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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Living in Indonesia: A Husband’s Perspective

This was originally written in 1998 … I haven’t changed much, other than punctuation.

Vantage graphics ... accept no substitutes

For me, the stress of this crisis began on Monday, May 18th.

“You’ve been ordered to leave.” Dini’s voice was rapid and strained.

“When?’ I asked as if someone was telling me the bar was about to close.

“This afternoon. Everyone’s meeting at the Shangri-La hotel.”

Dini, from the Canadian consulate, has been a great help. She’s helped with paperwork for our marriage; she intervened with an employer, and she has been a conduit for official information. Dini is also a very professional and pleasant person. Her clipped speech and frantic tone were completely out of character.

Basically, here was the situation. The Canadian Embassy and the US Consulate General Surabaya had chartered a flight. Canadians, Americans, Germans, Dutch and a couple of Turkish nationals were going to fly to Singapore.

For this excursion, they would pay the bargain price of $500 USD. Now, if you’re a businessman or an engineer – no problem. Teachers in Indonesia make between $300 and $450 USD per month. When you have a family, with children in school, you don’t have an excess of cash. My wife Emily and I have two children, Emily’s from a previous marriage, but nonetheless – our children. The wolf may indeed have been at the door, but that sucker was going hungry tonight. My family is my life and no crisis will change that.

On Sunday night we had a family meeting. I outlined the options.

Canada: We could spend everything we have and take the family to Canada. Canada is where I have family and friends, but no job to go back to. More importantly, I don’t have a place to stay, at least for any extended period.

America: I have friends there. Emily, my wife, has a visa. I love the country. It’s a damn expensive trip, and again I don’t have a home or a job there.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is a big, beautiful and exciting city. Emily speaks passable Mandarin and her mother is fluent in Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese. The children’s Chinese is like my Indonesian: pathetic but earnest. Emily has family there. Hong Kong is impossible without money. Finding a job could be next to impossible. I want to see Hong Kong, but I’d prefer the experience to be a positive one.

Taiwan: The jobs are there in Taiwan. Many teachers have left for Taiwan. Would my family be allowed in? I can’t take the chance.

In the end, we decided to wait it out here.

With Wednesday’s impending madness (see story) almost upon us we discussed hiding out in one of Surabaya’s hotels or going out of town. We decided to wait on developments.

No one could give me a clear answer about the family. They’re Indonesian citizens, but they’re also Chinese. Even if Emily could come – as she’s my wife – what about the kids? Even if Emily and the kids were allowed, what about Emily’s mum? their Grandmother? my mother-in-law?

Do in-laws count as carry-on luggage? Don’t freak gentle reader – I love my mother-in-law. She’s a great lady. The bottom line is; I’m not leaving my family.

Norm Mcdonald from the Canadian Embassy said later that my family might be able to come out with me. On their own, Canadians have returned home. Some remain in Singapore waiting out the crisis.

Some will undoubtedly go to Taiwan or Thailand. Some will even go to Bali.

Some American friends are now in Bali, waiting.

We are now at home waiting for the situation to return to normal. Here we sit, packed suitcases and documents at the ready.

Local children are in the street. They’re playing volleyball. The ball makes a dull thud when they hit it. The balls here never seem to have enough air. They’re having fun.

Meanwhile, we sit behind our seven-foot iron fence – waiting.

Some streets, like the one directly in front of our house, are blocked by rusting cars and vans, while other streets are occupied by soldiers. The men seem decidedly less rusty than the cars and vans. The men seem to be having less fun than the children. The men are waiting.

People sit in small groups, talk, drinking and eating. Kaki Limas (five-legged men) the street merchants with their pushcarts, sell food and drink. The voices on the street are uncharacteristically low.

Sharing quick smiles, and nervous glances, hands together or resting on knees – they wait.

A young woman, eating food from a Kaki Lima, shakes her hips slowly and seductively to Ricky Martin’s ‘Maria‘. A large black rooster intrudes on the volleyball game. He exits quickly as the ball narrowly misses him. Too bad. He’s probably the noisy bugger who woke me up this morning, at three o’clock. The dancer has finished her meal and joined the game.

Young men, previously content to watch, have now joined the game. For now, they are moving, playing, and laughing. The waiting may come later.

Part Two fewnights2

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Carrie Fisher

This is the Carrie Fisher I knew, which is to say I never knew her.

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She had a substantial contribution to the creation of characters that were part of the magic of movies which my younger brother and I enjoyed. I never crushed on Carrie fisher or Princess Leia. My heart was already divided between Tina Turner and Yvonne Craig. I loved Star Wars, and I greatly admired the courage and humour of Carrie Fisher, the author, and the woman.  She struggled and she lived fiercely, on her terms. The world has lost a fighter, an actress, a writer, a comedian and an advocate for mental health. I have nothing to add but my admiration for the choices she made. Thank You, Carrie Fisher, for your smile and your courage.

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The Missing Motorcycle: Part Three (Safety first)

The Missing Motorcycle: Part Three

Safety first

 

_________:First put on your helmet.

_________:Like this?

_________:Yes. Now fasten the chinstrap.

_________:It’s so uncomfortable.

_________:It’s only uncomfortable at first. You’ll get used to it.

_________:What’s next?

_________:Sit on the motorcycle.

_________:I know how to do this.

_________:Please pay attention. Sit facing the front with one hand on the throttle and the other on the brake.

_________:I can steer with one hand.

_________:You can also get arrested again.

_________:I don’t want that.

_________:Then pay attention. What do you do at a red light?

_________:Go very fast.

_________:No! You stop. What do you do at a stop sign?

_________:Stop?

_________:Right… I mean, that’s correct.

_________:When can I go fast?

_________:Once you learn how to be safe then you can learn how to have fun.

 

New words

Safety

Fasten

Chinstrap

Helmet

Fast

Throttle

Brake

Arrested

Steer

Stop

Sign

Safe

Used

Uncomfortable

Attention

 

The missing motorcycle(Part 1)

The missing motorcycle(Part 1)

 

__________:   Please help me.

__________:   Okay. Take a deep breath and tell me what happened.

__________:   My motorcycle has been stolen.

__________:   Are you sure?

__________:   Of course I’m sure. It was there and now it’s not.

__________:   Not what?

__________:   Not there.

__________:   Where is it?

__________:   I don’t know.

__________:   So you think it was taken?

__________:   Of course it was taken. It didn’t ride away by itself.

__________:   Okay. Where did you see it last?

__________:   It was in front of my apartment building.

__________:   Was it locked?

__________:   Yes. I locked it with a chain and a strong lock.

__________:   What kind of motorcycle is it?

__________:   A gray Bangmyhead NX200

__________:   Ooh. Nice bike. What time did you last see it?

__________:   At about 3:00pm this afternoon.

__________:   Can I get your name and address?

__________:   Yes. It’s here in my wallet. Ooops. Sorry. That’s my family.

__________:   You have a big family. Does anyone in your family have a key for the motorcycle?

__________:   My grandmother does.

__________:   Have you seen your grandmother this afternoon?

__________:   No

__________:   Let me introduce you to a woman we just arrested for speeding.

 

Allow your students to assign names or occupations to the speakers.

Although there are two more parts to this adventure, have the students create their own scenario. What happens next?

This is a good chance to try an activity on intent and inflection. Call a student aside and tell them to be happy when they read, tell the other to be angry. Next time try one sad and one happy. Try energetic and really tired. Ask the audience to judge how effectively the speakers communicated. Don’t let the audience in on what the subtext is all about. With time, they can identify things for themselves.

Passport in the car(continued from At the Mechanic)

Late or early

 

Mechanic:        Hello

Customer:        Oh, did I wake you?

Mechanic:        Did you wake me? Who is this?

Customer:        You’re fixing my car.

Mechanic:        Do you know what time it is?

Customer:        It’s late

Mechanic:        Or early – depending on how you look at it.

Customer:        I’m sorry. I didn’t know …

Mechanic:        Okay. What do you want?

Customer:        I’m at the airport and I don’t have a passport.

Mechanic:        What?

Customer:        It’s in my car.

Mechanic:        What?

Customer:        My passport. I left it in my car.

Mechanic:        And …

Customer:        I need it. Can you bring it to me?

Mechanic:        Are you insane? I’m a mechanic, not a courier.

Customer:        Could you have it sent here?

Mechanic:        What time does your flight leave?

Customer:        At 5:30.

Mechanic:        It’s – it’s 4:40. I don’t have enough time to get to the garage and get your passport to the airport.

Customer:        But I’ll miss my flight.

Mechanic:        Why don’t you take a later flight?

Customer:        I don’t know? …

Mechanic:        You’re not going to make it. It’s too far.

Customer:        Why is it too far?

Mechanic:        First I have to get to the garage; then I have to open up, and then I have to find your passport in your car. Next, I have to call a courier and wait for him to arrive. Finally, the courier has to get to the airport. The fastest that’s going to happen is two hours.

Customer:        Two hours?

Mechanic:        I think we’re really looking at three or four hours …even if I can find a 24-hour courier.

Customer:        What should I do?

Mechanic:        I think you should reschedule your flight.

Customer:        Reschedule? … for when?

Mechanic:        If I were you I’d reschedule for later in the afternoon.

 

This is a good chance to try an activity on intent and inflection. Call a student aside and tell them to be happy when they read, tell the other to be angry. Next time try one sad and one happy. Try energetic and really tired. Ask the audience to judge how effectively the speakers communicated. Don’t let the audience in on what the subtext is all about. With time, they can identify things for themselves.

At the Mechanic

At the mechanic

Customer:   Will this take long?

Mechanic:   It’s going to take as long as it takes.

Customer:   May I ask you a question?

Mechanic:   Sure.

Customer:   Is this going to cost a lot?

Mechanic:   How much do you have?

Customer:   What?

Mechanic:   Have you brought a lot of money?

Customer:   Have you lost your mind?

Mechanic:   It’s a joke. Can I ask you something?

Customer:   Okay.

Mechanic:   Do you like slamming on the brakes?

Customer:   Why do you ask?

Mechanic:   The brake pads are in horrible shape. I’ll have to replace them.

Customer:   I don’t want you to replace anything.

Mechanic:   Maybe you’d enjoy crashing.

Customer:   I’m not going to crash.

Mechanic:   Have you ever been in an accident?

Customer:   No.

Mechanic:   You’re going to be in an accident if these brakes fail.

Customer:   Okay. What else is wrong?

Mechanic:   Have you hit something?

Customer:   Maybe.

Mechanic:   Your radiator is leaking.

Customer:   You’re going to replace it?

Mechanic:   No. It’s a small hole. I’m going to fix it.

Customer:   Good. I don’t like paying for extra work.

Mechanic:   It’s okay for me too. I don’t enjoy doing extra work.

Customer:   It’s hot in here. May I turn on a fan?

Mechanic:   Have I ever visited your office?

Customer:   No.

Mechanic:   Have I ever eaten your cooking?

Customer:   I don’t think so.

Mechanic:   Have I ever slept in your bed?

Customer:   I hope not.

Mechanic:   Good. Don’t touch my fan.

Customer:   It’s so hot in here. Have you ever noticed that?

Mechanic:   Why don’t you take a walk?

 

Note: This is an exercise to illustrate the use of the present perfect simple in statements and questions. It could also be used for pair or group practice of emphatic statements and responses.