Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Facebook Roundup

Time for reposting a few of my recent Facebook posts
Starting back in April we have this little gem of honesty from my class

This week's lesson for the seniors is is on the topic of Wildlife Protection. After developing some vocabulary there is a discussion exercise where I put various topics on the board and the groups talk about what they think of them. One of the topics is "eating kangaroo meat". It almost always meets with a chorus of disapproval but today one student said enthusiastically that eating kangaroo meat is just fine. I asked him why. He looked at me as if I was mad and then said, "It's China. We eat everything." Well, it's honest



 And here are a pair of posts, one from April and one from just two days ago that jointly illustrate the Chinese approach to the concept of Health And Safety - to wit, "What are Health and Safety"?

A fine example of the Chinese approach to health and safety in the workplace. I walk to and from school twice a day along the same route. Part of the way along it there is a man tearing up a fair-sized patch of concrete with a pneumatic drill. He's been there every time I've passed for the last week. The noise from the drill and from the compressor that's powering it is tremendous. Even from about fifty metres away it's loud enough to drown any conversation. He's working without ear defenders. Chips of loose stone are flying everywhere. He's working without goggles. He is almost invisible at times in the cloud of concrete dust. He's working without a breathing mask. And that same guy has been there at least eight hours a day for the last week. He seems to be about half way through his task. I dislike some of the practices of our nanny-state as much as the next guy but when I see things like that I realise that at least we try to protect our workers.

My apartment is having security cages fitted around the rear windows.They are fitting the security frame now and I can't watch. It's terrifying. One is leaning out of my (third floor) kitchen window, completely unsupported by anything, holding one end of the very heavy frame. Another is standing outside on the window ledge hauling the frame towards him with a rope. A third is hanging upside down from the apartment above me drilling holes in the outside wall. I don't know where the other two are. None of them are wearing any kind of safety gear and all of them are taking risks that no sane person would contemplate. That Chinese approach to health and safety really is something else.

And when they do have building work done,..

There's a hotel in Yangshuo that has called itself Fawlty Towers. It's reached up a short but steep flight of steps. I noticed recently that they are having some building work done., The builder had deposited a lorry load of bricks completely covering the steps leaving the only way in or out down a very step and narrow concrete slope. I couldn't help wondering if the famous Mr O'Reilly has moved his business to China. 

You know those apps that float around on Facebook? Well there's one that will guess your age from a photograph.

I'm not posting the picture but I just tried that app that's floating around where the software guesses your age and sex from a photograph. I put in a picture of me with my girlfriend. It got the sexes right, which I suppose is something but identified me as 72 (I'm 57) and her as 13 (She's... well she's... let's just say that she's considerably older than 13).

Even after four years I still get the occasional mishap when buying food.

I know it's just a matter of cultural conditioning but sometimes the Chinese combinations of food actually make me feel physically ill. Especially when I bite into them without knowing exactly what they are. You can guess how impressed I was to discover that what I had carelessly mistaken for a Swiss Roll was, in fact, filled with pork floss rather than jam.

And I also still get the occasional cheeky remark from my students.

Doing my "Cast away on a desert island" lesson this week. I always introduce it with a picture story of me and the class on a cruise which sinks. I get drowned and the class get cast away on the island. Today one student asked why the ship sank and another answered that it sank because "Bob is so fat."

Of course there were odd comments from students right back to the start of my career as a teacher.

Something in a thread on a Facebook group ,I follow just reminded me of my very first ever teaching job. Fresh off the CELTA I got a summer school job in Harrow. My first class were a class of Japanese kids aged about eleven. A few days in we played a game with them guessing jobs beginning with a letter of the alphabet. After a few jobs like Doctor and Teacher the letter that came up was "S". I chose a girl to answer and she thought for a moment and said, pronouncing it perfectly, "Sommelier".

And finally, today's note on the demise of another business.


Businesses come and go here at a dizzying rate. The Mimosa, my old breakfast haunt wasn't the first on that street to go - replaced by a trinket shop - as many that I remembered had disappeared even before I moved here to live. Demo bar followed, though it did re-open in new premises in a less convenient, but significantly cheaper, location. The supermarket across the street was gutted and turned into... well, into another supermarket, actually. The pharmacy on the corner has now also been stripped back to bare brick and I wait with interest to see what's going to replace it. Even the apartment block facing my window is no longer an apartment black but some kind of computer school.

Saddest is possibly the one I noticed on my way home last night. Cafe Too has gone. Sign down. Shutters up. Now I hardly ever used Cafe Too, just for the occasional pot of Osmanthus tea but it had something not available anywhere else in town. It had books. English books. Shelves and shelves of books which you could buy or which you could exchange, giving the owner two of your old ones and taking in exchange one of the many others left by former travellers. With Cafe Too gone there is now nowhere to get English books. Many bars and restaurants have a few but he had thousands. I wonder what's happened to them.

That's all for now. Sometime soon, I'll do another "blog exclusive" rather than Facebook reposts.
Bye for now.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Sleeping Flowers

(Reposted from FB)

I was out yesterday visiting a school where my company wants to place some teachers. I was with my Chinese colleague who had with him his three year old daughter. Early in the day she picked some wild flowers that she carried around with her for the next several hours. As the day went on they started to wilt and she looked at them very seriously and then said something in Chinese. Her father translated. "She says that the flowers are sleeping." Suddenly there was a loud shout from her. Her father translated again. "She just told them to wake up."

My Birthday Week

(Reposted from FB)


All in all a pretty good birthday week.

Long walk in the countryside on a sunny day on Sunday.
All my classes went really well. Most of them sang Happy Birthday to me.
Great open mic night down at the Lounge on Tuesday with enough performers that we could probably do a cover version of "We Are The World".
Good night at Demo on Thursday, even if the quiz was insanely hard (excluding the bonus round we only scored four and a half out of thirty. The winning team only got about nine.)
Got out of class today to find the department had bought me a big birthday cake.
Went to dinner with some of our office staff tonight at a great local Indian restaurant.
Unexpectedly, in addition to a carved musical box from Teresa, I got presents of wine, chocolate, coffee, an electric razor and a portable phone charger from people I work with.
I don't usually do that well back home.

And speaking of that Indian meal, I am constantly amazed at just how cheap eating out here is. Between us we had eight large vegetable samosas, two large cheese naans and two large butter naans, two large plates of Onion pakora, six different mains with rice, four beers and a banana lassi and in total it clocked in at thirty-five quid. And this is one of Yangshuo's more expensive restaurants. All of it (except maybe the local beer) was delicious.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Tomb Sweeping Day

Yesterday I decided to go for a walk along a section of road that I have never tried before. Normally I hate walking around here because it's all on busy roads with no pedestrian paths and it's smelly, noisy and dangerous. This part wasn't though. I wish I'd discovered it before. This weekend is the Chinese "Tomb Sweeping" holiday, when people go to the graves of their loved ones and clean them and leave flowers and other offerings. The walk took me past an area of cemeteries that, on another day, I probably wouldn't have noticed. Unlike our cemeteries, these were hillsides of small tombs around which there were whole families wielding machetes and spades and other tools and lighting candles and leaving all kinds of offerings: bottles of baijiu, flowers and -  at one that I saw - a whole roast chicken. Looking up into the nearby karst mountains I could see distant bands of figures climbing unseen paths to reach even higher tombs.
When I had passed them by I found myself, though still on a road, in an area of small villages and farms where everything was green and beautiful. There was traffic but not too much, and here and there mysterious side roads led off to other places. The weather was bright and wonderful but the constant sight of mourners put me in a melancholy mood so that as I walked I was remembering my own parents and wishing I could be home to leave flowers at their grave and wondering if anyone has cleared the flowers that I left when I visited in February. 
After some time I came out of my reverie and realised that I had been walking along this tree-lined route for almost two hours. It's a there-and-back walk rather than a circular one so I turned and started back, enjoying the new perspective as I returned to town for a late lunch and a bottle of beer. 
I shall certainly go that way again and explore some of the side roads. It's the first truly pleasant walking experience that I have found in this area. And now, some pictures.