Time to get to work...

Trip Start Aug 05, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of China  , Zhejiang Sheng,
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

[I usually rewrite the newest entries 10 times or more,  so if you can read this, please come back and check on it in a few days]

 Tuesday morning, headed off to school and realized my scooter batteries were D-E-P-L-E-T-E-D!  So I kept the speed down and coasted into building 7 about 15 minutes early.  Went up to room 410 and realized that my class was in room 410 but in building 2.   So I walked to building 2 and made it to room 410 just in time for class.   There were 43 happy students waiting for me (I was on time),  they usually show up ten minutes before class starts.   This is in contrast of waiting 15 minutes for the students to slowly drag themselves into my class back in the US..   Although disipline shouldn't be an issue,  teaching "oral English" to that number is.   Cambridge University, the worlds leader in "Oral English" teacher certification recommends a class size of 16 maximum since the object is to get each student to pronounce their words correctly.  With 42 students this just isn't possible.  I have always had to adapt my teaching when faced with impossible directives so I should be ok,  but I am concerned about the students who really want to learn.  They won't progress much in this circumstance.    I might have an extra "English Corner" session for those serious students who need me to evaluate and help them pronounce certain words.  It's hard to volunteer extra free time considering what they pay me,  but I really have to if these kids are to get anything out of this class.  After class I barely made it home on dead batteries and plugged the bike into it's charger for the next 90 minutes.

When I came home my new pet "Vinnie" came alive and started dancing around, knowing that I was going to feed him (but probably out of boredom too);  he seems so happy in his new home when compared to the tiny cup of dirty water he was previously in.   The plant is kind of nice in it's own pet-like way.   This apartment can use more pure oxygen and a few plants are just the trick (I just can't afford any more so I'll grow some from cuttings.)   When you are at a place for a short time,  one shouldn't buy too much stuff.   

   I had 1 1/2 hours to eat the rest of the "SPAM Curry"  (which is quite excellent as you might have heard),  surf the net a bit,  allow my shirt to dry out,  then head back down the 5 flights of steps to jump on the E-Bike and run back to school as planned. Went to start the bike in order to go to my last class, and the fickin' thing had been unplugged!  I assumed some bastard unplugged it,  but since they didn't steal the charger who knows? (I swear I remember plugging the damn thing in [but I'm old]).     I did have  ten minutes to plug it back in, but thats not much really,  which would put me in a position to be almost late to class (if I got to class at all)?.  

  The battery was low as hell when I headed back,  so I kept the speed to 12 to 15 kph,  but was running on red the entire time.  By the time I cripped in to my parking area at the school,  some janitor pointed (correctly) that I needed to park 50 feet away where the other e-bikes were.   I pointed at the plug and showed him my depleted electricity meter and he motioned me to come inside the building with my bike.   He showed me an area where there were four places to charge the batteries,  but all were taken.   I just parked there w/o plugging in,  then ran to class and got there just in time again,  but all but one of my students were already there.    This class was fun but couldn't speak English as well as most of my other classes.   I can see that I have some work cut out for me.     After class I went back to my bike and the other spaces were STILL taken,  so I moved my bike to the desk where the policeman usually sits, and parked the bike behind his desk and plugged her in (I had to get home somehow?).  I sat at the cops desk and read a book for an hour w/o any hassle,  then headed to the local produce store in order to make dinner
 .   At the store an attractive lady walked by and said "It sure is hot in here today",  which is true since the grocery stores shut off their AC when the outside gets cooler,  I spoke to her for awhile but her English soon ran out (or my charm)...  Its nice the number of Chinese who want to talk with me each day.   Back in the Hangzhou tourist area,  most said nothing to me unless they needed money.   Xiasha is a great place,  the students are from all around China,  and most Chinese here are fun, helpful,  and friendly.   Can't see living in some touristy area like Shanghai or Chengdu.    Give me Xiasha.  It's all Chinese up in here!   They don't see enough "Lao Wei" to try to impose a double standard of pricing.   This is not true in touristy places.   

Got an E-mail from "Chris" my Kiwi friend telling me that my  taylor made "Chinese suit" was finished and he had it for me.   It's a traditional Chinese Evening Jacket,  all black silk with a dragon brocade;   the interior is red silk and came complete with three inside pockets,  all as well done as the finest Western Suit.   I also bought a taylor made shirt that the same Taylor made for $40,  which is the nicest button down shirt that I have.   Once the Chinese women get wind of this stylage,  I'll be fighting them off on a daily basis!    One of my Kiwi friends is 68 and has a 43 year old wife.  Yeah,  one can't really have enough Kiwi's around I've always said.  I will extend this to the Chinese as well.   

Taught my last intro to Oral English lesson today which means I begin week 2 of teaching tomorrow.   I plan to start them off when an ice-breaker round of "Hangman",  then teach them the basics of debate for the next 30 minutes.   After the 45 minute break we will work on Rankings I.E. (rank these jobs in order of stress intensity).    Tough for me to hear the students since I have had the ceiling fans cranked up the past week.   I plan to use the microphone system so I can hear them beginning tomorrow.

Came home around 11:30 and begin finishing my black beans and started a cooker full of rice. After a nap I get this phone call around 1:00 PM from a student who runs the English corner,  so I put my cooking on hold and headed back to the school.    Once I got there I realized that it wasn't mandatory and only 2 other English teachers showed up.   The students appreciated us so much and all students were invited,  which gave me a chance to meet Senior level and above students rather than only Freshmen.   I like Freshmen but it's nice to meet some older kids,  their English is better as well.    I plan on having a second English corner next school week but more focused on playing games.   I plan to learn to play the game "Mah Jong" and I want for some of our local guitar players to hang around and play pass the guitar.   I don't mind this at all,  I have many hours of free time.   

Came home around 4 PM and finished making the beans and rice,  so another home cooked meal in China plus another round for Dinner around 9:00 PM.   I am loving this cooking thing and plan to do much more next week's holiday "National Week".   

Today is my second lesson to Thursdays students and taught the "Hangman" and beginning Debate lesson plan.   All went well.   Took a while to get the kids able to play "Hangman" but once they started they were unbeatable.  ENCYCLOPEDIA"   is a word they know how to spell!!!!   They can't say the word worth a crap,  but they sure know what it is and how to use one!  These kids know far more words than I thought they did,   if they were to get the proper type of Oral English training they would progress far.   I bet each can read a western newspaper just fine.   I thought most were English illiterate until today.

Then we went to debate.   I taught them about debate classes in American schools and explained that its a forum oriented to argue various points of view in an emotionless controlled state.   Our first debate was me against the class.   I was also the judge.    The subject was "Car VS Bicycle",   I wrote each sides points on the board.   Since I knew in advance that there are far more reasons for society to ride bikes,  I knew I would be the loser.    "Bike rides are much more romantic than car rides" one girl stated.    "But cars are a status symbol in China" I replyed and recorded.   "Bikes use way less resources to build them and operate them",  many of my students pointed out.     These kids are smart and aware.

The second debate was the boys against the girls.   "Is it better to be a Boy or Girl" was the topic.   The number of answers on each side was incredible.  Some of the more interesting were: " Girls can have babies, boys can't!",   and "Girls have to have babies,  but we don't!" ,  I sided with the boys on that one.   I made sure the second debate was a tie so as not to cause any face-losing in my classes.   "Face losing"   is never good, especially around here.

Ok,  I spent so much time writing,  playing the sax,  and calling friends on the phone; that I allowed my beans to burn.   This was to be my dinner and lunch!   I burned them bad I admit.   Only excuse is that the settings on my hot plate are in chinese and are impossible to read.   I am used to the one knob that goes from low to high but these are programmable like some Microwaves.  So I lived on 3 rmb of flat bread,  which is more than enough to satisfy.   One of the few local Chinese dishes that don't taste like sweet, revolting, sugary hell!.  Wish I had the beans and rice instead, but oh well. Tomorrow (Friday) I plan to make potato curry or "Dum Aloo" in the Urdu language.  

Ingredients:  Two medium diced potatoes
                   One medium onion
                   three cloves of garlic
                   1 tablespoon (or more) finely chopped ginger
                   2 tablespoons of your favorite curry power
                   salt/soy sauce to taste (Indians don't use soy sauce that much.  I do.)
                   whatever kind of hot peppers you like  (I like mine to have a kick)
                   Tomato sauce (fresh or homemade)

Chop potatoes into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes,  stir fry medium high with 5 tablespoons of oil (olive here) until little brown spots start to appear on the potatoes.  (this keeps them from falling apart during cooking.)   You want the onions and stuff to liquify but not the potatoes. 
Pour potatoes into a bowl and reuse the wok or frying pan for the next step.

Chop up onions, garlic, and ginger very fine.   Heat up onions on medium high heat, stir constantly until translucent 5-10 minutes,  than toss in garlic, peppers and ginger and fry for about a minute or two (garlic and ginger burn quick so be careful)  then toss in the curry powder for the last 30 seconds stirring like there is no tomorrow.  Add pre-fried potatoes and stir for another couple minutes then add tomato sauce and a bit of salt and probably a cup of water if it looks thick,  then turn the heat down to low and cover/simmer the stuff for at least an hour.  Be careful not to let the mixture get too dry.   After an hour taste it... Evaluate the salt situation,  less is more here.  If it's too sweet add a little vinegar.  Too sour?  add a little sugar or honey. Might want to add a little more curry powder at this time.  Let your taste buds be your guide. Then allow to simmer another 30 minutes to an hour depending on how hungry everyone is.  Pour over rice and eat,  or serve with flat bread (Naan) and forget the rice.

Great stuff,  came out perfect!   (unlike the black beans the previous day)..

This morning (Friday) I had to go far away to our XinCheng (shin-chong)   campus (nothing here sounds like it is supposed to....  I.e. "Hangzhou" =  "Hong-Jo",  but I'm learning this fast).   On Fridays a private car picks Attul and I to teach for 3 hours at the Xincheng Campus.    Takes an hour or more to get there and we are not really sure where it is!   Xincheng is another government planned "University City" and is much like "Xiasha" was 15 years ago.   They do have a nice looking college started,  but the town is lacking compared to Xiasha.   They will get there and the granite covered sidewalks with landscaping are being built as we speak.    This is my fourth day of in a row teaching and I full fully restored;   rather than a half-dead shell of a person with high blood pressure after a packed week of bullshit.   Some say I just couldn't take it I suppose.  But it is a fact that the average teacher lasts 5 years,  and thats with all the 30 year career teachers averaged in.   Most seem to last one or two from what I've seen,   After 4 days teaching here:   I could teach tomorrow and not be tired.  Yes,  the hours we work are constant instruction (no worksheets and crap),  but it's only 4 days per week (and two of those are half-days).  Allowing time to relax is a  Chinese virtue that has lasted for  5000 years or more.   They are getting to the top of a tide sequence.   China understands the concept of the ebb and the flow.   America doesn't get this at all.  

Ate an awesome potato curry for dinner and plan to eat the rest for dinner tomorrow!

Slept in on Saturday (except for when the fireworks exploded outside my window at 7AM...).  Got up, surfed the net,  then got dressed and headed off to the great "Metro" store 13 Km's away.   But it was raining a bit to hard for that so I changed my mind and read a book in the local coffee shop for 2 hours (two cups of that strong stuff and I'm a bit wired),   Starting to write down my expenditures,  because I know I can live on $400  - $500 per month here.   I will use the savings for presents and travel.   I've never managed to save before but it seems like a fun hobby.  Since I gave up on going to expensive eating places and started cooking for myself,  I know I can do this.   I also have everything that I need in order to live here.   Just Spend $2.00 for noodles for lunch,  pb and j with tea for breakfast,  and cook something for dinner,  shouldn't cost too much.   I will allow $3.00 to read at a coffee place each day,  because getting out of the apartment is important for the sanity.    So I left the coffee shop "Casa Miel" and took the picture and movie of the main downtown area in a light rain.   On the way home I drove through the park and captured some nice shots.  The quality of light in the rain on a Saturday Autumn afternoon is a rare event.  Still raining and I was not getting any dryer;  so I came back home and worked my my blog.    The blogs will probably get smaller with less pictures as new happenings will be fewer and the scenery doesn't change much.   We had over 650 views on this page last month (ok 75 were probably mine),  but this is much more than my previous blog.   This makes me determined to keep up with the news so as not to let my supporters down.   Plus..I love it!   Just expect less entries and fewer pictures unless I happen to travel somewhere for the weekend.

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JoAnne on

Like the black coat with the red lining. Enjoyed your blog, too!

ALB! on


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