Weekly

Week 17: December Means Christmas, Right?

Western brands are notorious for marketing Christmas pretty much as soon as they can no longer get away with touting Hallowe’en merchandise, so I decided I could probably get away with it too. My students are in for a month of Christmas-themed lessons! I decided to make each class an advent calendar. The result was a lot of happy but slightly confused middle-school students who were not altogether sure why their teacher had given them two bits of card stuck together with doors cut into the front. I managed to explain it to most of them, but it isn’t easy - a strange concept when you think about it. It’s nothing like a regular ‘calendar’, so not even the dictionary word helps. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 16: The Golden Trio Head off for Heilongjiang

Disaster has struck Xinjiang: armed police turned up at the Kuitun apartment and told them their visas had expired. The school’s ability to get a visa depends on their relationship with the prefectural police. Kuitun is in Yili, placing their police HQ five or six hours away, so their school was unable to pull the right strings. Unable to get visas, they were told with very little notice that they’d have to leave Xinjiang, and possibly China. (more…)

By TJC, ago
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Week 15: Dod Visits: Dance Class and… Uighur’s Milk?!

Thursday and Friday this week were spent getting ready for DOD’s visit (Desk Officer Dave) on Saturday. He got here mid-afternoon on Saturday and seemed to like our flat (remarkably clean - not that we’d feverishly cleaned it just before he arrived, or anything…). We got on with one-to-one interviews which was a chance to discuss the project in private, before being taken to a banquet organised by the school. Josh was highly apologetic that there was no alcohol, but Dave was thrilled. Apparently the schools in Kuitun managed to get him smashed the night before. We were given milk instead; when he asked Josh what sort of milk it was, Josh replied, 'Uighur milk'. 'Oh, no,' he corrected, 'I meant, what sort of animal does it come from?'. 'Uighurs,' was the slightly confused reply. Uighur’s milk. Lovely. All sorts of inappropriate questions came to mind. For those who are wondering, it turns out it was Coconut milk. (more…)

By TJC, ago
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Week 14: Playing Pool next to Possible Triad Members

Ben’s birthday was the 13th, which fell on a Friday this year. By lucky coincidence, he also had the day off. Karamay happens to be blessed with the presence of a German restaurant (Essen) and a Japanese store (MiniSo) which, as luck would have it, happen to be Ben’s favourite cultures, making Karamay the ultimate destination (obviously). (more…)

By TJC, ago
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Week 13: Bagang and Back

This blog post starts and finishes with lessons of a cultural nature. Bonfire Night was fun: I turned it into a game of True or False by telling the Gunpowder Plot through statements such as, 'In 1605, someone tried to blow up parliament’ with a picture of Big Ben and vocabulary. I got them to make True/False flashcards. It led onto how the conspirators were executed (I did not expect to teach my students, 'Hanged, Drawn and Quartered,' but there we go) and finished with them making up their own questions. It usually devolved into, 'He is [a] pig! *points at classmate*’, but they seemed to have fun. (more…)

By TJC, ago
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Week 11: Doctor Who, Dumplings and Disney Princes

I’m told the one great advantage of a VPN is that theoretically you can access the Internet from any location in the world. Imagine Google appearing in Cantonese while sitting in some Internet cafe in Greece, or browsing the Japanese iTunes Store from Brazil. If someone were to log in via the UK, the obvious target might be the BBC’s excellent iPlayer service. Doctor Who and the Great British Bake Off are two very popular shows, even among ex-pats… Imagine their displeasure if someone over at the good ol’ Beeb were to find a way of detecting VPN-usage! So no more Doctor Who. Or Bake-Off(more…)

By TJC, ago
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Week 10: Kuitun for Becca’s Eighteenth

As Friday approached, we eagerly awaited the weekend and Becca’s (slightly) surprise Birthday Party in Kuitun. The plan was to take a large sprite bottle of cheap-ass baijiu, but the really cheap stuff was discontinued so we took a laughably little amount in the bottom of a 2 litre bottle for comic effect. Tom showed me to a Japanese chain store he’d found, at which I purchased a ‘No Stick’. The No Stick consists of a boxing glove on a wooden stick with the word ‘No’ embroidered onto it. They do sell useful things too - non-stick frying pans, storage boxes, stationary and the like. (more…)

By TJC, ago
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Week 9: Time to Start Teaching?

As the title of this post may suggest, I don’t feel as though I’ve done a huge amount of teaching just yet. One six-day week, and then odd days either side of medicals and holidays - this week was just the same. The school decreed that Saturday should be a Thursday to make up for lost time, and so that’s what I taught. Becca came over and helped on the Saturday. I think interest in the others’ projects is something we all share - I’d jump at the chance to see someone else’s school as well (and, indeed, already have, twice). (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 8: October Golden Week in Yili and Fukang (Again)

No sooner had I slept a night in my own bed than I was off again, this time to Kuitun. We originally wanted to go to Kashkar for the Golden Week (a national holiday), but since all of China gets this week off, nothing much was available apart from buses (and Kashkar is quite far by bus). We settled for Yili, and with help from Becca’s waiban were able to track down a hostel which actually accepts foreigners (although they might 'have to charge us a bit more than Chinese customers would be charged…' Hmmm.). Knowing we had a bus the next morning, we got a sensible bedtime. After KTV and a 2am Dico’s (fast food), of course. (more…)

By TJC, ago