China, Travel

Round One Photos

Hello! Hello!

Photos of my first few months are up on Facebook! To have a look, just click here

First group of photos is from a day-trip to Guangzhou. Guangzhou is the capital of my province, Guangdong. It is considered like the LA of China. The old name for it is Canton which should ring some bells for people. Canton, like Cantonese language and Cantonese food. It is a very large city, maybe 12 million people. There is lots to explore there, so I know I will be going back.

Second group of photos are from New Yuan Ming Palace in Zhuhai which is an immitation of the real palace in Beijing. It was a little touristy and over-run the day we chose to visit, but still some enjoyable pictures were taken.

Third group is from a weekend trip to the city of Kaiping. Kaiping is a UNESCO World Heritage for its “dialous” which are these tower-homes built by Chinese who immigrated to other countries and then returned as now-wealthy people. Their homes are a curious combination of East and West as they brought new building materials and decorating ideas home with them. Many of them went to the United States, especially California, both for the Gold Rush and the building of the railroad. The history museum was absolutely fascinating. In addition to the towers and the villlages, the land around Kaiping was just beautiful.

A few links if you’re interested:
UNESCO: Kaiping Dialou & Villages
Wikipedia: Kaiping

I still owe you photos of the univeristy. I’m lazy, I know.

China, Communication, Language, Teaching

You are the shit

I’m not really sure how it all started, but last night another foreign teacher decided to teach some of the Chinese English teachers the phrase “you are the shit”. I think they had asked her to teach them some slang and this must have been the first thing that popped into her mind.

Explaining slang is always a bit tricky. “Isn’t “shit” a bad word?” they asked. Yeah, we said, if you just say “shit”, but when you add the “the” then it becomes like a complement. Confusion on their faces. The definite article changes an insult into a complement. Really? Yeah, we reassure them. It’s like saying that they are the best, the coolest. Two teachers turn to each other and simultaneously say “You are the shit” with completely deadpan faces. I laugh. They titter, looking slightly troubled, like they think we are pulling their leg.

Already running ahead with the implications of this discovery, another teacher asks if we can say “you are a shit.” Indefinite vs. definite article. I laugh again, but they really want to know the answer. I explain that if you used ‘a’ then it would be an insult. So if you wanted to insult someone you could call them a “piece of shit.” Maybe we could say “you are a piece a shit,” but that normally we would leave off the article altogether. I can’t believe I am talking about grammar in the context of swearing and insulting. But those articles make all the difference, don’t they?

“So,” they ask, “if you say “you are the shit” it’s a complement, but if you say “you are shit” or “you are a piece of shit” or “you piece of shit” then it’s an insult?” Correct, we affirm. The phrase “you little shit” is tugging at my mind, but I think they’ve had enough examples already. I sit back as they experiment with alternately complementing and insulting each other, laughing when they get them confused. Their faces are priceless.

Campus Life, China, University Teaching

Hello. My Name is Lazy.

On the first meeting of all my classes I asked the students to pick an English name. Some already had English names and some didn’t. For those who didn’t I asked them to think about it and tell me at our second meeting. I also brought a list of names for them to pick from.

As I had asked and not ordered them to do this I was not surprised that many students declined to pick an English name. The natural consequences of this, I told them, were that they would get to hear me pronounce their Chinese name badly all semester. They could cry “uncle” at any time and pick an English name.

Many of my students’ choices have been quite humorous. Have a look:

Cultural References: Prizes if you recognizes them all

Harry Potter: I have several Harrys, a Hermione and a Ron or two.
Big Bang Theory: Quite popular here. I have two Leonards.
Twilight: Bella and Edward. No Jacobs.
Other: Aragorn, Ponyo, Ringo, Sonic, Neo, and Nikita

Fruit: I have Apple, several Bananas, Cherry, Orange, and Strawberry. A veritable fruit basket.

Sports: I don’t think I recognize all the ones which are sports references, but I have a Dwight, a Kobe or two, Michael, and Iker.

Nature features prominently in my students’ choices. First up is the sun. I have Sun, Sunny, and Sunshine. More than one of each. Then I have Rainy, Rainbow, Sky (2), Icy, Sea, and Wind. For seasons I have everything but winter. There’s also Tree, Hill, and Snowball.

Those are all perfectly acceptable names. Now we get into the stranger categories.

Girls with Boys’ Names: Lucas, Tom, Silas, Ackerman, Garmier. How do you break this to them?

Boys with Girls’ Names: Only a few, some are arguable. Tracy, Stacy, and Aime. That last one changed his name quite quickly.

Prigs and Wigs: Names with a strong past century feel. Eunice, Muriel, and Eudora. Vern, Vernon, and Winton.

Stripper Names: Katty, Candy, Caire, Karry, Kimie, and Karmen. What’s with the “k’s”?

Holy Names: St. Lucas. Saint.

Young-at-Heart: Kid, Child, Children. More than one of some of these.

I have the Angel continuum: Angel, Angela, Angelia, Angelina, Angeling. Ok, sure.

Next I have the non-English names or non-standard pronunciation. These kids drive me nuts. I tell them, “You know, this really isn’t an English name.” or “That’s now how any self-respecting English speaker would say it.” No dice. They’re sticking with them. This includes: Juary (j-WAH-ri), Selene (sel-UH-neen), Guroy (GOO-Roy), Cynes (SAI-nus), Avent-not Advent, Jelf-not Jeff, Fenlix-not Felix, and Enmin-not Eminem.

Then I have the slightly unusual choices (Funny, I actually have a student called ‘Choice’): Italian, Hello Bean, Money, Abjection, King Kong, Tesla, Unbelievable, Soyabean, Ant, Lionheart, Levis, Rainco, Killer, Hurry, Natural, Lazy, and Camping. I also have iPod, iPad, iPhone.

Last I have the slightly demeaning, bad connotation, and downright unacceptable names (in that order) of Dweeb, Fanny, and Hitler. I made the decision to let Dweeb go. Fanny never returned to my class and Hitler I refuse to call him by that name.

Our students’ English names are a rich topic of conversation among the teachers. Everyone has good stories about their students. We vie for “worst name” and “strangest name” categories. We discuss whether or not we should make them change some of their names. Most of us assume that as long as they aren’t English majors planning to interact with foreigners anything except the most unacceptable name is fine. Bobo, Snowball, Tree, Hill and Camping are unfortunately all English majors. They have been being pressured to change. So far only Tree has made a change. We decided on the name Trelia, which sounds good even if it isn’t an English name to my knowledge.

A last name-related story: One of my student’s has the name Kira. Kira is the name of my dear friend Rebekah’s dog. I almost blurted out, “Kira? That’s my friend’s dog’s name!” I caught myself. Just.