When KeKe invited me to Shiyan in January of 2009, he did so in order that I might become reacquainted with his father, meet other relatives including his new step-mother, and visit the grave of his mother. Although I knew nothing about the city, it was not unknown to me. When I began writing photographic stories about Hong Hu City in 2004, I was contacted by an American lady who had an adopted daughter from Hong Hu. Linda Mitchell belonged to a group of people all of whom had adopted baby girls from Hong Hu , and she was also somehow tied up with an organization called 'Love Without Boundaries' which provided various medical and other services for children in China. From memory, she had visited Hong Hu in 2007 and paid a visit to Shiyan in relation to some program related to an orphanage there. You may recall mention of my journey to PuQi/Chibi City in 2004 and meeting with the Catholic Priests there. That trip was made in order to find some information for Linda and her group. As for how I came to be in contact with the Catholic Priests in the first place, that's a story in itself.
In May of 2003 I traveled with my brother and his fiancée to visit the village of Chibi across the river from Hong Hu. I found it such an interesting place that in November of 2003 I took my three boarders, Zhan Yan, Mingxing and Qinchao to visit the Museum there. During that visit the boys got to talking with some people who said something that caused them to laugh. When these people commended the boys for taking the foreigner to visit a 'cultural heritage' site, and the boys laughed and pointed out that it was the foreigner who was showing them around.
After we left the museum, we went in search of an old temple and along the way the boys spotted a building with a cross on it and announced that we had arrived at the temple. Obviously a church, and the first one I had yet to come across, I went in to look around and there met some of the Catholic congregation of the village. They were extremely friendly and insisted on having a photograph with me. Via the translating services of my boarders, I learned that the community in the village was small and that a priest - Father Timothy - would regularly come all the way from the City of Puqi to say mass and they invited me to return in December for their Christmas Celebrations.
On December 25th I set out to do just that, but lost two hours travel time waiting for the barge at the barge crossing. Although I missed mass I was lucky to run into a parishioner who recognized me and he escorted me to someone's home where I met Father Timothy and was given some hot food. I seem to recall that they had to send for a local teacher to come an act as translator for me.
Having established such a good rapport with these kind people, and having had an invitation extended to me to visit the main church in PuQi, on August 11, 2004, I made the trip to PuQi/Chibi City to try and find some information for Linda. I was accompanied on that trip by Tobias Xie and Chen Yang. A week later, Chen Yang and I traveled to Yichang City in Hubei to do a 'Chinese boat tour' up the Three Gorges Dam and in December of 2004 I returned to Yichang to give Judy a chance to look around. In January of 2005 at the end of the semester, I returned to Australia on holidays and when I returned, I commenced work in Wuhan.
My first semester in Wuhan (February to June) was an extremely busy and tiring time. Five days a week I spent all morning in Chinese class and all afternoon teaching English out at Dong Hu Campus on East Lake. I left home every day at about 7am and got home at about 6pm. At lunch time I headed out to the back gate of Wuhan University and caught a public bus to the DongHu campus where the school had kindly provided me with an extremely cold room with a single bed and a desk so that I could rest, do Chinese homework or work on my teaching materials. The room was right beside the restrooms and as far as I could tell, I was the only occupant on that floor. This is important because one day I needed to use the restroom in a most urgent way; a way in which I had only once used a public toilet in China.
Men are naturally luckier than women, for they can most times do their business standing up, but there are those occasions upon which a man must just sit down, but in a Chinese W.C. you have to squat and this can be quite a disconcerting matter for a foreigner. The day I discovered that I needed to squat I was totally grateful that there were not likely to be any other people in that restroom. After entering the cubicle, which thank god had a door on it (they don't always), I took my suit coat off, hung it on the door and emptied everything from my trousers into it. With that accomplished, I unhooked and unzipped said trousers and promptly but uncomfortably 'squatted'. Now pay attention guys - if you are going to urinate 'after' you squat, then you absolutely must hitch the crotch of your trousers above your 'you know what'. As I left that restroom that day I was so grateful that I was the only occupant of any room on that floor. There really is nothing worse than peeing straight into your pants. Trust me!
Being a Teacher in China
I once met a foreigner who had been in China quite some time but had failed to note a very important thing about the many 'concerts' that you see on Chinese television. Often times the audience are segregated into color groups. One group over there wears red shirts, and the other over the other side is wearing blue shirts and the ones in the middle are wearing yellow shirts.
She also did not realize that all those signs and placards being held up by the audience are professionally printed. Audience participation is highly orchestrated, and everything is designed to make viewers 'feel good'. I point this out only because foreigners come to China with certain perspectives which in all probability have been gained from material they have seen or read. In short, to some degree or another, we have some stereotypical ideas about life in China. Whenever I have seen a program involving Chinese education, the scenes portrayed are of 'students in uniform' sitting in brand new beautiful school rooms, paying total attention to the teachers. I can't say that such schools don't exist, but my experiences have been quite different.
When I started work in Dong Hu, students had their own stereotypical perspectives not only on foreign teachers but on what an 'oral English' class actually was. When I demonstrated that I was there to improve their English, many were disconcerted. Oral English class is after all, a time for the students to relax and play, sing and dance, watch movies and generally do nothing in particular at all. My style of teaching was something of a surprise.
As a teacher I am always considered strict, sometimes scary, but one who doesn't mind a bit of fun in the classroom, but 'planning fun classes' is not my forte. While I don't plan fun lessons, I have no objection to the students enjoying themselves in class, as long as that enjoyment is part and parcel of their studies. Because I do not consider my role to be that of a kindergarten teacher or as a substitute for anyone's grandmother or grandfather, it usually comes as a shock to students to realize that in my class I actually expect them to work.
Generally speaking, at the very beginning of a semester, students are quite afraid of me, and I admit it is something that I use to my advantage. Sometimes their fear is quite funny. It is hilarious to watch very tall well built boys literally shaking in their boots when I stand beside them and ask them to read. In one class a boy was so nervous that he was hardly breathing and was completely tense. I grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him to face me (at which point he almost died) and bringing my face in close to his, I shouted "BREATH". By the time the class stopped laughing, the boy was feeling far more relaxed. One teacher in Wuhan told me that I was scaring the students. She suggested that I should talk more quietly and move more slowly. She told me that every time I moved suddenly, the students were frightened. Wasn't news to me of course. Those who paid attention were never surprised by the shift in volume of my voice or the suddenness of my movements; just those who preferred to sleep.
I have at times been asked by other foreign teachers how I manage to get students involved in discussions in class. I owe my ability to the wonderful students in Hong Hu who forced me to learn to teach. Once I understood what they really wanted and needed out of Oral English class, I then had to work out the methodology. The secret of my success however is that I simply 'manipulate' the students using their cultural attitude toward passing exams. This I have already explained. When I start teaching a new class, I tell them up front that there will be no 'final' exam, and that their final results are calculated using the four highest marks they have scored during the semester. Then I tell them that every time I call their name and ask them to speak, whether on their own or in a group, that they will receive a mark, and that they can expect 15 to 20 such marks during the semester. The marks students get in my class are deserved. They have opportunity after opportunity to talk and if they don't avail themselves of the opportunity, then I certainly can't be blamed for that.
I tell the students that they should try their best to make interesting discussions even if that means lying or deliberately trying to upset the other students. The rule is: 'They may say anything they like about anything at all - even if they don't believe what they are saying - just in order to get a good mark'. In other words, students are told up front that we should never believe that any opinion expressed by another student is actually genuine. It's just an act in order to get good marks. This is important because sometimes students get too honest about certain topics and can be seen to be unpatriotic.
The rule for me is: My marking is not based on pronunciation or grammar but rather on the actual participation of the student. I have certain criteria for marking students with which the students are familiar, and which sometimes really poor speakers but brilliant in sneaky ways can actually manipulate to their advantage. My opinion is, if they can work the system to their advantage, then at least I don't have to fail them. Possibly the biggest single reason that so many students are unable to talk in English is that their teachers have always taught English in Chinese.
In my Chinese lessons at WuDa, it was not possible for our teachers to teach us in English because none of them could speak it, and even if they had the ability, not all students in the class spoke the language. I remember one occasion in which we students had difficulty understanding the meaning of a word in our text. The new word list for that chapter provided a translation that did not fit the rest of the sentence, and it caused some confusion. I had to explain to the teacher that we were confused and needed time to work out the correct meaning. When I finally figured out what it must have meant, I got permission to call Eunice who confirmed my guess. Then the fun began. I told the meaning to the French Girl who then told the Brazilian girl. I then told a South Korean boy in English and he told the others in Korean but one of those then needed to explain it to the Vietnamese boys.
The students from Bangladesh understood my English so there was no problem there, but that left the Japanese boy. Poor bugger! He was the only person in the class who spoke Japanese and he didn't have a second language.
The reason foreign students can learn Chinese so fast is not because they live in a Chinese speaking environment, but because like Children, they have to absorb the language through their various senses. The teachers don't tell you in your language what they are going to say, they just say it, and you have to figure it out. I don't know how many times our teachers would say 'This word is a ____ and this word is a _____'. We would all nod in agreement but be otherwise totally lost. It took me a long time to understand that she was differentiating between nouns and verbs.
As I've already indicated, I learned Chinese in local dialect and dialectic pronunciation (of standard Mandarin). Whilst this often meant that I understood the teacher and could easily answer, it also meant that I was constantly being corrected. Conversations went something like this: 'Not that pronunciation but this pronunciation'. I would answer 'Yes'. This was followed by: 'Not that pronunciation of YES but this pronunciation'. I would say 'I know!' which was followed by 'Not that pronunciation of I KNOW but this pronunciation'. And I would say 'Right!' Then the teacher would say 'Not that pronunciation of RIGHT but this pronunciation'. It used to drive me crazy!
One of the Bangladeshi boys (beside whom I always sat) constantly mispronounced the Chinese word for 'teacher'. When one day I finally used his mispronunciation, I figured it was time to change seats. I moved over to sit with 'Ba Hao' (a Vietnamese boy using a Chinese transliteration of his name). I always called him 'Bu hao' meaning 'Bad / not good'. Despite sometimes being right royally cheesed off with me for calling him that, he was a wonderful kid studying in the college with a group of other wonderful Vietnamese boys. In the mornings before class they would often stop to talk to me at the canteen which lay between the dormitories and the classroom. I have fond memories of them and often wished I had had the time to really get to know them. They often invited me to join their group for activities, but as I have said, after class I had to morph from student into teacher and head off to another college. At the end of that semester studying Chinese, Ba Hao invited me to travel home to Vietnam with him for the summer, and I certainly wished I had, but unfortunately my plans for the summer were already under way.
In the summer of 2005 I ended up working in WuDa, teaching at a summer camp for a private language school. It wasn't what I set out to do but rather what I ended up doing. I really don't want to explain all the details, but I will say that my summer plans fell victim to the general lack of organizational skills that one often encounters in China. In 2004 when Hong Yi Zhong told me that I had to teach a summer camp there I knew that I would probably end up chasing my tail waiting for clear details and instructions, and so I decided to go away. I informed the organizers that I would only come back to the school once I had received exact notice about all the details. On July 3rd my boarder Qinchao and I flew to Tianjin. I had been invited by his mother to stay with him at his uncle's house, but it transpired that a foreigner was not welcome in the house and I ended up staying in a hotel. When I got the call to go back to Hong Hu I did so, only to discover that the foreign teachers had been there a week already, because the camp starting date had been changed after they made their flight bookings. Trying to organize my Summer Camp in 2005 was far more troubling.
As I have already explained, I was not able to continue studying Chinese after the holidays and my life became less hectic which at least allowed me to catch up with friends. Judy returned to the States in Summer and apart from becoming acquainted with some of the teaching staff and students at my college, I didn't make any new friends apart from one young 13 year old boy who made a point of getting to know me and who used to like coming to my apartment to visit with me, talk, watch TV and play my computer.
In August of 2005 I took Mingxing to visit Moshan Park out by East Lake and on that occasion I met the park's tourism officer and she invited me to return (free of charge) on a 'better day' to take better photos so that I could help her promote the park. When I did return 'free of charge' she also invited me to visit the 'Moshan Mei Yuan' which at a later date I did. My first trip to Moshan Park had been with Tobias and Eunice in 2004. Since they were living in Wuhan in 2005, I occasionally met up with them and on one occasion they took me to visit an Israeli foreign teacher and we had dinner in her apartment. Her husband was visiting from Israel and it was quite nice to spend time with them.
By the time I started teaching in Wuhan, Qinchao was in his first semester of study in a University some little distance from my place but we still managed to see each other once or twice and I also occasionally caught up with a young man I had met in 2004 by the name of Qin Yan.
The only other thing of significance I did that semester was travel to the Philippines for a wedding in October. Because of some trouble I had with my travel agent, I was unable to return to Australia at Spring Festival at the beginning of 2006, and so stayed in China.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
2013 Social Commentary Articles
The Dysfunction in the Religion of Peace
Sept 28, 2013
Muslim belief is that ultimately everything is Allah's will. Whether they approve or disapprove of the Kenyan massacres is irrelevant. It is Allah's will! Whether ordinary Muslims approve or disapprove of those terrorists is irrelevant. It is Allah's will! Whatever a Muslim may say with his lips, his true meaning is hidden in the back of his mind. It is Allah's will! Every Muslim, like every other true believer in every other religion, dreams of seeing the world converted to their god. For the Muslim therefore, every action that leads to the defeat or conversion of the infidel must be Allah's will.
Giving the Finger to Comrade GOOGLE's brand of Communism
By Comrade R.P. BenDedek
August 26, 2013
I have come to the decision that the only thing I can do is take a page out of Comrade Google's 'Little Red Book' and say: 'Screw You!' Comrade Google didn't like the way the Communist Government of China kept changing the rules. Comrade Google would not submit to a 'totalitarian authority'. Comrade Google decided to pull up stakes and leave. Is there a lesson to be learned in that?
Political Islam is full of hypocrisy and lies
by R.P. BenDedek
August 11, 2013
Politicians care only for themselves and nothing for the truth unless it suits their purposes. What they do call truth is usually nothing but lies! The general population - never seem to notice when radicals of all nationalities, religions and persuasions turn to 'ad hominems' rather than to logical debate when someone disagrees with them. The honest man will argue his point honestly. The perverted man ignores the argument and attacks the man (ad hominem) as though truth is not found in discovering and weighing the evidence and facts but in the character and 'Politically Correct Nature' of the person speaking them.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls