30th April 2015

I’ve just been to buy a bottle of wine. I was offered a French one but replied in pretty good Mandarin ” no thank you I prefer the Chinese wine *. The guy looked surprised, smiled and deducted 2¥ from the price. I’m not quite sure whether he was surprised at what I said or how I said it. 

30th April 2015

Here in China blowing your nose is regarded as bad form by some  but spitting is pretty much accepted. In order to show my commitment to the values of cultural diversity I’m considering taking up spitting.

30th April 2015

There’s an area here 

that is a commercial street known as Student road where you can get lots of stuff. I bought a mop and a tea towel there recently and a tiny little gizmo that enables my laptop to make a noise. But that’s outside the campus. Within the campus there are several shops that are phone dealerships, 2 places to get your photocopying done, and, near the canteen a bakers, more on that in another blog, and another shop that sells sweets and drinks, bottled water and so on. But no fags, or so I thought. I was queueing up to buy my water when the student in front of me pointed to a space under the counter. And up they came !! A good selection. this little hypocrisy pleases me. 

30th April 2015

When I came here I was determined to learn some Chinese language. In Zhuhai I met a few Western teachers who seemed to get on OK with virtually none, but I don’t like that. Firstly I think it’s a little insulting to go to another country and not even attempt to learn it, we might call it the Colonial approach, still popular with a few ex-pats I know who live in Spain. Secondly it will make my life here easier. I don’t want to point at stuff that I want and whisper thank you to them in very bad Mandarin. I want to be able to chat a bit and tell the taxi driver where I want to go. Finding a taxi driver who spoke English would be a little like winning the lottery.

So get some lessons I thought. I’ve had three now and it’s going OK…..ish. My teacher teaches in what I know now is the Chinese style. I sit in the front row of the class, it’s only me IN the class and he stands at the lectern talking, scribbling on the board and asking me questions. He talks ominously of homework and what he’s going to test me on. I smile politely and write it down. So how is it going ? Well I’m starting to understand some pinyin, a Romanised Chinese alphabet created in the 1930’s. I’ve got the vowels apart from the sixth one which is a sod. (Try shaping your mouth as if you were going to say ooh but say eeee instead ?) Even the 4 tones are nowhere near as difficult as I thought. You have to sort of sing them if that makes sense. But oh those Chinese characters !!! Imagine somebody scribbled something utterly incomprehensible to you then pointed to it and says this is the sign for fish. They then scribble something equally incomprehensible that looks remarkably like the first scribble and says that it means Province. Now I jest of course. Just because they appear arbitrary to me doesn’t mean that they really are. I just have no terms of reference. So, I’m paying this guy so I plucked up my courage, told him that I didn’t want to learn Chinese characters, I can do that more efficiently by myself with flash cards and I just want to learn conversational English.

Anyway I’d better go I’ve got a stack of homework to do…..

28th April 2015

As I left Heathrow I bought 5 large packets of Drum tobacco. My particular preference. I can still remember my first cigarette. I was 14 and a friend said go on try a fag. At the time Players number 6 were the standard. Available at the shop next to my school for 1 penny each. By the time I was 17 I was rolling my own fags. It seemed kind of cool at the time. In the intervening years I’ve proved Mark Twain’s comment right. ” Giving up is easy….I’ve done it thousands of times…”.

Here at university the Chinese students are utterly fascinated by my fag-rolling habit. So of course I’ve been giving impromptu lessons. Yes I KNOW….. but all the men smoke here.  Tomorrow I run out of tobacco. I can either switch to peculiar tasting Chinese cigarettes, there’s no rolling tobacco here, or er…give up. * Thinks * !!

28th April 2015

I got a call a couple of nights ago telling me that I needed to have a medical. I was a mite irritated because I had one less than three months ago in Zhuhai. This one was OK, or as good as it could be anyway for an overweight 54 year old rather partial to a fag and a drink. It seems though that as Zhuhai is in Guangdong Province and the university is in Fujian Province and  er…..rules are rules. 

So not having had anything to eat or drink for 12 hours I waited patiently for my Administrative chum to pick me up. Fujian University of Technology is in the outer suburbs of Fuzhou so it was a good half hour to the medical centre. I went through the usual routine that I rather like. Fill in a couple of forms and then go to a different room for each procedure. There’s the height and weight room, the cardiogram room, the blood taking room, the please piss in this pot room and so on. But then something new ! I had to take a psychological test. The questions were great. “Have you ever blamed someone when it was your fault ?” Well, what would you have ticked ? As I’m not a saint I clicked the oddly named * MILDLY* button. And “Do you ever put off till tomorrow what you should do today” I looked for the * OF COURSE I DO, DON’T YOU * button but it wasn’t there so I clicked the mildly button again. 

As I left a nurse presented me with a plastic bag. I thanked her in Chinese ; three of the 20 words I know so far, and looked inside. In it was 3 Chinese cakes and a surprisingly cool bottle of water. And then I realised . They had given me my BREAKFAST. And very nice it was too. I think this practise should be instituted immediately in the NHS. It wouldn’t cost much and would be a lovely goodwill gesture.

26th April 2015

You’ll get the inference from the title. Yes I said, when I’m in China I’ll live like I’m Chinese. I regularly have  hot water and rice porridge for breakfast with a side of broccoli and rather enjoy it but two days ago it was my birthday. I celebrated it with French wine and cheese and er….Jack Daniels whisky. When in Rome indeed.


26th April 2015

I went to Walmart today and bought hundreds of teabags and a few other things. I mostly buy my stuff from what is called * Student Road*, a little commercial area that serves the university. They are run by what I assume are quite poor people who are invariably charming to me and never rip me off. I felt ripped off by Walmart though. The moral to this tale is simple of course. Stop whinging, drink hot water for breakfast like the Chinese and stop whinging. I will try, honestly.

24th April 2015

I haven’t really said much about what I do at this university. Well I teach 8 groups of students. The smallest group is about 20, the largest 60. I teach 4 speaking classes, one Literature class, 2 listening classes, they are the big ones, and a class on the rather unnervingly wide ranging “Introduction to European Culture”. I’ve started with the Ancient Greeks naturally. 

So, my listening classes. I sit in a classroom with a sound console and a mike. My students have headphones and a screen. It took me a little while to dispose of the mike. The students hate wearing headphones anyway and I can throw my voice quite well fortunately. The material I use is pretty much up to me. We’ve had some poetry, news reports, and of course songs. Today I taught a song. I primed the kids last week by talking about the Beatles and asked them to find something on the internet about them. There are 57 in that class and every single one brought something. So after the intro chat, when I left home, when did they leave home etc. I found my MP3 of “She’s leaving home” and put it on the system. All went well until half way through when the MP3 stopped !! Oh no I thought. I’ll just have to sing the rest of it but could I be that cruel ? This is where one of these wonderful students, who goes by the name of Cinderella, I won’t forget that name, explained that she could get the song on her phone and should she play it through the microphone ? Should she ? Oh yes. And it worked. 

Tonight I am the “Honoured guest” of the student guitar club. I suspect I won’t be quite so honoured when they hear how badly I play……

21st April 2015

Ambulkance Services!!So here starts the search for insurance to cover me while I’m away. After all, If I need an ambulance to bring me home from China I’m going to have to have big bucks. My current travel insurance is with the Post Office and covers me for Europe. (more…)