Happy 2014! I guess I have some catching up to do on things. First, New Year’s was fairly unimpressive. I went to the Hong Kong restaurant with my friend J and his girl friend. We had gotten to know the owner while he was getting prepared to open the restaurant on New Year’s Eve. He offered to pay for the bill of dinner on opening night. I was not going to pass up the offer. So, we go. Sadly things were not great. First, we were seated in the middle of the restaurant. And, all the customers were staring at the foreigner in the restaurant. Yes….Me. I was not happy about this. I wanted a nice quiet evening with some friends. Then it took forever to order. They are using I Pads for their menus. You place your order on the computer from the table and the order is supposed to be placed automatically. Well, it took us three times. Finally, we wrote it down on paper and gave it to the waitress. My friends’ food came out, but mine did not. I have to say one thing here. In China, the food is brought to your table as it is prepared and ready. So, some people get their food before others. Not like in the USA when the entire table’s order is brought out together. My friends began to eat. They said the food was not as good as the original Hong Kong food. And, my food never came out. I quietly put on my jacket and told my friends that I was going to go elsewhere to eat as I was hungry. I told them to finish their meals and have a nice date together. And, I left. I went to another restaurant that we attended on Christmas for dinner. They have some of the best ribs that I have ever had. And, I had a beer. It was a great meal, even though I ate alone.
That was the extent to my New Year’s. I saw some fireworks that were pretty good. But, the real fireworks to see will be at the end of the month when China celebrates Chinese New Year’s. I am excited to spend my first Spring Festival in China. It should be pretty wonderful.
School finished today, at least for the foreign teachers. We spent the past two weeks giving oral exams to the kids. It was not very fun. Most of the kids have prepared “speeches” that they had learned in classes. I asked several kids to tell me about Halloween. Almost verbatim, they said the same thing. It went something like this, “Halloween is on October 31st (sometimes they told me it was December 25th). It is an American holiday. There are parties, pumpkin lanterns, and masks. Kids dress up as ghosts (no other costumes….just ghosts). Kids knock on doors and they say Trick or Treat. They get sweets. If they do not get sweets, the play tricks”. Then there were standard answers such as “Because it is interesting”, “It is delicious”, “I play computer games”, and other standard responses. When I asked them to tell me about Spring Festival, many student’s speeches began the same way. They would say “Spring Festival is China’s most important festival”. I would stop them there and ask them why it was the most important. They could not answer me because it is not something they memorized. They just knew it was the most important. So, for two weeks, I was frustrated. You hate to give poor grades to them, but the majority should actually fail in the Oral English exams. I am wondering if my program I had taught all term did any good. I will review my program over the break and try to find ways to break them of their bad habits. It will be a work in progress. But, I am battling the exams that they are expected to pass and teachers who only teach to the exams. These kids cannot think for themselves outside of what they are taught. For those in the USA who have children, keep this in mind as our education has moved to teaching to exams models. It does terrible things to these kids. Creativity, imagination, critical thinking, debating, verbal skills, reading skills, grammar understanding, and so many other things lose importance. The focus is all about the material that will be on the exams. We are doing the kids in the USA a huge disservice with our education system of testing to exams.
My friend and I will be going on vacation together. We are headed to South China where we hope it will be a bit warmer. The trip there will require us to spend an entire 24 hours on a train. I just hope we find a sleeper car. We plan to go to Guilin where there are limestone pillars forged from rivers and some ethnical villages. There are also rice terraces in the hillside and other things to see along the way. After Guilin, I want to go to Macau. It is the Las Vegas of Asia. But, I want to go for a different reason. The area was under Portuguese control many years ago and there are many museums, architecture and cathedrals in the area that should be very interesting. If time permits, we will take a ferry from Macau to Hong Kong and spend a day or two to see some of the sites there. I can only travel for about 10 days. I have to get back to Ganyu to get my visa renewed for the next year’s contract. I will also attend a friend’s wedding and then go to Beijing to teach some high school students for two weeks. So, my winter break will be pretty busy. Look for many postings of pictures, stories, and maybe a video clip or two.
Some minor notes:
- Apparently when the new mall and cinema opens next month, the old cinema will be torn down making way for a new Wal-Mart….Woo Hoo!. I heard recently on the news here that China opens no fewer than 7 new cinemas per DAY. Yes, per day. Amazing.
- I think I finally discovered what the trash people who empty our trash cans into their bicycle carts do with the trash. It is something that I had wondered for a while. I think there are trash compactors throughout the city that they take the trash to and unload their cart into the compactors. Then a trash truck will empty the compactors.
- This is not minor, but I think the company I work for is finally firing one of our teachers who seems to always be negative and saying and doing things in class that is not appropriate. John was offered a new contract. But, I think that was done by mistake. And, today, I understand that they were going to offer him an opportunity to teach at a school in Inner Mongolia or leave the company. No one really wants to work there as it is very isolated. So, my guess is that John will not be with us when the new term begins. One cannot keep burning bridges and expect the fires to remain under control.
- My friend and co-worker Jim asked me to give him some basic cooking demonstrations. So, last night I showed him how to make beef, chicken, fried chicken, French fries, how to cut a pineapple, and fried rice. The fried rice was a flop. I could not get a good flavor for it. But, overall, it was a good dinner. And, Jim can now cook some basic foods at home.