On Sunday I gave a lovely presentation on Project Based Learning and Assessment at the High School in Rui'an. A half Professional Development day followed up with a large lunch and a visit to a local museum (yesterday’s post), I oddly enough felt as if I were in an episode of the Twilight Zone…here’s why. As a graduate student, we were required to attend several professional development days and half-days, after which we were supposed to write-up our findings: what did we learn, what did we notice, what could have been better, etc. 

Old habits die hard I guess. Upon entering the building, I realized that 1) my toes and fingers were already frozen despite my tights and gloves, and B) this was a real opportunity to see how teachers in China encounter Professional Development days! I’ll save you the suspense of reading through a long post. Much the same as in America, I encountered two reactions. The first - as I was lecturing, I was so pleased to see several younger teachers frantically writing down things they thought might be helpful in the future.

The second was the complete opposite, “Jaime,” my co-worker implored, “what do you think of Professional Development days? Do you think they are full of *crap?” I’m guilty of both attitudes to be sure, but then again, aren’t most students the same way? We are told to go to class, take notes, and listen as this information is important…but really, if we cannot find any meaning or relevance to the material we simply zone out…or in my co-worker’s case, read next week’s Japanese lesson. 

Other than these two completely differing observations - I am sure now that my co-worker would have rather been hanging out with his family - I found the day to be interesting none-the-less. We started out by signing in to the conference, grabbed our goodie bags with a memory stick and some literature about various English courses offered, and headed upstairs to a large and unheated room. The place was like a cement cinder block - I could see the heaters, I implored them to send me some of their good warmth…but no. 

A panel of speakers began the day and as I was the only foreigner, they spoke in Chinese about everything they’ve done in the last year. About 15 minutes into the speech, one of the organizers came up behind the panel to tear down the banner they’d hung above the projector screen. It was blocking a good half of the screen, so what better time to tear it down than in the middle of someone’s speech? I guess I was the only one who found this funny as the man yanked and pulled the red banner while my boss sat there continuing to speak. Looking around, I was the only one phased, so I promptly stifled a laugh. 

Our first speaker began around 9:30 and spoke until about 10:40 - she was animated, excited and generally passionate about her topic. I’m still not entirely sure what she was talking about but, several times she mentioned Parker Palmer’s Courage to Teach, a book we were asked to read in grad school. Speaking 95% in Chinese, I found it hard to concentrate as my mind wandered to other important things like - what are we going to have for lunch?

My turn came, and I was able to speak for a good hour or more in my usual animated way. Despite not having a translator, these English teachers were a great audience - laughing at my jokes and nodding their heads when appropriate. Unfortunately for the previous speaker, I think her speech left her a bit exhausted as I noticed her head bobbing up and down, finally resting on her desk. I hope I didn’t bore her to sleep!! Ha!

After our speeches were finished, every one filled out of the building for a quick group shot. Then, it was off to the restaurant for a big feast/meal. This was usually my favorite part of the professional development - the food!! Coffee? Muffins? Cookies? Not here friends, we ate fried rice, two different types of fish, a tofu and clotted blood dish, dumplings, duck with the head in-tact, sliced pigs ear, chopped pork and veggies, two types of soup and Italian wine. A lot better than cookies and coffee? Yeah, I’d say so. 


On the way to the Taoist Temple, we traveled through the rural areas of Rui'an and Wenzhou in the Zhejiang Province, Southern China.

Although a large part of the population is non-religious, as in the most of China, many people in this region practice the Chinese folk religion in addition to Buddhism and Taoism.  For centuries, this region has also been a hub of Christian missionary activity with several hundred thousands of practitioners.  Today it remains an important center of Christianity in China.

Goofing around...

My weekends are not really weekends…on Saturday and Sundays I tutor anywhere from 6 to 10 students both in my home and in Rui'an - a town an hour away. Sunday afternoons are particularly special for me because I get to hang out with two awesome 12 year-olds - Sweety and Mike. By far two of the sweetest kids I’ve met, we’ve learned a wide array of things from body parts, negative and positive sentences, the five W’s + How, Halloween and most recently nations and nationalities. 

Yesterday we dragged a bit, and as I bring my laptop most days with me, I decided to spice it up with a five minute break from English. Macs are fabulous machines if only for applications like Garage Band and Photobooth. Below are the ‘fruit of my spoils’ as they say. I had no idea Photobooth could turn you into a chipmunk - by far the favorite!

Frog Faces

Alien Asians…

Party Time!

Mike and me - chipmunked…

Please laugh!! 



After my lecture on Sunday, the six of us teachers made a visit to the Yuhai Building in Rui'an - the home and library of Sun Yirang 孫詒讓 (1848 - 1909) - a Chinese philologist (one who studies languages). According to Wikipedia and my Chinese co-workers, this building was built as his private library built in 1888. “Since ancient times, this private library has attracted numerous readers due to lits large collection of books it keeps. The two Chinese characters "Yu (玉) Hai(海)” means the books here are as valuable as jade and the knowledge is as vast as the boundless sea.“

My boss at school was nice enough to give me this brief introduction and several pictures of the buildings. The good pictures were not taken by me!! :) The building is quite large - think of an Italian Villa…now, make it Chinese and I think you get the general idea. There were about three main quad areas, with side alleys and patios where one could sit in contemplation. To the side of the building and part of it was a pond, connecting to the park where hordes of older men sat playing cards. We wandered around for about 10 minutes before I got lost…a common thing here in China for me. 

Again, it was lovely to be out and about with people - casually conversing and exploring a local sight. I’m always surprised at how quiet it is within the walls of such a small building. It’s like the whole city melts away. 

Anyhow, I’m off today to do a bit of Christmas shopping…and me shopping! 

De første dagene på New Epoch Education

Ana tok meg med til skolen på min første dag i Rui'an, og viste meg rundt på skoleområdet, som ligger knappe 10 minutter fra leiligheten vår. Det virket litt komplisert å finne fram til å begynne med, men det viste seg å være veldig lett. Det jeg ikke visste, var at jeg skulle undervise på en annen skole enn Ana, på et campus i andre delen av byen. Så etter å ha observert timene til Ana den første dagen og den neste formiddagen, tok kontaktpersonen vår på skolen meg med til den nye skolen min, hvor jeg ble godt tatt i mot.

På denne skolen, hvor barn fra 1.-3. trinn går, er det spesielt to av lærerne som snakker godt engelsk, og rektoren har heller ikke så verst forståelse av språket. Jeg fikk omvisning og en umiddelbar kjendisstatus, og Ye - hun ene av de som snakker veldig bra engelsk - brukte meg i en av timene hennes. Sikkert spennende for barna når de kan beskrive en levende, vestlig blondine (som har gult hår - ikke blondt, hvis du lurte….takk for deeet.), og ikke bare de enkle tegningene av personer vist på power point. Jeg observerte også timen til Pinkie, en annen engelsk-lærer med et fantastisk velvalgt og egenvalgt navn. Det er forresten alltid morsomt å finne ut de engelske navnene, spesielt når en treffer jenter som har valgt å kalle seg superfeminine navn, som Candy og Pinkie. Det er mye organisert roping fra elevene, og kanskje dette er en bra ting. Barn har jo veldig mye energi, og hvis de bare vet når de skal være rolig, så er det jo fint. 

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While traveling in the Rui'an region, we visited a small, but very fine museum devoted to history of printing in China.  On display, there were many great  examples of applied printing from ancient sacred books and paper money, which was invented in China, to marriage certificates printed during the Cultural Revolution.

Kina, dag 2;

Det ble avreise fra hotellet kl 06 neste dag, og vi presset oss inn med morgenfisene på subwayen avgårde til togstasjonen. Etter 5 timer med tog til Hangzhou, klarte jeg å finne veien på subwayen til neste togstasjon ved hjelp av kroppsspråk og ansiktsuttrykk ca midt på fortvilethets-skalaen. Det føltes virkelig som at jeg hadde oppnådd noe når jeg var framme ved togets plattform før den hadde åpnet for passasjerer (nå har jeg jo vært ute og reist før, skal vi ikke glemme, så jeg vet jo at man alltid skal være ute i gooood tid…). Påfølgende nye 5 timer på et artig tog, hvor mitt sete var å dele en seng med 3 andre reisende, i en lugar (dette høres muligens mer sketchy ut enn det var). Landskapene som fyrte forbi i over 300 km/t var utrolige, alt fra skyskrapere midt i ingenmannsland til risåkre, urbane bylandskap, fjell og sletter. Å reise med tog er prima for meg.

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A local printer from the rural Rui'an region, whose family has operated this traditional Chinese printing business since the Ming Dynasty, demonstrates for us a process of making a print using bamboo baren and movable type.

Throughout the rural China, traditional Chinese printing is still in use for making legal documents, sales, obituaries, public announcements and more.

In this process, the master printer first applies thick black painting ink onto a wooden block or carefully arranged movable type, and transfers ink onto paper by rubbing.  Chinese have used this method of hand-rubbing to produce images and legal documents since antiquity.

Så var jeg Frøken Nora, da.

Nå har jeg nettopp våknet etter en liten times lur, her på kontoret. Herlig. Det er faktisk forventet at lærerne tar seg en hvil i løpet av dagen her, og kontorene er ofte utstyrt med enten sofaer eller lene-klappstoler, så beina får hvilt seg. I dag trengte jeg det virkelig, det er den varmeste dagen hittil. Nå viser gradestokken 34 grader, og jeg vil tro det var nærmere 35-36 for et par timer siden. Da er det litt upraktisk når det ikke er aircondition i klasserommene, og takviftene sviver bare over den delen av klasserommet hvor elevene sitter. Jeg svettet som en gris, til og med shortsen hadde svettemerker. Lekkert.

Nok om det!

Selve undervisningen går bedre og bedre. Jeg var greit nervøs da jeg møtte opp på mandag, og både rektoren og en assistent var med i timen. Jeg har en assistent i hver time, på grunn av det lave nivået til elevene. Av og til lurer jeg på om lærerne lærer like mye som barna av å være der, for uttalen deres er ikke alltid helt på topp, noe som til tider er ganske underholdende. Og dette har forundret meg; hver eneste lærer-assistent i klasserommet har på et eller annet punkt tatt fram smartphonen, og enten filmet eller tatt bilde av når jeg underviser. Dokumentasjonsbehovet er tydeligvis stort i Kina også. 

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