Fixing what's screwed up

You gotta admire people who see a problem and then actually do something about it. I’m not talking about just words, I’m talking actions. I try to adhere to this philosophy in my own life (hey, the Sinosplice Network!), and I applaud it when I see it.

One of the things foreigners quickly recognize as very wrong in China is the horrible dance music played in clubs. It’s really bad. You really need a good dose of alcohol to withstand it for any decent length of time.

When Wilson was here, he tried to bring some better music to Chinese clubbers by DJing at two different clubs in Hangzhou. Now some friends of mine are taking a slightly different approach. They’re renting out a club, hiring their own DJs, playing good music, and charging a small admission. They’re even keeping beer prices low somehow. This could be the start of something big. Definitely check it out if you’re in Hangzhou Saturday, November 29th. It’s all going down at “Sacred Chrees Pub” on Ding An Road by West Lake Boulevard.

(Note: DJ “Nasdaq Composite” has his own site!)

Clear Skies

I think Hangzhou is a great city as Chinese cities go, but one of the things I really don’t like very much about it is the weather. Particularly the winter weather, not because it’s cold but because it’s basically just rain, rain, rain. Hence my last post, which was basically an elaborate “I hate puddles” whine.

That’s why I am really happy about our weather of late. It’s winter already, but the weather’s great, and doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Loving it. (Too bad it’s causing a drought.)

Click for Hangzhou Weather (weather.com)

Uncooperative Water

Water flows downhill. This is a simple fact that has been pretty well mastered by the average 8-year-old. Yet somehow it seems to elude Chinese civil engineers. I speak, of course, of the deplorable condition of drainage engineering in Hangzhou. That “the things we take for granted back home just don’t apply here” is a tired, worn-out cliche, but we’re talking about the most basic principles of physics here. Water flows downhill. Place drains in low points, and the water will “magically” drain into them. Is that hard? I don’t know, maybe it actually is. But looking at the drains around my campus, they seem to be almost randomly placed. You know something is wrong when huge puddles and big thirsty drains live side by side in perfect harmony.

Here are some good examples of uselessly placed drains:

Pictures of water on the ZUCC campus not flowing anywhere:

Granted, none of the puddles are really deep. The pavement is reasonably flat. But it doesn’t really drain. If there is an absolute deluge, then the water will find the drains. That seems to be the guiding principle, though, instead of good old “water flows downhill.”

The greatest part is how the stubborn puddles are taken care of. Grounds maintenance staff sweep them into the drains. Yes, they sweep the water. With a broom. (Sorry, I didn’t manage to get a picture of that.)

Come on, China, you’ve got a space program now, for crying out loud. Let’s see a little better display of your mastery of gravity.

Mutant Mandarin: A Guide to New Chinese Slang

Mutant Mandarin

by Zhou Yimin & James J. Wang (China Books & Periodicals, Inc., 1995)

Review by: John Pasden

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Outrageous Chinese: A Guide to Chinese Street Language

Outrageous Chinese

by James J. Wang (China Books and Periodicals, Inc., 1994)

Review by: John Pasden

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Making Out in Chinese

Making Out in Chinese

by Ray Daniels (Yenbooks, 1993)

Review by: John Pasden

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Muzimei Correction

I made an erroneous assumption regarding “Muzimei” in my recent post about having a cold. Rainbow called me on it. I checked up on it (sort of). Today in my class of 27 college kids (aged 19-20), only 3 had ever even heard of Muzimei. Three! So my “all Chinese people know about her” comment was way off. If the majority of these web-surfing college kids don’t know who she is, then my exaggeration was out of line. Oops, my bad.

Maybe that 27 person sample was somehow ridiculously unrepresentative of Chinese youth, but I really don’t care that much to look into it. Up until today, every Chinese person I mentioned Muzimei to knew who she was (including my Chinese class teacher).

Regardless, China bloggers are going to town over Muzimei. Danwei is grabbing all the stories in Chinese media, the Gweilo is rejecting her, and Brainysmurf is covering it all.

Integrated Chinese (Level 1)

Integrated Chinese (Level 1)

by Tao-chung Yao and Yuehua Liu (Cheng & Tsui Company, 1997)

Review by: John Pasden

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Integrated Chinese (Level 2)

Integrated Chinese (Level 2)

by Yuehua Liu and Tao-chung Yao (Cheng & Tsui Company, 1997)

Review by: John Pasden

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Wang's Observations

I have a Chinese teacher whose last name is Wang. All her students call her “Wang Laoshi” (laoshi means “teacher”), according to Chinese custom. She teaches my HSK prep class. Since the class only meets once a week for two hours, I see less of her than most of my other teachers, but I feel like I know her much better than the others. For one thing, I’ve known her longer. She tutored me for about half a year during my first year in China. For another, she seems much more straightforward about her feelings than a lot of Chinese people I meet.

Last week she shared with the HSK class a problem she’s been having with another class. She says her current intermediate level Chinese class is simply not willing to talk. At all. When she asks the class if someone can make a sentence using the new word, the whole class just stares down at their books, not daring to make eye contact. She waits patiently and encourages them, to no avail. If she asks a single person, she gets the same response. Trying to get just one sentence out of them is like pulling teeth. Even when she simply asks the class if they understand, she can’t get an answer. The only time the students show definite signs of life is when she writes on the chalkboard. They all magically spring into action, jotting everything down neatly in their notebooks. They seem to prefer it when she simply talks and writes, but that’s really boring for her, and not the most effective teaching method, either.
Wang Laoshi said that in the past she lost her temper and berated the students for their overly passive attitudes, which seemed to help the situation for a while. This semester, however, almost all her students are girls, and she doesn’t want to upset them.

So what’s with this class? Well, for one thing, they’re almost all Korean. Wang Laoshi asked the Korean students in the HSK prep class why they thought her intermediate level students were so incorrigibly passive. The Korean students reponded that it was because of their culture — the traditional Confucian style of education.

Wang Laoshi didn’t buy that. She said that Chinese students weren’t like that. That really made me smile, because I don’t think Wang Laoshi knows how passive Chinese students can be in an English class taught by a foreigner. Still, though, the way she described her students made them more inactive than any Chinese students I’ve ever taught.

Wang Laoshi’s observations on international students of Chinese were thus:

  1. Students from Western countries are much more active in the classroom. Wang Laoshi prefers there to be at least a few students from Europe or the Americas to liven up the atmosphere.
  2. Students from Western countries want to spend classtime mastering a few grammar patterns so that they can feel confident about their usage.
  3. Asian students want to cover as many grammar patterns as possible in class, and review them on their own.

Another thing I think Wang Laoshi doesn’t realize is that a lot of Chinese teachers don’t encourage class participation so much. I think some of the other Chinese teachers wouldn’t be so bothered by the lifelessness of her students. It just disappoints me that an excellent teacher like Wang Laoshi is wasted on such undeserving grammar sponges.

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