Thursday, May 31, 2007

I was on my way home tonight and I decided to check out the local sidewalk seller for DVDs. I flipped through, hoping to find some good TV shows (I found the X-Files a couple weeks ago). I was about to give up when something caught my attention: Creepshow III. Wow, cheesy horror, I thought. I checked the back to look at the credits (like that actually does any good in China, where most pirated DVDs have the wrong credits listed). I realized quickly that this was the real listing--my uncles' names and my grandfather's were right there in the credits. I'm sure they'll be real happy that I spent a whole 75 cents on their movie.

I'll watch it this weekend and let you know just how cheesy it is.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lessons learned

Things have been going quite well since getting pushed out of the dancing monkey factory in January. When I arrived here more than a year an a half ago, I intended to actually teach English as a foreign language. I really didn't enjoy the idea of standing in front of a class as entertainment.

Last night I had a review lesson with one student for an hour. She breezed through the material and proved that she could handle it--although she does need to practice her pronunciation at times. With about ten minutes remaining in the class, we talked about methods of learning. She mentioned that other teachers let her and other students slide with their mistakes of forgetting to include articles and small prepositions. She thought I made class difficult when I'd simply ask students to say their sentences again without informing them of what their mistake was. She noted that it was helping her to notice her own mistakes and forcing her to take more time to think about what she should say.

Later in the day, I had the entire class. I prepared a rather large grammar exercise for the entire class. After the first half of class, the students began correcting each other when mistakes were made--without any prompts from me to do so. I found great pride in knowing that my students can pick up on their errors and help others with their errors as well (and this class is the lowest level I teach).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A moment of sunshine

Yesterday and today there is a halt to the rain in Shenzhen. It'll start up again tomorrow though. I should just buy a canoe and paddle my way to work for the summer. Or better yet, I could take Homer's idea and ride a walrus to work.

Anyway, here's this week's photo. A bit of light peaking into the doors at the Taoist temple at Tianchi in Xinjiang province (August 2006). The park is beautiful with a clean glacial lake surrounded by lush mountains. It's an amazing trip for a day outside Urumqi.

And as I was posting this photo, it began to rain once again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

So what did you do Wednesday night?
Well, we tried to save a kitten that was stuck in the rafters at the restaurant.

It's amazing what two guys drinking Tsingtao will do. We were sitting around, constantly hearing the kitten's meow and wondering where it was. Finally we discovered it to be walking along the thin rafters above. We were up on the chairs and tables trying to coax it down, but the cat wouldn't budge... even when it was only a short jump down. Needless to say, we gave up after about 30 minutes.

Somehow one of the cooks got the kitten. We're still unsure of how he got where he was, but it was quite amazing to see a large man on a very thin ledge along the wall. And he just grabbed the kitten by the neck and pulled the claws off the rafters.

Now we can shorten our story to: We tried to get some pussy and came quite close, but the cook got it instead.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

On time

Hey, photo Friday is on time this week. I must be feeling sick or something.

This one is from my short trip to Zhaoqing, Guangdong, during the national holiday in October last year. The main park across from our hotel had these wonderful things. I really thought I wouldn't see PBR again once I left the U.S. My stomach always turned when my friends visited Colorado and brought along a case of it for our prolonged games of caps in the kitchen. Those were some fun times--getting drunk while playing such an unsanitary drinking game. I can still taste PBR... and that's not a good memory to have.
Last night was interesting at work. Classes were fairly smooth all day. I even had one class cancelled to extend my dinner break.

I had what was probably the largest demo class the school could host--they had to bring in an extra chair for a late-comer. Fortunately, there were about five potential students who were more than willing to participate and talk at length when given the slightest opportunity. That really made the demo time fly by. It also gave me a chance to actually teach something that some of them could actually use. My boss looked a little impressed when she saw the size of the class I had to handle.

I almost got in trouble with the students of my intermediate level. I gave them an article about coffee's growing popularity in China. I read through it before class to find the new vocabulary for class, but came across a line that made me a little uneasy. It had a reference to Taiwan, "a country with a similar cultural history to China." I decided to give it a try in class and to skip the last three paragraphs of the two-page article. Everything went well, until about the end when one student read further along and found the line. I had to explain that many Western governments and news agencies think this way, but that doesn't mean it's right. At least I escaped that one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

After Monday's problem at work--I actually forgot to eat dinner as I was talking with students and planning classes--I decided I better forage for food during my long dinner break on Tuesday. I passed by the foul-smelling river toward the shopping center that I figured would provide me with some sort of edible substance. I discovered that the bread shop and the noodle shop were now closed--there went my hopes of a super-cheap meal that would taste pretty good. I looked up and saw the sign of hope--Kung-fu. Yes, after more than a year and a half in Shenzhen, I made the journey to the fast food joint that bears the image of Bruce Lee. In a hurry, I purchased some chicken and noodle soup (not like mom used to make). It was a decent meal for 6 kuai.

On the way out, down the escalator, I found a rather amusing sign. "Please watch you head," read the sign protruding from the wall. I looked about. There was nothing except for the sign that I could possible hit my head on. The ceiling was at least 20 feet above my head. What was I supposed watch my head for? Was it going to pop off unexpectedly?

European Vacation? Wish I Could Go

This post is sponsored by

Planning a vacation to Europe this summer? I know I wish I could. Well, if you're not in my situation of staying in China, you can use to make your hotel reservations in some major tourist destinations (yeah, I know, it rhymes).

The site is very easy to navigate--there really is very little showy HTML involved there. It's probably why they claim to have such low prices on hotels (and they have a large listing). However, their choice of cities is limited to Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Prague, Dublin, and New York City. So, they have one place for you American domestic travelers too. I'd recommend some places to stay, but I've never had to get a hotel in NYC and all the places I stayed in Europe were pretty cheap. offers some insight into its destinations as well. Check out their description of the Red Light District in Amsterdam (does anyone really go there for the history?). They also have some travel articles written by staff to help you plan your vacation--they even allow users to add their own articles for inclusion. Their terms and conditions and policies seem fairly standard for hotel reservations. So, you can check them out and compare prices before you book your next trip.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A mixture of things

I have various things to blog about today.
As some of you may have noticed, I do have some paid posts on here (ok, two really). Today I received two more assignments to write, but one of them was a repeat of the same site I already wrote about but for more money. I guess I can't do that one since it'd be dishonest. And the other one just does interest me and would probably be of little interst to my readers.

In other news, work is going fairly well. Although my schedule of full-time teaching and tutoring is becoming a bit much. Plus I've been approached a few times with offers of more tutoring--I just don't have enough time and energy to do it. I don't particularly enjoy creating schedules that work around other schedules. I really like spending my free time at home writing and reading (and attempting to learn more Chinese, which hasn't been going well).

I've been a bit busy planning my summer vacation--the family is visiting in July and we need to find where to go. But some of the travel has to be cut short to accomodate my brother's short vacation schedule (there's that word again). We're looking at either stopping for a few days in Kunming or Shanghai at this point.

And what a coincidence, after I got off work last night and went out to recharge my phone credit. I was surprised to see P., a fellow Tsinghua Experimental School in Shenzhen firee (read: happy), wandering about the neighborhood with some of his visiting friends. He traveled out dirty Bao'an to get super-cheap dumplings on their way out to the clubs. I'm sure it would've cost as much buying more expensive dumplings near his apartment and saving money on the cab fare.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Photo Friday on Mother's Day

Well, I was busy working and completely forgot that I promised to update the photos every Friday. Fortunately, I have no paying subscribers so no one can sue me for false advertising.
Anyway, here's this week's photo:

In August 2006, I visited Xi'an for the first time with my parents. This is one of the Buddha statues viewed through an incense burner at the Wild Goose Pagoda. We took a group tour and combined it with a trip to the Terracotta Warriors. Needless to say, we spent too much time with the warriors and not enough time at the pagoda (but that's another story).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler's Oracle Bones: a journey through China and the West is a masterfully written account depicting modern China through the connections of history. He tells the stories of the many people he has known in the Middle Kingdom--their struggles with modernization and ways in which they embrace the changes of their country.

The subjects of most of the book are Hessler's students from his days of teaching English in rural Sichuan province (which he wrote about in his previous work, River Town). Others are friends and acquaintances he met while living and working in Beijing--people like his Uighur friend Polat who emigrated to the U.S. All of these people are connected by Hessler's research of the Shang Dynasty oracle bones and the common history of China.

Hessler writes objectively about international events as seen by an American living in China--there is the Chinese embassy bombing and the protests against the U.S. that followed, September 11 and the public reactions, and Olympic preparations. He writes at length about Shenzhen and his trips through the city while visiting a former student. He shows the influence of world events, changing economic situations, and government policies on the common citizens.

There is also an historical perspective of the Chinese language. The origins of writing characters, Mao Zedong's campaign to simplify the written language through Romanization, and even opposition to the simplification of characters. Through the study of language, Hessler discovers Chen Mengjia who opposed Mao's campaigned and suffered because of his opposition. Hessler goes on a long journey to research the man's life and comes up with multiple stories that turn the scholar into an almost mythological character.

Oracle Bones is must read for anyone foreigner who lives in China. It is a brilliant glimpse of the ever-changing Chinese world, complete with Hessler's own moments of wit and unintended humor (most of which is more amusing to readers who have experienced life in China).


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Wedding Photos

Jia and I finished taking our wedding photos yesterday. We had to do it in two days because it rained the first day, so we could only take our studio photos. Yesterday was a beautiful day to go to the local park. I was in a good mood, even if the Devils lost, and ready to take my photos in the one borrowed suit that didn't make me look like a clown.

What I didn't count on, was all the Chinese onlookers. I really didn't mind the curiosity--I'm used to that. What I did mind was all the Chinese taking their own photos of Jia and me without our permission. Just because I'm a foreigner in a park does not mean I want my picture taken by strangers. All Chinese know that wedding photos aren't cheap and that you have to pay extra for extra photos--so why do they think it's ok to take their own photos of another couple? I yelled at plenty of them (I told one in Chinese to give me 50 kuai). There was also the amusing young group of morons mimicking the photographer and telling me where to look. It was amusing until they said, "Hey, laowai, look over here!" That's when I flipped them off. From now on, any Chinese who want to take my photo must pay. I can't wait to move out of Bao'an and away from these ignorant and rude idiots--these people give the rest of polite society in China a bad name.

After yelling loudly at a large group trying to take our photo, they mostly left us alone as we moved about the park for scenic shots. The photographers weren't too happy about those idiots either. We managed to smile through it all and we hope the pictures came out alright--we'll check them out later today.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


That's the end of the Devils season and the Meadowlands arena. Freakin' Senators. Devils just couldn't stop the top lines (same as against Tampa). The defense is too slow for the speed of the top teams in the league. And the scoring lines are just lackluster--they can't sustain an attack in the offensive zone. And I would like to call on Lou Lamoriello to get away from the bench--you're not a coach, you're a GM.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Photo Friday

Time sure flies during holidays here in China (especially when you don't do much with it). It's time again for a photo. Here's one from last May holiday in Sichuan province. We spent most of the week visiting Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. Here is Shuzheng Falls in Jiuzhaigou.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Trip to the Beach

Work decided to kick off the May holiday with a trip to the beach at Dameisha on Monday for all the staff and students. There were only four students that I know who came along--although I think there were a few lower-level students in attendance. It wasn't a great day for the beach with the cool day and grey skies.

Dameisha is definitely unimpressive. The beach at NanAo was much nicer last summer. This one is just too crowded and the water is definitely not all that clean. It looks as though Shenzhen is turning this one into a resort for domestic tourists--there are a few hotels on the beach, including a beautifully designed Sheraton. On a nice day, this could be a scenic spot with lush mountains surrounding the beach. Just try not to stare out to sea at the cargo ships coming in.

At the center of Dameisha are some large, colorful statues of winged people dancing. Nearby there is also a wishing tower (I doubt there is a long history of wishing from the modern tower that's probably been there for two or three years).

It was nothing exciting for a day out, but it did get me out of Bao'an. The water was too cold for swimming and the town area doesn't have anything of interest. It was a decent day for people watching--it's always fun to see the Chinese in their work suits on a beach. We had a BBQ alongside quite a few factory workers on a day out from work--it's probably not a healthy way to cook over a coal fire.

There was also this bit of Chinglish genius.