Bank of China offers expanded yuan service

The Bank of China has begun offering its customers in New York City and Los Angeles services in yuan, Bloomberg reports. Services include deposit, exchange, remittance, and trade finance. Business customers may access these services in New York City and Los Angeles, while at the moment individual customers can only access these services at the New York City branch.

What does this mean for travelers? Not much, yet. If you’re one of the many English teachers in China you can send money home more easily, but that’s about it.

It’s the long-term view that’s interesting. China is obviously trying to expand the range of the yuan (also called the renminbi) beyond its borders. In fact, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said as much last year when he expressed worry over how much China’s international assets are dominated by the dollar. This move allows international trading in yuan, which is sure to attract more investment and, if it’s successful, bolster the currency’s strength. It’s already at an all-time high against the dollar. The New York branch’s general manager says the move will eventually lead to the yuan being fully exchangeable with the dollar.

This will encourage further investment in China and could lead to more foreign businesses opening up shop there. It would also make it easier for international travel businesses to have offices in China. A yuan that’s strong against the dollar, however, will make trips to China more expensive for Americans.

Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Chinese economy. More and more Chinese are traveling abroad, and with greater access and use of their currency, those numbers will only increase. The World Trade Organization says if current trends continue, China will have the largest share of the world’s tourism industry by 2020, with 8.6 percent of global revenue.

Could yuan become another international currency like the dollar and the euro? Could we see money changers accepting them in more destinations? Only time will tell.

[Photo courtesy user Polylepsis via Wikimedia Commons]

Best ESL video ever: Japanese diarrhea aerobics

Teaching English as a Second Language can be a great way to see the world. You actually get paid to be immersed in a foreign culture and spend all your time speaking with the locals!

Here in Madrid most of the Anglos I know are English teachers, but they all complain that it can sometimes be hard to engage students. That may be because they’re teaching in a traditional classroom environment, like this room full of bored Chinese students submitted by user Strudelmonkey to Gadling’s flickr pool. What not try something different to liven up the lesson?

Back in the Nineties, Fuji TV in Japan decided to break the mold, and came up with Zuiikin’ English, a combination of catchy tunes, scantily clad female exercise goddesses, and important phrases such as “I was robbed by two men” and “It’s your fault that this happened.”

By far the best is the one below, which shows you how to tell someone you’ve eaten some bad sushi and are now paying the price. Note the biologically appropriate pelvic movement.

The Internet being what it is, many of these aerobic sequences have made it onto YouTube, including ones on how to avoid sexual harassment and important phrases for surviving a mugging. It’s all very educational, but don’t expect to scare off your attackers by singing “spare me my life” while hopping up and down and smiling.

If you can read Japanese, check out Zuiikin’ English’s official website and start getting into shape!

Travel Read: Surviving Paradise

If you have any friends who’ve taught English in a foreign country, you’ve heard some sob stories–the trouble of simultaneously dealing with culture shock and a new job, the students who just don’t get it, the adverse conditions at school. . .the list is as long as there are ESL teachers.

Peter Rudiak-Gould
has them all beat.

Right after turning 21, Peter went to spend a year on Ujae, one of the more remote atolls in the remote Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands. This tiny island has a population of 450 people and he could walk around it in less than an hour. He arrived speaking virtually no Marshallese and quickly discovered his students were equally lacking in English.

So how does one teach a class of students when there is no shared language and the culture has no tradition of classroom learning?

Badly, at first. But Peter rallies quickly, and as he adapts to the culture he’s immersed in, we’re right along with him. His ability to learn the island’s subtle and alien language shows a deep intelligence and no small amount of desperation, and he shares some fun linguistic tidbits. For example, the eleven words for coconut, ranging from kwalinni (just beginning to grow on the tree) to uronni (ready to husk and drink) all the way to jokiae (turned into a sapling). There are also 159 coconut-related terms, like emmotmot, the sucking noise you make when you drink green coconuts.

There are the usual traveler-out-of-his-depth stories, some of them hilarious, and all of them teaching something about the culture rather than simply whining about discomfort and lack of modern amenities. Peter’s greatest shock was to find out he wasn’t going to be living on a tropical island paradise. No grass huts, no luxurious food, just concrete shacks, noisy children, and nightly Nintendo marathons courtesy of the local generator.

Braving shark-infested waters and falling coconuts, our hero forges ahead with his teaching. He comes to understand and respect these very different people while not being blind to their flaws, and fear for what would happen to them if sea levels rose just a few inches and ate away their island. Surviving Paradise is more than your typical traveler’s tale–it’s a look at a culture that might literally vanish beneath the waves, and also a look at Peter growing up. Perfect for the traveler or English teacher in your life.