My Petition is Back On Line. Please Sign It.

Reading this post you might wonder what it has to do with China.  There is a link, if tenuous.  Infant male circumcision is not widely practised among the Han Chinese.  Yet strangely enough there doesn’t seem to be a plague of foreskin related health issues among Chinese men.  I’m in the process of investigating this, and as soon as I can find a practising urologist to interview I’ll be able to make a more definitive statement. My suspicion is that all of the medical reasons supposedly supporting infant male circumcision that are trotted out in the west simply don’t hold any water.  But more on that later.

Back at the end of September I accepted an invitation from Avaaz to put a petition on line.  My issue is medical involvement in infant male circumcision.  I think it’s wrong.  There’s no medical justification for the operation, and for doctors to be cutting off part of somebody’s body without consent should be grounds for lifting their medical license.

My petition was on line, briefly, until somebody complained about the image that went with it.  Avaaz informed me that this image is offensive, and took my petition off line.

Medical circumcision of an infant male.  Unjustified surgery.I certainly agree that this image is offensive, but not for the reasons given by those who were offended.  This picture is clinical.  There is no blood.  One is either offended by the image of a baby’s penis, which in my humble opinion makes one a bit perverted, or offended by the mutilation about to be done to that penis, in which case one should want the image to remain.  My argument was that offence is taken, not given, and that there are those who would remove all images of women from public view on the grounds that such images are offensive.  The line must be drawn someplace.

Apparently Avaaz has drawn that line somewhat south of where I would draw it.  To get my petition back on line I had to censor the image.  Done.  Please don’t get the impression that I am bitter about this.  I do find it all amusing. I’m grateful to Avaaz for giving me a platform to raise consciousness about this issue.

Infant male circumcmsion: image offensive, censored.Those who support the practice for religious reasons often say that preventing it interferes with their religious freedom and right to choice.  But even my Jewish friend Larry signed my petition after I asked him whether he had been given a choice.  If you believe in religious freedom and choice, there’s no excuse for taking that choice away from a baby.
Circumcision of infant males was popularized by doctors in the west toward the end of the nineteenth century due to hysteria about masturbation.

“Neither the plague, nor war, nor small-pox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism,” – Dr. Adam Clarke.

Authorities like Doctor Kellogg,  the man who brought us the corn flakes, blamed masturbation for ills ranging from curvature of the spine to epilepsy, blindness, insanity, and heart problems.  It seemed there was nothing worse in the public health field, and infant circumcision was supposed to be the cure.  Many doctors recommended circumcising an infant very tightly, so that in adulthood an erection would be uncomfortable, sexual congress would be limited and masturbation curtailed.  Dr. Kellogg recommended that it be done without anaesthetic, so that the boy would forever associate pain with his penis and refrain from “bodily self pollution” (a one line, rather uninformative, definition of masturbation I found in a pocket dictionary in high school.)

We now know that these beliefs were mistaken.  I have it on no less of an authority than Ann Landers, who started to promote masturbation way back in the early sixties, that masturbation is in fact good for a person, releasing health giving hormones that promote vitality.  And you all know that circumcision did nothing to “cure” the “horrible vice”.

Circumcision is a complex issue, with many arguments both for and against the practice.  But I have never heard a valid argument for doing it to a helpless infant. It is a violation of a very basic human right, the right to an intact body.  Those who claim it facilitates cleanliness and protects against disease are simply as wrong as the good Doctor Kellogg and his contemporaries.

Circumcision, or the Bris, is absolutely central to the Jewish religion and I have no desire to interfere with that.  But if they believe in freedom of religion and freedom of choice, they might either adopt a more symbolic and less destructive practice for infants, similar to the ceremonial pin prick, called Sunat, done to many infant Muslim girls (you may need a VPN to see this link in China), or they might wait until the boy reaches the age of consent and can voluntarily make a commitment to his faith and his culture.  Surely that would be more meaningful.  In any case, my petition is not aimed at any religious or ethnic group.  It is aimed at doctors who take a vow, the Hippocratic Oath, to first of all do no harm.

My petition is back on line.  Please go and sign it.

And finally, I’ve started a video documentary about this issue.  If you feel strongly either in favour or against infant male circumcision, I invite you to contact me and we’ll make arrangements for you to send me a video clip.  (I’m actually most interested in hearing from those in favour of the practice. I like to think my mind is still open to a persuasive argument) Personal anecdotal evidence is welcome.

America Calling

What?  That’s my phone ringing? At seven fifteen in the morning?  Who would be calling me at this hour?  I paused the elliptical trainer and raced for it.  It was plugged in beside the bed on my side, and Ruth was wallowing over to it by the time I got there.  (It was my turn to be first on the machine, her turn to sleep in.) I was still trying to catch my breath when I said hello.  Some kid with an American accent calling me.  At least I’m picturing a kid.  He had a very young voice, that standard telemarketer voice.  He told me he was calling from PayPal.
“You managed to call me in China.”  I’d forgotten that I gave them my mobile number, never expecting them to use it.  But here he was.  When I got my breathing under control we had a very short conversation about my name, or rather my two names, and had I been using my credit card to manage some kind of a blog?  And then, satisfied, he told me he was taking the lock off my PayPal account and I’d have complete control of it again.  Wonderful.  It’s only taken eight years to get this to happen.

If you are coming to China to teach, or even as a tourist, make sure that every financial institution you might have to deal with knows you will be here.  Because of the amount of Internet scamming and fraud coming out of China, or maybe just because of ignorance about China in the west, trying to use your credit card from a Chinese IP address can set off alarm bells that will shut you down tight.  That’s what happened to my PayPal account lo those many years ago.  I tried to fix the problem by going through their on line process, but that was just frustration.  The system ran me around in circles, constantly bringing me back to the starting menu.  I gave up and got along without PayPal.

Getting along without PayPal was inconvenient.  For my sixtieth birthday I bought myself my beloved Martin D28 guitar, on line, through Ebay.  Then came the problem of paying for it.  The seller was very suspicious when I told him I needed to send him a money order or a bank draft.  He wanted the money right now.  Immediately.  Why couldn’t I use PayPal?  He was also suspicious about my two names.  No honest person has two names?  (Probably never heard of Samuel Clemens.) He became so abusive that I almost cancelled the purchase.  But in the end I broke the rules and sent 1700 U.S. dollars in cash by FedEx to Scottsdale, Arizona.  I was taking a big chance, but things worked out.

Then I forgot about PayPal again until a few weeks ago.  I’ve been investigating E-commerce.  My son in Canada asked me to set up a PayPal account for him, and I did that, under his name and with his Canadian address, with no problem at all.  From China!  If I could do that, why couldn’t I get my own PayPal account to work.  Once again I went to their homepage and started following the links from ” What to do if your account is locked.”  Once again the system ran me around in circles, taking me back to the start menu.  After half an hour of that I gave up and sent them a very detailed message, explaining the problem and giving them my brand new shiny Master Card number.

Two days ago I got a short email saying they were still investigating and please be patient.  Then this morning the phone call.  And it’s over.  My PayPal account is unlocked again.  Whew.  Slowly I’m returning to the real world.

Oh, about those two names.  It’s a long story, but to cut to the chase I was christened David James Scott, named after my father, David Henry Scott and my grandfather James Lauden Bromfield.  A noble name.  For a lot of what seemed like very good reasons at the time, I changed my name legally to Zale Ralston Dalen in 1972.  I proceeded to have a career and build a reputation under that name.  My father died in 1986.  My first marriage went away just before the turn of the century.  For a lot of other very good reasons I decided I wanted to go back to using my birth name.  And that has turned out to be very difficult, if not impossible.  Family and friends went along with the first name change, reluctantly and often under protest.  Wanting to change back just got them angry.  Sometimes maliciously angry. Then there’s the fact that it’s expensive to change your name and I’ve had better uses for my money.  And finally, there are simply too damn many David Scotts in this world.  Google David Scott and you get thousands of hits.  I’m sure I’m in there somewhere, maybe around number 7,452.  Who has the time to find me?  Google Zale Dalen, (Go ahead.  Check it out.) on the other hand, and you get me at the top of the ratings.  That’s a hard thing to give up.  Couple that with the fact that the last time I stayed at Ruth’s house in Winnipeg there were three other Dave’s in residence, and the fact that in my own family there are more Dave’s than you can shake a stick at, one second cousin and two nephews all sharing the same house a few summers back, and it just avoids a lot of confusion if I let people call me Zale.

But here in China I like being David again.

Best advice to anybody coming to China – only ever have one name and make sure your bank and credit card people, and PayPal, know you are going to be here.

On a Less Personal Note

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much noise I make, or how much monkey on a stick animation I get into.  There’s going to be some student who just can’t stay with the tour.

Picture: I have the attention of most of the class, but not everyone can stay awake.  North American College of Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China I really can’t blame this student.  If I had to pay close attention to hours of spoken Chinese, I’d be comatose too.  Listening to a foreign language is a sure fire soporific.

Picture: Sleeping student.  Who knows how late he was up playing computer games last night.  It's not my fault.Well, you win some you lose some.  Unless what I’m teaching at the moment is critical to their mark, I tend to let them sleep.  Gotta show some compassion and empathy.  Would I want somebody waking me up?


Bike Helmets in China

Chinese word of the day:自行车头盔
(zi4 xing2 che1 tou2 kui1) bicycle head helmet

I’m seeing more and more bicycle helmets here.  For our first few years in China we didn’t see a single Chinese person wearing a helmet.  But just this year I must have seen a couple of dozen or more.

I’ve been saying for years that China will adopt the bicycle helmet, just like we did in Canada.  My theory is that we adopted it primarily because the baby boomers had kids, and we had to set a good  example. And today, while riding to Starbucks for my weekend 超大杯那提啊 (chao1 da4 bei1 na4 ti2 a1 =venti latte), we happened on this father and son at a stop light.

Picture: Father and son wear bike helmets, first time seen in China.

For years I’ve been making the same speech to students:  Some day, maybe twenty years from now, you will be out on the street with your child or your grand child, and you will see that everybody who is riding a bike is wearing a bicycle helmet.  When that day comes, I want you to remember this crazy foreigner who told you this would happen.

It’s so very strange to see my predictions coming true so quickly, and I wonder whether all those students I told this to will actually think of me when they see this kind of thing, and whether they will laugh.

An Anti-Smoking Campaign and Under-achievers

Chinese Word of the Day:吸烟
(xi1 yan1 literally “suck smoke”) v. smoke (as in smoke a cigarette)

We were very gratified this evening to get an email from Roy in administration announcing a new anti-smoking campaign for North American College of Jiangnan University.  What an incredible initiative this is, and so very welcome.

There is some question about how it will be enforced, given that most of the guards and Chinese male staff members are smokers.  But just announcing the campaign is great news.

Thomas, one of my fellow teachers emailed this response:  “Not to sound cynical but do you really think this will be enforced? All the guards and cops smoke, most of the male professors smoke; half of Chinese male doctors smoke! What kind of punishment will there be?”

To which I wrote:  Things are changing in China and very quickly.  When we first came
here there was no such thing as a non-smoking restaurant.  Now they
are becoming common.  When I was in university in Canada, everybody
smoked everywhere.  Later we all smoked in business meetings and board
rooms.  Canada changed.  When I first came to China it was like Canada
in 1956, from the prices to the social attitudes.  The country is leap
frogging to first world status, and I think it will change a lot
faster than you might believe possible.

Anyway, we can hope.  The fact that the university announces a
campaign against smoking is a huge step.  I suspect that many thinking
people, even the Chinese smokers, will support the idea and do their
best to comply with new rules.

I did find the wording rather vague.  What constitutes a “public
place”.  Isn’t that the entire campus, with the exception of inside
offices and apartments?

Virtually the entire last generation of my family died from smoking
related diseases, with the exception of my non-smoking mother.  I was
a heavy smoker myself for many years, and quitting was one of the
hardest things I’ve ever done.  Now I’d like to see cigarettes go the
way of chewing tobacco and spittoons, an absolutely disgusting habit
from the past.

I vote we all just cheer them on.

Now if I could get them to announce a campaign to promote bike helmets I’d really feel a sense of accomplishment.

My Remedial English Class (Not the real class name.)

I snapped this picture of one of my students this morning.  He sits in the front row, and I think he’s actually trying to comprehend and improve.  Don’t judge him too harshly by this picture.  I imagine if I tried to concentrate on a lecture in Chinese for three hours, I’d suffer from terminal brain numbness too.

Picture:  This stident has had enough Engish for one morning.  My lecture is quite soporific.Oh the joys of teaching English in China.

Picture:  My underachievers at North American College of Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaActually I enjoy this class.  A class with only eight students is such a luxury.  They are my under-achievers and they are not used to getting good marks.  During the last  course I spoke to the administration and explained that an advanced essay course is totally beyond their abilities.  They weren’t doing the assignments, and when they did the quality of work was appalling. It would be the equivalent of sending all the foreign teachers into an advanced Chinese essay writing course.  Impossible.  Administration agreed, and accepted my idea that I should turn the remaining classes into a remedial English course with no credit.

I told the students I was giving up on them, but that we could work on basic English and vocabulary, and perhaps this would help them pass TOFEL or IELTS in the future.   When they realized that they were all going to fail, they started to do the work. By then it was far too late to do all of the assignments, so I made a deal with them.  If they would do the final long essay, which would demonstrate an understanding of all the course material, I would see if I could give them a pass.  Five of them took me up on the deal, worked hard for the final three weeks of the course, and managed to pull off a 50% passing grade.

The current course is Business Communication Writing, and I’ve assured them that if they will do the work, complete the assignments on time, they can get an A.  It’s a simple course with heavy emphasis on the mechanics, and mostly depends on following instructions and using meticulous formatting.  They can do it.  And I think maybe they will.  I’ll know later this week whether they have done the first assignment as instructed.  If not, well then it’s back to the drawing board.

Selling out Canada and Home Stretch on the new Crown

Chinese Word of the Day:  牙医
(ya2 yi1) Dentist.

Bonus Chinese Word of the Day:  害怕
(hai4 pa4) to be afraid

With all the excitement over the recent U.S. election, the news about the Canada/China trade agreement has been slipping by almost under the expat radar.  But not quite.  It’s ironic to be here in China while our Prime Minister sells out my country, and I sometimes wonder how much of a country I’ll have to go home to.

The agreement is called FIPPA, the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, but it seems to protect the Chinese investors much more and better than it protects Canadians.  I agree completely with Rick Mercer on this issue.

Picture: Rick Mercer rants about the Canada China secret deal.

You probably can’t view this in China, so here’s a transcript:

“Imagine. The leader of a G8 country boards a government aircraft in his nation’s capital. He flies twelve hours to Vladivostok, Russia. Once there he enters a hotel room. Her orders his Minister of International Trade to sign a secret agreement with the Chinese government. This agreement will not be debated or voted on in parliament. It will be ratified by cabinet, once again in secret. So…is this a scene from the latest Bond movie sadly known as the further adventures of Stephen Harper. Who is this guy? Since when do Canadian Prime Ministers sign secret agreements with the Chinese in Russia? Was Doctor Evil there? Was there a naked lady painted entirely in gold? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-trade. I expect that my government is out there negotiating trade deals with countries, some of them totalitarian regimes. But that doesn’t mean we have to act like them. Call me old fashioned but I believe citizens have a right to have some clue what their government is doing. And it’s not like we haven’t done this before. Canada signed a free trade agreement with the United States in 1988, but it was debated in parliament. Heck, there was an election on it. We ALL got to vote on it. And by the way – that trade agreement with the United States, our closest friend and ally, could be cancelled by either party with six months notice. This agreement with the Chinese: FIFTEEN YEARS notice. Apparently they insisted on that. Look, I have no idea whether this agreement is a good thing or a bad thing. But I know that this fetish for secrecy has to stop. This government got elected by promising to be accountable and transparent. By avoiding the accountable, they become more transparent every day.”
– Rick Mercer, CBC

Mercer doesn’t mention that arbitration of any dispute under FIPPA would happen outside Canada, with a representative of Canada, a representative of China, and a “neutral third party” arbitrator.  Again, behind closed doors and in secret.  Where is Canadian sovereignty, government transparency, or Canadian democracy itself in that arrangement?  He also doesn’t mention that this treaty would bind the aboriginal community and the provinces and give them a liability they had no part in accepting.  It totally walks over Canada’s right to a say on environmental issues like the proposed bitumen pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, and the shipping in super tankers of raw tar sands to China through the most dangerous waters in the world, a virtual guarantee of a disastrous oil spill with destruction to fisheries and lifestyles on a grand scale.

Mr. Harper is now in a legal position to ratify this agreement.  If he does so without any debate in parliament, I think I can safely predict the end of the Harper Government and the Conservative Party of Canada.  If you were looking for an issue that would rally Canadians to turf out the party in power, if not outright revolt, you’d look a long time before you’d find something more unifying than fear of the Chinese.

I am all in favour of trade.  I’m also very much a fan of globalization.  And I wouldn’t be in China if I didn’t like this country and the Chinese people.  But ignoring political realities is very foolish.  I know how nationalistic my students, and by extension all Chinese people, are.  They may have reservations about their government, but they have been taught nationalism in school, and they are quite fierce about protecting China’s sovereignty and expanding China’s influence.  You can be fairly sure that they don’t have the same regard for Canada’s sovereignty.  This deal is so bad for Canada that it makes me suspect a massive payoff at the highest levels.  No Canadian would go for this deal if he wasn’t selling out his country for personal gain.

Closer to Home – Back to the Dentists

This morning I went in for the third time to finish off the root canal and have a mold made for my new crown.  Even though Xiao He was fifteen minutes late meeting me at the small east gate, we took the time to stop at Starbucks for some caffeinated fortification, my usual venti latte.  Then we were off for downtown.  I think I get my best Chinese practice riding with Xiao He.  He doesn’t speak any English, except for the English I have taught him.  So we trade words for the whole trip.  I gave Xiao Feng*, my dentist, a call to let her know that I would be ten minutes late, and Xiao He corrected my sentence.  我辉迟到了十分钟,好不好。(I’m going to be ten minutes late, okay?) I’m finally at the point where I can say simple things like that in Chinese and be understood.  Xiao He and I talked about the American election.  It was a simplistic conversation, with a bit of sign language to get across the idea of drone air strikes.  But at least it’s a conversation.  Everybody here is very happy that Obama gets a second term.  One of our fellow teachers had nightmares about the election, and cried when she got the news.

Picture: Feng Chen, my current dentist here in Wuxi.Xiao Feng took charge of my treatment today.  The Chinese dental practice is much more compartmentalized than anything I’ve seen in Canada.  The workers are divided into specialities.  Xiao Feng works in the “Mucosa Department”, where we’ve had our teeth cleaned.  But she speaks reasonable English and this may be why she’s taken over my root canal treatment.  On the other side of the waiting area is the x-ray department, all digitized and very fast.  Xiao Feng packed my root canal and then escorted me to the x-ray room.

Picture: no pregnant women admitted sign outside radiologyPicture: radiology department sign.

Assured that everything was okay with the root canal, she proceeded to seal it off and sent me to pay for that part of my treatment – 72RMB, or $11.50 Canadian.  (Yes, that’s correct.  The decimal is in the right place.) I haven’t been keeping track, but I think the total bill for the root canal so far has been about 400RMB or $64 Canadian, not counting the Starbucks coffees and car fare, which adds another 500RMB or so.  So let’s say under a thousand RMB for the root canal.  That’s $160 Canadian and includes at least 4x-rays, anaesthetic, pain medicine, and the temporary crown.

After the root canal was sealed, Xiao Feng took me upstairs to visit Xiao Wang*, Doctor Wang, to get the mold for my permanent crown.  The procedure calls for putting some molding material into a metal pan that fits over the teeth, first on the upper jaw and then on the lower.  The first pan Dr. Wang used to take the mold was much too small and I just about levitated out of the chair when I bit down on it and the pan pressed into my gums.  That hurt.  We had quite a bit of conversation about how much bigger my mouth is than the average Chinese mouth while they found the largest tray they have, one he had never used before.  But after that everything went smoothly.

Picture: Cashier window in the dental building lobbyIt was raining this morning, hence the cardboard inside the doors.

That’s when I had to get out my bank card.  A top of the line, all porcelain crown put a 3,543.50 RMB dent in my bank account.  That’s $567.286 Canadian at today’s rate, probably a quarter of what one would cost back home in Canada, or less.

After I got back home I realized that Dr. Wang had done no colour check on my teeth.  Are they going to make no attempt to match the new crown and make it look real?  I called Xiao Feng about that, and she said that since it’s a back tooth and not really visible when I talk, they wouldn’t bother making it match the rest of the teeth but just give me a regular colour.  I’m not happy with that, so I’ll go in tomorrow and see if they can order me a crown that matches my teeth.  The Chinese are a very pragmatic people.  For them it wouldn’t matter at all.  I think teeth are expected to be ugly here.  But if I’m spending the money for their top of the line crown, I want it to at least look real.

In Other News

Flash drives are amazing.  Ruth found my tiny 16G drive in the washing machine.  Doesn’t seem the slightest bit worse for having gone through the cycles.  All the files are still there and accessible.  Mind you, it was cold water.  That’s all we have with our washing machine here.

Ruth has finished her marking for the first course of the term, completed her paperwork, and submitted her portfolio.  I’m a bit behind on that, but my marking is finished.  This weekend I should get it all done.  We’re now teaching the new course, ENG3123, Written Communication at Work.  I’m much more comfortable with this course.  It’s material the students will actually need at some point when they leave this school.  Amazing how much of it is out of date already though.  Fax machines and CD ROM have become rare, and will probably disappear completely.  I wonder whether any of my students will ever be called upon to write a formal business letter.

*You may be wondering why everybody seems to be called Xiao something.  Apparently “Xiao” means “younger”, and is an appropriate term of respect and affection for me to use with anybody who is younger than I am, which is pretty much everybody I talk to.

And Finally, the Earth Shaking News

My friend Wang Tao, Simon Wang, sent me this link to a demonstration of… well, click on the link and watch the presentation.  This will, eventually, mean the end of English teachers, Chinese language teachers, and professional translators.  Not yet, but very soon.  The babble fish is here, folks.

I look forward to your comments on this post.  And please do comment.  Just click the link below here if you don’t seen the comment field.

End of a Course, Start of a Course

Chinese Word of the Day:评分
(ping2fen1) grade/give a mark

Our advanced essay writing course is now finished. I’m grateful for this. It was a course we’re told to teach to Chinese students in 9 weeks when the same course is given to native English speakers in Canada in 18 weeks. Many of our students have been promoted far beyond their ability with the English language, and I’m never sure how much of my information and instruction actually finds a home in their brains. The end result is close to a hundred essays to be graded, written in English, Chinglish, and something I could only call Word Salad. Marking them is a grind, but that’s why they pay us the big bucks.

We spent yesterday afternoon in Starbucks in Wanda Plaza, turning the crank on the machine that is the grist mill of education here in China, churning out evaluations.

Picture: Ruth marks in Starbucks, Wanda Plaza, Wuxi, ChinaRuth is a fastidious marker, spending about half an hour on each essay.

Picture:  My marking goes faster after the second venti latte.  Marking in Starbucks, Wanda Plaza, Wuxi, ChinaMy marking goes a lot faster after the second venti latte.

I do my very best to be fair, to recognize improvement, to reward effort. But at a certain point one has to simply say, this person did not understand the course material and doesn’t deserve to pass this course. I hate that. Given more time… given fewer students… no, that’s only part of the problem. The other part is that this course has no obvious connection to their lives and future. Very few of them will have a career that depends on producing academic papers with APA style references.

Marking is a process with brief moments of jubilation. I’ve handed out several perfect marks. Everything done as instructed. And every once in a while a student writes something entertaining or funny. But most of the time I’m reminding myself that this is hardly the equivalent of working the green chain in a sawmill. It may be tedious, but it isn’t hard work.

I had one class with eight boys, all in training to become telephone operators, hardly a career that calls for a lot of academic papers, none of whom were doing the assignments on time. And when they finally did an assignment the results were so abysmal that I gave up on them. I went to our assistant dean and told her that these boys were hopeless. They did not belong in an advanced essay writing class, because they simply didn’t understand enough English to get anything out of it. I said I was going to spend the rest of the term on remedial English, trying to give them some of the basics. But when I made it clear to these students that I had given up on them, and they would all fail, suddenly four of them decided they wanted to do the work. By this time they were so far behind that there was no way they could get a good mark. So I made a deal with them. Do the final essay. Do your very best on it. Follow the instructions on the handout. Pay attention to the handout on essay structure. If you can deliver a reasonable essay, with research sources and citations, I will see if I can give you a C in the course. No promises.
I’m not sure this is fair to the students in the other classes, the students who have earned a C by doing all the assignments and working at improving their understanding of the essay writing process. Perhaps I should have stuck to my guns and said no, you didn’t do the work. You have failed the course. But that wouldn’t have motivated any work from those students. At least I got something out of them.

I’m really looking forward to the next course: “Communicating at Work”. It has much more practical application, and much easier to understand guidelines and principles, with class exercises such as doing an accident report, a sales report, an email about a work situation, concentrating on the questions: What information is necessary? What is the best way to convey that information? It will have much more relevance to the students’ lives after graduation. I always find it motivating to think that I might actually be doing something of value for the students.

On our way to the Starbucks we rode our bikes over a bridge and noticed a man fishing from what is obviously a home made raft.

Picture: an enterprising fisherman on a home made raft works between the high rise apartment buildings lining the canal.  Wuxi, ChinaWe saw him catch a fair sized fish, but at this distance I failed to get a picture of it.

Picture: Fisherman on a home made raft.  Wuxi, ChinaThat was on the way to Starbucks.  On the way home, after dark, we ran into a huge thunderstorm, with torrential rain and gusting wind.  Our ponchos kept our upper bodies dry, but our feet got soaked.  Still, it wasn’t all that uncomfortable and we really enjoyed singing our new patriotic Chinese song, Da Zhong Guo (Big China),  lustily in the pouring rain.  We think the people waiting in the bus shelter we rode past enjoyed us too.