Tag Archives: cycling

Walk-down-the-cycle-lane Day

Why use the pavement when you can be a hazard?

Was today Walk-down-the-cycle-lane Day in the City of Pyjama-clad Clowns? I went to do some shopping at Carrafour after I’d had a chat to Mum and Dad on Skype this morning and found myself having to manoeuvre around even more zombies than usual. This wasn’t one of those instances when there were four-wheeled cretins parked all over the pavement and I’m inclined to be forgiving. No, it was one of those occasions when there was no need for there to be any zombies roaming around the cycle lane.

I don’t know whether I’m imagining it, but there also seem to have been a lot of zombie yokels around this weekend. In fact, they could be the ones walking along the cycle lanes.


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.

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.

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.

Turn on, tune in

Book out.

To my surprise, (most of) the missing books and discs turned up this morning. The teacher’s manual for the NorthStar TOEFL book turns out to be just about useless because there were no transcripts and no answers, which I then found were in the textbook. It does get a little worse because we have somehow ended up with the manual for the intermediate level NorthStar TOEFL book (I’m sure I didn’t order it) even although we’re not using the corresponding textbook.

Turns out that because Suzhou got a few too many books, I’ll probably get a copy of Listen to Learn Book 1 after all. However, I did borrow a copy off a student only to find that the book probably isn’t suitable for the PAL students because it’s pitched at too high a level. I didn’t order it on a whim, but our previous AQM had it down for PAL, and because they need extra listening, which is where Lucantoni falls short, it seemed like a good idea to get it.

We also have a second copy of the big fat TOEFL book.

Since the discs for Listen to Learn were my main concern, I forgot to check whether there were any teacher’s manuals to go with it, but as I’m not using LTL immediately, it doesn’t really matter too much. I was also more concerned with getting things sorted for Monday. I now have a stack of books to put to use.

I’ve been enjoying riding my new bike, which is nice and light compared with my old machine. Not sure what to do with all the gears. 21 does seem rather a lot.

That’s right, babe

Ride the Love Sword.

I went to a proper bike shop with Linda yesterday afternoon and got my bike seen to. The real problem was the ball bearings around the spindle. Basically, to use technical parlance, they were knackered. While I was in the shop, I was having a look at the various models of bikes. The model which is equivalent to mine had the name Clerrent, which didn’t make any sense until Linda translated the Chinese name. The English should say Current, but the font is one of those hand-writing style ones like Mistral so that somehow, the ‘u’ has been replaced by ‘le’. I can imagine how a hand-written ‘u’ might be misread as ‘le’ by a non-native speaker.

lovesword But that’s merely the trailer to the main event. Yeah. it says Love Sword. It’s clearly not Love’s Word because the gap is between “love” and “sword”. No Chinese so it’s not possible to say what it might be meant to mean, but I suspect that it’s a gross mistranslation. Anyway, I hope all those Chinese girls out there on their Love Swords [fnar! fnar!] are enjoying the ride.

Meanwhile, my bike is now running smoother than a baby’s bottom. [Do you even listen to yourself when you write? –ed.]

This is insufferable

No, not the Internet.

shòu "longevity" I wasn’t far north of Zoe’s on my my home from a rather nice blue cheese burger when the chain on my bike came apart. Since I got the chain replaced on the latest occasion, I’ve been leaving the pack of disposable plastic gloves at home, but tonight I seem to have been prescient and took them with me. Luckily, there’s a bike shop just north of the 1st Ring Road. I note, however, that I didn’t break the chain where the ends were linked, but at another point. I would like to boast about the power of my legs, but I think the poor quality of the chain is the more likely culprit. There used to be a time when I’d have to replace chains because they’d got stretched, but until I came to China, I can only remember one occasion when I broke one.

I keep wondering whether I should buy a new bike, but it seems excessive to do that just to get a decent chain which would, sooner or later, fall apart and I’d be back to square one.

While we’re in that part of Chengdu, the work on the Metro system where it crosses the 1st Ring Road can now be viewed. And there’s still a lot of work to be done. I can’t see this up and running until some time late this year at the earliest if the work there is representative of the state of the line for most of its length.

I did a little DVD shopping this afternoon. I happened across a BBC series called Egypt which I hadn’t heard of. It’s a docudrama about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen and, by the looks of it, the aftermath. I watched the first episode, which followed Howard Carter in his quest to discover the tomb. I admit that I bought the second series of Torchwood, but mainly because I want to see some British telly for once. Most of the TV series you get here are American, which isn’t intolerable, but it’d be nice to have something home-grown to watch. I watched the first episode of Torchwood in which James Marsters turned up dressed like Adam Ant in 1980 and still playing Spike from Buffy.

PS I added the image above because I’m shòuing [sic!] off. [All that for the worst pun evah? Ugh. –ed.]

The Nine Plagues of Chengdu

No. 7 – The bike chain.

Two days ago when I went DVD shopping I’d got as far as 南大街, which is to say, not far at all, when the chain came off my bike, sundered by main force. I went to the bike shop outside my old flat and got a new chain. Chains here aren’t linked together using a special tool but rather but a clip which holds the links together. It’s easier to get on and off, but seems to be prone to catching.

Anyway, I went to Zoe’s for tea this evening. Just as I was approaching 南大街, the pedals seized up and, yes, the chain had come off the rear cog. Fortunately, I’ve been carrying pairs of disposable gloves recently and repaired it without getting my hands dirty. I passed through the intersection, turned right down 上池北街 and was just approaching the the skip at the other end of the street when, once again, main force did for the chain. I rescued it (although not before some taxi driver had driven over it – plonker) and took it to the nearer bike shop to get it put back together.

But I have no doubt that this will happen again. The chain doesn’t run smoothly, although I’ve had the rear wheel adjusted more than once, and the other day I had the main cog tightened up. This is chain number three since I inherited the bike from James. It’s not a bad piece of kit, but the parts that make it go are sorely wanting.

It was a nice day, so…

I rode into a scooter.

I headed back to school before the end of lunch so that I could look through the lesson I was giving this afternoon. Normally when I go along the cycle lane I’m quite attentive because I’m heading into the on-coming cyclists and scooters (this is China, so such behaviour isn’t unusual). Any­way, the lane was clear and I happened to glance to my right, brief­ly, only to find some girl on a scooter riding towards me and insufficient time to brake or swerve before we collided. The tip of the third finger on might right hand got a little squished and the rim of the front wheel got dented enough for the whole wheel to need replacing. The scooter took no dam­age whatsoever as far as I could tell.

It took the people at one of the local bike repair places about an hour to replace the front wheel because they removed the spokes and hub from the old one and switched them to a new rim. Of course, other people turned up needing to have things seen to. At one stage, I was surrounded by kids from the primary school who could see I had my little dictionary with me. One boy decided that I could speak fluent Chinese or seemed to think that I could become fluent by speaking forcefully to me. They went away and then came back briefly because they’d bought a bunch of those collectable cards (yet another variation on Magic: The Gathering). They wanted to know what the characters on the card meant in English. It said, as I found eventually, “Master of Crystal Divination”. For some reason, I became the inheritor of the card. Don’t know the source exactly, but it uses traditional characters.

Meanwhile, the geniuses of Class 6 decided that they knew exactly what they were doing this afternoon without me telling them. It was meant to be a listening class, but I think a not-listening class might’ve been more accurate. It also meant that the likelihood they might’ve been talking about the handout was so slight that it’d make an anorexic hair look fat in comparison.