65 - Letters to and from China | Scoins.net | DJS

65 - Letters to and from China

This is the content of Facebook messages between Jason and myself from August ’07 to July ’08.  I have fixed spelling and typos and the grammar so that Word almost stops complaining. It is quite long, but covers a lengthy period, including: David being fresh to China; Jason’s simultaneous visit to North America; various tales from Xi’an; the slow move to Nanjing; Jason’s life in Wales and qualification. Webpages that relate to this include Week0-2, the City Wall Race, Earthquake and Sports Day.

I added this late in 2010.
DJS 20101003

Re-reading the page in 2021 I see that a lot of the formatting fails and have tried to repair this. Imagining this read by someone who knows neither of us, you can perhaps tell we know each other well. Post 2012 we have not managed communication and that is as much a feature of the pressures of being a medic (him, not me) as it is avoidance of social media, which is a bad thing for both teachers and doctors. Thus the minor interactions that amount to checking up you still exist are missed and so the prompt to get around to writing at this sort of length simply disappear. I also observe that for the period covered, we were both quite definitely single and that, by the end of the discourse, this was no longer so.                                  DJS 20211203

David Scoins August 1, 2007 at 1:58am

I’m working on photos this week. School is technically shut but when it stops raining (continental weather means nothing is done by halves, this is hour 20 of rain) that may be a good thing to do. There are some in the essay on the first few days, Week 0 or 1 on the website; I have discovered I have vast space on mac.com for public photo parking and shall investigate that tomorrow.
Everywhere is too hot, too humid and I (even I, slim Jim) spend most of every day sweating. Sleep is especially uncomfortable.
Yuk. Apparently, the rest of the year is cooler: I hope so.

Jason O'Neill August 9, 2007 at 8:09pm

I'm having the same problem with heat, although the USA is good insofar as every building (including the "historic" monuments) has air conditioning. Currently I am heading north, hoping that the weather gets cooler as I go.
I visited the site of the declaration of independence and construction of the constitution today, they were far less impressive than you may have thought. Interestingly though the US celebrates the wrong day as it was the 2nd July that the continental congress actually accepted a motion proposing independence from Great Britain. Other than that most of the sites have a distinctly "Disney" feel to them and apart from the aforementioned fact I have yet to learn anything from the guides, they have a very poor knowledge of the sites and don't know the answers to any of the questions.
The food though, is very cheap and not too bad. If it wasn't for the fact that I am avoiding any of the transport systems and walking everywhere I would be gaining weight at an exponential rate.
I shall endeavour to post a few photographs myself in the coming weeks.
Toodle pip

David Scoins August 10, 2007 at 1:27am

Your comment on guides' knowledge fascinating and worth sharing with a comedian such as Eddie Izzard. I wonder if one can do that? Some detail, a piece of a conversation, and I will try to send it to him. Your fee, my commission. You're looking for people called intellectuals, but you (like me) would not recognise yourself as one. It's the one-eyed man being king, and demonstrates the possibility of an enormous range in educated ability in the US. Are we quite as bad, or is the observation based on an assumption that tour guides are a world constant? Having recently been to Blenheim, where the guides couldn't be caught out; the Fitzwilliam Museum (where I found the knowledge of the security guards daunting, let alone the curators; or the military museum in Portsmouth, where I foxed them with what proved actually to be a hard question; these suggest that the range of standard in the UK is pretty narrow. How then is this difference quantified in the US of A? Can you comment further on their education levels? For that matter, just how easy is it to escape the system, for you would agree with me that we sort of get swept off to university — it is a conscious decision to not go, and finding circumstances that prevent going are relatively difficult, are they not?
Last, where did you find an internet connection? Really very easy, like WiFi in your motel room, or the adventure of an internet café (recent, Cambridge, and complicated in my case)?

Jason O'Neill August 10, 2007 at 6:06pm

On the internet issue, I'm using the free hotel computers at the moment. (I couldn't find a hostel in Philadelphia that had space so had to resort to a cheapish hotel.)  Philadelphia however, is attempting to become the first "wifi" city, the City Council/what ever they call them over here are implementing a programme to provide free wifi for everyone over the entire city centre; pretty impressive. In DC I was staying in a pretty grotty hostel but even that had free medium fast connection and a free wifi connection. I haven't tried using my PDA 'phone yet with any of the connections as it is so small and you very rarely have to wait to use a computer but I will let you know when I do.

I'm not altogether sure on the guides’ level of education but given that one suggested that he had been doing the job for 15 years I gather he wasn't just a part-timer. The most disturbing thing though is their knowledge of European history, mostly suggesting that we, at the time of the American revolution were a nation ruled by an absolute monarch. I didn't really want to tell the guide in front of a large audience that we were a constitutional monarchy, with power split between the monarchy and parliament since the English civil war, but it did irritate me that this image of the UK is being propagated by supposedly informed individuals. That brings me on to another point, the population that I have spoken to is pretty polarised on international knowledge. One of the first questions that I get asked is obviously where I'm from; I tend to respond with the UK. This foxes the majority of people and I get responses differing from "Oh England" to "Where is that?" Once I have navigated this opening gambit I then don't know where to pitch the next bit of information. People either know exactly where I mean, as one retired USN chap did as he had been to Cardiff, to "Is Wales a real place?”.
As far as I can tell, the most aware people that I have met (so far) have been US military (I also met a very aware US Army corps of engineers major on the train) and the least aware have been younger individuals.
On the question of University education, as far as I can tell (mostly from the plethora of TV adverts for loans for going to college) your further education prospects are very much determined by your access to cash.
Another thing that I have noticed which would be very controversial is that the vast majority of people visiting all the historic sites (about 99%) are white Americans. Black faces are very, very uncommon. I don't know what this means but given the large black population in the US you would expect far more people to visit the particular sites that I have been to.
I'm now off to run (well amble) up the same steps that Rocky does when he is training in all of the films. There is an art gallery at the top that I quite fancy visiting.
Keep me updated on what's going on your end.
Toodle Pip

David Scoins August 11, 2007 at 2:34am

I have something similar, but being Chinese, the differences are noticeable.
First, one must recognise that I am talking to a limited and biased sample, being those Chinese with enough education and confidence to speak in English. Given that, they recognise Britain and UK (I haven't checked out GB) as synonyms, they have heard of the constituent nations and have heard of several major cities. Yet they need to ask where London, Birmingham and Scotland are. I describe Cornwall as being the bit pointing off to the US and as often as not they recognise there is such a bit. For the purpose of conversation, Plymouth is in Cornwall (where it should be). If I draw an outline of Britain, half recognise what I have drawn, and the other half ask, from the context, if that is Britain. When I get them to do the equivalent, China is either a rectangle or an ellipse. This is the sort of geography I want to see brought back into the curriculum!!  The range of skin tones here is a something I had only noticed subliminally. Negroid tones are very rare, but shades from a very washed out white to Pakistani dark are easily seen. More noticeable to me are the tribal facial features, but I wonder if I detect bias (in my talking sample) away from darker skin. I am darker than many of my fellow pedestrians, the exceptions being those that clearly work outside all day, who are the same sort of healthy colour as we’d expect in Britain. The pale are very pale; this is accentuated by the monotonic colouring across the face. The TV adverts rave about quality of skin (they generally excel compared to us) and elegance (which is a state of mind, apparently).  I saw my first fellow exercisers yesterday in a week of doing training at the same sort of time of day. Exercise is something recognised as a good thing but is rarely attempted. I have visited sports clubs but sadly rate as completely off the scale against the sort of people I have met so far. We will understand better with time. I haven't been out early enough to see any of the static gentle stretching shown in Eastern movies. 

Knowledge of history: well, my landlord is a student of it and has a decent grasp of Chinese history — we are going to have some good conversations about this. In general, though, this is a non-subject at school, dropped by all at around year 9 and not offered as an A-level subject (at all, he said). Wow. The burgeoning economy is becoming an excuse for all sorts of short-cuts. Quality control, impoliteness, speed, temper. I can tell you Chinese is THE language for argument; I have overheard spousal conversations and I'd swear that such tones in English would be indicating divorce court in the next seven days. French or Italian for lovers. Yet I don't think there is much precision in the language. I was watching the Battle of Midway (Charlton Heston inter alia) in Chinese; the range of voices used for the dubbing were are all too high and very similar, and the language allowed no context. Ni Hao is hello; it is the same translation, said the same way, whether the equivalent is Hi, hiya, or hello Sir. The Japanese (in the film) were rendered in Chinese too. Hilarious is when a film is supposed to have unintelligible jabber e.g. a Filipino servant having a rant. Sometimes the subtitles indicate (I guess) the language (in brackets) and sometimes it is translated completely. I cannot see how they determine which is which and I think the translations, while hilarious, are in error. European French, Spanish or Italian in a British film might be translated, do you think? But not if the film is 40 years old? 

Laugh: My son's comment on my question (“what is two and two”) was "Syntactically misleading". 

Ouch.     David

Jason O'Neill August 15, 2007 at 1:41am

I'm currently in Toronto which is a far more culturally aware and diverse city than anything I have yet experienced in the USA. I expect this to change when I visit New York though. I'm off to a baseball game tomorrow before heading to Boston, then NY before going back to DC to start my placement.
North America is indeed a lot more inexpensive than Europe, however I think I'm going to experience a cash flow crisis before the end of this month. I may have to cut out the eating to pay for my accommodation. I don't think it will kill me though.
I've put up some photos on here now, some of them are just silly but there are a few good ones.
I now have to try and organise myself to get to the Falklands while I have an internet connection.
Toodle Pip

David Scoins August 15, 2007 at 3:11am

Please explain Falklands reference unless already on facebook profile (I want two screens again !! Yor spilling iz orfl, but I'm getting used to it. Anthony Ng is in Toronto - not far ahead of you at school, so is Polly Lam. Anthony’s facebook photo is a small baby, which will help find him in the 384 people of the same name. Page 4 on my screen, I think. I added photos of the locality, but by seeking them on the net, not by taking them myself.
Hope you enjoy NY. Be safe !

Jason O'Neill August 15, 2007 at 4:52pm

I'm finding one of the problems with writing on here is that once you have pressed "send" you can not edit what appears. That coupled with the little box that you have to write in has crippled my editing process, thereby allowing more errors to get through than I would normally allow.
Once I return from the US, approx' 28th September I'm heading to the Falklands courtesy of the Army for a general practice/surgery placement. I'm going because it's one of those places that, if I don't visit with the military, then I will never do so and because all my flights are paid for again. It's only for three weeks though so it shouldn't be too bad. I intend to visit all the battlefields and try and get a bit fitter for the upcoming rugby season courtesy of a PTI down there.
I'm now off to see a baseball game, I will let you know what it's like.

David Scoins August 16, 2007 at 1:46am

I agree completely with your comment on editing. I think I must try some other ways to do this. On my wall, I have typically deleted two previous attempts before catching all the errors I recognise. That's why I bemoan having only one working screen at the moment - apart from the dyslexia my fingers keep adding to typing.
I hadn't realised your placement was so short; I had imagined six months minimum. In which case going to the Falklands is a very good idea and effectively multiplies the experience you gain !
Got my first spam / defraud letter on facebook today. So reported it. If it repeats, I shall get him removed from the net, now I know how to arrange it. And I have had two approaches from (much too young) females that I have never met. Suspicious. Yahoo doesn't work in China - new webpage on this.

Jason O'Neill August 19, 2007 at 6:38am

I have never got any spam on facebook, or indeed requests from young ladies of any description. I have had the odd bloke that I have never met try and add me but I just ignore them. How do you get people excluded?
What other sites are banned in China? Are any important ones that you would regularly use banned?
I'm currently in Boston but am yet to actually go into the town. I will let you know what it is like as and when.

David Scoins August 19, 2007 at 9:22am

In short (much too hot and humid today, I keep falling asleep):
Essay on censorship written and published, but more research is anticipated. Flickr and yahoo! biggest problem(s) found. One of my difficulties is that, if it works and it’s new to me, I don't know what isn't working. Discovered today that second-hand books through Amazon won't deliver, but new books (Amazon central, so to speak) will. That's a pain, given this looks like my only way of getting new reading matter.
There are several obvious ways of exclusion on facebook, most of them visible from the privacy controls. I have had someone's web existence removed by reporting (the singular) them to web authorities in the past. Detail available if you want.
Ways of web censorship are covered in the essay and largely obvious. Properly, no: no other sites I would usually use are banned. But I can't get streaming to work as I am used to it, so the BBC material I was hoping to watch isn't going to happen unless I can dramatically improve bandwidth (working on 'fibre' at the moment).
Having real problems with language progress. I need the resources of a school to improve. Fortunately, not long now... When did I last WANT term to start? Ever?
Have you noticed how well this thread reads? Almost intellectual (horrid connotations associate with that word; why?)
Have you checked to see if Hilary is in Boston or in China?

David Scoins August 19, 2007 at 1:37pm

I have been reading about the Treasure Voyages of the Chinese in 1420-23. There is a wealth of evidence that says they reached the Falklands several times in the early 1400s and used Mount Adam as a significant point on their maps. Columbus had copies of their (the Chinese) maps before he sailed to the States . Thus any argument that the Argentinians may have in ownership of the Falklands is preceded by Chinese ones! Gavin Menzies; "1421". It's so good I bought another copy and gave my original to Jess & Pete.
The DNA evidence on (just chickens, there's an awful lot of evidence) the chickens in South America shows that the chicken came from Asia before Pizzarro reached the Incas. The black chicken found all over S Am is originally off the Treasure Ships. Wow.

Will write a synopsis and turn it into an essay, giving Menzies lots of plugs…..

Jason O'Neill August 26, 2007 at 4:20am

Sounds good, perhaps I should give it a read. I have a photo that may shed some light on the lack of education that some Americans demonstrate, I will try and post it ASAP. I’m currently in the middle of a massive Washington DC thunderstorm in an apartment with a Peruvian and Chinese doctor; the conversation is interesting. I also have a new appreciation for the language barrier that you are facing - it has been a long time since I have had to interact with an oriental person who didn’t speak good English.
Starting work on Monday with an induction, I’m getting a bit apprehensive now as to whether I have sufficient knowledge so am going to the library tomorrow for a bit of last-minute swotting.
Boston was an interesting place; I did all the touristy stuff and discovered that of all the US cities that I have visited it was the closest to having a ¨European¨ feel (if that is possible). The streets were not built on a grid pattern and I managed to find buildings that owed more to C17 Britain than to any American architecture. In terms of atmosphere, it was also the city that I felt safest in. ‘Safe’ being a feeling that I haven’t experienced very much in the US. After Boston I returned to New York and stayed for one day, during this time I went up the Empire State building; it took me two hours queuing to get up, I was at the top for ten minutes when the visibility was less than one mile (still sufficient to see plenty, but not to take any decent photographs) and then another hour queuing to get down. In short I wish that I had spent my time more effectively.
Following three weeks of travelling I am now dying to get my running shoes on. After the end of the month (for financial reasons) I’m going into town and buying a whole set of kit (I couldn’t find the space on the way over). I sometimes forget how much difference regular exercise makes to ones psychological well being; also the relative inexpense of clothing over here is a good reason to purchase attire.
I’m currently typing on a Spanish keyboard so I apologise for any spelling errors as I cannot run this through the spell checker.
Happy birthday for yesterday.

David Scoins August 27, 2007 at 1:04am

Long one, virtue of writing to family about birthday congrats. May have some repetition for which apologies….I have been in Nanjing doing Oxbridge interview practice – it wasn't in the end, because no-one had done any preparation of themselves or the students, so it can only improve, as so much I have seen here. Nanjing and Xi'an are about the same size as each other (and Montreal, Berlin, Riyadh and Dussledorf). For news of what has been happening, have a look at my website, where I have been putting descriptions of discoveries and experiences. There's one below I can't publish but I can share, which you may enjoy. [I left it out, really not publishable]

I am actually enjoying this..... and I'm hoping you're enjoying the essays. Essay in the sense of an attempt to communicate, not a formal exercise in writing, you already understand.  If one was going to bet on which of India and China is going to succeed more in world trade, this is a non-contest. I know the countries are the same sort of size and that their economies are booming. China has the infra-structure and isn't sitting on its hands. Both countries admit to mistakes (internally at least) and both do something about it, but China, for all the faults our Euro-press wishes upon it, is in many ways better organised and a better respondent than the UK government. Politicians here are not afraid to make the right decision for the country, because they are not elected. They seem no longer to be immune from an awareness of what happens in their country (the internet issues alone have changed their landscape forever and apparently the number of internet users is now only second to the US (and you know which is growing faster...). Reading the press of both countries I find the UK press to be more obviously biased and I am turning to a variety of papers written in other countries for a balanced view. The China Daily publishes (in Iggoresh) a selection from ‘around the world’; the NYT is good on non-US matters but the coverage of China is everywhere filled with stereotypical comments and assumptions I do not see fulfilled when (talking) here. Odd. Much of it is cultural assumption and the Chinese habit of saying yes under all circumstances. Not that they have a word for yes, or no….
Pipes have arrived (slick, DHL air freight, only twice the sea freight rate) but the sea freight is somewhere unknown and that is proving a poor and an un-recommendable experience.
Yours, surprisingly happy,

David Scoins August 27, 2007 at 1:07am

Meetings and Internet starvation
First, starvation: I managed to get the internet connection at the office in school to function. It is adequately fast. Unfortunately it works or doesn't work as if there is a controller elsewhere in the system. Yahoo is the tell-tale: if the search works, everything works (I much prefer Google). However, today, when I have come in to work on the presentation (correction, one of them) for Nanjing this weekend, there is no connection at all, so I had to go back to the apartment for signal, only to find that most of the pictures I wanted to download were somehow banned. All I want is pics of Oxbridge, nothing controversial…….
Second, yesterday's meeting. [Xi'an] Whatever my new job is, is not clear. Maybe this is because no-one will answer a question with anything but "Yes". However, it was clear back in April that unless I wrote a timetable none would exist, so I did that while I was here, then. No-one looked at it, no-one has studied it, reacted......idiots. They don't do planning until absolutely necessary - or so it would seem. So yesterday I was to have a meeting with the Head (of this estate) about t/table. So I round up Xiaolan (tseeow-lann) and we head off to see Mr Ye at the appointed hour, 1430. He's only two floors down but rarely seen walking the corridors. Now Mr Ye has less English than I have Mandarin, so Mr Niu is included [so each 'side' has a translator].... and by 1445 we have four of us, including Madame Li, who I know as Rebekah (it's the spelling I think of when I see her), but no Mr Ye until 1450. So now there are five for a meeting I had thought would need three. The meeting room is big enough to play table tennis or snooker properly; it is beautifully panelled in dark wood and has low table in front of nice sofas on all four walls. So the gap to the opposite seat is around 6 metres. Once Mr Ye arrives, people move around so Xiaolan and I are on one seat, Rebekah and Mr Ye (Sijing, but we don't use that in this context) on another, with Mr Niu (Ningyu but inapt again) opposite me, and a long way away.
To the content, then. Everyone has a copy of my document and they have had the opportunity, apparently not taken, to review the latest version this morning. So I explain what goes on and it rapidly becomes clear that what happens entirely within the foreign devils is irrelevant; it is the pre-A level (PAL to me) who matter, because they require some accommodation with teaching elsewhere. Of course, no-one has bothered to tell me that this is the problem. We make some progress with understanding what I am suggesting and start to kick around ways of reducing the time I have allocated, as it becomes clearer through the murk of translation what the problem is. There is no answer to "how many periods do you want", "how many would you like us to use", just an affirmative of some sort to every suggestion I make. This is like fumbling in the dark with boxing gloves on. After 30 minutes the two women at some invisible signal, leave the room and replace all the drinks. Think of this as a 'timeout'. When we re-start (no suggestion by me that we could carry on was accepted) there is an argument about the principles of teaching in two languages. It starts as discussion and I know what I said but not what they said. My contribution was that research shows that there is real value in having a topic taught twice in different languages - it dramatically improves understanding of the topic and of the use of language. Therefore I had included four periods a week of Maths (in English). Furthermore, since the t/t was arranged to offer this, two of the four could be used by the two scientists (Phys, Chem) on demand, for theory lessons in the same way. Basically, putting time in the timetable to ensure that this repetition happens. This met with universal approval and is declared good thinking, reflecting what they think but expressed differently (hardly surprising). However, that raised issues about the intent of the use of Chinese teaching. Remember no-one has said how much time they want (need, prefer) for the Chinese teaching for this year group and no-one has offered any other thinking at all. 

Now, I can't tell when discussion turns into argument because all Chinese conversation sounds to me like everyone is very bad-tempered, but all of a sudden Rebekah is up, grabs her handbag and is out of the door. A door that is so big and heavy it won't slam like it should have. Almost instantly Mr Niu and Xiaolan are gone too, to calm her down (or whatever). Mr Niu comes back and tries to calm down Mr Ye, even tells him off a little (they're of an age and clearly good friends, even if the professional grades are quite different). Think of this as half-time- we've been going about an hour.Eventually Xiaolan comes back and it is clear that Rebekah will not be returning. It transpires, sotto voce with Xiaolan, that Mrs Li is in charge of the Chinese teaching rather as I am in charge of the English teaching (how I wish they would tell me these things). She and Mr Ye have different and long-standing differing opinions as to their relative standing in the hierarchy and this has caused the pot to boil. No-one will tell me what the issue is. In the next hour Mr Ye comes to the boil, simmers and cools - but at no time have we done anything wrong, Mr Niu assures us. It is not our problem. Yet if I was Mr Ye and there is an issue to settle between the t/tables of the English & Chinese, I would simply send Rebekah and myself off to fix it – it is what we are there for. Apparently (note the lack of certainty again) this is a matter of control and perception of control.

In that same second hour all the alterations to the PAL as suggested by me are reinstated so we are back to acceptance of my original suggestions. Mr Niu is clearly strongly on 'our' side; as he puts it himself, he is on the side of better education and he likes what we were saying. The spectre of last year (now declared a disaster area) looms in the blue corner facing the absence of Rebekah in the red corner. You can swap the colours if it amuses, for both work in English. So by 1715, when we declare the meeting over, no changes have been made. And the Scots are considering revolt. At some point I asked whether the understanding was that my viewing of lessons (to be a large part of my job) is to include the teaching in Chinese - yes, but that came across as the preferred choice of answer to a suggestion, not the straight answer of expectation, so we go round that several times until Mr Ye makes definite 'yes' head movements, prompted by Mr Niu. We repeat this performance until I have an equally definite 'we're happy with the mix of lessons you proposed'. Unfortunately I feel I have offered but not heard any counter-proposals. Maybe I've been had? The issues about how the Chinese timetabling is (done are) carefully ignored, but Mr Niu understands that I am happy to go sort it out (that didn't get a yes and didn't get more than a flicker of an eyelid). More importantly, they seem to understand the constraints I was using and agree with them. But I can't tell what agreements are genuine, because everything is agreement. Up until the point of tantrum, patently.

So you would understand why, when Joseph (Business Studies, arrived from Nairobi on Tuesday) asked how it went, I replied that it was more of a soccer match than a meeting: Joseph looked confused; Xiaolan went into peals of laughter. 

To Nanjing this afternoon (an hour from now). Nanjing is pretty close to Shanghai and the same size as Xi'an (and Berlin, Montreal, Dusseldorf, Riyadh). Graham, my direct boss within Dipont, is flying in from the UK this afternoon and I think being driven over to Nanjing by Yang Fei, who is the national gofer and fixit man, equivalent to the whole company as Xiaolan is for Xi'an only. We are running a weekend of Oxbridge training, for the 44 brightest (AAAA, AAAB) who are travelling from all over. Could be really good. And next weekend back to Nanjing (big Dipont centre there) for the staff meeting – meaning Dipont staff, 48 of us, representing all the centres and most of the staff). Now that could be very good, and less pressured, 'cos I'm not presenting at it, but then I may be being told differently about that this weekend.

May you live in interesting times, indeed.  I feel totally unpressured and unstressed. Last night discovered the air-con had blown a socket clean out of the wall; still unstressed. Running is back (or improved) to ten successive runs under 33 mins for 8km with three occasions inside 32. This means that sub-70 would be likely for 10 miles (16km) and 67 likely. Celebrations when this expectation drops to sub-65.... There are no other runners or joggers. Already I have several (a dozen) locals who wave and comment every day when I run by, and several cyclists who are really confused that someone on foot might be (is) quicker. I'm managing to run that often without any injury (yet, so I'm not running this weekend just to make sure to avoid any damage) – and I feel the need for a race to aim at. 

Last night was a little cooler, just into the 20s, and I was very close to 31:30. Heaven knows what would happen at sensible temperatures, then……

Jason O'Neill September 28, 2007 at 2:21pm

Dear David,
I am finally back in the land of the normal (working hours) and have sourced a computer that doesn't block facebook. There is rather a lot to tell of my adventures in American (US) medicine but I will try and keep to the most pertinent in this reply.
The first thing one notices when confronted with the Washington Hospital Center (re) (WHC) is the sheer size of the complex. On the campus surrounding the WHC there are The National Children's Hospital, The National Rehabilitation Center (re) and just across the main road there is the Veterans Hospital (VA). The size of the complex though, like many things in the US is misleading, the actual bed capacity of the WHC is about 900, compare this to the University Hospital of Wales (large building with a Daffodil on the side as you enter Cardiff) which has 1000+ beds.
So on my first day I arrive at the appointed time and search out the GME (Graduate Medical Education Center) where the whole process of "checking in" starts. This takes about an hour and I am all tooled up with ID badge, Zip Card (little card with $25 for free food) and Pager (what we call in the UK a "Beep" as that is what it does) . It transpires that I am on call on my first day, this means that as I arrived in the hospital at 0800 on Monday I will not be returning home until 1200 Tuesday.
The shift pattern that the Trauma (Pronounced Tra-maa, which sounds frightfully exciting when compared to our pronunciation) team operate is called Q3 (one in three in English), basically means that you don't sleep every third night.
For example, Team A (that was me) starts on Monday on Pre-call; you get in at 0600 see your patients and leave by ~1200, Tuesday is your On-call day; once again you arrive at 0600 and see your patients. At 0700 however you become active - and any trauma that comes into the hospital from then until 0700 Wednesday is seen by your team. This means no sleep, as during the night there is a steady stream of various things to be seen. Wednesday is your Post-call day; once again you must have seen all your patients by ~0730; after this you clean up all the little jobs you didn't get around to yesterday and leave at ~1400. It all starts again on Thursday as a Pre-call day. The only exception to this is if your Pre-call day falls on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday in which case you get the day off. This means you have one day off a week, a day when you are not tired.
At first this pattern is difficult to get into but after about two weeks it feels surprisingly normal. Medically speaking the stuff coming through the door was very interesting. A rough breakdown would be 50% Motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), 40% Gunshot wounds (GSWs) and Stab wounds, 5% Burns and 5% Other. Socially it is interesting to note that in my entire rotation I didn't see one single white person come in with a GSW; all were African-Americans, and the majority of stab wounds were to Hispanic people.
During my time at the WHC I shared a room in an apartment with another chap from the Army. Suffice to say that within the first minute of speaking to him he had mentioned that his Daddy was a Brigadier twice and that his Uncle was the IT manager for the House of Commons. In other words he was a total git.
When I had time off during the rotation I spent it most of it either sleeping or in the gym (total cost for a month $25), I did however get to see a few interesting places including a large aircraft hangar out near Dulles packed with historic pieces.
That will do about me for now, will update you as I remember more interesting stuff.
Have you sorted out the timetable etc yet? If so how goes the actual teaching of the students?
In terms of running, I'm back doing it everyday as the spectre of going to an active army unit in less than a year rears its head. Currently aiming to be properly fit for
www.toughguy.co.uk in January but will probably try to get a few 10Ks in first.
P.S. What airport is closest to you?

David Scoins September 29, 2007 at 12:13am

Brilliant commentary - obviously you will have lots more to say about this in time. I've been (almost) similarly busy and your description of the hospital deserves matching comment. Answering the points before they disappear upwards on the page, though…
Timetable sorted reasonably well. Still no Chemist and re-sits start in three weeks, before he arrives. No detail for the practicals has arrived, so “so much for” the month's lead time. This is CIE in Cambridge swinging the lead (hence lead time, maybe? pronunciation excused). It looks like I am the Exams officer too.
Was on telly a week ago. new essays cover this and others.
Running: I'm now regularly under 30mins for 8km (=5miles), having started at 36mins for the same route two months ago. It is possibly Sports Day today (are they ready for this?). Sports here are what we worked out of our systems at Primary School (no kidding) and I will have things to say in public if I win a race. The 'staff team' is confined to interstitial events against other staff teams, doing only party games. Think of Navy dinners and you will be as worried as I am about injuries.
Xi'an has its own airport, XIY in airport speak and XIangjiang by name. It is 30-60 mins away by taxi (£7-12) or practically nothing on the bus - but you need to know where you're going, so it is easier to be met by a friend or friendly taxi-driver. Air travel in China is pretty cheap.
The school houses maybe 1000 pupils on this site in only three years, 16-18 in our terms. There are 'serious' Chinese exams at the end of the first year that somehow declare a fitness to proceed – but everyone does, so think GCSEs at PMC. The buildings are at most five stories high and generally built around an open space about the size of an astro pitch. It means that you know what the weather is. Common corridor space is semi-covered on the inside of the ring.
My little unit occupies most of one floor, but always one half of that floor, depending on the class schedule. The youngest kids are taught in Chinese with a chance to opt back to the PRC system and the others in English with the only route out by drastic failure. I don't know how the PRC system works yet.
My biggest problem is with yes and no. Neither word exactly exists in the language. Boo or bu is the negative but more like ne/pas in French; Shr (sure) is close to yes, but really one should repeat the operative verb of the question (......... ma?) in affirmation. If I ask a leading question where you would say yes ("it rains a lot in Cardiff, doesn't it?" the answer in PRC and in Chinglish is NO not YES. There is a cultural aversion to telling anyone something the listener thinks does not want to be heard, so YES is said in other wrong places. This is designed to confuse. Add to the mix that there is no such thing as a done deal, a contract (all such things can be re-negotiated at no notice) and not only do you wonder about marriage here (except that marriage IS a process of re-negotiation forever) and how business actually manages to function, but you have the glimmerings of the frustration level at communication. Very very few people are even able to tell the truth, simply because of their cultural and language restrictions.
I have classes practising saying yes in Greek (“no”). I try to turn things into games. And then some git says a definite yes and means something quite different. Allegedly I am the boss. In practice I am more like a picture frame: there to throw things at but not in control of bloody thing, including my own time. I find myself wanting to swear a lot, I am doing too many hours that serve no useful purpose and I can't see light in this tunnel. I only hope there is some.
It is actually not raining and so Sports Day may be on. The kids are hoping it is off (which would mean having lessons all weekend). The silly country has national holiday MTW - so we have to work Sat Sun and Sat to make it happen. So why bother?
I will finish the essay on Sports Day early next week. I have published Wine into Water but the next or last chapter of that saga should play out in the next seven days (to add..)
Comment in yesterdays staff meeting from the longest serving member of the UK team; "the school is run by the parents". A familiar description? That would explain the lack of a staff handbook, a school rule book, any record keeping, the lack of paper (exam paper, graph paper and lined paper has to be photocopied) the stupid hours and attitudes - and the total lack of consistency in application of standards.
Perhaps there are parents (not) sending my gear to Xi'an? It still hasn't arrived: this is almost 1/10 not 1/8 !!!!
Frustrated (ever known different from me?),

David Scoins October 6, 2007 at 1:30am

Where the hell is Toga? I know about Togo and Tonga.
What happened to the Falklands? They can't fall through TO anywhere. I discovered that the Chinese were the first there (that 1421 book again) and they probably left some inscribed rocks near the peak (Adams?).
I think the writing between us while you were in the US is worth sharing. Any objections?
Good news about Jay. He'll fit well if he stands up for himself.

Jason O'Neill October 6, 2007 at 8:26am

Toga party, a debauched Cardiff medic tradition that involves a sheet, a belt, a sock (for money), flip flops and (an excess amount of) binge drinking. I would be more upset if I had missed out on going to Tonga or indeed Togo.
I am currently writing this in the CCF office. Due to the Falklands not happening for me I have been working for my Dad for the last few weeks and decided yesterday to pop into PMC and see how the CCF was doing. Cue being roped into running the CCF stand on Open Day. Not that I mind though, I still feel guilty for not making it to central camp this year.
I have no problems with you sharing the above, just try to edit out my numerous spolling errors before circulating it to anyone who knows that I should know better.
I was at band last night, in Liskeard. There were enough people of a sufficient standard to make a good sound for a change, although your ahem.. power in the bass section was defiantly missing. Tom Hoyle mentioned that he would like to know about your adventures in China, shall I direct him to your website?
Did your stuff arrive yet? If I move anywhere I don't think I shall be using sea freight after this experience.
I must now go and polish my boots so as to not look like a complete scruff, toodle pip for now.
P.S. Who is Luke Dawson? He added me as a friend but I refused him as I have no idea how I know the chap, he is one of your friends though.

David Scoins October 7, 2007 at 1:08am

Luke Dawson and I were at Oxford together. He was the SCR Secretary (I think). Perhaps he fancies you - or likes your writing, which is better than you think.
My stuff arrived on Tuesday (read Wine into Water).
Tom Hoyle is very welcome to the website and I will write to him today.
My opinions on moving abroad are now solidified: either go lock stock and barrel, committing yourself to staying, or travel as lightly as possible and buy what you need on arrival, being prepared to bin it on departure. My case was affected by the apparent need for books, so I plumped for the 'whole' package. I should have gone large(-r, -est) and even brought the car. If you can't fill a container, you still pay for it.
However, I can already see the eventual return journey to Europe being a compromise between 'must have' and cost, despite being basically right that the answer lies at the extremes.
You didn't explain how come the Falklands didn't happen. Is the sum total of the elective experience a good one? Apart from the travelling, was it good medically?
I am missing music but Xi'an must offer some possibilities: there are far too many people for there not to be some good music going on.

Jason O'Neill October 26, 2007 at 3:17pm

Falklands didn't happen due to Admin failure on the part of my HQ. Irritating but not unexpected. Medically the elective was fantastic; I have defiantly [definitely?] developed some skills that I would not have gained in the UK and I suspect they will be useful during my time in the Army.
I have been back for a couple of weeks now and am off to far west Wales on Sunday for six weeks doing "Medicine in the Community" basically General Practice in the arse end of nowhere. Could be interesting, but I see it more as an opportunity to lose another 10kg.
Saw on the news recently that China has launched an orbiter destined for the Moon, any idea why? Have you found any opportunities to indulge in making music yet? Finally have you managed to change anyone's cultural prelidiction to agreement yet?

David Scoins October 27, 2007 at 1:29am

..... cultural prelidiction to agreement.... sweet, and worthy of re-use. Predilection  – I had to look it up to be sure. The news of the orbiter reached the office through the Physics dept, not because none of us has yet found a way of catching the news worldwide. I have given up on radio 4 as being entirely too London-centred. I have ordered The Week in the hope that a digest will be exactly that. Our colleagues know less than you do, so there are no opinions to garner – hopeless; they're all so far down the rut (trench) they can't see anything at all.
No music as yet, not even played the pipes in the flat. Too many weekends away at work, like Shanghai last weekend. I'll get there, but at the mo it looks like there is none.

West Wales, Carmarthen, Pembroke? I used to work a day a month that far west. I know Abergavenny quite well from Geog field trips. Chinese cuisine has caused me to lose 5kg, to 70kg as a max and 68 as a common minimum. Running now always under 30 mins for 8km (once inside 28) and around 42mins for 11km. Scary fast. Race next week on the City wall, 14km "marathon". Don't know if I'll be first ten or last ten out of the restricted field of 200. Must go to town today to collect race number; why they couldn't give that to me last weekend when I registered, I don't know….

Jason O'Neill November 4, 2007 at 11:16pm

I'm in Newcastle Emlyn at the moment, about another forty minutes north west of Carmarthen. I am staying in a child-minder's house, I get a room with a TV, toaster, kettle, and microwave, no internet access. I am the only student for about 20 miles. Think Liskeard and not knowing anyone at all; slightly scary. The reflective learning part would be better if I was interested in what I was learning, as I am sure you know, if I am not interested in something I really do struggle. Thankfully I have three weeks of skiing in France to look forward to at the end of it. A week with the medics, the week over Christmas with the family and a final week with Andrew, James, Mark and Sarah Biffen along with me and a few associated females.
My run times are going in the right direction as well, just need to get my mile and a half down to around ten. Easy for you I know but not quite so for me. How did the race around the ramparts go?
I finally invested in a laptop and due to my other pieces of technology I opted for a PC. Unfortunately you cannot get a laptop without getting Windows Vista. The new programme isn't such a problem in terms of bugs but it does everything in a different way and I'm struggling to get used to it. I know what you will say though, I perhaps should make the switch to Apple kit but financially I think I should wait until I qualify.
The army have given me jobs for next year and I have been given Derriford in Plymouth. I'm pretty happy with this as the other possibility was Middlesborourgh, apparently not a very nice place. Sarah was happy as she can continue to extract her pound of flesh for another two years.
Ta ra for now (Wales is getting to me)

David Scoins November 5, 2007 at 10:52pm

The system locked out and didn't send my reply, so this is the shorter version.
Running good - see website for race detail; weight down to 65 and enjoyed putting it back to 69. Training times now at 4min/km and sub 1:25 for a half marathon - as good as it gets.
More when this has sent

David Scoins November 5, 2007 at 10:56pm

I don't understand what is going on (that is China). Confusions at work have been partly relieved by my encouraging the subject pairs (native speaker and local, English and Chinese) to sit together in the office. I am next door with my equivalent, meaning I have the rotten end of the general deal, but it has formed a team with united objectives, subject of course to cultural differences. I pity mankind when we discover aliens: we can't even cope with our own kind at all well. The levels at which communication fails are quite amazing and far from obvious. Just at the level of the use of yes and no, for example.

Jason O'Neill December 14, 2007 at 5:10pm

I have been busy in west Wales lately and haven't found the time to pen you something of note. In brief, GP in west Wales was good and I would now consider General Practice as a career. Off skiing to France for three weeks in five hours and am therefore rather excited.
I saw this poem on a site that I read regularly and thought that you would appreciate it:

I went into a gastro pub to get meself a meal,
This pay as you dine you see it ain’t no real good deal.
The quality is pretty pish, and quantities are dire,
Whoever got rid of t’Catering Corps, has left us in the mire:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy is well paid”;
But nobodies getting shot at Westminster, they’re just getting laid-
There ain’t no band begins to play, my boys, which means we have less medics,
And boys get harmed in Snatches and still there are few credits.

I were sent into a war as lairy as could be,
Wi’ no proper role or kit, and nobody backing me;
They sent me to Afghanistan or into South Iraq,
But there weren’t ever near enough of us, to get ‘em back on track!!

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy get on wi’ it”;
But there’s "No more money in the pot," when the fan is hit by s***-
The fan is hit by s***, my boys, the fan is hit by s***,
It's "Carry on and do your best”, when the fan is hit by s***.

Those lads that you depend on, and fund them on the cheap,
You treat ‘em all like s*** and bugger the mission creep;
Don’t worry that they live in slums, and will do yet for years,
Why should we treat ‘em any different, why care about their fears,

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy 'ow's yer life?”
Well life is crap he says, according to the wife-
Life is crap he says, she’s gone home to mum, I’ve said goodbye t’wife ,
O life it's crap he says, when JPA fucks up your life.

No one likes us, what do you care, when we’re back in camp,
Trying to * your daughters, drinking, and swinging on a lamp;
But we save your arrse so many times, and do your dirty deeds,
But all you do is cut the money, and it’s our family that bleeds:

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy plug that dyke,”
But it's "Please to fill those sandbags, sir," when there's flooding and the like-
And fight those fires, my boys, you cannot go on strike,
Do some other fuckers dirty work, covered in the dung and shite,
When foot and mouth, or other mess becomes the country’s plight.

You talk of cuts, reorganisations, savings and the like;
But it’s getting to the point where we’ll all be on our bike.
Sort out the quarters and the compensation, and prove it to our face,
Give us our own hospital, your treatment of our wounded is an absolute disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "the best little Army that there be!”
But the Covenant is nearly busted; Labour’s done that to us don’t you see?
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' platitudes to appease;
But Tommy, he ain’t blind - you bet that Tommy sees!

Anyhow; how are things in China?

David Scoins December 14, 2007 at 11:32pm

The poem needs sending to an MP or two. The sentiments are accurate - at least, the feedback I have had from soldiers and sailors agrees completely. The lack of morale in the Forces is lower than I have ever seen it, and maybe as low as it was between rounds with Napoleon.
Things in China have settled into a routine. The days are long but not onerous. The pay is adequate but there is little opportunity to spend it. There are impediments to any and every action, to which ones only valid response is "this is China". Sometimes that is amusing, mostly immensely frustrating. The idea of management is control (with perilously little management in any way you would recognise); there is no forethought (that is a foreign idea in itself) there is only reaction worse than anything you see at PMC. One might say life is comfortable and that might even be true, but there is no progress on so many fronts that it is hard not to be depressed. All around me (other centres like ours) the wheels are falling off as the bottled frustrations come to boil (mixed metaphor! how were the wheels fixed on, then?). We look increasingly good and people keep saying how wonderful my management is. I'm doing nothing (really) but go round listening and encouraging. Some problems I can fix and am appreciated for that; most I can't, but I can keep the frustration away from the colleague. My Chinese oppo thinks she is wonderful, but.
Stop that sentence in the safe zone. Too many meals out, any of which I would trade for a single straight answer to a question. They find my reactions hilarious (no really, very funny) and some of them are beginning to listen to what I have to say. Strange, that the kids catch a new idea the first time, but the staff needs endless repetition before they even catch a glimmer.
Read the Wall Race if you haven't yet: running is going well. A week of sub-50 pulse on rising and some unbelievable times in training suggest that something here agrees with me. I would not say my diet is wonderful, but I have lost 3kg permanently and 5 at times. Rice and noodles (not together) and no milk fats does cause the weight to drop. Relative to people here we are unbelievably sporty, strong, fit. Yet the average Chinese is probably all of those compared to the average Brit – it is just that our variance is so much greater.
I miss access to decent coffee to the point where I am visiting Starbucks every weekend and spending Euro prices, 15x more than usual here. I miss milk and cereal. I can't find things like vitamins or deodorant and am doing without. Getting around town is a real pain and moving any weight is near impossible without a translator. Example: I need to paint my flat some more, but all the DIY shops are in the same place, outside the bus route area and not marked on any local map. I want to go in the hills (well, not at this temperature I don't) but there is no obvious access unless one goes with a crowd in three, four or five figures. Really. No thanks.
In short, mixed. On balance, pretty good and if I can only pick up enough Mandarin this could be a good place to live, if only because one is so relatively rich, even on a teacher's pension.

David Scoins January 3, 2008 at 10:40pm

Lost my temper properly with my opposite number yesterday. Every time I build the Chinese staff up to some development of their teaching, she knocks it down. Each time I make a suggestion with merit, it has to go up the chain for a decision (so, translated through languages and heads each time) when it is within her own ability to make a decision – or should be. She interrupts every train of thought so that I can only get work done at the anticipated speed when she is out of the room. She has reduced each of the four girls that are trainee teachers to tears in the last two weeks (on separate occasions), she visibly has a favourite – sadly, the girl copying her techniques, and she is a first-rate bully. Last, and the final straw, she wrote to one of last year's foreign staff and mixed new year wishes with threats about court for something that was not only un-researched, it would in Britain send her to court for defamation. On three separate occasions in the last three weeks, her behaviour would have her sacked in Britain. Here, it counts as acceptable. She mistakes this for power.
I could hope that my outburst would sort her out. I think she will not learn from the experience and she will blame me, not herself. She is incapable of listening well enough to learn.
One of the (many) things she does not understand is that she needs the foreign teachers far more than they need her. 3 of the 5 of us (4 of 6 if you count differently) have passed retirement and are therefore working because it is interesting and the money is not important. Helpful, but not essential. Part of my job is to keep myself between her and my staff; she is too thick to notice. I have been doing the same for her staff to some extent, because she has no idea about planning (she IS Chinese).
What the upshot will be, I do not know. Right now, I have no easy way out for her or for me. That is an error, and I need to see a solution this weekend. However, she doesn't realise that it is a bigger error for her since (I) we have learned that it is difficult to find staff to replace others (the National attitude is that it is always easy to replace anyone, and that is the lever they use to be so horrid to each other) (ii) I don't need to work although I would rather (iii) this job in Britain would pay more like £60k, not the £20k I am reluctantly given (what payslip? what evidence of pay? what breakdown or proof of payment? what progress? All this is her job and hers alone to understand).
Maybe I'll be back in Britain in August but for more than a visit. If so, I doubt that she will have learned and I doubt that I will be the only foreign devil leaving.
Writing this should be catharsis; why is it not? Because I don't see a solution perhaps?

Jason O'Neill February 8, 2008 at 6:31pm

Sorry to have been absent for so long but Bangor might as well be Indochina in the 19th century in terms of internet availability.
It sounds as if this woman is a prize prat and needs some top-down management. Have you come up with a solution or are things just continuing as above?
I'm afraid I have no interesting news, although it was my birthday last week and I met with Dan Vince, I'm not sure if you would remember him but he was one of the better mathematicians in my year group and he progressed to Warwick to study Maths, he is now in his sixth year of university (now doing Mech Eng) and there is still no sight of a degree of any description. I'm very impressed that he has managed to maintain the student lifestyle for that long. Excitingly I have tickets to the Wales versus Scotland six nations game tomorrow as one of my friends is playing wing for Wales.
Have you considered getting a vehicle out there so that you could get to the hills without the use of public transport or others?
Anyhow, must go as I have people to see this evening.
Let me know how things are going.

David Scoins February 9, 2008 at 4:32am

Got to the hills more or less by mistake in taking a friend to the hot springs on the way to the Terracotta Warriors. Higher than the top of Sca Fell Pike. Big deal for both of us, this needing for ascent. Will try again in slightly warmer weather.
Problems with bloody woman largely cured on finding that of all the centres in-country, ours is the least fractious, the happiest and, from a management point of view, possibly the most successful. I don't understand how that works, but it makes life a lot easier.
Shorts: I remember Dan quite well. Buying a car is probably not wise, given the traffic conditions, and hiring is not yet possible. A driver for a day is ¥350, about £25. Fighting with fraud prevention rules in trying to make payments from here.

David Scoins February 27, 2008 at 12:47pm

Got 'into the hills' again with a Chinese chum this weekend. After days of warm weather we went back to snow on the appointed day, although he didn't tell me hills were on the agenda. A 'hill' here is definitely steep, but there is a path that puts the all paths on Snowdon to shame, more of the sort we might expect in a garden centre. No-one (but a foreign devil) would go off-piste.... After 50m vertically my new pal of 28 is panting and at 100m he needs to stop; yet he is the one who was suggesting we walk over the range to Sechuan, he is the one who has a history of peak bagging.... he is deeply impressed that he was panting and I was not even breathing so he could notice (he doesn't see the situation from my side at all). However, going up a something at all is what has been missing. When we ran out of path at around 900m, there was lots of hill left but no route (and audibly folk and dogs above); there is no right to roam, it is not clear what communism might mean in terms of trespass, no-one seems to dare to walk on the ground, only on path. This may explain why there are no maps of the hills. Frustrating, as is the consequent lack of opportunity to explore.
Prospect of a race is the current excitement – that will be the second discovered here. The first was a great success (read City Wall race) and I am working on getting down to racing 3km, not the regular 8-15. Oh for a genuine half-marathon – it looks as though I'll have to travel to Beijing for that (think like going to Berlin). There simply aren't any advertised.  

Jess & Pete visit at the end of March - looking forward to that immensely.  

GP work appealing? Bangor not? When do you officially qualify? How is Andrew by comparison? What action on the brown & green front? The folk here find it very strange that I will happily talk about Army & Navy when they know almost nothing - like, what IS a boat/ship? The sea is 2000km away, so they are justified……

Jason O'Neill March 4, 2008 at 6:30pm

I officially graduate and hence qualify (providing the GMC provisionally register me and I pass the exams) July 10th with my first day of work being 1st August (I think it is a Friday). GP work is not inherently appealing but it would be acceptable, i.e. the lifestyle associated with the job is appealing (potential for plenty of time off and the opportunity to live somewhere out in the sticks). Bangor was professionally really good, plenty of teaching, improved my CV; it was, however, a really long way from Cardiff. My life is currently in Cardiff and it was a pain in the arse to commute from Cardiff to Bangor on Sunday night and in the opposite direction on Friday. The brown and green front is very quiet at the moment. I haven't worn uniform, apart from with the cadets, in approximately a year and it doesn't look like I shall even be able to make summer camp in Penhale as graduation falls in the middle of camp this year. I have recently received an email concerning my official kit issue though, apparently they want my sizes, I thought it would be a case of here is your kit, get it tailored. It seems I shall get approximately £2100 to get my mess dress and number twos as well, don’t know if that will stretch though.
I can understand the frustration with not being able to walk where you see fit. Maps are a commodity in the UK that are very readily available and hence taken for granted. I can’t imagine that the Chinese authorities are the kind of people you want to upset though.
Andrew is currently in north Wales doing general practice with Rhian, given that he is now very attached I rather feel he is going off the idea of spending a chunk of time in the military. Andrew does keep his cards close to his chest though; he will be working in Swansea next year and definitely in Wales for the next two years.
Why are you off to Nanjing next week?

David Scoins March 4, 2008 at 10:45pm

Ah, Nanjing: that is where our biggest centre is, 250 students on the English-based system, and like my place, within a bigger school. Rather like thinking of Boarding (or swimming, for that matter) within PMC. They are having problems with staff retention, management and dissent. They are hoping to persuade me to lead (manage, head, etc) the centre.I am happy in Xi'an, relatively free of paperwork (like working with SEJ); I can get round every member of staff in an hour, I can reach a consensus quite readily and I have everyone pulling in roughly the same direction. The challenge of the new building next year (it is close to completion already) is a further excitement.Not forgetting that I don't actually need the work and really don't need the hassle, why would I want to move to a place three times as big and with bigger problems that Xi'an had?Quite. Even so, I owe them the courtesy of having a look, so I'm going for long enough to talk (oops, listen) to everyone. In my dreams (as they say here), I'd be used as a roving fixer, not a trouble-shooter (they go fire people) but more of a re-enthuser, persuader, motivator; the rough stuff costs too much life-force (you can feel it shortening your life).Running is off at the moment, having torn a deep calf muscle a little from being too enthusiastic. Patience is a virtue, I tell myself, while at the same time in withdrawal from the endorphin highs gained from beating 4mins/km even over an hour. I will keep my temper, I will….I admit it is exciting to get around the country. My Pakistani colleague has been nowhere since his arrival at the end of October (from Brunei, he has not lived in Pakistan for 30 years) and he is grabbing the opportunity to go to Beijing the weekend after my trip. I've been to Nanjing (‘south city’) twice already, plus Jinan, Shanghai and Shenzhen. I saw Jinan properly thanks to Hilary (a past pupil still at Oxford) and saw very little of the others, except that I did go running in Shenzhen. This time I go to have a look properly at Nanjing, just in case I find the need to find a flat, new running routes, etc etc…..
Chinese have a work ethic that makes even Geoff Roderick only average: I don't say I like it but I do admire it at times. They need to get lives outside work, but the consequences for the economy are worth another session at the keyboard.
Had fun in assembly yesterday denying that Tibet and Taiwan are in the PRC. As one teacher put it to a student "No, you won't get arrested: you might be shot, but you won't be arrested"....... He is from Kenya and has been home recently, so he is assumed to be right even when he is laughing hard. It is wonderful to work with a Paki and a black African and be allowed, even encouraged, to tease each other about skin colour. They have no problem and are immensely amused at the British caution created by years of PC training. Maybe that is why we are an Apple office?

Jason O'Neill March 4, 2008 at 11:39pm

I'm not sure about British "PCness" I now have an Asian girlfriend and we tease each other about skin colour (She is brown as she eats too much chocolate, and will now become lighter as she has given it up for Lent).
I'm currently sitting in Cardiff on my own in the house as the rest of my housemates are elsewhere in Wales for the next seven weeks. Recently I have been getting into attempting the Telegraph cryptic crossword and now get approximately four each day (don't always know why I have got them). It does get easier though. Listening to the cricket as well, England is/are struggling already in New Zealand and we are only one session in.
I'm currently working for a surgeon who would probably give most Chinese a lesson in productivity and insane activity. Unlike Geoff he also works very smart, even in theatre he is one of the fastest surgeons I have ever seen. A below-knee amputation was done today in less than ten minutes, skin to skin (first cut to last stitch closing). I get fatigued just being around him.

David Scoins March 6, 2008 at 12:42pm

I would like to think that the PC trend in Britain will fade to something more sensible, pragmatic and tolerant in a proper sense. Much of the problem was created by agitators who sought 'respect' without earning it - an issue that drove me mad in the Boarding house and elsewhere. Confusing impoliteness with dissing or worse, confusing ordinary conversation with claimed impropriety, all this has been putting large parts of ordinary British behaviour into the poor box. In turn this made the humour we laughed at as a nation more coarse, more obvious and all the more extreme. I see the same trends in overseas television and I deplore it. Let us encourage the subtleties of the Simpsons, the pointed outrages of the likes of Monty Python, Eddie Izzard and the Big Yin - laugh at as much as possible, but most of all at ourselves. That so much was / has been declared off-limits is awful in its consequences for our society.Such is life: the pendulum swings back. Unfortunately it often swings back further than expected and the repercussions can last a generation. Mrs T was lauded while in power but her effects will continue through most of your life, as will those of the Blair (Which?) project as they become clearer over the next decade. What was done for the best of all possible reasons at the time comes back to bite us all. What I find sad is the bad decisions made from entirely selfish motives that end up having a long-term beneficial effect. The saying 'there's no justice' comes to mind….We are different; we should celebrate this, as we should celebrate that the differences are small enough to talk about. It has taken a long time to clarify enough of the similarities here to trust enough to talk about differences... the issue about Taiwan and Tibet is a good example; I cite the Lebanese lad at PMC who destroyed maps showing Israel, and they don't understand, until I point out the parallels. I re-claimed Calais on behalf of the Queen, argued for the handing over of the Falklands (ooops, the Malvinas) and pointed out the problems of Gibraltar, Hong Kong and that big slice of the Antarctic that is ours... It’s not just the black bit that the polar bear has to hide when he's chasing penguins, it's also the red bit, and the blue bit…
And as for the word gullible being taken out of the dictionary, well.... they're still asking about that three days later !!

Jason O'Neill March 25, 2008 at 7:45pm

I have many things to say so this may turn into a bit of a list.
Firstly did you know that www.bbc.co.uk is now unblocked in China? This means that you can now have a read of some stories that have reported on Tibet such as this one: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7296837.stm and let me know how the Chinese media have reported the story differently. How was the story covered in the run up to this takedown of the big Chinese "firewall”?
Secondly are you or were you a member of the NUT because they have recently decided to have a go at the military. Seems to me they are trying to push a rather lefty idea on pupils. I feel they should be trying to be a little bit more apolitical
Thirdly do you get www.arrse.co.uk or is that blocked?
Fourthly speaking of comedy I have recently discovered "Absolute Power" a TV show that has made the jump from radio 4 rather well. It stars Stephen Fry (who was recently announced to be a "National Treasure") and is brilliant; it is both subtle and quintessentially "British". I'm not sure if it is available on the internet, but if I do find it, I shall send you the URL.
Fifthly; polar bears in the Antarctic? Must have escaped from a zoo sir.
Over the Easter weekend I have been following my brother as he competed in the Devises to Westminster canoe race. As I followed him all over the M4 corridor I drove past a school called Shiplake and spotted football being played! Over the weekend the weather was rather interesting and there was snow in London heavier than I saw in the Alps this year. As usual the entire country came to a complete halt as the occurrence of precipitation that didn't fall in straight lines caused jobsworths everywhere to lose what little competence they once had.
I'm now looking forward to qualifying and leaving Wales more than ever; they bloody well went and won another Grand Slam in the six nations and it is being thrust down one’s throat from every direction. Having said that though I must now go and do some revision; finals start in two months, one week, five days, fourteen hours and seventeen minutes.

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David Scoins March 26, 2008 at 12:10am

Sorry, rushed for school (it is all of 06:50) and in brief at first because your list will need considerable work…Polar bears known to be other end of planet - that was part of the point.. all the more improbable. I am not a union member and when I was it was NASUWT because (I) they don't strike and (ii) they were a little more reasonable in attitude than the others I looked at. Not much, just a little. There was a flavour of that intense social (Social, Labour, Trot,...) politics that so put me off anything political at Oxford, almost a religious fervour. What do I mean, almost? It was and is equivalent to religion…
I understand to expect little in the way of reply as the count down ticks away. You cannot be surprised at the Welsh reaction; it is written all over their psyche (and it is not attractive, as you prove to agree).
I heard about the snow from Jess & Pete (here right now) and it is entirely typical of my image of Britain. How we will ever build a national pride when our reaction is to knock ourselves continuously must tax our leaders sorely. I know which I would prefer, looking upwards at the Welsh. Here it is balmy during the day if a little chill at night - but I have no heating on, my duvet is 8 mm thick not 8 cm thick, and when I get back to running after the guests go, all will be right with the world as I view it.  The BBC site appears unblocked in censorship terms but is blocked by traffic: we can access it at unlikely hours, such as 03:00, so it effectively remains blocked. Personally I miss Wikipedia more, since I didn't access BBC much even back in Britain (except for digital TV, which I miss, but mainly because I don't have time to watch TV at all).Censorship here is very odd and you might read my essay (short and needing extension). There is an argument that says the UK is more heavily controlled. Here I would say any control is pragmatic (extremely so). The Olympics are very important to the country. The populace is entirely convinced that Tibet is within the borders and there is just to much evidence that the free-Tibet campaign is from a few who do not know of what they write and shout, who have been to see their own opinions verified but did not explore what others wanted, only their own fixed views. Taiwan, on the other hand... is equally definitely IN, according to the locals, and I have met several Taiwanese, every one of which says he is NOT Chinese. So I tell as many people this as I can, and the locals accept this. One of the wonders of this country is that discussion of such a point is now happening, even if very cautiously. The people want information, but they are capable of some thought and able to criticise information with a scary intelligence (one might guess why…)
I will use your references and I thank you for the thought. I need some new humour, some UK TV, some input.

Jason O'Neill April 27, 2008 at 1:39pm

Why Nanjing? Have you cracked and taken up the offer of working there?

David Scoins April 28, 2008 at 11:30pm

Yeah. I will never otherwise know if I can do management. I haven't yet seen or experienced anything in Nanjing to look forward to. Found a nice place to live last weekend, found a bit of the city that was ok. Have yet to find someone in Nanjing who wants to be friends, with a sense of fun / humour, with the openness that characterises Xi'an (for all its faults).
This is not feeling good, but I must make the most of the opportunity.

Jason O'Neill May 12, 2008 at 11:10pm

Just making sure that you were far enough away from the epicentre to avoid any serious damage.

David Scoins May 15, 2008 at 11:33am

Thanks to yourself and Ma'am for pointing out that I needed (just done) to write on my Wall about the experience. I had thought to write at length and publish as an Essay on the website this weekend. It is a really good feeling to feel that people are concerned.
Mail from Abdullah Hamza that he has MY beret - and that he is really chuffed about it. I laughed at the very idea, but I'm pleased that the boys think it has extra value. Perhaps you ought to find one to nominate as your old one?

Jason O'Neill May 19, 2008 at 8:17pm

I still have mine, somewhere. Obviously don't wear it any more though; I'm currently going through the process of getting completely kitted out with an entire issue via post, not easy. Concurrently I am applying for my allowance for mess kit; one of my friends (an ex RGR Captain) has convinced me that it will be cheaper to use this money (approx £2200) to fly to Hong Kong and get it made by his tailor there along with a few suits. I fear that could be an interesting trip.
In an attempt to save my sanity as I revise for finals a few friends from school (Dan Vince, Tom Graham, James Trehair, Peter Latham) and Uni' along with myself are planning a trip to see the British and Irish Lions play in South Africa next year. Judging by the success of our trip to the World Cup Final in Paris last November it promises to be entertaining at the very least.
I have been really impressed with the Chinese response to the topographical restructuring as compared with that produced by the Burmese junta following the recent cyclone. How has it looked from within? I imagine, cynically, that the senior politicians were rather glad to be able to show off one of the better aspects of government after all the Tibet-related problems. Politically over here we are witnessing the slow death of Gordon Brown's career. The Labour party were destroyed in the recent local elections and Boris Johnson (goodness knows how) defeated Ken in the London mayoral elections. David Cameron is holding things together rather well insofar as he is preventing the Tories from scoring any major own goals and letting Gordon self-destruct of his own accord. Alistair Darling back-tracked on his removal of the 10% tax allowance in the last week and this U-turn may be one of the final nails in the coffin.
I have a bone to pick with you, as you have managed to reduce my revision drive from the other side of the world. I recently bought “The Reality Dysfunction” by Peter F Hamilton as I had seen you reading other books in the Night’s Dawn Trilogy. I couldn’t put the bloody thing down and have had to be quite disciplined to stop myself buying the other two books before I finish my exams. Previously I had read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained and really enjoyed them but not looked for others by him. I find one of the attractions of these books is that I don’t read them in one sitting as they are so long; other light easy read fiction I devour in short order whereas these take me at least a week.
Toodle pip for now
P.S. When are you moving to Nanjing?

David Scoins May 21, 2008 at 12:19am

Funnily enough, I felt the same way about you reading Peter Hamilton. It must be the visible enjoyment.
A trip to HK for suits would be intelligent - you have enough friends there from school to find really good help. HK is well over 1000km from the earthquakes.
I too have been impressed with he PRC.gov actions. The presumption here is of competence and authorities are not second-guessed. This has the direct result that at least twice as much time can be devoted to the decision, not the presentation of it. I deplore every single step in the direction of presidential politics because I think the faceless bureaucrat that cares and tries hard to make the right decision is a much better form of government. That such people are publicly executed, flogged or humiliated (depending on degree) when they get it wrong is just perfect. In Britain we send a small % of our caught politicians to jail - and then fete them as celebrities. This system is more honest. How very odd.

I realised last night that I quite probably will not vote ever again. PMC invited (Jon Shields did) the incumbent MP to talk at school last year. She insisted on having written questions a week in advance; she failed to answer each question; she bored everyone stupid (really uninteresting voice, poor use of voice and content) - and I had to (was forced to) leave since I was effectively heckling. The stupid 'system' says my permanent address in Britain is College House, so she is ‘it’ until ousted. I no longer much care what happens to Britain; the societal breakdown has driven me away and I shall remain a European. Indeed, I can see myself voting large but refusing to vote small. Sad, isn't it?
Some descriptions of earthquake on the website, but I cannot access this as .mac and web.mac.com have been blocked since 16/4/8, here.  Nanjing is a frequent visit, this weekend Fri-Tues included, as I try to discover what the task is. Little of Nanjing attracts after Xi'an. It is hotter and more humid; the mountains are smaller but more accessible (like <30 mins from my flat, walking), the pavements so crowded I can't see running being fun (but hope to find out this week). The staff are demoralised (and apparently without morals, too), ineffective and miserable - there's a challenge. The ancillary local staff will provide my friends for the next 12-36 months - I can see that already. Clearly I need to find a nice, slim, interested Chinese lady to chase round the town.Found nice flat near join of lake and mountain, 25 mins walk from school. Opportunity here to discover if I can do management well, in which case I won't be teaching much longer - something I will miss, actually. Perhaps the trick will be to know enough about each subject to give a range of lessons at any age? I'd better work on that. In relation to everyone else here I count as seriously clever (oh dear), positively expert (oops) and so experienced they can't understand how I do it all. They'd be blown away by the ordinary workload at PMC or Shiplake, then !! Chinese work very long days with little outcome, I think, and I have seen nothing to persuade me otherwise, yet.South Africa is changing fast. What I saw last year (actually 2006) included warnings galore about even thinking of staying. A great place to visit if you're careful. The resentments of white rule are not far below the surface and while there is tremendous opportunity for any non-white to succeed, it is very clear that the failure to grasp those opportunities leaves too many with their only recourse lying in illegality. After a while, that becomes the norm. Beware.  

Time to find out what 'quakes I missed last night. Most of the city slept outside…

Jason O'Neill June 27, 2008 at 10:07am

Exam success abounds, I have earned the dubious pleasure of changing my title to Dr. Now I shall spend the next seven years trying to become a Mr again.
Have you finished for the summer yet?

David Scoins June 30, 2008 at 12:00am

Congratulations, Dr O'Neill. We sit at your feet in awe and respect….
And, because your feet smell, sit a long way away…
My last week in Xi’an is just beginning, then a week in Nanjing and then in Britain 12th to the 18th July and 10th to 20th August. Would grab chance to chat f-t-f (dancing, as we used to call it). Itinerary starts and ends in Bristol, going north, then to France for hols, back to north and working southwards. Will try to keep FB profile updated on this.

Jason O'Neill January 15, 2009 at 10:54pm

How are things? I thought you might like to know that I have taken the Apple plunge and obtained an iPhone. Remarkably the thing just works, amazing. Have you made any decisions on your future location as of yet?

David Scoins February 1, 2009 at 3:14am

Phillip Chen gave me one for Christmas. What a fantastic gadget !! Am located in Nanjing for the foreseeable future, thinking at the moment of staying here another year or two.
Sorry to have taken so long to respond: facebook so often bollixed by the censor that I have largely given up on accessing it. I used to look every morning, but it now takes so very long to load I don't even look every week, just when the system goes fast enough to offer it to me,
iPhone an absolute delight - probably more so for you in a wi-fi-rich environment. I could sell one per day, even at $400.
2009 is proving a fantastic year so far - even on the female front.

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