mistersandman: How would you feel if you had to put on a really stupid hat? (RAGE)
[personal profile] mistersandman posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Next year, I'm going to be teaching English in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. I searched my local library for books on my future home, and I trawled up Shenzhen: A Travelogue by Gary Delisle. When I finally got my hands on it, I was surprised to discover it was a comic book, entirely etched in charcoal.

Intrigued, I read the book in an afternoon between classes. To say the least, it filled me with loathing.

Memoirs and autobiographies make me a little uncomfortable. I'm very bad at opening up about my life in writing, particularly writing that is intended for the public. So I feel guilty judging the authors of these works in the same way that I would judge a fictional or historical character. That said, Gary Delisle is everything that I hate about Americans abroad.. During his stay, he displays no interest in understanding the country or its people. What insight he displays is saturated condescension that often borders on contempt.

I realized I probably wouldn't enjoy this book very much when I read this early page.  Whenever he depicts Chinese people holding a conversation, he uses a random string of meaningless characters:

Yes. That is what counts for humor in Shenzhen. Delisle is supposedly well-known for Pyongyang, a similar travelogue on North Korea, but I can't imagine how it became popular if the political commentary came across in the same condescending tone:

Delisle never hesitates to tell the reader how miserable he was during his three months in China. But how could he not be miserable? He goes to the same restaurants and eats the same dish every day. His total lack of imagination or any semblance of a sense of adventure is simply appalling.

He can't be bothered to learn the name of his favorite dish or get to know his translator of three months for longer than 30 minutes, but he relishes in depicting Chinese people who attempt to communicate with him in English as annoying and simple-minded.

Christ, what an asshole.

Date: 2011-03-17 09:01 pm (UTC)
misterbug: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misterbug
Jeez. It's like the Bizzaro version of Craig Thompson's Carnet De Voyage. I must remind myself to do more and draw more next time I'm in another country.

Date: 2011-03-17 09:03 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
What an unpleasant man.

The one that always baffles me is... What's the point of travelling if you're NOT going to try the food? Seriously, you're in China, try REAL Chinese cooking for once.

I've quoted it before, I'll quote it again;

"The thing is, Adam, time travelvisiting China is like visiting Paris. You can't just read the guide book. You've got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers - or is that just me? Stop asking questions. Go and do it!" - The Doctor in "The Long Game"

If you want to see something at the other end of the spectrum, try; "The Silent Traveller visits..." by Chiang Yee. A remarkable and understated series of attempts to understand foreign countries by a Chinese gentleman, travelling in the 1930's through to the 1950's. He wrote many books and illustrated them in the Chinese style he was used to, which opens up some interesting "takes" on recognisable places.

Date: 2011-03-17 10:45 pm (UTC)
ext_3522: (Default)
From: [identity profile] minervasolo.livejournal.com
I love the Silent Traveller books. I gave the London one to a friend. He's got a wonderfully wry sense of humour, and when he's dealing with a lot of people who've never met anyone from China before trying just a little too hard (like visiting a school and realising the teacher has hung out the pre-revolution Chinese flag to welcome him) he's very gracious about it even as he pokes a little fun. The art is gorgeous too.

Date: 2011-03-18 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jlbarnett
I'm not at all familiar with this, but considering he's there working and he mentions his employer sending things to the former director of where he's working I think the point for this guy was keeping his job.

Date: 2011-03-17 09:09 pm (UTC)
mrstatham: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrstatham
I'm vaguely reminded of Karl Pilkington being sent to China in an Idiot Abroad. But he actually had reasons for being grumpy and unenthusiastic given Ricky Gervais just set him a variety of tasks and forced him to eat stuff he wasn't too keen on.

This just... Well, it seems really, really ignorant, and not in a remotely funny Karl Pilkington-being-prodded-viciously kind of way.

Date: 2011-03-17 10:38 pm (UTC)
espanolbot: (Default)
From: [personal profile] espanolbot
Well Ricky was deliberately making Karl miserable for entertainment value (making him eat toad, making him sleep in a cave (which he actually enjoyed), having him kidnapped and interrogated by pretend-terrorists in a "crisis-training" programme in Israel that Ricky didn't warn Karl about first etc. etc.).

Date: 2011-03-17 11:55 pm (UTC)
punishermax: (Default)
From: [personal profile] punishermax
I honestly love how Karl is so fucking chill during the podcasts where it consists almost entirely of him being ripped apart. He's like, Yeah I said something completely fucking dumb. Whatevs."

Date: 2011-03-18 10:15 am (UTC)
mrstatham: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrstatham
The Ricky Gervais Show should, really, be called The Karl Pilkington Show, frankly, given Gervais isn't the funniest one one on there - Even Stephen Merchant's funnier. But I do like how Karl seems to approach some things, like the riddle Ricky gives him about the two doormen in front of the doors for Heaven and Hell - By saying he's got a letter for God and it needs to be signed for.

And then there's 'Clive Warren', and Karl's attempt to better the Octopus. All genius.

Date: 2011-03-18 10:12 am (UTC)
mrstatham: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrstatham
Yeah, that was kind of my line of thinking, in a way. Ricky actively declares that there's nothing funnier than prodding Karl with a stick, and he *is* that stick, so I think Karl has every right to get pissed and be grumpy about some of the stuff Gervais sets him up for - Although that doesn't really explain Karl's bizarre perspective on some of the things he comes across. That said, I wouldn't call him racist, because he seems to try and do his best at coming across as polite, from what I remember of watching the show before Christmas.

This is entirely different, given it's someone that goes out there by choice and seems to be just picking up on every little issue and not making much of an effort himself. The way he's critical of the Chinese, even the way he draws them, feels really insulting, to me. I know it's a simplified art style, but it just seems really quite horrible to play to the usual cliched image of a Chinese person.

Oooh, I read the Pyongyang one

Date: 2011-03-17 09:12 pm (UTC)
jazzypom: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jazzypom
That seemed a bit more- well, his movements seemed to be a bit more limited. In that, if he had to go out, he couldn't go out alone, he needed a North Korean guide, and he'd meet his fellow expats at one hotel in the city centre. He didn't really come across as being an asshole in that one, in the sense that as a foreigner, he was on lock down.

Re: Oooh, I read the Pyongyang one

Date: 2011-03-18 01:38 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] omgwtflolbbqbye
Yea, his boredom and isolation in Pyongyang was mainly forced upon him by the government/chauffeurs.

I don't really know the entire context of his visit to China, but I guess I could understand the difference in traveling to a place for work rather than vacation might bring about different attitudes to the travelling.

Date: 2011-03-17 09:29 pm (UTC)
greenmask: (Default)
From: [personal profile] greenmask
He just seems really.. unhappy? Unhappily bored? Like the guys Nick Hornby writes about.

I like the art, though.

Date: 2011-03-17 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
His extreme negativity and constant sniping *does* make him seem like a bit of a dick, but he also gives me the impression that he had great difficulty communicating and connecting with other people there, leading to loneliness and a distorted perspective.

Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if he was depressed when he wrote this. Maybe he really is an unpleasant man, but it could just be a situational thing.

Date: 2011-03-17 10:14 pm (UTC)
greenmask: (Default)
From: [personal profile] greenmask
Yeah. I can think of times when I'd have sounded this gripe-y talking about where I was, because I reeeaaaally wasn't happy being where I was.

Of course, I didn't make comics about how much [redacted town] sucks, but I guess if I thought I could have made living money by doing so I might have.

Date: 2011-03-17 11:30 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
True, it might be, though as it seems to be a voluntary situation he has chosen to put himself in, one has to wonder why he'd put himself in such a situation, there's no hint it's even a sort of "Facing your fears thing".

Date: 2011-03-18 12:26 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
Well, if he was depressed it might not even be because he was in China. Could just be an incidental thing. Idk, the unreasonably negative thinking and him being too apathetic to learn basic communication or even vary his routine just suggested depression to me.

Yay. I'm becoming one of those people who see the whole world through the lens of their job...

Date: 2011-03-17 09:49 pm (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
For a guy who's apparently an animation supervisor (at least in the above scans), his figures are awfully static.

I'm assuming by "Spirou" he means the magazines, rather than the graphic novels with the title character. Seems like it, in any case, although his criticism of it when sandwiched among the other stuff becomes highly suspect.

Date: 2011-03-17 09:56 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Just wanting to show how "edgy" he is by dissing Spirou perhaps?

Date: 2011-03-18 04:28 am (UTC)
meatwhichdreams: (Default)
From: [personal profile] meatwhichdreams
...I don't think he's very interested in being "edgy." I think that's how he really feels about whatever issue he's reading. I think his main fault is banging on about his own feelings and perspective on things - "oh, comics were so much more FUN to read when I was a kid, reading them as an adult is disappointing, god this is so depressing, why can't I enjoy them with the same childhood glee?" - while oblivious to the broader context of his comments - "the Chinese are culturally outdated and their sense of humor sucks compared to our worldly Western ways!"

I think that second part, for what it matters, is not what he intends to say. Of course, intent is not by any means whatsoever the last world in cultural awareness.

Date: 2011-03-17 09:58 pm (UTC)
aaron_bourque: default (Default)
From: [personal profile] aaron_bourque
. . . why would you go to another country and not try to experience the country, the culture, ANYTHING? I can understand him being a bit gloomy if it wasn't by choice and that he has to be there for work, but jeez, make the most of it! YOU ARE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY FOR CHRIST SAKES WHAT THE HELL.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; also, misread the name as "Grey Delisle" at first, which caused a double-take. I would much rather read a Grey Delisle-penned travelogue that this.

Date: 2011-03-17 09:58 pm (UTC)
twomasks: BWayne (Default)
From: [personal profile] twomasks
Wow. One of my good friends is in Shenzen now teaching English and he's never described it as being this way. What a narrow view of the world this author has.

Date: 2011-03-17 10:36 pm (UTC)
baihu: (LOL)
From: [personal profile] baihu
Xenophobic asscunt. If he was in Singapore, where we pretty much all speak English and our Mother Tongue, I doubt still he'll have any friends at all with his pathetic attitude. It's not the country's fault it doesn't cater to his comfort, gawd!

Date: 2011-03-17 11:18 pm (UTC)
gargoylekitty: (brutus)
From: [personal profile] gargoylekitty
I read his one in North Korea and yes, he definitely seems like a douchebag. There he did pretty much the same thing, mocking the people.

I mean, the food thing? I'm vegan and even I ate out a bit while in China and had/learned to order a variety of things.

That aside, good luck! I was only ever in Shenzhen long enough to catch a train, stayed in Guangzhou and Shanghai and took trips to Hong Kong and Beijing, but from this guy I met who lived there, it seems nice enough(well, he said 'cleaner and nicer than Guangzhou' and I liked Guangzhou).

Date: 2011-03-17 11:27 pm (UTC)
turtlefu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] turtlefu
That's really interesting that you're going to teach English in China! It's been a dream of mine to teach English abroad someday.
I'm really curious how you came across this opportunity! Do you have previous experience teaching English as a Foreign Language?

Date: 2011-03-18 08:00 am (UTC)
damianwayne: (Default)
From: [personal profile] damianwayne
I'd recommend at least a little reading on childhood psyche if you've never taught. Those TEFL courses only teach their recommended structure, which isn't adept for handling all of the different kinds of schools you'll likely be at during your stay. Then again if you stick with the same government school, maybe you'll be fine. Just never hurts, you know?

I've been teaching here in Taiwan for 3 years, but I mostly freelance for privates.

By the by, it's not just you - the guy above is a pompous ass. Granted, there are humorous observations to be made about life here, but most of them good natured and quirky. "I don't speak this crazy ching chong langauge! WTF?" isn't one of them.

Date: 2011-03-17 11:32 pm (UTC)
minyandu: "I made this!" (Default)
From: [personal profile] minyandu
He may not be the only one really. When I was in university, the campus was far away from down town and pretty much a boring hell. I did witness one of the foreign teacher just dragged her case and left without proper resignation.
For her there was no real life there because lacking of fashion, entertainment and students all shy away from them. Some dealt with this by trying to communicate with students more and suceeded, like the Japanese old lady, some just left.

Date: 2011-03-17 11:36 pm (UTC)
toby_wan_kenobi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] toby_wan_kenobi
You know he's French Canadian and not American, right?

(Yes, I am assuming that American = US citizen here.)

Also, as an American living abroad, I resent being lumped in with him.

Date: 2011-03-18 01:40 am (UTC)
richardak: (Default)
From: [personal profile] richardak
I agree. I think it's interesting that the OP saw "obnoxious expat" and immediately assumed he was an American.

Also, the author's name is Guy, not Gary.

Date: 2011-03-18 01:50 am (UTC)
greenmask: (grr)
From: [personal profile] greenmask
I should think it is the latter! Try not to be, yes?

Date: 2011-03-17 11:57 pm (UTC)
punishermax: (Default)
From: [personal profile] punishermax
In all honesty, on the food level at least I can sort of see him to a point. I'm kinda picky with food, I literally will not eat onions, fuck em, so going to new places kinda weirds me out but for fucks sakes, if you go t China for three months and literally eat only one food you are acting like a 5 year old.

It's like, if I went on down to New Orleans, I'd be a little worried about eating gumbo and stuff because, being from the East U.S., I ain't used to spicy shit, but I'd at least fucking try it.

God what a total toolbox.

Also I read your whole post as being written by Spades Slick.

Date: 2011-03-18 12:15 am (UTC)
cygna_hime: Unretouched and unedited I swear to god. (Zounds!)
From: [personal profile] cygna_hime
Wow. So, I have this urge to be sympathetic, because I've spent months in a foreign country feeling slowly crushed under my own social incompetence, but he ruins my sympathy with his laziness. He doesn't seem nervous, or shy, just sulky. Important difference. (And seriously, same thing every day in a restaurant? Why would you even do that? If you want to eat the same thing every day, learn to cook it, you lazy fuck!)

Date: 2011-03-18 12:49 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
The North Korea and Burma volumes were much better - he's still a douche and Professional Foreigner but there's a lot more interaction with locals, more attempts to discover what's going on in people's lives though still little attempt to learn the language. "Travelogue" is a very misleading description.

Date: 2011-03-18 04:19 am (UTC)
meatwhichdreams: (Default)
From: [personal profile] meatwhichdreams
Yeah, I've read all three of his "travelogues" and I preferred the other two, I think. I think I attributed most of his douchy behavior to the stress and isolation of working in a very alien foreign country where your movements are extremely restricted. I value his books as a rare window on countries we rarely hear about in the West other than "SCARY DICTATORS COMMUNISM NUKULAR WEAPONS" although I know you can't really take them as any more than a kinda grumpy guy's diaries. Professional Foreigner is a great way to put it.

Pyongyang in particular was very difficult to read because of the helplessness he felt there radiating off the page - I felt like he had so much sympathy for the people he met, yet he was constantly gripped by this muted horror that he could do nothing to help them. I can see from these isolated scans that he does indeed act culturally insensitive, but that sympathy is there.

Date: 2011-03-18 01:53 am (UTC)
radioactivepiss: Kate Kane and Renee Montoya looking at each other ([Kate/Renee] stare)
From: [personal profile] radioactivepiss
Wow, this... really is very unpleasant to say the least. I actually feel kind of dirty having read it. The whole thing just feels so othering and just plain weird.

Date: 2011-03-18 06:07 am (UTC)
khamelea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] khamelea
So the interests he associates with "being a kid" is basically just burning stuff down?



Date: 2011-03-18 08:16 am (UTC)
feyandstrange: too stupid, didn't read. (ts;dr)
From: [personal profile] feyandstrange
I need to go wash this off and read the best closest antidote in the house, namely John Lennon's doodles wherein he tries to learn some Japanese. Then I'm going to go to sleep and dream that someone has done an awesome comic-art adaptation graphic novel of "Down and Out in Paris and London" or Twain's "Roughing It".

Date: 2011-03-19 04:14 am (UTC)
dalf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dalf
I've read his three books (This one, the one in N. Korea and the one in Birmania).

It's actually pretty funny when you read them one after another. In the last one, he's married and has a kid with a woman that works in Doctors whitout borders. And he's a lot more likeable in that last book. I think it's because he was travelling with his family, so he had another perception of his journey.

SPOILER WARNING!: On his final days living in Birmania he went to a bhuddist monastery and stayed there for a couple days. After leaving, he says "Why the hell didn't I do this before? I'm an idiot!". That's when I actually realized how much he has changed from his first book. Maybe his family life had something to do with that, I dunno.

Remember to never take these kinds of works that seriously, these are just the impressions of a singular individual (that yes, was going through a depression at the time, if I recall correctly).

Good luck in China! :)

Date: 2011-03-19 04:17 am (UTC)
dalf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dalf
I've read his three books (This one, the one in N. Korea and the one in Birmania).

It's actually pretty funny when you read them one after another. In the last one, he's married and has a kid with a woman that works in Doctors Without Borders. And he's a lot more likeable in that last book. I think it's because he was traveling with his family, so he had another perception of his journey.

SPOILER WARNING!: On his final days living in Birmania he went to a buddhist monastery and stayed there for a couple days. After leaving, he says "Why the hell didn't I do this before? I'm an idiot!". That's when I actually realized how much he has changed from his first book. Maybe his family life had something to do with that, I dunno.

Remember to never take these kinds of works that seriously, these are just the impressions of a singular individual (that yes, was going through a depression at the time, if I recall correctly).

If you can, read the other two books, even if you pick them from the library or from a *gasp!* .cbr! They're interesting too, and as I said, the tone changes a lot.

Good luck in China! :)

Date: 2011-03-21 12:25 am (UTC)
clemon: two circles and a triangle (Default)
From: [personal profile] clemon
Somewhat late reply:

I actually really liked this book. Guy seemed to be there for his job, and his take on the culture was mostly for comedy. To my memory, he never states that China is worst or better than where he's from. It was all just a personal account of a culture that is somewhat different by a traveler who did not especially want to go and he ho-hum observations and interactions.

He actually is more condescending (and less "humourous") in North Korea as he "subtlety" questions the peoples' beliefs.

Yep. Your mileage may vary.


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