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Published: March 31st 2008
Has it really been over five weeks since we moved here? It has seemed like a flurry of activity since the day we set foot in our new home. This past weekend was a throwback to the land across the pond. We shopped for a few more household items at WalMart, had coffee and snacks at Starbucks, lunch at KFC and pizza delivered a couple of nights ago. So I guess we are not that far from North American civilization after all! It is definitely getting to be a small world. Our big-ticket item this week was a super-sized toaster oven. Well, you could say it is one step down from a regular oven. Ovens are not something you see over here. The only thing you can get that is close is a toaster oven and they come in all sizes. Our new one is huge, complete with a rotisserie so we can now make the occasional baked items. We also broke down and bought a couple of knives and forks, our first cutlery since we arrived. We won't use them here much but often need them when invited to potlucks, which happen on a regular basis.
The Chinese is
coming along slowly. This week I learned to tell time. Between the books we have, and some in-between ad hoc lessons with the students and Chinese teachers, I try to pick up a few words each day. Of course, the four tones that are used in speaking Chinese do not make it any easier. The same word spoken with a different tone can mean something totally different. A rising tone or falling tone can totally change the meaning of the word. It is the one time you need to mimic exactly what the person says to get it right. As one of the others said, you feel like you are mocking people but that is the only way to get the pronunciation correct. And then trying to remember it until the next time is a whole different problem!
The weather has recently turned a little cooler and wetter but apparently April is the rainy season. It was very warm for awhile but the weekend was quite blustery. Don't get me wrong..it is still very pleasant...we just starting getting a little spoiled when we could walk out at 10:00 at night with our t shirts on. The flowers and shrubbery
are bursting at the seams everywhere and I'm sure it will only get more beautiful as more plants come into season. Although the pollution can be very bad at times, the plants seem to thrive on all the gases in the air! Recently, the skies have been quite clear but it still comes and goes with the weather. I walked to school a couple of times this week and took some pics of the flowers and plants that line the road along the way.
This week I started volunteering for a large Chinese tourist website. They will send me an article every week and I just correct the spelling, grammar and English mistakes. It seemed like an easy thing to do while I am sitting here at night and it gives me interesting things to read about other parts of the country. So far, I have only done one article and it was not a big deal.
Last weekend, (or was it the week before?), we attended a small ceremony at the school to honor a group of students. Schools in China can apply to the Zhou Enlai society to name a special class the "Zhou Enlai Class".
This is a group of high achieving students who meet a variety of other criteria related to community service and school leadership. The society gave our school approval to elect a Zhou Enlai class and a Grade 10 homeroom was chosen. There was a special ceremony to present the class with a plaque last Sunday afternoon. There were representatives from the society and from local government as well as relatives of Zhou Enlai. You can find out more about Zhou Enlai, one of the original political movers and shakers in the political arena of China by visiting http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/COLDenlai.htm. It was once again a very interesting experience.
And speaking of traditions...today was flag day as is every Monday. At 9:30 in the morning, all the students and staff gather for a short ceremony in front of the school. The China flag, Canadian flag, and school flag are raised one by one. As each flag is raised, the national anthems and the school song are sung. It is always followed by speeches in Chinese and English by a couple of chosen students to get everybody "pumped" for the coming week or term or whatever. One thing I have noticed is how
confident many students are at public speaking. It is encouraged here in various situations and gives them all a chance to improve. None of them mind it that much.
And....well I am on the topic...bamboo scaffolding. I have read about it but to see people walking around on bamboo poles lashed together ten storeys up is still pretty amazing. I had to include a picture of one building going up nearby. It is still something to see the mixture of old and new every day. Two-wheeled carts piled high with stuff being hand-pulled through traffic alongside brand new vehicles, old bicycles fighting for space with brand new scooters, which I might add are carrying up to four people. And most of the passengers are riding side saddle on the scooters, not hanging on, and chatting away on their cell phones or holding a cell phone to the driver's ear. Talk about a balancing act! But I am starting to ramble and dinner is ready so I will go. Until the next time...
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