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The Man in China Archives
December 04, 2010 through May 29, 2011
(I can't believe it's this long since I archived.)

Picture:  My oral English classes are very free ranging as I teach English majors big words. The class began with a student presentation about ghosts and a poll on whether they really exist, then proceeded to discuss the recent non-event, The Rapture. The blackboard shows part of the discussion of "cognitive dissonance" and the reason people believe things that go against all reason.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  哭鼻子
(kū bzi  literally cry + nose) = whine, which of course is crying through the nose.  Delightful.
This is the word for whine our Chinese teacher, Chen Fu, gave us, but it's not in Wenlin or in Pleco.  Wenlin gives "whine" as 吭唧 (kēngji literally "throat/utter a sound + squirt) which doesn't strike me as accurate.  Pleco does better with 哼鼻子 (hēng bzi literally "groan, snort; hum" + "nose").  I like that one, but I like the one Chen Fu gave us, which is probably very oral and may be regional.. 

May 29, 2011  All Clear,  Whew

Class Poll on Leadership

Inspired by a TED Talk, I've been asking my students about leadership - where do leaders come from, how are good leaders created, what should those African countries do when they have bad leaders.  According to Patrick Awuah from Ghana, leaders come from a liberal arts education, and the root cause of poor leadership in his country is the emphasis on rote learning, rather than developing values and critical thinking.
    
It's ironic that Confucius was the inventor of active learning.  He told his followers: If a student comes to you with a question, do not give him the answer.  Tell him how to find the answer for himself.  Unfortunately, lazy teachers over the centuries codified the thoughts of Confucius and made students memorize them word for word, thus turning his active learning into rote learning and ruining the reputation of Chinese education to this day.

Picture:  Class poll - who wants to be a leader?  This was a fairly high percentage, compared to the other classes, but not the highest.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

     I tell my students that they are the smartest people in China, or else they wouldn't be in university.  This is where the future leaders of China will come from.  But of course not everybody is going to be a leader.  Most don't want the job, though I had one class where the vote was nearly even.

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Small Business, China Style

Ruth discovered a hole in her favourite light weight hiking pants.  I've had holes in my pockets for years.  So we went off looking for a seamstress and found this lady at work beside the meat and vegetable market. 

Picture:  No electric power required.  A seamstress at work in Shi Tang Cun, near the Jiangnan Univeristy campus.  Wuxi, China
She did an excellent job, and charged us the princely sum of 3 RMB, about five cents Canadian.

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Street Food Revisited

One of our favourite light lunches here are the pita pockets this couple makes while we watch. 

Picture:  Ruth waits for our favourite street food.  Shi Tang Cun, Wuxi, China

It's a husband and wife operation, with her rolling out the dough, doing the baking, and handling the cash.  He's kept busy preparing the filling and packaging the product.

Picture:  A filling of meat, eggs, tofu noodles, green pepper and cilantro, all with added juice.  Delicious. Picture:  The wife rolls out the dough, takes care of the baking, and collects the money.  Shi Tang Cun, Wuxi, China Picture:  I'm fascinated by this oven, a converted oil barrel lined with bricks and fired with charcoal, with a flat top to seal the crust before baking.  Shi Tang Cun, Wuxi, China

The end result is delicious, and I'm really tempted to set something like this up back in Canada, complete with funky oven made from a forty-five gallon oil drum.  It would be fun to see how such street food goes over in English Bay, or maybe the waterfront park in Nanaimo in the summer.  I wonder how much red tape I'd have to go through to get the permit.

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The End of a Village

Just down the road, half a block from our street food couple, it looks like a war zone.  So long Shi Tang Cun, the little village within walking distance of our campus.  Already the major residential part has been leveled, and we're expecting the market and main street to go soon, all to be replaced with modern high rise apartments.  China will be a nice country when they get it finished.

Picture:  China is being destroyed, and rebuilt.  I guess they call this progress.  The former village of Shi Tang Cun, Wuxi, China
China is being renovated.  A mixed blessing.  We're losing our little village.

Perhaps the people who have had to live in the old buildings won't miss them, but we will.  The charm of a village where the streets are built to walking or bicycle scale, and where the life spills out of the houses, is gradually making way for the automobile and shiny soulless architecture. 
     The Chinese have an expression.  旧的不去,新的不来 (ji de b q, xīn de b li) "Old not go, new not come."  In a country with as much old as China, we can see how they would be choked by antiquity if they got sentimental about every old neighbourhood.  Still, we get sentimental.  We like the little village, and we're pretty sure we're not going to like the new apartment complex nearly as much.

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Appreciating Clever Image Idea

We found this poster ad on the wall of our favourite fast food noodle restaurant. 

Picture:  Poster at the train station noodle shop advertiisng a fast food pork dish.  Wuxi, China

I like this because it's slightly subtle, if that isn't redundant.  Note the broken chopsticks.  Chunks of pork so thick and heavy they'll break your chopsticks?  Clever.

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Picture:  View from the tea house on the classic pond in  the Xi Wui Park garden, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  工作  (gōngzu literally "work" + "do") n. work or job
Bonus word, 饭碗  (fnwǎn literally "rice bowl) = 1. rice bowl  2. job, means of livelihood

May 09, 2011 It's Official - New Jobs Next Year

This is our last term at Jiangnan University.  Apparently there is a rule at some level that foreigners can't work for more than five consecutive years at the same school.  So, since this is the end of our fifth year at Jiaggnan University, we'll be moving on. 

Picture The main fountain and library building at Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China   Picture The main fountain and library building at Lambton College, Wuxi, China
Goodbye Jiangnan University                                   Hello Lambton College

That's the sad news. Jiangnan University and the administration staff here have treated us very well, and made us feel valued. It's been a very enjoyable five years, too short a time by half.
     The good news is that we won't be moving far.  We've been offered work at Lambton College, an affiliate of an Ontario university, that shares the campus with Jiangnan University.  So same campus, maybe even same apartment.  Different administration, but not all that different since our former boss at Jiangnan University, Ms. Liu, is now the head of Lambton. We're hoping for minimal disruption to our lives, and we're very happy to be staying in Wuxi close to our Chinese friends.

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Picture:  Three gentlemen on the nicely designed bench on the bridge over the canal.  I didn't have the nerve to ask them to take the three monkies pose, though it would have made a great fun picture, just possibly insulting and racist.  Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  公园
(gōngyun literally public + garden) n. park

May 07, 2011 Random Adventures and News

I've been building my second bullwhip.  Our Australian friend, Marion, brought me back two beautiful kangaroo hides when she returned to Wuxi this past October.  Now I'm cutting lace and trying to duplicate the whip I bought in Seattle way back in 1974.  My excuse was that I needed a prop for a western I wanted to make, but really I want to play with a good bullwhip.  I've come to appreciate what a great bullwhip that one is.  Though very old now, with a couple of broken strands, it's still tight and solid and the kangaroo hide is still looking good.
     You can read in the comments last month a question from a student, asking me why I would make a bullwhip.  "Are you a farm hand or a maniac?" the student asks.  Maybe a bit of both.  I've been interested in bullwhips since growing up on the adventures of Lash LaRue, a major cowboy star back in the fifties.  He used his whip not so much as a weapon or to inflict pain, but to disarm the bad guy, taking the gun out of his hand.  He also was one of the most romantic of cowboys, and I remember one scene in which he lounged in a meadow with a pretty woman and used his whip to pick her a flower.  My kind of cowboy hero.
     Despite the current association of whips with the S&M scene, they are legitimate ranch tools and can be very useful.  But they are also fun to play with, and the only way I know of to break the sound barrier without owning a jet airplane.  That's what makes the bang when you crack a whip.  The tip actually travels faster than the speed of sound.

Picture:  The beginnings of my second bullwhip. It has a steel core inside a bamboo cover, with four ply braiding over the head to make sure it all stays together.  No less work than the first one.  Picture:  The new whip takes shape.  The belly is now complete and I'm cutting lace for the overlay.
The new whip is taking shape, and promises to be an improvement over last year's model.  But no easier to make.

As part of this effort, I needed to find sheep fat from which to make plaiting soap.  One would think that this would be easy to find in a city where every second street corner has barbeque lamb on skewers. Not so.  The meat of the people in China is pork, and that was all we found in this huge meat market, except for one large and very expensive mutton roast one of the vendors had in his freezer. We'll be eating Scotch broth for lunch for weeks, but I did manage to render down enough fat to make my plaiting soap.  I saved half of it to make the beeswax leather dressing, but now I only have a quarter of it because GouGou found it in my office and what dog could resist a feast of sheep fat?

Picture:  We discovered a huge meat market near the temple market in downtown Wuxi.  Pork everywhere, and only one very expensive mutton roast to be found.  Wuxi, China  Picture:  A pig's face in the meat market.  The kind of thing that foreigners find hideous, like "Silence of the Lambs" has come to the world of pork.  Wuxi, China

Leaving the meat market, we discovered a huge pet store area, with a monster fish department and all kinds of birds and dogs and bunny rabbits.

Picture:  All kinds of birds for sale, plus rabbits and chicks and dogs.  Wuxi, China  Picture:  This is like a western big box pet accessories store, only bigger.  Wuxi, China

We'd been wondering where the pet sellers from Nan Chan Si had gone, and now we know. 

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Small Business in China

I found this man repairing shoes near the student dormitories.  This is something you are never going to see in Canada.

Picture:  A shoe repairman can set up his shop anywhere, and seems to be doing a lot of business.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China  Picture:  The shoe repairman's hand cranked sewing machine, geared to punch through leather.  I know some sailors who would love to own a machine like this one.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

I love this guy's hand cranked sewing machine.  Leather and rubber are tough to sew.  This machine must be geared down for really tough material, and it requires no electricity.  I don't know when I'd ever use it or what I would ever use it for, but I'm buying one if I can find it here.  I have sailor friends back home who would really appreciate a machine like this one.  Like washboards, it's probably still being manufactured in China.  Hard to find in the west.

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Too Much Fur

I got a call from the boss of the bike store, the man who gave us GouGou, saying he had another dog he was trying to place.  We don't really want another dog, but our friend Prince wants a dog so we introduced them.  She's not ready to adopt yet, but she called me to say she wanted to give the bike store dog a bath at our place.  It turned out that Prince is still nervous around dogs, and was worried that this one would bite her.  So I got undressed and into the shower with the puppy.

Picture:  Prince brought over this dog because it needed a bath.  Did it ever need a bath.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China Picture:  Ruth with GouGou and HuaHua.  Long fur looks great when clean.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

I wish I'd taken a "before" picture.  This dog was DIRTY.  Water ran black in the shower.  And his fur was incredibly matted into Rasta dreads.  It took an hour or more of brushing before the dog you see above emerged.  What a cutie.  I'm tempted to adopt him myself, but we already have a lot of dog hair in our apartment.  One dog is enough.  Sigh.

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A Walk in the Park

This time of year we like to get downtown to Xi Hui Park, just to take in the flowers.  Wuxi has been doing an incredible job of sprucing up all public places, and Xi Hui Park is no exception.  New walkways, new gate house, new bridges.  Everything is clean and upscale.

Picture:  The new entrance gates to  Xi Hui Park in Wuxi, China  Picture:  Near the entrance to Xi Hui Park in Wuxi, China.  It was a surprse to find the park so empty on such a beautiful Spring day.  Wuxi, China

I was surprised to see the park so nearly empty.  It was May 2, a day we expected to be a holiday.  So logic said that the park should be shoulder to shoulder crowded.  But it wasn't.  Apparently on this Labor Day, the laborers were laboring.

Picture:  Flowers in bloom below the pagoda on the hill.  Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China

Picture:  Azalea blossoms.  Spring has come to Wuxi, China

Picture:  The ceramic dragon wall, Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China  Pictures:  I don't know what kind of flowers these are, but they are beautiful.  Xi Hui Park, Wuxik, China

  Picture:  Sleek and shiny new people movers in Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China  Picture:  Classic styling for the electric people movers in Xi Hui Park,  Wuxi, ChinaPicture:  A dragon mouth fountain in Xi Hui Park,  Wuxi, China.  Hard to know how old some of these things are.  Could be centuries, or could be a couple of years.

Picture: A Guzheng musician gives a free concert.  Xi Hui Park,  Wuxi, China  

Picture:  Our wonderful Australian friend, Marion, camps it up in the round gateway.  Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China  Picture:  He wasn't the greatest erhu player I've ever heard, and he should have avoided western tunes, but he gets full points for performance facial expressions.  Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China

Picture:  The display of flowers in Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China

 Picture:  I can't see a bird like this without thinking of "Rio" and the illegal bird trade.  I hope this one was born in captivity.  Xi hui Park, Wuxi, China  Picture:  A green parrot on display with the flowers.  Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China   Picture:  A green parrot on display with the flowers.  Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China  Picture:  White flowers on display in Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China Picture:  Brilliant azalea blossoms on display in Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China Picture:  Yellow and dark red or brown blossoms on display in Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China

  Picture:  Flowers everywhere along the path in Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China  Picture:  The small flower bed beside the gate to Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China.  With a Chinese gargoyle.

And that took us to the exit we wanted, the way into the restored ancient city of Wuxi.

Picture:  The back door to Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China.  Much more impressive than the gate we entered.

Just Outside the Park

They're doing a beautiful job of restoring the old part of town, and it feels wonderful to stroll the street along the old canal.  They've made great progress since our visit last year.

Picture:  Looking West from the bridge and the canal is completed through the renovated ancient city.  Wuxi, China  Picture:  looking East from the bridge and the canal is under construction.  Wuxi, China
Looking west from the bridge, the renovated canal, and looking East from the bridge, canal under construction.

The grounds of the museum are particularly beautiful, a favourite place for the art students to practice their craft.

Picture:  Painters at work at the pond on the grounds of the museum outside Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China  Picture:  Painters at work at the pond on the grounds of the museum outside Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China

Picture:  What the painters are painting.  The view of the pond in the grounds of the museum outside Xi Hui Park.  Wuxi, China

    Picture: I'm sure if magic fish existed, this is what they would look like.  Wuxi, China

And a favourite place for a father to spend quality time with his son.

Picture:  A father and son take a minute to enjoy the serenity of the pond.  The museum grounds near Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China

Picture: Windowframe detail around a display room near the new museum.  Wuxi, China  Picture:  A classically furnished  display room near the new museum.  Wuxi, China
Classical Chinese style - a mixture of the elaborate and the simple arrangements.  Classy.

Picture: You miss a lot if you don't look up.  Carved roof support knees in the Wuxi museum.  Wuxi, China   Picture: You miss a lot if you don't look up.  Carved roof support knees in the Wuxi museum.  Wuxi, China

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Job Security for Ancient Scribes

In the museum just outside the park, we came upon this display of ancient Chinese writing.  It confirms a suspicion I've held for some time now.  The more I study Chinese, and the more I try to learn Chinese characters, the more convinced I am that the writing system was created in part to accentuate the social distance between the elite educated class and the workers. 

:Picture:  a display of ancient Chinese writing in the museum near Xi Hui Park, Wuxi, China   Picture:  The ancient character for "eye" could be read by anybody anywhere in the world.

When we look at the ancient symbol for "eye", we see something that anybody, anyplace in the world, would recognize as "eye".  But just look what this has become in "simplified" modern Chinese characters.

Picture:  The Chinese characters for "eye", yǎnjing.  Far more complicated than they need to be, by an order of magnitude.  yǎnjing n. eye

I can only see one explanation for this.  Ancient scribes and scholars complicated the characters to make learning them more difficult, and to ensure that their elite position was not challenged by the common people.  Before you go accusing me of cultural bias, consider this:  The European world did the same thing.  For centuries, educated people wrote and spoke Latin.  The bible was only available in Latin.  You could tell a common person by the inability to recite Latin declensions. It took Guttenberg and the Enlightenment to change this, and the change did not happen without resistance.
Here is the modern Chinese character for jin meaning arrow. 

Picture:  The chinese character jin n. arrow.  Complication that bespeaks willful obfuscation.jin n. arrow

It consists of two radicals characters, zh, (the ones that look like the letter K) that mean bamboo above qin which means "forward" (and an arrow should indeed go forward or the archer is in trouble.) and is described as phonetic in the dictionary, as in "qin" sounds a lot like "jin" and may even have sounded the same in ancient times.  Note: "qin" itself is made up of a radical meaning "moon" beside a radical meaning "knife", both under a radical that originally meant "foot". But please.  Is anybody going to tell me that this is the simplest and most straight forward way to get across the idea of "arrow".  Looks like featherbedding to me. 

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What the Students Think

I've been continuing my informal class polls whenever an interesting subject comes along.  Here are a few of the latest results.

Picture:  Class poll on whether dreams can foretell the future.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
In this officially atheist country, I was hoping to find a bit less superstition.  Doesn't seem to be the case.

Picture:  Class poll on anthropogenic global warming.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
This is encouraging.  The Chinese are far more aware of environmental impact than you might think.  After all, it's their country that has been trashed by the western world exporting our pollution.

Picture:  Class poll GM foods.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
I don't have a problem with GM foods myself, and I think labeling them would just ensure that nobody buys them. 

    Picture:  Class presentation this week was on the death of Bin Laden, and no surprise to hear some anti-American sentiment.  Everybody wants an enemy.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Osama Bin Laden has been fish food for only a few days, and already my students are turning into "deathers"
insisting that America hid the truth of his death for years.  Like Bush wanted to hand the glory to Obama?

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Picture: Blackboard informal poll on same sex marriage in China.  More liberal than I expected.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  分心
(fēn xīn literally "divide" + "heart") = v./n distract or distraction.  A divided heart is distracted. 

April 24, 2011 The Struggle Continues

I'm tossing this into the site instead of doing a proper update.  Just too busy these days.  The effort to learn Chinese vocabulary and characters continues.  We're making great progress on our vocabulary game, inspired by the map game you can find if you scroll down this page, and I'm hoping to have a prototype for testing in a week or so, both English and Chinese versions.  In the meantime I continue with the flash cards, which feel increasingly frustrating, and with developing mnemonics for characters, which feels terribly slow. 
    I asked my students if they can remember how they learned Chinese characters.  Of course they already knew the language by the time they started school, and most of them learned a lot of characters so far back in childhood that they've forgotten learning them.  They tell me they started in school with the alphabet, and learning the 拼音 (pīnyīn the standard system of Romanized Mandarin spelling) for the words they could speak.  This was a big surprise to me. They also told me that they didn't use mnemonics, for the most part, but simply wrote complicated characters so many times that they drilled them into their memory.  Sigh.
     Sometimes creating a mnemonic for a character can be fun, if a bit scatological.  Here's a mnemonic for the word "excrement".  I'll let you come up with your own mental images.

        shī = corpse or dead body

above  mǐ = rice                                 

=   shǐ = excrement                   

Excrement is the "corpse" of rice or rice after it has been eaten becomes excrement.  I imagine a zombie on a toilet eating rice to remember this.

 

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Picture:  Rain did not dampen the beauty of the landscape for our boat ride on Donghu and our tour of Shaoxing.

Chinese Word of the Day:    旅游
(lǚ yu literally "travel" + "swim/float") = tour

April 29, 2011  Good Grief

My last post, way back on April 04, I said I wasn't going to update for a while because the site needs to be completely reorganized.  How's that going?  Not at all.  Life gets in the way, and there's been too much going on.  I haven't even started the reorganization.  Admittedly I have excuses - I want switch from using the no longer supported Microsoft FrontPage to using Adobe Dreamweaver, and that requires installation and a learning curve.  My Australian friend, Marion, delivered two beautiful cognac coloured kangaroo skins, so I've started on my second bullwhip.  Class prep and teaching does take some attention, and deserves more.  Life is full.
     So this is an interim post.  It will be a while before I get around to another one.  If you are a regular reader, please don't desert the site completely.  Wander the archives.  I'll be back soon.

Another Fabulous Tour

Picture: A group picture taken at the Shaoxing yellow wine museum.  The tour included a tasting room.  Shaoxing, China
黄酒[黃-] hungjiǔ or yellow wine ranges from very dry to quite sweet.  Sweet is better, and the locals prefer medium.

Once again, the school has treated us to a wonderful weekend.  This one was fairly wine soaked, since it started with a tour of the Shaoxing 黄酒 (hungjiǔ = yellow wine) museum where I, the only obvious enthusiast in the group, was given a large jug of wine.

Picture:  This style of Chinese calligraphy is known as "grass writing".  Our Chinese teacher couldn't tell us how to read it.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Enrollment in the calligraphy college is extremely limited, with only forty admitted out of thousands of applicants.

Ruth and I were also presented with this beautiful example of classic Chinese calligraphy, done as we watched by a star pupil, a man the principal assures us will someday be famous.  Unfortunately we didn't catch his name.
     From here on I'll have to let the pictures speak for themselves, since I was very lax with my note taking.

Picture:  I think I read that Donghu is a man made lake.  If so, it's an amazingly beautiful achievement.  Shaoxing, China

Picture:  I'd like to have one of these boats, and they can be bought for a very reasonable price.  But I don't know how I'd get it home to Canada.  Boating on Donghu, Shaoxing, China Picture:  The boatman in his traditional felt hat is actually paddling with his feet.  He only uses the paddle to steer, and he can really move that boat.  Donghu, Shaoxing, China
The boatman is actually paddling with his feet.  He only uses the paddle in his hands to steer.

Picture:  It was a bit rainy, but not cold.  So we all enjoyed our boat ride on Donghu (East Lake).  Shaoxing, China

Picture:  A photographer concentrates on the canola blossoms.  The Chinese name translates as "oil vegetable flower".  Shaoxing, China

Picture:  a classic garden in Shaoxing, China

Picture:  A plaque in the Lu You garden, Shaoxing, China.  I think death by hypochondria might be a misdiagnosis.
The Chinese are a very romantic people.  They love a tragic love story.

Picture:  This is an ancient water town.  The boat design hasn't changed for centuries.  Shaoxing, China.

Picture:  There's a little Huck Finn in every kid, in every culture.  Lan King Gardens, Shaoxing, China

Picture:  The tour nearing the end of the weekend trip.  Safe to say we all had a great time.  Shaoxing, China
Another wonderful weekend.  Once again we thank our administration for taking such good care of us here. 
This is the best job in the world.

This Term it's been Presentations

I've changed my style for Oral English classes this term.  I decided it's time to challenge the students, and stop talking so much myself.  So each class we've had a group of four students use the first period to make a presentation.  Some of these have been, frankly, uninspired.  But then some of them have been very interesting indeed.  Topics have ranged from popular TV shows (not a subject I think worthy of university students) to presentations about Chinese pirates, Thailand's "ladygirls", and the treatment of LGBT in Iran.  Wonderful to see what the students will do when challenged.

Picture:  A student does her part of a presentation on the stone age.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Presentation by the group calling themselves Stone Age on the subject of prehistoric man.
Worth the price of admission just  for the art work on the board.

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Picture:  The pedestrian bridge with the ferris wheel a mile or two in the background, reflected in the waters of Tai Hu.  Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  笑话
(xio hua) n. joke

April 04, 2011  April Fools Day Missed

I had a good April Fools day post almost completely written and ready to publish, but then I was too busy to upload it.  Sigh.  Maybe next year, but this one was timely and won't work next year.  All about the formation of a new political party in Canada, the CCP or Chinese Canadian Party, a party formed by Canadians of Chinese descent to attract Asian voters for the coming election.  Oh well, it probably wasn't all that funny anyway.  It's almost impossible to top my April Fools post of 2008, announcing the merging of China and Canada to form the largest and most powerful country in the world:  Chinada.  That one even had students texting each other with the exciting news.

Meeting With Giant Bicycle for the Helmet Campaign

After literally months of phone calls and letters on my behalf by my fellow conspirator, Panda, we finally got into a meeting with the Giant Bicycle Company executives.  The result was exactly as I expected - we were not talking to a managerial level that can make a decision.  We were received politely.  I'm assured that the concept will be discussed with those who can make a decision.  It was as much as I could expect, and it's a start.
We are a long way from running out of people to talk to in China about this idea.  Stay tuned.

Speaking of Staying Tuned

My first post on The Man in China was made on April 24,  2007, almost exactly four years ago.  After this many frequent updates, it's time to get organized so that people can find some of the stuff that has value a little more easily.  Read: so that I can find the stuff I want to see again more easily.  My wonderful wife, the former computer programmer, has just learned to use DreamWeaver, finished a great reworking of her own site, The Woman in China, and wants to help.  Sounds like an opportunity not to be missed. 
Also, we are very excited about the learning tool we are developing, based on the map game you can find if you scroll down this page a bit.  The upshot is that we're very busy.  I don't expect to update this site again for a while, unless something very exciting happens, like we get the learning tool finished and I can post it.  But the pause should be worth it.  Please check back and see what the new site looks like.  Maybe in a couple of weeks.  Or wander through this site as it is.  Get off the home page and into the archives.  Everything on this site should be active until we roll out the shiny new and revised version.  See you in a couple of weeks, I hope.

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Picture:  Spring has come to Jiangnan University, and our weather is glorious.  I just hope he isn't killing too many fish, because the fish are eating mosquitoe larvae which will otherwise pupate and bite me.  There's a good reason for the "No Fishing" signs.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day: 约会
(yuēhui) n. appointment, engagement, date

March 31, 2011 Progress at Last on the Helmet Campaign

After months of phone calls and letters, mostly made by my incredibly persistent young friend, Panda, I finally have an appointment to talk to the people at Giant Bicycle about my helmet campaign.  We should be in Kun Shan tomorrow early in the afternoon, and hopefully I'll be able to pitch the whole concept to a guy who may be able to feed it into the system.  Giant Bicycles is one of the largest bike companies in China.  They also make and sell bicycle helmets.  So this seems like a natural fit as sponsors of the helmet campaign.

Picture:  One of the early supporters of my bike helmet campaign.  Now we're showing signs of progress at last.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
One of the early supporters of my bike helmet campaign.  Maybe now we're getting someplace.

I've put together a PowerPoint presentation I can show on my iPad, and I have our little public service spot I can run on the little laptop.  So hopefully I'm well prepared.  Panda will come along as an interpreter.  She's been incredibly supportive of this effort, and I owe her a lot.  I'll let you know what comes of the meeting.

Are helmets a good idea?  If you want my answer, click on this link. 
Warning
: click on the link and you will see a graphic image that is probably not work safe and may cause the more squeamish among you to lose your breakfast.  
Click here to see why helmets are a good idea.

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Picture:  Instant restaurants on Shi Tang Jie.  My friend Jackie and I have begun our investigation of street sellers.  Fascinating subject.  Shi Tang Cun, Wuxi, Jiangsu, China

Chinese Word of the Day: 持续
(ch x) = persist

March 19, 2011 Feedback on the Map Game, a Plea for Mastery

This is going to be a short post with no pictures, because I'm really busy.  But I did want to say that I've been getting feedback on the map game in my last post.  Some have told me they tried it, and couldn't get many countries right.  When I asked, they admitted that they only tried it once.  ONCE IS NOT THE POINT.  This isn't a test.  It's a learning tool.  Everybody who does the game for twenty minutes gets 100% of the countries right.  Last night I ran my young student friend, Hilary, through the game and made sure she kept re-starting it.  After a few runs through it, she was hooked.  Then she wanted to get all countries correctly placed.  That took her about twenty minutes, and I could see the satisfaction she got from the exercise.  So if you are tempted to do the game just once, just to prove to yourself how ignorant you are, please don't.  Twenty minutes later you can know where every country is located, and that will feel good.  Refresh the page and restart the map.

This game makes us demand mastery of ourselves.  That's different from what our school system asks of us.  School tests let us pass with a large percentage incorrect.  Why?  Think about the written test for a drivers license.  In China, a score of 90 out of 100 will let you have a license.  What?  What if one of the questions you got wrong was: Do you need to stop at a red traffic light?  You could say no to that and still drive away, a menace on the roads.  Do you want to see a doctor who got 95% on his final exam?  Technology like this learning game can give us mastery, and mastery is important.

One of the things I'm busy with is trying to adapt this map game to learning vocabulary in English and Chinese.  I'm very excited by this idea.  Stay tuned.

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Chinese Word of the Day:  技术
(j sh)  n. technology, skill, technique

March 14, 2011 Educational Technology

This is wonderful.  When this map game landed in my inbox from Ruth's mom, I had only the vaguest of ideas where all these countries of North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are located.  Sure I had a rough idea they were clustered around the Mediterranean, and that the Suez Canal is in Egypt.  But for the rest of them I didn't have a clue.  Twenty minutes later I could place every country without making a mistake.  My guess is, you can do the same.

Picture:  A map game that can teach you where all the countries of North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are located in about twenty minutes.

Just click on the map to go the the website, or click on this link.  Then start dragging and dropping the names onto the map.
     I'm afraid most people will think of this as a test of their knowledge.  It isn't.  It's a very efficient way to learn.  So don't do it just once and then quit. 
 If you are anything like me, your first few attempts will be mainly trial and error.  And that's okay.  There's no pain in making a mistake with this game.  In fact, making a mistake and then finding out the correct position is how you learn so quickly.  And that's what you will do if you try this.  You will learn quickly where all of these countries are.  What a fantastic learning tool.
I don't know how you are going to feel when you can place all these countries, but I was totally thrilled.  Imagine, making this kind of learning fun.  Imagine, making learning into a game. 太棒了。

Think about what this kind of technology can mean to teachers - freedom from presenting material that needs to be memorized, allowing a teacher to concentrate on inspiring the students and monitoring progress. 

Picture:  Panda and Kobe work the game.  Twenty minutes later they could place every country without a mistake.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Panda and Kobe do the map.  Twenty minutes and they had all countries memorized.

There's a lot of this kind of thing in the pipeline, and I'm going to see if it could be adapted for language learning, to help a student develop a vocabulary.  More on that soon.

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The Future of Education - the Global School

The other night we watched a TED talk by Salman Khan in which he talked about his Khan Academy.  This is another fantastic learning resource.  The website supplies a free online collection of over 2,200 micro lectures via video tutorials, stored on YouTube, teaching mathematics, history, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and economics.  Each and every video was created by Salman Khan himself.  He has a knack for explaining technical subjects very simply, in clear and easy to follow steps.

"The Khan Academy also provides a web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on skill level and performance. Khan believes his academy points to an opportunity to overhaul the traditional classroom by using software to create tests, grade assignments, highlight the challenges of certain students, and encourage those doing well to help struggling classmates.

His low-tech, conversational tutorials -- Khan's face never appears, and viewers see only his unadorned step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard -- are more than merely another example of viral media distributed at negligible cost to the world. Khan Academy holds the promise of a virtual school: an educational transformation that de-emphasizes classrooms, campus and administrative infrastructure, and even brand-name instructors."  - Wikipedia

Since TED lectures don't seem to be blocked in China, so far, you can watch Salman Khan present his academy concept online.  I highly recommend watching this inspirational talk.  But since his videos are hosted on Youtube, they are not accessible in China, and neither is the Khan Academy's website home page. I have no idea why.  The children of China would really benefit from this stuff.

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Presentations Continue

This week my oral English students continue to do presentations during their first period.  Our presentation on Friday morning was on an unexpected subject - chastity.  I say unexpected, because my students are generally very shy and unwilling to discuss anything to do with sex.

Picture:  Friday's presentation on the subject of "chastity".  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

After the presentation, the class voted on whether it is important to remain chaste until marriage. I think attitudes have changed in China in the the last few generations.* 

Picture:  The class vote on chastity - sixteen to seven saying sex before marriage is okay.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

I only wish their school sex education was keeping up with the change.  The Chinese are very pragmatic people.  Maybe sex education in schools is coming soon.

*This is, after all, a country where a professor from Nanjing has been jailed for three and a half years for organizing sex parties.  Sometimes the thinking of officials in China is hard for a foreigner to understand.  That professor admitted the facts but argued that since all participants were adults, no crime was committed. The chief judge disagreed, stating that "group licentiousness infringed public order."  Interesting.

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Picture:  Fortunately she only hurt her elbow.  This time.  I sure wish I could get these students to wear helmets.  Working on it.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  割包皮
(gē bāop literally "cut" + "wrap" + "skin") = v.o. circumcise

March 09, 2011 Adventures in Teaching - current social issues

I'm trying to engage my students more in discussion.  They will chatter away in Chinese, but getting an animated conversation in English is not easy.  One self-criticism I've had of my teaching has been that I talk too much in my oral English class, and my students don't practice talking enough.  I try to balance this by saying things that are interesting and provocative, but that's not good enough.  So this term I've taken a new approach.  Each class has two forty-five minute periods.  I've split my classes into teams of four or five students, and each class from now on one of the teams will do a presentation for the whole first period.

Picture:  An improptu presentation on Chinese fortune telling and naming of infants.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Our discussion inspired this impromptu presentation about Chinese fortune tellers and the way they name babies in China.  Very good stuff.

I'm doing my best to just sit back and listen, take notes, and offer suggestions in the second period.  This has been the first week of this new regime, and so far it's working well, though we haven't had any real barn burners of presentation.  At least the students are talking. 
       So far this week we've had a presentations on the pyramids of Egypt, astrological signs of the Western zodiac, the difficulty of getting train tickets during Spring break, and primitive tribes. 

Picture:  The class assessment of the presentation on primitive tribes.  A bit more generous than I would have been.  No, a lot more generous.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
The name of the class is Burning Tongue.  The presentation group is Shero.  Their presentation was on primitive tribes.  This is the audience assessment of whether the presentation was understandable.  Generous crowd.

    The second period is to be spent evaluating the presentation, and discussing the points it brought up.  I find that the students are very generous in their assessment of presentations, and even presentations that were nearly incomprehensible to me got relatively high marks from the rest of the class.
     Each presentation is also supposed to include a discussion point for the second period, but I've taken the second period back this week  to get the students discussing recent events.  I'm trying to get my students interested in things that are happening in the outside world.  I've already talked to them about the Gates Foundation's well financed campaign to promote circumcision in Africa.  This past week there's been a flap in San Francisco because a group there is trying to get a law passed that would make circumcision illegal. Needless to say, the Jewish community is up in arms, even making alliances with the Muslim community in preparation for a fight against any restrictions.  Right now in America the ONLY surgery you can do on an infant without a good medical reason is male circumcision.  So much as a pin prick on a girl's genitals will send the perpetrator to jail.  The male foreskin is the only exception to the law that protects infants from mutilation by their parents. 
     Circumcision is not practiced in China, and my students don't know anything about it.  It's not a comfortable subject for them.  They've had no sex education, and most are painfully shy and reluctant to hear about sexual subjects.  I'm sure I'm pushing them out of their comfort zone, and I hope that's a good thing.

Picture:  The blackboard with the student's vote on the San Francisco effort to make male infant circumcision illegal.  Interesting.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

My students were fairly accepting of male circumcision, as you can see from the vote above.  They had never heard of FGM, and had no idea that it was done anywhere, or what is involved.  I think they call this a teachable moment.  Since my class is mostly girls, they were shocked to hear the details of FGM.  Needless to say, the vote was unanimous on that issue.
残害  (cn hi literally "injure" + "harmful") v. cruelly injure or kill; mutilate

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Kacper (pronounced Casper) Visits from Canada

We met Kacper in a ferry lineup last summer, and I gave him this site URL and my email address.  He decided to join us here for a few days.  We always enjoy visitors.  It was really fun showing Kacper our part of China, especially this beautiful campus,  the local restaurants and the nearby village.

Picture:  Kacper at his lap top.  What a world we live in, when keeping in touch with the folks back home is so easy.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China  Picture:  I showed Kacper around our campus, and he took his resume in to the administration.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Kacper is now off to explore other cities in China, but we're friends for life.  I hope he keeps in touch.

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Picture:  I never get tired of my emperor, but he's getting crowded out by the Kinect and TV and other high tech gadgetry.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day: 报纸
(bo zhǐ literally "report paper") n. newspaper

March 04, 2011 Our Amazing World of Connectivity

I subscribe online to the Washington Post and the New York Times.  Both send me email notification when they have stories or opinion pieces, and often those opinion pieces have to do with China.  One of the more recent ones carried the headline:  Why China Is Nervous About the Arab Uprisings   It's an interesting article, but even more interesting were the comments under the article.  Along with the usual China bashing, there were some very interesting thoughts from Americans who actually seem to understand modern China and its position in the world, and how essential it is to the welfare of western countries and western economies..  What REALLY got me excited was the realization that many of the comments were coming directly from China.

Policemen breaking up crowds in Shanghai on Feb. 27 after anonymous calls for protests circulated on the Internet. Picture stolen from the NT Times.
              - Peter Parks/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images

These direct from China comments included the usual party line flag waving, like these:

SCUI
Beijing, CN
March 1st, 2011 3:37 pm
Long live the Chinese People! Long live the Chinese Communist Party!

Chen Shui-bian
Taipei, Republic of China
March 1st, 2011 2:08 pm
Some Westerners, 'Taiwan' separatists, and oh, yes, of course, the Dalai Lama and his ilk would give their eye teeth to see China disintegrate like the Soviet Union. Dream on!

Lady Gagas Biggest Fan
Mars
March 1st, 2011 4:15 pm
Yeah. Instigate all you want. For a populist/democratic movement, you need PEOPLE. Nobody in China wants a revolution.
This whole thing is a perfect example of how the West projects its own distorted visions onto the Chinese people.

But the point is, this was in a major American newspaper, being read by people all over the world, and these particular comments came directly from China.  There were any number of thoughtful and intelligent comments from both sides of the big pond.  Here are a few of them:

helen
CD, China
March 1st, 2011 12:47 pm
Instead of covering mass protests elsewhere in the world like in India and on its own soil, the U.S. media tend to fabricate protests that have slim chance to happen in China. The hypocrisy stinks. People in China cherish their hard-earned peace and prosperity and hate those (including the redneck Jon Meade Huntsman, Jr., and the Fa Lun Gong followers) intend to stir chaos in China

Aron Lee
Shanghai,China
March 1st, 2011 11:04 pm
In China, most people are busy doing daily work necessary for the betterment of life. Most of the time, they just concentrate their full energy on their lives and won't try to protest out of their dissatisfaction about the system unless they have no choice. However, they don't think that time has come. For the workers, they have to focus on their work, and students have to focus on their study. Everyone is just too busy to go to a square to protest under the threat of ruining one's career. And someone who is really disappointed with the present government always remain scattered and disunited so that they will never form a real impact to introduce a drastic reform towards a Western-styled political system.
As for the Jasmine Revolution in China, it's just an illusory concept in the present China. This concept is almost completely unknown to most of the people. Only those few capable of circumventing the Fire Wall have the chance to be informed. However, it's also unrealistic to launch a Middle-East styled protest on these ones.
Before the transformation to a more democratic society of China, a revolution or enlightenment of thought will be desperately needed. The ideas of democracy, liberty, equality are almost insulated from the people. This has prevented the people from forming a true force to adopt the social change
Without healthy organizations and full progress in the mind of the people, true democracy will never come to China.

A. Smith
DC
March 2nd, 2011 1:12 am
One thing China has that we don't: Leaders that actually know what they're doing.
Their leadership are from backgrounds of economics, engineering, chemistry etc. Our political leaders are just bunch of liberal arts majors.

kc
new england
March 2nd, 2011 3:15 am
"would give their eye teeth to see China disintegrate"
This is false. No one in their right mind wishes ill to China.
What this article points up is government control of communication.  Here, this effort is headed by Governors engaging in union busting. In China it is official policy.  Americans need to be aware. The crackdown in China is normal and logical in a totalitarian governmental design. Here, it is normal when the wealthy have the opportunity to buy Governors.

I've selected just a few of the many comments from beneath this article.  I hope my students will go and read them all.

Think about this.  For the first time in the history of the world, people in China can find out instantly what is being said about them in major American newspapers, and FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER they can talk back.  Is this not amazing and wonderful?

I've told my students how easy it is to subscribe to the New York Times or the Washington Post.  Just click on these links: New York Times or Washington Post and sign up. Then, just as I do, my students can get a notification of any opinion pieces. They can drop in on articles that mention China and let their own opinion be heard in America.  Instantly.  How cool.

Students, if you think China is misunderstood or misrepresented in America, make your voice heard there.  You have the technology to speak directly to the American people.  Use it.

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Picture:  Jin Bo instructs Ruth on how to give orders to the Kinects system, where you control the game with your whole body.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day: 锻炼
(dun lin)  v. engage in physical exercise

February 28, 2011 Unscientific Good Advice

I say this advice is unscientific because I have read no studies on this issue with control groups and scientific rigor.  But the conclusion seems obvious to me.  There is a direct relationship between a good complexion and exercise.  Just think about all those female tennis players and other women athletes, the runners, swimmers, volley ball professionals.  How many of them have zits and pimples?  They all have wonderful clear complexions.

Picture: Serena Williams, tennis star, may not be pretty, but she's got good skin.   Picture: Maria Kirilenko. tennis star, displays the complexion that exercise can give you. 
Women tennis stars.  Hard to find a zit in the whole crowd.

Many of my students, more girls than boys, have bad complexions. Some have terrible acne, and are very embarrassed by their own faces.  I don't want to be one of those people who tell others that their misfortune is all their own fault, but the link between too many hours spent in the library, or in the dorm eating noodle packs, and a bad complexion seems too obvious to ignore.  The standard Western answer to this problem, or any problem, is a product you can buy - Clearasil.  Covers zits.  Hides the problem.  Still looks terrible.  The proper answer is healthy living, particularly diet and exercise.  Acne can have a number of causes, ranging from stress to hormonal imbalance to bacterial infections.  Some can be helped with medication or antibiotics.  All are lessened, and often cured, by regular vigorous physical exercise.
     I think the obvious reason that girls have worse complexions than boys is that the boys are more encouraged to be on the basketball court, or playing football.  The girls are actually encouraged to be weak and unathletic.  So here's the unscientific advice for ALL my students.  If you want to look your best and have a clear, beautiful skin on your face, get out every morning and RUN.  Or if you hate running, find something that you do like to do that gets your cardio vascular system working, makes you sweat, and clears your pores.  You may not see a difference in your complexion immediately, but it will come.  And you will see an immediate difference in how you feel.  So get out there and work up a sweat.

Picture:  A student tries out one of the Kinect games.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
The best exercise is the kind you don't notice doing because you're involved in something else.

Our favourite liaison officer, Jin Bo, is an early adopter, geek and gadget freak.  He's the reason we own our iPads, because he demonstrated his with such enthusiasm.  Jin Bo's tiny apartment doesn't have enough room for his latest acquisition, a Kinect game system, so for the moment it's in our living room.  Kinect is a camera and sound system that measures your body and reads your position, so gestures can be used to control the images.  An avatar moves as you move.  Now this is where exercise is going to go through a revolution. The games available at the moment are impressive, but nothing compared to what they could become once the system gets some maturity.  I found myself out of breath after a couple of rounds of the virtual boxing match.  My one short workout with the exercise program left me with painful thighs for several days, and I wasn't even aware of stressing my muscles.  That tells me that my daily use of the elliptical trainer, though great for the complexion, cardio vascular system and mood,  is leaving much of my body unexercised.  Things are once again about to get better.
     That exercise program, by the way, is about as unimaginative a use of the technology as anybody could possibly imagine.  It take the experience of going to a gym and following a trainer and puts it into a virtual reality with all the boredom and pain of the real thing.  It's good.  Don't get me wrong about that.  But it is only exercise.  It isn't exciting or fun.  I suppose it was the logical place to start, but compared to what I imagine an exercise program could be... well, it's just dull thinking.  Instead of working out in a gym, a person could be chased through a jungle by spear throwing aliens, necessitating jumping over logs and crawling under obstacles.  I'm looking forward to the game that puts me in a virtual army obstacle course, with a drill sergeant barking orders at me.  Or the game that sends me scrambling to escape from a collapsing underground ancient deathtrap like the ending of "National Treasure II".  Or imagine being able to study Tai Chi on a mountain top with a virtual master.  Don't tell me we need boring in order to set up goals and achievement levels.   I have to keep in mind that this technology is brand new, still in its infancy.  It's like watching the Wright brothers first flight at Kittyhawk and trying to imagine a modern  passenger jet on an international flight, with hundreds of passengers watching a variety of movies and munching snacks.   The potential for making exercise fun and even exciting is incredible. 
     Microsoft has opened the code for Kinect to developers, and we can expect to see a lot of different applications for this technology.  Already amazing improvements are in the works, things like micro-expression recognition so that the avatar smiles or frowns when you do, and photorealistic avatars that actually look and move as you do.  And there are other areas of potential yet to be explored.  I can imagine a virtual musical quartet where a student can take the place of one of the players, playing along with the music just like it's a real, but much more forgiving and accepting, group.  Imagine being able to play blue grass with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, or take a spot on stage with The Beatles.  It's coming, folks.  What an exciting time to be alive.

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Picture:  A woman carries a heavy load of fruit to the market in Haikou, Hainan Island, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  关系
(guānxi) n. relation; relationship

February 22, 2011 New Leaders on Tour

Picture:  Left to right - Deputy Director Yao Xin, Director Zhong Fang, and office assistant Shirley Li 孙梦黎 with an introductory gift of fruit.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Our administration has had a changing of the guard.  Apparently the rule here is that no director of a department can serve more than two, three year terms.  So it was time for Ms. Liu to have a lateral transfer. 
     We enjoyed our relationship with Ms. Liu tremendously, and will miss her.  But today our new Director, Zhong Fang (center) and Deputy Director Yao Xin (Clark Yao, left) paid us a visit along with one of our favourite office assistants, Shirley, bearing a gift of delicious pears.  We really appreciate the personal attention we get from our administration here, and are looking forward to continuing our wonderful relationship with this university.

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February 21, 2011 When Guanxi Bites

I don't know how many times I've been told about guānxi (pronounced something like "gwan she") in China.  The Chinese generally accept it as a fact of life.  Those with guanxi are happy to have it and use it.  Those without lament the limitations their lack of guānxi will place on their future.  Nobody seems to think it could ever be stopped. It's just a part of Chinese culture.  It may be both China's greatest strength and biggest unrecognized limitation.
     When used as a noun, guānxi means "relationship".  But here it has another meaning - back door connections, the influential family member, the close personal friend in authority.  Somebody who can quietly put you at the head of the line, or solve a problem with the building inspector.  Very often, guānxi is actually beneficial.  When it is beneficial, I think it's a great idea. 
     I have a young friend whose father was too short to be a teacher.  Yes, in China there is, or possibly was, a height requirement for a male teacher.  Her father, an excellent, dedicated, career teacher, was not tall enough to meet the requirements.  But he had a doctor friend who could make "a mistake" in filling out the physical report.  So that's an example of how guānxi could be used to circumvent a silly regulation and solve a problem.  When it works this way, I'm all in favour of guānxi.  It can bring justice and common sense where it is lacking and sorely needed. 
     But this week I was presented with an example of guānxi in a more destructive and pernicious form.  Before the term break, one of my students applied to be part of a group that would be sent to Canada to complete their undergraduate work.  It was a stiff competition.  Only so many students would be accepted.  She called me just before the end of last term with her happy news. She had made the grade.  She would be accepted and go to Canada.  I was happy and excited for her too, because I had given her a rave letter of support.  She deserved it.  She really is an outstanding student.  And then... Today when I asked her when she would leave for Canada, she seemed embarrassed.  She reluctantly told me that she wouldn't be going.  She didn't make the list. A "mistake" had been made.  She won't go to Canada after all.
     Though she didn't say so, I think my student assumes that she has been the victim of guānxi.  Somebody had a connection.  Somebody had influence that could bounce her off the list and replace her with a favored relative or relative of a friend.  Maybe somebody was repaying a favor.  Maybe a recipient of past guānxi had an obligation to pass it along.  My young student friend accepts this as just the way life is here in China.  What can she do?  She could never prove it?  So she is just moving on, looking for the next opportunity.  I'm not so accepting.  Being a foreigner, I'm probably more upset by this than she is.  And maybe I'm upset over nothing.  Maybe the process was entirely fair and above board, with no guānxi involved.  I hope that's the case.  Who can say?
    This dark side of guānxi has some very obvious results. It could be that a Canadian university that wants the very best students is not getting one of the very best because somebody of influence pulled strings.  Maybe this doesn't matter.  Maybe the student who used guānxi to bump an accepted choice is really very close to being as good a choice.  Maybe the decision to accept the first student was subjective, and the student who used guānxi to bump her is even better.  This is possible. It seems unlikely to me.  My guess is, the Canadian university is not getting the top student.  Worse than this, China is not sending out its top student.  If the student who is sent turns out to be a pampered seat warmer, as is quite possible, China loses one more bit of reputation.  And finally, and maybe most important, a very enthusiastic student is made slightly more cynical and bitter.  Her amazing energy is slightly diminished.  Her light burns just that little bit less brightly.  Multiply this by thousands of situations and variations, and this also is a loss for China.
     Whatever the situation with this particular case, there's no doubt that guānxi is often abused. I don't know what could be done to get rid of the bad guānxi in China, while keeping the good.  It's too much to hope that a sense of integrity and shame would prevent its abuse in this manner.  I know that many people here don't like guānxi.  Unfortunately, it seems to be the ones who don't have any who dislike it the most. The ones who have it are delighted to use it.  When the most egregious examples come to light, as in the case of Li Gang's son, a drunk driver who killed a university student and seriously injured another, then shouted defiantly that he was above the law because his father is a deputy police chief, the authorities take action.  Li Gang's son has been sentenced to six years in jail.  But one wonders whether he is being punished more for his blatant and stupid flaunting of his guānxi than for his crime.  The smaller, milder injustices that happen every day in China seem impossible to stop. 
     We have guānxi in the West, of course.  Lots of it.  We have the saying: it's not what you know, it's who you know.  Nepotism is a fact of life for us too, as is influence and abuse of connections. But I think for us it's less accepted.  Less taken as a matter of course.  I mentioned in my previous post about smokers in China that I really don't like to sound critical of this country.  I'm a guest here.  But there are aspects of Chinese culture that strike a foreigner as... unfortunate.  Acceptance and abuse of guānxi is certainly one of them.  I'm with the Chinese who paid such close attention to the case of Li Gang's son.  Suggesting that one has, uses or needs, guānxi should not be a source of pride, but of shame.

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Picture: Old and new - Ruth checks her Google map on her iPad in front of a beautifully textured ancient wall in Haikou, Hainan Island, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  抽烟
(chōu yān) v. smoke cigarette (About the only think I don't like about China.  It's still a smoking country.)

February 17, 2011 Back Home in Wuxi

We had a wonderful, quiet time in Haikou, mostly spent in our comfortable hotel room studying Chinese.  My little laptop quit on me a week or so ago, and I haven't done any updates as a result.  But now I'm back.  The mnemonics concept turns out to be more difficult than I hoped.  They are harder to create when the characters become more complex, or the ideas more abstract.  But here's another one, a really obvious one this time.

Picture: graphic for the Chinese character, gua4.  Hang or put up.

This is gu, which means "hang" or "put up".  A sail hangs on a sailboat.  Stars hang in the heavens.  Think of this as two clothesline poles on the right side, one above the other.  The radical on the left you'll just have to remember.

It's "hand" shǒu.

which distorts to this when it becomes a radical. 

So this is easy.  Two poles, with imaginary lines between them for hanging up washing, which you must do with your hands.  Now you shou'nuff better gua'n down to the yard and hang up them clothes, y'hear.  (It's a stretch, I know.)

picture: clothing on a line, part of my mnemonic for gua, hang.

 

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Goodbye to Haikou

We had a very quiet holiday this year.  Besides the Chinese studies in our hotel room, our other haunt was a nearby coffee shop which happened to have an unsecured wireless connection, the only way to get online with our iPads.  Only problem with that one was the smokers.  If you are a reformed smoker, as I am, the smell of smoke is objectionable, to put it mildly.  Smokers have no idea how much they stink. By the time the air is turning blue, I'm on the edge of panic attacks.  I don't want to breathe that stuff.  At our university we are mostly insulated from smokers.  But our holiday was a taste of the Chinese reality.  They smoke like we did in Canada back in the fifties.  They smoke like chimneys.

 Picture:  China is changing very quickly, but in the backwaters the smokers have no idea they are offensive to anybody.  Totally unconscious.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China  Picture: The world is their ashtray.  A smoker flicks his ash onto the restaurant floor.  We've seen them butt cigarettes out on carpets.  Often they just drop them to smolder and stink, not bothering to butt them out at all.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
At our favourite restaurant near our hotel, we always tried to grab the table beside the window.  After dinner, whole tables of diners would light up, oblivious to any others customers.  They don't even think about it.

Picture:  My iPad on the foreground table, while Ruth works on the distant one in our own self-created no smoking section.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China Picture:  He was about to walk into that elevator with that cigarette and not a moment's thought.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
In the coffee shop, we managed to created a no smoking section when lots of tables were empty and we could grab the two in an alcove beside the windows.  Even then, the windows had to be open and a walk to the washroom was nasty.

When I first came to China, I was determined to be polite and accept the culture as I found it.  Mostly I manage to do that, and I genuinely delight in the warmth and friendliness of the Chinese people, their sense of fun and enjoyment of life.  But now, after six years here, I've started to ask for some air.  I can't avoid breathing. 
     I wrote an earlier version of this anti-smoking rant before we left Haikou, but censored myself and didn't post it because I don't like to say anything that sounds critical of China.  The thing is, Canada was just like this when I was in my teens.  I remember smoking in an elevator, and smoking under the No Smoking sign in my university lecture hall, proud of my defiance of authority.  I remember sitting at meetings of the Canadian Director's Guild executive, on which I served as the B.C. District Council President, and we'd turn the air blue during our debates, without a second thought for the poor secretary taking notes.  My sister tells me I once blew smoke in her face when she asked me not to smoke in her apartment.  It's hard for me to believe I was ever that much of a pig, but there you have it.  And there's nothing worse than a reformed sinner.  So take my rant with a grain of salt.  If you're a smoker yourself, you'll love China.  Here you'll only be hassled by other crazy foreigners. 
     We've only seen one occasion where a Chinese person pointed out a No Smoking sign to a smoker.  That was at the airport in Haikou, and the smoker ignored him.  (He did find it impossible to ignore me when he started to walk into the elevator with his lit cigarette.)  I know China will change, just like Canada changed.  Already there is a mild campaign to limit smoking, and talk of banning smoking in restaurants in Beijing. This is one area where I'd like to help them along.  I think if China quit smoking they'd cut their air pollution by half.

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     We spent our last day in Haikou walking the neighborhood before a farewell hotpot dinner with Xiao Hua, Patrick, Feng Feng and a new friend, Bob from New York.  I took the night off from taking pictures and just enjoyed the company, but you've all seen people eating in restaurants on this site before so no great loss to this narrative.  Here are a few pictures that may be of more general interest.

Picture: A worker wires the endless row of lanterns with electricity for the Lantern Festival.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China  Picture:  Four rows of closely spaced red lanterns for the Lantern Festival stretch into the distance along a street in Haikou, Hainan Island, China
The day we left Haikou (this morning, hard as that is for me to believe) is the lantern festival.  This man was wiring lanterns, and had his work cut out for him.  I'm sorry we couldn't stick around to see them all glowing tonight.

Picture:  Street sweepers gather with their carts to deliver the nights work to a garbage truck.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
Forget about street sweeping machines.  In Haikou it's all done by hand, by an army of workers, each with a home made and human powered broom and cart.  They gather here to deliver their night's work to the garbage truck.

Picture:  A garbage truck empties a street sweeper's cart.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
At least the dumping of the carts is now automated.  These people do an incredible job of cleaning up after the nightly fireworks and littering, which often leave the streets well decorated with paper and plastics.

Picture:  Ruth consults Google maps to set our course in Haikou, Hainan Island, China
At the start of our walk, Ruth checks the map on her iPad to get her bearings.  Great technology.  Wonderful contrast to the environment we were in.

Picture:  An urban farmer has scratched out a plot in the temporary wasteland of renewal.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
A woman tends her "farm" amidst the rubble of urban renewal, or urban appropriation.

Picture: The old farm building, a sad remnant of an agricultural lifestyle now lost to and surrounded by urbanization.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China Picture:  An unbelievable contrast between the green of the lettuce and the brown of the earth and stones.  Not a weed to be seen.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
Did she once live in this old house, or was it a barn?  How many of these little plots are under her care?  How long before the land is covered with new apartment buildings?  Have we been eating her lettuce in our favourite restaurant? So many questions?

Picture:  Down on his luck.  We wished we could help, and I keep wondering whether there isn't something I could do if I could only think of it.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
Down on his luck.  In excellent English he told us he's divorced and homeless, scraping by with tutoring and looking for work as a teacher.  We wondered what had caused his life to fall apart so sadly.  A proud man, embarrassed by his circumstances.

Picture:  A home made cart and a supply of food items and you're in business in Haikou, Hainan Island, China.
It was the funky cart that made me take this picture, but now I wonder about the entrepreneur behind it.

I find myself fascinated by the street merchants of China.  I want to know how much they gross in a day, how much overhead they have, how much they net, where they get their supplies, what level of independence do they have, what competition, what social status between them and who makes the best money, what kinds of support or opposition do they find in the official community.  She's probably supporting a child in university. Or maybe that's just a foreigner romanticizing her situation. To a pampered 外国人 (wi gu rn, foreigner), this looks like an impossible lifestyle, as far from our experience as an Australian outback aborigine or Kalahari bushman.  I may start a project to learn the details.  It would make an interesting study, maybe even a book.

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Picture:  We had a great time.  I think our driver was bored.  Haikou mangrove reserve, Hainan Island, China

Chinese Word of the Day: 白鹭鸟
(bi l niǎo literally "white" + "egret" + "bird") egret or white crane

February 5, 2011  A Family Day and a Mangrove Swamp

It was a little warmer today, not warm enough to be oppressive, but just about perfect t-shirt weather.  This morning Patrick picked us up at our hotel and drove us out to Yan Feng, where Xiao Hua's parents now have a new home.  We brought a gift of fruit and fireworks, and when Jack Zhang arrived with another string of crackers we had enough to scare any evil spirits away for the coming year.

 Picture: This is how the fireworks are laid out.  Yan Feng village.  Hainan Island, China  Picture:  Xiao Hua's father and Jack Zhang set up the fireworks.  Yan Feng village, near Haikou on Hainan Island, China
This is how the strings of firecrackers are set up.  They are gloriously noisy and end with an impressive crescendo.

Picture:  Xiao Hua's mother and father's new home in Yan Feng village near Haikou on Hainan Island, China  Picture:  Lunch with Xiao Hua's family in Yan Feng village near Haikou on Hainan Island, China

After a couple of songs for everybody from us and a delicious lunch, cooked by Xiao Hua's uncle, who runs a restaurant in the village, we were off for a short walk down the road to the Mangrove Preserve.  There we boarded a boat for a serene glide through the swamps, and a view of the white egrets that make the swamp their home.

Picture:  The boat ride through the Haikou Mangrove Reserve.  Hainan Island, China  Picture:  The boat ride through the Haikou Mangrove Reserve.  Hainan Island, China

Picture:  The rare white egrets at home in the mangrove reserve near Haikou on Hainan Island, China

All in all, a great day.  We're always so grateful when people open their homes to us here.  Xiao Hua and her family remain cherished friends.

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Picture:  One of a great many shops selling decorations for the Chinese New Year.  Haikou,  Hainan Island, China

Chinese of the Day:  新年快乐
(xīn nin kui l litterally "new" + "year" + "happy")  Happy New Year

February 3, 2011 New Year's Day (Chinese) in Haikou

We've been having a very quiet vacation here, mostly sticking to our hotel room and studying Chinese.  I should correct this statement.  We've been quiet, but our vacation has not been.  Here's a sample of what it sounded like.  Just click on either picture for a short video clip.

Picture:  Fireworks for sale, and one of the workers who will clean up after the party.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China  Picture:  The view from our hotel room.  The fireworks were distant, but the sound wasn't.  Click the picture for a short video clip.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
Stores selling fireworks sprang up all over Haikou these past few days.  The street cleaner is one of an army of workers who will clean up the result.  It's amazing the job they do.

We didn't know where to be for the epicenter last night, so it wasn't quite the glorious party that I remember from our two previous New Year's Eves in Sanya, but the fireworks were amazing.  They started after dark and continued with a steady roar and continuous bangs for hours, building to a crescendo at midnight and far beyond.  We watched from our hotel room, then finally fell asleep to the sound of the crackers exploding. The video clip is only twenty seconds long.  You have to imagine that sound going on for hours.  In fact, it's starting up again this evening. 

New Year's Eve the Day

Ruth and I caught a bus downtown, but Haikou had a strange energy.  Like Christmas Eve back home.  Very few vendors on the street.  People hurrying to make their last minute purchases of fireworks and decorations.  But not a lot of people out and about. 

  Picture:  The park in downtown Haikou is beautiful, and on the Chinese New Year's Eve it was all but deserted.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China  Picture:  Colourful shops sprang up all over Haikou, selling decorations for the Chinese New Year festivities.  Hainan Island, China
We spent a leisurely time walking in the nearly deserted park before getting into the more active areas. 
Haikou was quiet.  Expectant.

Walking through the market that evening we found it almost deserted.  We wondered off into a nearby huton before heading back to dinner and thence to our hotel.

Pictur: A street through a Haikou huton.  I was worried about walking past the dog, but he turned out to be suspicious but not vicious.  Hainan Island, China
This is not a back street.  This is a residential area in Haikou, Hainan Island.

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Picture:  Street food on the streets of Haikou, Hainan Island, China  I can never get enough of the texture of this country.

Chinese Word of the Day:  回忆
(hu y literally return + remember) v./n. recollect; recall or memory

February 1, 2011 Desperate Measures for Learning 汉字(Hnz)

We're on our Winter/Spring vacation and have escaped the cold of Wuxi for the slightly warmer cold of Haikou on Hainan Island.  It's is an improvement, though my hands and feet are cold as I type this.  Ruth and I have been spending most of our time in our hotel room studying Chinese.  I'm very frustrated by my glacial progress in learning Chinese characters, 汉子(hnzi), and as usual I've been looking for a techno-fix.  I want something that will teach me Chinese the way a child learns it from a mother.  Something to make the process painless, with lots of repetition and forced recall.  Rosetta Stone, the Chinese language program, is really good and comes the closest to what I imagine of anything we've found so far, but it's not quite what I need or want.  Maybe a game of some kind?  That isn't happening yet, but while thrashing around trying to find the perfect solution to this problem I started making mnemonics for Chinese characters.  I've only done a couple so far, but with some encouragement I may continue and make more.  Here's a sample:

This is a geoduck or gooeyduck.  It's quite ancient as a species.  Another memory hook for gu, ancient.           Picture:  graphic of the Chinese character gǔ (ancient)  gǔ (ancient)

  This is Picture:  graphic of the Chinese character sh (ten) sh (ten)

      over Picture:  graphic of the Chinese character kǒu (mouth)kǒu (mouth)

Anything that has been handed down for ten generations (through ten mouths) is bound to be a bit gooey.

 

And now that we have gǔ (ancient) we can do h (lake).

Picture: graphic for the Chinese character h (lake)  Picture:  An ancient lake full of water by moonlight.  Can I remember this?
h (lake)

A lake is quite ancient or Picture:  graphic of the Chinese character gǔ (ancient)
(see the gu mnemonic) and h rhymes with gǔ

It's full of water, so we'll add Picture:  graphic of the Chinese character shuǐ(the water radical) shuǐ
(the water radical) on the left.

And for balance we'll add Picture:  Graphic of the Chinese character yu (moon)yu
(the moon radical) on the right because we like to see a lake under moonlight.

 

Okay, I realize that for a beginner I need to start with "ten" and "mouth" and "moon" and "water" and then "water radical" and the whole concept of radicals before these mnemonics are ready to work in somebody else's brain.  But please let me know what you think.  Will these work for you?  Should I continue along this line, and get a collection of characters which will hopefully be easier to remember than just lines and patterns.
     I could see developing a few hundred (or, yikes, a few thousand) of these memory aids, putting together a mnemonics index, and adding some value to this site.  It's a daunting task.  Encourage me, okay.  Or not.  Either way would be helpful.

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Picture:  Ruth about to hit the beach in Sanya, Hainan Island, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  烟花鞭炮
(yānhuā biānpo literally "smoke flower whip canon") = fireworks

January 28, 2011 Off for a Day in Sanya

If, or rather when, the western world discovers Sanya, the city will become a major world tourist center. Especially in the winter. Of course that will completely ruin the place. So get here before
that happens. Try to be one of the lucky few who will be able to say: Yeah, I knew Sanya before it was spoiled by tourism.

Picture:  The clean and shiny train station in Haikou where you catch the fast train to Sanya.  Hainan Island, China  Picture:  The food cart on the Haikou-Sanya fast train.  Expensive food, but what price to be served by a guy in a bow tie.  Hainan Island, China
The shiny new fast train station in Haikou is more like an airport than a train station.  Ninety minutes to Sanya in comfortable seats, even in second class.

We woke up in Haikou at 7:00am on Tuesday, January 25, quickly hit the street, snagged a taxi, and were at the new fast train station by 8:20am. Unfortunately there were no first class tickets left. Fortunately that hardly mattered. Second class on the new train is plenty comfortable for the mere hour and a half it takes to get to Sanya.

   Picture:  the bright and shiny new fast train station in Sanya, Hainan Island, China
The equally new and shiny train station in Sanya.  So new that there are no concession booths installed yet.

We caught a bus from the train station, stepped off the bus in downtown Sanya, and walked into the hotel ten feet from the bus stop. No problem getting a room.
     Actually, the first room they gave us was fine except for the water dripping from the ceiling onto the desk.  We quickly exchanged it for a room without a leaking ceiling, one that included a computer with Internet access.  We think they wanted to charge us more for the upgraded room, but with our limited Chinese we just couldn't understand what they wanted, so they gave up on that idea and we got it for the original price. A very nice, big room, complete with Internet access and all the mod cons is setting us back 288RMB/night (That's $43.5112 Canadian at today's rates.)


Ah, this is what we came here for.  Delightful.

     I LOVE Sanya. It's incredible. Miles and miles of clean beaches, busy but not really overcrowded. Interesting things to see and do. Still with the texture of China and enough of the alien and strange to be exciting, but very safe, very family, and just lots of fun. Best of all it's still affordable, though everything does get more expensive during the Spring Festival tourist season.

Picture:  Geese to go on the streets of Sanya, Hainan Island, China. Picture:  You know your food is fresh when you see it delivered.  Sanya goose restaurant, Hainan Island, China
I was chasing this goose cart to get the picture, not realizing the delivery driver was about to stop at a restaurant.

After we settled in, we took a walk and noticed geese being delivered to a restaurant. Mmmn.. Goose for lunch, along with two different steamed vegetable dishes. Another short walk after lunch took us to the beach. It's amazing the difference an hour on a train makes. Sanya right now is perfectly warm. Not too hot if you stay in the shade, but not chilly at all. I found a beautiful shell within minutes of stepping on the sand.

Picture:  Kids chase tiny crabs on the beach of Sanya, Hainan Island, China
Tiny crabs scuttled into their holes as the kids tried to catch them.  Kids are the same everywhere.

We caught a very luxurious bus (3RMB, about fifty cents Canadian) from downtown to Da Dong Hai beach, where the Internet said there were submarine tours available. The posted price was 380 RMB, but we were instantly given the group rate of 300RMB ($45.64 Canadian). As soon as we had our tickets we were hustled, literally, down to a little dock where a boat was already loaded with other customers and waiting to take us out to the submarine.

Picture:  Ruth walks the plank to the boat that will take us on the submarine ride adventure.  Da Dong Hai, Sanya, Hainan Island, China  Picture: Ruth rides the boat that will take us on the submarine ride adventure.  Da Dong Hai, Sanya, Hainan Island, China

On the way out to the sub we passed some float houses, a sure sign that Sanya has it's own Marina culture, just like Vancouver and Victoria back in B.C.

Picture:  Float houses in the marina of Sanya, Hainan Island, China  My guess is they are expensive.

My heart sank a little as we approached the sub. It wasn't the bright shiny new ten million RMB job I'd been lead to expect. Maybe that one is up in Yalong Bay. This one had seen better days, and obviously too many close encounters with the bottom, or the reef. Downright ratty looking.

Picture:  The ratty looking submarine at it's floating dock, Sanya, Hainan Island, China  Picture:  Down the hatch.  Ruth  boards the submarine for an undersea tour of Sanya bay.  Hainan Island, China

Setting misgivings aside, we boarded and soon were cruising at the surface, as indicated by the conning tower camera, and heading for the dive site. Once there we went completely under, down to a dept of 20 meters, or so the young lady tourist wrangler claimed, and the pilot put us within inches of the rather battered looking cliff face.

Picture:  This picture makes the submarine look better than it was.  Underwater in Sanya bay, Hainan Island, China   Picture:  Ruth commented that she'd seldom seen a captain looking so bored as ours.  Submarine tour.  Sanya, Hainan Island, China

We needed to be that close to see anything, and what we saw would not rival a look into your average restaurant fish tank. The water was very murky. The biggest fish we saw might be five inches long.

Picture:  Big ports.  Not much to see out of them.  Submarine tour, Sanya, Hainan Island, China  Picture:  The occasional little fish would wander into our field of view.  Submarine tour, Sanya, Hainan Island, China
A few colourful fish came in and out of view, but... really.... it would have been better to go to an aquarium.
Just about any aquarium.  Except for the thrill of actually being down there, of course.

Picture:  Our submarine returns to the dock.  Sanya, Hainan Island, China

Still, we didn't resent the expense or the time. It's something to be able to say we've done. Should you do it? Well, that depends on how much you want to experience an hour in a tube peering through murky water to see the occasional small fish. If that's your thing, go for it. It may not even be that murky all the time. I think the submarine ride was worth it. Once. If you do it, please let me know if you agree with me.

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Picture:  The beach at Da Dong Hai, Hainan Island, China.  Fun and games. 
Da Dong Hai has jet ski rentals, paraglider flights towed by a boat, and a whole row of carnival rides.

Picture:  Some of the visitors enjoyed being buried in the sand.  The beach at Da Dong Hai,  Hainan Island, China
We saw the occasional Russian, but few foreign faces in the Chinese crowd.

After the submarine tour we hit the seaside hotel for a coffee and a nai cha (milk tea), then walked on the beach where I bought a coconut full of milk from a bored and surly vendor. The beach was busy. I'm becoming jaded.

Picture:  I've always enjoyed coconut milk.  Da Dong Hai.  Hainan Island, China
Put the lime in the coconut and add some rum and this would be not bad.

Picture:  No truth in advertising.  Customers do not get to swim around free on the diving adventure.  They are dragged by a big Chinese dude.  Da Dong Hai, Hainan Dao, China Picture;  Tourists dressed for scuba dragging.  Da Dong Hai, Hainan Island, China Picture:  Tourists dressed for scuba dragging await their ten minutes of training.  Da Dong Hai, Hainan Island, China
And here was the scuba dragging operation.  The picture on the poster makes it look like you will actually have the freedom SCUBA was invented to give you, freedom to move around at will without trailing hoses or restrictions, but that's not what these customers are going to experience. After ten minutes of "training" they'll be dragged over some well worn coral by a big Chinese guide. When we got tricked into doing this, six years ago, our young Chinese friend thought it was the highpoint of her entire vacation with us.  So if you've never experienced breathing under water, it's worth the money.  For Ruth and me, both of us open water certified, it was an infuriating disappointment.

Picture:  Two trussed chickens await their fate while another bored Sanya resident awaits delivery instructions.  Sanya, Hainan Island, China

A short wait at the bus stop and we were on a bus back to our own beach. I paid an exorbitant amount for a very unimpressive durian, which we ate on the beach looking out at the ocean and listening to a couple of old guys playing 葫芦咝 hlu si, traditional gourd reed instruments, accompanied by a beat box in a backpack. The durian filled us up enough that we went back to our hotel for a while before going out for dinner.
     The next day we spent some time finding a computer place where I could get some discs copied, walked the beach for a while, then caught a bus back to the Sanya train station.

Picture:  Passengers stream down the stairs to the new fast train in the Sanya station.  Sanya, Hainan Island, China

 

     Picture:  Friendly travelling companions on the train from Sanya back to Haikou.  Hainan Island, China  Picture:  The new Haikou train station looks beautiful at night.  Hainan Island, China
One of the joys of travel is the people we meet.  This friendly gentleman is from Austria and spoke no English.  His Chinese wife could speak Austrian, but we can't.  So we talked to her in Chinese.  That was a thrill for us.

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On No! Looks Like the Party's Been Cancelled

Once back in Haikou and preparing for this post, I translated the new sign I'd found on the beach in Sanya. To paraphrase the translation: Setting off fireworks on the beach is strictly forbidden and illegal. What a disappointment!  It looks like the party's been cancelled.

Picture:  Cancel the best party in the world.  Fireworks are now forbidden on the Beach of Sanya.  Hainan Island.

This now feels like writing an obituary for the Sanya we knew, the Sanya I loved so much.  Such a pity.  I've been lobbying my family to join me in Sanya for the Chinese New Year next year, 2012, because the last two times I've been there it's been the best party I've ever attended.  A great party.  A party that should have made Sanya as world famous as the famous Marti Gras made New Orleans.  Even better than Marti Gras because it hasn't been as crowded, and much more family friendly.  In past years, hundreds of families in Sanya have brought their children down to the beach to set off fire works on the Chinese New Year's Eve.  It's been a family time.  Smiles everywhere.  No belligerent drunks,  no crowding on Sanya's miles of beautiful beaches.  Just the best party one could ever imagine while the whole city explodes in the background.  "Come and experience this before it's spoiled by popularity," I told all my relatives.  Oops.  Too late.  The wise leaders of Sanya have banned fireworks on their beach. The party is cancelled.

Picture:  An amateur group, not quite ready for prime time, pracices their pieces on the beach of Sanya, Hainan Island.
An amateur music group gathers for a practice behind the unfortunate sign.

Sanya is trying very hard to be a tourist town.  When I look back at our visit, just concluded, I realize that Sanya already feels like a tourist town.  They have all the tacky attractions, the bungee cord rides on the beach, the paraglider flights towed by a boat, the SCUBA training adventure we have dubbed "SCUBA dragging" because, after ten minutes of "training", the hardy adventurer is not given a BDC or flippers but instead is dragged helplessly over some well worn coral by a big Chinese guy who does have flippers. 
     Tourism can be an unpleasant business for locals and I now see, reviewing our visit, that in Sanya this is really starting to show.  The blight has set in.  Nowhere in China have I encountered more sullen workers, more bored and unhappy waiters and servers, than in Sanya.  Elsewhere in China, where foreigners are still a novelty, we're always greeted with smiles and warmth.  In Sanya the guy selling me a coconut full of milk looked like he'd seen far too many foreigners, and didn't like them much.  He was not happy to serve me.  And now they have cancelled the party.  Oh well.  The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.  Time to find a new place to delight in the unspoiled atmosphere.  There's still some planet left, even places with beaches as beautiful as those of Sanya.

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     Picture:  Shoe repair and shoe shines on the streets of Haikou, Hainan Island, China
Back in Haikou I enjoy the textures of the street life, and marvel at the entrepreneurial population.

Picture:  A streetside restaurant in Haikou near our hotel.  Hainan Island, China
We had breakfast in a small streetside restaurant.  Good chow mien.  Very cheap.

Picture:  A chopsticks washing machine in the streetside restaurant.  Haikou,  Hainan Island, China  
I'd never seen one of these before.  It's a little chopstick washer, mounted up near the ceiling of what appears to be a very makeshift, but well established, sidewalk restaurant.

Picture:  The restaurant owner, and a fine set of tooth he has. He was kind enough to take his cigarette out to the street when I asked him to. Haikou, Hainan Island, China
The restaurant 老板 lǎobǎn opened our conversation with a question: How old are you? 
I told him, and asked his age in return.  He said he's seventy-six.

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Picture: The Haikou skyline.  Grey winter weather but without the chill.

Chinese of the Day:  刀子嘴 豆腐心
(dāozi zuǐ dufu xīn literally "knife mouth, tofu heart") bark worse then bite

January 23, 2011 Haikou on Hainan Island

We're on our winter vacation from Jiangnan University.  Haikou means "sea mouth", and as the name implies the capital of Hainan Island is a port.  A tropical port.  We've come here primarily to visit our dear friend Xiao Hua, but incidentally to escape the snow and cold of Wuxi, which today has a high of 4C and a low of -2C.  Haikou is currently not beach weather, but the high and low are both in the teens. High: 17C Low: 13C.  Light jacket and sweater weather.  Delightful.  

Pictre:  Xiao Hua, baby Padraig, and proud father Patrick.  Ruth Anderson photo.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China   Picture:  Xiao Hua and Patrick at their car near their apartment on the campus of Hainan Normal University.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China
   Xiao Hua and her charming Irishman have been incredibly good hosts.  Baby Padraig has been at the grandparents, and we've hardly seen him.  He didn't take to me anyway, being at that age when babies "make strange".

It was so pleasant to be met at the airport, with our hotel all arranged.  A good place to land, but not conveniently located and a bit expensive.  We stayed in that hotel for three nights, then moved in with Patrick, making full use of his wifi connection, for four nights while Xiao Hua flew away to take care of some business.  With the family gathering for Spring Festival, the private homes will get crowded so we've moved into a hotel again. 

Picture:  Ruth waves from her station at the laptop in our hotel room.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China  Picture: GouGou, the dog I miss so much when we are away from our home in Wuxi.  She's being well cared for by two Tibetan students who have too far to travel to go home for the holidays.
Our room is fully electrified, with a flat screen TV, two iPads and two laptops. All that's missing is our dog, and I certainly do miss her.  We get daily reports from our dog sitters, so that's a comfort.

And what a hotel Xiao Hua has found for us - a big room.  Big double bed.  Very clean.  TV and an Internet connection.  Nice western style bathroom. And priced a very affordable 108 RMB per night (16.30 Canadian) with one day out of every six free.  That's a hotel price for a good room, or any room for that matter, I haven't seen since the fifties.
     Patrick has generously lent us one of his laptops, which has captured a lot of our time because it's loaded with Rosetta Stone, the best Chinese language teaching programs we've found so far.

Picture:  This team of entrepreneurs have a deep frier set up on the street for plantain and bananas.  Tasty stuff.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China  Picture:  This team of entrepreneurs have a deep frier set up on the street for plantain and bananas.  Tasty stuff.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China  Picture: Deep fried banana.  Tasty street food.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China
Our hotel is located between the two gates of the Hainan Normal University, where a wide variety of street food is available.  The deep fried banana pictured above was delicious.  Unfortunately, that particular vendor has not been back for two days.  That's the curse of mobile locations.

  Picture: Night at a dress shop in Haikou, Hainan Island, China
I love the texture of this neighbourhood.  Streets are a comfortable width for walking, lined with all manner of small shops, stores, and restaurants. 

Picture:  A home on the streets of Haikou, Hainan Island, China.  It's tropical here, and the homes are often open.  Picture:  A seamstress shop at night in Haikou, Hainan Island, China
Above a seamstress waits for a customer.  In this tropical climate, houses are left open to the air until they are locked up tight for the night.

Picture:  That last of a dying breed, a real live snake oil salesman on the night streets of Haikou, Hainan Island, China.
How often do you see a REAL snake oil salesman?  He was telling the crowd that his product would cure everything from toothache to water on the knee.

Picture:  Motorcycle maintenance goes late into the evening.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China
The motorcycle repair continues late into the night.

Picture:  The Haikou version of Home Depot.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China
Amid the clutter of this tiny hardware store I spotted something I haven't seen since Mexico.

Back when my family shared ocean front property with rats that invaded from the rip rap on the beach every winter, we discovered that these traps were very good for catching small animals alive.. 

Picture:  The shop assistant holds a very effective live animal trap.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China  Picture:  The trap is set and bated with a bit of cheese.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China

I was surprised and delighted to see them here, a moment of nostalgia.  Since Ruth saw a mouse in Patrick's bathroom earlier that day, I bought a trap.  7 RMB.  That's about a dollar.  These things are hand made, and how anybody makes any money making and selling them is totally beyond me.
     I was looking forward to introducing Patrick to these marvelous mouse traps, but it turned out he already owns a couple of them and has been doing a catch and release program with chipmunks on his balcony.

Picture:  A toy store in the center of the crowded street where the night market  blooms each evening.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China
Toy guns are us in the crowded night market.

Picture: The e-bike parking lot outside the market street.  Haikou on Hainan Island.  China
During the day, the streets are thick with shoppers,  most of whom got to the market on an e-bike.

There seem to be more e-bikes here than in Wuxi.  More like in Vietnam.  Many teens have fitted their e-bikes out with extremely loud boom boxes.  You can hear them coming for blocks, and the thudding bass is like blows to the body as they go by.  Isn't it ironic?  We develop a perfectly silent motorcycle, and the trendy kids make them into noise pollution.

Picture:  Haikou has a fascinating mixture of architectural styles.  Hainan Island, China  Picture:  The girl just likes to get her picture taken.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China
I was really after a picture of the candy apple salesman, but the camera hog jumped into the shot with the traditional Chinese girl pose.

  Picture:  Young ethnic minority girls sell their silver jewelry outside the gates of Hainan Normal University.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China  Picture:  It's still China in Haikou, on Hainan Island.
The ethnic minority girls were doing a brisk business selling silver bracelets and ear rings outside the university back gate.  I bought a pendant.  Her asking price was 120RMB, but I'm sure I still overpaid when we settled on 30RMB.  I figure the girl has to make a living.

   Picture: An impressive array of large dried fish in the supermarket in Haikou, Hainan Island, China Picture:  "Roadkill" chicken for sale in the supermarket of Haikou, Hainan Island, China
The textures continue inside the modern supermarket where these large dried fish were offered for sale.  We affectionately named this style of dried chicken "road kill".

  Picture:  Patrick made sure we could find a good restuarant.  Haikou, Hainan Island, China. Picture:  Moving the refrigerator on the bicycle.  Haikou, China.

 Picture:  Bike repair on the streets of Haikou, Hainan Island, China.
 

Pcture:  The tropical climate produces some impressive texture on the grounds of Hainan Normal University, Haikou, Hainan Island, China 

 Picture:  A welder works on the decorative arches for Spring Festival in the park in Haikou, Hainan Island, China Picture:  A welder wearing makeshift face protection - a piece of paper hung on a pair of sun glasses.  Haikou on Hainan Island, China
This welder was at work in the park, building decorative arches for the coming festival.  What caught my attention was his face shield - a piece of paper hang on a pair of sun glasses.

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Picture:  What does it take to start a restaurant in China.  Some pipes, some tarps, and rudimentary cooking facilities.  It was a bit cold on the street, but the dumplings were tasty.  Shi Tang Cun, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:日程表
(r chng biǎo literally day+ procedure + table/list) = n. schedule; agenda

January 13, 2011 My New Teaching Schedule

Jin Bo, our wonderful administration liaison,  just gave me my new teaching schedule.  So now I know what I'm doing next term.  As usual, visitors to my classes will be welcome.
     We went downtown to find a new camera for Ruth, in preparation for our trip to Hainan Island, and picked up our bus tickets to the airport for Saturday.  I finished my paperwork, and got the marks off to Jin Bo.  Everything is falling into place.  Saturday we fly away to warm beaches and old friends.  What a life!

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Picture:  it might look like a greasy spoon counter, but it's a high end Japanese restaurant with great food, and smokers.  Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  春节
(Chūn ji)  n. Spring Festival (Lunar New Year)

January 09, 2011  Tickets Booked for Hainan Island

I've got just a bit of data entry and paperwork to complete and this term is finished.  It's been a great semester.  Now we have our tickets booked for a winter vacation in the Hawaii of China, Hainan Dao (Hainan Island).  This will be our third visit to Hainan, and we've enjoyed it immensely each previous trip.  The city of Sanya on the Chinese New Years Eve is simply the best city wide party I've ever experienced.  Lots of people, but not crowded.  T-shirt warmth.  Miles of beaches where families bring their kids to set off fireworks and the whole city explodes in colour.  Not a drunk or nasty scowl in the whole crowd.  Just people having fun with their kids.
     This trip will be especially fun because we'll re-unite with Xiao Hua, the wonderful young English teacher we met on our first trip to Hainan.  On that first trip, Xiao Hua's family invited us to visit the "family farm" which they made sound very humble but which turned out to be a 5,000 employee rubber plantation with its own village where her father is the chief of police. He picked us up at the bus station in a big shiny police SUV, then put us up at no charge in a suite in the private hotel, built for visiting dignitaries, beside the police station.  We were treated like royalty.

Picture:  David and Patrick,  Ruth and Xiao Hua in a bar in Nantong, China

     We last saw our friend when we walked into a bar in Nantong, to be greeted by Xiao Hua shouting "Ruth!", one of the great improbabilities of life.  In a country the size of China, what are the chances of walking into a bar in a city where neither of us had been before to be greeted by an old friend from another distant city?  I wouldn't believe it in a movie plot.  Following our memorable first visit to Hainan, Xiao Hua had met and married a man from Ireland, spent a year on the Emerald Isle, and returned to China just in time to bump into us in Nantong.  Then we heard that they had moved back to Haikou on Hainan for the birth of their first child, a boy named Padraig.  Needless to say we're all excited by the prospect of seeing them again.

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Introducing a Chinese Friend to Japanese Food

     Carolyn, our Chinese teacher for this past term mentioned that she didn't like Japanese food.  That inspired Ruth to invite her to our favourite Japanese restaurant as a thank you for giving us such great classes. 

Picture:  Our Chinese teacher, Carolyn, having a conversion experience.  She found out she likes Japanese food.  Wuxi, China

The Teppanyaki restaurant in the new Wanda Plaza is part of a chain.  They grill the fresh food at your table, and have an all you can eat and drink special for 150RMB ($22.50 Canadian).  Very steep for China, but a bargain given the quality of the food and the amount of sashimi and sake I can pack away in one sitting.  Carolyn reports that she now likes Japanese food:  "I really enjoy this wonderful meal tonight and now I can tell my friend that I love Japanese food very much!
Just as Ruth said, one has no right to make some comments on food before tasting the real. That's absolutely right!"
     Ruth and I both feel so worldly compared to our young Chinese friends.  We've visited many countries on several continents, and experienced much more variety with all the different cultures.  It's so much fun when we can introduce a friend to a new experience.

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A Visit from Panda

On our way to the Blue Bar downtown last night, Ruth and I marveled at the variety of people we meet here.  We were just about to connect with Sherif, a young Muslim man of Egyptian heritage born and raised in France.  At the pub we met Richard, an acoustic engineer from America working for a car company here, and his wife Pam, a teacher.  Then when we returned home we found our young friend Panda already there.  She's now a nursing resident in Changzhou, twenty minutes away by fast train, but she managed to get a day off to visit us before our holiday trip. 

Picture:  Domestic bliss on a cold winter's evening.  Panda and Ruth and GouGou chat.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Panda, who might want to visit our dog while we're away, got a chance to meet the Tibetan students who will be watching our apartment and caring for GouGou in our absence.

Picture:  Panda, holding GouGou,  flanked by our Tibetan dog sitters.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

We feel so fortunate to have found the friends we have here.  They make our lives pleasant and easy.  They take care of us.  But also they add so much interest and variety to our experience of people in general.

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Picture:  Our Tibetan English Club members showed up with some exquisite presents.  Thanks you guys, you shouldn't have.  Really.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese word of the day:  假期
(ji qī literally "borrow" + "time")  n. holiday, vacation

January 2, 2011 (yikes) New Look for the New Year

Okay, this could be called vanity, but actually it's more like a morbid fascination with the aging process.  I want to age gracefully, and I've never felt like the best looking dude in the world.  But this...  ouch.

 Picture:  Fuzzy David mugshot profile face right. Picture:  Fuzzy David, the only view of myself I normally get.  I don't mind this look, but I got a bit tired of it. Picture:  Fuzzy David mugshot profile face left. Picture:  Fuzzy David fromt he back.  I had no idea my hair looks that thin. Picture:  Fuzzy David top of head.  "You're not going to like this picture." said Ruth.  Too true.

Picture:  A new face for a new year.  I'm not sure it will last.  And I need to get rid of those extra hairs for sure, now that I'm going for the clean look.
How could I know that nose hairs only show up when I smile?

  Picture:  Clean David mugshot facing left. Picture: Clean David mugshot.  It's okay as long as I keep smiling.  Relax the smile and the face falls into zombie land. Picture:  Clean David mugshot facing right.  Picture:  Clean David back of head.  Isn't it interesting how the hair doesn't look so thin when it's short. Picture:  Clean David top of head.  Even the bald spot look better when the hair is short.

In our culture, men are not supposed to care about how they look.  Especially as they get older.  I suspect this leads to a lot of denial. I suspect that most men do care.  I, for one, don't really like watching my face fall apart.  It's not too bad when I'm smiling, but stop smiling and I turn into Herman Munster.  What is important, of course, is health and energy and mental acuity, which fortunately I still seem to have in abundance. (Okay, some might argue about the mental acuity, but I do manage to win the occasional Chinese chess game, so my brain must still be functioning at least on the analytical level.) I could do without the blotches, the nose and ear hairs, the beginnings of a turkey wattle neck, not to mention the other ills the flesh is heir to like tooth aches, back pain, sore joints, and the accompanying sensory feedback that comes from owning a body no longer young and perfect, if it ever was. Is my feminine side showing, guys?

Picture:  Max Headroom.  The kind of face I'd like to own. PictureL  Ken doll passport photo.  Smooth plastic is a great look.
Who needs human texture.  I'd be happy with a plastic complexion.

Body builders have a motto: No pain, no gain.  My motto is slightly different: No pain, no pain!! And as for appearance,  I think I'd really like to look totally plastic, like Max Headroom.  I'd even be willing to put up with the oc-oc-oc-oc-oc-oc-occasional glitches in the playback.

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I Love Chinglish, but really....

Osteosarcoma on the menu is going a bit too far.

Picture:  Restaurant Chinglish can be particularly disturbing.  I wonder how many customers order the osteosarcoma.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

We noticed this on the table of the International Cafe here on campus.  Great French fries, and pretty tasty niurou mian (noodles with beef), but I think I'll pass on whatever is in this dish.  How can such a word gets on a menu when Wikipedia describes it thusly:

Osteosarcoma is an aggressive cancerous neoplasm arising from primitive transformed cells of mesenchymal origin that exhibit osteoblastic differentiation and produce malignant osteoid. It is the most common histological form of primary bone cancer.

What translator was the author of this menu using?

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Tibetans Bearing Gifts

We'll have our last Tibetan English Club meeting this evening.  Getting this club started has been another very gratifying experience for us.  The Tibetan students are painfully shy, and naturally quiet verging on silent.  But they've been working hard to improve their English, and yesterday a delegation from Tibet showed up to express their appreciation. 

Picture:  Our Tibetan delegation with gifts to thank us for the Tibetan English Club.  Appreciation makes everything worth while for us.  Thank you all our Tibetan friends.  We are deeply touched.  Picture:  Tibetan silk wall hanging.  Beautiful.  A gift from our Tibetan English Club members.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Our Tibetan English club members with a couple of truly awesome gifts.

Wrapping Up Another Term

We've finished our classes.  Now I have a stack of exams to mark and some data entry work and we can be on holiday.  Once again we're thinking of heading south to Hainan Island.  Our friend Xiao Hua and her Irish husband have a baby now, and we'd like to visit them.  Also, Rob might meet us in Sanya for a few days.  I love Sanya on the Chinese New Year.  Best party I've ever attended.  The whole city explodes with fireworks.  It's a family event.  Kids and smiling parents everywhere and miles of white beaches for the fireworks to launch from.  You'll get a report.

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Time for an iPad Review

We've had our iPad's for a couple of months now.  So how do they rate?  Here's my pros and cons on this amazingly popular gadget.  I don't own an iPhone.  (My friend Rob does, and reports that his iPhone 4 is, in his words "useful for the apps but a piece of crap as a phone".) So the iPad was my introduction to the touch screen tablet concept.

Picture:  One great thing about the iPad - it fits quite perfectly on the exercise machine.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Pros

1.  We're using it all the time.

2.  The Chinese chess application is really great.  Now I can play with myself all day.

3,  The Anki application is also great.  Anki is a flash card program that uses review based on your learning patterns to make memorizing things more efficient.  Think of it as a souped up flash card program.  We use it daily.

4.  The iPad in its case sits nicely on our elliptical trainer, so I can read a book without a problem with the pages,  or play xiang qi (Chinese chess).  Makes a half hour of sweating fly by.

5.  It's lighter and more convenient than a laptop.

6. It seems to have a fantastic battery life.

7. Really great bright screen the perfect size.

8.  The version I have won't multi-task, but the apps open so quickly that this doesn't bother me.

9. I've found the Keynote app (a PowerPoint clone) to be a nice way to pitch a concept.  This is a mixed blessing. (See #7 on the cons list).

10. The Pleco app is very useful, because we can draw in a Chinese character and quickly identify it.  Ruth was beside herself with delight over this feature. (I still miss Wenlin, which will only run on a PC).

 

 

 

Cons

1. Everybody in China "jailbreaks" (installs a hacked operating system) their iPad.  You know the big boss is a control freak when an entire country modifies the software as soon as they buy the machine, just so it will do what they want to do with it.

2. There's no simple way to store files, and know where they are stored.  They seem to be filed with the applications themselves, instead of in some kind of folder system. Even if you install iFile, which you can do after you get the jailbreak software installed (see 1) it's not easy to find, store, or play files. 

3.  My childhood was full of reprimands for touching glass.  Don't put your fingerprints on the window.  Don't touch the display case.   No matter how clean my fingers are, my iPad is always greasy with prints.  I'm trying to get used to this, but it's a deep seated aversion that goes way back.

4.  I'm a very fast typist.  I type almost as fast as I talk.  But not on a touch screen.  You can get a keyboard for the iPad, provided it's been jailbroken (see 1).  But then what you have is a laptop with a separate screen.  I haven't invested the big bucks in a keyboard yet, and I'm not about to start the Great Canadian Novel on the touch screen.

5.  No flash.  Steve Jobs thinks he can kill that application because he's so big and powerful.  It's annoying that half the stuff on the Internet won't play because of a corporate market share grab.

6.  No Windows Movie Viewer that I can find that works.  I'm sure one is out there, but that's also annoying.  So many little clips people send me won't play, or play out of synch.

7. The Keynote app is okay for showing PPT presentations that I made on my PC, though the animation isn't the same.  It's a pain to work with if I want to change a presentation.

8. iTunes, the only way to get software onto the iPad, seems to be designed for people who grew up with the iPhone.  I'm not all that interested in having tons of music in my iPad, and iTunes is a long way from being intuitive.  It's as if they put all the brains of the company into the hardware, and left the software to for geeks with poor communication skills.

9.  Everybody raves about Apple.  Sorry, folks, it's just another computer.  It can be as annoying as any other computer, and the iPad would be much more useful if it ran the same programs I'm using on my PC.  Instead of trying to be exclusive, and locking consumers into using Apple products and only Apple products, it would make more sense to allow us to do what we want with the magic machine.  That would build real brand loyalty.  As it is, I'm just waiting for some viable competition to bring machines on the market  so I can throw this thing away.  I think Google might be listening.

 

Looking over this list, I see that numerically the pros balance the cons, but the cons list is longer and they sound more bitter than the pros.  I find it hard to feel affection for this device, the kind of affection you feel when something keeps surprising you with it's design and perfection.  It's definitely a love hate relationship for me.  But I do use it every day, so it MUST be useful.
     There's one gag I want to put together for which the iPad will be perfect.  If I can find an application that will let a camera view show on the screen, I could mount a camera on my back, hang the iPad on my stomach, and make it look like there's a hole right through me.  What a zombie costume that would make. Halloween next year maybe.

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Picture:  I saw these three girls in identical hats and just had to take their picture.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  典礼
(diǎn lǐ ) n. ceremony; celebration

December 27, 2010  Fourth Annual Christmas Bursary Completed

Once again we got the biggest emotional return by handing out small amounts of money instead of giving each other presents.  This year, bursary recipients bought warm boots, a warm coat, a pair of jeans, winter boots, a selection of otherwise unaffordable books, test fees for translation certificates, and some comfort for grandparents, among other purposes for the money. We're very impressed that few of the applicants asked for money for themselves.  Most made requests on behalf of friends or family.  The money's gone, but it was VERY well spent.

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A Christmas in China Story

To make a good story you need events, funny moments, problems, disasters.  This story has none of those things.  Thank goodness.  I was worried.  This was my first time driving in China.  Finally I made use of my Chinese drivers license. 
On Thursday I got our favourite driver to take me to the rental place to do the paperwork.  Then on Friday, Christmas Eve right after class I collected the car, drove it back to the campus to pick up Ruth and together we packed up the dog, dog house, dog food and dog toys, a guitar, a violin, a mandolin, an erhu, and a set of harmonicas, plus two bottles of rum, a bottle of whiskey, two boxes of cream, (ingredients for the eggnog) a selection of both Ruth's delicious home made and not so delicious but acceptable store bought sugar cookies, two packages of shortbread to go with two bottles of sherry, assorted small Christmas presents, and enough essential electronics to outfit a space shuttle.  Off we went to Nantong, about an hour and a half away, for a traditional Canadian turkey dinner on Christmas Day.  And from then on it was uneventful, if you want to call turning out perfect uneventful.

Picture:  The agent points out a scratch on the Honda rental car.  Wuxi, China Picture:  The agent points out a scratch on the Honda rental car.  Wuxi, China Picture:  The agent points out a scratch on the Honda rental car.  Wuxi, China

When I picked up the car, the rental agent went over the vehicle and photographed every little scratch.  This became my biggest worry as I ventured into Chinese traffic.  I would much have preferred to pay for comprehensive insurance, and not worry if the vehicle got dinged.  Aside from the fact that, predictably, the car was very dirty, stunk of cigarettes, and the ashtray was full, it was a good vehicle.  Well, okay, the GPS gave me a white screen and then refused to do anything at all, including shut itself off.  The ashtray wasn't so much full as seemed to be missing the lining, but the hole had been used anyway so the butts couldn't be easily emptied.  The passenger side interior light was burned out, giving me no confidence in the maintenance level.  But it got us to Nantong and back, so what's to complain about.
     Nantong traffic is hairy, with rules of the road considered just suggestions and flocks of e-bikes riding through red lights and head on into opposing traffic.  It's more like driving a boat in a crowded harbor than driving a car on a road.  Great fun if your nerves can handle it.

Picture:  Rob works on the candied yams and carrots to go with the turkey.  Christmas in Nantong, China Picture:  Michelle and Kathy take care of the gravy.  Christmas in Nantong, China
The chef hard at work on the candied yams. His two lovely helpers stir the gravy.

  Picture:  A China doll investigates Rob's fitness equipment.  Christmas in Nantong, China  Picture:  The China doll investigates a touch screen.  A bit later it was a thump screen, but no harm was done.  Christmas in Nantong, China
And what would Christmas be without kids.  There were two at this party, this three year old and a very charming seven year old.  Both too cute for words.

Picture:  The turkey about to fulfill it's promise.  Christmas in Nantong, China  Picture:  Ruth whips the egg whites stiff.  Christmas in Nantong, China
This turkey came from Shanghai in a limousine.  Only in China.  Ruth is whipping the egg whites stiff for the nog.

  Picture:  Michelle supervises as Simon, our former student from Weihai, sets the turkey on the table.  Christmas in Nantong, China  Picture:  Ruth whips the eggnog cream while Lv Min, our former student from Weihai, immerses herself in a waiguo celebration. Christmas in Nantong, China
Simon (wrestling the turkey) and Lv Min (appreciating Ruth's whipping of the eggnog cream) were our students five years ago in Weihai.  They're now married, living and working in Shanghai, but we could lure them to Nantong with a turkey dinner.  They'd never had turkey before.  The only turkey we've seen previously in China was in a zoo.

  Picture:  A very large bowl of eggnog containing a bottle of rum and a bottle of scotch, plus enough eggs, cream and sugar to stop an artery.  It's a heart attack in a bowl, but worth it for one day a year.  Christmas in Nantong, China
This is a very large bowl containing the better part of a bottle of rum, a bottle of scotch, twelve eggs, a liter of milk and another liter of cream, plus a cup and a half of sugar.  It was potent eggnog, perfect and universally appreciated.

  Picture:  Ruth gets to try her hand at turkey carving.  Christmas in Nantong, China
Now that's a turkey.  Ten and a half kilograms of majestic bird.  Half of it was enough for ten adults and two kids.  We took the remainder home and will have turkey soup and turkey sandwiches for a month.

Picture:  Every event needs documentation.  Rob ladles out the stuffing while a very serious seven year old refines her camera technique. Christmas in Nantong, China
Documentary photographers start young these days.

Picture:  And here you have it - the traditional Canadian turkey dinner.  Christmas in Nantong, China
For the benefit of my students, here's a Canadian turkey dinner.  Components vary, but this is pretty standard.

Picture:  It was a small tree, and a small pile of presents compared to family Christmases in my past.  But the warmth and family feeling was wonderful.  Christmas in Nantong, China
I'm happy to report that every musical instrument got played.  Carols were sung.  Kids were well behaved and very cute.  Granny, seated left on the sofa, seemed to enjoy herself with no need to speak English or understand the conversation.  Small presents were exchanged.  All in all, it was our best Christmas in China.  Thanks Rob and Michelle and Kathy and all our friends who made it possible.

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Heading Home:

The highway system here would be familiar to any Canadian or American, because the Chinese sent engineers to America and copied everything right down to the colour of the road signs, which are in both Chinese and English.  So driving isn't difficult once you hit the freeway.  But missing a turn off is costly.  We managed to miss three on our way back to Wuxi, twice requiring a very long drive to the next exit,  twelve kilometers in one case, exiting the toll road, paying the toll again and retracing our path. Also, gas stations are not as frequent or as obvious as they are back home.  We were running  on fumes by the time we made it to the gas station back in Wuxi. 

Picture:  The rental Honda back on the lot with no additional scratches.  Whew.  Wuxi, China
That's a smile of relief.  I was happy to get the car back without an additional scratch or the inconvenience of running out of gas.. 

Picture:  Half a turkey, deboned and the bones cooked into soup stock.  We'll have sandwich meat for some time.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

We brought a full half of the turkey back to Wuxi with us.  It's now deboned and divided into sandwich meat and soup stock.  We expect to enjoy turkey for some time.

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Picture:  Christmas gifts from our wonderful administration.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  租
(zū) v. rent; lease

December 24, 2010  The Plan for Christmas

I'm renting a car after my last class today.  We'll drive to Nantong this evening.  Tomorrow my old friend Robert is cooking a Christmas turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  Former students Simon and Lv Min, now working in Shanghai, will join us for Christmas.  They've never tasted turkey. So that will make seven adults and two kids.  I'm renting the car so we can take the dog with us. The children are three years old and seven years old.  It will be like family.
Barry, another friend, is playing a gig at a bar and wants me to join him in a jam session tonight.  All in all, it's shaping up to be a great Christmas.

Picture:  On the bus on our way to a Christmas feast.  Wuxi, China. Picture:  Christmas buffet at the Sheraton.  Wuxi, China
The administration laid on another feast for Christmas.  What would Christmas be without carols on a bus.

Picture:  Christmas buffet at the Sheraton Hotel.  Wuxi, China.
The buffet dinner at the Sheraton Hotel.  Simply fabulous.

What a dinner.  Thanks, Ms. Liu and all the helpers in the office.  You guys are wonderful.  And that's all I have time for today.  Dishes to wash, then off to class, and then off to pick up the rental car.

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Picture:  Our Tibetan English Club students helped us decorate our tree for Christmas.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  圣诞老人
(Shng dn lǎo rn literally "holy born old person") n. Santa Claus

December 19, 2010 Christmas is Coming

As usual there's been a lot going on.  Yesterday evening I played Santa and handed out presents at the door for an English Flying Bar Christmas Party.  That was fun, but unfortunately their PowerPoint system wasn't working, so all of my carefully prepared slide show with the story of Santa, bringing home Christmas trees, mixing pudding, and all the other icons of my childhood Christmases was wasted.  We sang Jingle Bells for the crowd and then escaped.

Picture:  The Christmas decorations corner of the local supermarket.  Wuxi, China

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Having the Birds for Dinner

We had fellow teachers Don and Bonnie Bird over for a western style dinner at our home on Thursday.  Once again I managed to turn out a full meal with our limited kitchen - ribs with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, broccoli, - and Ruth added garlic bread her famous Caesar salad. Bonnie says she just can't get the hang of chopsticks, so she was delighted when we gave her this pair that came with training wheels, a flexible rubber figure at the top that turn the sticks into tweezers.

Picture:  Bonnie and Don Bird.  Bonny needs training wheels on her chopsticks.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China   Picture:  Luo han guo, a strange fruit that makes a sweet medicinal tea.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Don was suffering from a bad cold, so I introduced him to another secret of the orient, 罗汉果(luhnguǒ) n. identified in my Chinese dictionary only as the botanical name mangosteen.  These are kiwi sized gourds which, when the the hard shell is cracked and they are soaked in hot water, have an amazingly sweet taste and are supposed to sooth a cold.  Like much of Chinese traditional medicine, I'm not sure it actually works.  But it's pleasant enough to drink.

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The American Dream Comes to China

Last year the word that I investigated was "individualist", which I found to have a completely negative interpretation in China thanks to the political instruction.  I did my best to explain our connotation on the word as neutral tending to positive.  This past week I became aware of another bit of confusion.  I asked a student what the American Dream is, and was told "The American dream is to control the world.  Uh...Not quite, though that might be some American's dream.

Picture:  The blackboard on the American dream, another victim of political indoctrination.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

It's a shame that it's called the American dream, because it's is also the Canadian dream, and now the Chinese dream.  When it originated, it was a revolutionary idea.  In the old days, a Russian peasant, for example, knew that his grandfather had been a peasant, his father was a peasant, and no matter how hard he worked, his son would be a peasant.  But the American dream changed that.  It's the most powerful social motivator ever invented - the idea that your children can become wealthy and rise above your current social class.  The idea that the son of a worker can become the president.
I illustrate the power of this idea with my son, Victor, who bought a house when he was only seventeen.  It wasn't much of a house, because he didn't have much money, but he's worked on it every day since he bought it, some fifteen years ago.  Now it's a much better house, but if he'd been renting he would have done nothing to improve the place.  Ownership motivates.  Depriving people of ownership takes away their incentive to work.

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Survival in China for University Grads

I've read that this year China will release over six million graduates into the job market.  We can expect more next year, and the year after that when my sophomores graduate.  I'm worried for them.  Already, college grads are flooding into Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.  They are known as the ant people.  They live in slums and squalor, and take whatever jobs they can get.  I heard of a job opening for a public washroom guard that attracted applications from thirty thousand college grads.  My students have two and a half years before they graduate.  I'm trying to get them to think ahead, devise strategy, develop a resume.

Picture:  The blackboard from one of my oral English classes.  English majors are going to have a tough time in the job market when they graduation.  They need strategies.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

The good news is that China is in transition from a manufacturing economy into a service economy.  Once China starts to develop its own middle class of consumers, there's going to be a lot of opportunities.  But not necessarily for those who simply hope to find a job.

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The Letters I Live For

I'm such a sucker for appreciation.  One of my students asked me for a reference letter. She's applying to study in Canada, my country.  Here's one of her letters to me that is part of that conversation.

Hi David ~ I'm so glad to get your answer. Yeah ~ I forgot to say Merry Christmas!!! I know you are very busy and I totally understand it. Actually i'm really sorry to bother you. However, i do think that you are one of the most proper professors to write a recommendation letter because you have teached me within two years. Though we are not so familiar with each other, but you did know little about me.

Yesterday, after Ruth's class, I had a short talk with her about love because at class she showed us a lot of pictures of your wedding ceremony and i thought though it's not a big or grand ceremony but it was the most sweet, warm and exotic one. At that time, i was totally touched by this kind of warmth. Before we live the teaching building, Ruth asked my name. I told her that i was the translator of the teaching meeting of Honor School several weeks ago. Since i am the student of Honor School and also the student of Ruth so the teachers in Honor School wanted me to be the translator of Ruth at the meeting. I knew that i was only a sophomore and not so qualified to be a translator but I remembered that after the meeting Ruth told me that i did a good job and it was an valuable experience for me which i can put it on my future resume. At that time i felt really encouraged and greatful.

As for your class. To be honest, i have experienced a kind of ups and downs. At the frestman year, your class was my favourite class, during the preperation and the real performance on the classroom stage, i find my passion for English. Since then i often met you and Ruth in English Corner and different English parties such as the Halloween and the Chrismas Party held by you and Ruth. I also invited you to several English parties (i am not sure if you remembered) because i am one of the organizers of the English Flying Bar. I think that you are really a talented person in a wide range of filed. However, at the beginning of this semester sometimes i felt bored in your class because you talked a lot and did not give us chance to speek or show something. But soon i noticed that you made a change. You chose some heated topics and changed the form of speech. For instance, setting a topic and letting us to make a speech--The ruler of the universe; making some topic notes and exchanging it with others; The boss election; votes for some issues and then debate etc. I think all this are good ways to enable us to be active in class. I know that different class have different "class personality", the atmosphere in some class is horrible which ignited your anger. I feel sorry for them and i'm glad to know that you have already felt better. I think most of us highly support your class and want to paticipate in.

There are several class scenes still in my mind. I remembered at the first class in this term you asked us whether we read some books in summer holiday. At that time it raised my hand and told you that i read a book named Animal Farm so you wanted me to made a book report next class. It was a kind of challenge becuase i wanted to introduce it without any speech papers in hand but finally i still had to look the preperation paper several times. Though the result was not so satisfied but you still praised me for my loud and confident speaking which made me feel so encouraged. Another one is the speech contest--The ruler of the universe. You think my speech was impressive compared to other students which gave me a lot of energy to become a better public speechman or even diplomat haha. The third one is that i got shocked by your introduction of the PR company in the USA and asked us to design some advertisement for a tabacoo company. That was one of the most exciting classes i have ever had. At that time i felt that i learned a lot from your class and i was growing up.

Best wishes for you and Ruth~
 

"One of the most exciting classes I have ever had."  Woo whoo.

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Chinese Word of the Day:  好玩
(ho wn literally "good + play") = fun

December 16, 2010  Good Fun

I was looking over files today and stumbled into this video clip from last term.  I'm posting this because it's a great example of what happens when a class is going well and just watching it lifted my spirits.  I assigned groups of students to practice and present a song last year.  This is the group that called themselves Sky.  It's about 80 megs, so it will take a few minutes to download.  But check out the creativity and English language level of these students.  Check out the fun we can have in some classes.

Picture:  My students in performance of a song.  Click the picture to play the video.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Click here, or click the picture to watch the video.

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Picture:  A sample blackboard from one of my more interesting classes on the subject of culture and westernization.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  怒气
(n q literally "anger" + "vital energy") n. anger; rage; fury

December 11, 2010 Spitting the Dummy in China

I try to keep this site upbeat and positive, and to make teaching in China sound like one fun class after another.  But of course there are ups and downs.  Last Wednesday I "spat the dummy" at my 1:30 Oral English Class.  I threw a temper tantrum, announced that I hadn't come fifteen thousand miles to waste my time trying to get students who are not interested in making any progress to participate in the class and that I was going to go back to Canada. That's it.  下课 (xi k get out of class; finish class)  Class over. A mere thirty minutes into the first period I stomped out of the classroom.  In short, I handled a moment of frustration very badly.

     To "spit the dummy" is Australian idiom I learned last year when I was asking about tickets to the Nigel Kennedy violin concert in Melbourne. "He spat the dummy the last time he was here, you know." the man in the tourist information center told me.  I had to ask our host what he meant, and it seems that the thing Canadians call a soother, they call a dummy.  To spit the dummy is to act like a baby and spit out your soother in a fit of temper.  What a wonderful image, and, sadly, what a great description of what I did.

Picture:  What the Australians call a dummy, we call a soother.

     Why did it happen?  I'm still not sure.  Of course I have no intention of quitting, or of going back to Canada just yet.  I'll have to apologize and try to repair the relationship with my students.  According to what I've heard, they thought the class was like every other class they've had, and didn't understand why I got so angry.  Exactly.  That class was like every other class we've had - always very frustrating. On Wednesday I just wasn't in the emotional shape to handle it any longer.
     What is it with that class?  They should be like all the other classes.  But their body language suggests that their dog just died, and any request for participation is met by bowed heads and a general refusal to make eye contact.  I can't figure out why the classes can be so different. 
     One thing I know is that it is my failure.  I have not engaged those students.  Maybe something I said in an earlier class has been taken the wrong way, or turned them off.  Maybe they just don't like me.  I may think I'm a likeable guy, but that is a real possibility.  I need a new approach.  I'm going to come up with something by this coming Wednesday.
     After throwing my temper tantrum, I could really feel the tension in my neck and shoulders and the bad adrenalin roaring through my head. I went home to a comforting hug from Ruth, then spent a hard ten minutes on the exercise machine, sweating out the toxins, followed by a shower.  My next class, the 3:25 Oral English class, was just wonderful.  Students were participating, having fun, making speeches, volunteering when asked, cracking jokes and laughing at and with each other.  I got a round of applause when the class ended, which is not unusual with that group of students.  What a contrast to the 1:30 class.

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Culture Shock and Adaptation

When I first came to China, I spent a lot of time searching for a dish rack.  You know the kind of thing EVERYBODY has in Canada to stack dishes in after they are washed.  Nobody in China seems to use them, and they aren't in any of the supermarkets.  While I continued to search for this familiar item, and even considered bringing one from home, I had to wash dishes of course.  So I started stacking the dishes beside the sink on the counter, on a clean towel.  Gradually it dawned on me that I will never use a dish rack again.  The towel system has advantages - it is infinitely expandable, easy to put away, and takes up no space while not in use.  How did we ever get hooked on dish racks?

Picture: a common dish rack of a type to  be found in just about any Canadian kitchen.     Picture:  Instead of a dish rack we use a clean towel on the counter.  It's a better system.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
The dish rack is unavailable here, but the clean towel is better anyway.

Culture shock comes at us in very small ways, almost unnoticed.  We just find ourselves unable to do something the same way we did it back home, and feel irritated.  It's no big deal, but that is culture shock.  Once I adapt, I sometimes find that life has actually improved.
     Our kitchen is a case in point.  It's tiny, and has only a hotplate, a small electric oven that Ruth purchased so she could bake brownies, and a microwave.  If a forty pound turkey would fit in the oven, which it won't, I'm sure I could turn out a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings with these basic appliances.  Kitchens and stoves as we know then in Canada are definitely overkill.

Picture:  Ruth gives cooking instructions to GouGou in our tiny kitchen.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Picture:  Our magnetic inducion hotplate.  Amazing what we can cook on it.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Picture:  Our tiny toaster oven gets a lot of use.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Picture:  There's no room in our kitchen for the fridge and microwave.  Apparently feng shui rules say that a fridge should not be near a stove anyway.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China (I don't belive in feng shui.)

        Our kitchen also does not have hot water.  We carry two basins of hot water from the bathroom each time we wash dishes.  One basin loads a sink for washing, and the other sits in the sink for rinsing.  Ruth and I take turns cooking dinner, and the person who didn't cook washes the dishes.  The person who did cook helps set up for washing, and brings the hot water.  Hot water in the kitchen would be more convenient, but we've adapted.  Again,  no big deal. 

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Picture:  Santa arrives in Wuxi, China circa 2008.

Chinese Word of the Day: 圣诞节
(Shng dn ji literally "holy" + "birth" + "festival") = Christmas

December 04,  2010 Here Comes Santa

 Fourth Annual
Christmas Bursary

5,000 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, and know of somebody who really could use some money right now, send an email to David@themaninChina.com with "Christmas bursary" in the subject line and tell us (in 200 words or less) why you, or someone you know, needs some help.  Let us know the amount you are requesting and what a little bit of money will do.  The smaller the amount requested, the more likely we will be able to grant the request.  (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 19, 2010
Successful applicants will be notified December 25, 2010, Christmas Day
Sorry. The Deadline for Applications Has Passed. 
No More Applications Accepted.

*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.

     Once again it is time 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,  five thousand yuan won't go very far.  But last year we had very few applicants, and managed to grant every request.  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.
     Also, in the past we've had contributions from the wealthier students and other teachers to add to this bursary.  So if you like the idea, but don't want to spend your own time administering it, feel free to contribute.  We'll announce new totals should the amount increase.

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Origins of a Tradition

Christmas in China and a Bursary Offer
(, originally posted December 18, 2007)

     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. 

Picture: The emperor robe and mask wall hanging, wearing a Santa hat for the Christmas season.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China.

 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.   

-the lead up to Christmas, 2007

Update to the Current Year and the Christmas Bursary 2010

So here we go again.  It's hard to believe but this will be the fourth year of our Christmas Bursary, and now our seventh Christmas in China.  Yes, it has taken our time to administer our Annual Christmas Bursary, but it has turned out to be very emotionally rewarding. Until we started doing this, I didn't see the truth in the old saying: It is better to give than to receive. 
     I'm not much of a believer in true altruism.  I don't really do this for my students, but for myself.  It's a very selfish program. Neither of us needs more "stuff" or material expression of our feelings for each other, and I can't think of many things I have done which have given me this kind of a kick.  The Christmas Bursary has brought us great joy and real thrills as we learned more about the living conditions of our students and could feel we were making a meaningful difference, however small, in at least a few lives.
       Our tiny amounts of money have gone to such diverse purposes as a bicycle for one student's father, a blood pressure monitor, a warm coat for a student's mother, and a pair of warm winter boots for another.  Small amounts of money, but a huge bang for our buck.
     I intend to say it early, and say it often:  Have a Merry Christmas Everybody.

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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.  Especially this time.  I didn't really want to archive November yet, but too much happened to leave it all on the home page.

Also, last time I archived I created two pages - the chronological archive accessed through the archive index, and a special archive for our incredible Summer of 2010 Wedding and Honeymoon.  I'm going to live that link below for now.  Please visit our wedding and honeymoon, but only if you can handle lots of expressions of love and happiness.

The Man in China archive index

The Incredible Summer of 2010 Wedding and Honeymoon

The Man in China Home

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