Monday, October 01, 2012 Dalian Airport
I am not sure whether it is our airlines; OK Airlines, or the sign over the gate we are departing from that causes concern. Not that I am concerned, this is China, what could possibly go wrong? I am sure these local flights are up to export standards. Like our shoes. We were just commenting before leaving home that we both have Rockport shoes that have really gone the distance, made in China. Narda got a pair she still wears from the Lake George, New York, outlet store ten-years ago and she has worn them in India, Viet Nam, Cambodia, tromping around France, Australia, Thailand, China and of course the USofA and they are still in good shape though she put a bit of superglue on them this morning but the leather is good. My Rockports I got at the same shop in Lake George about seven years ago and they are still good. We have bought shoes, bags and etc. here in China that fall apart quite quickly, so there must be an export quality that lasts. I am hoping the same is true of OK Airlines between here and Yantai where we are off to for the Fall/mooncake Festival holiday. The reason we are going there is because no other destination seems to be available. Narda looked at one place we had thought of going to and the tickets to there have gone from $200 US to more than a thousand dollars in the past week.
They are so polite about their air services at the Dalian International Airport (think 1980s Albany, New York, or Adelaide Airport about 1985) they keep playing this loop “we regret to inform you that flight …. has changed gates…”. Usually the regret an airline would report is that ‘OK Airlines has run out of fuel and has landed on the freeway’. But that we are going from the gate for ‘Abnormal Flights’ seems something they should be regretting.
Not to worry, we are coming back on the ferry – about 6 – 8 hours. We looked it up, a huge boat, and there was a Google story about how a few years ago the same line had their ferry catch fire whilst between Yantai and Dalian and 22 people of the 300 on board survived. Now Narda is a bit nervous about the ferry.
We have been talking about disasters this whole holiday (well the first two days of it). We decided to climb to the top of our local hill which has a great view of the sea, our school and valley. This picture does not do our climb justice – it took us almost two hours to get to the top and we were so puffed out. In the distance is our school and behind the strange ship they built along the highway headed into our resort district.
Continuing with our disaster conversations we worried what to do if a poisonous snake crossed our path, then we worried about what to do if there was a forest fire and we got caught then we wondered if there were bear or other crazed creatures in the woods then we just worried. It took us another hour to get down and we ended up at the local spa but their prices were out of proportion to what we made as teachers so we walked home.
Here I am at the Five-Star Golden Pebble Tang Dynasty International Hot Spring Resort at the bottom of the hill – which was a mountain to us, with my mate, obviously a remnant of the Tang Dynasty. I told him I was a Leo but he didn’t seem impressed or to understand so we walked on in blissful ignorance of our un-importance.
And what is with the writing on the side of the plane facing my seat of where to evacuate? Evacuation Direction – damn… I never know what to do in those kind of situations. And there was no pre-flight speech about dropping down air masks and putting them onto the children last or is that first?
But those bloody Chinese cab drivers – ours give us the fright of our life all the way into town; weaving, and creating lanes where there was none and going way too fast and of course there were no seat belts in the back. I am always terrified driving in a cab in China but then again we did arrive OK.
We wanted to go five-star but not at a Western chain so we picked the only 5-star Chinese because we want soft beds and most hotels the beds are incredibly hard. We are staying at the Golden Gulf Hotel – an old hotel right on the shore. And what a great walk along the coast it is. We like this city – so far, the most of any we have been in. We even found the old area, a Hutong, right behind the hotel – kind of a Chinese New Orleans or old town in Barcelona.
not to worry – we got the buffet dinner and that was really quite good and now off to a soft bed and tomorrow is Tuesday and we do not have to go to school and write up bloody lesson plans or standards or whatever mind-numbing thing we are to do in the future. Why we can not be like the world’s best schools – Finland – where they start at age seven – that by the way is when I started at Shenendehowa Central School in Elnora New York in 1954 – the first year of that school – and look at me… well I left home at 16 – didn’t finish tenth grade – but at age 44 to 58 did every uni degree possible and now, like the Finnish schools I feel a academically OK – maybe I am an OK Air type of person after all.
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.