We had the first of two-days of parent teacher’s conference at our school today. I have done this at schools before, nothing new, but I did get to thinking about life in general and the turns and twists one takes on the journey.
Sitting there with parents I remembered my days as the parent with my children. Life was so different then. I was a single parent in South Australia (I was the foreigner there, being a Yank and all, though allegedly I spoke the same language as the teacher) and usually there was a problem with at least one of my children, I will not say which one. Of course I blamed the teacher because obviously the reason my child acted out was because the class was not challenging enough and my son was creative and beyond their slowed down standards. Actually I was probably the parent from hell.
This was between 1985 and about 1999. Not sure why but my children attended lots of schools. We started off with Mt. Compass, and then there was Pt. Elliot, Meadows, Victor Harbor, Christies Beach High School, and that was just primary. There was Wirreanda High School later on and a temporary school because of some discipline stuff and maybe Seaton High too; I lost track.
I started my own studies in 1991 and went straight through to 2005; 14 years of university, from starting my BA when I was 44 to collecting my PhD at the University of South Australia when I was 58. I started teaching in 1999 at age 52, when most people start to look at retiring. Before that I had been a tofu maker for seven years, a brother in a religious order, a cook, street artist in New Orleans, NYC, South Australia, Honolulu; a happy hippie living in communes in the 1960s and a variety of things but sitting in front of parents talking about their children always amazes me; especially here in China, where I need an interpreter for Chinese, Korean, German and or etc. and I am happy to present myself as the teacher or as is the case now, the student’s advisor. I try to recall my children in school and think of nightmares – principal’s phone calls, me defending my children, the fire in the boys toilet that many years later a son said yes it was him, to the court appearances for graffiti and on and on.
One of my favourite moments (not) was when I was being showed my son’s diary (this happened with both children). There were lots of absent days with my signature – this was at Wirreanda High School, my children would have been in about 8th and 10th grade. There were days when they did not have their uniform with some excuse about it is in the wash –this was in many entrees. The reasons for missing school were everything from baseball practice at another school (that son was later signed by the LA Dodgers as a pitcher) or meetings at the dentist, doctor and a host of visits I barely could have imagined. All signed by me. When I pointed out it was not my signature anywhere in the diary I was shown the front page of the original signature – my children had signed my name from day one. OK so I never looked at their diaries – poo hoo on me. I had other things to deal with like being a perfect parent.
What I find really fascinating is when two parents are talking a mile-a-minute in a foreign language, and looking up every once in a while at me then going back to saying stuff I have no idea what. 他无法组织一个妓院的螺丝 (He couldn’t organize a screw in a brothel).
Today a student was the interpreter for the mother. “How is my daughter doing?” So I go on about if she stopped using her cell phone, talked less during class, did work… I am sure she did not tell her mother what I said. The mother looked at me with a bit of – was that amusement, disdain, surprise, shock…? How would I know? The daughter could have said, “Dr. Neuage says if you do not have enough water in the basin when cooking beans they will burn.” I did hear the Dr. Neuage part.. the result was a blur of sounds and pitches; some going up and some going down.
I also never know when to bow or shake a hand. The Koreans like to bow when greeted the Chinese will go for the paws. But then I never get the Europeans and Aussies kissing on one side then the other thingy. I lived in Australia for 22 years and still never know which cheek to peck first. I am not saying I still can not tell the difference between Koreans and Chinese that would be rude I suppose but truth be told I can’t. And what happens if we bow at the same time and hit heads and one of us gets knocked out?
I love my job – teaching broadcast journalism and being our video media person and creating our school news shows and working with teachers with technology and teaching my middle school publications class. It is just a long ways from being a single parent living on a pension with naughty children and a tenth grade education until one day I thought shit I am in my 40s and doing not much and then 14 years later I was Dr. Neuage. Whats next? The only thing that is the same is that I am, as always, in a foreign country.
Well tonight is Friday and early tomorrow morning we are off with the International Club of Dalian for a two day trip to one of Dalian’s best getaways destinations – Bingyu Valley 冰峪沟! “Beautiful scenery, exciting white water rafting, fresh air and interesting people…” More about that next week, after the trip.
What we did on the weekend
Because the weekends disappear on us and we forget what we did I am going to track each weekend this year to see what we do with all that time.
|Date||What we did|
|September 16||Our Itinerary for this weekend. I will add to it when we get back
International Club of Dalian is glad to invite you to join us for a trip to one of Dalian’s best getaways destinations – amazing Bingyu Valley! Beautiful scenery, exciting white water rafting, fresh air and interesting people are totally not to be missed. Tour along the river offers similarly stunning views.
|September 09||We started off with the question of whether we are staying another year – signing another contract. The school wants to begin putting in for a visa for me as I am over 65 and in some provinces that is an issue. We said we would think about it for the next two weeks. Contracts here are not really due until about December and it would be good to have that much time to look at options. The idea of teaching in India or Cambodia or Viet Nam is appealing but the security of not looking for another position, especially when a lot of countries will not take someone over 65 is appealing. We did not come up with any decisions and probably won’t for a while.
On the more definite side we put in for and got a personal leave day for a day and a half before Chinese New Years in February so we could get to Australia. Narda’s son Stu turns 30 and her granddaughter is getting christened that weekend. I will go mid-week to Melbourne to see Sacha. Now the tickets are paid for and one more thing is sorted out in our life. We have our tickets for three weeks in Viet Nam for winter break which we got a couple of weeks ago. And to save money we are just staying in our province for the October break going up to Dandong and some remote places north.
The rest of the weekend I spent at school working on setting up portfolios for the upper school.
|September 02||As weekends go we did not do a lot. Another stay around home. On Saturday took the shopping bus into Dalian, bought a month’s supply of foods from Metro, mostly stuff we cannot get out here: tetra pack low-sugar soy milk, butter, cheeses, peanut butter; doing better, bought only about 1200 RMB this time, last month it was almost 3000 ($500USD). Had lunch at Ikea – only place to get a good Western meal. Ikea in Dalian is actually good. I like the veggy wrap and corn soup. Last year we would go to the one in Jersey City, across from Newark Airport but it seems every time we went there it was worse. The fat servers were always grumpy and the food was shocking – so we stopped going there. Took the light rail back to Kaifaqu, stopped at the Western food store (Harbor Deli) and got molasses and more cheese and caught the school’s shopping bus back home.
some sort of protection for whatever is behind the door in this shop in Kaifaqu – we didn’t go in.
Sunday we went over to school; Narda worked some on her After School Activities projects and I wrote a school in India I may be doing some projects with; http://neuage.us/edu/blogs/collaborative-broadcast.html and worked on my school’s Google Sites for my Broadcast Publication’s class, which I can only get using my VPN; bloody China – drives me nuts trying to get stuff done – https://sites.google.com/a/daischina.org/drneuage
In the afternoon we rode bikes, with one of the new teachers, from North Carolina, to our favourite local area to shop and bought vegetables and fruit for the week. And now it is bed time and another week starts in the morning. I finally got my editing suite for 20 computers in my lab, Power Director 10 Ultra, so I am excited about teaching my students that and getting us really going with our school’s television set and hopefully we will be doing a collaborative project with a couple of schools in India.
My son, Sacha, in Melbourne, sent me a Happy Father day’s email so that was nice as he usually never does – forgets my birthday too.
|August 28||It was not really a weekend but school was closed to the perceived threats of Typhoon Bolaven that yesterday looked like it was going to give us a bit of a look-see, but no, it is now headed toward North Korea – Bolaven was a fizzler. We should not call it a weekend because it is Tuesday but it is a day off from work, so what did we do? We looked at the weather report way too much, thought I would have a video to put on youtube, http://www.youtube.com/tneuage to be exact, a story about being 65 and still working that I dream of the New York Times printing, or maybe I would cook some dynamite tofu dishes, or maybe do some work on my rubric for a special project my Broadcast Journalism are doing. But we did little to speak of so I will write about it so when we say what was it we did on our typhoon day we will remember. Well I wrote this – ten minutes of the day. Actually I am writing this while watching Dexter. This is 8:30 PM. The rest of the day? I did make a good vegetable and tofu soup, some peanut butter cookies, worked on standards for one of my courses – I am not really into all this using American type of standards, my students will learn beyond what the standards will say, and to have such planned out nonsense is, well nonsense… We sat on our third floor balcony for a bit to see if the winds would pick up but they didn’t. We did some Facebooking and I read some educational blogs which is all somewhat frustrating sometimes here because we have to use a VPN to get must sites. Lately we are not even getting Google without a VPN. When we go to Google we get some Chinese site with stupid music and it is impossible to get anything else except Bing.com works. Go figure. This also means I am unable to get gmail without a VPN which is not good because Narda and I share a VPN – meaning only one of us can be on Facebook or Google at a time. And that was our day off – not really sure what we accomplished but we are ready to go to school tomorrow.|
|August 25 – 26||Ordered tickets for Hanoi they will deliver them Monday – 6800 RMB about $550 each. Narda Google+ with 3-sons; Atlanta, Adelaide, Hanoi – started trip planning for three weeks wandering around in Viet Nam at Christmas, booked a place in South Australia for us all to be together for a few days in February during Chinese New Year break. And we decided to save money during October break and stay local so we will go up to Dandong and northern China by train and just cheap-around for a week.
We did little else – rode bikes to shops for groceries and spent a lazy weekend home for the first time probably this year. Narda painted her shoes; I worked on some web stuff, and wrote to several teachers who were at our school last year about sending short clips for me to put on our in-house tv shoe for my broadcast publication class. I am having my students add a new segment called “where are they now”. Teachers who leave a school after a few years are forgotten for all their work and contributions. Our teachers went to new places: Brazil, Dubai, Istanbul, India and several other countries. I want this to be a real global-collaborative year for our school and build on those who we worked with last school year. Also, we want to think about where we would like to teach next if we can find schools that will hire people past 65. We always seem to be moving (4 weeks in Australia as usual we moved our belongings from one place to another), here we spent the first week back moving apartments, last school year I would spend way too much time planning for the upcoming week lessons. We took a week-end off from school preparation and I am sure we will do fine. It was a great weekend, just like a holiday – a holiday from our life.