Sunday, August 31, 2008

New School Year Cometh

Tomorrow is the beginning of my second year teaching academic writing to graduate students here in Shenzhen. For the next two weeks, I get to have an introductory class (because my classes only meet once every other week). This means everyday for two weeks I get to walk into my classroom and say, "Hello, my name is Matt. I am here to teach you English writing." Or something similar. It's basically the same speech I've had to give at all my other classes over the years (including numerous demo lessons at the training center).

Of course, this year my extended speech will include quite a few classroom rules and hints in the hopes that I can correct the mistakes from the previous year (i.e. plagiarism, ringing cell phones, and other annoyances).

I have been preparing since the end of July for this school year. I know how I'm going to change my teaching methods and tweek my lesson plans in an effort to better educate my students and cut down on my own boredom. I will not, however, take up the recommendation from the previous 600 MSc students that wanted to play more games in class. It's graduate school, there are no classroom games. With any luck, this year will go much smoother than the last.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Betting on Portugal

Before we left for Malaysia, Jia and I spent a day in Macau--still one of my favorite places to visit, even though I don't gamble.
Casino Lisboa NightThis is the Casino Lisboa, the oldest casino in Macau. Because of recent competition from major Las Vegas companies, such as Wynn and Sands, the Lisboa built one of the largest casinos in the world right across the street from the original. I still think this one has more class than the new one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Political Stupidity

And I'm not talking about the Democratic National Convention.

Why would a political party nominate an indicted politician to run for Senate? It seems the Alaskan Republican party is willing to do it. Ted Stevens has won the primary. This shows that the party and the voters are idiots. I don't care that he hasn't been convicted yet, because he almost certainly will. He is corrupt and should not serve his country any longer. If he had any decency, he'd resign.

How is it possible that the Republican party couldn't find a single conservative Alaskan to run in Ted Stevens' place? There must be dozens of eligible candidates. Fortunately, Stevens will probably lose the November general election. Of course, had the Republicans found another candidate that didn't disgust the general public, they might actually retain the Senate seat. But, again, this is politics, and politicians aren't known for intelligence or logical thinking.

I do wonder if democracy really is better than the Chinese political system. Is it better to choose between two brain-dead schmucks that will lead a powerful nation or having no choice but the same result? At least if I didn't have to choose I wouldn't endure a year of mind-numbing political ads and pointless opinion columns.

And for those wondering, I do plan to vote with my absentee ballot in November. I don't like McCain, but I also don't think Obama is as good as everyone makes him out to be. And Hillary wouldn't have been any better. It doesn't matter who you vote for, you get screwed in the end.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's Really Over

The 2008 Beijing Olympics have finally ended. They ended last night in grand fashion that wasn't quite as grand as the opening (then again, why should it be?). The show was interesting, but quite confusing. The beginning looked like something out of Dr. Seuss. And why were the drummers wearing bicycle helmets? All jokes aside, the acrobat bit, acting like the Olympic flame was quite impressive.

Then there was the hand-off of the Olympic flag to London. They had a nice musical dance number that really confused most people. They perpetuated the notion in China that everyone in England carries an umbrella everyday. And thanks to Jimmy Page playing the Led Zeppelin classic "Whole Lotta Love," the 2012 Olympics will forever be associated with sexuality...or maybe just aging legends. It would've been more amusing if they got The Rolling Stones to do "Sympathy for the Devil."

We just have to wonder what CCTV9 will fill the newscasts with now that the Olympics are finished.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Don't Stink Up the Joint

All over Malaysia, there are signs notifying people to not bring durian into their establishments. For those who don't know, durian is a fruit with a spiky shell that was probably used as an ancient weapon. The fruit also stinks.
My wife was very disappointed by the signs because she loves durian and it's about half the price in Malaysia than in Shenzhen. We still allowed her to eat some, as long as it wasn't in the hotel or up wind from us.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Again with the Typhoons

Typhoon Nuri is headed my way today. When I checked yesterday afternoon the course was set for the eye of the storm to pass right over Hong Kong with winds at about 130 km/hr (I don't know my metric conversions). There are a lot of dark clouds over Hong Kong as I can see from my window, and the wind is picking up a bit, but no rain yet.

Just glad I don't have work yet. I'm supposed to go into the office Monday and then classes start the next week (I think).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tale of a Swatch

Swatch came out with a line of Beijing Olympic watches a while back. I didn't realize it until about a month ago when I passed by the shop in Coastal City. I picked up a nice one with a Beijing opera mask design for my mom.

While in Hong Kong, I was talking with my parents and uncle about them. We found that every Swatch store in Hong Kong was sold out. Upon my return to Shenzhen, I headed over to Coastal City again to buy a couple more. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that they don't take credit cards, only Chinese bank cards. I walked home in the heat and got my bank card. Again, I had problems. I forgot that prior to my vacation I emptied most of my account to deposit my pay in our savings account, leaving me with only enough money to purchase one watch. Fortunately, I went back the following day with cash to buy a second one. I think it was worth the hassle.

Now I have one Olympic souvenir that isn't a fake.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Artistic Malaysia

One of the first stops on our tour through Malaysia was the Islamic Arts Museum, which was much further from the metro station than it appeared from the map. Along the way we passed the National Mosque, a modern structure that doesn't conform to the Western expectations of what a mosque looks like. It's a beautiful building, but, unfortunately, it's difficult to get a good view of it from a distance.

The Islamic Arts Museum claims to house the largest collection of art and culture from the Muslim world. It is certainly a large museum that one can spend hours wandering through. There was a large display of art from China, though they didn't mention the region or ethnic group to which each piece belonged. Suspiciously absent from the displays are works from Africa--there was nothing from the continent (unless you count a few items from Egypt and Morocco in the gift shop).

We also took a trip to Compleks Budaya Kraf, the traditional Malaysia crafts complex, which is another great work of architecture in a more traditional style. The shops inside the complex weren't that interesting, but the artist village outside was worth a walk in the heat. We came across some very nice original artwork. One of my favorites was the work of Mohammed Zaki Zakaria, who paints a lot of colorful sea scenes. I was only able to afford a print of one of his oil paintings.

Even as we went through Malacca and Penang, we found great galleries filled with some inspiring work. I had expected more repetition like I've seen in most of the art galleries throughout China, but I was relieved to find a wide variety original work. My only regret is that I didn't bring enough money to buy a few paintings.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fast Food Luxury

This must be the classiest KFC anywhere. In Penang, we came across this interesting site on our way to an outdoor food market. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to make it back to view the inside. It seems that KFC acquired one of the old colonial mansions of Georgetown and fixed it up--much like many other places nearby (a university and hotel each have the mansions as part of the larger buildings). It was very nice to see that some people are making an effort to preserve these beautiful structures around Penang--many others are dilapidated and probably beyond repair.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Waiguoren Returns to China

I arrived back at the Shekou port early this afternoon from my nice vacation away from China and the Olympics--I really don't find summer Olympic sports all that exciting.

We began our trip with an interesting encounter at customs, while departing from China. Apparently, the customs officers had a problem with the fact that my wife is from Xinjiang, though not a minority. They held her up for a few minutes and asked her some pointless questions: Are you Han? Where do you live? Where do you work? Why are you leaving China? And then her passport was passed around to another three officers before they allowed her to pass.

Everything improved as we waited for my parents to arrive in Macau. We found a great new restaurant near Senado Square--Dragon Mama Cuisine. It was inexpensive and quite tasty.

Malaysia was beautiful and we found that Kuala Lumpur is nothing compared to Malacca and Penang. We made a mistake by not planning more time in Malacca--the people and culture were amazing. Jia was upset that she saw more Chinese culture in Malaysia than she's seen in China. I have to agree that the Malaysians presented the Chinese culture in their country better than most places in China.

The most amazing part of the vacation was the fact that Air Asia was on time for all five of our flights. For an airline with such a bad reputation, this was a pleasant surprise.

I'll post more stories about the trip over the next week or so.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Kuala Lumpur

petronas_towersWe've been in Kuala Lumpur for about three days now and it is quite hot, but still better than Shenzhen. First impressions of this city are that it's very confusing--I blame the British for making the roads; why couldn't they make their roads straight? It also seems that the logical location for an entrance to any attraction is not where it should be--we've spent plenty of time wandering for a way to get in. Other than that, the people have been very friendly and the shopping areas are much more relaxed than in China (no one has yelled at me or grabbed me in an attempt to sell cheap tourist junk).

Tomorrow we head to Malacca for the day and then we're off to Penang.

I'll try to post more updates if I get to another Internet cafe.