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March 25, 2009 Leveraging my Efforts to Promote Helmets
Today Edward came to see me to pick up two helmets that he has sold to other students. He's decided to support my helmet promotion project by selling them himself.
What a thrill this is for me, to have a student take up this cause on his own initiative, with no prompting from me at all. It gives me hope for humanity.
GouGou Finds a Friend
Last night our friend Elaine Silver invited us to dinner. Delicious soup, followed by "stodge", a word new to me which apparently means "sticks to your ribs meat and potatoes food" in some British vernacular. A great dinner.
Joining us at dinner was Jack, Ph.D, newly arrived from Chicago. The above picture is an example of human-dog instant bonding. Jack is a welcome addition to the teaching staff here and a fascinating conversationalist.
March 24, 2009 Helmets in the News Again
Today one of my students, Edward Hou in my IELTS preparation class, presented me with a copy of Lihu Magazine, the all-student produced Jiangnan University news magazine. It's a slick and professional publication. More to the point, this issue devoted four whole pages to me and my helmet campaign.
Wow. Thanks guys. I really appreciate the attention and recognition. Most of all, I appreciate that Edward came over to my home to buy a helmet.
There are a lot of Catholics in this world. My girlfriend's mother is a Catholic. My former mother in law is a Catholic. I know that the sheep are not in the habit of telling the shepherd what to do, but I urge all Catholics to send a message up the chain of command all the way to Pope Benedict XVI, who last week told the Catholics of Africa to stop using condoms.
The Pope is undermining international efforts to combat AIDS, and his "leadership" will cost many lives. Please, all you Catholics. Please, everybody. Ask the "voice of God" to listen to reason..
March 22, 2009 Hate Propaganda Unrecognized as Such
I have friends, and good
friends, who are fundamentalist Christians and will tell me that
Darwin was wrong, evolution is just a theory, and the earth is
really only a few thousand years old. One close relative asked
me, rather plaintively, "But do you think we came from slime?"
To which I can only say, yes I do. It's the only explanation
that makes sense, and has predicted all the discoveries of
modern biology. How anybody can look at us and decide that we
are not animals, and not related to apes, is totally
beyond my comprehension.
March 15, 2009 What are the Odds?
What are the odds of us walking into a bar in Nantong and bumping into somebody we met four years ago on Hainan Island. Given the population of China, and the number of possible locations for both parties to be, the odds against this happening seem astronomical to me. But there you go. When Ruth and I walked into the Tiger Bar last night, we were greeted with shouts of recognition from none other than Xiao Hua, one of our favourite people in the whole world
Xiao Hua has recently returned
to China with her Irish husband, Patrick, after a couple of
years of living in Ireland. We first met Xiao Hua in the Guangzhou
airport when she introduced herself after hearing me practicing my
violin. Her family invited us to stay in their village, Ling
Shui, on Hainan Island for what turned out to be the most memorable
of introductions to Chinese culture, but we haven't seen her since
that Spring Festival Holiday of 2003. And there she was,
in the Tiger Bar in Nantong. I'm Billy Bubble.*
*Here's the Billy Bubble story. A
bar in Tokyo put on a foreigner night every week, offering
cheap drinks to English speakers so that Japanese business men would
come to the bar to practice their English. All night long,
as the little clumps of foreigners talked, there would be a strange
little man listening who would suddenly burst out with "I'm Billy
Bubble." Conversation would pause. Everybody would say
things like "Please to meet you, Billy." and then conversation would
March 13, 2009 Happy Birthday Victor
My son Victor turns 29 on the 14th. So hard to believe - 1980 feels like yesterday. Happy Birthday, son. I'm proud of you.
And my daughter Reba sent me her latest picture. Gotta love this girl.
This term is going very smoothly, and there's nothing exciting to post right now that I can think of. Of course there's always something going on, but... well, same old same old. I've just spent several hours reorganizing this site, putting the learning Chinese posts together on the Studying Chinese page and putting a lot of student letters on the student letters page. So I'm a bit burned out with revisions.
Tomorrow we're off to Nantong to visit a friend for a day. So, later folks.
March 10, 2009 new Erhu Teacher
Finally, after years of suspended progress, we have erhu lessons again. I haven't had a lesson since Weihai, and I sure was rusty. But after a week of practice, it's coming back fast. Ruth is also making great progress. Our new teacher, Sun Hai, has her doing exercises that are improving her tone very quickly.
I'm also sponsoring my assistant, Jenny's, lessons, though she doesn't have an erhu yet. The lessons, and the teacher, were her suggestion. She thinks it will come in handy when we start promoting our snake farm, and this will include her, of course.
The new Exercise Machine - five for five
I told the students in my oral
class that I was afraid of buying an exercise machine, and
asked them if they could guess what I was afraid of. The only
guess I got was that I was afraid of hurting myself. And of
course that isn't it.
March 5, 2009 Getting in Shape in China
One of the nice things about having a working partner is that anything we mutually want costs each of us half as much as it would if we were alone here. This morning I had my first 20 minutes on our brand spankin' new elliptical trainer. The thing really works. I was at the fifteen minute point when I noticed the pulse in my ears and decided to slow down for a while. I break a sweat at about the twelve minute point, and get off the machine feeling more awake than I've felt for weeks.
Half an hour every morning should get the spare tire off my belly.
Second Childhood - More Fun than the First One
We bought the exercise machine at Decathlon, a big box style sports store in the New District. It's the only place in Wuxi that has runners in my size, and on this visit they had great prices on roller blades. I've been thinking of getting a pair for a year now, and finally gave in to the impulse.
My young friend, Winkle, has offered to
teach me how to do tricks. Yesterday she came over to escort
me to the library where a group of students work on their skating
twice a week. I was a bit shaky at first, not having
been on skates for years. But I was feeling more confident by
the end of the session.
You'll notice in this picture that I'm wearing all kinds of protective gear, unlike the young skaters. I figure my bones just may be a bit more fragile than theirs. But I NEVER fall down. At least I haven't fallen down for as long as I can remember. (I think the last time I fell down was on the dance floor in Bella Coola, or was it Bella Bella*, in the late seventies, back when skates had wheels that were side by side.) So when I got home I put my skates on to check them out in our living room, ignoring my new bag of protection, and promptly fell down. I'm very lucky I didn't break my wrist. Actually, I'm not sure I didn't break it, because it's still pretty sore. Lesson learned, I hope.
*Since you can't get to Bella Coola or Bella Bella other than by boat, I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who has ever danced on roller skates on the dance floor there. It's a small claim to fame, but I take it where I can get it.
February 28, 2009 A Legend in His Own Mind Part 2
On Wednesday of this week I was interviewed for an article in the Yangtze Evening Post, the most popular Chinese language evening paper in Jiangsu Province. Yesterday the article came out. It was better in the actual paper, because that included a picture. But at least it's here. Here's the picture that they didn't post with the online article.
It's really encouraging to see how the Chinese media is picking up on the bicycle helmet idea. Now I think I need to talk to the doctors in China who deal with brain injuries, and get them on board this campaign.
Oh yes, and a Happy Birthday to my daughter Reba. 1986 feels like yesterday to me. She was born on February 27th, so it's still her birthday back in Canada as I write this. 祝你生日快乐，亲爱的女儿
February 20, 2009 Ruth's new Pictures up on Flicker
I can't believe that our first week of the term is over already. Maybe I'll get around to posting something more, later this weekend. But for now take a look at Ruth's pictures. This time she's posted a few of mine as well, all from our Spring Festival holiday.
February 18, 2009 The Erhu Factory
This morning, Jenny arranged a visit to a local erhu factory. If Phil Borsos were alive today, he'd want to make a sequel to "Cooperage". It's just so interesting to see a factory where most of the work is done by master craftsmen. So much atmosphere.
I learned the
names of four different styles of erhu, and I got to try out
one of their best instruments, which unfortunately I can't
afford at the moment, and wouldn't buy if I could afford it
because they are all made with the skins of endangered species.
February 15, 2009 Simon Yang's New Apartment for Jiaozi
Last Sunday, Simon Yang, one of the deans here, arranged for his associate, Mr. Cheng Fang, to pick us up and take us to his new home where we had a jiaozi feast.
Ruth had a
jiaozi making lesson from two real experts - Li Tao, who teaches
literature and Xu
I'm afraid I talked everybody's ears off about my snake farm project, but maybe that was okay. They are very supportive.
February 16, 2009 The Hainan Bike Rider
up stuff from our vacation but it will take me a while to get it all
posted. Plus I'm doing a massive reorganization and facelift
of this site, so expect big changes soon. But it all
I noticed a
bandage on his nose and some road rash on his face. "Where's
your helmet," I asked.
February 11, 2009 Home after a Fantastic Holiday
There is too much here to put up on the home page, so I'm making it a separate link. Just click on Our Incredible Spring Festival Holiday of 2009. What an adventure we've had.
And with incredible news: We Have a Location for the Snake Ranch
The Snake Ranch takes a giant leap toward becoming a reality. Remember my snake farm project. I first posted about it back in September of 2008 and it went on the back burner until I could do some research. Well now it's back. We've found Chinese partners and a fantastic location on Hainan Island. Read all about it and see the pictures.
Warning: An ATM Gave me Counterfeit Money
I always try to keep this website upbeat, and don't like to complain about anything in my host country. I like it here. Injustice can happen anywhere in the world. But this is something you need to know about: Check your money before you leave the ATM booth. If you find a fake, you must hold it up to the security camera so that you can prove you got it from the ATM machine.
Of course it isn't wise to be hanging around in a dimly lit ATM booth late at night, taking the time to inspect every bill the machine gave you, and advertising to potential thieves that you have fresh cash. That's scary. I didn't do it, and never will. So maybe a hundred yuan hit now and then is just part of the price of living in China. I guess I can afford that.
I know for sure that my fake bill came from the ATM machine at a major Guilin branch of the China Industrial and Commercial Bank. But I didn't discover that one of the 100 yuan bills was 假的 (jiǎ de, fake, counterfeit) until I got to Shanghai. So my branch of the bank will do nothing. They didn't even seem interested enough to contact the branch in Guilin to let them know they are employing a criminal, as they must be because this bill is so obviously phony that whoever loaded the ATM machine knew it. All I got was, "Sorry." The young man in the elegant dark suit suggested I pass the fake on to a cab driver or store keeper.
If you've got any money in the China Industrial and Commercial Bank, my best advice is to take it out, and check every single bill when you do.
Another Wonderful cross-lingual pun: Happy Niu Year
I've mentioned before that I love a pun that requires a person to know two languages in order to get it. Two such puns that are used in Chinese text messages are 88 (ba ba in Chinese, which sounds like bye bye and so is used to end messages.) and 3Q ( "sān Q" in Chinese, "thank you").
On New Years Eve we received a number of text messages wishing us a "Happy Niu Year". "Niu" is pronounced roughly like "new", but means ox or bull. And this is the year of the bull. Cute, huh?
January 7, 2009 A Legend in His Own Mind - The China Daily article.
For those who check in on this site on a regular basis, my apologies. There's been too much going on and I've been away. Ruth and I just returned from a long weekend in Beijing, where we visited her old friends from high school, Doug and Ken, ate the famous Peking Duck at the famous Beijing DaDong Roast Duck restaurant, bought fur hats in the famous Tiananmen Square, inspected the famous Birds Nest and Water Cube at the Olympic site, and marveled at the architecture of the new and instantly famous National Center for the Performing Arts. Beijing is simply incredible.
For me the big ego kick was being in Beijing when China Daily came out with a full page spread telling all of China about my bicycle helmet campaign. Wow. Thank you Patrick Whiteley for doing such a great job on the article. My hosts were impressed.
The New Fast Trains
One of the mysteries of China is the availability (or lack thereof) of train tickets. We tried to buy soft sleeper tickets back to Wuxi, but were told that none were available. Doug offered the services of his assistant, who has some connections and pull with somebody, and tickets were found for us. When we boarded the train, we discovered that we were the only occupants of a four person compartment. Two empty beds above ours. Go figure.
We had seats
on the fast train on the way to Beijing. They are comfortable
seats for an hour or two, but for the nine hour ride they
still were torture for me, with my long legs, and even
Ruth found her seat uncomfortable. By contrast, the trip
home was decadent luxury.
Time to archive again: So soon. So much has happened in the past few months. The really good stuff is in the archives, folks. I hate to bury it back there, because I fear that nobody will ever click on the links. But you should. Really. I promise.
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David James Scott