February’s East / West Meetup

A photo from February's East West Meetup
In February I gave a talk on ‘Other Beings, Relationships and Morals in North East Asia.’ It may sound a bit academic but it was just a sharing of what I had learnt about the views of the people there among whom I lived for most of my life.

About twenty-five people turned up, half of them from Asia, half from the West. Most of them were post-grad students and I was impressed by their interest and questions. One issue was the role of feelings: did Asian people not suppress their feelings too much or did Westerners give vent to their feeling too much without considering those of others?
One man thought that I was too positive about China and wanted to know some of its failings. I replied that there was no shortage of faults in both Chinese and Irish society but I wanted to focus on the positive elements we could learn from each other. Others found their imagination captured by aspects of Chinese culture and that gave them alternative ways of looking at what they were studying.

For those living near Dublin, there are regular talks and gatherings organised by the East/West group.

It seems that 229 foreign teachers in Beijing and Shanghai have been arrested in China for working with a Z visa. Most of them were recruited by people who promised 50,000 dollar a year to those without a university degree or work visa.

The story became public last summer when the police sent someone for a job interview wearing a hidden microphone. The recruiter was arrested as were some of the foreign teachers whose resumes were in his briefcase. Those arrested had a choice: go to jail for pay a fine. Then they were deported. There may be another thousand teachers soon finding themselves in a similar position.

It appears that the police are using a sting operation on Twitter and Facebook to discover who the agents and illegal teachers are.

Triona with the bang-bang men
Triona with the ‘bang-bang’ men

Triona O’Driscoll comments on some of the incidents that struck her during her time in Chongqing

“I witnessed an amazing spectacle at autumn Moon Festival. As I walked around the campus, I saw little groups of students gathered under the night sky, sitting on the grass, chatting, playing cards or other games and eating moon cakes. These are round like the moon and celebrate harmony and unity in the family. This is the night to ‘appreciate’  the Harvest Moon when it is as its biggest, roundest and brightest. It is part of the intangible heritage of China. Everyone seed so happy and content and there was no rowdyism whatever. By the way, the Chinese see a woman in the moon.”

“Another spectacular sight was the 6,500 freshmen, all dressed in fatigues and green canvas shoes. They look like little dolls as they march around in companies of about 100 with one or two soldiers in charge of each group. It is very impressive. They spend their first two weeks at the university doing physical training. A student told me that this is to teach them discipline and endurance!”

“Chongqing is a mountain city with majestic landscapes, a dense population, innumerable skyscrapers, neon lights and the ever-popular spicy Hot Pot. They say one needs a new city map every three months to keep up with its development.”

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