Guangyin si jian! [How time flies!] In Chinese, it sounds a lot less cliché.

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Dinner with Huey Fern Tay, ABC foreign correspondent.

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Bangkok is a tale of two cities. In Siam, towering shopping centres with shiny white floors and golden decorum are filled with designer brands, rich Thais and Western tourists. The locals call it “Hi-So”, which is short for “high society”. On the streets, food carts and the homeless share the hot, polluted air.

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The view from my apartment balcony. The sun rises through the smog. Photo by Ada Lee

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When I walked into work today the newest edition of the Beijing Review was waiting for me on my desk. Having learnt early on that I have to be up to date with the most recent news I began my usual Monday morning routine, flicking through the pages and skimming the week's stories. Upon reaching the final page I was surprised to see my own name under 'Expat’s Eye'. Sure enough, there was my article about the not-so-tragic story of the fading hutongs.

After taking a moment to enjoy the novelty of seeing my first Beijing Review story in print. I turned to my editor Fang Fang and asked, “You liked the hutong story?”

“Sure,” she said, eyes fixed on her computer. “It was good.”

For someone whose entire schooling success was heavily dependent on the letter that appeared in the corner of her report card, “good” didn’t sound quite so good to me.

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My first story in print. Photo by Ellen Laughton

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After travelling and exploring Seoul a little over the weekend, I was all ready to start my first day at TBS eFM. Christina Seo, who will be my supervisor for the next four weeks, asked me to come in at 2pm on Monday afternoon so I could help out with the Primetime program.

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The TBS building — TBS eFM is on the fourth floor. Photo by Joanna Chen

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People warn you about culture shock before travelling overseas. They tell you to respect customs, be safe, plan ahead. What they don't tell you is to feign right. I knew cars drove on the right side of the road in South Korea, but what comes with it is the fact that 'polite' avoidance of a pedestrian collision is made by stepping to the right. I spent my first full week in Korea thinking that the reason I felt like I was constantly trying to dodge my reflection was the busy streets, but it was because I kept stepping left when the Korean people habitually step right.

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There's watching your step on the street, and then in a freezing cold pond full of trout. Photo by Clinton Phosavhn

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In China, I am a 'foreigner', or laowai. When I first arrived in Beijing the casual application of this label made me uneasy. While I’ve come to realise that the term is not always negatively dished out, it continues to conjure up a sense of strange against familiar, foreign versus local, international divided from national. Interestingly, the permeation of 'foreignness' and its operation across social, historical, political and professional domains in China is both nuanced and complex. How foreignness is applied within these various spheres illuminates conflicting armies on the battlefield of belonging.

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Michael Chow's exhibition opened this week at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Here’s a snapshot of the work, which is characterised by another set of binaries: order and chaos, rigour and improvisation, freedom and control. Chow creates balance between these competing forces using an expressive interplay of mix media. Photo by Raveen Hunjan

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“Chinese drivers have the most freedom in the world,” my cousin-in-law joked as we wove in and out of a Shanghai street, narrowly missing a man with a tower of newspapers balanced precariously on the back of his motorbike. “People can go anywhere and everywhere they want.”

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Chinese drivers ... of ice skates at Houhai's annual winter skating rink. Photo by Christina Guo

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About the Blog

Parallax records the experiences of final year students of the B.A. (Media & Communications) degree who have won competitive overseas internships to work in Asian, Indian and Latin American media organisations.
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