Easter… by China

7am

Was it really Easter?  There was absolutely no evidence here on the streets in southern China. Perhaps it is an unhelpful distraction. One that the hard-working population didn’t need to be bothered by.

Easter Sunday started out like any other day. A dash across the city in a scene reminiscent of 1980s computer games. Avoid slow drivers and careless pedestrians. Dodge oncoming vehicles and wobbly bicycles.

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8:45am

Someone forgot the key to the classroom. There was a congregation of apologetic parents milling about the entrance. It was damp outside and it was suggested that I begin the lesson in the covered area next to the bikes.

Have a seat” I said. They couldn’t – everything was wet. Thankfully the key was found and the lesson proceeded inside.

11am

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No sun for weeks

It was damp at the next venue. This made the students restless. A large black bug rested on my neck and began sucking blood. What was it?  No-one could identify. Larger than a mosquito and smaller than a fly.

2:00pm

The roads were wet and someone arranged a heavy downpour at the exact moment I needed to exit the car. You can go through several pairs of shoes on a weekend here.

Time for the bottom-ranked class. It’s week eight and they’ve been bad in all aspects of their study and conduct.  There were six kids in attendance but only four books.

Sorry, I forgot my book.”

And “I’ve lost it. Ha ha.”  That cute laugh was the pits.

Had they prepared their English speeches? I asked.  The task was assigned on March the 23rd. Twenty-eight days would be enough to complete such a task. Nope, the pressure of computer games and reality TV binge-watching was too much. Only one girl was ready.

Okay, how about your homework on page 100?  Oh, you haven’t done that either?  Right, it’s punishment time – take out your activity books and begin completing the exercises on page 40.

They hadn’t remembered to bring their activity books. Or their pens.

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It was at this point that I exited the classroom and stood outside. It was still raining. The 25-year-old me would have quit – there and then. Stormed off in a huff. Sulked even. The 40-something me thought about some of the mentally unbalanced people that wander the neighbourhood here. Nutter plus knife – you could imagine the headlines:

Foreign Teacher Abandons Students Moments Before Brutal Slaying and Irresponsible Kiwi Expat Walks Out on Kids – Throws China-NZ Relations Into Turmoil!

I stayed and returned to the lesson. It took a monumental amount of patience not to throw something at them.

4:45pm

Lesson Four (these little darlings were exposed in a previous blog) also had a speech competition. Celia (20 minutes late) refused to budge. Come on, share just a couple of sentences. She hid behind her knees.

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You can’t see me but I can you!

Brother Jeremy invented an entirely new lexicon:

Duplo Mountain in air conditioner” and “Pressure from the Carrot family brought problems with young.”  Deep, though he couldn’t clarify what “pervert Peru” was supposed to mean.

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Duplo mountains in the air conditioner!

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I found myself asking – if this is Easter, why does it feel like I’ve entered Hell?

6:20pm

Then a quick trip home to hide easter eggs for my daughters and a cup of coffee. Last year, they fought bitterly over who got more eggs. On Sunday they cooperated and worked together. The egg hunt proved so popular that they made their mother hide the eggs a second time.

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7:30pm

The final lesson was a kindergarten level class. Thank heavens the kids were good tonight. Each kid received a little egg. The eggs rolled off the table and under the chairs. One girl lost hers and enlisted a number of the parents to search for the missing item. It became a real life egg hunt.

There were tears when her helpers came up empty-handed.

8:45pm

Dreams of neck massages, hearty dinners, and an ice-cold beverage.

9:15pm

Home to Peppa Pig reruns and poorly edited English newspapers.

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Spot the typo

11:45pm

Homework completed!  No, not mine.

Postscript

Did you have a wonderful Easter holiday?  Did the Easter bunny visit your home?  What kind of stories do rabbits like best?  Ones with hoppy endings!

Thanks for reading. Your support is much appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumbo for Dummies (A Chinese Cinematic Experience)

Ah, the movies in China. Flashing lights, suspense, excitement, funny smells, and sound effects – and that’s before the film has even started!

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There’s a cinema a mere stone’s throw from Block Six (our building). It’s often empty and one feels a sense of “social responsibility” to attend such a venue if only to delay its inevitable demise. Many expats now avoid this form of entertainment due to the peculiarities of movie-going in China.

Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings) was no match for the afternoon sun when the cinema door opened. Liam Neeson got drowned out by audience chatter like some hapless politician. We’ve observed Minions (Despicable Me) being sworn at and, most surprisingly, Darth Vader being interrupted by a man on his mobile phone. Who’d have thought?

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Darth Vader in happier times

Darth Vader: “I’m altering the deal, pray I don’t alter it “

Uncouth man: “Lao Xiong, I’m in the cinema watching Star Wars!  Yes, it’s really good though I can’t understand what they’re saying! Tonight?  Yes, I’ll meet you for dinner at 7pm”

Once, the Chinese subtitles were out of sync with the (Western) actor’s voices, confusing many and leading to an audience walkout. We had the remaining 90 minutes to ourselves that day. Bliss.

A Dog’s Way Home, a fluffy family film about a dog finding its way home, was attended by four people (my daughter and I, plus an elderly Cantonese couple who talked loudly throughout). Recent cinematic experiences had seemed okay so we decided to see…

Dumbo (2019)

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Dumbo’s long-suffering mother

There was a choice of Dumbo or the second Lego Movie. We chose the former. Surely there couldn’t be anyone attending the theatre on a Friday morning (it was the Qingming Festival too). Well, there was a good-sized crowd including a former student who bellowed my name and drew everyone’s attention to the presence of a foreigner.

The movie started and we (daughter and I) had the entire fourth row to ourselves.  Pure heaven. Late arrivers were being ushered to their seats in different rows.

The Dumbo movie was 15 minutes in when a middle-aged staff member walked towards us, torch in hand. Perhaps she’d spotted us eating snacks from home. No, she was a solo movie-goer and that wasn’t a torch. It was an iPhone. Perhaps she was seated in our row. Maybe she was sitting right next to me despite the six other EMPTY seats available. She crashlanded in her seat, employed my drink holder for her Pepsi and her drink holder for the popcorn. There was also a faint whiff of body odour. No, I’m not being nasty.

Darn it.

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Deep breaths…

She laughed, slurped, squirmed, wriggled, jolted upright, and at one point turned abruptly to stare at us. It was just like being in economy class.

The movie was engaging. Monkeys, snakes, clowns, a one-armed man (Colin Farrell), a very short man (Danny DeVito), an Oscar winner (Michael Keaton) and plenty of exquisite set designs. Woman-with-glasses was forgotten for the next 40 minutes until she started checking her phone. The iPhone’s glow was more obvious than Dumbo’s ears.

Suddenly, a restless toddler stood up from behind and whacked the woman’s head! Triumph!

Karma they say is a… breath of fresh air!!

Ratings (out of 10)

Dumbo: 8.0

Audience behaviour: 6.5 (Well done Guangzhou!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christchurch Attacks – One Week On (The view from China)

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Cartoon by Shaun Yeo

It is the one week anniversary of the Christchurch Mosque attacks. New Zealand has been in a state of mourning. Our Prime Minister has done a stellar job at bringing the country together.

What has the reaction been like from everyday folk here in southern China?

The reaction has been subdued, though the majority were made aware of the incident through the media.

There has been no comment on it unless I raise the subject first (usually in the lift). You get asked “Where are you from?”  And “Oh, what a beautiful place!

Thanks.” I reply. “Oh, by the way, did you hear the news about the mass killings in our country?”

Yes, yes – dreadful situation” they say. “Are gun laws really that lax in New Zealand?

It has been weird this week being so far from home. Nearly every boy has a collection of realistic-looking toy guns. I flinched at the sight of one boy strapped with three automatic toy guns less than 24 hours after March 15th’s event. He was just being a boy, doing what boys do. He was late for class. This didn’t seem to matter today. His mate had a plastic AK-47.

Older students have found discussions around the subject to be interesting, though their English vocabulary limits much of what they want to say. Some have giggled in parts of my talk. This is not arrogance on their part but more an embarrassment or awkwardness at the sheer horror of what unfolded that day.

A 17 minute video taken by the gunman was circulating China’s most popular mobile app – WeChat. Would I like to see the video?  No thanks. Are you sure?  You can’t see clearly – it’s a bit like watching a computer game. Again, a polite no thank you.

I was able to obtain a newspaper last Saturday (see below). The headline translates into  “The Darkest Day in New Zealand’s History.”

 

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People’s Daily – Saturday, March 16, 2019

 

Life went on as normal for people here. It’s not surprising really. They’ve got their own things to worry about. China has had its fair share of blood too. One can look to the 2014 Kunming Train Station Massacre as evidence. With tight gun laws in place, the perpetrators used knives instead. The result was ghastly.

We’ve had an incident here in Guangzhou too, though thankfully there were no fatalities. It’s an example that no place is exempt from senseless violence.

Thank you for reading. We hope to return with a happier blog when the time is right.

 

 

Chinese Manners

“For the fragrance we’re blessing, to the world we show our affection,

We’ve got “two sessions”, let me show you Chinese manners”

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(Su Han “Two Sessions“)

He is China’s version of Eminem. I hadn’t heard of him before, but then I wouldn’t know many famous Chinese stars. Of course there’s Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, known as much for their martial arts as their acting skills. The former was actually an American citizen. Perhaps he (Su Han) isn’t famous.

I’m not sure Su Han has sold many records or what is status is here. He has been ridiculed on other sites for fronting a clumsy attempt (by you-know-who-I-am-not-at-liberty-to-say) to connect with younger listeners.

A chance to spice up what might otherwise be a very dry event.

The “Two Sessions” meetings Mr. Su refers to are the meetings of the highest levels of Chinese government (the rap sounding NPC and CCPCP) every March. These were covered in my previous blog: The Top 5 Reasons Guangzhou Rocks in March.

The backing track is apparently 11 years out of date but I don’t know – perhaps hip-hop circa 2008 was actually better than the current crop of rap artists. Let’s give Su Han a chance. It’s easy to mock earnest young men who give their heart and soul to a cause, rightly or wrongly, that they appear to believe in.

The analysis:

The song starts off impressively – dramatic and tense (the music video couples this with propaganda shots of a very clean looking Beijing) as the artist shares his elation at the chance to write a “compliment song“. There isn’t a lot of positivity in the rap game so we’ll give him a tick for trying.

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He picks up the tempo and masters the English language like a boss, getting his tongue around some tricky long-windedness before the song climaxes rather prematurely at the 35-second mark. It’s here that Mr. Su looks begins to look like a very lost 12 year old boy.

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Mummy?

The lyrics cover a range of topics highlighting China’s achievements in recent times and there have been many. Landing on the Moon’s dark side, technological improvements like subway lighting (?), satellites, and the Jiaolong submersible vehicle that scaled the depths of the Mariana Trench.

“Joy of success is like a weekend car ride round the pool”

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Excuse me?

He also references more controversial topics such as the cloning of monkeys. That isn’t nearly as bad as the singalong chorus line. A deflating moment after a promising start.

“We’ve got our two sessions…”

He regains composure and momentum with a verse on education. He manages to include a Star Wars reference. Hmmm, Skywalker? Poverty is asked to leave his nation’s borders amidst a visual backdrop of lush green countryside and smiling peasants.

Then that bloody chorus line again.

The lyrics become more absurd. A Kiwi friend of mine suggested that a middle school chatbox program had been employed to help with some of the verses. Check out the screenshot below:

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Nephrolithiasis is kidney related

And the Popeye moment…

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A day has passed since I wrote the above. It turns out that Mr. Su is a very able singer and even participated in the Sing! China TV show. He is also a doctoral student at the prestigious Tsinghua University. He is using artificial intelligence to compose music. Not only is he artistically talented and fluent in English, but he is also a biomechanical brainbox!

The Verdict

The song is a weird embarrassment. Forgettable even – if not for the lyrics. Su Han comes across as a bit of a buffoon to the uninitiated. Score: 4/10

You can watch the video here

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What exactly are Chinese manners?

Postscript – Wednesday

A peculiar thing happened on the way back home this morning. The chorus from a song came into my head and has been stuck there ever since. Which song? Yes, Two Sessions!

Post-Postscript – Thursday

The song is still very much alive and well in my head as the blog goes to air. There’s so much good new music out there and yet I’m being reminded of the “Two Sessions.”

Maybe the joke is on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Reasons Guangzhou Rocks in March

T’was a nice little break in New Zealand – blue skies, fresh air, good food, and friendly people. We didn’t see the rain during the time we were there.

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Three weeks can go very quickly when you’re having fun. It’s hard not to think that New Zealand is always like this!  One forgets that winter can last an awfully long time…

The Top 5 Reasons Why Guangzhou Rocks in Spring

I used to think that March was a pretty sh*tty time in Guangzhou. The endless grey skies were enough to test the patience of a saint. Dampness would invade the inside of your apartment and make floors, walls, and ceilings damp. Clothes were impossible to dry and would develop a funny musty smell. But, after the 28th consecutive day of doom and gloom outside, it seemed better to look at things as a glass half full.

So, to add to the plethora of numbered lists swamping the Internet nowadays, Lifeinlifts.com has decided to make its own top five. The reasons why Guangzhou is so good in March (fake it till you make it, right?).

1) The Weather

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Tired of endless and boring blue skies? Is the dry sun turning your skin to hardened leather? It’s just as well that Guangzhou can turn on 21 consecutive days of solid grey. Rain and fog are on the menu here.

 

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Beautiful

 

2) The Food

The food is always good here but the cooler weather brings out the more warming foods such as hotpot, dumplings, rabbit…

round white and blue ceramic bowl with cooked ball soup and brown wooden chopsticks
Yum!

3) The People

People get titchy in hot weather. Just as well it’s 15 degrees Celcius. Students behave in class. Teachers return to lessons refreshed from the Spring Festival holidays. Neighbours actually pretend to care about each other. You won’t witness this sort of behaviour in June.

4) The Education System

March becomes a busy time for students and teachers. It’s the endless desire for self-improvement that sees the Chinese regarded as some of the hardest working people in the world. Homework comes in crateloads. This also means a demand for extra-curricular lessons. Pity the poor kids who lose their childhoods along the way. However, it does mean that teachers get paid (cough… well).

5) The National People’s Congress

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It’s a meeting of the highest organ of state power, in Beijing no less. This means that security is ultra-tight. Being far from the emperor might seem like a good thing, as we can live relatively freely here without disruption. Our VPN access gets blocked too. This is a good thing as it prevents us from wasting valuable time checking Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other unproductive websites. This crackdown instills a sort of self-discipline as you are forced to find other things to do. What a great time to sort out the sock drawer.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave a comment. Our next blog will examine China’s newest version of Eminem!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Exams in China! Yikes!

It’s the bane of parents, students, and teachers. A time of year violated by colourless worksheets, endless pages of fill-in-the-blank exercises. Mix-and-match. Mock tests.

Study materials are as dry as dust.

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With materials like this, who wouldn’t want to study?

Final exams occur twice a year, at the end of each semester. It’s a stressful time for a number of parties. School teachers are under pressure to deliver results to the school leaders. Parents spent every spare free minute helping their children review for the exams. The possibility of bad grades is too much to contemplate. It gets worse at higher levels. A substandard grade could mean failure to enter a good middle or high school. Teenagers really have it tough when they attempt the dreaded Gaokao – China’s university entrance exam.

It’s common for children to be signed up to extra-curricular lessons. Most have an extra lesson of some kind – be it math, Chinese, English, art, dancing, or piano. A sport like table tennis, basketball, swimming, or badminton is also tacked on. Many have several lessons – often on the same day. Weekends are endurance tests to be survived, rather than enjoyed. Added to the average daily three hours of homework, you wonder the psychological toll on children here.

Parents regularly postpone these ancillary lessons at exam time.

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A sample English exam paper. How did you do?

Exams affect nearly everyone. Sleep deprivation equals cranky kids. Parents get grumpy too, resentful that their free time is eaten up by hours of homework in preparation for the big day. Mummy helps with the study, Daddy keeps baby sister/brother occupied and out of the way. You hear grumbling in the lifts – a girl being admonished for a poor math test, a boy being read the riot act for doing poorly in his Chinese. Grandparents cop twice the abuse when they try to offer unhelpful suggestions.

They might have had Mao Zedong Thought, but they also had less homework.

I see the effect of exam time in my lessons. Polite, easy-going kids become overly sensitive and prickly with tears if they perceive a slight from a classmate. Cheerful parents look more distracted than usual.

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Sample Chinese paper – it’s not as hard as it looks!

Soon the exams will be over and the relief will be palpable. Think of a caged rabbit finally being given run of the house.

How does your childhood compare?  Did you have exam pressures as an eight year old? And your parents? Did they encourage you with a stick or let you run wild? Perhaps you have children about to undergo their own examinations? How are they coping?  Please leave a comment below and share with fellow readers.

Today marks the beginning of the dreaded exams. The sounds of rejoicing will not only emanate from students but from the entire support cast and crew navigating this tortuous time!

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Christmas in China – 2018

How do the Chinese celebrate Christmas?

Well, they go to work or school as usual. Some might wear a Santa hat and others might give a small gift or attend a Christmas Eve event somewhere around the city. Some lucky souls get the day off if they work for a foreign company or Western consulate.

Christmas really is an excuse for the marketers to sharpen their knives and target the growing middle class with their disposable income.

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How do Chinese kids regard Christmas?

“Western Countries have Christmas because China has the Chinese New Year.”

– Bernard, 8

“Father Christmas was born on Christmas Day.”

– Yoyo, 9

“Our teacher says we’re not allowed to celebrate Christmas because it’s a Western festival!”

– Kevin, 10

“I hate Christmas because it’s not a Chinese holiday”

– Damon, 5

A matter of religion

As foreign guests in China, we’re not allowed to discuss (or promulgate) political views or religion. It’s a little difficult to discuss the matter of Jesus with the students.

“KJ, can you tell us a little bit more about Jesus?”  A child might ask.

“Um, er, perhaps you’d better ask your parents. They will probably be able to explain things better” I answer.

Play them some music instead

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“Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano) is a popular song to teach. Students have trouble with the second line but then most Westerners do too. Go on – can you tell me what comes after Feliz Navidad?  Prospero…

Michael Buble does a fine version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. The horn section enters suddenly within the first minute – guaranteed to wake any sleepers. Justin Bieber’s version is also surprisingly catchy.

How has Christmas changed in China over the years?

In 2000, I lived out in the sticks somewhere in Hubei province. There was little evidence that Christmas even existed. The kindly Education Bureau put on a lavish Christmas Eve party for about ten westerners living in the city. We ate great Chinese food. The section chief wandered over to our table and wished us a “Merry Crimmus!”

The next day we bought a couple of live chickens from the local market and invited them for dinner.

In Guangzhou, we had about three Christmases with members of the Australian Consulate. This was great fun as there was always good shiraz at these parties. The carpet was white. The stains took an age to remove!

A Cockney mate hosted us at his place for a number of years. We played Monopoly and listened to Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” (repeatedly). In 2008, we even got served Brussels Sprouts!  Can you imagine the excitement?

In 2011, inside a 4-star American hotel restaurant, the food was as cardboard as the surroundings. It appeared to cater to young Chinese lovers who treated Christmas as a romantic occasion.

A party was held in an old colonial-style villa (2013). The food was exceptional that year but the highlight was the old Chinese lady that danced voraciously to “Gangnam Style”.

We’ve had Christmas at our apartment the past couple of years. Stragglers of all shapes and sizes have appeared. You can order a turkey from a number of places and even get cranberry sauce to go with it. Plum pudding is still a trifle (ho ho – a pun!) difficult to find as is dry bubbly. However, it’s almost as good as being at home.

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A smorgasbord of nationalities share one thing in common – food
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Eating Christmas cupcakes – pure bliss!

And, Guangzhou’s weather is always good on December 25th.

Shopping

 

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Inspiring isn’t it?

 

Some supermarkets sell every product Christmassy. You’ll pay for it though. Most supermarkets cater to the local market and sell chocolates and fruit. Yawn.

So from all of us here – the accountants, cleaners, marketers, publicists, rabbits, and writers – we’d like to wish you all a very Merry Lifeinlifts Christmas!

Oh yes – there’s a free chocolate fish if you can tell me the second line of Feliz Navidad!  I know it – but do you?

Canton Digest – A Collation of Oddities

Here’s a little collection of oddities for your weekend. Something to take your mind off the Christmas rush. These are events that may occur to anyone foreign-looking in China during a typical week. It’s never a dull moment.

Gweilo

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Image courtesy of https://alchetron.com/Gweilo

This is a rather nasty little Cantonese term which translates to foreign devil / ghost. The locals don’t usually mean any harm by it and there are times when it doesn’t really matter. But if you’re having a bad day and someone calls you Gweilo, you can muster up your best Cantonese rebuke and say:

Now come on mate, that’s uncalled for

 

Bananas in Pajamas

There are times when you may wish you’d walked, or taken public transportation to a destination. Car parks are hard to come by in many cities – especially one with over 14 million people. An attendant will direct you to a narrow spot in the corner. Sometimes you might need to reverse around corners and over humps, bumps, and curbs to successfully park your vehicle.

One young fellow assisted me to a park and proceeded to give instructions (despite my car having side cameras).  Fully aware of his value, he placed one arm inside my open passenger window and helped himself to a pre-lesson banana.

“I’m having this, okay?”

He wondered off grinning at my open-jawed expression. If a half-rotten banana can guarantee me a car park on Wednesdays then I’ll be bringing him a bunch of Dole’s finest next week.

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A picture can paint a thousand words…

 

Shout, Shout, Let it All Out

A good friend of mine was inside a university campus waiting for his lesson to begin. He was on the phone to his father back in Canada. He heard some shouting in really bad English and turned around to see what the kerfuffle was all about. Lo and behold, a man was addressing him in very loud, aggressive English:

“Hey you!  You come China!  You American, you Russian?  Hey! Hey!”

He took off down the road trying to avoid the rambunctious character who was drawing attention from onlookers and passersby. My friend’s father was growing concerned:

“Are you alright son?”

Their conversation was further interrupted: “Hey, you!  You speak England?  Hey!”

“Yes Dad,” he answered calmly “this is a very regular occurrence in China.”

 

Duck Tongues

A lesson finished and we piled back into the lift. One mother was carrying a strange bowl of something.

They’re duck tongues” she said. “Would you like to try one?”  She seemed pretty insistent. Was she trying to shock?  I obliged her and tried one.

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They were rather stringy but had quite a good, gamey, flavour. If you’re interested in importing duck tongues to your local market, let me know on:

youvegottobecrazy@outofyourmind.com

 

Bin Lickers

Eddy is a four year old. He learns English with the big kids (the five and six year olds). His name used to be spelt Eddie but his father hated the last three letters and its reference to death. Eddy regularly makes baby sounds during class and has a penchant for wiggling his bottom at others. He has stated a taste for dog sh*t (his words, not mine) when the class was asked to name their favourite foods. He outdid himself on Monday night with a lunge towards a rather full rubbish bin (trash can). Not content to merely touch, he proceeded to lick the bin’s rim and squeal in delight.

What is there to do but shake one’s head.

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What could be naughtier or nicer?

 

Rabbit Update

Due to the large number of queries about Rachel Rabbit’s health, we can confirm that she is still alive and well in Guangzhou city. This writer was approached by family members seeking permission to “do the deed” and rub out Rachel in time for Christmas dinner. It took one look into her hopeful eyes to decide that the execution would be delayed. Well,  until the next time she misbehaves…..

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The rabbit was well and alive on Friday

I hope you enjoyed this little collection of snippets from southern China. Please leave a message below or spread the love and share this site.

Many thanks for reading!

 

 

Bunny Trouble – The Case of Rachel Rabbit

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Behind bars: Rachel Rabbit awaits the jury’s verdict.

Pets in apartment buildings. It might work. It might not. Plenty of Chinese keep pets in small spaces and seem to do a good job of it too. I’ve seen some pretty healthy looking dogs in the elevators here – shiny coats and big white teeth etc. You can always keep a turtle, goldfish or a parrot or two. A friend of mine keeps a cat which might just be the most spoilt animal in the city.

How about a rabbit?

What could go wrong?  They’re not large or dangerous. They’re cute and very affectionate. Intelligent too. They’re clean and do their business in the cage. They don’t rip up sofas or table legs with sharp claws and don’t need to be walked twice a day.

So in November 2017, we bought a rabbit.

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Seems harmless enough

It was very cute and was small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand. Miss K called her Rachel. It seemed like a good name – Rachel Rabbit. Similar to the rabbits (Rebecca and Richard) on the Peppa Pig cartoon series.

 

It all went so well. Quality time was spent with Rachel as she became one of the family. We invested heavily in her future, buying the finest food and cage,  allowing her inside the apartment during cold winter nights. Another rabbit named Tutu was not so lucky. It froze to death on an apartment balcony.

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Rachel attended birthday parties

Hare-Raising

Things began to change.

Rachel began to eat pot plants and flowers. She learned to open her cage door by rubbing her black nose against the wire. A string was tied to keep the door shut. She ate through the string. Her tastes moved from plants to furniture upholstery, to foam workout mats to cardboard boxes.

 

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Don’t you dare!

 

She climbed atop four large, stacked, wobbly boxes, and escaped injury by box-surfing her way down when they toppled over. She started making herself at home on our beds. This disgusted and terrified my wife who was looking for any excuse to “get rid of that bloody rabbit.”

One of my students asked: “Does your rabbit like to eat apples?”

“Yes,” I replied “Apple iPhone recharging cords!”

Bunnymoon Over

A “Lock Hare Up!” campaign was launched by my in-laws. They told both my daughters that Rachel was going to the butchers as soon as we departed China for our Scandinavian holiday. I lobbied on Rachel’s behalf on the grounds that:

  1. She was cute
  2. She was tender and didn’t bite the kids
  3. She could stay in our bathroom during the hot summer months and behave herself well
  4. We’d just buy a replacement rabbit as soon as we returned from abroad if Rachel was “disappeared”

We won our case and Rachel received a stay of execution. Life went on as usual. She hopped around our apartment and considered herself chastened.

 

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The “big baby” was popular with kids

 

It’s Been Nice Gnawing You

A rabbit’s memory is not what it used to be. Pretty soon Rachel was back to her old tricks. A television cord was destroyed during a trip to Hong Kong (the inlaws looked after our place during our absence) and Rachel began pooing in the bathroom (wait, you’re supposed to do your business there, right? Yes but you’re not supposed to dance in it afterward). She burrowed her way into the clothes wardrobe and got stuck in the land of jeans and slacks. Luckily we found her before she expired.

In the past two months, she has left behind a trail of destruction which includes:

a 7-11 umbrella

two lesson plan books

a BMW-branded backpack

shoelaces

a pair of Asics running shoes

one pillowcase

three plants

the leather from a dining chair

several plastic shopping bags

three cardboard boxes

the cover of Mao: A Life (Philip Short)

and the rubber lining from the shower door

Yes, she’d even began wrecking the one place she was allowed to stay without causing trouble. And the moulting. Did we mention the moulting?

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We Carrot Decide

So we need you, the reader, to help make up our minds. Should the rabbit stay or should it be sent to the market in time for a nice, wintery, rabbit stew?

On the one paw, she’s incredibly annoying. Her destructive ambitions know no limits. On the other paw, she’s part of the family, cuddly, and very patient with the girls. She will sit in your lap for hours content in your company as you watch TV, chat with friends, or prepare lessons.

So it’s down the rabbit hole we go. Should she stay or should she go?  Dear reader – her future is now in your hands. Leave a comment below (please!).

 

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Butter would not melt in her mouth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday “Bloody” Sunday

Hello dear reader, how was your Sunday?  Did you get up early to attend church or a mosque? Did you go for a run or play with the kids?  Were you nursing a king-sized hangover in bed?  Perhaps you had a strong cup of tea and read a book…

Sundays here (for this writer) include five lessons and a lot of driving. As a dear Canadian friend, Mr. Hill, likes to say “there’s never a dull moment here.”

I’ve decided to chronicle the events of Sunday, October the 21st 2018. Perhaps you can compare your day with mine. What were you doing at 9am, 2pm, 8pm?

8:45am – Inner Ring Road (en route to the first lesson)

A bronze coloured taxi is driving erratically along a four-lane highway. Behind him (yes a him) on the right was a silver Toyota Corolla. To the taxi’s left – a large white bus. I am following 100 metres behind them. The taxi, as slow as a turtle (and without indication), moves into the path of the Corolla. The Corolla brakes quickly to avoid a collision. The taxi then moves to his left and, by a whisker, misses the bus. The bus driver, angry at such vehicular idiocy, brakes, and blasts his loud horn. He then accelerates, overtaking the taxi. It’s revenge time as the bus brakes in front of the bronze taxi and proceeds to drive at 30 kilometres per hour (in an 80km/per hour speed limit).

10am – Rich People’s Garden

Because you two have been so well behaved, I’ll take you out to a 5-star restaurant tonight” the mother announces.

Mummy, can we have Coke or Sprite?”  Young Billy asks.

Billy, your Mum drives a Maserati and your Dad something equally expensive. You and your sister go to the most expensive school in the city. You have a bunch of houses. You holiday at luxury European resorts. Of course you can have a Coke – heck, why not just buy the restaurant?

11:30am – East Wind East Road Compound

There is a presentation involving menus. Miss Y, as we’ll call her, is offering such delicacies as sheep salad (shrimp salad) and roast kitchen leg (roast chicken leg), while Baozha Tou (translates into Afro hairstyle or literally ‘explosion head’) Master B, offers brown knees (brownies) and an A/C meal (a set meal). It’s a joy to watch eight year olds producing menus of such good quality. Mistakes aside, they’re pretty good with English and all scored well. That is apart from one lazy boy who was curiously absent from class.

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Promoting the benefits of kitchen meat

1pm – Subway Sandwiches

appetizer beef bread breakfast

Subway is Subway anywhere in the world it seems. A few menu changes here and there but still of a good standard. There is no queue at this branch. Two Russian girls are playing with the soda fountain, refilling their cups time and again. Value for money. I hope they can get to the bathroom in time. A local man, halfway through his sub, has wandered up to the counter to ask a question. Lettuce is spilling all over the counter and he is speaking with his mouth full. This would explain the mayonnaise droplets falling on to the stack of clean trays by the cash register. Thankfully I’m taking away.

Catshit Coffee (that’s the translation sorry) – the Indonesian coffee chain seems to have moved out of the mall and a newly named Offee and Co. (where’s the C?) seems to have opened. Their watery coffee wasn’t particularly nice last time so I ordered a latte coffee from Subway. What could go wrong?

Mental note: never ever order coffee from Subway at the East Wind East branch again.

3:10pm – Community Centre for Societal Harmony and Egalitarianism

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Naughty boys play with walking frame during break time.

The students in my third lesson have just returned from a short break. Laughter erupts and then suddenly stops. I don’t understand. I’d said something vaguely funny. We were about to learn the meaning of sarcasm and sarcastic laughter when I realise they’re not laughing at me and that the short figure moving behind me isn’t a student. It’s a man with Downs Syndrome. He walks about the classroom. Stops to pick up and inspect my lesson plan book, then my textbook. He gives me a puzzled look so I say “ni hao” to him. He responds in kind and walks out. What a bizarre episode. In 18 plus years of teaching, I’ve seen pretty much everything. That was a first.

There is a centre nearby that houses people with various mental conditions. This chap was friendly but there have been reports of people with psychotic tendencies going on knifing rampages from time to time. The results are never good. Better lock the door next time in case someone else turns up with more sinister intentions.

4pm – the drive home

This is like playing a bad Commodore 64 computer game from the 1980s. I’m Player One. People are jumping out in front of my car at regular intervals. Motorised bikes are heading in the wrong direction. Trucks are behaving like sports cars, Candy Crush Saga-playing pedestrians walk blindly out on to the road and cyclists haven’t yet learnt to ride in a straight line.

The game would be called “Chaos in the Car East“.

6:10pm – Block Seven, balcony of the 11th floor apartment

Teacher, you smell bad” says the five year old boy.

No Kyle, that’s your own sweat you can smell,” says his mother “you’ve been running around downstairs don’t forget!

Aw cripes, do I smell that bad? I’ve been on my feet all day. I head home and check with my wife. She’s blunt. I can count on her for honesty.

No, all I can smell is your cologne.” she says.

Phew.

7:15pm – Military Hospital

It’s very dark here but not cold. This will be the last lesson of the day. Two orderlies are pushing a wheelchair and patient towards the same building that is the teaching venue. A child walks past and stares at the patient, as does someone else. That’s a bit rude isn’t it?  A patient should be given some privacy/dignity, no matter what physical state they’re in.

I steal a glance as I pass them. The patient is extraordinarily stiff and pale. He’s wearing pajamas and he’s a…. dummy!  How weird.

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The Dummy. Where is he going?

I retell this story to one of the parents, a doctor at this hospital. He points to a tall, thin object in the corner. It’s covered by a cloth. The kids are avoiding the area until someone pulls off the sheet to reveal a human skeleton!

jack o lantern on grass

It’s not even Halloween yet.