Extended blogging absence

0 visitors Tuesday, December 30
I did something I've never done before - finish something waaaay ahead of its due date! I was determined to have my final grades finished well ahead of their January 9th deadline so I could enjoy this last week of teaching and spending time with students, so I worked hard and finished everything on Sunday. Today was the last day of classes and it was fun to visit with students and hang out in the office without anything hanging over my head.

My MacBook has been giving me some trouble. I had the case replaced over the summer because it cracked where your palms rest and where the magnet meets the case when it's closed. Now in Beijing, it's beginning to crack again and the top case by the hinge is cracking. Fast forward a little and the external speakers died so I have to plug into the headphone jack to get sound. Last but not least, the disk drive spit CDs/DVDs back and couldn't read anything.

I'm lucky on two counts. 1) I decided to renew the AppleCare Plan, maybe one of the best decisions I've made all year. 2) Apple opened its first store in Beijing in July, ahead of the Olympics. I waited until this afternoon when classes finished for the semester to find the store and get repairs made. They're replacing the top and bottom case, keyboard, disk drive, and motherboard... and it's all included in the AppleCare Plan.

I can't say it enough: get the AppleCare Plan! They don't ask questions if something goes wrong and my experience says something will go wrong. My sister has had her case crack twice and another friend has the same problem. Hopefully the new generation of MacBooks will avoid this problem, but still. It's worth the money. :)

The repairs are going to take up to two weeks and I'm leaving on January 7 to take the backpacking trip of a lifetime through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore so I'm taking an extended absence from the blog until February. Happy New Year! Xin nian kuai le!
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The ups and downs of China in 2008

0 visitors Sunday, December 28
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Mao-ey Christmas

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Have yourself a Mao-ey little Christmas...

We had a door decorating contest and David's door won by a lot! As you can see, Mao Zedong is... everywhere. His face is on the green one yuan bill and on the one jiao coins. Incidentally, his birthday is tomorrow (12/26). Whatever you think of Chairman Mao, this is funny.

We began celebrating Christmas last night at 十一学校 (Shi Yi). All 35 of us ate great food, watched Christmas movies, and played games before heading back to our respective schools to play Santa. At Fu Zhong we hung our stockings in the hallway and snuck out to fill each others' when no one was around. This morning we each contributed something to a wonderful breakfast, including fresh-squeezed orange juice, and then we opened presents. We each drew a name to shop for and it was fun to watch everyone open their gifts.

We also had storytime. There were two good ones.

Trying to get to Shi Yi (seven miles southwest of us, a 30-minute taxi) at 7pm was especially fun in rush hour traffic on Christmas Eve. Many people couldn't find a taxi and some ended up taking a bus. One of these people was Ann. Buses are often stuffed with people, they smell bad, people are all up in your personal space, and it's possible for small children to be relieving themselves on the floor if it's an emergency. This was the situation last night and Ann started to get sick during the ride. She was so sick that she hurled... and kept it in her mouth until they got off ten minutes later. Now I don't know about you but both other options sound much better to me: swallowing or spitting it out.

Tim and Ginger were on their way back from grocery shopping and Tim had two big bags hanging on his handlebars. Tim was trying his hardest but despite his efforts a bag got sucked into the spokes of his wheel and a jug of milk got lodged in it. The top was forced off and completely sprayed two Chinese women in their long coats from head to toe who were waiting at a bus stop. He tried to apologize but they were too shocked to be angry or upset!

We had the rest of the day free to do whatever and I delivered Christmas cookies to the Chinese English teachers of my classes and then visited Ren Da (the unversity) to deliver the rest of my presents. When I got back we had visitors! Many of my students came over on Christmas and it was fun to hang out with them and give them their gifts. At one point there were quite a few students over: Jojo, Handoyo, Ellen, Jackie, Maria, Elaine, Wendy, and Anne. James also stopped by during his lunch break to see all of us.

Christmas is so much fun when you can share it with other people! It adds new meaning to the holiday and its many traditions.
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I Need a Silent Night

0 visitors Sunday, December 21
I've made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush
It breaks me till I push and shove

Children are crying while mothers are trying
To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line
What can I say?

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace

What was it like back there in Bethlehem?
With peace on earth, good will toward men?

Every shepherd's out in the field
Keeping watch over their flock by night
And the glory of the Lord shone around them
And they were so afraid

And the angels said fear not for behold
I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people
For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

-- Amy Grant
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Slip sliding on China's Great Wall

0 visitors Saturday, December 20
Beijing doesn't see much precipitation. This year was somewhat of an anomaly because the government was seeding the clouds more than usual in a frantic effort to clear the skies for the Olympics. The Games are now over and with them, the rain is gone too.

This made last Wednesday's snow extra exciting, right before Christmas. I've seen more sand in Beijing from the Gobi desert than I've seen snow around here. Brooke and Cheryl were visiting us from Cedarville University and I volunteered to take them to the Wall, which lies about an hour outside of the city. As I was riding my bike to the Ren Da campus to meet the ladies I noticed a few flakes. The snowfall increased the further we drove from Beijing's center and started accumulating on the roads. As you can see, there were several inches at the 八达岭 Wall site. We were actually only on the Wall for 20 minutes at the most due to the temperatures and slipperyness factors, but it made for pretty pictures!

This is how we got down too... whether we intended to slide down or not!

Brooke and Cheryl being very careful on their climb up!

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Pictures from Guiyu, the most toxic place on earth

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Guiyu, China water

Picking through piles of waste. The workers will burn the wires.

Roasting circuit boards and computer chips over medieval coal fires.

A worker swirls computer chips from circuit boards in acid to collect tiny amounts of gold. The acid mixture is called aqua regia - 5% pure nitric acid and 75% pure hydrochloric acid - and it will melt gold. This worker and others will inhale fumes all day without protection and then dump the leftover sludge into the river.

Plastic-encased metal printer and motor parts are burned in the open reduce the waste to metals.

A migrant child from Hunan province sits on top of the world's unrecyclable computer waste.

An NPO employee takes a soil sample along the river where dumped circuit boards were treated with acid and burned in the open.

Migrant workers dismantling imported computers.

This man is sweeping toner out of printer cartridges, which is made of carbon black and a carcinogen. He doesn't use any respiratory protection while the toner blows in his face all day. The cartridges will be dumped in the river.

Woman about to smash a cathode ray tube from a computer monitor in order to remove the copper at the end of the funnel. The glass is laden with lead and will later be dumped in irrigation canals and along the river where it will leach into groundwater. Groundwater in Guiyu is completely contaminated.

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Desperate people will do desperate things: should people have to choose between poverty and poison?

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Where do your old computers and electronics go? They go to electronic waste (e-waste) sites to be recycled, where valuable and metals are salvaged. Sounds good, right? If it's done right, it's a great source of secondary raw materials. But if it's not done right, it becomes poisonous and deadly. E-waste fills 2% of US landfills, but e-waste is 70% of toxic waste.

So where does it all go? 80% of US e-waste ends up in India, China, and Kenya where there are many people willing to work for minimal pay in deplorable conditions. Toxins include lead, mercury, cadmium, PCBs, .

贵屿: Guiyu, China
Location: eastern Guandong province, southern China
Population: 150,000
Infamous for: the largest e-waste site on earth and therefore one of the most toxic places you could visit

Children play in dioxin-laden ash, soil is saturated with lead, chromium, tin, and other heavy metals. Water is undrinkable and is trucked in. There are piles of ash and plastics along rivers and fields. The waste is burned at night and is hand-stripped by workers by day without safety equipment or protection. When the residents suffer from stomach disease, lung disease, miscarriages, birth defects, premature deaths, and other problems there won't be any money or health care treatment for them. 80% of Guiyu children have elevated blood lead levels. Some internet sources have been bold enough to say that computers go to Guiyu to die and to kill.

60 Minutes ran a special titled "The Electronic Wasteland" on November 10, 2008. It's just twelve minutes and well worth your time.

The transcript is here: http://www.ban.org/ban_news/2008/081109_following_the_trail.html

Planned obsolescence, buying new gadgets to keep up with the Jones'. Do you know where your no-longer-cool junk ends up? We're proud of being Americans, but are we proud of this? When does the American Dream go too far at the expense of too many people?
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My life with Rubik's Cubes

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My students really like math and science. I mean, they really like this stuff. Here's an essay I received from a student named Umbrella.

My life with Rubik's Cubes

I have three Rubik's Cubes, one is 2x2x2, one is 3x3x3, the other is 4x4x4.

When I first saw the Cube, I was deeply attracted by its mystery. I spent 60 yuans buying it immediately and searched for the way to solve it on the internet. It took me two months to practise to solve it. During that time, I was so excited that I use all of my spare time on it.

I really have the happiest time. I have really tasted the sweet of getting knowledge.

It's only a small thing in my life, there are many glaring stars in my sky just like the big events in the world history. I do, I feel happy!
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Class & Christmas

1 visitors Thursday, December 18
So it's Christmastime and my senior classes meet three more times. I'm fairly certain that my last class is going to be canceled, so I decided to show a Christmas movie for the last two weeks. After all my kids have been great - we've studied historiography, ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and they gave presentations on major world religions that have influenced the West (Judaism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Islam). It was time to have a little fun!

I decided on Home Alone because I didn't think I could watch Elf five times without going crazy. I showed Charlie Brown Christmas to all my junior classes, so I've seen that five times this holiday season too. I watched the first 40 minutes of little Macaulay Culkin (when he was still cute) once this morning and I'm about to show it four more times. Funny this is, I don't think I've ever seen the entire thing. My Mom really hated the movie when my sisters and I were growing up so I only remember watching it on TV with my Mom making comments about how disrespectful Kevin is the entire time. I'm pretty sure my little brother was always allowed to watch it, though. There are perks to being the baby of the family!
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Chinatown, Africa

0 visitors Saturday, December 6
Everyone's somewhat of a nerd in their own right, be it computers, Creative Memories, or 17th century French poetry. I'm a business nerd. I enjoy reading business news, especially anything about international business and China's international relations.

This 24-minute video clip is entitled "Chinatown, Africa." Africa needs funds, but money from the West comes with many strings such as human rights and transparency. Enter China. The Middle Kingdom is in desperate need of raw materials and is willing to invest billions without any strings attached. Angola has become China's biggest supplier of oil and Chinese workers have rebuilt much of Angola's infrastructure after thirty years of war. In the meantime, Angola is ranked one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Is China's investment benefiting third world countries or is it cause for concern?

Check it out: http://current.com/items/89565630/chinatown_africa.htm
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Fauxgiving / Turkey Day

1 visitors Thursday, December 4
Thanksgiving this year was a bit interesting because we actually celebrated on Wednesday evening. Ren Da and Shi Yi had to teach on Thursday, but our school had off. Janna dubbed our dinner "Fauxgiving," but we're the only ones celebrating Western holidays so it kinda doesn't really matter what day we celebrate them. Anna's birthday fell on the 27th this year, so it was a long weekend of celebrations.

There were 38 of us total for Thanksgiving dinner and everyone brought something to share! We had a line of tables going down the hall with all the foods and desserts.

Playing games after dinner.

Greg's trying to ruin our picture!

Anna, Diane, and I

The day after Fauxgiving was Thanksgiving and Anna's birthday. Maria, Elaine, Ann, and Wendy came over to help Anna blow out her the candles on her strawberry cake.

Wendy made happy face birthday pancakes!

And Anna let me decorate for Christmas, too! :)

Our white lights from last year broke so we're still waiting to decorate the tree, but the rest of the apartment looks and smells like Christmas!

Wendy, Ann, Elaine, and Maria... four of my students from last year who Anna also got to know through her speech elective class.

In case we weren't sure it was winter, today is a high of -2C (28F). And in case we aren't convinced, tomorrow is a high of -6C (20F)! I snapped these pictures today of the wintry sunrise over Beijing.

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Calisthenics by creative Chinese student

0 visitors Tuesday, December 2
All Chinese students must do choreographed group exercises together every day. This one takes them a bit too seriously.
Maybe funnier than the student himself is all the other students who aren't looking at this kid like he's from Mars.

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