Greetings from Jinzhou.  We are off on holiday.....again!  Talk about a job. Of course the rest of China is off as well and when 1.3 billion people take to the rails it is impossible to get train tickets anywhere.  Many people will purchase "standing" tickets and will stand for the entire trip.  I, however, am not one of them.  When Leanne and her family came back from visiting her husband's family over Spring Festival they stood for over 10 hours on a train.  To me that is just plain dumb.  A friend of mine who teaches in Zhengzhou was going to come up here for a visit, but she was unable to get train's a real pain.  We just stayed home and have hit the parks almost every day.  We'll wait to travel until this summer when my step-grandson comes for a month.  It should be much easier to get around as most people will be at work!

We've been to spend our May Day week visiting the parks here in town. Yesterday we went to the children's park downtown and the two day's before that we went down to the park on the river.  We really like the river park the best  and are becoming fixtures there.  Because it's on the river, there is usually more wind there and people can always be found flying kites.  I attempted to fly ours the other day and again met with disaster when it crashed into the roof of one of the apartment buildings across the street from the park.  There must be a fine art to kite flying that I just don't know.  Actually I had about 2 people trying to help me, they were making motions for me to let out more string... which I did, and telling me to pull back on the line.... which I did.  Still my kite crashed.  There was a hole herd of people attempting to launch a huge dragon kite.  A dragon kite kind of resembles a centipede and is actually about 30 small kites all connected to form a dragon.  This one was about 45 feet long and the kite string was rope.  It took 6 good sized men to hold the rope once it was airborne.  Kind of like a big game of tug-a-war with a kite.  I wish I'd taken my video camera to take pictures of the launch as it was quite interesting.

I gave mid-term exams over vocabulary words to my students who are taking my class as a requirement (and offered it to my students who are taking Oral English as a non-graded elective)  Needless to say the one class I have problems with mostly bombed the test.  The average score was a 59.  Here is a sample question, it was actually on the test, they were supposed to choose the sentence that best used the vocabulary word.

a.  It is poor etiquette to pick you nose in public
b.  It is poor etiquette to tell your friends the correct directions
c.  The etiquette went all the way to the top floor
d.  She missed the etiquette boat

I really did try to make the answers painfully obvious, but you would not believe how many students chose c and d from "that" class.  I had about 10 students from my "no grades" classes show up to take the test and every one of them got 80's and 90's.  These are students who really don't have the English skills that my student's in "that" class have.  I had been warned about the cheating problem here as well.  I prepared two tests to help combat this.  They were the same questions, only the order the questions were in (as well as the answers) was changed.  I also used very small type (mostly to save on photocopying), then I stood up before the classes and harped on cheating and told students if they were caught, I'd take up their tests and they'd get a big ole 0.  I don't think anyone in my two freshman classes cheated, or at least I didn't catch them at it.  But "that" class had to test me.  The first 20 times I saw eyes wondering, I reminded them their neighbors had different tests and it didn't do them any good to look.  Then I took up the test of a girl whom I'd caught cheating on the pop quiz I gave them a few weeks earlier.  You know make an example of one.....didn't work.  I had to take up 2 more boy's tests.  The sad thing is, they were almost done and would have had at least some of the answers correct.  One of the boy's came up to me after class telling me how sorry he was etc. etc. etc.  I just told him, "it's your grade."  It should be interesting to see if any of these students come to me at the end of the term and try to bribe me, another curious custom that is practiced here.  One of the American students here was telling me about a teacher the LIT students called Yi Bai Renminbi, or 100 yuan because all the students know they can give him 100 RMB and pass his class.  Like I said it should be interesting.

My friend living in Zhengzhou sent me a joke...You Know You've Been In China To Long If..... Oh my gosh some of them are starting to come true:
1. You have absolutely no sense of traffic rules ...Guilty!
2.  You start calling other foreigners Lao Wai (Chinese for foreigner and they have started to look foreign, surely my nose isn't that big)
3.  You consider McDonalds a mean it's not???????
4.  You think singing Karaoke on Friday nights is fun.....well it is!
5.  You ask people how much money they make and expect an answer....happens all the time, of course sometimes I lie when asked.
6.  You are the last of your first group of friends still in China.....the other teachers here are all leaving after this term.  They are starting to get very nostalgic about what all they haven't done and what they WILL miss (of course there are things we will NOT miss too)
7.  Black boogers are normal to you........during the winter when all the coal is being burned they really are normal.
8.  You start cutting off large vehicles on your bicycle......and you know they always stop too.  Actually I think the lack of speed is what really saves lives over here.  Nobody goes very fast.
9.  You prefer using's true I do, you wouldn't believe what all you can do with them.
10. You no longer notice the horns honking on the streets......and I don't
11. Your body no longer needs dairy products......I didn't know I could survive without velveta and cheese, but we are.  Charlie does however, still want her warm milk EVERY morning (and usually every evening too)
12. You start to enjoy the taste of BaiJiu.....well it's ok, but I did find a store the other day that had Kahlua, we've been having Colorado Bulldogs....yum yum
13. You eat family style at all restaurnats, Chinese or there any other way?
14.  Chinese fashions start looking hip.......... let me elaborate on this for a bit.  Some of the fashions are doing just that.  They have some really nice suits here for men and women alike, but the children's clothing is pretty much awful.  And some of the women's shoes are so wild I know I'll come home when I think they are attractive.  I hope these are not popular back home.  Imagine a regular woman's high heal shoe with a 4 inch extension (that's about 1 to 2 inches wide) on the toe.  Kind of like elf shoes that don't curl up.  Literally some of them extend out 4 and 5 inches beyond the logical end of the shoe.  This from the land where 60 years ago, women bound their feet to make them smaller.  Now they are trying to make them look like snow ski's. Yes, when I am tempted to purchase a pair of these, I'll know it's time to book our tickets home!

That's about all that is new. Hope you and your's are doing well.  And don't forget.....I live for email!