Monday, June 28, 2010

Taking Care of the Environment

Did you know that using computers and digital cameras can help improve the air quality? Yes, it's simple to do. Just a quick adjustment with the lightness/darkness/contrast controls, and jiminy cricket, you can remove hundreds of parts per million out of the atmosphere.


(those are pictures from Lanzhou, reportedly the worst air quality in China)

Saturday, June 26, 2010


In the words of the employer "99% chance" i'll be back at the same school next year.

Which is ok, i guess since basically the only thing which is better about the dntn school, is location. But still it's annoying since the employer didn't have any real reason for doing so except to say "the students here love you." Which i don't think she really knows anything about anyways.

Anyhow, there are a bunch of niggling things at the school which are kind of annoying, which make me feel pleased that i had the sense to only sign on for one more year.

Better Than High School Musical

Background: when i graduated from HS, i skipped the ceremony to go mountain biking in Canmore. I missed the grad dinner 'cause i was accidentally very late, and also got held up when security hassled me and my date for being "inappropriately dresssed", and skipped the parties afterwards. (typical teenage rebellion) In my mom's words: "You passed high school. How hard is that?"

This year was my school's first graduating class. The school's 3 years old, so those gr 10'ers have completed the trial, somehow or another. All 19 of 'em have at least got conditional acceptance at Canadian universities. And the $ to do so.

Yes, i griped about the extra duties i took on, organizing a bunch of media stuffs for the ceremony and dinner party, for a bunch of students i've never taught.

But in the end i must say it was all worth it. Although at least 3 of them were nodding off during the preliminary speeches, as soon as their beloved teacher began a wonderful speech about his years w/ them, the tears started flowing.

Then during dinner and stuff, a few more tears. Then after the boys had a drink or 2, they decided to add 1 more performance to the bill to sing a song (and it sounded a hell of a lot better than when they were sober). Then 1/2 way through the girls decided to jump on stage with them. Then they called their homeroom teacher into the mix, and it shortly transformed into a group hug w/ most of the gang bawling. Then my coworker pointed out all the parents who were crying. Next thing you know, I'm hollering and clapping and misty eyed myself. Music blaring in the background. It was pretty f'ing hilarious. Gosh i really never realized how totally entertaining it can be to watch people's eyes turn into fountains. i was loving every minute of it.

Truthfully, my expectations were quite low, but it ended up EPIC. Yes, there were lame-ass speeches about Studying Hard and The Future Is Yours and other BS by people who don't know shit about these individuals (all made doubly boring by requisite translations). But then vicariously hopping onto their emo-rollercoaster ride was great, as aided by the beer (5 glasses uncomfortably served to me by my own gr 11 students, all wearing unnecessarily sexy server's uniforms). "Hey Ivana, can you go get me another beer? I think my students know I'm getting drunk."

Thursday, June 17, 2010


After pretty much all of China worked a 7 day work week, everyone had a Mon, Tues, Wed holiday for Dragonboat Festival. Me and Qianqian head out to visit Cuandixia.

Cuandixia is a tiny and ancient ol' Qing dynasty town a few hours outside of Beijing. A historical spot, which has quickly become a hot little tourist destination.

Quite beautiful, to see these little courtyard houses all slowly cascading down the face of the mountain. I was stoked since i was under the impression that there's nothing to do there but wander around, read books, and possibly have a toke.

i was pumped for a couple days of quiet nothingness and sweating my way up a mountain or 2.

Well the town sure is gorgeous, but upon closer inspection the gorgeousness starts to feel rather forced. For example: like Lijiang and Dali last summer, i started to recognize the freshly laid "historic" cobblestones.

Also 90% of the buildings are now converted into guesthouses and restaurants.

I was mostly disappointed in that I was hoping for a peaceful couple days out, but the music blaring out of the restaurants and karaoke places was a bit much. Shania Twain and Avril? Canadian content: covered.

Oh well, we didn't get to the peaks as i had envisioned as that stairway was blocked off, and Q isn't as inclined as myself to break rules, but after a puff, we were too lazy and rubber-legged to gain much altitude anyhow.

Although the above looks pretty negative, i must say that i was still quite content to get out of BJ, and have a night out and a wander around.

And hey, the more holiday time before school's up, the better. And how.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Future Is In ... Somebody's Hands

I just sent this email off to my employers. Not my principal, but the actual people who write out the paycheques. The woman has a reputation for not caring about her staff, though truthfully i've never had a problem up until this one.

Anyhow, I have requested to move outta the 'burbs to downtown, which is where i was supposed to work when 1st hired. It's closer to Qianqian, and more convenient for pretty much anything i want to do, save riding my bike/running in farmlands etc.

Hello X and Y,
How are you doing? Hopefully everything is wrapping up well for the end of the school year at all the SBS locations.

As June 30 approaches quickly, I'm trying to get ready for Sept next school year. As I have requested to change to #25, I hope to know soon if that will be a possibility so I know if I need to pack up my apartment soon.

I understand from talking with [#25 principal] that #25 has an opening for an English/Social Studies/ Canadian Studies/ Planning teacher. I (and [#8 principal] and other teachers) have always thought that jobs between the SBS schools were transferable.

I hope that the position at #25 is not being saved for a new teacher because it is easier to find someone who is willing to move to downtown Beijing as opposed to Fengtai.

Although I myself was originally hired to work at #25, when you asked me to come to #8, I understood the need to be flexible. I never complained. Indeed I really have had some wonderful teaching experiences and learned a great deal here in Yihai. However, as there will be an opening at #25 which I could fill, I would be quite disappointed to find that another teacher with no experience working for SBS received that position. I have always worked hard and with dedication for SBS.`[#8 principal] , my co-workers, and my students can all attest to this.

I have gained many teaching skills in #8 which I hope to bring to #25. I understand #25 also has many challenges which I am happy to face. I always aim to reflect and grow as an educator.

Please let me know your decision when you make it, so I can begin any necessary preparations.

Thanks for your time and consideration!


Well, we'll see what pans out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Canada Bound

Yup, Qianqian got her visa!
All systems go.
Tix booked.
Itinerary is liquid, but hopefully will start congealing before long.
Roughly: 1/2 time in AB w/ the parents, roughly 1/2 time in BC w/ friends.
Possibly ok w/ places to crash, possibly not.
If you are possibly open to having me and Q stay with you and entertain you with wild tales of life in exotic locations, offers would be most welcome.

Other than that here's what's planned:
  • hang out w/ my bro and parents in Calgary
  • a canoe camping trip w/ friend Elise.
  • Wreck Beach
  • Sooke (possibly more camping, or at least an overnighter on some beach or something).
  • Midnight Mass bike ride: i hope that's still going...
  • DIYDharma meditation group
  • Maybe Whistler (more for the ride than the destination)
Other than that, just wanna meet up w/ lots of friends, hang out, drink organic coffee, smoke BC bud, ride around, etc.

Oh, and from Calgary, Q will hit Montreal for a week.

Stoked to eat back bacon and drink lots of Molson Canadian!

That's about it.
Let me know if you want anything from China.
Like porcelain. Over here, we call it "china". Go figure. Or chinese smokes. No opium, sorry. Too much border hassles. bootleg dvds? Maybe but they might not play in Canada. Other things, no prob, drop me a line.

Lurkers, feel free to drop me a line, we can connect. Ha.

Say, did you know since i came to China, i started using f'ing emoticons a lot? Really i have. What can you do :P Oh well.

Look fwd to meeting up w/ peeps.

Thanks for hangin' in there w/ me and my f'ing more and more sparsely posted blogs. what a guy.

Crickety Cricket

i had this great idea to purchase a cricket from the outdoor market by my house. They sit there all noisy chirping away and it seemed pretty crappy to be crammed into a cage which can hardly contain you and your thorny limbs.

So i bought one of the buggers. Me and my coworkers eyed, it, fed it watermelon, then took it outside to let it jump around.

It bit me through the cage, which caused me to shriek.
"Yeah right, i'll believe it if there's blood," yawned J.
Upon closer inspection, in triumphantly declared that the mofo had indeed drawn blood out of my left index. i gather s/he was not pleased to be jostled so much as of late.

It took considerable poking and prodding to get him/her to come out. When s/he did, i was rather disturbed to note that s/he was missing his/her left hind leg. Oh, shitty. How was s/he going to jump around and entertain us now? No, instead of cavorting instilling us with childlike shrieks, s/he just trudged around on the pavement slowly.

So i took a few pix, and then let him/her go in the dinky patch of grass next to my apartment, which is all the convenient wilderness to be found around here.

In the end, the whole thing was kinda depressing. Is it better to be "free" in an environment where (since yr a bred creature in the 1st place) you have no survival skills, not to mention no left hind leg, and your future is either waiting to get eaten by a bird or something? Or better to live in a cramped cage, cheerful that your missing left leg opens up the space in that feng shui kind of way, singing along with your buddies who all have the misfortune to live in little cages cramped with every natural limb that a cricket should have.

I unscientifically hypothesize that the bugger's got a max life expectancy of perhaps 3 days more. Shit, what a life to live trying to survive crippled in a bizarre and unknown territory. Yup, this teaching business is a cake walk in comparison! It made me a bit sad to think that i could've made things worse for him/her than if i just left him/her alone. Oh well.

Good luck, buddy!