March 28th, 2020

mom walk

reflections on the other side

I live a strange expats life. Aside from craving coffee, i don't think i have very much in common with other foreigners in China. I do not live in areas where other foreigners live. I do not eat at the same restaurants other foreigners do. I do not visit the same shops. If it wasn't for the one or two at work, i don't think i'd ever bump into a fellow expat.

This is because i largely avoid Rich China. I don't go to shopping malls. I don't go clubbing. I have no interest in name brands or imported products. None of my neighbors own cars.

It's extremely hard for me to get along with the Chinese bourgeoisie. They consider themselves fairly cosmopolitan, but i feel so uncomfortable around them. Their concerns seem so selfish to me, conspicuously consuming while they earn an order of magnitude more than the working class. They seem oblivious to their own privilege.

Still, occasionally i do find myself visiting Rich China to spend some of my own shamefully high salary.

Today was the first time i was made to install the famous red/yellow/green QR code health app to get into a building. I had to prove i was green and then manually sign in on a form that included my name and temperature reading.

Annoyingly, a xenophobic bus driver close to downtown told me i should also register as a passenger by scanning the QR code on the window of the bus. It's a "recommended" measure, a way of checking in everywhere you go so that the authorities can trace back everyone who might have been exposed to a newly-discovered case. Except, in reality, the authorities can do that already. Any phone company anywhere in the world can do that already. So the only reason to make it opt-in is to try to shape the public opinion by turning self-reporting into some kind of patriotic virtue.

Naturally, the idea has taken off in the west too, because there's nothing some folk enjoy more than showing off to their peers how socially-minded they are.

I think i liked it better when it was just a grubby sheet of paper and the building management came round to scan me every day. At least then there was no bullshitting around it. This is just an authoritarian thing the government is forcing everyone to do, and that's that.

But perhaps for the people who would normally conspicuously consume, self-reporting might scratch a similar itch during lockdown.

Anyway, as soon as i left downtown, i uninstalled the apps from my phone.

I was down there to visit a tattoo parlor. I want to get a political tattoo because fuck all of this shit that has been happening here and around the world over the past 2-3 months. I was worried they wouldn't do it, but seeing as they choose to communicate using Traditional Chinese instead of Simplified Chinese i figured that was a sign they might be sympathetic. She didn't blink. We chatted for a while and she recommended an artist. We put together a package and perhaps by Easter i'll have some calligraphy on my arm.

When i got home, the 锅盔 couple were back downstairs, rolling out dough and slapping it in the tandoor like they never left. Best thing that happened all week.

I am still seriously thinking about resigning, but the logistics will be tricky. I am held hostage by my employer due to immigration law plus coronavirus travel restrictions. That still makes me extremely privileged given how many people have lost their jobs.

Honestly i wouldn't know what i would do if i quit. I am so fucking tired of tech industry bullshit. Maybe i should finally go back to university and do international relations or something. I don't know. I feel like i say that every time i get sick of it all.