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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Final Exams & Christmas

Sweating students and many, many cool gifts!!!

So last time I told you I was preparing all the exams, this time I tell you that they are all done and over with. I even graded everything :-) Just in time because tomorrow my parents will arrive in Kunming! Giving the final exams wasn't a big deal, just distribute them and watch them for two hours, checking that they do not cheat (or at least try to do so...). Most of them did very well on their finals. On average I only had to fail about 4 students per class of approx. 40 students.

All in all I had a really nice first semester. At first I really had to get used to it, but it got easier by the week! I really like most of my students and I am glad that I will have my 3rd year students again next semester. The picture below is from me and Amy, probably the tiniest students I have. For most of the students at Yangpu I am that tall, white teacher that comes to school by bike... lol.
And of course this week we also celebrated Christmas!! We organized a small party at our place which included Secret Santa, White Elephant and a Potluck. Everyone did as "ordered", so we ended up with a big pile of presents and lots of good food. As I understood it Secret Santa was what we in Holland call: "surprises". I picked Collin and since he likes mountain climbing I decided to build a miniature Mount Everest and hide the presents in there. Of course I also made a poem (as good, old Dutch custom requires you to do...) and I have to admit that it sounded pretty good (this is of course all due to my "excellent" English rhyming skills... haha!!!).

Tomorrow morning at 10.20 my parents will arrive at the train station. I am going to pick them up and then I can show them the city their son has been living for more than 8 months now. Really looking forward to this!!!

In case I don't "talk" to you before the 31st:
Happy New Year!!!

Ruudje & Shos

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Banquet, wholesale & exams

Drinking and eating with Chinese people and preparing exams for my students in the sun.

The last two weeks I finally found out why they call Kunming the "city of eternal spring"!! Temperatures during the day are between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius and at night it still is about 10-12 degrees. And the best part is that is doesn't rain! It has been dry almost the entire time. So even though it is almost Christmas, it really feels like spring here :-)
Besides enjoying the weather I finished my last full week of teaching. This week I will be giving reviews of all the material and on Thursday the first final exams start. So at this time I am busy preparing all of the final exams. Which is harder than expected. One part of me wants the exam to really test their knowledge of how to use what we studied, so let them explain why things happen. But if I would do that probably 70% of the students would fail or barely pass. Why? Well most Chinese exams they test on "how-well-can-you-learn-stuff-by-heart". So even if you have no clue what you are writing down you can still pass with a prefect grade. "When you are good at memorizing, you deserve high grades" seems to be the motto of many Chinese teachers. Too bad, but that's the way it is. So my other part wants to be nice to them and give them a fair shot at passing, so I am also including quite a few memorization questions.

Last Friday Shos was invited to a banquet for all her Ph.D. students and I was allowed to join. It was a nice, really Chinese events. Some speeches (way too loud), and lots of food and drinks. And of course they all tried to get Shos and me drunk in which they succeeded pretty well :-) Drinking a lot of jinjiu (a kind of Chinese Jägermeister) and toasting with the students resulted in us singing, dancing and playing around with a hoola hoop :-)
Yesterday we went to the wholesale market in Kunming. And we were so amazed by the size, chaos and shit ton of things that we didn't buy anything... But it is a great place to stroll around and amaze yourself about all the things Chinese buy and sell, ranging from the most hideous clothing ever seen, to big bags of balloons and jewelry. The thing they had the most of... Chinese people! ;-)
That's it. I am going on with making my exams. And my parents will leave for China in just 3 days, so mam and dad: Enjoy!!!

Bis schnell,
Ruud B.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Longest time abroad & moving

More than 7 months and 24 days living abroad! My new record!!!

On Monday we really started packing. We had to put everything into boxes and bags because on Thursday we would leave the Yunda Binguan and move into our new apartment. On Wednesday we had the goodbye dinner of Sander and Susan and we took this opportunity to already move some of the boxes. However the majority needed to be moved on Thursday. Luckily there was a Sports Day at Yunnan University which meant that I had bot Thursday and Friday off!! They couldn't have planned a better moment!

We borrowed a "bakfiets" (a bike with a space to transport stuff) from Salvador's Coffee House to transport our stuff. After having a flat tire fixed by some guy on the street, we loaded a lot of our stuff (in hindsight way too much) on the little bike and took off. Through the university campus, over two big roads towards "the bridge" where our new apartment is situated. The first trip was horrible mainly because we immensely overloaded the poor bike and it was extremely difficult to handle. All the Chinese people kept staring and laughing at me, little kids encouraged me to keep going when I had to go uphill and cars were being a pain in the ass as usual.

However, we managed and after the second trip I felt so comfortable with the little bike that I decided to do the final, third run by bike as well. Nothing has ever made me feel more Chinese than this. Loading a ton of shit on a bike and then trying to get it to another place; it felt great!!!
It was definitely one of the most fun things I have done in China so far! Besides that, yesterday was also the the day that I have been abroad for the longest period of time ever!!! The previous record of 7 months and 24 days was set while being on Curaçao, but I broke that yesterday. And many more days will follow, so the new record will probably stand for a pretty long time :-)
Being abroad in less developed countries made me realize that I am definitely among the lucky "few" of this planet. I've got a good life: no worries, enough money to do what I want, a great girlfriend and nothing but positive expectations for the future. Even though we were complaining a little when we were moving, China showed us that we have absolutely nothing to complain about. And I think the picture below describes exactly how lucky we are...
Today and tomorrow we will continue unpacking and make the apartment feel like ours. When we're done, I'll post some pictures of our new crib...

If you feel like sending me/us a card or anything else, the address is:
Ruud Batta
Jiang Bin Xi Lu
San hao yuan # 605
650021, Kunming
P.R. China

or in Chinese (copy-paste and print it on the envelope or download this picture with the address on it and print that on the envelope):
Ruud Batta
三号圆 605 号
中国 / P.R. China

Dhr. Ruud

Monday, December 03, 2007

Champagne & Sinterklaas!!!

Two extremely great evenings and nights, but nonetheless a "sad" weekend...

Why sad..? Well, this was the last weekend sander and Susan were in Kunming. So from now on we will have to party without those Dutchies :-( I will miss them!!! But we tried hard and managed to overcome our sadness and made sure we had a blast this last weekend! On Friday we organized a "Black & White Champagne Party" at Sander and Susan's apartment (which will be Shos' and my in a few days...). Everyone was supposed to bring a bottle of champagne and too our "surprise" most people did!! And everyone we invited was there, so at one moment the apartment was literally too small to fit everyone! But it was great, everyone getting tipsy on the champagne and getting ready to go out. Which we actually had to do because at around midnight the police came and told us that there were too many people making too much noise... So we went to Kundu where we partied till the sun came up!
(too bad I do not have pictures from this evening...)

The next day I did nothing except sleeping and watching movies. But that evening was also our (early) Sinterklaas party!!! Of course Sinterklaas was present as well and he brought candy and a bunch of gifts.

We piled all the gifts in the middle of the room and after a few rounds of picking and unwrapping gifts we played a dice game with which you could swap, win and loose gifts. Of course some gifts were the favorites and it resulted in a big battle for the chocolate pie, a miniature Dutch sex house and a blow-up piggy :-)

Today we packed a bunch of our stuff and paid the rent for the apartment. Getting the money at the bank was a little harder than I hoped... I decided to put all my Chinese skills into practice and full of confidence I told the bank lady: "Wo yao shi wu qian kuai" (I want 15 thousand RMB)... and looked at me like I was speaking Dutch to her! Writing down 15.000 RMB on a note did not help and only when I wrote down 150 x 100 RMB I got my money. As you guessed my Chinese skills were not good enough since supposedly Chinese do not say fifteen thousand but "yi wan wu qian" (meaning: one ten-thousand five thousand)!!
Same same but different :-)

That's all for now. Wednesday we have a goodbye dinner for Sander and Suus and on Thursday we move into our new place. Exciting and sad!