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The Man in China Archives

October 1,  2007 to December 29,  2007

 
     
   
 

December 29,  2007 新年快乐  Happy New Year Everybody The Emperor Walks

     Those of you who have been paying attention will no doubt have noticed that the background for many of the pictures on this site is my Beijing Opera robe (Scroll down to Jack and Jill's pictures if my point isn't clear).  I bought this magnificent piece of costuming in Guangzhou two years ago,  and it's become an essential part of our living room decor.  But every once in a while it seems the emperor must climb down from our wall and walk among the living. 

Chinese opera onstage at Jiangnan University Jiangnan University Christmas concert audience The emperor's robe on the performer,  with Da Dawei.

      The Emperor on stage.

A more than capacity crowd

大大卫 and the young Emperor backstage.

     This happened on Halloween.   As a result,  the robe was noticed and tonight it appeared in a wonderful opera performance on stage in the Science Hall auditorium.  Come to think of it,  the Emperor should be home by now.  I was promised that he would be returned before curfew this evening.  I think it may be time to phone the students who borrowed it.

Dancers in performance at Jiangnan University.  Love this picture.  Love the light.  Love the way my ey flows from one form to another in a big circle.  Best picture I ever took.

     The Beijing Opera performance was excellent,  as were the traditional instrument orchestra,  the dancers,  and all the other amazing displays of talent.  This is such an interesting and exciting place to live and work.

December 26,  Boxing Day - Money out in the Morning,  Money in at Night.

  (chn bi - Jill) and her boyfriend 英杰  (yǐn yīng ji -Jack ) came by this evening to drop off 100 yuan, the addition they had promised to our bursary fund !!!  What a delight to see them,  and to know that there are young people like them in this world.

英杰 and taste Scottish  shortbread and sherry on Boxing Day

Jack is planning to spend a month at the Shaolin temple during the Spring break,  studying traditional martial arts.  Jill will head home to Yangzhou to spend time with her family.  We're looking forward to seeing them both next term.

December 26,  Boxing Day and our First Bursary Recipient

We had a wonderful Christmas Day dinner in a new restaurant on campus.  Our thanks to the Jiangnan University administration for laying out such a feast.  Everybody had a great time,  and we even got in some Christmas carol singing,  including making it all the way through "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

radish table sculpture,  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

faculty Christmas feast Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Delicious food,  elegantly served.

Ruth at our table.  That's my glass of wine center stage.

     Dinner was followed by a decadent sherry and shortbread gathering of a few friends at our apartment,  with GouGou feasting on a lamb bone I salvaged from our restaurant table.  Happy dog.  So another Christmas fades quietly into history and is already nothing but a pleasant memory.  This morning,  our first bursary recipient came by to pick up 300 yuan,  which will pay the fee for an Oral English test and repay a loan from a friend.  This is ahead of our announced and intended notification date of New Years Day,  but there was a deadline on the test fee so we made an exception and committed a bit early.

December 26,  2007 Misunderstandings Caused by the Language Problem

One of my great fears here is that I will say something in class that will get misunderstood,  misinterpreted,  or taken as criticism of my host or host country.  I received this email a couple of days ago:

Dear David,

Merry Christmas!
I attended your class again last afternoon and I appreciated your kindness for offering to help some students in poor economic condition.
Still I wonder that why you talked about something like"In China ,things like husbands beatting their wives are very common",I don't think it's the condition in China nowadays,I checked some news reports on the Internet and found that "family violence" takes about 20% to 25% among all the families in China. So it's not as sreious as you think ,let alone it's not a problem exists merely in China.
I really think your kind of view is not appropriate and not consistent with the true fact.

Jeniffer

My Response:

Dear Jeniffer:

Ah me, I'm afraid the language problem has cause you to misunderstand what I said. I have no idea how many husbands beat their wives in China, or how many wives beat their husbands. I WASN'T saying that I think there is a lot of family violence in China. Not at all.

I was talking about, and giving an example of, "soft" numbers (numbers which we can't know exactly) and how difficult it is to get "hard" numbers for some things SUCH AS the number of wives in China who are beaten by their husbands, OR the number of husbands who are beaten by their wives. Such numbers can only be guessed at, because
neither the wives nor the husbands will tell the truth even if somebody takes the time, trouble, and expense of asking them. Police or hospital statistics don't really give us exact numbers, because so much family violence is unreported. So our numbers are necessarily "soft".

There are many other "hard numbers" which are difficult to get. For example, how many people in Canada cheat on their taxes? We only know about the ones who get caught, not the actual number of cheaters because those who cheat and don't get caught don't tell anybody, and won't admit it to anybody who asks. So any statement about the actual number of cheaters is a "soft" number, an estimate or educated guess.
Another example: How many homosexuals are there in Iran, where a homosexual may face a penalty of death by stoning? This number can be only an estimate, because homosexuals in Iran have very good reasons to keep their sexual orientation secret.

I hope this clears up the confusion, and I am sorry if I offended you. But please believe that I meant no offence, and do not hold the opinion you ascribe to me.

I am happy that you are paying attention in my class, and that something I said caused you to check up on the facts. This is a very encouraging sign, and I think you are a very good student.

Warmest regards and Merry Christmas

David

 

     Jeniffer responded with advice that I should watch what I say in class.  Good advice,  but not particularly helpful.  Communication between languages and cultures is always perilous.  No matter how careful I am with my words,  they can always be misunderstood by a non-English speaker.  It's impossible to stick to bland and harmless subjects in a class teaching news reading.

                                                       圣诞快乐 Merry Christmas Everybody
 December 23,  2007  The Best Christmas Ever

Yesterday,  Ruth and I joined the wonderful Christmas concert program and performed a Chinese song for an audience of at least a thousand students and faculty.  It was a delight to be part of such a professionally produced show,  and though we had to wait until the end for our turn to perform,  this was no hardship.  All of the performances were wonderful.

Tibetan dancers in performance Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Christmas concert MC's Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

David Scott and Ruth Anderson in performance at Jiangnan University
Tibetan dancers adding colour Everything about this program was top drawer,  from the singing and dancing to the technical support. Our friend Wang Tao at the mike doing a great job as one of the MC's.  That's Sophia,  his girlfriend (and our friend)  next to him. The Waiguo Ren sing Tong Nian,  a very evocative song about childhood.
click here for lyrics

This isn't why I'm calling this the best Christmas ever.  I've had a couple of emails that have just made me feel so loved,  it's hard to go public with all this emotion.  Here's one from one of my Special Class for Non-English Majors students (I've removed the names because,  though I don't mind a public life,  I shouldn't impose it on others without permission):

Dear David:
Merry Christmas!
I regret that our classes have already been over .though i speak little in your classes, but i like you very much, you are tolerant, kind ,energetic and you are not critical. lol
Please don't be disappointed at the few responsese from us students. And i believe you never will, because you've done so much, and you're still going on. I'm sad to say that Chinese people always like this. but i believe that everyone desires changes and passion in their hearts. Maybe you can help us a little. My boyfriend and I want to give away 100 yuan to your bursary, but he is working out now. And he won't come back until tomorrow.
we all love you ,David.
(name removed pending permission)

And here's my response:

Dear (name removed):

I am very moved by your message and all your kind words. It's people like you and your boyfriend who make me feel like I can never leave China.

I'll put an announcement on my website about your intention to contribute to our bursary fund. You are so generous, and maybe it will be the beginning of something. There are many students here who come from quite wealthy families, and who don't have any problem with spending thousands of yuan on a fancy new mobile phone when the one they have is perfectly usable. Maybe some of them will follow your example. Maybe some of the other foreign teachers will follow our example. Maybe the bursary fund could grow into something really significant. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Don't worry about me getting discouraged by the lack of response from some of the students in class. I feel I am of some value just by giving them a chance to hear a native speaker, and the students who do respond, like you and your boyfriend, are well worth any effort I'm putting out. I love being here. I feel like I am surrounded by the leaders of the future, and who knows what my students will become in ten or twenty years.
If you love me, please know that I love you back. All of you.

Merry Christmas

David

So there you have it.  Our bursary fund has gone from 4000 yuan to 4100.  If anybody out there wants to follow the example set by these two students,  you are welcome to contribute to our bursary fund.  We're going to keep receipts,  and will be able to give anybody who contributes a proper accounting of how money is spent.

That was one email that put a warm Christmas glow in my heart.  The other was from my son,  Casey.  I had sent Casey some money by Interac bank transfer as a Christmas present.  He declined to accept it,  saying he'd like me to hang on to the money and use it to buy a plane ticket so that I could go sailing with him.  I wrote back to say that I'd leave the money hanging for a while in case he changed his mind.  Today I got this email from him:

Well I'm not going to lie to you. I have ten bucks to last me until next pay day, and my credit is (expletive deleted). But money is nothing and the things I require are not as important as having my father come for a sail with me. So I would like you to put it away and spend it on visiting me.
much love.

And my reply:

Dear Casey:

This note from you is the best Christmas present I have ever received.

Now, here's the thing: I'm planning to come home this summer with or without this money. I don't get any time off to come home before the summer, so it's not like having this money will get me there any
earlier. If sailing with my son in is in my future, it's going to happen whether you take this money or not.
Right now I have everything I need. I should be able to put away some more money before the summer, so..... Please take the money. Spend it on something your boat needs, and don't tell me your boat doesn't need anything. A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money. Here's some money to throw into it. Make it just a bit more seaworthy, so that when I come home this summer we can have a good, relaxing time on it. Or just spend the money foolishly on something that makes you feel good. Or maybe spend it on food or something.

And if you want to give me something for Christmas, borrow a digital camera and send me some pictures of your boat, your fish farm, and your life. Tell me about your boat.

I miss Deva (Casey knows this refers to a fifty foot yacht I used to own -
大大卫 ) a lot. It's great to know there's somebody in the family who owns a boat.

Merry Christmas

Love

Your Dad in Wuxi,  China

P.S. - I'd have to pay the bank five bucks to put that money back in my account and that annoys me.  
          So take the money, okay.

 

See what I mean?  The best Christmas ever.

December 21,  2007  We hope 2008 brings you joy beyond your wildest dreams.  

     We're getting a few applications for our bursary fund,  though not as many as I expected.  Requests have ranged from a small amount of money to purchase a blood pressure monitor for a student's father,  to larger sums to allow study in Shanghai during the Spring holiday.  Decisions will not be easy,  but Ruth commented this evening that this is giving us more pleasure  than we ever could get by buying each other Christmas presents we don't really want or need. 
New: deadline for bursary application -  Sunday,  December 30. Successful applicants will be notified on New Years Day.

December 18,  2007 Christmas in China and a Bursary Offer

     Last night we put up our little fake tree and strung our lights.  I was flooded with memories of Christmases past;  classic Dickensian childhood Christmas with my mother mixing the Christmas pudding,  gifts from grandparents now long departed, Christmas with my own children,  Christmas lights,   midnight services, white Christmases and rainy Christmases, all coming to mind like a movie montage of fast dissolves. 

The emperor robe and mask wall hanging

     Ah, the sweet pain of nostalgia. Then we settled back with some Harvey's Sherry for me, some Bailey's for Ruth,  and some shortbread cookies for both of us to contemplate the fast approach of our fourth Christmas together in China.  A comfortable contentment settled over us both.
     Ruth suggested some days ago that we have enough "stuff" and don't really need anything.  This year rather than exchange gifts we should do something different.  Between us we came up with the idea of offering a bursary to Jiangnan University students.  So we have each kicked in 2000 yuan and it's up for grabs.      

 

4100 RMB Bursary* Offer

We know that many of the students here have families that are not wealthy,  and parents who are sacrificing to give their son or daughter a university education. If you are a Jiangnan University student, send an email to David@themaninChina.com with "bursary" in the subject line and tell us (in 200 words or less) why you, or someone you know, needs some money.  Let us know what a little bit of money will do.  (Please don't forget to put your name in both Chinese characters and pinyin and your student number in your email.)

Deadline for application -  Sunday,  December 30, 2007
Successful applicants will be notified Jan 1, 2008

*An English explanation is in order here.  A bursary is different from a scholarship.  The latter is awarded to the student with the highest marks,  the former to a student who has a demonstrated need or record of exceptional service, although that student's marks may be just average.

     I expect this will be rather painful to administer,  but we do want to express our gratitude and thanks to China,  to this university,  and to the wonderful students here.  So,  please,  feel free to apply if you are a Jiangnan University student.  If there are a lot of applicants,  four thousand yuan won't go very far.  So you can expect to be turned down.  But you never know.  Applications will be kept confidential and successful applicants will not be publicly identified,  so don't worry about embarrassing yourself or your family.

December 17,  2007 Life in China Tip Number 2

If you live in China,  the chances are your apartment will have concrete walls.  How do you hang anything,  or attach anything to a concrete wall?   Forget glues and tapes.  They won't stick to the paint well enough,  and if they do the paint won't stick to the wall well enough.  Click here to find out how to deal with the problem.

December 17, 2007  Just Back from a Weekend in Shanghai

The entire campus had electricity shut down from five in the morning to five in the evening on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.  It seemed like a good time to get out of town.  So we left our friend Jenny in charge of apartment and dog,  and took off for a weekend in Shanghai to visit former students from Weihai,  Simon and L Min.  They graduated from HIT in Weihai and now work in the big city.

   
 

Simon and L Min,  former students from Weihai now living in Shanghai

 

Ruth waited in line at the campus ticket office to buy tickets on the 2:02pm fast train.   We called Ms. Chen and arranged for her to pick us up at 12:45pm at our apartment.  But she arrived at 12:00,  just as we were serving our lunch,  with another student who had a ticket for the 1:05 train.  So I sent her off with a promise to return for us at one thirty.  That would be cutting it a bit tight,  but I figured we'd make it okay,  provided Chen wasn't delayed in rush hour traffic.  So we had an extra forty five minutes at home,  and were waiting for Chen when she pulled up at our apartment gates at about twenty eight minutes past one.  The ride to the train station was a bit tense,  but we got there with five minutes to spare and made it to the platform before the train pulled in.  Then it was another smooth as silk ride to Shanghai,  arriving at three ten.  From our apartment door to the Shanghai train station in less than two hours.  Not bad.

Life in China Tip Number 1:  Cabs Waiting at Train Stations in China Overcharge
The solution to this problem is to go out on the street,  sometimes a block or two away,  and flag down a cab.  L Min had told us that they live close to the train station in Shanghai,  about twenty yuan away by taxi.  But as usual,  the train station taxis were trying to gouge the foreigners.  The first offered to take us for a hundred yuan.  I laughed at him and moved on,  and was soon offered a ride by another cabbie for eighty.  I told him to just turn on his meter,  and he said his meter was 坏了 (hui le - broken).  Sure.  It took us ten minutes on the street to flag a cab with a driver who would use his meter,  and then the fare was 17 yuan.  It always seems to be this way at a train station.

Shanghai apartment complex   Christmas in a Shanghai department store

Simon and L  Min at the gates to their apartment complex.  It's hard to capture the density of Shanghai housing in a photograph

 

Christmas in the expensive department store.  More westernized than the west.

We had a great weekend with Simon and L Min.  Saturday we spent in the ancient tourist market of Yu Yuan,  Saturday night we took in a Chinese movie with English subtitles,  and Sunday morning we paid a visit to the art gallery district.  Shanghai sure has a lot of galleries and artists,  with the full range of styles from realism to abstract,  from what I call "lawyer's office art" to hard edged social statement.  A feast for the eyes and an overload for the brain.

woks for sale on the streets of Shanghai

tying live crabs on the streets of Shanghai

Shanghai to Nanjing fast train speed indicating 249 km/hr

Wok sales on the streets of Shanghai

She's tieing live crabs for the fish market

249 km/hr and I'm standing in the aisle to take the picture.  More like a plane than a train.

December 12, 2007  Party Tricks

I am both left handed and left eyed.  (To quickly and easily test your eye dominance,  click here.)  I do just about everything left handed,  unless the tool or instrument makes that difficult,  in which case I am fairly ambidextrous.  For example,  I play guitar right handed and have never had a problem with Travis picking.  But I shoot a rifle or pistol left handed (which means that the shell casings from an automatic fly into my face),  use chopsticks left handed,  and write with my left hand.
     Some years ago I was talking on the telephone,  holding the receiver in my left hand,  and I started to doodle on the notepad beside the phone with the pen in my right hand.  I realized that it would have been very easy for me to learn to write with my right hand,  and with this realization came a rather shocking thought and a flood of emotion.  The thought was:  And then I'd be normal.  Up to that point I hadn't realized how much being left handed has made me feel like an oddball,  an outsider,  a weirdo.  I didn't even realize that I felt that way.  But all my life people have remarked on my left handedness,  and I suppose this is one of the things that made me feel....  different from everybody else.  (Please don't get the idea that this is still an issue with me.  I'm quite happy to be left handed,  and certainly don't mind feeling a bit.... special.  Okay,  I admit it.  I feel special. )
     When I came to China I saw that virtually all the Chinese write with their right hand.  They also use chopsticks in their right hand,  but I don't think this is as invariable as the writing.  Those Chinese who are naturally left handed were "corrected" in school,  just as I would have been if I had been born a few years earlier.  Writing Chinese characters with the right hand may be more important than for English,  because each stroke has an order and a direction,  especially when written with a brush.  But in any event,  all the Chinese seem to write right handed.  I decided that I would learn to write Chinese characters right handed as well.

can you spell ambidextrous

     Now during our Chinese classes,  I work with a pen in both hands.  I write the Chinese characters with my right hand and the English with my left.  If I can someday learn to do both at the same time,  it will make a great party trick.

ambidextrous chopstick party trick

     I already have a party trick of this kind - I eat peanuts with chopsticks in each hand,  alternating to bring each peanut to my mouth.  It looks pretty silly,  but it got a good double-take from our waitress.  Certainly not as impressive as simultaneous writing would be.

December 8, 2007 Here comes the 评委 (png wěi - judge)

Once again we were invited to judge an English speaking contest,  this one sponsored by the Bank of Communications for their employees.  It is always amazing to us how well the Chinese have mastered English,  and how much beauty and talent they can put into a show like this one.  Most of the contestants were not English majors in university.

speech contest winners the Bank of Communications,  Wuxi,  China.   David Scott meets Bank of Communications President Mr. He Guo Hong   speech contest talent show Bank of Commuinications,  Wuxi,  China

The winners get their red envelopes.

 

David meets Bank President
Mr. He Guo Hong

   Ample beauty and talent.

The speaking contest was an all day event.  Thirty contestants in six teams,  five contestants per team,  took turns performing in five separate events - Cross Introduction (each introducing another member of their team), answering question to do with banking (they were all bank employees), "look and say" (they had one minute to prepare,  and then talked about a picture with a couple of prompts), a team debate,  and finally a team talent show which featured each contestant in turn.  The planning,  organization,  and preparation rehearsal for this event was truly awe inspiring.

The toughest part of judging this kind of event is deciding who,  among thirty amazing contestants,  really is the best.  We were thankful to be part of a panel of judges.  It would be far too much responsibility for one or two foreigners to handle. In all it was a very enjoyable show,  with a convivial group of interesting people,  a delicious lunch,  and a generous payment for our time.  We felt honoured to be invited.

Since the Speaking Contest took us downtown we ended the day with a bit of wandering around the Wuxi core.  Our favourite Wuxi Pai Gu (special Wuxi style ribs) restaurant was still closed for renovations,  and I begin to wonder whether it will ever open again.  But since it was the one day of the week when we allow ourselves to eat unhealthy food,  we found the Ronnie's Australian Bar and had steak and kidney pie for dinner,  washed down with Bacardi Breezers.  It was too early for the usual bar patrons,  so we were alone in the place and could get the angry screaming hard rock music turned off.  A great end to a great day.

Special thanks to Elaine again for letting our puppy out for a mid-day bathroom break.  We couldn't enjoy this kind of a day without the support of friends like her,  and we appreciate it.

December 7, 2007 国人(wi gu rn - foreigner)  饺子 (jiǎo zi - meat filled
                             dumplings)
 Making Party

     Jiaozi are the ubiquitous national food of China. During the National Day holiday week the students invited us to one of the cafeterias to participate in a jiaozi making party,  where we learned how to roll the dough for the shells.  That lead to the decision to make jiaozi ourselves.  From scratch.  At home.  With no Chinese supervision.  This is really working without a safety net, but I searched out a jiaozi recipe for the filling,  picked up all the ingredients at the village market, minced a couple of pounds of pork with the butcher knife while Ruth chopped cabbage,  and mixed up the dough.  We invited a few of our fellow teachers to come over and help us roll and fill the shells.

jiaozi filling Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China Ruth Anderson prepares jiaozi filling Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China jiaozi making party Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China rolling jiaozi shell Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China filling jiaozi shell Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

The filling mixture

  Ruth chopping cabbage

Rolling the shells

This is easy!

Slap on the filling.

 

Jiaozi dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup ice cold water (as needed)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1 cup minced  pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
3 tablespoons soybean oil
1/2 green onion, finely minced
1 1/2 cup finely shredded Chinese cabbage
4 tablespoons shredded bamboo shoots
2 slices fresh ginger, finely minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced

a pot of jiaoz ready to serve

Directions:

The dough is dead simple.  Stir the salt into the flour. Add as much water as is necessary to form a smooth dough. Knead the dough until it is uniform and soft but not sticky.  Form it into a ball and cover. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling ingredients. Add the soy sauce, salt, sherry and white pepper to the meat. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Divide the dough into 60 pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle about 3-inches in diameter. Place a small portion (about 1 level tablespoon) of the filling into the middle of a wrapper. Wet the edges with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal.

To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and dump in the jiaozi.  They will sink to the bottom.  When they float,  they are done,  but I gave them a few extra minutes because,  after all, we are talking pork here.

And the result?  The waiguo ren jiaozi looked and tasted totally authentic.  They certainly did disappear in a hurry once they were served.  We declared our jiaozi party a complete success.

December 5,  2007 Maiden Voyage of  舟舟 (ZhōuZhou - Boatboat)

(舟舟 ZhōuZhou = Boatboat, a name to match with 狗狗 GǒuGou = Dogdog)

     After Ruth's morning class we tossed the bag-o'-boat into the trike/truck and were off on an adventure: Destination GouGou's Island.  As you can see from the picture below,  I couldn't have planned a better match for the boat and the trike.  Ruth's comment was that this is the American suburban clich,  the truck and the boat, China style.

inflatable boat packed into 3 wheeled tricycle truck Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

inflating the dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

floorboards into the dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

A perfect fit.

Unpacked.

Floor going in.

inflating the dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China seat into dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China about to carry dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China
Inflation isn't always bad. Seat on. Stand it up
carrying dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

carrying dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

dingy into canal Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China
Find the balance. Hey,  Canadians. 
Remember Mr. Canoehead?
A bit slippery near the water.
dingy into canal Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China dingy floating in canal Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China dingy floating in canal Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China
A turn and a toss All it takes Just that easy.

Yesterday Ruth went on a scout and found our launch site,  across the road from the number one teaching building parking lot.  Easy access to both road and water.

Ruth Anderson and GouGou in dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China dingy dog Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

island picnic Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

GouGou Chinese dog investigates shoreline Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

We've named this GouGou's Island.  It's unofficial of course,  at least for the time being.

Ruth Anderson picks up litter Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

A bit of garbage picking before we leave GouGou's Island.  I've long held the opinion that there are only three kinds of people in this world - those who drop garbage,  those who ignore garbage,  and those who pick up garbage.  I'm really happy to have a girlfriend who is a member of the last group.

Ruth Anderson paddles dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China David Scott paddles dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Safe, with the bright new lifejacket,  and oh so nautical.

Are we having fun yet?  You bet.

December 3,  2007 My Ship Comes In

     I've been telling the students that I bought a yacht (which gives me a great chance to expound on the silliness of a language that throws in extra letters with no associated sound)  but that is a slight exaggeration.   Okay,  it's a big exaggeration.  More correctly it would be called an inflatable dingy,  the one pictured below to be exact.

new inflatable dingy Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

     The purchase of this lovely little craft was arranged by my friend Thomas Cupples,  who has a direct connection to the factory in Weihai.  It cost me 2,380 RMB which is about $230 Canadian,  and comes complete with oars,  foot pump,  patch kit, floor boards,  seat,  painter (rope for tying to the dock), two life jackets, and carrying bag.  The factory shipped it on Friday,  last week,  and it arrived at ten this morning,  Monday.  The nice young men from the postal service carried it right up our stairs and set it down in our living room. 
     I didn't really know what to expect,  since I was buying this boat sight unseen,  and I'm absolutely delighted with the design,  construction,  fittings, packing, and overall quality.  The only question remaining is just how tough the PVC cloth it's made from is,  compared to the Hypalon rubber boat I used to own back when I actually was a yachty. That one was powered by a twelve horse motor,  and would really get up on its back legs and scoot.  And it was tough enough for dragging over rocks and bashing into waves.  This dingy looks just as tough.  I'm not expecting to give it any hard use,   and may never put a motor on it.  So I'm pretty sure it will stand up just fine.
     I was also a bit worried about the life jackets,  expecting them to be far too small for me,  and probably too small for Ruth too.  But they turn out to be a reasonable fit,  and the most impressive life jackets I've ever owned,  with lots of zippered pockets.  All in all a wonderful package.  Now all I need is some warm weather and a place to test it all out.

December 1,  2007  Thoughts on Language

     In English we have words that seem to have been invented by a marketing department committee.  Take the word "kaleidoscope" for example.  What do the components of that word mean?  Obviously "scope" is something you look through,  like a microscope or a telescope.  But "kaleido"?  That sounds totally made up.

Here's what the net has to say about it:  http://www.4physics.com/phy_demo/kaleidoscope/kaleidoscope-0.html

The kaleidoscope was invented in 1816 by Sir David Brewster, a Scottish physicist and Christian minister. The origin of the word kaleidoscope speaks to the splendid images. Kaleidoscope finds its roots in the Greek word kalos meaning "beautiful", the Indo-european eidos that means "form", and scope that is Greek for "to see".

Kaleidoscopes are made with two or more mirrors. Light reflecting between these mirrors produces multiple virtual images of stunning beauty.

     So there you have it.  I sure do love the Internet.  The word WAS totally made up for marketing purposes and, presumably because the toy was invented by a physicist,  the new name was intended to sound scientific,  hence the "scope" suffix.

     Last week I discovered the Chinese word for kaleidoscope - 万花筒 (wn huā tǒng) Which translates literally as "ten thousand flower tube".  Now,  isn't this a more evocative name than "kaleidoscope"?

     Teaching English has made me pay a lot more attention to language,  both the Chinese and my own.  Also this past week I bumped into the verb phrase "fully fathom",  and realized that this is from our English island nation marine heritage.  A fathom is a measure of distance,  specifically depth of water,  equal to six feet (1.8288 meters). If you fathom something,  you have come to appreciate its depth.  Another hidden metaphor in our language.
Of course,  once I started talking about units of measure,  I had to explain about feet and inches, since my students have grown up using the metric system.  Twelve inches to the foot, three feet to the yard,  six feet to the fathom,  sixteen and a half feet to the rod, twenty-two yards to the chain, four thousand eight hundred and forty square yards or forty three thousand five hundred and sixty square feet to the acre,  and five thousand two hundred and eighty feet or one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards to the mile are going to seem increasingly strange as the years pass.  Come to think of it,  they seem like very strange numbers already.  Strange numbers indeed.

     Then,  just last night during our Chinese lesson we bumped into another marine heritage relic, the word "leeway".  The lee is the downwind side of a sailboat.  If you have rocks to leeward,  you have no room to maneuver or tack against the wind.  But if you have leeway,  you have discretionary freedom of movement,  or as we now use the word as a metaphor,  of choice.

November 29, 2007 Cross Cultural Flying Cows

     When I was a child my father had a ready answer if one of us said something that sounded a bit farfetched or ridiculous.  He'd respond with, "And another cow flew by"   Imagine my delight when my friend 王汝龙  (Wang Ru Long) told me that there is a Chinese counterpart to this expression,  used whenever somebody is bragging.  One of the listeners might look up and ask "Why is the sky so dark?"  Everybody will laugh because this is recognized as the first line of a poem:

为什么天这么黑?     

因为有牛在飞.          

为什么牛在天上飞? 

因为你在地上吹.     

wishnme tiān zhme hēi? (Why sky so black?)
yīnwi yǒu ni zi fēi. (Because have cows at fly.)
wishnme ni zi tiān shng fēi?  (Why cows at sky up fly?)
yīnwi nǐ zi d shng chuī.  (Because you at ground on blow.)

I've wrestled with this translation into English and finally decided that the best thing to do is a literal word for word translation.  That gives a chance to see the Chinese language structure.  Here's what I'm told the verse actually means:

               Why is the sky so dark?
               Because the cows are flying.
               Why are the cows flying.
               Because you're down here blowing them up like balloons.

I take a real pleasure in finding artifacts within the Chinese culture that resonate so strongly with my own.

November 22,  2007  Congratulations to Smile 含笑 (hn xio )

     Smile recently took the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) examination in Nanjing.  She got a score   6 for speaking.  6 for listening,  6 for reading, and 6 for writing for a final score of 6 overall. When the best score possible is 9,  an overall score of 6 is excellent.  This score entitles her to go to Monash University,  one of the  top A8 universities in Australia,  for further studies.

Han Xiao has been working vary hard to achieve this,  and visiting us one evening a week to work on her oral English and pronunciation.  She says, "David and Ruth give me a lot of help."  Well,  thank you Smile,  and congratulations on your success.

Oh yes,  and Happy Birthday to Smile too.  She turns 19 (or 20 if you are using the Chinese system which counts from conception) on November 24.
祝你生日快乐含笑

congratulatsion to Smile on getting a good mark in IELTS
Smile 含笑

November 20,  2007  A Sample of Student Writing from Dai Mingxiu

     Every once in a while one of our student writes something that is impressive both for the use of language and for the emotional resonance it creates.  Here's a sample from Ruth Anderson's writing class student,  Dai Mingxiu.  Excellent work.  If I got this from a native speaker in a Canadian senior high school,  it would still be worth an A+.

     Ruth also ran an exercise in her oral class.  The concept:  Students invent an answer and then other students try to come up with a question that would give that answer.  Today's best:  Answer - There's absolutely no way I would ever let you do that.  Click here for the question.

November 19,  2007  Comment on the Gay Marriage Posting of November 14

I received an email from a student this evening.   The excerpt I've posted below was very disturbing:

hello Mr.David:

I red the compositon that about homosexual. I agree something what you said.

In my opinion,The reason of this phenomenon is very complicated. The major reason is the culture difference,most pepole fell disgusting when they meet with homosexual. I don't kown why, I met with a gays last term, one is a foreign teacher in our shool, he said he would give me a massage, and let me put off my coat, then he beginI can't stand iteven i think they have the right to select the sex tropism, but it made me feel sick when it came to me, and well, some thing like "horrible".

I am both angry and shocked by this email.  Here's my reply:

Dear Student (name removed to preserve his privacy):

Thank you for your comments.

I want you to know that a foreign teacher making a sexual advance, whether heterosexual or homosexual, toward you is NOT acceptable behavior in our culture. It would get him or her fired from any teaching position in any western university.

This is not because there is anything inherently wrong with a sexual advance. But we make a clear distinction between a person in a position of trust and authority making a sexual advance toward an employee or other person in a lower authority level, and a sexual advance made by somebody your age and authority level. The foreign teacher was breaching the trust that this university, and your parents, placed in him. He should be punished.

I take it that the situation made you very uncomfortable. I'm not sure what you did about it, but in the west the correct thing to do would be to get yourself out of the situation and then report the teacher to the authorities. Otherwise you are allowing a sexual predator to continue in a position of trust and authority, and perhaps have more success with other, less mature students. The behavior of this foreign teacher reflects badly on all guests in this country, and he should be invited to leave China.

This has nothing to do with whether a person is heterosexual or homosexual. It has to do with power dynamics, and whether the sexual advances were appropriate. Please don't think that recognizing gay marriage means that we in the west think it is okay for homosexual teachers to make advances toward their students.

Again, thank you for writing. If you have any questions, or want to talk about this any more, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Warmest regards

David

P.S. -  If this foreign teacher is still here,  I would like to know his name.  We need to have words.

November 19, 2007 Why are the Waiguo Ren Here?

     Elaine,  at dinner the other night,  said "Teaching English in Asia is today's version of the French Foreign Legion."  It's taken me a week to mull over this comment,  but I can see her point.  The French Foreign Legion was the place a man could go when his heart was broken,  or when the law was demanding his head.  It was famous for attracting a mlange of misfits, losers, high minded idealists and romantics. 
     I think Elaine has a point.  There are two broad categories of foreign teachers here:  the young who want an experience and an adventure,  and the old who need to get away from whatever emotional baggage they have piled up in their life.  A man or woman with a developing career and a young family isn't going to break loose to teach English in China.  But before the wife and mortgage payments,  or after the divorce dust has settled and the gold watch has been awarded?  That's the time to look at one's life and decide to make a big change.

Elaine Silver with GouGou Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China
"Teaching in China is today's French Foreign Legion." - Elaine

     Foreigners are treated with great courtesy in China,  but I think we have a mixed reputation.  Too many of the young adventurers just want to party hearty and meet Chinese girls.  Too many of the older adventurers are emotional washouts who just want to be allowed to drink and smoke themselves to death in peace,  and meet Chinese girls.  Of course the women who come here are a different story,  but they are a mixed bag as well.  As a guest in this country,  I try to always remember that all foreigners are judged by my behavior.  Norman Bethune gave Canadians a great reputation in China.  Let's never sully it.
     My students sometimes ask me why I left Canada, a great country that many of them dream of visiting. It seems strange to them that I have come to China to teach.  I suppose it seems strange to me too.  So,  why am I here?  The short answer is that this is the most exciting place in the world to be,  right now.  I'll post a link to the long answer as soon as I finish writing it.

November 14,  2007 a Composition from Sherry

Sherry sent me this composition for my comments.  I thought it was worth posting and would like to hear any comments on it.  Please send comments to David Scott,  themaninChina@gmail.com.

 

 Put Gay Marriage in Spotlight

I downloaded an electronic version of China Daily yesterday. The headline caught my eyes by the title of Scholar Struggles to Put Gay Marriage in Spotlight.  You know how many homosexuals exist in China?  The answer is 40 million.  The figure seems a little beyond my imagination. Should gay marriage be put in spotlight? I deeply believe that people who fall in love with the same sex ones is not so wired that we should only ostracize them. They was born like this, and their sex tropism was not decided by themselves but genetically took after their parents or concerned with their personal experiences. So it is against human right to prevent them from choosing the marriage style they like. Countries including the Netherland, Canada. Belgium,  the UK and South African now recognize same sex marriage. China still lags behind other countries in term of anti-discrimination. I am absolutely up for the idea that put gay marriage in spotlight, for none of us has the rights to deprive people of their happiness. 

Does the same sex marriage threaten society? Definitely not. So it is not right to corner homosexuals in the dark. In my opinion, same sex marriage is much of a want than a must, we just hope society understands the homosexuals through giving support to them (Same sex marriage permitting). Shouldn't we give more care to those who are seemingly abnormal from us? It is not the same as AID that we need to donate money to them for curing the disease, nor the same as racial problem that we need take politic measures to deal with some conflicts if necessary. What we need to do is just accept them. We are different in many ways including the sex tropism. We should accept the difference. Being tolerate can make the world to be a better place to live and an individual human existence should be like a river--small at first.  narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider,  the bank recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being. So when we merging the sea of society, we need to overcome our prejudice to any kinds of discrimination.

                                                                                   - Sherry
                                                                     En0504


 

I'm proud of my country, Canada,  for being a world leader in recognizing gay marriage.  Now that I'm in China I can see that such legislation has influence far beyond Canadian borders.

I told Sherry that her number seems very small to me.  I have read that as much as 10% of humanity may be homosexual,  which would mean that China has as many as 130 million gays,  not the 40 million she finds beyond her imagination.  Also, I told her that I think recognizing 40 million homosexuals is a big improvement over a few years ago when,  so I understand,  the number of homosexuals in China was officially zero.   This is one reason why it was a pleasant surprises for me when I came to China and found a high level of tolerance in the Chinese people and Chinese culture.  China is not what we were lead to expect.

October 29, 2007 We're back from the outing to Huang Shan and Hong Cun

     We're just back from a two and a half day all expense paid outing,  courtesy of Jiangnan University Department of Foreign Languages.  What an incredible weekend.  Great food.  Luxury accommodation in a five star hotel.  Breakfast buffet with coffee. Another international heritage site and an ancient village that isn't in "The Lonely Planet" guide. A lecture and demonstration at a tea factory.
     The best thing about these outings for us is that they require no planning or arranging on our part: We just get on the bus and go where it takes us,  then follow the cute girl with the green flag.  Everything is arranged by our hosts, who are very careful to make sure we don't stray from the group or get lost.  That's what I call a total brain rest vacation.

Click here for all the pictures and the whole story,  but here's a sample:

View from Huangshan,  China
One of many incredible views from Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan).  I was starting to think that these mountains exist only in paintings,  because the ones we'd seen until now were only a couple of hundred feet tall.  But these are the real deal.
 

October 29 Congratulations to Sophia

This just in from Sophia.  Great news.  Competition for these events is always stiff and it makes us proud to have a part in a win.  So congratulations to Ruth too.

speach contest winner Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China
Sophia is on the right.


From: 孙梦雅
Date: Oct 29, 2007 6:21 PM
Subject: I come back!
To: Ruth in China

Dear Ruth,
 
I come back from Nanjing!
I got the third prize in the CCTV Speech competetion.(I attach one picture in this e-mail)
Thanks for your help, from the explaination of 'global citizen' to the questions raised for me! I am really really really appreciate. The question master asked me a question that is very similar to one of your questions!
thanks again!!!
 
Yours
Sophia

October 24,  2007 and finally it's here.

At eleven o'clock this morning the UPS van showed up,  delivering the birthday present I bought myself.  It's two days late,  and should have been four days early,  but it's here and undamaged.

UPS delivers my guitar to Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China   UPS delivers my guitar to Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China   UPS delivers my guitar to Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

               Here at last.

         Now how much is owing?   Well at least it's here now.

This box went from Scottsdale,  Arizona to Toronto, Ontario to Anchorage, Alaska to Shanghai in less than 24 hours.  It took over a week and the help of Cherry Cai in the foreign affairs office here to move it from Shanghai to Wuxi.  That's a distance I can travel in an hour by train.  But at least it's here.  Cost of item:  $1400 USD.  Cost of shipping item:  $500 USD.  Customs fees to liberate birthday present from incarceration by the Chinese government:  $160 (My sweetie covered most of this as a belated birthday present,  saving me from the soup line until payday.  Thanks, love.) .  Was it worth it?  Probably not unless you are me and wanting to remember your sixtieth birthday.  To read the whole story click here.

 October 22, 2007 Happy Birthday to Me.  大大卫 hits the big Six Oh

This is really impossible.  I'm far to young to be this old.  There must be some mistake.  I'm sure I'm still in my early thirties.  Since my birthday is on a teaching day,  we were going to postpone the party until this coming weekend.  Now we've learned that the school is laying on another excursion for us - three and a half days to visit Yellow Mountain and the ancient Hongcun Village - so the party will have to wait anther week.

     Ruth Anderson and David Scott at Papa Johns Pizza,  Wuxi,  China      our favourite driver Ms. Chen at Pappa Johns Pizza,  Wuxi,  China
                      Pizza just like back home in Canada                   Our driver, Ms. Chen, is learning English and teaching us Chinese

Ruth took me out for a Pizza dinner at Pappy Johns,  and for a short while it was like being home.  Almost.  We invited our driver,  Ms. Chen,  to join us for dinner.  I couldn't prevent her from giving me the fare as a birthday present.

There is a whole drama unfolding around my birthday present to myself.  As soon as it resolves,  I will post the story.  For now,  Happy Birthday to Me.

October 20,  2007 a day on the waters of Taihu 太湖 and another English Corner

Another full day here at Jiangnan Daxue.  The administration laid on a boat cruise for all the teachers,  so we spent an absolutely glorious Fall day serenely gliding over the waters of Lake Tai.  I got almost half of my English Writing class marking done in between forays ashore.

teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

 

teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

  teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Regrouping between the bus and the boat.

 

A tour guide in Chinese and English.

 

Snacks delivered to the tables.

teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China   teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China   teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

First stop,  a walk ashore.  Pictures can't do justice to the day.

 

Yes,  she's picking a mandarin.

 

Boats old and new.

teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Whoever said there's no free lunch never worked in China.

teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China  

teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

  shrimp fisherpeople teachers outing Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

They're big on Buddhas here.   

 

Ancient ruins from the recent past.

  And real life as it still happens.

Then there was just enough time to grab a bite to eat before the English Corner at 6:30. 

David Scott with students in an English Corner,  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

This time I was the only foreign guest so I got ALL the attention.  Great fun.  The wonderful thing about the English Corners is that they are organized by the students themselves,  and the only students who show up are the ones who are most enthusiastic about improving their English.  At this one there were several students who were not English majors and had never before talked with a real foreigner.  It makes me feel very special to be the first foreigner they have ever met.

October 19,  2007 Chinese lessons in our home

Thanks to my young friend Simon, we finally we have a new Chinese teacher.  William,  a recent graduate in Chinese literature with certification for both teaching and Mandarin, will come to our apartment four days a week for an hour each day.  It doesn't sound like a lot,  but we see progress already.

William our Chinese teacher,  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

William speaks very clearly and usually slowly,  and he only uses English when we are obviously not understanding his Chinese.  Just getting a good teacher feels like real progress.

October 19,  2007 I do hate losing.  Trying not to sulk

Okay. "Global Warming Vacation", the only Chinese finalist in the Filminute festival,  didn't win.  And that is okay.  If we had won,  I'd be feeling that it was because of politics,  promotion,  and the numerical superiority of the Chinese population.  The films that did win had either more emotional resonance for more people,  or more effort put into the art.  I'm still very proud of our work,  and proud of the comments it generated,  which you can see if you click on the Vote button below. 

 

 Too late to  
But you can still watch the video. 

 

for  "Global Warming Vacation"
Winner have been announced and it wasn't us.  But it's worth reading the comments.

 

October 18,2007  an invitation to a Book Launch party

Sometimes it feels like there is so much going on here that I could spend all my time just updating this blog to keep up with it.  Thursday night we were invited to a launch of a book about Wuxi.  Another free dinner,  this time at the Hoff Brau restaurant.  Excellent German style buffet and even better beer.  And then there was the entertainment,  a group of singers from the Philippines with a selection of golden oldies.  Life is tough when you are an "honoured guest".

book launch party  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China             book launch party  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

October 9,  2007  student writing that makes me happy to be here.

I've edited these words a bit,  but not the sentiment.  Sometimes these kids can just grab your heart strings. 

Those fathers buy whatever they want, but my dad gives me whatever he has.
                                 - from Wang Ai Xia's introduction to her family .

For some insight into what life is like for some of these students, Read the entire original.

October 8,  2007  summing up a great holiday.

students in classroom Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China   two students book launch party at Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China   student Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Back in the classroom with the PowerPoint in use.

 

Two of my best students.

  Yet another present for the teacher - special candy from Henan presented as a Canadian Thanksgiving present by Gu Jingjing (Jessie)

We're back in Wuxi after the week off for the National Day holiday.  High points of the holiday:  a feast with my student George's family,  and a day of sailing in Weihai.

lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China   lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China   lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China

George's father picked us up at our apartment building.  Ruth has stopped resisting the V sign that goes with every Chinese portrait.

 

Three years in China and we're still finding new food to try.  These are a kind of nut that grows in water.  They have a slightly fermented quality,  very tasty.

 

Apartment tour.  This is the closest we've seen to a western lifestyle in China.  A beautiful apartment, tastefully decorated with Ming dynasty furniture.

lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China   crabs escaping the pot, lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China   a feast of snails, lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China

Hospitality begins with fresh fruit.

 

Yikes. The crabs are escaping.

 

Not snails,  seafood. And delicious.

lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China   lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China   lunch with George's family,  Wuxi,  China

The feast.  George's mom isn't in the picture because she kept busy serving us.

 

George's mom.  Kindergarten teacher and great cook.

 

It's always so interesting to be invited to share in the life and history of a family.

Ms. Chen,  our driver,  Wuxi,  China   Shanghai Pudong Airport,  Shanghai,  China   flights board Shanghai airport,  Shanghai,  China

Ms. Chen,  one of our favourite drivers.  When there were no train tickets available to Shanghai,  it was miss our flight or hire her for an extended Chinese lesson.

 

All airports look the same.

 

And Chinglish is where you find it. "Please boarding on time."?

Thomas and Marina Cupples sailing with Lyndon,  Weihai,  China   sailing with Lyndon,  Weihai,  China   David Scott and Ruth Anderson sailing with Lyndon,  Weihai,  China

Thomas and Marina wrangled this invitation to go sailing.

 

Our host,  Captain Lyndon from New Zealand.

 

Doesn't take much to keep me happy.  I really didn't expect this when I came to China.

sailing with Lyndon,  Weihai,  China   sailing with Lyndon,  Weihai,  China   sailing with Lyndon,  Weihai,  China

Ruth the human whisker Pole.

 

Benjamin the fisherman and first mate.

 

And sister Zoe the singer of hymns.

Yantai Airport,  China

telecision on a bus in Shanghai

on board the fast train Nanjing to Shanghai

Check in again.  A bit of pulchritude helps.

But who decided we need a television on a bus.

Finally,  the bullet train back to Wuxi.  At times moving at 247 k/hr.  Whoooeeee.

Thomas and Marina sent us home with a roast duck from their favourite Korean restaurant.  It came in a double clay pot, but we left that behind because we didn't want to take it on the airplane.   This evening we shared the duck with Elaine who looked after our dog while we were away.  Of course the duck was delicious, perfect for three people.  What food we've found here.  And what friends.

October 2,  2007  Students Bearing Gifts

Such sweethearts,  my students.  Here's 尹英杰 (Yǐn yīngji - Jack,  one of the stars of last terms video) and Natalia Kuznetsova ,  a student visitng from Russia,  who dropped in with belated Teacher's Day gifts,  a bar of Russian chocolate and a beautiful wind chime. 
                                                    
students bearing gifts,  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

I haven't acknowledged all student gifts on this site,  so that's an embarrassing oversite (and a pun that my spell checker doesn't think is funny).  We've received several packages of moon cakes to help us celebrate the mid-autumn festival,  as well as some charming decorations for the apartment. The students seem to  be constantly giving us signs of their appreciation, and we really do appreciate this. Now I'm afraid to start thanking those who deserve thanks,  for fear of missing somebody.  So, to those students who have not been publicly thanked on this site,  you know who you are.  We really do thank you for making us feel so welcome and valued.

October 1,  2007  旧的不去新的不来 jide b q xīnde b li

Friends in Canada sent us this link to a slide show from a book about to be published,  photographs of the vanishing city of Shanghai.  http://www.cbc.ca/arts/slideshows/Greg_Girard_Phantom_Shanghai/ 
Wonderful pictures.  Ruth had this to say about them: "Images like these are not found only in Shanghai.  This sort of tearing down and building up is happening all over China.  We see it all around us here in Wuxi.  We are living on a university campus where three years ago there was nothing but farmland and farm houses.  One whole end of the village down the road from us is being demolished,  probably to make room for suburban development or apartment complexes.
     You can see how they would come up with  the saying 旧的不去新的不来 (jide b q xīnde b li - Old not go,  new not come.)  - when people have lived in the same place for thousands of years,  they can't get too sentimental about the past because there's just too much of it."

     We're off to Weihai to visit friends on Wednesday,  via a flight to Yantai.  Ruth bought the tickets online through Elong,  but we are outside the delivery area so needed a quick trip into town to pick them up.  Traffic around the train station was a horror show,  but Ms. Chen,  one of our favourite drivers, finally found the address,  88 火车站路 (huǒ chē zhn l - Train Station Street).  We walked confidently into the obvious office,  which was obviously a travel agency,  only to be directed next door and told to go to the third floor.  Next door turned out to be a hotel lobby,  where the clerk mistook our intention and tried to book us a room.  After a few minutes we cleared that up and repeated our request for directions to the Elong ticket pickup office.  Once she understood what we wanted, the hotel desk clerk directed us back to the first office.  There a young lady volunteered to escort us to the third floor and the correct office,  via the hotel lobby elevator.  Unfortunately,  the office workers on the third floor were unclear on the concept,  and began booking our tickets all over again.  By this time we were regretting telling Ms. Chen that we would only be a couple of minutes,  and regretting that we hadn't asked for specific address details and perhaps a contact person. Time to get on the phone to the Elong office and talk to the nice lady with the perfect English.  Once in touch with her, we gave my mobile phone to the third floor lady,  who carried on an interminable conversation with the Elong lady before handing us back to our escort,  who took us back downstairs to the original office, where we found our tickets waiting for us.
     This whole experience was so very typical of our lives in China.  When will we learn to anticipate communications problems,  and get very specific directions?  I think it will happen about the time I learn to speak Chinese.

     After the ticket office adventure,  we had Ms. Chen drive us to 梦之岛 (mng zhī dǎo Dream Island),  the big electronics center,  where I spent an hour considering choices before buying a new Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90.  The Sony won out because it was the only point and shoot camera with a response time that would catch Ruth mid-frame as she walked across the room.  With the others,  I'd click and after a moment of black I have a picture of the room but no Ruth. 
     To bring the topic full circle, here's one of the first pictures I took with the new toy:

building demolitioon Wuxi,  China

Note the menu items on the wall of the stairway leading to where the restaurant used to be.  I'm not sure why I find this so evocative,  but I do.  Maybe because it reminds me that people actually walked up those stairs,  with a destination, and lived where only the floors and walls now outline the spaces.

To the Archives:

My homepage is starting to load too slowly,  so I've finally had to split off some of this blog.  If you are interested,  there's some pretty good stuff in the archives.  I'm particularly happy with the double language puns you'll find there. It so much fun to find a pun that only works if you speak both Chinese and English. 

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