Thursday, October 21, 2010


For those of you who were referenced here looking for my blog posts from China, please update your bookmarks to this link:

Thank you,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blog Moved!

Hey everyone!


I just wanted to let you know that I moved the blog from here to Wordpress.  Please update your bookmarks and go to this website:



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perfect Mid-Autumn Day

Yesterday, September 22nd was the annual 中秋节 (zhōngqiūjié, Mid-Autumn Festival).  The festival occurs every year on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, right in the middle of the autumn season.  On this day, the Chinese celebrate with many moon-themed itens, such as eating moon cakes and sitting under the moonlight at night, both of which we took part in.

There are two reasons that the Chinese celebrate the moon.  First, it is said that the moon is at it's brightest and fullest on this day.  I would have to agree with this -- the moon was very round and very bright that night, and in Kaifeng there were very few clouds in the sky, so we were able to see it perfectly from campus.

Second, they tell the story of 嫦娥 (Cháng'é, a moon goddess).  The story of 嫦娥 starts with her husband, 后羿 (Hòu Yì), her husband.  后羿 is a famous archer, who is known for shooting down nine out of the ten moons that were scorching the earth, leaving the final one for the people.  One day, 后羿 received an elixir from the Empress of Heaven.  The elixir had the power of ascending whoever drank it immediately to heaven, and they would become immortal.  Of course, one of his disciples, named Peng Meng, heard about this elixir and demanded it from Chang'e.  Chang'e thought quickly and drank the elixir, immediately ascended to heaven and settled down the moon, the place in heaven closest to Earth.

When 后羿 returned, he looked at the night sky in search for his lost wife.  To his surprise, when he saw the moon he saw a moving figure, which looked exactly like 嫦娥.  After this night, he arranged an incense table in his backyard, where his wife could see it, so he could express his affection to her.  When others heard about this story, they also set incense tables in the moonlight and prayed for her.

You can read more about this story, and other Mid-Autumn stories and traditions, from the article "When the Moon Is Perfect", in the September 17th edition of the Beijing Review.

The day started out a little rough.  When I went to take a shower in the morning, I noticed that we didn't have any water.  A little nervous, I put my clothes on and went down to meet Marlie for our plans that day.  Our plans included lunch with a common friend, 张苏 (Zhāng Sū), and her family.  As we went outside the gate, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful the weather was.  The high was in the 70s, and there was a little bit of wind, and barely a cloud in the sky.

After meeting 张苏 at the south gate, we walked to the bus stop for Bus #28, which goes from the campus, through 鼓楼, and then to the west side of the city, south of 金明广场 (jīnmíng guǎngchǎng, Jinming Square).  While here, we first checked out 金明池 (jīnmíng chí, Jinming Pond) and some of the sights around it.  The weather made for beautiful pictures.

A view of Jinming Lake

After visiting 金明池, we bought some drinks and started heading for 张苏's house.  The house was beautiful, the floors were so nice and clean, and everything was organized so neatly.  One of the rooms in the house was a study, which had a bookcase all the way across one side of the wall.  It was through this bookcase that I finally realized how hard 张苏 worked to get her English level to where it is.  The bookcase is divided into three equal parts, one for her father (a medical professor), one for her mother (a physics professor), and one for her.  Her bookcase was completely full of books relating to English, the TOEFL, and the GRE.  This, along with the many bookstores around campus, inspired me to read more.

The food that her family served was very delicious.  Amongst other dishes, they had spicy peanuts, a cold beef dish, some green beans, and a type of eggplant.  It was all very delicious, her parents make excellent food.  Afterward, we started chatting in the living room.  Her father wanted to test my Chinese level.  I think I did ok, but was nervous nonetheless.  We discussed buying a table, since I want to turn my front porch into a kitchen.  I'm still not sure where I can find one in the city, hopefully soon I can get one.

A view outside Zhang Su's apartment
After dinner, we checked out a car show in 金明广场.  The show was somewhat interesting, they had all sorts of brands of cars there, including Chevrolet, Nissan, Toyota, and some other brands not found in America such as Peugeot and some Chinese brands.  We only stayed a few minutes, enough to walk through some of the cars (and get a few glances from the models).  After the car show, 张苏 walked us to the bus stop, where we would get on the bus to head back to campus.

Once arriving on campus, we found Josh and Jon-Michael playing frisbee with Josh's language partner and her daughter, as well as a few other people who came to play.  We decided to join in, and then we started having a full Ultimate Frisbee match on the field.  Earlier, I had mentioned how the weather was perfect for an autumn football game, now we're putting it to the test.

A 5-on-5 game of Ultimate Frisbee
In the end, our team won, although Josh's team had put up more points (at one point we decided "next point wins", where our team won).  Finally, during the night we had all gathered to watch the full moon set at night.  We took some 月饼 (yuèbǐng, moon cake) and went to a central park on campus, which ironically had nobody there.  We sat in the park and enjoyed the watching the round, bright moon in the night.  The day ended with a call from a close friend, one I haven't heard from in months... at least since I arrived in Kaifeng.

Pictures courtesy of Marlie's camera.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Exercise, Class, and Woodcarvings

Today has been an especially busy day.

It began early this morning, when I woke up at 6:00am.  Normally I don't wake up so early, but I wanted to try the Running Club that Josh and Jon-Michael started, and some of my students have urged me to go.  I ended up being the first one to arrive, and I got to watch a little bit of the flag-raising ceremony that the University puts on.  Before the ceremony, they were playing some inspiring music, and I happened to catch the theme to Pirates of the Caribbean playing in the speakers.  I had to chuckle a little.  That was the only song I could recognize though.

As I watched the soldiers preparing and some elder ladies exercising on the other side of the square, A few of the students started to arrive.  I didn't know anyone until Josh and JM arrived, and afterward some of my students arrived like Melody and Chad.  We ran for a total of 3.59km, leaving outside the West Gate, turning north and running around campus until we came back in the East Gate.  I think I finished with the amazing time of 30 minutes.

After the running, I went back and rested a little bit before my new classes started.  Today's classes were a group of freshmen from Minsheng College.  Each class had around forty students in it, and I was going to teach them all English Conversation.  At first, I was a little startled.  I brought in my book to show them, and I asked "Is this the class that we have?"  They all replied "No."  What the heck?  I wondered.  Could I possibly be in the wrong room?  Then I asked what class they were supposed to have.  "English Conversation" they responded, so it was the right class after all.  Then what was wrong with the book?

It turns out these students don't have their book yet.  Oh great, this will be a funn [sic] semester if they don't get their books.  Nonetheless, the classes were rather interesting, and I was able to end the second one about 30 minutes early.

After lunch, the foreign teachers played another round of Ultimate Frisbee (Josh, this link is if you want to buy more... they might even ship here!) with the students.  A lot are starting to show up.  Halfway through, a large group of students arrived and we were able to have a full competition, 7-on-7.   We enlarged the field and found it might be rather difficult, since it took us a while to score one point (and only one point).  I wonder what the legal field dimensions are?

My day ended with an amazing trip.  A few days ago, someone put me in touch with a guy named 朱雪 (Zhū Xuě).  Today, we met so he could take me out to dinner and discuss potential English lessons.  It turns out, he is a master woodcarver.  Here is a link to his website.  His carvings are absolutely amazing.  He started at the age of 11, when he took the unused chalk from his teachers, and carved little shoes out of them.  From then on, he moved to larger and larger "canvasses", and now even has to go out of the country to get the right wood for the carvings.  His website has a sample of his work.  Here is what I feel is his most amazing piece of art:

The Olympic Car of Harmony
This piece of work is called The Olympic Car of Harmony.  It is an olympic-themed car with everything from logos and dragons to even the four Fuwa pictured on it.  It's one thing that he is able to make a wood carving this big, but there's more than what meets the eye.  The car actually runs!  Here's a picture of 朱雪 and the car.  I was absolutely amazed!  He even started it for me in his shop, I couldn't believe my eyes when he turned the key and the car roared to life.  It's just hard to imagine how much work had to go into it.  There is another picture from his website about the amount of detail that you can see from the car.

Oh, and if you want to own this piece of work, you only have to pay 2008万 Renminbi (equivalent to about $3 million USD).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Class has begun

I apologize to everyone who has been looking for posts (maybe all three of you?). Things have been very busy lately, with planning classes, organizing syllabi, and learning how the education system in China works.

Let me begin with our first day of school.  The semester began on September 6th.  I had two classes, both were sophomore-level Extensive Reading classes.  To be honest, I'm not sure what "Extensive Reading" is supposed to be.  The book (Contemporary College English Companion Reader, ISBN 7-5600-3635-x) contains about 40 articles, each one between 3 and 15 pages, and one random play which is 60 pages long.  Needless to say, we aren't reading that.  I planned about two stories per class session, with each session lasting two hours long.  I think that is fair enough, and we can get through about 75% of the book with that plan.  Things seemed to be going well.

I also let the class sign up for group presentations, which will begin on the second week of classes.  Since there are about 30 students in each class, I had them sign up for groups of two or three.  This way, two groups will be presenting during each class, and each group will end up presenting twice.  This plan seemed to fit well, and the sign-ups seem to go without any problems.

A lot more fun came after the classes.  I'm sure some of you have seen the news lately about the weather here, such as "China floods strand thousands" in CBC News, "China's Worst Floods in a Decade Trap 30,000" in CBS news, and the Henan Province section of Wikipedia's article on the 2010 China floods.  To be honest, it has been raining a bit, with a few parts of campus covered in water.  Because of this, myself and a few other foreign teachers went out to buy rain boots.  The boots were rather reasonable in price (¥46, about $7.12) and they go halfway up our ankles.

Some Henan University students wading through the water

After buying the boots, we decided to test them out around campus.  Surprisingly, I had a lot of fun.  I was able to wade through the water with no troubles at all, the water actually went up to the edge of our boots, and none of the water got in.  We made a good purchase :)

I'm siiiiiiinging in the rain!

That's basically my story from the first day of teaching.  Hopefully I will update more often and with much better stories.  I finally got the VPN working now so I should be able to access my blog more regularly.  Feel free to ask any questions!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


To get a rounded view of our time in China, check out the other teacher's blogs:

- Jon-Michael:
- Josh:
- Marija:
- Marlie:

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Days

Three flights, four airports, and 914 minutes of flight time later, I made it to my new/second home.

The flight to Beijing was much better than the previous that I had taken. What first caught my eye was that they offered power outlets on the plane (a Boeing 777). This alone made the ride much smoother for my computer and its useless battery; however, there was more than just that. The entertainment system offered more than just a handful of movies. It had hundreds of movies, thousands of songs (although I didn’t care much for what they offered) and about 20 or so different games on it. You could even play poker against someone else on the plane. The last thing that was better on this flight was the meal offerings. I think they had an additional snack offering and a little more food for each meal. The meals also had *real* silverware packed with them.

Oh yeah, and the local flight in China? For only a one-hour trip they had a meal service (free) and two beverage services. The only bad thing was that the drinks were warm (Chinese don’t like cold drinks).

We arrived to our apartments in Kaifeng at around 8:00pm on Sunday. Fortunately, arriving a day early paid off since we got the first choice of which apartments we wanted to stay in. We were still relatively tired from all of the flying so we just stayed in for the night and made plans for the next day.

Today I showed Jon-Michael a little bit of the city. First, we went to the market by the south gate of campus to find some fresh fruits/vegetables for breakfast. I bought some grapes, and he some fried food (it had noodles and vegetables inside a deep fried “pocket”, not sure what it’s called yet). After getting breakfast, we headed back to campus to put things away and open our bank accounts. We then headed into the Gulou (鼓楼 – gǔlóu) area of Kaifeng to meet my friend Bernita for lunch. It was an interesting meal. JM had a dish consisting of mushrooms and Chinese cabbage, Bernita had spicy chicken over rice, and I had pork meatballs (狮子头 – shīzi tóu, literally “lion’s head”) with rice. We also shared a dish of Japanese tofu, although I wasn’t a big fan of it.

After that we went to a couple of supermarkets to buy some necessities. The first one we went to was called Sam’s Meimei (三毛美美 – sānmáo měimei) and then went over to Dashang supermarket (大商超市 – dà shāng chāoshì) to look around and buy cleaning supplies. Now we are back and cleaning up the place so we can start unpacking. We don’t quite have internet yet, so you won’t be able to read this message until a few days later.

Until then, 再见!