Beijing Tour

We just spent the week in Beijing.

We returned home last night by high-speed train (6:14 to 22:30 pm).IMG20180713194952.jpg

Emily and Wyatt had to renew their Indonesian passports so we had to make the trip to Beijing. Unfortunately, there is no online option. We took the hard-sleeper to get to Beijing. Three berths stacked on either side of a small compartment, Emily in the bottom bunk, Wyatt in the second bunk, and me kissing the ceiling. All good so far … then the family shows up.

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Two little boys, their mom, and their grandparents. Luggage is strewn on the floor. The noise level escalates. Grandma immediately lays down. The kids take the middle and top bunk. It’s about 8:30 pm. We are finishing our takeaway meal and hoping to sleep the hours away. Hope and sleep are both fleeting on this journey northward.

Now, what is happening with grandpa and Mom? Surely they don’t intend to sit outside the room all night? Surely not. At 10:00 pm the lights go off and they snuggle into the middle and top berths, thankfully they choose the correct ones.

The noise dies down except for sneezing, coughing, and intermittent conversations.

Now in the hallway, we’ve got a steady procession of old-smokers making their way to the bathroom, their passage heralded by hacking, throat-clearing and the uncertain shuffling of feet – following by the gentle horking and spitting for which older Chinese seem to have a knack.

I sleep for a few hours, and the kids start up. Then the two grandmothers begin to talk, as we discover there is no mother in the equation. She may have wisely jumped from the train. 2:30 seems an ideal time to have a conversation. This goes on until one of them nods off and then the kids wake up. This is followed by climbing, almost falling. Oh why did I feel the need to interrupt the plummeting children?

At about 4:00 am one of the Grandmothers decides it’s a good time to catch up on some family photo-taking and begins snapping pictures with the flash. I showed her my own phone for a time-check and she seemed to get the point.

We arrived in Beijing a bit before 7:00 am and the tour had sent a driver for us. Beijing has changed considerably since my last visit in 2004. Some amazing new buildings, lots of plants and trees. enough shrubbery to keep the Knights of Ni happy.

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More Later
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Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China

IMG20180407113130IMG20180405182807IMG20180406141627IMG20180406145625IMG20180406151545We finally got to Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, China.
High adventure with new friends.
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Happy St Patrick’s Day

Students see English as … a) Unnecessary b) A burden c) A strange, possibly alien, elective d) Something that interrupts naptime e) A chance to catch up on homework.

Happy St Patrick’s Day, unless you’re a snake. If you are a snake perhaps you see this day as something to be dreaded or you actually sneer at the ridiculous notion that you were driven out of anywhere. Do snakes sneer?
Truth be told, we’re not celebrating. Some people are, even here in Wuhan … just not us. That doesn’t mean we’re snakes, have any sympathy for snakes, or secretly in league with, in cahoots with, or otherwise compromised by … snakes.

Life is okay here. From time to time the classes can be more stressful than they need to be.
Students see English as … a) Unnecessary b) A burden c) A strange, possibly alien, elective d) Something that interrupts naptime e) A chance to catch up on homework.
We’re still training teachers through TEFL International but the current situation in Indonesia, with random checks and inconsistent rules, means running a course is more difficult than ever.
We have just cancelled this year’s June and July courses.

 

I should elaborate on my current state of discontent. The students are good, but the level of English isn’t. I have been pushing them to be more responsive, engaging them in ways that are unfamiliar to them, and generally having expectations that take both students and myself out of our comfort zones.

Students generally sit in a classroom and those in the back tune out.  I don’t teach from the front of the class, I move about and interact and engage. I want students to speak, to respond and to participate. I don’t care if the answers are incorrect, but I do care that they attempt an answer. I don’t worry that they stumble over words or phrases, but I won’t allow classmates to talk over, or belittle the efforts of their peers. I do not ask for unwavering attention or cowering subservience, but respect is a must. Don’t read or draw when you should be listening. don’t leave the class without asking. Don’t come late and start a conversation. Don’t do your homework in my class.

I will answer any question you ask but try to be on topic. I have one student who constantly asks how old I am.  I am beginning to suspect short-term memory loss, perhaps complicated by a genuine lack of interest in any answer I may give. Perhaps he needs a list of non-sequiturs to add and broaden his range of non-conversation starters?

What does any of this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day?

Not much. Just that, since the world has kindly embraced a barely remembered religious figure and created a day of green shakes, green beer, funny green hats, and small fictional gold-hoarders. Perhaps my students will embrace English; in the same way some people learn Klingon or the migratory habits of sponges.IMG_20180202_024331_798IMG_20180206_235627_704IMG_20180209_112919_513

Sports Day at Weiming

All the grades, and every student, participated in a cultural and athletic event at Wuhan’s Weiming Experimental School.

 

 

Emily’s Photos of Wuhan

 

Emily has offered to share a few photos of the market and the courtyard of our apartment complex.20171104_121314[1]20171106_072417[1]20171120_130917[1]

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It is actually

cheaper to eat in restaurants than to cook at home, but likely a bit less healthy. Food tends to be cooked with a lot of oil, so it’s delicious but slippery.

On the plus side all the walking will keep us trim and strong. IMG-20171121-WA0016[1]

Wyatt’s first School Trip in China

The middle school made the trip to Happy Valley today

I was asked to join, but Wyatt needs to discover things and interact with his peers.

Adjusting to Wuhan

 

We have internet at home now, and have been able to watch some TV although streaming is a bit slow. I am on Facebook every few days but it’s more annoying than useful.

Having good people to work with makes a real difference. We have a good group of teachers here, foreign and Chinese. This makes it a pleasant place to work and it helps to adjust to life outside of work.

Wyatt has gotten so used to wearing sandals and crocs that he tends to drag his feet when he walks. He is improving as the 1.5 km walk to school and then the same home have given me opportunity to encourage the lifting of feet. It has also increased his appetite and endurance. At the start of each walk I hear the familiar shhhh shhhh of sole against pavement. It does give us time together, and is good exercise for me as well.

It’s all digital now, so lack of access or spotty connections can really limit things. Banking also requires the internet. On the plus side a couple of online shopping services have meant getting things for the apartment much easier. A well-equipped Walmart, and a few night markets have also helped. We have most things we need now, and have found places to buy water, beer, groceries and even a burger place nearby.

Christmas decorations have appeared in shops and in advertisements. Christmas is business here, but pales in comparison to the economic, cultural and emotional impact of the Spring Festival(Chinese New Year. We have one day off for Christmas and three weeks for the Spring Festival.

Back home in Indonesia they had a few small tornadoes in our neighbourhood. The twisters tore tiles off a neighbours roof and felled a few trees, but nothing too serious thankfully.

Hope all is well.