Monthly Archives: August 2014

Summer is Coming to an End

Well, the summer grind is almost over. This is the last week of the 2nd of back to back intensive short semesters. Three week mini-courses stacked on top of my regular schedule. One thing that I have come to learn is that things would be a whole lot easier if every class wasn’t different. By that I mean, or I assume, that academic teachers typically have at least a few courses that they teach more than once during the week. Something along the lines of writing a lesson plan that can be used for all three of your freshman history classes. This is not the case here because every student only comes once a week, with every class at a different level in order to offer a wider range of English levels to customers/parents. While great for the business model, it means I have 11 different lesson plans to write up every week. Oh well.

The heavy work load and many hours of actual teaching has been hard, but my self-assurance and proficiency in the classroom is through the roof. I simply have no nerves when I am in front of class or in front of a group of parents, and it has translated to a tremendous boost in confidence, which is further encouraged by actually successfully living and working in a city and country as foreign as Wuxi, China. Outside of my phone, which I never use, or WeChat, which I frequently use, I spend much of my time communicating in very poor Chinese, usually with the Koreans who own the local Mom & Pop stores, and I get along just fine.

Knowing my time here is limited to about a year makes this a great learning experience. I can take it all in comfortably aware of the impermanence of this sojourn, which makes the moments of difficulty or frustration bearable and beneficial. Experience is essential to finding out what is important in life. Experience forces a reorganization of what you need and don’t need as it pulls new things in and out of your intellectual and emotional ambit. Auxiliary wants and needs fade away unremembered, while the indispensable and precious intensify in their importance, adding a new, permanent vitality as I wend my way through life and living. To say that family and home is the most important thing in life is trite and sentimental, but it is also simple and true.

Here are some images I’ve tried to gather since I last posted. It has seemingly been raining everyday in this sodden state so I have only a few:

These are some of my kindergarteners. Amy is the girl, CJ is with his head down and Justin is using his pencil tube as a telescope. Justin is very hyperactive but I like him very much. All three of these are good kids with great personalities, Amy being smart and mischevious and CJ is just along for the ride. That is my TA Lori, she is by far the most amiable of the lot, in part because she is the least experienced. Regardless, I enjoy working with her, and in fact I like all the TA’s, for the most part. You can’t like everybody you work with, that’s just an axiom of life.

This is just a quick video of the corner at the end of my block. My bank, some shopping and dining are all in this area.

The image below is a shot outside one of the other Shane Schools that I went to in order to sub for another teacher. The weather map said no clouds, which gives you an idea of pollution levels that day. A teacher was on vacation so I took one of his classes. That Scotsman walking by is Ian, a fellow teacher that arrived in China the same time as me.

This was my welcoming party for my substitution gig. I am pretty sure it was for me.

This is a nice image of one of the canals in a shopping area for Chinese tourists.

And finally a view along my street on a clear and quiet night.

That’s all for now, I should be posting more often now that my very busy summer is coming to an end.


This is the Week to Get Sick

I finished up my three week intensive teaching and everything went very well. The students really seemed to enjoy the pace of the course almost as much as I did, and now I have a five day “vacation”, which with my normal days off gives me about a week off. I would prefer the hours, but as with any employer, an aversion to overtime pay created by the extra hours for the intensive courses means we are off this week to bring down the monthly hours. I guess this was the perfect time to catch a cold, which I did. Head, nose, cough and stomach were all miserable, but the worst has peaked and the sick feeling is fading fast.

I took a couple of interesting videos, well one interesting video and one video I found amusing because I can see a product being made that I eat back home. The amusing video is of a machine that my neighborhood Korean grocer bought which makes rice crisps. It usually draws a crowd and they seem to be selling well, although I did see bags full of unsold packages upstairs, so maybe it's more to draw in customers to buy other things. They are basically tortilla sized tostadas that are made from rice flour; crispy, light and slightly sweet.


This next video I took of a pasta chef who was working at a street shop. I took notice because it reminded me of a segment I saw on television before I left home, which, incidentally was the last time I watched television. It was either The Food Network or Anthony Bourdain, I don't remember, the point is that they made it sound like it was an art that was rare and special to see because noodle making was fast becoming mechanized. This guy, as nice as he may be and I'm sure his family and friends love him, seemed neither rare or particularly special. This was one of the many Halal shops that are Muslim Uighur owned and very friendly. The Uighurs are an ethnic group in China that is under quite a bit of pressure right now, quite similar to Tibet, although you wouldn't know by watching or reading the Chinese press.


It's been very hot, humid and often raining here so I haven't taken a lot of new pictures unfortunately. That combined with my 48 hour flu means this week was a bit uneventful.

I have been taking advantage of Coursera, it's a site that provides courses on the internet from various universities that allows people like me to watch lectures, download notes and correspond with other students if you wish, as well as take quizzes and tests. Although there is no formal credit, the classes are free after all, they are very educational and offer a variety of topics. My last two courses were Exercise Physiology and the other was Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health. My current course is Learning How to Learn, which is on how the neurology of the brain learns and methods on how to improve and maintain neuroplasticity into old age. I just started today and it is very interesting. Next week I start Understanding Research: an Overview for Health Professionals, which I hope will help me be able to pick out what is good and bad research. I'm pretty good at it already, I like to read a lot on health and nutrition, particularly long term weight loss, and I often read the original research on PubMed because the popular press often misrepresents the results of a paper to generate click bait, or else it doesn't put it in the context of what the preponderance of research says. How many times have you read a headline that loudly proclaims “A New Study Says…”, but they fail to tell you it’s a small uncontrolled study that hasn’t been replicated? All to often. (I'm talking to you Dr. Oz)

Well, that's what I've been up to. I recommend just browsing the classes Coursera offers, they are free and once you register you can sign up for as many as you want, and you can interact with other people taking the course or you can just watch the lectures and be done with it. With that, I'm done with this post.