What in the wide wide world of sports…

I came up new lesson plans since one of the heads in the English department confirmed a tid bit I learned from another teacher.  I’m not teaching freshmen.  Most people would have clued into this when people kept talking about how there’s a freshmen assembly, the freshmen will spend a month or two doing boot camp, and that their classes haven’t started yet.  And like most people I chalked it up to miscommunication, which I can tell you is practically SOP around here.

Just yesterday I asked to get a printed copy of my class lists because my computer is allergic to Chinese characters.  The secretary said that the printer was broken(or in retrospect she might have said that yes, it’s very pretty outside because, let me tell you, a lot of people keep telling me that) and that I could get them in the afternoon.  Well, I couldn’t because I wasn’t going campus and she kept telling me she would send a student over with them to my apartment even thought I kept telling her that I wasn’t going to be around.  I told her I would get them the next morning, and she finally agreed when I shortened the word count and removed the words with more than three syllables.

Lets just say there was one very unfortunate student who made multiple trips across the campus on foot in the rain because the secretary insisted that I was there to receive the class lists.  I not sure if I should be boggled by the layers of stupid I’m encountering or by the layers of incompetence.  There were other secretaries there that I know can speak better English, but this one doesn’t ask them for help.  And similar miscommunications have happened before on other occasions.  She just keeps on truckin’.

But back to these lesson plans.  I redid them to take their level three English into account, which I have mixed feelings about after testing out this lesson plan on three classes.  They understand what I want them to do, sometimes, it takes some coaxing to get them going, and they understand the technical side of English.  But they haven’t made the flying leap from writing to speaking for many of them.

I gave them an assignment where I had them roleplay.  One student would come up to the front of the class and pretend to be looking for a job, and the other students would ask that student some questions in very specific tenses and the student would answer back in the same tense.  There was no trick here.  I told them the tense to use, which I had written on the board, I had some suggestions on how to ask the questions, and I had examples.

But many of them completely forgot that they were asking questions as if this was a job interview, and others couldn’t think of any words to ask the question.  I told some of them exactly what to say, and they still couldn’t understand with the other students in Chinese telling them what to do.  They aren’t stupid(or, at least I hope they aren’t because that is something I can’t solve), but they haven’t been challenged to try and, I guess, improvise or come up with their own responses.

I concluded this because during the second hour of the classes I got them to write stories, which circulated around the room so that everyone was contributing to at least three other stories.  They came up afterward and read out their stories, in groups, taking turns to read out sentences.  Other than some accent problems and few misuses of verbs and articles, they did very well even correcting mistakes someone had made in their writing.  Technically, they are doing well.  Practically, they have a long way to go.  And this is a journey that might take a lot more individual attention than I can give to a class of 50  students.


Zee gas has been hooked up in the apartment.  It was pretty agonizing to get this fairly simply task done and it wasn’t until after I asked that someone informed me of the mistake I made.  In schools, colleges, universities, and post secondary institutions there is a department set up that helps take care of the foreign teachers from ordering water to getting the gas set up.  In Jiangmen Polytechnic, this department is called The English Department.  Yeah, I know, pretty inventive.  Anyways, the department should help me get my classes set up, my schedule worked out, the paper filed, and get my living conditions set up.  But they didn’t.  Have you ever been at a job where the previous guy was supposed to train his replacement?  Yeah, that didn’t happen here.

This is a department of  third year and grad students that specialize in the English language( and by specialize, I mean they have a vocabulary larger than the average yearly temperature round here) that are largely untrained.  Some of them have worked as secretaries, but the people they replaced never trained them.  Nothing gets done fast.

And the gas was no different.  He was supposed to show up at 2:00 and like every plumber or cable guy you’ve ever met, he didn’t show up on time.  In fact, he wasn’t even close.  If he had a clock, it was probably on sidereal time and hidden in a locked vault on the Canary Islands.  Funny how somethings don’t change wherever you go.  But in the end, the gas is working so I have a stove top to cook on.  Now I just need something to cook that isn’t instant noodles and soup.

Which brings me to problem number two.  Simply put, it isn’t cost efficient for me to cook for myself here.  Getting a plate of rice, some tofu, and maybe a mix of veggies and meat costs about 4.5 Yuan.  That’s less than a dollar Canadian.  Buying food for say a weeks for of food is the upwards of 50-70 Yuan.  This is still staggeringly cheap compared to Canada, but compared to getting food on campus, its’ ridiculously more expensive.  And I don’t have an oven to cook a chicken and then eat that for a week.  Not to mention my fridge, which I pretty sure is daring me to try and put food inside.  It’s got frost on the backside and it just waiting for me to put something in there so it can freeze it.  My fridge might be out to get me.  And while technology does have the home field advantage against me, I have a knife and tenth floor balcony from which things can be thrown.

Also, why would anyone ever make knock-off Oreo’s?  Seriously, they weren’t that great to start and these fake ones are even worse.  To give you an idea of what happened, there was a boatman in the river who, in the middle of the day, had his reverie interrupted as a package of fake Oreo’s landed in the water nearby him accompanied by the words “AND STAY OUT!”.

The Kansas City Shuffle

Back home I purposely avoided signing contracts.  It’s a personal aversion to signing agreement that hinders me from doing my own thing.  And I had to sign one for this job, which isn’t a bit problem.  I may not like it, but it had to be done for me to get paid.  And while I don’t hold onto my money like an old white guy at Christmas, I would prefer to get paid so I can continue living in strange places, eating unique foods, and running from frightening people who would prefer my liver in pate form.

So I arrive at the English Language Department office and the secretary Jessica sits me down and goes through the contract, which is not what I expected.  It basically boils down to:

1) We didn’t technically hire you so we’d rather not admit that you work here unless cornered in a narrow ally

2)While you are here we’ve got some classes we’d like you to teach and so on and so forth, but there is curriculum for you to follow and honestly we don’t care how well they profit from the class

3)There is this funny piece of paper you should sign that says your contract is until 2013 but you can leave any time you want because you’re “just visiting”

I didn’t know this was monopoly, and I was getting paid on a per class basis.  Not that I have anything against it in theory.  And I gotta say, for a place that is managed by the government and overseen by security guards with heavy truncheons and pistols, things are very lax.  It’s almost as if everyone knows there is a facade and don’t care.  My contract exemplifies this because it says I’m teaching but I don’t ever have to stay and I can go home whenever I want.  But they still have to work out how much I’m getting paid since I am apparently their very first visiting lecturer.  I’m waiting for the other foot to drop, so expect a change in tone.

Now Broadcasting From The Tenth Floor

So I said earlier that I had more to say and I have had specific questions about the dorm.  SO without further adieu I give you the Bat Cave*!

The dorm is about 15 – 18 feet square.  Possibly larger.  No tape measure.  The walls could use a serious paint job since someone had the bright idea to leave one of the doors open during a typhoon so one of the walls is covered in mud.  I’ve seen bigger kitchens, but at least it’s clean.  It came furnished, which was really lucky.  It does lack flavour.  But I can fix that as time goes on.  Most of the lights work, the TV works, the internet is obviously working, the AC unit works, the fan works, the doors open and close properly, but the bathroom is a new experience.

It is one room with no partition between the toilet and shower.  The shower is less than three feet from the toilet, and the drain is slightly behind the toilet.  I’m told this isn’t unusual, but for me this is really bloody odd.

Also, I am introducing a new segment for you all called “Graeme Eats”.  Since I can’t read the labels and a lot of the food is going to be an experiment I have decided to share with you the food I try.  Today we have a snack food of some description.  I am going to describe these foods and let your imagination take over.  Seems like more fun.

The bag is orange, about the size of a bag of crisps.  There is a happy cartoon fellow in suspenders on the cover, and some roughly circular food stuffs that remind me of glistening popcorn.  But more gold, and puffy.  The food requirements don’t tell me much, but the order of %’s is: 27, 6, 56, 20, 33.  It contains about 70g of this substance, and there is no English anywhere on the package.

I have opened the package.  I think they are bbq flavour rice puffs.  They are pretty small and pretty salty.  Not sure if I will buy them again, they seem like a possible replacement for crisps.  Trying them again, they might not be rice.  I’m not sure I want to know they might be instead…

*This isn’t A bat cave or THE bat cave, but it is my bat cave so Bruce Wayne can go take a flying leap.

It’s Raining in Shanghai

And Hong Kong.  And Taiwan.  And Guangzhou.  Pretty much it is raining everywhere since a typhoon spooled up and swept head first into Taiwan this week.  Finally arrived at the school and apparently I don’t look like a skirt chaser.  Hooray for me. This matters because  I also found out my schedule is 8 classes of about 45 minutes twice a week teaching between 25-50 students of which the overwhelming majority are women between the ages of 18-21.  And usually they only hire women past the age of regular sexual practice or couples.  So I am a unique oddity.  Gawd damn a lot has happened in the last couple days that it is going to take some time to write it all up.  But not to fret, I does gots something to entertain you.

This is the story of Superstore if it could sell liquor and it had a 2 drink minimum.

There is a grocery store in Xinhui, the city next door to Jiangmen, that has three floors, rooftop parking, escalators, and sells liquor.  Imagine if you expanded Superstore to be three times it’s normal size with each department equally expanded.  Add escalators that are moving ramps to get between floors.  The shopping carts have rubber wheels do that when the cart goes onto the escalator it can’t roll backwards or forwards.  The liquor department is nearly the size of your standard Government liquor store.  After you through the checkout, there are stores that sell brand names as you try to leave.  It is complete madness.  This is what all grocery stores hope to be when they grow up.

On Plane Travel

This is the first in my multiple part series entitled “On X” in which I will be pissing on something that has annoyed, infuriated, or just plain pissed me off.  Debuting this series is airplane travel which could do some serious improvements .  They should first clean the bloody bathroom more than once a month.  Quickly followed by a swift kick in the nads to whoever designed the aisle upon which we are supposed to walk down.  MAKE THEM WIDER.  Fracking economy.  To be honest, I went through first class as I exited the plane, and the aisle wasn’t any wider, so clearly this was a design decision that shouldn’t have made it past concept stage.  And the chairs didn’t bloody recline.  What was with that?!  I’m have a foot taller than everyone on the plane and I couldn’t recline the chair so I wouldn’t have to play Squinty-at-da-Screeny with my laptop.

Designer A: “You know, these aisles are clearly too wide.  We could totally fit another seat in there.”

Designer B: “But aren’t those the same seats that only babies fit comfortably into?”

Designer A: “Yup.  We’re only going to have people with no asses on our flights because we are Cathay Pacific.”

Designer B: “But, these will be flying from Canada and the United States where people do in fact have asses.”

Designer A: ” But I hate kittens Bob.  And when I hate kittens, people will get tiny ass seats and no aisle space.”*

*Please note that the writer of this article did in fact fit into his seat just fine and didn’t have to squeeze down the aisles.  However, some very fat people with very distinct ass cracks did.

In Our Bedroom After the War

So, it’s the night before I leave and I don’t think I have ever been this nervous in my life.  There may have been a couple moments that come close involving women and school, but I think this out does them.  This entire week has been a series of dinners and meetings with everyone telling me what an experience this is going to be.  My friends and family ask how I’m feeling.  When people ask me how I’m feeling it’s usually because I:

1) ate something terrible and my stomach and bowels are playing musical chairs

2) look sick enough to cause them to question their vicinity to me

3) hurt myself by doing something stupid

4) am drunk

Never have I been asked about leaving home to go to a faraway place.  This a new feeling, and I don’t particularly like sharing my feelings.   And now I’m topping it off by posting on an online journal about my feelings.  That swooshing in the air must have been my man card flying away.  Goodbye everyone that I didn’t get to see and to everyone I did get to see.  Maybe in 8 months I will understand how lucky I really am.

Adios, I have a man card to catch.

One Week and Counting

So here’s a rant:

Moore’s has quite the racket going on.  You walk in there, you buy a coat, they charge you an obnoxiously large price for the coat, and then it’s over with.  But in Richmond, you don’t really have another choice.  I could go to downtown Vancouver, and then because of density the price goes up even higher.  Supply and demand breaks down in the Richmond Suit and Jacket market.  You buy less expensive suits when there’s one store with practically an monopoly on them, while in the downtown core there is an excess which increases their prices.  Clearly, there is witchcraft involved.  Either Moore’s has witches working on their payroll, or the downtown core has a large density of them which is causing a rupture in the space-time continuum!  It is quite obvious that it much be witches downtown.  One witch to one suit seems about right numbers wise, and I highly doubt that a place that charges lower prices for suits can properly compete with enough witches on their payroll to warp the fabric of reality.

So, one witch per jacket, several thousand people living in the downtown core, each one of them owning a jacket gives us a lot of witches.  Now, we could test this theory by drowning the entirety of the little island, because we all know that witches float and burn.  But I have a better idea.  And it involves the dry cleaners.   No, I’m not making some reference to some mobsters running their business out of a dry cleaners.

Alright, so even witches have to live like everyone else even in the downtown core.  So, that means they have to portray even the normal amenities of day to day life.  Now, speaking as someone who wore black clothes in high school for a couple months, I can say that black is difficult to keep in good maintenance.  And all witches have a black robe and hat.  Broomsticks are passe, but those black dresses never go out of style.  They’re practically standard issue wear for them.  So I propose that we track these fiends down who are causing a hole in the universe by going to every laundromat in the downtown core, stealing their client registry, cross referencing it with all the black clothes they are dry cleaning, and then kidnap them all.

Now, I know magic is a concern, so I have developed these special anti-magic wards.  With just one enema( you wouldn’t want them to find it should they, however slim, catch you) you can be free of their magical powers.  Now, go an capture them and save our fair city from the clutches of evil black dresses!!

Because man cannot live on Canada alone

So I have come to a startling conclusion.  Meaning that the conclusion may or may not be startling but I am startled and I don’t guarantee that you will or will not find it equally, less, or more startling if indeed it is startling.  I’m going to China.

I clued into this around 2:00 AM last night while I conveniently sleeping and enjoying a dream that may or may not have involved twins.  I woke up, rather startled as I started to think about this prospect in a manner that I had neglected for the past week and a half before.   There is going to be a country which is gaining 100% more Graeme Tegid Jones, and another country with is losing an equal amount of the same product.  This could have enourmous ramifications to both countries in ways I cannot predict.  Or, just maybe, however slim, nothing will change.  I’m going to fracking China.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if I’m ready.  This is a big step.  I feel like I should make a smaller step first.  Maybe find a house in the woods and become a hermit.  Maybe get arrested for indecent exposure(which, if you know me, shouldn’t be all that difficult).  Or perhaps pie a prime minister in the face.  Instead, I’m moving to another country on fairly short notice, going to be taking a job teaching English, and be stranded in a country that doesn’t speak the same language as me.  Bad English is my first language, closely followed by Not-Quite-So-Bad English, and finally ending off with Canadian English.  I’m going to bloody China.

But!  I did find to a soothing conclusion to this startling conclusion that allowed me to return to sleep(regretfully not a sleep that included the content that it’s predecessor had).  This soothing conclusion came to me in the form of music lyrics(which disturbed me in the morning for entirely different reasons).

He said, “I left my home where the dead never rose
But the streets of gold I’ve yet to find
And at the end of the day all you can do is pray
Without hope well you might as well be blind, yeah be blind
Tomorrow comes a day too soon, tomorrow comes a day too soon”

-Tomorrow Comes a Day too Soon, Flogging Molly

Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.