Winter holiday is here, and I’m in Japan! 4

Winter holiday is here, and I'm in Japan!
TOKYO, JAPAN — This year’s winter escapade is not to a warm, sunny location like Malaysia, but to the more wintry Japan — a joint effort by my son and me. He had some comp time available, and wanted to visit me in Jishou, but as I had planned to travel outside China during the Spring Festival, we settled on two weeks in Japan. Fun fact: this year, the Chinese New Year falls on my birthday. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which day that is. I gave my exams on Dec. 30, and spent the rest of the week reading them and calculating grades for my 150 students. I discovered two disturbing things: at least two of my sophomores had cheated on their exam and hardly any of the sophs had improved their listening comprehension marks over the last three terms. The cheaters flunked their exams, and the term. They will need to take a new test next term. I also get to read their classmates the riot act, as I suspect those two were just the unlucky ones who got caught. The sophomores’ failure to improve their skills much since they were freshmen is a bigger ...

A Chinese food joke 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — I should go to bed, but I have to share this joke a Chinese friend told me. I swear I did not make this up. “You know the problem with Western food? You eat it, and an hour later you’re hungry again.” Good night, folks. You’ve been a great audience.

Post-Christmas update: partayy!

JISHOU, HUNAN — With the end of the term approaching, I have been so busy lately that writing anything substantive for this blog was well nigh impossible. I’ll try to recap recent events as best I can, starting with Christmas Eve. All the colleges here at Jishou University hold some kind of end-of-term/welcome-the-new-year party, reminiscent of those old movies where they say, “Hey, let’s put on a show!” Members of the colleges sing, dance, act in skits, or play instruments, and the audience plays some silly games. (I joined in on one game a week ago. Blindfolded, with a partner riding piggyback and giving directions, I had to stomp on balloons to burst them. We won a 2-liter of Coke.) The College of International Exchange is the only one that puts on a Christmas-themed performance, scheduled suitably for Dec. 24. Our students spent weeks rehearsing their acts, while we faculty managed to cram our practice time into a few afternoons. Being a white-haired, bearded fellow, I was asked to play Father Christmas, and students also pressured me to sing a song. So I was really busy that night. I discovered that our students are multi-talented, with considerable performing chops. We ...

Of elections and other heartwarming tales 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — As elated as I was to see Barack Obama elected president, the full emotional impact of the event did not hit me until my class this afternoon. I got choked up enough I had to stop for a minute or two to pull myself together. I was giving the freshmen a short lesson on the election, on Obama’s background, and what he still needs to do before taking office in January. I started giving them a rundown of the inauguration, including the part where the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist (NOT one of my favorite people) John Roberts swears in the new president. The mental image of that scene stopped me in my tracks. For someone in my particular age bracket, the image of a black man actually ascending to the White House finally puts to rest the acrimony and hatred we remember growing up through the 1950s and ’60s. I watched the news with my dad, and saw the riots in Los Angeles, the racist presidential campaign of George Wallace, the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. While I was not directly affected, living as we were in a gerrymandered-white school district on ...
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