This morning I’m in a part of town I used to live in — back in the early 1990s, we stayed for a fair while at the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel (we also did have a home back then, but we left it for the rest of the family). I sat in the Atrium for a fair bit of rather late morning tea. In this city where just about everything changed, it was nice to find a more Aldgate part of the Jing. The 1980s / 1990s-esque lifts were still there (even the way the number “4” was displayed on the identification plates), and the mini-pavilion in the Atrium was still there. What changed was merely the music they were playing — at times it sounded a little from what I heard from the crew at SWISS International Air Lines.
The Aldgate bit means a fair bit to me: I took the Metropoiltan line to Aldgate, snapped myself a pic in late 2014, and was wowed by the likes of the Gherkin. Sadly, I’d see almost no development in that part of London next year, so the views changed far less than in Beijing. The Atrium at the Great Wall Sheraton stayed much the same — in fact, much of the whole hotel stayed the same. Even the lifts looked their late 1980s / early 1990s self, with the number 4 on lift number plates by the entrance still in that very special typeface.
In a city that has shifted beyond sixth gear in no time, it’s… well… somewhat comforting to find a part of town that hasn’t changed. ▶
You might have noticed that the city of Beijing has an -ing in the name. It’s no odd coincidence: whilst on a drive around town lately, I have witnessed the emergence of whole towns as cities from a part of Beijing far out — Tanzhesi around 20 miles out southwest from the centre of town has in essence been redone as a New Town of sorts, with a huge load of high-rise buildings. Mentougou, around 15 miles out from central Beijing, has in the meanwhile silently become a brand-new city.
If someone put a microphone to me whilst I was driving around, the tape would be probably end up wiped clean, since it was laden with expletives and, in fact, little else. That’s how it turned out: utter disbelief my end as I was driving around town. You could not in any other way portray how shocked and stunned I was. ▶
David Feng to Host Hebei Photo Exhibition Launch Event at University of Westminster on 31 October 2015
I’m really happy to share with everyone that I’ve been confirmed as an event emcee of a photo exhibition about the province of Hebei. This will be held at 14:00 on 31 October 2015 as part of the opening ceremonies.
Hebei could be just any other random province out there, but since winning the rights to host the Beijing & Zhangjiakou 2022 Olympics, it has become the epicentre of a huge amount of publicity. Its close proximity to Beijing, plus a further regional integration project well underway to get Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei even closer, means that the province of Hebei is increasingly a Big in China.
With Hebei being as key as it is — hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics — it’s time the rest of the world in London knew what this place is all about. We’ll be having lots of pictures that will hopefully take your breath away. You’ll actually get to see the non-Beijing part of China that will host the games in 2022. And you’ll actually see some liquid stuff (Beijing is landlocked; but Hebei is right on the coast).
So join me as we start the show: 14:00 on 31 October 2015. This will be at Fyvie Hall at the University of Westminster’s Regent Street Campus (309 Regent Street). The entire exhibition will remain viewable to the public through to 06 November 2015.
▶ Get more info — and get tickets (free!)
See you there! ▶
I’ve done the entire London Tube system before I tackled those in Beijing and Shanghai, and I’ve been in both cities in China longer than what some might call “healthy”. (For Beijing, that’s 14 years in one go; for Shanghai, these included two visits in just one month in July 2009.)
So when my wife thought it was high time to “guide Brits coming into China for the trains”, I thought that it was also high time to introduce Britons to the way the rails work in China. Apart from a full-fledged post on Tracking China, I also took the time to compare the Beijing and Shanghai equivalents of London’s Central, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines — or what could be the closest equivalents.
And this is when I ask all Londoners, Beijingers, and Shanghai folks to chime in. Is what I am posting below absolute rubbish — or can you somehow relate to these?… ▶
“We’ve heard the sentiment that if you do not select Almaty then you, the IOC, can ‘sleep well at night for the next seven years’. I find that a curious statement.”
Almaty spared no effort in attacking the Jing, and it shot itself in the leg, with it edging ever so close to victory — separated by four crucial votes. Verdict? If your “competitor” is a Confucian country where being polite and courteous in rites and decorum is everything, you just don’t take jabs at your adversary. The votes had it all: Almaty’s spectacular Ballmer-(ish-)inspired (it looked every bit like it) bid ran out of fuel, just short of the finishing line. Beijing sprinted through, with my bit of the world pulling it off in brilliant grace. ▶
It took me over 10 years of Chinglish-gazing around the country to be shown the right people to that one classroom in the Foreign Affairs Office of Beijing’s most internationalised district, Chaoyang, where people came in the evening hours of 15 July 2014, to listen to me speak about Chinglish — and how to fix it. (Chaoyang is the home of the Beijing Olympic Green, just about all embassies in town, and the showcase CBD.) This was my first go at teaching an “all-government” audience, but if you could hold a mic in front of thousands of unknown faces, you could do the same in front of 20 mandarins. ▶
I joined fellow Radio Beijing co-host Alison Zhou onstage at the Tuanjiehu community’s English event, when we were given the stage not only to promote the newly-created Handbook of Everyday English for Beijing residents. The event was held in the morning hours of 31 May 2014 at the Tuanjiehu local community activities centre.
When you come to think of it, it was a big deal at the end of the day. Both city authorities in charge for international affairs and Radio Beijing, as well as leading English experts in town, took the time to come together and to create a book for the rest of us, telling people how English should best be spoken and used.
Kids, seniors and local residents all joined us in the free two-hour session to get people more and more excited about learning English. Many said they loved listening to our spoken English as they could really learn from this. The event finished at 11:30 with a commitment to take such events to more places around the city. ▶
I served as a judge in the recent Beijing Vocational Teachers Final of the 5th Shanghai Foreign Languages Education Press Foreign Languages Teaching Contest, which took place on 24 & 25 May 2014. The two-day event saw 19 contestants in the first day of contest (semi-finals) and 7 in the finals on the second day.
The goals were simple:
- For the semi-finals: Give each contestant 20 minutes to teach a mock class
- For the finals: Allow 10 minutes for each contestant to describe a lesson plan; finish it off with a 5-minute Q&A session.
Like many contests, this one was a “mixed bag”. Some contestants did minimal interaction (although none did the feared “Boring Lecturer Position”); others were very interactive. Contestant 2 from the first day was my early favourite. He did everything I would do when teaching:
- Allow group activities and permit plenty of interaction
- Be encouraging; sprinkle your lessons with a healthy dose of humour
- Use technology right: in large classrooms, pass at least one other microphone to students and allow them to speak in the same volume as you are (if the teacher uses the mic, get students to do the same)
- Warn students of potential pitfalls
Competition was very fierce, though. In the end, Contestant 4 (who was Contestant 3 on Day 1) won my vote by mentioning role-play as part of her lesson proposal. She also shrank all lessons to 45 minutes (other contestants wanted 90 minutes). Her presentation was extremely persuasive: you could tell she was in it for the long run, and it was all helped by the right mix of body language and eye contact. ▶
Being a seasoned host, there was one thing I was missing from last year’s event: the live stage where you could actually record and broadcast, live, a show. But having done that last, year, I was always ready for something totally new. Or, if you must be so Monty Python-inclined, something that is just simply completely different…
The highlight of the festival for me this time was nearly 20 minutes of the main stage to myself, which I considered an extremely bad idea (because I had been through more than enough 90-minute lectures with the lecturer simply going yadda yadda yadda). The only way to stop people from leaving the main stage is if you glued them. (Ideally, without resorting to superglue.) Boom — the potentially 20-minute long academic sermon was quickly switched to an event where I didn’t have the mic, but kids did. We were having so much fun that crew had to remind us we had only a few minutes left. I instantly continued zipping through, but every kid was given time to read their bit out loud. I guided them patience — much like a teacher since 2000. At the very end, there was markedly audible applause as I left. It was great, because this was clearly a win-win situation.
Like many events I have loved before, my mantra re: the whole event remains: I loved every moment of it, and if I could do it again, I’m up for it. ▶
On Saturday, 17 May 2014, and again on Sunday, 18 May 2014, Beijing will hold its annual Foreign Languages Fair (World Languages Fair). I’ll play a very active role this time ’round.
Readers, both old and new, of the book, as well as subscribers via the WeChat / AM774 web site channel, are welcome to join me onstage or offstage. I intend to make this an open forum so that people go away with lots of learning to make their next overseas trip smoother, or to make their next encounter with expats in China less difficult.
So to make this conversation two-way and to make the learning “stick”, there will be take-home handouts (expected to be plenty in number). ▶