Soy Sauce

Lee Kum Kee Soy Sauce
Lee Kum Kee Soy Sauce

The “Shu Ji” of my university here in China suggested the best brand for both Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil. Because she is the most powerful person in this highly respected university (Jinan Daxue) I’m willing to
take her advice.

Lee Kum Kee, which is a Cantonese translation of 李锦记, or in Mandarin “Li Jin Ji”. You can find it at your local Asian market or perhaps online. I’ll find a shop somewhere online and link it here later.

By the way, I’ve NEVER seen La Choy brand used in China. It’s probably just an American thing now… I know it wasn’t that yummy at stir fry night when I was growing up… Believe me, the brands of your seasoning matter.

Sesame Oil

Lee Kum Kee Sesame Oil
Lee Kum Kee Sesame Oil

The “Shu Ji” of my university here in China suggested the best brand for both Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce. Because she is the most powerful person in this highly respected university (Jinan Daxue) I’m willing to take her advice.

Lee Kum Kee, which is a Cantonese translation of 李锦记, or in Mandarin “Li Jin Ji”. You can find it at your local asian market or perhaps online. I’ll find a shop somewhere online and link it here later.

By the way, I’ve NEVER seen La Choy brand used in China. It’s probably just an American thing now… I know it wasn’t that yummy at stir fry night when I was growing up… Believe me, the brands of your seasoning matter.


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Warm Water

When it’s meal time, never ask this question: “OK, everyone, do you want to drink Fresca or Diet Coke?”

You should be putting sugar in delicious Asian meals instead. Not only are the above two choices full of useless sugar, they are often served cold. Your body doesn’t deserve to be treated this way, so you should ask for water instead (no ice). Ya, you might get some strange looks the first couple times, but I promise they will understand someday.

My sainted grandfather used to say that “cold water isn’t good for yer gizzards.” After I realized that gizzards are not a some kind of lizard that lives in my body, I started to take his suggestions seriously. Really, your body is usually at a high-90s (30s ‘C) temperature. Shocking your body with iced beverages is unhealthy, although it won’t kill you (right away).

Drink warm water when you wake up and drink warm water when you have meals. If you plan a soup with your meal, then don’t worry about drinking the water.

Simple Chinese Cabbage Dish

Example of Fried Cabbage, but I don't use bacon...
Example of Fried Cabbage, but I don’t use bacon…

Ingredients– In order of use: Sesame Oil (Lee Kum Kee), Garlic, Ginger, Head (or half head) of cabbage, Soy Sauce (Lee Kum Kee), Water (if needed)

1~ Warm up a wok or pan with sesame oil.

2~ Throw in a few slices of garlic (don’t waste your time by mincing), also add 1 or 2 slices of skinned ginger. Let them brown slightly.

3~ Throw in chopped up, or ripped apart, pieces of cabbage. Half a head for 1-2 people. Full head for 2+ people. Cover pan while you get Soy Sauce ready.

4~ Pour in soy sauce. Just enough to give each leaf a coating. Cover and cook a few minutes. Shovel around in the pan so that everything gets attention from your ingredients.

5~ When leaves are smaller and stalks are looking browner (from soy sauce), turn off heat. Use spatula to shovel out the cabbage from the sauce into a serving dish. Put it on the table and get the next dish started!

* If the dish is too salty, add some water to smooth out the impact of the soy sauce.

Blocked from Blogging in China

blogger in china
Blogger in China

Since 2008, I’ve had severe issues getting on Blogger and posting about what was going on in my life here in China. Proxies are available, but it’s always a headache to knowingly force your internet speed down in order to get some Blogger and Facebook time in.

But now, I’m putting my foot down. I’m going to MAKE time for these necessities. I noticed that I only blogged 8 times in 2008 and I know there were plenty of amazing opportunities for reflection and publication. Today is the start of creating a presence online for Chinese Learning Curves. It will support my own personal experiences in China both privately and in business. I’ll use a publishing filter, as mentioned on the Dragos Roua blog. Posts will not drag on until some visual quota seems to be filled. Many more good habits will be formed too!

As my experiences with and WS Online Learning develop, I will reflect that in this blog. Please contact me and tell me if you find the content useful or not. I’m looking forward to focusing this blog on the Good Stuff and giving the world Ben Piscopo’s view of what it takes to work, live, and learn in modern China.

Second Life, contributing to the First!

Logo from the video game Second Life
Image via Wikipedia

Second Life is a virtual world, which is creating a stir in the Real world. It allows residents to buy land, build structures, and make practically anything they want. You can sell everything from pets to clothes and rent anything from hotel rooms to “camping” gear. Over 4.5 million accounts have been created already and businesses are starting to take a real interest.

The Linden dollar ($L) is making CEOs across the world turn their heads toward the cyberworld for virtual revenue. SL’s stock market and currency exchange seem to be the most intriguing part of this (fiber optic) social fabric. Even Dominos, the pizza company, has begun selling virtual and real pizza through this new outlet.

I’ve begun exploring this world in the past two days. The benefits seem to outweigh the negatives when approaching this from my business perspective; that of the English Language businessman.

Even the ESL industry can benefit from this e-phenomenon. (How many “net-puns” can I fit in this iBlog!?) The concept is this: Much of SL is based on groups of people with similar interests. Of course, it’s more interesting because you “really” see the people you are chatting with. There is more interaction and perhaps many of the +1 million active account-holders will create a serious relationship and have ebabies… who knows!

For the entreprenuer, we can offer a wide variety of cyber-experiences and products that people will actually pay for. The most popular seem to be goods that the character can buy, similar to real life. What i want to do is related to the “English Immersion” that goes on in this world. For example, the whole world is based on the English language and students could really make great use of this.

* We can hold class in a comfortable tree house or near a beautiful stream. The group of students can meet in the cyber world. A small fee can allow them entrance…

*”Treasure hunts” could be conducted to allow them to explore the world and ask certain individuals for clues to the next spot!” Real world prizes can be awarded.

* Strictly for revenue… Sign-ups to Second Life could lead to “referral” awards from Linden Labs. (2,000L$ per preium sign-up)

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Zhuhai Hospitality- Catic Hotel

Catic Hotel – Zhuhai

March 12, 2007 – 4:00pm Meeting with …. The Whole Staff! Johnson (Wang Manager-Lobby) Simon (Yan Asst. Manager-Lobby)

A situation that I wanted to avoid became unavoidable today! My intention was to meet the manager(s) of the Guest Relations office or Front office. I hoped to discuss what their specific situation is like before meeting the staff altogether. I thought this would be a good step-by-step approach. This is China right?? But, i got a kind of rushed (almost Western) feeling.

I arrived on time, greeted by Wang Qi, the bellboy who was my initial contact. He had been there for 2 years and his English was severely lacking- my first conundrum, although extremely friendly. He took me to the 3rd floor and we stopped outside the VIP conference room. That’s when he said “Everyone is here.” I said “really?? well… this is not what i expected. I’m not prepared to hold a class. I should talk to the manager first.” Then, the Asst. Mngr., Simon, came out to talk to me. He said “Hello, nice to meet you!” I also met Manager Wang. They told me about 20 staff members were waiting in the meeting room…

Now, i wanted to just meet these two men and discuss returning for a few classes, however, a new situation slapped me in the face: an actual class! So, I told them it would be a short meeting with the staff and in I went… I was applauded and got a standing ovation. I was under pressure!

I basically adapted what i planned to say with the managers to suite a large group of people. I used my famous “Make a friend with you” example. This got an immediate response from about 5-8 people; the other 12-15 were lost. (I suggest this for future initial meetings. It helped me see how many intermediate and upper level students there were. Also, it lightens the mood!)

Here is the breakdown of the staff:
Most are at a very low level of English. A few have actual questions that could be useful to discuss. BUT, that’s not the case for most of them.

If they are ALL lumped together in one class, i’ll spend the beginning on simple conversation and dialogue + vocab. In the middle, I’ll discuss some upper level vocabulary with “contextual” examples. Finally, i’ll review the simple conversation with the lower levels. They will form pairs and repeat the dialogues.

Here is what the managers expect the classes to include:

Of course, they want their staff to understand specific cultural differences between the languages, but they think a major focus should be vocabulary. So, i plan to give them relevant vocabulary and their various forms/ parts of speech. Looks like i’ll be in the book store tomorrow AM…

Specifics about the Catic Hotel:

1) They don’t have an “annual English program” for their employees. It doesn’t surprise me considering the low level of English most of the staff has. The lobby managers are young, with fair English, and very interested in helping their staff improve English. Good prospect!

2) The Asst. manager of their department is a slightly older woman who speaks no English. She looks a little impatient as well. I should consider her more next time I visit!

3) Hotels in general seem to have just a couple very good English speakers. Their abilities must be considered and we should allow them to take an active role in helping the class. It’s a chance for them to shine, not for them to feel isolated.

4) Simon mentioned “hui bao” or “repayment.” The hotel really seems to want to repay me in some way. I will be more clear about what I hope to do in the future in order to quench their curiousity. Maybe I need to up the ante after the first classes of both YinDo and Catic.

5) Catic’s design and managerial aspects are much more creative and youthful. Their strong support can really be useful for the website and future tutor offerings!

6)* Over a plate of Baby Japanese Octopus, Simon discussed the hotel’s goal to have the “Best Front Office/Reception” in Zhuhai. There must be some kind of award for this. If so, find the source and advertise future “Hospitality English” training programs there.

  • Zhuhai, China & Venice in a day (
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YinDo Hotel’s Invisible Wall

Gongbei Road
Yindo Hotel in Downtown Zhuhai

March 8, 2007 – 9:30am Meeting with Zhou Laoshi. (HR department- 13 years experience)

Meeting with Zhou Laoshi was a pleasant experience this morning. I found out, ironically, that she was probably in her late 40s and rather traditional, but ready to accept me and bring me in for a few test classes ASAP! One of the most important experiences of all, though, were the moments when her boss would speak Chinese with her. This was the “invisible wall” factor that most chinese count on and 99% can trust is there.

You know, it’s the “we speak our language with the foreigners present and assume they can’t understand it” wall. For example, they had already agreed on times for me to come in next week and then the HR Manager asked about “future cooperation,” “what does he want to do with us in the near future?” “Will these classes really be free?” etc. I knew about these discussions and waited for the translated version from Zhou Laoshi. (She was very diplomatic by the way. She didn’t want to discuss the future yet, so she just simply left it out of the conversation. I respected that invisible wall and didn’t bring it up.)

YinDo Hotel Class

This was perhaps the most victorious feeling i’ve had since my stay here in China. I’m now able to (listen through that wall and) consider all of these outside ideas, projections, and queries without responding to them instead of the translator. I feel like changing my name to a number… maybe 008!

We discussed the following points, which I will remember easier in a list:

1) Major problems for teaching English with the current hotel scheduling system:
a. Entire staff on different levels. Some think the lessons are too simple, while others find them too hard. Can’t be consistent with everyone!

b. A group works together one week, at the same time. The next week there is a time change for half of them. This creates different mixes of staff in the classes, creating inconsistant groupings in class.

2) Because of the above, there is always a dropping number of students no matter what is done to counter that; It goes from MANY to A lot… to some……. to few …………to very few.

3) 600 employees, but many don’t need English. IN FACT, only 15% of the guests are Westerners. This creates less demand for English study. *MORE Korean and Japanese* Although i did argue the fact that many Asian people can’t speak Chinese either.

4) March and April are the slowest times of the year. The times when hotels do annual English Lessons to reteach the basics to everyone.
a. May- (1-7) is Golden week, a big time for chinese travellers.
b. Summer months are usually busy because of Zhuhai‘s resort status.
c. Sept./Oct.- Moon cake time (Famous in ZH) they sell “1,000 million” I guess…
d. Oct. (1) is national day, busy time.
e. Nov./Dec.- Most people get married during these months to get ready for the New Year.


So, it was a productive morning. I had coffee after the initial meeting and I got a tour. I met everyone from high-level managers to trainees. All had rather mediocre English, but i stayed positive through it all. Sometimes i showed my chinese ability, but not in front of Zhou Laoshi or her boss. I will keep that a secret the staff doesn’t leak it first!

I further learned that the foreigners in this area are mostly Korean and Japanese. This is an idea that I would like to apply to my website- a kind of teacher search portal, but more on that in the next post.


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To MBA or not to MBA, there is no question.

My Chinese friend had a notice under her username recently on MSN. It said “Master isn’t equal to smart~Give me a break!” It’s obviously a complaint she’s making to her coworkers with whom she doesn’t get along. Did her point come across? It caused me to think about the very concept of an MBA…

Maybe I have mentioned a certain colleague while here in China, I’ll just call her AC. This woman is a native of Beijing and is proud of that. She is in her late 30s and still single, which isn’t so acceptable for women of her generation. She has TWO (2, 两个) MBAs from two of the most intellectually strong contries of the world: The United States and Germany.

I have been known to express some anger towards this woman; haven’t we all had someone we can only see eye-to-toe with? Without passing too much judgement, i’ll just say that the ears you see on her head don’t really have a use. The English you hear coming out of the mouth doesn’t sound like the level of an MBA, let alone a double-MBA. The decisions coming out of the brain seem to be lacking direction, purpose, colleague support, and a certain level of organization one would expect from at least a bachelor degree holder in the West.

I know that all comes out as a kind of “judgement.” I’m not saying that she is an evil person, although we’ve had some very personal and threatening confrontations. What I AM saying, is that there is “no proof” in that woman’s “MBA-pudding.” (If you’re picking up what i’m putting down…) Sadly, it seems that an MBA is just a piece of paper, which costs a lot of green paper.

When considering the loans I took out for my B.S. in B.A., it almost sickens me to think of how much in loans I am now responsible for. It’s ok because a Bachelor’s degree is expected of a common American. I can afford this in order to stay basically competative. However, I’m not faced with the pressure to get an MBA. Somehow we (in American society) feel so impressed by the MBA that we’ll borrow, on average, over $100,000 just to finance it!We expect to have an amazingly high paying job afterwards with this great, new, more expensive piece of paper. The REAL gain, i am told, is the networking/marketing you get from the experience… ah ha!

Well, I’m in China. I can use the language to communicate with quite wealthy, non-english speakers here. Starting a company here would cost much less and the economy is only going to grow and grow… Why not loan just $10,000 and start working on something really amazing out here? I find the life more interesting than back in the US, the food is more appetizing and healthy, and the women really treat my eyes well 🙂

It’s not everyone’s solution; it’s just my personal solution and that is really what’s important for us all. We each have a “best solution” which could quite possibly rest on the shoulders of an MBA education. Ask yourself, graduates of the recent class, should you run out and get an MBA? I know, at least for me right now, there is no question. What’s best for you?

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