Archive for September, 2011

Tourists for a day

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Today was a good day to go local to be a tourist to stand out from the crowd. Instead of following the American teachers into the weekend forays into Dalian or Kaifaqu we took the 3rd way out toward Jiuli. The light rail covers the Zhongshan District, Xigang District, Shahekou District, Ganjingzi District, and of course Kaifaqu where we go shopping on the shopping bus on Tuesday or Thursday evening after our driver (Jack) takes us to and fro from Campus Village to the Jinshitan station. Of course the fact of the matter is that we carry the name of our school and home on a business card with us because we won’t know one district from another. The light rail ride is great. We aren’t worrying about how cars pass on both sides of us without putting on their indicators or drivers decide to make a fourth lane when there is really only three or go very fast to run a light and how drivers are constantly talking on their phones – we are just enjoying the view. The view is great, country, hills, water, villages and cities all within the half hour ride between our local stop at Jinshitan and Kaifaqu. Today we took the other train going out to Jiuli and on the way saw a large shopping area. That was enough for us to hop off and go exploring. We did not see another western for the day and we seemed to be the entertainment of others. From going to a restaurant and having a hot pot – our new favorite way to eat; a large bowl of seasoned water on a burner, then a variety of plates of food is brought and we dump it into the boiling stew.

We bought all kinds of stuff; a quilt – not to weirdly Chinese though a bit on the orange side, for about one-third the price we saw in Dalian and Kaifaqu, dishes, foods, and Narda got some interesting material to have dresses made from. They don’t seem to have any clothes for tall Dutch women here. And I caused a bit of a commotion in the shoe section of a shop. There were dozens of merchants selling shoes and I need some new ones but to find my size, forget it. A lot of people were talking quite rapidly all trying to help me find my size and after much hilarity I went on my way empty handed.

It was good being a tourist again – especially where we live. We use to play tourist in New York City, but after five years living there it was a bit difficult because we owned our home too and of course there were a few million who looked like us in some shape size colour and form. Here? It is like being a celebrity when people follow you or stand and point and stare. We love it. It is like being in Cambodia or Viet Nam or Northern Thailand or India again. Here are some images from our wanders today. And tomorrow morning it is back to work in our little American environment.

 

A new ‘old’ French Village’ in China

Friday, September 16th, 2011

The end of another week though a short one at that; a short work-week actually, with the Moon Festival school closure Monday. School as always is an amazing place to be. I had students in my after-school-activities group perform their first newscast that we aired throughout the upper school the following morning. Next week we start doing one for the elementary school too. I named it DAISlive and everyone; students and teachers alike, are onboard with great ideas and contributions. I also got a bit of a promotion to an academic technology coordinator position and though it is a lot more responsibility and I will be here for an extra week at the end of the school year whilst Narda will be going back to the States five days earlier than me, to stay with her son Chris in Atlanta and I have to be back a week earlier at the end of the summer, Narda will hang with her new grand-daughter and family in Adelaide for that week, I am excited about it all. Being an unemployed teacher back in NYC was not fun, thrown out onto the ‘you-should-retire’ heap when the US government is saying we should be working later in life; with what job? one would ask, I am most lucky to be able to use the past decades of work for this perhaps my last hurrah. Working with ESL students with a handful of English words in my computer classes is a challenge – I will go on about this in my educational blog ~ http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html

Playing the money market, again. Today the US dollar is strengthening against the Aussie dollar. In the past four minutes the US dollar has gone from .96 to .98 cents. Of course when it was worth .60 cents before the US dollar went belly up a couple of years ago we were in better stead; but we will take what we can and today we have to transfer before the US dollar dives again. It is all quite nerve racking. The China Yuan just stays the same day in day out. We get paid partly in Yuan and partly in US dollars. If only I had paid attention in math class some fifty years ago I would be able to figure out whether I should purchase soybeans by the ton in China or in the US or in Australia. Of course why would I do that is beyond reality – my favourite place to exist.

Our first cooler day after lots of nice hot days. We need to appreciate and ride our bikes as much as possible. We usually go for a bike ride in the morning before school. Everyone says winter is brutal here and goes from Novemeber until about March.

The building in our area is still going on at a frantic pace. The major project is starting to take shape – it looks like something straight out of Southern France; believe it will be a winery. The main building, looking like a cathedral has ornate sides/windows/panels all happening. And the buildings at Chateau Bordeuax across the street are starting to have some rooftop shapes that look French. We may end up with a French village across the street. Of course it will probably be empty like so much of the buildings are in China. Someone told me at the conference in Shanghai last week there were about five million migrants in Guangzhou building – with most of the buildings left empty. Here we have large housing tracks, beautifully finished with no one living in them. China has about zero unemployment because there is a building job for everyone. Of course people cannot afford them so they stand empty or investors purchase them and leave them empty. It is like they are building ghost towns. Hard to imagine there are more than a billion people in this country with so much emptiness.  Perhaps if they started building at a frantic rate in the States there would be zero unemployment too.

We are booking our tickets to Atlanta and back to Beijing then on to Australia for next June – August with something in South America after Atlanta for a week. A nice Saturday to spend money.

Here are some photos I took out of our hall window here at Campus Village this morning:

Our new winery – a touch of France here in China. Across the street this was taken from our hall here at Campus Village, Pebble Beach National Resort in Jinshitan, Dalian China

Here are some photos I took out of our hall window here at Campus Village this morning:

Our new winery – a touch of France here in China. Across the street this was taken from our hall here at Campus Village, Pebble Beach National Resort in Jinshitan, Dalian China


Looking across the school oval toward the hills where we go to Blueberry Cafe for Friday night dinner. On the right is the roof over our new pool.


Out our hallway window

In the distance one of many large housing tracks with few if any one living in them, this particular one is Yosemite, and we ride our bikes to there to go to the Kangaroo Bar and the Busy Bee shop which is similar to a 7-11 store in the States and Australia only with Chinese products.

Learning2Connect Shanghai

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

September 11 2011

A brief scribble from my end of the desk in our office in our apartment @ Campus Village, Dalian American International School, No. 2 Dianchi Road Golden Pebble Beach National Resort, Jinshitan in the Dalian Development Area (DDA; Chinese: ) in the Jinzhou District, Dalian, Liaoning province, China.

I thought I would have so much time today to write blogs, work on some 15 videos I have too many clips for, maybe even do some laundry instead of leaving it for the laundry woman to do; however, I am exhausted and it is not even eleven am. Luck that I even got here last night then until 1.30 AM I decided to twitter and google plus and Facebook; though I am finding Facebook really quite boring these days – too little worthwhile content and after a few years of hearing what people are unhappy about, who they are or should be or not sleeping with or how much they have drunk or what they are having for tea, do we really care? I was up all bushy eyed or is that bushy-tailed? At 6 AM after a solid four and half hour sleep I was excited to get into all that was presented at the learning2 conference in Shanghai. Of course I had probably less sleep the past few days keeping up with so much at the conference and now that it is almost eleven AM I am ready to sleep. I figured home alone for two days; Narda is in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, a smallest town of eight million. She went with five other women – they hired two drivers for four days – and drove the six hours up. I didn’t spend any money in Shanghai at all thanks to our school, but Narda, what a worry. She said on the first day, couple of days ago, that she had done a bit of shopping. I figure those women will be coming back with a u-haul. Our shipment from the States was to be here last week but now of course it will be sometime in October so we are stuck with what we brought and the u-haul of stuff Narda has probably bought.

I will write a lot about my technology gleanings whilst at http://www.learning2.asia/ on my educational blog http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html later this day.

but basically… Spent the time at the conference because I have wandered around Shanghai several other times and I had a bit of a mandate from the head of our school to gather and gather I did. As far as technology conferences go there were a few things that were interesting and one actually new. The new was that anyone could have a un-conference meeting by signing on a board. There were several interesting ones. I found the keynote speakers did not have anything new to say and even at times not only me but others said ‘what?’ It was the overused ‘my four year old or six-year-old or whatever their child was on about using technology. There was a lot to the point of way too much of family in the presentations. We all have families most of us have children and grandchildren and yes of course they are using flip cameras and using the web and doing creative stuff from the earliest ages, so what? I have taught kindy and first grade and assisted 2nd graders in NYC with their hip hop YouTube videos. Come on presenters let us get away from hearing about your ‘special’ family and your ‘special’ life. We come to see nuts and bolts and integration from a cosmic level these days. Good golly this is not new rocket science. Cave people discovered with fire they could cook, read a novel, and create a weapon, stay warm and so much more to the point of their version of technology integration was much more organic than ours. Throughout history we have integrated.  I have seen this, talk about how my 7-year-old can do this or my six-year-old buys LSD on eBay and on and on at conferences in New York City (CUNY Annual IT Conference) and at those groovy IT conferences at Mohonk Mountain House in the Catskills and heaps of other places. Are IT parents so needy they have to tell us about little Matilda and how she can waltz and blog at the same time? We learned about websites, none of which were new to me at least. Conferences are known as a place of heightened egos and claims of possessors of great knowledge but in today’s world the practical ‘this is how we are using something’ in the classroom is the important thing. I did learn from the InDesign class and the Moodle class and a few like that. The presentations in the main hall were just self-serving, ‘this is me, these are my children’ – forget it mate. Have at least one Raymond Kurzweil presenter to take us to a new place. The Kurzweil Educational Systems begun in 1996 shaped so much and his ‘The Singularity Is Near’ and daily blogs so surpass anything I saw at this pony show.

 I think for me the most useful moment of the conference was taking a taxi to the airport at the end. Our main purpose was to learn about implantation of a one-to-one laptop program; see what others are doing, what platform, what was the process. I shared a ride with the middle school principal from the American International School of Guangzhou who had just started their one-to-one laptop program. In half an hour I gathered more than I did in three days at the conference.

Saying all that I am glad that I went and I believe the connections that I and the rest of our school team (six of us) made will be very valuable in our integration of technology. Because it is only at these conferences that we meet others doing the same thing; if I avoid the keynote speakers unless it is a Kurzweil or someone who really has something to say, I will be fine.

So back to getting home. Blimey talk about luck. Forty years ago when I believed such nonsense I would have said my higher Self was taking over or I would have gone on about a full-moon in Pisces back when I traveled the conference circuit yakking on about astrology (hey that is how I ended up in Australia) at the end of the 1970s. Now I am interested in spiritual-machines and the cybeSelf and SecondLife. Back to getting home… so I was told the plane left at 10.35. At 7 PM I thought to grab a taxi and head out to Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Firstly a couple of women want to share a taxi – can’t go wrong with that. Secondly they are the ones who have just started a one-to-one laptop program at the American International School of Guangzhou so I collected and collated the info I came to the conference to get. I get to the airport and figure I have a few hours but I saw the domestic China Southern section and figured I get lost so easy I would never find it again so I go and get in line even knowing I have three hours before my alleged 10.35 flight. I get my ticket and an emergency row seat which I always ask for so I can stretch and wander on. It is 8.15 PM and I happened to look at my ticket which reads 8.15 boarding time. Rushing through security and panting down to as is always the way the gate is the furthest away I fall onto the plane which is already boarded and they close the door and the bloody thing starts moving. It even left fifteen minutes early. The last time we were leaving Shanghai for Dalian, a long five weeks ago, the plane was delayed three hours. So I get to Dalian at 10.15 instead of 10.45 (even though I was told I was leaving Shanghai at 10.35 – a mix up of course and the apologies for my near heart attach have been placed) and there is my driver waiting for me and I have a lovely ride home. He doesn’t speak English and I forgot what my two words in Chinese were. He even played classical music and drove rather slowly instead of the 140 kilometers an hour our other driver taking us to the airport did.

First time I have no photos or video – did some with my phone, but I have so many photos and videos of Shanghai I will give it a miss. Think I will go take an afternoon nap then work on my educational blog.

a Chinese Wedding

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

The Wedding! Someone else’s style.

Finally taking a weekend off from our full-tilt life. I think we took a weekend off several months ago in NYC and since then we have been on the go throughout months in Australia and now for a month in China. Today is five weeks since arriving on a Saturday morning at 2 am. We were so excited arriving in Dalian and meeting our new boss and entering our new home for the next couple of years. Since then we have had few stopping moments. It is after 8 on a Saturday morning and Narda is still asleep. I was up, as usual, before six. Every other weekend we have been off to Dalian or Kai Fa Qu on the school’s shopping bus. During the week? Well we work and after school we are off to Kai Fa Qu on the shopping bus or riding our new bikes to the Jinshitan market, or walking to Golden Pebble Beach in the morning before school. It is not just us, half of the teachers are where we are too. Last night we walked the five-minutes over to the Blueberry Farm. The food is really very good there. It came out to be about $12 USD for Narda and I with about seven dishes, about one vegetarian. The eggplant and sweet potato are my favourites.

The exciting new news is that we have found out what a big project going up across the road from us is. We have been watching a few French-type buildings go up and it does look like southern France. This is across from the large development called ‘Chateau de Burgundy’ which I spoke about in my previous blog http://blog.neuage.info/?p=34 it is a winery that will be selling wine from the new Golden Pebble Beach Grape Valley vineyards, just a bike ride away. This will surely make the school day end that much more pleasant. Actually we found an Aussie pub, The Jinshitan Kangaroo Bar, (read about it on the Dalian Expat Page)  a fifteen minute walk away on Jinshi Road at Jinshi square near Discovery Kingdom and the sprawling over the top Yosemite housing area for the Intel and other wealthy non-teacher types. Yes there is a Disney-like-theme-park just down the road along the beach from us. Narda and I will pop in someday when we need a break from whatever it is we would need a break from.

According to a blurb I found online about the Yosemite development; “The resort area is located approximately 40km away from the Dalian central city. Tourist attractions already established at the Golden Pebble Beach include: Golden Pebble Golf Club (on the top ten best in the world list), Golden Rock Park, Waxwork Museum, China Martial Arts Hall, Mao Zedong Badge Exhibition Hall, Model Art School, and the International Hunting Club”. Oh yes there is a hunting club nearby – between the constant fireworks, the 24 hour a day building across the road and the hunting club nearby this gets to be quite the noisy place. It is a different noise than New York City – I have gotten use to it, though I do wake suddenly when a lot of fireworks are set off. There is a university – an art school, a technology college (this is China’s Silicon Valley) and a fashion school – nearby and those students love their firecrackers. Another piece on Yosemite says “The “Oriental Yosemite” is the biggest comprehensive tourism project in the Golden Pebble Beach State Tourism Resort. It is created by the Dalian Luneng Realty Co., Ltd. with 15 billion Yuan investment. A few days ago, another two projects were started. They are the Golden Pebble Commerce Centre and the Golden Pebble Ocean Hot Spring.” 15 billion Yuan is 2,349,580,000 USD, so it is nice to know they are spending some money on housing in our neighbourhood.. There is a bigger project than Yosemite nearby and I will put that into a video I am doing of this area soonish.

Other news: I got a soy milk maker for my birthday – and even though the instructions are in Chinese somehow I got the thing to make me a cup of milk from a cup of soybeans – seems like quite an effort but I know it is not going to have lots of other stuff in it. Another item to add to my tofu site at http://tofu.neuage.us  It was more than thirty years ago when I started making soy milk and from that, tofu for eight years, in Adelaide and now I am in China with my little soy milk maker all these years later. Tonight I am bringing tofu burgers to our neighbour’s birthday bash.

School is great – I will have some news about stuff regarding that in a couple of days. I am writing up on my educational blog http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html later today or tomorrow or sometime soon.

Life is so different here at Campus Village. We seem to have lots of instant parties. Someone’s birthday and we swarm – beer is so cheap (though I am told not very good) here. Tonight it is actually a planned party, and I am making tofu burgers – seems I am stuck in my ideas of anything new. I never lived in a college dorm but I am told life in them is similar to this; a cross between a college dorm and a timeshare apartment. It seems we are on a permanent holiday.

This blog is not really about all that is above. It is about the wedding we went to last Sunday. Our first Chinese wedding. Aside of leaving Sunday morning on the ‘shopping bus’ to Dalian at 7.30 Am when all we wanted was a big sleep in we were most entertained. The groom was one of our IT staff. The first part was having a toast in the couple’s house. Marriage in China is a long drawn out event. They were actually married two months earlier, but the presentation or whatever it is – like coming of age or something was last Sunday. First of course was the fireworks – I will start my video off with that, which I hope to post tonight in between parties – after all we have that dorm-type of life with stuff always happening in our building. The teachers all live in this building, and the administration and couples with children live in the next resort like building. We have two floors of living, then the lobby and a restaurant and in the basement, the gym and recreation room. Like all couples here we have a two-bedroom apartment, so when you come to visit we can put you up; single people either get a one-bedroom apartment or a loft. People tend to not like the lofts; they are two-story with an open floor plan. I think if I was single I won’t mind, especially if it was in Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, New York City or wherever there was a city. We are out in the country, about an hour from Dalian or half an hour to Kai Fa Qu which is a city-suburb and fifteen minutes from Jinshitan but Jinshitan  is not really an expat type of area. There are about 16 apartments per floor here at Campus Village and I think only a couple of them are empty. There is a guest apartment for when one of us need a place to put visitors – in-laws and people like that (down the hall and not in our apartment – just kidding mum/dad). There is a huge shopping mall being built not far away so that could make shopping easier though we prefer to go to the local Jinshitan market and haggle for already cheap as can be fruit and veggies. Then before long there will be the new city they are building, supposed to rival Hong Kong they say. There is a model of it which we keep meaning to slot in time to go see that is really quite impressive. With the new city there will be the new China movie industry headquarters. They have been building the infrastructures for years with huge freeways (everything done in China is huge) and lots of land clearing including the leveling of three large hills that I spoke of a few blogs ago. It will rise up between Kai Fa Qu and where we live here at Golden Pebble Beach. There will be a world-class yacht arena too. I think we are mid-way through a ten-year plan for that.


After the fireworks the groom comes in then the bride all dressed in drag (no not New York City drag) but wifey just married drag (OK so that could be NYC too). Then lots of stuff is said in Chinese. There is a table with bowls of fruit and a plate of cigarettes – they love their cigarettes here. And some stuff is drunk. Then a little boy jumps up and down on the couple’s bed – this is too bring good luck and a male child, then they throw nuts on the bed, not sure why, but perhaps that too is in hopes of a male… then flowers are tossed on the bed and well us males from the school kept our hands to our self, and then the couple closes the bedroom door for a while and us male teachers as well as most of the female all have our thoughts and try to keep them in check. The parents have a bedroom too as the trip here is that the parents get together and buy a new apartment for the couple and I think when they get old one set of them gets to live with the kids. Not sure how that works out, perhaps they throw dice or arm wrestle to see which couple gets to do the old age thing with the couple. It all seems quite awkward with this one kid policy they have in China.


At some point we all take off the slippers that were given us when we entered the apartment and head out to the bus and go to the reception. The reception was in a huge banquet hall with about eight people per table. I end up with about four other couples from our school and we just were plain silly. The beer was flowing and so was something that was about 60-proof, and it was only ten in the morning. There was lots of food and of course a plate of cigarettes on the round thing that the Chinese love to put on tables and that us westerns just spin around. I guess I broke the silly barrier when they put the lone chicken head on the plate on the revolving table and I stuck a cigarette in its mouth and sent it for a bit of a spin. It is in the video – you’ll love it. I also like the part where the bride-chick comes around and puts a chocolate or a cigarette in each person’s mouth (though she missed the chicken). That too is in the video. Overall we were there for several hours and got home late in the afternoon wishing we had another day to the weekend.


Today, Saturday, Narda went off to Kai Fa Qu shopping and I had a day home puttering around. She came back with a printer/scanner, lots of food and bags of stuff. It is still hot here though I think it will cool down soon.

Narda will be writing in her blog tomorrow, forgot what but I know she has said a few times of the past couple of days, “I am going to write about that in my blog”, so don’t miss that at http://blog.narda.us

Next Thursday I am off to Shanghai for a few days for an IT conference and Narda is taking a four hour drive with several of the women here to some really cool city north of here for a few days. It is a long weekend, with Monday some sort of national holiday. A lot of the people are going north to Dandong where the China-North Korea Friendship Bridge is. I really wanted to go but couldn’t fit it. It is only a couple of hours away so Narda and I will go up in the near future for a weekend.  And that is all from here for today.