Category Archives: Holidays

It’s that week again

Stepping up to the microphone.

It’s been that week again when in 1949, Chairman Mao addressed the ex­cited crowds in Tiananmen Square, welcomed them to the People’s Re­public of China, and warned them about how deadly PTSD could be.

“But PTSD isn’t generally life-threatening,” said someone in the crowd.
“It is in my case.”
“Say it isn’t so, Son of Heaven.”
“Ah, I meant life-threatening for you. I’ll be fine. No, no. I’ll live to a ripe old age and traumatise the Empire… Sorry, nation, for generations to come.”
“Can I vote for someone else?” asked the man.

It’s the 65th anniversary of the founding of the current dynasty, although apart from a few posters proclaiming this, it doesn’t seem to have been treated as one of those landmark anniversaries.

I went to Chengdu to see Linda, but since the trip was largely domestic, I’ll confine most of the rest of this post to pictures.

Apart from a couple of occasions when it was grey and damp, the weather in Chengdu was warm and pleasant to the point of being summery, and the air quality was generally very good by the city’s usually dubious standards.




It was so bright and clear in the morning that it was impossible to lie in. In fact, there should’ve been no lying-in at all because Linda and I needed to have been at the station about an hour ahead of the departure of the train.

Fortunately, when we got to the station, some nice person let Linda push in at the front of the queue, and we got to the gate as the train was being boarded. There were stops in Suzhou and Kunshan, and about an hour later, we arrived in Shanghai.

It was quite easy to get to Sichuan Beilu Station via Hailun Lu, although we had to get the Line 4 train that was going in the right direction before switching to Line 10. (Line 4 is Shanghai’s equivalent of the Circle Line.) When we got out of Sichuan Beilu, we got in a taxi, but the driver explained that because Zhapu Lu was behind us and the hotel was not that far away, there was no need for him to ferry us there.

We walked down the street to Zhapu Lu, went across the first main intersection, and arrived at the Hanting Hotel soon afterwards. There was a wedding in progress, and shiny confetti was being blown along the street. Our room had a view of the building next door, which was separated from the hotel by a narrow alley.

Young Allen Building, Zhapu Lu, Shanghai (2013)Zhapu Lu is a lively, old and somewhat dirty street with plenty of relics from the time the city was mostly run by foreigners. On the opposite corner from the hotel was the Young Allen building, which was built in 1923, and there was a Hindu temple at the northern end of the street. (A lot of the buildings in Shanghai have plaques on them, explaining what they used to be.) The south end of Zhapu Lu was dominated by restaurants (and the street is marked in the Lonely Planet guide as a food street). There was a very popular Hong Kong-style place which did pre-cooked meat outside of which there was almost always a (long) queue. (Even yesterday morning [06.10.13] as we passed it, there was a small group of people waiting for it to open.) We went to one particular restaurant several times, although I’ve forgotten its name.

Our search for the Bund took us on a wild goose chase because when we got to the Russian embassy, it appeared that we should’ve gone straight ahead. In fact, it was to the right across the bridge beside the embassy, and we walked some way before eventually asking a security guard at the entrance to a passenger terminal for directions. I suppose we ought to have followed the hordes across the bridge; or the city council could’ve erected a sign. (I note that the signs for tourists are unrelentingly in Chinese, which is a minor bother for me, but doesn’t help foreigners find their way about.) We got back to the embassy just as the guard was being changed.

The weather was a real nuisance. It was very clear in Shanghai, but windy and cloudy at the same time. When the sun was hidden by the clouds, the temperature dropped; when the sun blazed down, the temperature shot up. Half the time, I wished I had been wearing something a little more substantial, and half the time, I was fine.

Nanjing Donglu, Shanghai (2013)We crossed the bridge where we, and everyone else, took photos of the buildings on the far side of the Huangpu. We then made our way along the Bund until the sun drove us to seek some shade closer to Zhongshan Lu. At Nanjing Donglu, we saw huge numbers of shoppers flowing (literally) along the street in both directions. The ones from the street streamed across, and up the steps onto the Bund. The sensible thing would have been to close the street to cars, but sense will forever remain in short supply here. After going a little further, we went back and joined the masses on Nanjing Donglu, turning aside when we reached Sichuan Beilu and making our way back to the hotel.

We had a much-needed snooze in the afternoon because we’d done a lot of walking not only in Shanghai, but also in Wuxi the previous day when we’d been on a long walk through the park and over to the island, which provided us with some brilliant shots as the sun set.

We roamed around for tea, eventually finding a branch of KFC where the service was less than competent. In addition to that, Linda burnt her mouth on the soup she ordered. We then went back to our favourite Chinese restaurant down Zhapu Lu where we had soup dumplings while the local bore banged on at a couple of people sitting at the table beside ours. I’m sure he would’ve started on us, but we left.

But last week it was February

I’m sure it was.

And so the 2012-13 academic year comes to an end. Although the final two weeks dragged on, the rest of this term seemed to whizz by, mostly in a shower of rain. I know that in other years, spring and early summer have been grey and wet, but this one seems to have been greyer and wetter.

The PAL classes this year contrasted starkly with each other. Normally by the end of the year, any difference between them is very slight (and vanished entirely last year). This year, the gap between them had increased by the time of the mocks back in March.

To make things worse, in spite of me explaining to them how they could choose an appropriate class for IB English next year (A and B → HL; everyone else → SL), most opted to do HL. When I surveyed the classes, I thought a roughly 50-50 split was more realistic.

The AS SL classes also contrasted with each other, although not to the same extent as the PAL classes. AS 1&3 seemed to be inhabited by students who were, with a few exceptions, lazy and indifferent. AS 2, on the other hand, was inhabited by students who should’ve been in the HL class. As a consequence, the flattering benignity of Paper 1 (reading) resulted in unrealistically good marks, although Paper 2 (writing) tended to throw some cold water on that.

We were given next year’s timetable yesterday. I’m continuing to A2 with my cur­rent AS classes. I’ve also inherited Fred’s HL IB English class, and will be teaching one of the AS HL classes, although I don’t know what the composition will be. I assume that it may be a mixture of this year’s PAL 1 and 2, but there may also be some new students. As far as I’m currently aware, we’re not going to have a third AS class, although considering how full the PAL classes were, a few extra students would stretch them to breaking point.

Things are going to be busy because of all the internal assessment that we’re going to have to do, and unlike a lot of schools with IB programmes, we don’t just have a few students to deal with.

Not everyone is returning, of course. Daniel got his marching orders and is off to an international school in Shanghai. (“I want to go to Xiamen,” said Daniel. “Here’s some money,” said some people with money. “I love Shanghai,” said Daniel.) Luca, Kam, Ken, and Fred are all going elsewhere. Fred’s off to be the CP at Tianyi, which leaves the spot for English HOD open. Eduardo announced that he wouldn’t be returning.

So what am I going to do now? I do have books to read and DVDs to watch. I thought I might have a go at learning (about) Old Persian. I’m off to see Linda (natch), but the cost of getting to Chengdu is putting me off thinking about Hong Kong.

National Day No. 6

Well, No. 58, actually.

A floral display near Tianfu Square, Chengdu, National Day 2007 Yes, it was on this day in 1949 that Chair­man Mao announced to the throngs of shoppers passing Tiananmen that the People’s Republic of China (sponsored by Coca Cola) was open for business. Then half a dozen hawkers tried to sell him socks, shirts, pirated DVDs, and fake Rolexes.

I took a little trip up to Tianfu Square this morning to see what was going on. There was a horde of people there (well, as many as count as a horde in Chengdu), but no displays I could see apart from a few banners where the statue of Mao is and some floral displays at intersections like the one in the picture.

Many of you may be wondering why statues of Mao always have one arm raised. That’s because it’s based on a photograph of him a moment after he was asked how high he wanted the garden hedge. You just can’t make this stuff up. [It seems you can, though. –ed.]

Meanwhile, it seems that the National Day is an auspicious day for the primary school next door to have the artificial grass stripped off and replaced. Oh, that’s right. Every day in China is an auspicious day for building work.

The Mid Autumn Festival

Eat your mooncakes!

Chang E It’s the Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节) today, when Chang E (嫦娥) comes down from the moon with her vampire rabbit, which feasts on the blood of the living, while she sucks (I think that’s what it said) the brains out of all the men who have treated their wives and girlfriends badly over the past year. (She’s quite busy in other words.) She can only be be fought off by Robin Hood (aka Hou Yi; actually, he throws mooncakes at her). [Do you even have the faintest idea what the Mid Autumn Festival is about? –ed.]

Year of the Pig 2007

Well, it was wet.

When I stepped forth from my decaying domicile last night, the livid aspect of the sky sent me scurrying back home for an umbrella which, as the subsequent torrential downpour proved, turned out to be a wise decision. The rain turned Shang San Lu, which rises as the road heads towards Sanxian Bridge, into  a shallow, fast-flowing stream. The rain dampened down the fireworks, but had abated by midnight when things went wild as they always do.

The combination of being on an hillside, the narrow lanes, and the multi-storey buildings made the fireworks sound much louder than previous years and the area was enveloped in a thick fog of smoke which must’ve reduced visibility to about 10m at most.

We had a few bursts of fireworks early this morning at a time I didn’t appreciate. New Year’s Day has been damp and dull, but the fireworks have started up again in spite of a little light rain. I got a few blurred pictures earlier this evening, as you can see below.

I went to Jazzy Pizza near Jintai Lu for tea tonight. I have a card for the place, but it gives the address as the alley to the side, whereas if it’d said “Bayiqi Beilu (八一七北路) on the corner opposite Jintai Lu and nowhere near anywhere that you’ve never heard of”, the taxi driver might’ve known where I meant. I got there in the end. It was nice; I didn’t pig out which is easy to do with pizza. I used a knife and fork. Yeah, I know most of you don’t care about the last detail, but I’ve been using chopsticks for most of the past four and a half years so you tend to notice knives and forks. Damn! I should’ve ordered a pork pizza, if they had one, to celebrate the Year of the Pig.

24.02.07 I happened to run across this strip about the Chinese New Year from Dinosaur Comics.