Thursday, August 31, 2006

Chef's tip

When I start a new job I want to work in a place that divides students into classes according to their English level. I'm tired of teaching multiple simultaneous lessons for students at completely different levels. I don't cater to anyone's needs and end up just struggling to keep everyone occupied.

I started a new class at the farm last week. I was hoping that everyone would have similar levels of English. I started the first session by asking students to tell the class their name, country of origin and amount of time they have been in the UK. A student from Chechnya could only manage 'me English *zero sign*'.

By our second lesson, he was able to have the following interaction with a student from Iran. It looks a bit nasty but it was all said in humour:

Iranian: 'You always looking Russian dictionary, you love Russia!'
Chechnyan: 'No, Russia bad'
Iranian: 'No, Russia good! Russia good!'
Chechnyan: 'Russia good!?! Russia Saddam friend!'

I'm also supposed to be working on numeracy with this class. The guy from Chechnya is a construction engineer. The guy from Iran was a farmer who had very little formal education. Yikes.

A student from the Ivory Coast has very advanced English. Yesterday we were working on instructions and I gave a task which involved matching recipe steps with pictures and putting them all in order. He finished this quickly and I asked him to write a set of instructions for making a cup of tea.

This only took two minutes and there was nothing to correct. At the end of the instructions he had put, 'Chef's tip: for extra flavour, add two mint leaves'. 'I watch a lot of cooking shows', he said. 'I got that tip from watching Gordon Ramsey. The mint leaves give it a wow'.

Fluent in the langauge of lifestyle television! What more can I teach him?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Monica, oh my darling!

My second job starts again on September 16th. Until then, I'm only working one day a week. My job at the farm is two days but I have enough annual leave to take one day off per week until I finish there in November!

This means that I'm moving through my final uni subject pretty quickly. I should finish within a couple of weeks and then I'm going to start applying for more jobs. Not sure how much I'm looking forward to that.

I'm trying to spend all of my free time on study but I'm very good at getting distracted... old Hindi film songs...

chopping vegetables...

shopping trips to Chinatown... all of these are slowing down progress. When I sat down to eat this meal I realised that I'd recreated my favourite Harbour City foodcourt main course and dessert combination. Yum!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Leamington Spa

On Saturday Cal and I went to Leamington Spa to meet friends who are on holiday from Hong Kong. We went for a canal walk which was very beautiful in a very English way.

The friends who were visiting run an import-export business with a lot of contacts in Chungking Mansions. I was very happy when they told me that my fame (notoriety?) lives on there, even in my absence.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Thanks for all my birthday texts, cards and emails. I'm having a quiet but happy day. If only I could import friends from several countries for the day then I'd have enough for a real birthday party.

I'm horrible at remembering birthdays so I requested this book as a present. It's very empty at the moment - so along with the barrage (please?) of birthday comments please give me your own dates!

(have I just passed from mid to late twenties?)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Germs on a plane

I haven't written anything for a while. I was in Stockholm with friends last weekend and I've been feeling yucky with cold since then. I catch something nearly every time I fly - I wouldn't make it as one of those Australians in London who does 'city breaks' every weekend.

Leaving Heathrow the day after the terrorist scare was an event. Our flight was 7am on a Friday morning and SAS had cancelled all its flights the on the previous day. When we arrived at 5am the check-in area was a writhing mass of queues. Thursday passengers were hoping to get on flights. Friday passengers had all turned up early.

People had been waiting for hours without any staff to direct them. It was impossible to figure out where the ends of queues were. Queue rage erupted as people who thought they were at the ends screamed at people who pushed straight into the middle of the crush.

At 5:15am a single SAS staff member turned up and started to organise the queues. Some people were incensed to find out that priority would go to people with tickets to fly that morning rather than people at the front of queues. After a long wait, we checked in for our flight and it left just a couple of hours behind schedule.

I was expecting to like Stockholm. After all, I used to work in Ikea and the first album that I bought as a ten year old was by Roxette.

It was a beatiful relaxed place. Almost so nice that it was creepy. I was reminded of the hilarious 'Sweden' song by The Divine Comedy:

"I would like to live in Sweden
When my work is done
Where the snow lies crisp and even
'Neath the midnight sun
Safe and clean and green and modern
Bright and breezy - free and easy

I am gonna live in Sweden
Please don't ask me why
For if I were to give a reason
It would be a lie
Tall and strong and blonde and blue-eyed
Pure and healthy, very wealthy"

While bordering on clinical, Stockholm also has quirkiness. As in Norway, I found some of the street signs quite wacky. I've seen this one before.

But never this!

The strangest thing about Stockholmers (and all Scandinavians?) is their predilection for heavy metal. I haven't seen so many heavy metal band t-shirts since 1990. My only theory is that it has something to do with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Stockholmers, as we found out, go for all kinds of rock music. And on Saturday nights big groups of them pack into all kinds of vehicles and turn it up as they cruise around the city. I was mesmerised as car after car went past blaring everything from Elvis to Metallica.

If you're planning to go Saturday night cruising in Stockholm then a tough car is a plus.

But even mum's people mover will do.

And obviously, it's cooler if you're sticking out of the car.

Being wholly outside the car is the ultimate.

And this is as cool as you can get.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I spoke to my goddaughter on the phone this week. She can say a lot more than she could when I left Hong Kong a year ago.

It took her a while to get speaking because of all the languages she was exposed to. Now she speaks English at home and Cantonese at school. And if she speaks English with school friends she uses a Honky accent which she doesn't use at home. Her dad finds this strange but I reminded him that he does the same thing!

Her parents still speak to her in Bengali and Tagalog which she understands but doesn't speak much. I guess that in time she will also learn some Mandarin at school and Hindi at home. I'm so proud!

Friday, August 04, 2006

I hate cats

When I arrived at the farm on Wednesday the desk I share was covered with the usual stuff: bits of paper, dog toys, cold cups of tea, garden tools and animal medication. I cleared stuff off the keyboard and tried to print out the worksheets I had made for the day. Both printers weren't working.

Giving up on the printers, I went to start cleaning the classroom. It stank. A cat with diarrhoea had been locked in overnight.

I had just finished scooping up the diarrhoea and mopping the floor when my boss asked to speak to me. The application for continuation of funding for the project I am working on had been rejected. It will end at the start of November

He seemed surprised that I wasn't more disappointed. 'That's okay' I said, 'my study will finish around the same time so it will make sense for me to look for a full time job anyway'. I was thinking about cats.

It will be nice to go out on a high though. The final three month course starts in three weeks and it is oversubscribed already. Apart from the cats and general filth, I've really enjoyed working there.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hand luggage

A woman was escorted off a Cathay HK-Tokyo flight on Monday after refusing to stow away her Gucci handbag. She protested that the overhead compartment was too high and the floor was too dirty. An hour after the plane was supposed to depart, she was escorted off by police as other passengers applauded.

I always board flights with a small, non-luxury brand backpack. I have noticed, however, that each time I fly, the size of my fellow passengers' hand luggage increases. The overhead compartments are always full and the aisles clog up when the plane lands. I know that people take large hand luggage to avoid checking baggage in but I always see people waiting at the baggage carousel to reunite their pull-along carry-on suitcase with a larger check-in sibling.

Speaking of things which annoy me, I can't believe that John Howard is running for a fifth term as Prime Minister! I'm too much out of Australian politics to know if there's a chance of him losing. I doubt it.