PechaKucha Townsville Volume 13

A great night, as always at PechaKucha.



A day in Guangzhou

Last night I caught the bullet train to Guangzhou 广州 so that I could spend a little bit of time here with my friends Nancy 吴慕清 and Paul 刘保华. We first became friends when we were neighbours in Sydney in 1996, before they moved back to Guangzhou in 1998. We have stayed good friends since, although the last time I saw Paul was in Guangzhou in 2001, and Nancy last in Sydney in 2013. So I stayed at their place last night, and had a wonderful day with them today. This morning we went with ‘Grandma’ Hao 好婆婆 to yum cha. She has been part of Nancy’s family since she was a young girl, caring for the family and the household. Now over 80, she’s looked after by Nancy’s family. Yum cha was so delicious.

After lunch, Nancy and I went by subway to the Zhujiang New Town 珠江新城. This is not at all how I remember Guangzhou. It is a brand new area that hosts a range of new and interesting architecture, including the World Trade Centre (East and West towers), the Guangzhou Tower 广州塔, opera house, library and museum. It was a wonderful place to see on China’s National Day 国庆节, with lots of families enjoying the space.

The Guangzhou Library 广州图书馆 was particularly impressive. Thousands of people were there, on a public holiday, including lots of people studying and researching.

There were thousands of shops and interesting eateries underneath New Town, and I sampled my first ‘cheese tea’, refreshing though perhaps not something I’ll try again.

Nancy made sure I got to the airport on time, and luckily I got upgraded to Pearl Economy class, which is much more comfy than normal economy. I’m writing this from my seat on the plane, having farewelled Nancy and met up with the other teachers again, though they’re back in economy! See you later China 再见中国!

Farewell ceremony

Our ‘graduation’ ceremony was held this morning, attended by mostly the same officials as our welcoming ceremony, but wth the addition of Liu Guozhi 刘国枝, head of the International Department at Hubei University. Rebecca gave a wonderful speech on behalf of the six of us, and then each of us spoke briefly about how much we have enjoyed our three-week stay here in Hubei province. We were each awarded a certificate and given a beautiful porcelain USB stick, by the university, and then we gave gifts to all of the officials and all of our wonderful teachers who have taught us so much in the last few weeks. Enduring relationships have been forged – I would definitely love to return to Wuhan with my family and with students too. There is so much here to see and do and learn.

Classroom visit & grapes

Almost unbelievably, today was our last day of classes. This morning we went to visit a nearby primary school 湖北大学附属小学 and sat in on a class of Year 4 students. It was a small classroom and there were about 50 students in the class. The lesson was about reading with emphasis, and it was a wonderful experience to see how the lesson was run. There was zero misbehaviour and lively, respectful whole-class engagement. As in all Chinese primary schools the students must sit up straight at their desks, with their arms neatly folded on top of their desk. If they want to ask or answer a question they must raise their hand, but keep their elbow on the desk. No waving about, standing up or calling out. I was really impressed with the way the teacher conducted the lesson, especially how many students were in such a small space. I think that because of the intense competition to succeed in China, all parents are much more focused on ensuring their children do well at school, because there is no safety net if they don’t. Despite their long days and cramped conditions, the students were learning well, and at a good pace. Even given that the teacher had likely prepared to show us her best teaching, there still was no latitude for misbehaviour or for sitting students by themselves etc. There were no posters and signs detailing expected behaviour or consequences for misbehaviour, or rewards systems. No ‘visual representations of learning’ or achievement ladders. Just complete focus on learning as much as possible within the lesson time. I realise now that it would have been really useful to spend more time in Chinese classrooms during this trip. At the end of the lesson lots of the students asked us to write our names on pieces of paper, like movie stars. One girl even asked me for my WeChat number! They were very gorgeous kids, and so excited to have us there. We left some little koala toys and Australia pencils for the teacher to give them at the end of the day. We were also shown their art room, where they have two lessons per week and are taught by a dedicated art teacher and visiting artists. That is a practice Australia should adopt.


At lunch I set off to try to find the qipao 旗袍 shop in Rouge Street. I was half-expecting not to be able to find the shop, but I did, and now I have my qipaos. I haven’t tried them on yet, but they look like they should fit.

And then this afternoon, our last class was a painting class. We had a theory class on Tuesday about traditional Chinese painting, learning the different categories of painting and variations in paper, ink and brushes and how to paint different strokes. Today, in theory, we put that theory into practice and tried to paint grapes. We had a couple of practices on normal paper, and then painted a special copy onto some nice paper inlaid into a cardboard frame. Mine was not particularly successful, but it was a very relaxing experience just to focus on brush, ink and paper for a couple of hours.