Finding Myself in China: China has become "home" for me, and I love living here. Of course, even though I absolutely love Hong Hu ("You are crazy!" say my students), and had hoped to stay here for many years to come, I know it is time to move on. China is still a backward country, and still suffering the effects of Communist propaganda. Nothing changes fast here, and very few people are willing to "do anything" to bring about change, even when they know that change is both necessary and beneficial. Every foreign teacher knows the reality of the statement: "Teaching in China is the most frustrating job ever!"
This article was first published at Magic City Morning Star on December 23, 2004. This file has been reedited slightly. (E.g. Note the 2015 comments) I have only included one 4 frame photo from the original series. The rest relate to different places that I had visited.
Merry Christmas and a Fond Farewell
The time has come to say farewell from me for this year. This is my last Magic City Edition of "Stories from China" - well, at least for some time to come. I do hope that you have enjoyed the stories and photographs of my adventures in China.
(Coincidentally, just two days prior to transferring this file to Kingscalendar, I finished up as 'Stand-In' Editor of Magic City Morning Star; a position I had held for five years.)
Magic city Morning Star News first came to my attention when I noted that it's Founder and Editor Ken Anderson had run one of my 'Editorial and Social Commentary' articles from KingsCalendar.com. Over a period of time he used several of them and I approached him and asked if he would like to run some photographic articles. He agreed. This worked well for both of us, because it not only allowed my website to gain more presence on the internet through "key word" searches, but gave me something to do in my spare hours; and of course it worked well for Ken, because he didn't have to pay me.
Originally I thought that the stories would appear monthly, but as I had prepared so many stories before the Summer Vacation, I agreed to publish weekly. Little did I realize just how many articles I would write. But now with this article, I come to a close. The photographs you see here include not only some of my personal ones, but some from places about which I have not yet written for Magic City.
Left Frames: Visiting a little vegetable market while on the way home from Chibi Right Frames: Some other place - can't think where.
In less than a month I will head back to Australia for a brief visit. A little later, I will return but at this stage, the only thing I know for sure about my future in China, is that I will not return to Hong Hu. Discussions I was having with a corporation that was seeking to introduce a foreign English teacher into one of its company's training programs, has finally fallen flat, and I currently have my agency searching for a university position. I would prefer employment in a Wuhan University, but failing that, I will end up in another province. (In fact I lived and worked in Wuhan City for two years - the first six months of which I studied Chinese at Wuhan University)
If I remain in Wuhan, I may provide the occasional story for you, but as I have already written so much about the city, it seems unlikely that I will have much to write, let alone photograph. If I travel to another province, then most certainly there will be a new set of stories sometime next year. I am also planning to incorporate all of my stories (including those at KingsCalendar.com) into an E-book, which hopefully will be on sale by the end of next year. That book will have over 100,000 words and more than 1500 photographs.
(I don't know what happened to that plan but I did take up the idea again in 2007 when I commenced writing a book about my life in China. That book, "Finding Myself in China" should be available by the beginning of 2016
Wuhan Left frames: Hanjiang River right at the junction with the Yangtze River in Wuhan Right Frames: East Lake in Wuhan
All up, I have enjoyed writing these stories. I guess one of the best things to come out of them is that there is a small group of people in America who have adopted babies from Hong Hu City, and I have been able to provide some measure of assistance to them. Of course I have also received a few "not so nice" emails from the "too politically correct" ideologues who take exception to freedom of thought and speech and would in my opinion, make excellent Communists. Perhaps they should move over here.
China has become "home" for me, and I love living here. Of course, even though I absolutely love Hong Hu ("You are crazy!" say my students), and had hoped to stay here for many years to come, I know it is time to move on. China is still a backward country, and still suffering the effects of Communist propaganda. Nothing changes fast here, and very few people are willing to "do anything" to bring about change, even when they know that change is both necessary and beneficial. Every foreign teacher knows the reality of the statement: "Teaching in China is the most frustrating job ever!" Frustration, principally from students who think they will become good speakers if they ONLY listen, (listening without ever attempting to speak); to administrations whose constant refrain is, "Just teach them some songs and play some games with them"; to students who can speak well, but for reasons related to culture, will not speak in class.
Discipline is nonexistent, except in my classroom, but even that becomes tiring after awhile. Even after three months into the new semester, I had students coming for the first time, and others dropping out, and those who come occasionally. You see, they don't like anything boring, but when it does get interesting, they haven't a clue what it is that the students are doing, or how to do it, let alone have the discipline to actually do it. Just this week I received a brand new student, an excellent speaker, who confessed that he had been a "bad boy," but now wanted to learn and improve.
I visited Shenzhen in May of 2004 and again in Spring Festival of 2014 Both visits involved people from Hong Hu
Those that persist with my classes, learn that they have far greater ability than they ever imagined. But for me, the thought of doing another year, with the second part requiring me to start this disciplining procedure all over again with a new class, is just too much. I have only two regrets; Firstly that I will no longer be living in Hong Hu; and secondly, that my current students will not have the second semester with me to reach their full potential. If and when the new foreign teacher arrives, the school will revert to the process in place before my arrival, and that teacher will face utter chaos. The administration knows the problem, as well as the solution, but they just can't be bothered. "It doesn't matter! It's not important!" In the end, all foreign teachers are primarily just "Show ponies."
On January 23rd 2005, I head off to Wuhan, and the following day, I return to Australia. When I come back, I will (I hope) be teaching in a University. The appeal of a University, is that your students are all English Majors, and therefore, there is some measure of "control" over them. One is not, for instance, forced to teach students who are not interested in the language. (Oh my god did I get that wrong!- 2015)
That does not mean however, that even one of them will actually WANT to speak English. One should never underestimate the power over and effect on the lives, thoughts, and actions of the Chinese people, of Chinese culture. Just by way of example, even though I have been teaching for 16 weeks, I am still getting new students coming to class. Between the cultural approach to English, and the arrogance which persists amongst many students, many don't want to 'LEARN,' they just want to speak.
In one class this week we had three new students, all girls. In the middle of the discussion, I was asked why Class 15 was better than this class, and as I went to answer, one girl announced: "I don't like this topic! I wan't to change it!" The regular students laughed at her stupidity. The next one stood up and held out a text book and asked me how to pronounce a word. Again more laughter. The next asked me a question about life in Australia.
You see, these three were TOO GOOD at English to have to submit themselves to my teaching, but when the style of the class changed to "Group Discussions," they were ready to come along and participate. Only thing was, was that the students who had done the right thing from the beginning, had learned how to have NATURAL conversations, to speak in complete sentences, give informative answers, ask informative questions, and change topics using reflection. These three girls demonstrated only that their pronunciation and grammar was good. Beyond that, they were hopeless conversationalists. The other students had LEARNED to become superior conversationalists. But then, they were prepared to do the right thing.
The Students in this school are like a people to whom could be applied the words of St. Paul, when he said something to the effect that: "The things I should not do, I do, and the things I ought to do, I do not!" If you have never lived in China, don't bother to write me and tell me that this is a racist remark. YOU JUST DON'T KNOW!
My hope is that if I end up in a University, that I will have the freedom to use the same techniques as I have been using in Hong Hu, for the results are dramatic. One could think that University students will be more mature than they were at High School, but I know from contact with other foreign teachers that this is not automatically so. If I had the ability, I think I would choose to teach the little ones, for it is with them that the real potential lies. By the time they get to High School, they are already set in their ways, and school culture has its own detrimental effects.
Because children come from all manner of Junior Schools, when they hit high school, their English abilities are all at different levels, and the influence of the poorer ones is incredible. Saving face is so important that many a fine student will not involve themselves in English class, just to spare their poorer friends, or because they might actually lose friendships if they do get involved. Possibly the best English speaker in this school refused to speak in my class for just this reason.
During the year before I came to China, I spent three months in Europe, arriving firstly in London. My original plan was to stay a week in London, and then proceed to Calais. I had never thought that I would suffer culture shock in England, but I did, and it started within five minutes of leaving the plane. Arrogance, rudeness, lack of emotional warmth, and the general unfriendliness of the place, sent me scurrying for Calais within two days. Even on the ferry ride I encountered it again, and so badly, that I decided that if the French were as bad as one is apt to hear, then I would go back to Heathrow and go home. Whatever culture shock I may have expected to suffer in France, did not eventuate. Culture shock is a strange thing.
It is easy for some readers to criticize me on the basis of political correctness, but until you have lived in China, you have no idea what the culture is really like, and then of course, it is different in different places. China is a Communist country! But what does that statement mean? If you think it means a society living in fear, or a disciplined society, or an egalitarian one, or one in which soldiers are standing on every street corner holding guns, then you are wrong.
In Beijing I stepped in front of a pistol packing uniformed officer of some type, to ask him for directions. He bolted! He had run about 6 paces onto the roadway before he got himself under control. In Hong Hu they ask me; 'Aren't you afraid to go out at night on your own?', to which I reply, "Hell No! Even in the daytime people run from my ugly face!"
Beijing ME - Emperor's Sedan Chair - Emperor's Crown - Summer Palace
Can you tell which is which?
I remember on one trip to Beijing as I was walking down the mall (WangFuJing), I saw a little alley way, and decided to take a wander. The alley led to a maze of stalls and eateries, and the faces of the people displayed their astonishment at seeing me. One would have thought that they must have seen plenty of foreigners before, but the impression was that they had not. Think about it, 'would you wander away from the main tourist area of a strange city?' Visiting tourist areas is wonderful, and that is the purpose of course of a holiday, but you haven't lived in a country until you have been where the ordinary people live and work and play.
'Oh yes' you say, 'I lived in Beijing for a whole year!' So where did you live and where did you go? Did you live with air conditioning? Hot and Cold running water? Have a screened apartment to keep out the mosquitoes? Eat in modern restaurants? If you have, then I would ask; Have you ever slept in a farmhouse? Drunk the water from the local creek? Eaten reheated food that was stored throughout the day in a cupboard? Have you ever bathed in the local bath house?
I've read a few internet stories about bath houses in China, and they were all interesting. But the one thing that they had in common, was that they all described nice clean modern places. I know what those types of places are like - Wonderful! But have you ever bathed in the local bath house? I go twice a week to a local one, although in this week gone by, it was everyday, as I waited for my shower to be fixed. The local bath house is only open in the cooler months, as the locals have no need of it in the warmer months. By locals, I don't mean the people who live in the town, but those who don't live in nice modern apartments that have actual showers and hot and cold running water.
The locals are lucky if they have electricity, let alone an actual bathroom or toilet. Even the ground floor dwellers at my school's residential complex must use the outhouse outside my apartment. Locals (as well as the boarders at school) must use a bucket of cold water to bath themselves. If they want hot water, they have to heat it, and that would be a waste of precious resources. No! Locals, on those occasions when they really really really want to spend the money, can go to the local bath house. Admission is 6 yuan. For this fee, they get a locker, a little bench to rest on, and unlimited hot water. (How the fees have risen over the years - 2015)
The average person going to the bath house, will spend around 20 minutes under the shower, which by the way, has no western nozzle. It is just a pipe that spews out a constant stream of hot water, and with no apparatus attached for adjusting the temperature. (This was the case in Honghu but I haven't encountered it elsewhere.) Everyone of course is naked, and it is the rare exception to see anyone shower in their undies. If they do, it is usually so that they can wash them while wearing them. Once that is done, the jocks come off. People talk to each other, discuss this and that, laugh about the size of everyone else's "equipment" (particularly the foreigners), and generally have a nice social time. When finished, they will sit or walk around naked, talking to friends.
Top Left: View of Yichang Riverfront Top Right: Another View taken at a different time Bottom Left: A view of the final gates through which ships pass Bottom Right: Way way away from Yichang headed up to the clean waters.
It was in Yichang that I discovered that there is no law on nudity in China. I had seen naked boys swimming in public in Puqi and saw more in Yichang.
Just the other week while in the Communal Bath I ended up giving an impromptu English lesson to three boys aged 11,12, and 13 years old. A little later in the shower I was approached by a 10 year old, who spent quite a while talking to me. It turned out that his locker and mine were side by side, so when we came out, our conversation continued, only this time with his father in attendance. From his courageous efforts, Wang Zi Heng is now receiving two opportunities per week to visit me in my home to improve his abilities.
If you can afford it, you can at the bath house, pay an extra 5 yuan to have an attendant scrub you down. He tightly wraps a cloth around his hand, and begins to tear the dead skin from off your body. It is not recommended for those with tender skin, or for those with privacy issues, for believe me, there is nothing 'private' about where and how one is handled.
As already mentioned, our local bath house (Xi Zhao Tang) has a huge communal bath deep enough to sit with water up to you chest. Additionally in another room, there are both 6 individual baths and a whirlpool type bath, which require an additional fee. Once a week I usually have the scrub down and a 'naked' massage. The total cost is 21 yuan.
The thing I like most (despite Judy's claim that it must be romantic to be in a bath full of naked men with only candles for lighting when the power fails), is that for the 2 hours I am usually there on each visit, I spend my time talking in Chinese. Everyone wants to talk to me, and while it is often difficult, I have learned so much Chinese, so much correct pronunciation, and found myself so challenged, that I often go ask a teacher for new words, verbs and phrases. My Chinese has come a long way. Hell! I've even begun to understand the local dialect.
One of the side benefits of my bathhouse experience, is that it has helped bring down the barrier between the foreigner and the locals. There is nothing like standing naked in front of each other to remove all class distinction and fear. Yes! Despite the color of my skin, I am no different to anyone else.
The bath house itself is hidden in a laneway off the main street, and actually quite decrepit. It is old, ramshackle, and dirty. If one wants to urinate, one does not go to the physical' toilet, one just does it against the wall, and it washes down the drain with the water. The floor is grungy to say the least, and in addition to the mould, dirt and urine, is customarily covered with spit. It is hardly a hygienic place. Nevertheless it does not seem to be detrimental to the locals, and nor has it been to me. Which reminds me, I must ask the doctor when I go home "what is that green stuff growing up my legs?."
If you want hygiene and high prices, you would have to go to the Hong Hu Hotel. Of course, if you have that sort of money, then you don't really need to go to a bath house. Those who use that type of establishment are going for more than just a good clean up in hot water. Being a small town, there is no way I would use that facility.
Until you can live like everyone else, you really can't say that you understand the culture. Now I am not knocking those who have never experienced this type of local living, or who have lived a more middle class existence in China, but until the people around you 'feel' that you are 'one of them,' they will never really open up to you.
Despite the communistic "we are all equal" rhetoric, the reality in China is that with economic development has come a wall of economic separation and this inevitably leads to class distinction which inherently indicates a class structure. Economic independence brings with it in every culture an opportunity to dictate the terms of your own life. Unfortunately in China, two thirds of the population are still trapped with no immediate end in sight to their subsistence living. The hope of China rests with the up and coming generation of young people who are growing up with culturally diverse outlooks.
Some are educated enough to see the world as it is and to question everything they think and have been taught. Some have grown up believing that China had its prosperity stolen by the west, and can't wait until the day China can unleash its fury, particularly on the United States of America. Some young people are growing up resentful of the haves, and some are growing up disdainful of the 'have not's.' Many are growing up feeling the heavy burden that has been placed upon them, resenting their responsibilities and longing for 'real freedom.' This is not a political ideology, but a personal one. On the one hand they are so proud of being Chinese, for China has a long and glorious history, and on the other, feeling so shamed by their life's circumstances.
Young people today are looking for a new revolution, one that will set them free from the tremendous burden of what it means to be Chinese. They spout the propaganda rhetoric, they talk about all Chinese being family, they blame the west for Chinese poverty, yet everyday they fall deeper and deeper in love with the western lifestyle. They despise those who leave China to live in western countries, while all the time planning how they can do the same. They are not honest. They can't be! They are still controlled by culture, a culture which sees itself taking a pivotal role in the world, without ever truly understanding the mindset of that world. But then again, the same can be said of so many people's and governments.
Jesus said that the poor you will have with you always, but then again, who wants to be poor. Every Chinese person knows that foreigners are rich. Current Chinese culture teaches that if one gets a very good education, one will get a good job, and if one gets a good job, one will be rich. Unfortunately, Education in China is a means to an end, and that end is more important than the journey along the way. Students study to pass exams, and have no interest in the learning process. Some are honest enough to admit it.
China's future is worrisome, not the least reason for which is that the young have not been taught life skills. This remains so even for many of the poor who are being thoroughly educated. They do not know what hard work is, even though they know their parents work hard. Students see study as hard work. It is the means to the end, and is not satisfying in itself. Knowledge is not power any more in China. It is money.
China's economy and way of life is developing more rapidly than are people's minds. An anecdotal underscoring of this point, is what Judy and I recently witnessed in YiChang. The government in YiChang has installed red plastic rubbish bins everywhere in the city, and one day as we walked down the street, we saw one fully ablaze. Fortunately there were no cars parked immediately in its vicinity, for even from the other side of the road, the heat was intense. Next day at the bus station, we watched as person after person walked by the rubbish bin, and dutifully threw in their rubbish, which unfortunately, included numerous lit cigarettes. Of course, before long it became a shouldering heap. Having witnessed the fire from the day before, we disappeared. The point is that they might do what they are told to do, but Chinese people (here) don't seem to take time out to understand the reasons, or to think about the consequences. The same applies to everyone's approach to English Language studies.
One goes up the hill through that gate and eventually you get to the top of a hill. The climb takes you past shrines, other buildings and a temple. From the top of the hill you see other hills and views.
The government introduced English into the School curriculum in order to give the people the ability to read, write and speak English, but the students only do no more than what is necessary. Students can study English for 10 years, three years of which are spent studying English for nine hours per week, and two to four years of which they study it as a Major in University, and yet too many leave University with no ability to string one complete sentence together.
As someone at Laowai.Com wrote, you would think that the government at least could afford to pay one foreigner to go around and correct all the signs in Beijing. Everywhere you turn, signs are spelled wrong or give misleading information or are just plain hilarious. (Example: "The Important Protectoral Memrial Builaing to the Revolutionary Martyrs in China.")
When I first came to Yi Zhong (No. 1 School) I was given a grammar book and asked to use it in class. I refused! I couldn't! Every time I read it, I ended up laughing. "But this was written by a famous professor of English!" they exclaimed. "Maybe so" I replied, "but the man knows nothing about speaking English. He does not understand the language!"
Students are so bound by culture that there are so few who are 'self motivated' enough to be willing to just do what it takes to learn the language. Many of MY students are conned into it, because after I am through with the 'teaching' part of my lessons, I get them involved in group discussions, and start with 'What do you think of Taiwan?' It is guaranteed to 'make' them talk. Usually it sets them off spouting anti-Taiwan propaganda, but in some of my classes it was refreshing to hear things like: "I think Taiwan is a beautiful place but I would not like to live there. They have too many earthquakes. Oh, you must love Hong Hu then because we don't get earthquakes here. No, actually I don't like living here, I would prefer to live in England."
These and other students like them, were able to engage their conversational skills, rather than fall back into cultural programming. Only when you succeed in forcing them to talk, and only when they discover that they can actually do it, do you have any chance of really teaching them the language. It is a difficult road!
A Chinese politician questioned by the western press on how long it would be before China democratized, replied that it would take about 50 years. I know what the reporters were thinking, but personally, I think the politician was underestimating. There is a lot of cultural baggage to overcome. There is a lot of self de-programming to do. An additional problem for the young will be that as more and more of them understand written English, and more and more have access to the internet, they are going to discover things about China and its history that will cause them grief. Whether it be by believing what they read or by rejecting it, grief it will be.
Despite the tremendous changes in Chinese culture and history over the last century, one of the frequent accusations made by students in my classes was that I was trying to change Chinese Culture. As I am always pointing out, it is they themselves who change their culture. The whole problem of abandoned female children is going to have profound effects on China's future. (The Deliberate Disparity between genders will impact on; foreign marriages, homosexuality, crime, and shame at having no children. All of these are Culturally Shameful!).
From a cultural perspective alone, many really object to being made to speak English. What oral testing now exists in China, little affects the outcome of their exams (especially at university), and as long as it remains this way, there is no incentive to learn the language. (This has changed! - 2015)
If the Students in China do not overcome this, and do with the studies what the Government intended by introducing the subject, then it will serve little purpose. Basic Chinese philosophy is that the west should adopt Chinese customs and not vice versa, but until they can learn to understand western customs and use them to promote their country, they will not progress. Understanding and using a foreign culture when in contact with foreigners, is not tantamount to a rejection of your own culture.
Queensland Australia Top Frames: Brisbane seen from Southbank - different directions Bottom Left: This view has long gone to be replaced with an ugly black park Bottom Right: From Jupiters Casino looking toward the ocean at the Gold Coast.
As long as I am in China, and as long as I am able, my personal mission is to be as successful as possible in what I do, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of those I teach, and for the greater good of the country. I only hope that I never come to regret that decision. (Not so far - 2015)
In the meantime, as long as I am in China, I also intend to see and experience as much of it as possible, and being completely egalitarian, I am as willing to hobnob with the rich and (wannabe) famous in luxurious tourist hotels, as I am to live the ordinary life of a peasant.
Throughout the coming year, I will, whenever it is worthwhile to do so, write more stories for you.
If you go to this link you will see links to all my China Stories at Kingscalendar.
I send you all 'Seasons Greetings,' and hope that nothing I have written will put you off from visiting China. Maybe we'll run into each other at KFC sometime.
Despite all the hysterical accusations made by the sociopathic ideologues, the reality is that REAL everyday Muslims who have left their homelands to settle in democracy loving western lands DON’T WANT to be controlled by Islamists. They more than anyone else know what living under Islamic (theocratic) political and social control means.
Politically Correct Ideologues are people who become so trapped inside fundamentalist thinking, that they lose contact with the real world and see nothing other than their ideology. In short, they are totally focussed on what is inside their own heads, which is why I constantly refer to such people as ‘sociopathic.’
In China, the rights of society take precedence over individual human rights. This, we Westerners call totalitarianism and from an ideological perspective, desire to destroy it right? But ask yourself this: “What does MY country promote?”
There is no doubt that the immediacy of Trump’s order has caused inconvenience for many people, like the one I read about today of an Australian woman who arrived in the US only to be told that she had to leave because of her unacceptable dual citizenship. And I quote the illusion of truth:
Right now you are probably asking, ‘What the heck is the Seder Olam Rabbah?’ So here is a little information gleaned from a variety of online sources. Seder Olam Rabbah is Jewish literature of second century A.D. dated to about 160 AD. and first printed in 1514. It is a Midrashic chronological work generally regarded as a work of the tanna Jose b. Halafta. [The “tannaim” were the masters of the “oral law,” i.e. the men who wrote the Talmud.]
That there are probably many errors and circular arguments in relation to ancient history is attested to by many, including Colin Renfrew, Professor of Archaeology, Cambridge University (James Et. Al. 1991 : foreword pages.xiii-xv)
Since 2004 he has been writing academic articles, social commentaries and photographic 'Stories from China' both here at KingsCalendar, and formerly as a contributing columnist at Magic City Morning Star News (Maine USA) where from 2009 to 2015 he was Stand-in Editor. He currently has a column at iPatriot.com and teaches English to Business English and Flight Attendant College Students in Suzhou City Jiangsu Province People's Republic of China.)
BenDedek originally created the site to publicize his research results into the Chronology of Ancient Israel. Those results were published under the title: 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran.' Whilst there have been many attempts to solve the chronological riddle of the Bible's synchronisms of reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah and their synchronism with other Ancient Near Eastern Nations, no other research is based on a simple mathematical formula which could, if it is incorrect, be disproved easily. To date, no one has been able to dismiss the mathematical results of this research.
Free to air Academic articles set forth Apologetics for and results of his discovery of an "artificial chronological scheme" running through the Bible, Josephus, the Damascus Documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Seder Olam Rabbah. Check the Chapter Precis Page to see details of each chapter and to gain access to the Four Free to Air Chapters
(The Download book does not contain a section on Seder Olam)
Definition: King's Calendar Chronological Research
The Premise: Between the 5th and 3rd centuries BCE (but continuing down to at least 104 BCE), Sectarian redactors transcribed the legitimate 'solar year' chronological records of Israel and Judah, into an artificial form, with listed years as each comprised of 12 months of 4 weeks of 7 days, or 336 days per year, thus creating a 13th artificial year where 12 solar years existed.
When the Synchronous Chronological Data provided in the Books of Kings and Chronicles for the Divided Kingdom Period are measured in years of 336 days, the synchronisms actually align. [Refer to Appendix 5. to see how it synchronises the Divided Kingdom Period]