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Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

How are some weekends different from other weekends? When there seems to be no end to the particular one being experienced is my favourite way; for example, this weekend syncs with next weekend in that the days between are part of the holiday of the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) and no I have not advanced in my Mandarin to have written that – it is a paste job; saying that, I know that this character 大 is the start of Dalian and we watch for it to get on the correct bus or is it the start to Jinshitan, our local hood? – we get lost a lot but at 1 RMB – 15 cents US for a bus ride it is affordable to hop on another bus and if we get way to far afield we grab a cab, show our business card which is in Chinese on the opposite side to what we can read. Unlike New York City cabs or Sydney, Paris, Rome and other cities we tromp about these are quite cheap. To get home from Jinshitan is 15 RMB – a tad bit over two bucks US for a fifteen minute ride. NYC it would be like going from the West Village to Harlem and cost about $20. Not that I had planned to write about money.

So we are here at the start of the Mooncake Festival (Zhongqiu Festival) 3000 years in the advancing and most everyone I work with is out of here. We did get our fair share of mooncakes on Friday, one of my favourite Chinese foods, well actually, aside of tofu, just about the only thing I eat that is not western. I tried to be more culturally globalized but my stomach had other ideas.

It is Saturday and most teachers have flown off to Viet Nam, Korea, Thailand and various spots in China. We are staying home a few days then flying out Monday to Yantai in northeastern Shandong province. Sound exotic but actually we could not make up our minds where to go until it was too late. I had wanted to go up to Dandong but last week when we finally decided to go there all buses and trains were booked out. Being one of the most traveled times of the year for the locals flights out of Dalian seemed to be doubling by the hour. One of the few places left was Yantai – half an hour away. There is a ferry to come back on that takes a few hours so we are flying there and cruising home on Thursday or Friday or if we get to wandering around various other cities we may come back on the weekend by ferry from Weihai or Yantai or some such service, it is just across the bay.

I started last week off quite excited about our new laptop program. I went home with the new Zenbook with Windows 8 installed and spent a few days downloading lots of stuff. But now I am not so sure whether I like this; the speed is great – I get onto the Internet (more about that in a moment) quickly and programs run well: Adobe Flash, Dreamweaver, Sketchup and etc. but it jumps when keying. It is impossible to write more than a couple of letters before it jumps to another line – or maybe it is for incredibly fast people – read young.  I need to plug in a keyboard to keep from going nuts. Or switch to my older true and sure laptop like I am doing now. The keypad is way too sensitive and it will be an issue when the kids get it if I cannot tighten it up. The Zenbook would make a great travel companion (when the wife is shopping or printing off grand- daughter photos) and I am left to my own devices.

Friday, yesterday, it was like being in the stone ages. Holy cow – no Internet for a day! It started the night before during a thunder storm; it was a dark and rainy night or is that stormy? Whatever it was up to no good was going to happen with lightening all over the shop, of which, one wayward bolt knocked out the server box. In the middle of uploading photos, videos, words of wisdom/scattered thoughts or whatever I was uploading to one of my sites my ftp-server crashed and that was it. So what was there left to do? I could always talk to my wife, but I have done that before, so we watched another episode of Dexter. We are on season 4 and it is wonderfully horrific – just the show to watch on a stormy night with a banging door and chairs blowing across the porch. The next day the server was still down – I put up a note for my students that there was no Internet due to a lighting strike and they thought I was joking.   They often think I am joking though I am not sure why they think that. Not using the Internet is fine, I had some classes using Google Sketchup and we were not able to do stuff we were to do on the last day before a holiday like getting grades done, submitting lesson plans and all those wonderful time absorbing tasks that will just have to wait until after the holidays. I found time to even clean my room which given the choice of being online or cleaning has always been put at the bottom of the pile of to-do projects. We have had other times when the Internet was down for a bit and even a couple of times when the electricity was off for most of the day but this time it seemed more OK. No one got to play our DAISlive video which I had spent several hours just on the introduction to but I am sure I can get staff to play it when we are back in session.

DAISlive is our news/events video that I do with my high school broadcast class. It is shown two times a week and lasts around three minutes. I spend way too many hours editing it. I started it last year as a way to get my middle school publication class to do some real-time speaking. By the end of the school year every single middle school student had appeared several times as anchor, news-reader, and creator of an ad, usually for the school store. My publication class is a six-week unit in our applied studies course. There are six applied studies units ranging from robotics to ‘The Odyssey of the Mind’ and a student government component. I found this a very effective way to get students who had English as a second language to become surer about their speaking. My favorite example was during my first few week. Everyone in my class had to present in front of the camera but one girl would break into tears whenever she had to speak English. She would whisper a few words and that was it. We got her to say ‘thanks for watching DAISlive’ then she gave a big smile. After that she would be the first to volunteer to be on our show. This year I am doing DAISlive as part of my high school broadcast journalism course. We have been given a large room in the basement of the school which I am gradually turning into a video studio. So far since starting more than a year ago all I have had is a cheap video camera and I used AVS Video Editor until recently when we purchased a site license of Power Director 10 with the hopes the students would do all the editing. They are still learning the program and last week I spent like four hours just making a new introduction. I have had one short session with them using Boinx TV to make a real-time newscast but after holiday we will dive into that and have wonderful blue screen backgrounds. soon my hours of editing will be turned over to the students and my too much editing will end and I will have all that extra time, hopefully, to learn new stuff.  I was told yesterday we may be getting Adobe CS6, which I put in for last year but at about ten-thousand dollars it got knocked back and now it appears we may get it which excites me to no end and I am looking forward to Narda printing more granddaughter photos and shopping for more shoes and me doing fantastic stuff like more web pages to add to my current thousands, and more video clips and finally finishing my e-book “Tofu Again – ‘The lost book of tofu”  http://tofu.neuage.us/ which is not just another book of tofu recipes but has lots of stories about my days as a tofu maker (eight years) in Australia whilst raising two children by myself (Try This ~ http://neuage.org/trythis.htm) along with tofu recipes.  Needless to say creating an eBook with InDesign and making phone apps with Dreamweaver will be my first endeavors. There is also talk of getting some good video equipment and lights for the video studio.

My real excitement is bundled into our next step in DAISlive when we go global, sort of.  I have been corresponding with five schools in India to add a section of Collaborative Broadcast Journalism to our program.  I got involved with the British Council programme called International School Awards last year then hooked up with the British Council Schools team “World Class” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldclass/) and out of that five schools have been corresponding with me about doing projects http://neuage.us/edu/blogs/collaborative-broadcast.html. Then this past week when the head of ISS (more further down) came to visit he got me in touch with Raphael Raphael (that is his real name, first and last) at an International school in Kazakhstan. Raphael has a doctorial in film and like me is the tech dude at his school. We will do some real-time news broadcasts with our students and hopefully I can bring in India too. “and now to our reporter in India… Kazakhstan (No! not Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). I did several projects like this when we lived in New York City. Narda’s school, St. Luke’s and my school, Ross Global Academy did several live interactions together from Narda having her 3rd grade and our 3rd grade class do songs together to my 8th graders doing a hip-hop workshop with her 8th graders. We went with three schools a couple of times but never internationally.  A school I taught at two summers ago in south Australia wants to be involved too so maybe we will have this incredible learning space between Kazakhstan, India, Australia and us in little old Jinshitan. My ultimate, though it will probably never happen, is to get involved with a school in North Korea and do this. It would not be political – just students of the same age hanging out talking about stuff in their life, about what is going on at the moment at their school.

Overall it has been a good week here at Campus Village/Dalian American International School in Jinshitan – (Golden Pebble Beach) in the DDA (Dalian Development Area which is also Kaifaqu), Dalian, Liaoning province, China.

Charles Gregory, the head of ISS (International School Services – https://www.iss.edu/) which runs our school, visited for the week. We get to see him a couple of times a year. He lives an incredible life, having personally started 16 schools internationally the past nine years. He has so many stories from cobras in the hallway of a school in the Congo to students trying to push a large bear over the fence to starting a school in Myanmar a decade ago when supplies had to be carried on the backs of people through jungles. He has such a great and positive view of education throughout the world and I have inspiration for my next writing project because of him. The life of being an international school teacher is really special and I wish I had started a few decades ago back when I was a single parent living in a coastal town of Australia. My children would have loved living in all the places other teachers tell us about. I hope to teach in one more country before it is all over though at 65 then 66 next school year and I think another year older after that the choices are dwindling. I have a list of countries that issue work visas for teachers and the list is quite small with maybe a dozen with no age limit and a few with 70. But then again if they let me stay in China we could be here quite some time. I hear that our area is one of the few places in China that will issue a visa past 65. Several of the southern provinces won’t issue them to anyone past 58. Damn I may have to retire someday and write books about tofu.

 

 

 

 

We’re Back

We are back at school from a summer of travel to the States and Australia which I have gone on about in previous blogs. We have about 18 new staff and at least ten who have left after last school year to teach in schools in India, Istanbul, Brazil, the Middle East, and many other places. In my broadcast journalism course I will be doing a lot of global-video-collaborative projects and look forward to our expats from here syncing with us from their new schools. I will continue my educational blog as soon as school starts on the 16th of August http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html

Here is where our school is – in the fun area of Dalian

 (from http://www.chinatouristmaps.com/travel/liaoning/dalian/dalian-transportations.html) Discoveryland is not shown but it is a bit off this map or a ten-minute bike ride away – the Chinese tacky version of Disneyland. We either walk (20 minutes) or ride our bikes (7 minutes) to the beach before school each morning except when it is too cold to ride then we rug-up and walk.

Today, Sunday, we were going to take the light rail into Dalian but it rained all day and we didn’t get out of the house until almost 10 AM. We took the school’s shopping bus into Kaifaqu, did some shopping and took the light rail home. Not much of an eventful day except it is so good to be home. The States and Australia were great and catching up with family is the best but being back here is tops. We really are not ready to settle in the west. I loved the fact I could turn 65 a couple of days ago and be happily teaching and exploring. That teachers are swept in the dustbin in so many countries is awful. My last school in New York City retrenched us over 55 year olds – eight of us, and hired 20 plus year-old teachers. The school was closed down the next year as one of the worst in NYC – Ross Global Academy.

We are reminded of the constancies of life – when I got into the taxi from the light rail to home I tried to put on my seat belt and the driver waved his hand saying no. Wow, we got a $300 ticket a couple of years ago because Narda had taken off her seat belt for just a moment in a small town in Australia. And I was happy to get soy milk and tofu from my favourite tofu shop in Kaifaqu so all in all it was a great first day back in town shopping even in the rain.

We have moved apartments and the one we have now has great views of the Yellow Sea with a stretch of three balconies to walk out onto from the bedroom, lounge and office. See photo below – a rainy day but off in the distance is the sea. In front is the incredibly tacky new housing development going up across the street from us.

And this is another view slightly to the right showing the hills view with the guard stations and entrance to Campus Village.

And this is looking down the row of housing known as Campus Village.  The blue roofs at the end are the swimming pool and gym of our school.

And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.

And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.

HaLong Bay and Hanoi and 40 years ago

I like my hundred plus ties that I have bought whilst traveling the world. Now I am working on vests. Today we shopped amongst thousands of material stalls in Hanoi I got some great material for vests and when we get back home; Dalian China, next week I will get them made up by a clothes maker from our school.

Holiday!

What does it mean? Over and out and on the way again. Two months’ work, seven days then out of here. Incomplete sentences all in a row. Make it three and my teaching career is becoming robust. Here, there, where/what are we on holiday from? In the 1960s I would take a holiday from myself; being the responsible ageing teacher that currently I am I will not elaborate on what taking a vacation myself entailed. What is remarkable is that I remember the 1960s, I was there, Summer Of Love 1967 or was it 1968? I was living in a commune in 1969 then suddenly I was in Hawaii with girlfriend and her year-old daughter in tow. Now I am in Hanoi 42 years later. The one-year old, Desiree Eva, now in her forties is my friend on Facebook, the mother, San Francisco extraordinary Flower Child did not survive to this day. We were in one of those New Age cults; the Holy Order of MANS, I was going to be a New Age priest. Carol Ann was traveling the highway to being an illuminated Flower Child. The road became so bumpy we crashed too hard; holidays were not to be had.

I am happy though as this photo taken today in Halong Bay of me, me still alive at 64 shows… There is a short clip @ http://youtu.be/03QyKgBVIMw of our trip through the bay.

Forty plus years later I am no longer a street person; my New Orleans street artist days of the 1970s are behind, my single-parenting days of the 1980s and 1990s in Australia are past. One son is doing well as a hip-hop recording artist and graf artist in Melbourne, Australia, my other son, signed by the LA Dodgers; a promising pitcher committed suicide over a love lost a few years ago but every day I wait for him to e-mail me and say ‘sorry dad’. Almost every night I wake to him asking me to help him get his career back on track.

Listening to the announcements on this flight to Hanoi in Chinese as we start a short holiday I am amazed by all that has past. Now I am an expert. My working visa says I am a foreign expert. I have a PhD. I am Dr. Neuage. What a long ways from the streets it has been. Listening to Macy Grey, ‘I Try’, we played that song at my son’s funeral, then I listen to Janis Joplin and I use to dance to her in San Francisco in a different mindset than now. I was always in front of the stage – she was so hypnotic. I am hypnotized on this flight between Joplin and Macy Grey.

Mê Cung Cave. Two kilometers south-west of Ti Top Beach in the Mê Cung Grotto or Bewitching Grotto we saw where people lived thousands of years ago… before the Yanks bombed and acted stupid in the Gulf of Tonkin, HaLong Bay. Were they happier than us without all these trinkets we collect? Now we tourists take photos and paste the photos in youtube and in our blogs. Johnson and McNamara, 47-years ago thought big-business in the States could profit over a war against the Communist Viet Cong guerrillas. Now they make a profit off of us Westerners. I use to protest and burn my draft-card (many times) in D.C. and San Francisco and NYC shouting something or the other. Did it make a difference?

I spent seven years writing a book about my life – more than 150,000 words, ‘Leaving Australia’, there was so much I wanted to say to my sons, then, I just stopped one day. I spent the same amount of time writing my PhD thesis and it is just as long. I made two leather bound copies with gold printing; one for my son who decided to stay on the planet and the other for me. No one else will ever read it; it is a comfort to say so much about myself only to my son and me. I would have said a lot more, stuff about having a son who became a major league pitcher but I had to quit.

Narda is quite good at getting a bargain and she did it yesterday in Hanoi, though she had be tougher than usual…

This past week the weather is changing a bit from being hot to cool there is little else to say. School is continuing to be a rewarding experience with my main focus in the classroom to teach EAL students along with those who want to learn java script, PHP and etc. instead of just Dreamweaver. A few weeks ago it was ESL ~ English as a second language; not long ago there was EFL with the language supposed to be Foreign though the F word had other interpretations, now we have English as an additional language – EAL; soon it will be ES, English Sucks. I am stuck with English. We had one class of learning Chinese then told our instructor we were too busy and we would try and resume next year. One of the primary features of age is to realize that ‘what’s the point?’ has value as a motivational dead end.

Photo on the left is from the Bong Mecung caves.

It is so interesting working at Dalian American International School; where once I thought my life was a bit unique (enough that I wrote more than 150,000 words about it – 570 pages, with pictures) I am finding everyone I meet at our school has had much more interesting lives and I wonder why I did not start teaching in international schools long ago. Oh I know why, it took me until I was in my mid-40s to begin university then I went 14 years in a row as I raised my two sons. 1991 – 2005, then last year I did another full year to get a postgrad to get teacher’s registration in Australia so I could teach in China. Good golly. The fact is that I could not get hired in New York City. My last school, Ross Global Academy, got rid of the over 50-year olds so they could hire a bunch of kids cheaply straight out of uni, only to have the school closed down as one of the worse schools in NYC. I spent two years trying to get another teaching job then we gave up. Now I am happy for the process and at 64 I am loving teaching and being the technology integrator coordinator k-12.

Dalian American International School has a good mix of teaching couples in their late 50s and early 60s with a couple of us in the mid-60s range as well as young teachers. Some have been teaching for thirty years some this is their first teaching gig. We blend so well together. A lot of teachers have been teaching in international schools for decades.

From Africa to the Middle East to South America and throughout Asia and their stories are so much more interesting than mine. We have a couple who, with their young child, just managed to get out of Libya as it was being bombed by NATO and the Yanks. Their story surly does not put the States in a very good light and I hope they publish what they went through to move from their teaching in Tripoli to their job at our school. Teachers who worked in Saudi Arabia and tell what it is like teaching children of the royal family. How children are millionaires by fourth grade and how they treat the teachers. Stories from around the world in the educational arena – perhaps we could put together a book just of experiences that would make teachers in the comfort zones of Australia, the USA and the assorted places where teaching is a million worlds away from the classrooms of the International Teachers.

We bump through the sky now, skirting some typhoon that has recently havocked the area. Narda’s son, Brendan, is in Hanoi, she is so excited that we are almost there. Brendan stayed with us a few months ago in NYC and last March traveled to Ecuador with us before going on to Peru and Narda and I went back to NYC to her job and my being excited about having a job somewhere in the world to go to where I am at now.
The last time we were in Viet Nam, about five years ago, we toured the south, from Saigon up to Muni thinking someday we would get to Hanoi for a visit. Back then I was working at the Dwight School in New York City and we were happily living in Brooklyn with no thought that in a few years we would be living in China and on our way to Hanoi for a week holiday. I like the unpredictable parts of life that are good, it is the unpredictable parts I can barely manage. We are all like that. When I played Farmville, more like when I was obsessed with it a year ago; I had so many dead neighbours: my dead son, my dead brother who died of AIDS in 1992, my mother, my father – who we went to New York to look after in 2002 and who died in 2007 age 101 and nine months and there were a few other, life was predictable. I kept giving myself more gifts or my alternative personalities (I had about a dozen Terrells giving me gifts in facebook).

The holiday is going great. At the moment I am writing this on a boat in Halong Bay, the cool night air, just a calm before a typhoon is supposed to come by tomorrow but apparently we should be back on land before it hits. Narda is going strong in the bar area singing with others to karaoke videos. We have several Aussie males, couples from Ireland, Poland, England, Honk Kong, Israel, and our fellow teaching couple from the States; as shown in the boat photo on the left. I am sure they can be heard across the bay.
It is early, only 9.30 PM. I am not that much into singing and since I dragged my computer along I may as well as use it. They seem to be loudest with Queen songs. Good golly they are off key.

I went out on a kayak with Frank, one of our traveling teachers with us in China. As the sea was getting choppy from an approaching Typhoon Nalgae we stayed near the shore.

And whilst I do not know if I have learned much in life I did see that the chicken went before the egg as two motor scooters went by with the chickens first proved to me on the way to somewhere.

I have so many photos of Narda landing a bargain, and today was no exception. I have a folder full of photos of statues and Narda but I like my series of photos with her in shops around the world getting something at a price she thinks is reasonable.

Hanoi is great. More like India and Ecuador in its back to basics life styles. China is trying too hard to be like a Western country on steroids. It is one big building site with an IKEA feel to it. Because Mao managed to knock everything down in his forward purge of the past China is all new. Even the historic sites are really rebuilt historic sites made in the past few years to look like they were really left behind from the destructive force of the Cultural Revolution.
In Hanoi they have yet to come to the concept of traffic lights and it is all quite chaotic.
A friend of Narda’s from Adelaide taught for nine years recently in Hanoi and she said seven years back it was just bicycles everywhere and quieter. Above is so typical, though of course it is the same in China. We have learned to weave through the traffic and get across. We have gone a long ways, as it was only six years ago when in Guangzhou it was three days before we crossed the main road across from our hotel to get to the Peril River.

Eventually we learned to use the locals as a human shield to cross and we use that technique in all Asian countries.
We got swept up in all that is good of the night market. Narda paid 30,000 Dongs ($12 US) for a Lacoste knock off which would have cost maybe ten-times more in the States.
Below you tube videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucKSOMxv0cg for our night market clip

I was impressed by the females at the shoe section. Some things past all cultures, like women, shoes, sales.

I put up my videos as youtube videos soon after taking them or they get forgotten. I think I have about 450 videos up from our past decade of travel. http://youtube.com/tneuage
My clip for the boat trip we are on, where I am writing and I can hear Narda’s voice above everyone else’s. Good golly I am married to a 57-year-old party girl; is at http://youtu.be/03QyKgBVIMw. There are lots more of our latest trips. I am trying to keep up with our collection at http://neuage.us/travel with the latest in the section > http://neuage.us/travel/2011/

We got foot-massages after hiking the caves yesterday. One of those things to do in Asia. I use to think old men married young Vietnamese women for sex, now I realize it is for the foot and neck massages.

Narda writing her blog.

got to tell ya about this

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yesterday perhaps before