Category Archives: China

Step Forward For Civilization

Visiting a public restroom anywhere in the world can be a gamble. Sometimes one is pleasantly surprised: At the Icon Grill in Seattle male patrons are encouraged by a multimedia display featuring scenes of waterfalls, floods and running faucets all set to classical music.

I haven’t come across anything similar here in China but I do get a kick every time I visit JUSCO, one of the large department stores in Qingdao. Posted above every urinal is the phrase “Step Forward for Civilization” in both Chinese and English. Apparently the powers that be believe that if we men could just be a little more tidy when taking care of business the world would be a much better place.

Maybe they’re right.

Get on the Bus?

Earth Day came and went here in Qingdao without so much as a litter pickup party. It is very easy to feel discouraged about the current and future state of the environment here in China. One thing we all can do to help is use more public transportation.

Should you every find yourself in China you might be inclined, perhaps in an effort to reduce your carbon footprint, to take the bus. In my experience this can be somewhat traumatic. Maybe you just want to save money, why spend 30 yuan ($4) on a taxi when you can spend 2 and take the bus. Remember, that 28 yuan could be used for a decent meal, a couple of beers, or a whole stack of pirated DVDs. To save you the expense and years of therapy I offer this simple overview of taking the bus in China.

Of course the bus will be crowded, everywhere in China is crowded. Current estimates put the population at 1.3 billion. I think this number is a bit low, I could swear there were at least a billion people on the bus with me last week.

Just getting on the bus can be a challenge, school children and old people will scratch and claw their way along with office workers and government lackeys to squeeze through the narrow front door. If entry through the front door seems impossible it is common practice to hand you fare to someone else to put into the fare box and enter through the back door. Keep in mind that the bus may not stop completely during this process.

There is almost no chance you will be able to find a seat. This is because people who have a seat never leave the bus, their families toss water and sandwiches trough the windows as they pass by. Charlie had nothing on these guys.

Imagine yourself standing, squeezed into a contortionist’s position, you head bent against the hand rail and some stranger’s buttocks uncomfortably close to your crotch. At least you made it on and in 40 to 60 minutes you will arrive at you destination. Of course your spine will never be the same again, but you have done your part for the enviroment You close your eyes and picture yourself sitting back with a beer, watching a pirated DVD when the unimaginable happens: someone farts.

I am a big advocate of public transportation. When living in Seattle I was a proud participant in the Ballard in Motion campaign, and have to tote bag to prove it. Still, I shutter each Tuesday and Wednesday morning I climb aboard the #321 to my university teaching job.
Man in a Truck

Olympic Security English

I recently came across a book with the intriguing title “Olympic Security English.” With chapters ranging from “Giving Directions” to “Dealing with Brawls” this text covers all the bases. It is good to know the police will be prepared in 2008. Here is an excerpt:

At the Lost and Found Office:
Foreigner: Hello, officer.
Police: Hello, sir!
F: I’m Joe Kennedy. I’ve been notified to come here for my lost wallet.
P: Please give me the Report on Lost Article.
F: Okay. Here you are.
P: To make sure, will you tell me what’s in the wallet?
F: It’s black and rectangular.
P: What’s in it?
F: 300 US dollars, 3000 yuan, 2 telephone cards, and 3 credit cards.
P: Anything else?
F: And a photo of my wife and daughter.
P: Absolutely right! Here is your wallet. Please sign your name on the Report on Lost Article.
F: All right. It’s really incredible! A lost wallet can be recovered! Only in Beijing can this be possible!
P: The taxi driver found it and sent it here.
F: Thank you very much. I really appreciate your efforts.

While I am certainly happy for Mr. Kennedy, I have some serious doubts as to the veracity of this exchange. Only in Beijing indeed.

For more on the book check out: Book will help police converse with English speakers and Beijing police learning ‘Olympic Security English’.
Breezy Security

I miss summer afternoon naps

Nap Time
Originally uploaded by Stewsnews.

These two workers were enjoying what was most likely a well deserved break when I selfishly snapped their photo. This was back in September when getting forty winks out on the sidewalk was just another fact of life in China. Winter has arrived and with it a biting wind which makes me very nostalgic for those warmer days. I could post a photo of students wearing hats and gloves dashing between classes or of me huddled in front of a space heater but that would just make me feel colder.

Workers of the world, unite!

If you follow the news coming out of China these days you know that things here are booming. Money is being made and spent, investments and profits are on everyone’s minds, and business is thriving. While all of this is certainly true the daily operations of this roaring economy are somewhat less clear.

There is certainly an awful lot of construction going on; out with the old and in with the new. Much of the hard labor in eastern China is being done by workers from the more populated provinces. I have read that this amounts to the largest human migration in history, impressive indeed.

On Sunday I wondered around the new campus of the Ocean University of China which is located not too far from my school. The place is being built right under the student’s noses. The workers were kind enough to allow me to take a few pictures. Here are the results.


Sitting Mason

Happy Mason

Man with Shovel

Sport’s Day

A few Saturdays ago Qingdao Number Two held its autumn sports assembly. The day began with an opening ceremony in which each class marched around the school track wearing costumes. My fellow foreign teacher, Annie, and I were asked to participate along with our Year 1 class. They provided us with Qing era outfits and fans to wave as we marched along.

While our class’s performance was rather subdued, others went all out with balloons, streamers, and fireworks. One class released a cage full of white doves; another had life-sized inflatable costumes of the 2008 Olympic mascots. It was quite the spectacle.

After the opening ceremonies the sports events began. There were a variety of track and field events: foot races, high jump, javelin throw, long jump, etc. I wondered around taking photos. It was a warm clear day, perfect for a little friendly competition. The following Monday I asked my students what they thought of the events. Most seemed to enjoy it but many complained of being tired from the long day.

For more photo’s visit my flickr page:

I believe I can Fly

Cheering Section

Runner Blur

The Rhythm of School

Nearly three weeks and no updates! I know what you must be thinking: Stew has gone off on some adventure and is too busy trekking along some wild road or herding water buffalo in southern China. The truth is I have fallen into the daily rhythm of life here at Qingdao Number 2, and while it is not always exciting it does keep me busy.

The student’s day begins bright and early at 6:30 when they leave their dorms for breakfast. I have quized my students about their living conditions I hear nothing but complaints, who could blame them; eight students share a cramped room. On Mondays there is a flag raising ceremony in the school’s main square. The first classes begin at 8.

Lunchtime can be a challenge, with 2000 students all making their way to the cafeteria at roughly the same time. Teachers have their own dinning facility, which leaves a lot to be desired. At least it is cheap; a meal typically cost around 4 Yuan (about 50 cents). The students tell me their food is not too bad but a little more expensive. I have yet to eat in the students dinning hall; I’ll provide a full report when I do.

My first class begins at 2 pm, which gives me the morning to prepare lessons and make photocopies (when the copier is working that is.) When I first arrived, the school told me the copier would be too complicated for me to figure out so I gave documents to an office worker who would return my copies a day or so two later. I have since made the bold move to make my own copies, without any problems.

I have 3 classes in the afternoon, and then a dinner break at 5:30. Sometimes I will hurry to the dinning room before it closes, but more often I eat something in my office. My last class ends at 7:30 at which time I retire to my apartment or go grocery shopping. The students study in their classrooms until 10pm. The campus fills with a cacophony of shouts and murmuring voices as they head back to their dormitories. They have about 20 minuets to get ready for bed before the electricity in the dorms is shut off.

So there you have a typical day at Qingdao Number 2. The school week is Monday thru Saturday. Students go home on Saturday afternoon and return around 6:30 on Sunday evening. Sometimes Saturday is filled with a school wide activity. Today was sports day, which I save for another post.

Bedroom View

My apartment came equipped with a fairly nice view and a very small washing machine. While not the latest and greatest, it is completely functional. I must manually fill the basin with water, empty it after the wash cycle and repeat in order to rinse. There is no dryer, but a built in spinner which gets the clothes from soaking to damp. From there I hang my laundry on the clothesline strung across my balcony.

The other day, following bringing in the laundry, I prepared to head out and run some errands. Just before stepping out the door I felt a stone in my shoe, and after removing the shoe determined the rock was in my sock. Upon turning my sock inside-out a rather large beetle felt out onto the floor. I let out a girlish scream, and then grabbed my camera to document the offending creature. Below is the result.

I have the week off thanks to China’s National Day. It used to only be a two day holiday but the central government expanded it to 5 days in an attempt to stimulate domestic spending. All of the students have gone home and campus is quiet for a change. With a week off from work I have finally had a chance to take in some of my surroundings. My decision to come to Qingdao was fortuitous. It is a medium sized city and I have not felt the overwhelming crush of traffic/crowds/noise/etc. that I felt in Beijing or Shanghai. A large percent of the population is fairly affluent so I can find just about anything I want/need. Finally, while I am not being paid much, I am doing something I love. With all these positives I can deal with the occasional bug in my sock.

Bug found in Sock

Shanghai in Shanghai!

I had a wonderful weekend in Shanghai. It was great to see Peter, Lee, and Manny. The city is more like New York every time I visit. After staying out all night Friday we had a great meal celebrating Manny’s father’s 77th birthday. It was nice to spend time with a family, even though it did make me a little homesick. The meal was a real marathon of food, with more than 20 dishes. Highlights include plenty of fresh seafood, vegetables, and ducks tongue (worth trying but I didn’t go back for seconds.)

We wondered around the city all day Saturday and most of Sunday. The plant, animal and insect market provided lots of photo opportunities. Here are a couple of examples, see for more.

I’ve had a few requests for photos and more info about my classes. I’ll try to put together something soon. In the mean time please drop me an email!

The Caged Cricket Sings
Box on Bike