Day 14 - Thursday June 12, 2008

Michael took a photo of this sign in Zhumadian.
If you can't read it, I've copied it correctly below:

The 9 sightseeing busline

Price:1 yuan

Tourist notice:

1. Enters the scenic area,strictly prohibits the smoke and fire
2. Forbids randomly to throw the trash chaotic phelgm.
3. The prohibition pulls and breaks off the flowers and trees,tramples the lawn.

4. The loving care tour facivity,dosenot permit randomly spreads.
5. The attention security,dosenot permit to sermount the protection parapet, dosenot permit to climb up the lift. Zhumadian public tracffic co.,ltd

Chunhong and Professor Tian at their desks on the 4th floor. This is where I met Mary but unfortunately I don't have a picture of her...

Yesterday I got a call from Chunhong to ask me if I was willing to spend an hour with a student to help him with English - he would pay 100 rmb. Sure! I’m always willing to help, so this morning I got ready to go with Michael to the university. We had breakfast together at the hotel and then took the bus in.

I went up to Chunhong’s office and in a while a mother arrived with her son. He looked to me to be very young, like maybe 14. But I found out he was 18 and after we’d spoken for a while I asked him to write down his name for me; his English name was “Mary”. Hmm... I was a bit surprised but another English teacher had mentioned that he had met a girl with a boy’s name - she didn’t know it was a name for a boy, so perhaps the same thing happened here ... I don’t know.

After a while, I pointed to the “Mary” and said, “You know that this is a girl’s name?” The response was “I don’t look like a girl to you?” Oops, so I eased my way gracefully out of that one, and after she told me that she had always played with boys when she was younger and she feels more comfortable in boy’s clothes, I told her I understood and that I had also been a tomboy when I was younger ...

Anyway, as soon as she started speaking, I was impressed. I had not heard one Chinese student speak English this well - not in Halifax, not in China, not ever - so why was I needed? Turns out we had a wonderful few hours and she talked about many things as I corrected some very minor grammar or pronunciation issues. She came to love English when she was twelve and had an extra curricular class with a teacher who made learning Engish fun. She learned to sing children’s songs (and sang one for me), she watched English cartoons and when she was 14 she read The Hunchback of Notre Dam. She had also read A Tale of Two Cities and other Charles Dicken’s novels.

She loves everything about English speaking places - but is a little cynical about them because of the pop culture - it seemed that it was shallow and useless. I agreed with her but explained that there are many people in the West who do not enjoy the pop culture either, they make songs and movies and write books which are not vain and shallow, but they are not popular and therefore not widely heard about.

She also thought that the West only has an army for the purpose of war, but China had shown them that their army is also used for rescue efforts. Seems she was told the West was surprised at this. I told her that in the West, we also use our army for humanitarian purposes, but we were pleased to see how quickly the Chinese army responded in the earthquake relief efforts.

So after I showed her how to get podcasts from CBC (because she speaks not with a British accent but with a very neutral accent - much like many Canadians and broadcasters) her mother was then back to pick her up; it had been three hours. Mary was hoping to spend some more time talking with me again, but since I was leaving early Saturday it didn’t work out. I really enjoyed the time.

This must have been an art studio - in the International Building. Michael said that Chinese students are very skilled in the basics of art - it's hard to teach them much about that.

This is Snow, Bo and Cat.

This is Butterfly, but not at the student cafeteria.

After my "lessons" with Mary, Michael and I went for lunch to the student cafeteria with Bo and Butterfly. Aaah, finally I was with a female who understood that I really do like vegetables. So she ordered bok choy with rice (white as always) for both of us (on plastic-bag-covered plates) and it was delicious. I only ate partially way down and left the rice alone that was sitting in contact with the plastic bag.

This is Bo with other students in his class.

Here's the whole class. They really like to give the "peace" sign.

So, Michael had to go for another class and I went back to the hotel. Out at the gate, I caught a taxi and saw the fruit sellers again. Did I mention that people walk down the streets eating fresh fruit - melons and apples?

At 7:00 pm Chunhong came with the van and it’s driver (Mr. Cui) to take us to the “Delicious Food” restaurant (that was the real name) where we met 4 new teachers from the UK. Phil, an older man who teaches automotive engineering, Amy and Amy and another young guy who all are teaching art design. The chancellor was to come as well, but a meeting held him up for about an hour.

This is Michael and Phil (from England)

This is Ian (I think) and Amy one.

This is Amy two and Chunhong.

This is the beautiful desert brought out while we were waiting for the Chancellor.

Finally everyone arrived ...

This is Chancellor Lou (President of the Universtiy)

And then a major spread was put on the table - one dish after the other. It’s funny how they keep bringing out more new food dishes, even after people have finished eating - even when there’s stll a whack of food left on the table. At the very end when I thought we were ready to go, another large bowl of soup was placed on the table in front of everyone (I had already had two different soups - in smaller bowls - plus a bit of almost everything else on the table!). Oh, and then after that watermelon was brought out (again) for everybody. I ate too much - because I felt obligated to do so; the chancellor, two seats down from me, was reaching over and putting things on my plate (like items of meat) and I ate.

Me, Michael and Chancellor Lou

We listened to the Chancellor for a while before we started eating and by the time we were done, there was hardly any room left on the table. This is almost everybody here at the table - except one of the professors, Baoyu Wang, who was graciously taking pics with my camera.

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