A brief word from the Department for Common Sense
11th October 2015
Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,
Now Japan has a job I want. Well, not quite. But, I’d love to have Tear Clearer on my C.V. Ikemeso Danshi will call by with someone handsome and wipe away your tears. Japan has a high number of odd professions, like the sad necessity of cleaning up after the death of lonesome senior citizens. The difference from Chinese to Japanese luxury culture is measured in light years. That said, many luxuries are obscene.
On Thursday, October the 8th 2015, after seven days spent away from the work, I was gently eased into work with zero classes. Middle school operated a Thursday timetable (and on a Friday, a Friday timetable) in line with popular common sense thinking. On Saturday, they’ll be a Wednesday timetable. I guess the extra day needs something. Primary school opted to go bizarre slotting in a Wednesday timetable on a Thursday, a Thursday timetable on a Friday and Saturday was to be filled in by Friday’s classes. For me, this is a task. Friday (or Friday in middle school, but Thursday in primary school) meant I had four class clashes (timetable clashes, not students at war). Such was the way of the two schools not talking to each other, I couldn’t get the classes moved to Thursday and had to have a day without teaching. I did spend it constructively observing Albin, Anna and Tess’s classes… as well as creating a Halloween collage for display on the school noticeboards. Although, I did manage to teach all the right classes, but not necessarily in the right order on the Saturday. “Rodney, you plonker!”
The week of holiday, golden week in China, was spent on the whole relaxing. Fóshān (it means Buddha Mountain, 佛山) is an area of around 7 million inhabitants, amongst five districts. Chánchéng sits in the centre and houses Foshan Ancestral Temple (佛山祖庙: Fóshān Zǔmiào). The temple was originally built in 1078 (Song dynasty) and rebuilt in 1372 (Ming dynasty). In 1949, as China became the People’s Republic of China, the local government listed the building and museum as one of its main cultural relics. The site is small and features the Wanfu Terrace, Jinxiang Pool, Front Hall, Main Hall and Qingzheng Pavilion. In amongst it all, I was lucky to witness a Lion Dance, Kung Fu fighting, and read about the kung Fu legends Wong Fei Hong and Ip Man in the Memorial Hall. All for 16RMB entrance. Bargain!
Due to impending bad weather, a trip to a park out of town was ill-advised – as was mountain hiking and wildlife spotting. Zhōngshān gōngyuán (中山公园) sat alongside the murky Fenjiang River offered refuge. With some pretty area, old scenery and grim looking zoo areas sat amongst a poor looking funfair, it is safe to say there isn’t much to go to this park for. Unless you like noise. Funfair noises. Mobile-KTV karaoke song machine noises. Instrumental bands playing out of tune instrument noises. Screaming children. Noises, nises, everywhere. With my headache returning, I left the park feeling totally unimpressed. Maybe it was that 10RMB 4D cinema inexperience. The 4/5/6/7/8D cinema should have had vibrating seats. They were broken. It should have 3D vision. The glasses were scratched. It should have had mist and ice. Broken. These cinema efforts are everywhere. The graphics onscreen were comparable to a Commodore-64 game and they seemed to lag just as much as back when I had one. In the 90’s. This cinematic experience sits on a par with viewing Jaws 3D for the first time, on a black and white television… with crackly speakers… whilst sat on a wonky seat… the kind of seat thatis so uncomfortable that you think you need to go to the bathroom but you don’t. It wasn’t just a little bit crap, it was time I wish I had invested in something far more valuable, like counting leaves on a tree.
Beyond that, most of my time has been spent relaxing, reading and exploring the local area. This includes today, the one day weekend that is Sunday the 11th of October, the 284th day of the year. Today, is International Day of the Girl Child. If you are or were a girl, well done. If you are or were a girl in China, very well done!
In my week off, I noticed much more people taking shameless selfies of themselves. Everywhere. Whether scenic or dull, the selfie sticks and camera phones rolled relentlessly. I wonder if sometimes time is now measured in a new format, like the ability to take Selfies Per Hour or Selfie Free Durations per day. If each selfie image averages 1.4MB in size, and China has a third of its population [the full population is strong at 1,401,586,600] taking selfish snaps, say a round ten times a week for a year… then who the hell has a hard-drive that big [1.020,355 exabytes] sat around. I’d imagine the good people sat at the Department for Common Sense have just that hard-drive, but use it purely for copying illegal downloads of recent movies.
Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye
21°C, sleeping bags and jumpers: Winter is coming.
14th October 2015
Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,
On Monday morning it was my pleasure (or was it a displeasure) to welcome students to school at the unholy hour of 7 o’clock. Having gone to sleep just after midnight, following a terrific 6-3 win in football against a 9-5 victory over Red Lions F.C. by Murray’s F.C. in a late kick-off. My body was tired and my mind was surprisingly well-rested considering the ride to and from Marcelo’s (15 minutes away or 7km through the busy streets of Houjie) sandwiched around nearly two hours of football at Soccerworld Dongguan.
The students mostly arrived to school in their winter uniforms and sweater, jumpers, jackets and anything to wrap up in. The air temperature dropped from the low-thirties to around 21°C on Friday, continuing until Monday night. The Tuesday shot up to 25°C with today (Wednesday 14th October 2015) being far higher and more humid. One unlucky student turned up to school in his summer shorts (tartan style maroon shorts with a white short-sleeved shirt). The principal of our school, Mr Wang, made him change into his winter uniform. There and then, outside the school gate, he and his grandmother wrestled his clothes onto him. Students passed by but did not mock his choice of Spider-Man boxershorts, they opted to avoid eye contact with him, his grandmother or the onlooking principal. A knowing feeling of “it could have been me” swept around menacingly. The principal does not suffer fools gladly, and one minor misdemeanour can quickly escalate to a grand malfeasance worthy of the most ultimate public humiliation and chastisement. Very rarely does the same mistake or crime occur in Mr Wang’s multi-eyed domain of control. He was born to be a headmaster.
Monday’s classes from class 802 and 804 were cancelled. In the afternoon you could feel the pre-exam tension in both classes 803 and 801. The atmosphere was there to be cut. I tried and it seemed both classes responded well. For Tuesday classes 608, 607, 606 and 605 flew by. I don’t know what it is with Grade 6, but they are so switched on and ready for battle. Every class is greeted with calls of “let me try” and “I can do it.” Now they have added, “We are lions, we are confident.” I kind of like this, because now they all want to be alpha-lions. At lunchtime Anna, Albin and I attended the Grade Six Oral English Competition in which Big Dan claimed the top prize. Big Dan is actually named after my closest and best friend Dan back in the U.K. Notably Big Dan is actually comparative to Little John in the size to name stakes. He’s a smart kid, and made everyone laugh with his family speech, “My father is fat but he can run fast.” To which, one teacher, Apple asked me if I can run fast because I am fat. Hmmm. Not one for the Christmas card list. Asger and Tess did not attend, but then I believe every teacher has been called upon to judge each and every grade causing competition fatigue to set in… that and it is at lunch time depriving you of proper rest! I believe on Thurday there is another competition that requires judges…
The evening was spent playing football for Murray’s F.C. in a thumping 10-1 victory. At half time it was 2-0 and wholesale changes were made, sweeping aside Sociali FC (The Italians of Dongguan). Annoyingly I had a fantastic shot saved and scraped off the woodwork. I don’t shoot too often because I hate going to far forward, to run so far back but I thought I put a nice strike in. Not that it matters because our squad, our team put in a good shift throughout the game. A match report can be found here, on our newly createds Murray’s FC Pitchero website (the company that supports teams like Hyde F.C., Maine Road F.C. and Chelmsford City). If it is good enough for Salford City, it is good enough for Murray’s F.C.
Following yet another not-so-fantastic night’s sleep I was looking forward to a day in the office helping my foreign teacher team. However, grade 6’s exam day moved from today to tomorrow. As such some of my classes moved to today. It should have been all of my classes but the Chinese class teacher and the Maths class teacher fought to retain their afternoon classes. This now means tomorrow I am class free and on Friday will return to action with the four classes of grade 7. Whilst I was walking past a classroom, I noticed a teacher sound asleep in a sleeping bag whilst it is around 26°C this afternoon. If I did that, it would be like boiling rice in a bag. I’d explode and never be seen again. The teachers do keep stressing I should wrap up warm and avoid a cold. Winter is coming. They all have squeaky bottoms. Right now, I am looking for bean bags, props and ideas for Hallowe’en classes which shall commence next Thursday (22nd October) onwards. Our foreign teacher team will look to create a Hallowe’en area with props, games and activities as well as classes themed to this popular yet spooky western tradition.
Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye
MCFC (Manchester Chinese Football Connections), okay.
21st October 2015
Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,
Manchester, God’s own city, is twinned with Wǔhàn [武汉] and has been since 1986 or 1996, dependent on your news source. Around 2.7% of Manchester’s population is British-Chinese (Yīngguó Huáqiáo/英國華僑), and the city is well known for links with the big red country in the east. Our Chinatown in Manchester is the third largest Chinatown on the European continent. The bold archway (páifāng/牌樓) complete with dragons and phoenixes on Faulkner Street has stood proudly since 1987 and welcomes all to the subdistrict in the city centre. Today, a day after meeting Queen Elizabeth II, President Xi Jinping (习近平/ Xí Jìnpíng) shall visit Manchester. Manchester has long welcomed Chinese folk from the far east and has evolved a restaurant and food importation business both unique and prosperous within the boundaries of the city and beyond. Takeaways, tea shops, cultural colleges, import companies and students followed the early days of laundries and restaurants. M1 was boosted by relations with Hong Kong and freedom to move to the U.K. under the British Nationality Act 1948. Arts centres and banks sit side by side alongside popular karaoke bars like – all aloft an old NATO funded Nuclear Fallout shelter! A mural of a junk (chuán) sits across the side of a wall overlooking a large private car park. Chinatown and Greater Manchester has influenced or given rise to many a talent, including actors such as Benedict Wong (Grow Your Own; 15 Storeys High; The Martian; Spooks and Dirty Pretty Things). Hong Ying “Frank” Soo was the first British-Chinese footballer to play for England (from 1942-45) and was born down the road in Buxton and laid to rest in Cheadle, just outside Manchester. He played football for Stoke City, Brentford, Leicester City, Luton Town and went on to manage over 12 teams including Norway and Scunthorpe Utd. Andrew Ng, a massively respected Associate Professor at Stanford has family links to Manchester.
So, back to Manchester’s twin Wǔhàn [武汉]… I’m not sure I want to visit there for colonial buildings. However, the ten mile long park sat on the famous/infamous Yangtze river looks pretty enough. Huáng Hè Lóu (黄鹤楼; Yellow Crane Tower) looks impressive but I think there are places higher up the agenda than a trip to Manc’s twin city. Unless, the city has a good Oasis tribute band…
So, on Sunday night I found myself the filling on a three-wheel motorbike/rickshaw sandwich. I was cycled, the correct way, along a cycle lane (a rare find but most of Nancheng and Dongcheng has adequate cycle lanes), with a rickshaw heading towards me. The cycle lane is just over a car width wide. The rickshaw (or three wheeled motorised cart) filled 50% of the space leaving me ample room to stay my course on the right of the lane (they drive on the right here, so my path made sense). As I neared the impending rickshaw, a second one appeared from behind, overtaking the one to my left. I braked suddenly, without a reverse option and the two foot high kerb was unmountable. The two metallic tri-wheeled trucks passed around my bike squashing me between them. Both drivers looked at me in surprise. What had I done wrong?! I wasn’t the one heading against the flow of traffic. I rarely use these cycle lanes, because a) they are like a car park usually and b) there are too many pedestrians leaping across to the island between the main road and the cycle lane. The bus stops on this particular stretch, that evening were chock full of commuters and buses ebbing and flowing away at the limited free space. The cycle lane seemed the safest option. Even with a large, but jumpable trench just before my jinxed accident. In the aftermath, I was helped by an onlooking family and given a lift home, eventually. The police took away the motorised treble-wheeled rustbucket drivers and their chariots of doom.
After waking the next day, with some light bruising and a sore nose (it bled a lot at the accident), I went groggily for breakfast, opting for plenty of eggs. I grabbed two bitter dark coffees from the only place open in the morning for such delights and hopped to school. Here classes 801-804 occupied my time and kept any aches and pain at bay. By the evening I felt exhausted but managed to accidentally tag along with someone for Korean food (delicious octopus with beef fried with spicy vegetables; Korean pasta of sorts; an array of starters; a seafood egg dish; Calamari squid rings and more). Whilst unplanned the food was amazing!
Beyond that a good night’s sleep was needed and had. The following day flew by, I always feel infected by the boldness and confidence of the Grade 6 classes. Class 608, complete with a City fan (he’s been watching City since 2009 – aged 6 back then) and a bunch of characters always curious about something or other. I blew their collective minds by informing them that Big Ben is actually called the Elizabeth Tower after our Queen and in fact the largest bell is named Big Ben. Priceless. Everything you have been taught has been lies.
By late afternoon the VIP class of Grade 5, comprising of 16 students, tore my day apart. I tried teaching landmarks (Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Blackpool Tower, Eiffel Tower etc) and used simple words we have previously covered. As per usual the class splintered away, due to the outside location, with many distractions left right and centre and little space to claim as our own. The entire playground, side areas and gardens had students and classes within them. All classrooms were in use too. Next week, I plan something spooky and Halloween related. I seriously cannot see a route to getting this class into the swing of producing a school show. I won’t give up… but may have to.
Following that, my body felt limber, relaxed, agile and comfortable. So, I headed to play for Murray’s FC in a game against newly formed Winners HengLi FC (by an old player of ours called Sam) at Soccerworld. My body was not ready. Our team slammed a 4-0 lead away and eventually lost 8-5. Many players picked up injuries and I tried to carry on but my left ankle, calf and thigh buckled. I had a dead leg there. On the right leg, my knee was burning. Oh and my nose was swollen still. My right eye stung from a slight bruising. All in all, I needed to see a vet not play football. There was a lesson learnt by many that evening. Our other squad rocketed to a 12-2 win over a local Chinese team in the same evening. After the game, I could barely hobble. The same goes for today, and some students have noticed. So, with their advice, I need to rest more… use tiger balm… and drink more hot water. This is sound advice from the educated youngsters at our school. I will listen to it.
And in other footballing news, Sūn Jìhǎi (孙继海) will be inducted into the English football hall of fame. Officials in Manchester said the accolade for Sun Jihai has been arranged so President Xi can be present. The President will visit the City of Manchester Stadium during his visit Friday where he will watch a match between Manchester City Ladies and a team from China. Sūn Jìhǎi was the first Chinese player to score a goal in the Premier League. He was also a bloody nice guy all round, on and off the field. His efforts this year, aged 38, helped newly promoted Chóngqìng Lìfān (重庆力帆) remain in the Chinese Super League (中超联赛/Zhōngguó Zúqiú Xiéhuì Chāojí Liánsài)). He still plays football in China. Beckham doesn’t. Enough said.
Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye
I want to to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. I’ve got you book-marked to look at new stuff you post…