Sunday, October 29, 2006


Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

It has been some time since I wrote the last message on my board. Although I may have not written much, be assured that I am far from feeling bored. I gained new experiences, gathered exciting memories and collected new thoughts. Unfortunately, it often seems that the more I get
to know China the less I understand its rationale. Maybe Elliot also thought of China when he analysed his conceptual shadows. I mean they are in middle (maybe nowhere?) and don't think about where they are going or are (or do they?). Sometimes it makes me wonder, if someone knows the way back home or recognizes the road that led or leads (to a destination or into the unknown). China is interesting, as it often seems that nobody knows what to know and what not to know. Choices.

Anyways, the weekend of the 21st of October I visited Nanjing (great … the spell check in MS Word does not recognise one of China’s most important historical sites…). If you have the time please check Wikipedia to read about China’s ancient capital (don’t skip the Japanese massacre part, which is still a major issue in contemporary China). I travelled together with Chanell, who is British and with whom I spend most of my time in Wuxi. Although it rained cats and dogs and taxis were as scarce as on a boiling summer afternoon in the Sahara dessert, we had a great time. Nanjing is a huge city (another), but somehow has a lot more character than Wuxi and therefore was well worth spending my time.

Last weekend I (and some other foreign teachers) visited Huangshan. A truly magnificent place as, the mountains reach beyond the clouds into the heavens. As you can imagine: perfect conditions to go hiking! I had to prove why the Bedouins in Jordan nicknamed me monkey boy J. We climbed three tops of approximately 1800 meters high and enjoyed all the beauties and delights that the Chinese landscape had to over. A wonderful experience, and a good exercise to train for the Mount Everest (Anne? J).

Of course, I also teach in between my weekend trips. But I can’t really imagine that you are very interested in that kind of stuff. People need to dream a bit, don’t they? Anyways, uni is doing fine. I make my students do lots of tests; receive both compliments (“students should be happy to have a teacher like you”) and complaints (“teacher, teacher I am tired could not do homework yesterday”) and in the meantime hang out with some of my students (played football and basketball with them). Life is fine in China, as long as you know where you are and where you are going.

Before I forget, somebody asked me what I miss most:

- I miss those people whom I love most

- I miss wine on Quai de Valmy (Bobo? Maybe, who knows… ;) )

- The smell of the North Sea

- And the sound of bargaining merchants in streets and piazzas, which connect the perfect body of eternal cities

I wish everybody the best and hope that you are all doing fine!

My love, hugs and thoughts


Sunday, October 15, 2006

What is past is prologue

I am now already almost three weeks in China, time travels fast - very fast! The past week has been my first full working week. What can I say? It was exhausting, exhilarating (to a certain degree), but most of all Interesting (with capital I)!

The most beautiful thing is that every day I learn and see something new! Yesterday we (the younger foreign teachers) visited Suzhou (苏州), a city to the West from Wuxi. It is famous for its silk, pretty gardens and impressive history. Unfortunately like other cities in Eastern China, Suzhou has started to commodify its antiques and now commercialised most of its ancient history. Commercialism has reached the inner- city and wasted most of the city's beauty. It is sometimes strange to walk in a country, which gave birth to Confucius, but now seems so obsessed with money and status. It must be a difficult to reestablish harmony in a kingdom, which was once so powerful and balanced, but now seems to suffer from the diseases of ultra “laissez fairism”. I am happy not to have to perform the great tasks that still lie ahead of the Chinese State! Those duties I leave to my student!

My students are very different than I initially expected; they all come from rich families and are a tad spoiled. However, they are great fun (most of them at least! =)), enthusiastic and sometimes brilliant! I have two classes. The first one (the nicest once) consists of mainly girls, which tend to be better students than boys in China (WHICH IS NOT TRUE IN THE WEST!). The second one is more diverse (i.e. about 50% girls and 50% boys) and is in fact a bit bigger (27 students compared to 20 students in the first class). I teach them both 9 hours per week, which is thus 18 hours in total. Really a lot of hard work as they are not so talkative, which is why I have to do most of the talking (boring!).

I have not started to train my Chinese yet! The first week was really exhausting. The preparing of the different exams and homework assignments took so much time that I saw myself forced to cut down on the things I initially came for (learning Chinese and getting familiar with China!). The coming week I plan to do it differently and hope to have more time for myself. I also hope that I can start my Chinese lessons soon. Actually I am very much looking forward to start, as the Chinese characters are truly beautiful and pose a serious challenge!

Anyways I have to go now, still a whoooole lot of grading/ marking and assessing to do!

I hope you are all doing fine!!! Keep me informed and thanks for the many sweet comments and emails!


Ps. Sorry, I did not have time to reply to all of your emails yet... I will do so this week (hopefully...). I am really busy, the job takes a lot more time than expected...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First week in the "Middle Kingdom"

The first week has really been a period of acclimatisation and adjustment to a new culture and a different mentality. My first conclusion is that China is indeed different, very different! The occidental laws of gravity simply do not fly in the Orient. Well, anyways that is my first impression.

I still have to get used to the fact that it is completely impossible to mingle with the locals. I am constantly made aware to be the Waldo in a classic “Find Waldo” scenario. Fact is that you can actually count the amount of Westerners in Wuxi (4 million inhabitants) on two hands. It is thus definitely difficult to keep a low profile! Anyways, it is part of the experience I guess.

Most of the other foreign teachers come from native English speaking countries (Australia, England and Northern America), with the exception of a lady from Israel (don’t ask me why she chose Wuxi! Actually, the same can be said for me!). Thus in short, there are no Europeans! I am happy to have brought some Edith Piaf CDs with me, so that I can at least enjoy my own roots from time to time.

I had my first lecture just before the national holidays and celebration of the People’s Republic of China on October 1. Actually, I had my first lecture already on the second day after my arrival! However, I must admit that I probably have benefited from commencing so early. I think it helped to keep me busy and undergo the drastic changes day- by- day. The students (they are freshers) are pretty nice and a few of them really smart. They had English for some time already (about 6 years) and thus have some basic knowledge and understanding of the language. I tried to provoke some discussion on Western versus Chinese culture, which was an adventure in itself. I recognized that they see Western culture as mainly individualistic and possessive. Moreover, I found that they equaled Western culture with Anglo- Saxon traditions. I still have to teach them soooo much!

Yesterday, we (6 foreign teachers) visited a market (Please find a photo to the left). As you can see the roads are even denser than on the Kalverstraat (Amsterdam) on a busy Saturday afternoon! The change of smells on the streets was also an experience: I can confirm fried pigeons smell funny! Anyways, I think I leave that kind of experimental eating to the Chinese.

Enough for now, I don’t want to bore you with more of my stories. I will keep you informed as the days pass and the experiences grow in number J.

Cheerio e a presto!