Thursday, August 29, 2013

Old Town Jiading

For two weeks, a small town about one hour outside Shanghai called Jiading was my home.  Due to the long distance from Shanghai, the Jiading teacher trainers stayed in a hotel outside the entrance of Old Town Jiading.

FYI, I did not stay in the O'Clock room.  I lived in the lap of luxury in a suite.

My suite came with a fully stocked minibar that included his and her underwear and other goodies that were more suitable for the O'Clock room.
Luckily, our hotel was in a great location so when I wasn’t writing with my teachers, I had a few minutes to check out Old Town.  Old Town reminded me of Suzhou.  On one side of our hotel there was a charming section that was littered with tourists, street food vendors, and canals.

Built in 1205, the Faghua Pagoda was considered to be the center of town.
I was surprised that there were no boats in the canals in Old Jiading.

The only things floating in the canal were stray pieces of trash.

This is a snapshot of Old Town at night.  I was surprised to see so many people in a "small" town of 1,000,000.
Food vendors sold a wide variety of street munchies.  

My favorite Jiading food was double fried beef, aka birthday beef.  Beef was thinly sliced, rolled in breadcrumbs, double fried, and topped with mayo and sprinkles.  It was served with an egg citrus sauce. It tasted much better than it sounds.
One block down from Old Town stood a Confucian Temple, Imperial Exam Museum, and park.

I loved this statue of a scholar observing a woman working on her laptop.  It made me wonder what Confucius would think of online learning.  

According to my friend Mandy, one is supposed to rub the bottom of the turtle statues for good luck.  That would explain all of the turtles around Shanghai.

Like many other temples I have seen, the grounds surrounding the temple were immaculate and peaceful. 
Confucius sits in the center of the temple.

Test takers leave prayerful messages on a rack next to Confucius around exam time.
Located next to the Confucius temple, the Imperial Exam Museum contains exhibits showing how one prepared to take the Imperial Exam.

In this exhibit, a mother says goodbye to her son who is leaving to study for the Imperial Exam.
The museum has an extensive collection of items used to cheat on the exam.  One student wrote his answers on this vest before it was confiscated.  I am impressed that the cheater was able to fit so much content on an article of clothing! 

In this exhibit, the student has passed his exam and is leaving the academy to return home.

In the park outside the temple, there is a lake that houses paddle boats and a gazebo frequently used for concerts. 
If you are interested getting an “Old China” feel for an afternoon, visit Old Town Jiading.  To get there, take Metro Line 11 until it ends at the North Jiading station, and then catch a quick cab to the temple.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Jiading Writing Project

During the summer of 2006, I participated in a graduate writing class that profoundly changed me personally and professionally.  During the Lowcountry Writing Project, I spent four weeks learning how to enjoy writing and how to teach the love of writing.  Each day I wrote in my journal, learned new teaching techniques, practiced different forms of writing, and shared my pieces with my peers.  It was a creative teacher’s dream come true! 

When I was charged with teaching local High School English teachers how to teach English writing this summer, I desperately wanted to recreate as much of the LWP as I could.  I also wanted to infuse the class with Western Culture and best ESL practices. So, for ten days I taught Chinese teachers how to write, read, play, and connect with the English language. 

Every morning, we started class by responding to writing prompts in our journals. 

After journal time, we learned our idioms of the day.  In this picture, the idiom "let off steam" was illustrated.

As a part of this class, students took turns writing recaps of what had happened the previous day.  In this picture, Lisa shared her thoughts about day three.
During Qixi, Chinese Valentine's Day, teachers learned all about speed dating and how they could incorporate speed dating like activities in their classroom.  In this picture the class went speed dating!

After answering a grammar question correctly for her team, Bud pulled a Jenga tile to determine how many points they would receive.
Woods wrote a letter of complaint to the previous home owner after watching Walter's kitchen fall apart in a clip from The Money Pit.

Maggie shot a target on the blackboard to determine how many points her team would receive.  FYI, toy guns are permitted in Chinese schools. 

Lily Lee shared her shopping list poem during Writer's Workshop.  This class was the first time many of the teachers had heard of or participated in a Writer's Workshop.  They enjoyed the time to hone their writing skills.
Lily Lu illustrated her small group's fairy tale.

Many teachers mentioned they enjoyed surfing the internet, so I conducted a western social networking lesson.  Then the teachers taught me all about Chinese social networking.  After that, they learned some ways to incorporate Chinese social networking in the English writing classroom.  In this picture, teachers are connecting with me via WeChat, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook.
The teachers mentioned they love music, dancing, and singing so I taught them how to infuse music in the writing classroom.  We wrote songs, sang traditional American folk songs, and danced the Cha Cha Slide. 
One of the requirements of the course was each teacher had to submit a piece of writing to be included in the course anthology.  On the last day of the course, we held a book signing/ performance party!
I was so proud of my students!  They did an incredible amount of work over the two week course, and produced a wonderful anthology! 
I had a great time writing and learning with my Jiading teachers.  Many of them have vowed to keep me updated as to what they are doing in their class via WeChat.  I can’t wait to hear what they are up to!  Bring on the school year!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Take Me to the Movies

My Mother was right when she said one of the simple pleasures in life is a cool movie theater on a hot summer day.  Unfortunately before last Friday, I had never set foot in a Chinese Movie theater.   Don’t get me wrong; I have caught up with western movies while I have been in Shanghai.  My local DVD man makes sure expats are hooked up with the latest and greatest flicks.  (And TV shows for that matter.) Why go to the movies when you can see the latest and greatest hits for 12 RMB ($2) in the comfort of your own home?

My movie store recently added a nail salon.  This is China.

The movie store is the place to go when you want to catch up on all of your favorite shows.
So many movies...such little time.

A few weeks ago, an email advertising the Shanghai Film Museum caught my attention.  I knew many movies have been shot in Shanghai, but I had no clue that there was a museum completely devoted to the big screen.  I had to check it out!

80 RMB will get you a behind the scenes look at Shanghainese movie history.

My friend, John, and I got to walk the electric red carpet.

After walking the red carpet, I learned all about different Chinese actors, directors, and technicians.

This diorama shows Nanjing Xi Lu as a movie set in the 30's.
The museum has an old Chinese movie camera display.  I loved the movie can decor.
Interactive movie tables allow visitors to learn about electric shadows (movies) made in Shanghai.

After learning about Shanghainese film, visitors can voice over Chinese movies.  I can't read Chinese Characters yet, so I created a very amusing dialogue in English.

Kids can have fun with green screen technology.

Visitors can have fun making sound effects.

Artists create cartoons on site.

In the olden days, actors and actresses were responsible for providing their own costumes.

The US has the Oscars; China holds the Golden Rooster awards every other year. Why the rooster?  The first award ceremony was held during the year of the rooster.
After an enjoyable afternoon at the museum, I was itching to go to the theater to see my first Chinese movie.  I admit, I was afraid of heading to the movies in Shanghai. How would I know what time the movie was showing? How would I order a ticket without speaking the language?  Would the popcorn be the same?  How would I know which theater to enter?  A process that is so simple in the States suddenly seemed so daunting. 

It then occurred to me that I was being completely ridiculous, so I immediately headed to the Yonghua Cinema City to catch a flick. 
Yonghua Cinema City was a nice place to catch a movie.
  In an effort to decease potential confusion, I snapped a picture of the poster advertising my movie to show the nice man working at the box office.  I matched the title on the movie poster with the title on the marquis and deduced that the movie I wanted to see, Tiny Times 2, was about to start in 15 minutes.  Perfect!  I creeped to the open box office window and showed the worker the poster and muttered,
“Wo yao yi ge Tiny Times 2”  (I want one for Tiny Times 2.)
“You want one for Tiny Times Two at 3:30?” the man asked.  YAYAYAYAYAY!  He spoke English! 
            “Dui.  Yes.” 
            “Yi Bai Kuai”.  (100 kuai, or $16 USD.)
            I handed the man 100RMB and headed to the concession stand to get some popcorn and a drink.  I told the counter man that I wanted a large, cold Pepsi and pointed at the popcorn.  30 RMB ($5 USD) was not too expensive for a mid afternoon snack. 

Chinese popcorn is candy coated.  Imagine popcorn with a M&M shell.  I am not a huge fan.

            I headed to theater 4 and found my assigned seat.  (In China, theaters assign you a seat when you purchase a movie ticket.)  For the next two hours I lost myself in the Chinese equivalent of Sex and the City.  (Except in the girls in Sex and the City never slept with each other’s boyfriends, and the movie took place in Shanghai.)  Miraculously, the movie was subtitled both in Chinese and English so I knew exactly what was happening.  According to my Chinese friend Michelle, most of the movies at this theater have English subtitles.  I will definitely be hitting the cinema in the near future! 

For more information about the venues mentioned in this post, click the links below:

I hope to see you at the movies!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The NEW Nerdiest Place on Earth: ChinaJoy 2013

Last January I claimed to have found the nerdiest place on earth, Modern Electronics City.  I am sorry, my friends.  Last weekend I visited a convention that made Modern Electronics City look like the popular kid in class.  In an effort to learn more about Chinese culture, I visited the China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference.

According to Time Out Shanghai, the China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference (aka ChinaJoy) is Southeast Asia’s largest electronic entertainment expo.  For 100 RMB, visitors could see the latest and greatest video games.  Mind you, I had no interest in seeing the video games.  I wanted to go see the Cosers!  For those of you who don’t know, Cosers (short for Cosplayers), are people who dress up as their favorite Manga, video game, and cartoon characters.  So, a few of us crunched in a cab and headed to the Shanghai New International Expo Center. 

Cosplayers pose for the smartphone paparazzi.

I was surprised that we didn’t see many people in costumes when we first entered the center.  After we wound through 5 hot, vacant warehouses we were greeted by what I like to call techno mayhem.  Thousands of male video game lovers were shoving their way to stages to check out the barely dressed booth babes.  Hordes of costumed fans were posing for pictures while advertising their favorite games.    Emcees were hosting different contests and variety shows.  Fans were testing the latest and greatest games on jumbotron sized displays. The combination of heat, Chinese barking, and costumes made for a fascinating time.  Here are my highlights from the expo.

I thought about buying one of these wigs for about 30 seconds.  The heat convinced me to pass.
I was loving the blue hair!

This guy had the right idea.

Many game companies broadcast their games on jumbotrons.  Notice the real life characters posing with the game.

The purple reapers really creeped me out.  I had no idea My Little Pony met the Grim Reaper.

 So many souvenirs, such little time!
A Fruit Ninja fan struts her stuff on the jumbotron. 
A couple of characters take a break from the madness.

Many fans were very eager to get their pictures with the booth babes.

The fruit ninja chops me on the head.

Black Gold had quite an impressive display!

The Black Gold folks brought in a Chinese heavy metal band to promote their games.

Who needs a booth babe when you can have a zombie?

After spending a couple hours at ChinaJoy, I was completely exhausted.  I went home, and was asleep on the couch by 6pm.  I had a great time, but I don’t think I will be a Coser anytime soon.