28th May 2015

My recognition of Chinese Script is getting better. I recognised *head* and I recognised *shoulders* ! And I’ve just bought my first Chinese script shampoo. *Bows* 

Just one of the many T-Shirt slogans I see. Other favourites are the elliptical “WEEKEND MAYBE”‘ and the slightly surreal “CHINISM”. My favourite though was worn by the quietest girl in my first year class. She turned up at 9am with a T shirt saying “I’M THE QUEEN OF FUCKING EVERYTHING”.

24th May 2015

That’s it I’ve got it. A coffee with milk. And remember that the nai is third tone, that’s down then up.

I went into the coffee shop and said it. Rather well I thought. The guy behind the counter raised an eyebrow and said in perfect English, “That’ll be an Americano, right ?” 

22nd May 2015

Mabel the manic mozzie hasn’t been seen for days. I’ve checked under the bed several times. I’m rather hoping that my new friend Ken the cockroach has eaten her. Why do so many people hate cockroaches? Ken’s fine when you meet him in the er….carapace.

20th May 2015

They say there are three reactions that different groups of Westerners have when they get to China. The first group are horrified and  take the next plane home. The next lot sort of tolerate the place. And the final group fall in love with China. I think I’m in the latter group. The noise, the dirt, and the strange rules of the road are just some of the reasons that I love it. 

The teaching is fun. I practise my Chinese with 400 students eager to help me. I learn phrases and then try them out. Yesterday I wandered into class and said in passable Mandarin “How are you guys today ?”. I got a round of applause !! There’s a sound you make in Chinese, it’s sort of zzzjjjjjhhhhhhh that has no counterpart in English.  And I’m slowly learning how to make it. 

And in my Apartment certain customs are observed. I listen to the Midnight news from London and then get up. On a Sunday I read The Observer and listen to The Archers. I drink lots of tea and there’s a bottle of gin in the cupboard. I’m still trying to get some tonic. 

When I have some spare time I just get on a bus to see where it goes. Sooner or later I’m going to get lost and then I will be in a mess.    

19th May 2015

Two days ago it rained *Bits and Bogs * according to one of my students. I’d never seen anything like it and neither had Fuzhou according to the weather forecasters. A massive electrical storm and thunder that made you jump. I think I was the only person in the university who enjoyed it. The forecast is for more. 

19th May 2015

A student of mine, Frigg, yes I know, contacted me on *We Chat* a couple of days ago. For those of you who are outside of China *We Chat* is a bit like Twitter but better although the Party cops listen in apparently. She wanted me to check her speech and particularly her pronunciation. We went through it and she sounded pretty good, but what it took me a while to realise was that the speech had to be delivered from memory. Three minutes exactly, less than 2 minutes 45 seconds, or over 3 minutes 15 seconds and you lose marks. The next day I went to watch. I’m not sure I could deliver a word perfect speech from memory, but some of them could. But not Frigg. I looked at that poor girl’s face and willed her to carry on and she did. Then it was Erica’s turn. Another of my students. Poor Erica (Hello and I’m pleased you gave me permission to say this)  froze. And nobody seemed to want to do anything !! I started the applause and lessened her misery.

Then it was round two. A question appears that you may never have thought about. Is it bad that there are less languages in the world ? What’s your view on the Youth sports games coming to Fuzhou in September ? You may not have a view now but you’ve got two minutes to think of one.

The final is a week on Wednesday and I’ve been asked to be the questioner. I’ll be very very kind……

British readers of roughly my age will remember The Green Cross Code. Look left, look right and Left again or some such thing. Here in China I’d like to propose an update. Pretty much every guide book on China says something like ” the most dangerous thing you will do in China is cross the road”. They’re half right. I think I’m unlikely to be killed but the rules of the road are strange to say the least. 

So. “Look forward, then backwards then left then right but don’t forget the diagonals” And that’s just while you’re on the pavement ! It’s not so much the cars although they drive on the pavement too sometimes, it’s the scooters. And particularly the electric scooters because you can’t hear them coming. Oh and at night, lights are optional. Let me spell out the good things about them first. They’re environmentally friendly ! You’d be surprised how many people they can carry ! The most I’ve seen is five people on one Vespa 125. And just occasionally, to me they look like the epitome of cool. Yesterday I saw a Chinese young man with his girlfriend on the back. She was wearing what looked like a wedding dress, high heels and sitting side saddle. “Roman Holiday” had nothing on this.

But if you’re meandering back at night over the bridge that leads to our campus beware ! One minute you’re fine, the next minute you’re shaking your fist at some lunatic who has pushed you out of the way using his scooter. He smiles back puzzled at the behaviour of the crazy Westerner……

10th May 2015

There’s something wonderful about teaching Chinese students. Far nicer than British ones in the main. They work hard, are polite, kind and very thoughtful. As I amble round the campus, occasionally looking a little like I don’t know where I’m going, usually because I don’t, a student will appear and say “Hi Mark, can I help you ?”

Classes are occasionally very funny. What I try hard to do is to get them SPEAKING English. Chinese educational methods mostly make Mr. Gradgrind seem like an enlightened Liberal. Oh and a week or so ago I got asked a question about homosexuality in the West. I replied with the standard Liberal view. Since then I have had a queue of vaguely camp looking Chinese students asking me questions. They invariably precede their question with the phrase “I’m not gay but…………..”

3rd May 2015

Its Sunday morning in the UK. Which is why I’m listening to the Sunday service on the radio, reading the Observer and drinking tea. I seem to have brought the best British customs with me.