Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cirque de Shanghai

There is a workman standing on our balcony in blue overalls and shiny fake crocodile-skin dress shoes. To be more accurate he is standing on the 3 inch-wide ledge OUTSIDE the windows of the enclosed balcony, and is hanging on to the thin strip of protruding metal at the top of the window sill to keep his balance.
Did I mention we live on the 13th floor?
Obviously Western occupational health and safety standards have not yet reached China.
The workman is here to replace the putty in the windows, as it has completely dried up and started falling out in giant chunks. Without the putty there is nothing holding the window panes in, preventing them from falling 13 floors into the school playground below us. And I'm not even going to start talking about the freezing winds that blow into the apartment through the gaps.
Here I am, I sitting on the couch, trying not to look at him precariously balanced on the window sill. It is like driving past an accident… you know you shouldn’t watch, but, by god, you just can’t look away.
As his toes are scrabbling at the edge of the ledge, trying in vain to get a better grip, the tune of Beethoven's Fur Elise fills the room. His mobile phone is ringing in his pocket. Our eyes lock as he silently panics at the obvious dilemma.
Oh, dude, don’t answer it. Seriously!
But in the history of mobile telephone technology in China, I think there has never been a ringing phone that has gone un-answered. Phones are answered in public toilets, in classrooms, in doctors’ offices, during candle-lit romantic meals, and while riding motorbikes.
So I watch in horror as the workman releases his grip on the window, leans in and tries to grab it with his chin, and answers his phone.
Let me recap: He is balancing in dress shoes on a three inch ledge, 13 floors above the concrete below, phone in one hand, putty and chisel in the other, gripping onto the window with just his chin.
The last time I checked, our chins did not have opposable thumbs.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Very Aussie Christmas

[I have included some Aussie Slang definitions at the end of this post for those less-informed about the aussie lingo]

Jingle Bells, Aussie style (Traditional/Colin Buchanan © 1992 Rondor Music)

Dashing through the bush,
in a rusty Holden Ute,
Kicking up the dust,
esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side,
singing Christmas songs,
It's Summer time and I am in
my singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut !,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Engine's getting hot;
we dodge the kangaroos,
The swaggie climbs aboard,
he is welcome too.
All the family's there,
sitting by the pool,
Christmas Day the Aussie way,
by the barbecue.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summers day, Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.

Come the afternoon,
Grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce,
are swimming in their clothes.


Slang Definitions:
Lingo: language
ute: a
pick-up truck
esky: ice box perfect for picnics and footy matches. Click here for the perfect aussie esky
singlet: tank-top
thongs: flip-flops
swaggie: old-school back-packer
beaut: shortened form of beautiful

Isn't it Ironic

The definition of Irony: mispronouncing the word 'pronounce' as "pronunciate".

Teaching in the 21st Century

My classroom is completely invaded by technology. The students must complete a certain number of hours looking at the English softwear in the computer lab before they can even book a class, and once they finally get to class, the sound of the electronic dictionaries bleeping away constantly almost drowns out the sound of the ringing mobile phones, and the MP3 players still dangling around their necks. Students will actually answer their phones and talk loudly in the middle of class. I have lost count of the number of times students have whipped out their mobile phone and taken a photo on it of me in mid-sentence. Teachers used to have to worry about paper aeroplanes being thrown at them, but now days the students will probably just email the aeroplanes from their internet-capable mobile phones without even leaving their seats.

Friday, December 09, 2005

And counting...

I just realised I have taught over 300 English classes in the last three months.
That's just plain scary.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"I had a dream..."

Martin Luther King dreamed of equality, justice, liberty and respect.
I on the other hand had a dream last night that I went to an AA meeting for the free coffee, however the cups were so impossibly tiny that I had to get up several times during the meeting for re-fills.
Oh, how awkward.

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Whaddya mean BELOW ZERO??!!"

Today the temperature was a high of 3C and a low of -2C (see MSN Weather). Currently, at 6pm it is 1C, which, according to the weather forecast, with the winds it actually feels like -3C.
This Aussie is freezing her [insert suitable body part/s] off. For the first time in my life I have had to buy a REAL winter coat: an off-white, knee-length, quilted down coat, commonly referred to by Phil as my 'Michelin Man' coat.
Three months ago I had the air conditioner going at full-blast, and I was sitting under it in my underwear.
All I can say is that this city sure doesn't do things by half measures.

The Parent Trap

Phil and I have only been living together for four months, and I never imagined we would become parents this quickly.
Mum, sit back down, and take your hand off the phone while you wipe up the tea you have just spayed all over the computer monitor.
I'm sorry I should have phrased that better. But it occured to me last night when Phil and I were crouched concernedly over Pablo's cage that we had unwittingly become parents.
Allow me to present the evidence, Your Honour:

  • We call each other just to talk about Pablo.
  • We pepper every other sentence when we are away on holiday with "I miss Pablo".
  • We talk about Pablo at parties until our fellow guests' eyes glaze over.
  • I go shopping just to buy supplies for Pablo, and forget to buy food for the adults.
  • We have spent a ridiculous amount of money on Pablo, without even a second thought to the expence.
  • We (only jokingly... so far..) manipulate Pablo when talking to each other: "Pablo, I know YOU wanted to cook dinner while I was out slaving over the grocery shopping, but unfortunately PAPA was too busy playing PS2 games..."
  • We spend far too much time worrying over Pablo, and devising ridiculous plans for him: "Perhaps we should put in a doggy door to the balcony so he can come and go as he pleases"; "Perhaps we should give him a doona to cope with the cold this winter"; "Perhaps we should start a college fund and enroll him now in all the best Prep-schools, it's very competitive these days"...
  • When Pablo has been cute, I call him 'our' rabbit. When he has left several hundred "messages" on the couch and chewed all the books within rabbit reach, I tell Phil he is 'your' rabbit.
  • We have had to baby-proofed the entire apartment, wrapping all exposed electrical cords in plastic covering and moving all chewable items above jumping height.
  • I get all warm and fuzzy when I walk in on Phil cuddling Pablo and whispering sweet nothings (or plots to take over the world, what do I know) into his lop-sided ears.
The Prosecution rests, Your Honour.

I know he is only a rabbit, but our behaviour says Parents.

" Rabbit's clever,"said Pooh thoughtfully.

" Yes,"said Piglet, " Rabbit's clever."

" And he has a Brain."

" Yes,"said Piglet, " Rabbit has a brain."

There was a long silence.

" I suppose,"said Pooh, " that that's why he never understands anything."

--A. A. Milne