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Monday, November 26, 2007

A Pirate Thankgiving

What have pirates and Thanksgiving to do with each other..? Read on and you will find out :-)

This week I have been teaching (as usual), getting and getting rid of a cold, cooked for Thanksgiving and celebrated it as well!! On Saturday a big group of people came together at Katie and Annelise's place to eat our Thanksgiving dinner (my second one...). Everyone brought food and/or drinks, we ordered a turkey at a local place and then the feast could begin. The food was delicious! There was way too much food, but that is quite common supposedly! But I must say that I really enjoyed eating "normal" Western food again and that the evening was great. We also planned to watch "A Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving", but due to some copy issues, the sound and images were off, creating an extremely funny cartoon :-)

After all the food and drinks and an attempt to digest it, we decided to go out to The Hump where a Latin Party was going on. Now to understand the following you should realize that the apartment we were at is in a building complex that has a pond in the middle with a "pirate" ship in it. Slightly intoxicated as I was, I decided to play pirate and climb up one of the rope ladders. That worked just fine and I was enjoying myself up there. But then I also had to climb down again... And of course you can all guess what happened next!?! My foot got caught in the ropes, I fell into the sail, the sail wasn't strong enough to hold me, I stumbled towards the edge of the ship and finally I fell over the edge into the pond... Luckily the pond was only about 40cm deep, but that did not make the water any less wet, cold or nasty!! Oh well, took a shower, changed clothes, washed clothes and now it seems like it never happened, except for the evidence that still exists (see the pics below).

Now I have to go on with preparing classes for this week, grade a test and study a little Chinese. Next Friday we will have a Black & White Champagne Party to say goodbye to Sander and Susan who will be going back to Holland and to welcome myself and Shos into our new apartment (where we will move into in about two weeks!!).

"Talk" to you later!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dutch (fast)food: Krokets & Bitterballs!!!

We call it fastfood, but it takes quite a while to make...

A few weeks ago I decided I was going to make a Dutch dish called kroketten. Not knowing exactly how to do it I did a little research online, found a recipe and started hunting for the ingredients. Everything was easy to get except for breadcrumbs, but Shoshannah managed to lay her hands them! So I made a bouillon, chopped the meat, made a roux, mixed everything together and the stuffing was done!
On Friday Shos and I rolled the stuffing through the flour, egg and breadcrumbs and put them back in the fridge to harden a little. Later that night Sander, Susan and Collin came over to try them. And guess what..? I succeeded!!! They were great! I am also going to make the "kroketten en bitterballen" for Thanksgiving, trying to get those Americans acquainted to real food... ;-)

After our delicious dinner we went out for some bowling. First a game with our regular hand (Sander was by far the best in this, although we were not sure whether he just is good or had a lucky evening...) and then one with our "bad" hand... You should have seen our moves, simply inimitable :-)
Now some totally different and unrelated things, that nevertheless are very Chinese. First of all there is the amazing story of Chinese companies recycling used to condoms into hair ties, causing people/kids to get infected with diseases as Herpes because they put them in their mouth... Mwahaha, things like this only happen in China!!! Read the full article!
Second, one of the very best things about China: Chinglish!!! The picture below is the backside of the packaging of a bra strap... read and laugh!

No other news at this moment!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Drag show and rock festival

Transvestites and punkers

Last Friday we were invited to a Chinese drag queen performance in a gay club in Kunming. Don't ask how we got that invitation, but I am glad we did because it was great fun! After a couple of really cool performances and a "pop-quiz" on AIDS/HIV prevention/awareness we took off to Kundu to party with some of the gay guys. We spent a couple of hours in a club called House and ended up in the car of one of the guys who was kind enough to give us a ride "home" a.k.a the SpeakEasy. Few more beers there and then we called it the night.

The next day I went to a Chinese rock "festival", some 30 kilometers outside Kunming in Taiping. It was really great to see and hear all these Chinese rock, punk and jazz bands. It was a small and "cosy" party with lots of very nice people. Too bad that I got a little drunk and lost my camera (or it got stolen...) and due to the darkness and lack of light there was no way to recover it :-( But I was not the only one that lost something, others lost their cell phone or even an entire backpack, which leads me to believe that some Chinese persons took the opportunity to acquire some "new" Western items... So at this point no pictures. Hopefully it did not get stolen and someone found it and is now looking for me to return it. Otherwise I'll have to go shopping for a new one.

Now back to grading all the exams I gave last week and preparing classes for this week!

Tot snel,

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V

The love for copy-paste of Chinese students...

This time an entry about my teaching experiences in China. Although I still really enjoy it very much, there are times that my students frustrate the hell out of me!! The main two skills many of them lack are: 1) Participation, and 2) Creativity.
Even though they all know that 20% of their final grade will be determined by how well they participate in class, it doesn't seem to have an effect on them. Which, I think, is strange because most of them are very keen on high grades. However this kind of behavior can be explained relatively easily by looking at cultural differences. Asian countries score high on collectivism, so being the one that actually participates and doesn't stare into space is regarded as not done since it makes you stand out of the group. This is entirely contrary to what I was used to at Maastricht University, where it was harder to get students to finally shut up than to make them talk... Luckily for me there are a few students in every class that don't care about this cultural habit, but do ask and answer questions :-)

It is harder to find an obvious reason for the lack of creativity, but we (the foreign teachers in Kunming) were still able to come up with one: The educational system! Chinese teachers teach as little dictators; they stand/sit in front of class and shout out the stuff the students have to know. They eagerly write down what they hear, since the exam will just ask them to write down exact copies of what the teacher said in class. There is no reason to question what the teacher says or to use it in a practical or creative way, since they will not be tested on it. My classes are different and my most common reactions on a student's answer are: "Okay, that is what is in your notes, but WHY is that what happens?", and "Can you explain your answer?". And then there usually is a long silence or they look surprised to their neighbour in the hope that (s)he knows...
This week I received homework from my students and while grading the first six of them I found that five of them simply copy-pasted complete answers from the Internet. They didn't even take the effort to change the font to make it seem that they did it themselves. Just plain plagiarism and no thinking at all. Frustrating, especially since I warned them beforehand not to copy things directly, but to describe things in their own words.

A topic that my students have very strong feelings about is the Chinese government. They all love China and believe that, no matter what, China will be the new superpower on this planet. Of course there is a very reasonable chance this will happen, but I just cannot believe how indoctrinated their minds are with the "fact" that everything the Chinese government does is great. Simple example: There is a shortage of electricity in China and one of the government policies to deal with this problem is to cut off power supply during the nights in certain cities/districts. According to some of my (economics) students this causes the demand curve to shift, since people want less power... To my knowledge these measures creates limited supply (and thus a vertical supply curve), but of course I can be wrong... I think it is great that the opinions of me and my students differ sometimes because it is a good reason to start a nice discussion. However they really seem to feel offended when I make statements that I think that not everything the government does is good. I, for example, do not believe in any positive effects of the Golden Shield Project (a.k.a. The Great Firewall)...

Oh well, this is just one of the many big differences between the Netherlands and China. When you learn to accept them, life here is very enjoyable!!! To end with, two more funny pictures from our Halloween Pub Crawl (also because I didn't take any new pictures and posts without pictures are so boring...)!

Meester Rudolf