amberite_archive: (Default)
I think I may end up heading out tomorrow instead of Wednesday... not sure yet. I've gotten a bit over-socialed and want to retreat. But I also don't want to miss seeing friends.
amberite_archive: (eye)
East Bay peeps: Expect me later than once stated - I'll be in the South Bay thru Saturday night, I think, then heading over to Oakland on Sunday. Sound good?
amberite_archive: (me with scarf)
It's looking like I'm likely to come visit between the 12th and the 18th or so.

Let me know if you want to see me, if that will or won't work for you, and PLEASE let me know if you're someone who is meaning to visit Portland during that time, 'cos I don't want to miss any visiting friends if at all possible.

Thanks!

Oh hai

Jul. 12th, 2010 04:45 pm
amberite_archive: (chaos)
I should be doing the homework that I need to turn in, like, now, but I'm all distracted, so:

I'm not working much in August, making it a good month for me to do things like go to California. This is tentative and depends partly on whether I am accepting a car from my parents, which depends on whether my parents are giving a car to me and whether someone else I know wants my current car since it is a good car and should have a good home, and etc. You get the point, I think.

Thus, people who are going to visit us from out of town should tell me when they wanna so I can avoid being rudely out of town myself, and Bay Area folks should tell me when's a good time to see them should I be getting my arse down there, and so on and so forth.

Also, September works for people visiting us and may work for travel too (we'll see - I won't be in school at least.)
amberite_archive: (chaos)
* I got back my physics final exam grade and so I've got an A in the class - maybe an A- if they have set the cutoff higher than last time but that's unlikely.

Not sure how that ochem final went. I have entirely given up on trying to predict my results. Even when I know what I answered AND what the answers are, the partial credit is so damn screwy that I have no way of guessing how much I'll actually get. So... bugger that for a lark. The final grade shall emerge next week.

Ethics I can't imagine I did too shabbily, and both ochem and physics labs have likely done me no worse than an A-, though I don't know for sure yet.

...and I may have just screwed up my ability to use the tuition benefit my dad gets (for this term, at any rate) by forgetting to send paperwork in time. We'll see. If so, well... lots of article writing and brown bag lunches are in my future, but I can survive.

* Oh, and I just ran into an *awesome* book. It's called How Not to Write a Novel and it's what it says on the tin. All of their little writing samples have excellent little easter eggs in 'em for those of us who have seen, and identified, real-life bad writing, and I often find myself guffawing out loud.

* In other other news, Dr. Peter Watts was convicted of obstructing a border guard in a courtroom in which the fact that he'd been assaulted, and had not been violent in return, had been completely established. His crime? Asking what was going on instead of complying with orders quickly enough after being beaten up. I Am Not Making This Up. I am fucking livid.

* Over and out... and over to the DC area for a while this Monday. I'm going to be staying with [livejournal.com profile] lyssabard and [livejournal.com profile] tlttlotd for a week, and if others in the area would like to hang out, have lunch, etc, I'm game.

(random)

Jul. 20th, 2008 10:19 pm
amberite_archive: (rose traveller)
Visited states/places )

I was satisfied until I went to China, but, no. Now I know. If itineraries are penises, I have penis envy of all those backpackers out there going "Laos bladibla Vietnam bla Burma Xinjiang Tibet Nepal India..." And the irrevocable realization that we live on a *tiny* slice of the world.
amberite_archive: (Default)
It's been a wonderful weekend, full of portents of the past and present and future. I just said goodbye to my friend Raquel, possibly for the last time in a long time, not for the last time ever: I promised to see her again, no matter where I have to go to do so. Maybe China again, on a short visit; maybe some other country, as she's hoping to travel the world herself. Maybe I'll have the pleasure of hosting her in Portland someday. I hope so.

I met Raquel during my brief stay in Shenzhen; we were staying in a hostel together; we stayed up all night talking, woke up after scant sleep and talked some more. She's a student in Beijing, studying Spanish, and having a better grasp on English than any other Chinese person I've met here -- the subtleties, the nuances, the slang -- and a connection to subculture that's rare here, but somewhere in there I'm also at least half in love, in such a way that I don't know whether I'd be more so or less so if there were a possibility of seeing her in the long term. Probably it would settle out to the kind of romantic friendship [livejournal.com profile] heron61 talks much about. That's not in the cards, though. It's enough to just connect and go our separate ways with the promise of a future meeting.

There are so many people like that in my life -- people I love deeply but don't live near -- and when I think of them I think again of the idea I had several years ago, of asking these people to select small images to tattoo in a row on my skin. Maybe someday I'll know where it goes.

--

While I was walking with her and another American today, a reporter (for apparently a large newspaper!) stopped us to ask what we thought about the earthquake. I said that I thought it was a terrible tragedy, that I was glad the pandas are safe, and that my hope for the future is that China will learn to build buildings the way they do in California. Which about sums up my thoughts.

Saying that, I realized that I'm still the person who looks at a tragedy and says, what good can come of this? Seven years haven't changed it. I often fear it makes me come off as callous, but Raquel pointed out that right now, people are becoming intensely superstitious about all the frightening events in China this year and what they mean about the Olympics, and optimism can only do good.

I learned also that the tension has led to some gay bars being shut down and others going quiet, which is why I did not have the opportunity to do a drag show this weekend. I am angry about this, and also frightened: it means that they're not acting based on what the powerful countries will realistically perceive of China, since of the first-world nations, the US is pretty much bringing up the rear on acceptance of queer people, and the US isn't shutting down gay bars. They're acting based on some twisted mirror image that doesn't exist in the world outside.

More diplomatically, I said to the reporter when she asked me, People are too nervous about the Olympics and they need to relax. Everything will go better if they relax.

I hope that gets out there if anything does.

--

I'm going to see the Great Wall tomorrow, and going to get up stupidly early to do it. I'll be quite exhausted by the time I go back to Yangzhou and sleeping on the train probably won't help. But now I'm in the process of saying my goodbyes to China, and feel the urgency of transience in a way I haven't before.

Yesterday I visited the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. I have not so much to say about the latter except that the feel of the place reminded me of the feel of the Washington Monument, which, when you think about it: oh, just think about it. Ugh. Moving on.

The Forbidden City -- the ancient palace complex -- was fascinating. I saw relatively little of it; it would take multiple visits to really complete the exploration; but I walked among as much of it as I could. The grounds themselves interested me more than the museum, especially from the point at which I began to experience fragments of story.

This was in one tier of... a walled stone area that must have been a garden, once, by the look of it. In my mind there was the story of a child, a small girl playing in the garden, with the sort of extremely internalized thoughts children have. And then I thought: Is that my own mind generating story, as I've always assumed, or am I experiencing a ghost?

When I visit certain kinds of places I get fragments of stories around them; it's a writer thing. It's always happened and I've never really questioned it.

I opened up my mind a little more and tried to experience the drifts of whatever else might be caught on the stones, and I got a few more distinct moments like that, including one which was more or less backed up by the information on a sign which I saw a minute later.

Yesterday I theorized that I might be engaging a kind of mental time travel -- which is how I think of ghosts, at least of the common "here is a moment repeated" kind: either that moment's thoughts are travelling forward to meet your mind or your mind is travelling backward to meet that one. (Theoretically, you can also run into others who are travelling backward to meet you, but I'm not all that sure what they're going to look like.)

Now, this is the kind of person I am: Is it my mind making story or are these fragments related to people from the past? Or people from story-land who are hanging out around pieces of history? Who knows! Who cares! It is what it is.

I know that I am a story-making thing, and I'm part of a story-making machinery, not all of which exists inside of me.

(In fact, the above could be a statement of the nature of my belief in God.)

But as I contemplated all of this I remembered that belief itself is an act of Will; a choice made from moment to moment.

Who I am is what I make of my reality.

And to some people that might be a cynical thought, but for me it just makes me love the world more.

The bug pills are helping my wrists some but I am still mostly off the internets. Trying to get better all the way. So this may be the last for a while. Take care out there in computerland, kids.
amberite_archive: (nowhere)
First of all: I can get livejournal here! Actual elljay, not Anonymoused where I can post but only with my default icon and can't respond to comments on locked entries!

It is nice and good. Today, though I walk through the valley of Six Apart, I shall fear no Chinese government censorship.

Traveling in Asia one gets used to an international dynamic. I'm typing on an Israeli keyboard at the moment, Hebrew letters marked underneath the English ones. I keep meeting Israelis everywhere -- especially traveling in China. I'm sitting between an Italian and a Japanese person at the moment, at least going by the letters on their screens.

Bangkok is very different from China. I've written up some of my first impressions in my other blog, since I'm trying to shift focus to over there. It's really hot here. Oddly, I don't like hot days in Portland, but whenever I enter a warm climate nearer the equator, I tend to adjust well.
amberite_archive: (cosmonaut milk)
...starts in Wuxi, in a student's home which she reports as having kind of rough conditions (I'm too embarrassed to ask more, but I expect a little short on modern plumbing) and will end*, I have just received confirmation, with three days in the marvelous Atlanta Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand.

The hotel only costs $20 a night, but they practically require character references to get in -- and only take reservations by fax. This is partly to keep up the sense of being in another age of the world, and partly to keep sex tourists out.

I faxed them a long-winded letter and mentioned being married, being a teacher, and wanting to work on my novel while I was there. I'm sure the amount of information I put in was overkill, but it worked; one of the hotel people emailed me back accepting my reservation and echoing my loquaciousness with all sorts of delight for writers and writing.

Oh, and a note: though I won't necessarily be able to respond, you *can* reach me here. If you do, though, please leave your email address in your comment, so I can answer back personally!

Back to grading!


*well, not precisely end; but for the three days after that I won't be so much 'traveling' as 'getting back'.
amberite_archive: (cosmonaut milk)
The woman at the student supermarket doesn't want to keep Fu Xing and can't take care of him for the holiday, so the search for a home has begun. Yes, this is about ten days before I'm to set off on my travels. No, planning further ahead wasn't an option. Every time I've tried to plan ahead for something, the locals have gotten utterly confused: "What, you mean you want to do this *now*? No? Then why are you asking?"

...Interestingly, having fluent English doesn't prevent the confusion, but having good English grammar helps. Past/present tense is one common confusion for Chinese EFL speakers. Sapier-Whorf much?

Anyhow, tonight I asked several friends & acquaintances to step up the search for a local home. (One has gotten back to me so far, with a possible candidate. We've yet to make sure all the care requirements are in place, though.)

I'm gonna miss the little bastard. I feel pretty confident that we'll find a decent cat-mommy or temporary cat-mommy, at least by local standards -- but part of me is going to panic until he's safely in their hands. Not least because I just bought my bargain tickets from Shenzhen for a nine-day sojourn in Bangkok (the fees cost as much as the fare) and now I'm really jonesing to take off into the blue.

Doing the research for this trip has reminded me that there's no way to see all of China or even all of the highlights. For example -- out of my way by an overnight bus ride, there's Yexianggu, near Jinghong, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan -- the wild elephant reserve. Where I could stay in a no-frills hotel in a tree.

Incredible longing stirs in me at the idea of it. I can't afford to go there and also hit Guilin/Yangshuo, and maybe I can't afford to go there at all (at about US $60, plus another $30 for cabfares, it's way past my normal budget) but mein Gott, it's a hotel in a tree in a wild elephant reserve...

I'm kidding myself if I think I'm going to see half the stuff I want to. Damn. I guess there's nothing for it but to return again for a month in some future year.

--

All this, and the finals too! That's actually the least difficult part -- my teaching schedule's lightened substantially to allow time for grading, and they gave me a form to follow for the test; I used material from Simple English Wikipedia for some of it and wrote my own for other parts and worked to my students' ability level, and for the secondary test, for absent students and retakes, I alternated between 'same material, different answers' and 'same answers, different questions'.

They've even assigned me a 200-seat classroom for the written test, so I can test both classes at once (meaning I don't have to get up at 6:30 on Monday, and only have two class periods instead of four!) and still avoid seating two students next to each other: a very big deal for testing in China, as cheating is rampant. In some ways I don't think cheating is really considered to be cheating by the people who do it -- more of that communal culture stuff that's both very clear to me and very alien to me: a person and their friends work as a unit, on everything. Homework, personal life, whatever. So the idea of not doing so on a final exam is quite reasonably out of place in the worldview. Nonetheless, it's necessary to enforce.

The oral finals for most of my students were today, and I finish up tomorrow. I found the format on http://iteslj.org: assign 5-minute appointments to students in pairs, and either at the appointment or beforehand, give out flash cards with simple discussion topics. I used "Food & Drink", "Hopes & Dreams", "Fashion", "Modern Life," "College Life", and I allowed students to collect their cards at the testing session whenever they arrived, meaning that prompt students got more practice time but everyone got at least five minutes to review before coming in. The complexity is provided by the students: that's part of the point. Some of them made their topics interesting, others didn't, and it reflects in their scores.

All in all, it worked really well as an oral testing procedure and I got a better sense of each student's ability from it than I did from the presentations we've had in class. Since both students are asking and answering questions, it's also quite easy to separate their ability levels if a good student is paired with a lousy one, which is of utmost importance for any group testing procedure. Most students were well-paired. The widest point spread I had was a 95 and a 65 -- one of them speaking fluently while the other gave halting monosyllabic answers. The reason he got a 65 and not a 50 was because halfway through I egged him on a little.

No one failed outright. I had a couple of low D's, some C's, and lots of B's and A's.

I grade a bit easy (or rather, I base a lot of the score on effort, and encourage effort at every possible opportunity) because of the position my class has in my students' lives and educational careers. A huge part of my role is getting them interested in English, making the language more vital and real for them. They have grammar classes and TOEFL-prep classes. Learning rules is in their comfort zone. Speaking and listening isn't yet. I'm teaching on the boundary and trying to move the boundary outward as I go, and so I find it less useful to measure what they're already good at than what they're improving at.
amberite_archive: (into time... and SPACE!)
Oh, and as for my vacation, which will begin between the 18th and 21st: I finally found the site that does cheap flights in Asia (airasia.com.) They don't do many connecting to/from China, which is why I'd ruled them out previously, but now that I've decided that I will visit Shenzhen, I looked again and found tickets to Bangkok for around $130 one way or $200 round trip. So Thailand it is.

I was planning this yesterday and thinking I'd go in overland through Laos and come back up on the plane, but looking at the trip... it's either a 30-hour solid bus trip from Kunming, or two ten-hour trips and a riverboat trip broken up by stays in assorted places, and the bus service in Laos and in the nearby area of China gets universally lousy reviews. They tend to stick Westerners with shared beds on the sleeper bus to Mengla: two blog narratives are too much to be coincidence. Furthermore this wouldn't actually cost less than going both ways by plane, and if I really want to see Laos, I can take the fast train from Bangkok to Nong Khai and hop the bus to Vientiane.

Part of me really wants to travel the hardcore way -- but taking a three-day bus trip (assuming the once-a-day buses are actually running, which sometimes they aren't) through a region where no one speaks English and modern medical care is unheard-of.... it's setting off alarm bells.

A bit of remoteness is one thing, but being multiple days away from emergency services without a travel companion or 'spotter' just seems too xtreem for the likes of me. Even soldiers work on the buddy system. I never really have.

Everyone tends to think it's odd, but travel's always been a solitary pursuit for me. I go on the cheap, and half of what I get out of new places is that they inspire new ways of thinking; and it's harder to arrive at a new way of thinking when you're with familiar people.

The other reason why I wanted to go in overland was flexibility: plane tickets have to be booked in advance, bus trips really can't. But if I'm going in from Shenzhen, that also allows me some chance at exploration; Macau is a short ferry ride away, so if I arrive a few days before my plane trip, I can also head there. I wasn't interested at first due to the main peninsula's reputation as a casino town, but I think I'm already in love with Coloane. Euro architecture! Pirates! Beaches! Swoon.

The best thing about this vacation is that the whole month should cost less than $700. Some of it's coming out of little bits I've socked away by eating cheaply, the rest from my January and February salaries. I'm not sure *when* I'll get the February salary, but I've decided it's all right if I use my DO-NOT-TOUCH-stamped credit cards for a small sum that's going to be paid back in a month's time, two at the most. Because it's that, or not go -- and jesus beans, I'm in Asia and I have no way of knowing if and when I'll ever be this side of the Pacific again. A flight to Thailand from the US costs more than I expect to drop on travel, food, lodging, and souvenirs put together.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tinuvielberen and to my lovely partners, there WILL be pictures.

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