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Just another day in Zhangzhou

CHINA | Thursday, 6 November 2008 | Views [665]

I've had one of those days that make your head pound and all I feel like doing is having a beer!

I found out that some bastard has my credit card number and is starting to pilfer money out of my account. Although it took me what seemed like days to get through to my bank, I managed to get the ball rolling on sorting it out. It's a very stressful situation and being overseas makes it harder to sort out. I now have to download a dispute form, sign it and fax it to Sydney. So much hassle.

Anyway, today I've been trying to organise something to present or talk about for my next Q&A at the language center. I think I might just bring along some photos of Australia (on my USB) to show the students. It might make things go with more of a swing, rather than just turning up and waiting for them to ask me questions.

Many of the English speaking Chinese are either very shy or they're scared of making mistakes with what little English they know. One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people won't tell you when they don't understand something you've said, because in China not understanding something is considered to be very bad, and one  might "lose face", as they call it. A lot of students I've spoken to say that if you get a question wrong in class, a lot of the other students will lose respect for you and not want to be your friend.

I think the first step to learning is asking questions, but they don't seem to think that way here, and very few students will ask for help, or even ANSWER questions at the risk of being wrong.

Last Sunday I had a few problems talking slowly to the adults. In my western mind, talking slowly to someone is patronizing - but if you don't talk slowly and use small words, they simply won't understand you! I've been programmed to 'respect my elders' and this includes trying not to patronize them!! I think some of what I said last week just went straight over their heads. I'm better talking one-on-one with the college students that are in their early twenties, but when you're confronted with a room full of people who are 40+, it's not so easy to remember that these people don't speak my language. And of course you often get carried away with your own words and just forget who you're talking to.

Talking slowly and using small words is harder to get used to that I thought it would be. You can't use slang or sayings or anything like that because they just won't understand you.

Anyway, apart from that, today was fairly standard. In the morning Dad, June, Andrew (an American teacher that lives here at the college with his wife and two small children) went to Wall-Mart (YES folks, Zhangzhou is complete with it's very own giant corporate supermarket...but you still can't get cheese there) and we visited a few small computer shops in the city. The shopping was mainly boring for me, but I did manage to find an 80GB external hard drive for Y499 (about $100AUD), which is very good! :)

For lunch Dad and I went to a Chinese steak restaurant. Chinese steak is usually mostly gristle and is nearly always served on a hot plate with a raw egg on the side. Sometimes you can get a good steak, but personally, I didn't come to China for the steak so I think I'll survive. I ended up eating steamed veggies (mainly delicious mushrooms! I ADORE the mushroom selection in China!) and a pineapple smoothie, which was delicious.

This weekend we're off to Xiamen to see the sights, in particular Gulangyu Island - which became a foreign enclave in 1842 after the signing of The Treaty of Nanking (which marked the end of the first Opium War between Britain and China). I'm very excited about exploring the island as it's home to a lot of very unique architecture (a mixture of Victorian and Qing Dynasty Chinese). Will write all about that when we return.

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