A Long Day and a Good One

Week Two and we’ve started with two very different days. On Monday after lunch Tara and I had a surprising day. We knew that we’d have a different day as we’d been told that everyone would go to the main campus across town for a ceremony with the Rektor and Vice Rektor i.e. the university president and vice president. I’d hoped we’d have an earlier day than usual, but knew that there was no telling.

I was impressed by the large campus with stunning architecture. While the grounds were stark they, buildings were colorful and for me exotic.

As is not unusual, it took awhile for people to assemble, which is common for Indonesia. The ceremony was supposed to start at two and at 2:20 I wasn’t sure when we’d start. Then a woman holding two headscarves approached Tara and I. She asked if we’d wear headscarves so that “everyone could look the same.” I didn’t have much time to really think about it before we were whisked into a side room to put on headscarves. When we went to the big mosque on Saturday, we had to put on headscarves and take off our shoew, which I gladly complied with as it was a way of respecting a religion. Now I was caught off guard and not sure how to decline. This was just a meeting and some women in Indonesia don’t wear headscarves. This group did, but they also want to become an internationals school with students from abroad and the lecturers want to go to America to study. They’ll have to be around women without headscarves. Anyway, we went along and as soon as we put on the scarves, the woman who gave them to us told us we looked beautiful. It seemed awkward to be told that now that we had scarves on we were beautiful. I’m not sure what to make of that. Some of the folks on the planning committee were apologetic and I think embarrassed about this last minute headscarf thing. People have been so hospitable and gracious, but there still are some awkward moments.

Eventually the meeting started. First the head of the organizational committee spoke, explaining its goals (i.e. to prepare young lecturers to speak in international settings like conferences and to enable them to write for academic publication. It’s a loft goal since a lot of my students can’t write an outline let alone a solid paper. Also the Vice Rektor stated that within about 10 years the government wants all lecturers, not just assistant professors to have PhDs. Now 30% do. To top that off, this university wants to be in the top 500 universities in the world by 2030, which considering that the library doesn’t subscribe to many databases or have a collection of books needed to do the research needed to get highly ranked means it’s sort of a Don Quixote impossible dream.

We’ve got three weeks to teach or perhaps explain the main skills needed to write an article that would be published in an international journal. (I say explain because to me “teach” implies that at least half of the students can do at least a so so version of the taught skill. Here I think a lot will just be able to talk about it and will need more practice before they can apply what’s been taught.

The Head of the Language Center spoke and I was surprised how much of his talk was administrivia (e.g. we reserved the hotel for the teachers on July 16th, I’ll fill out the forms for their stipends on Tuesday, and things of that ilk, which we’d just handle through email or less formal meetings).

So all the department leaders, Tara and I and two students all spoke. One student included a lot of religion in his speech, which I doubt would have been included in a similar speech at a Christian university.

So the meeting finally ended and then people took a lot of photos before finally leaving.

We’d driven with an administrator named Fuzan and a lecturer and were going to return with him. But a very bright outgoing student offered to drive us to the hotel. Fuzan politely, but firmly said he would because he’d been assigned to. We thought we’d just go with whomever was less inconvenienced. There was quite a lot of back and forth and finally the program director intervened and had us go with the outgoing student. OK. Maybe he lives closer to our hotel.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Cherry on Top

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Quite literal – Ever have terong belanda juice?

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other themed photos:

Word of the Week

I got an email with a slew of these sentences from my father. I like the sound of this word and the sentences themselves amuse.

Paraprosdokian, n.

The term for a figure of speech in which a sentence or phrase has an unexpected or surprising ending. Often used for humourous effect, and thus heavily used by comedians.

Examples:

  • “Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.”
  • “If I am reading this graph correctly – I would be very surprised.” — Stephen Colbert
  • “If you are going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
  • >li>”I sleep 8 hours a day. And at least 10 at night.” — Bill Hicks

Reference
“paraprosdokian.” (n.d.) Urban Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Senpai

Pekanbaru, Indonesia

I agreed to teach a group of Indonesian teachers for three weeks through a program associated with Ohio State University, which is part of a consortium of universities that offer scholarships to Indonesian students so they can study in the U.S. The problem has been that many scholarships go unused because the Indonesian students lack the English proficiency to get accepted.

So after a three day (yes three days) journey from Chicago to Los Angeles, to Tokyo, to Singapore, to Jakarta, I arrived in Pekanbaru. Flying Singapore Air made all the difference. They offer such gracious, thoughtful service: hot towels, good food with lots of choices for special meals, lots of drink choices, cleaner bathrooms. I could check two bags for free.

I’m working with another teacher, Tara, who’s completing her doctorate and has been a conscientious, kind companion whom I’m enjoying getting to know. We’re at Pesonna Hotel, a new nice, clean mid-range hotel, just 10 minutes from school. The staff is taking extra good care of us trying to offer plenty of vegetarian dishes for Tara and going out of their way to ask us what services we might need.

The teaching schedule and goals of the program are challenging. In three weeks, I’m to get my students to write a 3-5 page article for publication and Tara’s to get her students to make a conference presentation on that topic. We’ve got students for 4.5 hours a day. and the students have an extra hour in the morning and in the afternoon with co-instructors who reinforce what we’ve taught or give students time to do homework.

Our students are young instructors or graduate students. One class consists of English Language teachers and the other has an assortment of fields including IT, economics, Islamic accounting, animal husbandry, banking, dentistry and public health. Some students in the mixed class have very low English so I’m not sure why they don’t take a regular English class to up their basic skills, but that’s how it goes in Asia.

The students have been pleasant and eager. Teaching adults should be easier than kids and while the levels may not be what I’d suggest, no one’s been forced to take this class, which makes a world of difference.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Details

in New Orleans

in New Orleans

in Beijing

in Beijing

in Kathmandu

in Kathmandu

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other themed photos:

Silent Sunday

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Image

Mr. Six

Mr. Six (left), his pal (right)

Mr. Six (left), his pal (right)

At a hotel, I asked a concierge for a list of good Chinese movies and Mr. Six was among them–and wow did it belong there.

I found it on a Singapore Air flight and this tale of the clash of the old and poor Beijingers with the rich and young blew me away. The film opens in the hutongs of Beijing where an old time gangster, nicknamed Mr. Six, lives and rules dispensing justice as he threatens pickpockets and intervenes between the police and a poor vendor. Mr Six, a widower, hasn’t even heard from his twenty-something son in six months. He knows the kid doesn’t care about him. He soon hears that his son’s been kidnapped as vengeance for sleeping with a super-rich kid’s girlfriend and then keying that guy’s Ferrari.

Mr. Six knows his son was in the wrong and tracks down the gang of rich car racers, who might as well come from another world. Their culture and mores have little in common with this old geezer who has a very clear, almost eye-for-an-eye view of justice.

Rich kid with blond hair and scratched Ferrari

Rich kid with blond hair and scratched Ferrari

Mr. Six shocks and impresses the kid his son wronged in a curious way. He’s given 48 hours to come up with 20,000 to pay for the car’s paint job. Mr. Six then proceeds to make the rounds of his old pals, some who’re squeaking by and others who’ve become wealthy to get the money. The film is a good look into China’s culture today. The young are (in some regions more than others) not buying into the old ethos. Materialism is on the rise and taking its toll in the form of souls. Mr. Six has the old justice system down, and it differs from Western ways so he surprised me again and again.

Also the film itself takes some interesting turns that wouldn’t come up in an American film. At one point the young, spoiled kids agree to meet Mr Six and his cronies to resolve the matter with a big fight. The old guys show up, but the young ones don’t. I can’t remember a no-show like that in a Western film. Returning home, Mr. Six gets surrounded by henchmen sent by the rich kid’s dad. They proceed to threaten and beat him.

The film captivates and has stayed with me and will for quite some time.

Warning: Mr. Six will strangle and fight anyone who’s treating his son unjustly. It’s not as violent as The Godfather but there’s a lot of fighting and some blood.

Travel Theme: Indoors

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Each week Ailsa of “Where’s My Backpack?” invites bloggers to share travel photos based on a particular theme. This week’s theme is Indoors.

I knew I’d have to share a photo of the interior of Beijing’s first Stock Exchange. It’s been long forgotten and is now just a tenement, where you can hear people cooking, kids playing, etc. Thanks to Jeremaiah Jenne’s walking tour or Tiananmen Square and the area southwest of it, I knew that this isn’t just some old building, whose exterior you can see here. If it hadn’t been for this tour, I would have just walked by this building without giving it a second glance.

Now if you would like to join in (everyone’s welcome to join in!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Indoors
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes.
  • Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.

Bad Service with Apple

In the past I’ve had good to very good customer service with Apple Computer, but not tonight.

My MacBook Pro has been running very slow for a year. Yes, a year. I think it’s picked up a bug or some malware I can’t see in China. Over there there’s really nothing I can do. Today I made an appointment using my Apple computer on their site using their system.

The only appointments in Northbrook were in the evening, which is an inconvenience. The other location Skokie had no appointments till Friday. I booked a slot and went about my day running errands and visiting my aunt.

Tonight it was raining, but I drove to the mall hoping to return with a speedier computer.

When I arrived there was a line of four people waiting to check in. Alright. I was surprised because in high end businesses customers aren’t supposed to wait especially when three employees are talking with two customers. Yep, three. A man entered the store after me and asked one of them for help and he was told he should get in the line. One of the Apple employees pulled out his phone and seemed to try to start a second line, but he couldn’t. That’s a glitch.

When it was my turn I gave the clerk my name and appointment time. She couldn’t see the my appointment. She said she only had one appointment at 7:45. She then said I should check my phone to see if the appointment’s there. It irks me that they assume everyone has an iPhone. I don’t want to be that embedded with anyone company, though I know a lot of people have iPhones.

So next I was dispatched to find evidence of the appointment. I took my computer to the side table and tried to look for an email confirming the appointment. The frustrating thing is it takes so long for my computer to boot up, hence the visit to Apple on a rainy night. I really had hoped to have gotten to explain the urgency of my visit and get an appointment since only one person was booked for 7:45. Surely more than one technician is working tonight.

The clerk did come by to ask if I found the confirmation, but when I replied no I was still waiting for their computer to boot up she told me to use their computer and walked off uninterested in helping. She sensed my mood was souring and didn’t want to deal with me.

Finally, I got into my inbox and didn’t see a confirmation. I am busy all day tomorrow but could come back, but not in the evening. I found the clerk who was milling about and explained the situation. She was adamant that she could not accommodate me and wasn’t interested in hearing about my case. It seems to me that if you’re representing a high end company as a customer service clerk, you should have an interest in the customers and their pathetic stories and computer woes. Well, I’m not in Japan any more so of course they don’t. Maybe I should have found an Apple store in Osaka.

I worked in customer service for a clothing store that never treated people the way I was treated. All the associates had to wait till the last customer left the store even if that meant 20 of us hung out an extra hour. We’d have been taken to task if we showed the smallest sign of annoyance — even when it’s justified. Now clothing isn’t a computer, in fact it’s not as essential since anyone who shopped at Mark Shale had loads of clothes at home. I doubt my problem would have taken all that much time, but it would have meant the world to me if they had customer-oriented clerk at the door.

I just bought an Apple Time Capsule to back up my data. It’s due to arrive tomorrow and cost $300. It’s going right back to the store. I like their products but they cost an awful lot more than PCs. Financially, I’d be better off with a different brand and this one clerk’s inability and disinterest in helping is leading me away from the brand.

I guess car repair can be as frustrating, but boy have dealerships upped their service in the last few years. I know I could call in for help, but I want someone to see the screen, not for an operator to ask me if I see X or Y and tell me where to click next when I can’t see X or Y.

Some semblance of caring would have gone a long way to keep a customer loyal.

Speedy

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Harold Lloyd’s 1927 film Speedy is a comic delight. Speedy is hero’s name. Lloyd’s Harold “Speedy” Swift is in love but can’t hold a job for more than a few days so his sweetheart’s grandfather, her guardian, won’t let them marry. We see him lose a couple more jobs through no fault of his own.   His fanatical love of baseball cost him his soda jerk job and luck just wasn’t on his side when he tried to drive a taxi with Babe Ruth as his first and only customer.

Despite his poor job record, Speedy takes his girl to Coney Island, where a slew of mishaps continue.

His sweetheart’s grandfather owns the last horse-drawn car (i.e. a tram driven by a horse when cars and buses have taken over the streets). A railroad tycoon wants to buy him out to replace the old horse-drawn conveyance with his railroad line. After reading about the railroad deal in the paper, Speedy changes grandpa’s requested amount from $10,000 to $70,000, which the big shot who’s come to negotiate with grandpa outright refuses.

Thus the railroad man plots to prevent grandpa from completing his route. If he misses a day, the railroad can take over the route without paying grandpa anything so the shrewd tycoon hires a bunch of thugs to stop grandpa. Speedy happens to overhear the plan and volunteers to take over as the driver. Since Speedy’s batted 0% as far as his jobs go things look bad.

The film is full of sight and physical gags that amaze. How did they do these stunts? Considering how they sometimes used real streets and had to orchestrate massive, chaotic scenes with hordes of extras and animals, it’s incredible and still entertains.

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