27 November 2010

Going to the Dogs

In the Communist era dogs were more likely to be herders, guards, or meals than companions. Now, not only are they more common, but their role has changed. This is as close as we've seen to our favorite dachshund breed, and he was just as fixated on the tennis ball being thrown as ours are. We often see older people taking a walk with their dog, a reflection of dogs' important role as companions as the nest empties.
While we haven't noticed a great variety in breeds, most look like this guy. Since Pekingese date from the 700s when Chinese emperors made them the palace dog, this may account for their appearance.
Since dogs, like people, are numerous here, regulations are coming into place. Beijing limits city dogs to no more than 35 cm (14") in height, and Shanghai is planning a one-dog-only policy. A formal proposal to ban the eating of dogs has been introduced to the National People's Congress.
With dogs have come services for dogs with dog-treat stores, dog social networking, and more vets. Breeds like huskies and poodles are status symbols, and with colder weather now we've even seen dogs wearing little sweaters.
So it's a dog's life here, as this little guy sunning himself would agree. And a real visible testimony to the increasing affluence in China.

13 November 2010

Student Life

It costs students and their families a bit less than $2000/yr for tuition, room and board, books and incidentals. Given an average individual income of $3700, sending your child to college can be a real financial stretch. All students live on campus in dorms like this; laundry is hung outside to dry.
Students live 6 to a room, and each one comes with a desk and small locker. The rooms are quite basic, there's no TV to distract, and lights are out at 11 p.m.
Since there's no hot water in the dorms, students head across campus to the boiler room and fill up their brightly colored jugs. There's a small building with showers, where for 75 cents you can have a hot scrub.
Most of the students come from small towns and rural areas several hours by train from here so don't get home very often. There are a lot of sports activities and campus clubs, but your real group is the five other students you share a room with for the 4 years you're a student.
Each floor has a student washroom, with squattie commodes on one side and long sinks on the other. The sinks are also used for laundry.
Here two of our young single faculty colleagues show us their rooms, which are quite like those of the students except they have only 3 to a room. The college is building an on-campus apartment for foreign teachers which should be ready next year.

The Campus

Baotou Teachers' College is part of the Inner Mongolia University of Science and Technology. About 10,000 students study to be teachers with majors ranging from physics to physical education; we teach the English majors. It's a modern campus with labs, administration, fine arts buildings, two large cafeterias where we enjoy great food, and many dormatories since all students live on campus. This is the old teaching building where we have our classes; a new building is under construction, as are apartments for all the foreign teachers.
This mural is in front of the library, a large building where students can study and access computers. Diane is with four of our students who gave us a campus tour.
A large gym includes basketball and volleyball courts plus several rooms with ping pong tables. Adjacent to the track field, swimming is available in a nearby hotel pool and tai chi classes are conducted around campus.
The oldest main building on campus, once a library, is now an art building. Most of the buildings were build in the Soviet style, so this one is rather unique.

08 November 2010

Visit to Hohhot

Hohhot, capitol city of the province of Inner Mongolia, was the spot for a weekend visit. We boarded the train at the Baotou station for the 2 1/2 hour journey. Train travel is quick, cheap (about $2 for our trip) and very crowded. We've learned that as soon as the gates open there's a great surge and scramble for seats.
We met up with a couple of other Amity teachers to see the sights and compare notes on the joys and challenges of teaching in China.
A visit to the Museum of Inner Mongolia where Daniel pointed out Baotou's spot on a map of mineral resources. Half the global supply of rare earth minerals comes from the Baotou area.
While visiting the Temple of Five Pagodas (1732) we discovered many rooms like this with large statues of Buddha surrounded by burning incense and offerings of food. There's also a rare Mongolian cosmological map carved into stone.
Hohhot is home to a large Muslim community. We arrived at the Grand Mosque as groups of boys were getting ready for school; scaffolds in the background are for the new dome being built. There's a resurgence of religion in China as evidenced by the growth of mosques, temples, and churches.