Monday, March 26, 2007

day in, day out

It's been a while since I've written (as usual), but really there isn't much going on here worth writing home about. Classes are going relatively well, though my sophomores are all a bit worried about their upcoming TEM-4 (Test for English Majors) which they have to pass on their first or second try to graduate. The same test is given throughout China, and is used I suppose to make sure that all English graduates have at least a minimum proficiency regardless of which university they studied at. It, like all knowledge-based standardized tests, causes many many schools and teachers to "teach to the test," ignoring the real needs of the students and greatly limiting creative lesson planning. There's no spoken part of the test, so they take my oral English class less seriously than I think they should, and they want me to tailor my listening class to the test. They only have another month or so before it to get ready, so I told them that our next few classes could be test-oriented. Their biggest weakness as far as I see it is their lack of confidence and excessive nervousness, but unfortunately I don't know how to change that. If they would only relax, they do a lot better.

Other than class, I don't really do much, usually just hang out with friends to practice my Chinese and watch movies or read when there's no one around. Last week I was without internet for 3 or 4 days and without electricity for two (not because the building was cut off the grid but rather because the Foreign Affairs Office couldn't get an appointment with the one woman who sells the prepaid electricity cards), but I managed to survive. I've been going for pretty regular bike rides, usual just to the nearest big grocery store (about half an hour away), and learning a fair amount about the traffic rules or lack thereof in China. The basic rule seems to be avoid stopping at all costs but collision, which fortunately coincides nicely with US college campus bicycle riding.

It's getting late so I'm going to get to bed - I'd like to try to ride into the city tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

trip photos

A mossy mottled rock in the Stone Forest outside of Kunming.

Looking down the wavy rock into a deep dark hole.

It really does look like a forest of stones.

chicas asustadas
The crazy-narrow path on top of some tall pointy rocks, complete with scared Chinese girls.

A really big forest of rocks - see the pagoda for size comparison.

¿lo reconoces?
Hmm, what's this rock look like?

Dali, seen from the mountain.

Looking out from the snowy mountain path.

cementerio forestal
Graves are scattered amongst the pine trees all over the mountain by Dali.

Independent rest. Clockwise, from the top: Jing Bin, Korean. Wu Xiaoli, Chinese. Alyssa, Minnesota.

jade dragon montaña nevada
The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, near Lijiang.

por fin el agua en el aire
Watering the fields the hard way.

calle "vieja"
The "old" streets of Lijiang.

cerro solado, cerro sombrado 2
The grand and glorious beginning of the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

montañas continuas
The opposite face of the gorge.

camino adelante
Dirt paths really make for the best hiking.

que vista mas linda
What a place to build a guesthouse.

pared de montaña
Oh, I wish I were still there . . .

terrazas + montaña 2
All the land is terraced - there are many mouths to feed in China.

vertiente, un poco mas cerca
The waterfall, from afar.

vertiente + montañas
Up close and wet.

The water runs right across the path.

The highlight of the hike.


arriba recta

The Yangzi River, far down below.

The descent - it sure was sad to go down, leaving all that beautiful scenery behind.

seguimos por la calle
Back on paved road, unfortunately.

Now that's what I call whitewater.

Lijiang at night.

Looking out the door at Lugu Lake.

Snake Mountain

Cycling around the lake.


Countryside from a moving bus.

A bath for Baobao back at Sun Island Cafe in Dali.

A drippy tree is really what that bit of wall needed.

Excellent place for the morning cup of tea.

Taro playing the tabla.

The view from beneath the cable cars near Dali. We walked up, of course, sneaking through the woods to avoid paying the entrance fee. What mountain has an entrance fee? And we already paid the first time.

On the way down, we went around a bend to find a roofless building with monkeys chained to the porch. They get vicious if you get too close.

Last afternoon in Kunming.

The sun sets on my journey.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

first day of school

Tomorrow I have my first classes of the semester. Like I requested, I'm only teaching 12 hours per week, leaving me with plenty of time to study Chinese (I'd like to start learning to read and write since being illiterate is both limiting and embarrassing) as well as travel a bit more. I only have class on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, giving me four day weekends every week. I'm only teaching freshman and sophomore English majors - oral English for both, and also listening for the sophomores. I still don't have the book for listening class so I'm not sure what to expect, but it doesn't start until next week so I still have time to figure it out.

I'm more or less settled into my new apartment. There are still a few things to be worked out, like getting the kitchen ready to be used and making the pipe to the washing machine stop leaking, but otherwise it seems like it'll be an alright place to live. The other apartment was probably a bit nicer and certainly more conveniently located for shopping, but I like being here with the students, and not having to take a bus to class tomorrow will probably feel great.

I know you're expecting pictures, but right now the internet is incredibly slow making the task of posting pictures quite cumbersome. If I can, I'll get some up before bed tonight. Otherwise, if technology cooperates, there should be some tomorrow night, also known as tomorrow morning in the western hemisphere.

Friday, March 02, 2007

back home

I got back home the night before last at about 2 AM, safe and sound.
The trip was wonderful. I should have some photos for you to see in
the next couple of days. I'd do it now, but I'm moving everything to
my new apartment in about half an hour and there are still plenty of
things to pack, so I need to get back to that. I just wanted to let
you know I made it back without any problems. More details soon.