Daily Archives: September 22, 2012

Jiaxing Weekend

Friday afternoon, we set off by the #28 bus to Auchan, a big grocery store about 10 km away.   We have been there before but this time we discovered all sorts of things that we had missed:  wheat pasta, mayonnaise, western spices (read:  those we can recognize), olives, cereal.  Better prices than City Shop in Shanghai so now we know we don’t have to pay through the nose for our treats.  They also carry a decent assortment of drinkable wine.  Our habit is to have soft-serve ice-cream on the way out, which we thoroughly enjoy.

We hailed a cab for the ride home, which we have done several times.   We say the name of the school, Jiaxing Gaoge–“Jye Shing Gow Gee”–and they take us there, at which point we gesture forward down the 3 blocks to our home.  We have practiced our home address and thought we could pronounce it reasonably well.  This driver appeared somewhat confused when we said it but set off in the right direction.  Before too long, however, he turned down uncharted territory, roads that we knew we had not been on before.  To add to our confusion, a dense low-lying cloud enveloped the city so we couldn’t see very far or get our bearings.  It seemed to be taking a lot longer than the 20 minutes it should have done and sure enough, we finally emerged from the clouds at the Jiaxing Train Station, not even close to where we were going.  Geoff said it was like driving from Lougheed Mall to our place via Guildford!  Or possibly getting lost on the new Cape Horn Interchange?  We turned him around and headed back in the direction but the driver was not confident.  He finally pulled over to speak to a policeman who was stationed on the side of the road and asked him to ask us where we wanted to go.  Off we went. When we  arrived at our gates, the bill for the cab was Y85; it should have been Y25.  The driver was so distraught when we gave him Y100, he tried to give us Y60 back!  When has that ever happened?!  In North America, the driver would give us hell for not knowing where the heck we were going!  We explained as best we could that the mistake was ours and he was to keep the money.  He was confused but happy in the end, and so were we.  We really have to work harder at getting our pronunciation right!

A bad thing happened today at Walmart!  Somehow, I lost Geoff’s pull-cart.  We always put it under the shopping cart and take it out at the register, but when we got there today, no cart.  It is gone and we will have to buy another.  The prices are great here but if we keep spending 4 times the amount for cab rides and losing things, we’ll won’t be able to buy our ice-cream cones!

We spotted two Caucasians shopping and stopped to talk.  They were both from Germany, and in Jiaxing to open a new Mars candy plant.  We asked if they knew there was a big Dove plant in Jiaxing–Mars makes Dove, they told us.  The new plant is to make Snickers.  I told them that my cousin Bruce works for Cadbury in New Zealand and were they connected to them?  No, Cadbury is their biggest competitor.  So there you go, cousin Bruce.  Maybe time for Cadbury to branch out in China?
(Ed. note:

  1. Today we bought a scale to check my weight. When we were at the airport, there was a baggage scale and I got on it. I weighed 99 kg. The scale we bought, which is accurate since Terry got on first and checked it, indicates that I weigh 93.8 kg., a loss of 5.2 kg. or 11.44 pounds!. Be assured, Mal and Scott, that the weight loss has just begun. Get your money ready!
  2. We did not buy this scale.)

    Would you buy ANYTHING from this man?

The Classroom

Our classrooms have ceiling fans and wall mounted A/C out of necessity:  it is still warm and humid.  Every room has a water cooler, my office included, except that the Chinese do not cool their water.  It is either at room temperature or the machine will heat it for you.  We may enjoy that feature in the colder months.

The main entrance to our building does not have a door; instead, a metal pull-gate is closed and locked at night.  There would not be a point in a door as the all the upper floors are open to an inner courtyard, California style.  On one side of the hallways are the classroom and on the other, half-walls with railings.  Each of the school buildings is designed the same way.  If this were California, the weather wouldn’t be a concern but alas, this is Jiaxing.  We have been told that the winter temperature  is close to Vancouver’s, so I will need to layer up.  Geoff, of course, will be quite comfortable.

Last Wednesday, we moved to another building and classroom for our first parent meeting.  Unlike our rooms, which have fewer than 25 desks in them, this room had 72 desks plus bench seating along the wall!  The Chinese are used to such large classes but for us, the mind reels.  The school has technology, with every room equipped with internet access and LCD projectors.  Students are forbidden to use their cell phones or other hand-held devices in class and the phones are confiscated if discovered.  In our classes, we have said no to electronic translators as we want our students to avoid getting hung up on defining every word and seek to use context for meaning. So far they are coping well.

Some things are not modern in approach.  Report cards, for instance, are  filled in by hand by the hapless homeroom teacher who must collect marks from each teacher and record them in each student’s book.  Teachers who have lived through this approach know how frustrating this can be.  However, I suspect in China, all teachers meet deadlines.

The parents are like any others, wanting their kids to do well and setting high expectations.  At our parent meeting, one of the questions was, “What percentage do students need to get into famous Canadian universities?”  I answered by suggesting that the standards were high but that we were several years away from having to answer this question and it was a bit too soon to worry!

One of our students is already showing signs of stress and needed to be reassured that he is a smart young man and will do well.  There are a few that we would like to get a bit more stressed!  We are still looking for ways to connect and build relationships with them so we can learn how to motivate these ones.  Sounds like a day in any Canadian school.