June 2016’s posts

Under their noses a Womble may be.

1st June 2016

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

 

After today, just 16 working days remain at Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  As June becomes July, I don’t know what the next step is.  Should I stay or should I go?  If I go there may be trouble, if I stay there will be double.  On Monday, I had my 1291st and 1292nd classes here.  Class 801 and 803 get this joy.  I was tempted to set off a party popper and inflate one balloon to mark the occasion.  At this juncture, my head is an enigma wrapped in a mystery shrouded by a cloud of doubt and uncertainty.  I’m not remotely worried anymore.  I’ve resigned my mind to the future all being a big pile of steaming shit, stacked so high that I no longer worry about disappointment.  Actually, I have a regret in life.  Going to university.  I wish I had never gone so soon.  The student loan debt sits above me.  Being away from the U.K. has caused a rise in the figure I owe.  I will and have paid for it in two and half years, without actually paying anything off.  I wish I had worked after college and found a more financially viable way to pay for my education.  In some ways I am proud to have studied – and in other ways I feel bitter as hell.  Actually, my degree was too low a result to gain a job teaching English in Japan and South Korea.  So, I have a non-universal university degree of varying degrees of value.  At least my credit score won’t be affected if I don’t look after my parents when they grown old

 

With respect to the M.C.F.C. seasoncard, I am going to cancel it.  I cannot find anyone to look after it and I fear if I return to the U.K., I won’t be able to afford £600 for a season (plus all that goes with it).  Premier League and even Football League football, a working class game, is pricing out fans left, right and centre with its hyperinflated prices.  Also, no one can reastically look after it.  Sad days, it will be impossible to get a seasoncard in the future.  I had tried to relocate to the £300 seating areas but 7 hours of failed Skype calls and hold music let me down.  I never even had a response from City’s customer services.  A two-day relocation window, whilst I am located in China – and no one was free to call in person…. ah well, all the joy of going to the football is over.

 

Last week, I fell out of love with football again.  After recording Murray’s F.C. Maine Road’s first win of the Dongguan International Football League campaign (a 4-1 win over Winner’s F.C.) and a win against Poka’s Brazil F.C., I played a game too many on Saturday.  Our depleted team had a hammering.  The kind where everything went wrong.  Two of their goals deflected off me.  We conceded a dubious penalty and we had a player sent off midway through the first half.  At 2-0 down with only ten men, we went in at the break three goals against us.  After this break, we used our only two subs.  The opposition team used 7 subs in the second half.  Within five minutes of the restart my right leg and hamstring tightened to near immobility and our keeper made some terrible errors of judgment.  We lost 10-0 to Guangdong Football Academy and deservedly so.  The Guangdong stage of a national tournament to elect a third flight of football in China may not feature Murray’s F.C.  With one team already on 6 points and just three more games to go for them, we are facing an uphill battle.  Each province has this competition and the top teams will all form a national league.  We cannot field more than 7 international (foreign) players.  We managed 6 on Saturday.  Miguel [Spain], Ruben [Spain], Alex [Spain], Yura [Ukraine (red carded)], Barry [Nigeria], Juan [Colombia] and I [U.K.] joined 6 Chinese players (Dean and Buffon I knew of before) and we did not gel.  The heavy second half rain made play sluggish but we were poorly organised and with one player less, dragged left, right and centre.  It was a teasing game by a team of 16 to 19-year old boys far fitter and sharper.  Hats off to them, they earned their comprehensive win.  The age difference did not balance out against our collective game experience.  步步高昇 (bù bù gāoshēng): Onwards and upwards…

To be continued…

 

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

We womble by night and we womble by day.

1st June 2016

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

 

“And the seas boiled and the skies fell.”

 

Ghostbusters.  “We got one.”  The original movie was brilliant.  Ghostbusters II was a natural flowing continuation of it’s most innovative predecessor.  And then nothing, for 27 years.  Three of the four previous Ghostbusters cameo, alongside Annie Potts (Janine) and Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett), with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd as producer / production executive and executive producer respectively.  There has to be a touch of the old ghost in there.  With the 1970s Columbia Pictures logo and the the film’s first trailer became one of the most “disliked videos in YouTube history” this is a clash of nostalgia and reboots of biblical proportions.  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!  I can’t imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light, but it could be totally a flop of a movie, or it could be amazing.

 

“Concentrate… I want you to tell me what you think it is.”

 

Yesterday, during school, we held Children’s Day activities with a top ten talent contest for singers from primary and middle school.  Following that we converted Dao Ming Foreign Language School into a bazaar – a flea market/car boot sale.  My Dad would have loved it here.  The students had their own stalls whilst us foreign teachers ran a kind of sweet shuop/tuck shop.  I spent 678RMB on sweets, chocolates and biscuits and we sold 670RMBs worth of goods.  That said, I did clear out a box of biscuits (hobnobs and Moomin crackers) for 10RMB just to end it quickly.  I could have charged the extra 8RMB.  Jack sold some basketball goods, Arvid sold some Swedish materials whilst Beth and Tess just helped.  I think asking foreign teachers to sell “international items, things we can’t get here in China” is pretty difficult.  Imported goods carry high prices and are selectively available.  A combination of French, German and English sweets made for a great sweet mix-up, like the old 10p mix-ups I used to have as a kid, except in a plastic cup and not a paper bag (the 32°C would cause the sweets to melt to the bags).

 

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

 

Making good use of the things that we find.

12 seconds ago

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

 

Yesterday. was full of the joys of the message in Happy Children’s Day (儿童节快乐ér tóng jié kuài lè).  Grades 7-9 had classes whilst the children of the school from grades 1-6 had a day off.  As such, so did those teachers.  My grade 7 classes remained.  Was I envious?  Not really.  I enjoy teaching and I enjoy being in the team environment of my close-knit grade 9 office.  The grade 7 classes were good fun, with class 702 high-spirited and eager as ever.  They really are the exception in the school, they have a class full of bright sparks with few kids unwilling to try hard.  Hands are always up.  Screams and shouts are always there, “pick me,”  “her!”, “him!”, and so on…

 

On the way to school, sveral grade 6 students stopped me to ask them to join their trip to the cinema.  I declined with thanks, and explained that I must have classes.  They said I work too hard.  I replied, I don’t work nearly as hard as their native teachers.  I could have rattled on that I don’t start at 09:30hrs and depart as late as 21:30hrs some days; I don’t have 90 students’ comprehension, grammar or textbook homework to mark [there are actually two textbooks now]; I don’t have tutor group worries comparative to being a carer, parent and rock to rely on; I don’t have to attend grade, school and training meetings; I don’t have to do many things, but I do have to do other things, inspire, and innovate.  On the last day of May, we held a flea market, I created ten pence mix-ups (sold for 3-5RMB) from sweets purchased at Corners Deli in Nancheng, chocolates and biscuits from Dongcheng’s Walmart, and other smaller imported treats and titbits grabbed here there and everywhere.  Ultimately it cost 1200RMB for everything and it all sold, returning the same amount of money, well kind of… 8RMB shy of breaking even.  Because of the heat ten pence mix ups came in small recyclable plastic cups, as did the chocoloate combinations (After Eights, Dairy Milk, Twix and chocolate raisins) and the biscuit bunch (Hobnobs, Moomin crackers from Japan and some cereal bites).

 

On the following day (yesterday), the remaining sweets (three pouches from Turkey) became a good prize for my four classes.   That, and I shared some with the teachers of middle school.  As a teacher you muts make use of limited resources.  In grade 6, the resources must stretch over 8 classes.  In grades 7 and 8, they have to span 4 classes each.  Some things take a bashing.  Others stand firm.  Buying props or games does not mean they’ll stand the test.  Making things from shoe boxes (Houjie is famous for shoe production) or using old bottles etc, making giant weather maps, these are things that go down well.  Bright, colourful, interactive – and coupled with the wow factor of Powerpoint presentations featuring interesting imagery (moving GIFs help somewhat) create depth.  Forty minutes well divided (by lesson plans) into previous class review, current class warm-up, introduction of new materials, a midway review, a second introduction and then a finale review.  All this builds up over a semester landing my classes where they are now:  exam time.

 

The oral English exam is one double-sided sheet of A4 paper.  Here it is…

Grade 6 Oral Lesson Test

六年级外教教学内容测试

1a) Listen.  Circle the words that you hear. [10 points]

1b) Give a sentence for the two words I have marked with an X. [10 points]

robot goalkeeper longest cavemen heavy
tallest sorry shorter kilograms humans
taller centimetres angry dream change
earth stopped windy spaceship healthy
visited cleaned already planned studied
promise fantastic excellent teamwork happening

 

2) Which question(s) did you hear? 

Please answer the question(s). [40 points]

How tall are you?

Did you go to the movies last night?

How old are you?

How heavy are you?

What size are your shoes?

Who is the tallest student in this class?

What’s happening over there?

How was your weekend?

What did you do at the weekend?

 

3)  Use two sentences to talk about the chosen two pictures. [40 points]          

Picture one

HOBBIES

Picture two

GIFTS

Picture three

JOE HART GOALKEEPER

Picture four

ROBOTS / EARTH / CAVEMEN

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Is life a never ending exam?

9th July 2016

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

 

Last Thursday night, I went to see a band (with Ben, a local musician and English teacher from Reading), Searching for Something, from Sweden at Brown Sugar Jar in Nancheng.  They weren’t bad, but not one to shout about.

 

Last week marked the start of the grade 6 oral English exams.  Classes 601-604 had the honours of the first round of exams.  Tom, 1.37m tall, from class 602 has always been a giddy and happy but shy student.  His spoken English level surprised me and he certainly deserved 100%.  Rex, from the same class, came into the teacher’s office shortly after lunchtime.  Several teachers were still napping, “This is the teacher’s office, we should be quiet.”  Here after we whispered the spoken exam.  Again, 100% was scored.  From the 72 exams, they ranged from 80-100%.  A good day.

 

A bad day.  Saturday’s game, in Tangxia, against Matteus’s team (he is a local football coach of Brazilian origin) and his Martins Brazilian Football Academy was never going to be easy AND against the elements.  It was too hot for an afternoon kick off – and will remain so until September.  They had to win it to clinch the title and a substantial 10,000RMB prize.  We had to make up for the previous weekend’s 10-0 defeat.  By Friday evening, of the 23 available players, we had 13 available.  In the afternoon as we departed, we had just 11 players.  A huge storm arrived, almost blowing the game away and washing us away.  We were saturated, deflacted and tired losing 7-0 at half time.  With four players, I had never met before, a goalkeeper standing less than 1.5 metres tall, we needed a miracle.  It never came.  We lost 11-2.  A windswept journey back, a bite to eat (fish and chips) at Murray’s Irish Bar in Dongcheng, a swift passage along the subway to Liaoxia and I wrapped myself up and watched The Brothers Grimsby.

 

An ugly day.  Sunday, was supposed to be spent watching the Wanjiang dragon boat races but with torrential rain and fierce winds, I favoured a morning of reading books.  In the afternoon, I joined Murray’s F.C.’s Sunday league team just as cover but did not play.  Thankfully, everyone turned up!  Afterwards, I had food again at Murray’s Irish Bar, opting for an all day breakfast burrito and wedges.

 

Monday’s classes in grade 8 were halved to just two classes.  The teacher of classes 804 and 802 has taken almost half of my classes this semester.  Tuesday marked a return to the oral English exams in grade six.  A one to one exam for the best part of 350 students certainly takes time.  I’m just touching the half-way point… with some students, it can be funny and most are very clued up.  Some, like Susan, in class 607 are witty and wise.  Having spent the whole semester, greeting me with, “May I have candy?” the exam was little different, “Can you give me 100 points and candy?”  I told her the different name we call sweet tasting sugary confectionary.  She now knows the words sweets and confectionary.  She asks for all three often and upon completing the exam, this was no exception.  Many more exams will follow for all, at every level of school.

 

I’ve always admired how hard Chinese students work.  From kindergarten through to middle school or high school, senior high school and beyond.  The gāokǎo (高考/higher education exam) is held annually.  It determines your fate.  As a prerequisite for entrance into most higher education institutions at the undergraduate level.  Two days of exams spread over 9 hours.  Your fate.  Your biros, your pencils, your mind.  Subjects usually include Chinese literature, Mathematics, and English language – plus one of either Humanities (文綜)or Natural Sciences (理綜).  The winners of exams, as they should be called after battling these monsters, get the Chinese equivalent of UCAS points.  Since 1952, these exams have hung over every student’s life and developed a way to map and pathway students to their futures, good or bad.  Their 4-6 choices of university or college hang in the balance (chosen before or after the exam – and in some cases after the results, depending on the province).  The BBC article here gives a good account.

 

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

The writings on the wall

10th June 2016

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

 

Someone asked me yesterday, “Why do you only ever write about football in HubHao?”  To which I felt a little bemused.  I responded that I prefer to write about cultural clashes and historical pieces.  I had a look this morning, I’ve only written three football reports and two articles about Guangzhou football.  In fact, breaking down the range of articles covered, I am disappointed to this close-minded view.

 

Two weeks ago, I reviewed an amazing band called The Big Band Theory from the Phillapines.  That article will be published soon.  Tonight, I will go to Qiáotóu (the village in Houjie and not the district in north-eastern Dongguan) to watch the dry dragon boat race/competition.  Then, tomorrow I am going to JiuZhou island (九洲岛) by Zhūhǎi (珠海) to a one day/one night music festival.  I don’t know what to expect, but it sounds most interesting.

Sports related articles (6): 

 

On The Terraces Part I – Blue Dreams

Cycling From Chengdu To Moscow

On The Terraces Part II – Red Screams

Dongguan International Football League – Round 8

Dongguan International Football League – Round 5

Dongguan International Football League – Round 4

The arts (5):

Arts Review – Mark Lotz And A Fula’s Call

Arts Review – Mr Walrus

Atlantic Attraction at Brown Sugar Jar – Arts Review

The Big Band Theory – yet to be published.

Magic Island music festival – yet to be published.

Social culture (2):

Hash Harriers – A drinking club with a running problem

Going For The Bullseye

Shopping (3):

Shopper’s Guide to Shoe Market

Shopper’s Guide To Bike Street

Shoppers’ Guide To Wanjiang Sportswear Street

Teaching (3):

Tips For The Classroom

Tips for the Classroom

Tips For The Classroom

Bars and restaurants (6):

Restaurant Review – Revolving Restaurant

Bar Review – 28 Over Par

Winners Bar – Bar Review

Restaurant Review – Munchalots

Gigg Club (Houjie) – unpublished.

Pioneer chateaux alliance – yet to be published.

Chinese and  Western culture (8):

The Case For And Against Having An Ayi

The Case For And Against Learning Chinese

Badasses Of Chinese History – Yue Fei

The Case For And Against Driving In China

Badasses Of Chinese History – Hua Mulan

How To Survive Going To A Cinema

Badasses of Chinese History: Zhuge Liang

Dragon boat festival – yet to be published.

 

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

 

 

[These words are in brackets]

14th June 2016

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

 

As the penultimate week whistles by at an alarming pace, I sit here looking at an ever-reducing pile of oral English exam papers.  Classes 601-604 (less 8 students, no present on Sunday) are complete.  Following last week’s Dragon Boat Festival holiday, school resumed on a Sunday.   The Thursday timetable was applied accordingly.  With it classes 601 to 604 had their oral English exams in the grade 5/6 teachers’ office.  The fourth floor location offered respite from the harshly humid heat of the outside and the noisy classrooms that stretch out along the concrete with tacky tiled corridor-balconies of primary school.

 

In class 602, an unhappy and sleepy looking Alice (by far the most advanced student in the school for her degree of spoken English) told me, “yesterday was my birthday.  I spent the day travelling back to school.  Her classroom mate, Young, a stuttering boy with some behavioural traits that can please and scare in equal measure came in next.  He has always been very vocal, uncontrollably so.  He tries hard but is easily fed misinformation by his peers.  His usually reasonably choir boy-like voice, was squeaky and deep in patches, like a rollercoaster screeching around a bend before thumping heavily along a straight track.  I think his voice is breaking.  Soon after, Willson and Bobby, both very unaccented, confident and capable students.  Both scored perfection.  Both, alongside Alice should advance far swifter.  Class 601’s “Little Einstein” Bobby, who loves maths and physics, entered the fray next.  He told me how much he, “hates English classes and P.E.  They stop me from learning science and maths.”  What I am particularly proud of is the fact that Bobby recognises the differences between English (Traditional/U.K.) and English (Simplified/U.S.A.).  He always tries to note the spoken and written differences by either writing with U.K. and U.S.A. in parentheses or brackets.  He once told me, “in Science you must know the difference, it is important.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell him most people don’t know what brackets look like [these words are in brackets].

 

The afternoon’s exams whistled by like the Orient Express fast-tracked by a pushed French TGV train.  Oscar in class 603 said he was happy, I asked why, “I am happy because I have a new pencil case.”  It’d be a far better world if more kids took joy from something so simple.  I remember being his age and all my classmates wanted the latest Sega Megadrive or Gameboy, Nike Air Max, and all that jazz.  From class 604, Camble (who dropped his Samsung tablet smashing the screen, on the last school trip) exhibited the usual cheerful smile and said politely, “I only want 100 points if I am very good.”  From the same class Anna, a usually quiet student in class, with her small birthmark on her nose, came in with a smile and would not shut up.  The three-minute exam lasted six minutes.  I was amazed at how much she talked.  James, our very own class guitar hero, who can sing many Bon Jovi numbers came in and we skipped the usual exam format in favour of discussing music and who his heroes are.  In fact, members of “John’s team” (that’s what they called us on the recent school trip), Mike, Lucas and Jimmy all answered clearly and we opted to discuss other matters, such as what movie is best at the cinema, where to travel in the world and so on.  Lucas and Jimmy are a pair.  They are inseperable.  I hope they go to middle school together.  Neither knows which school their parents have selected.

 

The ever clever Mary, who said she travelled 26-hours to Sichuan after school last Wednesday evening and returned to school on Sunday morning, following another 26-hour journey looked cream-crackered, properly knackered.  She wants to return to Dao Ming but feels, “my parents will take her to a more advanced school.”  Smart kid.  Another smart kid, named Alice, when asked, “Why are you happy?” replied with, “I am happy because maths is very interesting.” Maths!  Not math!  Also, how many kids truly like maths?  I used to until year 9 of secondary school at Reddish Vale High School.  Around then, sets happened and the class pace slowed down for too many assessments.  Comparable to China, we were barely tested back then, and rarely had homework…

 

 

 

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

 

Dreams are there to be earned.

21st June 2016

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

 

Last week, marked the end of the oral English exams in grade 6.  Two students did not complete their exams as they had left school for the remainder of the semester.  In class 608, Peter, 1.71m tall, and easily the tallest male student in his grade, couldn’t answer a question about which student was the tallest in his class.  In the same class, after three attempts, Tody, clammed up, spokne not once, and scored a feable 25%.  His teacher said he never ever tries.  Shame, because, I managed to start to get him trying until she walked in and hovered over him, putting him down with words like, “you never talk English.  You must.  You are so bad.”  I felt so angry at her for that.  Later, I tried again.  No joy.  With less pressure, I’m sure he will try one day.  He has talked a little to me in class.  Class 607’s Peter reminds me of my friend, Peter.  This Peter is 1.4m tall and cheeky.  So, is my friend Peter.  Well maybe 1.42m tall.  I asked a student who is seriously overwight, how heavy he is, he is 1.7m tall and 100kg.  I am 1.94m tall and 110kg.  His response was, “I am fat. Yay.”  I hope this not so poor kid, thinks it is not a good thing!  He needs a salad or two, every day otherwise his health is at major risk.

 

On of the questions is simpy, “What did you do last weekend?”  Sometimes, the responses are so plain and it requires some digging.  For example, in class 607, Joanna, “I washed my clothes and did my homework.”  To which, I delved further, “What else did you do?”  The meat on the bones reply followed, “We went to the beach and played games in the sea.”  The interesting material is saved for last!  This seemed to be the case throughout the exams.  I had to push and push for something that detracted from the inside-the-box textbook response.  Also, by affirming that the answers were far better this way, it builds a student’s confidence by direct feedback.  From the same class, Bobby, 1.45m tall, small, very smiley, always bright and inquisitive had to be told to stop.  His conversation for the final task was wonderful.  From 606, Emily, in her square nerdy-looking glasses told me how she, “loves fishing with her father.”  A theme throughout the exams.  Even when walking about fishing, the passion is clear, that this is a big thing here, and fishing with fathers around Father’s Day, sounds most pleasant.  Personally, fishing sounds dull.  But good company and a natter with your Dad isn’t a bad thing in any sense. 

 

The final class over the finishing line, was class 605.  Beadlets of sweat on the students’ noses seemed to occur all the time.  In this class, May, from the province of Henan, personified this extra nose sweat.  She shown no other signs of sweat.  Her awkwardness, 1.76m tall, seemed to be from standing head and shoulders above the rest.  We compared notes on being tall.  It seemed to be a gaucheness, I could relate to.  With blinged pens, working hard throughout all of the exams, students like Harry Potter-glasses wearing Honey, who I taught last year in Grade 5’s VIP classes all scored well.  Her pen had an Eiffel Tower hanging from it.  I do so hope these students get the chance to learn well and travel the world.  Dreams are there to be earned [earnt is acceptable but highly ucommon].

 

Travelling from Houjie to Xiàmén (厦门), around 620km away, took around 5 hours.  The 15-minute bullet train between Humen Railway Station to Shenzhen North, for the connection of the long distance train (Shenxia Highspeed Rail), was swift.  It hit over 300km/h.  The latter train was less swift but not exactly slow.  On the bullet train, I went faster than any other boy has ever gone.  And my skin was raw, but my soul was ripe.  An amazing piece of engineering.  That was my Friday evening.  Followed by a collection at Xiamen North Railway Station, where we met a man with a sign saying Gulangyu Cup 2016 (by sign it was an A4 piece of paper with barely readable words), and a drop off at the Tangdair Hotel around midnight (睿弘唐代尔酒店(厦门新轮渡码头店)厦门 湖里区 东渡路85号 ,厦鼓轮渡码头旁。).  Santi and Juan went clubbing.  Ideal pre-tournament ideas.  I bunked with Lucho in a twin bed hotel room.

 

We awoke for breakfast at 6.30am, gathered at the poor breakfast buffet restaurant.  After being handed a boiled egg on entry, we took a look, noticed the lack of carbohydrates then scattered to the coach, hungry.  With a still drunk Santi, and a not so happy looking Juan we set off.  Even before kicking a ball the format of the 2016 GuLangYu Cup stunk of class.  A team photo and blurb appeared online of Murray’s F.C.  The forms of registration and processes were simple and clear.  Assistance was thrown at us in the shape of discount on the train travel.  The total cost was 3800RMB (we paid 1000RMB deposit; and 900RMB on the day).  1900RMB was not charged to us, as we’d paid that to the trainfares.  Effectively it wasn’t a bad weekend on the wallet, because trainfares cost around 384RMB for a return journey.  The hotel costs 200RMB for 2 nights each.  Food and drink on top was met by your own wallet.  That said, on the day of the tournament, things were included.  At the tournament in included a ferry return journey voucher, a voucher for a juice, one for a hamburger, two beers, a Dutch waffle, an ice cream, and a sports massage.   After the game a free beer was available too.

 

On departure by ferry, the view was magnificent.  The gentle morning sun caressed the prominent Gulangyu (鼓浪屿) and the bold granite Statue of Koxinga (國姓爺; Guóxìngyé).  Often known as “The Island of Music” (音樂之島), Gulangyu attracts serious numbers of tourists annually.  On stopping at a hole in the wall breakfast place, I had a quick chūnjuǎn (春卷; Xiamen Spring Roll) and hǎilì jiān (海蛎煎; an oyster omelet) for breakfast on the island.  Neither filled the hole.  On debarking, we walked from the small port, up the narrow, under renovation streets, passing a few western style eyesores (that golden M) and then seeing a few closed shops (it was too early to trade) before reaching the Gulangyu People’s Stadium.  A sense of peace could have been noted, but for pneumatic drills and construction sounds.  Here, only electric government service vehicles are permitted – these are small and barely evident.

 

The stadium, set underneath an exquisite looking mansion, and with the backdrop of Mount Lit-kong-giam (日光岩 Sunlight Rock – the highest place on Gulangyu).  After the prompt official opening ceremony, our game was first up.  MFC v Beijing Barbarians.  We lost 2-0.  The first goal was my fault, I was caught between two players, the ball to my left and allowed a man to drift central for a simple goal.  The second was a direct shot which I should have got behind.  I needed a better breakfast.  Next up, last year’s runners up, Xiamen BOBO FC fielded a team against us.  We were the better side, but you could see a team used to cramped fields (the fields were sub-7-a-side conditions) and without offside the found space, twice.  Our final group game was a Guangdong derby, facing off against The Lions FC from Shenzhen.  We romped to a 2-0 victory.

 

A break in the schedule allowed us to enjoy Shanghai Mint Girls FC face off against the newly formed Xiamen International Women’s FC.  It was a totally once sided affair, leaving me time to read the programme notes.  “We bear our football dreams in mind and ready to carry it from the metropolitan city of Shanghai to that of the GuLangYu, Xiamen City.  You can see the Mint Girls playing football happily everywhere, either on the dusty fields or the wild green sports pitches. Mint Girls.  Go, go, go!”  Yes, that had clearly been translated.  Actually, the standard of their team was ultra-professional.  Their neon green with highlighted sponsors, less so.  Even their crest is vile.

 

Eliminated from the Gulangyu Cup competition, we entered the Gulangyu Plate competition.  We started with a bang.  Well, Doug did.  A 5-0 hammering of Hong Kong Krauts FC, in a blood and guts game saw the injury list rack up.  I had my foot stamped on, and well Doug, he had a faceful of something.  His nose broke and away he whizzed in an ambulance.  He later had it straightened up in hospital.  Next up, Suzhou Arabian Knights F.C., in the semi-finals.  On their debut season in the highly competitive Suzhou Football League they immediately became champions.  Murray’s FC had a testing game and proved victors.  1-0.  The final proved to be one game too many.  It was always going to be a single goal affair.  A cruel goal in off the woodwork saw Murray’s F.C. come runners-up.  Following the conclusion of proceedings, we departed the GuLangYu People’s Stadium alongside Hong Kong Krauts FC.  The battle remained on the field, but off it, we were all friendly.

 

After Lucy, our Japanese assistant helped us on the coach get to Rasa Sayang Restaurant.  The journey was 40 minutes long, and seemed to pass entirely through tunnels and bridges.  On arrival a few problems with wristbands (Juan had forgotten his), Doug too (but he had the excuse of several hours in hospital with a busted nose) and the lack of live football (Belgium were playing Ireland on the TV) caused half our group to flee.  The other hand waited, very patiently, for food.  It was good.  Armed with a few free beers we legged it back for the town.  We met the others by a bar watching the football.  Here on Revolution bar in Xiamen and a couple of bars nearby carried me through to 2am.  Then I went to rest.  Sunburnt and sleepy.  The following late morning-early afternoon under the tiny shadow of the Hulishan Fortress (湖里的堡垒), we joined Beijing Barbarians for a spot of football tennis.  I sat in the shade for the most reading about the local area.  For the future, I want to visit Kinmen (金門).  A ferry can be taken from Xiamen.  The return journey was uneventful (aside from almost going to the wrong return railways station), sleepy and a little smelly.

 

On Monday, I tried luóhàn guǒ (Monk fruit/罗汉果/ 羅漢果) in my tea, at school.  Beyond that, all classes were cancelled.  Today, Tuesday, all classes are cancelled…

 

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

I have had enough.

22nd June 2016

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

 

So, yesterday, contract negotiations, with the company I work for, hit a brick wall.  Splatt.  I’ve had a loose opportunity from GMA primary school (a partnership school to Eton House), a few schools in Guangzhou, an offer of 21,000AED (around £4000) from a school in the UAE… and so on.  So, I asked for a tincy-wincy rise from my company, they said yes, but with no bonus.  I asked for the bonus too.  They said I can retain the current salary and have a bonus (which I worked out would be the same as the tincy-wincy pay rise).  So, I asked for both, they reduced their offers.  Yesterday, we ended talks on the matter, because they want my commitment before the visa is extended.  So, now, I said I wanted to stay, but feel their offer is unfair.  I know this because I know of teachers locally on more.  I was offered a better role at Songshan Lake, which is a tad far from here (where I have a contracted apartment until November), so can’t take that role.  The company I work for know this.  They seem to know everything.  What they don’t know, is that I have packed my bags and apartment away.  I have had enough.

 

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

Crossing the finish line.

24th June 2016

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

 

Wear a smile on your face.  That should be a guideline to life.  I try to live by that philosophy.  Every now and then, I struggle to show a smile.  Today, my last day at Dao Ming, is like that.  I can’t help my feelings.  I’m not worried about leaving or missing the teachers and students.  I’m clouded.  Shrouded by a combination of exhausation and anger.  This last week, I have been made to sing for my supper far too often.  I’m not a businessman and I am certainly not aggressive enough for contract negotiations.  Even just raising my demands, citing loyalty and quoting that others get bonuses hasn’t been enough.  Loyalty dies the moment the unspoken trust is broken.  I should have learnt this many times before, but like an obedient puppy, knowing no better, I persist.  And here I am.  The final day.  1318 classes since I began.

 

This week, every class has been cancelled to allow for exam preparations, graduation rehearsal and so on.  I’ve been strictly told to “ask the school to ask the company” about next semester.  Nobody knows, this is it.  Miss Jiang asked me some advice for her plans next semester.  She wants phonics and pronunciation to be a focus of classes next semester.  Elocution and articulation is important.  It’d make a good warm-up section of the class for ten minutes or so.  I don’t believe it of great importance to grades 5 upwards.  I’ll miss consulting with Miss Jiang and the other teachers.

 

Today, Friday, I had been asked to say “farewell” to students in grade 6.  Snowie’s classes, 601 and 602, were free after 2 o’clock.  Summer’s classes 607 and 608 had to be seen in period 3 or 4 before lunch.  The other classes (Apple’s and Nancy’s 603-606) were visited in period 2.  In middle school, Class 701, at 13:30, wanted to say farewell too, after lunch.  Class 702 would have liked to, but there was a clash of availability.  Teacher’s availability of classes, exams and other such importances gave good reason to prevent a farewell to the remainder of middle school’s students.  In some ways, I’d prefer to slip out quietly, unnoticed, on others, I want to be seen to say goodbye.  Maybe, it shouldn’t even be my choice.  Perhaps, the students should choose and not me.  For me to choose is selfish.  On Wednesday, the grade 9 teachers invited me to the graduation ceremony (on a date to be agreed).  Likewise, Grade 6’s Nancy advised I should attend the graduation ceremony of grade 6.  Again, no date has been forthcoming.

 

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

Seismic shifts of stupidity?

24th June 2016

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

 

Today, 1 GBP is around 8RMB, yesterday it was 1GBP to 9.75RMB… and now comes the dark days of uncertainty.

 

As the votes come in for the European Union referendum of the U.K., it is clear and present to all that see, that Wales has no interest in the E.U., nor do areas with high unemployment and pretty much anyone north of London and not in Scotland.  This shows massive fraction in the U.K.  There is a debate about whether education and knowledge matters.  That again is a fragmented view.  People are fed up with the current U.K. leaders, and they could be using this vote to force a change.  There is so much at play here.  The U.K. has always been disjointed and the state of the union, whilst peaceful, is far from solidified.  People want change, not that they’ll be much change as the value of the pound drops and drops.  With this uncertainty will come a period to reflect and hopefully a rise from the ashes.  In the meantime, anyone in Wales that has directly benefited from E.U. Objective I funding, or those who have enjoyed free university as a result of indirect benefits due to freed up money in the Welsh Assembly, shame on you.  If you are given an apple and choose to eat it, don’t spit out the seeds and expect others to grow a plant for you – and then refuse the rotten trees that grow from them.  A murky analogy?  Everything is grey, not black and white.  Everything.

 

An independent U.K.?  Or a global U.K.?  Calm and rational look?  Invoke article 50?

 

 

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

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