Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sports Meeting: Athletics with Chinese Characteristics

Our freshmen and sophomore students spent the last two days sitting in the sun as the non-voluntary audience of the annual school-wide sports meeting.

Each department competes against each other in various track and field events, and they also practice big dance routines for the opening and closing ceremonies.  I went last year and this year to see a few events, watch the dancing, and hang out with my students.  I enjoyed it!  But then, I didn't have to follow the rules.

Check out my teammates' blog HERE for some great pictures of the event and a list of the rules.  I think you'll agree that between the daily required dance practices leading up to the event, the 3-minute maximum time for bathroom breaks, and the eight-hour days of forced cheering, being an audience member requires just as much as endurance as being an athlete.

Candy and Rabbits and Eggs -- Oh My!

Last Saturday, my team put on an Easter-themed culture activity for the sophomores.  We all teach at least one section of sophomores, so we have a strong connection with this bunch.

First, we hid a bunch of real and candy eggs outside the department while Tarah distracted everyone inside.  When she gave the go-ahead, all students broke loose.

Hiding eggs outside our teaching building

Easter egg hunt!!!

An egg hunter and her prey

Students and eggs.  The fourth girl over looks a little underwhelmed.

Sophomores gather around to see the special prize for the finder of the "Winner!" egg

Winner!  The crowd erupted when we revealed the prize, just as you would expect a bunch of typical American college students to do in the presence of a large stuffed bunny.  Wait, maybe not. :)

After the hunt, we introduced them to a few old-school egg games.  First was the egg toss (a funny, messy affair), and then the egg carry.

Egg toss

Ready for the relay

Finally, we all went back inside to watch a clip of an Easter video, learn about some Easter traditions, and listen to Tarah sing "My Redeemer Lives."  It was another fun evening with our wonderful sophomores.

Me getting ready to show some family Easter photos

Tarah's beautiful song

Happy Easter!

An Essay About my Life in Qufu

A student recently asked me to contribute an essay about my life in Qufu to one of the English student publications.

Bye the way, have I announced here on the blog that I am leaving Qufu at the end of this semester?  Due to organizational changes with my teaching company, I am transferring to a different campus of my current university in the seaside city of Rizhao, about three hours away.  Rizhao pronunciation: "err-jow."  Left to my own devices, I would not have moved, but since my organization is leaving Qufu I decided joining a different team would be better in many ways than staying here by myself.

Anyway, I thought some of you might be interested in reading my nostalgic look at two years in Qufu, so I'm posting the essay here in full.  Enjoy!
I first came to Qufu in August 2009.  It was my first time to live and work in China, and I was happy to be coming to a small town instead of a big city.  When I found out I would be coming to Qufu, I looked it up on the Internet and found many pictures and stories from tourists who had visited Qufu to see the famous Confucius sites.  Most of the tourists liked this town, but seemed to think it was not worthwhile to spend more than a day here.  I noticed that the sky looked a little gray in all of their pictures.  I wondered what my life here would be like.

I have now lived in Qufu for almost two years, and it has been one of the happiest times in my life.  There are many things I love about this small town: the ancient city wall, the beautiful April flowers in the Confucius forest, the crowded East Market, and the countryside scenes that I can enjoy while riding my bike.  Before I moved to Qufu, I never saw anyone harvesting wheat by hand or killing a fish by throwing it on the floor!

The best thing about living in Qufu has been getting to know the people here. American-style hospitality is more hands-off than Chinese hospitality; we like to let people “help themselves” and “make themselves at home,” and most people appreciate this.  But here in Qufu, people have always gone out of their way to offer their friendship and help.  I know that if I want someone to help me with a problem, interpret some Chinese for me, or join me for a meal, I can count on my Chinese students and friends.

Now let me say a few words about teaching at Qufu Normal University.  Last year, I taught junior writing, junior video, and freshmen oral English.  This year, I teach junior writing and sophomore oral English.  I think my favorite class to teach is sophomore oral, because I get to teach both content (intercultural communication and public speaking) as well as skill (pronunciation and fluency).  I also like having fun free talks with my students.  Some of my favorite memories with students are playing silly games like Spoons, making meals in my kitchen, and celebrating the holidays together.  Again, the best thing I have gained from teaching here is the opportunity to know such wonderful people.  To my students – thank you for being so eager to learn and so delightful to teach.  One of my writing students once wrote in her journal that she thought “no one could be nicer to their foreign teachers than we are,” and I think she’s right!

Of course it will be sad for me to leave my happy life in Qufu, but I am not going far.  I plan to teach next year in Rizhao, where I am looking forward to the blue sky and the sea breeze.  After that, I will probably return to the United States.  Thanks for the wonderful memories here, and I am looking forward to staying in touch with all of you.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fun Free Talk: Qufu Biking

Last Saturday a few sophomores joined me for a Qufu bike outing.  We went to Yi River park, which I have visited many times, and then one of the students took us to a different park that she had stumbled upon earlier this year.

Two of the girls had never been to Yi River.  They were amazed by the dock. :)

Phyllis introduced us to this small park.

We loved the flowers!

Me and Mavis

The requisite beautiful-day-in-the-park wedding couple was there too.


It was a nice day to be out, and I enjoyed exploring some new places with these girls.  The students generally do not get out much in Qufu, so the two who had never gone to the river park were in a constant state of amazement.  I heard one say to the other as we biked home: "Today I saw a whole new Qufu."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: "His Wounds have Paid my Ransom"

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure;
That he would send His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot understand it.
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom.

All my Eggs in One Basket

This is a story about a girl, a bike, and a mission.

The girl: Me.
The mission: Find white eggs for my egg-dyeing activity.

Most eggs sold in Qufu are brown.  I usually get mine from a little stand in the East Market, where I put six or seven in a plastic bag, they weigh it, and I pay.  Last week I somehow accidentally chose from the double-yolked egg crate (which I didn't even know existed), and all the eggs I used that week had two yolks.  But I digress.

The East Market eggs are strictly of the brown variety.  So I had to go to the campus grocery store to try my luck.  Last year, the only white options there were duck eggs, but this year, they have small white chicken eggs!  They are sold in netted bags of 15 each and I never paid attention to them before because they're more expensive.

I got two bags for a total of 30, and then the question was, "How can I get 30 eggs home without breaking them?"  No egg cartons here -- just egg on egg.  I decided to put them in my metal bike basket.  I gingerly mounted and started my careful ride home, keeping an eye on my precious cargo. There they were: egg on egg, egg on bag, bag on metal.  

Ten minutes later, I was back at my apartment with 30 perfect eggs.   

And that is the story of how I put all my eggs in one basket... and won.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Discoveries

This post is exciting to me and will probably be boring to you.  In the last 12 hours, I have made three (three!) hassle-saving discoveries for my life in China.

1)  Last night at the copy shop, I thought to ask if they could cut my copies in half.  Turns out they have a nifty machine that can slice through stacks of 60 (or more) papers in a single swipe.  When I think about all the class activities I've spent time snipping apart, I really wish I would have discovered this earlier.

2)  When using Word on Chinese computers, I always had trouble reading the characters to get the exact font size I want.  In class today, my students informed me that if you scroll down, you can see the actual numbers (12, 14, etc.).  Huh.

3)  I always thought it was almost impossible to get a round-trip train ticket in China.  Usually tickets must be physically purchased in the city you will leave from.  Just now, I was informed that the D-trains (fast trains) usually offer round trip tickets.  This is indeed a wondrous discovery.

Often in China, you find yourself thinking, "There must be an easier way to do things!"  Usually, no.  But sometimes, yes!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chi Ba

Chi (pronounced "chur") means "eat" in Chinese, and ba gets added to verbs as a suggestion or clarification.  Put them together and you get chi ba -- "Let's eat!" or "Shall we eat?"  And in this post, yes we shall.

When my family was here in Qufu, one of my students' parents invited us to join them for traditional tea and supper at their home.  I suggested our last free evening, a Tuesday, and unbeknownst to me both the mother (a professor) and the daughter (my student) cancelled their evening classes to host us.  This was just a foretaste of the outrageous lengths they went to to welcome my family. 

First, the tea.  We tried two different kinds, and my student served us using the white China tea set on the bottom left.  Look how tiny the tea-cups are -- just enough for a swallow!  Also, note the zillions of snacks, ranging from nuts caked with white sugar (because Americans like sweets) to some rather stringy dried chicken and fish.

Pre-game show: My mom and I down some snacks and tea.
Then there was the meal itself, which, as you can see, was none too small.  This picture was taken toward the end of the meal, although the only way I know this is by seeing the soup on the table, which they served last.  Otherwise, there was so much food it looks like we ate nothing.

Dad busts out his chopstick skillz on a rib, Mom picks at a salty duck egg, and I gnaw on a raw green onion.
I really like homestyle Chinese food, and our hostess was a great cook.  My favorite dish was the ribs.  We also had some roasted cicadas to keep things interesting:

Instructions for eating: Just eat it.  This one took me two bites.

Num num num.  (Crunch crunch crunch.)
Midway through the meal, the father came in with his colleague, and they plopped down for a flurry of toasts and the sharing of a raw salted crab.  They didn't stay long, but long enough to drink a little (a lot?) and encourage my dad to do the same.  We got lucky that my student stepped in and insisted we didn't really come to drink.  No one in my family really smokes either, but that didn't discourage my student's dad from offering my dad two cartons of cigarettes to take home to his smoking friends, which I'm pretty sure he doesn't have.

All in all, we got our fill of food and hospitality, and a fun memory of our Qufu time together.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Changes in Tomb-Sweeping Day

Last week we had a holiday: Tomb-Sweeping Day (aka Qing Ming Festival or the Day of Clear Brightness), which I briefly mentioned here.  This is a type of memorial day in which people show respect to their ancestors by visiting and cleaning their tombs, and also by burning paper houses, cars, clothes, and especially paper money for their spirits to use in the underworld.  Apparently, in a rare (for China) flash of environmental fervor, many people are trying to curb the burning in order to clean the air.  One of my students reports:
Tomb-Sweeping Day comes this week.  My family went to pay respects to my grand-pa at his tomb yesterday.  We took some papers made to resemble money and burned as an offering to the dead as usual.  But when we got to the city of the dead, we found a group of volunteers of my age.  They stood in front of the gate and came forward when people entered.  Their aim is to exchange our papers with their flowers.  Because the burning of the papers can cause lots of pollution to the air.  CCTV 1 gave a report that the total amount of burning papers can achieve tons every year in this holiday years ago.  So the volunteers want to make contributions to reducing the amount of air pollution for the environment.  They exchanged the papers with the flowers – chrysanthemums.  My family supported this idea and were willing to help the environment, too.  We use the chrysanthemum instead of the paper.  More and more people in China realized this point and make their own contributions to protecting the environment.  I think what we can do for the environment is infinite.  We can think about every aspect n our life and we may find many ways to protect our environment like the flowers in this Tomb-Sweeping Day.  This is a big change in Tomb-Sweeping Day, I think.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Parents, As Described by an Admiring Student

From a student journal last week:
My classmates and I met Alison’s parents, Bob and Joan in our college.  We are very happy.  Bob is very kind and humorous.  I am sure he is definitely a good father.  And Joan is so beautiful and elegant that we girls can’t help envying her.  Bob and Joan tell us their family in the USA.  How big it is!  There are so many relatives that they can’t remember all their names.  So they will put a namecard on their garments.*  A wise idea!  Bob and Joan love each other very much.  They have been married for more than 30 years.  They are romantic, too.  In China, there are just a few couples who got married years ago still celebrating their wedding anniversaries.  But, Joan and Bob do that.  How romantic it is!  Personally speaking, celebrating wedding anniversary is a good way to maintain harmonious relationship between husband and wife.  I wished I could be happy and beautiful like Joan in the future.
 *My mom showed them a picture of a recent family reunion with over 100 people from her side.  This received probably the most comments in student journals.  Other top mentions were my parents' youthful appearance, how much they love each other, the fact that my mom had the same major as me and my sister, and the fact that my parents are traveling the world and enjoying themselves instead of saving their money.  Haha.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Student Reactions to the Earthquake in Japan

This week, my writing students' journal assignment was to describe their reaction to a current event.  Many of them chose the Japanese earthquake, and I was heartened to see that about 90% of the students seemed really sad about the situation and expressed their sympathy for the victims.  (There is a long history of bad feeling toward Japan here, particularly because of how the Japanese treated China when they invaded in 1940.)  Today I'm posting three entries that mostly capture the range of student reaction.

Two student journals repeated a rumor that the earthquake was actually caused by Japanese nuclear testing.  Here's one of them:
            I’m sorry to hear that a heavey earthquake took place in Japan a few days ago.  Thousands of Japanese couldn’t be provided with shelters of food.  By contrast, the earthquake happened in 12 May Wenchuan China more heavily.  The nuclear station bombed after the earthquake.
            I had great sympathy for Japanese people because nuclear leaking will lead to several generations have genetic variation.  Rumor has it that it is not an common earthquake.  It’s experiement of nuclear by Japan government.  Great power of nuclear bombing result in the earthquake under the sea and tsunami.  I totally believe that.  No matter now much they’re suffering, what they suffered is the result of what they had done.  Though it’s not a fact, Japan government developed nuclear industry regardless of the safety of Japanese people and even the world is despised.  It’s not the high time criticized Japanese government.  After all, their country are still in danger.  Fifty hears ago, Hiroshima had given them an example of the danger of nuclear.  They still don’t know to take class from it.  As to them, I despised.
Other students described their gradual change of heart when they heard the news about the earthquake:
Actually, when I heard that news about that demolished earthquake in Japan, I felt happy in my deep heart.  Because in China, patriotic is always treated as hating Japan, I think.  At least, if someone give a Japanese a lesson, he would be treated as a hero.  He is a patriotic man.  Most patriotic movie is war between China and Japan.
            However, I changed my opinion then.  Though we have different opinion on some history problems, we are all human kind.  Lifes of your enemies should also be valued I think.  Much less, our enemies are not those people who are in need.  They are those people who invade China…
            I don’t know how to help them.  What I know is that our government has done what we can do.
Finally, most students were genuinely sympathetic.  I like how this next one also includes speculation that the world will end in 2012, which was another common theme.  Note to Hollywood: Please do not make any more apocalyptic films.  My students are too tempted to believe them.
The earthquake and tsunami which happened in Japan in March really shocked the world, I think.  The magnitude of the earthquake was so big that it almost devastated the east part of Japan.  Many refugees are homeless.  In my usual days, I dislike Japanese, but I’ve been thinking for a while.  What I dislike is Japanese politicians not Japanese civilians.  The earthquake and tsunami have deprived many Japanese civilians of their lives, which was very horrible.  Some Japanese civilians suffer from nuclear radiation and I’m sorry for that.  People in HongKong donated a lot of money to Japan, which moves me.  Japanese people will reconstruct their homeland with the help of kind people from all over the world.  I believe in them.  At the same time, I hope Chinese people and Japanese people can eradicate the feud between two countries with the combined effort.  Wonder whether disaster predicted in 2012 will come.  When humans come face to face with the disaster in 2012, what can humans do?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Terror, the Foreign Teacher

Here are a few gems from my writing students' journals today:

  • Listing off her current and former foreign teachers: "Lucy, Terror, Mallary, Alison."  (She means Tarah.)
  • On why she didn't buy salt during the salt run:  "I didn't like salt, because salt tastes so salty."
  • On climbing a mountain:  "We were bathed with sweaters."

Monday, April 4, 2011


Hi all.   A few things in today's post:

1)  Chinese Internet.  If ever I've wanted to pull my hair out about Chinese Internet, it's now.  Every site I visit regularly and every service I use is running slower than ever.  Even checking my e-mail is impossible sometimes.  Over the year and a half I've lived here, the government has steadily tightened the noose on Internet services, and I really hope it doesn't keep getting worse.  (Do you hear me, China?  Please stop this madness!)  This is why you're not getting any pictures on the blog today.

2)  Qing Ming Festival.  Tomorrow is Tomb-Sweeping Holiday, in which people clean up their ancestors' tombs and burn paper money, paper furniture, and other paper amenities for the spirits to use in the afterlife.  We have a couple days off from classes.

3)  My New Boyfriend?  Yesterday my Chinese friend Jessie asked me randomly what I would do if I got $10 million.  I told her I would invest some of it to be used for future housing, retirement, or children's education.  With the rest of the money, I would set up a charitable foundation with a board of directors to decide how the money should be spent.  As soon as I mentioned "charity," her face lit up and she told me her real reason for asking.  She had been watching a Chinese dating show called If You are the One.  The contestant on the show was an American-born Chinese trying to decide between two young women.  He asked them both the money question, and neither girl answered with "charity," which was the answer he was looking for, so neither one got picked. This means the man is still available, and Jessie wonders if I would like her to call the show to see if she can get me an introduction to this man.  Ha.

These have been your random thoughts for today.  See the previous post for pictures from my parents' visit, and stay tuned for more.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Qufu Visit: A Guest Post by my Parents

My parents came to visit me in China!  They stayed with me for about a week, during which time my dad flew an old guy's kite and my mom ate cicadas and pig feet.  Now they have joined a tour group to travel around the country.  In the following guest post, my mom and dad collaborated to choose pictures and captions for some of their Qufu experiences.

We enjoyed 6 fantastic days in Qufu this week, getting a glimpse into Alison's life in China.  We loved meeting her team and students, experiencing Chinese hospitality at its best, and tasting many delicious foods that we never thought were edible.  A great experience, and we recommend it to anyone.

A warm welcome to Qufu

Enjoying Chinese hospitality

Pleasant bike rides in the country and villages

Observing life in the country

Being treated to a delicious meal by Alison's students

Catching a ride in one of many contraptions on 2, 3 or 4 wheels

Meeting interesting people and getting invited into their home