Monthly Archives: April 2012

The east is red, the sun rises.

China has produced Mao Zedong.

He is the people’s happiness,

Hurrah, He is the people’s great savior!
(Repeat last two lines)

Chairman Mao loves the people.

He is our guide

to building a new China

Hu’er Haiyo, lead us forward!
(Repeat last two lines)

The Communist Party is like the sun,

Wherever it goes, it is bright.

There is the Communist Party,

Hu’er Haiyo, there the people are liberated!
(Repeat last two lines)

The above is the song that all Chinese schoolchildren sang every morning in school.  While the rest of us were singing “O Canada” or “The Star Spangled Banner”, here in China they sang about the important things.  Everyone loved Chairman Mao as you can see from the picture below.

We went to Shanghai from Thursday until Monday afternoon.  The main purpose was to buy gifts.  Ha Ha!  I hate buying gifts because I never know what to get and chances are it will be re-gifted.  Books are good but I don’t think I can bring books back from China.  I can spend a lot of money on things no one wants, or I can spend a little money on things no one wants.  Guess what I chose.  We haven’t got everyone something yet.

The first place we went after checking in at our $38 a night hotel (it was clean and well-located) was the Chinese Propaganda Museum.  They have a collection of old posters and I love old posters.  This is so different from what we Western people know.  Posters were used to inspire the people and show them the right way of thinking.  It was quite a good collection and pictures were not allowed.  Naturally I ignored that since I don’t use a flash.

First off we have the good buddies, Mao and Stalin just standing there looking like great men.  Maybe they are discussing ways of killing off millions of more people.  Great men do things like that.

Now we can see that having your copy of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book” will show you the way to do everything and how to think.  It’s very similar to the Shulchan Aruch which is the Jewish set of laws that should be followed.  Literally translated, Shulchan Aruch means “set table”, so you know where everything goes and what to do.  I think maybe old Mao got his idea for his “red book” from the Shulchan Aruch.

Now we have a poster of the lovely Jiang Qing (also known as Mrs. Mao) showing that she uses the Red Book too and follows the leadership of Mao.  There is an old saying in China, and China is full of old sayings, that if you marry a chicken then you follow the chicken.  If you marry a dog, you follow the dog.  And if you marry a madman, you follow the madman until he dies and then you try to take over the government and are caught and thrown in jail and then executed.  Good for the lovely Jiang Qing.

The last picture is of something that was commonly seen plastered to walls during the Cultural Revolution.  It would begin with a slogan of the Chairman’s followed by a denunciation of some evil person in your neighborhood.  It was the great project of the mid to late 60’s to root out these evil-doers such as teachers or those that might have a little more to eat than you or in fact, anyone you wanted to denounce.  All you needed was paper, a brush, and some paint and you were a revolutionary cleaning up China during this wonderful revolution, which destroyed many people and many families.

This is one weird place now.  It’s almost impossible to imagine it in the bad old days.  And what is the saddest thing of all (to me), is that a lot of this is the fault of the Americans.  By supporting Chiang Kai-Shek (a total moron), only because he was not a Communist they backed the wrong team.  The Communists had to win in China since they had the hearts and the minds of the people and the people hated the Nationalists (as they should).  If the Americans weren’t so Communist-phobic, they could have worked with China (who needed a friend) and had some influence.  Instead for influence they got Stalin and a crazier Mao.

We went on a 5-hour tour that tells the story of Jewish Shanghai.  Shanghai had 3 waves of Jewish immigration in a 100 year period from around 1840 to 1940.  The first group were the Baghdadi Jews (from Iraq) who came and made some big bucks here as it was a good place to come and try and build a fortune.  The 2nd wave was at the start of the 20th century when the Russian Jews came to escape the Pogroms and the conscription into the army.  The 3rd and final immigration was in the mid-30’s until 1941.  Shanghai was the ONLY place in the world that accepted the Jews from Germany and Europe.  While “civilized” countries like the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia (to name a few) were condemning a people to their death, Shanghai accepted over 20,000 refugees.  Shanghai was an “open” city so no passport was needed to enter.  You only had to get out of your country, which was not so easy.  There was a Chinese diplomat named Ho Feng-Shan in Austria who gave out thousands of visa’s thereby saving many lives.  There was a Japanese diplomat named Chiune Sugihara in Lithuania who gave out more than 6,000 visas against his government’s wishes.  What makes some men do the right thing?  Why should they be “super-heros” while the rest of the world sits around and does nothing?

After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese ended immigration to Shanghai (as it was now under their total control) and forced the Jews to stay in a certain area of the city.  However, they weren’t Nazis so there were no murders.  It wasn’t a picnic but it was better than being in Europe.  Here is an area in the ghetto as it is today.

Here is some grillwork someone did on their door.  You can see it’s a Star of David.

There are really no Jews here anymore.  The Jews who were in the Ghetto back then have come back for a reunion.  We had 2 people on the tour (brother and sister) whose parents met in the Ghetto during WWII.  There is a museum in an old synagogue which I went to in 2004 and has undergone a massive renovation since then.  However, with the renovation they got rid of their best artifact.  There was a man there named Mr. Wang (who was in his 80’s) who had worked with the Jews during those days.  He was a walking history book.  I spent an hour or two with him just listening to him talk of those times.  He was a very gracious and warm man who spoke perfect English.  During the renovation the new “keepers” of the museum decided they didn’t want a 90-year old man working there.  That killed him.  It was his life and it kept him young.  He enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and sharing his stories.  I was very saddened to learn of this because it’s not often in our lifetimes that we meet a man for an hour or two and the memory of him sticks with us.  During the “tour” we went to his house to hear a little about him.

It’s a crazy world.  Jews are murdered in Europe by the millions.  Chinese give the Jews a safe place to live.  A Japanese man helps the Jews (and the Japanese were not nice people).  A living relic of those days is put out to pasture when he had so much to share with people.  It’s a crazy place.  Not just China but the whole damn world.

We spent time with Shujie’s brother and his family (dinner twice).  They are wonderful people.  Shujie’s nephew will be in grade 12 next year and will be applying to Canadian universities.  He plans on spending his summer studying IELTS which is the big exam for English you must take to get into a Western University.  He’s a good kid.  Really.  It’s always nice to see them.

On our last day in Shanghai we went to the famous Nanjing street.  Nanjing street is the most famous commercial street in China.  Parts of it are closed to cars so the shoppers can walk up and down.  Some stores were so crowded you would think they were giving stuff away.  Here is a picture of the street.

Because this place is insane (China), we were told that the holiday would be Sunday to Tuesday and back to school on Wednesday.  The holiday itself is on Tuesday (Labour Day), and the Monday classes were to be made up last Saturday (I have no Monday classes).  Then on the bus on Thursday we learn that there is no school on Wednesday or Thursday and those classes will be made up next weekend.  What a place.  If we knew that, we probably would have gone to Baoding to visit Shujie’s mother and son.  How could they not know until then?  I can’t figure things out and I don’t even try anymore.  They are all crazy here.

I got to do a lot of my Gordie Howe impersonation in Shanghai.  Because the Chinese are lacking in manners and courtesy there is a lot of pushing.  I don’t like to be touched so I am giving out elbows left and right.  I don’t care about the sex or the age of my victim since they started it.  I will elbow little kids and old ladies.  I love when they look surprised that someone who they have pushed, pushes them back.  It’s as close to being Gordie Howe as I’ll ever get.

I had no classes except to give out the assignment to write a play similar to Romeo and Juliet and be as creative as possible.  Some of the entries stink.  One entry was quite entertaining.  At the top of the script the group leader wrote, “because I have David”.  We all know Chinese are skinny.  David is fat.  It’s unusual so they used that in their play.

In their version Julia comes up to Romeo to talk.  She tells Romeo that she loves him. Julia here is being played by David.  Romeo’s friends are commenting.  Here is this part:

(Romeo and Julia stop action)
F1:           Oh! My goodness! Do you hear what she said?

F2:           Yeah! To my surprise.

F1:           Look at her! So fat, so black, and…

F2:           And so flat(平). (point at Julia’s breast(胸))

F3:           Yeah….you can say that again.

Romeo:            (surprised) But I want a thin girl.

Julia:              Okay! Give me some time. And I’ll show you.

I was in stiches reading this.  Some of them can be creative.  Having the only fat boy in the school (really) in their group and using that to their advantage was brilliant.  But you’re wondering, “so fat, so black”, so I’ll tell you.  Last weeks movie was “Precious”.  So they used that.  The story is about how Julia goes to different weight loss clinics to lose weight and has implants to grow her breasts.  Chinese kids?  Never!  But they wrote it.  Then Julia is now played by a girl who presents herself to Romeo.  Romeo proclaims that he can’t love her.  At that moment Romeo’s lover strolls by, and it’s a boy.  Romeo is gay.  They are not all bozo’s.

This is what I was hoping for.  Unfortunately I only got one of high quality, a few “eh’s”, and some “yuck”.  You can’t win them all.

So now I have a few days to kill before classes start up again.  Wang Jin took Shujie, Eleanor (the upstairs English teacher) and me for dinner last week.  Since I was in the group we had barbeque.  It was very thoughtful of her.  Wang Jin (I used to say Wang Jing until I really learned her name) and Shujie have become good friends.  Wang Jin can vent to Shujie since Shujie doesn’t work her, but has an understanding of the place and knows most of the players in the Wang Jin stories.

Wang Jin’s boss whose name is Christy does not appear to be a nice woman.  I never really liked her.  It’s just a feeling.  Shujie doesn’t like her and Eleanor doesn’t like her.  It’s strange that all 3 of us feel the same without discussing it.  I guess where there is smoke, there’s fire.

Some teachers are going to Canada in the summer for a course.  Christy told Wang Jin she couldn’t go because she took students (as a tour guide) to the U.S. last year.  However, being in a course and being a tour guide are two different things.  Christy is head of the Foreign Affairs Department which Wang Jin works for.  Wang Jin also teaches English for 6 teaching hours a week (which is nothing).  Christy also teaches English (4 teaching hours a week).  To make it “fair”, Christy decided that all who wanted to go had to take a test to see if they qualify.  Several English teachers took the test but Wang Jin couldn’t.  Christy took it too.

It was decided that one person from the English department could go.  Guess who?  It was Christy.  What a joke.  The fix was obviously in.  There is corruption everywhere you turn and you can bet Christy’s boss had his wheels greased (or something like that but that is not a mental picture I want in my head).  The person who has the most classes and will get the most for going away on a course should go.  This isn’t a holiday.  But it is China and the higher up you are, the more corrupt you can be.  Sometimes this place makes me sick.  Other times I see such wonderful things.  China is an oxymoron.

So that’s it for now.  It will be a quiet week and the time gets closer before we depart.  We have to find someone to move some of our stuff to Baotou for the new school year.  Shujie is going to visit Baoding one more time before we go.  I will attempt to survive the rest of the year.  I’m running out of ideas.

By the way, here’s a picture of Shujie in the world famous Peace Hotel.

Until we meet again, remember, none of this would have been possible without the leadership of the Great Helmsman himself, the mass murderer Mao Zedong.

(I wonder why WordPress and Blogger is forbidden in China).



I’m sorry. I’m in Shanghai until Monday afternoon. I will post on Monday some time. It will probably be online Monday morning your time, and if not, then Monday evening.

I apologize to the two or three of you who have come to depend on my Saturday updates. How else can you learn so many of the important things in China.

Write to y’all later.

Joke as in many things in China are a joke.  Right now I am wearing my Bobby Orr knockoff jersey, which is a fine example of Chinese workmanship.  Shujie says what do I expect but I do expect clothes that don’t fall apart.  I don’t expect the best quality but boy; these jerseys I bought (most of them) are crap.  The colours bleed, the numbers and crests fray, and they look ratty after a few washings.  Oh well, live and learn.

I got the official schedule for the May 1st holiday yesterday which surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting it so soon.  We get Monday and Tuesday off and since Tuesday is the holiday, there are no classes.  Since they are giving Monday then Saturday will contain Monday’s classes.  Luckily I don’t work on Monday’s so that’s 5 days.  So I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

Shujie mentioned going to Xian to see the Terra-Cotta warriors, one of the great things to see in China.  After serious discussion (I’ve seen them but would be happy to go again because they are so interesting), she said they were discovered in the 70’s and she’s never seen them so that means she really doesn’t care.  So that idea went in the trash.  Why go if she doesn’t want to go.  I don’t understand how you could not want to go, but I’m not Chinese and I don’t understand a lot in any culture be it Western or Eastern.

This past Monday we went to Zhenjiang so I could get my medical exam so I’d have the form that shows I’m fine to send to Baotou and the new school.  They need that for my official invitation.  It cost 400RMB (about $80) and they will reimburse me, but what a joke.  They take a vial of blood (I think it only is to check for Aids).  They do a chest x-ray but I’m not sure they look at it.  They do an ultrasound and the technician actually seemed serious about her job.  They do an EKG and I guess you pass if you don’t have a heart attack while it’s happening.  They do an eye exam, which consisted of me looking at one pattern, and telling them the number I saw.  They do the “internal exam” which means they listen to my heart with a stethoscope and bang on my chest.  The whole thing is a ridiculous cash grab and you pass if you’re breathing.  I think if you’re dead, you still have a 50% chance of passing.  If you’ve been cremated that lowers your chances of passing to 10%.  So we have the form and it’s winging it’s way to Baotou.

The movie on Tuesday was “12 Angry Men”.  I love that.  I think most of the ladies enjoyed it and were interested in seeing another culture at work.  No boys came as it would have interfered with their playing computer games.  Next Tuesday I’m showing “Precious” which will be a real eye-opener for those that come.  I admit I’m disappointed in the total numbers I’ve had this year, but on the other hand, I appreciate those that come regularly just to watch a good movie they would never have known about, maybe pick up some English, or just to see another culture.

My student Julie who I “tutor” gets movies from me every week that I won’t be showing the general public because there are only so many weeks.  Last week I asked her if she wanted a movie with no Chinese or English subtitles and she said yes.  I gave her “Reservoir Dogs” and she loved it.  She’s the girl I imagined when I had my movie idea.  How was I supposed to know that there would only be one of her kind.

I mentioned to her that out of 150 students I’ve had, she’s the only one who ever asked me for extra time.  I think it’s strange that no one but her wanted to take advantage of a chance to improve their spoken English one on one.  I asked her what she thought (as I trust her to tell me the truth), and she doesn’t understand it either.  So she gets conversion, she gets movies; she gets books (good American books translated into Chinese).  It’s a good deal for her.  I’m hoping next semester at the new school I will have a better audience at the movie nights (which I plan on continuing).

On Wednesday I was asked to be one of the judges at an English speech contest at the other campus.  Naturally I didn’t want to do it, but I said yes because besides being humourous, I’m a nice guy.  There were 5 English teachers from here (the other 4 were Chinese English teachers) plus me.  If I had little respect for the Chinese English teachers before, I have even less respect now.

First off, the audience made too much noise when the speeches were being given.  I told Wang Jing she should tell the MC to ask people to stop talking and she said, “okay” and then did nothing.  One of the judges was talking on her phone during some speeches.  One was doing text messages.  Why should students be polite and have manners when this is what they are seeing.  I was disgusted.

Even with all the chatter going on, I will say something nice about the students.  When the speaker froze because they forgot something the audience would break out into applause.  I thought that was so nice and kind and what I like to see.  That’s the type of Chinese manners I expected, not this talk when others are talking.

I was, and I kid you not, the only person who actually listened to all 21 speeches.  One girl’s speech contained a racist anecdote, which naturally only I noticed.  Was the girl aware of what she was saying?  No, of course not.  They copy things blindly off the Internet without understanding them.  The Internet can be a great resource but used indiscriminately it can be a curse.

As I said, 21 speeches.  Two of the speeches were identical.  What is this, Chinese minds thing alike?  No, I don’t think so.  How about Chinese student’s copy off the Internet.  Naturally I was the only one who noticed this too.  I can’t say I was impressed.

On a bright note I thought the best speech was given by a girl talking about what she expected by coming to college and what’s she’s gotten out of it and learned (life-wise) from being here.  No Internet involved.  It was well-put together and I was fascinated.  Another girl quoted from Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” in her speech and I was blown away.  How did she know Bob Dylan?  I asked her after if she liked Bob Dylan and she said, “so-so”.  But still, it was interesting to hear her quote him even if no one there understood as not many Chinese are aware of Bob Dylan.

The next two weeks will see me not give classes except to my moronic elective once a week students and I only have to do that once since the 2nd week has the holiday.  I’ve given my regular students a “big” assignment.  I gave them an outline of “Romeo and Juliet”.  Most of them know the story without having read it.  They are to go away in their groups of 5 or 6 people and develop a script of anything they want as long as it sticks to the outline.  Then after I see the scripts they go into rehearsals.  They must memorize their lines.  I’m rather excited by this and the students are too.  They don’t have to sit in the classroom (can’t have 6 groups in one room working) and they can go anywhere to do this.  I think they’ll enjoy being creative and they will have fun.  I told them that if they have questions or want me to come and meet with their group, just phone me and I’ll be on my way.  I threatened them with a zero for the whole year if they don’t do it but I don’t think that was necessary.  I’m sure they’ll do it.  I believe if you treat them like adults and give them responsibility, they will rise to the challenge.  But as I say over and over, what do I know?

I think I’ll survive the final two months.  I think I’m getting a little snarky with some students telling them they’re bad.  I am under no obligation because I’ve treated them with respect from day one and they’ve talked in class and not paid attention.  I have no reason to be nice to them anymore.  Then I have the other students who used to be bad but are now good and I tell them so.  I say, “you used to be bad but now you’re good”.  If you’re good, you should be told.  It’s not all about only mentioning the negative.

In my 5 years of ESL teaching, this will be the first job where I completed the year.  So, I can do it given the right circumstances.  I’m so glad I’ve enjoyed it and I’m hopeful that next year will bring me more in depth and intelligent conversations.  I can’t complain about here since they’ve treated us so nicely.  If only the students weren’t so damn useless.  Not all of them, but enough of them so that it’s difficult to have a good conversation in class.

I think everyone should do this.  It’s quite the learning experience if you want it to be.  And if you’re a frustrated actor or comedian, you have a captive audience.  I gave a great performance of “Romeo and Juliet”.  I played all the parts and I especially shone in the death scenes.  I love getting since laughs.  But I am humourous.

But I’m not counting.  However, if I were our plane to Toronto departs on June 27th.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and eating everything but I must admit the thought of 2 months there without an income or a car is a little intimidating.

After the hello’s, the hugs, the kisses and so on, what do you do?  This thought is driving me crazy.  I keep seeing about 60 days waiting to be filled.  It’s nice that we can live at my sisters (she has an “apartment” in her basement) so that’s good.  I try and think of things we can do, but everything comes up dollars.  I’d like to visit some places, go to some ballgames, see some movies, and I can’t think of other things.  They all cost money (doesn’t everything).  The big purchase will be my new MacBook and I’m hoping I can sell my old one on Craigslist.

We got a decent price on a flight.  We’re paying about $1,125 each which is a lot cheaper than the $,1.700 I was seeing everywhere.  Going to Canada requires a plane change in Vancouver, which is always a pain, and time is short.  Coming back to China is a direct flight and once we get to Beijing we need to get another flight to Baotou (about 90 minutes).  We’ll be anxious to get there and check it out and I think I’ll be adding lamb to my regular food intake.  They grow sheep up there so it should be good.  Lot’s of BBQ and I love BBQ lamb.

I’ve decided to do a final exam for the little darlings.  It will be quite brief.  They will be one on one interviews.  What did you learn?  What did you like about the class and dislike about the class?  What grade do you think you deserve and why?  I know what I want to give them but I’m willing to up it if I can a good argument.

The electives I teach once a week at the other campus are a joke.  The kids barely speak English and you can’t teach it for 80 minutes a week and expect to get anywhere.  Eleanor (my co-teacher) and I have decided to make a couple of recommendations to the school.  We will talk to June (head of the English department) but it will do no good.  I’ll feel better thought since I’ve stated how I feel and what I think they should do.  They really have no idea on how to use their resources of foreign teachers and they probably don’t really care.  This place seems to be a huge clusterfuck.  It’s disorganized, filled with thoughtless teachers, filled with disinterested students, and so on.  It’s a good thing I like it here or I’d complain.

Wang Jing was here after school 2 nights in a row to blow off steam and bounce ideas off Shujie.  I’m thrilled she thinks of Shujie as a friend.  Because Shujie doesn’t work here but has an idea of what goes on and knows some of the players involved, she can understand.  This latest episode started when the head of the Foreign Affairs Department told her she couldn’t go to North America for a training session (in English) this summer.   Wang Jing teaches English here too.  The reason was that she got to go to North America last summer as a tour guide for a bunch of kids.  I don’t think you can compare the two and that depressed her.  Then it got change in that there would be a special exam for teachers (who knows who’s writing it and marking it) that all interested teachers can take and if they do well, they can go.  I thought to keep it fair, Eleanor and I could write the exam and grade it.  However, they claim it’s being written and graded by an outside school.  Do I believe them?  No, I don’t since it would cost money and they wouldn’t pay it.

She went to complain to her bosses boss and he said this exam will be fair and he would like to see others besides English teachers go.  How brilliant.  Let’s send teacher’s who don’t speak English.  That’s a brilliant use of money.

So this “exam” is supposed to be this weekend but Wang Jing is away this weekend and can’t participate.  When she asked if she could write it another time she was told that if she isn’t here, she can’t write it.  Not nice.  I have no idea why her boss hates her.  I can’t say I’m very fond of her boss (and either is Shujie or Eleanor).

So she came and ate and blew off steam and discussed things (mostly in Chinese) while I offered some of my foreign opinions which Shujie passed along.  Now it seems that after 10 years here she’s going to start looking for another job.  I think that’s good because if she’s unhappy, she shouldn’t be here.  She’s such a sweetie that I’d hire her in a minute.  She’s competent, she’s responsible, she’s friendly, and she knows what she’s doing.  This place is a joke.

But it’s been a good year.  I’m starting to burn out a little.  I don’t feel as humourous as I was before.  I start counting the days.  I’ll make it until the end but I’m a little tired when I still have to pull teeth to get some students to talk.  It can’t be worse in Baotou (of course it can), but I’m sure I’ll have a higher level of students.

I hardly had any students for my Tuesday movie (Edward Scissorhands) since late in the day a teacher told one class that they had a “class meeting” that night.  I was annoyed.  I had to remind the kids that they have the right to say no.  They are allowed to tell a teacher who wants them on a Tuesday night that they already have a class with me.  This has been cleared with the office but I guess they either forgot or they can be bullied by anyone.  These last minute deals are par for the course as it’s against the law to be organized and plan in advance in this country.

We have a holiday on May 1 but we don’t know how many days or anything about it.  I realize it’s only April 14th so I shouldn’t be in a rush to make any plans.  I’m sure it will be announced around April 27th.  I don’t think I’ll ever adjust to this lack of preparation or should we dare to call it “common courtesy”.

And forget the myth of respect in Asian countries.  There is none.  You bow to the boss but everyone is just someone you fight with.  This place isn’t going anywhere until long after I’m dead.  Corruption is an institution.  Of course these comments are generalizations and there are many who are not like this.  However, there are too many that are.  It’s annoying.

We went to Nanjing yesterday on a drug run.  I had Burger King for lunch (don’t ask me why) and I brought home a sub from Subway for dinner and I loved it, as always.  We watched “All the President’s Men” last night.  Shujie found it quite interesting as she knew nothing about the Watergate scandal.

Monday we go to Zhenjiang for me to have this pseudo-medical so I can get a form saying I’m healthy that the new school can use to get my work permit.  On Wednesday I’ve been asked to be a judge (or the judge) for a speech contest at the other campus.  I would rather stick steel needles in my eyes, but I said yes.  June asked me without falling to pieces (for some reason I intimate the hell out of her).  I’m happy to help.  After that Shujie will be giving a lecture (and getting paid for it) on living in the West and the different cultures.  She’s looking forward to it and I’m thrilled they asked her.  It makes sense.  She’s rather pleased and she’ll be getting paid the same as a visiting professor.

That’s about it for now.  The weather is getting nice so I might be trying outdoor classes soon.  We’ll see how that goes.  For all my little complaints and my feeling or burning out (how many months can one be humourous?), I really have enjoyed this experience.  I’m looking forward to the new year and I’m looking forward to Falafel’s and Chicken Fajitas.

Sometimes city names are difficult to pronounce.  I pronounce them like I see them.  I screw this one up.  It sounds like “Jen-Jung”.  So why don’t they write it like that.  Who created this Pinyin crap?  Obviously some no-nothing foreigner.  It sure is easy for me to look and/or sound studpid.

We had Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off this week.  Since this is China that meant that Monday classes were last Saturday (I have no classes that day), and Tuesday classes with Sunday.  I had my first class on Sunday and everyone but 4 showed up.  Not good.  I was hoping for less than 5.  For the second class I told them the class before since I was the only class that day, if they wanted to go home, they should go home.  Many did, and some didn’t show up.  I had 4 students.  We chatted a bit and then I let them go.  Tough day.  I cancelled my afternoon classes since those are my “elective” students and since it’s an elective, I elected no to waste my time.

We went to Zhenjiang n the afternoon.  It’s about 45 minutes from her but we in Jurong are considered a suburb.  There’s about 1 million people there but it was nice to get away.  I saw a few of my students at the bus station and one girl who ran up to me and said, “Hello Martin”.  I played along since I had no idea who she was.  That was an uncomfortable 5 minutes.

The hotel we got was $23 a night and what a deal.  Great location, spotlessly clean, helpful staff, just all-good things.  The room was kind of small but who cares.  We’re not living there, just sleeping.  We spent 2 nights in Zhenjiang.  I can’t say they were action-packed, but we had a good time and it was great to get away.

On Sunday we went to the museum which is housed in the old British consulate.  It’s a nice old building as you can see.

You don’t have to pay to get in, but you do need tickets.  Don’t ask.  Here is Shujie returning with the tickets since she was fooled too and tried to get in without tickets.

It was a museum.  You’ve seen one, you’ve seen 1,000.  I think I’ve must have seen hundreds in my life and it’s hard to find anything new to see.  However, this museum had a special exhibit for 1 month of seashells.  I know you’re thinking, “so what”, but it was quite impressive.  Pictures don’t quite capture it but here are a few.

They were also showing some “sliver fablets” (look carefully).  I thought you shouldn’t miss these.

Here I am pondering all the great works of great works I’ve just witnessed.  Out of the approx. 700 museums I’ve been to in my life, I’d say this one ranks in the top 700.

From there we walked in this “old area” which was quite touristy and empty.  There were some nice restaurants of the expensive variety so we didn’t want to take a chance since we might not like it.  And sometimes when browsing the menu, the pictures can turn you off.

We ended up eating at a Best Western Hotel.  They had a cheeseburger with real French’s mustard.  It wasn’t blood money and it was pretty good.  Shujie had a tuna sandwich which she loved dipping into the mustard.  It’s funny.  Sometimes her eating habits remind me of when Leah was a baby.  Broccoli with ketchup was Leah’s big thing.

I wanted to go the Pearl S. Buck museum but the people at the hotel talked Shujie out of it.  They said no one likes it and it’s not worth the bus ride.  I folded like a cheap suitcase but we should have gone.  Pearl S. Buck for those who don’t know, was the first person win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature back in the early 30’s.  She grew up in China and wrote a famous book about it called “The Good Earth”.  I recommend the book, and I recommend the movie.

Monday’s big trip was Jinshan Mountain.  It was busy due to the 3-day holiday.  It was quite pretty.  Here are a couple of random pictures.

We met 2 of my students there so here I am posing with them.  The little one is Estella who loves me (I think) in a fatherly way.  She’s about the only student I’m not afraid to touch (hand on shoulder, hug, whatever) since she does it to me.  It’s like having a windup doll running on an Energizer battery.  She’s so nice but she’s always up.  Sometimes you just want to slap her (in a nice way).

We ate at Pizza Hut since we only visit the finest restaurants China has to offer.  The next day we returned to Jurong and had a birthday dinner for Eleanor upstairs and her friend that was visiting.  It was most pleasant.

Thursday was a work day and I learned that one of my classes won’t be around next week.  They’re an accounting class so they have practice (whatever that is) all week.  I don’t mind but it sort of stops me from doing the same class 2 times in a row, which made my life somewhat easier.

As the year goes on I’m get a little more burned out.  I’ve got a little more than 2 months teaching time left, so I should survive that.  I have no idea what I’m doing with my electives classes next week.  What a dumb idea wasting Eleanor and I over there.  We should be having special classes for only students who give a damn.  But that makes too much sense, doesn’t it?

I’ve been told my salary will be late this month.  I told Wang Jing (whose fault it isn’t) that if I don’t have it before Wednesday, I don’t work.  She puts a requisition on her bosses desk where it sits for weeks.  Enough of this crap.  It’s disrespectful.  I may be humourous, but sometimes I can be cantankerous.  I thing I need to show them that side of me.

I got my release letter from the school so I need to have my medical check (which I’ll do here), and get my criminal record (no crimes) because they need that for my visa.  I’ll wait until I’m back in Toronto to get the criminal check since it will be faster.

The weather is starting to get nice.  My sleeping habits are terrible.  I sleep lousy at night but great in the afternoon.  And if I don’t sleep in the afternoon, I still sleep lousy at night.

This is a crazy place to live, but it’s so normal to me now.  I may not speak the language and I may not eat the food, but I do adjust.  Obviously I’m enjoying it since I want to come back.  The fact that Shujie will be teaching makes it better than good.

Off to the supermarket now.  How normal.