We are both fine and continue to enjoy our
I (Fran) have now finished half of my 10 week class. Thus far, I have covered lake ecology, sources
of water pollution, and impacts of specific pollutants on fish, aquatic
ecosystems, and human health. The second
half of the class will focus on solutions - preventing pollution, cleaning up
contaminated sites, environmental education, regulations, and assessment. In each lecture, I tell stories of what has
and has not gone well in the
Teaching is both fun and hard work. I enjoy doing the background reading (this
sabbatical is giving me the opportunity to delve into topics of interest to
me!), synthesizing the information, and sharing it with the students. Preparing the lectures takes a lot of time –
approximately six hours outside of class for each hour in class. I teach for six hours each week and do need
about 36 hours of prep time. The first
two weeks were especially intense. From
Monday morning until Friday afternoon, I did nothing but prepare my lectures
and deliver them. Since then, I have
been able to free up one or two weekday evenings to enjoy
For those of you who are fellow Toastmasters, preparing my lectures is analogous to preparing six one-hour Toastmasters speeches every week! It is challenging to talk for two hours straight. The 10 minute break between the two lectures does not really rest my voice because I answer individual questions then (as well as after the conclusion of the second lecture). By the end of each two hour class period, my voice sounds frog-like. This was especially true this past Friday. Two of my students gave me a gift of throat lozenges; they said it is good Chinese medicine and will prevent hoarseness. I will try them during my next class.
I really enjoy my interaction with the students. There continues to be a core group of about
15 students who sit at the front of the room, are very attentive and seem very
engaged in the lectures, and ask good questions that show that they are doing
the assigned reading and understand my English.
Several students continue to hang out after each class asking about various aspects
of life in the
A graduate student in English translation who calls herself Sarah (many Chinese students choose English names for themselves) is auditing my class because she wants to practice her English comprehension and learn more scientific terminology. Sarah kindly volunteered to convert the rough Chinese in my bilingual PowerPoint slides (this translation is done by computer software and thus the context is often lost) into good Chinese. Having good translations will be helpful to the students.
However, most of them seem to understand my English. I gave a second 10-question, multiple choice quiz which I believe was more difficult than the first quiz. Overall, the students performed better than on the first quiz. The average grade was 77%, the median grade was 80%, and almost half the students received a 90% or 100%. Nobody shared answers with classmates this time!
We had decided that it would be fun to take an overnight
bike trip. We both have our fancy
folding bikes. Since
Our only major question was whether there was any hotel at
our intended destination. Tourists visit
the Qianling tombs, but they do it as a bus trip from
However, we got heavy rain on Thursday and Friday and it looked like we might want to postpone the trip. The weather report on the web promised no rain for the weekend, so we packed on Friday night.
Saturday morning was cool and overcast with a hint of mist,
but no rain. We got rolling at and the traffic on the way out of town
was not too bad. At about mile 9 we hit
a construction area where the detour route had turned to mud. It was nasty going, but after we had passed
it we were on the outskirts of Xianyang, which had a
wide and lightly traveled boulevard. The
pyramids were interesting. The Chinese
pyramids are not as well known as the Egyptian ones!
We continued past roadside fruit vendors. We stopped and bought delicious apricots from
one. Peaches and nectarines were also
available. Fran started to take a photo
About 10 miles from Qian Xian, we
stopped at the town of
We arrived at the town of
We tried the hotel dining room, which was very nice. We were seated in a private room and had a great meal. Some of the staff here know a little English, but communicating continues to be difficult. After dinner, we had a request to have our photos taken with three men. Two of them were wearing suits and appeared to be hotel managers or town officials. We went into a fancy banquet room for a suitable background and they took some pictures. Maybe we’ll wind up on the hotel’s VIP display.
The next day was for relaxation. We took it easy in the morning, then went out to see the tombs. We took our bikes and wound up doing 9 miles,
including the steepest climbing that we have done in
Back in town, we went out for foot massages, then back to
the dining room at the hotel. The dinner
was not as good as the previous night.
Monday we biked back to LiQuan, then found a back road that would take us south where we could connect with a different east-west main road. Being off the main road was much more peaceful than on Saturday. We biked through farms and small villages. The farmers were harvesting wheat and we could see different stages: cutting it in the fields, bundling it and hauling it in small trucks, laying the stalks on the roadway for threshing (vehicles drive over it and help separate the stalks from the grain), winnowing and letting the grain dry in the sun on the roadway. We had been surprised to find that large stretches of pavement were used for drying grain, not only in the countryside, but also at the tombs, towns and suburbs. The farmers were also applying pesticides to their fields and plowing their fields. It was interesting to observe that each individual piece of fruit on the fruit trees was wrapped in plastic. Possible functions were protecting the fruit from insects or retaining moisture in the fruit.
Toward the end of our back road we hit an unpaved area, then
downhill to a city where we stopped for a delicious hotpot lunch in a
restaurant. It wound up being a two hour
meal, which meant that we did not have time to stop at the MaoLing
tombs. We went through the outskirts of XianYang. As we got to the edge of
The final five miles of bicycling in
Here is what I observed while pedaling my bicycle on ONE
block of the bike lane. A woman on a
bicycle passed me on the right, seeming oblivious to my presence. A man on a bicycle passed me on the left
while talking on his cell phone (many Chinese people own cell phones nowadays);
he was balancing his bicycle with one hand while his child sat on the luggage
rack and held onto him with one hand.
approached me head-on; they did change their course about two
inches from me. A taxi decided that this
was a fine place to do a U-turn. A
tricycle carrying about 200 cabbages swayed precariously in front of me. Two men parked another tricycle, jumped down,
and proceeded to carry a table across the street. Just a normal day in the bike lanes of