Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nov 30: My Friend The End

1. For last Thurs and Fri i threw together a couple lessons on Buy Nothing Day. Glad i did. i never even told kids not to buy stuff. i just wanted an excuse to talk about an anticonsumerism. Aferwards some kids wrote stuff like, "i used to think buying things was good, but now i know that it's bad and it hurts the environment." A few kids didn't quite get it, and instead wrote about how much they like fashionable modern Nike shoes. What can you do.

2. Another busy weekend, and not getting enough sleep in the good way.

3. Hey, thanks for reading me this November. i admit i posted late a few times, but frankly i don't care about that at all. It's a question of quality over punctuality, duh.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 29: Cops Trying to Break Into My Apartment

Recently i got a phone msg from my boss asking me to call him ASAP.
Turns out his wife saw 2 (presumably) police officers (for that's what they looked like) were at my door, taking different keys out of an envelope and trying them in my door.

Ok, first they tried to ring the doorbell, apparently. But me and my brother didn't hear anything. And i was possibly even awake at that point in the morning.

Also, it's funny, because the door wasn't even locked in the first place, so they didn't really try and get in or anything.

"Get rid of the grow op," said my boss, which rather worried me since i'd been reading and thinking about how to get my hands on some vegetables in Beijing.

Also, i started worrying about my internet usage, which has included journeys to sites which the chinese guver mint wouldn't approve of.

Heza reported people knocking on her door that morning, but she didn't get out of bed to answer.

The school secretary called the popo, and also the community security force, neither of which had any knowledge to share on this topic.

So anyhow, it's a medium-sized unsolved mystery. Weird.

My optimistic self thinks that maybe they found some keys and thought they could be mine for some reason. Ok, it doesn't really make sense,but the rest of it doesn't either. That was a wk ago, and i haven't found any strange fingerprints in my apartment since.

Day 28: That's Why They Call It "Work"

My brother commented to me that i don't seem very happy with my job.
It's true, i've been pretty grumpy about it lately.
Students used to ask me how i was, and i'd reply, "i feel very good today."
Lately, i've been saying, "i'm okay."
But i still try and smile when i say it.
The work itself isn't too bad.
Soemtimes it takes great effort not to throttle the kids.
But that's par for the course.
But i don't think that 10 hrs a day should be the norm.
Sometimes less, too often more.
A 40 hr work week would be a cake walk.
Ok, so the stress is less than last year, but the increased class sizes, and the maximum allowable teaching load is smothering my life.

On the one hand, i'm still pretty new at teaching (i feel).
But on the other hand, there's other staff who have LOTS of experience, who are logging the same hours, it seems.
Fuck, in their shoes, i'd rather retire.
So i'm considering future career changes.
And planning to ask if my boss might have any pointers about how i can streamline my workload.
At the very least, he'll know i don't like the max course load, and maybe will go easy on me when planning next year's schedule.

1.5 months until Spring Festival holiday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 27: Bombay Bombings

Wow, how weird and saddening to read about the Bombay attacks. And to see the pictures. 'Cause i slept on the floor of that train station once. And i stayed in a grimey hostel, just a 1 minute walk away from the luxury Taj Mahal hotel. i went in there a couple times.

The Taj has security x-rays outside of it, sorta like the BJ subways do. As with the BJ subways, i thought it was totally unnecessary and rather paranoid.

Mostly i still feel that way. I mean if anyone really wants to sneak a gun or bawm past some minimum wage "security guards", it really would't be hard. At all.

i dunno. Security is surely the last defence in a struggle, the likes of which i know nothing about.

Hope everyone is doing ok everywhere. While over here i bitch and moan about too much work, and lack of motivation to exercise and stuff.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 26: "Schooled"

i broke up a fist fight the other day. Well, actually i don't know if one kid getting pummeled while 15 other kids crowd aroundqualifies as a "fight".

It was in the Chinese part of the school, so it's out of my jurisdiction. in fact, the fight was on the other side of glass doors which were lamely tied shut from the other side. So that kinda slows down yr ability to keep fists off of faces. A student had to untie it before i could exert my authority.

So after a few minutes i was able to get the 2 parties together in front of their home room teacher (the agressor's hand was dripping blood. Very dramatic!). The teacher seemed embarassingly unconcerned and basically said Thanks, you can go now.

Um, well don't you want to hear what happened? i got someone to translate a bit for her, and then i left.

i felt like the blood had been swept under the carpet before i'd even gotten around the corner.

Aside: i really didn't have much compassion for the aggressor, even if he was (in buddist terms) hurting himself first and foremost. i'm just not there yet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 25: My Difficult Struggle With Consumerism

Beijing's started getting cold.
So i thought i should get a proper winter coat.
So in a big hurry i ran into Uniqlo and bought one.
Then i realized that for the same amount of money i could get a cooler one.
Made from some independent local company.
Not a multinational.
And also i kept daydreaming of the Astroboy parka i saw last year.
So today i took a 1 hr bus ride to the Astroboy store.
The jacket i was enamoured with last year (but deemed too expensive) was there.
For 1/2 price.
But it was too small.
But then the sales girls found one for me in the back.
It's a pretty cool jacket.
So i bought it.
After hemming and hawing for too long.
Then 5 minutes after leaving the store i remembered the main reason i didn't buy it last year.
It's not that warm a jacket.
So why the hell did i buy it now?
All of my thoughts, heavily influenced by the fact that earlier today i was researching Buy Nothing Day.
So i swallowed my pride and went bk up to the store to ask for my 400 yuan back.
How embarassing.
Obviously it's not easy to get refunds on 1/2 price clearance items,
so i don't recommend doing it in Chinese.
Refusals, exchange offers, phone calls, and a trip to the store office.
Schmoozing a bit w/ the head supervisor seemed to help.
Then i left.
And decided that Uniqlo is good enough for now.

The lesson is that looking for "cool" is regress on The Path.
Even under the guise of supporting local business.

Also, if this is the experience of a "non-consumerist" guy like me, then i can only pray for the rest of humanity.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 24: Cycling, Recycling

Yesterday, me and my broher rode further out from the city, and explored some recycling communities. They're pretty third world. In one of them, some cranky ol' guy started yammering away at us, and told us that we couldn't take pictures. He was pretty insistent. So ok fine, we stopped. Then him and the small group of people who'd gathered in the meantime asked us some questions. Then he invited us into his office.

He poured us tea and gave us cigarettes. i thought it wise to briefly ecuse myself to lock up the bikes, but he stepped in and yelled at some people to keep an eye them instead. Then we had some broken conversation, the gaps of which were all filled by an unidentified electrical hum.

It was pretty cool, but also rather awkward i felt. So no, no more tea, and no thanks, no more cigarettes, 'cause uh we should go. But hey thanks!

After that he let us take pictures.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 23: My Practice

Well the good news is that i've pretty much been meditating every day since March.

The bad news is that my meditations are generally down to 4 minutes. Well hey, it's 4 minutes better than no minutes! But not really enough to make me the enlightened being i could be. That is to say, that i've noted that there's been times in my life when i've been more balanced than i am now. To say nothing of the times when i've been less balanced than the present. Of which there were many.

All of which goes to say that i don't plan on lengthening my meditations. Unless i feel like it, of course.

Day 22: If You're In a Bad Mood, Should You Still Go Out On Friday Night?

Answer: well there's too much inertia happening to bail out at this point.

And anyhow, Friday was pretty hilarious. Got a last minute invite to some photography opening. Didn't expect much but as soon as we walked into the place, it was like getting a cup of posh artsy water thrown into your face. Cool garllery made out of a converted traditional house and its courtyard. Chinese and foreign photographers on display. Plus dj and free booze.

i met the artist who my friend knew, who had pix from India. Incidentally he was from France, and had spent a decent amount of time in Vancouver and the Canadian far north. so it was cool to have so many connecting points.

Also, any art opening that's pretentious enough for people to randomly take off their pants is a-ok in my books.

Then we ducked out to hit 2 Kolegas for some live electro night, and that place was totally cool. Another of BJ's pillars of the rock and roll scene. The music was good, and the gang was fun. Got pretty drunk despite the watered down drinks, and that was ok.

Derrick and friend in the pic.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 21: Separate lives

From a while ago, H and i have started spending weekends out of contact with each other. i think this is good for both of us. But i can't help but be anoyed that she is suddenly more active and appreciative of BJ than she ever was when we were together.

And i know that i'm totally unjustified and petty in being annoyed about that, 'cause hell people do what people need to do when they feel like it. there's no fucking rules about it.

And seriously, i've only wanted her to be happy and independent. I'm also going out and doing stuff and meeting people which is good. Plus hanging out and doing stuff with my brother.

Mainly, i need a nap. Don't know why i waste so much fucking time on the computer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 19: The Uj

My brother observed today that i don't seem very happy with my job. Maybe he's right, or maybe i'm just underslept and cranky.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 18: More Unfulfilled Promises

A year ago i actually checked the Kylie Minogue website to see if she might grace BJ with her sexy little trendy rather hip but sorta not hip self. i wasn't particularly surprised there she had no China dates.

But now... she IS coming to BJ!

So i figured i should go.

But then i was thinking that a Kylie show might not be the best event to go to solo. Not that that always stops me, but Kylie isn't really my usual scene.

But after asking the small crowd of friends i have here, i had no takers. Well actually a photographer from Ukraine who i haven't actually met said he could be interested, but by that point, the only tix left were over 1000 rmb ($120).

Sorry, Kylie. Even if you're The One, i think i can spend 1200rmb ($160) in more fulfilling ways. And Youtube is good enough to show me how obnoxiously Kylie fans can shriek and scream: "Oh my gawwwwwwwwwwd!!!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 17: Recap

Had a busy wkend. It was pretty good. Me and my bro went to see a friend's band but they played earlier than expected so we missed them. But then we went to a pizza joint, and hung out w/ a crew of musicians and photographers, a couple of whom spoke pretty decent english and that was fun.

Also went for a family dinner and afterwards went to an outrageously expensive hotel bar afterwards. Any joint charging $10 for pop in China is uncalled for, in my books. My cousin (so i hear) likes to show off. But he's a good talker, and it was interesting to talk w/ his 8 yr old son, who is a great talker, though he really doesn't know limits.

Today was bk to school, and yet again i wish i was more enthused. The kids deserve more.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 16: Letter to Dad

Here's an email i sent off to my dad because he didn't really get why i'm not all hype about buying stocks now that the market's low.

Hi Dad,

the major concern i have w/ the future of the economy is the fact that the oceans are becoming depleted of fish, forests are being depleted, and we are running out of clean water and healthy soil. Basically, the economy is built on growth, but the environment and the resources it provides are reaching their limits. Although you can say that "in the long run" the trends show that the markets will recover and continue to grow, i feel like the economy (and humanity) are heading into completely uncharted waters. There is no precedent set for what will happen if and when fisheries collapse, if and when food shortages become more and more commonplace, when oil and cheap energy which our socieities are built on become more and more expensieve, and less and less availalbe for the masses.

Also, it is accepted that industry has changed the global climate enough that we can expect rising sea levels, and more hurricanes, tsunamis and tornados. Though this has sadly boosted the economy in the past, i think in the future the financial strain they may have on any and all countries (and subsequent mass migration of peoples) could be terrible.

The scientists know that these changes are already happening in our lifetime. I don't know much about money, but i feel that consumerism and capitalism, in the end, may be remembered for their short-sightedness. i can't say how my concerns would play out in the stock markets, but i can't imagine it would be good. Part of me thinks there could be a financial crash that will never recover in my lifetime, or at least not to its present format.

As you say, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. In a best case scenario, i think the concerns mentioned above will not happen in a quick or definitive way. Rather, they will happen slowly but surely, but in a way where i personally won't suffer the fall-out so much. Maybe the stocks i have will be lucky enough to continue appreciating in my lifetime.

For a worst case scenario, maybe i should be investing my money in a piece of property which has access to local agriculture and energy.

Anyhow, thanks for taking my rmb bk to Canada and helping look after my investments. For now i'm happy to follow yr advice re: investments, espectially as i don't know what else to do with my money for now.

Obviously i should do more research about money and stuff, but all the above is my gut-feeling about what the future may hold. What do you think? I know it's a little Doom and Gloom, but i don't think it's unrealistic.

Ok. talk to you soon.



Day 15: Bros

So my brother will be hanging w/ me in BJ for another month. It's been a couple years since we last hung out, in San Fran.

Since he's arrived many people have commented that we look alike. Like moreso than in the past. 2 people asked if we were twins. I have never thought that we look much alike. But now that Derrick's picked up some dark glasses, i can't deny it: he looks like me.

Also, i've been surprised to find that for the first time (somehow) our personalities have a lot of parallels. He also digs the atmosphere of the local cheapo ramshackle restaurants. He too likes to explore in places where you're not supposed to explore. He too is pretty happy to do things in ways which are interesting, if not easy. He too will sport a hairdo which my mother finds appalling. Mind you, he will brag that he spent 2 hours at Toni and Guy's to get his. I would never do that.

Also he is really into sports. So let there be no more confusion between us.

The pic above? BROS, circa late 80's. UK smash hit wonders.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 14:

After a number of parents sat in me and H's gr 1 classes, a letter came in today from the most irate parent from that hell meeting before. It said stuff like "the class is very greatful," "now we understand the immersion program," "we are very happy."

Followed by,"Still we have some suggestions" of course. Nonetheless, that's a huge departure from before.

Also, today was parent teacher interviews. Which stupidly enough are no longer "interviews". Instead i gave 5 minute speeches to 4 groups of parents. Then i politely excused myself, since everything was behind schedule as always.

Then i had a few parents who tracked me down afterwards. One of whom was the last parent i wanted to see who hounded me last year about her son who doesn't exactly excel in my classes. But this time she invited me for dinner because now he's balanced by her keener daughter who is now acing my gr 7 class. That's nice, but i politely declined saying i was busy or something. 'Cause it's no fun when you can't rock out and get drunk 'cause you need to be "respectable."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 13: Meiyou kong

"No free time". that is to say, i have no time to blog. But shit, i churned out THREE entries yesterday. That's all i have to say about that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 12: Blood

Now my parents have split. Could be a while before i see them again. When they 1st arrived my mom said, "Oh, you're excited to see us!" That made me feel kinda guilty that i didn't really feel excited. It just felt normal. Same w/ my brother's arrival. Maybe that's the beauty of familial relations, i dunno.

But it's cool hanging w/ the fam, 'cause there's this feeling that we can be honest about things in ways that we may be more guarded with others. That's cool. Unless it's one of those times when it's not cool. Right?

Day 9: Up the Down Hill

On our last day in Shenyang, we went to aplace my bro read about online, where gravity is reversed. What it means is that inexplicably, you must pedal your bike down the hill, and coast back up it. If there was any explanation anywhere, it wasn't in English.

Really though. You coast UPHILL!i had visions of cyclist's utopia.

Don't know if was worth the 1hr taxi ride. But i did get to drive the taxi up the hill! Well, in neutral, that is. How often do you get to drive a Chinese taxi? And against the gravitational laws? Maybe only once/twice in alifetime, that's how many.

Day 8: Shenyang

Spent last Saturday in Shenyang. Hit some historical sites w/ the fam, which weren't exactly gripping, though they hold a role in some very crazy times and conflicts.

But the best part was when me and my bro went up in the Shenyang tower, to check out some wicked views. Froze our asses and our fingers of, desperately trying to capture a sharp pic, or film footage. Seriously, it was cold.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 11: No Time to Think

After posting about my absentmindedness a couple friends told me that technologyis hte anwer, so maybe i should send myself more emailo reminders or get a palm pilotl But thatwano't stop me form forgetting my bank card in the machine, will it. ? Which ahppened last wk. And taht can be potnetially catastrogphic if someone should come along after my pin ins still entered, and empty my acct. Thankfuly, everything was fine.

Today i taught a grade 8 calss teh word "groovy".

Stressed abhout rereport cards dued tomorrow.

And it's my parents are leaving tomorrow a,d it's toob ad i'm stressed and too busy w/ other shit to spend time w/ them more.

not sleepitnc much.

i shuold have a shower. i'm dirty.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 10: Dinner and Dreams

Um, i'll recap on Shenyang when i can. Life is going a shade too fast for my own preference these days. Today was the big family dinner of 15 people, which my Popo, my grandaunt, referred to as the family UN because there were peeps from so many different countries.

It was pretty good, though i didn't talk with everyone or even hear everyone's names. Tomorrow is another din.

All of this piled on top of compounded school duties makes for a bizzy statusq.

Oh, how i pine for the days when we lazed in the lush mosquito-less fields of organic daisies, when the cotton puff clouds mimicked the art of the abstract-impressionists for our intellectual entertainments, and when we bathed in the unity of our political ideals.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Barracka waka waka

A quick note on the election before i jet for school: YAY!

And i briefly announced it to my ESL class of the moment. 

"The USA has a new president. What colour is he? Many people in the USA don't like a man if he's black. But many other people say 'i think he is ok.' I think Obama is a good man."

i don't think Obama will be a miracle worker. But George W wasn't either. Well, not in my opinion anyway.

i may or may not be able to post this wkend, since me and the nuclear gang are going on a trip to Shenyang. It's gonna be iceeeeeeey there. 

Day 6: Under Scrutiny

Today i had a 3rd parent sit in to observe my science class. that was ok. Class was good. And he did admit that he was a bit baffled by all the English he was hearing that he couldn't follow. (But the kids clearly knew what time it was.)

I was a bit disappointed that he split at the 1/2 way point, since  i wanted him to see us do some drawing and colouring.  Because the parents have claimed that the colouring and art is a waste of learning time. And today, some kids' parts of the plant sketches were pretty purdy.

Anyhow, i refrain from sounding glib 'cause i know this episode isn't exactly over. More parent visitations are upcoming. And parent-teacher interviews next wk could be a pain in the arse too. At the very least, it all makes for more long hours, and less time we can devote to making 1/2 decent lessons. Such is life. 

Oh. Also, it's too bad 'cause i haven't had much time to spend w/ my parents. Oh well. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Day 5: The Answer...

Heza and i were feeling rather embittered after a painfully painful TWO HOUR meeting w/ 3 irate gr 1 parents who had decided that their children were learning nothing in our classes.

There was a 3 page letter outlining all the shortcomings of our classes.

There was a letter they had circulated to all the parents of our students, outlining said deficiencies.

There were threats about all students being unenrolled, as all the student's parents were being organized by parent X.

There were complaints about how hard it was to meet us or to see our classes.
And we only learned of this last wk for the 1st time.

"Well why don't you come sit on a class or 2 and see what you think?" we asked. They said ok, and then continued to go on and on and on, insistent on venting their stress and anger.

"Ok, I hear you. But that's not how i see the class. Why don't you come in? Tomorrow is good. Then we can talk about it more."
They said ok, but couldn't rid themselves of the compulsion to complain about how bad our classes were, and how immersion is not a good way to learn language, yadda yadda.

So 2 parents came in to my class today and sat in the back. The class wasn't stellar, but it was pretty good. Seriously, it's SO OBVIOUS that the kids are learning all sorts of intricacies of English grammar and new vocabulary about anything and everything, curriculum and beyond.

It's SO OBVIOUS that the kids' reading level is impressive. Almost at Canadian standards.

So they seemed somewhat pacified that they could hear my wonderfully accessible English accent, and see the students engaged and participating, each demonstrating speaking and listening skills. "i can see it's a very attractive class for the children to be in," went the translation of both visting parents.

Anyhow, i doubt the issue is over. It still pisses me off that all this shit went down w/out anyone actually contacting H or i.

Tomorrow my class will play host to a parent again, which is fine. i just teach my Sci class as per normal.

i know i'm bitter about the whole thing, but i don't want to be. Just writing this blog puts a sick knot in my stomach. For sure these parents are forking out big money for this school and want the best for their only child. But Jesus, can't you show a bit more tact in dealing with your concerns?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 4:

Some parts of work can be a majorly depressing drag. And it's not the students. Or the staff. Or the cafeteria food. Any guesses?

Monday, November 3, 2008

day 3:Last Minute Recovery

i just pulled myself outta bed 'cause i realized i forgot to blog.

My parents are bk from Tibet. Tonight i witnessed my parents tickling each other on the bed. i've never seen ANYthing like that before. too funny.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 2: Only Sightly Altered States

Think this one will suit me?

Last night me and my bro and his gf walked around NanLuoGuoXiang (my brother said it was the BJ version of London's Brick Lane: and he was right), and the mainstream barland of Houhai lake. Needing a place to just sit down, i suggested a virtually empty small joint which was playing a Ting Tings track.

Inside the place were 2 guys who helped us dnld whatever music we felt like listening to.

While sitting around, i noticed a pack of rollies in the table, w/ the cover mostly ripped off. Which could only mean one thing.

So i asked the guys if they knew where someone could find something to smoke besides tobacco. they said it's much more available in other cities, but it's really hard in BJ 'cause this is the Olypic city. Stupide Olympics! Consider yourselves warned, Vancouver.

But then he bust out a container of hemp seeds and started picking through it for tiny little bits of bud. It took a while, but he eventually rolled one on the table. i thought that was rather brazen considering the country we're in. We smoked it right there while the one guy, a tattoo artist, showed us his drawings.

Now i can't say i'm into typical tattoo or heavy metal art consisting of demons and skulls and flames and gouged out eyeballs and torture etc, but it did get me thinking about the counter-culture from which tattoos sprung. For example i think that typical death-metal tattoo images are probably the most unpleasant images for some people like, say, my mom. And in that light, i somehow have more respect for it.

The reactionism is a big part of that style of art, but still there's no denying that people love that stuff for its own sake too.

Anyhow, i suspect that my musings on the subject were just slightly tweaked from the tokes i had. Can't say i was high, but at least buzzed.

Also i did some thinking about some other stuff, which was really good for me. But i'm not sure if that subject is bloggable at this point in time.