Friday, June 30, 2006

Today it is an oven out there. Even Steven, an Australian and disliker of air conditioning, is doing nothing today except sit inside with his air con on full blast.
But I had to go out as I wanted to wish the previous principle, Joel, well on his last day as well as confirm a few last bits of work before I go away. I also wanted to get my phone topped up and do a couple of other bits and pieces while I was in town. Hopefully, when I get back, the move to the new campus here will be well under way and I can focus on hiring new teachers. We're looking for primary and high school so if you're reading this and would be interested send me an email.
Anyway, enough of that. For the next two weeks I am on holiday and can forget all about meetings with the head of Nottingham University (Ningbo campus), recruitment, promotion and the curriculum. I fly to Urumqi on Sunday morning.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

And then something happens. Yesterday I had an interview here at Huamao with a couple of representatives from the company that owns the school. At the end of that I was offered the position of Dean, effectively head teacher, of a school they bought earlier in the year that teaches the children of expats here in Ningbo. The school is currently located downtown but is being moved to the campus here for the new school year. It's more money, more responsibility and, hopefully, more interesting work although it looks like I'll have to forego my long holiday in order to oversee the move as well as market the school to prospective parents. It's currently very small with only 20-odd students and and my progress will be judged by increasing the number of pupils. To be honest it came as a bit of a shock. I know someone else was being put into the position but he had to pull out for personal reasons. I didn't expect the job to be offered to me. I went to visit the school today and met the current principal and many of the teachers there at the moment. It looks like a nice place although it is a bit unnerving to think about what it all means. I guess I'll just have to see how it all goes. I am still planning on going to Xinjiang, however, as I really don't think I could stand to lose all my plans (such as they were) for the next few months. You can see the school's website at

Friday, June 16, 2006

Today was my last day teaching for this semester. This week has been fairly easy with just the last few exams, scoring them and showing many of my classes Wallace and Grommit. Yesterday I took part in a dialogue challenge for my Grade 1 Ideal classes which required the students to learn dialogues based on phrases I had taught and then to adjust them to their own liking. It went very well and many of the students, thanks to some hard work from their Chinese teachers, were pretty much flawless.
So, what to do now? I am off until the end of August and, as I have said, I want to spend a lot of time writing but I am also planning on doing some travelling as well. On Sunday I am going to Putuoshan with Zak for a couple of days but as she is working she can't get away for too long. The plan then was to go to Xinjiang with Nick, who has just finished his contract here at Huamao, but now he has been offered a permanent job that he can't really turn down. So, I am still going to Xinjiang but I will probably leave it for a week before I head off now.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Guardian Unlimited Technology | Technology | Google 'compromised principles' over China
Interesting article. I had noticed that for the past few weeks I've been having problems reaching Google and my mail sporadically which I guess is all connected. One of the interesting comments here is "[Mr Brin] said virtually all the company's customers in China used the uncensored service." I guess, given the choice, you go for the one with the best results, even if it means you can't reach some of the sites you want - like wikipedia, BBC news, Wired blog, any geocities site and Blogspot. It's also interesting how Google keep engaging on this issue, unlike the resounding silence from companies like Yahoo and Microsoft who have actively helped the government arrest people or suppress content. (Sorry, I meant "obeyed local laws").

Monday, June 05, 2006

I haven't really been up to all that much, certainly nothing that really seemed worth recording in the blog, but I figured I'd get something down.
I was asked by the school to participate in a competition to write an essay about Ningbo through a foreigner's eyes. I gave it a go, tried to write the most complimentary thing I could in half an hour and submitted it. Unfortunately I'm up against some stiff competition as I don't think I sucked up nearly as much as some of the other entries (although I did try). You can read the essays on the Ningbo Today website.
I've been working on my novel - mostly by writing down everything I know about it in a Tiddlywiki. This allows me to make WikiWords which can be used to identify other tihngs I want to write about as background so the whole process is kind of like mindmapping except that it allows me to explore ideas in a way that suits me better as a writer - and the tiddly creates a fantastic reference for me for when I am writing. I counted the number of words are in it yesterday and it already comes to nearly 5000 and there's still plenty I want to add in to it as well. It's a fantastic writer's tool - or indeed for any planning task. Of course mind mapping is still useful for a lot of reasons but this is a kind of next step on the process.
Speaking of which I suppose I ought to also big up N-Gen, a random name generator for writers and anyone else who might be interested in such things. It's been built by a friend of mine but it's simple and it works well. That also reminded me of WriteThis which I've also now downloaded again and is a great little app for just getting started.
As for work; I'm giving examinations this week and probably part of next week too. They're fairly simple (it has to be to get through 40 kids in 40 minutes) and it kind of makes it a fairly easy week in some ways as I just have to sit there and prompt the kids for answers to some basic questions that they should be able to answer. Of course what it does mean is that this semester, for me, is nearly over and I need to start thinking about the summer holidays. I am probably going to spend some time in and around Ningbo to do some intensive writing but I am also planning at least one big trip away. I am thinking about going to Kashgar*, in Xinjiang, which probably will take about 5 days of travelling overland (it's possible to fly but still difficult and extremely expensive) but it just somehow seems worth it. Haven't really decided for definite (well, ok, I probably have) and I haven't any firm plans so I'll keep you updated.
Yesterday I had an interview to do some part-time work teaching some employees of a stationary exporters. It's a small company and they seem nice and are willing to let me dictate when and where so it should suit me over the next few months so I can earn a little bit of cash and meet new people without disrupting my plans too much. (I've already turned down two offers of full-time summer schools...)
And that's about it.

*That link was going to take you to a page on Rough Guides web site but they have implemented an absolutely terrible website that doesn't allow me to link to the page I want because it uses javascript for everything. Idiots.