Tim J. Robertson – Fuyang Teachers College, beginning 2013 spring semester

Tim J. Robertson - Fuyang Teachers College, beginning 2013 spring semester

tel: 157 0568 5106, Email: robertsontim66@gmail.com (former email: suntala@wavecable.com )
QQ: 251886419

I was born and grew up in the nation of Peru (South America) where my parents worked as educators and in community development among various tribal groups. I grew up speaking English, Spanish and local village dialects.
I worked for three years as a Med Lab Tech in a rural hospital in Dandeldhura, Nepal. I worked under contract with the Nepalese national government. I also learned to speak, read and write the national language.
I have started, developed and managed my own business providing services to local clients and businesses for 20 years.
I traveled to several cities in China in 2011 to learn about Chinese universities and visit with English teachers and staff.
In the summer of 2012 I took a course at Beijing University of Language and Culture with China Academic Consortium to learn Chinese worldview. I also took field study trips to many historically important locations.
I taught English classes with Education Resources and Referrals, China in Shunyi Middle School near Beijing.
I enjoy travel, hiking, bicycling, reading about history of other cultures, learning, conversation and making friends.
I am 54 years old, in good physical health and single with three adult daughters from a previous marriage.
I am looking for a change of career and I hope to be able to teach EFL in China for several years. I want to learn Mandarin and I’m interested in earning a Master’s degree in a field studies course to improve my teaching ability.

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Mar 14 at 12:00 PM, from Tim Robertson

Dear Friends and Family,

Spring has arrived early in Fuyang this year bringing out the leaves on the willows by the river/canal by my apartment and the plum blossoms outside my backdoor. Some magnolias are already in bloom and the buds are swelling on the Metasequoias (Dawn Redwood) that are planted around the campus. I am fascinated by these trees as they have been called a “living fossil” because this species has remained unchanged (in morphological stasis) for the past 65 million years, according to paleo-botanists looking at their fossilized remains. Until 1948 it was thought have gone extinct over 5 million years ago, until it was discovered in this area of China. Although quite rare at that time, it has since become a popular ornamental tree. What makes it unique is that it sheds its needles during the winter months. This is a testimony to its previous habitat in northern Siberia and Canada where it became the dominant species due to its ability to survive the long dark winters without needles. Because the planet has cooled significantly since then, these trees can no longer grow so far north and can only survive at these latitudes where they no longer need to shed their needles. Maybe with “global warming” they will again be able to reclaim their former range.

This is the fourth week of classes and, having just received my textbook last week, I decided to continue on with using The Lion King as the source for dialogues, grammar and vocabulary. The words and story are simple enough for my students and the pictures and characters maintain their interest enough to read with feeling and enthusiasm the scripts that I transcribe for them each week. Having the whole class engaged and participating is a real challenge since many would rather sit passively as they are expected to do in their other classes. Just getting them to bring paper and pen to class to write down the new expressions and idioms is a real challenge so I have been taking my own note pads to class to show how I have been attempting to learn Mandarin. They have gotten used to my nontraditional approach and insistence that they take an active part in their own learning, and they much prefer it to the text book. Some other teachers have also been interested in finding out about what I do and why. Having taken all the course work for a degree in elementary education a few years ago, I am finding that much of what I learned about teaching techniques and learning styles using multicultural methods has been useful for teaching English at this level. I have also been told that the administration here approves, which I was unsure about, having been required to use the text book last year on the other campus.

I have been looking into other opportunities that I have been approached about to spread my influence beyond this campus. Last week I was invited to have dinner and meet the manager of the only “five star” hotel in Fuyang to discuss the possibility of training the staff, many of whom are interns from the local vocational college. They have also asked me to enjoy a dinner with their customers and engage them in informal conversation on a regular basis. At this point the details are somewhat unclear, but I did enjoy the excellent Indian food prepared by their chef from India. They put on a sumptuous buffet every weekend of different ethnic foods. Having acquired a taste for Indian food during my years in Nepal, I was glad to get a break from the local fare and my own cooking without having to pay for it. In fact, I will be paid to do it! I also would welcome the chance to chat with adults from this city so I can learn from them instead of having to talk to college age kids all of the time. So far, it has been an interesting experience and I am curious to see what will happen. I hope it does not detract from my commitment to my regular job, but it isn’t every day that I can eat roti prata with chopsticks.

I do enjoy teaching my classes and I like my students, but I am often distracted by the everyday irritations and insults of being a foreigner in a Chinese institution. I am constantly having to sort through the source of these frustrations in order to gain some insight. So far I have come up with six overlapping categories: 1. traditional Chinese culture; 2. political control; 3. general attitude toward foreigners; 4. my own personal idiosyncrasies, 5. the language gap and 6. everyday misunderstandings complicated by my own ignorance. Yesterday I ran into several of these while meeting with the college president in his office to request that our salaries be paid at the same time as all the other teachers in the college. We have been receiving payment three weeks later the rest of the faculty each month for no discernable reason. The explanation was that we are foreigners and it is traditional, but that did not happen on the other campus where I worked last year where I was paid at the same time as everyone else. It was with considerable difficulty that I managed to get the appointment with Greg, the other English teacher here and others administrators. I had hoped this absurdity would be quickly resolved by going over the head of my immediate supervisor to the top, but apparently not. The president said that it took three weeks to get the money transferred from the other campus (1 km away) to this one and asked that as foreigners, we should “respect their traditions.” Oh, well. At least we were able to get a copy of our contract, after many requests.

This is but one example of many I could give, and it is at times like these that I wonder whether I should sign another contract for next year at this college But I must remind myself daily that I am here for the students – not the party hacks, half-wits and hypocrites – and they are victimized by the system every day much more. In fact, my troubles seem rather small and petty in relation to what the average Chinese person has to deal with on a constant basis. I would like to think that my status as a foreigner would help me to avoid the disrespect that I feel coming from the administration, but I guess it averages out when I put all of my experiences together. I just can’t get used to being treated so well by most people here, but so poorly (in my view) by the people I work for. It does not seem to bother most Chinese who have come to accept the system the way it is because it is the only one they have ever known, there are no other alternatives and they have learned how to make the system work for them through cultivating special relationships (guanxi) to get what they want and need. It is the traditional Chinese way due to an absence of civil society that goes back thousands of years. This is best seen in the five relationships described that make up “filial piety” by Confucius which has become part of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

All these elements are interesting to see played out in everyday life even if they often make headaches for me. I have to constantly work at trying to figure out what is really going on because no one will say (or knows) the real reason. I guess the real reason for me to be here is that I feel a personal sense of calling. and here is where God has put me for now. Perhaps that will change at some point in the future but at present it is enough to have the privilege to live and teach these kids who are made in his image yet seem to know so little about him. In that category I am wealthy more than I know. It is uncanny how so many of my past experiences and education I have found to be useful in unexpected ways. It seems God has prepared me to do this work which he has also prepared in advance for me to do. God has brought me through the depths and continues to lead me through this” barren land.” I am finding his grace to be sufficient for me, even if the daily grind gets a bit too much at times. So often, when I feel stymied and limited a new chance will come to me that I had not anticipated or imagined. Even in a culture so tied up in ancient traditions, God is doing new things here and I just need him to open my eyes to see his work. In the process he is doing new things in me, even if they get a little uncomfortable. It may be harder, but this old dog can learn new tricks.

The spring weather has allowed me to get out on my bike to see the country side and relieve the tension and frustrations that build up inside. The recent snow and rain have turned the winter wheat fields a lush green and cleaned the air of the dust and coal particles that fill the air alternately in summer and winter. Since the leaves have not yet come out on the cotton wood trees planted along the roads and trails, it is possible to see much more than I will be able to see in a couple of weeks. Each season offers its own view of village life as the peasant farmers plant, cultivate and harvest their various crops year round. You may not think well of me for calling them peasants, but since they do not own their own land, are tied to it by their residential registration, must do work with their own hands and cannot afford machinery or hired laborers, that is an appropriate and accepted term. The government has been considering a reform of the hukou system that will allow migrant workers to take their children with them to the city, but as of now they must be left in the villages in order to be able to go to school. Even with the intensive agriculture, the small plots of land do not provide enough income without having to work in other jobs to earn enough cash. So much of the food is consumed by the producers that there is little left to sell, and the land cannot be leveraged for loans to start a business or buy an apartment in the city where the jobs are. Some of those abandoned children in the villages have become my students.

Tonight I will go to English corner on the other campus again. It is mostly the upper classmen who come to discuss various topics. They feel more confident and motivated than the first and second year students and they are feeling the pressure of preparing for life after college. Many hope to go on to graduate school if their comprehensive test score are high enough. Once accepted they will face an interview to show their ability to speak English, so they are motivated to learn as much as they can in the time they have left before graduation. Others are looking for jobs in the big city using their oral English skills and the ask me to help them write resumes to work with foreign trade and translation. Some are applying to graduate school in America or elsewhere abroad and ask me to help edit and correct their essays. (I generally do, unless they are downloaded from the internet or too incomprehensible.) And others just come to hear about the latest news from a foreigner’s perspective. Controversy can be useful to get past the usual shyness and reticence to express their own emotions and feelings as proud Chinese. If I am accused of being too negative on China, (they are only taught the positive) I tell them to ask me about my country and I will be willing to criticize it just as much for its crazy policies and politics. (Like, “I voted against the president, twice.” Response: “Was it because he is black? Answer, “But his mother was white, so I think he must be white, etc.) But I also tell them that it is just a means of getting them to talk about what matters to them instead of the usual trivial topics that come up every week. It seems natural to include my beliefs and where they come from in the process.

I hope to hear from you as well about what God is doing in your life these days and your insights into the mystery of God’s grace.
Thanks for your prayers.
Your fellow, faithful follower,

P.S: You can find and read the article that I cited and recommended to you in my last newsletter here:

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From Tim Robertson, robertsontim66@gmail.com
Feb 16, 2014
Val-lantern’s Day/Festival

Dear Friends and Family,

Last Friday was the final day of the 15-day Spring Festival which started on January 31. It is called the Lantern Festival and happened to fall on February 14 this year. Valentine’s Day is a popular import from the West and serves as a balance for Singles Day which falls on November 11 for obvious reasons. In this case filial piety (duty to one’s family) won out over romance – which is not a traditional Chinese practice. Only recently has love become a goal or a motivation for marriage for young people instead of a duty to follow the expectations and demands of one’s parents and ancestors. So Valentine’s Day has become widely observed as a means to assert individual happiness over pressure of traditional Confucian values. This clash or competition of eastern and western ideas and traditional celebrations is a sign that China is changing in visible external ways as well as invisible internal attitudes toward every aspect of life. It is a long term process that expresses itself in surprising ways.

Not having the means to celebrate the day in the American way I headed down to the local square to observe the local festivities. The entrance to the park was barricaded by carts selling fireworks, food and lanterns to the throngs of people spilling out onto the street. I pushed my way through the crowd with my bicycle hoping to find an isolated corner from which to enjoy the spectacle, but once I had entered the square I noticed that the celebrants were gathered around its perimeter with the center reserved for the firework displays. Indeed, the explosions were loud and intense enough to convince me I was in a combat zone if I had closed my eyes. Fountains spurted from the stone pavement, geysers thrust higher and bursts of sparks blossoming overhead were performing to a cacophony that escalated and merged to a general deafening roar and echoed off the surrounding buildings.

At the same time families with small children were lighting the paraffin fueled lanterns and holding them above their heads until the hot air inside generated enough lift to send them floating upward above the trees and sailing away on the breeze. As I followed their paths upward into the luminous smoky haze I saw hundreds of other glowing orbs ascending from all directions around the city and joining together with thousands of others in a continuous river of lights that flowed into the northwestern night sky. Occasional gusts of wind would cause some lanterns to tip and lose their upward momentum so that they gently descended to be caught and held aloft again for another attempted launch. Others would fail to attain enough altitude and got caught in the bare limbs of the trees where they continued to burn until a man with a long bamboo pole was able to bring them back to earth in an ignominious crash and extinction.

No one seemed at all concerned at the fire hazard such activities might engender or the danger to children as they ran and danced excitedly among the pyrotechnics. I set such concerns aside and constantly shifted my gaze from the greater flashes of lights below to the lesser glowing lights above and back again as the concert of sight and sound, light and darkness, color and shadowy figures filled me with awe. I found it amazing to think that such an event in this small city was being simultaneously carried out in millions of villages as well as the thousands of other small, medium-sized and big cities all over China without any apparent planning or coordination. And I wondered where the final destination would be for each lantern as they floated upward but would eventually lose altitude when the flames died and they came gently back to earth. The image stuck in my mind as I remembered Shakespeare’s description of life as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Perhaps I am the one trying to tell that story to you and give it some significance.

That thought had also crept into my mind the previous day as I sat by the carriage window and watched dawn slowly illuminate the Chinese countryside as I rode the train from Shanghai to Fuyang. I had not slept much of the ten hour trip that began around midnight in the center of China’s biggest city of some 23 million souls. The landscape seemed as familiar as the wallpaper back home with a recurring pattern: some trees, a field, a pond, a village, a road, some trees, etc. for hundreds of kilometers. The pattern was occasionally interrupted by a coal fired power plant or a railway station where we would come to stop for a few minutes before rolling onward to the northwest and my destination. The passing bare ground was covered by a thin layer of snow. Conical burial mounds seemed to be randomly scattered over the darker fields of winter wheat that wait for spring to shoot up and bear a harvest among the graves. In the slanting rays of dawn the snow covered mounds seemed to glow as they pointed upward. Who were these people, how long ago did they live, how did they die . . . and what was their destiny? These are stories I cannot tell yet, God knows them and I believe he gives them significance.

The Chinese railway system is a wonder to behold as it runs around the clock all over the nation transporting millions of people each day. Spring Festival is the time of the largest annual migration of people in the world (about 250 million this year) and increasing every year. This is the one time when migrant workers and people who have moved to the city get time off for travel to visit their families and children in small villages and other cities. I had joined this massive flow of people in Los Angeles the day before as millions of Chinese also travel internationally these days to see their relatives. Since the fast trains that travel over 300 km an hour have not made it to Fuyang yet, I must take the slow train for Fuyang, which costs only $16 for the ten hour trip. My car is a sleeper with six bunks to a compartment without bedding or doors. I thanked American Airlines for the small blanket and pillow they gave me for the fourteen hour, 6,000 mile flight across the Pacific.

The car smells of spicy instant noodles, urine and sweat, but my nose adjusts so that I no longer notice except in the morning when smells and the slurping of noodles tells me most people are eating breakfast. Sleep does not come easily to me while I travel. Perhaps it’s the inner tension that comes while in motion, or the smells, snores and other noisy bodily functions from bodies lying so close by, along with the jolts, jostles, squeaks and shrieks of passing trains in the opposite directions. A sign on the WC: “No Occupying While Stabling.” Translation: Don’t use the toilet while in the station so that there will not be an excess of human waste left on the tracks there. The staff frequently lock the doors of the WCs while in the station so as to mitigate the problem. I prefer to use the facilities while the train is stopped because it is difficult to concentrate on hitting the hole in the floor while swaying with the motion of the train and balancing on the blocks provided to stand on above the pools of liquid on the floor. But I am glad that I can do it standing up. Stinky bathrooms are a problem almost everywhere in China, except for KFC and McDonalds – which might help to account for their popularity.

When I arrived in Shanghai last year I was met at the airport by someone from the school who took me to a hotel for the night and then drove the 400 km to Fuyang in a school owned car. This year I am able to find the subway at the airport, buy my ticket to the central railway station and buy a railway ticket to Fuyang by myself. It is the reverse trip I took about five weeks earlier at the end of the semester so I know where to go and what to do without having to ask any questions. Being able to take this trip without assistance is an example of the progress I have made in the past year. It shows me how much I have learned but how little I know and much less comprehend of this other world where I now live and work. It now feels a lot more like coming home and I am glad to arrive in my cramped 300 sq. foot apartment to recover from sleep deprivation and moving to this side of the planet to start a new semester.

Some differences between East and West become clearer but they also seem to blur and run together, mixing and interacting in new unpredictable ways. The last four weeks of travel to see family and friends in Sequim WA, Victoria BC, Stanton MI and Moorpark CA have kept me busy and given me a much needed break from teaching in Fuyang. While Miranda was in classes at Moorpark College I took the opportunity to drive a few miles to visit the Ronald Reagan Museum and Library for a few hours. It helped me to get back in touch with my American roots. Seeing the old Air Force One 27000 in its own pavilion along with Marine One helicopter along with visiting the grave site brought back his words about being a shining city on a hill for the rest of the world to see. His trajectory had brought him to rest there atop this hill. I wondered if that was still true. Do Americans still see America in that light or have they grown fearful of future decline and withdraw from engagement with the world?

I recently read a biography about Dr. Nelson Bell (father of Ruth Graham Bell). It tells how he decides to become a surgeon to serve in China, so in 1912 he enrolled in the Medical College in Richmond, VA. “When this leading state institution learned of his intention to be a medical missionary, they cancelled his tuition fees. ‘I never paid tuition the four years I was there. It was a voluntary action on their part; I never asked for it. I think they looked on it as a small contribution to medical missions.’” This book is titled A Foreign Devil in China and serves to show the changes of the past century. Foreigners are no longer called “Yang Guitze” or Foreign Devils, but a far more respectful title, “Laowai” which translates as Foreign Sir. But perhaps it is more telling how differently missionaries are seen today by institutions of higher learning or even Americans in general. After detailing his long and illustrious career as a surgeon in a mission hospital in China (and later on in America after they were forced to leave) the book ends by telling how Dr. Bell became one of the founders of Christianity Today magazine.

While in a public library I noticed the cover story of the current issue of Christianity Today: The World The Missionaries Made. The article is about an academic study setting out to show the impact of missionaries on the world today. It was exhaustively researched and published in The American Political Science Review – the discipline’s top journal. Sociologist Robert Woodbury is quoted as saying, “I was shocked. It was like an atom bomb. The impact of missions on global democracy was huge.” The article goes on to quote a noted historian, “Why did some countries become democratic, while other went the route of theocracy and dictatorship? Woodbury shows through devastatingly thorough analysis that conversionary Protestants are crucial to what makes a country democratic today. Not only is it another factor – it turns out to be the most important factor. It can’t be anything but startling for scholars of democracy.” Other quotes:
“In short: Want a blossoming democracy to day? The solution is simple – if you have a time machine: Send a 19th century missionary.”
“Looking back now, more than a century later, we see just how long that transformative difference can endure.”
For a better appreciation of what God has done through missionaries, I recommend reading the article.

So the long story comes full circle and continues to roll onward. I like to see the future of China through the lens of this article that was published in the magazine founded by a missionary to and from China. And I see myself as a very small part of that transformative process. I also like to think that is part of being a ”shining city on a hill” or “the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10
Please keep on praying.
God is blessing,

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from Dec 2013:

Dear Friends and Family,

Christmas is not an official holiday in China so I taught my regular classes and celebrated by presenting a special Christmas presentation of 20 carols, videos and stories. I invited the students to bring treats to share. (Favorite snacks are individual packages of spicy tofu and chickens feet) I provided small Mandarin oranges, White Rabbit candies and potato chips. I presented a variety of traditional American Christmas elements that fell into the sacred, secular, children’s and party/romantic genres. In that way I could show A Charlie Brown Christmas with Linus quoting the original story from the gospel of Luke and ask the students to sing along to Away in a Manger and O Holy Night. I also had video clips of Santa reading Twas the Night Before Christmas along with Rudolf, Frosty and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree etc. I could have taken the day off from classes if I had wanted, but since everyone else is working that day and my small apartment can only accommodate ten students at a time, I decided it would be better to celebrate with my students all week long during their regularly scheduled classes. I had originally planned to have the students sign up to arrive in half hour shifts at my apartment but that would have taken about eight hours straight. I realized that even though it took several hours to download and arrange the materials from the internet, I could cover much more ground in the classroom than I would have been able to do as a public school teacher in America.

On the day after Christmas I asked my students if they were aware that it was a special day in China. I was surprised to learn that none of them were aware that December 26 was the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao, the father of modern China. After informing them of it, they seemed impressed that I would know that little factoid but none seemed to be particularly impressed with the importance of the date. I also got the same response from several teachers. That little vignette illustrates the fact that however much the party professes loyalty to their founder, China is moving forward and not looking back for its political inspiration.

I was also impressed at the number of businesses selling and displaying Christmas decorations in this small city. I bought a two-foot-tall tree in the street market with lights for 20 RMB (>$3.00) along with a Santa hat, colorful garland and a small stuffed Santa to use in my classes. I also took them to the private pre-school classes that I teach on Fridays, since I have no college classes scheduled. I was surprised to see that the school had already put up a large decorated Christmas tree in the hallway along with illustrations of Santa Claus and crèches, complete with a baby Jesus (although I doubt that any of the kids were even aware of who the depicted baby was). All this is perhaps a sign that China is rebalancing their economy toward more of a domestic consumer market instead of relying so heavily on exporting all their manufactured goods abroad. But I was glad to put on my Santa cap and add to the impression that Christmas is an important international holiday with great cultural and historical significance for the Chinese too.

This past week has been busy with multiple invitations from students to class parties which can go on for several hours. I was taken completely by surprise while attending a class of my students from last year when they started chanting in my direction, “Sing! Sing! Sing! Sing!” I could only remember the words to Feliz Navidad and O Holy Night which I tried to sing without any musical accompaniment. I discovered that being cold and surrounded by students who were recording the event for God knows what, on their cell phone cameras, can have a deleterious effect on my ability to hold a tune and remember the lyrics. The next party, I came prepared with my USB drive in my pocket. When they suddenly announced I would be the next singer, I was able to plug it into the computer so that the words were displayed on the screen and the music covered my shaky voice. The students showed great appreciation for my effort, which I hope was not the worst performance that night. Karaoke is a staple of these parties and many student groups sang their selections by looking down at the lyrics on their cell phones and singing along to music videos they had recorded.

On Thanksgiving weekend the partners in business were able to sell the last of the custom made flying disks in the park near the street market next to the school. Afterwards we got together in my apartment and split up the proceeds. Although I had invested most of the money, we split the profits evenly so that each of us got 300 RMB or about $50. Considering we each put about 30 hours into the project, it was not a particularly lucrative enterprise, but it was worthwhile for the friendships, the fun and the many lessons I learned in the process. Perhaps I will do it again next semester if I can find some other investors who want to join in. By comparison I was able to earn the identical amount of money in 2 hours by giving a guest lecture at the Voc. Tech. College down the street that same week.

This past Saturday I was invited to be a judge at an English speech competition. Since I was only invited about two hours before, I was a bit unprepared for the experience of having to judge 37 primary school children on their memorized speeches. I found it impossible to be impartial and objective while watching those irresistibly cute China dolls recite their compositions with enthusiastic hand motions. The speeches were interspersed with songs and dance routines that included precocious renditions of the tango and Gangnam Style. The scoring was grueling. I was directed to sit in the middle seat of the front row between four other judges in the cold auditorium where I could barely fit my knees under the desk in front of me. The only source of heat came from numerous cups of tea we were served. Gripping my pen with gloved hands or writing with fingers stiffened with cold was a challenge. I found that by clapping vigorously during the periodic performances I could generate some heat to keep my hands warm enough keep up the pace of churning out my numerical evaluations. After two hours sitting on the cold hard seats without enough room to cross my legs I was looking for an excuse to displace the row of judges for a dash to the WC in the courtyard. Unfortunately, the post-contest awards ceremony required me, as an honored guest to present the participants and winners with their certificates and prizes on stage. I am afraid my smile for the cameras was more of a grimace of desperation by then.

I have gotten used to frequent requests by students and random strangers on the street who approach me camera in hand and ask to have a picture taken with me. Of course, I can never refuse without seeming somewhat petulant, so I just stand close to them with a silly grin on my face and pretend they are one of my closest friends in all the world. And they are always delighted to get a photo to send to their friends and family or post on the internet to show their privileged access to a foreigner. Sometimes after a couple of photos with two friends taking turns pushing the button, others appear and before I know it I have a line forming to one side to get their turn, either individually, or in groups, or both. This can happen in the shopping mall when the sales girls with nothing else to do approach me giggling waving their camera /cell phones. Or it can happen on Mt. Tai where groups of climbers stop to get a quick picture with me while I am resting at a small temple, which is somewhat ironic considering the options of what else is in view. I suppose I should be flattered that I am considered such an exotic oddity that they include me in their family vacation to visit a national monument. One time I was invited to an event in the park to “teach English” but it soon became clear the real purpose was publicity for the school. The head master lined me up between two people dressed as Mickey and Minni Mouse (sorry Disney) in front of a life sized plastic replica of a velociraptor (dinosaur) so each of the students would get a personal memento of the occasion. I felt like a plastic Ronald McDonald sitting on a park bench.

On Christmas day I chose to eat in the dining hall with the students. I usually arrive a little late to the cafeteria to avoid the crush of students getting their tray of rice and vegetables with bits of meat for flavor. Most of them get their food and eat it within ten minutes and leave without saying a word to anyone. I used to wonder how they could eat is so quickly using chopsticks. I soon realized most of them were using the metal soup spoons or just using the chopsticks to scoop the food off the tray and inhaling it without actually picking it up. When I get there for lunch a few minutes after 12:00, most of the students have already left and the tables have several small piles of bones or food that were shoved off the tray or spit out. I wander around looking for a “clean” table or wait for an employee to come by and wipe each table clear with the same cloth. On leaving the facility, it is customary to take ones tray to a cleaning stand where left overs are scraped into a slop bucket to be recycled to the pigs.

Two weeks ago I was finally able to sign a new contract for next semester and my foreign expert certificate has now been renewed until June. I am hoping that the residential permit will be processed this week so that my passport can be returned to me before my departure date on January 10th from Shanghai flying to Seattle via San Francisco. Although I had hoped I would get a contract for a whole year as before, I am glad that the new contract will expire at the end of this academic year, which will allow me to begin a new contract in the fall as is the normal practice. My current contract began in the middle of the academic year which led to numerous problems with interpreting and following its requirements. My switch to teaching on the east campus from the west campus where I taught last year was also a complicating factor. Since the other teacher on this campus will not be renewing his contract after this academic year, I expect that I will be able to renew another year-long contract at the end of the spring semester. If I had not been offered a new contract I was preparing to sign a contract with the Vocational Technical College about a kilometer away since they are currently looking to fill their only foreign teacher post for next semester. They did offer me a contract but I am reluctant to leave my students after only one semester and have to move again. (If anyone is interested in filling the position, I can provide details and an email address to send your resume.)
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Tim Robertson’s posts about his time as an English teacher in Anhui at the Fuyang Teachers College are uploaded at: www.flickr.com/photos/ray_mahoney/9114089397/in/photostream, www.flickr.com/photos/ray_mahoney/8302698850/in/photostream, www.flickr.com/photos/ray_mahoney/14217075257/in/photostream; www.flickr.com/photos/ray_mahoney/9012874492/

Posted by Ray Mahoney58 on 2012-12-24 02:53:52

Tagged: , Fuyang Teachers College , 阜阳师范学院 , Fuyang , 安徽 , 阜阳 , ESL , 英语教师 , 外教 , English teachers , foreign teachers , Tim Robertson , expats in China , foreigners in China , Christmas , 外籍老师 , 外国人在中国 , 圣诞节