Sunday, January 29, 2012

First day of class after Chinese New Year

Classes began today after the Chinese New Year break. It's good to have things open and to see people on campus again.

Back on the home front, my son, Robbie, ran a fantastic time trial, 10.62 100 m fly, and 24.10 200 m standing start. Last year he pulled his hamstring early in the season and couldn't compete. Hopefully this year he'll stay healthy. His coaches told him his 100 meter time would count as the 2nd fastest in school history! He gets his fast twitch muscles from his mother and not me. I never ran faster than 26 sec for 200 m.

Those interested in seeing news from Macau, I recommend the Macau Daily Times. It doesn't have a lot of news, but gives some information about what's happening here.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sunny Day in Macau

Today the sun was shining after a foggy and cold morning. In the morning I went on a long run, going from the University of Macau campus to the trails of Coloane, then running the long circuit of the trails, and then heading back, for a total time of 2hrs 4 minutes. I've signed up for the Taipei marathon on March 18 and need to increase my mileage to get in shape for the race. So I'll have to increase the runs to 2:30 to 3 hours. The run was great! The only problem was lack of water. I didn't plan well and failed to bring any with me. But on the way back, after leaving the trails, I had my bus pass and hoped to use the money on my card to buy water, which you can do at convenience stores here. There was an Esso gas station near the bus stop. I went in to see if I could swipe my card for water, but there was no machine set up. The man in the store was nice and gave me a bottle for free. I guess I looked like I needed it!

Later at noon I took the bus back to Coloane, stopping at the village. The sun was out and it was much warmer. I had a wonderful lunch at a Cafe, then walked around and took pictures. The new University of Macau campus is located very close to the Coloane village, separated by water. I look forward to the new location as it will be closer to the great running/hiking trails in Coloane, and is far more scenic.

Some Pix below:

Looking across the bay from Taipa, current Univ Macau campus to Macau peninsula.

The new Univ of Macau campus under construction on Hengqin Island

The "turtle pond" at Univ of Macau

Lord Stow's Cafe in Coloane. A great place to eat!

Looking out across "Black Sands Beach"

Church and courtyard, Coloane

Black Sands Beach

The Port of Coloane. The man sitting there is at the border control. My guess is there is some boat traffic of people coming from HengQin Island, China.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Year of the Dragon

It's Chinese New Year, the year of the Dragon, "my year." The University of Macau has the week off, which gives me some time to get caught up and do a little exploring. This past week I went to Dongguan, China and visited a friend there. They treated me very well and took me on a trip to nearby Shenzhen and Hong Kong. We had wonderful meals and did a lot of shopping! I also met people from many parts of China and the world. The few people I met had stories similar to those narrated by Leslie Chang in her book, Factory Girls. "Jackie" is a 30 something woman from western China. She came to Dongguan about 10 years with no money, little education, and few connections. Now she is a successful manager in an international company. Likewise "Tiger" came from western China with only a junior high school education at about the same time. He now drives a nice car and handles orders in his shoe company that are made by Taiwanese managers. I also met a musician from the Philippines who says business is good. I met two Spaniards working for a successful clothing company based in Europe. And there are many Taiwanese working in Dongguan. It's a place where there is money and opportunity.

In Shenzhen, a sprawling and chaotic city located on the border with Hong Kong, we shopping in the Luohu district. There are thousands of small retail shops where you can buy "authentic fakes" at low prices, if you're good at bargaining. While my friends were bargaining, I spoke with some of the shop keepers. They were speaking what sounded like Taiwanese to each other. I could understand what they were saying. Most were young teenagers and adults. There was one young woman, noticeably pregnant, who I'd guess was 17 or 18, a middle aged woman, and young men with "fashionable" hair. They told me they are from Chaozhou, Guangdong province, about 300 kilometers away. They came together and have been in Shenzhen for 4 years. The middle aged woman said business is "okay." They're not making money like the people I met in Dongguan, but they are making it.

This is quite the place. There is construction everywhere, signs of wealth, expensive restaurants, shops, and a kind of vitality that has to be seen to be believed. If we were able to go back to Athens, Greece in the time of Perikles, or to Venice during it's golden age, New York in the first half of the 20th century, you'd see the same kind of vitality. It's messy and chaotic at times, for sure. But it's the place to be. Yesterday I spoke with a young man who has an American mother and Portuguese father and is studying at the University of Macau. He said many Portuguese are "coming back" to Macau.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Macau Musings

This is my first posting from Macau. These first few days have been busy as I’ve been filling out forms and navigating the local bureaucracy. Progress has been made on many fronts, although I’m not “finished” yet. The bad is that there is a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. The good is that resources for accomplishing what I want to do are available.

I’m just getting to know and understand the students at the University of Macau. I’m teaching two undergraduate classes this semester, one in Interpersonal Communication and the other in Intercultural Communication. Both are for non-majors. Most students are local residents of Macau. A sizeable minority come from other parts of China, and some are international. In my intercultural class I have two students from Japan who are English majors. They are polite students. Yet what is bothersome is that many come to class late. I’m trying to break this habit by commenting on it (it is disrupting to me when they come in 10-20 minutes late while I’m talking), and holding quizzes at the very beginning of class. I did this with both classes, but did not count the grades. Next time I will. Another thing that bothers me is that these students’ classes, with few exceptions, are conducted in English. Yet I can tell from their writing and speaking that most are not strong in English. I think it is a mistake for the university to instruct so many courses in English only, and would prefer it if there were a mix of languages. My fear is that students are not comprehending as much as they should, and the quality of their education is lessened. Of course, I do enjoy speaking and using Chinese in the classroom. Yet I’m also having a difficult time adjusting and figuring out what interests these students. I recall that when I started teaching at the University of Oklahoma this was a challenge for me in the first several years. But with time I got better. In fact, I believe that my last semester at OU was my best—indicated by the highest teacher evaluation scores I’ve ever received. It may take me a year or two to get the feel of teaching here. But I’m confident I’ll learn.

As a place, Macau is both good and bad. I’ll start with some of the bad. The air quality is worse than expected—worse than it was during my two previous visits June, 2011 and April, 2008. Since I’ve been here every day there is a brown haze, which must be coming from factories and power plants nearby. When looking in the direction of Macau peninsula, and toward Zhuhai, I cannot see much. With the winds blowing mostly from the north and west, the pollution is blowing this way. But when the weather warms up in the spring, the direction of the winds will change and the air should get better. Fortunately, the air quality is not “terrible” here. There have not yet been any days when the air has a taste to it and causes a scratchiness in your throat, as they would sometimes do when living in Taipei in the 1990s.

The good, I have found wonderful running paths on the nearby “mountains” of Xiao (small) Tanshan and Da (big) Tanshan. The university is located right between these. I run down the hill, along sidewalks for a short ways, then climb up to wide dirt paths that run around the circumference of each. In this way I can quickly find wooded areas and look down at the surrounding landscape. This is great and will help me keep my sanity. I also enjoy the food. There is a great variety of reasonably priced restaurants, that in USD are 3-5 dollars. Of course there are more expensive places, but I go to those only when someone else is paying. I’m getting to know my colleagues and they are all friendly. But I sense that I am the outsider and need to work at developing these relationships.

This past Sunday I went to the park that is located near the Venetian Casino and encompasses the row of houses built by the Portuguese in the 1920s. When I visited in June the lotus pond was full of flowers. Now the lotus are dormant, but they’ve built a beautiful gardens next to it where I took lots of pictures. This is adjacent to the tourist area that has wonderful restaurants and shops.