October 1st is the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China - the country I currently call home. I was one of five teachers from the whole of Yunnan (pop: 50 million) invited to attend the Provincial Government's celebratory banquet in the swanky Green Lake Hotel. A very formal do. I even had to wear my one and only tie!
It was the usual affair. Men in black suits mixing with others from minority groups and nearby countries dressed in their ethnic costumes. A mercifully succinct speech extolling the glories of China kicked off the event. The food was quality over quantity, but more important were the various dignitaries going from table to table toasting each other. Then, after 90 minutes, it was announced that the reception was over and, within a few minutes, the fancy dining room had been vacated and people slowly drifted off home. All very Chinese!
But for all the cultural oddities, it is genuinely a really nice gesture to invite various foreigners along to what is, essentially, an event for patriotic Chinese to revel in the successes of their country. The respect and gratefulness of Chinese people towards foreigner workers can contrast strongly with the attitude to immigrants seen in many other countries...
JD's Primary School continues to be an education to me, if not to JD. Can this really be the top school in the city?? Today the teacher posted photos showing how "well-behaved and happy" the students are. Really?? They look scared and bored to me. JD's first three weeks seem to have been all about "control", with very little actual education. The kids get marked every day - with all the grades being sent to all the parents by phone. Most kids get "As" but JD usually gets "Bs". Why? Well, one day it was for "holding his pencil for a few seconds too long when the teacher had told pupils to put them down". Another day it was for "looking at the textbook when the teacher was talking". And another was for "raising his hand inappropriately to answer a question".
As a ex Primary School teacher myself, the "rows and columns" seating and the publicly published minor infringements seem all about the teacher keeping strict control, rather than having any education value. And woe betide any parents who fail to complete the multiple forms, the homework signing sheets or book purchases. They want control of us too!
[And if you're wondering where JD is in the picture above, we were told he was having a unscheduled trip to the toilet ...another "B"!!]
Electric bikes are a huge part of life in Kunming. If I had to drive JD to school each morning by car it would take over 40 minutes, with many traffic jams on the way. By e-bike, it's 15 minutes. So it's alarming that the local government have recently announced that e-bikes will be phased out over the next 3-4 years. The car traffic, and associated pollution, will surely increase as a result. Crazy.
However, the downside of scooters is, of course, the safety factor. Although I've been driving one for five years without major incident, we were confronted with the reality of the danger a couple of days ago when an e-bike, speeding past us in a bus lane, lost control and crashed into our car. He wasn't wearing a helmet and suffered a bleeding head wound and bruising. Thankfully, nothing worse. In China, the law says that the "larger" of any two vehicles in a collision is automatically at fault, regardless of the actions or situation. Fortunately for us, though, the injured e-biker immediately insisted it was all his fault and even offered to pay for the repair of our car's dent. We declined that offer but were mightily relieved to see him driving away. It could have been a whole lot worse.
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
I was asked to do some oral English work today to help prepare half a dozen young men and women for their all-important IELTS exam which they need to pass to be able to study abroad. Unfortunately, the list of possible subjects to talk about had been translated from Chinese by a computer and most of the mangled topics left me scratching my head. See if you can work them out. My top ten . . .
JD and I attended a foreign teachers' Mid-Autumn Festival activity the other day to make traditional mooncakes. Other teachers also brought their kids and together we had a sticky, but successful, time with the finished products look pretty professional and tasting jolly good too. My Vietnamese friend Cao [to my right, below] came with her two kids (FeiJi and YoLun) and we realised it was exactly a year since we first met (at last year's cake event).
JD's latest obsession is playing Monopoly. He has a firm grasp on the rules and tactics, but does favour the green set above all others. We've been playing almost every day of late, sometimes twice in a row. It's great for his Maths and English. He charged me £26 yesterday for landing on his property before spotting he had the whole set and immediately saying, "Oh no, £52! And on the e-bike to school this morning he suddenly asked me what "annuity matures" means! He only wins about one game in four at the moment though and has to choke back the tears when his houses get removed.
Last week was a steep learning curve both for JD and his parents! He has had multiple random and nonsensical school rules to get used to while learning dance routines for hours every day. Meanwhile Jiajia has had to trawl through well over 50 texts a day from the school ranging from what the maths homework is (received at 9.40pm - to be handed in the next day) to how the school expects pencils to be sharpened. We are trying to bite our tongues, especially in front of JD, but it seems like Chinese schools are indeed as disorganised and petty as we'd been led to believe.
JD managed to get 10/10 "thumbs up" stickers most days last week. He had a bit of a wobble on Tuesday, getting told off for "whispering in class", "not dancing energetically enough" and "allowing his elbow to lose contact with his desk while trying to volunteer an answer"!? We had to apologise to the teacher and give JD a "stern" reprimand at home!? To try and get back into the teacher's good books, we have agreed to let JD represent the school in an "English Speaking Competition". Fingers crossed!
About the blogger
Past blog entries