Saturday, 20 October 2012

Book for Prospective English Teachers

A friend has written a book about her adventures in China, called China or Bust!   She and I were in China at the same time - though she was there earlier.  She and her husband went first together, though later she was on her own.

(Not a good photo of me, but here I am at the Graduation hall)
We both completed our Master of Arts (Writing) together at Swinburne University in Melbourne, and recently both went for our Graduation.

You can purchase a hard copy or as an e-book from Amazon.  Click here 

It is a good read - hopefully my book on my adventures will soon be completed.

You can check on Lana's blog here 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Do I remember him?

It is over two years since I left China after my last tour of duty at Shaoxing, so it was quite surprising to find an email in my inbox.

"Do you remember me? I am one of your students"  The name was not familiar, but I knew it was not Chinese - more middle eastern, which suggested he might have been in the school at Keqiao where I taught one night a week.

I replied, asking him  to give me more information.   He replied with the name of the school, in Keqiao.  So I was right.

There were not many non Chinese students in the school, but Keqiao is a big textile city - I recall the huge piles of bolts of fabric in the streets each night as I was drive past on my way to class.

There was one student I remember well.  Who could forget a student with 27 brothers and sisters? His father had several wives - some remained in Pakistan, but he had one or two with him.  He was a wealthy man in the rag trade, and his son was learning English to further the business.

I replied to him.  "Do you have 27 brothers and sisters?"

His reply "Yes, you do remember me."

My reply "I certainly do."

His next reply "I am in Dubai on bissniss"

My reply "English lesson - we spell it business"

Once  a teacher, always a teacher.

I wonder if I will hear from him again, and why, after two years he has chosen to correspond with me.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


When I returned from China in 2010, I set out to study.  I had learned of a Master of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, and duly applied and was accepted.  Since September 2010 it has been the focus of my life.  Most of my assignments were submitted on time, except one, because in the midst of the semester my father passed away, and I found it difficult to focus on my study.  I eventually completed the work several weeks ago and waited with fear and trepidation to see if I had made it over the line.

Fortunately I did.  So last Monday night I received a message, that I could indeed apply for graduation in September.  Yippee.

Now I can focus on my writing! And my other plans.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Literacy and Numeracy

Is it an indication of our poor schooling these days?  Or so many Australians whose first language is not English?  Either way, there are so many errors in publications, signs etc, that there surely should be more work for those who are trained to assist with the English language.

Reading a property sales brochure today I came across this one.


The real estate agency, one would hope, had better spellers for their official documents.

What do you think?  Do you often spot errors in newspapers or websites?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Esk and Fernvale

I've been 'itching' to take my car for a longer drive. My driving so far has been around the city and suburbs, and I felt like a long drive, so this morning I set off for Esk.  Of course I have been through this part of the Lockyer Valley, but it was a long time ago.

I set off just before 9 am, heading down the Motorway and across to the Ipswich Motorway.   There was a good deal of traffic - plenty of trucks and I reminded myself that I had not been on a 'country' road for a long time.

The weather was almost perfect for such a journey - cool, and quite windy around the city, but out where I went, it was not as windy.  My destination was Esk.  I do like that name.  I'd forgotten that from the Warrego Highway one has to pass through Fernvale.  It was here I made my first stop.

I did buy a meat pie at the famed Fernvale Bakery and did plan to go back and take a photo, but passed by on my return trip forgetting my promise.  The Bakery has won over 100 Awards for their pies, and the place is just wonderful.  Indoors it is warm and welcoming, and they have a good outdoor eating area too, and public toilets.

However, I do plan another trip soon - they have good markets on a Sunday, so I will make the journey in the next month or so, to see the markets.

I went for a short drive and found this house.  I had a quiet giggle to myself.  See the downpipe into the water tank?  See the old airconditioner in the window of the old house/  I love seeing the old country places and the corrugated iron 'features'!

Lovely old wooden church in Fernvale

Main street of Fernvale


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

I remember.....

It was on June 4th, in 1989, that something awful happened in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.  I won't dwell on it here.  I remember being in Tiananmen Square in 2010 and a cold chill running through my body as I recalled the images in the press of that awful day.  Let it not be forgotten.

Monday, 4 June 2012

China or Bust

A friend of mine has published her story about teaching in China, calling it "China or Bust."  Christine writes under the name of Lana Kerr.  The book is available on Amazon.

She and I had quite different experiences.  She went with her husband, which is clearly of benefit when taking on living in a strange country where the language is impossible to understand or read when you first arrive.

I went alone, but fortunately my contract was with a university that had a large number of foreign teachers, and some 10 or so from Australia, if my memory serves me right.  At least there were plenty who spoke English, and some had been there for a while.

Christine/Lana also did not appear to live on campus, but had the challenge of living in housing surrounded by other Chinese, and without the support that I had.

She tells the story of going to China, and offers advice and suggestions for people looking at going there.

I am also currently reading Peter Hessler's book "River Town" which details a completely different story of an English Teacher in China.  He went to a city called Fuling, in the Yangtze River Valley, a city on the banks of the river, but so steep that going up and down stairs to shops was the order of the day.  There were no bicycles as it was too steep!!!

Both books are available on

Lana's book can be found here.

Peter's book can be found here.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Friends visiting

In 2010 I had the honour of hosting two students from the university at which I taught.  They came to Australia on their own and with the support of International TESOL College, and while they stayed with host families, I had them during the day from Monday to Friday.

It was fun and tiring.  There were so many adventures, and one which rather shocked me.  When teaching in China, we are given instructions not to discuss politics, and religion with the students.  Though there was one student who wore a t-shirt with a photo of the tank about to run over the student, whom I warned to take care.  Actually he disappeared.  Whether he was taken from the school, or his father (who knew his son's obsession with that dark time in China's history) took him from the school.  I don't know.

Still, when Rita and Mandy came to Australia I did not set out to tell them anything about Chinese history that we know.  However, one of the host mothers 'saw it as her duty to tell them about it', and showed the video of the massacre on the Internet.

One morning, not long after I picked them up, Rita asked me if I knew what happened at Tienanmen Square.  I stopped the car - somewhat in shock.  We spoke for a short while about it.  The girls were rather traumatised to learn about it, and shocked that in their own country the information would be hidden from them.  I think they started to learn, how information is censored in China.  Rita phoned her father in China, and asked him, and reluctantly he told her that he had heard it happened, but they just didn't talk about the past.

Later this one one of my other students will visit Australia.  I look forward to that experience.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Nick off Spammers

I don't know why this blog gets more than its fair share of spamming from idiots who think that they can made a comment, slip in a stack of links to their own sites.  But luckily Blogger/Blogspot deletes them for me.  

Crazy stuff

When I was in China - I think perhaps the second 'tour of duty' I heard that Li Yang, the creator of Crazy English was holding a rally at Yuexiu.  I had not heard a lot about this program until then, but read up about it.

His story, which he told at the rally, was that he had failed a number of English exams, and frustrated he went out somewhere and shouted out his words in English, and found out that he was able to learn them better.  He shouted out some of the things that he had to learn, subsequently went on to have great success in his English exams, and thus created "Crazy English" giving talks and rallies all around China.  Subsequently he had a successful business and has become very wealthy.

On the day of the rally at Yuexiu, I was keen to find out all about it, and hid in the gardens near the outdoor stage where he was presenting.  Strangely enough, at one point, he had the crowd all yelling out and he took a short break from the stage, wandered into the garden and 'found' me.  He dragged me (well, I was reluctant!!!) on stage, and I had to speak a little. I can't recall now what it was - it was all over in a few minutes but his staff thanked me and gave me a signed photograph of him, which is probably somewhere in my archives.

At the university there were several Crazy English groups, as the students tried to overcome their shyness and gain confidence in their English pronunciation.  I worked with several of them.  It was very crazy, as some of the stuff that was in their books was stupid.  Many words of power - typical Chinese 'anthems' I suppose.

It is nearly two years since I have even thought about Crazy English, until today, when I was watching an ABC program featuring stories about Asia.  One of the stories was about Li Yang abusing his wife, American born Kim Lee.

Apparently, he is accused of bashing his wife, and eventually she came out and told the story on Weibo (microblog popular in China), and as a result has 'opened a can of worms'.  It is believed that more than 1 in 4 wives in China face domestic violence.  Remember, this culture has had a long history of treating their women differently than in the west.  Read any book about life in China, and you will understand more.

Reading an article in the Shanghaist website is interesting - suggesting Li Yang did not marry his wife for love or romance, but as an experiment.  Read it here.

According to the story, Kim Lee, was prepared to stay with him, if he went to therapy, which he subsequently refused after initially agreeing to.

In any case, it has raised the issue of domestic violence - and this is being discussed more widely in China.

Article in Daily Mail
Article in Huffington Post
Article People's Daily on-line

So, will China legislate to make domestic violence illegal?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

International Women's Day

What I big day I had - I shared with fellow member of 5W the story of  Qiu Jin who is described as the "Chinese Joan of Arc" (1875 - 1907), a radical women's rights activist who defied tradition to become the leader of a revolutionary army in China.

She was a prolific writer and also wrote

"With all my heart I beseech and beg
my two hundred million female compatriots
to assume their responsibility as citizens.
Arise! Arise! Chinese women, arise!

This is from the website - and I recommend that readers purchase the DVD of the documentary.  It is fascinating.

I have a special connection with Qui Jin, but I regret I did not know the story until I had left China.  In Jie Fang Lu, Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province China, is a statue, that says something like Qui Jin, Martyr in English and other words in Chinese.

I did know that there was a museum to honour her, but I didn't get there.  It is not far from the statue, but I was not taken there, nor did I hear anything about her.

It is on my bucket list.  I must go and see the museum.

However, I was able to share the story with my friends from 5W yesterday, and afterwards we went to the China City Seafood Restaurant, on the ground floor of the Chifley Hotel, in the Mall, for Yum Cha.

I had another function in the city in the afternoon - a Writing Workshop with Thea Biesheuvel for the Society of Women Writers, Queensland.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Keeping in Touch

Isn't the Internet wonderful?   It enables me to keep in touch with students from Yuexiu University in Shaoxing.  Mostly the students contact me via email, but there are several with access to Skype so I can speak with them or 'converse' via text messages.

A couple are hoping to come to Australia later this year - so it will be good to catch up with them.  In 2010 there were two students that I spent a lot of time with - they were very good friends, and between them had decided to spend a lot of time with 'foreign teachers' to benefit their English skills.

They were lovely girls - though sometimes you would find them a bit 'in your face' - they'd be lurking somewhere to find a foreign teacher, and not always did you want to include them in your activities, but mostly we did without complaint.

Last year I heard from one of them that their friendship had fractured.  In part it may have been that they came from different worlds - one came from a family with money, and the other from a very poor family.  As is usual in China, the more wealthy girl and her family would have been generous to the other, and I really have no idea what caused 'the split'.  Part of it may have been that the less affluent parents chose to put their daughter in a school that was not so expensive.

Still, both girls correspond with me.  That I am pleased about, and I don't mention the other.  Maybe one day they will get together again.  Who knows.

Friendships in China with students - male or female are very close.  If they are at school/college together, they will probably board in the same room - 8 or 9 students crammed into a tiny space with limited cupboard space, one table, a couple of chairs, and of course mostly bunk beds.

Another student was accepted into the Communist Party (it is not easy to get into the party), and as a result he was given his own apartment.  As a result, his dorm mates were no longer his constant companions, and indeed he rued the day he went t live alone, without friends.

He still communicates with me.  His parents (who are not wealthy) are very proud of his achievements and not only the joining of the party, but he has been very successful in study and part time employment. Some days he is not all that sure he has made wise decisions, but to change direction now would upset his family.

As I said, it is good to keep in touch with them.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

It's been almost a month...

since I last posted here.  My study is drawing to a close and my house sitting will continue for several more months, but I am looking at some options for teaching English in Asia towards the end of the year.

China is out - as I am over their age limit now - but there are opportunities in Asia and some in Australia.  I'm just not ready yet.

I am still in touch with some of my Chinese students from Shaoxing, and one thought is to visit there - perhaps not until early next year.  March/April is best - to avoid the cold and the heat, so I will factor that into my plans.

My major writing projects at the moment include a biography and a m/s on Bamboo.  So much to do, but in the next few weeks I travel to Perth, Western Australia, then up the coast to Dongara, before returning to Perth, and then to Adelaide for a couple of day, then back to Brisbane for around a week and then off to Bali to do some research on Bamboo.

I have not given up plans to teach English in Asia.  Just watch this space.