!” (can’t understand me)
Those born and raised in Jamaica–or in Jamaican families abroad–understand both. It wouldn’t be unusual to hear a conversation between a common man and, say, a judge where the common man is speaking in full back-a-bush patois, while the judge is responding in the full parliamentary-style Queen’s English. Each understanding the other perfectly. And while practically everyone in Jamaica can understand and use patois, (although some of higher social circles may deny it and distance themselves from that fact), it isn’t considered “polite, hoity toity” language.
So, when you hear it in settings where the more standard English is called for, there is often an underlying humor associated with the choice to use patois. When I choose to use patois to make what should be a polite, sophisticated acceptance speech, for instance, there is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to it. It is not literally a “translation” into “Jamaican.” The underlying humor comes from the understanding–among Jamaicans–that I am also assuming a persona. And depending on my tone and inflections and choice of phraseology and syntax, I have “become” a common man, a country farmer, a market woman, a ganja herbsman, a Rasta Elder, grandma and grandpa, or the politically-opinionated man on the street who knows everything
there is to know about Jamaican “politricks.”
So, with that said, there are elements of the humor of my acceptance speech which may elude your full grasp if you are not Jamaican. And for that I apologize as this is a blog for everyone. Learn the language, please. Keep up!
This is not a comprehensive treatise on Jamaican Patois. These are just a few thoughts I’ll probably amend at a later date. For more erudite essays on Jamaican culture and language, do a search for the works of Louise Bennet (Miss Lou in Jamaica), and also to hear the combination of Patois and English in recorded works, I’ll refer you to the works of “dub poets” Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mutabaruka and Oku Onuora.
February 4, 2011 No Comments
I’ve been a little busy lately. However, here is the update you’ve been anxiously awaiting as well as the world premier of my acceptance speech! Are you ready?
Oh, maybe I should say first, I did NOT win for Best Overseas Blog in the recent Jamaica Blog Awards. However, as I stated in my Walt’s Monday Mentals email #13: “My blog “Jamaican in China” didn’t win the Jamaica Blog Awards contest….but The Universe is Perfect. Competing in it made me improve my blog, being featured on the JBA website gained me new fans and followers, and I can still add “Jamaica Blog Awards Finalist” to my site and to my list of accomplishments.”
Yes, the contest is over. The high-pressure campaign is done, but that doesn’t mean I have to toss out my acceptance speech! That’s right, I had written my acceptance speech from way back on January 8th or so (at that time, the voting would end 3 days later on JAN 11, and the reveal ceremony was still 8 days away). When I told a friend that I had written my speech, she asked, “Does that mean you know you won the Jamaicablog contest?”
I replied to her, “The two realities need not be linked.”
In other words, writing my speech in anticipation of, and incorporating it into the visualization of a desired reality has nothing to do with the reality as it may be presently perceived. However, I couldn’t tell her that at the time, because that would have been admitting that the reality was NOT yet manifested, and that would have violated one of the foundational principles of success thinking which you’ll find in every book from Think and Grow Rich to The Cat in The Hat! In other words, the way to create a desired reality is to “live from the feeling of the wish fulfilled” (Neville), “act as if the thing you desire has already manifested” (Napoleon Hill), and “…all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Jesus)
In any event, here is my speech!
1. YANKEE VERSION: First, I’d like to thank the Academy, and, …oh, waitaminit, wrongspeech….Just a minute….Okay, here it is…. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me.And I’d like to thank Angelo Villagomez, Joe Hill, Ruth Tighe and Joe Race on Saipan, who rooted for me and risked the ire of their own mailings lists by advocating to them repeatedly on my behalf! It’s finally over, guys! I’d like to thank Xavier Murphy and Jamaicans.com for hosting my blog so that it could be viewed more easily by audiences in China.I’d like to thank everyone who is photo’ed and featured in my blog, you’re my co-stars!This awards is really yours!….But, I’ll hang on to it for you!
And, I’d like to thank the organizers and sponsors of the Jamaica Blog Awards,and, of course, the island and people of Jamaica, West Indies, where I wasborn, raised and who deserve this award as much as I do, but again, it’s my name on the marquee, so…..See you soon!
2. YAAD VERSION: Lawdamercy! Me’d a like tank all a di massive weh did vote fi me, seen? Mi wah tank Angelo, an’ Joe an’ Rute an’ de nex’ Joe oooh did big me up to dem people-dem nuff time. It done! Mi wah tank Xavier fram Jamaicans.com ‘caw dem a di one weh did put up di blog ‘pon fidem site so di people dem inna China could sights it, seen? An’ mi wah tank all-a-unnoo oohfa pikcha deh pon di blag. Mi really wah give dis prize to unnoo, but mi wi jus’ kip it a my ‘ouse, seen?
An’ lawce but not lease, nuff respek to di people dem who didput on disya award show, and to all a mi yaad bredrin and sistren. It come in like you an me a mek flim tigedda, but seein’ as ‘owis MY name mention inna di tikle fi di flim, mi wi jus’ hol’ onto it fi you…Caw….nuh soh it goh sometime in award, eee, star? nuh soh it goh sometime in award?* Said speed! Likkle more! Runnins! Laytah!
*Paraphrasing dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson from “Di Great Insohreckshan” LP: Making History
And, as I promised, I’d like to personally thank everyone who voted, as well as a particular thanks to the 64 people (yes, the most comments of any other blogger in the competition) who commented on the award page. Angelo V, John G., Massoud M., Miki P., Gloria H., Howard W., Jaime V., Lee T., Stacey SW, Kimberly V., Josie K., Tim J, Joe R., Gayle S., Diamond D., Myrna C., Bima27, Mugs T., Rohan, Sasha P., Rachel I., Emma L., Lance C., Anna, Yaadinfo, David P., Nicole, Michael E., Tony C., Old Grumpy Radio Network, Andrew, Tony C., Alvin, Mel C., Jacqueline, Analee V., Lewie T., Ronnie B., Vanessa G., Bobby L., Faisal L., Barbara, Kenneth Y., Ben S., Mike T., Alexander, Kwame, Richard P., Norman X., John J., Maxine, Ras Wayne, Chai, Steve, and that anonymous guy who responded to Maxine!
As promised, to see how your comments have been forever preserved and immortalized CLICK HERE
February 4, 2011 No Comments
FRET NOT THYSELF
First of all, thank you for the support of all who emailed me about my last post. Apparently, my dramatic writing flair was better than I expected, or perhaps my friends are accustomed to the drama I often welcome into my life. In any event, to set things straight: I am not going to be homeless on Hainan! I repeat, I am not going to be homeless on Hainan! So Fret not thyself, and stop sending out thoughts of worry and despair–you’re killin’ my buzz! However, you can still send any money you’d like to send if it makes you feel better to do so.
Perhaps I forgot to mention that there are ALWAYS other options, and, while I said I’m not above sleeping on the beach, I’m also not above paying extra if it’s practical. There are no electrical outlets on the beach for my laptop.
So, let me tell you what happened!
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
In our last episode, I told you the tale of the Hainan heist, the hotel that charged me 60RMB/night and then proceeded to raise the price once I was there.
Well, To paraphrase Country singers Garth Brooks (as well as Mark Chestnutt for those who think I don’t know Country), I have friends in high places, low places, and other-worldly extra-dimensional spaces who keep me grounded, guided and gifted with great advice and support.
A good friend back in the states suggested that I have a Chinese friend check in with me, and tell them that they have to honor their contract with me, or otherwise they could lose their license. He suggested that I tell them I’ll call the police – since I have a receipt of sale to prove it.
My friend also thinks I didn’t take advantage of “Junior,” and I agree, since it’s unlikely that Mom and Dad would entrust that responsibility to him unless he knew how to handle it.
I also sent an email to some of my friends across China, and here are some of the responses I received. Essentially, my Chinese friends, agreed to seek a compromise.
“What I would do is tell them that you will take all evidence (receipts, anything they wrote, pictures of signs showing prices, etc.) and file a complaint to the Sanya Bureau of Business Administration （工商局） and Bureau of Tourism (旅游局), but at the same time trying to negotiate a price a bit higher than what promised by the “Junior” but lower than the market. I believe they will be happy to do so.
This is the Chinese way. Chinese people usually do not like to push things to the extreme (such as complaints or lawsuits). Instead, they are more willing to find the “middle” way both sides can accept. If you are willing to step back a little by accepting a higher price, it will be easier for them to offer you a price lower than market. If they do not, then they lose all cards, and they will be looked bad in the eyes of regulators if you do file a complaint.”
So, long story short, after much back and forth with my friends, I decided to do things “the Chinese way” and have
my friend, Jian, call the owner on my behalf.
Here were my terms: Having already agreed to pay 60RMB/night, I told him (to relay to her) that I would be willing to pay 90RMB or 100RMB. In other words, it would have to be LESS than the 150RMB/day that my “Plan B” hotel down the street was going to charge, and furthermore, it would have to be LESS than double the current price (2 x 60=120RMB), since 120RMB/day was what I was paying at the youth hostel for a room in a better neighborhood that included internet access.
Jian called her this morning, (new year’s eve) and without resorting to threatening to get the authorities involved, she agreed to 100RMB/day for a ten day stay. So, I’ll get through the high season on Hainan paying 100RMB/day which is still effectively less than the 116RMB/day that the 3,500RMB/MONTH apartment with the shared kitchen in the other side of town was asking.
I’m sure the owner is a bit happier.
As I told a Chinese friend, “…this is very different from the American way of ’you’ve got the proof and the legal right, so sue ‘em for all you can get!’
Me? Well, for various reasons, including the fact that I’m in China, (and since the owner has access to my room), I’m content with taking the middle ground.
Even though a few friends with US mindsets also chimed in that it IS about the principle, when you compare it all in US dollar terms, I’m still paying only $15US/night for a Hainan High Season Hotel! And I can relax a bit for the next 10 days and not have to worry about trudging through the streets of China with my suitcase and back-pack, as crowds look on and point….under the fireworks and moonlit night sky of New Year’s eve in China!
But, come February 11, the adventure shall continue!
p.s. Tonight, I’ll do something I don’t normally do. If you know me, I don’t typically buy into these ”arbitrary lines” of this day or that day. However, tonight, as I spend New Year’s eve on the island of Hainan, People’s Republic of China, I shall head out into the maddening crowd and participate in the festivities! Stay tuned.
p.p.s. I have no internet access, but….the universe is perfect. In ten days I can accomplish quite a lot without the distraction of constantly checking website stats, and email!
February 3, 2011 2 Comments
So, here’s the deal. I’m in the city of Sanya, the southern part of Hainan, an island off the south coast of the People’s Republic of China. It’s a favorite tourist destination for many people, not just Chinese. It’s January 31, 2011. Chinese New Year is 3 days away on Feb 3rd. As a result, this is what’s called “the high season.” Yep, everyone’s high. There’s hysteria in the air. Not just the hysteria and excitement that comes with ringing in a new year, but the high that comes with the possibility of making a financial killing charging exorbitant prices on everything from food to hotel space. (Would you pay 20RMB for a papaya that should cost 5RMB? More on that later.)
Anyway, I’m currently staying at the Lost Youth Hostel. I’m currently paying 120RMB/night. It’s a nice place, friendly staff, piping hot water, and internet access. (No kitchen, but you know how I roll with the CPC!) I would stay here indefinitely, but on Feb 1st, I must leave because my room was booked in advance by others who planned to be here in Sanya with a bit more foresight than I had.
Lost Youth Hostel
My room 403, Lost Hostel
I also have to leave because on Feb 1, the rates go up from 120RMB/night (18US) to 450RMB/night (68US). That’s right, four times! Quadrupled! But, again, there are no rooms available anyway, even if I was desperate enough to pay that price.
So, soon to be homeless, I’ve been looking for a new place around the island. Here’s how it works. You walk around the neighborhood you’re interested in, look up at the buildings, and you’ll see typically huge orange banners with phone numbers on the balconies of specific apartments/rooms that are available for rent. They’re everywhere. You call the number, and…if you’re Chinese, you get one price. If you’re a foreigner, you get quoted another price. But, to be fair, while foreigners are, in fact, singled out to pay more (I hear the Swedes have it the worst), everyone, Chinese included, are paying “high season” prices to ring in the new year on Hainan.
Signs are everywhere
I mean EVERYWHERE
I’ve been looking and asking for a 30-day deal and a kitchen. Because it’s the high season, I’ve gotten quotes of 3,500RMB/month ($530US) and as high as 9,000RMB/month ($1,363US) for a single room. I was paying $250US/month for my studio on Saipan, but that’s another story.
It’s just a room and a hot plate, but she wants 4,000RMB for 30 days. Someone will pay it. It just won’t be me.
While on the bus on my way to check out the 3500RMB apartment, I met Wang, who was nice enough to call the landlord on my behalf, help me find the place, and help me gain entrance by communicating with the current tenants who were inside. Helpful Hainan!
The place that Wang helped me find was nice. The owner wanted 3500RMB/month (roughly 120RMB/day), and after checking it out, I was going to take it, but she wasn’t willing to bargain AT ALL. Neither would she let me pay for the first 10 days (rather than 30). You see, as nice as the place was, it didn’t have internet access, and I just didn’t see the point of committing to 30 days at 3,500RMB and still have to figure out how to get online (there’s no Starbucks, and I can’t use my laptop at internet cafes)
Modern, shared kitchen, refrigerator, 3500RMB/month, but won’t budge on the price or terms
The other reason I’m realizing I don’t want to commit to 30 days is this: In about 10 days, this will all be over. By about Feb 10, the festivities will be over, all the tourists will leave Hainan (except for a few stragglers like me), and prices will return to normal. Any deal I commit to now will be based on the high season prices. Why should I lock myself into paying 120RMB/day, for instance, and then continue to pay that rate once Feb 10 has passed? So, the new plan is, I’ll figure out a way to survive until Feb 10, and then I’ll approach some of the same owners anew to renegotiate based on the “not-so-high season” hysteria.
The cool kids at the Lost Hostel have been nice enough to make calls for me to help me find a place
So, today I went back to a part of town where I had found a hotel at which I had been quoted 80RMB/night, and found out that they now wanted 200RMB/night! I walked out. Someone will pay it.
Was 80RMB/night a week ago. Now, it’s 200RMB/night
And then, it happened. A few hundred hards further down the street, I walked into a nice establishment, and there was a 15 year old kid at the desk! Jackpot! I knew what was about to happen. I mimed for him to show me a room. He did. I asked him the price. He said 60RMB/night. I tried to contain my excitement. He was a naive, wide-eyed kid, and I was likely the first Jamaican he had ever encountered (trust me, I can tell), and I knew for a fact he was quoting me the “Chinese price.” Given the rarity of seeing a foreigner hotel-searching in this part of town, Mom and dad likely hadn’t forced Junior to read the part of the training manual entitled “How to Make a Killing Selling to Foreigners.” I accepted, and paid for 7 days. 420RMB for 7 days. He gave me the key, and I told him I’d check in tomorrow. He didn’t ask for it, but I left him my cell phone number because, even though I now had my receipt and the key, I knew what would happen the moment I left and the boss (mom or dad) found out what he had done!
So, in anticipation of that phone call I knew I’d be getting, I stopped at another hotel and started some negotiations for a room there as my “Plan B.” After much sign language, Pidgin-Putonghua, and calls to the helpful staff at Lost Hostel, I find out why I was having such a difficult time getting the receptionist at this new hotel to give me a quote for a 7-day stay. Turns out, that she could give me a room for 150RMB for TONIGHT, BUT she didn’t know what the rate was going to be for TOMORROW. This is like the freakin’ stock market!! The boss gets up the next morning and lets her know what the rate for the day will be. So, conceivably, I could check in today at 150RMB, and then tomorrow, I could be told the rate is 200RMB (high season hysteria)
Sure enough, about an hour later, once I return to the Lost Hostel, I get that phone call. It’s from an adult at the hotel where the 15-year old rented me the room. Turns out that the price on Feb 3rd is going to go up to 200RMB. But, I will get Feb 1 and Feb 2 at 60RMB/night! What a steal! So, tomorrow, I check out of Lost Hostel, and check in to a great 60RMB/night room on HighNan…I mean Hainan! Stay tuned, I’m sure this story will get even better.
p.s. Now, I know what you’re thinking: I took advantage of a minor. Well, the way I see it, I took the opportunity to get the money in their hands. With a paid customer, this close to the new year, I figure they have two options. (1) They could give me back my money (possible, but unlikely, given that as I’ve learned, putting the money directly into the hands of someone you’re negotiating with is great leverage. (2) They could honor at least a part of the agreement that Junior made (which they now have done), and attempt to extort me for more money after the first 2 days is up (which they are already preparing me for).
I’m sure they feel THEY have some leverage once I move in. However, the way I see it, is that I’VE got more leverage cause I’m not afraid to move out and sleep on the beach if I have to to make a point.
Now, I know what ELSE you’re thinking: “Pay the &($&($ money, Walt, even at 200RMB it’s still $30US a night which is WAAAAAY less than you could get anywhere in the US or its territories!” True, but what you don’t understand is that I’m now Chinese, and I think in terms of RMB not USD, and as all cheap people are fond of saying, “It’s not about the money, it’s the principle!”
January 31, 2011 2 Comments
From back in Xishuangbanna, when I showed you THREE on a motorbike, I promised you a photo of 4 adults on a moped. I’ve seen a few throughout my travels, but I just wasn’t quick enough on the draw to catch it with my camera. Well, this time it’s FIVE! There’s actually a little child right between daddy, and big brother in the white jacket. You can make out his hand in the close-up. Well, since this is mostly children, it really doesn’t count. I’m determined to catch a snapshot of 4 or even 5 adults on a moped….just so you know I’m not making this stuff up!
note the blue sleeve and little hand holding on to daddy
January 31, 2011 No Comments
Hope this works. Once you click on the link below, a popup window should appear. Please let me know if you see a panel to activate the excerpt of the song below. The name of the song is “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna” (Don’t Ever Leave). When I was hanging out with Rohana and Sultan, my friends from Myanmar who ran a jewelry shop in Xishuangbanna, this was the song we listened to to pass the time. This is an excerpt.
Practically all the jade stores in Jinghong city are owned by Myanmar nationals.
I miss Xishuangbanna!
Sultan, Rohana and me…Last hour in Xishuangbanna
January 28, 2011 No Comments