PERSONAL NOTE: I DECIDED to share my book with my friends and students in China because it is too expensive to order a copy from USA. Read it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, Steve, usa, May 17, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
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I believe it is possible to set up such a center because more and more different kinds of learning centers are popping up in China where younger parents want their children to have the opportunity to learn and acquire new knowledge and skills provided by these centers. I remember watching a report on TV in China where young students at a learning center were exposed to different professions in China: What does it mean to be a chef? How does one train a pilot for the airline industries? What does a research scientist do in a lab? Do you have what it takes to be a dancer, or a singer, or a teacher, or a hairdresser? In America, only high school students, if they are in a lucky school, are exposed to these different “career paths” while going through high school, a way to assist them to pick a career of their choosing with the requisite talents and preparations. I am not talking about vocational schools. It is happening all over America in regular high schools…why in high schools? Because some might not continue to attend colleges or universities and so now high schools in America are obligated to prepare students to work in the real world after high school. Others will move on to higher education. But now in China, I am seeing children exposed to these “career paths” at an early age. I believe Yang Kun’s idea of a center to help students improve their reading skills is another resource available to parents and young people.
I told Yang Kun to talk to a young couple who was there with their young son. She did and they were exchanging ideas and thinking in Chinese. I told her before she planned to open a center, she must do some research and that would include talking to many young mothers in town to gauge their interest in this project. I studied economics in college and I gathered many ambitious plans would fail because of lack of research. Who is the target audience or the people you want to serve? One must study about them and what would they want in this center. This is just an introduction to a serious survey of the people you plan to serve. Design a simple questionnaire with Yes or No answers and the resultant pictures will provide you the lead to move ahead with the project. And I also suggested to her that the center must also provide the facility for parents to enjoy their time, interacting with other parents. We must have tea or coffee and some simple snacks while they wait for their children attending the center’s activities. Of course, the center will have different books available for sale to the parents. There is a lot to do to operate a warm and exciting place for young people to come, to enjoy, to meet other young people and to learn to read.
While Yang Kun was busy with the young couple, I took the time to introduce myself to the young man sitting at a table next to us. He later adopted the name Edwin. He is a first year high school student but I thought he was in college. I do not see high
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school kids drinking coffee at Starbucks in America because it is not cheap for an average high school kid. This is China, and many kids have money to enjoy life. It was around noon and I suspected he was on his way home from high school. He spoke some good English. His father had sent him to visit Italy the previous summer. Italy? Why? He wanted his son to do some traveling abroad. That was it. See the world. Did he understand Italy? Not knowing the language? I gave him my email address and my QQ ID. (QQ is an instant messaging software service in China. There are around 829 million active QQ accounts as of January 2015). I continue to work with many students in China from my home in USA using QQ and my email.
After Starbucks we went back to the hotel to rest and promised to meet with her and her sister at a famous fish restaurant. Seafood restaurants are famous in China. It does not matter which city you go to, there are famous seafood restaurants to serve your every whim and fancy and they are not cheap. You pick the fish you want, they will kill them for you, and cook them for you, and serve them to you fresh from the fish tanks. This is China. I remember one evening a group of us went to a restaurant for dinner. And we had ordered some fish to accompany our meal. A worker rode the motorcycle to the nearest fish store to get fresh fish to cook for us. Once somewhere in Xiamen, someone took me to a restaurant and a worker came out with a handful of live snakes, all alive and struggling to escape from his grasp. And we were asked to pick which ones for a meal. Which one? They all looked the same but they gave us a chance to choose. All snakes are the same once they stripped them of their skin. We did and in a short time, the once lively snakes appeared on a platter, looking like thick noodles to me but tasted like some kind of meat with heavy sauce to kill the smell of nature. This is China and you soon learn Chinese would eat anything that can move or is alive.
Most Western foreigners are horrified when they visit China’s famous morning markets, where the hawkers or farmers would remove the skin of live frogs in front of you, or use a blunt instrument to hit on fish heads till they stop moving or breathing, whichever comes first. Before they cut open the stomach and pull out the internal organs, they would first remove the scales—which vary in size, shape and structure—while the fish are not completely dead, their eyes staring at you. Bony fish like salmon and carp are covered with cycloid scales, while cartilaginous fish like sharks and rays are covered with placoid scales. Some have scutes, still others have no outer covering on the skin like the eels (one of the most expensive fish, a delicacy, in Japan today). Some fish heads are very expensive in China because many Chinese, like the Indians with their fish head curry stew, love to prepare and serve fish head soup. I watched how they murdered the fish for us to enjoy.
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The Inuit in Alaska and Canada are mainly hunters and they rely heavily on hunting for whale or seal or caribou for food from ancient times. The world continues to condemn the way they inhumanely kill these animals for food, using any blunt tools, their tradition and custom. And some time every year, the Japanese carry out the same ritual of murdering sea animals for food.
When I was growing up in a poor farming village in Malaya, my brother would catch a squirrel using a metal cage trap, drown it first, then remove the skin, performing the same ritual for food. In China hidden cameras have shown they would skin the animals while the animals were alive. This is China.
Yang Kun insisted we must visit this famous seafood restaurant in her neighborhood but I did not expect to see how they would kill the fish for our dinner. Eason, Terry and I arrived early to find a big table enough for six or seven people. Soon, Yang Kun appeared with David, her son and told us her sister was busy and would not eat with us. She ordered two huge trays, not platters, of fish, one spicy hot, the other mild. But the same kind of fish. The purpose is to enjoy the fish, with very little rice to complement the dinner.
I believe we were served pomfret or perch and it came on a rectangular metal serving tray over fire: one tray was spicy hot, the other mild, with plenty of green onion stalks, slices of fresh ginger roots, garlic, rice wine, tomato ketchup, sesame oil, coriander sprigs, shredded red pepper, shredded green pepper, sliced Chinese black mushroom, soy sauce, fermented black beans, and five spice powder. And a few other condiments. I kept asking for iced water because it was burning hot inside my mouth. It reminded me of the way Americans love to serve and eat their spaghetti, drowning their spaghetti in thick heavy sauce while northern Italians prefer their spaghetti dry with less sauce. Some, in fact, with plain, finely chopped garlic in olive oil.
Back at the hotel I told Yang Kun that Eason and I should have asked her to drive us back to the hotel, because the walking distance proved a long, tiring, meandering walk for me. Eason kept repeating that we are not far from the hotel now. That went on for a while until we reached the hotel.
I was paralyzed with sudden apprehension because something unexpected happened this time at the elevator of the hotel. A security guard stopped us from entering and they asked for our names. Now I got nervous because Eason did not register my name. Eason seemed to understand the slight commotion in the hotel. Once we entered our room, Eason went down to the front desk to explain our situation. Later, I was to learn from Eason, that in China every time when there is an important gathering or meeting
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of top government officials with representatives from foreign countries, the government will always check the hotels in the city to make sure they are not harboring terrorists or anti-government thugs nearby. There would be an important gathering the following week. And checking the hotel guests was a routine for the government. This is China. What was sad, according to Eason, some guests without some proper documents or right IDs were asked to move out. And many were very upset that night because they had no choice but to evacuate from the building. I could not imagine anyone, especially if you are Chinese in China, to book into any hotel without any kind of identification. I was worried because Eason was away for a long time. Everything was okay he told me when he returned to the room. He was also helping the hotel desk to do something. Something about the hotel not having the right machine to process my application. He explained to them about who I was and that he had forgotten to register my name. He is a lawyer and knows how to talk and what to say.
Early the next morning, Yang Kun called to say goodbye and reminded me to keep in touch with her because she wanted me to assist her in setting up a center in Hangzhou for young people. Children, to be exact. Nanchang was my next stop, to see my godson Eric.
“I want children to read books,” she repeated on the phone.
Months later, Yang Kun decided not only to set up a center for children to read books, but to bring an expert from Hong Kong to train her instructors to teach children phonics…an important prelude or first step to ensure all children can benefit from her reading program and center. And she has also signed contracts with some elementary schools in her city to introduce phonics to their children in the first and second grades because in China children are taught English officially beginning in third grade. She is very hopeful of the program…she is looking to spread her ideas to other towns and cities beyond Hangzhou.
She could smell success is on the way. “I want all children to read books at an early age,” she repeated. Everything is possible. This is China.