Friday, December 29, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I know it's taken two weeks (no I didn't take a boat!) but yes I'm back in the UK. Actually I got back 2 weeks ago and just been getting things off the ground with my company and doing the Christmas thing.

Well I fully intend to keep blogging from the UK. I suppose I need to find something interesting to blog about otherwise all you will get on here is a list of ramblings. Perhaps about the weather? I'm open to suggestions. It will probably be mostly about my company.

Henry's Office View from Window

My new office!; A view over Wantage

Biggest achievement today - writing a formula which calculates the size of an order required which keeps the average stock above zero but below 5 units. Pretty cool huh?! And yes I did other things.

Christmas Eve Meal Summer Pudding

Well done Mum - amazing centre-piece!; Summer (?!?!?) Pudding

Oh - if anyone in the world knows how to fix my network with two wireless range extendors / repeaters and a belkin wireless router, I'll love you forever!

Til next time!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

The Last Post

From China and to China, This is Henry saying "Goodbye" "Adios" "Au revoir" "Auf Wiedersehen" "再见".

The sun is setting for me in China. I will soon be high in the sky, flying away on my jet plane. I have written an offline diary - a little more detailed than the blog. I was reading it this morning. Looking back to 90 days ago, it seems like yesterday but also a lifetime ago. I think I have changed more as a person.

Sunset Flying Home

Sunset on China; Leaving on a Jetplane

It's interesting. I suppose for me the really different part of life here has been how people treat me. Unlike at home, I am far from anonymous. In the school, almost everyone knows me as I have taught over 2/3 of the classes in the school (that is 28 classes at 45 students per class - about 1000 students overall). Without exception, everyone is extraordinarily kind. The best word to describe people here is gracious. Polite, friendly, warm-hearted, welcoming, generous. It is a special experience to be treated like this - consistently and genuinely for 3 months. I suppose it is the experience of having all of these people really like having you around. It has to change the way you think about yourself. I think returning to the anonymity of life in the UK will be the greatest reverse culture shock.

But oh, the excitement to come. When that plane lands on British soil, I will be moving into a new stage of my life. 'The Rest' I call it. The prologue to this story is now definitely over. Welcome to Chapter 1. It's going to be an exciting ride.

My closing advice to the students in all my classes is the best advice for me too:

Make Mistakes
Take Opportunities

Every day, do something that scares you


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Saturday, December 09, 2006


I only have two lessons left as a teacher. One thing I really didn't expect was for it to be so up and down! Some of the ups are in the older posts. Here is an idea about the downs:

"The frustration that I'm feeling right now needs some urgent venting. I am sitting here – spending another afternoon planning another lesson for the evening class. But I know for a fact that it will be almost fruitless. I know that 75% of the children will treat the lesson as a chance to get away with chatting to friends and not doing homework. It is the lesser of two evils for them.

I am putting in this effort yet I am pretty sure they will not learn anything. They couldn't even remember what we had talked about in the previous lesson."

Then, of course the lesson I was planning there went really quite well. Yesterday as I was doing my final two lessons with the older students, I was struck again by a down:

"Those who treat it as a joke or a chance to do homework for other classes don't get anything. Is it my fault? Is it my responsibility to get them learning. Well I suppose I'm the teacher so it is. But at the same time it's not 100% teacher. You need some input and effort from the student. When they're not prepared to do that, the teacher is left dragging them through things they don't want to do."

But all it takes is one moment to bring it right back up:

Class 4 Picture Class 5 Picture

Class 4; Class 5

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Update - Part 4

How could I think the day was over!

Part 4

It's China. Every day is punctuated by food. It is more than an essential part of life. It is life. I was taken to dinner by a PE teacher and her friend and an English teacher and her husband - oh and the PE teacher's 2 year old. First the 2 year old 'relieved' himself on the floor next to the table. The waitress silently fetched some newspaper while we laughed. Then the sheep liver and kidney on a stick was produced. I was, of course, thrusted the choice liver and kidney. One bite produced a bleeding mushy thing. It was a real challenge for me. I finished the kidneys but not the liver. Needless to say, the bill was paid somehow invisibly.

Old China, New China, the Future of China, the Food of China.

That's a proper Chinese experience!

Chinese Culture - Old and New

I've had an interesting day. It fits into three parts.

Part One

Randomly had it sprung on me yesterday that there was a school singing concert at the Shunyi Cinema. Slightly bemused, I went along. It was a Long March romp. Mao impersonations; Long March uniforms; colourful dresses and dancing; ebullient singing:

Is it meant to be Mao? Long March Uniformed Students

Is it meant to be Mao?; Long March Uniformed Students

Part Two

After the school singing concert, I went for a quick shop before going back to the school for lunch. I managed to buy some pop-music which I have been trying to do for a week or so. I am the proud owner of a Jay Chou album (Jay Chou - Teenage Heart Throb). His name is plastered over many a students' desk!. I also got a female artist - Jolin (Jolin - Dancing Diva). What a contrast to the Long March songs. It just illustrates the contrast in Chinese life. Changes over such a short time combined with a society which talks the official line and lives another. Really fascinating to experience.

Jay Chou Jolin

Jay Chou; Jolin

Part Three

The third part of my day has been teaching. I am a teacher for only 4 more lessons! I have made a determined effort this week to leave the students with some positive messages which may sink into their minds and change the way they live their lives. I hope that I have released some potential. I hope that I have given confidence to those couple of students who may have lost belief in their abilities. I hope I have given them what no-one gave me. It was at the very least fun to shout as loud as possible! Here is the slide.

I can speak excellent English! Do Something that Scares

Lesson Slides! Go Chinese students!!!

So there you have it. Old China. New China. The Future of China. All in one day.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chinese Poem - Li Bai

举   床
头   前
望   明
明   月
月   光
低   疑
头   是
思   地
故   上
乡   霜

A Tranquil Night

Before my bed a frost of light

Is it hoarfrost upon the ground

Eyes raised, I see the moon so bright

Head bent, in homesickness I'm drowned

Bright Moonlinght

Dog Soup

I promised that would be eaten. All I can say is...



Before...and After

(ps the is in the soup - the bbq meat is )