To punish and enslave

Only in China.  I have seen some pretty awful (yet funny) translations over the years of my travels.  I have no idea why countries where they don’t speak English insist on having some signs in English.  I think someone could travel the world and take pictures of bad signs, and have a pretty good book to publish.  Until this, my favorite was in Korea for the “nose and nose clinic”.  I’m not sure what this is.  It looks like some sort of Emergency vehicle.  I’m not sure what kind of emergency, but perhaps if China goes to war with Japan these will be used for any Japanese daring to be caught in China.

Speaking of war, the talk can be pretty hot and heavy.  Talk of war is in the air over those freaking islands that 2 months ago no one had ever heard of or cared about.  You can see cars on the road with people waving huge Chinese flags on poles out the windows.  In Baoding (Shujie’s home town), some stores have “No Japanese allowed in” signs in their windows.  If it does come to war, I guess I’ll have to leave and that’s no fun.  So I vote, “no war”.  Of course, even if I weren’t here I’d vote “no war”.  But of course this is Communist China and there is no voting.  So I guess my vote is moot.

Last Saturday we took our trip to the grasslands.  I’d say we had a good time and it was something different.  Miles and miles of nothingness followed by more nothingness.

There are a few tourist places and this is ours.  You stay in yurts, which is some kind of Mongolian tent/home.  There is a raised slab of concrete inside that you lay blankets on and there is room for six to sleep side by side.  We were lucky and got our own yurt.  Of course, no washrooms and you really don’t want to visit the communal ones outside unless you have no choice.  I don’t understand people who think it’s okay to go in the middle of the floor.

We went on an 1 ½ hour horse ride.  We saw lots of nothingness.  The horses don’t gallop.  They are so trained that they don’t respond to anything but just do as they’ve been trained to do.  I’m glad we went but I would have liked a few minutes of galloping.  We went with our downstairs neighbors (from Canada) and here is a picture of them and moi on our horses.

This blue thing is some sort of praying yurt (I guess).  It was so tacky looking I just had to pose with it.  You can leave money for Buddha (or whoever) but I controlled myself and didn’t contribute.

After the ride it was time for lunch.  We had lamb ribs and they were rather tasty.  Then we walked and sat on the ground and just relaxed.  It was nice to be in the fresh air and enjoy the quietness when there were no Chinese people around.  Chinese are loud and love to talk and talk.  I don’t think silence exists in China.

Here are some sky pictures, which are always a thrill to look at, plus my picture of the sunset.  I lucked out with this one.  I guess for every 10,000 pictures you are entitled to one good one.

It was then dinnertime and the “Mongolian show” by the fire.  Dinner was horrible and the fire was some wood in a garbage can.  The show was like a Karaoke show with some of the Yurtland people singing songs.  We were pretty tired and retired to our yurts.  I asked what time I should get up for the sunrise at, since I heard it was quite a sight, and I was told between 4:30 and 5am.

I slept in my clothes since it was pretty cold at night.  I had 4 shirts on and my wool hat.  I didn’t sleep that well since sleeping on concrete is not a real thrill.  And if you do fall asleep and dare to turn over, you wake up.  Rolling on concrete tends to wake you.

I got up at 4:30 and went out.  There were stars to see and I waited 2 hours, standing outside, for the sunrise.  Ha!  It was hazy so I didn’t see any sunrise.  Here is my one morning shot and this doesn’t qualify as a sunrise.  I guess I was being punished for my good luck with the sunset.

We left Yurtland at 8am and went to see the 3rd best temple in China.  We saw the best when we were in Tibet and I don’t know where number 2 is and I don’t care.  I’m templed out.  We were about an hour late for this big ceremony that was going on.  We didn’t know about it but they unfurl a huge picture of some big-shot Buddhist on the side of a mountain.   Then they roll it up and take it back in.  Here they are marching back with their rolled up picture, along with a shot of some big-shot Buddhists.  I know they’re the upper crust because of their cool hats.  Seriously.

Then it was back to Baotou.  On the way we stopped for sunflowers.  Here’s a picture of the one Shujie took.  She loves sunflower seeds and was quite happy with this one.  The seeds were gone in a couple of days.

Travelling with the 2 other people wasn’t too painful.  They seem pretty nice.  We were tired when we returned we were pretty tired and just did basically nothing.  I probably finished marking some papers and looking at what I was going to do in class during the week.  10 different classes, 300 students, and 2 subjects.  I teach culture six times a week and writing 4 times a week.  It gets kind of boring but I can’t let that show.

I’ve changed how I do homework.  I can’t give everyone homework and mark all 300 students in a week.  I could, but they don’t pay me enough.  So in my culture class, seven different students get homework for the week and in my writing class everyone gets homework but I only mark 10 a class.  I figure they need the practice.  I’m letting them mark each other papers in class and that seems to be working out well.  They get into finding the errors in other people’s work (which is good).  They don’t always know how to fix them, but they are pretty good at recognizing what is wrong.  Naturally I don’t use their marks, but just use them for my own entertainment.  I am a much harder marker than anyone it seems.

In one of my classes a student told me I was very happy that day.  I told her I’m always happy and she said no.  I was quite shocked.  I think I’m the same every class.  I’m friendly, encouraging, open, and so on.  I told her that the next time she doesn’t think I’m “happy” she should tell me so I can see what she means.  I think what it is, is that some students think I’m too strict.  What is it that makes me strict?  I like the homework to be in on time and if it isn’t they get a zero.  That’s strict.  I think I’m supposed to give one warning.  You try and treat them like adults but they’re not adults.  They’ve been babied all their lives.  Their parents baby them and their teachers baby them.  I don’t.  So I gave a free shot this week and no zeros.  But that’s it.  So now everyone agrees I’m not strict.  I love maturity.

I dealt with my student who copied his homework off the Internet.  I’m glad I had a week to cool down.  I told him in private that he copied and I told him how stupid it is to copy off the Internet because it’s so easy to find.  You can’t cheat in English because if you write too well, then I know you’re copying.  He got zero and I told him if it happens again he’s expelled from my class.  He thanked me for my kindness and assured me that it wouldn’t happen again.  We shall see.

I had an incident with a student this week.  On Wednesday during the break in one of the classes, a student from the class across the hall took out a cigarette to smoke.  I have this student too and I think he’s a bit (okay, more than a bit) of an idiot.  I told him to take in outside and he laughed at me.  (Respecting the teacher is part of the culture here I’m told).  He lit it and I went to grab it out of his mouth.  He ran away laughing.  I wasn’t going to run after him so he smoked and then he just tossed the butt on the floor.

I waited for his teacher to return after the break and I reported this to her.  She told me she doesn’t like this student and she failed him in a class last year.  She told me she would tell his head teacher.  That’s all she can do but I wasn’t happy.  It took me 2 days to find a time when I could talk to the acting head of the English Department.  I told her about this and told her who the student was.  She told me that she’s never had him but she knows whom I was talking about and she doesn’t like him either.  She said she’d have him apologize and I told her I don’t want an apology.  I told her I didn’t want him in my class anymore.  She said she respects my decision so he’s history from my class.  If he’s there on Tuesday, class stops and one of us leaves the room.  What jerk he is.  The students get away with too much crap and if you let them, it just goes on and on.

I took a 2nd job.  There was this guy lurking at the school on Tuesday and he stopped me as I was returning home after class.  He asked me if I would be interested in teaching 4 hours (4 40-minute periods) at the high school.  I went with him to the high school and the times I can do that are in between some of my classes.  So it’s not work after work, but just time I’d probably be sleeping between classes in my apartment.

The money isn’t bad for China but I’m not doing it for the money.  High school students are a new demographic for me, so there is something I can learn.  I started on Thursday and the energy level in the classroom was so high.  You can’t help but feed off that energy.  It was fun.  The kids seem quite enthusiastic.  They are 1st and 2nd year high school students and they say things to me like, “I hope we can be friends”.  It’s nice.  And it is funny when a 16 year-old girl tells me that I’m “cute”.  But that is the beauty of China for me.  It means something like you look like a nice and kind old man.  There are no hidden meanings and no hidden meanings when a student tells you you’re cute or handsome or kind or whatever.  It is what it is and I like that.

Our downstairs neighbors came upstairs last night to watch one of our movies.  I was within seconds of murdering the woman.  I don’t know if she has A.D.D. but 60 years old and she couldn’t shut up.  If there is a sign in the movie, she reads out loud what’s on the sign.  If the characters are singing, she sings along.  She makes inane comments.  Shujie told me she was so nervous that I would do something but I just kept quiet but never again.  Her husband is welcome but she is never going to watch another movie with me.  It was the worst behavior I have ever seen exhibited while watching a movie anywhere.

I showed “Witness for the Prosecution” last Wednesday.  There were about 60 students and the reviews were glowing.  They loved it.  It’s an older (1957) black and white British mystery by Agatha Christie.  The ending is a real surprise and they were all quite shocked.  I was thrilled that they enjoyed an old movie so much.  I have no idea what I’ll show this week, but I’m pleased when they like it.

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