Month: November 2009

Wet Sunday

door & vegetables, old lane, Chengdu


Woke up at 7; had coffee and some good, chewy bread.

Meditated 30 min.; finished reading Hesse’s “Siddhartha.”

Braved the wet cold day to take the bus to Lianna’s Bakery. It was closed. Damn, for once in my life I had a taste for a grilled ham & cheese sandwich, apple pie, and coffee.

Went to Roma Square, which is now occupied by many antique sellers. Didn’t find nuthin’. Looked at electric heaters – too expensive. I can freeze for a while.

Went to Namaste Indian Restaurant for lunch; wrote in my journal for the first time since Aug. 30. Food just OK: chicken tikka masala, curried tomatoes & potatoes, garlic naan, masala tea.

Walked home, took a nap.

Went out to get a roasted chicken, bread, eggs, garlic. Gave chicken to Xiao Gou Gou for dinner. I had scrambled eggs. Walked dog.

Studied Chinese 20 min.

Typed blog entry; posted blog. The end.

Vocabulary lesson

The hazards of teaching:

I’m always correcting my students’ pronunciation when it comes to the similar words “snack” and “snake,” as in “We ate some food at the snake bar.”

Yesterday during the class break, as I was on the school balcony enjoying some “fresh” air, one of my students said, “Roger, our other teacher brought snake today!”

I said something to the effect of “Oh, well that’s great – did he give you some food in class?”

At that moment another student appeared, carrying a clear plastic box that contained – you guessed it – a real SNAKE. Yipes.

I learned my lesson. Believe it….or not.

Popcorn and a movie




I spent my usual Sunday riding my bike all over Chengdu. I visited two big markets in the northeast part of town – the housewares and dinnerware market, and the used furniture market. I didn’t find much of what I was looking for, but I did score an incredibly cheap 5-yuan teapot. I then stopped by Han Baozi for a huge serving of steamed dumplings with a side order of pickled vegetables – my afternoon snack.

I later met two teacher friends at Peter’s Tex-Mex Restaurant. The food isn’t too good, but we had fun. I’d stopped by Sabrina’s Country Store earlier to stock up on coffee and Jolly Time yellow popcorn (the real thing, not that microwave stuff).

When I got home I popped some corn; the Chinese 锅guō (what we would call a wok) is perfect for popping. I use imported olive oil, but I had no sea salt on hand, which would have made it perfect. I then crawled into bed with my laptop computer, and munched popcorn while watching the incredibly lame Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1942), a formula WWII anti-Nazi propaganda film, on DVD. At least Ray Milland was good.

Freaky Friday

cat on roof – Shuijingfang

Well, I managed to post one entry using the Blogger Dashboard software, but it hasn’t worked since. My new “privacy surfing” software works sporadically, but I don’t have the patience for it tonite.

I really did have a freaky day. I woke up at 6 am, then spent 4 hours preparing my PowerPoint presentation for my American Architecture lecture this afternoon. It was all perfect, and I thought I’d saved it repeatedly to the hard drive. I also saved it to my new USB storage key. When I checked back after lunch, the presentation wouldn’t even open on my USB – it was corrupted or infected by a virus. The hard drive version had only saved half the changes. Long story short, it took another 2 hours to re-do the presentation.

I did manage to do a decent job with the lecture, in front of my biggest audience yet, about 400, with every auditorium seat filled and people sitting in the aisles. I did my thing, answered some questions, and then even managed to show the first part of the Frank Lloyd Wright documentary I’d brought with me. The technical challenges of the day were forgotten, I had fun with the two student assistants I took with me, and afterward I took myself out to dinner.

Dysfunction and dat function

freeze frame dog – Sichuan University
Magic touch

I’m feeling MUCH mo’ betta. I had my second medical massage today, to work deeper into the issue of my blocked energies and upper back/neck problems. I also confessed to a 10-year-old weightlifting injury to my left rotator cuff, for which I’d never received any treatment (probably because I was uninsured at the time). Now we have more issues to deal with. Ah, what a tangled web we weave….

Meeting the dysfunction head-on
I don’t have a high opinion of meetings to begin with. This was especially true when the meeting in question was an “orientation” for midterm exams, held at the tail end of Week 9 of the semester, and the exams are to be completed by Week 10 – i.e., this week. I inserted the bold type out of anger, in case you hadn’t guessed. The first lesson I learned after arriving in China was to never, ever expect any information from an educational institution…until, that is, the last possible microsecond before the information is actually needed to survive or to do your job. I wasn’t exactly shocked, then, when I was informed that my classes’ oral exams would commence on Monday (this was Friday). When I protested, “Shouldn’t the students have some advance notice?” the reply was, “We’ll tell them that morning.” OK, whatever.
During the meeting itself, I was unable to concentrate on the important information being given by the leader, for the simple reason that there were at least 3 conversations going on in the room simultaneously. At full voice. I wondered why the meeting leader didn’t do anything about it – I would never tolerate such rudeness or disrespect from my students in the classroom. She simply soldiered on and her thing while the talkers did theirs. Of course, the moment the conversations were over, their participants left the room. They didn’t need the meeting to begin with, but didn’t have the courtesy to leave sooner. I thought later that some kind of insidious departmental politics were being played out – was I witnessing a power struggle? As I watched in disbelief, though, I suddenly understood some of my students’ behavior during class – they were simply doing as the adults do. Cultural differences or not, if someone is speaking to a group, you listen. Period. End of rant.
Wish me luck when I push the “Publish Post” button. If it works, I’ll see you in cyberspace, dudes.