Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our School

We are Professors (imagine that!--fly over the ocean and become a professor) at the University of Electronic Science and Technology in China.  It is actually one of the top schools in the nation and many bright students attend and have graduated from here. 

Our contract is for the full year, two semesters.  We each have our own classes.  Kirk teaches three graduate classes in composition and conversation, and he is also teaching to prepare a group of 12 students who will be traveling to study in Germany next month.  (He made me come as a "guest speaker" to his first class and sing "Kopf und schultern, knie und fuss" with them!  (Head, shoulders, knees and toes.)  

My classes are 3 different graduate classes in composition and conversation, and 3 levels of UCLAN classes, a group of students who failed the entrance exams to the university, so they are going here for three years, then going to the University of Central Lancaster in England to 'graduate' and earn their degree.  They also threw 12 kids into my class on Monday who are from the HND program, but no one can tell me what that program is, whether or not I'll have these students all semester, and whether or not I will be giving them a grade.  THIS IS CHINA.  The directors here are eager to have us get the kids speaking English more than working on writing skills.  There is a wide level of proficiency among the students.  Some of them are frighteningly unable to understand or speak.  My UCLAN classes are considered "the rowdies", and because of my experience in teaching, they especially assigned these hoodlums to me.  Ha!  I taught seminary for 5 years--I'm not afraid!!  They already told me they want to come watch and see how I handle them.  They do terrible things like use their cell phone during class--horrors!  So far, I have found the students to be delightful and ready to learn.  They applauded me when I spoke my four memorized sentences of Mandarin, they oohed when they saw my ppt slide showing my family of 5 children, and when I showed them the slide with my 12 grandchildren, they hit the roof! They are very helpful with things like the computer (all in Chinese, of course), and Kirk's class invited us to go to the cinema with them!  


Liu Yalun




Here are a few of my students.  Some of them have chosen their own "English" name because the Chinese names are so hard for foreigners to pronounce.  I took their pictures so I could learn their names, and they were absolutely so very shy about that!  It was quite intimidating to them.  All except Daniel--he apparently is in show biz!  Watch for him on MTV.  :)   

Dining at Hekang Jiayun Restaurant
 We had a University Meeting to become acquainted with our Directors.  They introduced themselves, Chengdu, and the University, with power points and speeches.  Afterwards, they took questions from us, then they treated us to lunch at this lovely 5-star restaurant.  The table is a large lazy susan on a motor, so it constantly turns.  You take your chopsticks (or in Kirk's case, your fork--for a dentist, he's surprisingly inept with chopsticks!) and grab whatever goes by you that you'd like to try.  As for myself, I tried it ALL.  I was happy to try menu items that I didn't have to pay for!  The dish you see in the front of the photo in the bowl with the lovely purple flowers (what presentation!) is jellyfish in a spicy sauce.  Yes, I tried it!  It's like eating cartilage--chewy and flavorless, except for the sauce.  I also had abalone.  There were different kinds of fish, many varieties of vegetables, pork and beef, and perhaps a few other things I didn't know or was afraid to ask.  I actually didn't have anything that was nasty.  The live goldfish in the bowl in the center of the table were not available for consumption!  We were given a sparkling cider with which to participate in the many toasts offered--here's to a great year!

My First Day!
 This is the No. 2 Teacher's Building where I will be teaching all of my classes.  The university has two campuses.  Mine is the Shahe Campus, named for the Sha He (which means Sand River) which runs alongside it.  (Pronounce it "shah huh")  My UCLAN classes are on the top floor, and my graduate classes on the 3rd.  We go to a room to "check out" the keys to the computer desks and pick up a remote mouse and laser pen, but each room is equipped with a screen, projector and computer with audio system for us to use---and chalk--tons of it!  The rooms aren't typically air conditioned, so it is miserably uncomfortable.  Chengdu is very humid and hot this time of year.

 Here is the Sha He.  It's actually very lovely, with beautiful trees and green banks and a graceful white egret-type bird occasionally seen, bringing good luck to the viewer.  The only problem is that the water looks like Soylent Green, although there is no trash in it.  The trees and shrubbery are also gray and muted because the leaves are covered with the constant layer of smog and pollution that hangs in the skies of Chengdu.

 We walk across this bridge every morning from our University-owned housing complex in a gated community to enter the campus through the East Gate.  It's a brisk 10-minute walk to the Teacher's Building, and the people stare at us the whole way.  Some of the students will say "Hello" or "How-do-you-do?" just to practice their English a little.  We feel like celebrities all the time.

The second campus is called Qing Shuihe.  (Pronounce it "Ching-schway-huh")  Kirk has classes on this campus on Tuesdays.  He will have to catch a bus from the Shahe campus and ride 45 minutes to QingShuihe.  Then another bus ride home at the end of the day.  I have to say that I'm not sorry I won't have to take that bus.  The campus is huge and has huge buildings that remind me of Russia.  I think the communists like things to look grand.  These buildings are also not air conditioned.  They just brought in hundreds of gingko trees and other trees which they planted all over campus.  If you look on Google Earth, the trees aren't there.  These are full-sized, huge trees that must have cost a fortune!  They make the campus look very beautiful, but each tree is staked up to hold it in place for the next few years.  There is plenty of room to build more huge buildings.  They have the biggest/best athletic stadium in China and a first-class library that they are VERY proud of!  The library is air conditioned, so I imagine Kirk will hang out there on his lunch hour!  
No spitting....and don't bring your dachshund to class!

 Here is the sign that greeted us as we went to the Foreign Languages Building on the new campus  I can't interpret some of them, but you can see that there are plenty of rules to abide by.  I can't quite figure why one sign looks like it says "don't throw things in the trash can".

Teaching Building on QingShuihe Campus
 Here you can see an example of the freshly planted trees with their stakes to hold them up.  This is a monstrous building and is absolutely filthy inside--layers of dirt on the floors, desks, etc.  Let's hope they have them cleaned up now that classes are starting in earnest!  The motto is roughly interpreted as "Seek for truth and live by it."  Sounds like a great motto to me!


  1. You are in your element! I think you've been waiting for years to be a part of this experience. Those students are going to love you and Kirk. It's so fun to read and experience second hand what you are doing!! Love you!

  2. Maybe it's don't drop ashes in the trashcan--do people smoke there?

  3. I'll have to ask. That sounds reasonable. Yes, people do smoke here--in the school building, too. Usually it's the workers or teachers and no one says anything (except us Americans)! I'll have to get a photo of the common cigar holder that I've seen around. It comes straight out of the mouth, but the cigar is mounted at a right angle, sticking straight up. Looks amusing to me, but I'm a westerner!