Going West by Mark Powers

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Chinese website

My English blog doesn't get even a tenth of the attention or viewers my Chinese blog does today. I remember a few years ago the reaction people had when I just had an English blog about my life in China. A Chinese girl asked to see my blog and I gave her the web address. She said it looked nice but everything was in English and she felt it was too tiring to try and read it. Which left me sorely disappointed. 

I am sure there are some Chinese who enjoy reading in English, but I learned something very important from that girl's reaction. First, Chinese people are quite interested in foreigners, but reading English can tiresome for them. I can completely understand this and have the same feelings about reading in Chinese. I am interested, but reading a Chinese newspaper article or blog can quickly drain a lot of mental energy.  

I wanted to reach a Chinese audience with my websites, so I decided the best way to do it was to try and write a blog in Chinese. I took my first shot with a website called Xiaoxitian "Little Western Heaven" which was the name of the community I lived in, in Beijing. I created a nice background, added pictures, and did my best to explain a little about my life and the community.

The reaction from Chinese readers was not what I expected, but positive. I was concerned my poor writing would be a big turn off. But on the contrary, Chinese didn't seem to mind my Chinese writing, and seemed anxious to help me improve. Additionally, they said they really liked my unique perspective and thought my writing was funny and cute (maybe cute in the sense that my writing was more like a child's than an adult). Anyway, the reaction was very positive. However, one big problem at that time was the long load-up time in China of web pages from web servers in the US. Normally, a website should load up within a few seconds, but from servers in the US, load-up times in China could take 30 seconds or more, which made people give up rather than wait. I fortunately overcame this problem by finding a local web host in China, and www.getpowers.net was born. The Chinese you see there actually says De-dao Li-liang, which means "Get Powers" in Chinese. Below that it says, "A blog written in Chinese by a foreign friend" 

There were more twists and turn to the story, and the website still needed (and still needs) a lot of work. But average daily viewership has hit a few dozen a day in China, which I truly believe could just be the beginning. 

There are plenty of videos, music, and one-time articles made by foreigners using Chinese, but I have scoured the web for other blogs written in Chinese by foreigners and there are very very few. Most have either stopped or write rarely. I was surprised to discover the prime minister of Australia (a former diplomat to China) speaks perfect Chinese, he's quite amazing. 

My goal is to keep writing and promoting my website. I just love how the web can leverage one man's work to reach so many 24 hours a day. I think that is the big attraction of the Internet for me. The ability of one person to reach so many in time and space, to be so accessible, to reach such a broad audience, so quickly. 

When I realized a few years ago while living in China how often I would be asked the same questions, and found myself repeating the same answers again and again, I knew there was interest, but not enough of me. I only have a limited time in a day, a limited amount of voice to talk with before I go hoarse, a limited amount of energy, and a need to make money somehow. The Internet leverages your time and energy a seemingly infinite amount. 

我在食堂So my dream of a web-based business was born. Of course its still in development, but I have hope that with continued work, good things will happen. Since I have returned to China, I have been able to promote my site further and write more content relevant to Chinese, and have seen a boost in the number of viewers and hits. Time will tell how things go. If you are interested to read what I write about on my Chinese blog, but can't read Chinese, there is a Google Translate tool on the webpage that allows you to change it to English instantly. 


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Job Interview in Beijing

Sichuan spicy rice noodlesI had a job interview with some investment company called JC Brothers in Beijing. This operation is supposedly the Chinese representative office. I visited their truly lovely offices on the second floor of a 5 star hotel in downtown. I talked directly with the president of operations there.

The job sounded very interesting. The president told me that the company looks into investments and opportunities in China and sends reports back to the US head office for review as potential investment targets. They wanted me to help in preparing the reports and being part of the analysis team. They would require that I work 9 to 5 and be available to travel to visit many of the companies and see how it looks from a investment perspective. Investment, China, Travel, it all sounded pretty good.

Then they asked me how much I wanted as pay. Well, because I was not familiar with this company and unsure completely of the work content, I was hesitant to say how much I wanted. I didn’t want to lowball in error, I was thinking at least 15,000 RMB a month. So I asked the range the company was looking at for this position and the president said 6,000 RMB. I make more than that already teaching English part time.

One of my favorite vegtable dishes - Sauteed Bok Choy with mushroomsBasically they wanted to hire a foreigner at Chinese salary. I told him directly that was too low. The president did not seem to willing to budge either so we just kind of parted ways. I of course would love to get the experience and skills of working in a Investment Company in China, but I still have to pay my bills, live and eat. I mean my apartment is more expensive than the average Chinese, but damn, I do not want to have to reduce my quality of life to that of the average Chinese. That may sound mean or racist, but if some of you see the circumstances of the average Chinese, you may agree with me. 6,000 is not too bad in China, but certainly not good. 6,000 equals only about US $750 dollars. For a whole month of full time work? No way. Anyway, if they still want me, they can call me with another offer. Otherwise I have other irons in the fire.

My birthday cake, it has my Chinese name written on the frontI spent my birthday doing some of the things I wanted. I cleaned my room, bought a new bedspread to make my bed more comfortable, did exercise and had some of my favorite exotic foods for lunch and dinner. In the evening I ate cake and ice cream with a friend of mine. One thing I love about my birthday is getting to hear from my friends and family. That just warms the heart.

A big storm passed through town last Friday. It cleaned the air up and also began a string of days with cooler temperatures. Fall is on the way. One thing you can say about Beijing is that the weather is seasonal, unlike Hawaii, where everyday, day after day is like summer.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Chinese foods, translation business and website

Malatan vendor stand - one stick usually sells for less than half of one RMBWell, things have settled down for me in the past couple of weeks since getting the apartment. I have explored the area a bit and figured out what buses to take to get to work etc. I have really enjoyed eating at the local outdoor vendors who sell non-local foods, such as Xinjiang spicy lamb meat, or Sichuan style boiled spicy fish and noodle snacks called Malatan. They are just really delicious. I have stopped at these places every night to grab a few snacks on my way back from work. One stick is only half a yuan, or US $0.06 cents, so cheap.

I came to the realization this week that I have not eaten cereal with milk for over one whole year. This is a shock, especially because cereal was a staple of my diet back in the states.
I have started my own business. My plan is to do Translation Outsourcing. Based on the cost discrepancy of US domestic translators and Chinese domestic translation cost, there is good money to be made if I can get some US clients and provide them translation services by outsourcing the work to Chinese translation companies. So in effect, I would act as a kind of middleman. My new website is: http://powerstranslation.ourprofile.biz/ It is still under construction though!

Building this website has taken most of my free time over the past week. I hope to finish it over the weekend and get started marketing this service from next week.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jobs and odd-ball jobs

I started my second part-time job last Wednesday. I was working mornings from 8:30 to 11:30. As I wrote before the kids were pretty cool. They were smart, enthusiastic, and cute. The pay was better too. But I felt tired soon. I think teaching requires a lot of energy and I felt exhausted even after just a few hours. Plus I was still working my regular job at night and weekends. So only after five days on the job, I quit. I still made some decent money and that will be used to pay for my new visa, which I can pick up tomorrow. It will be a multi-entry visa! This means I will be able to leave China and return freely for a year. So this gives me much more flexibility and allows me to go home whenever a chance arises without any trouble.

I also got a call this morning from a Japanese staffing company. They set up an interview for me with a Japanese company looking to start an office in Beijing on Saturday. That could turn out to be a good job.

I met a young 21 year American guy from Minnesota at school recently. He told me about a job he started a couple of weeks ago. He has been in China for two years and speaks Chinese really well. He said he works at a Karaoke bar. However, the catch is that the Karaoke bar is for women, who are usually pretty, young, and have money to spend. Many young guys work at this place, including this young American guy.

Well, what happens is that the girls get a room and start singing. Then the boys come in and the girls can pick some to act as hosts for chatting and singing. Finally when the girls get tired of these boys they give them a tip and can get some new ones. These young guys can earn money by being hosts and getting tips.

Some girls want to have western looking hosts. So somehow my friend had the courage to try it and he made some money and had some fun. He asked me if I would like to go too. He said the club would welcome another foreigner. Well, being that I do not like to drink and do not smoke, I was hesitant, but I thought it might be an interesting experience. At the very least I could practice using my Chinese. So I gave it a shot last night.

I went with Frank (for reasons you will learn later I will not use his real name) to the club. But the weather was bad outside and few customers came. I did meet the other guys who also work there as hosts. They were young, stylish, and good looking Chinese guys who I guess probably came from poor backgrounds looking to find an out. Again I wish I had my camera to take pictures of this surreal environment, but I could not bring something so valuable to a place that could be a little sleazy. But I was so impressed how Frank had within a short time gotten to know most of them, know who is who and have information about them such as who are the bosses and who are the little ducklings as he calls them. He told me how to handle the customers and the different types. He did all this in Chinese and on his own. I later found out Frank was really interested in working for the US government in the future, specifically military intelligence. He liked this job because he could learn this about the night life and Chinese drinking culture and felt it might come in handy in his future job. He certainly had courage to do this work and seemed adept at observation and information gathering. He could tell me who had skills, smarts, status, and power within this micro-society.

Nonetheless, I only got a chance to stand in front of the customers and get selected a few times, but I was not selected. Finally, it was so slow and late I got tired and went home early. Maybe I will try again some weekend night when I am bored and absolutely have nothing better to do. I am welcome to go there anytime because I only make money if the customer gives me a tip.


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