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 Because I've had about a week in no-class mode (by that I mean not teaching, rather than tasteless and tacky) so my circadian rhythms have nudged themselves back into what they think is a normal body clock setting, forgetting that I had to be up at my usual godawful early time to come in for the final exams today. I didn't sleep until absurdly late o'clock in the morning and I'm tired. Three hours of invigilation (for which I have a large take away cappuccino and a copy of Colin Thubron's The Lost Heart of Asia) followed by the marking of four hundred million brazillion exams, all of which should be marked today as term marks need to be in this week. 

On my walked to the metro in my baggy eyed stupor this morning, I was tailed by one of the Huaihai Road construction fellows going to work (hi-ho!) with shovel over his shoulder and an awful lot of crap in his lungs, which he kept hoarking up and spitting at my heels. The sheer volume of lung detritus on the roads has increased exponentially with winter, to the point where I feel a bit nauseous walking and dodging the little puddle-lets on the pavement.

In other news, I finished marking the forty thousand bajillion term papers yesterday in a mad marathon between Wagas and home. I did three hours in the window seat at Wagas in the morning, with lots of coffee and a pain au chocolat (nomnomnom) then when I wore out my welcome there, I went home and did the last round of three hours. Sometimes I wonder what's going through the kids' heads when they are writing supposedly very important papers. Seriously- some of it was just utterly absurd.  Did you know that Australians NEVER cook their food ever? And that Chinese civilization is alternately 2000 years old, 5000 years old, and 10,000 years old? Did you know that a long list of geographic statistics separated by commas can go on for the entire 250 words required and be submitted as a compare-contrast research essay that should in theory have references (but didn't, even though it was ENTIRELY made up of data and the words REFERENCING and REQUIRED were pretty big  on the assignment sheet )?


Almost done.
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Stolen entirely from  [livejournal.com profile] used_songs  and [livejournal.com profile] duikermeisie 

Step 1: Put your MP3 player on random.
Step 2: Post the first line from the first 20 songs that play.
Step 3: Post and let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from.
Step 4: Strike out the songs when someone guesses correctly.
Step 5: Looking them up on Google or any other search engine is CHEATING!

Some modifications: Where the words are in Italics, the title and first verse are the same, so I have substituted the second line of the first verse.  Also, instrumentals, monosyllabic grunts, "hey hey hey" and other filler, and songs in languages other than english or french are excluded.

1. Paint your picture to my front door, take your smile for a ride
2. Aujourd'hui j'ai rien fait
3. In 1803 we sailed out to sea, out from the sweet town of Derry
4. My name is Jock Stuart, I'm a canny gun man
5. When you're walking down the street no one sees a V.I.P, i.e genius artist of our time, well I'll be the first on line to say I get it I get it I get it
6. Sometimes I feel so happy and sometimes I feel so sad
7. Maybe when it's day, it's cold, and I know for certain
8. Up on the mountain chanting, drinking from the fountain
9. I've been out walking, I don't do too much talking these days
10. When the rain is blowing in your face and the whole world is on your case
11. Her eyes were all aglow
12. Day after day, I will walk and I will play
13.She lifts her skirt up to her knees, walks through the garden rows with her bare feet, laughing
14.  Well I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again
15. I'm talking through my wounds that are bleeding out for you
16. When I first met you darling, everything seemed so fine
17. It is you, oh yeah, It is you, oh yeah
18. C'est vrai qu'ils sont plaisants tous ces petits villages
19. When you come, I'm feeling better, sky is blue, you said forever
20. Attents-toi à c'que je me traîne


Jan. 17th, 2010 10:56 am
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Remember that shower stall that pulled out of the wall when D. tried to slide one of the door panels open last week? The one where the repairmen bolted it back in and left a bathroom full of crud and a drain full of screws and where the landlady admonished me to be more careful next time? Yeah, that one.  The sliding doors hadn't been sliding too well since then, and when finally slid as close together as possible there was still a biggish gap between them that was conveniently located where the shower spray flies. I was struggling with it this morning, trying to get the doors shut and trying to prevent the water from jetting out into the bathroom when I noticed a key detail that I hadn't noticed before. The fuckers hadn't actually reattached the top left side of the sliding frame to the wall frame so the door was inevitably hanging at a slightly off angle-- which is why it wasn't closing and why there was a freaking gap. I mean, seriously, guys, repair dudes, seriously-- when you put a shower stall back together, REATTACH THE FREAKING DOOR SLIDE FRAME TO THE MAIN FRAME!

In other news, I made a lovely latte this morning using two shots of espresso and hot milk steeped with the cinnamon and vanilla sticks I'd brought back from that market in Bali. Nomnomnom.
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I'm thinking that this might help save my sanity during Nescafe-heavy weekends away doing Lucrative Testing come springtime.

Also, my current favorite background noise: a DJ I had always heard about in Istanbul, who was friends with my friends and who had a show on the only radio station I liked (Acik Radyo) and whose occasional in-club session posters were plastered over every wall in Taksim, who used to be bassist for a band I vaguely liked when I was living in London (Stereolab)-- and yet I never actually heard a thing he did until I moved to China.  Here is a link to his show archives: Tighten Up With Simon Johns  I like the fact that he has no qualms about playing the Monkees, Frank Zappa, Gram Parsons, The Ramones and the Pogues without having to explain himself. 

Finally, ugh. Am staying in today. I feel like crap.
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Dear Plumber,

When you come to fix a stopped up toilet, which is full to the brim with unspeakable unpleasantness, please don't casually flush again to see what happens and flood the bathroom and make the whole toilet itself unspeakably unsanitary, inside and out (and for me to clean). Also, before you leave, please give the unspeakably unpleasant floor a bit more attention than just a quick once over with a soaking wet, unsoapy mop. It doesn't help. Also, please don't take our plunger when you go. We need it. Really. See Note to Repairman for further details as to why you shouldn't steal our fucking plunger.

Dear Repairman,

When you come to re-bolt the shower stall back onto the wall, don't drop all your bits of plaster, bolts, screws, etc down the shower drain. It is now clogged. We have no plunger. Also, please try to tidy up just a tiny bit before you leave so I don't have to spend an hour trying to clean up the remnants of the clogged toilet mixed with plaster and mud and dirt and odd bits and pieces both in the shower stall and around the bathroom.  I resent having to stick my hand down the shower drain to extract your odds and ends. When I went to rinse out the incredibly grimy stall, it wouldn't drain. We have no plunger. See Note to Plumber.

Dear Landlady,

Although I appreciate you taking time out of your day to supervise the repair of the shower stall, I would be a bit more grateful if, as you left, you didn't turn to me and advise me sweetly to just be more careful next time.

Careful? The fucking screws came out of the wall, cracked, when D. slid the door open. It has been sticking for months. It's rusting and cracking. Now, after the morning's repairs, the left sliding door doesn't even move or align properly so one must slide in to the shower sideways and hope the water doesn't spray through the one-inch gap.


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Remember a few weeks ago when the heater died and the sink faucet died and gas burners died and possibly a few other things also died, that I've simply repressed in my memory? Remember how I was taking bets on what would go next?

Did anyone place bets on bathroom?

You did? Fabulous! You won--- and at double the odds! Wooot!

So, yeah, huh, dang, this morning the toilet kinda had severe plumbing issues AND the shower stall kinda came out of the wall when D. opened the sliding door. So, yeah, I'm spending my first real day off sitting on the couch, semi supervising the stream of repairmen passing through.  There is a lot of drilling going on now behind the closed bathroom door. I may be here all day. They haven't even brought in a replacement stall yet. I hope we get a replacement one, as the old one was on its last rusting, peeling, jamming legs.

I'm sleeping badly now that classes are over, with my circadian rhythms readjusting themselves to their natural state wherein bedtime is sometime between midnight and 3am, oblivious to the fact that D. is up at 6:30am so I also wake then (I'm a very light sleeper and as soon as he opens the closet or bedroom door, I'm awake).  I have been having odd waking dreams sometime in the early hours- like waking at 3:30am quite certain that I'm in the middle of a speaking test but uncertain how to go about doing it in bed in the dark when I can't see the candidate and am doubtful that they'd even be awake at this hour.  Even my unconscious mind overthinks things.
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First of all, I'll be home in just about 2 weeks, for the first time in a year. This gap is much better than my mid-Turkey gap, where I didn't get home for nearly 4 years, partly due to a lack of time off, partly due to all sorts of things popping up and making life difficult. I will see Lola again.  I'm looking forward to having some good fur around. And my silent basement lair looking out onto a winter garden. And the sea close by. And family. And remaining friends. It has been a seriously difficult year for me and a bit of grounding will do me good.

Second of all, we're halfway done the professional development workshop put on by the Australian uni. They flew up a phenomenally cool woman called Vesna to do the training and she's one of those smoking and swearing and black-clad women with a dry, dry, dark  humour that I always want to follow around like a puppy dog. I'm a bit sad that way. But it's been a good workshop and she axed about half of it when she realized pretty early on that we knew what we were doing. We all went out for noodles and talked about the meat hanging to dry up in the trees. Faaaaack, Oi've missed this facking place, she noted.

Third of all, my boss-boss Philip (as opposed to Kevin, who is just my boss) just came back from the end-of-semester meeting with my university and apparently everyone there, including the inscrutable Miss Wang the program director, likes me very very much and thinks I'm doing a smashing job at teaching the ruffians. Apparently Miss Wang is very hard to please. Many many many before me haven't  gotten her vague twitch of approval and are now away doing other things, contracts not renewed. Kevin suggested that if a coordinator position comes up in Shanghai, he'd like me to do it.  *sigh*

Fourth of all, Shanghai is still stupidly, numbingly cold. Puddles are frozen over. Breath is visible. D. and I are pouring at least one bath each every night to thaw out extremities. Toes are tingling and skin is chilly to the touch. Sitting all morning and part of the afternoon in a theoretically heated classroom on those hard, flat rows of benches with the desk bolted to the back of the seat for the bench behind you  (like a 1930s high school) made my ass go numb and my toes go numb. I bought cans of hot fake coffee from the vending machine downstairs, all of which were pretty appalling but they kept my hands warm for a while. I wore coat, scarf, gloves and fuzzy hat all day, inside and out.
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So, against all better judgment, we went to Hefei this weekend for our regular dose of Lucrative Testing. Hefei is an odd one for us-- it's 4 tedious hours away by train, quite grey and dismal at the best of times, with over heated, stifling rooms at the hotel and bad pillows for D's cricky neck, and we don't get back until nearly 11pm on Sunday night; however, it does attract a far less annoying batch of testers (because the usual snotty, whiny twits would never accept an invitation to test there), the hotel bath tub and bath goodies and coffee are top notch, the energy is really chilled out at the test venue, the sweet, perky monitors on each floor have their hot water thermoses ready to make you fresh leafy tea any time you pop your head out your door, and the test rooms are actually kind of cushy (mine had a big padded manager-chair, polished wooden desk, a brand new corner heater that warmed the room immediately and a wall-mounted flat screen tv).  It's a tough call.

Today is my first day of unTeaching til March, so I've hauled out the espresso pot and made myself a double shot latte. I am insanely tired.

I'm going to run myself a stolen-bath-goody bubble bath soon, then catch up on some Lite Reading. My brain still can't process the Margaret Atwood I'd optimistically packed for the train ride. I ended up playing the one  game installed on my phone that I don't hate for about two hours (hitting borbs with orbs or something), then i started reprogramming my phone so that when D. calls me, there's a blue-tinted light show on the clamshell cover and when I answer, his photo is on the screen. Same for Kevin, our head teacher who happened to be in Hefei testing with us. My screen pic of him is one I took around 10pm, leaning over the back of my seat and catching him bleary eyed with a stack of marking on his lap. His light show will be purple. Apparently I can assign different ring tones to different people so I may do that on our next 4 hour ride to Hefei-- go through my phone book and give all bazillion people, including real estate agents and ex-colleagues, their own special ring tone. I have way too much time to kill.
Photo spam! Hefei! Fun fun fun! )
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 This one is really really dorky but I can't stop laughing.  Lola used to proofread walls.

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 I've downed about 5 strong mugs of black tea today and a Thermos full of lukewarm French press slightly milked coffee.  I have, so far, done 49 speaking tests, each about 5 minutes long. I have a pounding headache deep in my eye sockets (probably from all the tea).  The tests have run overtime into the after lunch session, so I have had to cancel the business classes to make way for the overflow. This is fine, really, because I just finished group 1's tests and still have about a half hour left in what would have been their biz class. I'm going to put my head on my desk and rest my eyes. 

I can't believe we agred to go to Hefei for testing this weekend. After these 55, I'll have 30 more to look forward to. Huzzah! At least we have the Hilton to look forward to. They have the best bath goodies and a lovely deep bath tub. Must remember to bring my swimsuit for the pool.


Jan. 6th, 2010 02:51 pm
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Shanghai is still toe-numbingly brisk and the spicy, vinaigery broth from my noodles at lunch was notably hot going down as I sipped it. They put in extra baby bok choy, which made me happy. I had my monthly meeting out at the other university this morning and it was as unnecessary as usual- a formality to show the university that foreigners do all the right things I suppose-- though I did finally get my time table for next term. Nothing has changed, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I tried out the new metro line to get to the other university and it took about 50 minutes, door to door, which is about 20 or so minutes less than it used to be.  It's still an annoying journey, with an absurdly long and convoluted and poorly sign-posted transfer between line 9 and line 3. When I finally got to the line 3 platform after a ten minute walk and many flights of stairs and long draughty corridors, I could find no signs indicating whether I was on the northbound platform or southbound platform.  The two fellows at the metro map by the stairs somehow grasped my appalling attempt at asking directions and it turns out I had intuitively chosen the right platform. The trains are infrequent enough on that line as to make the crowds fierce and trains bursting.  I think I prefer my current 20 minute walk and twenty minute direct metro and five minute walk.

At home now with thawing toes, watching a YouTube documentary about North Korea, sipping some decent Argentinian red wine to celebrate my empty Wednesday and its continuation into the next semester, and nibbling on some of my left over Christmas gingerbread.

Things are okay.

The doc I'm watching (it's good)

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Fame strikes again at Tong Ji university! I'm up on the illuminated billboard for the second time this term. This time, it's a pixellated photo from the Christmas party, when I got roped into the balloon stomping game. I'm the one in the black tights and brown skirt second from left, flailing about.


Jan. 5th, 2010 09:53 am
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 It's really really absurdly cold today. As I walked the long walk to the not-near metro, my face hurt and fingers ached through my gloves and my core just shrank into a tight little quivery knot.  For whatever reason, Shanghai somehow manages to feel colder than Romania in mid-winter (which was -20C with ice on the inside of the window).  It isn't icy or snowy but it makes me ache. I miss my two duvets and bed-hippo and bed-elephant. 

Down to the last few days of classes- it would have been the last day of classes if they hadn't rescheduled the professional development course for next week rather than the end of this week. I'm scrambling to find relevant things to teach that don't require photocopying. We've done reflection-on-the-term letters to their September selves (regrets? I've had a few). I got a good giggle from how they addressed the letters:

Dear Former Harry...

From Current Harry

Dear Past Self

From Future Self

Dear Allen-in-the-Past

Yourself,  Allen (now)

We're working on identifying multiple intelligences today and how to adapt their learning patterns to better suit their styles. If anyone out there has ever taught a. Chinese university students or b. EFL students in a teacher-centred culture, then you're probably laughing out loud by now and slapping your knees in delight at my absurdly inappropriate task.  I have a multiple intelligences bubble chart and a self assessment quiz and a British Council podcast on learning styles and tactics.  The end task is for the kids to identify three goals they have for the next term (their own goals, not their parents') and to think about how they learn best and to critically assess how they might go about achieving these goals in a step by step plan.

Again, any university teachers/teachers in memorization-happy learning cultures, you can continue giggling. I just thought I'd give it a shot.

I am anticipating a whole bunch of  "I want improving my English. I am goal I will IELTS 6.5 on June and speaking foreigner and good writing. For this I will study hard! The End!"


Jan. 4th, 2010 08:54 pm
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The dude who made a Lolcat version of Sex and the City and Twilights 1 and 2 has now started a project of Lolling all the seasons of Lost. This is a serious mindfuck. Yay! Click on either picture for link.

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A colleague of a colleague of a colleague in Istanbul is making a documentary about *sigh* English teachers in Istanbul and has posted his first installment on YouTube.  Inevitably it features an alcoholic man, because so many teachers in Istanbul tend to lean that way. It's an interesting watch, though I'm having a really hard time seeing my 6 years through those eyes. I get the feeling that he made some very different choices than I did. All the background shots, the location shots, are as familiar as my own hand though. I guess I haven't lost the scenic aspects of my life there yet.  [ETA the shot of the steep hilly backstreet at the 9 minute mark is actually the street that was right off the flat I shared with Dixie in Tunel in 2006/7, with that view being exactly what I saw through my windowbox bedroom]

It's monday and I'm having a really, really hard time getting my act together to go to work. I feel utterly depleted though I have no reason to be so.
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One thing that still blows my mind in Shanghai is how everything is constantly changing and the things that are changing actually change into things that are completed and usable (as opposed to what I've known elsewhere, where things are torn down and nothing is really ever rebuilt to replace it).  Since we moved here nearly a year ago, the big road at the bottom of our street has been a construction zone, with plaster splattered privacy walls and awkward detours and signage illegible to illiterate gringos. There was a rumor that it might be a metro station eventually but rumors are rumors and really, I waited six years in Turkey for that fabled Bosporus-link metro that never materialized. I assumed that the construction zone at the end of the street would always be a construction zone and that if I happened to come home by taxi from western Shanghai (like from my monthly meetings at the other uni) I'd always have to be dropped off six lanes away on the far side of the road because turns were blocked. 

Shanghai is not Istanbul. On our walk home after lunch, as we neared the wine shop off Jiashan lu, D. noticed something he had never noticed before and which I also had never seen before (though my perception/memory skills aren't the sharpest): a south-pointing Metro sign, with a fresh baby blue 9 on the Insert-line-here square.  We are now 2 minutes' walk from a metro station! Not 20! Well, still 20 to the one I need for work but if I wanted, I could be lazy and take the metro home three stops beyond my usual and then change to our new line and get off two stops later and save myself no actual travel time but spare my tired legs the walk. Or, if I get transferred to the other university next year, I could take our new baby blue line over to the line 3/4 change then up a few more to the awkwardly located station that currently takes me over an hour to get to.


Oh, and all the construction on the big road at the bottom of the street has cleared overnight and now it's all open and clean and on the verge of being manicured by the surplus of cheap labour.

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This is what we have been eating all day.

We started with breakfast at the noodle place up the street. We had the daoshao mian, which is the slices of handcut noodles in homemade broth with cilantro, bok choy, green onion, chili paste and aromatic vinegar. It's good for warming you up and clearing out any congestion.

After that, there was a lull back at home, with a lot of lovely strong coffee and reading on the sofa, wrapped up in a big fluffy duvet.

For lunch we braved the mild, sunny day and marched up to Fuxing lu for our favourite weekend lunch at the Dongbeiren place, where they make food for the cold cold north east of China, quite appropriate for warming up freezing foreigners.

We had blackbean spud over a flame

And garlic broccoli (inevitably)

And my personal heroin substitute, glutinous rice discs with bok choy and garlic

On the way home, we cut down Yongia lu, where there is always a parrot on a perch hanging out on the street. This time, there was a cat beneath it, assuming said parrot was to be lunch. Parrot owner shoo'd cat away before I could get a close up of the intricate hunter-dance.

  The green parrot is directly in front of the green door in the center of the picture, under the laundry, and the cat is the white blob staring up at it. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, it's easier to see.

We are now at home for the day and I have this to look forward to (the gold wrapped slab at the back is the remaining 6/8ths of a bar of Whittaker's caramel-filled dark chocolate):

Happy new year to all!
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I'm shit at making resolutions because I usually completely forget I made them within a week or so, or if I don't forget then I generally feel so constrained by their existence that I give them a metaphorical boot to the head and run off in the metaphorical opposite direction.

So, really, no resolutions to be found here.

I am thinking about working on a theme though. Somewhere in my anarchic Google Reader stream I came across a blog by a woman who does an annual Word of the Year and then tries to live that year with a conscious awareness of that word-- hers were cheesy, vague ones like 'pioneer' or 'bountiful', neither of which appeal to me, but I am curious to try such an idea. I'm trying to merge this Year-Word to D's notion that everything the universe flings at you has a purpose, a reason, and a lesson and that nowt is random and that these thematic universal bollickings will continue until you finally get the message and learn the lesson. Since I've had a pretty messed-up year (lesson aims and objectives still unidentified and universe still not releasing lesson plan), I'm thinking that a Year Word might get me back on track and help me figure out what the hell the universe thinks I ought to learn.

I welcome suggestions from anyone out there who can objectively pinpoint a decent word that I can carry around for the forthcoming year.

One interesting resolution I read in a comments section somewhere in my readings: Replace judgment with curiosity

I may work on that too.