Sunday, June 15, 2008

New Movies

After lunch today I picked up a couple of new DVD's from our DVD shop. The movies at the shop are a bit more expensive and seem slightly more legitimate than those sold by the street vendors. The boxes have artwork that almost looks like a movie you might get in Wal-Mart or Best Buy until you pick it up for closer inspection.

Today I bought Kung Fu Panda (功夫熊猫) and the newest Indiana Jones movie for about $2 each.

The Kung Fu Panda box actually had relatively few grammatical mistakes, though it is apparently rated "R" for drug content and strong language.

The Indiana Jones box was much more amusing. The description of Indy's newest adventure on the back of the box is as follows...

After a lot of bewildered and pursued and killed after the Qianglintanyu, Indiana Ouyu Mingjiaomate Williams, a young man, like to wear a leather jacket, the standard form of motorized Afei small party. When he knew the identity of Indiana, on their own and ask him to Peru to the ancient cemetery of forest, looking for a name of "skull" Shen Qi, said it was left behind by aliens, have control of the power of mind. There is another talk for people is also thought to be the "skull," they are female agents to the Soviet Union Yiruinosi Pake led by an elite unit, Nvliu although Yi Ruina Jie, it is an extremely cold blooded people, hair-do know how she is meticulous, how stringent, or else how can the KGB when the leader of this add to the confusion of the battle, there are evil archaeologist Mike, and the Indiana Jiuai Maliangrui Winwood.... "skull" end up in the hands of who is likely the impact on the overall situation of the Cold War, but also including the fate of the two countries.

If anyone can decipher that, you'll have to let me know what it means.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dragon Boat Festival and Guilin

This Sunday is Dragon Boat Festival according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The holiday always falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Though it will be a Sunday this year, we will also have Monday off from school.

Being given time off from classes and soon to leave China, Janet and I decided we must travel somewhere new and decided to take an overnight train to Guilin, about eight hours to our north. Guilin is famous throughout China for its karst topography where limestone peaks scenically rise up around the Li River. The scene is described by many classical Chinese poets and even pictured on the back of the 20 Yuan bill. I'm looking forward to leaving tonight!

As to Dragon Boat Festival, I had my students describe the holiday in class and it is a celebration of a famous Chinese poet named Qu Yuan. He served in an imperial court during the Warring States Period in China, nearly 2300 years ago. According to legend, the ruler at the time was treating the people poorly and many were dying from famine and war with neighboring kingdoms. Qu Yuan couldn't bear to see the people suffering and pleaded with the Emperor to make changes. When the Emperor ignored him, Qu Yuan jumped from a cliff into a river to kill himself.

The peasants, seeing Qu Yuan drowning in the river, rushed to their boats and tried to race out to save him. Along the way, they threw zongzi (glutinous rice dumplings) into the river so that the fish might eat the dumplings and not the poet. Unfortunately, the people were too late to save Qu Yuan from drowning.

Today, Dragon Boat Festival commemorates Qu Yuan's death. Here in Zhanjiang there will be a large boat racing competition and the people will eat zongzi to celebrate the day. I'm hoping there will be a boat race in Guilin to watch, but if not, there should at least be plenty of rice dumplings to eat.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Plastic Bags

On Sunday, June 1, China began its new restrictions on plastic bags. Some of the flimsiest bags have been banned completely while other plastic bags will no longer be issued for free. Under the new restrictions, stores must charge at least the cost of the bag to the customer.

In a nation of over 1.3 billion people who use around 3 billion plastic bags each day, the plastic bag pollution (commonly referred to here as "white pollution") is really an issue. The government hopes the new restrictions will encourage people to reuse their bags and/or bring their own cloth bags to the stores with them.

On Sunday, I happened to go into our local Trust-Mart and noticed the new plastic bags now have a bar code printed on them and the cashiers ask if you want your groceries bagged and then scan your bags just like any other item you purchase. The bags cost three jiao (about 4 cents) each.

Having seen plenty of bags rolling down our street like tumbleweeds and visiting a few nearby villages where there is not trash pickup and large mounds of bags litter the outskirts of the village, I think the new bag restrictions are a good idea. I also like the idea of charging for the bags rather than banning them outright (a more capitalist solution rather than an authoritarian one). However, I think the small charge may not be significant enough to cause a real reduction in usage. In Ireland, they charge around 33 cents per bag and have seen the usage reduced by over 90%. While that is probably a bit too steep a price for here, I think one yuan (around 15 cents) per bag might be a good amount. Of course, I'm sure the government will have people keeping statistics and making tweaks to the amount as needed.

Many students seem to know that littering is bad but somehow the campus always seems to end up with trash all over the place. I for one will not miss the plastic bags floating around the school grounds in the breeze.

Monday, June 02, 2008

On Fruits


Sunday I had two new fruits to try. I started with the Rambutan, which I had seen in large quantities while in Thailand but did not try there. The name comes from the Malay word rambut, which means "hairs." It seems a fitting name as the outside of the fruit is covered with stringy hairs. It is a pretty strange looking fruit.

To open, I sliced in half the fruit in half with a knife and you can see the interior of the fruit from the picture in the top right. Each fruit has one large seed inside and you can squeeze the outside to "pop" it out. Don't eat the seed uncooked, it is mildly poisonous according to Wikipedia.

The flesh of the fruit is a milky, but largely transparent, white color and has a consistency that made me think of jello. The fruit itself had a fairly mild but sweet taste. An enjoyable tropical treat for a hot day (which we have had plenty of lately - the heat index is usually in the high 90s during the daytime).


Dragonfruit, known locally as 火龙果 (fire dragon fruit), is the fruit of a number of species of cacti and native to Mexico and Central and South America according to Wikipedia. The fruit has also developed a big following here in Asia and is grown in many countries as well as locally here in southern China.

The fruit has an interesting color, sort of a mixture of red and purple tones and a soft, fleshy skin. When cut open, the fruit flesh is white with numerous black seeds. Despite its unique colors and look, the fruit actually has a very mild and somewhat bland taste.

At many of the restaurants here you will often get a plate of mixed fruit delivered to the table for dessert and dragonfruit is usually among them.

Lychee vs. Litchi

Though not a new fruit to many people, I wanted to share something a Chinese friend recently told me about the spelling of the fruit. I've seen it spelled both ways and wondered why. Apparently it comes from the difference in the name of the fruit in Cantonese versus Mandarin. Lychee being the romanized spelling of the Cantonese name and Litchi, the Mandarin version. Either spelling seems to be acceptable in English.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dollar Alert

I posted on the decline of the dollar abroad a little while back and wanted to follow up on that. Today the dollar passed a historic mark as it fell under 7 RMB to the dollar for the very first time. One dollar is now worth approximately 6.996 RMB and the Yuan is expected to continue to gain on the dollar.

I recall seeing in the papers a month or two ago the White House unveiling plans for the fiscal year 2009 budget. The budget called for 3.1 trillion dollars of spending but did not anticipate taking in that much money in revenue (though if you are I were to forcibly collect "revenue" from our neighbors, it would almost certainly be called by a different name...). This staggering amount does not include the emergency spending bills that will continue to be passed to fund the ongoing war in Iraq. I remember a story of President Kennedy who set his budget at $99 billion because he refused to be the first president to pass the $100 billion mark. In just over four decades, the budget has increased thirtyfold.

What does this have to do with my post on the dollar? Simple, there are only two ways for a government to spend more money than it has at a given time, inflation and debt. Currently, China has bought up a large amount of our debt, which gives them some influence over our economy and politics (if they threaten to stop buying debt, we would have to find someone else willing to do so to sustain our current spending levels) and also means my generation and the next will be paying this off in the future with increased taxes. Inflation, a hidden tax, is the government printing extra dollar bills to make up for the shortfall in the budget. These extra dollars decrease the value of existing dollars and prices rise (inflation) at home and the dollar gets weaker abroad.

The good news, I'm up to nearly $572 a month. Unfortunately, prices here are only in RMB and China is also having troubles of its own with inflation...

Censors Staying Busy

Janet and I were watching TV earlier tonight, which we rarely do, and were reminded that free speech is still a foreign concept here. We pick up two English language channels, both broadcasting from Hong Kong, where there are fewer restrictions on what may be said.

Watching the 7:30 news (who knows why 7:30 here?), we caught a segment of the Olympic torch being carried through the streets of San Francisco. One commenter mentioned the Olympics as a celebration of athleticism and that he was excited to see the torch. A second spectator said, "human rights" and our TV immediately cut to commercial. About ten seconds later, the commercial abruptly ended and we were back to watching the torch make its way through San Francisco.

We were both still laughing when just a moment later the news anchor introduced the next story as being about the Dalai Lama and we went to commercial again until we had been safely prevented from seeing the story. Maybe there was a reason I don't often watch TV...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Flame Fiasco

The 2008 Beijing Olympics are supposed to be a coming out party for China and a great source of nationalism. With just a few months left until the games, things seem to be quickly falling apart. What was supposed to proudly launch China into the worldwide spotlight is now becoming a public relations nightmare.

In response to recent crackdowns in Tibet, the Olympic torch was met in London and Paris by large protests. Today, the torch is set to run through San Francisco and will certainly be met with another wave of protestors. Fearing the worst, the city has tried to keep the exact route a secret and made provisions to change mid-route if needed. What should be a celebration of athleticism and unity is now being shrouded in secrecy and marked by protest along with cheers.

Many years ago, I remember seeing the Olympic torch pass by on its way to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic games. I don't recall to many details other than seeing a guy run by with torch in hand, but I don't remember there being a large security detail or anything but enthusiastic spectators.

In fairness, there were many cheering people greeting the torch in both London and Paris and there seemed to be a number of Chinese flags waving in the background from the pictures I've seen. However, the fact that others in the crowd are willing to be arrested to try and steal or extinguish the torch seems to highlight the fact that not all is well.

Our local source of news, the People's Daily, mentioned minor disruptions along the torch routes and blamed it on very " a small number of "Tibet independence" secessionists and a handful of so-called human rights-minded NGO activists (harsh words there)."

Tonight, for the first time since the Tibetan unrest, a student briefly mentioned the incidents. I've been thankful not to hear about it from them actually as I find the local propaganda somewhat infuriating. She mentioned that many people had been killed in Tibet and I played ignorant, stating simply, "that's terrible, why would people do something like that?" She asked me if I was familiar with the "Dalai Clique" and I said, "yes." "They want to separate from China," she explained. Again, a simple "why?" was my response. "I don't know," she said, confused. I then mentioned something about America wanting to separate from Great Britain many years ago and how people on both sides died during the struggle. After that, I figured it was time to change subjects.

Being here is tough in many ways, but one of the things that bothers me most is the blatant propaganda spewed out by the news and the fact that people seem to buy it. If you ask, people will tell you that they don't always believe the news they hear. In reality, it seems they accept a good bit of it. I always try to encourage my students to question the news and authority, a strange concept, no doubt. The newspapers here only show certain pictures and tell certain stories, but at the same time, the news at home often adds it own twists as well.

Long before the recent Tibetan unrest, Janet and I discussed how major news outlets at home (the Times, CNN, etc.) would often spin stories to make China look bad. Following the coverage of the riots in Tibet, it was discovered that some sources cropped pictures they published in order to perhaps generate more sympathy for the Tibetans, which seemed to be the slant of the stories. A Chinese website was created to protest the "western media bias" and seemed to have some merit to its points. The website seems to be currently blocked here, but you may be able to view it at - (if so, avoid the infuriating message board filled with angry Chinese and a few sycophant westerners). Here, the opposite occurs and some pictures and videos (You Tube) are blocked so that only stories that portray rioters in violent and negative terms are run.

To me, neither side seems to be completely right. I expect things may get a bit uglier before they get better. Come August, all eyes will be on Beijing as athletes and reporters descend on the city by the thousands. Those who want to get a message out, will certainly try to seize the opportunity. I personally think some of the talk that is floating around of boycotting the opening ceremony is dangerous and wrong. As I mentioned, the Olympics are a huge source of national pride and the government has done a good job of promoting this feeling and personalizing any questions aimed its way. Any slight will almost certainly be taken as a huge insult by the rank and file Chinese (the media and government will be sure to fuel the fire) and would be a diplomatic mistake. At the same time, the Chinese need to start trying to answer the "why" question and consider why people are protesting. It is erroneous and simple-minded to just blame "separatists" and not really consider why it is they want to separate if conditions are so good...

Let's hope that the Olympics can help to bring us all a bit closer together while also forcing participant countries to take a good, long look at the rights of their own citizens.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Costly Mistake

Last night, the foreigners of Zhanjiang Finance and Trade Secondary School (Janet and myself) along with the foreigners and a pair of Chinese friends from the Zhanjiang Normal University went to a local hotel to celebrate and enjoy an Easter dinner.

At the onset of the meal, we put in food requests and left the handling of the orders up to our Chinese-speaking friends. Among the requests were shrimp, which are found in relative abundance in the waters near Zhanjiang and fairly inexpensive here.

Somehow the hotel staff decided that the large group of foreigners needed something more upscale than common shrimp and we were brought a beautiful lobster dish. From here, the details get a bit murky. I'm not entirely sure if our Chinese friends were not paying attention to the mistake in dishes that was delivered (there were a total of 10 to 12 or so dishes) or what exactly happened, but we began to eat.

After enjoying the meal, the bill was brought and we discovered that the lobster dish alone cost 1000 Yuan! I haven't order lobster in the U.S. lately, but I thought the prices ranged somewhere around $30-$40 perhaps? Our lobster cost an outrageous sum of just over $140 USD!!! That would be expensive for home, but almost unheard of here where most dishes would cost between 20-40 Yuan, even at nice restaurants.

Luckily, there was a total of thirteen of us splitting the tab, but we still ended up getting much more than we had bargained for!

The beautiful and newly infamous "Zhanjiang 1000 Yuan Lobster," served with accompanying bird sculpture made from carrots and pumpkin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Declining Dollar

It should come as no surprise when I say that the U.S. economy is a mess right now! Runaway government spending has led to inflation and low interest rates discouraged savings and helped lead to the current "sub prime mortgage" crisis. The low interest rates and weakening confidence in the economy have also devalued the price of the dollar abroad.

While this may be good for exporters and the domestic tourism industry, the flip-side of the coin is that imports and travel abroad are becoming more costly. Since one of our major imports happens to be oil, I'm sure you've noticed this at the gas pump.

For a long time, China pegged the price of its currency to the U.S. Dollar. This and an abundance of labor helped the Chinese economy become a major world manufacturer and exporter. Periodically, the peg was changed ever so slightly. Fairly recently, policy changed and the Yuan has been pegged to a "basket of currencies." The result is a more liberal currency that is allowed to make slight adjustments.

When I arrived near the end of June 2007, one U.S. Dollar bought about 7.62 Chinese Yuan. This morning, one U.S. Dollar would buy you 7.083 Yuan. Doesn't sound like a big change? Well, it's an appreciation of 7.05% of the Yuan to the Dollar. When you consider that most banks (brick and mortar) offer about 1.5-2.5% interest for savings accounts, it seems like a larger return.

Using July's rate, my monthly living stipend (paid in RMB) would be worth roughly $524.94. Now my monthly stipend is equivalent to about $564.73, an increase of nearly $40/month. My small living stipend is just a drop in the bucket compared to the large business transactions that occur for Chinese goods each day. When you go to Wal-Mart, what items didn't come from China? The Always Low Prices may soon be increasing...

100 RMB, now worth slightly more than a Hamilton and four Washingtons.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Unrest in the West

I just got back from another great birthday dinner. Kevin wanted to take Janet and me out to celebrate my recent birthday so we introduced him to the new chic restaurant in town, Steqking Kitchen Production. Kevin, who has an extensive network of Zhanjiang connections, has a former student (Rainbow) who works at the restaurant and her manager designated her to be our personal assistant for the evening.

Exciting things about the restaurant include their large array of sushi, good western dishes, both Italian and Caesar salad dressings and being perhaps the only location in town to sell shots and mixed drinks (most bars require you to buy a bottle). Aside from helping us with ordering, Rainbow, after finding out it was my birthday, tried to buy us a cake and arranged to have the restaurant's violinist (I did say new and chic) play a special rendition of Happy Birthday for me.

Arriving back home later in the evening, I checked the news online and saw that the current situation in the far west of China is deteriorating. I thought I would go ahead and post the link now while I can, as it will almost certainly be blocked from the internet here soon... Unrest in the West.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An Orc in New York and Chinese Food

You probably have heard the story of disgraced New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer. While not really pertaining to my stay in China, I couldn't help but post after seeing a picture of the Governor in the Times online.

The first thought that popped into my head was his uncanny resemblance to Gothmog, an orc leader in the Lord of the Rings movie Return of the King.

What do you think?

More related to issues of China, is this article asking, "Is Chinese food as American as apple pie?" The passage discusses uniquely American aspects of "Chinese" food such as General Tso's Chicken and suggests that Chinese may be our favorite ethnic comfort food. The article also reviews and asks follow up questions for the recently released Fortune Cookie Chronicles, which promises to be an interesting read about the history of Chinese food in America.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Arabian Nights comes to Zhanjiang

A few months back, at one of the earlier banquets I went to with the school, one of my Chinese colleagues offered two reasons as to the popularity of the Chinese banquet style. Her first, was that she felt that taking food together from the communal dishes in the center of the table was a more sociable way of eating than having individual plates. The second reason ties in with the first in that this style of eating allows everyone to sample a large number of different dishes as opposed to just a few things. According to her, the Chinese like to have many flavors at each meal.

Our local Pizza Hut has found that incorporating reason two into their menu is generally great for business. About every month, Pizza Hut releases a new "specialty pizza." They throw in just about every topping imaginable and then give it a special theme. Think of it as a supreme pizza on crack. Past pizzas have included the standard toppings alongside some unique additions including pieces of squid, raisins, carrots and more. This seems to have been a remarkable success for Pizza Hut. Almost every time Janet and I go, we are the only people in the restaurant who do not order that month's specialty pizza.

The newest themed dinner available at the Zhanjiang Pizza Hut is "Arabian Nights." Its mainstay, the Arabian Nights Pizza looks to include (I have not actually tried it, just judging from a distance) such diverse toppings as pepperonis, peppers, onions, meatballs, chickpeas and possibly others. Optional accompanying side dishes include Royal Lamb with Couscous, Lamb burger with hummus, Magic Apple Tea and my personal favorite, the Harem Sweetie dessert. This large array of flavors can be available to you for about 80RMB/person (minimum of 2 people), which is fairly expensive for a meal here.

The Arabian Nights Pizza, probably not coming to a Pizza Hut near you...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Quick Update

First, my textbooks are supposed to finally be in, so I'll be looking forward to picking those up from the office tomorrow. So far, we've been doing some geography work in my classes. Since we are supposed to be learning about Britain and America, I thought a fifty states coloring map would be a good place to start. It is quite interesting how entertained you can keep 15-17 year old students with a handful of markers. Quite different from back home where any high school class would probably mutiny at a coloring assignment. I think the course material is going to be difficult for the students, so I'm going to try the approach of using activities and games to teach it. I mentioned before the challenge of placing yourself in their shows for this - having learned a just a little bit of a foreign language and then having to learn their history and culture in that language.

After we finished with the maps, I did a class game of hangman to try and help the students become familiar with the state names. They enjoyed this, but I found them constantly trying to "cheat" by looking at their maps to match up what states it could possibly be based on the number of letters. I even tried explaining that it was just a game and not a test, but the fear of being wrong was too great (this is one of my complaints about the education system here and will be the subject of an upcoming post)... After the first class, I learned to take away the maps when playing. I also split the class into teams and hung a large map up at the front of the room. After calling out the name of a state, the students would race to show me the location. I'll have to remember for the future that competition in the classroom is a very effective tool!

In other news, Kevin and I briefly became the first foreigners to step foot inside our new Wal-Mart. It apparently will not be opening now until April 17 (disappointing) but we were nearby when a maintenance crew opened the front doors to do some work and we briefly stepped in for a sneak peek before being escorted out. Sometimes the language barrier is fun as we are probably able to get away with things that regular Zhanjiang residents could not.

To end with a note of humor, I found a website today called "Stuff White People Like." Being in America, you may have heard of it already, I know its been mentioned on NPR before (interestingly, there is also a posting on "White People Like Public Radio"). I thought most posts were pretty funny. Worth a visit when you want to kill a little time at the computer.

I'll be back with more soon...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


(Mangosteen Fruit)

This semester, one of my goals is to be a bit more adventurous in the produce section of our grocery store. Most fruits are available on a seasonal basis and there are always new, strange-looking ones every month or so. My first pick was a delicacy from Thailand (which I missed while there), the mangosteen.

Until just last year, fresh mangosteens were not available in the United States. Now you can find this exotic fruit at some upmarket grocers in big cities but be prepared to pay. A New York Times article from August of last year found the fruit selling for about $45 per pound or $10 per mangosteen. I was lucky enough to be able to pick them up for about $1 per mangosteen; still slightly expensive relative to most other fruits at the store here.

Once back home, it was time to try out my new luxury fruit. The mangosteen has a reddish-purple shell that cracks open to reveal the white fruit hidden inside. The fruit is found in little segments that reminded me of garlic cloves due to the similar shapes. There was a faint floral smell, almost like a very light rose. The creamy flesh reminded me of an overripe peach. And the taste test... the taste is a bit hard to describe, but was sweet and something like a combination of lychees, peaches, and nectar.

Small, but rich, the mangosteen packs a lot of taste. I'll be picking up a few more next time I'm at the store. I'm sure in the future the mangosteen will become more mainstream and the prices will drop a bit. For now, if you'd like to try one also, be sure to stop by the ATM on your way to the grocery store!
(White fruit inside the shell)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Flight Attendants Wanted

I traveled with Air Asia, a regional discount carrier, on my recent trip to Thailand and back. Accommodations were somewhat Spartan and luggage requirements a bit strict, but the prices were pretty good. Lacking any on board entertainment for the two and a half hour flight, I had plenty of time to look over the safety procedures in the seat-back pouch in front of me. Behind it, proved to be an even more interesting find.

It turns out that the airline was soon to be holding walk-in interview for flight attendants in Bangkok. A little brochure listed what they were looking for as well as time and location. I found the qualifications to be interesting...

  • Female age between 20-30
  • Thai nationality only
  • University graduate. Fluent in both written and spoken English
  • Fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese would be an advantage
  • Minimum height (bare-feet) 160 cm
  • Healthy with excellent eyesight (spectacle must wear contact lens only)
  • Good appearance, poised, smart look and well groomed
  • Service minded; cheerful and passionate
I guess it was no accident that the flight attendants all seemed friendly and attractive...

I'm sure the EEOC would have a great time with that if they could expand their jurisdiction.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Happy Birthday

I'd like to thank everyone that took the time to call or write and wish me a Happy Birthday today.

This is my first birthday so far away from home. A special thanks also goes to Janet for helping to make it a great day.

For some reason, March 3 is not an official holiday in the People's Republic of China and thus I did find myself teaching two classes during the day. Luckily, they went pretty smoothly.

After class, Janet had some presents for me to open at home and then we went to Zhanjiang's one and only five-star hotel for a dinner buffet. We've been to the Crowne Plaza on two previous occasions, but the food this time was by far the best. Dining on upscale and authentic-tasting Western food really made the day!

Thanks again for all of the birthday wishes!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The National Bird's Nest

Following up on my recent post on the 2008 Olympics, I found a good article today discussing a different aspect. If there is one early highlight from the upcoming Beijing games, my vote goes to the architecture. The sporting events will not lack for grand venues.

The "Bird's Nest" seems a perfect fit for a China anxious to showcase itself as a rapidly modernizing nation to the rest of the world.

Follow the link below for the original article and pictures.
Secrets of the Bird's Nest

Monday, February 25, 2008

Second Semester, First Day

School has started once again.

This semester I'll still be teaching 12 hours (3 classes - twice a week) but with different subjects and some new students. This term I have two courses of "Survey of Britain and America" and one class of "Western Culture Audio/Visual." It should be more structured than the Oral and Listening English courses of last term that gave me a good deal of freedom inside the classroom.

China being as it is, I received my new schedule Sunday afternoon with classes starting the following morning... In a slightly more unexpected twist, textbooks for the courses won't be arriving until sometime next week! Not as big of a deal in a speaking class, but I'm not sure exactly what I should be teaching here. The topics seem broad enough to cover anything from humanities to simple geography.

In any event, having a number of new students, I'm just using the first week as a chance to try and familiarize myself with their English level. Hopefully, once the books arrive, I will have a better idea of what I should be preparing for them. One great thing is that all of my classes are small. I still have the college class of twenty-five from last semester, but added to them are two high school classes.; One with just twenty students and the second with about thirty. Overall, I'll have under 100 different students this term. Compared to the foreign teachers at Zhanjiang Normal University who usually average around 400 to 450 different students, this will be quite a luxury.

I think the new courses may be a bit of a challenge (imagine learning history, politics, etc. in a second language), but with a little experience now under my belt, I'm hoping I'll be able to meet it and be a more effective teacher this time around.

My New Schedule

  • Monday: Survey of Britain and America, Class One - 8:00-9:40AM
      • Survey of Britain and America, Class Two - 2:50-4:30PM
  • Tuesday: Western Culture A/V - 9:50-11:30AM
  • Wednesday: Survey of Britain and America, Class Two - 2:50-4:30PM
  • Thursday: Western Culture A/V - 8:00-9:40AM
  • Friday: Survey of Britain and America, Class One - 9:50-11:30AM

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wrath of a Nation

Recently, famed film director, Steven Spielberg, pulled out of his role as "artistic consultant" for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Spielberg citing China as not doing enough to help end the ongoing crisis in Sudan as his reason.

I have no doubt that Spielberg's next movie, if not outright banned from China will be met with protests at the minimum and poor box office results. With the high rate of pirated movies, perhaps it would ultimately not be that large of a loss.

Already, backlash against the move is appearing. A recent editorial in The People's Daily, China's official English language, party approved newspaper, starts out...

A Western film director is so "naive and simple-minded" that he has made an inopportune move on the issue of Beijing's 2008 Olympic Games by linking it to Darfur issue in Sudan, and this perhaps exhibited the "unique" qualities of this Hollywood celebrity. Nevertheless, the "naivety or innocence" shown by a few Western media seems all the more ignorant and funny.
(Read the full article here).
While I'm certain that Mr. Spielberg and I would find ourselves at odds on a number of political issues, "naive" and "simple-minded" are two adjectives I would not use to describe him. That seems childish and conjures up memories of kids arguing at the school playground.

I have to admit to not knowing much about the disagreement and China's involvement in Sudan other than the fact that having a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council gives them veto power and they have close business ties to Sudan as an important source of oil.

I look forward to watching the upcoming games and expect there will be many interesting stories coming from both the athletic events and the political realm. I for one, would love to see the issue of free speech and internet censorship addressed!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Still Zhanjiang

Its a funny feeling be back here in Zhanjiang. I was away for just over a month and spent most of that time in Thailand. Though not very far away on a map, Thailand was quite a bit different than my impressions of China from the backwater town of Zhanjiang. It seems that so much has happened for me in the past four weeks but back here, things are more or less the same as when I left...

The campus has been empty, the students are not back yet and only a few other of the teachers live at the school. It has been very nice. I guess I had grown used to the constant noise of students in the courtyards below and blaring announcements coming from the school PA system followed by a random soundtrack of songs, but now that it is gone for a few days, you really notice a difference. One of my earliest thoughts in China was that they do not like silence. I came to this conclusion after every tourist site we visited early on had silly music pumped in from speakers, even out in the woods and on the sides of mountains. I think this doesn't always hold true, but here on campus, it sometimes seems like it. In the absence of steady background noise, I've even turned off the mp3 player on my computer as I've surfed the net and enjoyed the quiet.

The only occasional breaks in the silence have been from the explosive ordinance that passes for fireworks around here. It puts to shame the little things that we use for fireworks that our local and state governments are constantly trying to ban.

As for what's next - I guess five more months of teaching are all that is left. The time seems to have gone by quickly. Still not sure if classes officially start on Monday or not and I definitely don't have a schedule yet...

In the more immediate future, I plan to finally start churning out some Thailand blogs. Also, I did upload pictures from my trip onto Webshots (which is still blocked in mainland China), so if you haven't seen them yet, check them out.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Heading South...

Hello again!

I have not been posting regularly, sorry. In my defense, it is vacation! I have been keeping notes and slowing filling them in on the different things I've been doing. Probably, when I get back and have a little time on my hands, there will be a wave of posts coming.

Tomorrow morning (February 5), Janet and I are flying to Phuket. We will probably spend a few days on the beaches there before hopefully moving on to some of the smaller islands. We are hoping to visit some of the less crowded islands, which means we may be out of touch for a few days at some point. Some of the smaller islands only have electricity for a few hours each day and many do not have internet connections. Some do, but they are dial-up connections which seem to be only somewhat reliable from the reviews I've read.

Some of the places we are currently looking at include Ko Phi Phi (which will be crowded, but is supposed to offer some of the most beautiful beaches), Ko Lanta and Ko Lipe. There are also a number of other islands in the area and our ability to get transportation between them and accomodations may also change our route.

Wherever we end up, I'll be taking pictures to post! If you haven't checked lately, I have uploaded some pictures from Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi. I also have a few more to post when I next get the chance...


My next excursion outside of Bangkok was to Kanchanaburi, about two hours to the west. The sleepy city's main claim to fame comes from the bridge on the River Kwai, made famous by a novel and movie (mostly fictional) of the same name. The bridge is the starting point to the "Burma Death Railway," built by prisoners of war during World War II under the command of the Japanese.

More recently and more positively, Kanchanaburi was featured as one of the many destinations in the first season of the TV show The Amazing Race.

After dropping off my bags at my guest house, a little plywood room on stilts above the river, I made the short walk down to the bridge. Nearby is a small museum that houses an odd collection of World War Two artifacts. There is also a small monument erected jointly by the Thai and U.S. armies in memory of the lives lost constructing the bridge. Though the bridge was eventually bombed by the Allies, Japan sent two large steel spans to repair it as part of a reparations payment. Today, you can walk across the bridge and it has become a tourist draw for people looking to escape Bangkok.

Another hour and a half by bus from the city, is the Erawan Falls National Park. There are seven tiers to the waterfall that you can hike along. According to Wikipedia, the waterfall is named after Erawan, a three-headed elephant in Hindu mythology, as it said to resemble Erawan. I missed the resemblance, but the park was refreshing and the blue, cold waters picturesque.

Monday, January 28, 2008


After a couple of days in Bangkok, where one out of every six people in Thailand live, I was ready to escape the crowds and the pollution. I caught a cab to the bus station and bought a ticket for Ayutthaya, about a two-hour ride to the north.

Ayutthaya is one of the ancient capitals of Thailand and was the seat of the government from about 1350 to 1767, when it was destroyed by an invading army from neighboring Burma and the capital moved south to Bangkok. At that time, Ayutthaya was one of the largest cities in the world with over a million inhabitants. Today, the historic district has over thirty temples sitting mostly untouched since then in various stages of ruin.

In stark contrast to Bangkok, the streets of the old city were mostly empty (though not completely as there seems to be a problem with stray dogs) and quiet. Walking around the deserted temple grounds with my camera was a nice change of pace. The skies were clear and blue, the air fresh, the other tourists few and far in between.

Among the numerous temples (most with a standard entrance fee of 30 baht) I took in a good taste of the mixture of Thai and Khmer style architecture. Two of the prominent elements at most of the temples are the Chedi, which are Thai-style Buddhist stupas, and the thicker, rounded Prang. The pictures at the top and bottom of this post show both, with the smaller chedi, surrounding a central prang. One of the most famous sites in Ayutthaya, can be found at Wat Mahathat, where a sandstone carving of a Buddha was gradually engulfed by a nearby tree to the point where now only the face remains, sticking out from the gnarled roots. Pictures can be seen in my webshots album from Ayutthaya.

On my second day in Ayutthaya, I was taking a shortcut through a small, out of the way temple when I randomly ran into Kevin Mills, one of the Maryknoll teachers in north China. It was a nice surprise to see a familiar face so far off the beaten path. We ended up spending the afternoon exploring more of the city and had dinner together, catching up on China stories, before parting ways.

Ayutthaya was a nice relaxing break from Bangkok and definitely gets my recommendation for anyone visiting Thailand with an extra day or two on their hands.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bangkok Day 2

I have found the Thai people to be very nice and friendly. Walking around on my own, I have stopped and spoken with a few of them and generally on learning that I teach English in China, they recommend I teach in Thailand in the future. It seems that the general level of English here is better though, so there may be less demand for me...

Unfortunately, as in any tourist destination, there are also a number of people also trying to make a quick buck at your expense. Sometimes it is tough to tell the genuinely friendly people wanting to practice some English from the approaching touts wanting to take you on a costly detour or to a nearby suit shop. The most common scam tends to be asking where you are going followed by telling you that that particular destination is closed for whatever reason and they'll offer to take you somewhere else instead. In the morning, Wat Pho was "closed" to foreigners and only open to Thais for "morning prayers." I was told to come back in the afternoon, but in the meantime, I could go see a different Buddha for a few extra Baht. Of course, walking to the entrance reveals that it is not closed at all... Interestingly enough, I was by the same temple in the late afternoon and told by a different tout that it was closed in the afternoons and I would have to visit the following morning, but he could take me to another site of interest. If it were up to them, I'd have never seen the temple!

After walking just a bit further down the road, I reached the entrance to Wat Pho (Wat is Thai for "temple") and purchased a ticket, checking the sign to see that the temple was open daily starting at 8 A.M., despite any nonsense you may hear otherwise. The temple is home to the world's largest reclining Buddha and at around 150 feet long, I'm sure he blows away the competition. It seems to be a recurring theme to have a world's largest ______ Buddha as your tourist draw. So far I've see the world's tallest Buddha (LeShan), world's largest sitting bronze Buddha (Hong Kong) and the world's largest reclining Buddha (Bangkok).

After walking around the rest of the temple grounds, I had a lunch of chicken with spicy basil leaves nearby that was spicy enough to clear the sinuses and then some...

Following lunch, it was time to go across the street to visit the Grand Palace, which is home to more temples and the famous "Emerald Buddha." It turns out that the Buddha is actually made of jade, but was originally mistaken for emerald when it was first discovered. Nonetheless, it is one of the more important Buddha images in Thailand.

That evening, I met with Lindsay (a fellow teacher from Zhanjiang who was in Bangkok) and some of her friends at the Conrad Hilton hotel. She knew a person who was going to be playing in the band at the bar that night, so we went to watch. It was an interesting experience... It is a five-star hotel and the bar was quite nice, the crowd provided most of the color though. Since we arrived early for happy hour specials, there were not many people there yet. Gradually middle-aged business men begin to trickle in followed by attractive Thai girls young enough to be their daughters. Prostitution operates in sort of a gray area in Thailand, not necessarily legal or acceptable, but widespread and tolerated. It was something of a surreal and strange experience being in a luxury hotel and surrounded by women for hire and farang (foreign) businessmen buying up bottles of wine for them. The band was pretty good though, covering popular English songs, which were nice to hear again after only getting bad techno music at Chinese bars and we had a good evening.

Bangkok Day 1

I touched down in Bangkok on Thursday afternoon following a two and a half hour flight from Macau.

About an hour later, I was through customs and out on my own. Needing to catch a taxi into Bangkok, I exchanged a small amount of money (at what I suspected to be a bad rate) and was only surprised later when I learned how bad the exchange was! From the airport, it was about a 40 minute taxi ride to the street where I'm staying.

I booked a room at the Green House Guest House, which caused some confusion as it turns out there are two Green Houses on the same street, no affiliation. After insisting I had a reservation at the wrong Green House, I eventually made my way down to the other end of the road to find the right location. Janet is going to have a much easier time when she gets here as I'll be able to escort her from the airport after blazing the trail...

The area where I'm staying is in the central part of Bangkok, where most of the tourist destinations are. The whole block is full of guest houses, backpackers, trinket and food vendors, bars, etc... Wikitravel referred to the area as a "backpacker's ghetto" and after arriving, I have to agree.

One of the first things I did after getting my room and dropping off my bags was to check the current RMB/Thai Baht exchange rates. They ranged from about 4.35-4.5 Baht = 1 RMB. The airport exchange had given me 3.4 baht/RMB! I thought I may have better luck at the nearby Western Union, but they were only offering 3.8baht/RMB. Everyone seemed to offer the same rates for Baht/USD (about 32/1) but for whatever reason, coming in with Chinese money it is hard to get a decent exchange. I finally found a little place that offered me 4.4 Baht/RMB and I exchanged my money there. So far, nobody has complained about counterfeit bills, so I guess it worked out fine...


I only spent a few, albeit cold hours in Macau. Air Asia, the discount airline I flew with operates flights out of Macau rather than Hong Kong since they have cheaper taxes and departure fees. So, I boarded a ferry in central Hong Kong and made the one hour trip to the neighboring S.A.R. (Special Administrative Region of China).

Macau, with a population of a bit over 500,000 is much smaller than Hong Kong. I had booked a room in a historic, i.e., run down hotel, but the location was great. Looking to escape from my bleak room, I spent a few hours walking around the city and taking pictures. Unfortunately, it was pretty cold, around 60 degrees and I had left my jacket back in Hong Kong (thinking I wouldn't need it in Bangkok).

Macau is the only location for legal gambling in China and that industry has led to it becoming a popular tourist destination. Macau recently passed Las Vegas as the world's largest gambling center. I actually was staying closer to the older Portugese section of town and not near any of the casinos, but did drive by some of them on the way to the airport, including the newly opened and massive Venetian.

One of the more interesting aspects of Macau to me, is the exchange rate racket. The official currency of Macau is the Pataca, but due to its proximity, Hong Kong dollars are also used and accepted on a one to one basis. In actuality, the Pataca is pegged at a rate slightly under the value of the Hong Kong dollar, so for each HKD you spend in Macau, you lose about 3 cents. An ingenuious plan to take advantage of the weekend crowds coming in from Hong Kong. I even saw a few places that accepted Renminbi on the 1 to 1 exchange rate, which would be even worse considering each RMB should be worth about 1.09 Patacas.

After a cold night in Macau, I was ready to board the plane (from an airport not too much larger than Tallahassee Regional) to reach Bangkok so I could thaw out a bit...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Off to Thailand

My long anticipated vacation is almost here!

I'm headed to Macau by ferry today and flying out to Bangkok from there tomorrow afternoon.

I'll be staying in Thailand for three a little over three weeks. The first week, I'll be scouting out some sites in and around Bangkok by myself and should be fully prepared to give Janet a tour by the time she arrives on February 2. After spending a few days seeing the sights together, we'll head to the south on February 5.

Once we land in Phuket, we hope to use that as a base to do some island hopping around in the Gulf of Thailand and the Malacca Strait.

I'm excited! Look for some updates and new pictures to be coming over the next few weeks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exam Week

Back in Zhanjiang, the school semester is probably just now wrapping up. Luckily, I got to leave a week early, but not before giving exams and grades to my students.

For my two spoken English classes, I gave oral exams. These were more or less straight forward to administer. I met with the students one-on-one and we read a dialogue together and then I asked them each a few questions. I checked for pronunciation, fluency (which I judged as ability to smoothly read the passage versus stumbling over the words) and a short question and answer session served to test their listening ability in addition to fluency (formulating thoughts in English). It was fairly easy and quick to judge what the students knew this way. Most of them did fine.

Before giving the exams, I wrote a list of 15-20 questions to rotate through with the students. Some of the questions I quickly abandoned due to a phenomena that I refer to as "Chinese hive thought." Any Star Trek fans, think of the Borg. For those of you not familiar with the reference, let me explain. What I classify as "Chinese hive thought" is the same reaction of multiple Chinese people to certain stimuli, generally a question. This is a joking classification; nobody has telepathic group thought abilities though sometimes it may seem eerily like they do.

For example, one question I asked, "Would you rather visit Beijing of Shanghai?" The answer universally emerged in my class as, "Beijing, because it is the capital of China." The question would be sort of like asking students in an American classroom if they would rather take a trip to New York or Washington D.C.? Certainly you would likely get a variety of answers and reasons why. Additionally, some choosing to visit D.C. may cite among their reasons it being the seat of our government, but usually wanting to visit specific sites (Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian, etc.) would also be included. My answer from the 20 or so students randomly asked out of a class of 45, was essentially and important to note, independently, the same - "hive thought."

If one were to ask for thoughts on Chairman Mao (which I of course did not), you generally here the answer that he was "70% right and 30% wrong." The percentages seem to be consistent among different people. I've never heard a 65/45 or 50/50 ratio, it seems firmly established that his right/wrong lifetime batting average stands at 70/30. Another hive thought?

Of course, the more people you talk to, the wider variety of opinions you are likely to get. On a larger scale, "hive thought" answers break down. In the close-knit classroom, they more often tend to hold true. One reason for this might be that the Chinese class, unlike in our secondary and tertiary education system, is always together. Whereas our students in high school may have 6 different classes in the day, each with different groups of people, the Chinese class may have 6 different classes, but the students are always the same. After spending so much time together, perhaps its easier for similar opinions to emerge? Another thought may be that the Chinese education system seems to be very top-down. The teacher teaches and is right and the students learn and are generally wrong. There does not seem to be much questioning of the established norm, which could lead to groups having similar "right" answers. The "hive thought" only seems to work on certain questions and may be predictable or can come as a surprise.

That was a bit of a tangent, but as I said, I quickly abandoned certain questions after getting tired of hearing the same answer. Speaking to so many students can quickly become boring if you only hear the same story. I needed some variety to keep me interested! Switching up the questions and learning which ones worked better than others seemed to help.

My reading class proved to be a bit more of a challenge. I had to write an exam for them covering the chapters we had discussed in the textbook so far. Knowing that English is a second language for them, I told them somewhat specifically what areas of the book I was taking questions from so they would not what to study. We, of course, also had a reading comprehension passage. In addition to forewarning them on what to study, I also planned to grade the test on a curve to account for the fact that I may have poorly designed it for their level.

As it turns out, the students did not do well. My scores ranged from a minus three to a minus twenty-five (out of 40 questions) with most hovering closer to the low end of the scale. Looking at test scores and running some averages, I decided to subtract seven wrong questions from the students. This put my grading more in line with a nice bell curve with a peak somewhere in the high "C" range. I plan to spend some time going over the exam when the next semester begins. I still have a feeling that a number of the students did not adequately prepare for it.

After grading exams, I plugged the scores into my class spreadsheets and had grades prepared fairly quickly. It was the end of my first semester teaching and has been an interesting experience. There have been some classes that worked really well and definitely some other lesson plans that might be better forgotten. I hope that I was able to help many of the students practice and improve their English in the classroom, but I think perhaps the biggest learning tool has come from just being present. With Janet and myself on campus, many of the students have expressed that they have more reason to practice and try to learn English diligently. I hope that I can be effective in the classroom, but if for some reason I prove to be inspiring outside of the classroom, I'll take that as a good sign as well.

One thing is for certain, I'm sure my second semester students will be getting an English teacher with a little more experience under his belt.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Long Week

This has been a busy week. I gave final exams and grades for all of my students, Janet left and then I've been sick for the past two days. Now that I'm starting to feel better, I'll try and get back on schedule here.

The good news is that I am finished for the semester. I guess I am officially on vacation now, though sitting here in my apartment, it doesn't quite seem like it yet. The next semester doesn't begin until February 23. My flight to Thailand doesn't leave until January 24, so I've got some time to kill. I thought about taking a train to Shanghai (18 hours) and spending some time exploring around there but as I began to hear horror stories of trying to get train tickets at semester's end, I was reminded of an all too unpleasant previous experience trying to get a train out of Beijing back in August. Deciding not to risk being stuck alone in the cold weather and missing my flight to Bangkok, I'll probably just stick around here a few days and then head to Hong Kong. I'll post some more details of my trip as I figure them out...

Now, the not-so-good news, I'm on my own. Janet, my constant companion in China, is now safely back in Orlando. It looks like I may be going out and eating dinner by myself. I do have some friends over at the Normal College, but they too are beginning to leave for their vacations. Venturing out on your own in Zhanjiang can sometimes be fun, but can also easily become overwhelming. I guess once I get tired of it, I'll pick up my bus ticket and go. The English department teachers invited me to attend a picnic on Sunday, which should be fun. They too worried that I would be lonely with Janet gone.

Tonight, I left campus for the first time since Tuesday. I've spent the better part of the past two days sleeping/huddling inside my house when not having to give exams. I caught some kind of bug Tuesday night and was more or less incapacitated on Wednesday, not getting out of bed until 5pm. I was on a liquid diet until the following evening when I heated up a can of black beans for dinner. Today, thankfully, I'm doing much better.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Reading Robin Hood in China

This semester, I've been teaching an English reading class. Its been going ok and I've tried to supplement the passages from their textbook with some outside articles on China or other things that may interest them whenever I can find them in magazines or online. Lately my outside articles have been running dry and I'm left trying to come up with some other ideas.

I was recently thinking back to my earlier years when I was learning reading in school. In particular, I thought of a time in elementary school when every class in the third grade did a month-long unit on fairy tales. It just so happened that I had been given an "alternative" version of Little Red Riding Hood at my Maryknoll orientation and saw it when cleaning a desk drawer the other day. What a good opportunity to introduce the concept of point-of-view, I thought!

I had some copies made (takes about a week fighting the bureaucratic copy machine lady here) of The Maligned Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood (小红帽 - Little Red Hat, in the Chinese translation). In class, I had the students read both versions and we discussed. Many were familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood, but they really enjoyed The Maligned Wolf, which told the story in a first-person narrative from the Wolf's point-of-view.

At this point, you are probably reading and wondering, "what does this have to with Robin Hood, the title of this blog post?" Stay with me, I'm getting there...

This week, we followed up on point-of-view with a heavily abridged version of Robin Hood. The consensus of the class was the Robin Hood is a noble character, after all, few things could be more noble than to steal and give to the poor. We looked at the story differently though, I asked everyone to pretend that they were either Prince John or the Sheriff of Nottingham from the story and defend their actions. The story of Robin Hood quickly changed into how the prince was merely trying to hold together a country in the absence of its king. Robin Hood became a pesky and troublesome menace to the "harmonious society" of England. As my students to frequently tell me, "every coin has two sides."

For homework, I asked the students to write a mini-sequel to Robin Hood, where the English folk hero visits China in the year 2008. I've included some of the stories below (which may make for a long read)...

Robin Hood come to China today. He is a heartful, humor, rich, hardworking man. He have a harmonious family, a beautiful wife and three lovely children. He can speak four kinds of languages: English, Japanese, Chinese and French. Robin Hood doesn't need to steal money, because steal money is violate law. He owns his company, which is a charitable organization. He contribute to poor peoples and offer many foods, clothes, breads and so on. Robin Hood often go to orphanage and visit orphans. He brings many delicious foods, toys and books to them. He also tell stories and perform magic to them sometimes. They laugh out loud and feel very happy. Robin Hood is a hero in many people's mind.
In this next version, Robin Hood has a moral awakening...
I think Robin Hood come to China will turn over a new leaf. Because China people is very kindness and very friendly and will help each others. So he feel very warmth and decide breaking a bad habit.

Today Robin Hood make a speech for China. The topic is: "Turn over a new leaf." He said,
Before, I have terrible habit, it is thief. Long, long ago, I often steal something in my country because I want to help the poor man. I think I haven't the power to help them otherwise. Until now, I found I did everything is wrong before. This way is very immoral. I want all people here correct their faults once they are aware of them. Repent and be saved.
The people can listen to Robin Hood and turn over a new leaf.
And here he changes professions!
Robin Hood come to China. He made a great effort and finally he was to be a famous clothes designer. One day, I went shopping with my friend. We passed a clothes shop. Suddenly, we saw the clothes of Robin Hood was fashionable and colorful. Robin Hood added the old style to his new clothes which was come from the style of old England. Eventually he made a great progress as the Chinese people really fond of his design. He became a famous hero again.
Here Robin Hood tests the waters with his knowledge of political science...
Robin Hood come to China. He gets warm welcome by Chinese people. And then he calls on Hu Jintao, Chinese President. They discuss how to return Taiwan. Robin Hood puts forward many acceptable tactics. These tactics are very useful for China. Chinese government carry out "one nation, two systems" so as to achieve the unity of China. Such as Hong Kong and Macau. We expect a new China next year. At that time, Robin Hood become a well known people in China.
And falls in love with a beautiful Chinese girl...
800 years ago, Robin Hood robbed the crown jewels to help the poor in England. The king was very angry and the army arrested Robin Hood.

Robin Hood escaped to China today. When Robin Hood come to China, he has no house to live, very hungry, dressed in ancient clothes. He is different from other people in China. As we know he has yellow hair, blue eyes and is very different from all the people around him. In that time, a beautiful Chinese girl appears and Robin Hood falls in love with her. They love each other in one sight. The beautiful girl teaches Robin Hood Chinese, how to use a computer, etc.

After three years, they get engaged and get much money to contribute to benevolent to help the children. Under Robin Hood's help, all the people have good life in China. Robin Hood gets married to the Chinese girl and have four children.
And my personal favorite (as it involves me)...
Robin Hood just keep walking and walking in the forest at midnight. Suddenly, he trips and tumbles down. It seems a very long time. When Robin Hood wakes up he hardly can open his eye for the intense sunlight. He can feel a lot of big object pass by him and making a loud noise. He opens his eye and is nearly frightened out of his wits as the terrible and chaotic world around him.

Robin Hood can't find King Richard. He is just shouting but no one can understand him. People around him treat him as a madman and get away from him quickly. After a long time, he calm down. Robin Hood felt upset, but nothing he could do. He just walk alone on the street with no destination.

A beautiful woman and a handsome man, Janet and Scott, go out of their school for lunch. Walking from the opposite one, they come across a strange man. Thinking for a while, Scott come to recognize this man who is his idol, Robin Hood. He tells Janet, but she laugh at him. Even though it is unbelievable, Scott still want to talk to the man.

"Excuse me, eh, Robin Hood?"
"What? You can speak English? Wow! I'm Robin Hood."

Robin Hood tells his story to Scott and Janet and they would like to find a way for Robin Hood to go back to his time period, but they fail eventually. Robin Hood lives in Scott's house and starts to get used to his life a little bit. At last, Scott and Janet decide to find a job for Robin Hood. He becomes an English teacher in Zhanjiang Finance and Trade School and likes his new job and life in China very much.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Subscribe to my Blog

Some of you may have already noticed, but I have recently made a small change to the links over on the right side of the page.

You can now click on one of them and confirm for a subscription to my blog via e-mail. Each time I update with a new post, it will then be conveniently delivered to your e-mail inbox, eliminating having to keep checking my site for updates. Of course, if your inbox is already cluttered and you'd prefer not to, you can keep visiting my blog for regular posts.

I thought adding this feature may make it more convenient for some of my readers to keep up to date on everything happening here in Zhanjiang!

I have been testing this service out for the last couple of posts and it is working fine. The only minor problem I noticed was that the first few e-mails were delivered to my spam box, which I fixed by setting them to "not spam." So, if you do choose to sign up for e-mail updates, you may want to keep an eye on your spam box at first.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

More Letters from Students

Some highlights from a recent batch of letters from students...

Today is New Year's! I and Milos go to shopping. Magnitude people on row great. Very noisy and lots of fun.
"Go to shopping" is a Chinglish expression that is likely the bane of all English teachers in China. That and its companion phrase, "how to say?" Points for using the word "magnitude" though.
Last nigh my friends and me counted backwards in our dormitory. Did you count backwards? Happy New Year.
It took me a second to catch the counting backwards as referring to the countdown to the New Year: 10, 9, 8, 7, ... Happy New Year's!
The winter holiday come here. During holiday, you want or not away from China to go home? If you go home, help me say "hello" to your family, please.
"Hello everyone," from CoCo!

And now, for the more mushy stuff...
Last week, our class took a photo with you. I felt very happy. Because maybe you are the only one foreign teacher in my life. So, I can take a photo with you is my honor! I will kept the photo until I change an old woman. China have one speech: You as my teacher only one day, you will become my father all my life!
Most of the students are just very genuinely kind and great to work with. On days when I'm out in town and getting frustrated from being stared down and cat-called at, I try to remember the students.
Please allow me to avail myself of this chance to extend my New Year's greets to you. First of all, I wish you happy new year and may the new year bring your family good health and happiness. Secondly, I do apology for my wrong doing that I didn't deliver my wish to you at the arrival of Christmas timely. Finally, I admire you very much cause you are so nice, easygoing. I enjoy making friends with you.
Again, the students can be a real pleasure to work with.

I started the letter writing campaign for this class, because as accounting majors, I found their level of spoken English to be very low. The letters give them an outlet to "say" things they may not be able to communicate with me orally and provide a great chance to make sure they are practicing and thinking about English outside of class.

I hope it has been a help to them, I know I've sure enjoyed reading what they have to say and writing back.