The Flowers of War (Nanjing War Movie)

The Flowers of War 金陵十三钗

Just watched this Zhang Yimou film in a local theatre today with a Chinese friend. It was so powerful that I had to step out about halfway through to calm myself down. The last movie that brought tears to my eyes was probably The Game, which was a completely different type of movie, but a psychological thriller none-the-less. I was speechless after that movie and I feel the same with this one.

Since my friend was a woman whose mother came from Nanjing it was extra moving for us. All I could do was give her a shoulder and a hug at the moments when we both wanted to close our eyes.

I’m sure this movie will get mixed reviews, but I would say that a movie which can twist the audience in so many directions is truly a piece of work. There are reasons to feel love, hate, sorrow, and joy in this tri-lingual film. And the subtitles are as important to the experience as the blood that is spilled on the ash-covered Nanjing city streets; as searing as the colorful church glass that shadders from a heroic snipers bullet; as garish as the bodies mutilated by acts of inhumane terror. Continue reading The Flowers of War (Nanjing War Movie)

From Chinese Public School to University to Workforce

Teacher Student Time

It’s common for us to praise countries like China, Japan, and Korea on their teaching methods. Of course, their math scores frequently deliver a spanking to American children and the future of American students gets even gloomier from there. The results are in the numbers and the proof is ample, but this educational success doesn’t come without a cost. As we attempt to compete academicaly, and globably, this cost has been (or is still being) experienced by American students with mixed responses from their administrators. At least the few administrator I’ve talked to were not full of praise about their new exam-based system. Continue reading From Chinese Public School to University to Workforce

YinDo Hotel’s Invisible Wall

Gongbei Road
Yindo Hotel in Downtown Zhuhai

March 8, 2007 – 9:30am Meeting with Zhou Laoshi. (HR department- 13 years experience)

Meeting with Zhou Laoshi was a pleasant experience this morning. I found out, ironically, that she was probably in her late 40s and rather traditional, but ready to accept me and bring me in for a few test classes ASAP! One of the most important experiences of all, though, were the moments when her boss would speak Chinese with her. This was the “invisible wall” factor that most chinese count on and 99% can trust is there.

You know, it’s the “we speak our language with the foreigners present and assume they can’t understand it” wall. For example, they had already agreed on times for me to come in next week and then the HR Manager asked about “future cooperation,” “what does he want to do with us in the near future?” “Will these classes really be free?” etc. I knew about these discussions and waited for the translated version from Zhou Laoshi. (She was very diplomatic by the way. She didn’t want to discuss the future yet, so she just simply left it out of the conversation. I respected that invisible wall and didn’t bring it up.)

YinDo Hotel Class

This was perhaps the most victorious feeling i’ve had since my stay here in China. I’m now able to (listen through that wall and) consider all of these outside ideas, projections, and queries without responding to them instead of the translator. I feel like changing my name to a number… maybe 008!

We discussed the following points, which I will remember easier in a list:

1) Major problems for teaching English with the current hotel scheduling system:
a. Entire staff on different levels. Some think the lessons are too simple, while others find them too hard. Can’t be consistent with everyone!

b. A group works together one week, at the same time. The next week there is a time change for half of them. This creates different mixes of staff in the classes, creating inconsistant groupings in class.

2) Because of the above, there is always a dropping number of students no matter what is done to counter that; It goes from MANY to A lot… to some……. to few …………to very few.

3) 600 employees, but many don’t need English. IN FACT, only 15% of the guests are Westerners. This creates less demand for English study. *MORE Korean and Japanese* Although i did argue the fact that many Asian people can’t speak Chinese either.

4) March and April are the slowest times of the year. The times when hotels do annual English Lessons to reteach the basics to everyone.
a. May- (1-7) is Golden week, a big time for chinese travellers.
b. Summer months are usually busy because of Zhuhai‘s resort status.
c. Sept./Oct.- Moon cake time (Famous in ZH) they sell “1,000 million” I guess…
d. Oct. (1) is national day, busy time.
e. Nov./Dec.- Most people get married during these months to get ready for the New Year.

——————–

So, it was a productive morning. I had coffee after the initial meeting and I got a tour. I met everyone from high-level managers to trainees. All had rather mediocre English, but i stayed positive through it all. Sometimes i showed my chinese ability, but not in front of Zhou Laoshi or her boss. I will keep that a secret the staff doesn’t leak it first!

I further learned that the foreigners in this area are mostly Korean and Japanese. This is an idea that I would like to apply to my website- a kind of teacher search portal, but more on that in the next post.

-Ben杰明

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To MBA or not to MBA, there is no question.

My Chinese friend had a notice under her username recently on MSN. It said “Master isn’t equal to smart~Give me a break!” It’s obviously a complaint she’s making to her coworkers with whom she doesn’t get along. Did her point come across? It caused me to think about the very concept of an MBA…

Maybe I have mentioned a certain colleague while here in China, I’ll just call her AC. This woman is a native of Beijing and is proud of that. She is in her late 30s and still single, which isn’t so acceptable for women of her generation. She has TWO (2, 两个) MBAs from two of the most intellectually strong contries of the world: The United States and Germany.

I have been known to express some anger towards this woman; haven’t we all had someone we can only see eye-to-toe with? Without passing too much judgement, i’ll just say that the ears you see on her head don’t really have a use. The English you hear coming out of the mouth doesn’t sound like the level of an MBA, let alone a double-MBA. The decisions coming out of the brain seem to be lacking direction, purpose, colleague support, and a certain level of organization one would expect from at least a bachelor degree holder in the West.

I know that all comes out as a kind of “judgement.” I’m not saying that she is an evil person, although we’ve had some very personal and threatening confrontations. What I AM saying, is that there is “no proof” in that woman’s “MBA-pudding.” (If you’re picking up what i’m putting down…) Sadly, it seems that an MBA is just a piece of paper, which costs a lot of green paper.

When considering the loans I took out for my B.S. in B.A., it almost sickens me to think of how much in loans I am now responsible for. It’s ok because a Bachelor’s degree is expected of a common American. I can afford this in order to stay basically competative. However, I’m not faced with the pressure to get an MBA. Somehow we (in American society) feel so impressed by the MBA that we’ll borrow, on average, over $100,000 just to finance it!We expect to have an amazingly high paying job afterwards with this great, new, more expensive piece of paper. The REAL gain, i am told, is the networking/marketing you get from the experience… ah ha!

Well, I’m in China. I can use the language to communicate with quite wealthy, non-english speakers here. Starting a company here would cost much less and the economy is only going to grow and grow… Why not loan just $10,000 and start working on something really amazing out here? I find the life more interesting than back in the US, the food is more appetizing and healthy, and the women really treat my eyes well 🙂

It’s not everyone’s solution; it’s just my personal solution and that is really what’s important for us all. We each have a “best solution” which could quite possibly rest on the shoulders of an MBA education. Ask yourself, graduates of the recent class, should you run out and get an MBA? I know, at least for me right now, there is no question. What’s best for you?

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Zhuhai Hospitality – Nan You Hotel

Zhuhai-Qinglu-0644
Waterfront near Nan You Hotel, Zhuhai

March 5, 2007 – 6:30pm Meeting with Sabrina, Nan You Hotel (Guest Services Supervisor)

When I first arrived offering free English lessons, the response clearly was…. “What? C’mon, what do you really want in return? There’s no FREE LUNCH,” which translates directly between both Chinese and English. My intentions were simple and I stated them clearly: “I have never taught Hotel or Business English before and I’d just like to practice here at your Hotel. If I succeed here, then I’ll try to offer this service to more hotels with foreign guests.”

Although still a bit skeptical, the Guest Services Supervisor was eager to oblige and meet me. Our first meeting happened tonight and I think I’ve learned so much from it. Really, I think this was extremely valuable, or invaluable in crazy English.

Here are brief summaries of the points, so I can recall them:

1. Departments using English most in their jobs- these include face to face with guests.
a. Reception: Check in/out, currency exchange, phone problems, etc.
b. Housekeeping/maids: Problems with utilities, rooms, materials
c. Coffee shop: Ordering, problems, bill pay, small talk.

2. Low level or “First Line Staff,” in the departments above, communicate with foreign guests most, of course.

3. HR department is best to contact first.
a. They organize the annual “Hotel English training course.” Attended by ALL staff. This is a service that is tapable, i think. Could be expanded to bi- or quarter-annual.
b. HR prefers the supervisors/managers who speak English well to teach in house. It’s not worth hiring outside help to teach the first line staff directly. Too costly.

4. Community style hotels rent out spaces for restaurants, massage parlors, gaming areas, and driving ranges. Those employees are separate from the actual hotel, but HR is still the right place to go to include them.

5. Remember: don’t ask too much of one person who is not a higher manager. They can’t just ask people to do things like in Western countries. It will isolate them from their colleagues and it’s unfair. Slowly, meet the others and test the waters until something useful surfaces. You’ll never get what u ask for! You’ll get a Chinese version. Accept this and you’ll succeed.

6. Hui Yi Shi- Meeting rooms: Rented out by the hotel for business purposes. Not offered for in house language training… at least that was “said,” but the meaning could be something else. Instead, the dorms were suggested as a meeting place.
a. HR director gave me a very typical response to something they don’t want to do… Basically, “We can have these English lessons in the dormitory meeting rooms, but unfortunately, these rooms are still under construction.”
b. Don’t solve their “problems” for them. They are only saying this as a way to tell you “no, we disagree, or just we aren’t interested.” Reminds me of when i asked for a 3rd teacher at our college… I pushed at that time and I learned the hard way.

7. English Corner is one style of training they might be interested in. Supervisors need experience with casual English encounters. This will support their further tasks when cooperating with foreigners.

8. FIND out where these Foreign guests come from! 80% of the the foreigners at this hotel are from JAPAN. I realized this a bit late. The HR director obviously has other priorities here.

—-

I’m starting to sense the real demand in this market. THIS is one way to find out the parameters of what I need to do. I’m just putting myself out there, for free, and getting slapped around! You should try it sometime, you might just enjoy what you find!

At the end of the day, I realized that so much research is needed before creating plans for what I want to do here in Zhuhai– create a consultancy for the Language needs of Resorts, Hotels, and businesses. Maybe I will have to seriously consider including Japanese to this plan…

– Ben杰明

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