Guns in Class

click here for picturesAttention Xixi students! Your pictures are online now. Go look at them. They will not be online forever, so get what pictures you want now.

Attention everyone else! These are some pictures of the students I taught for three weeks at Zhejiang University Xixi Campus. The schedule was ideal for summer work: 1:30pm to 4pm daily, Mon. – Sat. Most students were between 18 and 20, many having just graduated from high school. They were a good bunch, and mostly very eager to study English in my un-air-conditioned class, despite the record-breaking Hangzhou temperatures.

I have become somewhat notorious for one of my teaching techniques at ZUCC. I demand that my students speak only English in my class, but when students don’t take the rule seriously, you’ve got to enforce it somehow. This is important because a lot of my class activities are small group activities, and I can’t listen to everyone speak at once. My first year at ZUCC I came up with an idea. I bring a squirt gun to class. When I hear someone speak Chinese, they get squirted immediately. Where I get them depends on my mood and their attitude; sometimes I get their arms or their backs, but I’ve squirted people in the face too. The students love this. Class suddenly becomes exciting.
There are a few drawbacks to this method. One, although it’s great for summer, it doesn’t work well in the winter. Two, not speaking English in class can turn into sort of a game, where the students daringly speak in Chinese in low voices whenever I’m at a distance, and I try to catch them at it.

I’m pretty good at catching them, though. Even when I can’t make out what people are saying, I can usually tell by the speed of their speech and their body language (i.e. students will be much more animated when speaking Chinese) that people are not speaking English. Every now and then someone doesn’t speak very clear English, and I mistakenly think they’re speaking Chinese. The students feel incredibly wronged when I squirt them by mistake. I shrug it off with a “speak more clearly and it wouldn’t happen.” I reign supreme in my classroom, and make no apologies for things like that.

For this past class, my squirt gun policy had an interesting effect. This class had a vengeful quality to an extent that none of my other clases ever have before. The first day I started squirting them, two students conspiratorially constructed a makeshift squirt weapon out of a water bottle with a hole poked in the top. Other students tried to steal my gun. Both plots failed, and all guilty parties got soaked just for trying.

The next day I got squirted from behind while at the blackboard and couldn’t find the guilty party. It was later revealed that several students had brought squirt guns to class. Things were starting to get out of hand. I set out a rule that if they wanted to take me on, they should do it after class. They agreed to that, but with such evil gleams in their eyes that I wondered if I had done myself in.

That day immediately after class, Jessica came at me determinedly with her water bottle, leaving a large wet spot on my shirt. Hoping to set an example in front of the whole class, I dumped my water bottle all over her, just soaking her. She got me kinda wet, but I got her much worse. I had more water, and made two things clear to her: (1) I could soak her even more right then, but I wouldn’t because I knew when to quit. (2) If she tried something like that again, I would get her back worse.
So the rest of the semester was conducted in sort of an uneasy state of watching my back, especially after class. Meanwhile, the effect of my squirting policy was spreading. Wayne had adopted my method on the third floor. Lots of students started bringing small super soaker-type water guns to class. The class next door was having regular water wars before and after class. One day I walked into the classroom to discover an abandoned battlefield. Every desktop and seat was covered in water. What had I started?

It wasn’t easy, but I was able to get them to cut out the water in the classroom. They never did exact their revenge, even on the last day. Somehow the target of their aggression was transferred from me to themselves. At one point I felt like the whole water thing was undermining my authority in the classroom rather than strengthening it, but in the end it turned into more of a catalyst for class bonding.

Now that summer session is over. I managed to soak a bunch of my students and still largely escape their wrath. I still support the idea of the teacher bringing a gun to class… but that teacher best be careful.

China Risk

It was a wild Friday night out here at ZUCC, as Wayne, Derrick, Lenny, and I stayed home for a homemade game of RiskChina Risk! The game is won when one player’s armies occupy all of China (including Taiwain). The tricky part is that forces can be positioned outside of China as well (Russia, Japan, India, etc.).

Yes, it was extremely nerdy, but pretty fun. Last night was the dry run of the new game. It definitely needs some tweaking, but we will play again. Read Derrick’s coverage of the game. Derrick’s photos:

China Risk

Fighting Over China

全球变暖

image (c) 2003, Sinosplice.去年我的朋友在杭州过了暑假。那个时候我在佛罗里达。他说杭州的夏天真的太热了,他再也不在杭州过暑假。今年我在杭州过暑假。真的很热,但没有到受不了的程度。(但我倒是经常开着空调躲在房间里。)杭州人都说今年比去年热,也想不起更热的一个夏天。

为什么今年最热呢?恐怕就是因为全球变暖。

我问了我的学生:你们对全球变暖这个问题有什么看法?他们没有什么看法(至少不肯用英语跟大家分享)。而且好象都不太看重这个问题。

现在美国用电用得最多。关于这个全球变暖的问题我想如果要怪一个国家只能怪美国。但是好象中国人都希望能够生活得跟美国富人一样舒服。这是理所当然的,可是如果只有13亿个人的一半像美国人一样用电,我们都完蛋了。

如果一年比一年热,我们有什么办法?只能开着空调呆在家里。但是我们越用空调,世界越变暖。

唉,我真的不想考虑这个问题了。最可怕的就是没人在乎。

但是到时候怎么办呢?怎么办?

无声电梯

最近在电梯里我看到了这样一个小牌子:

为了你我他,请勿讲话。

他们有没有搞错??难道在电梯里说话是不好的吗?我不能确定,但好象这个牌子是非典之前贴的。我想不通为什么会有这样的牌子。

Weird Racism

Recently I visited a photographer to discuss the possibility of doing some work for him. He’s a nice guy, a Hangzhou local, probably pushing 60. It didn’t take long to conclude our business, and it became clear soon thereafter that he just wanted to chat. I was happy to oblige him.

He talked for quite a while about his wife, who happened to work at the high school adjacent to ZUCC. He went on and on about how my school had taken some of the land that had originally been alotted to the high school. I wasn’t particularly interested — other than some vague curiosity about how the Chinese government zones land and allots it to private schools — but I listened.

Things suddenly got interesting again when he started talking about foreigners. The guy was funny. He had one word to sum up entire nations of people. Here are some of the ones I remember:

Americans – undisciplined (散漫)

Australians – lazy (懒)

Germans – inflexible (死板)

Japanese – cunning (狡猾)

I think he also said something about Italy being full of nothing but thieves, and New Zealand being the greatest country on earth because it not only had gorgeous scenery, but also very few people.

I didn’t take offense at any of this. I was really interested in hearing his opinions because his point of view is a rare one. Here was a man of my parents’ generation who spoke only Chinese but has nevertheless been to many foreign countries and has actually had significant contact with foreigners, both at home and abroad. Naturally, he took with him his Chinese biases wherever he went. In many ways, this guy was just like a Chinese version of so many Americans.

I like how he so matter-of-factly told me that Americans are all sloppy and undisciplined. I got a kick out of it. (I’m pretty punctual, but I guess it turned out to be very cooperative of me to arrive 5 minutes late that particular day.)

What most surprised me was what he had to say about black people. I’m pretty used to comments like, “I’ve got nothing against them, but they’re just so ugly.” It seems a lot of Chinese people discriminate against blacks solely on “aesthetic” grounds. But whatever. I’m not trying to get into that. What this guy had to say was different.

“Black people are good people. I’ve met a lot of them, and they’re really good people. The bad people are the mixed ones, who are only part black. They’re really bad.”

I asked for clarification on that: “I thought Chinese people believe mixed babies are beautiful and smart.”

His response? “Sure, mixed Asian and white babies are. But if you mix either Asians or whites with blacks, you get bad people.”

Bizarre. What can you say to that? Just smile and nod….

“热闹”

最近一个中国朋友问我:“热闹”英文怎么说?”

这可是个很简单的问题,但答案并没有那么简单。

本来我想是“noisy”但不能这样翻译因为“noisy”是贬义词,而“热闹”是褒义词。

我的美籍同事徐惟说应该是“lively”但我认为这样也不行因为“lively”这个词不一定包括“有声音”的意思。而且“lively”平时翻成“活泼”。“热闹”和“活泼”的确是两个概念。

我和徐惟都用《牛津精选英汉•汉英文词典》。按照它:

热闹:lively; bustling with noise and excitement lively:充满生气的;精力充沛的 活泼:lively; vivacious; vivid

好象最好的翻译就是“bustling with noise and excitement”,英文里面没有一个词可以用来表达“热闹”的意义。有时候很简单的单词真的没有好的翻译,词典也并不是很有用的。

Canadian Cantonese Cuisine

Derrick is still here in Hangzhou visiting/teaching. I missed out the first time Derrick cooked (and he even did it in my own home!), but I got to be here for his encore performance. I gotta say, it was good eatin’!

click for more pics of the food
The vultures pictured above are: Wayne, Amber, me. The dishes were: ma po tofu, qingcai with mushrooms, cola chicken wings, and chicken with snow peas and red peppers. The chicken and snow peas dish was awesome. The tofu tasted like lasagna (Derrick blames the McCormick seasoning packet, probably rightfully so), but it was good that way! The chicken wings were sweet (kinda like honey garlic chicken, as Derrick said), but also good that way. (Who’da thunk cola works on chicken??) The qingcai (I don’t know when this simple word can ever be translated well) was good, but was kinda missing the oyster sauce that we lacked. Oh well. All in all, definitely a great meal. Thanks, Derrick!

More Mini-Polls

I did a poll activity with my students a while back. They were told to choose interesting yes/no questions or either/or questions, and then they polled each other in small groups. It got some interesting results. I did the same activity again with my summer class. Keep in mind these are Chinese kids 18-20 years old, and only 4 of the 25 students are male. (Due to the nature of the activity, results will not always have the full 25 responses.) Take a look at some of the new results…

Format:
Poll results will follow the question, in parentheses and color-coded. “Yes” answers will always be first in blue, followed by “no” answers in red.

Do you think Mr. Chiang Kai-shek had great devotion to the Chinese people? (24, 1)

Do you prefer boys with long hair or short hair? (1, 22)

Can you drink wine [meaning any alcohol]? (11, 13)

Do you like basketball or football [soccer] more? (16, 8)

Do you like gentlemen [as opposed to “bad boys,” I suppose]? (16, 9)

Would you prefer to live with your family or with your friends? (13, 10)

Do you want to have a child? (22, 2)

If you had a child, would you want a boy or a girl? (5, 13, 6 said “either”)

Koopa in China?

I think we’ve all had incidents of misheard song lyrics. You think you hear one thing in the song, but the actual lyrics are very different. I’ve had a bit of that in China.

My first main incident with this phenomenon in China was with the song Nanren Ku ba bu shi Zui * (“Man, go ahead and cry, it’s no crime”). In the song, Andy Lau repeats “ku ba” over and over in Chinese, which basically means “go ahead and cry.” The thing is, it sounds exactly like the way Cuba is pronounced in Spanish. Weird. I know I’m listening to Chinese, but every time it gets to that refrain, I hear Spanish. (Well, they are comrade nations, I suppose….)

koopa troopa

The other incident is for another Chinese song by a male singer. I don’t know the singer or the song, and I don’t particularly like the song. I just know that I keep hearing him sing “Koopa Troopa.” Now, anyone who dutifully played Super Mario Brothers 1 on NES back in the day knows that Koopa Troopas are little turtles that oppose Mario and Luigi on their righteous quest to save the princess (if she’d only stay in one damn castle!). But those wily koopa are making a comeback in Chinese pop. (OK, does anyone know what Chinese song I’m talking about here?!)

* Warning: This Flash “video” is horribly cheesey. But hey, you can hear the song without downloading the MP3. Also, I apologize for my crappy translation of the song title, but, you know… it’s a dumb song anyway.

Laowai Relocated

/~abtom/Wayne, formerly of Goodbye, Laowai, Goodybe (and Hello, Laowai, Hello), is planning to relocate to Taipei soon. He has also redesigned his blog and given it a new name. It’s the latest addition to the Sinosplice Network (so some of you may need to update your bookmarks). I, for one, am very happy to now be able to read Wayne unhindered by the Great Stupid Firewall of China.

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