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Published: September 17th 2008
Every Monday morning we raise the three flags, sing the anthems and have some speeches. It's been really hot so far. I believe they cancel if it is pouring rain but not if it is just cold. The building in the background is one of at least 7 dormitory buildings housing the over 2,000 resident students.
Well, we have survived the first three weeks of school with only a few bumps along the road. The first came on the first day of school when it turned out the school’s scheduling software went on the fritz and we had no class schedules for the first day of school. With about a third of the teachers being new to the school and to China, the potential for disaster was certainly there. In the wee hours prior to the opening bell, a team came up with Plan B for the approximately 2,400 students and it worked out pretty well. Frustrated as the teachers were, we had to tip our hats to the Plan B team. The Plan A team worked all weekend and by Flag Ceremony on Monday everyone had a schedule. In the staff meeting, the principal announced that by the next day the schedules would be rebalanced and no one would have a class size larger than 45. That got a good laugh from the crowd.
I had an unexpected reaction to the regular Monday Flag Ceremony. Of course, host country China’s flag goes up first with the playing of their national anthem. But when the Canadian
Terry Fox Run
This was taken as we prepared for the run/walk. It looks like this pretty well every Monday morning.
Maple Leaf went up the pole accompanied by our national anthem I felt an incredible sense of pride and actually had a tear in my eye. It was quite a feeling. The third flag is the school’s flag accompanied by the school anthem in Chinese and English. An amazing sight!
The second bump was my computer displaying the “blue screen of death” one fine morning. The school’s computer technicians examined it and declared it would need to be reloaded. I had toyed with the idea of bringing all the software disks with me but decided against it - unfortunately. Luckily it happened early enough in the trip that I didn’t lose too much stuff and we have Dianne’s laptop. She has a desktop to use at the office so we just have to juggle a bit at home until we get back to Canada and I can reload my old computer. Sigh.
One business that would seem to be needed here is a Mr. Muffler franchise. Starting about 4:30 in the morning countless trucks, motorcycles and other sorts of vehicles start motoring up and down the street between the classroom buildings and the staff apartments. I would swear
Mr Muffler where are you?
A typical wheeled vehicle putt putting down the street not far from the school. At least this was during the day, not like so many that go by long before dawn. Sigh.
none of them have mufflers. Saturday and Sunday don’t seem to make any difference either. I think, however, the business would fail as the majority of these construction vehicles are in pretty interesting condition anyway. The gal in the apartment upstairs says she is used to it. I hope I get used to it soon!
The third bump was a little more of a problem. My eyesight has not been that great for years and I have become used to it. My assignment here was to teach three writing sections. The volume of reading combined with the interesting handwriting of the students caused serious trouble for my one ‘good’ eye. Fortunately there was another teacher available to switch assignments. I will now be doing Listening and Speaking. Dianne may say I never listen but no one has ever accused me of having a problem with speaking!
On the up side, Dianne has already made an impact of the ESL department. Her office staff loves her. One told her “I like your style”. She has been given the mandate to totally revamp the program and is well on her way. She dropped into one of my classes when a
The national bird of China is the crane
There are cranes everywhere. It is not unusual to see a complex being built that has 20 cranes. On a drive to downtown Dalian you see one such complex after another.
young fellow was doing a presentation. After introductions and a few comments from the chief, Dianne went on to the next class and the student’s comment was “She is so beautiful”. How to make points with the boss!
One of the interesting events at the school is the annual Terry Fox run. It isn’t a surprise to see this type of event in Canada but to see the involvement of the student here was impressive. Most of the students (and staff!) do a walking circuit around the holiday resort area and it is quite a site to see 2,500 uniforms going down the road.
There are many things to learn in a new culture, especially when you can’t read the signs. We found milk in the store in downtown Dalian and it actually said Skim Milk, in English, on the carton. But in the local stores, no such luck. I bought one carton that looked like milk (it had a picture of a cow on it) but it turned out to be liquid yogurt and was strawberry flavoured! No good for cappuccinos and not the best for cereal. Back to the downtown store this weekend, a 45 minute
Water water everywhere...
but not here. On a recent walk out from the school we passed several of these rather large boats sitting high and dry. They are pretty heavy. How did they get so far from the water?
train ride each way. One of Dianne’s secretaries wrote the words “low fat milk” in Chinese characters on a piece of paper we took to the local store but the milk, in tetra packs, isn’t quite what we are used to. OK for cereal but we are into “Café Americanos” until that next trip.
We did take an unescorted trip on the Qing gui (light rail transit). One of the teachers lent us his pass so we could show the agent what we wanted to purchase. We showed the lady the card and pointed to each of us in turn to show we wanted one each. She kept holding up one finger emphasizing that “one” was obviously the important point. But one what? One card for both? But we wanted our own cards. Hmmmm. Finally she pointed over her shoulder and we saw a different booth that had been unattended when we went by. There was actually a sign in English that, if you knew what they sold, suggested it was the place we wanted. The one finger meant she sold one-way tickets! We handed the new lady 300 RMB (about $25 Cdn) each and walked away with our
This is the school ground of a local school. Contrast this with the next photo of a home just down the road from the school.
new cards. Whew! We now have LRT cards, bank cards for the Bank of China, Metro cards (like Costco) and cafeteria cards (no cash on campus). We almost feel like old timers.
I did feel very proud of myself yesterday. I managed to use our washer/spin dryer without flooding the bathroom. We have to wheel it into the small but serviceable bathroom, hook it up to the cold water on the sink, plug it in to the wall socket on the other side of the room and put the discharge pipe in the drain in the floor. We have had countless problems with hoses disconnecting unexpectedly, drain issues and several case of the washer just plain leaking. The most annoying thing is that there are no English instructions. So when the plug falls out of the wall (it’s an even longer story) and the washer resets itself, you have to guess what the setting are. You don’t want to have it start loading water if it is already full of water. Dianne was holding the plug in the wall while I climbed over the power cord to adjust the drain hose. On the way back over the cord, I
This home was typical of some of the dwellings we saw on our walk out from the school. Not too far from some palatial homes which are, ironically, empty at the moment.
accidently sat on the lid where the control buttons are and reset the whole thing. Bummer!
We did our first excursion last weekend and I will add photos of that when we collect them from some of the other travellers. Meanwhile, back to school!
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