Saturday, June 29, 2013

Scatter Sunshine

"Scatter Sunshine" has been my daily motto here in China. It's not that I actually go out of my way to do things, I just smile and speak up whenever something strikes my fancy; especially talking to students and strangers on a moment's notice. You never know where or how the sunshine you scatter will make a difference; but you can be confident it will. Here is a letter I received from one of my oral English students.

Dear Kuzmich,
     Thanks for your company this year, which I will remember all my life. The benefits, happiness and motivation from you will be forever of great help to my life. And I deeply feel the enthusiasm of American people so that my strong desire to continue my study in Ivy League is even stronger.
     What always motivates me is the first sentence you said to me when we were sticking our photos on the name cards. I asked you for the glue and you said, "Oh, I like your accent."  At that time, I was totally depressed and diffident. It is not exaggerated that what you said enlightened my life then.
     And in that speech contest, you encouraged me after it, which also increased my confidence. That was the second time for me to deliver an English speech in public.
     Later, you offered me amazing advice about how to practice oral English, how to enlarge my vocabulary, how to make best use of the newspapers and magazines, how to improve writing skills and so on.  All those are quite precious to me.
     For the first time in my life, I feel that singing with others is such a blissful thing! Perhaps music is really one part of everyone's soul.
     No words can express my gratitude exactly. I will appreciate it for lifelong time.
     Wish you a happy time later and all your family member to keep fit.

Endless love.
Yours truly

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Great Firewall

Here is an interesting view of the Internet in China from a student's point of view.

      "Since you already know the truth that so many web sites are now unable to visit from mainland of China. Today I'm going to tell the reason of it and introduce the great wall in the invisible cyber world. It all begins with the Great Firewall, which is the biggest digital boundary in the world.  It's not a sort of software but a system that isolates China from the global Internet.
     "The purpose of the system is to filter those web pages containing sensitive topics, which are considered to be harmful and are likely to shake the stability of the country, including politics, freedom of speech, Tibet independence improvement and so on. According to the survey of Harvard, over 18,000 web sites are blocked by the GFW, including Facebook, Twitter, BBC, even Google are blocked every now and then. For those large web companies, if they want to develop in the mainland, their servers must be set in Beijing, so that the authorities are able to censor the data rigorously. Google can't accept that and pull out from China and set its server in Hong Kong.
     "Since you already know the purpose, next, I'm going to illustrate to you how the GFW works. Normally when we click a hyperlink, we are actually sending a request to the servers which will immediately reply with web page files we clicked. We know that.
     "But with the GFW lying between your PC and the server, the authority will censor the content and decide to block it or not. If the page does include some sensitive topics, we are not able to see the pages. That's why you often see the browser indicate '404 NOT FOUND.'  We have our special term for that: River Crab, which is the phonogram for harmonization or censorship. That basically how it works.
     "In conclusion, just like it's said in 1984, "Big Brother is watching you" and you do everything under the censorship of the government. They have everything in their hands. The Internet belongs to all mankind, and it needs to be free and the wall is bound to collapse."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Civics Lesson

During second semester each student signed up to present a topic of their own choosing for 3-4 minutes in English. I loved these Teach the Teacher presentations because I learned so much about so many different aspects of Chinese culture and current events. Here is one that really caught my attention.

     "A few months ago, we had our new leaders in our country. But have you wondered where do they dome from? They don't just appear out of nowhere. And its' not that if you do something great, you'll be the president. Today I'd like to briefly talk about something where our leaders come from.
     "Firstly, we need to know something about our country's political system. Our constitution says that our country' power belongs to the people, and National Peoples' Congress is the top power. But in most cases, the Politburo has the top power. There are 25 members in Politburo. On top of that, there is a standing committee, which includes only 7 members. Those 7 people are the post powerful officials in our country.
     "We can roughly divide these members of Politburo into 3 factions. The first faction is called "Shanghai Gang." Led by former party chief Jiang Zemin, this faction has some connections with our country's commercial capital.  The second faction is called "Tuanpai," led by former preside Hu Jintao. People in this faction usually cultivate their careers in the Communist Youth League. Besides, there is a third faction, which we usually don't talk about, called "Princelings."  Princelings refer to the privileged children of revolutionary leaders. They often start their careers in the military, including our president Xi.
     "Currently, "Shanghai Gang" is the main force in Politburo, and "Tuanpai" is becoming more and more powerful. We can get a lot of things from that.  There are many problems in our country's political system, as the economy is growing relatively slow, the problems are becoming more and more obvious. So some people are expecting China to have some big political reforms. But looking at that, it's not really possible. President Xi is the first leader to take power while his two predecessors are still alive,which it'd be very hard to get consensus in the Communist Party.
    "By comparison, we can look at the political changes in North Korea. Compared to them, we are very democratic."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From Petal

Petal is our incredible class monitor for one of our Junior year English Writing classes. She is the best go-to gal ever and has solved some pretty sticky problems this year. I gave here a wee thank you gift. This was her reply:

Dear Mrs. Kuzmich:

I love the gift you gave me. Thank you so much. You are such a great and nice teacher who not only helped us better our English writing but also made us be aware of the importance of writing. Without you I would never realize how invaluable my autobiography and journals are. Mr. Kuzmich's lesson of how to write dynamic resumes did help us make preparations for our future career. We have really learned a lot from you and Mr. Kuzmich. I feel sorry that you will not be our writing class teacher any more for you have to go back to your home. But, I want to be friends with you and hope we can keep in touch with each other.

Sincerely yours,

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Student Remarks

Our students have just completed their last writing project. Writing an autobiography. Here are some nuggets I culled from them. They paint an interesting picture of China. Most happened within the last 23 years.

"What my favorite are painting and doing handwork. Many people like my parents they thought it wouldn't make me to be somebody by art. So they didn't allow me to learn. Maybe many children, like me, shelve their dream. In fact, we need to chase our own dream."

"It was in the village that I spent my wonderful childhood which I treasured most. When spring came, children in the village would go to the river bank to by kite and catch locusts. What impressed me most was pulling up a kind of plant which was edible and delicious. Those adults regard it as weeds, but we children regard it as our treasures. Once springs comes, the smell of it seemed to invite us to take them. Nothing was more attracting to me than going to the riverbank to pick and eat those green plants. At about seven o'clock in the evening, you would see thousands of light shining in the darkness on the riverbank. Under the trees there were groups of children with flashlights in their hands. They were looking for cicada's pupa. Cicada;s pupas were our favorite food in summer. Just think of the golden fried cicada's pupas makes my mouth water."

"My hometown was a poor and small village the time I was born, and my family, as well as most of the other families, lived a tight and simple life. With less than 100RMB ($15) income every month, my parents even found it was hard for them to afford my milk powder fees. To make a living, many children had to help their parents with their work or house chores. At that time, every first month of the lunar year, my parents would sell fireworks to make extra money just as many people would do in the street market. But to cut budget, most of us did not have a trading license, so I became the watchman and every time I saw a police far away, I would shout and then almost the whole street was cleared out before his reaching. Nowadays, only fireworks sold by legal merchant can be found in our market, some unique experiences of that time will never be forgotten."

"After the grain was transported home, farmers had to consider how to avoid destruction by rats. The war between human beings and rats has begun since the latter lived int he world. As a countryside girl, I witnessed the evolution of mousing tools. Initially, villagers took methods of poisoning. The poison contained wheat, puddings of apples and toxicant. Unexpectedly, it led more chickens to death which took considerable interest in the strange-smelled food than the rats. Later, a mousetrap called "iron cat" was invented. It was made of metal with several strings and two clips. Under pressure, the clips shut quickly and clamped tightly everything which touched either of them. In the corner of my ard, my mother once laid a 'iron cat'. We all had great confidence in catching disruptive rats. However, in a autumn afternoon, a big cock was trapped. It flew around the yard frantically and cried in desperation because the 'iron cat' bit its right leg firmly. Because of the risk of injuring fowls, gradually the 'iron cat' was replaced by sticky cardboard, which was just like a marsh where the harder the rats struggled, the more tightly they would be stuck."
"You may wonder, now that these tools have so many shortcomings, why not raise a cat? In fact, not all cats are diligent and clever. sometimes they usually make trouble for you. When I was in grade three, my cousin gave me a kitten. It was so lazy that eating and sleeping were all its life. Its habit got my mother vary worried until one day a prestigious woman in my village told my mother her secret of training a cat. Every time I recall the thrilling training scene, my hair will stand on end. According to our custom, idle behavior is caused by a laziness tendon. Once the tendon was pulled out, the animal would become rather hard-working. That seemed true. The woman covered the tail of my poor cat with a patch of cloth and with a great bite, the tendon was entirely out. Losing a tendon, the cat, shrieking with sadness, suddenly rushed to the yard to practice hunting. Over months, it had been an expert at catch rats. Unfortunately, it usually killed my neighbor's goldfish and put them around the fish tank."

"On the premature death of the second kid, my mother was very sad. But soon she was expecting the next child, wishing it would be a lovely daughter. In the mid noon  of.....a male baby was born. Yup, another boy, that's me. Because of the 'one-child policy' I was delivered at home other than in hospital. The unregistered boy, was secretly told to the government by some we do not know, and my parents were fined two thousand RMB. Besides, my mother was sterilized."

"Due to the single-child policy, I was born in a relative's home, not in a hospital. Parent must pay a big price for children born outside of state plan. So did my parents. After paying the fine, I came a 'legitimate' Chinese citizen. After I grew up, when my parents make reference to my birth, I found myself pretty fortunate in comparison with other children born outside of state plan. At that time, fertile women who had already got a child got check-ups every month. once found pregnant, they would be forced to obtain abortions. In order to avoid the check-up, my father took my pregnant mother to a relative's house. It is said that before 1997 some family houses were torn down for breaching the single-child policy. Some people were dismissed from posts. After 2000, concerned authorities began to confiscate those 'extra' children.  

"Mom suffered a lot when she was pregnant. She stopped eating after 3 months and began to vomit 5 months; at first whatever she ate, soon the bile, then blood. It was terrifying...It was a cold morning after heavy snow.  Mom began to feel uncomfortable and knew it was the time. But the nearest hospital was 1-hour drive from here, and with such deep snow, undoubtedly no one would like to endanger their cars. Out of anxiety, dad decided to send mom my handcart. My dear grandparents and dad worked together to comfort mom on the handcart.
"It was snowy, even too cold to walk, not to say to push a handcart. Thus, it took them half a day to walk on the 1-hour drive road. The birth could not be called smooth, and mom fainted the moment I was born....They could not pay for the room, so they had to get back home that night. Snow had already ended. It was a starry night. Cool instead of cold. Little wind. Uncountable stars. Mom sat on the handcart pushed by dad, hugging her child."

"Both my grandparents were born in small villages in the south part of China in 1950's and then married each other after introduced by a matchmaker. It was a common way to get married in China in that time. Grandpa was a steamed bun maker and grandma went out to do farm work. They got three children, two daughter and one son. When the elder daughter was 22, a young man came to their house and wanted to marry her. However, she fell in love with another handsome man Sadly the young man turned around and decided to leave. Bt the younger sister, who was only 19, came out of her bedroom and said, "I will go with him." Dramatically, grandparents agreed. At last this brave girl became my mother and yes, the young man is my father."

"It was a tough period in 1960's because of the Great Chinese Three Year Famine and also the Cultural Revolution. People did not attach importance to education, and parents were skeptical of anything that took children away from their work on the farm. And Chinese education is characterized  by strictness and pay more attention to children's weakness."

"A snowy night witnessed my birth with the help of a midwife at home. It was lucky for me to come into the world because I was nearly aborted. Under the one-child policy, my parents wanted to have a son after my elder sister's birth. however, ultrasonic told them a piece of bad news that I was a girl, too. Disappointment drove them to make that kind of decision, but my grandmother cried and stopped them from aborting me. I think that moment was when my life began. Afterwards, my family often told me the story as if they were telling some funny things. Every time I laughed with them but from the bottom of my heart I felt sad and sympathy for myself."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Shandong University Portrait

Believe it or not, the head of the art department in the School of Fine Arts thinks I look like the founding Provost of Shandong University.  The head of art department asked me to poise for a portrait stand-in for Mr. Haynes, the original founding provost. You can see him in the white suit in the very large commemorative work of art behind me. But the artist was profoundly disappointed in the affect of the angle that he painted Mr Haynes. The artist wanted to repaint the center section with Mr. Haynes facing more forward. A side angle just didn't seem distinguished enough, so he told me.
Below is the original 1901 photo with Mr. Haynes in the center followed by photos of me at the "sitting." 
The final painting will be featured next fall among other commemorating the 100th anniversary of the official founding of Shandong University. 

Here's a short video capture that has Roslyn explaining what's going on.

How did I receive this invitation?  Professor Mr. Yao Ronghua had seen me on campus in the school canteen but when we met at the Tibetan Art Exhibit, he indicated that I would be a good match for Mr. Haynes.  The photographs below highlight the distant resemblance.

You can see how clothing was once a distinguishing factor in the Chinese hierarchy. The officials are all decks out in blue brocades which the school faculty are more simply attired. Mr. Haynes really stands out in his Western suit. The unanswered question was, "Who are the men in suits in the back?"

Here is the Dean of the School of the Arts is in the center giving expert advice to me and the artist. He's a fine artist as well.

They took dozens of photos at all angles. Roslyn was probably the best at telling me how to pose to give them what they were looking for. Viktor (one of our writing class students, in the blue collar) was an excellent interpreter because the artists needed to get past their English limitations to get me to do everything they needed done.
The artist knew exactly what he was looking for. He's a fine artist and an able instructor.

Professor Yao Ronghua is the head of the art department who invited me to poise for the commemorative painting.