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 ...

Lion dance

This is only one of the lion dances I saw while in Yangshuo this Spring Festival. Taken with my cellphone on Feb. 10 and stabilized by YouTube’s magic elves today.

Winter holiday time

JISHOU, HUNAN — I had meant to post this a few days ago, but my webhost was having serious server issues, so I had to wait. Exams ended Jan. 11. I had two days free before teaching four middle school students two hours a day for a week. That was basically my only time commitment until the 20th, when it was time for all of us to begin the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) holiday. Most of the students on campus vacated as soon as exams ended. A few stayed to work short-term jobs before heading home, and even fewer are staying here for the entire holiday. So, at least I had some company. I’ve also spent time with friends in town. Most of the time, it’s blessedly quiet, so I can pursue projects that I’ve put off for months. One was to get better wireless Internet service. China Mobile, my cell service provider, has WiFi service, but it’s spotty in Jishou and on campus. They are reportedly building it out over the next few months, so that I might actually have WiFi available in my classrooms and home by April. I wanted something a little quicker, so I asked ...

My Winter Holiday, part deux 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, here I was back in China, after three weeks in the USA, and it seemed like I was stranded in Shanghai. (Or shanghaied.) When I left China, I was pretty sure my flight to Changsha was just a few hours after my arrival in Pudong Airport. No shuttle bus trips, no worries. But I had no idea what flight I would take, since my foreign affairs officer had worked out the details. So, as soon as I disembarked from United 835, I connected to China Mobile and sent him a message: “When is my flight?” His reply: “Bad news, it’s been canceled” Turns out I had to go to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport after all to catch a different flight. No biggie, I thought, Another 30 RMB bus fare with plenty of time to catch the domestic flight. Puh-lenty of time. Due to stormy weather around Changsha, my flight was delayed not one, not two, but five freaking hours! My 9 pm flight from Hongqiao Airport eventually left at 3 am! At one point, I fell completely asleep across four chairs, only to wake scared shitless I had missed my flight. I hadn’t. There were still two ...

My Winter Holiday, part 1 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — It’s been a while since I posted anything here, since I’ve been basically living out of a suitcase for the last five weeks. Now it’s time to relate the story of my journeys. There were three stages: USA for family reunioning, Changsha/Jishou for Chinese New Year, and Sanya for sunny (actually partly cloudy) beaches. Universities in China typically knock off for at least four weeks for the Winter Holiday, I suspect to encompass the times when Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) falls in the Western calendar. Traditional holidays follow the lunar calendar, while civil holidays and university skeds follow the Western calendar. I still get confused which calendar to use when people refer to their birthdays. I was looking forward to my holiday for a variety of reasons. The main one was getting back to the US after 17 months’ absence to see my kids and relations. The other was to enjoy a week in a tropical climate during the winter for the first time in my life. (Yeah, I lived a deprived life.) It may surprise you to learn that I wasn’t all that excited about being in the USA. Since I’m essentially rootless, coming back ...

Guest blogger: Wu Chengjun (Smile)

Guest blogger: Wu Chengjun (Smile)
JISHOU, HUNAN — While folks in the West were celebrating Valentine’s Day, the big day here was the beginning of the New Year, and the Spring Festival. I arrived in Jishou on the 12th, so I could spend New Year’s Eve and Day with one of my friend’s family. Spring Festival is rich in traditions. One of my freshmen, Wu Chengjun (Smile), is from the countryside of Huayuan County west of Jishou. On her own, she has been blogging in English in her QQ space about the Festival. They were so interesting and honest, that I asked her if I could share them with my friends in the States. She said I could. I’ve made corrections to Smile’s punctuation and some of her grammar, but everything else is her work. I hope you enjoy reading her diary entries. ——————————————————————– 11/2 — the Year of the Ox The day after tomorrow is the Spring Festival. My folks bought many things today, such as meat, vegetables, fruit, hot food, new clothes, and sweet wine, which you can drink with a kind of bread made of rice. The fruits are not only apples and pears, but … I don’t know its name in ...

Spring Festival and baijiu-rthday fun

JISHOU, HUNAN — My activities for the past couple of weeks have kept me away from writing much of anything, other than emails and QQ chats, so I am using this warm February afternoon to relay my activities since Jan. 15. The university officially went on Winter Holiday on Jan. 15. Classes resume in nine days. I managed to turn in all my grades by Jan. 13, clearing the way for my own four-week holiday. My friend Rain had plans for me beginning the 20th, so I basically had a week with little to do. The Spring Festival is a time for families to gather, much as Thanksgiving and Christmas are in the States. Given the mayhem of Spring Festival travel, students wisely leave campus as soon as they are able. Otherwise, train tickets may be impossible to obtain. This left the campus a virtual ghost town after the 13th, the day on which most students had their last examinations. Fortunately, I have friends in town. One of my freshmen, Grace, invited me to travel with her family to her grandmother’s village in the countryside on the 15th. There, her relatives were making a special kind of rice cake, a ...
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