So You Want To Travel China?

His pounding, popping and stretching to make noodles. Defy delicious.

Maybe you plan to visit China at some point. Hit the high spots, The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace…yawn. You must be in Beijing and you must be the typical tourist. If you do, also see the home of Confucius( Kong Zi 孔子), there are about 10,000 different places he slept, was born, and ate in. Yes, there are tourist traps here as well. If you really want to see China, don’t go to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing or any of the coastal cities. Those cities are developed. Instead go to someplace like Wuhan and then and only then begin to visit the tiny cities North, South, East and West of there. Places like Ezhou, Huangpi, Huangshi, Huanggang, Daye, visit every market, nook and cranny. You’ll be astonished, surprised and delighted at what you find, few if any changes. Oh, yeah, there’ll be the new hotel or a new apartment complex. But just a stones throw away is the farmer leading his ox across a field of rice or better yet down the road in traffic. This is the real China, folks are still planting rice the same way they did 1000 years ago. And using the same tools as well. It will take your breath away. And you will then be a true believer in time travel 🙂

Good News For Hubei Institute of Technology

Good news!!! We are now Hubei Institute of Technology(located in Huangshi, Hubei, China). The university has worked very hard to upgrade, building new facilities, recruiting the best teachers and of course recruiting the best students :). So here’s to our new status. May everyone benefit from having better classrooms, better football fields and a university that really cares about its students. And a big thanks to the manager of foreign teachers: Elsa. She is simply the best!!!

Best Time of the Year

Final exams are over! Whew! The agony and the ecstasy all in one. However, students view all of it as a worthy task, just to know that Spring Festival is around the corner. Everyone is happy. The mass migration back home has begun. It is the most amazing time of the year. This Lunar New Year is the Year of the Dragon, both here in China and in Japan. You will not see more shopping, more travel, more food than any other time. I have eaten meat(fish, beef, pork, chicken) and a few vegetables for every meal and snacks in between. Last year I stayed in Fujian province in a small mountain 张芬村  village( zhang fen cun) in  上杭县 county  ( shang hang xian ) about two hours by bus northwest of Longyan. It was a very memorable time. Mark’s mom is the best cook in the entire village. And I had the honor of being the first and only foreigner to visit the village in history. I wish all my friends in China and Japan a very happy Spring Festival. May you have the best health and be prosperous in the New Year. Forget all the past problems, do your best. Love your family. And thanks to my friend Zhang Yun Chuan, he has helped make my life in China one I will never forget. Good luck to all of my students!!!

Follow Your Dreams

I have been very lucky to come back to Huangshi College of Science and Technology, in Huangshi City, Hubei Province, China. I see my students who were just freshman when I left to teach at Wuhan University of Science and Technology City College. They are now more confident and brave. And getting ready to face life’s challenges. I talked to one and he said that he knows he must get a job but still would hope to have his own company someday. I agreed with him. He will be successful, he has that passion to be his best but he also wants to dream. So I told him to work for a company and hold to his dream. I told my English class today to hold to their dreams. Dreams help to fuel the passion for life within us. It gives us hope for a better and brighter tomorrow. Youth has that eternal flame that never goes out. Always striving for something beyond the status-quo. So I told them to continue to dream and hope. Dreams are the spice of life with which we face day to day living. We should balance life with work, dreams, passion and responsibility. My student will succeed in this. I am very proud of all of them. Keep dreaming. : )

Silence is NOT Golden

Happy to speak English "outside" the classroom!

There’s that moment when the new EFL teacher walks into class for the first time, introduces himself/herself, tells a funny joke to break the ice and then SILENCE. That first time an EFL teacher realizes that no one is talking, no coaxing, nothing, they just aren’t talking can be very unnerving and the silence is deafening. Yes, the new EFL teacher is thinking what have I gotten myself into. They try one thing and then another to get the students to respond, but still nothing. It has something to do with a combination of group approval, not losing face and being shy about speaking English. The Asian student is unlike a western student in that a western student will usually speak up by themselves not worrying about any consequences about making a mistake. The Asian student wants to make sure that the answer they give is not just correct but that most if not all of his classmates would agree with him/her. So rather than lose face making a pronunciation mistake or risking disapproval the class remains deathly silent. The resolute and quick witted teacher will look for that one opener that will spark conversation. Today I noticed the problem with a group when we began to discuss something a little bland, sometimes I’ll backpedal into something else but I really wanted the students to discuss the topic of Chinese Calligraphy – National Treasure. So I decided to play devils advocate and suggest that it may not be that important. And maybe it should not be funded. Wow! That got the ball rolling. You might have thought I had told them that China wasn’t the oldest country in the world or that they hadn’t invented paper! It was a rollercoaster ride after that and we enjoyed a spirited discussion of the important role calligraphy has played in China. One more note about getting students to talk, just be patient, let them warm up. It takes time, patience, encouragement and understanding. But once done right it opens up into some of the most wonderful conversations, story telling and best of all practical English speaking by all!

EFL Resources

Chinese Crosstalk xiàngsheng 相声

Today I was discussing Chinese Crosstalk( xiàngsheng 相声 , literally, “face and voice” )  with my EFL class. It’s something you might see on CCTV during Spring Festival or holiday and very popular. It’s a kind of satire that comes from two or more people talking down to each other, usually one takes the upper hand but not always. Imagine Abbott and Costello doing “Who’s on First” in Chinese and you get a rough idea. However, it’s not strictly satire, but one speaker may point out the other’s shortcomings, or they may talk about social issues, political issues or just something the audience might consider funny. Usually performed and watched by older audiences, I was informed by my university students that a younger generation has taken up the torch and that they, the students, watch it also. I have two students who can do this but only in Chinese. I am trying to coax them into doing Crosstalk  in English so I can enjoy. And also so they can get practice with English. 

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