Archives For TOEFL

Water, Water Everywhere

Since my grandparents were great gardeners, I observed a few things while watching the Chinese around my campus work in their gardens.

One of the first things I noticed is that my Chinese neighbors would use lots of water on their plants. The diameter of their water hoses was probably four times the size of a standard hose we would use around our houses in the states. These hoses seemed to usually be about the color of rust, not green like we usually have in the states.

I have seen farmers water each plant individually using a metal bowl with a long handle dipping from a big bucket of water. Yes, that does take a long time if there are many plants. Sometimes, the gardeners would just pick up the bucket of water to water the plants.

 

watering the garden_BeauSides_1

 

My campus apartment was high enough for me to look across the street and over a neighborhood’s wall, so I could see my neighbors working on their garden. This community garden was interesting to me because there was a well in the garden, but a person had to pump the water by hand. Another interesting thing about this garden is that there was an outhouse near it, and I could watch the people who worked in the garden not let anything go to waste from the outhouse.

 

pumping well water_BeauSides_2

 

Everyone living in the compound came to do a little work in this garden. I saw children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents all pitching in and doing what they could do to help their garden flourish. I must admit, they had a very nice garden, and it was fun to watch it grow. I am sure they had many delicious meals as a result from all of their hard labor―and watering!

 

family gardening_BeauSides_3

 

 

Beau!

To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Green Thumbs

 

In my recent post, Heaven on Earth, I mentioned how the gardeners on the university campus where I had the honor of teaching didn’t have many modern tools or vehicles to carry their tools. I was very impressed with how well these workers kept the grounds looking, and knowing the resources they used made it even more impressive. Regrettably, I didn’t speak Chinese well enough to tell these workers how impressed I was with their work, nevertheless I will show you some of the fruit of their labor.

 

Roses in China_BeauSides

 

The Director of Foreign Affairs at the university was a wonderful man; however, one thing in particular made my trips to his office so enjoyable: An area behind his office had beautiful roses and a long hedge going the length of the next building.

 

One day, I was surprised to see a man with manual hedge clippers trimming the row of hedges. I couldn’t imagine how long it would take him, but he was doing a great job with the tool he had.

 

Trimming hedges_Beau Sides_Lessons from China

 

The gardeners did have a lawn mower, which they used to cut to cut grass in large open areas. But on more than one occasion, I saw people using hedge clippers to cut smaller sections of grass. Even though the hand-clipped areas of grass were smaller, I couldn’t imagine how long it would take to complete that task.

 

One project that was reported to be completed on time and under budget for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the planting of trees. One million trees were planted! I have noticed that when many trees are planted in China, they are kept in a very straight line.

 

Beautiful trees in a row_BeauSides

To learn more, check out my book Lessons From China

 

Beau!

 

To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Heaven on Earth

Spring is my favorite season of the year. I hate cold weather (except on the few occasions I find myself snow skiing), so I love the promise of better things to come which spring gives us. I also love the new life that is all around us: the baby birds chirping and the plants blooming.

Beautiful flowers on China campus_Beau Sides

In my new book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education, in the chapter “Beautiful Spring,” the main character, Jan, describes for me one of the loveliest places I have ever seen in the spring: the college campus where I taught in China.

The students told me that people from the city would come just to take pictures of the flowers, but I didn’t believe them. Yes, I was wrong. And yes, I became one of the people taking pictures of the beautiful flowers blooming there. In fact, I was so impressed with all of the vivid colors and majestic blooms that I would walk out of my way just see the flowers blooming.

Koi Pond_Beau_Sides_Lessons from China

I must tip my hat to the gardeners on campus because besides having green thumbs they created the most beautiful landscape settings. One setting in particular, which was one of my favorites, was a lovely limestone waterfall that poured into a koi pond. The pond with its exotic jewel-toned fish sat partly under an arch that was adorned with gorgeous purple wisteria clinging all over it.

One guy, whom I became good friends through English Corners and basketball, was scolded severely by one of the gardeners for trying to catch one of the fish in the koi pond with his hands.

 

Purple wisteria in China_Beau Sides_Lessons from China

Without many of the tools we westerners would expect them to have, the campus gardeners worked hard. They mostly used wheelbarrows instead of motorized carts or trucks to haul their supplies and tools. Regardless of how they did their work, they were very successful at it.

Now, I want you to enjoy their work as much as I have!

 

Beau!

To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Regardless of where you are in the world, you may encounter a scenario that is truly unexpected― you know, one of those things that makes you stop and ask, “Why?… How?” Then all you can do is answer yes, and maybe even laugh. That is exactly what happened to me when I saw this in China:

 

Cart and bike on rooftop in China_Beau Sides

 

You can’t fully see the house, but yes, that is the roof of a house…with multiple large carts and bikes on top of the roof! When I initially saw this, from what I saw in the area, I thought, “Why are those there?” My next thought was, “How did someone place heavy metal carts on a rooftop? I couldn’t imagine how much effort was involved in completing the task.

 

The more I looked at the situation, the more I just had to chuckle, because I didn’t have enough imagination to come up with good answers to either of my questions. Maybe on one of my trips back to China, I can meet the homeowner and ask why are the carts on top of your house, and how did you get them there? If I ever learn the answer, I will be certain to pass the information along!

 

Beau

 

To learn more about China’s culture and history, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

China’s Flag

May 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

China Flag_Beau Sides_Lessons from China

 

During each of my trips to China, I am reminded of how proud the Chinese are of their flag because it is displayed so often. Many of the cranes at construction sites will display the flag on top so that it waves in the breeze, and everyone can see it. I’ve often seen China’s flag displayed on office desks in pen and pencil holders. The pen holder’s flat base will have holes in the top of the base to place pens and pencils, and standing out from the writing utensils will be a small Chinese flag on a short stick.

 

The History of China’s Flag

 

The history of China’s flag is very interesting, to say the least. It is often referenced as the Five-star Red Flag or wu xing hong qi. The Five-star Red Flag has one large star in the upper left corner and 4 smaller stars to the right of the large star set in an arching formation. The red represents the communist revolution. The 5 stars and their placement represent the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

 

Zeng Liansong designed China’s flag in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War. Liansong’s Five-star Red Flag was first raised by the People’s Liberation Army on October 1, 1949 over Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Although Chinese government regulations do not allow cities and provinces to have their own flags, Hong Kong and Macau do, but only because they are Special Administrative Regions.

 

China Flag_Beau Sides_Tiananmen Sq

 

Symbolism of the Flag

 

Many people think the 5 stars represent the 5 largest ethnic groups: Han, Manchus, Mongols, Hui, and Tibetans. The truth is, the largest star represents the Communist Party, and the 4 smaller stars symbolize the 4 classes of people in China in 1949: the working class, the peasants, the urban petite bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie.

 

China Flag_Beau Sides_Five stars

 

Wikipedia was a big help with this information!

Beau

To learn more about China, check out Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

 

How to Get Lessons from China

 

Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education now available as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook!

 

You can buy Lessons from China on Amazon.com, Smile.Amazon.com (to donate a portion of the sale to Global Partners in Life), bn.com, and in Barnes and Noble stores and a variety of other bookstores and online booksellers.

 

Note: If you don’t see the book on the shelf at your local bookstore, just ask the sales clerk to order it for you. The booksellers are eager to accommodate you, whenever possible. Independent bookstores can order the book through Bookmasters.

 

Hero

May 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

I want to honor a hero who has done so much to help others, even to the point of putting himself at risk. This man is a hero in more ways than one. One of the things that make him a hero is that he is the principal of a migrant school in China. I’ll give you some background on what a huge deal that is.

Hero in China

Because of the changing economy in China, some interesting things have happened: Many people are moving to the large cities in China for employment. Among this exodus of people are many young couples who are leaving farms for the big cities in hopes of bettering themselves financially. Unfortunately, many of these young couples have to leave their child with their parents to raise while they try to earn enough money to support themselves, their child, and their parents. Other couples choose to bring their child with them, but that leads to problems concerning the child’s education.

It wouldn’t be true if I said that I understood everything involved with registering a child for school in China, but I will share with you what I have been told.

To go to school, a child must be registered. So first, the child needs a registration card. Sometimes, it can be very difficult for minorities and orphans to receive the registration, and that can cause them many problems throughout their lives. Also, a child will probably be denied enrollment at a school of the parents’ choice if the child’s registration is already at a different school. This very situation made it difficult for migrant workers’ children to have access to city schools since they had been registered in a different area of the country. Seeing how so many migrant workers’ children were being denied access to an education, the hero I’m writing about decided to do something about it! He started a school for migrant workers’ children, and the school and the students are thriving! That is an impressive accomplishment, but his story doesn’t end there.

As he returned home one day, he saw his home engulfed in flames, and he knew that his wife and child were inside. At great risk to himself, he tried to rescue them, and was burned badly in his attempt.

I have a great amount of respect for this man. I won’t show you his face because he wouldn’t want me to do that, but knowing his stories makes me pause and ask myself, “Would I have the courage to face such incredible challenges as this man has and be a hero?”  As I celebrate Global Partners in Life’s 10th anniversary, I also want to pay tribute to this fine educator and hero.

 

 

Beau

 

How to Get Lessons from China

Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education is now available as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook!

You can buy Lessons from China on Amazon.com, Smile.Amazon.com (to donate a portion of the sale to Global Partners in Life), bn.com, and in Barnes and Noble stores and a variety of other bookstores and online booksellers.

Note: If you don’t see the book on the shelf at your local bookstore, just ask the sales clerk to order it for you. The booksellers are eager to accommodate you, whenever possible. Independent bookstores can order the book through Bookmasters.

 

 

Soup’s On

Here is a universal truth: When it’s cold outside, nothing warms you up like a bowl of hot soup!

A street vendor sells hot soup on a neighborhood sidewalk.

A street vendor sells hot soup on a neighborhood sidewalk.

 

In China, you can find many delicious types of soups—yes, even from the street vendors. Fish and chicken soups are common. And don’t be surprised if something is looking back at you from the soup pot.

It is common for the heads of fish or chicken to be included in the soup. Once I had fish head soup with some of my students, and one of the students asked me if he could eat the fish head. I wasn’t sure how he was going to do it, so for me it was educational to watch how he used his chopsticks and removed the fish’s head from the pot. While never putting the fish’s head down, he was able to remove everything he wanted to eat. I was impressed with his chopstick skills and how well he cleaned the fish.

Now, if hearing someone sucking a fish’s head is going to bother you, perhaps you should excuse yourself from the table before that begins.

In some areas,street vendors may set out a few short tables with a couple of chairs around them for customers to sit and enjoy their food. Some of the chairs are collapsible, so you’ll want to be careful how you sit on them.

 

To learn more about China, check out Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

How to Get Lessons from China

Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education now available as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook!

You can buy Lessons from China on Amazon.com, Smile.Amazon.com (to donate a portion of the sale to Global Partners in Life), bn.com, and in Barnes and Noble stores and a variety of other bookstores and online booksellers.

Note: If you don’t see the book on the shelf at your local bookstore, just ask the sales clerk to order it for you. The booksellers are eager to accommodate you, whenever possible. Independent bookstores can order the book through Bookmasters.

Beau

 

Pancake, A Staple

Stone Grinder_pancakes

One of my favorite foods―OK, you will hear me say that often about Chinese food― and one of the most versatile in China is called a pancake, or jian bing. The jian bing is flat like the pancakes we westerners think of, but it’s much larger and thinner. This pancake can be made from all kinds of cereal grains; mainly wheat, whole wheat, corn meal, millet, sorghum meal, and plain flour. In the old days, people would have to use the grinder to grind the grain into a fine spreadable meal to be poured onto a hot cooking stone or metal surface. The cooks would then quickly spread the meal thinly over the hot surface where it would cook very fast.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pancake, or jian bing, is used in many ways, and I have yet to find a way I don’t  like. One common way to use the jian bing is to cut it into several sections, maybe 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. Within the rectangular section of pancake, some strips of pork and onions may be rolled up inside the wedge making something similar to a small burrito.

Street Food Vendors_pancakes

Wraps

Wraps are another delicious option for the jian bing. I love going to a street vender and getting a wrap made. In a large wok, the street chef will cook tofu; glass noodles (clear noodles made from rice); and chopped, green leafy vegetables. For just a little extra money, the chef will even cook an egg with this delicious mixture. Once the mixture is cooked, it is used to fill the jian bing which is folded, much like a large burrito that is seared on the wok. This makes for one delicious and filling meal!

pancake fixings 1_street food

To learn more, check out my book, Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education.

Beau

 

 

Everyone, I am so excited to share with you the news of my new book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education. It’s being published on Monday, April 7th! That’s just five short days from today.

Lessons from China is a fun, easy-to-read story that provides unique insights to current Chinese culture, business and personal etiquette, and economic development. This fictional travelogue is also delicately sprinkled with bits of historical background. I hope that you will love the book.

So far, Lessons from China has been getting some great book reviews and attention from the press! When I taught in China, I would tell my students to listen to the VOA broadcast to improve their English skills. So it is amazing that I get to be interviewed on the VOA. So, to kick-start this month of April, I’d like to share with you my radio interview from Voice of America Asia aired on March 26.

VOA Interview: Lessons from China

Click to read or listen to Beau’s Interview on VOA

Over the next few weeks, I’ll keep you informed on some of the fun things that are happening with the book, but I’ll continue with my regular posts of what it’s all about: my lessons from China.

Celebrate with me, share the posts, and the news about my book Lessons from China (by Beau Sides). Look me up on Facebook (Beau Sides Author) or Twitter (Beau Sides) and have a blast with me and all my friends.

Beau

 

Click to go to Amazon.com

One of the best ways, I have found, to meet new people in China is to go to an English Corner. An English Corner is where indigenous people gather to practice speaking English. It’s a bonus for someone trying to improve their English skills to have a native English speaker join them at an English Corner.

Talking at English Corner

Some English Corners are very casual. The university in China where I taught had a designated spot on campus and time to meet. I was amazed by how many students attended. Some weren’t English majors, but they still wanted to have conversations in English. Anything and everything was discussed in this setting. Now, I must brag on my friends there, because they would come out in any weather. I have literally stood in snow and on ice with my toes numb, and the students kept wanting to speak in English.

In another casual setting―in a different city in China where I lived― many people would gather at a coffee shop on Friday and Saturday nights to practice their English. We would have quite a range of ages and backgrounds at these gatherings. Oftentimes, a middle school girl would come, a large group of college students, some young professionals, and a retired guy that was a global current events guru. We were quite a group! We enjoyed each other’s company, and we’d miss someone if they weren’t there.

On the other end of the spectrum, some English Corners are more formal or structured. When I taught at a business school in Beijing, a designated subject or magazine would be discussed. At the end of the meeting, a new assignment was given so that everyone would know what to be prepared to speak about at the next gathering.

I am very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people during my time at English Corners, and with many of whom I am still friends.

Beau

Learn more by reading my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education.