Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Boy, That Wall Is... Great!

Third time out, third location.
This time it was a school field trip w/ gr 7's and 10's, to a spot 120km outta BJ, called Simatai.

This spot is quite a bit further out than the other spots we've hit, and the wall is way less crowd-friendly. Meaning at points the wall has no, uh, walls on it. And its steep. Even a touch crumbly at points. The elevation gain is pretty huge in a short time. The great wall finally felt as epic as it should be.

We hiked up w/ the students. But then we were told we couldn't go any further and the kids turned back. Then a handful of staff continued on up for another 1/2 hour or so, which took us up to the 12th tower: the official end of the line for fear of a $30 fine. And security dudes accompanied us to keep an eye on us (and take group photos).

Anyhow, we were late and frankly getting quite tuckered. So we hiked down, got lost once, and decided to take a zip line and boat the rest of the way back to the parking lot. (scary? No, but very pleasant).
Apparently you can camp out on parts of the wall for overnight treks, which i may entertain at some later date.

Aside: it was an overnight trip, and we stayed in a guest house of sorts. H and i slept in a super hard bed that was literally made of brick. It had to be, considering that there were hot coals or something underneath, emanating heat all day and night.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I (heart) BJ

By the way, i did eventually find a store that sells the I Heart BJ tshirts. We can't know if it's fully tongue in cheek or not, but the store is pretty hip. If you want a t-shirt that can't be worn without obvious inappropriate interpretations and brief explanations, lemme know. I'll get one yr way.

BJ Royally Screws Up Everyone's Plans

Some people call it paranoia. Some people blame Bjork for saying "Tib3t" at her Shanghai concert. Pretty much everyone agrees it's a pain in the arse. The Midi Festival was expecting 15,000 attendants to catch a slew of local and int'l music bands over 4 days, a bunch whom i was keen to see, particularly a band that my friend plays in.

It's only rock'n'roll, but it appears the authorities don't like it. Officials are believed to have postponed China's biggest music festival until after the Olympics, amid a wider security drive.

Other recent curbs include tougher visa restrictions, to the annoyance of foreign business travellers, and extra checks on expatriate residents.

The festival is (was) on a long weekend, so that was great. But now H and i must resign to cruising bars for bands, which is fine by night, but not so great for daytime lounging w/ a beer.

Apparently the above changes are also wreaking havoc w/ business people. So that stinks for them. But mostly i'm just peeved that there's no jolly rock and roll fest to be. If this keeps up, i'll bemoan the odds which sent me from one No Fun City to another.

Visitors From a Distant Land

H's dad and sis swung by for a wk's visit in BJ-land. It was the 1st time i met her sis, who lives in a small Ontario town. It was all pretty easy squeezing tour guide duties on top of our work scheds. In fact, it was pretty mellow. The 2 of them are pretty quiet, and not quite into the sketchy or wild side of BJ.

H's sis even guest spoke for my gr7 Sci class, so they could grill her about the pine beetle.

And we went on a tour of the Mutianyu section of the great wall, which was ok, but way too short due to a tour schedule and traffic.

But if we didn't get our fill, no prob: just 3 days after, H and i will go on an overnight trip to an even more distant G-wall spot. Just me, her, and 75 students and staff.

Monday, April 21, 2008

China Will Have Its Cake

boy o boy, those chinese teamsters have got it going. They sneakily c3nsor the local media so that chinese folk understand full well how "the wolf in sheep's clothing" was masterminding the t1bet pro-tests and how people in the western world and the da lai cliquers were trying to humiliate the chinese people by stomping on the olympic torch!

So the gov3rnm1nt media starts attacking western media as being "biased" and anti-China, and the Chinese people got all infuriated over it. The chinese gov't eagerly fanned the flames. They hype a sappy pop song which criticizes CNN's anti-China bias. (i was gonna link it, but the song really sux). They turn the woman pictured above into a cult hero: the weak fighting for peace and unity against a violent western mob. And that shit works. Chinese nationalism surged.

Only prob is that the fervor may have carried on too far. 'Cause now chinese people are rallying outside of French businesses, schools and embassy to say "Yo frenchies, you think yr so damn hot and righteous? We'll teach you to humiliate our olive branch offerings! HYAAAAH!!!" And then they go start their own rallies.


Now the funny thing is that the chinese govern mint is now sins-o-ring any emails about rallies and prot3sts for fear that the many infuriated chinese people will continue to stage prot3sts as the olympics arrive. i guess you can't blame 'em for wanting to have their cake and eat it too. But you can laugh.

Also, i hung out w/ a friend on Sunday and she asked me what i thought of the all the protests etcetera. We had a great discussion whereupon i reminded myself why prot3sts are crucial, if not for their ability to create direct impact, then for their ability to create community.

I was also reminded that for all of China's old-fashioned stubborn-ness, this is a country built upon a closed door policy of centuries. So it's really wild to consider how much change has taken place here in the last 50 years. There's no doubt China's not as modern-thinking as it likes to think it is, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

i guess it's also fair to argue that human rights issues should all be ended asap, but maybe unrealistic to expect it to happen, uh, now.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No News Today

H: Are you gonna blog?
sQ: i dunno. i don't have anything to say. do i?
H: (no response)

So here's some stuff to fill the vacuous void of existence.

on Friday we went to see Vancouver band You Say Party We Say Die play at D-22, along w/ some BJ acts. It was pretty fun and packed. i met a guy when we were belting out This Monkey's Gone to Heaven between bands. He and his 2 friends were americans who live in Shanghai. It was fun to listen to him talk about how crap the music scene is in SH.

i couldn't believe it when i read H's blog and she said it was a "nightmare" that people were packed like sardines. i just called it a good party.

BJ indie rock girls Ourselves Beside Us were great.

Other stuff.

Waffling on my plans to go to India for summer. Now i'm thinking of staying in BJ and going to Mandarin school. Maybe doing some volunteer work.

H's dad and sister are ariving in BJ in a couple days for an impromptu 1wk visit, which should be fun. They will stay w/ us here in the gated community.

Trying to find out when classes are at the mandarin school but nobody who answers the phone there speaks Eng.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Links I Like

In these modern times people can see the whole world (wide web). Well some parts are hard to get to, but progress has recently brought us to distant locales like cbc and wikipedia! Youtube! No blogs w/out some sidestepping ohwell.

Also, being in a city of 15 million folk, you can be kinda isloated from the world. So addictions aside, amen to the world wide web. Here's some links that get heavy listing in my History bar.

The Guardian
Beyond Robson
(which has gone severely downhill since my departure, not only because of my departure. But Sean Orr's daily Morning Brew write up is everything i need to get my fix of sharp, cynical, and hilarious ultra lefty Vancouver news.
China Daily (let's call it "balance," if only to pretend objectivity)
Cup of Cha (a China political miscellania blog that's pretty great, and H and i have been commenting some. Chck out the totally brainwashed vitriol i sparked here)

Savage Love (i love Dan Savage . He's the hilarious voice of reason in a world plagued by sexual problems, complaints and queries. Being off in Kommyland, i need my wkly dose of Dan to stay levelled out).

Perez Hilton (actually i never go there, but H does, and i can't help but read over her shoulder)

And watching dnlded UK and american series' The Office.

The Scene
The Beijinger: (concert listings, events, community blog, etc)

My Friends' Blogs (Um, there's only THREE sites folks. If yr not on this list, feel free to drop me a line. i wasn't a blog reader before, but i am now)


Friday, April 11, 2008

Just for the BC Folk

The science class did presentations on habitat loss, and 2 boys decided to do theirs on Eagle Ridge Bluffs, a supersensitive area in North Vancouver, being hacked out to make room for a beautiful 4 lane highway.

It was pretty cool to see students talking about (in admittedly oversimplified terms) how developers just want $$$, olympic boycotts, and making mention of activists Betty Kraczyk and Harriet Nahanee.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Don't Blame the Marriage-a-wanna!

Just to keep everyone up to date w/ all the important events in my life, i should mention that i lost my bank card again. That's 4 times now i ran away w/ the cash before getting the card back. And this news is a great confirmation that no, it's not just the weeds that are making me a tad absent-minded.

Whew, close call!

On the off-chance that it happens again, i'll mention it, just for posterity.

PS. After i got the office clerk's assistance, the bank handed me my card which was waiting impatiently for me at the branch.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Trouble With Environmentalism

Teaching grade 7 science is pretty cool 'cause it's my job to go on and on about habitat loss, biodiversity, global warming, human waste due to consumerism etc etc. i sometimes worry that i'm a bit too doom and gloom for my students (there's only 3 dudes in this int'l class), but they seem to handle it fine, and seem to be on board w/ whatever i'm harping on for the day.

Anyhow, one of the results of teaching this stuff is that i'm kinda constantly obsessing about the environment. Like more than usual even. My contempt for auto vehicles always creates tension when Heather wants to catch a cab somewhere on a Friday night. My concern for the amounts of jet fuel burned every moment is making me reconsider my planned trip to India. (Can i handle a week on the train?)

Everywhere you go in BJ you see people who can't be bothered to differentiate between the garbage and the adjacent recycling bin. People and businesses who normalize the tossing of plastic bags, wrappers, and utensils on the street when they're done with them.

This all messes with my equanimity the same way as dudes who piss all over the floor by the urinals.

But here's the thing.

These uneducated litterers who do heaven knows what else to the environment are assuredly having less impact on the planet than yours truly. Good ol' statusq preaches the word awfully well, but he's flown all over the planet, bought tons of stuff which had been manufactured all over the f'ing place and shipped to hell and back before he used and sent it off to the landfill site.

So he wrote some articles promoting the colour green. That's good.

He worked promoting organic foods for a couple years. That's good.

But it's painfully obvious that in 33 yrs of living as a traveling, earning, buying, and disposing Canadian he's had way more impact than some $2000/yr-earning labourer who litters and pours Draino in the river.

On one hand, yes i deserve to be happy as much as anyone on the planet.
But on the other, i sure don't deserve more than anyone else.

And i keep thinking back to that annoying stat about how if everyone lived like an American we'd need 5 planets. Everybody's entitled to some of the planet's resources, and i guiltily suspect that i've already taken more than my fair cut. So does that mean that i deserve zero resources from here on out? Shit, that'd kinda suck.

Has anyone out there sorted out this conundrum yet? I feel kinda locked into this lifestyle of travel, technology, eating non-local foods, etc etc.

Yesterday i bought a sub-woofer. Turns out it won't work w/ the stereo, which is annoying but i'll keep it anyways for the computer. Thanks for the oil for the plastic, Afghanistan! Thanks military defenders! Thanks underpaid labourers! Thanks friendly trade-facilitating governments! Thanks corporations! Thanks for keeping wages and benefits low to keep prices down! Thanks, animals and insects and bacteria who gave up their habitats and lives! Thanks to the clerks! Thanks to the employees who told me that my stereo could use a sub-woofer when it can't!

And now this Clap Your Hands Say Yeah song sounds so grooooovy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Let's Make Mr [sq] Blush!

Today i started a new project w/ my upper ESL gr7's. In this project they need to facilitate a class discussion about... anything. But they need to generate interest, ask questions, and pick on classmates who are falling asleep or distracted. (i hope to generate some empathy from them).

I ask the 1st students what their topic was.
"Mr [sq]."

Turns out i feared unnecessarily. The students went over the top in their praises of my singing and guitar playing and and niceness. Someone complimented my clothes. It was completely embarrassing. "Paul, do you like Mr Wang's singing?" "Yes." "Why?" And a bit painful.

But hey, it was a really good presentation: good eye contact, an involved and attentive class.

They finished off w/ the question, "Mr [sq], do you like this class?" Aw shucks, gang! They were really sweet. Especially considering that the class was rather a headache just the day before.

Toilet Humour

Today, one of my quirkier students went off topic from the discussion and said, "Mr [sq], yesterday i was doing a google search for 'toilet' and i found pictures of you. Well, it looked like you."

"That's great [J], but let's wait til break to talk about it."

i think it looks more like my friend Abe. What do you think?

i think i asked about the "toilet" search but didn't get a response.