The thing about Guangzhou in spring is it’s wet. The city, particularly around green Tianhe, is drenched. The trees appear to be sweating. Their long branches and hanging roots drip and drop with water. The concrete floors, tiles, and soils all looked soaked. The air smells damp. Humidity dominates this domain.
People who walk, aim for shelter as fine misty rains drip and drape over you. They swallow all who pass. The grey clouds that shroud towers move swiftly bringing hot, soggy downpours and misty conditions. Rain isn’t always around, but almost all clothes give an effect of walking in a swimming pool. Wet. Wet. Wet. And hot. Tropical heat cooks and dehydrates you. Your lungs are a prisoner to damp.
The walk from Guangzhou East railway station towards the Canton Tower and the British Consulate office felt like an upright swim through a cloud. Little dryness was left to the respiratory tract. Even less fresh air. The putrid stink of soggy sodden drains arose over nature’s handful of flowers.
Following a successful appointment, having arrived early and been sent back to the dank air outside only to return later, I emerged back into muggy breezes. The thesaurus would support my use of oppressive terms for stifling terminology. The steamy weather certainly did. With the necessary documents to hand, I steamed back to Guangzhou East railway station and fumbled my way through train ticket booking. The clammy phone in my hand, a tool to close the deal.
The air-conditioning on the 15:49 C7045 train merited the first class seat. It was the only available seat. The last chair from irriguous Guangzhou, bound for Dongguan’s Changping. At Changping, close clammy air circled and crept beneath my shirts buttoned front. The mucky dusty air was exchanged for a private taxi to meet Gerry for dinner.
The latest in a long line of Kings Bars and Restaurants, at the Virgin Hotel 4th floor, made for frosty respite to the lack of chill outdoors.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS PAGE IS TO PROVIDE A CONTACT, A PORT OF CALL; A HAVEN OF IMAGES OF RECENT ACTIVITIES AND A POINT OF REFERENCE FOR THOSE TRYING TO FIND A PLACE TO PUT THEIR BOOTS ON IN THE SUNNY DONGGUAN AFTERNOONS OR HOT EVENINGS – COLD WINTER EVENINGS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE, BUT TERRIBLY INFREQUENT.
BallAve, Rongda Industrial Park, G107 Changtai Road,Dongguan, Guangdong. (Near to: 吴芳百货 China 广东省东莞市东城区长泰路) Tel: James 13650248792 (WeChat: BalloveFootballPitch). Cost: 320RMB (6 a side). Please note – this centre is on the roof, up several flights of stairs. The rooftop is not visible from the main road outside. Please refer to photos for directions. It is a good habit to go there for the first time with someone new, unless you are the World Hide And Seek Champion. Location: Google Maps. GPS: 22°59’31.3″N 113°46’14.6″E / 22.992015, 113.770728 [demolished since 2019]
BBQ Factory, Dongcheng. The only really comfortable grass field in Dongguan. Showers and bar facilities. The field does get flooded from time to time. It sits at about river level too.
BinJiang Sports Park. Dongjiang Avenue, 万江区 Dongguan, Guangdong, China. Tel: +86 769 2271 1816. Adjacent to the Dongjiang River to the north, Dongjiang Boulevard to the southeast, and Quhai Bridge (National Highway 107) to the west, Dongguan Binjiang Sports Park assumes a triangular shape allowing great transport convenience. It also has a whacking great big Olympic torch monument strapped in the middle of a lake. You cannee miss it. Location: Click for a map on Google. GPS:
Champion Soccer School, Yinling Street (indoor 5-a-side pitches). Location: Click for a map on Google: TBA. GPS: TBC
Changping indoor field: NAME TBC. Location: Click for a map on Google. GPS: 22°59’39.6″N 114°00’33.0″E /22.994322, 114.009172
Chashan Decathlon field. Book via Decathlon – and for free. Location: Click for a map on Google: TBA. GPS: TBC
Dongcheng Futura Football Field 东城福图拉足球场. Conveniently located in Dongcheng, 5 minutes from Dynacity. 位于交通便利的东城，离星河城仅5分钟路程 . Location: Google Maps. GPS:23°01’45.5″N 113°47’50.8″E / 23.029307, 113.797445.
Dongcheng Sports Park. Take a bus, such as No.1, No.19, No.23, No.37, No.43, No.55, C4, K1 and K4 go to Dongcheng Sports Park. Get off the bus at the stop of Xin Yuan Lu Dong (means Xin Yuan East Road). Dongcheng Sports Park is very close to the bus stop. Location: 东城体育公园 / Google Maps. GPS: 23°00’19.8″N 113°46’27.0″E /23.005507, 113.774173
Hengli GuSiTu Sports Field. 360 Tian Chao Road, Hengli. Tel: Jackie (Tel: 13802388480, WeChat: Bffal01994). Although the majority of amateur soccer in Dongguan is concentrated in Dongcheng and Nancheng, there are still many teams that play outside of the city. The newest, and arguably the best, facility outside of Dongcheng and Nancheng is the Gusitu Football Field in Hengli Town. For many years, it was one of the few remaining grass pitches in the city, but last year local suitcase company, Gusitu, paid for a complete renovation. Now they have two 8-a-side pitches that can be turned into one 11-a-side pitch. The surface is as good, if not better, than that at Soccerworld. The Gusitu Arena is also home to Hengli Buffalo, one of the oldest teams in Dongguan. The newly built clubhouse contains trophies, photos and jerseys from their twenty year history. Cost: 400RMB (8 a side), 800RMB (11 a side). Location: Google maps. GPS: 23°01’35.7″N 113°57’56.7″E / 23.026576, 113.965746
Hengli 5-a-side field @ Hengli Sports Park. Cost: possibly free. Booking: essential. Location: click here for Google map spot. GPS: 23°01’05.0″N 113°58’13.5″E / 23.018047, 113.970428.
Houjie Feng Tai Guan Shan Bi. Next to a lake. Not far from Dalingshan park. Location: Google maps. GPS: 22°54’20.6″N 113°43’04.3″E /22.905721, 113.717866
Houjie Sports Park. 厚街体育公园 / Tiyu Lu, Houjie, Dongguan, Guangdong. Please note – the central pitch of the atheltic field is the only viable option to use a ball with your feet. Everywhere is is devoted to hoop-shooting, running, swimming and racket sports. Location: Click for Google maps. GPS: 22°56’56.0″N 113°40’10.7″E / 22.948879, 113.669647
People’s Park Stadium. Address: People’s Park, Dongcheng. Contact: Booking Office (Tel:22222848). Cost: 500RMB (7 a side), 1000RMB (11 a side). Picture the scene; Two worn out pitches with rusty goalposts and torn nets. Surrounding the pitch is a running track covered in leaves and rubbish. Far away from the pitch are empty terraces, separated from running track by high walls with peeling paint.
Soccerworld(5-a-side; 7-a-side; 8-a-side; lockers; shop; toilets; showers; regular competitions; coaching schools). Opened February 22nd, 2014. 东莞中心 DongGuan Centre: 东莞市南城区体育路3号, 523011. Tel: 0769-22338696. Please note – Soccerworld is next to the defunct Dongguan Stadium. Location: Google maps. GPS: 23°01’27.8″N 113°45’12.3″E / 23.024399, 113.753424
Star / XiHu LeYuan / XiHu Paradise / JiaShiSheng（嘉时盛足球场）. Next to Nancheng West Lake Hotel. (Tel:TBC). Cost: 300RMB (7 a side). If you wanna take a public bus, LG1 or No.36 will take you to final stop paradise of West lake （In Chinese：XiHu Leyuan西湖乐园）where the pitch is in. The pitch name is West lake pitch where very close to Nancheng West lake hotel （In Chinese 西湖大酒店，Also next to DG Botanical Park 东莞植物园附近). If you drive to this pitch. just search West Lake hotel (西湖大酒店) on you GPS car navigation. The pitch is also known as JiaShiSheng（嘉时盛足球场). Click for Google Maps. GPS: 22°58’03.0″N 113°45’16.7″E / 22.967490, 113.754651.
XiPing. Location: Dong Wu Lu / Click for Google Maps. GPS: 22°59’23.5″N 113°45’44.2″E / 22.989855, 113.762269
Join Murray’s F.C. by the below means. Murray’s have players from all over the world, located all over Dongguan – and beyond. Players often travel from Houjie, Dongcheng, Nancheng, Hong Kong, Wanjiang, Guancheng, Hengli, Songshan, Shatian, Liaobu, Zhongtang… to name but a few districts and townships. Linguistically they have Portuguese, English, Spanish, Welsh, Farsi, Chinese, Cantonese, Norwegian, Dutch and other language speakers amongst our gibberish. Every continent is represented except for Antarctica – but they’re working on signing some penguins.
Join other teams such as Dongguan Raiders, or ask acton28 on wechat to join a Dongguan Football 东莞足球 wechat group.
Why not? Some days you will see many teams with or without foreigners on fields across the city. Murray’s F.C. may field two teams simultaneously at the same time. There are usually two games a week – and there is no obligation to play often or infrequently. Demand and supply suits all. Their players vary in age from as young as 16 to as old as time itself. No names mentioned Rogerio, Alain and Ruben. Ability isn’t needed, although it does help. Whether you’re a budding Shaun Goater, Messi or Falcao or more suited to the styles of Lee Bradbury, Andy Morrison, or Royston Keane, Murray’s will find you a spot. Come play the game. They hold the odd training session too.
Boots and something suitable to sweat in. Shinpads and insurance is advisable because you never know. Kits aren’t free but some clubs will order. The costs can be free or, equate from 88-120RMB per kit (shorts, customised name and number t-shirt with socks). Other equipment is made in the region. Try Dongguan QunJian Sportswear, Podiyeen, HiAtheletes, DK Sports, Intelligent Training systems, DG Shuoke, DG Oxi Sports, okay, you get the picture, talk to Dr Google.
Is it social?
After each game and at frequent intervals socials may extend from a free drink, to cheap Argentinian, Brazilian BBQs, to just a natter in a bar such as Liberty or Murray’s bar over some American or Irish style foods. Then there are day trips to Hengli to play a game, away games in Houjie, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and so on. If you want it, you will find it – or make it happen.
Teams in and around Dongguan have included:
Cavera F.C., Falcons F.C., Brazukas F.C., Red Lions F.C., Fishbone F.C., Dongguan Korea F.C., Dongguan Nancheng, Houjie QiuQi F.C., Cool Breeze F.C., Red School F.C., Land Rover F.C., Latin’s F.C., Hengli Buffalos F.C., CPU F.C., International F.C., Os Pernas de Pau, Shenzhen Blues F.C., Team Hitler (希特勒队：遇见最臭名昭著的人 – I kid you not!) and Murray’s Football Club Dongguan China – 慕里足球俱乐部 [Murray’s FC (Aberystywth Town Football Club); Murray’s FC (Maine Road); Ziggy’s & Murray’s F.C.; Murray’s Fitness First F.C.;),
Maybe due to UEFA and FIFA financial fair play, we’re unable to compete with the big boys without backing. If you want your name to be seen, find a team and slap some support on it.
Football, round our way.
1994: Made in 1994, the Dongguan Stadium (东莞体育场) looks rustic and features the communist-style concrete you would expect of a public stadium. 22,000 seats line its stands. It is only a few years older than the Reebok University of Bolton Stadium. It is a million miles away in function.
1999: Dongguan Lanwa FC (聯華紅牛) played from 1999 to 2009. They’ve gone, so don’t look for them. No point. Their former ground the Dongguan Stadium (东莞体育场) houses Police and military units. It is next to Soccerworld. Occasionally, or moreso rarely, events can be found on the football field.
7th June 2014: Meet Football Player Michael Owen Michael Owen was fourth in the list of all-time top scorers for the England team. He was also England’s second highest goalscorer in competitive international matches, behind Wayne Rooney.
October 2014: Foreign Football League. The influx of foreign football players into Dongguan has moved those sport lovers to form a club of their own, along with the local teams looking for stronger competition.
May-June 2015: Footgolf Championship 1st Round Mission Hills Footgolf Championship 1st Round The football golf game means getting the ball by using one’s feet (kicking), from the teeing ground by a kick or several consecutive kicks. Footgolf Championship 2015 The sport of hooligan kings is coming to Dongguan.
July 3rd, 2015: Silly Sport in Dongguan In football, players aren’t allowed to use their arms. In bubble football, participants are allowed to use their entire mass. Their arms, however don’t really factor into the game. Unique Bar (Chang’an): Drink & Play. China is full of every type of establishment with an English name that seems out of place to a native speaker, but Unique Bar is actually quite unique.
September 12th, 2015: Murray’s FC Players Night Both the Scallywags and B Quarter will be joining us for an epic party to celebrate Dongguan’s #1 Football Club!
December 2015: Big Phil Comes to Dongguan Donnguan’s Brazilian community just keep on planning events, and World Cup winning football manager, Felipe Scolari was the guest of honour at a concert and dinner hosted by the Tangla.
15/4/2017: Utahloy Football Cup Challenge. Competition for adults. Free sign up. 5 A-side football challenge. Real grass football field. Football activities for kids with Mateus Martins (马丁思), experienced coach from Brazil. Family activities – BBQ, swimming and more. Sign up: Mateus Martins (马丁思): 137 1214 6453. Marcus Soares: 186 8041 7705. Event review. 1st Utahloy Football Cup Challenge: Latin FC took the Gold Cup and Os Pernas de Pau grabbed the Silver.
Dongguan is now seeing a unique opportunity for talented and ambitious youths that wish to develop their football skills and have the chance to play professionally.
15/6/2019: Murray’s Football 7s hosted in Dongguan features teams from Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Dongguan, and other areas.
15/10/2019: Newly launched Dongguan World Cup launches featuring the teams Spain, Italy, Team UK, Nigeria, Brazil and China.
26/10/2019: Guangdong Super League relaunches in Dongguan. Two teams from Shenzhen join teams from Dongguan, Zhuhai, Guangzhou and Foshan.
26/10/2019: Shenzhen Blues host a football event.
December 2019: Dongguan World Cup final won by Italian team the against Spanish team.
April 2020: Some time after the Dongguan World Cup, and following COVID-19’s domestic epidemic, but still during the pandemic, football returns. The International Team and Murray’s F.C. host football two to three times a week.
Autumn 2020: DGFC formed by DG Fit Gym with backing from the remnants of Murray’s F.C. Murray’s F.C.’s soul lives on in name and so on. Weekly gym sessions offered alongside Tuesday night football.
Winter 2020: Spain Latins claim the second edition of the Dongguan World Cup beating Brazil in the final.
Spring 2021: DGFC win the Zhuhai International Tournament.
Other news pieces.
If you want to go swimming, play board games, link in with HereDG magazine for other activities, football can push you in the right direction.
Read about an influential Brazilian expat called Mateus who settled here and always buzzing around looking to organise games here.
Students Prescribed Football: The Dongguan Education Bureau issued a formal plan in April that will make playing football mandatory for the city’s students. Primary and secondary schools will be required, starting September…
Amateur Football Goes All-Province. Dongguan is known by its two top CBA teams, but fewer people pay attention to the city’s soccer atmosphere. HERE! reported the formation of the Foreigner Football League last month.
Youth academies too.
Some to look our for include:
ChievoVerona Football Youth Academy. Italian Serie A Football For DG Kids | 意甲俱乐部来东莞教你家孩子踢足球啦 (Professional Coaches From Chievo 来自切沃的专业教练团队). Several class schedules for kids from 5 to 17 years old. 为5到17岁青少儿打造的足球训练课程. Make dreams come true. 让你梦想成真！扫描二维码了解详情 Scan the QR code for an inquiry.
GZYLA Football Academy (Dongguan Sports Center 中文: 东莞市体育馆绿茵球场; Business Phone Number: 13535372958)
Evenings and weekends are most common.
Kicking a sack of air, having fun and trying to score goals – without conceding goals.
Maria Sun comes from Hunan (the landscape used for hit movie Avatar) and now resides at the centre of the Middle Kingdom that is China.
Dongguan Unique Trading Co. for translations, culture, social events and more.
We translate, we source, we hire, we care, we create, we inspect, and we listen. You tell us your needs. We carry out your instructions. You have questions. We answer.
VARIED SERVICES AVAILABLE
Very simple and logical, right? The answer should be yes. We have experience working with partners and manufacturers in and around U.S.A., Turkey, south China, and Hong Kong. We are based in Dongguan, a city, only two hour’s drive from Hong Kong. Our convenient location is in the province of Guangdong, with the provincial capital Guangzhou (Canton) an hour to the north.
Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Foshan and other large cities are easily reachable. High speed rail operates to the capital city of China, Beijing and financial hub of Shanghai.
We create things and take action. We have experience from humble beginnings, having founded Dongguan Speaker International English, alongside several partners, in 2008. Our training school serves students as young as kindergarten to adults learning at an advanced level, alongside factory staff. Our school has grown substantially and has grown to one that occupies an area of 2680 square meters. We now have franchises throughout China.
We talk the talk, and walk the walk…
We firmly believe in the following standards and practices:
Quality controlled services.
Ease of flow services (offering stability in your overseas operations, here in China)
Clear communication and understanding (We will listen to your demands!)
After care (including, feedback and response)
We won’t take the biscuit.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO REQUEST QUOTATIONS, WITHOUT OBLIGATION OR HASSLE
MAKE AN ENQUIRY OR SHARE YOUR PIECE OF MIND FOR PEACE IN MIND.
“Maria answered our call, and did a wonderfully detailed job, answering all the questions as if she was the owner and developer of My Hills itself.”
Former joint-owner of Winners Bar (Hengli, Dongguan).
Founded in 2014 [a little after Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (Nottingham, England) reported to have been opened in 1189AD], Winners has core public house values at its heart. We serve beer (cool and crisp), nuts and crisps, have a dartboard, there is a pool table (or billiards to our more international friends), delicious foods (until 10pm daily, with snacks afterwards), TVs for sports and music, and a friendly warm (or air-conditioned) atmosphere. Did we mention we had a special and private KTV room? Sadly, we had no pub dogs but feel free bring your own well-behaved canine friend. For other pets, please consult the bar staff. Now under new ownership. Winners has links on the interweb via TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc
Address: A10-A11, RuiKang Road, Hengli Town, Dongguan, Guangdong, China
Examples of our services:
Presentation translation services for MyHills Group in Nancheng, Dongguan.
Pool Pets in Dongcheng is a fine example of canine love. It is a place for socialising of mutts and even has a swimming pool for our (mostly) four-legged friends. With a doggy salon and a bar, Panda rates this spot highly.
Plenty of dog walking spots and advice.
Located at 33 Town (Country Garden) not far from Dynacity and the central Dongcheng area.
Pet shops are plentiful around the city. It is always recommended you vet the joint before putting your family pet into the care of others. There have been nightmare stories heard here and there. When in doubt, try Pool Pets as they’re ace!
Dr Pet may seem like a reliable chain but check inside and know your vet. Do they care? Or, do they favour your wallet’s contents?
Huizhou & Shenzhen offer coastline walks, beaches for play and a taste of the outdoors suitable for trekkers and dog-walkers alike. Pool Pets even arrange trips camping with your four-legged friend!
Article 12 The dog registration service agency shall, within ten working days from the date of collecting all the dog registration materials, compile a city-wide unique serial number for the dog, implant the dog’s e-identity mark for free, and issue a smart dog tag.
It is forbidden to forge, alter, or trade dog e-identity marks and smart dog tags. It is also prohibited to trade or use forged or altered dog e-identity marks and smart dog tags.
Article 13 In any of the following circumstances, the dog owner shall update the record information within 30 days from the date of change:
(1) When the dog is sold or given to others, or the owner of the dog is changed;
(2) The dog owner gives up keeping the dog and sends the dog to the place where the dog is admitted for treatment;
(3) The residence address and contact information of the dog owner are changed.
Keep your dog safe.
备案材料/Recording information required：
2.房产证或房屋租赁合同 Property certificate or lease contract
3.狂犬疫苗本 Rabies vaccine (if you object, you’re liable)
4.爱犬相片正面照，侧面照把标尺放上去拍 Dog photo front & side photo (use a ruler as scale)
5.预约成功，带着身份证原价和租赁合同或房产证原价和爱犬，到店登记 Successful appointment, with the original price of identity card and rental contract or property certificate and dog to the store to register.
Article 16 The dog breeder shall vaccinate the dog with rabies vaccine in accordance with the law and obtain a certificate. Dog owners can send their dogs to the agriculture and rural departments or the entrusted animal diagnosis and treatment institutions for free rabies vaccine injection.
Newborn puppies shall be immunized against rabies at the age of three months, a second immunization at the age of 12 months, and once a year after that.
Back to China? It was a certainty. A given ordained by Gods and the hands of destiny.
From Manchester International Airport to Istanbul, the first flight with Turkish Airlines was smooth. Smoother still if they’d allowed me the legroom I requested. Still, job done. The huge delay in Istanbul for the connecting flight allowed for opportunities to walk the vast airport and recharge a phone battery by cycle. Why not? When in Istanbul and delayed, take the time to unwind in your own way. If fate is there, do as you must.
Airborne and floating on science, the aircraft was sleepy to Hong Kong. As was I. Life on hold and destiny delivered by expert piloting, a movie was called for. Having watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I needed something jolly and upbeat. Up step, the Billy Elliot of golfing movies, The Phantom of The Open. Talk about entertainment. A delightful movie ebbing and flowing with heart, wit, and polished acting. A truly remarkable tale based on a true story.
From a PCR test at Hong Kong International Airport to temporary digs in Mong Kok, fast forward to a 5.28am alarm bell. Up, up, and away. After a pleasant walk, the train from Kowloon awaited. Customs cleared simply. Checked in eventually. The train to Humen was fairly nondescript, as nondescript 300km/hour vehicles go. Next up, the Humen railway station to Humen Dongguan underground station, through dingy construction areas, and onto a 6RMB subway train to Xiping. Walking the short walk to Xiping Xi station, I clutched my 50RMB in notes that I still had from leaving China. With that, I boarded a train bound for Huizhou.
And that is where the story ends for now. So, what now?
The journey from Dongguan to Manchester was by no means a short one. A drive, by neighbour and friend Charif, with Panda and I, was the first start. After handing back the Songshan Lake apartment, the over-the-top backpack (29.8kg), dog carrier (11kg + Panda 19kg) and 10kg hand luggage slotted into Charif’s spacious sports utility vehicle. Two toilet stops on the way to the airport for Panda, and then we arrived into a multi-storey car park. An elevator to the roof gave Panda ample time to drop off unwanted gut packages and then we shook hands with Charif, or in Panda’s case, a lick and a jump, and off past security we went.
Check-in went smoothly, save some panic about vaccination certificates needed in Amsterdam, for me! Panda’s paperwork went swimmingly. With a late flight, arrival was well in advance. Off Panda went, checked-in, down a a conveyor belt, for a lengthy journey ahead. I passed security, the health check corridor and baggage check before entering the departure lobby. A near empty airport had water refill points, poor wi-fi and little else of use. Dynamic zero and its COVID-19 policy has destroyed any fun to be had in airports. No food was available. I munched on a bag of beetroot crisps and drank my water (warm, not cold). Still, I was able to stream Manchester City’s 6-0 win over recently promoted Nottingham Forest. A hat trick for the fantastically good Erling Haaland, with a brace by Julián Álvarez and a strike by João Cancelo ensured three points for City, and a smile as I boarded the aircraft bound for Istanbul.
The two flight legs involved the watching of two movies, To Olivia, and The Professor and The Madman. The former is a biographic account of a tragedy that unfolds in the lives of the family of author Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal. It stars Hugh Richard Bonneville Williams as Dahl and Claire Julia “Keeley” Hawes as Neal. The director John Hay takes an affectionate and gentle touch to a tough task, delivering a dreamy movie with a warmly-hugged factor. He is a director known to myself for that great movie, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble. Acting titans Mel Gibson and Sean Penn head a cast that tackles the formation of The New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (better known as Oxford English Dictionary). It sounds like a dull story, but in truth it is far from the dictionary definition of dullness.
Between flights, a brief stop at Istanbul gave me chance to sample great sandwich, coffees and some snacks before boarding for Amsterdam and a central European gateway to Britain… At this stage I was highly excited, nervous and bubbling with a mixture of emotions and anticipation. As the door to life in China swung to shut, an open door to the next chapter of life lurked ajar, but needed a few steps to get there.
I arrived with optimism and I leave the same. I hope along the way to have added a little more than I have taken. I believe that I have left this T.W.I.S. (Tungwah Wenzel International School) community, all the more mentally and academically stronger. I feel like I am a much better person than when I arrived.
I recall meeting Mr Arturo Ruelas and Miss Ann Gaillard as the school community opened up for a scholarship opportunity for potential news students. I recall doing some due diligence before accepting the role, and an online interview during COVID-19 quarantine and feeling quite excited. I believe it was Jorge, from the then Murray’s F.C. that recommended me to the school. Joining a school with an experienced Head of School (France, Thailand, Oman, China, the Philippines and Japan) seemed like a no-brainer.
I must confess that the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) seemed very much like a pyramid scheme at first. The holistic approach seemed more sales package than education curriculum. My attitude to this has flexed and bent since those preconceptions. As Miss Ann explained on the first day of meeting, the programme and curriculum would be delivered with structure. This was a positive start.
I wish to convey my thanks to the community and staff at TWIS. I would also like to thank you for entrusting the education of your children to our school, during my stay. I noticed that we had a highly professional international teaching staff facilitating the best possible learning experiences for your children. Long may that continue.
I was happy and proud to be part of a team that persevered to provide an environment where children feel safe and secure to take risks in their own learning, as well as raise their game. They could challenge themselves to innovate and try new things. We, our diverse team, lived to help our students to be jolly and strong-willed members of the TWIS herd and community.
Throughout the two years, I experienced much and grew in my learning. I tasted a year of leading grade 4’s primary school, ably supported by Miss Jenny and a wealth of experienced specialist teachers like Mr Richard, Mr Lee and Miss Robin. Miss Cindy welcomed me with open arms to taste the Chinese classes and collaboration with Mr Oliver and Mr Esteban made for pleasant times.
Not only did I teach but I learnt a high-quality, challenging international curriculum through leaders and peers. We held Curriculum in Action days (days for parents to attend), assemblies (Celebration of Learning Assemblies), and parent information sessions (to help all grow in their knowledge and understanding of the varied curriculum). And a few hours swimming in Managebac. That online lesson planning and management system will not be missed. Not one iota.
On the final day, a few personal goodbyes were made and loose strings were tied. There was no pomp and ceremony. No future talk and bridges were not burned, I hope.
Words about the last week are limited. Here’s a few images of the stay. All published via DGTWIS.com or approved as appropriate, without identities being recognisable. That’s all folks. So long and thanks for all the fish. Next. Time to move on. But first, most importantly:
May the future be bright and wonderful for the students and staff at TWIS. All the best!
In June 2020, I left St. Lorraine Anglo Chinese School for two years contracted to T.W.I.S. Just like I left Dao Ming Foreign Language School in June 2017. As of Thursday afternoon, that’s me. Done. The China education experience draws to an apparent conclusion. But, who knows? Perhaps, the door is still left open and bridges remain unbroken. I’ll be back? Definitely maybe. Never say never.
“SO HERE WE ARE; AT THE LAST BROADCAST; HERE WE ARE; OUR LAST BROADCAST” – THE LAST BROADCAST – DOVES
So, what now?
Yours in teaching; yours is passion for learning; peace and love; yours truly and faithfully,
Leaving China with a pet dog or cat? On one hand are the rules & regulations, on the other are my experiences (so far). In China it is highly likely every staff member you encounter will follow the rules to the letter. Bureaucracy is the right of officialdom.
At first, I was really confused. Almost everyone I asked mentioned this mystical Shenpu, so I hit Dr. Google up for information and found their website: a veterinary hospital in Shanghai. But… I’m 1508lm away in Dongguan, Guangdong province. So, then I found Joanne (Wechat: Joanne_Taylor) who added me to a Wechat group called UK Pet Travel Support. Through Joanne, I have shared and received information from a wider community. I’ve offered to collect cats and dogs for others (which was my original intention)… now completely focused on getting Panda back to his Anglo-Scottish origins. Following joining this group, confusion faded and has now fully been replaced by hope.
Register your pet (locally)
4 months before flying to the EU/UK; 1 month before flying to USA
Vaccinations given by local vets, Dalingshan, Dongguan.
Only for Europe.
USA does not require this.
Await results then add 3 months/90 days before date of flight.
Blood extraction & serum, for the Rabies titer antigen test. Send to the laboratory.
12/5/22 – 23/5/22
Attempt one failed. 4/4/22: Serum extracted, Dalang, Dongguan. 8/4/22: Report received by post/Wechat message as passed. Cost: 800RMB.
Serum extracted @ vets, Dalingshan, Dongguan: 12/5/22. Sent same day. Received at the lab/ 800RMB fee paid: 14/5/22. Tested: 21/5/22. 23/5/22: Report received by post/Wechat message as passed. E-mail: RabiesTest@163.com Wechat contact at Guangzhou: YuAn-mEi-Mel
The sooner the better.
Crate. Get it on Taobao etc. Check your pet’s sizing for mobility. Get your cat & dog used to this enclosure. Remove the wheels at the airport. Petsfit, Petsmate etc are decent. e.g. copy this to Taobao: 【淘宝】https://m.tb.cn/h.frXmlmQ?tk=fg4i2Q3O7B0「禾其挂碗猫粮盆挂式狗饮水器固定宠物水杯狗盆架猫碗吃饭喝水碗」 点击链接直接打开
Ordered May. Arrived June 2022. Delayed by COVID-19 delivery problems.
Ordered via Taobao.
Ordered a water bottle & a snack bowl that clips on the cage door.
Grabbed a packet of cable ties.
Book as soon as you get the titer rabies antigen test results.
Flight. To quote comedian Jeff Green, “Book it. Pack it. F*** off.” eventually. Places aren’t easy to find. Get onto KLM, Air France, Finn Air, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Lufthansa, etc. Flexibility and patience may be required.
Pets cannot be flown directly into the UK, other than via highly expensive (30000RMB+) cargo plane routes. Using Turkish Airlines costs about 1053EUR for an 18kg dog with a large crate. Hold and cabin (cats/tiny dogs) prices differ.
Booked it in May 2022.
Ten phone calls, a few e-mails, a changed flight date, some worry and frustration spread over one week.
1 week before the flight @Shenpu (Shanghai) or your local Customs Export authority or quarantine bureau (e.g. 东莞海关. +86 769 2241 0751, asking for the “animal export department”).
Pick up 2 days before departure @ the Customs Office (Bund if Shanghai).
Export certificates. Apply. Pick up.
Yet to perform.
As each document becomes available.
Photocopydocuments (twice). One for the crate. One for you.
As each document becomes available.
Started. It’s fun. Yay.
The date of your flight.
Departure. Due to COVID-19 restrictions it may be necessary to ignore the arrive 3 hours before departure and choose 5 hours or another amount. Keep an eye on these and check with the airport.
August 31st/September 1st
Yet to perform.
The date of your landing somewhere other than the P.R.C.
Sign of relief on landing in destination (or transit country before hopping on a ferry). Keep all documents handy.
Yet to perform.
Everything was correct-ish as of 7/6/2022. Don’t believe the truth.
9 useful images
These are not my creations but a useful collection of reference. For reference only. Not for legal facts. Things change! Everything was correct-ish as of 7/6/2022
A recent e-mail at Tungwah Wenzel International School, invited teachers to reflect about their online teaching experience. Students were also invited to complete a similar survey. Reflection about enforced online teaching is important. The pros and cons of how effective classes were, when following government instructions, need discussion.
Being confined to a garden compound indoors and working remotely is like asking a fish to walk on land. Some species can do this, but they are rare, highly evolved creatures…
Online learning requires additional training to tailor classes in order to properly provide highly informative means and structures to students. Lost routines and structures make at seat teaching feel highly immobile and unfamiliar.
The duration of online classes were prone to technical issues and excessive screen-time for both teacher and student. One size does not fit all. Several students had access to some platforms but not others. Speed of internet varied.
Online learning requires students to focus and have self-discipline. As we know some students can work independently, and some have never learned this skill under supervision by adults or teachers. Fidgety students may have an extra abundance of materials to provide distraction. I found myself handling things in and around my desk. It’s damn hard to focus on a black mirror, without an episode of Ozark playing.
The comfort of home can be a huge distraction. Some MYP students haven’t gained the maturity to stop showing off, change their settings or abuse the systems. The convenience of location can be distracting. It can be too comforting and the draw for a student to reach for their pillow or slope away on the sofa can be all too tempting. And, that’s before fart noises. Or rude words. Lego too.
Thin walls between a neighbour’s house and my own allowed excessive drilling sounds. Thankfully, few sounds came from outside but the air conditioner sounded like an aircraft engine, in a relatively quiet room. Factoring in Panda the dog, occasionally invasive and ever seeking of attention proved tough. However, walking Panda at lunch time was a pleasant break.
Worry about other external factors, lockdowns, life, extra time on screens planning, possible and actual enclosure of self etc. also proved to fill my mind. Remaining entirely dedicated to teaching online, was not easy.
Few students requested one to one support, and those who e-mailed queries refused to answer the calls I returned. Also, my eyes needed a substantial eye break. So, trying to maintain contact was tough. Student engagement and involvement was sub-standard. Even, the most positive classroom students looked bored, dejected and worn out.
Miss Ann advised me to keep my books handy long before this online teaching spell. I’d carried them home daily and ensured my wireless-fidelity connection was ready. I’d looked at sites such as Padlet and other known online teaching platforms, used by online teachers. Few stood out, but I tried to vary tasks to incorporate tools used by successful online teachers.
Being able to walk the dog at lunch and having more choice of salads proved benefits of online teaching. Let’s hope this is the last online experience. Nothing can be a substitute for in situ schooling or reality as a learning experience.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 Nucleic Acid Tests to date (update).
By December 26th 2021, I’d experienced 35 NAT Covid-19 tests. For the remainder of that month,
January Nucleic Acid Tests: 1
February Nucleic Acid Tests: 3
March NATs: 9
April NATs: 15
It’s getting tedious… May Day, or Labour Day in China. 1 test already.
Twenty classes a week of forty minutes each time. That’s 1600 minutes of screen time. A further week of online teaching to follow. That’ll be another 13 and a third in hours. That’s 40 hours looking into a camera before adding marking time, writing comments, preparation time and other activities needed to perform online classes. There are 360 available hours across 15 working days. Upto 120 of them should accommodate sleep (based on 8 hours sleep). At least 2 hours a day should be spent on reading, writing by hand and keeping the brain sharp.
The above discounts relaxing watching a TV series to switch off a little. That further screen time is an optionalnecessity. Hobbies and pass times make us who we are. A further 15-30 hours slips like a victim of Ozark onto the screen time tally. The addictive nature of the American drama-thriller Ozark drives further screen time. Marty Byrde’s predicament and the twists in the tale place that screen time closer to the full 30 hours. You need to know how series one concludes. Six and two thirds of an hour fills that first week of our daily post-online teaching.
Putting aside the Mexican drug cartels for walking Panda the dog takes up at least two hours a day. His little black and white legs need the pavement pounding. That’s a minimum of 30 hours gone. Happily gone, in fresh Dongguan air and winds with rain. Songshan Lake town’s reopening greeted our walking routes well. The township has treelined paths and gardens with roots. a the North-eastern end of Dalingshan does not quite match it. This town has its own long-lasting industrial revolution.
120 hours of sleep. 40 hours online. 30 hours dog walking. 30 hours of TV. 30 hours of reading, writing and puzzles. 360 hours over 15 working days. Too much screen time. My eyes have suffered. Coupled with the need for air conditioning at times, the dehumidifier for external 98% air humidity sweeping through the doors and now I’m feeling an opticians maybe a good shout. Apparently, after enquiry, I was told I must book one via my phone. Screen time.
Tonight is Earth Hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm. It shouldn’t be difficult to switch all devices off. The desire to disconnect has been rampant this last two weeks. I suspect the next week shall be no different. The tomb-sweeping festival follows the week after this. Qīngmíng Jié (清明节) means ‘pure bright festival’ and this brightness or clearness celebrates ancestors. Around March and April, spring arrives bringing warm air, clearer skies and a more jovial atmosphere. It gets warmer, although in South China’s Guangdong it could be argued that the climate here hasn’t really been cool for some time, despite occasional cool snaps.
Qingming festival has a Cold Food Day, the day before the festival. No fire or heat should be used. Think of it as an old-fashioned Earth Hour dating back to around 1046-221BC. The Zhou Dynasty’s festival has origins in celebrating emperors and the wealthy. Even today some celebrations are extremely extraordinarily extravagant. Most people simply upkeep and repair tombs. They use their big brushes go sweep away the many fallen leaves of spring in Guangdong. Food, wine and incense are placed accordingly. Joss paper is set alight and a few thousand plastic plants are distributed regionally. Families often go on spring outings too. Although in Dongguan, following a smattering of COVID-19 cases, gatherings and tomb visits are banned this year. Bloody coronaviruses. I’m sure Dongguan did the same last year and the year before. Bloody COVID-19.
Screen time has also given me chance to communicate with home. It’s good to see Mum up and about on her road to recovery, accompanied by Paul and their adventures of pottery and gardens. Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s Day) in the U.K. Every day should be Mother’s Day. Happy Mum’s Day. I would send flowers but that means more screen time ordering them online.
Today’s plan C ended up at 崖山古 (Yáshāngǔjì, cliff mountain historical place). It wasn’t meant to be this way. Moiz, Aaron, Matt and I, alongside two dogs had a roundabout wander.
The Yashan mountain monuments are located north of the Li Village of Xiegang, a town in Dongguan City. The approach is made up of abandoned theme village with hollow lodges and skeletal outdoor structures, which suits the tombstone-lined face of the short hillock. A round trek loop of around 6km is possible, assuming you brave the ridges and scree slopes surrounding a small pagoda at the top. It’s ideal for walking a dog. Panda and Matt’s dog certainly enjoyed it.
Tan Xian Temple (Ming Dynasty, 1882) was rebuilt in 2001. It’s brick and concrete isn’t so appealing for tourism, despite the green mountain location. The site has been protected by the Dongguan government, however, due to the cultural value of a poem inscription and something about a waterfall. We didn’t find a waterfall. The eastern flank of the hillock unfolds to a large dry quarry. Not exactly the lush wetness of a waterfall.
Plan A had been BaiYunZhang (白云嶂） over at the edge of Huizhou (惠州) and Dongguan. On arrival by Didi car we found the road by the Pangu Temple (新圩约场白云嶂盘古庙) we found a barrier and two guards. Also, a half dozen dogs. The sign translation shown as something akin to “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” There was no pleading with the guards. Something about a virus case had closed the temple and all hiking routes.
Plan B was equally disappointing. Yingpingshan in Dongguan is the tallest mountain and part of a huge nature reserve. No dogs allowed. Not even if you pick up their turds. No well-behaved dogs. Go away dogs. So, after a stroll around a lower reservoir, Aaron and Matt located a small hillock for us to explore. Plan C, in the recently arrived 20°C temperature, wasn’t the worst way to end a second Tiger year trek. Better than house arrest, for example.
I read a few chapters before bed. I carry a book in my pocket almost religiously. I aim to have books on my desks and near my bedside. The bookshelf I have is full to bursting despite attempts to forever re-home unwanted texts. If I can read on a walk, at lunch or between classes, I do. It has always been my way. Reading is a lifelong pleasure and habit. It helps me to feel relaxed and whenever I have felt tired, alone or under the weather, reading has been my medicine and friend.
Having a to do list is seen as normal in many households. Why not create a list of texts and books to read? Mine keeps getting longer. It never reduces. That’s the joy of reading: there’s always something new to expand your horizons. I find my television and movie viewing list also remains quite lengthy. By being balanced and principled, I can reduce my screen time in favour of reading. I often use TV as a reward for completing a reading target.
“One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.: – Carl Sagan (Scientist)
I recall the joy of Mum and occasionally my Dad reading to me when I was a child. Those bonds and memories never fade. As a child I listened to it as we shared a reading habit development together! Such quality time is essential for reading habits. I recall how my Mum used to log when I would start and end a book. There was a list of great books we read together, those I picked up at school and some I had read all alone. Reading can instill self-esteem.
“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo
The library was a weekly excursion. It was a few hours outside of the house to explore new worlds from the pages. And, on occasion, Mum would ensure I had a special trip to buy secondhand books or new books from stalls at Manchester Victoria railway station. There, I’d often find books that gripped my attention and make me want to read. Not everything read must be a masterpiece. Those books would make for a wonderful day or hour here and there. Having a day, every month set aside just for reading has become a way to slow the pace of life down and enjoy new works. Mum gave me lots of choices for reading. That’s important. What interests me may not interest you. You can recommend reading materials but giving a child a chance to pick will always work best.
Life has so many pieces of small print, tucked under the seams, crammed into the crevices, and dropped into long forgotten pockets. They can be found as hints, messages and moments in our history. Some are beautiful, dutiful or testing. Most can be learned from, such is the way of life. The small print keeps coming though.
Rainham Steel and their hot flanged joists or cold circle angles being advertised at British football grounds has never ever made sense to me. Yet their imagery on football photography for years on end has stood out and crept into my psychology. The sign doesn’t have a phone number or website. Nothing. It stands out. No terms and conditions. Just a bizarre advert targeting football fans (in attendance or otherwise watching via television) who needs industrial standard steel. Rainham Steel have no clear purpose other than to be present through tradition and maintain their historical connections to the beautiful game. Now, where do I place my girders?
2021 started with optimism, way up in Yubeng village. Through a mixture of local hospitality, Oliver, Piotr and I finished a few days wander with a countdown below snow-capped mountains. It really recharged my mental batteries. Again in summer my passage followed the flow of Yunnan, as if swept a long by a calm river. That’s where I grabbed my first and only tattoo on date. No contract was mentioned. It was surprisingly easy to scar myself for exchange of cash.
A few days after leaving Yunnan for New Year and life’s finality was highlighted as City legend Colin Bell passed away. I never saw him play football. I lived off his video footage and stories from friends and family. I filled my heart with his warmth from a very reluctant biography. Somewhere at the back of my mind the joys of trekking clashed with the feeling of the passing of time. This is life. A condition of living is death.
Three cycle crashes in a year and one trip to hospital as a result of the latter crash brought me down to Earth. My first outpatient visit to an emergency room to patch up cuts and check some impact marks to bones happened. My first inpatient visit and night stays at hospital later in the year terrified me but left me thinking I need to improve my fitness and recover stronger than ever. Even if age is a small print, this challenge shouldn’t get the better of me. I’ll kick a ball again and find mountains to trek in 2022.
I now approach 8 years of life in China and Dongguan. That’s a hefty chunk of my thirties. It’s almost a quarter of my life. I’ve spent two Chinese New Year holidays in Dongguan and it looks like 2022 will be the same. This whole COVID-19 thing just drags on and on. Even my third jab (the booster) has left me lagging behind. I’m on analogue when all around me is on digital. Creased by politics, changing attitudes and a global pandemic of fear, working and living in China is increasingly less attractive. A new two year contract hasn’t been signed yet. I love the job but I must think deeply. There are many implications of signing.
The year 2021 has been quite mentally testing. Unable to travel to the U.K. to see family and friends, blighted by world news of fear, panic and that bloody virus, I’ve sought solace in gardening my balcony and giving a new home to Panda the Border Collie. The little fur ball of joy joins me on the sands of Huizhou to welcome 2022 in. Alongside his doggy girlfriend Sasha and her human slaves Miss Keisel and husband Charif (with student Amir and his sister Emma). Talking with them I feel that homesickness is strangling talent. If we want to leave China to visit family and friends, it seems to be mostly a one way ticket. So few who have left have returned and 2021 had more than its fair share of leaving events.
On the subject of leaving, Sergio Aguero, scorer of that 93:20 goal, amongst his many records and City’s all-time greatest scorer, announced he would leave City. Then he left. He was warmly welcomed at new club Barcelona but the optimism evaporated as he was soon forced to hang his boots up due to a health problem. 2021 wasn’t a great year for Sergio but he did bow out with 2020/21’s Premier League title and a Champions League runners up medal. The perfect ending doesn’t always happen. That’s for fairytales.
Great writers like Jim Steinman and Eric Carle passed away, having influenced countless souls on their life journeys. Their words accompanied me at Scholastic’s Guided Reading conference, throughout three I.B. training periods and some Jolly Phonics. At the end of the day, reading has got me to where I am in Tungwah Wenzel International School (T.W.I.S.) and I intend to do my best with the knowledge I want to share. Perhaps, guidance is my destiny. Only 2022 can tell.
Summer witnessed the departure of many international colleagues to pastures new. Not before Mr Oliver and I trekked around Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu together. Not a bad way to say, “Bon voyage!” And then Autumn flew by. The October holiday gave me chance for hiking and wandering but nothing amazing happened. 2022 could be that year. If only the bloody virus would fizzle out. The movies Outbreak and Contagion each hand happy endings. Rene Russo and Kate Winslet didn’t do bad. 2021, however, is the poorer cousin of 2020.
Discrimination and prejudice have risen; borders have increased with social segregation and some countries closing to others; lifestyle changes such as Zoom and a plethora of online teaching, working and scamming; and misinformation became the norm. Afghanistan went backwards as if to illustrate a world trend of fans being hit by turds. Glasgow held COP26 and the world climate crisis was averted. I think. It’s been a funny old year. The most important thing though, is to forget the traditional ways and go for something sustainable and new. The old ways led us here. Let’s go new for 2022.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas. Greetings of this special season that shall live on in and spirit and memories far beyond just one holy day. Christmas is not just a day for the religious, nor just little boys and girls. It’s become a multi faith and cultural key to bringing people together no matter their creed, race or religion. You don’t have to believe in Jesus or God to follow Christmas. It’s about togetherness.
Love thy neighbour. Surely every religious follower, no matter their faith or upbringing can agree on that. We’re on this planet Earth together. As one. So, wishes are sent to you to hope something magnificent and magical can happen in the season of Christmas, and beyond in the New Year. Happy New Year!
May all adults have the same wonderment and cheer that juveniles around the world embrace on this special day and morning. As gifts are unwrapped, joy is felt and some disappointments and worries or loneliness melt in a moving, mixing bowl of emotions, don’t feel hate and don’t look back in anger. Tomorrow, or some day we’ll find a brighter way. Stay positive. Try positive thinking.
We receive so many messages during this heavily commercialised season but try to grip in our heart’s hands, the messages of joy, hope and love. May you and your family find laughter as a medicine for the challenges you’ve overcome and the trials ahead. It can be a season comparable to a snowstorm with murky unclear weather all around you, but the eastern horizon, when you find it, is a place where the sun will rise again. Each brand new, bright tomorrow shines our way.
Let our arms be as warm as the sun from up above. Bring peace home. Feel jolly. Let someone or something give you a sparkling and shimmering warming touch. The season of giving is about living and loving. Find your solace. Express your gratitude. You’re here and now. Who can you thank today? Who can you wish a merry way?
Christmas is a time for families and communities. They may be divided by that bloody virus or other factors. Don’t let it get you don’t. Don’t let the bastards get you down! Share every ounce of your energy with those who deserve it. I’m glad of the football community, the T.W.I.S. (Tungwah Wenzel International School) education community, my pocket of Dongguan and China people, the Shenzhen Blues and City fans over here and the groups I belong to and communities I engage with. Christmas would not be the same without you all. Together we are stronger!
Last Christmas, I spent time in Yunnan, alone, in my own relaxed way. This, virus outbreak permitting, shall not be too extravagant and hopefully be once again at Irene’s Bar in Houjie (where 2 from 8 of the last Christmas dinners have been spent), but next Christmas is the one I’m looking forward to most. Who knows what it can bring?! Hopefully, it’ll be on Mancunian soil.
With each passing Christmas, I recall memories of yesteryear and flood myself with warm moments of those who were part of my life. The absent but present grandparents, the friends watching from the tier above our grounds, the lost silent loud noises of the musicians and stars of our lives. Wherever they exist now, thank out for being amongst us. You’re missed.
I hope that 2021 inspired you to be extra good, thus allowing Santa Claus to find you. I pray you fell asleep dreaming of the chimes of bells as reindeer slipped through the sky overhead. Dream deeply of the love that arrives at this time of year remaining for the year ahead. Imagine that! It doesn’t matter how we say it, just say it with passion: Joyeux Noël, happy holidays and seasons greetings.
Dad, I don’t tell you how much I love you. Thank you for always caring and listening. Thanks for taking me to Nana and Grandad’s to see the delightful decorations on the tree and enjoy trips to Aunty Christine’s for Boxing Day. Mum, you are always there for me, no matter what. I love you unconditionally. Went I think of Santa, I always think of you, sneaking in after midnight (when I was a kid, not now) and delivering jolly gifts and fruit. I miss the pillow case fruit hampers more than the chocolate selection boxes. You always put your heart into it. Aunty Christine, stay strong and beat that bloody virus so we may have Christmas lunch in July, with Uncle Ed, Uncle George and whoever else is available.
To my brothers Asa, Shaun and Paul; for my sisters Astrid and Christina, did I miss anyone? You are all missed. I may not be the closest sibling but I care and I really enjoy hearing from you. In a better world, I wish you could visit here and I there. The pressures and cares of life are with us all throughout the year, and if I can listen or help, you know my number (although the phone bill may be expensive and I believe we’re genetically tight-fisted). You’re also my friends. I miss you all.
For cousins, aunts and uncles, you’re resigned to a few short lines of love. I’d be here all day otherwise and I really need to wee. I could save a draft and come back later. That’s not going to happen. May the light of the festive season shine on you all. My Aunt Carolyn has been messaged me often throughout my time in China and I wish her and Uncle Phil a pleasant holiday. Aunty Irene and cousin Sophie enjoying Spanish skies have served as an inspiration for living overseas. Uncle George, enjoy the festive flutters – and up the Blues! Aunty Susan has been battling X, Y and Z yet remains resilient. That’ll be the teacher in her.
Dan, Vanessa, Damo and Alex, have a very Merry Christmas. Last year’s gifts and this are in a box with the ones from the year before. Santa couldn’t pick them up due to stringent quarantine conditions in the People’s Republic of China. However, in the style of Royal Mail, they’re not forgotten or misplaced, they’re just delayed. Dan is my closest friend and teacher. I’ve learned much from my brightly haired chubby – faced friend. As an Irish proverb says, “May you never forget what is worth remembering or remember what is best forgotten.” That’s my gift to you Dan.
This was my Christmas prayer to all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I’m up to 4 subcutaneous injections and 6 other blood extraction or CT Scan related pricks. That’s ten holes more than my nod started with on Tuesday morning. It’s been a funny old brace of days. The red notice behind me is still red. I’m still on oxygen. I’m checking my urine and stools for blood. The fantastic attentive nursing team are keeping me on my toes whilst keeping me firmly off them. The bed complete with side bars feels like an oversized cot. I haven’t breast fed but the toilet methods are dangerously close to nappies (diapers). Something to catch the manure for salad farming is always necessary.
It seems that today’s ultrasound from feet to neck, missing nowhere, is key. It missed nowhere. Nowhere. Everywhere accountable. Shyness wasn’t an option. Anyway, this full body check aged 39 and week isn’t a bad idea. We all need a check these days. Men’s health. Women’s health. All need it. So much to watch out for. Best to catch everything sooner or we’ll be customers of the Grim Reaper.
The love and care shown by colleagues has been overwhelming. Betty in Human Resources has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Her peer Maggie has called by once too. They’re a lovely team within our TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School 东华文泽国际学校). When the first doctor suspected myocardial infections and heart troubles, Betty supported me and calmed me when I worried that’d be the end of my job here. It could still turn that way. Maktub (it is written).
My first day in was not only scary, it was terrifying. I’ve never really been in hospitals. I still cry every time I go to Crumpsall hospital in Manchester. I was born there. My Nana and Granddad passed away there. I hold fear for these unknown wards and uniformed peacemakers. It’s a mixture of illogical and emotional over – thought. They’re so often the keepers of our destiny.
Jamie and Jaime delivered some essentials like positivity and snacks on my first day. The comedy duo born in different lands were well welcomed by a nervous and worrisome patient in bed number 9. We nattered about owt and nowt for a wee while before they left putting wood in t’ hole.
Miss Ann, our esteemed principal and leader, swung by with Miss Nicole and Miss Junny from her office. It was like a Royal visit. I couldn’t get up and bow. A deeply touching visit. They brought a huge basket of fruits and enough water to fill a swimming pool. Very caring indeed. I’ve heard many, including Miss Ann, are covering my classes. I’m thankful. Also, Betty called by again.
Yesterday, the doctor in perfect English explained everything about pulmonary embolism. She said they’d investigate my veins. All of them. Neck to feet. There’d be particular attention given to my right calf and thigh. Today’s ultrasound definitely lived up to her words. I’ve never needed to pee so much! Ultrasounds mean nil by mouth and no toilets in the preceding four hours. Since then I’ve been told I should be out in a week’s time and under a three month medicine recovery programme. Accepted.
I miss my Dad’s salads. Dad is my no means a chef. Michelin stars were not meant for him. He’s an artist trapped in a body that was formerly a painter and decorator. And he should be a gardener. Dad does gardening well. He’s a clever man but his calling seems unanswered these days. Age is not an excuse. I love my Dad and I miss eating his salads. They’re rich in cucumber, fresh tomatoes (locally grown ones, always), seasonal greens and mushrooms. Never a bad salad at Dad’s house. Our kid, Ace, with his Mrs Stephanie do good salads but Dad’s is best. Simple and hearty. Sorry to Mum’s Paul who also makes a fantastic salad. Too much thought goes into these artisanal salads. They taste delicious. No doubt. They’re in my top five salads. Sorry, but Dad wins. I say all this because the Lauren’s Pizza salad I had for a late breakfast/lunch wasn’t bad.
My homeroom in Grade 8 have been busy planting my mint outside my classroom. They’ve also prepared a card. I do like Lisa’s little steamed bun-pooh shaped character on the bottom right. I hope this unfortunate hospitalisation gives students the motivation to create and do things because time is precious. They’re young and have the chances to do anything with a bit of hard work. They shouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital. Even though I’m here, I’m wishing their studies well. All of them. I can’t wait to hear poetry and Shakespearean arguments from the Language and Literature classes. That’ll be when I’m out. Soon.
Walk into any Starbucks or anything McDonald’s and you pretty much know what you’re going to get. What if that model could be applied to cities? I live in Guangdong’s Chéngshì Qún (城市群) which is a city cluster or Megalopolis. From Guangzhou to Foshan to Dongguan to Shenzhen with Qingyuan and Huizhou nearby, there’s little escapism from a region also containing Hong Kong and Macau. Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing add to the largest and most populated region of Earth. That’s a lot of Starbucks.
Last December I was lucky enough time visit Yunnan. I stopped by Shangrila city which was renamed from lesser exotic name like Zhongdian. The first place I travelled in 2020 was Suzhou. I’ve since traversed my way through eastern Shenzhen, walking 15km one day and 19km the next. In previous years I’ve visited Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao, Zhangjiajie, Beijing, Beihai, Guilin, Manzhouli, and other places taking me through many different provinces. Many Starbucks along the way.
The land is diverse here. The population is everywhere. The cities are like copy and paste versions of themselves. In summer, I visited Yingchuan, Xian, Chengdu, Xinning, Dali and the more places I passed through cities, the more I loathed cityscapes. Perhaps it’s the sudden and fast development of cities in China. They’re almost all modern. A population doesn’t grow from 540 million (1949) to 969 million (1979) to 1,374,620,000 people in 2020 without cities. Aside from a jump in the death rates (for sparrows too! Four Pests Campaign除四害; Chú Sì Hài) during the Great Leap Forward (大跃进 Dà yuè jìn, 1958-1962), China’s death rates have been steady. It’s birthrates slowed after the one child policy in the 1980s (to 2015). Of the population around 26% lived in cities during 1990. Following 2018, 59.2% of all people lived in cities and the or conurbations. McDonald’s grew and grew.
Of the roughly 102 cities of China, you can expect to see the same derelict and abandoned malls; matching apartment blocks rising like tombstones (less so now Evergrande ran a 355 billion USD debt); dense alleyways; laundry and cycles everywhere; lemon tea shops; fast food stalls; older wet and dry markets; strangled urban villages swallowed by expanding cities; modern architecture of the occupied sense – some rusting, some flappy and tatty, some shiny and unopened; or some older colony remnants. Don’t expect to see a temple devoted to Fǎlún Gōng (法轮大法) though. More likely a Burger King.
Expect a walking street or several. These high streets are often loud and feature the same range of sports or department stores. Jewelry etc. Same, same. The traditional gates, colours and lanterns give great character but battle against golden Ms and green and white goddess logos. Actually forms of cities in the West and East differs very little. It’s the older bits and the modern diversity that stands out. Not the segregation of tool shops, household ware and restaurants. But, cities need a bigger heart beat than Pizza Hut and Nike stores.
Whether the city is historic, a National Central City (国家中心城市), a Provincial Capital (省会城市) or one of the other several types, most cities lack appeal. They have bits and places worth seeing, but overall they’re towers, districts, factories and newness. Grid-lined of not. To the residents, and the communities within, they have hearts and character. But to the touring foreigner, most cities appear the same. They make good exits to proper local cultures, mountains and away from the norm.
“Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.” – Article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国宪法 Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó Xiànfǎ, 1982)
The positive atheism here contradicts the multitude of religious hubs found in the U.K. They each bring their lack of character. Here in Dongguan, a Pizza Hut may fill that void. I recall Albania having a growing religious influence and so much colour and character around the culture it forms. Here in Guangdong, KTV is possibly that central axis. Being irreligious has its benefits. Being religious has its benefits. There are constitutional and Confucian beliefs and values. It’s a mixed bag. I don’t claim to understand or know what makes a good balance. I just know there are too many Starbucks here in China.
Maybe after a few decades, each city will develop more character and less commercial faces. Who knows?! There are signs now but everything seems almost the same. The same difference. And Beijing knows that identity is key. The more time I spend in and around cities, the more I question their sustainability for our minds, as well as the environment and culture. Are cities a problem?
Actually, I want to greet you all positively and wish peace and love. It just doesn’t seem suitable. The title of the writing seems like bad language, but it reflects my mood for an approaching date. My Mum always said that words like fuck, bastard and arse, amongst the plethora of curses are just ways of expression. I agree. When we say that piss and twat are bad words, we empower their misuse. Some words like cunt are extremely terrible. I try my best to avoid usage of all these fecking shite words but some days they are just so appropriate.
I am writing this on September the 4th. It’s fast dawned on me that September the 12th is on the horizon. I want to vomit out the words that are rattling around my head now.
September the 12th hasn’t always represented a bad day in September, and for many there have been far worse. For me personally, it isn’t the absolute disaster of a day. Far from it. I’m sure it’ll be a pleasant and wonderful day indeed. It just marks an unwanted anniversary. It represents exactly two years since I left Mancunian soil for China (via Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region etc). The day after the Vincent Kompany testimonial, Uncle Ed delivered me to a flight, alongside my friend Maria and a shedload of luggage. Who’d have thought that the world would go tits up?!
The summers of 2015 to 2019 have all been enjoyed in Great Britain. In fact 2014, marked the longest I’ve gone without summer at home. It being shortly after the February of moving to China. 2020 and 2021 have not given chance to see family or friends back on British soil. Nor has there been a chance to meet half way or for overseas visitors to call by.
I understand that for many, it is the same. For a many people, losses and tragedies have been their visitors over this pandemic of annoyance and continued uncertainty. It’s the uncertainty that this winter or next summer, mobility to see family and my best friend may or not be possible. I’m optimistic but these days it is better to be realistic as more sensible. Right?
Concluding the writing should not involve a message of peace and love. I’ll always wish you all, friend or for, family, flamingo doing flamenco or fungi, peace and love. Today’s scribbling will partake in a list of fuck you messages. It’s only appropriate.
Fuck you to COVID-19. With all due respect to viruses and diseases globally, you’ve really got on many people’s nerves. Enough is enough.
Fuck you to the origins of COVID-19. Tut. Tut.
Fuck you to the conspiring conspiracies. Don’t believe the truth?
Fuck you to the bullies of Wuhan. It’s a city. It has people. People have feelings. Spread love, not hate.
Fuck you Donald Trump. Profits high? Definitely.
Fuck you to those who divide. See above.
Fuck you to those who profited at the detriment of others during this hugely annoying era. There’s a huge increase in billionaires and millionaires, and wealth shares.
Fuck you Man Utd. Always appropriate.
Fuck you to all nations who have politicised this pandemic. You know who you are.
Fuck you those who failed to act and swept away those who wished to speak. Also applicable to the Afghanistan situation. And Rwanda. And countless other events, mostly involving Team America: World Police.
Fuck you to the silencers of the voices. Opinions may be like arseholes, in that everyone has one, but words are powerful and beautiful things. As Mel Gibson said, in Braveheart, “FREEDOM!” before he got in trouble. Terms and conditions apply.
Fuck you Boris Johnson, the budget Donald Trump. Sniveling little inhumane turd of a shriveled up scrotum of a man.
Fuck you to the dismantling parties of the NHS (a bonafide British treasure). See above.
Fuck you to the sneaky laws and regulations that exploited the pandemic conditions. UK included. The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) could be fined for saving the lives of migrants? Those laws as are fitting for the 1930’s Nazi Party.
Fuck you to anyone who doesn’t believe this pandemic is real and that COVID-19 is a lie. Wake up! Tackle it. Don’t deny it.
Of course, using the phrase fuck you is negative and wrong. I rescind all of the above. Stay positive.
Until the next time, when I see family and friends, peace and love!
What a wonderful place to be. What an excellent team to see. The beginning of another school year. Facing it without any fear. Confident in the team founding. Faithful to the conditions surrounding. The seasons and reasons full of hope. To the next climb we have our rope. Up the mountain and down the hill. Great days we have to fill. To the team, teachers, staff and all: Let’s go have ourself a ball!
Thank you for these days. May every moment be full of rays. We’re going to change many a mind. New roads we can find. Values and morals we can teach. Making new avenues in reach. Guiding one another with the other. Father, sister, friends, mother and brother. The family are invited together. This new week brings bright weather. Thank you all for sharing all you know. You’re the community I want to grow.
Departing Shenzhen International Airport for Xi’an city in Shaanxi province proved a problem. The 1050am flight was cancelled. That was a pretty hefty stumbling block. But, in checking the trains, Mr Oliver and I booked a long haul train from Guangzhou South to Xi’an via Zhengzhou East (wherever that is). We hopped in a Didi car and jumped on a high speed train from Dongguan’s Humen Railway Station.
Almost 11 hours later we arrived at Xi’an and used another Didi taxi car to take us to the Lemon Hotel. The wrong one. Turned out there are more than one, with similar names. We almost ended up at yet another incorrect Lemon Hotel. Bitter luck followed us to the right hotel though. Our reserved rooms with given away because we were late. So, we had a family room and checked out the next day rather annoyed.
We left our bags at left luggage, and gravitated towards to Xian city walls. The walls are around 14km around, although I didn’t do the maths. After just under three hours the circuit was completed. There was annoyingly a lot of sunburn. Oops. Major oops. The wall is a seriously good place to feel the city and get close to the historic grounds. However, most is quite commercial and bare. Nevertheless, the city walls and castle features are vast and photogenic.
Breakfast and dinner has been delightful. Xi’an really lives up to its reputation when it comes to variety and delicious foods! It seems everyone wants you to try something new or local. The belly may grow these days…
With the wall completed, and attempt to see the museum was abandoned due to sold out tickets. Some further walking was had followed by a park with an entertaining roller skating rink. Tomorrow, terracotta and upright old fashioned Action Men figures await.
224 words shaped so many bedtime reading sessions. Bedrooms around the world were greeted with a heart-warming tale of growth, albeit through humour and a spot of seemingly obesity. The story has radiated like the light from the moon, from pages in over 60 languages to beaming eyes looking at the colourful intricate nature of the tale.
“That’s something I learned in art school. I studied graphic design in Germany, and my professor emphasized the responsibility that designers and illustrators have towards the people they create things for.” – Eric Carle
Eric Carle didn’t just write that one book of course. His designs, illustrations and words have appeared in numerous texts. Having dropped his first drawings in 1965, Aesop’s Fables for Modern Readers (Peter Pauper Press), the new-to-the-scene and relatively young illustrator was spotted by educator and author Bill Martin Jr. One red lobster in an advertisement led to a lifetime of colour and creation.
“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.” – Eric Carle
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was an award-winning book collaboration with the late author Bill Martin Jr. Thereafter cardboard editions, die-cut holes, inflatables, plastic pockets and multiple versions of artwork with words began to grow and filter from Eric Carle to the world. Countless children have lived and learned through rhyming picture books and used string in one of his many creations.
“One day I think it’s the greatest idea ever that I’m working on. The next day I think it’s the worst that I’ve ever worked on – and I swing between that a lot. Some days I’m very happy with what I’m doing, and the next day I am desperate – it’s not working out!” – Eric Carle
The story of the story-teller is ever more remarkable. This was a man, who his wife Barbara Morrison, strongly believed had held a form of post traumatic stress disorder. He’d dug trenches on the dreaded Siegfried Line of a World War II battlefield. He’d seen death at first hand, aged only around 15 years of age. But then, darkness turned to light over the years: “One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” Okay, it wouldn’t have been that simple, but Eric Carle refused to bow down and give in. Years of toil brought his mind to a place where writing was permitted. An audience was earned. From Germany in World War II, he returned to his country of birth, the U.S.A. and found his way from Syracuse to the New York Times as a graphic artist.
“Let’s put it this way: if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with a 200,000 word novel. We, picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and I reduce it to 20.” – Eric Carle
Via stints back in Germany, for the U.S. Army (during the Korean War) he went on to be an art director at an advertising agency. His collage techniques, rich in hand-painted paper, featured layers and slices of vivid imagination set out as tiny pieces of artwork. Nature and wonder have set tones throughout his simple stories. These stories have been warm and inviting, and give hope to children, especially those new to schooling and education.
Papa, please get the moon for me is a tale of great importance in my opinion. It shows us that imagination is wonderful, even if it is breaking something seen as impossible. Whoever told me that Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny weren’t real, or anybody for that matter, that breaks the dreams of a child, deserves a good long look at themselves. Reality and imagination can sit side by side, otherwise Neil Armstrong, or Elon Musk or Celine Dion would not be around. Ability and knowledge need the company of spark and dream – and that’s where imagination grows.
“They are deceptively simple. I admit that. But for me, all my life I try to simplify things. As a child in school, things were very hard for me to understand often, and I developed a knack, I think. I developed a process to simplify things so I would understand them.” – Eric Carle
As I sit typing words and reading about Eric Carle’s history, I recall flicking through glossy covers of his books, and the joy as my face beamed when I discovered a translated copy in Hengli, Dongguan. That beautiful familiar white cover with a caterpillar and a red apple missing a mouthful, all slightly imbalanced, as if to say, and to appeal, that things aren’t always neat and tidy. One day when COVID-19 passes and the world is a little more tidy, I dream to fly to Amherst, Massachusetts to see the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. That would be as good as finding another Uroballus carleion a trip to Hong Kong. The Caterpillar Jumping Spider’s Latin name is testament to the reach and pull of a world class picture book writer.
“My father used to take me for walks in the woods. He would peel back the bark of a tree and show me the creatures who lived there. I have very fond memories of these special times with my father and in a way I honor him with my books and my interest in animals and insects.” – Eric Carle
Congratulations to Aberystwyth Town (founder members of the League of Wales in 1992) on avoiding the bottom two for 29 straight seasons. Alongside Newtown FC, both have remained ever present. Good luck to the Robins of Newtown as they chase a place in Europe. Further congratulations to Andy Morrison’s Connah’s Quay Nomads on retaining the Cymru Premier (previously Welsh Premier League/League of Wales) title. The Nomads ensured the title did not cross the border to England-based The New Saints.
To decide on something, as an individual is easy. To decide as a group, lesser so. As the world and its dog takes on China over various sensitive issues, I sit in relative freedom of Dongguan, thinking of the week ahead. I’m lucky. I’m working. Others around the world are not. Those last few sentences were written almost two months ago. They still apply now. They may still apply to some regions as variations of COVID-19 ravage and unravel around the globe. Good luck to all in the battle against the pesky persistence of coronavirus.
“This is how a democracy works. We talk to each other.” – quote from the dialogue of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
On April 11th 2020, Saturday Night Live featured Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump. He was drinking COVID juice based on Clorox bleach talking as Covfefe-19. It referred to Donald Trump’s former Twitter account and a message he posted on May 30th 2017 (‘Despite the constant negative press covfefe’). Now the world has staircase-fearing Joe Biden. Since Trump departed (on his own free will, with graciousness of course), President of the U.S.A. Biden has given a new hope to growing East and West closer together whilst keeping Russia and the European Union sweet. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are also cosy with U.S.A. after distancing itself from floundering Trump’s administration and its death throes.
I was born in a member state of the E.U. Now, I am a national of an independent U.K. in a world that seems to be simultaneously getting closer yet fragmenting. Our shared fate may be staring at the abyss making predicted violent struggling motions showing great pains but it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of having a standing competition to see who can urinate higher than the other, Biden’s administration could have headed to Alaska to talk to China constructively. Instead, a confident Chinese delegation showed no weakness. Across the table from Team America World Police, angry signals could be seen from the world’s 3rd of 4th biggest country (surface area) – depending on your source. Anyway without Trump, the world, even during COVID-19 and arguments between countries seems a much more pleasant place. It’s made me long for the path of optimism. Pumped up on my first vaccination against the 2019 version of the plague, I think borders will re-open sooner or later, and Euro 2020 football will join the Tokyo Olympic Games of 2020 in 2021. With City claiming the EFL League Cup and the Premier League on their march to IstanbulWembleyVilla Park Porto in the UEFA Champions League final, why not have a cause of feeling positive? The Estádio do Dragão may be a stadium of dragons, but isn’t 2021 the year to banish beasts? And, I’ll be joining Shenzhen Blues at 3am one Saturday night-Sunday morning to hope that City banish their quest for Europe’s biggest title…
“Please take my hand. I give it to you as a gesture of friendship and love, and of faith freely given. I give you my hand and welcome you into my dream.” – Wonder Woman, comic episode 167
Banishing beasts takes determination. Much like realising a dream. My dream of playing a musical instrument successfully is now. Now, I’ve paid for some classes, and I have two tools here. Terre World Instruments sent me my wind instrument. The didgeridoo (also known as a mandapul) can be found in plastic, redwood, yellow wood, bamboo and other wooden forms. Mine is made of Eucalyptus (a yellow wood). It’s tuned to D, I believe but can be tuned in other notes. It’s 180cm long and came in packaging longer than my body. The dense sound characteristics are fantastic. It booms from lineseed oil-finished wood, both inside and out. Luka, my teacher, also helped me get a wooden Didgebox .
“…don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve first extended it.” – Wonder Woman, comic episode 25
The spiritual instrument has always intrigued me. Stephen Boakes from The Levellers calls it a ‘wooden trumpet’. The former Klanger and the Soupdragonsband member has featured over the years for folk rockers The Levellers yet not one mention of the lad can be found on their Wikipedia page (a reliable place of purity and facts). This is a travesty. Nor can the word didgeridoo be found. Boakes is a punky player of the norther Australian Aboriginal people. It’s been around roughly 1500 years and carries haunting spiritual sounds. The touring electrician from Brighton has fitted his take on the yiḏaki* wind instrument into the ethos of the band since at least 1993’s Levellers album. The mako* sounds at home on song, This Garden.
Djalu Gurruwiwi, Ondrej Smeykal (Czech), Ganga Giri, David Hudson, Mark Atkins and Shibaten may not be household names. Indeed to most, they’re just a list that I prepared for my journey into the spirit of the didgeridoo sound. Possibly one of the world’s oldest wind instruments doesn’t have a reed, finger holes or other hand-eye coordination pieces. The voice box is the key. Practice will be needed. I’m far, far away from kookaburra sounds or other Australian wildlife but David Hudson and Luka are explaining things and giving me techniques to help along the way. And it can also be a drum. I’m learning control before speed. Dubravko Lapaine has ample amounts of speed in his training instructions and technique tips but highlights the need for slow learning. That, and I need to get some beeswax to make a smooth rim. That will seal in the air better.
Sharp raspberries are needed for this instrument that has probably been around 1000-1500 years or so. Softly blowing the musical piece (with about 45 names) is needed. Twangs and wobbly tongues too. Every time you b low out, your nose must suck in air, which is not easy! And relax, that’s the advice. Each day means more practice and more air being pushed into the lungs and not just in the cheeks! It is hard! All the while, I am practising to inspirational combinations such as the Australian Youth Orchestra with William Barton (Spirit Gallery Didgeridoos).
Maybe in the future I’ll buy one of Charlie McMahon‘s didjeribones. These sliding version is closer to a trombone. He invented this instrument which has a modern twist on an ancient tool of sound. Early Jamiroquai song When You Gonna Learn featured a didgeridoo.
“I’m asking: Oh, when you gonna learn? To stop it goin’ on?; Now when you gonna learn? To stop it goin’ on?” – Jamiroquai song When You Gonna Learn
With that, goodbye, zai jian and ta’ra! I’m off to confirm that the 2005 British Medical Journal study about playing the didgeridoo has health benefits or not.
“She used her body just like a bandage; She used my body just like a wound” – Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are, Meat Loaf
I’m lay watching The Big Lebowski. I’ve finished three seasons of Fargo in the last few weeks. The original series based on the movie was fantastic. The second was equally addictive viewing. The third starring Ewan McGregor (from Perth) and David Thewlis (of Blackpool) was less enthralling but largely watchable. The black comedy crime drama is certainly well filmed, scripted and produced. Martin Freeman (from Aldershot) stars opposite Kirsten Dunst (Small Soldiers and Jumanji) reminds me that some child actors go on to better things. Allison Holman, Colin Hanks, Ted Danson and a host of others make for great casting. Billy Bob Thornton definitely gains points for portraying the word sinister.
This week has seen my first wild tortoise spotting. I moved the miniature mobile speed bump off the road to about twenty metres into forest grasses. I have the mosquito bites to show for it. That evening’s wander sighted many toads, frogs, moths and a few mantids.
I wasn’t going to watch the fourth series of Fargo until I spied Ben Whishaw (from Bedfordshire) is amongst the Star-studded cast. Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland is represented by singer Jessie Buckley. The original Joel and Ethan Cohen brothers have a long list of great movies as directors, producers and so on. What makes me a great fan is their script writing ability. They’ve written the script for Bridge of Spies for Steven Spielberg, and rumour has it that. a Scarface remake is under their pens. Joel, without Ethan, will be involved in The Tragedy of Macbeth. Denzel Washington as Macbeth is intriguing.
Anyway, when you can’t ride a bike, kick a ball and feel utterly energy – devoid, then movies are a good escape. That and the musical writings of the late Jim Steinman. No matter what, Jim Steinman’s music is all coming back to me now. Those who haven’t listened to his works, sang by others, should read ’em and weep. Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and Meat Loaf‘s Bat Out of Hell are essential playlist features. Steinman was a highly influential lyricist, playwright and composer. He dabbled as a solo artist and expertly produced Sisters of Mercy and Take That amongst others.
“There are times I think I see him peeling out of the dark, I think he’s right behind me now and he’s gaining ground” – Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are, Meat Loaf
“Hey, are you coming to Ürümqi with me?”, an Aussie called Oliver clamoured. By clamoured, I mean kind of yelled, bawled, wailed or yawped but not in a negative kind of way. You see, Oliver is one of those nice Australian folk who happen to be part human, part megaphone. I don’t think I have heard him whisper. Not once. It may be the only way to get heard over his 21 grade 5 students. I’m not sure. But, anyway, he definitely said it in a voice where people in the far of Dongguan could have heard, or perhaps even the people of Ürümqi heard a little.
We were sat eating ‘shāokǎo (燒烤)‘ and not because barbecue is an Australian’s go-to meal. We’re not reinforcing stereotypes here! It was Friday evening, after school. Laura’s fella was having his birthday and it felt like a good thing to do. A mixture of Chinese, Spanish, French, Moroccan and Venezuelan, American, Australian and British people outside a Xinjiang-family’s restaurant eating great lamb, livery bits and other wonderful breads on a Friday after a long hot week seemed like a good idea. The Wusu beer and Nángbĭng (新疆烤馕flat bread) went down a treat, following spicy peppers, mushrooms and okra. the chäyza (茄子, qiézi) was a little spicy but pealed away on my chopsticks delightfully. With Oliver’s words in my ears, I told him how I planned to go see my mate Waits up in Gansu province, but it would be a little rushed and not easy to get there and back again.
Having tried to order a rice dish polu (抓飯, zhuāfàn) containing raisins and carrots, I gnawed on meaty lamb skewers (新疆羊肉串) covered in red pepper flakes, cumin seeds and various peppers. The salty taste complimented the juicy flesh well.Oliver growled on, “Come see the Jiaohe ruins, mate.” The Jiāohé Gùchéng (交河故城) ruins have been on my radar for some time.The word mate has been echoing since the day I met Oliver in August, “Would you like an orange juice, mate?” He swiftly blended an orange or two with ice and has been ever-present at school in positive form.And now, after a recent December wander in Yunnan, he’s telling me Piotr and I are being called upon. He’s putting the band back together.
Elwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Jake: “Hit it.” – The Blues Brothers starring John Belushi & Dan Ackroyd
Flights were booked hastily and probably without due diligence. Hand me the international baccalaureate risk-taker profile certificate please, Now, it’s time to book a swab test for the old COVID-19 proof that freedom of travel is okay. Then, there’s the weather. It could be a sandstorm, blizzard, snow, or sunny. Depends on the zone. And because China has one timezone, sun rises later and earlier than here in Dongguan. Next Sunday, sun rises around 07:46hrs over Ürümqi and sets at 20:39hrs. More than an hour later in difference than here in Dongguan! So, I am sat here with about a week to go making a loose itinerary. One that sadly won’t take in the songs of Dilraba Dilmurat. All this information research has happened inside a day. Pages 502-515 of the DK Eyewitness Travel China edition have been read. All this because of Oliver! Not Lionel Bart’s Oliver! Our very own colleague, Áleifr (the name meaning ancestor’s descendent) has set about a trip to a region of Uyghurs 维吾尔/Wéiwú’ěr) people one of China’s 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities. The region itself is a hotbed of multiculturalism and history.
On arriving, as I land in Ürümqi a day before Oliver, because I believe in maximum holiday time, the Xinjiang Silk Road Museum (新疆丝绸之路博物馆) next to the Grand Bazaar at No. 160 Shengli Road should be visited. Here I hope to find more information before Oliver lands on the Sunday, and hopefully catch Piotr up, who will already be there. The lay of the land and a good map may be helpful. My friend Ty, of Murray’s FC. has already said he will put us in contact with a driver and a guide from his home town area. Maybe I’ll look up sand therapy. Sadly, far east of there is Hāmì (哈密), famous for sweet melons of the same name, although the area and its fascinating ‘Devil City’ moniker intrigues. As does the ‘Ghost City‘ around Karamay and Wuerhe.
Nature needs to be seen and the receding faster than my hairline Urumqi No. 1 Glacier(乌鲁木齐1号冰川; wū lǔ mù qí 1 hào bīng chuān) seems to be a good start. Half of China’s 20,000 glaciers are all located in Xinjiang, and its proximity to the peak of Kyrgyzstan-Chinese Jengish Chokusu (托木尔峰) makes sense. That towering peak (7,439 m/24,406 ft) forms the roof of the poetically-named Mountains of Heaven (Tiān Shān 天山) mountain range heavily influences the geology and geography of the whole region. They’re part of the Himalayan orogenic belt so there’s certainly diverse terrain near to Ürümqi. Time spent in one of the world’s most remote and distal (to any seas) shall be a new experience.
At 6000-year old Turpan (tǔlǔfān/吐鲁番), there’s Huǒyàn (火州 place as hot as fire), the Flaming Mountain (火焰山 Huǒyànshān) to the north, an irrigation exploration at Kariz (meaning well) Well (吐魯番坎儿井乐园) and the Sugong Minaret(苏公塔) to the east. The Bezeklik Grottoes could be possible. Then there’s the Apandi people and their Grape Valley (葡萄沟), the Bezeklik Grottoes (Bózīkèlǐ Qiānfódòng 柏孜克里千佛洞), Gāochāng Ancient City (高昌古城), and the Astana cemetry (阿斯塔那古墓 Āsītǎnà Gǔmù). There’s certainly the oasis-village Turoq valley (吐峪沟 tǔyùgōu) 70km away. Travel around the region may be difficult but the lure of rail travel hold strong. Two railway lines pass through the region: 南疆铁路; Nánjiāng tiělù; and one from Lanzhou (兰新铁路第二双线). Seems Turpan will need a few days. And that’s before finding information on Biratar Bulak. I hear this region is often nicknamed as China’s Death Valley. Earth’s second-lowest depression is an incredible 155 metres (509 feet) below sea level! The world’s largest Naan stove sounds more at home in the U.S.A. but can be found at Darwaz. I’ll try and convince Oliver and Piotr to go.
The journey to the west will hopefully meet with less difficulty than the Monkey King met. In Journey to the West, by Ming dynasty writer, Wu Cheng’en, the protagonist met a wall of flames, which was likely at Xinjiang’s Flaming Mountain. Uighur (the people of the region) legend has it that a dragon lived in the Tianshan mountains (south of Ürümqi) but was slew by a hero who had grown annoyed at the dragon’s diets of children. That spawned the dragon blood to form a scarlet clot: eight valleys of the Flaming Mountain. One for each piece of the chopped dragon.
I told Waits that I’d go to Gansu in summer (because the UK is not a viable option) and from there I’d probably head to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors. The armies of Qin Shi Huang really should be marketed to the basketball crowd here. I’d buy a basketball shirt with Terracotta Warriors Basketball Club on it. Maybe I should suggest to T.W.I.S. that Terracotta Warriors International Society would make a good history club. Or perhaps, in summer, I will enjoy the humidity and heat of Dongguan. Nothing is certain, but optimism and positivity being made by our souls. Scatter!
To quote Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, “That’s all folks!” That reminds me, I have still never watched Space Jam, and I heard there is a sequel this year!
6th February 2021. Day 1 distance cycled: 94km.Tongsha Reservoir and Ecological Park (同沙生态公园) was the route chosen. Lodged beside the 107 National Highway, beginning at the Dongcheng District, the reservoir and ecological park stretches towards Foling Reservoir, linked by a stretch of road at the unknown named temple (under construction at grid reference 22.971147108234454, 113.82079775499022). The area is great for cycling, picnics, and walking. It has a mix of managed and wild forestry. There’s the odd farm selling fruits such as passion fruits, bananas and other such desideratum fruits. There’s often a good melody of bird calls and some wildlife can be found throughout, although patience is needed. The best way to enjoy the park, in my humble opinion, is on two wheels. There are some side cycle routes and the loop road throughout the area is safe enough to cycle on (with care). There’s a shop somewhere on the west flank and one towards the southern entrance (with cycle hire) which allows for snacks and refreshments. I often cycle to this parkland area just to buy my honey. I’ve yet to try flying kites or picking my own fruits. This park is the place for such joys.
On my return cycle, I swung by Songshan Lake and rolled through a new park (Central Park – ZhongXin GongYuan is next to 梦幻百花洲), discovering an abandoned theme park ruins and a good place to park my bottom whilst swigging a cup of hot cappuccino. Looking back at the day spent in a wetland and ecological park only built in 2006, I thought how quickly nature had taken hold of the area. For a teenage park, it has much more potential to blossom. The huge 40 square-kilometre region has small mountains, water bodies, flowery meadows and plenty of leafage. After that ride, I ate Hunan food with my friend Melody and then had dinner in Nancheng. It was a very pleasant day indeed.
7th February 2021. Day 2 distance cycled: 85km. Alongside my Spanish colleague Jaime, we set off for the most south-western point of Dongguan. We’re not allowed to leave Dongguan during the Chinese New Year festival. It’s part of the pandemic control. It makes sense. Why risk it? So, we headed to a place that overlooks Shenzhen’s most north-western tip. The new ecological park at JiaoYi Bay is so new that on arrival we found that most of the wild areas were under construction. The Marina Bay New District is being. Some land reclamation, some sea landscaping and plenty of soil was being moved. Still it was easy to work out what the end product would be. A Dongguan government propaganda piece has a alerted me to the area, and it wasn’t a bad wander. However the ride through Chang’an town and much of Dalingshan on the way there was an anticlimax. The ride back following the Dongbao river wasn’t bad even if sometimes the cycle path just vanished or had a construction site over it.
8th February 2021. Day 3 distance cycled: 70km. I went out for a coffee. I had no intention to do more than 20km. Songshan Lake has many inlets and side roads. Some areas are under intense building work, whilst others have immense environmental projects here and there. And then there’s Europe. Huawei’s European town is tacky and classy. It’s cheap and it’s extravagant. It’s simple and it’s complex. I’m unsure how I feel about this stack of contradictions. Although it does have a pretty cool railway system, I worry the scale is so large and so imposing that in a country struggling between Western and Eastern cultural identity that this piece of luxury is one step too far. Ox Horn Campus has 12 town styles inside it. And it seems to be growing, year on year, like a sinister James Bond nemesis set.
9th February 2021. Day 4 distance cycled: 0km. Today was our Murray’s F.C. x DGFC 30-man football tournament on Dongcheng rooftop. Between us all we had 5 teams, two fields (both 5 and 6 a-side) and a good evening of football, followed by beers and food at One For The Road and then Hollywood Baby Too. After many games throughout three hours, I was shattered and sore. The holiday needed me to have more energy…
Let’s not dwell on COVID-19 and it’s terrible spread throughout the globe. It’s been a challenging and upsetting year for many. The less said on this eve of a new year, the better. Stay positive.
With trips to Nepal, Thailand (as a Corona refugee), Suzhou and now Yunnan, I’ve been lucky to experience a variety of cultures and religions in different shapes and forms during 2020. All have stood the test of time and all have stories about being adaptable. 2021 for the human race will be no exception. I’ve been lucky to get some travelling in, during this new norm but unlucky not to travel and see loved ones. The future is tingling with uncertainty but when a reunion comes about, I’m certain it won’t be wasted.
Climatic change, political indecision, blundering idleness by an impenetrable elite, racism and divide, disease and worry. Twenty twenty’s themes will carry on into this year as we all live as best we can. The gloom of a serious Sir David Attenborough message should stay with us. As should Amnesty International. Black Lives will always matter. #MeToo? Where changes are needed things will always need to happen. Vaccines and immunisation can only cure so much.
2020 allowed me opportunity. I’ve been blessed to start work at Tungwah Wenzel International School. A few weeks of expensive quarantine and drastically overpriced return flights got me back into China, as others faced even tougher routes to work or pathways no longer open. It’s been a good ride at work so far. I can only see it getting better.
Football for and with Murray’s FC has provided a regular escape from a landscape tinged by trepidation. Having also joined Dongguan Bulldogs, for a few games of tag rugby, and several solo bike rides, freedom has been a privilege.
I’m writing from a cold bed in YuBeng village, Yunnan, China. I’d like to write more but like the new journal in my bag, there’ll be plenty of opportunity and positive days ahead for the writing of new well remembered days. All the best for 2021. Keep hope in your head and heart.
In the morning, the familiar tune of the Colonel Bogey March blazed out from tannoys filling the air. The nearby high school were performing their morning exercise. Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts had penned this tune way back in 1914. It has been rather odd to hear a pre-Great War marching song, based on a golf term, penned in the Highlands of Scotland. The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare is more apt, but no, here I find myself in Dongguan, Guangdong, the P.R. of China, humming “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball”. I doubt very much I can teach this song over here. Well, just in case you were wondering…
“Hitler has only got one ball; The other is in the Albert Hall; His mother, the dirty bugger; Cut off the other, when he was only small; She threw it into the apple tree; It fell in to the deep blue sea; The fishes got out their dishes; And had scallops and bollocks for tea.”
The above discrediting tactic [Trump move] first appeared in August of 1939 in the U.K., yet I found myself learning it from classmates in Chapel Street Primary school as early as year 5/grade 5. Between the Jurassic Park novel and goals from Niall Quinn’s disco pants, Mike Sheron and Garry Flitcroft against Q.P.R. on September the 11, 1993, I was picking up the habit of reading at school. I am sure this is when I penned a story called Sam The Wonder Dog. Think Lassie meets Superman.
Using vivid and colourful games or activities like jigsaws can be advantageous to many students. It can be fun, creative and allow for thinking within teams. Group work solidifies strengths in teamwork by allowing discussion, and giving everyone roles to perform. It lessens worries and burdens. Everyone is valuable. It encourages relevant and meaningful communication with an emphasis on thoughtful questioning skills. The learning pace is dictated by the students and their needs. Collaborative working skills can be transferred to other activities later on. Afterwards it allows for a joint analysis of their work. This was evident in my grade 4 class when practising the Anna Kendrick song When I’m Gone [Cup Song] actions and lyrics. Two groups of four students, and two solo students seemed disjointed. However, with gentle persuasion and leading, eventually one student, Jimmy, encouraged a group of 6 to work together. Later he led both the group of 4 and his group of 6 to join forces.
Through sequencing the information in a classroom, it allows clear communication. With that collaborative working has a good chance of being followed through. The aim has to be visualised and that end goal can then be met. Some thinks can appear easy or simple, but maybe some of the scaffolding is lacking in the instructions. That’s why sequencing is so much more important to the learning environment. A huge advantage of team and group work allows for students to work through problems.
Deconstruction, however, allows for a clear context to be set. Modelling and construction can follow. With joint construction it can allow a group of students to work together. Independent construction can happen equally well but holds less advantage in terms of enhancing classroom dynamics and group work. Some students need to work alone. It may be in their character to feel better when acting solo, or feel more confident. Support and guidance from classmates may not make a student feel confident. They might already have the spark of self-belief to go it alone. Within my classroom, I’ve seen Amir demonstrate practical exploration, review and evaluation before then joining Terrance and Harry to show their final workings as one team. It allowed Amir to work efficiently and show his ability before joining others. The model of language they used throughout their interactions and participation differed according to their audience. With myself present, it was much more formal and well thought. With other students, they played and joked more, between little instances of shy behaviour. In front of a camera and no audience they started off shy and unsure, before gaining a rhythm and moved away from the tension of a camera being present.
Macro-scaffolding is the bigger picture. It’s the pandemic that grips the world right now. To the world of football this is like the great Sir Alex Ferguson speaking to his squad in the Old Trafford Theatre Of Dreams Swamp scaffolding stadium using encouraging words through growls, “Don’t be afraid to go down in the box on the 96th minute and get us that draw.”
Meso-scaffolding corresponds to the goals and activities required of a specific class. It’s the middle of a pandemic and the world are searching for vaccinations or a cure.
Micro-scaffolding zooms in up and close like a microscope on a COVID-19 virus strand. In football coaching some managers go in up close and personal. They take players aside and put an arm around the shoulder and talk about how to improve that player.
Without building on a student’s current knowledge and understanding, teaching would be like going up a creek without a paddle. Through the use of concrete experiences we can further understanding which will enhance their concept of English. Learning language allows the learner to have the tool to use it. The more contexts they can experience or talk about, the easier it is for them to understand it. Expecting a student to understand language without a proper concept means that student is now knee-deep up the. creek without the paddle or a suitable kayak. Language needs context. Let me write that again: language must have context. Without context, language is near useless. Think about the last time you were in foreign lands and used a handful of limited phrases. You wouldn’t say ‘Namaste’ or ‘danke schoen’ as ways to request directions in Greenland. Or maybe you would. I’ve never been there. I may head there after hearing of a catastrophic asteroid heading to Earth.
A clear plan of action when working with groups is important because it can give each student the opportunity to assume different roles, have enclosed experiences and learn using a different context. With every group work activity we need to evaluate it. This gives us an idea on how to improve the learning experience for future instances. Clear guidance gives a clear pathway for learning.
Oral language teaching is central to supporting the learning of a secondary language. The teacher has a crucial role of interaction that supports and scaffolds students during their development. Through a range of classroom tasks we can provide opportunities to use and develop oral language. This is an integral and essential part of teaching each and every subject effectively. The task shapes the talk. The talk shapes the talent. Now we can move on to the use of oral language. How should it be interpreted and how can it produce oral texts? This will allow us to scaffold students to become more effective in their listening and speaking.
Sometimes we must be reminded constantly of the best or better teaching practices to better serve our students. Waiting for a student to respond for over three or four seconds would significantly allow students time to use better language than the quick and easy answers by the first hands up. Students need to take a few more moments. Think time is essential. Give encouragement to think and then respond after rethinking. As an adult we need time and a conscience effort to think sometimes. So, why not give extra thinking time for students?
Having read about and watched students performing experiments before being introduced to key vocabulary, I find it clear that with experience those same students can relate and build on the knowledge they had prior. After some time and reflection, students can use new vocabulary more simply to describe what will happen. Having examples to relate to vocabulary matters. Practising vocabulary becomes more about directions and learning how to describe and use new concepts than the weight of new words (often without context).
Chaos can be avoided, in favour of a more comprehensible class, simply by instructions appropriate to the level of the students. The descent of chaos bobs up and down like an angry turkey’s head, knowing that Christmas is close by, but with an Ikea booklet to hand, the turkey can face up to some vegans for this year. Speaking, of course, leads into the development of proper critical literacy skills.
“Don’t worry about a thing; ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.” – Bob Marley & The Wailers, Three Little Birds
Negotiate the field. The farm is tricky without navigation aids.
Deconstruction. Why not break the farm map and layout down?
Joint construction. This has nothing to do with Bob Marley. The farm is a mess now. It has been ripped to shreds. The tatters and remains need piecing together carefully, and with thought. Sit down and chill to Three Little Birds, as the students perform their tasks.
Independent Construction (of text). Well now the farm is running smoothly enough to advertise and run an article in the local Farmer’s Weekly magazine. E-I-E-I-O.
After the between module readings and module activities, many thoughts, as broad as as wide, popped into my noggin. Time constraints can inhibit development using these techniques. How can we ensure something isn’t rushed for all the individual students? Do those higher up the grade and year levels need further ESL support? How about giving extra support to incoming students that arrive midway through an academic year? What if fewer lessons were given to higher level students, would it allow more time to develop their English skills by way of concrete experiences, scaffolding and to find a range of appropriate contexts? Are all learning cycles considered in a proper integrated approach?
MATE MASIE – “what I hear, I keep” – wisdom, knowledge, prudence [from Adinkra, the language of west Africa]
I slept too much. Having showered around 6pm this evening, I lay on the bed drying in a towel. I woke up by 11pm. A glass of grapefruit juice and a bowl of honey nut loops followed. The crisp cold milk gave me a breakfast feel, despite no sunlight finding my balcony. I slowly awoke and reflected over a simple weekend.
For a few hours today, my Australian colleague, Mr Oliver and I walked up Lotus Mountain in Chang’an town. We descended towards Dalingshan. It was a pleasant walk but the questionable air quality and lack of visibility outside of the grey spectrum made it less impressive. Numerous people covered their mouths as two foreigners strode on by. The insulting behaviours have been less of late, but today it happened often enough to feel deliberate and perplexing. On the flip side, enough men cleared their throat whilst staring into my face, enough for me to remember this unusual yet familiar passing greeting. I still wonder if they clear their nose and throat out when they pass others, or even alone. If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, did it make a sound?
Today’s sweaty walk was riddled with steps. Yesterday’s activities involved an exchange of the B. Twin Rock rider 520ST for a Merida Challenger mountain bike. A need for a larger frame necessitated such a move. Plus the Decathlon bicycle seems cursed. Three punctures, two collisions and a creaky seat later, I feel 8 months of regret about this cycle needs to be resolved. Those who resolve conflict, seek solace.
A class with Tina, and a good salad made with heart yesterday were highlights amongst a day filled with BBC’s McMafia TV series and very little else. The autumn grey skies are here. It feels cooler but also warm at times. My mind is muggy and in need of something more. The mountains are calling.
Bonfire night in England has been marked by an explosion of COVID-19. As Guy Fawkes Night comes and goes, Britain goes back into lockdown for an entire month.
“And then mother took me to Grammar School; But I stopped all in the vestibule; Every time that bell would ring; Catched me playin’ with my ding a ling” – the song My Ding A Ling by Chuck Berry
Meanwhile on a murky Thursday night in a warm Dongguan, at Tungwah Wenzel International School, I found myself taking notes on Teaching ESL in the Mainstream Classroom [TESMC]. There are several modules which start from a zoomed-out overview to a much more-closer and specific look at our teaching area. Quality of teaching matters, especially for English as a Second Language learners. Collaboration is key withing all teaching environments, so here I was surrounded by technology, Chinese, English, science and other specialist teachers.
Interrelatedness of culture is important. ESL (English as a Second Language) students bring culture capital and funds of knowledge that can be tapped and used in the weapon against Minecraft and all other manner of distraction. Sat with Mr Jason, Miss Keats, Miss Cindy, and others in groups around, we all observed teachers Mr Ben and Mr Cherlito in leading a great classroom workshop.
Classrooms should set high expectations and resource in their mainstream classes. There should be a bar to jump up to, rather than a bar to meet level. Expectations should increase to allow students to learn the language through the language and learn about that language. There is a plethora of learning theories, many tried, tested and tired, but a good teacher should know that there’s always more out there to bring about a good learning context.
Oral and written language must be treated separately. In our youth we make sounds before we scribble words. Those sounds and phonetics become words, sentences and eventually conversation. We crawl, walk and then run – until we get old enough to walk, drink beer and crawl again. Writing needs codes. We start with a few letters, then we pair a few more, and we build words. Following that a few simple sentences, and then they expand bit by bit, until we’re banging out sonnets like Shakespeare was our teacher. Some of the braver kids that write carry on writing and move on to be Dan Brown or Anne Tyler. They all started with the ABC though. Patterns and a need to make technical and abstract meanings fit educational contexts a little before we hit our double-figure years. Why do we do it? The world is demanding and so are parents. Teachers backed by educational curriculum standards encourage students. Students push themselves – or not. Accountability is something learned or not within teenage and early years. For some it takes a little longer than others. Some will never learn it.
Teachers and the school community adapt and evolve support language, not just to improve students, but to find strategies relevant and achievable for the classroom, and in this instance the ESL classroom. Improve our teaching, improve our target students. With that we must recognize that not all students have the name needs or motivations. There are many variables that need to be taken into account to ensure students participate in schooling and beyond.
What do I hope to gain from the course? Self-enhancement, bettering one’s self, being more invaluable and experienced in order to help and work closer with my colleagues. Yes, all that and some. Actually, I really want to understand my students better.
Students cross a broad range of identities. We all have multiple identities. I act differently around colleagues, friends, family, football friends, near strangers, and other groups. This is life. We are social butterflies and act accordingly to comfort surroundings and situations. What identities do we have?
Think about diets. Do we eat differently or behave in varied ways? Perhaps around vegans, vegetarians, American Embassy-eaters (that’s McDonald’s) and so on. How much respect can you give a total fructivore? Does a sister command a special response that is distinctive to that of an aunty or a mother? What’s the atypical reaction to dad? Relations matter. The position within the family, the runt of the litter is that kid that gets the passed down Manchester City F.C. shirt, according to their big bad bold brother.
If you want division, look no further than religion, it’s an age-old area of conflict. Don’t trust me? Google it. Even your choice of search engine can separate you. Sorry Baidu, you just won’t do for me! Age category, maturity, sexuality (LGTGB+ etc), members of book clubs, groups, communities (C’mon CITY!), neighbours (noisy or other), sports, language-speakers, ethnicities, creeds, hobbies… prejudices, Marvel or DC comics Star Wars or Star Trek; Trekker or Trekee… The list goes on. And on. And on, and on, and on and on. With all that in mind it is clearly difficult to understand your colleagues, let alone your students. We still must push on (gently, softly or otherwise) and probe ways to understand any potential barriers to learning and find range and depth suitable for extraction. Some negatives can be turned into positives. Some cannot. Here as good teacher is digging for positivity and the factory in each student that manufactures optimism. What do students struggle with? Locating a pencil case? Someone looked at them with a squint? An ant walked into the classroom doing ballet?
Some of the roles or aspects of having multiple identities will cause internal conflicts, doubts, and worries. One place that I feel tensions are my political views and belief in human rights. So, to be in America or China, I must respect the head gaffer and the regime that rules the joint. As a guest, I can only say or do so much. Imagine being a Chinese kid flung into international education. Will that kid’s neighbours or young relations also be in that same international school setting? They’ll be strengthening and weaking on one and the other. You can’t follow two systems perfectly. ESL students, a widely used terms for many nationalities, at a school that uses English as a primary target language are privileged to expand their cultural window, but they may find their own cultures closing from them. As they develop language for an increasing range of purpose of contexts, their world is changing in ways that they may or may not notice.
For an Irish kid learning at an ESL school in Wales, who studies only in English, they may not be exposed to much Gaelic language other than that at home, infrequently. The Welsh kid at school may be using English at home, attending Welsh classes online and immersed in a bilingual environment at home. The Chinese student on exchange from Dongguan to Aberystwyth may get to speak English, Welsh and a spot of Chinese with fellow students. They will all face improvements in their English language, but which students will improve their native tongue? What range of langue will they be exposed to? For the ESL teacher, this, like many other factors sits outside the scope of control. Awareness of these facts is important. Which students enjoy the same access to range of language as their peers? Is immersion in English to the detriment of other tongues? Do some students slip, trip and flip-flop from one school to the next? I know of at least a handful of students that I’ve taught that are in their third primary school in as many years. I shouldn’t judge because I also attended three primary schools as a kid. However, I didn’t have the pressure of a second language… unless North versus South Mancunian dialect was it. Barmcake or muffin?
The evening featured acronyms galore. EMI wasn’t Electrical and Musical Industries records; it was English as a Medium of Instruction. When CALD was mentioned, I expected to hear the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, but it turned out to mean Culturally and Linguistically Diverse.
Other notes (not typed up in any depth yet):
WHAT FUNDS OF KNOWLEDGE MIGHT AN ESL STUDENT BRING TO THE CLASSROOM?
Understand classroom exposure (Chinese vs Int’l); different opinions about the future (environment; conservation; search engine exposure) …
/ WAYS OF THINKING – Wikipedia/media literacy / transfer of knowledge / attitudes in academic context / curiosity
/ MULTIPLE IDENTITIES cultural norms / family backgrounds / expectations / regional knowledge / local
Possible consequences of failure to acknowledge the above include neglect of diversity and cultures. Value it. Ignoring the valuable resource will limit their world view. Disenfranchising and discouraging, devaluing, disempowering – don’t handicap
Attitude of a teacher: transition / support / how do students feel in terms of students who finish first or take longer? /
My homework (A.K.A. the between module activity) is as follows. Select one class student. Understand their life, experiences, impacts on their ability to learn, hobbies, favourite biscuits, and so on. I can use any strategy to do so. Perhaps an untargeted questionnaire, a survey of the class, discussions with other teachers, an insight from their family, a photo of their favourite thing at home and so on… What do they miss when they’re at school? The old who, when, what, why, how, do, etc scenario is with me until next Thursday’s class. That student’s funds of knowledge will be valuable to teaching them.
And with that, I’m sat listening to Chuck Berry live and reading about things other than books that students can read to enhance their reading skills. Books are the gateway to knowledge, but in these modern times books are not the only medium for reading. In the age of information, words are all around us. Students should be encouraged to read (digital or hard copies):
books written by each other
dictionaries and thesaurus
maps and atlases
travel brochures and leaflets
social media and micro posts
catalogues and listings
programmes of events/sports meetings/games
manuals and ingredients on food labels
Anyway, that’s all for Thursday night. Let’s hope this COVID-19 scatters away soon. Keep busy. Eat a toffee apple for me and some Parkin Cake. I had to make do with McVities Hobnobs (the ones without chocolate). Stay strong. Peace and love x