29 September 2012

Over the Moon

We did some new things this month, but now in our second year of teaching in China most of what we see is old hat and we don't often feel over the moon.
Daniel started a Technical English Corner especially for science teachers, with the help of a new chemsitry PhD who invited him to a lecture, all in Chinese but diagrams and formulas are a universal language, so the lab tour made sense. 
Our Oral English classes with freshmen started after their military training. We read the rules -- attendance required, -10% if unexcused and so on -- but they still love taking pictures with us. Often we're the first foreigners they've talked to.
We invited 4 of the students we taught last semester who are now in third year to come to our apartment and cook dinner. They took over the kitchen and turned out a feast.
TV stars -- we had an unexpected new experience when the university office called us and asked if we were free in the afternoon to make a TV commercial. They picked us up at our apartment and took us to Qinzhou's 5-star hotel, where Daniel had his first taste of makeup.
After about two hours showing off the conveniece of bank credit cards they rewarded us with gifts, flowers and moon cakes. We didn't get to ride in this Rolls Royce, but took the opportunity to pose with it outside the hotel -- notice the license tag, number 1.
Moon cakes are the traditional gift for the mid-autumn moon festival. The full moon this year is Sep. 30. The fancy wrapping is often more important than the cake itself, so we felt honored, and took this photo before Daniel cleaned off his enhanced eyebrows from the TV makeup.
But what to do with all that moon cake? We'd be overstuffed, but the students love it. We cut the cakes into pieces and gave to our last classes before the week-long holiday. Most of our students are going home, and we're getting ready for a vacation to Sichuan, so everyone was in a festive mood -- over the moon.
An evening lantern contest added a dash of color to the campus.

15 September 2012


Although the freshmen have arrived on campus, they don't start regular classes right away. Their first few weeks are orientation lectures and military exercises.
The drill sargeant keeps the troops in formation, while the basketball boys keep on playing on the other half of the court, which is right in front of our apartment.
Even in uniform the freshmen are keen to wave and talk to us, especially during their breaks from drill practice.
English signs are rare on campus, so we had to get a photo of this welcome banner.
We started teaching our Culture course, with a group exercise to make posters anwering the question, "What is Culture?" Each group of 4 chose a different kind of diagram, and then delegated a presenter to share it with the whole class. We were really pleased with their enthusiasm.

11 September 2012


The new students arrived on campus the weekend after the returning students started classes.
There was a special dragon arch over the front gate of the university. We can't read Chinese, but can see the name of our school, 钦州学院, Qinzhou Xueyuan, or Qinzhou College. It is now Qinzhou University, but the College name persists and there are still some 3-year programs as well as 4-year bachelor's degrees and graduate programs in some departments (but not English).
Many students arrived with their parents, like this family who have just gotten out of a taxi in the street in front of the gate. Chinese women especially often use umbrellas for shade as well as rain. We were reminded of when we took our son to UBC for the first time 17 years ago.
The first step is to register in your class, with the other students who will be taking the same courses as you for all 4 years of your college life. Each class has a head teacher who will be their main academic contact. The two teachers with us are friends for our co-teaching last semester, and will be head teachers of new classes of English Majors this year.
This student is very proud of her Admission Notice from the university. The registration process is all on paper, no computers or Internet -- we're not sure why, since computers and Internet are everywhere on campus.
Pavilions were set up along the main street through campus, where students got keys to dorm rooms and picked up supplies. The weekend was a continuous parade of arriving freshmen.
We had rain as well as sun, but the march across the bridge toward the dormitories went on.
And meanwhile behind our apartment in the fields, the farmers took advantage of the clouds and rain to plant new crops. One the the things we are teaching in our Culture course for Year-2 students is that the word culture applies to personal development, growing good moral character, analogous to growing plants (agriculture).
The Monday after the freshmen arrived was Teachers Day. China started this tradition in 1984, and students often give small gifts to their teachers -- we got beautiful flowers, a house plant, and a teapot. This poster was in the courtyard of our Foreign Language teaching building, in Chinese, English, Thai, and Vietnamese. The university had a welcome banquet in the evening -- we are the only foreign English teachers this semester (along with about 60 Chinese teachers of English).

03 September 2012

Qinzhou family

Our daughter Britta and her husband Kendall met up with us in Nanning to come for a visit at the end of their vacation and the start of our semester. We showed them the sights of Qinzhou ...
 ... and celebrated with wine and cheese on our balcony. The apartment held together while we were gone, and quickly seemed like home again.
We were sorry to say goodbye to them again after only two days, and now it will be back to work for us, teaching Western Culture and Oral English.