January 2016’s posts

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

2nd January 2016

Year MMXVI: A New Challenge

It is a period of hard work. Workbooks and powerpoints, striking from a base in Guangzhou, have won their first victory against a teacher’s chiselled soul.

During the preparation, Worlda agents managed to create plans to deploy a teacher for two weeks at a new basecamp to teach biology [namely Mendelian Genetics and Plant/Animal Cell Biology].  In Baiyun and Nanshan, are large high schools with enough students to populate an entire planet.

Pushed by Worlda’s staffing agents, John races aboard his coach, custodian of the powerpoint and lesson plans that can save his predecessor’s work and restore structure to the school’s lesson flow…

[Everyone is banging on about the latest Star Wars movie – and it doesn’t come out until Friday the 9th of January here!]

The final frontier

5th January 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Last Thursday was the final day of the year and also my final day at Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  Completing the Grade Six oral English exams that morning amongst three classes wasn’t particularly taxing for me, but some of the students did show an unnecessary level of stresses.  Twitching of the eyes, nervous jolts of the head, eyes shy of direct contact and overall worry.  They needn’t have.  Only three students today scored less than 80%.  None of the three students have been at Dao Ming longer than this semester.  One student retook his exam due to the fact last time he scored 3% – but today he scored 55%.  Some students looked so chilled out, deadened by a continual flow of mock exams, tests and examinations.  Homework related previous papers are not uncommon.  Results had been compiled and sent to the teachers at the end of the day.  Like my first entry into school, I slipped in and out without any drama.

 

During the final day however the school show was great fun to be involved with.  My peers Tess, Asger, Anna and Albin gave their all and we delivered a good musical/dance number.  Our act featured some Beatles songs and Morecambe and Wise’s Bring Me Sunshine.  For 15 acts before and 4 acts following the students from various grades demonstrated acting, comedic and dance talents giving the 2016 Arts’ Festival a real sense of variety.  The initial hundreds-of-balloons launched may cause a few animal deaths and some low level plastic refusing to go away, but it looked good for the camera.  Oddly, students were picking up more biodegradable things like paper and lecturing each other about the possible environmental impacts!  Start small, I guess!

 

The teachers and students work damn hard – too hard.  They are driven by the school’s high demand for quality output.  The school has pride – but it works the students above and beyond to achieve their goals.  I hope for the students’ futures, it pays its dues.  And that was that, the day ended alongside a semester and year.

 

After a quiet new year (I went to see a movie Mojin – The Last Legend [Guĭ Chuī Dēng Zhī Xún Lóng Jué/鬼吹灯之寻龙诀 – starring Yáng Yǐng AKA 杨颖Angelababy,Shū Qí – Lín Lìhuì 林立慧 ] that finished just after midnight, as if nothing had happened – because to most Chinese people, the Gregorian calendar is not the norm…) and a weekend of rest, I headed to Huánggé Zhèn (黄阁镇) in Nánshā via Guǎngzhōu along the Guǎngzhōu Dìtiě Sì Hào Xiàn (广州地铁4号线/ Line 4 of the Guangzhou Metro).

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Beware of close relations with the platypus.

7th January 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Don’t fuck a platypus.  That’s what the sign should read as.  I’m stood looking down, dubiously at the do not disturb sign.  I’m angry.  Even if I hang it outside, it means nothing.  The Chinese characters beneath the English state the same: shut up; shhh; hush hush; please be quiet…  I choose not to hang it outside.  It wouldn’t make one iota of a difference to my night’s sleep.  I know I’m in for a rough ride.  Two nights have passed here.  Tonight is the final one here at the 99 Inn, Nánshā.  If heaven’s forbid, it is on Tripadvisor or some such hotel and travel website, I will slate it until it sits within inches of Dante’s Inferno.  Don’t get me wrong, the room is good.  It is spacious, airy and clean.  The raised sleeping area with the near submerged desk and bed give it a Japanese style, although one rushed by Ikea’s flat-packed furniture.  The television faces the bed, offering escape and laziness at the click of a button, from the comfort and warmth of the cradle.  I’ll forgive them for offering two pairs of lounging sandals, with all the key foot massage points elevated.  Even the bathroom mistakes are laughable – but hardly an inconvenience.  A toilet roll holder beneath the shower.   Who does that?  No door.  Privacy at its best.  The hotel is on Jin Tao Da Jie (off Jintao Road, amongst the Jinzhou Plaza) in Nánshā having only recently been rebranded as 99 Inn from Lidong Hotel.

 

The first night, I managed to get to sleep sometime around 3am on Monday morning, having despatched myself under the covers 10.30pm on Sunday.  The neighbouring building and the very same building both had KTV/bar/nightclub combinations.  On Tuesday after school, I did look for another hotel but discerned they all seem to neighbour entertainment complexes.  The reasoning behind my search, was getting to sleep around 2am on Tuesday morning.  Again, I’d fled to bed early the previous night.  With no alternative forthcoming and my company saying they’d fix it next week, I fell asleep at 9.30pm.  By 10.30pm I was awoken, this time by a live band, howling fans and would stay this way until 3am.  In amongst it all the Police and some criminals re-enacted a Benny Hill TV show chase scene, with added sirens.  And knocks on the door.  And tannoy announcements locally.  I had checked every floor of the hotel for possible quieter rooms, but there were none.  So, up at 6.30am I checked out of the hotel (booked by David at my company – which I shall take more interest in, going forward).  I shall never ever return there.  I’d rather chance myself sleeping in the sea (in, not on).  After the slowest check-out from a hotel ever, I managed to make my 7.55am class at Guangzhou Foreign Language School (广州外国语学校 Guǎngzhōu wàiguóyǔ xuéxiào), five minutes late.  That was okay.  Two classes followed and I was whisked by the school’s private driver to Báiyún Qū (白云区/Baiyun district).

 

Sprawling outwards from beneath the white cloud mountain, the Báiyún suburbs are dense and mostly occupied.  Greenery is present but in patches resembling a decorator’s radio with paint splatter.  Actually, maybe less than that!  In the early evening, following two back to back classes, I was assisted by Wendy from Worlda to check into a new hotel.  All roads in China seem to lead to 7 Days Inn [7tiān Liánsuǒ Jiǔdiàn Jítuán /7天连锁酒店集团].  A peaceful night’s sleep was had, following a very large meal for one.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Is there life on Mars?

12th January 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Am I Professor Snape?  At times it feels like I’m in a perverse anti-Harry Potter World.  Somehow here, yet somehow not here (simultaneously, at the same time).  The school I am in, looks on the surface like the high school I went to (Reddish Vale Technological College), yet somehow feels closer to the mutant baby of Hogwarts and a prison.  There’s the military precision of order – with very little notion of the normal chaotic Chinese time sat behind it.  Every office desk is in a cube, beyond that more order, and far along the corridors, very organised classrooms.  Door handles may be missing here and there, but this high school is ran well.  The captain of this vessel knows their biscuits from their cookies.  The layout of the buildings has structure, uniformity and a pattern.  It has to.  There are more than two thousand developing souls at various stages of puberty roaming around this campus.  They are damn bright too.  The elite of the cream of the crop of the pinnacle of the apex of their generation, is still an understatement.  Most students in the Advanced Placement programme building are on a par with the most fluent of westerner.  They probably have a deeper vocabulary, and have shocked me a few times already with their wide range of understanding.  It is no surprise China is picking and finding the bright sparks to push them forward.  In my biology classes I am teaching Mendelian Genetics to the two Senior 2 classes, spread between 6 classes.  Senior 3 class is learning about animal and plant cells over 6 classes.  Senior 1/2/3 (at Baiyun campus) have to learn Meiosis and Mendelian Genetics across 15 classes.  The level of content is analogous to that of what I learnt at university!

 

The reason I am teaching biology is because my company needed a cover teacher.  My predecessor (the long-term teacher) fell ill and has returned to Canada.  I hope he is well soon, it did not sound like a good position to be in!  His cover teacher also left.  So, Worlda, knowing that I was free asked me to cover.  I’m not a person who says no.  I also need the money.  I am inexperienced teaching high school and rusty with my biology knowledge (I’ve not studied much since university!).   Alarm bells rang initially.  Then, I faced the challenge head on.  Worlda, eventually put me clear and a previous cover teacher, Ishit from India, helped tremendously.  The jigsaw pieces fell into place.  It transpired each class at the Nansha campus holds around 20 students and in the Baiyun campus, just 9 learners.  With the previous teacher’s PowerPoints, notes and lesson plans to hand, I dug into the challenge.  Professor Google and Doctor Wikipedia met with Chancellor Slideshare and pooled their talents.  The Holt McDougal Biology textbook by Stephen Nowicki landed on my desk on Monday morning, almost shattering it.  I should mention my first class was at 10:40am on that day, and I arrived to school with 20 minutes to spare.  My co-worker just made it!

 

High school biology in China is like entry level university.  They have textbooks for biology and enviromental sciences, amongst others, I’ve only ever seen at university and specialist bookshops.  Not only that, the students are the cream of the crop.  All are leaving after summer, aged 15/16, to go to Universities in and around the U.S.A.  The first two classes were surprisingly okay, then the third was just so so.  Oddly, that Monday’s classes mirrored the following Monday’s classes.   The students on the whole seem energetic, buried in school work, textbooks and homework.  I don’t give homework but I do tell them to read up on each subject, and they seem to do it:  I’ve seen notes and they’ve told me so much more!  Being the school swat must be damn hard here.  Each student is so very, very bright.   At their desks they have tools, non-primative ones, like laptops, pens that can scan English and translate into Chinese characters, phones, electronic dictionaries – and so much more.  Whilst some of the boys sit at the latest Alienware laptop (high end sh!t), they don’t play games or surf the web.  They have privileges and clear goals.  I guess the fear of parents knowing that they’re wasting their hard-earned is enough…

 

The classrooms are small, twenty desks and some peripheral furniture.  Students live nearby in one of the many accommodation blocks but judging by every covered surface, you’d guess they spend 80% of their time in the classroom.  The main projection board has all the latest touchscreen technology, smartboard or something, and a tiny chalkboard sits next door.  The teacher’s desk comes with a PC, music system, secondary monitor and all mod cons.  Luxury.  The only odd thing about this school, is that there are three other foreign teachers in my office – and so far none have said much more than hello.  Even the Chinese teachers in here are extra, extra silent.  If a pin drops, it will be heard.  I guess it is the pre-exam time being hectic or demanding, physically and mentally.

 

So, on Sunday I returned to Nansha – and thankfully a different hotel.  I slept well at what I think is called the Baishui Esplanade (there isn’t really a walkway nearby) Hotel.  It was odd to be greeted by ten ladies at the door.  It seems there is a massage service.  No, thank you!  I’m happy because my box room has a carpet and a fantastic rainforest shower.  My second night’s sleep was wonderful too.  If I return to Nansha, ever, I’d stay there again.  That’s how confident I am about they final night’s sleep there!  There are two restaurants next door and no signs of anything else – and Wanda Plaza is less than 2km away, offering a selection of western/Chinese dishes – and the big brand restaurants, like Master Potato.  Peace and quiet, after last week!

 

Hearing the sad news about the passing of the music icon David Bowie, made me think, “How good was he?”  Bowie was better than The Beatles.  His songs, from across 29 albums, span across is 69 years on Earth, or was it Mars?  As a kid, I did not get his music and then over time I matured and grew up listening to his art.  The materials he made were a canvas of imagination, soul, blues and beauty.  Don’t get me wrong, there was darkness, depth and sorrow but overall his music was pure escapism.  Anyone who can create an iconic character and then re-enter music under multiple styles and genres deserves respect.  And he could act, Labyrinth was such an iconic movie.

 

“Look up here, I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen, I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen, everybody knows me now.”

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

The Buddha of Suburbia

13th January 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

A new day has come blasted out over the school’s tannoy system, after lunch on Tuesday afternoon.  It seems that every day 2pm, following a nap, students and teachers must suffer at the tones of Celine Dion.  I actually love the song but to be woke by it, would be hell.  Tuesday morning’s first and only class in Senior 2/7 flowed reasonably smoothly.  In the afternoon I had classes in Senior 3 and the quieter students in Senior 2/6 followed up afterwards.  In Senior 2 we finished Mendelian Genetics ahead of Wednesday morning’s examination.  I was tasked with supervising said exam.  I had been briefed on modes of cheating, flying drone alerts and much more.  I wasn’t quite sure if I was supervising school students or Daesh invaders.  So, during the exam I spotted one student intent on looking at another student’s paper far across the desks.  He knew it too.  We played cat and mouse all class and I’m convinced said student actually answered very little overall.  I shall see, as I have been tasked to mark the 49 papers!  They’re sat opposite me giving me the evil eye.

 

This afternoon, following lunch (and my 0755 class for cell biology in Senior 3), I departed by private driver (arranged by the school) to Baiyun for two classes, where the Senior 1/2/3 combination of 9 students started the topic of Mendelian Genetics.  After school I checked in at the 7 Day’s Inn once again.  It isn’t as swish as the Esplanade in Nansha [南沙区环市西路海宁大街110号 (毛家湾饭店旁边)], but it is sound enough.  It might be slapped in the middle of a very heavily populated and dusty suburb, but there is beauty here too.  The sunset tonight was brilliantly bright.  Tomorrow, I have two classes and one on Friday morning.  Next week, I have to mark the Senior 3 Biology exam papers and run the Baiyun campus examination… then mark the papers too.  The good news is that next week, I have no classes.  I’m not sure I am needed for the three days of work, but we shall see!

 

Murray’s FC started up again last weekend and on Tuesday night I missed my second game.  This excursion for work phenomenon is disturbing my lack of fitness regime.  I haven’t ridden my bike since last year too.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

I’m gonna start a revolution from my bed

21st January 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Just as my hometown mighty Manchester has the National Cycling Centre – that has become known to the world as a medal factory, Hong Kong and beyond should have their eyes glued on the Hong Kong Velodrome.  This venue has all the potential for stars to work their way up the ranks.  Attending the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, I could see instantly the presence would only act as a beacon of hope and inspiration.  Those who were there will have taken heart and shall deliver the message beyond the atmosphere-capturing doors.  The young tiny tot Striders may be a few years away from battling for medals and glory but with event like this, there’ll be more than enough talent raised in Hong Kong.

 

The event and venue just needed a proper kiosk/shop (there was a limited selection outside on a table top), canteen area and better provisions for ticket collection on the day (advance tickets could be collected at selected outlets, most of which opened at 10am/11am… Saturday’s doors opened at 9am).  The venue had adequate signage (although the external areas, I’d day there was too much signage!) and very good toilet facilities.  The seating was adequate and comfier than Manchester’s Velodrome with excellent sight lines and two huge screens in perfect balance to one another with respect to contents.  The banister around the outside of the track was replaced with a glass partition, offering temptation to lean upon.  A bannister inset of this would have done the trick better and discouraged trackside leaning.  The PA system did the job, but sadly my Cantonese is non-existent.  Times of races/schedules on a wall board would have been useful to accompany the very sparse programme content (although, I shouldn’t complain – it was free).  The track and venue look brilliant and I’m sure in time more colour will be added to the vibrant feeling ambience already in place.

 

I had a wonderful time at the 24th UCI Track Cycling World Cup third edition and look forward to possibly seeing other tournaments there.  The venue and organisers should look to the Revolution Cycling series in the UK/Australia… and if you they have that, I’m over the border from China in a split second!  They’ll benefit from regular top-level competitions too.  Races that stood out for me were the semi-final sprint between eventual winner Patrick Constable, a 20-year-old Aussie against Bolton’s Jason Kenny OBE (who is still only 27-years-old.  After already sending out Damian Zielinski (Poland; UCI World Cup leader and overall points winner after the tournament ended) from the running for gold, he beat Shurshin (a very strong rider indeed).  In the Keirin Matthijs Buchli held off Canadian Hugo Barrette crowd favourite to steal away the gold medal.

 

I remember seeing Jason Kenny in the Revolution cycle series way back as a Future Stars competitor.  I hope defeat here, pushes him on for the World Track Championships (London, March) and Rio 2016.  23-year-old Laura Trott earned an Omnium event Team GB gold, holding off U.S.A.’s experienced 32-year-old Sarah Hammer.  Trott also claimed silver in the Scratch Race.  There was silver in the team sprint for Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant; and silver too in the Team Pursuit for Emily nelson, 21-year-old Cardiff born Elinor Barker (a name I heard often at the Manchester Velodrome), 26-year-old Welsh representative Ciara Horne and 27-year-old Joanna Rowsell-Shand.  There is room in each Team GB’s medal cabinet and their collective Palmarès can only increase in depth and content.

 

Other stand out races included 33-year-old Simona Krupeckaitė who swept away Stephanie Morton in a whisker of a win to allow Lithuania to claim gold in the women’s Keirin final.  The Canadian team (Laura Brown, Stephanie Roorda, future star 23-year-old Germany born Jasmin Glaesser – who had a rough tumble after the race, ) claimed the Team Pursuit gold (she also claimed silver in the Point Race).  In the men’s Omnium Thomas Boudat claimed gold, but for the final Points Race it was all between him, Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark and the large-framed Artyom Zakharov of Kazakhstan.  Manx Missile Mark Cavendish claimed fourth spot in the Omnium.  Personal favourite and muscle man Robert Förstemann had a few rides but was beaten by his German junior opponent early on.  The standard of the sprint cyclists has so much depth – with tactical awareness and speed of reaction allowing for no margin of error in this sport!  Robert Förstemann is well known for his 74cm thighs, but few know that he once had a race with a toaster (click and watch the video!).

 

Closer to home (present home) 25-year-old Chinese powerhouse Lin Junhong pushed aside her opponents in the women’s Sprint honours, followed by 28-year-old local superstar 李慧詩 (Lei5 Wai3 Si1 – more than 4 tones in Cantonese; also known as Sarah Lee, which sounds like a British gateau brand).  李慧詩 also came third in the Keirin and was promptly photographed continuously for by what seemed like half the stadium.  22-year-old Yang Qianyu came third in the women’s Scratch race, allowing Hong Kong once again a bronze medal.  Xu Chao, of China, landed silver.  He is but 21-years-old and lost both final Sprint races to rookie Constable!  Guo Shuang (郭爽) retained her World Cup points winner title from the previous year holding off 李慧詩 by 37 points overall.  There are some wonderful cyclists already in Hong Kong and China – and I can see the Rio 2016 Olympics featuring one or two names on the medal podiums.  Something big is on the horizon…

 

In amongst the best part of 20 hours of cycling spectating there was little time for anything else.  The Hong Kong Marathon was observed in passing, and not as intention.  The heavy rain and sweeping wind did little to inspire me to join the running masses.  And in Hong Kong, I had a good night’s sleep, three times… all be them, expensive ones.  Nothing is cheap there!  Pizza was pricey; food was often expensive; drinks are not so good value for money… but transport was good value.  Just.  I will not make an effort to go to Hong Kong again, unless something catches my eye, like a luxury bed-shaped bicycle (I spotted in one shop on the way out).  I also intended to visit Marks and Spencers (Hong Kong) for Lancashire cheese, but left little time.  Odd, that in the U.K., I’d never seek out M&S (there are some in Shanghai too) for anything, yet here I am and at every opportunity I try to buy a cheese I hold dear to home!

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

Shining Haven – International Tests!

21st January 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Yet again, I find myself in the Baiyun ShiJing 7 Days Inn hotel (the first week I had room 711; last week room 811; and this week I am in room 611 – next week I want to win a Porche 911, but I know I’ll just get the number 211 bus).  This week I was told to go to Baiyun’s campus of the AP programme.  The school is linked to the group, Shining Haven, which sounds a tad James Bond baddie-like.  I thought the school was named the same as the one in Nansha, Guangzhou Foreign Language School (广州外国语学校 Guǎngzhōu wàiguóyǔ xuéxiào) but in fact this school in Baiyun has the title The Experimental School Affiliated to the Guǎngzhōu College (广州市广大附属实验学校).  I went to North Trafford College, Reddish Vale High School, Chapel Street Primary School, Clayton Brook Primary School and New Moston Primary School.  These are all simple names.  Like the typing up and calculating of school scores for the Senior 1-3 classes, the names of these schools are overly complex.

 

The Senior 3 papers arrived yesterday, E.T.A. was 9am, and I was told to be at Dao Ming School to collect them from a delivery driver at 10.50am, 11.30am and then on my fourth visit to school they arrived at 1.30pm.  Papers were promptly marked with scores averaging above 70% in Senior 3, class 5 and one student getting 97%!  Oddly, and slyly they dropped in ten extra papers completed by Senior 3, class 6… and the scores ranged from 2% to 87% – with 9/10 papers failing.  I was later informed this class had abandoned Biology classes long ago.  The formality of marking the papers was the purest form of time-wasting tedium.  Senior 2 papers had been marked last week and returned with good grades all round, and only a handful of students failing.  I suspect the multiple changes of teachers failed them, more than they failed themselves.  I argued this point and backed the students recommending a weighting be allowed for this.  Meanwhile, Senior 1 at the Baiyun lair of Shining Haven completed their Biology papers.  I was told, set the work at Senior 2 level.  I did just that.  5 of the 9 passed the paper, with all students eventually passing the course based on their assignment, homework and classwork performances.  Some achieved great scores, some not so.  Again, they have had too any teachers before them.  That and 8 exams over two days do not bode well for fantastic scores.  I wish them well, but I do feel sorry for them.  They’ve has Ishit from India, Mark from Canada and me amongst many teachers.  Too many styles of teaching, too many methods and too many content gaps.  Too much homework, too many tests and too little freedom.  I’m of course part of the problem, a teacher.  If I wasn’t here, somebody would fill the void.  I like to think on top of the subject, I add character and culture.  If the students here don’t remember Meiosis, Mitosis and Mendelian Genetics, they’ll remember one Mancunian and his love of sky blue.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

All hail the Monkey King

29th January 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Frustratingly, I’ve been unable to Skype or call my sister back in the U.K. to wish her a happy birthday (back on the 20th…) but I have found a gift (to be taken home in Summer) that I know she’ll more than appreciate.  I can’t say anything in case of the secret being outted but I am in state of pride that would frustrate those who believe in the seven deadly sins.

 

The office at Baiyun has been the most pleasing aspect of teaching this last few weeks.  Michael as leader has a tight-knit team in the well-travelled and homeless-person-lover that is Channing; the intelligent and wise Yolande who hails from somewhere near South Africa’s Durban; the sweet natured Chloe (who is still studying a course in Western Translation Theories); the pretty smiled Jean who I don’t think I ever saw without a beaming grin and was ever helpful.  They teach subjects as varied as Mathematics, Chinese, History, Litearture and act like a family to their tiny nine student class.  They treated me to a fantastic meal, full of spice and flavour, on the Wednesday night.  With teachers and students as bright as this, there is light in the world.  They’re on the side of the angels.

 

Last Thurday night, I spent it in the 7 Days Inn hotel, I had a fright.  Thwack!  A gothic butterfly impacted my noggin.  I don’t know why it chose the course of flight into my bonce, but it clearly wanted to be let out.  Since when have moths taken this drastic action?  Don’t they know my sleep patterns are bad enough!  I peeled back the anti-mosquito netting and let the moth slip away into Guangzhou’s night sky.

 

Since ending the semester’s work at Baiyun, I returned for two games of football with Murray’s FC.  Both had faced cancellation.  The first because of light rain.  The Brazilian team in essence backed out because they knew the weather would level the balance between them and us and them and us.  The Friday night previous we held a barbecue to celebrate Marcelo and Federico leaving to Brazil and Argentina respectively.  A few Guangzhou Strand ales were had.  The midweek game flushed away due to the torrential monsoon-like weather.  It has been cold in the last two weeks.  At the weekend the first recorded snow since 1893 was sighted.  I sighted it too.  It wasn’t much but it was beautiful to see such large snowflakes in a place I associate with steaming unbearable heat. Children, teenagers and adults alike with agasp at the snow.  Phones and cameras were out in force.  The elderly looked amazed.  I think now, they have seen it all.  Shopworkers dashed outside and even the coffee shop I visited was at standstill.  The thermometer also hit 0°C over two days.  This is sub-tropical Dongguan – and some of Hong Kong etc also had icy spells.  Manchester and northern England had seen warmer weather that weekend.  This was a beautiful moment.  I can’t imagine having never seen snow upfront.  I’ll imagine that’ll be my reaction when I finally one day see Everest, or a Whale Shark, or the Steppes of Xīnjiāng.  I think it is important to remember the feeling of awe.  Wonder and reverence can keep us feeling attached to youth.

 

Today, has been warmer, 14°C.  The walls and floors outside the apartment are equally slippery.  Two days of torrential rain hasn’t helped.  The midnight storm engulfing nearby Wanda Plaza’s towers.

A few winter holiday plans have been scuppered by either budget or varied forms of inavailability.  Plan A: no internal flights beyond Kathmandu possible, as all booked solid. Plan B: most parts of Tibet are closed to foreigners. Plan C: landslide has destroyed road to Déqīn 德欽. Plan D: Turpan (吐魯番, Tǔlǔfānin in Xīnjiāng) is closed. Plan E… watch this space.

 

IMPORTANT HEALTH WARNING: Don’t watch this movie. Even if someone suggests to watch 蒸发太平洋 as a way to relax, feel free to use excessive force. Are you a fan of Brandon Routh? This will destroy that fanaticism faster than a Man U****d fan’s love for Louis Van Gaal. This is a movie guilty of mixing too many genres, wooden acting, the concepts of Jaws 3D and splicing something together as bad as dolly the sheep with a bull’s dick. Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios needs to stick to Marco Polo efforts and not B-movie relics. If you hear Zhēngfā Tàipíng Yáng being mentioned, back away. Vincent Zhou should be ashamed. I guess a movie with bit-part The Walking Dead actors has no legs to stand on but Zhāng Yǔqǐ (张雨绮) will star in the up-and-coming Stephen Chow (周星馳) movie The Mermaid(美人鱼) and he has made great movies like Kung Fu Hustle Movie and Shaolin Soccer. The movie Lost in the Pacific is so far from great, it deserves to be straight to TV, early hours, and not straight to video. In the meantime, look forward to The Mermaid and The Monkey King 2 (西游记之孙悟空三打白骨精 Xī Yóu Jì Zhī Sūn Wù Kōng Sān Dǎ Bái Gǔ Jīng) – a sequel to The Monkey King.  Besides The Monkey King reminds me of family…

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

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