Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Jinan "twig" Christmas Party!

Our church has stakes, wards and branches; but here in Jinan, China we have a twig consisting of 14 members. Kathy Hong, a wonderful Chinese woman from Toronto, Canada is a church member now living in China, invited the twig to her condo for a Chinese Christmas party on Dec. 26th.  America, China and South Africa were well represented.

 From l to r: Judy Judd, Judy Harward, Snow, Brent Harward, Roslyn, and Lulu
 Kathy's mother, a professional vocalist and teacher, serenaded us. Kathy is smiling on the far right.
Simon, Kathy's husband, enjoyed regaling us with interesting stories all evening.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Day in China

Three of our Oral English classes celebrated Christmas with some never-to-be-forgotten parties. We taught 2 two-hour classes in the morning on Christmas day and then partied with our students from 2:30 - 8:45 p.m. We'll let the photos tell you about the festivities:

Students often keep their coats on in the barely heated buildings. We're having a hot time, nevertheless.
Organic refreshments: oranges, peanuts, sunflower seeds and funky jello-like candies.
Playing a guessing game. That manger scene was a hard one to guess.
Gary & Roslyn were challenged to reenact the famous Titanic scene
Great Job!
Roslyn & Sanro Clemens in his finest Shanghai threads with leather fedora
Party animals
Homemade decorations
Putting on a show for the party
Oral English Dance Team
Teaching the crazy "Singing In the Rain" song activity
Our Wed. 10:00 Oral English class
Videographer John in action
Chinese Santa
Caroling in China
Christmas Cake in China
Sharing the Christmas cake
Students love posing for pictures
Beauty in China                                                                                                   Sky's cake fight...
Dancing for the class...each party had several performances. All were loads of fun to watch.

Cutting the Christmas Cake

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Basketball in China!

Did you know that the Chinese are gaga crazy for American basketball? The only other sports that come close on the enthusiasm Richter scale are Table Tennis (ping pong) and Badminton. My students can't get enough news about our NBA. But now they have their own league to cheer: the CBA (China Basketball League); and it's getting "bigger and better" according to China Daily, boosting 17 teams.

Their season started in November with a clashing match between the defending champion, Beijing Ducks, and the Shanghai Sharks.  
NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady is still playing to cheering crowds in the twilight of his career.

Here is the CBA by the numbers: 
17 teams..have hired 24 foreign coaches & trainers while drafting 36 foreign players, including 28ex-NBAers
237 domestic players
38 rookies...drafted from local youth teams and colleges
272 total regular season games
23.2 is the average age of local players

And how about those team names?! The Chinese are notably unconcerned about copying, even among pro team names. 
Here is the order of how they finished last season:
        FUJIAN SBS    
SHANGDONG GOLD LIONS  (this is the province in which Jinan is the capital and where we presently reside)

English and Education

        John and I pay for a subscription to CHINA DAILY. Interesting reading.
In an article in the weekend edition Nov. 3-4 p. 4 entitled "China's English Ability Lagging Behind"
I read that while China is a country with the largest number of English learners in the world, it has
dropped from 29th to 36th among the countries that promote English speaking in their education
systems according to the Education First English Proficiency Index. The article explains that in China,
learning English usually ends once schooling is completed and Asian people do not work as hard to
improve their English once they step into a career.
        It goes on to say, "Compared with many other countries, like Singapore and India, China lacks an 
environment to practice English. Students have few opportunities to practice English outside of 
school. Learning a language requires practice. Chinese students study English for test... 
Especially in the Chinese mainland, English is still rarely used in daily life because people can read only 
Chinese on many items such as road signs and food wrappers."

Makes sense. 
What the view on the street? Here is one student's view:

        "In China's history the education is always a useful method to divide the citizens into different groups
and classes. And once this classification is decided, its quite hard for people to change and it will make a 
big influence on later generations. There is no doubt that examinations in China are the best way
to give everyone an unbiased and objective chance to get a higher level of education and the telling evident
is the college entrance examination.
        "I once watched a video (TED) which really gave a clear argument about this phenomenon. Students study
for 10 or more hours a day for 3 or 4 years in high school. We have no chance or other choices but to struggle. 
Everyone is in an extreme study situation and if you fall behind other, to will be difficult to catch up with your    
peers again.
        "However, the tertiary education to some extent, disappointed most of the students. We used to think the 
idea of a university education was to instill high moral values and mold a sound character. But nowadays, 
even some key universities force-feed the students and make them memorize for memorization's sake. 
In my opinion, students should not be treated as passive glasses of simple ideas or learn the knowledge by rote.
Students will easily stop thinking by themselves and follow the teacher's idea blindly. Not only can it constrain 
creativity but also dampen the students' enthusiasm." 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Chinese Chicken Soup for the Soul story

Tiantian told this story as part of her journal reflection on the power of kindness.

        "Numerous examples clearly illustrate the simple yet magic power of kindness. Here I'd like to share one that happened to a boy in my neighborhood. He had been in a serious relationship with his girlfriend for 6 years and they were both in deep love with each other.But unfortunately, the girl's parents had never agreed to their marriage because he was born out of a poor family in the countryside and couldn't afford a house in the city. One day, when he was on his way to work, he saw an old man fall down by the roadside because of a heart attack. With no hesitation, he sent him to hospital and paid the hospital expenses and hurried to work. Several days later, he and his girlfriend finally decided to see her parents. [I know...after SIX years??]  The moment the door opened, the two men inside and outside the door stood still and stared at each other for a long time -- the old man he saved the other day was the girl's father! The result of the story now becomes crystal clear: the girt's parents pleasantly consented to their relationship with an apartment as the gift for their marriage, and last month they got married blissfully."

Chinese movie stars!

We are promoting a Chinese health service by saving Roslyn's life.  It was a paid gig that paid us a lot of Yuans!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

More Reasons for the Season from China

Today in church I heard some things that might prove to be excellent suggestions to add to your holiday traditions.

We were encouraged to teach the true  meaning of the symbols of Christmas rather than just let them be seen as mere holiday decorations. The lights, the Christmas tree, candy canes, the star, etc. all present excellent teaching possibilities.  You would be surprised how many public school students I taught for 20 years had no idea what many of the Christmas holiday decorations symbolized. That ought not be the case in our families. A simple Google search will render all kinds of good information plus fun games to teach this, as well.

The second thing I heard in church today was an equally excellent holiday suggestion.

1. Make the 12 Days of Christmas your 12 Days of Service. This can include both open and surprise ideas; gifts, singing, food, etc.

2. Also, the 12 days of Christmas can easily be changed to the 12 Names of Christ; reintroduced each holiday season. The speaker said that while he was growing up, his parents taught the 12 names of Christ throughout the Christmas season and that this left an indelible holiday memory, the lessons of which stayed with him into adulthood. Naturally, the great "Hallelujah Chorus" can remind us of the several names of Christ found in the words of Isaiah. The other names he highlighted in his talk were the Good Shepherd, and Messenger, and Light (of the world).  This would make a fun Google search as there are many names of Christ you can focus on to create your own 12 Names of Christ.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Right Turns in China

Crosswalks and intersections are dodge ball zones. And, there are massive misdemeanor violations taking place all the time as mopeds and pedestrians head across the street against the light dodging traffic that has the green light. But there is one thing I see all the time that is a tragedy waiting to happen all the time.

In America, traffic is allowed to make a right turn on a red light AFTER stopping then proceeding if no pedestrians are present in the crosswalk. Not so in China. Traffic is free to make a right turn without stopping whether it's a red or green light and I have never seen a bus, truck or car slow down, let alone stop at the corner. Sometimes right turning vehicles will be slowed down or stopped if a LOT of pedestrians walk in mass across the street because they have the green light to do so, don't you know. That makes no never-mind to a determined right-turner. They all drive around the corner at top speed at all times as if it's their god-given right.

I didn't think any one would believe me if I explained this; but now we have video footage of my crosswalk concern. This commonplace traffic phenom was captured on camera with uncommon but inevitable results. Notice that the scooter has the green light right-of-way, hence the truck is turning on a red light; but the truck drives right on through at regular speed. But that scooter driver isn't without culpability. Scooters and mopeds notoriously disregard public safety as they drive anywhere, anytime at top speed. So I guess we should be grateful that this encounter between two entitled motorists doesn't occur more often.

In this case the lady on the scooter was miraculously able to walk away with only minor injuries. A month ago, a similar encounter killed a moped-riding mother and her child.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Silk Road!

Here are some the Silk Road in the Gobi Desert which is a real desert.  It gets up to 60 degrees Celsius or 144 Fahrenheit degrees in summer and freezing cold in the winter time at -35 degrees Celsius or -31 degrees Fahrenheit.  A very humbling trip from Europe to China and back.

 No easy road across China on Silk Road!
 Absolutely nothing but sand and rocks on this road to....?
 A Buddhist city on the side of a cliff!
 15,000+ foot mountains surrounding this narrow valley.

 Beautiful sculpture in the middle of desert!
 Another beautiful sculpture!
 Another beautiful sculpture!
 Carmels love the Gobi Desert!
 The BYU English teachers we traveled with who all teach throughout China.
A building that once stood well.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birds 'n Bees...and Girls

Gotta give Chinese officialdom credit for being able to read the writing on the wall. They read the aging statistics in the West, witness the graying of Japan's population and see Putin beg Russian women to make babies for the Motherland. They know where China is headed without a course adjustment; hence the recent headline: Birth rule could be relaxed. 
All sorts of interesting things are coming on the heels of the Communist Party's Pomp & Paper doings in Beijing in October including 'possible' changes to the family planning policy. One of the key changes that may take place concerns the criteria for urban couples having a second child. Presently only parents who are themselves an only child are allowed to have a second child; and this applies mostly to the majority Han Chinese ethnicity. There are about 60 ethnic groups in China and many 'minority' races who live way out in the autonomous regions are not under the restrictions of the one-child policy; especially in farming areas. The present fertility rate in China stands at about 1.7 which is below the replacement level of 2.1.
But unless they add some serious incentives to these policy changes it may be too little too late. The cost of living is rising rapidly and the cost of raising a child in an ambitious, upwardly mobile society may be a "thanks but no thanks" policy change to a blossoming middle class that likes to go shopping...a lot. The old two-child policy may eventually become the future trend but make not mistake; "in the coming 20 years, family planning on the mainland will remain dominated by the government rather than the family itself." 

I remember hearing all kinds of horror stories about selective abortions in favor of boy babies and the low number of girls in the Chinese population. I don't know about the rest of China, but here in Jinan women are in plentiful supply. In our classes of 30 to 40 students, we have at most 3 young men per class; the rest are all fine, young women. And I've read a few news stories that indicate that while it is the filial duty of sons to care for their elderly parents, it is the daughters who are doing that job; and doing it with more care and attention than the sons. In fact, it is very successful sons who are beginning to put their parents in assisted living centers which are starting to pop up in large urban areas. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Terracotta Warriors!

From John: Here are some crazy photos of Roslyn and I visiting the unparalleled highlight of an excursion to the incredible Terracotta Warriors and Horses at the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor who unified China in 221 BC.

 Terracotta Armour!
 Amazing stuff to view.
  A museum full of Terracotta Warrior Goodies.
 Terracotta Warrior presents.
  The most significant Archaeological Finding of the 20th Century (1971).
 Closeups of the Terracotta Warriors.
 Amazing archaeological relics.
 Art that lives today.
 The man who found the first Terracotta Warriors signing our book.
 Beautiful art work.
 A man of General rank.
 Don't mess with this soldier.
My buddy!