Water sports

Or, The Duck Olympics.

The word on the street yesterday afternoon was that we’d be teaching today. It started raining last night and while it was not so bad first thing, the rain has increased since then. Thus I came into school expecting to be facing classes, but about morning exercise time, there was a hubbub of voices outside and students from the main school came streaming out of the big lecture theatre.

We were then told that the sports days were back on although this announcement was greeted with some scepticism, and the rain, which did ease briefly, has since got heavier. Nonetheless, the little darlings are out sitting in the school stadium, sheltering under their umbrellas; but as far as I can tell from the silence, nothing would appear to be happening, and I’m reluctant to go because someone might just see sense and cancel the entire business.

Also, on a more practical level, I’d be sparing myself at least one outing if I stayed here until lunch­time.

In other news, I read an article online about the rating of Chinese students’ proficiency in English, which placed them quite far down the international rankings. If I had to estimate the average proficiency of Chinese students once they reach the 高考, I’d guess it’d be IELTS 3 to 4, perhaps buoyed up by their writing. As I’ve mentioned before, for most students here, English is a book language which is soon forgotten once students have left school.

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Contrary climate

Or, the sequel to ‘To Sport or not to Sport’.

How cruel the weather gods continue to be. We were all being weather watchers in the office today. The forecast via Baidu remains bad, but via a site which Chaminda uses, the outlook is a great deal more optimistic. It was meant to be a mixture of rain and sunny spells today, but it ended up just being sunny spells.

There’s no guarantee that tomorrow will be more of the same. Last year, Masi reminded me today, it did rain, but that cleared up by midday. I won’t be at all surprised if it’s grey and wet tomorrow, although the weather has been so full of threats which have never come, I don’t know what to make of it.

29.09.11 For some inexplicable reason, this entry was posted without a title. WP has been being a little glitchy recently.

To sport or not to sport

That is the question.

As long-time readers will know, I cannot abide having my weekends stolen from me after holidays. It’s about time the imperial government said that the National Day is a week for schools, or merely the standard three days, and that’s it.

I’ve been hoping that we might get our missing days back because on Thursday and Friday the school is meant to be having its sports days. Unfortunately, the weather has been very, very grey over the past few days, and the forecast is not promising. So far, it’s only been accurate in that it’s been cloudy, but the rain we keep being promised hasn’t arrived so far. Tomorrow, we’re being threatened with a thunderstorm, and Friday with rain.

So far I’ve been very lucky with sports days. The closest shave was in Chengdu when the events started later in the morning, but I think this year the weather god is against us; or may just glare at us a lot.

However, keep your fingers crossed because it would be nice to have an extra couple of days off.

An afternoon out

What’s wrong with Live Writer?

I haven’t tried using Live Writer in ages, and thought I might see whether it still worked with the blog. The answer is that I can’t get through to WordPress. I wonder whether this is because when I try logging on to WP from the blog, I get an error message and whatever is behind that problem prevents me from posting with Live Writer.

While I used to think that my problem logging on was because of the petty-mindedness of the imperial government, it turns out that other people, who are on the far side of the Great Wall of Paranoia, have been having the same problem.

Anyway, I did go for my adventure eventually, having had a snooze and mucked around online first.

I mostly stuck to back streets, which preserve old Wuxi in all its ancient grubbiness. Behind 新光泽路 still lurks 古污秽街. I went down the street alongside the newish Wuxi Gymnasium where the grotty shops contrast with the new building across the road.

I was heading back round in this direction when who should I see at a nearby bus stop but Fred, who asked me if I had a key to the office because he’d been unable to get back in last night after class, and had had to leave all his kit in there. But that I should happen to turn up at the right moment was a complete coincidence.

Another week of fun and excitement

Well, not really.

Things seem to have settled down since the start of term, which means the boring routine of getting up far too early and then teaching the same stuff I taught last year. However, this year’s new project is vocabulary. Among the books which turned up were ones on intermediate and advanced vocabulary, and since the little darlings love those TOEFL and IELTS word list books from which they learn nothing at all, I thought that some proper vocabulary exercises would be much more useful.

Meanwhile, Mark has taken newsademic off my hands to use with the reading club which he and Fred hold after school for the IB and A-level students.

I see that things have changed slightly here on WordPress with a revised menu bar.

The weather has gone from horrible and cool to pleasant and mild, and, fortunately, not as hot as it was about a week and a half ago. The word on the street isn’t encouraging with autumn allegedly arriving early in Shanghai, which coincides with claims by one weather forecaster that Britain is in for snow in October. Another dire winter for the northern hemisphere in the offing?

Anyway, the weather is mild and comfortable, and the conditions are right for an adventure; or aimlessly roving around the streets with nothing better to do.

Hu bai wan?

Wu bai wan.

While I was waiting to cross 解放路 yesterday, I was serenaded by music coming from the branch of 东方电器 on that corner.The shop sells white goods and often plays music, but yesterday, the lyrics caught my ear and unless I was much mistaken, the singer was rendering the English “You buy one” as “Wu bai wan”. I’m not sure whether this was being prefaced by some attempt to produce “Why don’t” because I could hear a “wai”, but nothing which sounded like “don’t”.

This afternoon I needed to buy water from the shop at the main gate. The grounds staff have been doing quite a bit of watering and when the hose pipes are at full pressure, I’ll go bouncing over them. As I passed across the lane between the ponds, there was some girl on one of those bikes with really small wheels. She approached the hose pipe which was lying across the path with some caution, hit it, and stopped dead, which sent her off the seat. Even if she had been going a bit faster, I’m not sure she could’ve ridden over the hose pipe. I might’ve tried to do a wheelie, but then again, I wouldn’t be seen dead riding such a ridiculous bike.

Where’s my Indian summer gone?

It was here on Friday.

Yesterday, and more so today, the overall temperature has plunged by about 10°. Now some people might say that a top temperature of 23° would be quite pleasant, but after the recent heatwave, it feels cold. It’s got greyer as the day has progressed and I’m a little worried that I’m underdressed. Mind you, if I did put one of my warm jackets on, I’d be overdressed. I hope, though, this weather isn’t a harbinger of another long, early winter.

It turned out that the bike thing the other day was so that we could be supplied with reg. plates for our bikes, which no one has ever tried doing to me before and which, I thought, was no longer a requirement as it had once been. (Or, at least, foreigners were not required to register their bikes.) I’m not sure where I can attach the reg. plate because the tail-end of my carrier is round, and underneath is the rear reflector.

Could this blog be more interesting?

To be honest, yes. But, in the meantime, exciting news for cartographers, which proves that even Mr Bamboo can be an inattentive dullard. I went to the bank after school and as I came out and was wondering whether I needed to go shopping, I noticed that 香榭路 (or 街) had been renamed and is now called 迎龙路 (Yínglóng Lù). I have no idea when this happened, but being more concerned with the traffic as I cross the road, I haven’t paid much attention to the sign until today.

Four words I never thought I’d use in the same sentence

Carrefour, priced, reasonably, wine.

I went to Carrefour yesterday to buy a couple of things, including some wine. Much to my surprise, when I got to the wines, there was a Carrefour own-brand section with prices starting at ¥39. Apart from the Vistamar at ¥69 and one or two others, prices for wine from Carrefour normally start at around ¥80 and rise to ridiculous levels from there. The range is small, but there is some variety.

I opted to try the Syrah and the Grenache Noir with some trepidation because it’s been a long time since I’ve drunk any cheap wine. However, I can report that the Grenache Noir is a reminder that a decent wine doesn’t have to cost indecent amounts of money. In fact, one of the worst wines I’ve had was a Jean Jean Syrah for about ¥89, which was like bottled heartburn.

It’s nice to see something more reasonably priced for once because I’ve long thought that Carrefour ought to offer more affordable wines and get away from the tyranny of luxury brands.

9 Glorious Years

Well, maybe not.

It’s nine years today since I first arrived in China. The weather that day was about the same as today – sunshine and 33°. I was braced to be whisked to Third-World squalor as we passed through the grubby villages between Beijing Airport and Tongzhou. But Tongzhou was a relatively well-appointed satellite town outside the capital, which was to be my home for the next three years.

I soon learnt a few things. When asked when we would start teaching, it seemed quite reasonable to be allowed a couple of days to recover from travelling to China. The correct answer was, “Immediately”. Mrs Wu promised to take us to see the sites, but she was too busy appearing to be busy to ever do that; but it was also the custom.

And so here I was with no experience of teaching school children, or EFL, or the faintest idea of what an intermediate-level imbecile learner was, or a curriculum, or anything much. I made a right mess of the first term because being an egalitarian sort when it comes to knowledge, I expected everyone to complete the exercises. With the arrival of the second term, I abandoned that for ploughing my way through the textbook regardless of whatever progress my students might be making. (Answer: none.)

I’m trying to think how things have changed over the past nine years. There are the obvious ones like the size of the economy (quite ignoring the Namibian levels of income), and the current administration, which having come in my time is about to leave in my time. The Internet has been increasingly abused since the Olympic Games even although very little of what is blocked is of interest to a domestic audience. (Recent figures I saw claimed that only 4% of Internet traffic ever strays outside the prison walls; that’ll be the expats and students applying to foreign universities.) People who can think for themselves have become even less popular. I’m sure there are a lot of other things which have changed since I’ve been here although after moving from one place to another, I have a fragmentary picture at best.

But how different is China after all this time? I don’t believe it is that different from the time of my arrival in 2002. The infrastructure may have changed with new buildings there and roads here, but the people don’t seem to be different, and they’re what counts. The population may still be a Third-World pyramid, but the youth of today ends up being the parents of tomorrow, and the world stays the same because no one has time or energy for children and social change. (Not counting callous megalomaniac dictators. You know who I mean.)

Meanwhile, when Bruce is sent round to find out who has a bike (me, John the Maths Teacher, Rob and Michelle, Fred), I wonder what the school is up to. I’m predicting a pointless and unnecessary lecture on road safety from someone who isn’t qualified to speak on the subject. Mr Bamboo’s advice: go when it’s safe to go; expect traffic from the other direction; and pay attention because no one else is paying attention.

Summer’s last hurrah

I’d prefer a little something for the weekend.

Last weekend, the long weekend, the weekend of Teacher Appreciation Day (official), the tenth anniversary of the 911 attacks, and the Mid Autumn Festival, the weather was grey, dull and sticky. Today, it’s been almost nothing but clear and sunny with a few sheepish clouds milling around the edge of the city and hiding in the bank of grey filth which the late afternoon sun is revealing.

I saw a nice new white Porsche Cayman a few days ago, and a pink BMW, an M3 I suspect, to go with the pink Bentley and the pink BMW Z4. What’s the bet they’re all owned by the same taste-free 太太. I’ve seen the nice yellow Z4 a couple of times recently.

Odd encounter as I was on my way to Yamazaki. I’d stopped at the intersection with 五爱路 and as I was waiting for the lights, some local clown on a bike stopped a few metres from me and started babbling about, er, something. It seemed to be related to the clearness of the sky and possibly my attire, but having ranted at me, he toddled off.

I had been up for HoD of English, but with only three of us teaching the subject on the A-level programme, it’s not going to happen. I’m not bothered, much preferring my status as a semi-autonomous province with irresponsibility for PAL and two of the AS classes.