The End of Homework in China!

And there she was, a nine year old in southern China, doing homework at midnight.

Ten of her classmates were also awake trying to complete the same task.

It’s the bane of many parents – homework. It gets written into a little, specially designed notebook. Sections are created for Chinese, Math, and English. It gets worse as they get older. Big kids have to deal with the sciences too. Let’s not forget history. And politics.

It’s now June

Which means that the end of year exams are lurking around the corner like the shadowy monsters that inhabit children’s dreams. This will be our third year of exams in China (as parents). Evenings are filled with mock exam papers, extra math tests, extra English dictation, extra Chinese essays, and extra headaches.

My task will be to keep our preschooler away from the young scholar.

A Typical Day

Kids finish school at 4 or 5pm depending on the weekday. They either go home or head to an education centre till their parents finish work. A typical homework load might contain:

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Homework assigned on June 11th, 2019

 

Chinese – four items (correct and review the previous lesson, preview new characters, a fill-in-the-gaps worksheet, essay)

Math – three items (textbook work, calculation book, double-sided A4-sized worksheet)

English – three items (dictation, reading and writing comprehension)

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If she doesn’t muck around (playing on her grandfather’s phone), gets on with things and does a proper job, and one allows time for dinner and shower (Chinese almost always shower at night) she might be finished by 9pm. If she decides to delay the commencement of the homework…  well we’re looking at a much later bedtime.

Other

There’s also the music and art homework which can be very time-consuming.

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The Numbers

Three

Three hours of homework is the average amount Chinese kids do each night.

Twice

This is twice the global average according to the Global Times.

One-third

The Education Ministry here released a report which among other things highlighted the lack of sleep amongst Chinese primary school-aged kids. Apparently, only 30% of fourth-grade kids are getting the necessary sleep.

A third of Chinese kids spent more than 30 minutes a night on math.

ONE MILLION GRAINS OF RICE!

This homework assignment made national headlines a few months back and caused both students and parents many headaches. Students in Foshan City were expected to count 100,000,000 grains of rice. Some parents even made calculations that it would take a year to count that much rice at a rate of three grains per second. The teacher defended her position and said she was trying to promote critical thinking.

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One-third (again)…

of Chinese students felt under great pressure according to the study. Many struggled with  Math and Chinese which led to enrolment at:

Cram Schools

Very popular now, even after the criticism that was levelled at such institutions. It is not uncommon to see kids spend their entire weekends at these “places”. Ironically these places hand out extra homework which leads to more stress which leads to futher underperformance at school etcetera etcetera….

How do you feel about the Chinese homework situation KJ?

As a language teacher – one can see the absolute benefits of a bit of revision and prep for an upcoming lesson.

As a parent I can also see the absolute hell a three hour homework load can wreak on a family life. Everyone is affected by late night study sessions.

Why the heck would you keep your daughter in the Chinese education system?

Because it pushes her to levels she would never achieve in my home country. Her math is streets ahead of many Western kids her own age. She gets opportunities to perform in front of large crowds (owing to her Western features). She gets to become trilingual at a young age. She gets out of her comfort zone!

It forces her to form good study habits at a young age. She also gets a few international holidays (and expensive presents) a year which softens the edges…

Summer Reading

The blog title was a bit misleading but it points to some essential summer reading. This little gem was written nearly 20 years ago. I am not in the business of subverting the authorities but if I could get this book into the hands of the policy makers here then we might see a reduction in the amount of homework done!

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Or maybe it’s a case of the family that slaves together stays together.

The Nibbler on the Roof

Something strange has been going on in Canton. It’s a bit like saying that there’s sand at the beach. Guangzhou is, more often than not, a marathon of the weird and wonderful. A telethon of trials and tribulations.

Someone has been eating on an overpass nearby. This pattern became apparent last September when several empty crisp packets were spotted on a flight of steps at one end of the bridge. Their place was taken by oily plastic containers the following day. He (let’s assume it was a male) had dined out on Sichuan hotpot.

 

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This behaviour continued for a few weeks before the author had an idea – let’s document the detritus left by this scoundrel and put it in a blog! 

One only needs a smartphone to capture these gormandic moments. Days of al fresco dining turned into months of munch and mess. Who was this bold banqueter?  Was he a homeless man with nowhere to go or some hapless soul escaping a tiger wife (a local term for angry woman)? Perhaps the kids got too much so he sought solace in food. He could have been on his way home from the pub?

He left his waste (ladies, aren’t you glad this mystery person is a male?) in exactly the same spot every time. He was nothing if not consistent.

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Pedestrians were forced to navigate a trail of KFC chicken legs, instant noodles, cup cakes, biscuits, spicy beef hotpot, curry beef balls, soup, apples, watermelon peel and oranges, french fries, sandwiches, sausages, and bowls of rice. There is more but my memory is not what it used to be.

 

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Don’t waste rice!

 

He has offended for months without apprehension. It seems likely that his feasting has been occurring during the small hours. The cleaners come at about 8:30am and clean up the rubbish. The area is usually spotless during the day. An idea was to go there one night and catch him in action – surprise him mid-mouthful. Then there was another dilemma – ethics (yes, a killjoy word). Could one go up to him and say:

Hello, Mr. Homeless Person can I interview you for the school newspaper?

Or “Stop right there! I’d like to make a citizen’s arrest!

So, the glutton remains a mystery, though I do have my suspicions. Like Jack the Ripper, albeit this one is a rather harmless rogue, he hasn’t been caught in the act.

 

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Peanuts?

 

Last week, a Bob Marley lookalike was seen acting suspiciously on the bridge. I took a photo of him from behind. He wasn’t caught in the actual act of overpass al fresco but a detective would put him on a list of possible suspects.

 

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And there he goes…

 

So, at this juncture, the nibbler remains a mystery. Who are you sneaky snacker and can you tidy up after yourself?

To be continued…..

 

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.