Week 4 – Nov. 12 to 18, 2016

Nov 22, 2016
Rudi Kiefer

The sky over Wuhu, China, mid-November.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.

Foreign Language building on the new campus of Anhui Normal University in Wuhu, Anhui, China.
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.

You woman and Chinese social media logos. From thought bubble "Check the social media." From subtitle "I don't really know what to do there... I guess I'll have to think about it."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.

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.

Dr. Kiefer's class in Wuhu, Anhui, China.
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.