Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Another Day In The Life (and a puzzle)

Yesterday I woke at five from uneasy dreams (proposing sex to an old school friend and being angrily repulsed, followed by something to do with the North Korean military) and took the train to work. I was anticipating a good session with the MA students on my intercultural communication module, providing of course they had done the reading and the tasks I had set them last week, tasks that had taken me quite a while to prepare and which I felt pretty pleased with. At ten o' clock, seventeen Chinese students sat silently staring at me when I asked if they had completed the work. After much prompting, I dragged out of them that nobody had. Thoroughly pissed off but outwardly calm, I told them I was canceling the session, and left the room. When I went back some fifteen minutes later to retrieve my memory stick, they were still sitting there. Shit. There's nothing worse than staging a dramatic exit, then finding that nobody noticed you go.   

'Steve,' said the Chinese PhD student who comes to observe the session, 'I think they have some ideas, but they are too shy to speak.'

Well, some intercultural communicators they are going to make in that case, huh? I ascertained that nobody really had anything to contribute, repeated the instruction for next week, and sent them all away.

Last week a lad in the class told me that in China, if you disagree with your teacher, you will be punished. My constant elicitation of their opinions and reactions must therefore strike many of them as a rather sadistic way of setting them up for a fall, and however much I try to convince them that we are not dealing in Right and Wrong on this module, nobody really believes me. Anyway, I think my deliberate shock tactic might have worked, as in the evening I received this rather touching e-mail:

Dear Steve

I apologise to you on behalf of the whole class , we do not have any excuse for our own lax. And I promise you we will do better in the future, I will also supervise them in my own good premise.

Please forgive us for today , we will show you in the future.And thank you for been a good teacher to us as you always do.

Best wishes, 


P.S. we all did printed and read today , so the next time you can be at ease to our class.
It's a perfect example of the Chinese preference for thinking collectively, and one I can use in next year's module. Rui is the class representative whose only official duty in that capacity is to return a completed register to the administrator after each session, but probably at everyone else's prompting, she has written to offer an apology on behalf of the whole group. None of the three Europeans in the group has contacted me, nor did I imagine they would.

In the afternoon, I had a session with a group of lecturers from Thailand. They are preparing presentations. They are a delightful group, dedicated and good humoured, and made a welcome change from the silent Chinese kids. The presentations will be made tomorrow, in the presence of His Mind-Boggling Pointy-Headedness The Dean, who is in for a treat; five groups have prepared reports on that perennially fascinating topic, 'the best mobile phone deal for overseas students'. I have tomorrow afternoon off, most unfortunately.

I leave you with a puzzle. On, a young man from Thailand, is putting a request to me. We are standing next to a printer in the computer lab. Only I have the password to the printer. On the PC screen of On, there are bar charts, pie diagrams, graphs and what not, detailing the preferences of Thai, Chinese and Cypriot students for Virgin, O2, Giffgaff, etc. On says:

'I knee ping lea saw'

Spare a thought tomorrow afternoon for the Dean... Given the context, what did he mean? Answers in your very best typing, please.


q-pheevr said...

Well, I'm pretty sure it's "I need print" something, but I'm not sure what the something is. Possibly "I need print lesson," meaning either "I need to print the lesson" or "I need a lesson in how to print," or maybe "I need [to] print [my] research"?

Vilges Suola said...

Ah, so near, but I'm afraid I can't give you full marks! Let's see if anyone else has a bash before I reveal the true message...

Scarlet's mum said...

He needs the PIN (the password) to be taught to him?

Vilges Suola said...

Another ingenious interpretation, but not THE interpretation, so the prize is as yet unclaimed!

Candy said...

not a fecking clue - I would need to see his face...."I need to print these slides"?

Vilges Suola said...

I = I
knee = need
ping = to print
lea saw - the results

Marisa Constantinides said...

Great read, as always, dear Steven - I would have guessed wrong but hey I was saved!


Vilges Suola said...

Thank you! What was your guess?


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