Jump to: Water Cycle Essays An Experience Essays Self-Introduction Essays BONG! Grandma Visits Tragic Love Low-Level Essays Winter Hong Kong In-Service Conference ("You've Got a Friend [in the U.S.-China Friendship Volunteers]") The Accident-Causing Tourist

AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Undulating Meta-Post
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DATE: 06/17/2005 11:21:28 PM
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Apologies to those solicited to come here via e-mail. There's nothing yet, and there may never be, as the office computer (if I'm not the only PCV in China without a computer/internet connection in my home, lemme know) gives me about three Friendster clicks before irreversibly erring. I'd just like to remind you that these important messages are being brought to you by JimBob's Loan Consolidation Ltd., Obnoxiously Ubiquitous Smileys Inc., and The Half-Naked People Screensaver Company. This sleek, greyscale design is not in fact to be cool or po-mo, but rather because I've heard reading white on black is easier on the eyes, which in my experience, turn to bleeding raisins after reading a screen for an hour.
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Exemplary Essays
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DATE: 07/13/2005 07:33:56 PM
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As laughing at foreigners trying to use English has become a dear national past-time, here is my contribution to this recreational, yet highly scholarly field:

All of my students are aged 15-23, about 80% female, and incredibly innocent. They love to follow models, are used to repeating and copying, have bad dictionaries and perhaps an even lesser grasp of grammar. Essays come by the hundreds and are usually carbon copies of the textbook texts, unfortunately due both to their inability to express themselves coherently and the school's (nation's) requirement that specific textbooks be used, which happen to be several levels too high for my students. As a result, I conduct class largely in Chinese, covering such vital lesson topics as the water cycle, elephants, and the island country of Iceland--on all of which I am the foremost expert and by which all teenagers are naturally fascinated. Below are some exemplary essays to give "foreign experts" at home a taste of the fare. Anything resembling a proper sentence can be assumed to be textbook or classroom model verbatim.



Textbook assignment: Write a 60-80 word composition on the water cycle. Make sure that your composition includes answers to the following questions: What is the water cycle? What causes the water cycle? What happens when the water falls on land?



Notes: The vast majority of the 100 essays simply slapdashed the lesson text back together at random, answering at most two of the questions, while changing nothing intentionally. Not the most interesting reading. Students seem to fear departure from the text due both to lack of interest in the topic and fear of making mistakes, which is of course about the only way real learning can occur. An exception: "The water cycle" By: Claire



The water is unusual. All together, there are about 330 million cubic miles of water on earth, it belongs to everyone. If all people is no water, he would die first. at the same way, if a tree is no water. it would be so dry that death now look here, we'll introduction about the water cycle of knowledge.



The water cycle is the movement of water from the oceans to the land and from the land to the oceans. As weather became cool so that raining or snowing, It release water, then it fall to the land. if the weather became very hot evaporates the rain water there very quickly, or if the weather stays cold the snow may free and became ice. this is the water of knowledge.



Many essays either take the form of a letter to myself, which tend to be more interesting but not appropriate in an strictly academic setting, or include a note at the end directed specifically to me. The latter often ask questions which interest them more than what we are studying, ask for study tips, ask about the USA or how I like China, and almost always include a cry for help of some kind. Here's a nice one from Zaza, at the end of her water cycle essay's second page:



Mr Lee How is everything. My English don't good. please must help. I'll do it for you with pleasure. because. such can raise my study result. hope. Mr. Lee must. put question to me.



Last semester, only one of my thirteen classes met more than once every two weeks, so as to provide maximum "exposure" to my foreign wonderfulness, so I was determined to learn 'em up proper. I laid out ground rules for essays, copied on my own dime, used topics of interest to students while focusing on problematic grammar points in each. There was an in-class example given, written together on the blackboard as a class (which would serve as an all-too-closely followed model), and students were required to show me their rough drafts for a full-scale editing session--ten minutes each for fifty students adds up fast, so I've had to do away with that this semi. To work on very difficult conditional sentences, especially in hypothetical/impossible situations, I assigned a time travel essay, which the students seemed to like pretty well. In class, we chose to go to Canada (because we'd like to travel in this country), ten years in the future, in the summer because Canadian winters are very cold, and in the course of our misadventures our essay took on the topic of how to outsmart a wolf in the wilderness. The students were engaged, my supervisor played a convincing wolf, and it was my best class to date. One interesting product follows, the final draft, already corrected once, written by Joan:



Time Travel Essay by Wang ___. English Name: Joan



If I could go to any time, anywhere, only one month I would go to Italy. eight years in the future. I would like to travel in this country.



I dreampt about traveling abroad when I was younger. Perhaps my aspiration will be met. Because of Italy's summer are very hot I would travel in spring.



I would find a person to talk to, then, we would go to the park, did see flowers, listen to music, clomb a mountain and ride a hourse, I would go skating. I would throw stones, I would fly on airplane. I would have a good time. I would be memorable and peaceful.



On my way leaving the park, perhaps I may have problems. I would feel very afraid. In my front have three negroes, I don't know How to get past them. I think they are bold as brass. They are not to be mentioned in the same breath with commen person. I catch my breath and try to keep my balance. I was confidend in victory. Just as they are not paying attention to me, I quickly went away. When they leave there for a moment, I was able to go out. I would then be of danger.



This would be a very profound impression. I would feel very clever, Because of I smarter than negroes. I learned a lesson fron my expenience. This place is very wealthy. I would like living there all the time.

In the interest of racial understanding, I responded to Joan, briefly, that there are good and bad black people in the world, just like with any kind of human being. Italians of African ancestry, however, are requested to come to China immediately to dispel such stereotypes as this.








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AUTHOR: Cara
EMAIL: carabou920@aol.com
IP: 216.15.115.29
URL: http://www.friendster.com/user.php?uid=3458317
DATE: 07/29/2005 03:40:08 PM
Julian -- First, I want to say that I enjoy living vicariously through those who choose to live abroad, so thanks. My comment is that Joan's piece is interesting, given that Italians who came to the U.S. during the major immigration waves of the 1910s and 1920s were often thought of as black, or at least "less white," than other (Northern, what Italians would call "Anglo") European-Americans. I wasn't aware that people in China may think in the same terms... or perhaps it is just Joan?
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Can't Get Enough Essays
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DATE: 07/13/2005 07:44:40 PM
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In lieu of anything personal, here are some more student essays for your summer reading pleasure--our semester doesn't end until July 20th, and these handwritten, 2-page masterpiece manuscripts come in 50 page anthologies three times a month. Joan (the author of the Italian Negro piece) makes another fine contribution at the end. There is much to be learned of both our and Chinese culture from these:indeed, sometimes it is overwhelming, and not only grammatically! These are all un-altered, with all eerrors (sic) in place--I make no typos.

By: Monica (Chou ___) An experience ("Colour Snap")



Yesterday, I went blank raiver with my classmate to brown. In the morning eight clock, we setted out blank by bus. It took us a half hour to catch a bus.



When we arrived at there, we were exciting because it was very beautiful. Spring was coming here earlier than our school. Birds was singing. Trees already grown up. We intended to go into forest.



When we went into forest, one of us was busy looking for the best view and talking about pictures. Flash she found a long and colour something and took it, it was colour snap, she was afraid and sound. We were very afraid and stood together. I said to myself: "what we are doing" oh dear, please help us. I will very thank you" Sometimes, they asked me "what did they do". I said "I didn't know. "Oh, look, there is an old man" one of us sound, We asked he for help me. Just now, we were exciting and looked forward to the old man help me.



"grandfather, there is a colour snap, please help us to escape, I will very thank you." The old man came here and get ready to skill snap. then he smiled and took us to be colour stick, at moment, our hearts still.



Then we thanked the old man and continued to go into forest with a pop some: "where is spring."



By: Pearl (Wu ___) An experience (Drawing)



When I was child, I always looking forward to the vactation, Because I would, play in my aunt's home. I thought my classmate also had the same mind with me.



This day, I get up early. I was going to sent out from the home at the seven o'clock. After two hours I arrived there. My aunt warm hearted receive me. As I very like art when I was boring, I always went to outside draw some look like pretty picture. I had often dreamed of furture become a famous artist One day a boy came to my side. "what do yo do?" He asked. "get away. I'm very busy. don't bother me!" I answered. "do you like drawing?" He asked "Yes, I very like" I answered "You must give up drawing. It's a waste of time" . He said. I was very angry. "get away, get away" I loudly shout he. "You are madman" He said. Then he said something and I don't know Because I was still thought of his talk. When I respond that I found is leaving. Afterword I hunt all over village but I didn't found he. As if he is flee.



Even though I very like drawing But I choose give up drawing at last Because, I don't like my hate waste more tine it. The drawing is only my favourite pastime. so I often remind myself of study hard every lesson become a talent. In order for society contribute.



By: Strawberry (Zhan ___) An Experience (Acupuncture)



We are dream of becoming an angel with white clothes, who hope patient will be well again soon. So we are looking forward to practice time come earlier. My friend and I was practiced at the clinic during the vacation. She and I didn't go home.



Everyday, there are many patient in the clinic. Judging from this, both doctor and nurse is busy seeing for their ill. One day, the nurse head asked me to give an acupuncture treament. I'm heard this thing very excited. But, I'm come the patient bedside when I took drug bottle and injector, I was very nervous. In the flurried, injector head got into blood vessel. Blood showed out. I pulled out injector head at once.



"I'm sorry, it's not succeed" I said.



He asked me, "Are you first practise?"



"Yes." I answered. I asked he, "Do you feel pain?"



"No pain," he said. "It's nothing, please go on." He not only didn't horse me, but also encourage me. After three times later, he smiled when I succeed to get into injector. And said: "You are a success as a nurse." I said: "thanks for your encouragement."



Now that vacation is over, we must return to class. But I remind myself to don't forget him forever. I had no sooner saw the clinic building than I remember him and my first experience of practic. So I intend to go clinic at the weekday. Nursing work is so laborious that they didn't free time go out strolling in the street. Even though they are very tired, but never uttered a word of complaint. So the patient called them for angel with white clothes.



By: Annie (Wang ___) An Experience (Bike Repair)



This story is about an old man and me, on a cold evening and I was on my way home, relate a story about warmth.



It is said that beauty is not the thing that life lack but discovery. I believe it is true. One of my experience makes me understand this better.



It was one cold evening and I intend to go home, but my bike was broken. While it was dark, there was nobody on the street except me. I was very worried because my mother was waiting for me at home. I looked around, as if had a bike repair shop, that's ok. I had no sooner saw a bike-repair sign in front of a small house than I was wild with joy. I hurried there, but found the door had been closed. I was very angry. I had no choice but to knock at the door with a gleam of hope. To my great surprise: the light not only turned on, but also an old man came out, he said: "What's wrong?" I answered: "my bike was broken. Could you please help me?" All right wait a minute." I wait a moment, an old man with his tools in both his hand. I look forward to repaired it.



Quickly he examined my bike and repaired it. Twenty minutes later he stood up and said: "ok, it can work as usual." I was so thankful to him that I gave him ten yuan, but he only took two yuan because that was the right price.



Still at that time did I notice that his hands were dark red from freezing. My heart was full of appreciation and gratification immediate.



On my way back home I felt the warmth in my heart. until now I couldn't forget the old man and his kindness. I believe if I can make others happy I will truely happy.



By: Ellen An examination experience



Have you ever experienced real despair? Terminal examination after someone will get experience from failure, but I am very lose from then on, I couple both anything no confidence, because I always felt a born loser.



Before, I think the examination only a kinds of form, I didn't too value, but I posted three years study life, I finally know what things the most important, regard as a student, The only study achievement used be measured student's good and bad. This terminal examination, I was exam very bad, I felt very upset, I really didn't know I should how doing, about this things, It was strike bigger. Two years ago, I never fail (exam). when other people examinations fail, I always comfort other people, or help others set up confidence, But, when I things turned me, I don't know do not know what to do, I may too young what really to know grief and agony, but I felt learned that me had known both grief and happiness. The things after, my friend told me, Don't discouraged, afterwards definite will the more well the better, even though they how comfort me, I was felt self-respect received hurt, I no recover study confidence, I always felt other people looked down upon to me, I exam so less, my classmate don't believe it's trueth, I think, It's should my experience!



Really, I could hardly believe it, others unbelieveable me, others always told me, everything works out for the best. whether you succeed or not, you have to do your best, You can win if you have the will to try hard, I think I can succsssful!



By: Sally (Zhang ___) The sthory is about snail



This sthory is about both the snail, long ago. both snails borned the world, they were so excited that they could don't smile. they were climbed up is very well.



once in a while day I looked they were went to the corner. the times, I looked they touch itself feeler, as if it ask other to climbed up. But the other snail ask it to climbed up. But the other snail ask it to climbed up. As a result, was I want excepted the method feasible? soon, I looked it ask for the other snail. they together climbed up the other snail ask: "the good idea". As a result, they set out. They were along corner climbed up, suddenly, happened a thing. the snail fell from wall. even though it fell from the wall, but it wouldn't lose heart. It climbed up again. It not only climbed up good well but also climbed up very fast. climbed and climbed, and at last it cought up with the other snail, the times, the other snail not want it to cought up with, but it wouldn't arrogart, again climbed and climbed, at lust the snail from destination. but the snail not happy. so, the other snail wouldn't lose heart. again climbed and climbed. also, the other snail from destination. It feel free to defeated, but the other snail was very happy.



The sthory speaked is snail. nothwithstanding, the other snail was defeated or susseed. they were very friend.



By: Candy (Yang ___) An Experience (Picnic in the Park)



Last weeked, we were going to went for a walk in the country in spring. everyone likes happy. we got ready for much picnic and some clothes. we by bus arrived at WuWei Xi Jiao park. At first, I suggestion go ice-skating, but Joan disliked it. she broken my heart. so I don't want to there. after, Linda desided to take photo, everyone agree. so am I. once up on a time, I dreamed of do a film studio, so I still try hard. sisi wanted to, go boating. Joan fall down the lake, everyone was happy. Suddenly, Anthea can't find, we feel worried at last I saw she ate the picnic, she likes very hungry, I remind Anthea stop of eating, but she said, You'd better ate come, or I will eat all. we shout she "pig".



Late in the afternoon, we put up the tent in the middle of a field, As soon as this was done, they cooked a meal over an open fire. They were all hungry and the food smelled good. after the delicious meal, They told stories and sang songs. The girls felt tired. so they crept into the tent. this trip is succeed because everyone like and unforgettable. so I asked for them to come again. as if we have time, they express agree. this trip not only happy, but also promote our friendship. so we should value chance.



Since we trip, our friendship is more and more well. everyone all kind. so I understand, friendship may promote love.



By: Joan (Wang ___) AN EXPERIENCE (Swimming)



This story is about Candy and her friends. they went to home spring the vacation. our dormitory excepty they, only have three peoples. Candy even though left us, but we still very await her. after two days, she back to our school. She said that we have only one vacation and we will go to excises work during the short time. we had to value together every day.



we so fast that forget a some of things. they are umbellcl of sun, shoes of ice, act. we didn't only have a good time but also find it is very interesting. we both went to restaurant to give them take the foods. as if we are very tired, but we didn't take on the face. we set out after have a break. we no sooner taked the photo than arrived at the public park. we dream of swimming in the lake. even though this didn't finish. so we find this very failed. we remind our self to take care of the lake. we succeed learns the swim. we are busy boating at the moment. I intend to go to travel next time. this action is very excited.



we look forward to that time is slowly. let us happing have a good time enough. aftertime, we ask he give us a lot of games. she agree with our suggestion. Time is fans, the sun will down the mountains, we fast bark from park.



we found it is very interesting last time. Because we haven't together's time. in my idea, it is most significance. She congratulated me on winning the competition. I was very exciting. She told me about her past experience. in remains time we went to look after ourself and back to school. at last, we are take the telephone again and we are together go to the hall.


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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Semester Ends
STATUS: Publish
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DATE: 07/14/2005 06:43:05 AM
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So the government will be disappointed in my bi-annual project report that my number "host-country nationals" (students) helped took a dip from 632 to about 150 this semester, but at least I can remember most of their names now. We celebrated the end with a trip to the "Horse's Hoof Temple" an hour south of the city, going originally with my supervisor and his new wife (for whose wedding I gave an English/Chinese speech to over 100 people, invoking cross-cultural sun-gods and confetti tossers), but as she lives too far away and had to return to her school we went with the bigwigs of our school for a day of hard-alcoholic bingeing. When in doubt, it seems, the answer is always at the bottom of a bottle of Chinese vodka around here. Fortunately I skipped out to ride a fat horse through the green mountain springs, but upon returning an hour later, the bosses were just hitting their stride. While I felt compelled not to insult the local, colorfully dressed Yugu minority women by refusing their firewater (which one is required to drink until they stop singing at you about how much they love their land and ancestors), I could have done without the full-on dance embraces from the hammered higer-ups set to the usual Eurotrash. The landscape could actually do without the decked out, stereo tourist tents.

The power's been out all day again, so I don't want to spent my full netbar fare on the blogger.
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Post-Mongol Glowpole
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DATE: 08/24/2005 10:33:13 PM
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After a sometimes harrowing Mongolian vacation, to be elucidated at a later date, there was time to hammer out some travel dates upstairs... This will likely change, but at least some of it will be accurate. PLANS FOR THE NEXT YEAR (fall '05-'06):

Oct. National Week (1-7th)- Grandma visits from USA, we'll try to go to Tibet.

Winter Vacation, approx Jan. 18th-Feb.25 - Try to stay in Hong Kong in uncle's apartment (fellow PCV's/friends are welcome if you can get there!), see south of China.

Spring Vacation, May 1-7th - Visit friend in XiAn and TerraCotta Warriors or go with fellow PCV's elsewhere.

Summer -last 3 months of service confined to site...go nowhere.

Late August? - Close of Service...move out of site and real travel begins.

Sept. - Travel South (i.e. India) and SE (i.e. Vietnam) Asia as long as funds allow, probably about a month.

Oct. or Nov. - Return to USA for as yet undetermined length of time, at least a month.

IF THESE PLANS CAN BE COORDINATED WITH Y'ALL, ALL THE BETTER!
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AUTHOR: Natalie
EMAIL: antinats@gmail.com
IP: 67.50.32.124
URL: http://www.friendster.com/user.php?uid=1179737
DATE: 08/25/2005 07:02:35 AM
dude, sounds like a wild and crazy life. lucky you!! mine's at whereunderwhere.blogspot.com
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: For My Safety's Sake (Essays)
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DATE: 09/18/2005 03:18:50 AM
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School officials have advised me that it's in my best interests (those being, not to be fined or forcibly sent out of China) not to blab certain details of my Mongolian vacation to the world...namely the part where I snuck back in...so in lieu, here's some more fluffy student essays--perfectly harmless and so far widely approved:

My "five-year nursing class" was to write a 1-page (handwritten, as always, 20-line) introduction of themselves. I'm in my third semester with this class, and several struggled to string 50 words together, while others produced the following golden greats...

English Name: Franchesca

...In the future I will become a very famous nurse, Because I'm very work hard, I study this occupation reason why My parents force me to do.

My familly is very Happy. I have a brother. mother and father. They are very love me, Because I'm a princess with them heart felt. I have a dream that I have job in a big hospital.

English Name: Jennie Chinese Name: Li ___

...I like to listen to the music, because. it can help me remove some trouble and enter well dream. Sometimes when I was get in to trouble in studing, listening to the music can remove tired, it can make me to happyness heartfelt. I like to trip. besides them, it can help me mediate my heartfelt.

English Name: Debbie Chinese Name: Wu Caifei

...I really like to sports. Because sports are used for our body health. So far, there are some adult don't like to do exercises. So they are wrong. They ought to do sports.

English Name: Emma

...I'm come from Zhangye, Gansu, and I go to school in Zhangye, Gansu, too. So I don't like my school, because it is very small and not far away from my home. In this way make me felt without fresh taste. I study nursing professional in this school...

English Name: Faun (IN ITS ENTIRETY)

I'm seventeem years old, I come from Gaotai, Gansu. I go to school in ZMC, I study nursang, I like watching TV, very much, Bec euse I have a fe few friend I'm lonely The TV is my friend. my family is a happly family they aremy panents my I and my brother. My parents' knowledge only a bit my gran a father. are farme my brother go to element tary My country is very beautiful.



English Name: Angela (IN ITS ENTIRETY...SHE WISHES TO REMAIN AN ENIGMA BY AVOIDING EVEN A SINGLE COHERENT SENTENCE...NOT SURE IF SHE'S TYPING RANDOM WORDS OR JUST LOOKING IN HER DICTIONARY FOR EVERY WORD IN CHINESE? WHAT DO YOU THINK?)

I spend already it pound 18 piece come frome, I though quite now attend there aren't zhang ye the Medical science trainings not high to me on beautiful place very at piece for autumn and winter summer It is that a greatness has noble whife clothing weather that the school what I studied is to attend to me to go back after graduating.

Family of me extraor dinary happiness. harmonic I have one and off able father on gentle and kind hearted. mother have on tall and big older brother of dashing have a lovely sister Elder brother sister of I as me too in this attend Xian a lot.

I very like sing because sing song make me nappys. I one happy I full of vigor future whife clothing weather new a one day In I too well to become

(I GAVE HER A PASSING GRADE OF 60 BUT SAID I COULDN'T CORRECT HER ESSAY.)
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Chinese Foreign Language Education
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DATE: 09/24/2005 04:09:55 AM
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I thought I was going on a limb teaching a two-hour class on koalas, but that was successful compared to the textbook's next, which rendered me an expert on London's Big Ben. My students can't give an introduction, say the date or that they really like to play basketball without readable prompts, yet this lesson's vocabulary included such words as "lubricate" and "lubrication" (because they need to know the different parts of speech of this word especially...even though they are "everyday very happyness")...and the most essential medical term of all time for Chinese nurses: "bong" (n.). "Bong" was tucked away right in the middle of the vocabulary list with its part of speech and international phonetic pronunciation! In a high school textbook in remote, communist China.

The way education works here is the teacher says a word, and then the whole class repeats it...lubricate--LUBRICATE!, lubrication--LUBRICATION, bong--BONG! and whichever class is next door has to wait for this to finish the whole list of thirty words 'cause it's loud enough to educate the nearby farmers. I did let them know that their textbook was inadvertently giving them a lesson in marijuana paraphernalia...as our text on Big Ben included the word thrice in succession: BONG! BONG! BONG! (to describe the sound of its bell).

My students are visibly shaken when I say that American high schoolers A. Get off school at 3pm (instead of 6) B. Are not required to return to school for two hours of "night self-study" C. Do not attend school on Saturdays D. Do not read their textbooks outside of class except perhaps a day or two before tests., etc., etc.

Each semester I've explained that the textbook is useless and too difficult for them, but they keep giving it to me and requiring me to force it on them. They expect me to translate 2-page texts into Chinese for them because it's what the students are used to. Who knows what wonders later lessons may hold?! Maybe I can sing them "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

This is not negative (we're not really allowed to say anything negative). I'm still high on life in China! Constructive criticism just seems to fall on stoned ears here. Pass the MSG-munchies.

Representing the whole of western civilization might get heavy were one to be responsible all the time. Sheesh.
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Grandma's in the Chinese Boonies
STATUS: Publish
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DATE: 10/17/2005 05:00:47 AM
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During my mom's mom's (very important to differentiate between maternal and paternal relatives in China) six-day stay in Zhangye I felt more like a real PCV than ever before. Despite what I took as the first snow of the year, there'll be no heat for two more weeks. And:my phone was out (for the third time), my washing machine broke and spilled water all over the floor (for the fourth time), there was no hot water (for the first time), my office doorknob broke (for the third time), but the internet has worked great since the total erasure of my hard-drive two weeks ago (fortunately, I suppose, for only the first time). That means it's high time fer a bloggin'.



Much of the shock value for Grandma was lost because my 120-student class was away for military training, as is required of all new students, teaching legions of barely 5-feet tall teenage girls to seize the shoulders of enemy combatants and smash their faces violently into their knees in four-step, synchronized drill sessions. The original plan of teaching 7 days straight thankfully became an almost leisurely schedule with every other day off for sightseeing.



Everyone guessed that my 73 year-old grandmother with two artificial hips (I wrote her a note in Chinese for the airport metal detectors probably saying the equivalent of her having "buns of steel") was only 50 and without exception was said to be "spirited", "healthy", and very "activity" for her age. I'm sure my health benefited from all the fancy meals and cab rides provided either by her or my doting school's officials. We made the rounds of the Big Buddha Temple and the shopping circuit, but sidetrips to the even bigger Buddha temple, New Zealander Internal Combustion Engine Museum, and scenic Horse's Hoof Temple were all nixed due to mutual exhaustion.



Certainly the highlight of the Zhangye stay was our 8am, 2-hour, team-taught lesson given to the pharmacy class, specially relocated to the fifth-floor A/V classroom so that teachers could watch our combined mastery. We didn't realize that the school had made an official statement requiring all English teachers and all other teachers not giving class (most of whom speak almost no English, many freed thanks to the military training) to attend, but neither of us were phased by the nearly 100 Chinese faces staring back at us with video cameras, regular cameras, and mostly confused expressions. We were committed and almost were able to speak no Chinese in the classroom, for once, and through a spirited (though butchered on my accordion) rendition of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", we answered such important questions as "What did the lamb do when Mary went to school?", "Why did the children laugh and play?", "Does Mr. Lee allow sheep in his classroom?", and "Do any of you have sheep at home?" (perhaps ten of 45 students did). Our goals of learning, entertaining, and establishing that an English-only class is not only possible (providing the textbooks aren't used) but also the best way to teach were met, and a hootin' hollerin' good time was had by all!








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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: To Know One Is Truly Loved
STATUS: Publish
ALLOW COMMENTS: 1
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DATE: 10/26/2005 03:31:01 AM
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BODY:
Julian



Another snowy day without heat here in Zhangye, and though my fingers are frozen (need to pick me up some leather, fingerless gloves like the kind I got in Beijing a few years back), it hasn't seemed to affect the internet connection. I'm glad to report that I'm a legal resident of China again, after a month and a half running around with a Xerox of my passport and expired visa, hoping that anyone who asked would be satisfied with the snazzy (but useless, according to Mongolian border police) Foreign Expert Certificate. After a month, however, and a new bank account, I'll be pleasantly surprised if my Oct. living allowance arrives by Nov. Good thing Grandma came to visit and bail me out, otherwise it'd be accordion street-beggin' for this PCV.



Since you can't buy a train ticket more than five days in advance, I've had some trouble getting a ticket to HQ in Chengdu for the yearly physical/dental check-up. Been looking forward to it with a sort of eager dread--hygiene kinda lapses when it's 48 degrees in your bathroom and there's no hot water, so for all I know I've got small birds nesting in me, just waiting to pass that flu along. Still, it's always nice to speak a little more English and be a little warmer. When I went to buy my ticket, the lady at the window told me the Chengdu train was SPECIAL, so tickets can only be bought four days ahead and I should come back tomorrow at noon. The next day at 2:30 they were sold out, and I didn't bring enough money to split the 36-hour trip into two sections. I left dejectedly on my bike at about 3, expecting to be able to ride back to the booth with more money before it closed at 4:30. But it was not to be.



After a stop for some yellow but unripe, crunchy bananas, I was met outside our school gate by our school's affable, rabble-rousing hospital chief, just returning from his Tuesday afternoon vodka binge. Mr. Yang is a stocky, jolly, 40-something father of twin 11 year-old girls, always clad in leather and swerving around students on campus riding his semi-souped up motorcycle. I've had dinner with his family before, during which he pledged his friendship and expressed both disbelief and disappointment that I could not be convinced to join him and the higher-ups for their marathon drinking games. He flagged me down as I dismounted to go over the sewer pipe blocking the gate, gave me his pulsing handshake, and kinda:just:forgot to let go. With a wide-eyed guffaw, he led my handlebars in one hand and my right hand in the other (crushing every several seconds) in a sort of improvised ballroom dance across campus to park my bike. Without letting go of me, he drunkenly called his wife, his friends, and the president on his cel phone to invite them all to "come over right now and have dinner with my foreign friend." In the mean time (it was about 3:30 then), I could wait with him in his office. He was very evasive when I asked where we were going, much preferring to say how much he liked/loved me and what good friends we were.



After walking face-first into the locked, side door of the school hospital, he swung us around to the front and climbed, with tenuous confidence and an ear to ear grin, to the second floor and his office. We passed several practicing students and occupied beds, each of whom was informed with vigor of our undying friendship. Down the hall and into his office we strolled, hand in hand, where the door only opened half way, blocked by a lounge chair, in which I was instructed to sit. He finally let go to get up and explain to me the finer points of Chinese tea, while pouring me a 16-ounce paper cup of leaves, overflowing onto the floor when he filled it with water, then emptying it onto the coffee table with a misplaced wave of an arm. No matter. He'd use the table swamp to squish out his cigarette a few minutes later.



A woman and a snot-nosed, four year-old boy came into the chief's office. The little boy had a little fever, and his mother asked the chief if he could give him a check-up. With a gaping laugh, the chief agreed and led them into the hall, where he must have dumped them on a student nurse because he was soon back to apologize and shake my hand.



The cronies he invited arrived soon after, and the chief introduced them to me as the local police. They were brothers:just like he and I were like brothers. He introduced them to me, "This is my foreign friend. He is a foreigner. A foreigner!" We all nodded in agreement. "I really like him. In fact, I love my good foreign friend. We will be friends forever," he continued, shaking my hand again and then beginning to stroke and caress it. Getting uncomfortable, I said I needed to go home and put my bananas away. "No!" the chief shouted, in English. He held my hand harder and made a phone call to his wife, inviting me to have dinner at his home, even though he insisted neither he nor his wife was a stir-fry master. The police lit the hospital chief's cigarette while he dialed.



He talked to her for a moment, then laughed and handed me his cel. "I'm talking to my wife!" he proudly exclaimed. I said hello to her and that I'd be glad to have dinner with them another day. She agreed and promptly hung up, which surprised the chief. The local police were getting antsy and decided to leave, but when I tried to get up to follow them, the chief took the back of my hand and nuzzled it with the side of his stubbly cheek. I wasn't going anywhere.



"He's drunk," the police informed me, as they left.



The chief was going downhill rapidly, but his grip wasn't getting any looser. As it must be a great cultural disrespect to pry a Chinese leader's fingers from one's own, I resigned to buy the train ticket on Wed. and see this situation to its comical conclusion. I still urged that I had to go home and prepare for my evening class, and perhaps he took this as a cue to get up and give me a tour. By now he was using me to steady himself as he walked, still insisting on leading the way:into:the women's restroom. Luckily there wasn't anyone in there (Chinese school "stalls" don't have doors, tp, or anything at all, really), but I could see where this was headed. Not about to share a public pee hand-in-hand with a 40 year-old man, I wriggled out of his grasp while his other hand busied itself with his zipper. "Don't go!" He shouted behind me as I went to take my bike helmet and coat. Were he not otherwise indisposed, I'm sure he would've given chase, so I waited for him with my stuff, outside the restroom. Students were looking on as he came back out, adjusting his package and laughing, thanking me profusely.



Hands re-locked, we returned to the office, followed by the head nurse who'd caught sight of my plight. Back in his office, he sat but I kept standing as the head nurse explained that I had to go home. "He is my foreign friend," he told her, fondling me brusquely. He pulled me down onto the sofa next to him and gave my much molested hand another stubble nuzzle.



The head nurse came closer, speaking as if to a child and getting ready to slap his face. "Why don't you listen, chief? Chief, he has work to do! Stop, chief! Let go!" I stood up again, and he wrapped both arms and his face around my thighs.



"You cannot go!" he cried and squeezed me. And then, after the head nurse took him by the arms, his head sank and he seemed to lose his strength. I quickly left, not looking back.



"He has drunk a lot of alcohol today!" I was assured by the head nurse, going out the door.



I have my tickets now. And now I have to scramble to finish writing my midterm exams (I'm weaseling out of proctoring thanks to the medical stuff in Chengdu, heheh).
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Nicole
EMAIL: dragonstar728@hotmail.com
IP: 222.179.189.162
URL: http://www.friendster.com/user.php?uid=21894499
DATE: 10/26/2005 05:18:17 AM
I always enjoy your stories, though this one has a familiar and uncomfortable ring to it. I hope you're well and safe, and I would like to hear about Mongolia sometime. I'm thinking about going home via Ulan Bator and Paris next year. Be kind to yourself and stay warm.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Nathan
EMAIL: wheatlike@hotmail.com
IP: 69.129.196.45
URL: http://www.friendster.com/user.php?uid=15769718
DATE: 10/26/2005 04:15:30 PM
I've clearly missed more bloggage than I thought. I think that is a funny. You made a funny. Why no more Cambridge newsishness? When are you done? I could relay some stuff to proper sources. I think people oughta know abouts your stuff... otherwise all Cambridge gets is # 17 ................. -Nathan
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[EDITORS NOTE FROM 2016: If I'm not mistaken, I believe this entry has a most unfortunate update. The hospital chief later committed suicide.]

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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Lowest of the Low
STATUS: Publish
ALLOW COMMENTS: 1
CONVERT BREAKS: 0
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DATE: 11/28/2005 10:50:12 PM
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It's been awhile since there's been a new, raw cut of pure essay rotisserie, so here's some highlights from the 125-student class of first-year students (aged 15-17 and who've been studying English for 2-3 years but to whom I must speak Chinese 70% of the time and yell 100% because the classroom has no ceiling and is next door to other classrooms nearly as large). They're nothing spectacular, unfortunately, due to the very basic nature of the assignment, that having followed my lesson on likes & dislikes (which I insist always upon beating into the ground:like N., like V-ing, like to V. with endless examples) was to be entitled "What I Like" and consisted of these four questions: 1. What do you like to do in your spare time? 2. What are some of your favorites? 3. What don't you like to do? 4. What do you think of English? (Do you like it?)



(INVARIABLY, THE ONLY CORRECT SENTENCES WERE FROM CLASS DICTATIONS OR TEXTBOOKS, EVERYONE LIKES BASKETBALL AND OTHER SPORTS BECAUSE THE ENTIRE CLASS OF 80lb. GIRLS WANTS TO LOSE WEIGHT.)

Izzy: what I like. I enjoy all kinds of sports, but I lam especially fond of basketball. I think, sports have I growth has very good. I like to do in my spare time house work. basketball is My live, don't it. I don't joying. I think lose weight. have really. I like see movie, singingsong. I don't like exans.



Sylvia: "In many movies, HARRY POTTY is my favourite movie:"



Ma Xue Se: what is like? In my spare time, I like reading book and watching TV. my favourite sports are playing football and playing basketball, but I don't like playing volleyball. I don't really to eat beef noodles, my favourite food is rices and tomatoes. I don't like to study English, because it very hard. I like blow and white. I like my homes because it very happy.

Trudy: what I like. I enjoy living large cites, because there are lot of cars. such as. In the areas near the cites. I like writes wacation. I like take part in party. because there is a interesting. Sometime I ame found a dumpling. but I not realy spots. sometime I lie down on the grass. We can blues air. It's very comportable. In general. I like lestening to music prefer to reading books. the music are very exiting. I also like stamps, because very stamp is a picture that has a story to tell. I thought. I like it all one's life.

Luka: What I like. I like to make a snowman in water spare time. After a heavy snow, all the ground be comes white, clean and sone beautiful than before, children come out from their hour and begin to play with the balls of snow. some are making a snowman. How funny it is! The snowman has a small head and a very big body. It open its big mouth and are looking at us happily. some young people come out and go skating. snow brings people happiness, I like snow very much. my favorites is play basketball. I don't like listen to muics. I think of English is very interesting.

Gigi: what I Like In my spare times I will read books and to play volleyball. so I like watch TV pecning is lot of fun? My favavite food is monet and sport but I like apple very or my is oranges. I doesn't like to eat pear and monkey. Look monkey, whe Beause pear is very shleet, monkey is very boning I think of English very useful, but I think of English is learing hard. our English teach come on USA. her is very much English. our class has one-hundred studreats Learn very good.

(THIS STUDENT BELOW TOOK A WHITE PIECE OF PAPER AND HAND-WROTE 11 SETS OF FIVE LINES IN PENCIL, THEN WROTE IN PEN NEATLY IN THE LINES, SO I KNOW THIS ISN'T JUST SLAP-DASHERY...SOME STUDENTS TAKE THEIR TIME AND TAKE PRIDE IN THEIR HOMEWORK)...

Trisha: what I like Everyone like to do something. I am very happy girl. I like playing basketball and playing volleyball. I like listening to music and reading books. I favourites dog and duck. I also favourites eat rise and noodles. I don't like camping. I like learn English. But we don't speaking English. This is a importen. So we are learn English good.

(THE ESSAY BELOW SHOWS CLEARLY THAT I'M MAKING A DIFFERENCE HERE. WHEREAS TAMMY ONCE LIKED ONLY TWO THINGS, NOW SHE LIKES THREE THINGS.)

Tammy: what I Like I like many sports, but I favourite sport is basketball and volleyball. I don't like to sing song or dance, usually spare times, I only Like play basketball and volleyball. I usually not at all like English classes, but I like English now, also I like play basketball or volleyball, and English class. what I like favourite spart is basketball and volleyball. I am in 05 five-year nursing class 2.




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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: Wintery Post-amble
STATUS: Publish
ALLOW COMMENTS: 1
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DATE: 01/12/2006 05:29:56 AM
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Well, another semester ends, and that means there's only one left before I leave here. We had the usual army of students in the office to correct the mountains of exam papers. I had to be a hard-as-stone teacher to tell one of my students I couldn't lend her money to get home (she should've asked her classmates before they shelled out for my many ridiculous gifts, such as a 2.5ft. stuffed Santa, a plastic/painted eagle sculpture, and various Spring Festival red-hanging things for endless luck and joy) and reached my limits of flexibility by not allowing a student who spent 8 hours correcting my exams but who herself had scored a 38% in my class to pass.



Now I'm scrambling to get everything ready for our big meeting at HQ:I'll be giving two presentations to my colleagues (one with a snazzy Powerpoint pres.) on how to recruit students to do our dirty work (I've employed two student PA's this semester, twice a week for $.65/hr., thus making me the authority. Unfortunately, I think they spent their collective wages on said eagle sculpture:can't be friends with everybody, but that doesn't mean that everybody won't try!) and another on how to use limited Chinese in the English classroom when students are completely baffled by the teacher's English. (That basically happens every time I say something in English in my classroom, no matter how slowly I speak. It's a good thing the students don't really want to learn English, or I might start to think I'm not doing such an amazing job as everyone insists. My resolution to work less hard this semester has only partially been met.) I'm also roping everyone into recording English dialogs for my final semester, in which everything will have to be streamlined because I may actually be teaching the PC-recommended 16 hrs./week (up from the usual 14 and 12), including separate classes for our English teachers and the rest of the teachers. And it looks like we're all in for some more technical difficulty-laden vaudeville, as the meeting will include a HS-style talent show for everyone to vent, shmooze, and otherwise overextend on stage. I myself hope to find collaborators quickly on arrival to sing back-up for my planned act, a mock lounge song (including the immortal line: If you've ever had to change your pants in public WC-er's, then you've got a friend...in the US-China Friendship Volunteers) about being in PC China that I hope isn't taken as critical of our dear country.



I'll be leaving for the provincial capital tomorrow night (finally got an expensive, luxury ticket which I hope will still be reimbursed, after three unsuccessful trips to the ticket booth) where I hope to meet up with the nearly 20 of us stationed there for a very social, non-Chinese train ride. It seems, however, that despite my best efforts to call several times for coordination, most everyone will be on different trains, leaving at different times. One has to take what China will give in terms of travel.



Re-reading, that all seems unduly negative. Things are as well as can be expected; I'm just expecting to be back in the cosmopolitan metro's of consumer convenience again, soon. I should just breathe the cleaner air here in Zhangye and be thankful.
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AUTHOR: jacquelyn
EMAIL: ripple_effect80@yahoo.com
IP: 24.130.207.92
URL: http://www.friendster.com/user.php?uid=19842516
DATE: 01/15/2006 09:59:11 AM
i have no idea how i'm going to make it to china before you leave. your life sounds even more harrowing than my teaching experiences with spoiled, rich art students from the valley. like, no one, like, gives a damn about poetics these days.
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: I'm the Sheriff of Hong Kong
STATUS: Publish
ALLOW COMMENTS: 1
CONVERT BREAKS: 0
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DATE: 02/05/2006 05:15:26 AM
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It seems like most, but probably only many of my colleagues are headed back to the States for our winter vacations. I don't feel like I need to do that, not nearly so much as sometimes last fall. US of A only holds so much attraction for me after having been to Hong Kong---it's cleaner, cheaper, and more convenient to get around in than any American city I've been to. Only a few knocks on it: there doesn't seem to be much to do at night other than drink with other foreigners, and other than the Chungking Mansions (a centrally-located mass of filthy, budget accommodation, knock-offs, and XXX vcd's) there wasn't as much ethnic diversity as one would expect from an ex-colony:still more than any other Chinese city, though.



Several Friendster PCV's came along as we split up between another friend and my uncle's mighty fine apartment overlooking a bay of some scenic sort. We took ferries, a junk, a tram, subways, buses and despite getting lost a time or two, got around faster and more smoothly than I've ever experienced in any urban jungle. Other than a few shopping streets (which we paced semi-aimlessly), I didn't get the same sense of overpopulation as from other Chinese cities, or NYC for that matter. Maybe it was because the streets were all almost spotless and spitting or littering both carried intimidating $1-5000 fines (in US$ about $120-400). We saw great cityscapes from the peak and island ferry, the Chinese New Year parade (from a gated distance), and were kicked out of the city's art museum as it closed for the holidays. Quite unintentionally, though as is often the case, my trip turned out to be mostly a shopping spree, especially for music:but how could I resist a dollar-bin selection at the bankrupt HMV chain with a wider variety than the whole of the mainland?



Getting back in time according to my official itinerary (required by the PC to keep the American taxpayer from paying for too many of our vacations) gave me three days to travel 48+ hours on three buses and two trains. The express train (taking 2 hours) from HK to Guangzhou (Canton) actually cost a lot more than the 18-hour overnight one through west-central mainland to my provincial capital, which shows a bit the regional economic disparity here. I was generally very lucky to find any tickets during the holidays, unreserved and at the last minute, right at the time when there are more Chinese traveling than the entire US population. It probably helped that I was alone and asked for "any train going north or west" at the Guangzhou ticket window.



It looks like I'll be able to continue applying my newfound PC skills of breaking and entering this month, as there's never anyone around to unlock the classroom building (where my office is and I'm typing this now). Fortunately, around the back of the building, well-hidden by various evergreen shrubs, the left window to the filthy 1st-floor boys bathroom doesn't lock, and someone (i.e. yours truly) "accidentally" snapped off the top bar of the window while trying to get out of the building and go to the school president's house for dinner last year. By cover of night, I should be able to get in and out to check e-mail and stuff. Just lucky it's an old building that no one ever repairs. In any case, I do such a good job here that I don't think they'd really punish me for getting caught climbing in.
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: In-Service Conference
STATUS: Publish
ALLOW COMMENTS: 1
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DATE: 02/06/2006 04:16:40 AM
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Our mid-Jan. "In-Service Conference/ISC" lasted only three days at headquarters in Chengdu, and thankfully the schedule was extremely lax, with nothing too intense and most sessions ending early. I gave two somewhat unsuccessful presentations, fortunately none on my birthday (which unfortunately none of my colleagues knew/remembered :*[ ], one on using Chinese in the classroom and the other on hiring our students to do our dirty work--but it seemed practical topics such as these were not in vogue, as they were vastly out-attended by fluff like Buddhism, Communism, and Modern Chinese History. Bah. The former had so few that I just passed out a vocabulary list and pretty much called it a day.



The one on enslaving students was better attended, but reduced to whiteboard scrawl because my snazzy Powerpoint presentation was on:a floppy disk:of all primitive horrors! I think there was some mild disgust at my suggestion that we should hire our students to sweep, mop, or other cleaning work (what-- we highly-skilled foreign experts are supposed to clean up for ourselves?! Puh-lease!), but I think my message that it is actually a mutually beneficial relationship was ultimately conveyed. After all, excessively friendly students get to spend quality time with us practicing English, getting job experience, a reference, responsibility, and even some chump change to spend on:penny whistles and moon pies! (I'm not sure if the Simpsons reference was appreciated, entitling the session: "Can't Someone Else Do It?") As the session was right after lunch, though, I've come to the conclusion that we needed more singing and dancing in it to keep the audience perky.



My group's conference concluded with a candle-lit, open-mic talent show akin to HS with slightly less technical difficulties and bad dance numbers. Unfortunately, it was too great a distance to haul my accordion (especially since I'd leave for HK right afterwards), so this had to be a challenge to be faced a capella. I'd prepared an obnoxious lounge song on the train down and was blessed to be able to recruit four fine PC divas to be my back-up singers. The whole act met with considerable critical acclaim, and we've secured a contract to make a concert tour of plush dinner theaters across western China. Our group name is "Julian and the Juliettes", and my photo album "PC Adventures" should have our band's publicity photos/glamour shots. There was far more schmaltz than melody to our song:



You've Got a Friend (in the US-China Friendship Volunteers)



GOOD EVENING, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, AND WELCOME TO THE ______ LOUNGE.

IN TWO YEARS IN CHINA, WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN EXPERIENCES--SOME THAT WE VERY LIKE:AND SOME THAT WE DOESN'T. I'D JUST LIKE TO TAKE THIS TIME TO SHARE SOME WITH YOU:BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY BEAUTIFUL, VERY DELICIOUS, AND GOOD FOR OUR HEALTHY.



Do you like China? You know I do! Are you used to Chinese food? You know I do!

Can you use chopsticks:and guzzle two liters of warm beer?

Then you've got a friend:in the US-China Friendship Volunteers!



Do you prefer rice, noodles, dumplings, or bao zi? (bao zi!) Or are you a hotpot fan wolfing 猪头的脑�? (pig brains!) Is your house so cold you can see your breath in the bathroom mirror? (Brrrr!)

Then you've got a friend:in the US-China Friendship Volunteers!



AND HOW ABOUT THOSE SPEECH COMPETITIONS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, ARE THEY SOMETHING OR WHAT? THAT TITANIC SONG JUST NEVER GETS OLD, DOES IT? NO SIR!



Do you like sing song? You know I do! Have you used your tutor reimbursement to learn to play the gong? You know I do!

Have you heard Kenny G, "Hotel California", and "Yesterday Once More" over your school's loudspeakeeers? (Every sha-la-la-la, every wo-o-o-o)

Then you've got a friend:in the US-China Friendship Volunteers!



Do you feel like a superstar? (我�爱你!) You know I do! Do people stare at you on the street and in their cars? You know I do!

Have you ever had to change your pants in public WC-er's? (P-U!)

Then you've got a friend:in the US-China Friendship Volunteers!

THAT'S RIGHT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE US-CHINA FRIENDSHIP VOLUNTEERS--ALSO KNOWN AS THE CAPITALIST-ROADIN' PEACE CORPS:WORKING 24-7 TO PROVIDE INTERESTED COUNTRIES WITH QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS, GIVE FOREIGN COUNTRIES A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE USA, AND TO ALLOW AMERICANS TO FAMILIARIZE THEMSELVES WITH THE DEVELOPING WORLD! NOW GET READY, 'CAUSE HERE COMES THE LAST VERSE!



Can you appreciate tradition, believe in ghosts and superstitions? (Boo!)

Do you celebrate spring in January while freezing your rear?

Then you've got a friend:in the US-China Friendship Volunteers!



Why it's the mostly better than so-so couple of years! Cause you've got a friend, yes you've got a friend!

You've got a friend:in the US-China Friendship Volunteers!



(Back-up singers' lines in parentheses ( ), throughout the verses, they sing: "Shooby-doo-wop bao zi, Shooby-doo-wop jiao zi, Shooby-doo-wop biao zi". Jiao zi are dumplings/pot stickers, bao zi are steamed ball-like flour dough balls with meat and veggies inside, and a biao zi is a bitch. They also join in for the chorus, "Then you've got a friend:in the US-China Friendship Volunteers" with a little harmonizing. There is a great deal of dancing and gesticulation throughout, and for the last few lines we gather to form a leg-kickin' chorus line. Now that's entertainment!)
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AUTHOR: Julian
TITLE: The Accident-causing Tourist
STATUS: Publish
ALLOW COMMENTS: 1
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DATE: 03/12/2006 02:05:52 AM
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Back in the provincial capital of Lanzhou last weekend for the Yellow Party (although that' s the official color for the sex industry in China, it was kept pretty wholesome), wheat bread, cheese, and chocolate granola, I was an unwitting participant in a crime far more serious than bad, impromptu karaoke. While minding my business (that being 买东西, going shopping, or literally BUY THING!) carrying my big duffle bag on a very nice spring day (read: blue skies and little or no noticeable pollution) without a hat on the end of Zhangye Road, the rather upscale avenue named after my town (as most roads in Capital City are nicely named), I was treated to a sudden blaring smash, not twenty feet away.



Everyone who stays awhile in China has seen the shmooffed remains of a traffic accident. I don't think it's possible to be a real 中国通 ("old China hand") without having been involved in one yourself, and while suffering injury or dying in one would certainly be a step up for bragging rights (posthumously, if need be), I feel I've fulfilled this requirement without consequence and beyond the truly pedestrian experience of being hit by bicycles.



After the initial smash, everything went ghostly quiet, as every conversation within ear's range was stifled, and traffic was stopped (though only because the three vehicles involved were blocking most of both lanes). The bumper on one of the ubiquitous black Volkswagons had been completely torn off by a �包车 (bread car, a rather comical-looking, Asian auto-phenomenon which actually resembles a loaf of bread with wheels), whose lights and front were destroyed by rear-ending the V. A few steps farther, one could see the apparent cause of the accident, a fallen bicycle and rider thereof, the former's back wheel still spinning as the rider stood up and dusted off his black leather jacket.



Passing motor vehicles is the true vanguard of modern Chinese art. Country highways are probably the most exciting, as at any time they provide traction for every last form of transportation known to man and beast. Usually without any double, single, or dashed median markings, passing around curves and at the bottoms of hills is like the brushstroke of a master painter. Inevitably, the driver and every passenger knows that each pass could be his last, but the risk pales in comparison to the priceless 45 seconds gained in the passing. New, usually empty freeways offer more high-speed thrills via the under-used overtaking lane, but less challenge and only slightly less honking. Night offers the extra thrill of ritualistic bright-flashings from the instant a new vehicle appears on the horizon to the last, breathtaking "which side of the road are we on?" moment of truth when the oncoming driver manages to maintain his lane and pass, despite the blinding response, in kind, of your own driver. Perhaps it does prevent the very real threat of falling asleep at the wheel, and maybe drivers can get used to it, but it's only one more reason not to fall asleep on the overnight bus, in case there should be a split-second need to leap from a flaming window.



As the drivers got out to bicker over finding fault, it was clear that this work of art gone awry was not due to any lack of artistry in those behind their wheels, attempting a routine, innercity, single-lane pass required of all taxi drivers in every ride (often, as in this case, involving an extension of the bike lane/gutter into a second lane so that a slower vehicle ahead may not cost the busy passenger an extra quarter of meter time). No, this was the poor, amateurish bicyclist's error, for veering too far from the gutter and the sidewalk-shy walker stream. But why would a bicyclist do this? Was there some compelling reason or distraction to lose bearing in the moment it takes to cause an accident? I watched with everyone, surprised and curious as to why this had happened right in front of me (though surely more common than a close bolt of lightning, it's hardly less frightening). As the driver of the white Wonderbread walked around to lay blame on the biker, this biker pointed across the street, not squarely at me but clearly in my direction, and as the noise had picked up again I couldn't tell if he said that he was just turning or if he'd suddenly seen me in all my foreign glory and lost all sense of direction. I didn't stick around to find out or be officially implicated, but instead scampered gingerly ahead with the ego-boost of having indirectly caused a fender-bender just by bein' me!
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