Blogs from Weishan, Shandong, China, Asia

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Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan March 29th 2011

The teaching gig has ended, for me anyway. The language school (henceforth to be referred to as “those rat bastards”) opted to end my contract just two weeks short of completion. This was a shock to my co-workers but especially to me. Abrupt, early termination is quite common among the language mills: end the contract and then they don't have to pay the agreed-upon airfare home. The language mill franchise is a “for profit” business after all and they don't teach kids out of the goodness of their hearts. I am out nearly $1000, and for that, I am bummed big time. Of course, I am also saddened, bewitched, bothered and bewildered , though I know that it was strictly an issue of money, not my teaching. My students love me, the parents were happy and ... read more
Peking duck
Wall-E

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan March 2nd 2011

One might think that Shandong would be the perfect place to eat Chinese food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it would be, I suppose, if I could read or speak some Chinese, but I cannot. Here, the menus are written in Chinese, not in English. Printed menus are often not available and even when they are, the Chinese text isn't accompanied by any helpful, color photographs showing a serving suggestion. This sure ain't P.F. Changs. I am clearly inept in ordering food here. Before I came to China, I predicted all sorts of culture shock, but never this. I have traveled far and wide and never run into a food-ordering problem before. In the past though, I was usually on some sort of hippie backpacker tourist trail in countries where English is the del facto ... read more
Cai Jian Bing en progress
Cai Jian Bing serving suggestion

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan February 19th 2011

The regular school year ended a couple of weeks ago and so did my regular teaching schedule. This was the time of the year when school lets out and the entire country shuts down for the Spring Festival, (Chinese) New Year, the Lantern Festival and the Cold & Flu Festival. With school out, there really is nothing for kids to do in this hayseed town. There isn't even any trouble for them to get into. With so many idle, potential paying customers, my school offered “Winter Camp” in the hopes of teaching proper enunciation and to vacuum up any stray RMB. “Camp” was well subscribed but proved quite grueling for the teachers. Ten days straight of classes, three two-hour classes a day for me, but with no textbooks to work from. It was expected that I ... read more
Up a little and to the left
Stock up and save
What a bunch of flamers

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan December 17th 2010

When walking to the school, I pass by oodles of small shops that are in the business of selling women's clothing. Most of these stores sell clothes for women in their 30's and 40's. I think I may have discovered their business model: Convince the customers that they've eliminated the effects of normal, age-related sagging and even their closest friends will be fooled, if only this stuff is purchased first. And everywhere I go, I see women wearing long, padded coats (with fur collars) and tall, leather boots with spiky heels. Personally, I think that this sort of attire changes an otherwise normal-looking women into one that looks like an active employee of a companion rental service with low hourly rates. Whether these products are actually fashionable is not for me to judge since women dress ... read more
Older, basic Chinese car
Spiffy new Chinese Volkswagens
Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan December 16th 2010

Uh oh. A couple of websites were blocked again. We would enter the URL but get nothing but a 404 page This happens from time to time in China and I knew that going in. For example, Facebook is blocked, so is You Tube and IMDB. Presumably, this is to restrict me from watching videos of kittens playing with yarn, playing Farmville or watching trailers for "Dumb and Dumber". Luckily, there are workarounds, so I can still update my all-important Facebook status anytime I want. I know that I am a guest here in China and I am fully aware that there are certain subjects that are better left unmentioned. I must not ever mention the url=http://ecx.images-amazon.com/imag... read more
Please stand by

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan November 29th 2010

In addition to regular classes, we offer an "English Club" for our students. English Club is held at the school on Friday nights for the Primary students and again on Saturday nights for the Middle school students. Attendance by the kids is purely voluntary; it is sort of a "value added" bonus that the students receive. It is designed to be fun. The kids get a seasonal-appropriate activity, tomfoolery and (thanks to me) a chance to watch vintage cartoons from the 1940's and 50's. In an effort to add a little bit of legitimacy, we ask the students to learn a handful of English words while they're there. I do not decide what the theme will be, that is entirely up to the Impossibly Adorable Roommates (IARs). Around Halloween, we carved Jack-o-Lanterns, learned how to extort ... read more
Dress for success
Buy better oil and vinegar!
Don't try this at home

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan November 22nd 2010

My head cold didn't go away. I had been hacking up lung biscuits all night long and was unable to sleep. The IARs were worried about me, and pestered me repeatedly while I brushed off their concerns. "It's only a virus. It'll go away in a week". Except it didn't. One day after lunch, one of the Impossibly Adorable Roommates (IARs) dragged me to to the creatively-named "Hospital #1". We walked there, it wasn't far. Weishan is a fairly small town. Once inside the hospital's lobby, a short woman in a white lab coat asked if we needed any guidance. The IAR told her why we were there, and lab-coat lady told us that we would need to see a Doctor first. She guided us to a small, shabby office just inside the hospital lobby entrance. ... read more

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan November 17th 2010

The weather has turned butt-cold at night. I am but a tender Californian and not used to temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. I wear my down jacket and fleece hat while gallivanting around town now, whereas before I would just wear my fleece jacket (and pants; I always wear pants). Despite bundling up, I have come down with a head cold once a week for the last few weeks. I finished my precious bottle of Nyquil and now just spend my days marveling at the endless supply of mucus. Of course, this is the infamous "cold and flu season", and I blame my illness on my students: those cute little rodents have turned out to be shameless germ carriers. "Infect the Foreign Teacher" is a game that we play during class and I always lose. What ... read more
The Chinese "Yellow Pages"

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan November 9th 2010

In between teaching classes, the Impossibly Adorable Roommates (IARs) and I often travel to the nearby public schools to hand out fliers touting our private English school. We try to time our arrival around lunchtime. We wait outside the gates (alongside the students' parents) until the students come out for lunch. The parents then give their kids a ride home for lunch, but before they do, we hand them a flier. We give them a coupon for a free "demo" class and, in exchange, they get to see the overly large American in person. Like any public school everywhere, the front of the schoolyard was not designed for the fleets of vehicles arriving to pick up the kids, and once the parking area fills up the street becomes the parking area. Double parking is only the ... read more
Electric mini-hauler
New electric "taxi"

Asia » China » Shandong » Weishan November 1st 2010

Even out here in the hinterlands, American celebrations are lauded. To be certain, China has its share of holidays, but none of them involve candy or squash carving. Halloween is quite well-known here. How it became to be well-known exactly, I am not sure. The Impossibly Adorable Roommates (IARs) had already planned the Halloween celebration, and it was to occur in conjunction with our regular Friday night "English Club" gathering. Our students and their parents would be in attendance. All the preparation had been done; all I had to do was show up and represent large, English-speaking Americans. Have you ever translated something through Babelfish and tried to make sense of what came out the other end? That was what our Halloween party was like. The general idea was right, it's just that it just wasn't ... read more
Joe and kidlets
My tribe




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