Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 1: Oh the Weather Outside

Considering how i often feel like a lazy ass re: blogging, i'm going to try the post-a-day-for-a-month thing again.

Expect short, concise blogs about potentially mundane topics, which occasional flashes of brilliance.

Today is Nov 1st. It's Beijing's first snowfall which i'm taking in presently. It's also kinda screwing up the family lunch which i'm hosting today, and the table for 12 is pbly just going to be a table for 7. Maybe they can ditch the minimum charge.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to Force Kids to Love the Dalai Lama: And Like It!

My students all researched and wrote speeches about Heroes. Mostly the usual suspects, ie, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and the likes. I also squeezed in edgier Malcolm X. A little Oprah Winfrey and Al Gore for the sake of keeping current.

In retrospect, i'm disappointed i didn't get some kids to write about Bob Geldoff or gay politician Harvey Milk. Ah well, next time.

After quick perusal of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, i realized it'd be interesting to have a true life Chinese girl write about the Dalai Lama.

The girl studiously did her research and noted some appropriate facts from websites which were not blocked for their dangerous information. She showed me, before adding: "But I don't think he's a hero."

"Oh? Why not?"

Thus followed a conversation where i had notable difficulty in listening to reasoning which i deem to be the result of PRC brainwashing. But how fair is it to suggest that Sorry kid, China's media doesn't have much reputation for telling, like, the truth. (which isn't exactly secret, though the kids don't seem to see that as a particular problem).

Anyhow, she would mention things like, he's tricked people into believing he's like a god, he's tricked people into giving him riches and valuable jewels, he wants to use people as slaves, and other Wolf In Sheep's Clothing tinged sentiments.

She also made some plausible comments such as, he doesn't want peace because he disturbs China by promoting independent Taiwan, or by trying to get more independence for Tibet.

Later she tried showing me some websites to show me how bad he is. Fortunately, the websites were all in chinese, and the translator function wasn't working so well.

Nonetheless, i will grant that the region now called Tibet has a complicated history, w/ Chinese folk having considerable influence bk even way back in the 13th century.

After our initial discussion, i calmed down and asked her to write about why he isn't a hero.


Today she talked about why people like him, and how he got that Nobel prize, before delving into her true sentiment (and notably became a much more effective presenter). Interestingly, she slipped in this tidbit: "China is an autocracy [a few people with all the power] and many people think this is bad, but China is too big. We need the autocracy to keep control." Hm!

Afterwards, i graciously commended her on tackling the most difficult hero in the class.

Then I drew a happy face and a frowny face o the board. "Some people think the Dalai Lama is great. Some people thing he's very bad. Where is the truth? Is it on this side? Is it over there? Or is it somewhere in the middle? How can we know?"

I mentioned that English speakers have access to WAAAAAY more info than Chinese speakers, especially when it comes to the internet, blocked or not. i hope it wasn't too obvious that the idea was that Western info is better than Chinese info.

But that's kinda what i was saying.

Anyhow, she deserved her pretty good mark, and also made a surprisingly happy and colorful poster that looked like good ol' DL propaganda, if you didn't read the fine print.

Image from And, btw, that's kungfu action hero Jet Li on the left there. It's true. I gave the students a glimpse of this picture, just to put a positive spin on the Leader of the Dalai Clique.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Study of Societies

Teaching Social Studies is cool, 'cause you get to talk about stuff like... history, and social issues. Ok ok, it's horrible when you have to teach words like Legislative Assembly and Confederation to ESL kids, but in context, there's also a lot of pretty crazy issues i get to indulge with. Well a little bit crazy to talk about in the western world, and rather crazy to talk about in China.

For example:
I talk a lot about changing the law, because sometimes the law is bad. Such as in racist laws or sexist laws. And breaking the law in order to challenge the law. And the criminals who broke the law are now considered by all to be heroes.

Chinese kids find this to be rather foreign. "What? The government was wrong? What breaking the law is good?" So i get to toss out ideas (not in a lot of depth necessarily, but still...) like

Was Prohibition in the USA good or bad? Should people break that law?

If most Canadians smoke marijuana, should that law be changed? (most Chinese folk think mj is very very VERY bad, having been sold the same stories as the western statusquo, but without much access to contrary info, let alone access to people who have, like, tried it.

The Canadian govt GUARANTEES people the right to PROTEST against the government! How fucked up is that? From within the PRC, it's pretty fucked.

And then... sometimes [in the context of APEC protests, etc] the police and the government break their own laws! How fucked up is that?
"Yeah, some police officers are good, but others are not so good. Are there any bad police officers in China?" The kids look at me and each other curiously: "No," they reply.

I also have had opportunities to mention the Nike boycott, and why lots of people think that Nike is shit. Pretty interesting, 'cause in brand-name-loving China, these kids have certainly never heard a negatively connotated word about Nike, or the likes.

Good stuff!

And it's like, oh yeah, isn't this why i wanted to be a teacher? and the answer is... yes! So that's good.


Also... i have a reduced workload from last year, thank god. In fact, considering all the above, it's a wonder that i'm not more satisfied w/ my job than i truthfully am. God, what a complainer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Still waiting?

If you expected a postcard from me this summer, and didn't get one, i just want to say that i DID send out all intended postcards, though have since realized the likelihood that a bunch of them got tossed in the bin, while the precious stamp money got pocketed by some horrible post office worker who's trying to feed her kids or something.

If you never got one, drop me a line, and i'll send you a few funny sentences in lieu of said missing postcard.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

All New, All Incredible, All Videos!

Ok, you may have heard that the PRC has stepped up its internet firewall considerably in the last month or so. As such, the likes of Facebook and Youtube have been inaccessible. Which is actually pretty annoying. Not that any blocked sites have really been so necessary for me, but how would you feel if somebody took your car keys, even if you didn't really need to drive anywhere?

Anyhow, to celebrate my newly refound access to Youtube, i thought i'd share a couple vids w/ you. In fact they are the two most memorable videos i have ever seen online. (admitting that i consciously chose to steer clear of Two Girls One Cup)

Ironically, however, this first video turns out to be unavailable on Youtube! Such is life. Here it is anyway for your viewing pleasure. No description necessary. Enjoy!

Zuiikin English - Sankakukin Trouble -

And for this clip, i admit i was quite disturbed after i saw it the first time. The second time i watched it, almost a year later, i found it totally hilarious, and saw the art of the whole episode: the kind of art that reality can amazingly pull off now and again.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Originally uploaded by statusqphotos
Yeah, so, like, in China we get like a week off in October. That's great. Just great. You can use this week to celebrate China's 60th birthday and enjoy the grand parade which is closed to the public. But available for viewing on tv. The highlights more than suffice for me. i don't think i need 5 hours of tanks and marching soldiers and dancers and coordinated flipping of coloured cards.

Asides from missing out on the parade, me and my bro skipped out of town in an impromptu trip to Xi'an, where the Terracotta army are hiding. I'd heard mixed reviews of this spectacle, from unbelievable to wuliao (boring). In the end, i squeezed in among the other thousands of visitors to observe the terra cotta gang in an environment that could potentially be a touch creepy, if not for the bustling hordes and their cameras.

We also went to Hua Shan, a mountain outside the city, which was pretty epic. We hiked 7.5 hrs, but didn't quite get to the uppermost peak for fear of missing our return trip bus. The mountain is famed for its vertical slopes, and ubersteep staircases, which require chains to hang on to.

However, near the top you will encounter the lazy gang who opted to take the gondola up, the gang who will destroy the serenity you strained so hard to reach. "kinda makes you appreciate Canada's solitude," commented my brother. Not to complain. We were nonetheless stoked to have made it up as far as we did, and to actually get a bit of exercise in finally.

And the last point of interest was our return trip home. As we had planned our trip mere moments before we departed, we were super lucky to have found beds for the overnight train trip to Xi'an. However, for the return trip there were zero tickets available to be found anywhere.

But we went anyways.

Only from Xi'an were we able to discover the Standing Room Only tickets for the return trip. 6:30pm -6:30 am.

But we bought little mini folding stools for $1.50 each, which we were extremely happy with. You manage to find a spot in the aisle, and plop down. Then every 4 minutes you pick up and squeeze into some seated people's laps so the workers selling beer and instant noodles out of trolleys can pass.

We met some people and chatted some which was pretty fun. Though i was a bit annoyed when they told us that the stools should only cost 75 cents. Ha, oh well.

Eventually it was night, some lights dimmed, and the trolley convoy eased up. People were crashed all over the aisle, on the sink, crammed in next to the less than tidy bathroom stalls. And yes, some people stood for the full 12 hrs. Crazy.

I did manage a few hours of sleep, though D managed zero. I was kinda surprised when upon our arrival he said, "well, that was a lot more interesting than the trip out."

I also rather dug it, though i don't think i'd want to do it on a regular basis. Or with my girlfriend. Or parents.