Dr. Rudi Kiefer is back in China teaching our 2+2 students conversational English, American culture and generally preparing them for their stay in the States. This time he's visiting Anhui Normal University in Wuhu, Anhui province and is keeping us up-to-date on his experiences and observations in his weekly blog dispatches.
Dr. Rudi Kiefer, professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University, traveled to Hefei, a city in Anhui Province in east China, as an instructor for students who are slated to come to Brenau in 2017 to complete the last two years of undergraduate degrees in nursing at Brenau’s campus in Gainesville, Georgia. The group, comprising 16 nursing majors, will complete the first two years of their studies at their home institution, Anhui University of Chinese Medicine, in a “2+2” agreement with Brenau. Kiefer was scheduled to teach three courses to the group – medical terminology, conversational English and earth science – April 10 to May 21, 2016.
Brenau has two additional 2+2 agreements with Anhui Normal University, located in Wahu, which is about 100 miles from Hefei. The first Anhui Normal students, majoring in early childhood education, will arrive in Gainesville in August to begin their junior and senior years as Brenau undergraduates. A second Anhui Normal group, majoring in English, will arrive for the 2017-18 academic year.
“Who’ll stop the Rain?”This classic 1970 song by Creedence Clearwater Revival keeps coming to my mind as I am slogging through puddles. First week in Wuhu, teaching at Anhui Normal University. The weather is as expected, changeable, not too cold, but rain possible just about any time. A passionate photographer can use all that water for some unique shots, and I tried a few, see samples. But then I just want to get to a place where I can dry up.
It’s a different teaching arrangement this time than what I had at the medical university in Hefei during the spring semester. There are two different classes. One of them, on the “old campus” downtown, gets School & Society and Foundations for Success twice a week, each a three-hour session. The other, on the new campus in the suburb, gets Foundations for Success, but only one three-hour session per week, plus two hours of conversational English.
The size of the teaching load is manageable, but with one group having only half the sessions that the other gets, it makes it hard to keep those courses somewhat synchronized. I’ll have to resort to an old-fashioned teaching method that I think I’ve gotten good at: improvising.
The students are excited, for sure. A five-day rainy spell won’t spoil their mood, and anyway, they all grew up in Anhui Province and are as used to the rain as my wife’s family in London, U.K. Li Jiaxue, whose English name is “Christmas,” is turning 18 today and has somewhat shyly invited me to go to a nice restaurant for lunch with her and some friends. Be it sopping wet or not, Christmas and student friend Wyoming are exuberant as we head into the super-size mall.
These ladies by golly know how to order food! This is 21st century China, so the menu is paperless, replaced by full-color pages on an iPad that the waitress provides. The table fills with what must be a dozen dishes. Meanwhile Ye Zihao or “Elvis” has joined us, and because this is a Hot Pot restaurant, the fun can begin. In a Hot Pot restaurant, the waitresses place a square container with two compartments into the recess on the table. Each side is filled with boiling water, seasoned to a mild and a hot flavor. The guests take turns dropping pieces of meat, lettuce leaves, quail eggs and other culinary elements into the pot, and then everybody keeps fishing things out of there for immediate consumption. Caution: the little hardboiled quail eggs are delicious, but even when the white part has cooled to an edible temperature level, the boiled yolk is still scalding hot. Trust me. I know.
Steam is rising in the middle, dumplings and beef are already floating in the mix, and yet there are more and more dishes arriving from the left.
A long time later, after tasting some 18 different foods, everybody is feeling full and happy. Christmas, Wyoming and Elvis need to head back to the new campus, while I have to prepare course sessions in the apartment. Hi-tech in action again: Christmas orders and pre-pays the Chinese version of an Uber-Taxi with her iPhone (taxis are cheap in Wuhu), complete with the route predetermined. No rickshaws here, no New York style rattletrap, this one is a recent model Chery sedan. The Chinese Chery brand has a striking resemblance to the 2015 American and Japanese models. But then again, all the modern cars look the same to me.
To classroom matters: It’s the same all over the world, at least in the countries where I’ve been at universities. There’s a core of interested students, sitting up front to about the 40-yard line in the classroom. Beyond that, thumbs are busy operating smartphones. Sound familiar? Here’s the smaller class on the Old Campus. The big guy at right is Skylark, a computer genius with excellent English skills. The classroom computer refuses to accept my portable disc drive – an essential tool for me, I’ve got thousands of pictures, video clips, and text materials on it. Skylark upgrades the machine from Windows XP to Windows 7, and now the disc drive works. Two terabytes of storage were too much for the geriatric XP system.
Skylark is the class monitor – an important function; every class has one, and the monitor is the teacher’s best ally. In the other class, it’s Ariana. Picture to follow later. She doesn’t know how to upgrade to Windows 7, so I’m bugging her to get some IT person to do it. We need those files.
The accommodations are very nice. It’s a university-owned apartment, having housed a good many Brenau colleagues before, evidenced by forgotten notes with familiar names on them. I had expected something like this – and there are plenty of examples for this lifestyle of apartments – but instead it’s a very modern place in a highrise, elevators in good working condition, no need to walk up all 7 floors. It’s nice to come home to after walking across the rain-soaked campus.
Housing quality in Wuhu varies considerably. You see buildings that remind me of my student days in the Heidelberg Altstadt in Germany (see juxtaposition). I keep noticing how similar China and Germany are in many respects. In this case, the German habitat seems to be a bit lower on the quality scale. It was romantic and bohemian at the time, but the present apartment at Phoenix Garden Apartments does offer a lot more creature comfort.
Traffic is a challenge here, just like it was in Hefei. It just got dark, and the horn concert down in the street has swollen to the proportion of a Wagner opera. Mixed in are sirens that seem to converge right here in Qiahong Side Road. Uh-oh. Accident. Car appears to have hit someone on a scooter. Those electric scooters are neat, but many riders don’t turn their lights on at night, trying to save battery power. On a rainy night like this, it makes them virtually invisible. The cop is looking at the front of the car and the scooter (circled), its rider already taken away. I sure hope he or she isn’t badly injured.
Lesson learned in Hefei this past spring: watch out when crossing the street. Cars don’t stop for pedestrians. Even if you cross on green and the light turns red on you, you may find yourself stuck in the middle of the street with these guys (see at left) going past you on both sides, horns blasting. Darwin’s principles are best remembered in traffic.
Week 2 – Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, 2016
Hurrah! The forecast for the coming week shows a chance of sunshine. It’ll be a relief to emerge from the British-style weather for a few days. I’ve already lost one umbrella. It’s not a China thing – it’s an absent-minded professor kind of thing. So maybe I can give my new umbrella a rest.
If the forecast holds true, we’ll have an “Indian Summer” next week. Or an Anhui Summer.
Speaking of umbrellas … I brought along a really nice one from the National Wildlife Federation (“free with your donation”) to give to someone as a present. Students love everything with something English written on it. Well, not everything, exactly. Before I gave it to anybody, I looked up a “bad gifts” website. Things to never give in China include: umbrellas (especially not to a couple – it symbolizes bad omens and an impending break-up); clocks and watches (symbols of life trickling away and death at the doorstep); and anything sharp, like scissors, knives or the hydraulic sheet-metal nippers that I want for my automotive projects. There’s the German connection again. My mother used to freak out whenever someone gave her a really good bread knife or sewing scissors. We had to take them from her and then sell them back to her for one or two Pfennigs to break the spell. There’s a contrast between a staunch catholic and a jaded scientist who believes in data analysis. Good gifts in China are red, the color of fun and joy.
Mandy teaches the 2+2 group scheduled to start at Brenau in the fall of 2017.
Saturday night: dinner with Mandy Bartell and her husband Alex. We meet at the Starbucks, a good landmark just a few steps from the apartment complex. But I still won’t pay five bucks for a coffee, not in the U.S. and not here. The Chinese food is better anyway!
These Chinese restaurants are doing me in. I think I’m gaining weight again, just like last time. But everything is so tasty, it makes one want to really have some of everything. So here we are at the Hongkong Restaurant, awaiting about six different plates of delicious stuff. Alex is off the frame, ordering something or other.
Sunday, Oct. 30: A “sun-day” indeed! We had sunshine all morning. Wuhu looks much more cheerful right away. The university is busy with people, classes, parked cars. I’m trotting over there to give a guest presentation to Mandy’s English class. She seems to have excellent rapport with the students. They sing a song for me, in English (see photo). Regarding my own two classes, I think I’ll leave the singing to others, though. Don’t want to scare the students into changing their major.
Mandy’s group gets really excited about the video clips from the excursion to Brasstown Bald that I did with Ray Tatum for the two-plus-twos currently in Georgia. I sure look forward to taking them somewhere next fall. Fontana Dam and Bryson City will be super destinations, if we can schedule enough time for an all-day trip. Been there, done that, here’s my Honors course from some years ago at Fontana (with Linda Kern). For those not familiar with Georgia’s nearest neighbors: Fontana Dam is the biggest hydropower facility east of the Mississippi. Two-thirds as tall as Hoover Dam (Nevada), twice as long. Nearby also is Cheoah Dam, featured in “The Fugitive,” with that famous scene where Harrison Ford’s character jumps and rides down the spillway at Cheoah. Not recommended, but worth seeing the real thing.
Honors course visits Fontana Dam.
Wuhu by night: Woo-hoo! This isn’t your granddad’s China. It’s a city of lights downtown, flash, glitz, upscale stores and lots of attractions designed to get visitors to part with their money. Truly impressive, and not quite as intimidating as megacity Hefei.
Some ice skating? No problem, it’s all there.
The wealth manifests itself in various ways. On campus, you see an astonishing number of late-model Mercedes automobiles, like this one near the Science Building. Probably not owned by a science professor. Luxury cars claim their own space.
Scooters, on the other hand, congregate in large groups or small armies,
forming a bewildering knot of wheels, covers, seats, and shopping bags.
Oh no! They are tearing down my favorite dumplings restaurant, the Lai Yi Nong. Well, maybe it’s only a grounds-up remodeling. At the speed that they work here, it might be up and running again in a couple of weeks.
Fang Junashu “Alice”
Chen Chen “Erin”
Monday: Still some rain, but not as much as we’ve had before. Things should start clearing up anytime soon now.
No bios yet, but I thought it would be nice to get some snapshots started. Here are Fang Junashu “Alice,” left, and Chen Chen “Erin,” right.
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016: The Brenau delegation has arrived. Nice to see familiar faces! Reception for the delegation, on the evening of Oct. 31, offers some incredible foods.
President Schrader, seated next to Anhui Normal University President Zhu, center, Brenau’s own Grace Ye Hsu at left, and AHNU university officials. Lots of toasts with that strong, clear Anhui brandy. Some Americans consider this stuff dangerous, but I already identified it back in Hefei as a first cousin of German Obstschnaps. Nothing to worry about, then. I do some 10 toasts, Chinese style “Ganbei!” – bottoms up. It’s been decades, but my German background has provided me with ample training, and so the schnapps has nothing but beneficial effects.
Anhui Normal University is extending a warm welcome. (Motor scooter not included).
Just like home! Dr. Schrader is holding a Q&A session for the next generation of Chinese students to come to Brenau. Getting them to talk, and to ask questions, isn’t always easy. But they are eager, enthusiastic and paying attention.
With 44 students on two campuses, it’ll be impossible to feature all of them. But I’ll get some bios and profiles together. For now, it’s snapshots. Here’s Teres (at right), freshman class, College of Foreign Languages .
My friend and helper in the Education College: Skylark. He’s untied a lot of knots in regards to system passwords, buying and activating a Chinese phone, upgrading the classroom computer so it can read my 1.5TB portable hard drive, and more. At the introductory meeting with Presidents Schrader and Zhu he delivered a flawless mini-speech. The sun is out this afternoon, so I take his picture on the steps of the Education Building, with the Wuhu Business District in the background.
Wei Gong was one of the two advisors who brought the current AHNU students to Brenau in August. Here are Wei and his wife, me in the middle.
Another breath-taking shopping mall in the center of Wuhu. On the way up on the escalator, I am careful not to throw anything at the upper air. Whatever that is, I don’t wish to be guilty of such an infraction.
The mall booths shown here really struck me as odd. It’s tempting to say, “Look, they are still using phone booths around here!” – but it would not be true. Everybody has a smartphone, no payphones to be seen anywhere. To my amazement, I learn that these are soundproof karaoke booths. Very popular with young folks, especially. I observe couples going in there, and then the guy sings to the girl. In regards to my own singing skills: If we’d had those back in the late ‘80s when I was dating Karla, I would probably still be a bachelor.
Thursday, Nov.3: Still chilly, but the sun is threatening to come out! Students blazing across campus on their scooters are experiencing 20 mph wind, of course.
Friday, Nov. 4: 21 degrees daytime high! That’s not a winter outbreak. China uses the metric system, so we enjoyed sunshine and 70 degrees Fahrenheit today.
Wuhu looks particularly glossy under blue skies. Here are my “reflections” on the topic.
Anhui women find resourceful solutions to the cold.
Week 3 – Nov. 5-11, 2016
Saturday, Nov. 5 – Awww, shucks. Twenty-two degrees (Celsius, of course. It’s 72 Fahrenheit) again today, but the forecast shows 100 percent chance of precipitation for Monday. That’s walking-to-class day, as are the other four work days. See where the green line (dew point) meets the red line (temperature)? That’s French for “100 percent humidity.”
I’m still trying to figure out the weather pattern here, anyway. The websites are very frugal with satellite and radar images (translation: “there are none”), and I have to get a Google Earth image via some detours. The easternmost yellow dot with text labels marks Wuhu. All I can see is some coastal system drifting into Bangladesh. It looks like a tropical storm, but doesn’t meet the wind speed requirements for one. The jet stream is clearly dragging it eastward into China. So in all likelihood it’s that big blob of rain that we’ll see here on Monday. Neat, though, how it swerves around the Tibetan Plateau, right? In the summer it would be north of there, but not in November. The Plateau is an 18,000-foot-tall roadblock for storm systems coming from the Indian Ocean. So they seem to dump all their rain into Anhui, Hubei, Hebei and other surrounding provinces. In the spring we got rain from the Pacific Ocean via Shanghai (see the bright blue spot near the right edge of the image? That’s Hangzhou Bay and the City of Shanghai).
Google Earth image with the easternmost yellow dot with text labels marks Wuhu.
While I’m playing with Google Earth: here’s the satellite view of the apartment lent to Brenau teachers by the university, across the street from Crowne Plaza Hotel. The Wal-Mart is in the square building at the top edge of the image.
Traffic can be remarkably light at times, no comparison to Hefei, where every hour is rush hour.
So, Monday promises to be a walk in the rain. Not bad, this time I have a knee-length raincoat (highly recommended!) and waterproof shoes (also recommended). My classroom is 611, across the hall there’s Mandy Bartlett’s 609 (see Blog 2). You guessed it: sixth floor. I haven’t seen an elevator, but it’s really healthier to go up the stairs. Only at the beginning does it seem like climbing the Coba Pyramid, back in February, on a Yucatan trip with Jessi Shrout and Louise Bauck. The Pyramid actually didn’t seem to have as many stairs as the way up to the classroom, but that’s probably an illusion. Anyway, I made it to the top on both Coba and the AHNU Education Building.
Mercifully, on the new campus, the classroom is located on just the second floor. Small climb twice a week, big climb four times a week. It’s good exercise.
The admissions people were exemplary again by supplying me with “swag” to give as little friendship tokens – ballpoint pens, luggage tags and Brenau whistles. In addition, I picked up some t-shirts and ballcaps in Gainesville, whatever I could find at a low price that was joyful, not political, and in colors popular in China. This means avoiding black, white (both having a “death” connotation… so much for my cool New York-style black suits and black shirts), and in the case of hats, green. A green hat marks a cuckolded husband, I was told last year. For shirts, red is best, followed by orange, pink and green.
Portrait of a Brenau Alumna
Emily Bruce WC’16
Instructor at Anhui Normal University
Wuhu, Anhui, China
Few alumnae of Brenau’s Women’s College would have the chutzpah to sign up for a one-year teaching commitment at a major Chinese university, let alone immediately after graduation. Emily Bruce did. A native of Gainesville, she majored in English and is currently teaching English as a second language at Anhui Normal University in Wuhu.
“It seemed like a fascinating assignment to do for a year,” she said. “It also supplies me with ideas for writing fiction, which is something I enjoy doing.”
Her academic interest is focused on British literature and phantasy fiction. No doubt this will lead to a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, and a colorful career in a university setting. “I would definitely choose Brenau for my bachelor’s degree again,” says Bruce. “Brenau has a unique atmosphere, which makes it a good place for young women to develop.”
For the current students at Brenau, she offers advice: “Find an activity that’s not related to your studies. Have a hobby. Mine is writing. An outside activity allows you to refresh your focus, and explore other options. Be creative.”
While the sky is clear, a geographic observation from the balcony. Old, low-standard living quarters are being phased out. This one looks vacant. Modern apartment buildings are coming up all over the city, see background.
This building boom is generating some truly unique shapes… I now understand the meaning of “mushrooming development”… or the “Golden Age if Construction,” which makes it so much more surprising to find Spanish Mission style architecture, with maybe a hint of Russian Orthodox. Or vice versa. And there’s always room for the whimsical. This stainless steel handbag, seen at Sculpture Park, is 10 (ten!) feet wide.
Low lying smog over Wuhu, China
Mushroom-like buildings cropping up in Wuhu, China.
Mushroom-like buildings cropping up in Wuhu, China.
The green screen is a debris shield while renovation is in progress.
The “Golden Age of Construction.”
“Travelling Bag” by Jing Yumin.
Travelling Bag Artwork Label.
Next week I want to try some more role playing, to
get students used to speaking in front of others. If
we do this often enough, maybe they’ll lose some of
their innate shyness.
Here’s the first try, done last week.
Sunday, Nov. 6. Okay, I’m ready for the rain to come back. Just like in Los Angeles, the air in Eastern China comes in two flavors: smooth and chunky. Today it’s chunky.
A thick smell of smoke lingers over the city.
I can really taste the morsels in it. My pictures are unaltered. Anhui Province seems to be better off than places farther north. An official news site reports: “Tangshan in north China’s Hebei Province has ordered local steel-rolling, casting, cement, glass and coke factories to halt production immediately in an emergency response to the country’s lingering air pollution. All coal-fired boilers except those for heating must be turned off, while production and transportation in all surface mines will be stopped, said an official statement released Saturday. Construction sites and concrete mixing plants across the city were also ordered to stop work. The decisions were made on Saturday as China renewed its orange alert for air pollution that has lasted for days.“ (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2016-11/05/content_27284863.htm)
I retreat into a nearby shopping mall, where the air is better. Wow! Another giganterrific supermall. Those pictures can only begin to show the dimensions of this super modern shopping center.
The First Wuhu Internet Celebrity Contest
Burger King and Papa John’s Pizza (really!) compete with clothing stores where one can spend a thousand bucks in a heartbeat. I successfully fight that temptation, and instead watch a bit of the First Wuhu Internet Celebrity Contest, for free.
Monday, Nov. 7: Totally irrelevant observation from the classroom window, while the students are working on something:
One is solitude;
85 is a crowd.
A gargantuan task: cleaning that huge paved plaza with a mop and a bucket of water.
Friday, Nov. 11: Most of this week has been a blur. I came down with a head cold on Monday, runny nose at first, then morphing into a cough that wore me down to exhaustion. No class sessions missed. But nothing else accomplished, either.
With some help from student Skylark I got some cough syrup, Qiangli Pipalu, from a pharmacy. It’s a traditional Chinese medicine, herbal-based, not a chemical concoction. Four bucks for 6.75 oz., not bad, and besides, it’s a choice of one. No Robitussin DM on the shelf, or any other Pipalu varieties.
One blogger states that the stuff tastes revolting, but I disagree. It’s got a mild, herbal flavor, not unpleasant.
Now, on Friday, the cough seems to be letting up finally. Three days of Qiangli Pipalu, combined with Tylenol PM that I brought to China with me. Which works better? Who knows. Most patients get better all by themselves.
Could be that neither medication had an effect, or that western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine are equally effective. Whatever. I just want to be running on all cylinders again.
Week 4 – Nov. 12 to 18, 2016
Ever so gradually, the cough and congestion are going away. I do notice some of the air pollution in the morning. Just like in Hefei, I get a scratchy feeling in the throat and bronchial tubes. The sky never looks entirely clear.
Construction is at a rapid pace, just like in Hefei. Thousands of new apartments must be coming online in the next few months. I hope there are enough takers for all that housing? I’m told it’s not particularly cheap.
Contrasts abound everywhere. You see quaint, small-town style apartment buildings like the one below competing for space with monstrous housing ensembles just a couple of blocks away.
In the area around the new campus especially, five miles from the old (downtown) campus, the skyscrapers are shooting out of the ground, ready to scrape.
The academic buildings on both the new and the old campuses feature purpose-oriented architecture. Classrooms tend to be identical as far as their interior design is concerned.
The contrasts are amazing, too. Some of the housing on campus looks quite, umm, middle class. But parked in front of these buildings are many brand-new, high-zoot Mercedes, BMWs and, in this example, a Lexus.
Small-town style apartment building.
High-rise style apartment building.
This is part of the foreign languages complex on the new campus, with two other departments in the background.
Twice a week I’m catching the 7:20 a.m. university shuttle bus to the foreign language building on the new campus. One of the other riders is a Russian woman, teaching her language in the same department. Too bad she doesn’t speak English. We communicate enough for me to learn that she’s from Nizhny Novgorod (and she’s astonished I’ve heard of that city). One of Brenau’s tennis players was from there. It’s the city that was once named Gorki. Any self-respecting Russian city changes its name at least once a century.
Wednesday, Nov. 16. No big esoteric mysteries to reveal today. I’m still going deeper into the “Student Life in America” cycle of my Foundations for Success course. I think I’ve hammered the “go to class” (thanks, Dr. Krippel) principle now. We’re done with topics of culture shock, behavioral differences, food and partying on American campuses.
Chinese students don’t like parties, as a rule. They don’t enjoy being in a crowd – they worry about not knowing what to do or say, but I think it’s important not to let them stay in a turtle shell in the library all the time. Socializing is important to prevent them from being isolated.
I pointed out the difference between going to a Brenau sorority party and tagging along to Athens with a bunch of people to mingle with the University of Georgia crowd. It’s safer to stay on the historic campus. Brenau’s campus has been rated the fourth safest campus in the Georgia. At Tri-Delta, Alpha Gam, Phi Mu parties in Gainesville, they’ll be in good hands.
The old campus isn’t all concrete buildings. It has some pretty spots, like this palm-tree lined street. It would remind me of Charleston, if Charleston had any hills.
Outside the dining hall, several hundred thermos bottles are parked. The students get a couple liters of boiled, hot water every day for a small fee. Tap water in China must be boiled before it’s potable. Here’s Jane (Zhang Xing Xing – is that a cool name or what?) filling hers.
I resisted for a few weeks, but this time I’m tired of noodles and rice, so I treat myself to a Spicy Whopper at the local Burger King. Not bad. Authentic American flavor. Not sensational, either, but hey, it’s Burger King, not a five-star restaurant.
I’ve got a ton of videos from a popular video sharing website that we watch and discuss in class. Extremely helpful! Multimedia captures students’ attention better than a teacher talking at them for three hours at a time. The site has videos on just about any topic. While downloading is generally frowned upon, I do it without guilt because I use them for educational purposes, and you can’t get them live online in China, where the site is unavailable.
With careful selection, one can find plenty of well-made videos, narrated by people the students can relate to. As a reward for paying attention, they get to watch a short, fun video from such classic comedians as Loriot (German), Pierre Richard (French), Mr. Bean (UK) and, of course, America’s own Sid Caesar. The sketches are hilarious, and they make students look forward to each class session.
When selecting videos for the class, comedy or not, one has to make sure the dialogue isn’t too complex for the students to understand. Not a worry with Mr. Bean and Sid Caesar, of course.
Bernhard-Victor Christoph-Carl von Bülow as “Loriot.”
Rowan Atkinson as “Mr. Bean.”
Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca
Also popular: Victor Borge and his inimitable musical antics.
These shows aren’t exactly brimming with academic content, but they give the students a sideways glimpse of Western culture. And they put them in a good mood, which is valuable considering the fact that the course subject matter isn’t all edge-of-the-seat suspense stuff.
Here’s the School of Education class, in the “pyramid” – the sixth-floor walk-up classroom with the computer virus. I’ve learned to use only a disposable thumb drive and reformat it every time I get back to the apartment. The classroom machine is too old for removing the virus without reformatting and reloading it.
Strangely, in spite of so many personnel working at the university, there seems to be no IT Department. Skylark (front row, in T-shirt marked “73”) has been my computer support.
Week 5 – Nov. 19 to 26, 2016
Nothing extraordinary going on. The students have caught on to taking notes, as there is a quiz at each week’s conclusion, in every class. Sadly, each class also has a cadre of three students in the rear who will not stop messing with their phones during the sessions. Even when I call up some of them by name and mention that they seem to be buried in their social media play pens, it takes only five minutes and their thumbs are going again on those little mobile devices. Another teacher has left something interesting in the education classroom: a large cloth apron with 30 numbered pockets. Skylark, the class monitor,explains that she makes the students drop their phones into the pockets at the start of the class session, to be retrieved when the finish bell rings. I’m reluctant to take such an authoritarian measure. Maybe I will, later on.
Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016: The promised snow appeared and went away again. It’s 1 C outside, and the weather has already reverted to the familiar steady rain. Buying waterproof shoes and a full-length raincoat before coming back to Anhui was one of my best ideas.
Tomorrow, is “Foundations of Success” on the new campus again. It’s too bad that the classroom computer doesn’t have a live internet connection, so I need to introduce Canvas via screenshots and arm waving.
View from the classroom window is grey-in-grey. If I didn’t know it’s Wuhu, I’d swear we were in London. Only the LED advertising display on a shopping center was shining brightly at the moment.
Today I also need the woolen ski cap that I picked up at the local Wal-Mart. The Union Jack reflects neither my current nor past national heritage, but they didn’t have one with a Stars and Stripes badge. Anyway, it’s warm.
Here’s another view of the massive School of Foreign Studies, where folks like me, Angie, Emily and others teach language and culture courses. The “Warmly Welcome Delegation of Brenau University” message has been replaced with something domestic, but I haven’t a clue what it says now.
Wednesday evening: Geez, was I ever wrong! The morning snow was just a pilot event. Late Wednesday afternoon the real stuff came down.
At ANHU, there’s no such thing as the Georgia tradition of closing early during snowstorms. So class ends at 5 p.m., then dinner in the cafeteria with a couple of students.
As we come out, the snow is already accumulating. It’s hard to photograph in the sparse street lighting. As I am approaching the high-rise apartment, the commercial area is better lit. Worth putting up with the cold and wet for a couple of minutes to get some souvenir shots.
The view from our sixth floor classroom perch shows the main gate to the campus.
Just like home! A little snow and immediately there are car crashes. Here’s the first fender bender of the evening. In weather like this, it’s nice to see the last 50 yards of the one-mile walk home, and the warm apartment building.
In class the assignment was a role play where two “immigration officials” conduct a visa interview with students. The purpose is to get them to speak English, but also prepare them for the questions they might be asked: “Why do you want to study in Georgia?” “How are you going to pay for it?” “What will you do after graduation?” If I had a nickel for every time I was asked those questions myself, 36 years ago, I’d have a dime.
Winter Wonderland Thursday morning! The snow is already melting away, but for the moment the education building has a romantic look to it.
The room is well heated, but most students prefer to leave their arctic coats on.
The snow is almost gone outside. But always-playful Christmas and Wyoming (remember those two?) create a moment of levity by making a miniature snowman in the classroom.
Saturday, Nov. 26: Familiar faces again! Zhou Zixuan and Zhang Xinruo (Sylvia) from my Spring 2016 class at Anhui University of Chinese Medicine have come to Wuhu for a visit. Their English is showing remarkable improvement since last April, at AUCM. Sylvia, at right. is in the Brenau 2+2 program. Zhou, left, isn’t but hopes to go to UGA for graduate study next year.
Another elaborate lunch at the hotpot restaurant in Suning Mall. I still find it incredible to see so much gourmet food in places that, back in the USA, would maybe just offer an Applebee’s or an Outback Steak House.
I hadn’t really given it much thought, but upon reflection, it’s gratifying to see the passive solar heat units on top of the nearby apartment buildings. Do the ones in my apartment complex have them? Can’t tell. Too tall.
Here’s Tang Xuan (Rennie,) working intensely on a quiz.
At school, it’s not all fun and games, comedy videos and mini-snowmen. I have to submit grades before I leave in December.
Week 6 – Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, 2016
Lexus! Porsche! Volvo! Mercedes! BMW! Audi! Just when I thought I was done marveling at the costliness of the cars in the side streets, someone parked a Maserati at the entrance to the apartment complex. I’m not jealous, just bemused. My 25 year old Chevy van would make a nice contrast to these slick automobiles.
Aren’t their owners worried about taking such a chunk of money into this kind of traffic?
Another surprise – the mural in the nearby shopping mall shows an old Volkswagen Beetle. Judging by the bumper style and turn signals, it’s either a 1978 German or a 2000’s Mexican model. But that’s immaterial. I’m struck by how people are buying 2016 luxury cars, but admiring an old car design from the 1930s. I guess I can relate, having accumulated six of those oldies. Minus the luxury car.
Here’s that mall, by the way; one of many. No way to get it all into one picture frame. Note to self: Don’t try to impress Chinese visitors with Lenox Square Mall, or the supermall in Gwinnett. They might yawn.
Incidentally, prices at these malls here are quite substantial, even to a western visitor with a currency exchange advantage. For the Chinese middle class, they must be painfully high, especially for fashion. Maybe that’s why so many people are wearing inexpensive, cotton-stuffed nylon winter jackets and run-of-the-mill blue jeans.
Speaking of Walmart: it’s part of the CapitaLand Shopping Center, in gallery below. Unremarkable exterior, but prices in the stores and eateries, including KFC, are more consumer-friendly than in the big malls.
Throughout that entire shopping center, they’ve been playing Christmas songs for two weeks now. “Jingle Bells,” “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” and a “Partridge in a Pear Tree.” Hope they don’t have “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Really, the last thing I’d expect at a Chinese store entrance would be a jiggling, singing Santa Claus robot. But alas, there is one.
Tuesday: Looks like the rain will stay away for quite some time, even into next week. Of course, the price to pay for dry feet is a challenge on the air quality front. The frequent rains during the first three weeks helped clear the atmosphere. We may not have such wet conditions for a number of days.
Wednesday: An innovation! Before I put this unit together, I wasn’t aware of “Spaced Repetition” as a method for study and memory retention. It looks quite promising. Not suitable for in-class use, this is for students with reading assignments, and implementation takes several weeks.
Essentially, one repeats a topic at ever-increasing intervals, unless it slips from memory in between. In that case, it goes back to the start and gets reviewed daily until it sticks.
CapitaLand shopping center.
Wuhu sunrise Tuesday: Red skies at morning, sailors take warning. I could explain how that works, but I’d be the only one not bored by it.
Spaced repetition works best with flash cards – here’s an example from the instructional video.
Personally, I plan to try the method for learning Chinese phrases. About time… I’m tired of feeling like I’m illiterate, deaf and mute around here.
I brought several hundred of the old Brenau Barbecue tickets (remember those?) with me, for classroom purposes. They make excellent flash cards, so the students each get to grab a handful for experimentation with the spaced repetition method.
Nothing to do with the above: Bicycles for rent, dispensed from a sort of big vending machine. You can find these card-operated stands at many places in the city. For a few Yuan, you can rent a bike for… how long? Don’t know… I’m illiterate, deaf and mute, remember… a few hours, somebody said. Return the bike to any stand anywhere in the city. Cool! The only concern I’d have is head protection, not available for rent. With those buses everywhere, I’d be sure to wear a helmet.
But check it out: some of the main streets have bike paths. And once again there’s the aforementioned “Hefei Haze” in the background. It really does look that shade of blue.
Thursday: The familiar “school bus”, as they call it here, ready to take me, my colleague Emily, and a few dozen other instructors to the new campus.
Emily points out a fountain with a sculpture of Jesus and half a dozen sheep and lambs, so I get a photo through the window of the school bus. I would have expected to see that in Germany. Here in Wuhu, it seems unusual.
After arrival at the new campus: more role play. Here’s my English course. The goal is English conversation, but the objective is to get the students out of their shells, and help them lose some of their reluctance to speak in public. I know better than to ask them to speak without a pre-written script, at such an early stage.
It’s refreshing when there are moments of levity, based on what they’ve written in their role play.
“Like y’all!” Wu Lei (Leisure) will be popular if she wears that coat in Georgia.
With 3,000 instructors employed by Anhui Normal University, the institution provides a lot of on-campus housing. Here’s a glimpse of apartment buildings at the new campus. My Chinese colleagues speak very positively of the quality and features.
The massive AHNU Library dwarfs everything else.
Outside the campus wall, the apartment buildings tend to be bigger, and they come in groups of a dozen. No standalones there.
These small pictures can’t quite convey a sense of the massive scale of these housing developments.
Below is another drive-by photo through the bus window, which explains the reflection in the picture.
Probably not a Mercedes, but guaranteed to be more practical for the job at hand.
Back on the old campus with my other class: more role play. Some of the students are starting to catch on.
On the way home to the apartment: the store fronts can be quite bewildering when you don’t read Chinese. There’s no Sea World in this building… so…?
Quiz time! I don’t think there’s a school in the world where students don’t have to take written tests.
The weekend approaches! One more task: By invitation from the dean of education, I present a talk to the faculty in his college. It seems to be well received. Unlike most students, they are happy to ask questions. In turn, I’m happy to answer them. Topic: cross-cultural differences and teaching methods. Having so many pictures comes in handy for illustration.
Dr. Kiefer's First Trip to China
Monday, April 25, 2016
Key differences between Brenau and ASCM – This place is huge! Not much scalability to make things more conducive to faculty-student interaction, which is not a universally embraced concept here. For example, the classroom is not great for teaching conversational language. It is really a small, traditional-style auditorium in which students all face the same direction and listen to lectures. Interaction is virtually impossible. I’ve got feelers out to find a room with movable chairs.
What this university needs, and I plan to bring it up at the next faculty meeting (ha ha), is some kind of common room, with comfortable seating, where students can get together informally and just shoot the breeze with the teacher. Asked several people and they’ve never heard of something like that. Gawd, I miss the Math SPA! I think our new Chinese students are going to love the close interaction with faculty and other students once they get accustomed to it.
One thing is driving me crazy!! It baffles me – and I have not found out why yet – that some building super routinely locks exit doors from the huge Classroom Building A/B but does not switch off the lighted signs with arrows that point down three flights of stairs to the exits from this cavernous giant. I just spent an entire 10 minutes trying to get out after class. Finally, a housekeeper showed me the door – literally the only open door out of the building. Note to self: find out what would I do if we had a fire?
Class performance, similar to that we occasionally find at Brenau, is very mixed. Some students are highly motivated and working on their English, which is indeed improving. A few others seemingly are not. I wonder whether the those latter ones really want to come to Brenau for a nursing degree.
The English and a Second Language program will benefit prospective Brenau students like these, now completing the first portion of their undergraduate studies at their home university in Anhui Provence, China.
Graduate physical therapy students giving me (I'm the one face down) a Chinese massage, while our young candystripers amuse themselves with my camera. Believe me, this PT student, in orange, can really inflict pain.
The view from my window. The dark building at left is the dining hall. But it is more like a dining department store: three floors with tons of yummy stuff. So far, I've enjoyed everything I've eaten here. Who wouldn't like Chinese food three times a day? The lighter building in the background is the School of Nursing.
Two more members of my little gang of prospective Brenau students – Zhou Zi Xuan and Zhang Xinruo. Watch for them showing up on the Brenau Campus next year.
She's not in the Brenau program, but I sure would like her to come. And bring the drum. They let me try it out. AWESOME!!!
My friend Tao Li. How's this for an academic robe? I'd love to have something like this for my next convocation in Pearce Auditorium.
Renting bicycles for a three-hour tour around the countryside. I paid $1.50 (10 Yuan) for both. Unbeatable.
Big sports event today. No way to get the thousands (yes, I mean it!) of students into the picture that are performing in the stadium. The one with the pink shoes appears to be more of an individualist.
A night at the movies! We watched Kung Fu Panda.
Great to see a familiar face: My former student Mengqiu “Autumn” Zhao, WC '14, BU ’15, chatting with my new friend, Ding Qian. Qian isn’t in Brenau’s 2+2 program, but she’s been exemplary in showing me around, and lending her language skills to just about every situation that this tongue-tied German-American has been getting into.
Learning experience #2716: Chinese food three times a day is nice! Here some sausage “with everything” from a roadside stand just outside the university gate.
An excursion to the lake. Zhou Zi Xuan and Zhang Xinruo recreating the “Jack and Rose” scene from Titanic.
Urbanity in Hefei. You can drive for an hour (we did), and this picture never changes.
Interesting at night. But still an unbelievably large city to travel through. No I-85 going through it or I-285 around it. You get to see several hundred skyscrapers on your way instead.
Just like Hall County, the Hefei area is experiencing tremendous growth, and Hefei is already four times the size of Atlanta.
Monday, May 2, 2016
Completely new crowd this weekend. It’s the Labor Day celebration in China – one of the biggest holidays of the year. We have three days off. Most of the students tend to go home to be with their families, so a big part of China is on the road, railroad and in the air – all trying to get somewhere else. My nursing students thoughtfully arranged for four medical school sophomores working on M.D. degrees, to keep me company over the holidays. It’s marvelous how they take care of me and make sure that American teacher doesn’t get bored.
Weekend of May 24: excursion to Chao Hu Lake, one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the country. A young psychology professor, Ms. Liu, is the host and the students are Zhang Xinruo and Zhou Zi Xuan. Quite to my surprise, those Chinese names are actually beginning to stick in my memory.
From the lakeside tourist street in Zhang Miazhen to the little island it’s a 20-minute boat ride on the tourist ferry, or eight minutes by fast motorboat. Out of courtesy they ask my preference. I am a motorcyclist, so of course I say, “Speedboat.” That decision earns us a fast, bumpy and splashy carnival ride at the hands of a very determined woman pilot who looks remarkably like the natives at Cherokee Reservation, North Carolina. We arrive soaking wet and thoroughly chilled, but exhilarated.
After a cold shower of lake water, what’s better for warming up than climbing a mountain followed by climbing a tall tower? We find the walkway to the top of the mountain, and after an arduous ascent, we’re rewarded with seven flights of stairs to the top of the pagoda. On coming back down, to my surprise, we see a “Bamboo Forest” below the tower that looks just like our own on the Brenau campus in Gainesville. So, that legendary Japanese professor who planted the huge bamboos at Brenau must have been on Chao Lake too.
The following weekdays are filled with routine classroom teaching, mostly medical terminology because that’s the hardest subject. I need to pack into it as many varieties as possible of “-itis,” “-otomy,” “-oscopy,” “trans-,” “peri-” and related word combos or we won’t get through the essential parts of the textbook.
On Friday, 16 pairs of eyes are glazing over, so I decide to do the last hour about earth science. Lightning! The pictures get everybody’s attention, and my noisy explanation of lightning and thunder attracts onlookers from the hallway. Even Dean Han pops in to watch, and I feel obligated to explain to her later that yes, we did do medical terminology earlier.
All 16 pairs of eyes leave for May Day weekend, but not without designating a chipper group of female students in the Traditional Chinese Medicine program to take me to three meals of Chinese food every day and lead me on more exploring of the Hefei area. Before they show up, Ding Qian, my future Chinese physician, takes me to watch band practice “at the Department of Humility,” according to her WeChat message. (It’s actually the Humanities Department, but how about that innovative idea, Drs. Locey, Dobkins, Frank, Outtara, Robles, Brim, and all?)
The band is fantastic. Who would expect so much musical talent in a group that’s entirely composed of medical students? I can’t get to Youtube or Vimeo from here, but maybe I can post a couple of video clips later. The traditional Chinese instruments they are mixing with Western ones lend a subtle, unique flavor to the musical pieces.
What luck! I’ll be leaving AUCM on May 21, but their concert is scheduled for May 20. They will be performing Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Given the blend of instruments, this promises to be a very unusual experience.
Portrait of a future
Brenau Nursing Major:
Ding “Arthur” Haidong
Arthur is one of the few students of mine who aren’t locals from Hefei, Anhui. A native of Chu Zhou, he is a freshman in the 2+2 Program, completing the first two years of his nursing major at AUCM before finishing undergrad studies at Brenau. Money is a concern, a thought that’s expressed by all the students in the group, but he hopes to work it out. After graduation he hopes to get employment in medical-surgical nursing at a large hospital in Shanghai or Hong Kong.
On to the May Day weekend bunch! Ivy, Amy and Helen are my escorts, with Change (that’s her name) joining later. Something tells me that these characters will be very entertaining doctors someday.
Hefei has a mountain. The students don’t know why. It sticks out from the flat terrain like Stone Mountain does near Atlanta. I suspect that the Hefei specimen is a granitic inselberg, with curved surfaces like the ones in the United States. When I arrive, I check the local bedrock and it looks like a quartzite with sharp edges.
The bus ride to the mountain is an adventure for foreigners who haven’t been to Asia or been steeped in similar squeeze-ins in Europe as I have. Almost two hours on two different bus lines to get to the western side of Hefei in breathing distance of roughly 100 instant friends on the bus.
You can only get onto the bus through the front door by paying one Yuan (15 cents), if it’s a “regular” bus, or two Yuan for one with air conditioning. With that many people packed in, of course, the a/c doesn’t really do much, and windows are opened for some relief. Still, it’s a more relaxing trip than it would be to drive a car. I’ve driven in big cities in France, in the United States (New York City, Boston, Los Angeles), and in other countries, but I’ve never seen such an oozing, honking accumulation of two-, three-, four- and more-wheeled vehicles.
The whole phenomenon moves forward like a slow mudslide, changing lanes and direction constantly, with hundreds of small objects like pedestrians and scooters breaking away from the edges and getting whirled around in the middle.
Our cars have buttons to activate the horn. However, it appears that in Anhui Province the button is wired to merely interrupt the horn for short moments, and keep it blasting otherwise.
After the long ride, it’s a short walk to the foot of the mountain, and a truly challenging climb to the top, because my medical students find a shortcut that takes us through the woods, directly up a super-steep angle and to the top at a height of maybe 600 feet about the road.
It’s not Stone Mountain, Georgia, but there is the equivalent of the rock carving, showing the equivalent of General Lee, though in a more action-oriented fashion.
The military artwork seems to be inspiring a visiting martial arts club (black & yellow t-shirts) to give an energetic, if somewhat scary, demonstration of their skills.
The mock fight attracts a crowd of onlookers, all happy to have made it to the mountaintop at 85° Fahrenheit.
I wish I could get one of their t-shirts with the cool Chinese writing on it. All the stuff in the stores has English-language print, because that’s what sells around here.
My favorite shirt inscriptions, seen in the school cafeteria:
“SICK AND TIRED” “SHOPPING MONSTER” “KEEP IT REAL”
How Change (L) made it up that dirt path, in a long skirt and wrapped under a breath mask and baseball hat, is a mystery to me. Alice(R) is dressed in a more Western fashion.
You see a lot of women wearing those masks there, in town and on campus. I thought it was because of the air pollution (which manifests itself as a persistent haze). But Change explains that it’s to keep the sun off her face, since she expressly wishes to avoid any suntan.
We haven’t gotten enough bus-riding done yet, so we hop on the #4 line and head for the zoo. Here’s Change with Ivy, again in close personal contact with 100 fellow travelers.
I never heard of Red Pandas before, but then again I’m not a zoologist. Here are Hefei’s Red Pandas.
The one that *everybody* wants to see is the Giant White Panda Bear. I can just raise the camera enough to peek over the top of the crowd, putting up with getting bumped to shoot a slightly blurry picture.
Some visitors (name unknown) come to the Hefei Zoo mainly for the drinks.
That’s all for today ! R.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
The interesting thing about a comprehensive China experience is that it isn’t a comprehensive experience. It’s more of a collection of snapshots of individual observations that accumulate in great numbers before they unite into some kind of greater mosaic.
One such mental snapshot is that the students here don’t like to be in the sun. There are greenspaces, and the weather has been warm and sunny on many days, but nobody is soaking up any rays. Parasols and surgical masks are popular, especially among the women. It’s funny to even see people in traffic, riding scooters with an umbrella on top to shield against the sunshine. I guess I can remove “basal cell carcinoma” from the medical terms quiz that we’re having tomorrow. Skin cancer is not a major threat under these circumstances.
The students are taking very well to my profiling project with mini-interviews. In fact, they are quite excited to be featured on a website at Brenau University.
The trinkets I brought along went like hotcakes: key-ring whistles for the ladies, necklace-style ID card clips, luggage tags, ballpoint pens, note pads. Mostly made in China, but greatly appreciated with the Brenau insignia added as these items return to their country of origin. I’ll need to bring even more next time since they are so popular. Resolution: be super extra nice to our admissions people for having supplied such a rich bounty of gifts.
It doesn’t seem so long ago that we learned in school about “China, a developing country.” Maybe it’s still developing in Outer Mongolia, but here in the East I’d say prosperity has arrived. Super-size shopping malls with New York-style prices.
Imported luxury automobiles instead of rickshaws (rickshaws were a Japanese invention, anyway). Audi, Volvo, Mercedes, you name it.
On the other hand, two-wheelers (bicycles, scooters, motorcycles) are still the most energy-efficient mode of transportation. I do wish more people would wear helmets for protection, though.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Portrait of a future Brenau Nursing Major: “Sissi” Chen Anting
Sissi is a first-year nursing student from Tianchang, Anhui. Her career plans go well beyond the B.S.N. degree. “I’d like to go on and earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice,” she says. “My dream is to treat patients independently, and write prescriptions.”
To escape the tainted air of the major cities in both China and the United States, Sissi would like to work in a smaller town after graduation. “It’s more beautiful, too.”
Don’t open a tanning salon in China. Not in Anhui Province, anyway, or you may starve. I had thought for sure that the surgeon-style face masks worn by so many women are to ward off air pollution. But Zhang Xinruo just assured me, positively, that it’s to avoid a suntan. Pale skin is considered more beautiful around here. She could hardly believe that American students would perch outside on a bright spring day trying to catch as much sun as possible.
Now it makes more sense that the pageant queens we talked to off campus (About what? Haven’t a clue.) were covered up to the eyelids.
Zhu Ying Ying (“Ivy”… but I like “Ying Ying” better) is submitting her wish.
I think we signed some sort of “Make a Wish Foundation” greeting card. My wish would be to win one of those gorgeous Chinese motorcycles, especially the Qingqi.
Quiz #2 in class today. They had a long holiday weekend (May 1 – Chinese Labor Day), but I had assigned a hefty bunch of pages in the medical terminology textbook. Let’s hope they did well. I need to grade all this now.
Portrait of a future
Brenau Nursing Major:
“Ron” Chen Gong Yong
Ron is a freshman in the AUCM/BRENAU 2+2 program. His home town is Lu’an in Anhui Province, a city smaller than Hefei, counting “only” 1.6 million in the built-up area and 5.6 million in the metropolis.
Ron enjoys excitement and action in the nursing profession. His goal is to work toward a doctor in nursing degree and then work in an emergency room environment.
“It’s the most professional workplace I know,” he says. “I like the fast-response work setting and its multiple tasks.”
Portrait of a future Brenau Nursing Major: “Rhonda” Huan Rong
Rhonda’s freshman year in the 2+2 program has her determined to become a nursing educator.
“I am most interested in the health and wellness topic,” she says. “I want to make a difference and practice in a social kind of setting.”
Although she’s a native of Hefei, Anhui, her career plans include a possible nurse practitioner degree at Brenau, and maybe later even work in the United States. “The program offered by Brenau University attracted my attention, and I look forward to being a student in the United States.”
Poster outside the Nursing Building: “Dream of China” – the President’s plan for national development, high- level student achievement and innovation.
University front gate is shown in the picture.
That’s all for today! RK.
Friday and Saturday, May 6 and 7, 2016
Portrait of a future Brenau Nursing Major: “Alice” Chen Amin
Alice is in her first year, but she looks forward to a number of more years to complete her nursing education. She is undecided about whether to aim for a degree in nursing, followed by a Ph.D. in education, or to go all the way toward the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Her dream is to someday be a faculty member of a nursing department.
As far as a specialization in health care, she keeps her options open by choosing “medical-surgical.” If her career path does not lead into a university, she hopes to work at a major medical center.
Friday, May 6, 2016
Breakfast with a few of the students, 7:30 a.m. in the Dining Hall as usual. One of them is quite active and interested in the course, but he is going into a major funk about his studies. It’s the pressure. The students typically have four classes a day, plus two hours of required “study hall” (twice a week, I think). Classes also meeting on Saturdays. The prospect of having to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) not too long from now, and the ISPN (International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses) and NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination for nurse) tests later on, doesn’t help. The kid is really stressed out.
What can I say to help him? Faculty can’t make the curriculum pressure go away. It’s imposed by external forces, curriculum committees, accreditation boards and the progress of society at large. The only thing I can think to tell him is that I was in college for 12 years, various degrees, three countries, and the pressure was always there. It was felt in the 1970s and ’80s just as much as it has been in the decades that followed. Once you’re in a professional career, I tell him, the performance pressure is just as strong. You want to stay employed, get a raise, get promoted, move to a nicer office on the new campus, stuff like that. The best you can do is do the best you can do, and not get ulcers when you drop the ball on some items. Strive for excellence, not perfection. At least that’s the advice I can give from my own personal vantage point.
But the medical terminology cramming has been a little dry. So I’m trying something different on Monday. For today (Friday) I’m taking the last 45 minutes to talk about earth science. “Severe weather!” Looking at tornadoes, houses ripped apart, cars laying on their roof gets their attention back, after an hour of leukocytes, bronchoscopy, laparoscopic surgery and all those other “foreign” foreign words they will encounter in health professions. As they are sitting there wide-eyed, I hurry to add that, in spite of that cataclysmic event in 1936 from which many older Gainesvillians date other important events in their lives (as in “I was born six weeks after the tornado of ’36.”), Gainesville is not in “Tornado Alley” in the United States. They’ll be safe at Brenau. The bad stuff happens mostly in Oklahoma.
Saturday, May 7, 2016
Two conversational English sessions, 90 minutes each. I’ve thrown those in at these additional times because the three regular meetings we have during the week are just enough to cover the essentials in the medical terminology textbook.
For this, we have a classroom with movable chairs now, so at least we can sit in a circle. The naked walls, floors and ceilings in every room give me tremendous trouble with hearing. There’s an echo in every room, and the sound rolls around in the ceiling spaces several times. Not helpful if you have age-related high-frequency loss. Doubling up on low frequencies due to the room acoustics makes for difficult conversation. But we work with what we have. I haven’t seen any carpeted rooms anywhere, not even in the dean’s office.
The students are predictably shy in the Saturday sessions. I loosen things up as much as possible, showing flashy pictures of Brenau, America, my native Germany and various other places (including the brutally high Maya pyramid I climbed on the Yucatan trip with the biology class in February, which was my personal epiphany for 2016). Slowly, some of my Chinese students are coming out of their shells. We have a few guests, too, medical (M.D.) students that show a delightful level of interest in anything that’s taught in English.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Medical student Xin Yu points out tons of delicious choices in the AUCM Dining Hall – but it would be helpful if I could read the signs on the windows.
It worked! Fewer sleepy faces today. Especially for a Monday! Instead of slugging through the exercises in the textbook, I show an iStan human medical simulator video that I shot a few years ago at Brenau. Then we go through the video with a handout I made beforehand, working through all the medical terms that come up in the video. Mostly patient assessment, which will be very important in their nursing careers. I want them to be fluent in all the common terms. The mood is much more upbeat than in textbook-only lessons.
Mental Note No.3124 (Food/Dinner topics): Careful with those noodle dishes. You step up to one of the many counter windows, point at what you choose from the plates on display, and a staff person cooks it for you right there.
Lots of staff behind those counters, there’s a cook at every one of about eight windows, and the dining hall has three floors. However, they like to heat the liquid part of the dishes to a full 212 degrees, and then they manage to make it even hotter. Against the laws of physics, somehow it seems to acquire the temperature of volcanic lava. There are no trays, so you get to carry your hot bowl to a table. A klutz like me, of course, has to come away with some nasty scalds on his fingers a few times.
Mental Note No.3125 (Food/Dinner topics): People don’t get a soft drink along with their meals. If you’re thirsty, they advise to have a bowl of soup. But most students carry a bottle of water at all times, and they consume it in the course of the day.
Ivy here has a special bottle, with a flower added to the water for flavor.
It’s a Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica, I think). Personally I’m mourning over the “forget-about-coffee” situation an campus. Got a jar of Nescafe in my room, though.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Big Nurses’ Day coming up May 11 and 12, with formal celebration Wednesday night! Somehow I got dragged into playing the piano for the opening act. One advantage I have over other people that got volunteered to do a performance: If it doesn’t go well, I can just leave the country.
Anybody here will assure you that the weather in Hefei is changeable. I think I can see the reason. Most of the time, there’s a white spot showing on the satellite image, stretching from Shanghai to Hefei (purple “X”). It must be caused by the jet stream shifting north and out of the way.
That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.
Portrait of a future
Brenau Nursing Major:
“Apollo” Zhao Chen
Apollo comes from Dang Shan County in the northern part of Anhui Province.
“Getting into nursing was my parents’ suggestion, because of the solid employment opportunities,” he says. But he was soon swept up into the excitement of the profession.
“My uncle’s passing from cancer some months ago showed me the importance of the nursing profession. I would like to work in ICU (intensive care unit) settings where lives are in the balance. I want to help save those lives.”
As the son of a farm family and part-time construction workers, he hopes for some much-needed scholarship support.
“I am also excited about Brenau because of the university’s reputation in the arts, and I want to engage in artwork also when I’m there.”
Footnote: A few years ago, we had another Asian student at Brenau, an M.B.A. candidate, who chose “Apollo” as his “American” name. He was a bit of a cut-up and a natural leader in his cohort.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
The students here deserve all the credit. They turned a lengthy six-week stay at a university in a spartan dorm room into a fun-filled series of activities. The same is true for the faculty. Here’s a quick catalog of the adventures within the adventure they have provided: daytime field trip to giant Lake Chao with Professor Liu and students, including boat ride, mountain climb and “adventure lunch” (Can you identify what that is you’re eating?)…. Shopping in the mega-malls of downtown Hefei…. Photo opp with the manager of the piano store just because I hammered out a few minutes of ragtime in the showroom…. A day at the City Zoo…. Formal three-course luncheon in a fancy restaurant with Dean Han and faculty…. Bicycle tour with medical (M.D.) students.
The rest of my now short time here seems equally full: There’s a nursing festival tonight… “Something” – I don’t know what – coming up this Sunday with Prof. Ada Zhang and students…. Plenty of good food that is apparently very good for me because I’ve been gaining weight.
The bottom line is, if I’m sent here again, I need to bring a lot more trinkets and little gifts, which are greatly appreciated by students and staff, although they do not even come close to compensating for the time and effort that everybody is devoting to the program and to the entertainment of Yours Truly.
P.S. To my surprise, a number of medical students students (two shown with me in the photo) that are not in our program are latching on to my group, too. Instant friends. I can only surmise that lots of young people hunger for contact with someone from another country. Or, maybe it’s just the cool Mexican t-shirt that I bought in Yucatan a few weeks ago.
I’ll elaborate some more on the social contact topic in the next blog.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
“Hefei is very urban,” said my friend Sonia Robles of the Humanities Department in a recent conversation.
Quite an understatement!
Hefei , in China’s Anhui Province, is mind-numbingly, mega-city-maximously urbanized.
Apartment buildings that lend new meaning to the term “city block”…
construction that never seems to be putting up “just one” high-rise building…
…and work in progress that will tunnel underneath most of Hefei , providing the routes for a badly needed metro subway system (bottom right in the photo).
In the first days of my visit, I thought we had simply wandered upon “rush hour”. But during daytime, I learned quickly, every hour is rush hour. Quite contrary to the term, there won’t be a rush at all when your bus or car sits in the traffic jam with several thousand other rushes. Note the characteristic little urban haze over the city, reminiscent of our own Atlanta.
Portrait of a future
Brenau Nursing Major:
“Sylvia” Zhang Xinruo
“Do you think my English will be good enough?” Sylvia asks, characteristically underestimating her abilities. As the daughter of a corporate buyer and a corporate accountant, this first-year student from Hefei City is used to planning ahead and consulting with teachers as well as peers. “I hope to find an employment opportunity in the USA someday as a family nurse”, she says.
The possibility of using principles from Chinese Medicine in combination with Western medical care holds a fascination for her.
Friday, May 13, 2016
National Nurses Day Celebration, May 11-12! It was a great show. Sketches, songs, dances, all done by nursing students. Above are some of the nice-looking performers…
…below: not so nice-looking, but making up for it in noise volume. Yours Truly, playing the piano in the opening act of the ceremony. The task was to lay a musical background onto the animated AUCM video playing on the screen.
Play well, or play loud. –Which?
Teaching the medical terminology is actually simpler than I had expected. We’re going through as much of the textbook as we can in the few sessions we’ve got. But the students need *everything* – so I’m throwing in topics that come up in the everyday work of nurses. The American epidemic of obesity. Stroke risk. Smoking cessation. Tobacco-free campus. Osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency. Sore throat, visual inspection of oral lesions… all these are common terms for us but entirely new to Chinese students.
Handing the quiz back today. A whole bunch of people made 100%. A couple of them have not had any passing grades, but they’re also not showing much interest in the course. Interesting coincidence: the ones who are willing and eager to be shown in the “future Brenau nursing student” profiles are the students who do well in class.
Besides the careful protection from solar ultraviolet, which is practiced particularly by the female students, another major cultural difference struck me early on. The students like to be in the classroom, studying intensely, 15 to 30 minutes before the session starts. Even to the point of wolfing down breakfast in the dining hall (I sometimes have to accelerate my cereal to keep up) just to arrive in class early. Not likely among the non-Asian students of Brenau, or any other U.S. university I’m familiar with.
For 8:30 a.m. classes in the U.S., the most dedicated students walk in at 8:29. The majority get there at 8:30, and our more insouciant young American scholars arrive at any time thereafter.
SPOTTED ON CAMPUS
T-shirt slogan of the day: PLEASE FEED THE ARTIST
Portrait of a future
Brenau Nursing Major:
“Jack” Liu Zhang
Many Chinese students like to wear jackets and t-shirts with flashy inscriptions and references to rock festivals. First-year nursing student Jack is more the quiet, friendly “guy next door”. As the son of a factory worker and a homemaker, he’s the first academician in the family, and the object of the paternal pride that comes with this role. It also comes with great responsibility, so Jack hopes to expand on his future nursing degree by adding graduate credentials. “I can work in a hospital, but I’d really like to teach health science, especially pediatrics, at a university, “ he says.
In his free time, Jack enjoys basketball and the wildly popular LOL (League of Legends) online game.
Not in the 2+2 program, but way too nice to pass up:
Profile of “Ivy” Zhu Yingying and Zhang Xiaoyu
Zhu “Just call me Ivy” Yingying and Zhang Xiaoyu are students of Chinese Medicine at AUCM, so a few years from now they will both be physicians.
Xiaoyu is eager to work in a medical center in Hefei (pop. 7 million) because there are more learning opportunities than she’d find in smaller towns. Thanks to the medical knowledge she’s accumulating, she has already been assisting her parents with health maintenance and wellness advice.
“It was my father who suggested Chinese Medicine,” says Yingying. “This discipline already knows cures for many common illnesses, and it achieves them with fewer side effects than Western methods, and without relying so much on chemicals.” Both students felt enormously inspired by Dr. Fu Jian, a visiting professor. Their goal is to eventually move to Shanghai or Beijing , applying Chinese Medicine protocols for pain reduction and cancer cures.
In the evening, Ivy (Ying-Ying… what a nice-sounding name!), Xiaoyu and “two L’s” Hellen, the third in that lively trio, take me out to get dinner beyond the campus gate. The six-lane city street comes to an abrupt dead-end there, and dozens of vendors with battle-worn motor tricycles are selling traditional foods, cooked on the spot, day and night. Chicken, pork, and anything else that can be steamed or fried, right off the propane burner on the tuk-tuk. That moniker is actually from Thailand, but the Chinese students like “tuk-tuk” right away when I introduce the name.
The three are working on a class presentation about doctor-patient relations, and ask shyly if I might be willing to help by looking over their script, and smoothing out the English.
They buy me a large bowl of stuffed dumplings, and a cup of chilled gooseberry juice (it’s quite tasty, really!), so how could I say no?
If you want your food even fresher than that, you can always go to the farmers market near the lake.
Watch your fish being gutted while it’s still wiggling. But I really prefer the dumplings and gooseberry juice.
Songs, dances, costumes, sketches… an incredibly flashy variety show of talent at the Nurses Day celebration.
To wit – these are nursing students, not dance or fashion design majors!
Two of my 2+2 dinner buddies: Sissy (Chen Anting) and Rhonda (Huang Rong).
Portrait of a future Brenau Nursing Major: “Shirley” Xie Wenli
2016 marks Shirley’s first year at AUCM. Her father is an engineer and her mother is a homemaker, all from Hefei City.
Once she has her nursing degree, Shirley would like to work on the birthing or a neonatal station of a hospital because “I like babies very much.”
In addition to nursing work with newborns and infants, she’s interested in psychology, particularly the counseling side of the discipline. She doesn’t yet know if her university education will go beyond the BSN degree, but given her multitude of interests, it’s likely.
The USA strikes her as a “friendly, open society”, where she will acquire skills that can serve both countries.
Quite an honor: Photo op with the senior faculty at the end of the Nurses Day Ceremony.
Present author is the oldest dude in the bunch. I felt bad about covering the student behind me, but the photographer made us close up tight.
I haven’t mentioned the electric teapot that’s in every room of the International Dorm, along with a 1-quart thermos. A really useful accessory ! It’s not advisable to drink water straight from the faucet, so I can boil it and drink it hot (Chinese style), or let it cool off first. Also great to make a fast cup of Nescafe. Now that I’ve found the JoyMart that’s about a mile from campus, I can keep my room stocked with the little “2+1” instant pouches. Still don’t know what that means, but they make a decent cup of instant coffee.
I just read this on the WorldWatch Institute website: “Formerly the ‘kingdom of bicycles,’ China is expected to add as many as 220 million new vehicles between now and 2020.” Here on campus, bicycles are still ubiquitous and parked in long rows or small mountains. But the most popular vehicles are electric scooters, which I haven’t seen in the U.S. They are quick and silent. Of course, they have something in common with the electric vehicles in Georgia: As long as the electricity is produced by coal-fired power plants, there is very little net gain on the clean-air front.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
The game works! Two optional Saturday “Learning English” sessions. Once again, it’s attracting half a dozen students from outside our program. We play the “Hot Seat” game:
Divide the group into two teams. Two students sit with their backs to the projection screen. For each team, 1 word is displayed on the screen. The teams take turns giving verbal clues, in English, to their players in the hot seat. No gestures allowed, and the word must not be spoken in any language. The Hot Seat players take turns making guesses.
The team that scores five correct guesses first wins the game. Simple terms to be used (the students find it challenging to make up clues in English): iPhone; tree; box; table; bicycle; book; wall; soup; garden; train station; bus stop; …
The students are royally entertained for over an hour, and really get into the excitement of it. I should have some prizes to give out if we do this again.
Resolutions for future instructional activity of this kind:
(1) bring video clips showing nursing situations (Youtube is not accessible here, and other video sources also seem to be nonfunctional; use the clips to teach the medical vocabulary that applies to the action shown;
(2) for conversational English, use group games, have some simple prizes to generate extra enthusiasm.
Having my entire Brenau picture archive with me helps a lot too, I’m showing lots of images of campus life, athletics, student groups, sororities, classes, and so forth. This group is predictably excited about the many international students and activities I’ve been showing.
It’s a lengthy walk to the JoyMart to stock up with more Nescafe, but one sees the most interesting vehicles.
The “streets” near the campus are really pretty fast 6-lane highways, so one has to admire the strong nerves displayed by the slower drivers and walkers.
Quite incongruous: hand-drawn trailer, on a road where there are huge trucks and buses roaring past, horns blaring.
Whatever this is – he gets to where he’s going.
My tree-lined route to the JoyMart.
I could swear those high-rises in the background were less than half that height last week. All construction work seems to be pedal-to-the-metal around here.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Big kudos to Ada Zhang and her fiancé. She’s the English teacher associated with this project. They take me to the Geology Museum and the History Museum in Hefei. Both institutions are very modern, well curated and fascinating to explore. The bus ride to the spot where we meet (Old Campus of AUCM downtown) is another rendition of the Hefei Symphony for Horns and Mixed Orchestra.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Last one! The 6-week course term is coming to an end tomorrow. A number of students can’t be talked out of bringing farewell presents, so I’m discarding boxes and wrapping pretty little porcelain tea cups in my t-shirts, to be squeezed into the suitcase. Good thing I’m leaving all the books behind that I brought.
Some colleagues told me they don’t know what that clear brandy is that the Chinese like to use for their frequent toasts? One sip and I know it. It’s a German Obstschnaps. A.k.a. “Obstler”. Available and popular just about anywhere in Southern Germany. My grandpa used to make it in the middle of the night, right after 1945, chiefly for the occupying U.S. Army troops. It bought him a number of badly needed favors back then. He was about one step up from a sharecropper. His two strawberry-blonde daughters (one of them my mother) were flirting with the GIs but ended marrying German boys, and that’s why it’s possible for me to be in Hefei, sampling Anhui liquor and finding it identical to Grandpa’s fruit Schnaps. (What they call “Schnapps” in the USA doesn’t resemble the German or Chinese product in any way).
Regarding medical terminology (remember that one? It’s the reason I’m here), I have moved away from the textbook for the time remaining. It wants to catalogue every disease known to humans. And although I’m a science geek, not nursing faculty, I’m convinced that what the students need the most are terms dealing with everyday nursing practice – not rare pathology terms and exotic endocrinological disorders. So Friday’s worksheet deals with a more-or-less random selection of “routine” nursing vocabulary… diabetes, injections, oxygen, and the like.
Friday’s worksheet deals with a more-or-less random selection of “routine” nursing vocabulary… diabetes, injections, oxygen, and the like.
Same time, same place (the intramural fields), but the sword isn’t part of the graduation rituals. Used in Kung Fu practice. They ask me to play along, but I’m deficient in even the most elementary moves of face-kicking, 360-degree rotation with double fist impact, and mock amputations using this 24-inch blade. Just a color picture will be fine, thankyouverymuch.
Saying goodbye to Lilly and Ding Qian too (photo at left). Ding Qian (“Flying Coach” shirt) has been a most dependable guide and helper throughout these 6 weeks. She’s a medical student, not a nursing major. If I ever get sick, I want her to be my doctor.
Incidentally, it’s impossible to find a t-shirt around here with something printed on it in Chinese. English is all the rage.