Friday, 9 December 2011

What will it mean?

I often smile as I hear predictions about the power and might of China.  I wonder.  I wonder for a number of reasons.   The country is terribly polluted - and the factories keep pouring smoke, and GOK what into the atmosphere.  Many water courses are polluted - you only have to look at them.  There is a massage problem with rubbish - terrible because the Chinese wholesalers and retailers love packaging, and it is often cast aside in the streets, in the waterways, under street gardens, everywhere.

The video below shows how the Chinese have been building massive cities and accommodation complexes with major shopping centres, which remain empty.  No one lives in the residentials - terribly expensive.  The shopping complexes are awesome, and empty.

Is this a smart country?  I wonder when they are going to 'hit a wall'.  I wonder what the future is with China.

Check out these videos.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Where will I teach next?

I have been preoccupied with my studies and house sitting for the last 18 months, since my return from China.  I had planned to go back to China, but was told they don't want anyone over 60 any more though I have heard from a student that the plan to employ younger people as teachers is not working well.  Still, I have some time to go on my studies, so no real plans.  

I have just learned how to add maps to my posts, and went to look for Zheijang Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages at Shaoxing, but the map showed me to a place that clearly was not the campus I recalled, and it was only just over 12 months since I was there.  I know Chinese builders are quick - but I knew it wasn't right.  After some further study I learned that the university is placed wrong on the map - it is across the road from where it is shown on the map.  Make sense?  .

View Larger Map

Actually the A, D, C, spots are in the huge parklands across the road, and the E is the primary school, and may well be closer to the spot.   Will I go back there?  Maybe not to teach, but I'd love to visit again.  One day.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

English teacher in Japan

I found this video on the Courier Mail site this morning.  The story is about teaching English in Japan to small children.  I taught in China, and at high school and university, but it reminds me of the sort of classes that were conducted in the hagwans in South Korea. 

The teacher talks about the long hours - 8 classes in a day, of perhaps 45 minutes.  It wasn't clear.  In China we worked around 16 hours a week in the class room, but each contract will be different.  If one is employed in a the private language schools the hours are much longer.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

China again

I'd like to say that I have a ticket to return to China - I guess next time it will be for a holiday, but at the moment I am grounded in Brisbane.

However, my connections with China persist.  My next house sit - starting in just over a week, is because my friend and her husband are going to China to work.  I'd love to go with them - but I will be caring for their dog. 

But today I was surprised to see on TV the news about a new movie that had its world premier at the Sydney Film Festival - it is called "33 Postcards" and I look forward to seeing it.  It was filmed in part in Sydney and also in China.  I'll link to more information about it.

I have watched the shorts of it - looks good to me.  Click on the banner and you will be taken to another blog - and the post  about the movie.

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Friday, 10 June 2011

The Kookaburra

I was chatting with a former student in China on Skype yesterday and I announced that a kookaburra had just landed on the back deck railing. A kookaburra?  He had no idea what I meant.  I tried to explain to him.  Today I sent him this video, as the kookaburra came back and I managed to get a few seconds of him before he flew away. 

The are rather aloof birds, and there are plenty of them around.  Usually they are shy, but will come close to humans for food, which is why this one was visiting.  I occasionally give him some mince meat.

They have a strong laugh - hence 'laughing kookaburra."  Following is a video complete with laugh.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Mysterious Knife

I am sure I have written about the mysterious knife in my possession. This morning I used it to spread my fig jam (yes, home made by me) on my toast, and it made me think of the knife's story.  The story is also an example of something that happens in China.  If you do the right thing, or show kindness and friendliness to someone, they will undoubtedly help you.

When I was in Shaoxing I went to the post office often - I would post parcels back to Australia from time to time, and it was during this strange process that I befriended two works in the post office.  One was a lady who sold lottery tickets from a small desk that had no space other than the cash register, and space underneath.  She sat here for hours on end selling her tickets and chatting with her customers and passers by.  She was positioned almost in the the thoroughfare in the post office.  In her quiet time she would open her English study book and read and try and learn English.  I'd often call by and sit with her for 15 minutes or so answering her questions about English and conversing with her and helping with her pronunciation errors.  We became friendly.

Only a few feet away was 'the box man' - he looked after the cardboard boxes, so if I needed to send items to Australia I could not wrap them, but I would take them in a plastic bag to the box man, and he would select the right size box for me, and I would take it to the desk opposite where the girl would look through all my items and if approved, she would seal the box, weigh it, and give me forms to complete (customs, list of contents, details of receiver etc.) and when I paid I would leave the box and hope that it arrived back in Australia.  I must say I had 100% success rate.  Everything turned up.

When I had arrived in China I had to buy all my utensils and most I left behind but there was a cutlery set - one knife, one fork, one dessert spoon, and a teaspoon, that I purchased early on and I loved the set and at the end of my tour - I decided to include them in a parcel back to Australia.  The goods were duly packed in the box, but the girl behind the counter found the knife and said it could not go.  "We cannot send knives in boxes."  I protested but she took it out.  The box man came to listen to my protests, and quietly observed my argument that a knife in a box was not going to do any damage to anyone or anything.  It wasn't a sharp knife and would have trouble doing damage to a block of butter!

The knife was put on the counter.  I subsequently filled out the paperwork, the box was sealed, I paid my dues and then looked for the knife.  At least I could take it with me in my luggage.  But it was nowhere to be seen.  It appeared that someone had taken it. I shrugged.  No big deal.  And went on my way.

Can you imagine my surprise when my box of goodies arrived back in Australia, a few weeks after I had done so, and when unpacking I found the knife.  I can only guess that the box man surreptitiously had slipped the knife into my box.  I'd love to thank him, but of course I cannot.

I remember him when I went back to China on my third 'tour of duty' - he had been excited to see me and called out across the post office in a loud voice "Adalia" - Australia!!!  He had remembered me from my previous time there some 12 months before. I guess I am not difficult to remember - tall and blonde, but it did surprise me.

Now, I have my knife, fork, spoon and teaspoon - and I will always remember the  man in the post office.  Xie Xie.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Chinese Ballet

I am going to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on June 9th to see the ballet "The Last Emporer" - but today I have been watching videos of Chinese Dancing.  Since reading the book "Mao's Last Dancer" and seeing the movie several times, I have learned so much about the wonderful training and quality of dance in China. 

Many readers will be familiar with the iconic ballet "Swan Lake" - watch the video below and see how the Chinese do it.

The following video is of the "Dance of the Red Lantern" performed in Amsterdam, Netherlands,
and is a wonderful exhibiton of combing Chinese culture with ballet.  It is a long video.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Learning a Language

I was fortunate in that at school I learned Latin for 3 years, as well as French.  Latin has helped me with my own language (English), as well as French and at times Spanish.  When I was at school we had an Australian teacher, who may have been to France.  I can't remember.  All we had was the teacher, and our books.  No film or video in the classroom in those days, and no recording of any sought.  We learned by speaking loudly and repeating, and repeating.

After I left school I learned Italian at classes held in the Adelaide University.  As it turns out I've not had to use my language skills and they have all but gone, though I understand when I hear these languages spoken.

When I went to China I did for almost two semesters, learn Chinese (Mandarin), but I bailed out when the conversation learning was too difficult for me, and not only that the conversation we were supposed to be learning was not particularly useful for me at that time.  That was in 2008, and oddly enough we did learn by repeating, and we also had the use of voice recordings.

What a difference from language learning now, from my yearly learning days.  And to be able to learn at one's own pace either with a CD program or online.  I am keen to rejuvenate my Italian a little, and I don't mind brushing up on my Chinese from time to time.  However, I know if you don't 'use it' you may well 'lose it' so much of what I have learned is fading from my memory.

Still, I found a site yesterday and am working through some of the free lessons.  The introductory lessons go for 6 days, and after that one would have to pay.  Not me, or not at the moment as I would be determined to work on it if I paid, and I'm not in the mood to do so at the moment.

However, I do suggest, that the program on this site - Rocket Languages.  Of course there are many programs on the Internet, so it would be worth doing some research through Google.

There would also be quite a few on Youtube, and probably for no cost too.  I found these lessons with Yangyang. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

New blog for 31 Day Blogging Challenge

I decided to create a new blog for this challenge.  It is called Movies, Books and Life.  Click here to visit the new site. 

Cheating at IELTS

Those of us who have worked and lived in Asian countries will know that many people in Asia have a different attitude to 'cheating' than we do in the west.  To cheat in exams in China - well, many do it, and often with the support of their teachers and the university hierarchy. 

This example may help you understand.  I found that 6 of my students in one class did not understand English but I was not told.  When I found out, I spoke to the Vice Proncipal (that is what it said on his door), and he told me to treat these boys the same as I would any other students. Mmm.  It was impossible as they didn't understand what I was asking of them, and in a class of 45 students for 45 minutes there was not a lot of time.  I did offer to help students who were having challenges as an extra curricular activity but these boys did not attend.

At the mid semester test, they failed.  Each handing in their paper, without anything written on it. Most could not even write their name in English.  Sadly I had no choice but to give them '0' for their tests.  When it came to the end of semester test, I was not permitted to either supervise or mark the tests.  And surprisingly the six students passed with flying colours!!!

In Australia in recent times there has been some skulduggery in Western Australia, and the newspaper reports of a staff member of Curtin University helping students pass.  IELTS ( International English Language Testing System) is the acknowledged system for testing English language proficiency and it is required to pass to a certain level for university study in Australia, UK, and other English speaking countries.  There are alternatives, but IELTS is probably the one requiring the highest proficiency.

Several of those involved will face court in the next couple of weeks in Perth, and clearly there will be dire consequences, and it is possible that Curtin University will no longer hold IELTS tests.  You can read more on this story here.

I remember when I was in South Korea, the participants in th course were required to have an IELTS score of 6.5, but the administrators 'waived' that requirement, but as it was an Australian certificate that they were studying for, they had to produce their IELTS results in order to receive their certificate.  One of the students could bearly speak any English!  But the South Koreans did not see that as important!!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

31 Day Blog Challenge

I purchased the ProBlogger ebook some time ago, but didn't do anything with it.  Didn't even find time to read much of it, but I've 'dragged it out' and read at least the first 20 pages, and I know I can do it.  I am hoping that I can increase my readership and perhaps earn a small income from by blog adventures.

The guy behind ProBlogger is Darren Prowse, and he hails from Victoria, Australia and is making a good income from his ventures.

So 31Day Blog Challenge here I come.  If you want to participate you can click on the banner above or click here to register.

Sky Burial

Reference to 'Sky Burial' comes up in Xinran's books.  At first it doesn't make sense, but when you learn what she is referring to, it makes sense.    I've yet to read this one of Xinran's books, but I have read references to it in a number of places.  You can read about the book 'Sky Burial' which she wrote in 2004 here.

The video below may seem a little macabre at first thought, but I like the line at the end.  When we are dead, we are dead.  If you are buried underground worms take your bits away.  I like the idea of the sky burial, although we don't have such birds to do the deed here.  Maybe the crows will take the bits away.

What the Chinese think of the west.

I know that when you take off to live and work in China, or even visit, there is some research to do, but mostly we  work out some simple basic cultural norms, and then deal with things like currency, geography, and all things about touring in the country.  My research before I went was minimal - for a start I had a very short period between the time when the idea was 'put in my head' and when I left, so I was more concerned with the documents and paperwork for the job and the visa, and practicalities. 

In any case if I had read much about the culture it would not have 'sunk in' because you have to experience it.  I have said, that everything I though I knew, I no longer knew.  "Nothing" appeared to be the same in China as I had known in Australia (or my other travels).  It is impossible to explain, and you probably don't understand until you have been in China for a while, or alternatively had a traditional Chinese person spend time with you in Australia.

It is through reading Xinran's books that I am making sense of some of the things I experienced in China.  I have read several of her books, and the latest one, which I have on my Kindle, is "What the Chinese don't eat" written in 2006.  If you watch any of the Customs shows on television, you will know that the bane of the life of the folks in Customs is the strange foodstuffs that Chinese bring into Australia, and usually deny that they are carrying food.  They take awesome quantities because they believe that in Australia (or whatever country is their destination) they will not be able to buy fresh food, or any food that resembles that which they are familiar with from their home.

When I went to China I did take some food - not much - but a tube of Vegemite was in my luggage.  Small supplies compared to what Chinese pack.

In Australia we cannot buy live fish, for example, but to counter this, Chinese bring big swags of dried fish.  Certainly we get freshly caught fish, but apart from crabs, they are well dead.  Fresh, but dead.

Our meats are treated in a far more hygienic method than in China.  I remember seeing the meat markets, with no refrigeration, plenty of flies, and surrounded by streets, people, and a lot lot more.  Unlike the more pristine venue of our butcher shops.  We can buy very fresh vegetables, and we can buy 'off the farm' if we live close to market gardens.

Last year when 2 students from China came to Australia, I had warned them not to bring any foodstuffs and I explained it well, but the father of one of the girls knew better.  Why, I don't know.  He was a wealthy man,  had not travelled, but he 'knew' that you could bring animal and vegetable products into Australia.  I warned Rita, 'be prepared for it to be taken away from you', and make sure you declare it.  Her father said that was stupid.  Luckily she did declare it, and as I expected it was taken from her.  She was distraught when I picked her up at the airport, but I took her in to Brisbane's Valley Chinatown,and she found the strange health things that she had had confiscated.  She could easily buy them from a Chinese medicine man here.  The girls found that most of the foodstuffs they were familiar with were available here in Australia, and they managed to find their way around our supermarkets or fresh food markets without any problems.

Xinran's book explains so many other differences and why.  So much of the culture in China goes back to very early years in their history, and other parts of their culture was shaped by the Cultural Revolution, and the Chinese are still finding their own culture, but now the young people are embracing western culture to the exclusion of their own countries long history and culture.  Sad, but true.

When looking for the link for Vegemite, I came across this video - of an old commercial for Vegemite.  I wonder what the Chinese would think of this.  (My students did not like the taste of Vegemite!)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Teaching teachers and seeking students - and The Edge

I've spent the last few weekends at classes for International TESOL College - more as an observer than anything else, though did do some of the work.  I MAY have to take such classes at some stage, so was interested to see how the classes were run.  I don't know that many of the students of the course were planning to go overseas, but they certainly will be well prepared for tutoring in Australia, which is what a couple of them wish to do.

I also explored some websites and put my name 'out there' as an ESL tutor, registering on a website, and having found a potential student on another website sent an email, but nothing has resulted yet.

Today I went into the city - actually to the State Library at the cultural precinct on the south side of the river.  I had booked in for a session on "Monogamy" - true, and it was very funny.  However, I wandered around the Library and visited the Flood exhibition, where people put up ideas that might help to prevent so much damage in a future one, and generally explored.  I haven't been to the State Library for a long time.

I found "The Edge" - it is essentially between the Queensland Art Gallery and the State Library, but it is a space where young people (I laughed at that, as one of their regulars is 82 years young) explore all things digital.  There was an exhibition of items used to broadcast music - and I had to laugh as I can remember things that we used BEFORE any of the 'old' things on display.  I had quite a chat with a young fellow there.  I was rather in awe of things in the area, especially the  opportunity for prospective film makers, musicians and photographers to use.  I have a pile of literature to wade through.

I was going to go to another event, or go to the Greek Festival, but on leaving I was struck by an awful pain in my foot.  I sat in the garden and took my sock off to see a damaged toenail, so I chickened out of more walking and decided to walk across the bridge to the city, go to the library (Why did I get so many heavy books!), went into the Mall and Target and bumped into a friend from some time ago, and we chatted. 

I headed back through the Mall (Oh, I missed the heavy rain too), to the bus stop and returned to the house at Paddington. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Future of Education

Last night I went to a lecture at Griffith University (South Bank Campus) - the speaker was Richard Katz speaking about education towards 2020!  It was very interesting to hear what he had to say, though I would have liked to have heard a little more detail about the future - there was a film about the history of education which was great too.  I spoke with him afterwards.

Attendees were given free GU library cards too - so shall have to visit the library there and see what it is like.  I will be back there again today for a post-grad event.

I left around 8 pm - walking alone down towards the bus station at QPAC.  Some rain - just a little.  Worth an umbrella.  There were a few people around, and the Big Wheel, was slowly doing its rotations, but there seemed to be very few, if any, people in it.  Rainy nights or days even, are not good for patrons on the big wheel.

It is so handy to catch the bus from Paddington to QPAC. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

My China memories

At the Gallery of Modern Art there is an exhibit which depicts a Shanghai supermarket.  A small one, one you are likely to find in the back streets, a small convenience store.  All the packaging was empty - but it gave people an opportunity to look at the products on the shelves, some of which was packaged such that the product would be familiar.  I think of OMO, Pantene, and so on. 

I remember the first time I went into a supermarket, opposite the college, late one night just after we arrived,and I was overwhelmed by all the Chinese writing and the 'unfamiliar' products.  I learned in time, to recognise the packaging,and yes, there is some English (more and more so) on the packages which makes it easier, but first glance, it is a challenge.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gallery of Modern Art

There is an amazing array of wonderful exhibits at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Where to next?

I am house sitting - at least for the next year as I complete my Master of Arts, and complete some writing tasks.  One work that I am almost completed is an e-book with information about teaching/living in China.

I set out to try and describe what life was like living and working in China, but I am already at around 10,000 words and there is not a lot of advice for would-be teachers, but it could be a good read.  It does attempt to describe the challenges of living and working in China, without scaring anyone off.  I would not set out to 'scare' anyone  but there are some things worth knowing before you go to China.

It is not a "free" country as we in the west would know it - the communist party members are everywhere, and sometimes there is a dislike of foreigners (laowai) so one needs to be careful about obeying the country's rules, and certainly any criminal or civil disobedience is not acceptable.  Still, I  keep writing.  When will it end?

Friday, 25 February 2011

Another teacher goes to China

I met briefly with another ESL teacher who is going to Shaoxing - she will be meeting up with the lady I am house sitting for.  They have been friends for years, and look forward to spending time together in China.

I had a funny experience last week when I was in South Australia.  I drove from Adelaide to Mt Gambier and back again (you can see some of my photos here.)  On the return journey I had to say overnight at Meningie (horrible motel, but awesome views of the lake!  Sunset and sunrise!)

I had planned to drive straight through but a major storm was brewing, so choose to remain there rather than drive on and risk driving through the heavy storm.  I set off the next morning at 7 am, and it allowed me to take a little time and look at Murray Bridge (the Princes Highway bypasses MB now), and also go into Hahndorf. 

Murray Bridge

Chinese fisherman and friend
I drove down to the river to take a few photos of there - I recall (vaguely) that I had been there as a child, so I was keen to see it. 

There beside the river were two men, and as I passed clicking with my camera, they waved and said "hello" - I looked a little closer as I waved back to see that both men were clearly of Asian origin.  I said "Are you from China?" and they replied "Yes", so I said "Ni  hao" (hello in Mandarin)

The response from them was more "ni hao's" and an excited speech in Mandarin that I did not understand.  "Tinboodong"

The older man (the fisherman - who had caught nothing at that point), spoke good English, but the younger man had little English.  It turns out they both come from Wuxi - not far really from where I was in Shaoxing.  It is closer to Shanghai.  They knew Shaoxing. 

Funny place to meet two Chinese guys who could have come from anywhere in that vast county!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Moving out

I am moving out the of the house sit today.  Just for a few weeks as the owner is coming home.  I meet her at the airport in the morning. 

I took knickers to Ipswich yesterday. I am pleased with my little effort to help those disadvantaged with the floods.  It has been quite a moving experience.  I had been to Ipswich just days before the big flood.  In fact the Bremer River was already in flood - but I saw for myself some of the damage it did later on when the river broke it's banks and poured the dirty sludge through the city.   Coles supermarket is being completed cleaned out - and will need a complete refit.  One can see other buildings around - shops, offices, etc closed - some are being rebuilt and others sport a notice - 'due to floods we have relocated to......"

I went to Ipswich early, then went to Wynnum. Met with a guy doing work on the history of the professional fishermen in the Wynnum area, and then eventually headed back to Paddington.

I had seen views of the Brisbane River and the city from the top of the cliffs of the Brisbane River at Kangaroo Point.  It was the site of what was Southbank TAFE - one of the very early TAFE colleges in Brisbane.  Recently it had been demolished and parklands developed there.  A nice looking cafe sits on the top of the cliffs giving diners a fantastic view up and down the river.  One day I will go there.

From the cliffs to the city.
I had time though to stop and take a few photos from the top of the cliffs.

Looking upriver from Kangaroo Point

Friday, 14 January 2011

From Expo 2010 - some of the farewell performance.

This is quite amazing!  Look at the musicians sitting on the invisible chairs.  How do they do it?

Monday, 3 January 2011

China? Not in 2011.

I had been procrastinating about going to China.  How I wish I could - but I had too many issues home in Australia to deal with, so here I will remain for 2011. Still though I can keep in touch with everyone, and with any luck can have one or two students stay with me later in the year.

My study will keep me going - and I may try to get some of my m/s finished/published this year.  As well I have a long to do list.  I don't make resolutions - but I have a lit of things I wish to accomplish during the year.  One of course is to do well at all subjects for Swinburne (Masters)  Perhaps by end of February 2012 I will be finished.

It looks like I could have some long term house sitting adventures, so I will wait and see - and save my dollars. 

Meanwhile I am reading a fantastic book about China.  Peter Hessler is a journalist in China, and has written several books.  The one I am reading now is "Country Driving" and he tells the tales of his driving around China.  It means a lot more to me having been there, and having some understanding of the complex Chinese culture, and while it is a big book, I am slowly wading through it - as well as coping with my studies.