The British Curriculum

When you’re in Montclair doing the town soccer legue and their motto is, “If you have fun, you won,” well, at the British School of Beijing i wouldn’t go by that.

At Bradford school at recess the aids are making us play tap football and if someone gets injured, it’s go straight to the nurse, no more football for a week. Well, if you went to BSB, it’s totally different. Me and my mates are playing full contact rugby, we are tackling each other and diving for the ball; sometimes a tutor (a teacher) will be refereeing a game and if you are down he will be barking at you yelling, “It’s legal and get your ass off the ground and keep playing!”

Our school uniform is a white button-down shirt a school tie, a sweater with the school insignia on it, a blazer with the insignia on it, a nice pair of trousers, and polished black leather shoes. And the thing is, that is what we are playing rugby in. One time a friend ripped his pants. I ripped my sweater. Another time a teen tried tackling someone, missed, and started crying. I walked him to the nurse.

Back to “If you had fun you won.” Well, that is definitely not true. We have 4 houses: the Romans, I’m in that house, the Normans, the Saxons, and the Vikings. There is a house cup like at Hogwarts and tutors and kids will get angry if they lose and olny 1 house will get a trophy — unlike town league soccer where every single palyer om every team gets a trophy. So BSB is a very athletic school.

On teachers, some are great and a few have a very rude sense of humor, they call a girl in my class “the girl with no brain.” A teacher calls me “sweaty boy” since I play a ton of sports. In Montclair, if they had that sense of humor they would probobly get sued. But some teachers are awesome.

If you think your child is having are hard time in school wait until you hear this: I am required to take 3 hours of intermidate Chinese, which is sometimes hard, plus 2 hours of French a week. If you think the punishments get bad at Bradford, wait until you hear this: if you are late, lunch time detention. If you are bad, after school detention. If you are very bad, weekend dentetion, or worse getting expelled.

Song for the Teachers

The boys in front of the masses of flowers around campus.

Beijing Foreign Studies U marked its 70th birthday Saturday night with a gala performance that was a cross between the Academy Awards without quite so much crystal and diamonds (altho insanely high production values & expense & presence of dignitaries) and “Glee” in the number, adorableness, and talent of the young performers who did everything from hip hop to African dance to Lite fm ballads to Mandarin hits. It was like nothing a U.S. university would ever do: Shipped in guest singers, super flashy decor. The host & hostess (wish I could have understood their patter). Red carpet from the stadium out to the street. (Of course, rows of uniformed guards in formation.) Massive video backdrop with slides ranging from patriotic antique war scenes where Chinese & Russians are side-by-side in furry hats (BFSU was founded to teach Russian for military purposes) to amber waves of grain, women on the front lines, dewey scenes of the campus throughthe ages, beside a century of world leaders images of its most illustrious graduates — something like 1,000 diplomats. But the centerpiece for me was a song for the teachers — queue pix of glasses perched on books, blackboards, and then one by one, the faculty. All this while a guy in white silk who was kind of Sinatra-esque sang a gorgeous love song called “You.”

WE hear so much about Confucianist values (respect for superiors, teachers, elders, masters) that it feels like a mental rut to go there, but the adulation for teachers — it’s real and it’s moving. Did I have tears in my eyes in the 90th row? I admit that I did.

Finally able to blog

Sunday hike

Our apartment is a small and clean 5th floor walkup opposite tennis & badmitton courts & ping pong & outdoor student snack bars and the faculty cafeteria; lunch is a buck. Campus is a walled sanctuary & seems like a small town with baker, tailor, shoemaker, recycler, vegetable market. Great ‘bagels’ filled with either sweet bean paste or spicy vegetables.

Beijing is much, much bigger & more overwhelming than expected, hours to cross, a mindblowing scale of highrises & highways. This is obviously superficial & touristic but thank god for what remains of old Beijing, & the spectacular imperial sights & mountains nearby & huge markets (& this suddenly breathably clear fall air) or it would be almost too hard for us…everything takes forever, especially without Mandarin & there are few-to-no expats or expat-oriented services around here. The boys’ trip to the British School is a long hour each way; at least we found a way to cut it from its previous 2-1/2.

My students are so sweet & kind and want to be so helpful. Security-related paperwork has been almost a full-time job for weeks (with the help of 2 university fixers) and there has been some illness so I haven’t been able yet to give them as much as I want to. They helped me get this VPN to get over the Great Firewall….finally!

A recent graduate on mandatory classes in Maoism: “Their only function is to provide material for campus jokes.”