Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Stupid Yahoo

I hate the new yahoo photos. I've been using their system for a couple years now and they just redesigned it to look flashier and more user friendly. The problem is that it is now slower because of all the new junk that has to load. To top that off, the last two times I have tried to upload photos, not all the photos upload on the first try AND I get duplicates of the ones that do upload. I don't mean that I get two of every photo--in some cases I have only seen one copy and others I have three. The ironic part is, whenever you select an option for the photos it gives a message that says, "Please wait whilst our hamsters process your request." I really wouldn't be surprised if hamsters were running their stupid company. This is yet another reason why Google is killing them.
I really would like to move my photos to somewhere else, but I have more than 650 to move.

Monday, December 25, 2006

More sad news

I'm sorry to say, the godfather of soul has passed away at the age of 73.
If anyone needs me, I'll be sitting at Green with a beer and my MP3 player repeating "I'm black and I'm proud."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's a little late to note, but in case you missed it, Joe Barbara died at the age of 95. This is worth mentioning here because I once met the man when I was 13. I was interested in collecting cartoon art, even though I didn't have enough money to buy much. But a gallery in New Jersey hosted a signing with Barbara and my parents took me to meet him. I couldn't afford to purchase any of the art at the time, but my parents graceously bought a Hannah-Barbara book for me that I got signed. I was fascinated to meet the co-creator of some of my favorite cartoon characters.

And an update from the previous post: no problems. Apparently, my boss was informed of class cancellations, but the Chinese staff was not. I've given up on thinking logically when it comes to business and education around here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thursday I was told that all my classes for the following week would be cancelled. I was also told that I would have some project to do for the school in lieu of teaching. This morning, I was e-mailed a small project that required the use of my Internet connection at home (the school's Internet and computers are slow, inefficient, and rarely working). I worked on the project all morning (from about 7, when I awoke, until after noon). After lunch, I received a message from a colleague asking why I didn't show up to class this morning. I was a little perplexed and asked what he was talking about. Apparently, the oral English classes had class without me. My boss won't be in until 3 this afternoon, so I suppose I'll ask him about it then.
Stay tuned for updates on bureaucracy in Chinese schools.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hiking the Wall

We began the day at a section of the Great Wall to the west of Beijing. It was far enough out of the way from the Badaling section that it wasn’t crowded, but it was still touristy enough to be well kept over the years.

Our sorry excuse for a tour guide told us that we’d have ample time to climb the wall and capture the views. An hour and a half was what she gave us. I began thinking it would’ve been better if my parents and I had taken the city bus to walk the Wall ourselves--we would’ve learned just as much history from a travel office brochure as the girl speaking Chinglish gave us.

Mom and Dad didn’t look pleased staring up at the steep steps of the Wall. I knew they wouldn’t make it far before turning back. I took the bare necessities (my camera and wallet) and sped off ahead of the group. Unfortunately, I left behind my water bottle with my parents. That mistake cost me six kuai about half and hour later.

At the third tower along the Wall was a shop that sold certificates stating, “I climbed the Great Wall,” and an engraved name and date for about 80 kuai. It seemed that almost everyone stopped here for a breather and to head back down the mountain. I gazed up toward the peak and noticed the crowd dwindle with each step--that was where I wanted to be.

At the fifth tower, I was sweating profusely and a cool breeze was blowing past me. I stopped to re-hydrate with an over-priced bottle of water. I conversed with a European couple attempting to purchase a T-shirt. The gentleman didn’t realize that Chinese sizes run much larger. I explained that in the U.S. I wore a medium size, but in China my size ranged from XXL to XXXL. They laughed and purchased their enormous, foreign-sized souvenir shirt, thanked me for my help, and headed back down the steps.

At the sixth tower, I was exhausted. I met a nice university student from Fujian Province with limited English skills to match my Chinese. He graciously took a photo for me and I returned the favor. I was tempted to head back in exhaustion, but the student coaxed me into going further with him and his companions.

I took another short break at the seventh tower and began climbing to the eighth—the last tower I was convinced I would make considering it was at the peak. After a couple steps up, I glanced at my watch. I had only a half hour to make my way back down the mountain. I grudgingly turned back and hurried my steps.

Back at the second tower, I was confronted by an older Indian tourist who asked, "How much further is it?" "Depends how far you want to go," I responded. His son found this answer much more amusing than he did. I elaborated, "Well, most people buy their souvenirs and head back after the next tower. But I made my way up to the seventh." The older man didn’t appear to want to trek that far up the mountain.

I arrived at the bus just in time for our scheduled departure only to discover that we would be delayed by another half hour--enough time for me to have gone all the way to that elusive eighth tower.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the source

I think I might've found the source of my problems for the term. As you know, I haven't been to happy with my job so far, and this is my second year at the same school.
Tuesday night was when I made the discovery. Most of the foreign staff works late afternoon to early evening. I work mornings. Well, they got off early at 6pm. We went to the See You Tomorrow restaurant. I had a great time with my fellow teachers and forgot any problems I had--I don't think I even mentioned anything about my job this year.
That's what's been bothering me. I haven't had the opportunity to socialize with my colleagues and blow off steam every now and then. This has led me to blow off steam in the classroom and office and forced me to agitate my Chinese co-workers. Last year I was able to have dinner with the other teachers about twice a week. There was even the opportunity for lunches. But no more of that.
I suppose now with the oral English classes I'll have enough time to vent through writing that the problem might get solved in a new fashion. Here's hoping.

slight return

It was a strange feeling heading back to the old department office on Tuesday. I was uncertain how I would be received should I run into any colleagues or students. I decided to head over at the tail end of the lunch break to grab my belongings that were no longer necessary from my desk.

My colleagues, the two who were in the office at the time, wanted to know how I was doing with the oral English classes. I told them I was bored. They'd missed me the last day and a half in the department. I promised that they could still call me and we could have dinner sometime. I even committed to playing basketball on Fridays with the Chinese staff.

It was then that two of my students came in. One wanted to return the books I had loaned to her. I asked if she had finished Michael Ondaatje, and she replied. "No." I told her to keep it and pass it along to another foriegn teacher when she finished.

The two seemed disappointed that I had left them. I assured them that it was not my decision to leave the section. I would much rather teach their classes. They sort of understood and expressed their distaste for the school administration (things I had heard quite a few times from different students). Even the girl who resisted my lessons on numerous ocassions seemed disappointed about my departure. I guess she must've learned something from me (probably that you can't always get your way with a teacher).

It seemed I had left an impression of sorts on a few students. It did make me feel that my job there wasn’t in vain. But then I thought that unless my replacement continued some of my lessons, it would be useless.

I suppose I should take solace in that some of the tough students who resist my model of education can come away with something.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Yeah, that's the word I'm looking for. That's what it's like to be a Jets fan. Just when the team was looking good on the field and approaching a playoff spot, they blew it. Well, there are a few more weeks before I can officially say they blew it, but this is pretty close. Hell, the New England cheaters got shut out by the Fish sticks. And the Jets couldn't capitalize on that! They've been playing well for the past few weeks and they blew it against Buffalo?? Someone needs to give the team a swift kick in the ass.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Careful what you wish for

Yup, sure learned my lesson this week.
Two weeks ago I was reprimanded for a laundry list of complaints stemming from my dissatisfaction with administration and the ways in which they handle matters of education. I mentioned at the end of my probationary evaluation that I would be happier back teaching similar classes as last year. I was told this would probably not be possible. So, I went back to my teaching ways and was doing a bit better with my classes and avoiding administrative confrontations.
Friday rolled around and I had another meeting that was scheduled less than a day in advance. I was told that no, it was not possible to switch me back to my previous duties. But instead I would be placed in the oral English section for the rest of the term. "But I don't want that. I'd be happier where I am," was my response. Sorry, too late. Well, now I have fewer classes and I'm finished at noon everyday. As much as I don't want to teach oral English classes everyday, I think it may provide me with more time to write. And my lack of serious writing since September had been my sore spot and reason for lack of enthusiasm and happiness. I suppose if this new situation works out and write more, I may be persuaded into finishing my contract through July.
On another note to the situation, I was again the last to hear about this. My Chinese co-workers all knew about this at least five hours prior to my notice. Communication between Chinese employers and foreign staff is usually pretty bad all around (not just at my job). But for some reason I have always been the last to know, even out of the foreign teachers.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'm a giant

I had the adventure of finding a new cool weather jacket for the mild Shenzhen winter. Last May holiday I forgot my fleece on the bus home. So, I went to downtown Bao'an for a look. We first stopped at the Rainbow department store across from Commie-Mart. They have a huge floor of men's clothes and a half-decent selection. The only problem is, nothing fits. I'm not a big guy... 5'9" and certainly not fat. Back home I usually bought medium-sized clothes. Yesterday was a different story. I had to try on jackets that were size XXXL. AND THEY DIDN'T FIT!
By some miracle, I found exactly what I was looking for (a new fleece) in Commie-Mart for about US$8. I was quite happy. To top it off, as we were walking through the store, a kid who was about 10 years old looked up at me and turned to his parents and said something in Chinese. I found out that he apparently said, "Hey, that guy is from Thailand." I really think the kid needs glasses.