It’s Been a Quiet Day in Dalian

Well, except that there’s a loud-speaking voice carrying into our ninth-floor apartment from the college next door. No doubt, it’s another exercise in, well, exercise and patriotism and precision marching for the young people of Qing Gong Xue Xiao. (This means something like the School of Light Industry, and as far as I can tell it’s where the future barbers, seamstresses and short-order cooks of Dalian come from.) Like all college and university freshmen — though some of these kids look about 15, and may have simply not qualified to get into high school — their first few weeks of school are spent marching, shouting patriotic slogans, and singing team -building songs.

No complaints this month from a guy whose teaching load, at the University for Accountants down the road, is half freshmen classes. I started teaching on August 27, but won’t see my first-year writers until the 24th of September. Today I had only one class, a group of third-year Finance students who were bold enough (or sufficiently confused or apathetic) to choose my “British and American Literature” elective. It’s mainly a poetry class, though we have started with the foundations of that literature: the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Early scouting report: this crew is much livelier and more interested than my two sections of Western History & Culture, which along with the history buffs and the curious seem to contain numerous students looking for a quiet place to hide. But it’s never a quiet day in Howdy’s class, so they’re being forced to get their naps elsewhere.

Chinese students are most often reserved, even docile. Despite their well-earned reputation for hard work — nobody crams and memorizes like these guys! — it is hard, especially in a second language, to engage genuine interest and a sense of active participation. That’s why I’m leaving Lit class on a minor high, because it’s as lively and participatory as any class I’ve had in my three previous years teaching in Chinese universities.

The big news today, though, and the reason I had to hustle to get to Lit class on time, is that I finished, just after noon today, transferring all 360-something pieces from Version 1.0 to the new V. 2.0 site-in-preparation. Whew! Whiz-kid Dan told me I’d have to do this manually, as my rickety old site’s program was rather arcane and mysterious to him. Aside from an exercise in determination, it was also interesting to me to have a look at all the writing that I’ve done over the last several years, and especially to remember what I was obsessing about, tickled with or just bumping into back then. It was a good chance, too, to appreciate my own stuff; it mostly didn’t make me cringe, and a couple of ’em made me cry. Anyway, you may be reading this on a new, more attractive and more easily driven model of Cool.

And welcome. (Back.)

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