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Becoming a "real" person

(11/03/11 9:00am)

Last spring, I landed in Beijing knowing little more than “ni hao” (hi) and “zai jian” (bye). The six non-Chinese speakers in the group were placed into a four-day intensive survival Chinese class. Each class ran about three hours and purely focused on teaching us just enough spoken Chinese to get around the city: how to grab a taxi, how to bargain down prices, how to say sorry and thank you, etc. After four quick classes ended, we were at a juncture point where we could either try to supplement our not-even-skeletal grasp of Chinese with clumsy real-life interactions, or drop it altogether and resort to our natural patterns of speech.


Musings from an unpaid intern

(10/06/11 9:00am)

I recently asked a friend how she was doing. In not-so-typical Duke fashion, she—a philosophy and literature student—gave me a mouthful of a response. She told me about upcoming consulting interviews and described her sense of anxiety as being caused by a capitalistic system that values human beings for their economic output. Those who don’t produce become alienated within the system, according to her.



Lost in translation

(04/11/11 10:40am)

A friend in my study abroad program, Tim, was interviewing a microfinance borrower when his translator told him the woman spent $300 on two bulls. But Tim heard “bowl” instead of “bull,” and in disbelief, said, “I have to see these bowls.” The family took him around the house, where a bull was grazing next to a ceramic bowl on the ground.



Poison Apple

(02/28/11 1:19pm)

In Shenzhen, a rash of employee suicides in 2010 raised questions about the tough work culture at Foxconn, the primary supplier of Apple’s iPhones and iPads. According to an article in The New York Times, 19-year-old Ma Xiangqian worked 11-hour shifts seven nights a week to create electronic parts and earned about $1 an hour. Xiangqian jumped to his death from his dormitory window early in January, the first of more than twelve suicides that year.