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Random Assortment of Links

Useful resources for learning about contemporary China:

 English language Sinica Podcast

James Fallows - not always China-related, but always interesting

What's going on in Beijing:

TimeOut Beijing

The Beijinger

China Daily's Beijing Weekend 

Beijing Weather - Weather Underground

 

Useful language learning tools

Chinesepod podcast - free beginners' podcasts

Popup Chinese podcast - another very good podcast series

Hacking Chinese - interesting ideas on learning Chinese efficiently

Skritter character-learning tool for iPad/iPhone - really fun app

Sinosplice - John Pasden's site on many interesting aspects of China and the Chinese language

 

 

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Sunday
May132012

5/10/12 BNU Class Visit and Temple of Heaven

On May 10th, we got up bright and early to join our Beijing Normal University counterparts for their morning class. Xingyu and Kai both spoke to the class, and then we broke off into groups to work with the BNU students. 

We had lunch in the BNU cafeteria, and then we went back to our hostel for a brief break. Around 1, we left for the Temple of Heaven, where we spent the afternoon. 

We walked around for several hours, and then we bought some paddle games from vendors that we took over to a grassy area and played. Here is a photo of two of us playing with them:

We went to a delicious vegetarian restaurant for dinner that served a number of imitation meat dishes, and then we arrived back at our hostel, tired after such a full day. 

Wednesday
May092012

International comparisons

Kai is giving a talk on international comparisons in education, focusing on the two large-scale international comparative studies, PISA (the Program in International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study).

As our students know from the course they took with Kai, these projects make available a plethora of data on student educational achievement, as well as information about student and parental beliefs and teaching practices. Although China does not participate (Shanghai took part in the most recent PISA mathematics evaluation, but the rest of China did not, and those data are not publicly available yet).

Tomorrow morning our students are going to work with groups of BNU students to identify projects that the students might be interested in doing with the TIMSS or PISA data. I hope that over time we can develop this aspect of our joint course interactions. These datasets allow our students to look at some very interesting questions in a large dataset in a way that would not otherwise be feasible. I didn't teach the UM research methods course this year (Kai and I alternate teaching it), so I can say that I was really impressed with the projects that our students came up with. I'm glad they'll have the chance to get some more mileage out of that work, by presenting it to their Chinese peers and helping them learn to work with this unique resource.

After we finish up on campus, we'll drop off our laptops at the hotel and then head to the Temple of Heaven for some tourism.

 

Wednesday
May092012

First Birthday

 

Thanks to the stealthy and diligent work of Mandy, Christina, Melissa, and Xingyu (and others), we were able to order and sneak two cakes on campus without Martha being any the wiser.

We gave her a small plastic duck and a feathered object that's the Chinese version of hacky-sack, so presumably everyone will be a pro at this ere we return.

We also passed out some practical Chinese textbooks that have already proven useful. The second picture shows the UM students looking through the books and trying out new vocabulary on their peers.

Wednesday
May092012

5/7/12 Group Project Meetings

May 7th was a quiet day for most of us. In the morning, we met up to work on our group projects, and then we had free time to work independently on them or to do what we wanted. We split off into smaller groups for lunch. Some of us went to a nice restaurant just up the street from our hostel, and shared two dishes that were both very good. 

The dish on the top left is egg with some kind of green vegetable, and the top right is beef with peppers. The dish at the front is rice (with samplings of the top two dishes). The dish on the right was a bit too spicy for us, but it was all very good. It's fun to try new things every day. 

Wednesday
May092012

5/6/12 Panjiayuan Market

(Please excuse us as we play catch-up on the blog, we’ve been very busy the last few days!)

On Sunday, May 6th, we had a free day to do whatever we liked. Our group (Melissa, Martha, Christina, Mandy, Emily, Octavia, and Jill) decided to go to a market on the other side of the city called Panjiayuan.

It was further away than anywhere we’d been, and it took us awhile to find the place after we got off the last subway station (after two transfers), but we finally arrived and it was well worth the trip. The market was better than what we’d imagined based on the description online.  There was lots of jewelry, art, clothing, pottery, and much more. We felt it was more authentic than the Silk Market, where we went last week, because many of the people selling the items had made them themselves.

After spending several hours in the market, we were hungry and decided to head across the street for McDonalds. Sunday is the one day we are allowed to eat Western food, and rest assured we took advantage of it. The McDonalds we went to resembled the McDonalds back home very closely, and most of us agreed the food tasted relatively similar as well. There was even a high chair on wheels that looked to be at least twenty years old, the same as you would find in the U.S.

After lunch, we spent another hour in the market. At 4:30, having exhausted both our personal energy and what was left in our wallets, we took the subway home. We rested for a bit and then went out to Pizza Hut for dinner. Now, many things have been surprising since our arrival here, but possibly one of the biggest surprises yet was the difference between Pizza Hut in the US and Pizza Hut in Beijing.

Upon arriving at Pizza Hut, a doorman greeted us (in English), and ushered us into a lobby with marble walls and fancy signage in Chinese. He gestured to us to sit on a bench while he communicated to the people upstairs on a walkie talkie. Several minutes later, he gave us the okay to head upstairs, and as we ascended we heard fancy Italian-style music. We were shown to a table and given a menu. The menu had traditional pizzas (we ordered two), but also featured various other dishes such as lasagna, escargot, wine, desserts, and much more.

While we were quite impressed with this aesthetic experience, we were mostly just excited to eat  authentic American food. The pizza, while slightly different from that in the U.S., was delicious, and we left full and happy.