Friday, November 27, 2009

Chinglish - Please be quite

Happy Chinglishy Thanksgiving everyone:

I thought I'd share a couple of the (admittedly cheesy) text messages from students: "A Star has 5 ends, a square has 4 ends, a triangle has 3 ends, a line has 2 ends, a life has 1 end and I hope your happiness has no end."

Or there's this one, sent by several students. I think I've gotten this one every year at Thanksgiving, in fact: "I open my wallet, find no money; I open my pocket find no coin; I open my life, find you, then I know how rich I am! Happy Thanks Giving Day."

BTW, a little shameless self-promotion for those who are looking for a unique Christmas gift, I'll remind you about my Chinglish book. Not sure if the coupon code I wrote about on this website still works (giving free shipping), because I can't actually access the site here in China (censors still block everything from Facebook and Blogger to the LA Times and USA Today), but check it out by following the link from here:

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Beginning of the Snow
Originally uploaded by Ruthie Marie
On Wednesday morning my parents left for the airport to head back to America. It is now Saturday morning and they are finally getting home.
As we waited outside for the school car that would take them to the airport, we shivered in the dismal weather. It was 33 degrees and sleeting heavily. Moments after they left the temperature dropped and the sleet changed to snow. Within a couple of hours everything was covered with snow, and it continued to snow all day long and into the next day. Apparently it’s the most snow they’ve gotten in years.
At the Xian airport, things were not going so well. Due to the snow and fog in Xian as well as storms throughout the entire northern part of China, 200 flights were grounded leaving 20,000 passengers stranded. My parent’s flight was supposed to leave at 11am…then at 2pm…then at 4pm. Sometime that evening, they actually got on the plane and sat on the plane for 7 hours before finally canceling the flight and sending everybody back off. After over 30 hours in the airport (where they met all kinds of interesting people and witnessed some interesting…ah…“social disturbance”), they were finally able to get to Beijing on one of the few flights that actually left that day. They said when the plane landed in Beijing everyone cheered. By this point they had already missed two international flights and had to wait for the next day, though fortunately this time at a hotel instead of the airport. I don’t know all the stories, so you’ll have to talk to them. But the happy ending is that they did finally get back home, only two days later than planned.

Back in Weinan, the snow is quite pretty, and we are quite cold. The weather has been maxing out in the 20’s and low 30’s and we still have no heat. It feels like Yangzhou. Wearing several layers of long-johns and a couple of sweaters. Sitting under blankets next to the tiny space heater. Unlike like Yangzhou, however, we will not stay this cold all winter. Tomorrow is the magical day…Heat Day!! An arbitrary date (November 15) on which these unknown heat-lords decide that it is late enough in the year for heat to be turned on all over the region. I’m going to stop writing before my hands seize up from cold, but before I do, one more thing almost as rare and monumental as Heat Day…

I actually put pictures online! The first ones really since last Christmas. So if you want to see a few pictures from my parents’ visit, you can check them out at

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quarantine Fun

Class with masks
Originally uploaded by Ruthie Marie
By Ruth
The school quarantine continues. Students are still not allowed to leave campus unless they have a pass from the school…technically. As the quarantine period extends, however, the methods of getting around the rules multiply. Some students told us that people were making a profit by forging passes. Someone outside the school was charging students 1 kuai to use his ladder to climb over the wall.

The school campus is surrounded by a wall with two gates. Several guards stand at each gate monitoring (or at least appearing to monitor) who goes in and out. Should students get caught by the guards, some of them will ask for bribes. Our student said, “If you pay the guards some money, you will not get in trouble. Of course, it is illegal.” Most of the students don’t want to pay the guards because they ask for too much money, and the students would rather just get in trouble. Very few students choose either of these gates as their methods of escape, however.

For a while we have been hearing about students climbing over the wall. One of our students, who is part of the student government, said she and other student government members were assigned to watch different places in the wall during lunch and dinner hours, to stop students from climbing over. However, if a student was especially nice and seemed to have a good reason, she said, she would probably let them by.

Yesterday our student was telling us that now they don’t have to climb the wall – some students have knocked a whole in the wall and you can walk right through! It is like their own little private gate.
“I think maybe in a few days the school will mend the hole,” she said. “But then the students will make a new hole.”

She also told us that one student had posted a map online showing all the places to get out of the school. “There are seven places we can leave the school. Two are the school gates; there is one behind the #2 dormitory and another behind the #4 dormitory; one by the athletic stadium…” The online post not only showed all these places, it also ranked them with stars according to difficulty! “Of course, the school found out about this and was angry,” our student said.

One of the office workers came to me last week and told me that the roommate of one of the boys in my class was sick, so all the students were supposed to wear masks in class and we should keep the windows open. When I went to class, though, less than half the class was wearing masks. I asked them, “Where are your masks?” And they said, “Oh, we forgot them.” Those that were wearing masks took them off to talk and gradually pushed them down under their noses or all the way down to their chins. By the end of class about three people were still wearing masks.

So we find the whole quarantine thing pretty funny. For our part, we aren’t going to the major supermarkets (as much), we aren’t eating out (every day), we aren’t (telling the school about) going to Xian, we are taking our temperatures twice a day (if we happen to remember), and we are wearing our masks (long enough to take a picture).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Candy Auntie and Mr. Holy

School radio program
Originally uploaded by Ruthie Marie
My parents have been here for two weeks and it seems like every day has been packed. We went to Beijing (Great Wall, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven) and to Xian (Terra Cotta Soldiers, City Wall, Wild Goose Pagoda, Muslim quarter). Last week my parents came to most of my classes to introduce themselves, answer questions, and talk to students. This week my mom has come and helped with a “Southern Day” lesson in some of my classes. They have come to my office hours. We have had students over to our apartment. My mom taught a culture lecture. They have been on the school radio program. I’m taking full advantage of their visit and keeping them very busy.

Their visit has resulted in lots of funny student stories over the past couple of weeks which I would tell you about if I wasn’t so tired. So I’ll just give you a taste: the school radio broadcast.

One of my students, Lara, does a live English broadcast on the school radio (the one blasted on loudspeakers throughout the whole campus each day at lunch or dinner). I have been on the program twice; Kevin has been on it once. Last week in class Lara came and asked if my parents would be on the program. I said I’d have to ask them, and she was terribly excited when they agreed. Lara is excitable, talkative, and scattered. When she gets excited she talks very quickly and becomes increasingly more scattered.

On the day of the program, Lara explained the questions she had prepared for the broadcast. She met us and led us to the broadcast station, a small room in the classroom building with a closed sized area partitioned off for the broadcast. On the way, Lara asked my mom what she should call her. She said it was very difficult for her to say “Mrs. Hull” but she wanted something that would show respect.
“In China,” she said, “We would call someone auntie.”
“That’s good,” my mom said. “You can call me Auntie Candy.”
Lara liked the idea but could never quite get that straight and kept saying “Candy Auntie” instead. For my dad, she decided to stick with Mr. Hull, but she said it “Mr. Holy.”

Several of my students were there waiting for us. They weren’t related to the radio program, but they wanted to get in on the action. There were also several broadcast students eagerly looking on. By the end of the program, there were probably a dozen people crowded excitedly in the room.

The radio program consisted of Lara asking my parents a bunch of questions. The questions were wide ranging, varying from “How do you celebrate Christmas?” to “What are events that influenced your lives?” Some of the questions were a little more out of the blue, such as, “Some people do things that they enjoy and others do them just for money. For example, Clinton’s lover has written a book. What do you think about this?”

Lara said, “I hope that you won’t use any difficult words that I won’t understand because then I will feel embarrassed.” She kept talking about how nervous she was. I think perhaps the more nervous she is, the more she talks.

After the program, Lara told us they had recorded it to post on the internet so other schools could listen to the broadcast as well. So now my parents are famous.

There are lots of other funny stories (how can there not be, when you are teaching students to speak with a Southern accent and repeat things like, “She ain’t like the rest of us” and “He’s not so smart, bless his heart.” It was great fun.). But I will save some of those for our next newsletter…which I plan to make my parents write.