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.
Actually 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.