Saturday, August 11, 2012

I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus, rollin' down Highway 41 (The Allman Brothers)

A collage of Wuxi
The Wozza and SWMBO roadshow is dusting itself off and gearing up again, a little sooner than we expected.

As the whanau knows, I returned to Nu Zild in April with the idea of settling down in our beautiful house, close to friends and family. Sadly though, I've not been successful in finding a job in the Hawke's Bay so I have needed to look offshore again. The fresh air is fantastic but it don't pay the bills!

The job market in Nu Zild is pretty dire right now for me. I naively thought that I could always go back into the classroom and teach some English classes if necessary but there has not been one job of that ilk advertised in the Hawke's Bay schools since I returned. Amazing! Unbelievable!I've been doing some day relief at the local college but that's it.

A sub-section of the Nu Zild branch of the whanau is (understandably) miffed, but it looks like our travelling days are not yet at an end. Adam, for one, is excited by the prospect as he'll be close by in Japan for the year on his JET OE.

Thanks to one of the whanau I was contacted earlier in the year about a position in China. I've been negotiating a deal for a while and have subsequently accepted the role of Academic Director for the Avion Training Centre of Wuxi (pronounced Woo/she).

The training centre is an American owned concern that caters for Chinese male university graduates in their early twenties who wish to become airline pilots. To do so they need to have a certain level of English (this according to ICAO - the international civil aviation organisation), in particular, English that is used by pilots and air traffic control around the world. That's where the Avion Training Centre comes in. It provides ten week courses that prepare and test the students on their readiness to move to their next level of pilot training in America. And that's where I come in - I'll be leading and promoting the organisation in China for my American bosses (I'll write about this some more on my Baggy Trousers blog).

SWMBO had a temporary contract at Hastings Hospital and I've made it clear to my employers that it's crucial she gets some employment in Wuxi as well. They have a few things lined up for her as I understand it.

SWMBO and I will be leaving Hawke's Bay at the end of August to take on this new challenge, as soon as visas are organised.

While we're away our house, pets and land will be getting pampered by our house sitter. We have an amazing lady coming to stay in the place for the year. We have been extremely lucky to find Susan thanks to our great next door neighbours who recommended her. She's a horse expert and will be looking after SWMBO's horses and the rest of our menagerie (fifteen lambs have swelled numbers a tad as I'll reveal in the next post).

Where and what is Wuxi? These questions and more are answered at but if you can't be bothered - the main details are: Wuxi dates back 3000 years; is a city of over 6 million people in the Jiangsu province; is very close to Shanghai (population 17 million plus) and has become a technology hub of late.

Some shots from the interweb give a flavour of the town.

Here's a map that shows Jiangsu province and Wuxi's proximity to Shanghai -

More, lots more, to come (I hope). Should make for some interesting blog posts in the coming year if the Chinese interweb authorities don't object!

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This ole sportin' life, it is a mean life (Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee)

I've held off blogging about the Olympics until now for good reason. 

What are there? Seven billion people on planet Earth?

I'm sure a few million bloggers have tackled London 2012 already but I was annoyed by the US swimming administrator who provided some disingenuous comments on a young Chinese swimming sensation - Ye Shiwen. John Leonard said that Ye's 400m medley triumph was "unbelievable", "impossible" and "disturbing".

It seems to be a case of too good to be true sour grapes. It prompted a lot of media comment and some great rebuttal by a British coach working in China. Here are some of his comments:
Chinese athletes train incredibly hard, harder than I can explain in words and as a coach who has placed swimmers on five different Olympic Games teams, I have never seen athletes train like this anywhere in the world.
They have an unrelenting appetite for hard work, can (and will) endure more pain for longer than their western counterparts, will guarantee to turn up for practice every single time and give their all. They are very proud of their country, they are proud to represent China and have a very team focused mentality.
Let's also not forget that this is their only avenue for income; most do not study and sport offers them a way out or a way up from where they and their families currently live in society. If their swimming fails, they fail and the family loses face.

This is not an attitude shared by athletes in the west, who – generally speaking – come from comfortable homes with average incomes, one or two cars per family and four weeks or more paid holidays per year. Your average Chinese family does not live this way.

I could list countless other differences, but the main point is that these are professional athletes, salaried to train and perform – much in the same way Premier League footballers are paid to perform in England, except they train way harder and way longer than these footballers for far less financial reward.

I hope this brief explanation helps to inform the vast majority of the British public out there, who had no idea such vast differences existed. A former well‑known colleague of mine once said we need to be out of our comfort zone more often. Well, Chinese athletes do not have a comfort zone; life here is challenging and often uncomfortable and they are now prospering because of it. There will always be "rogue" individuals in many countries who turn to "the dark side" for assistance in training, and many countries have a history of such practices, but people must realise how far these athletes push themselves every day, how much they sacrifice in terms of living away from home, with reduced education opportunities. Simply put, they want it more than everyone else.
Reading and reflecting on this reminded me of a class I took recently at Central Hawke's Bay College where I've done some relief teaching recently.

The Year 11 class I was teaching was studying To Kill A Mockingbird.

If you're unfamiliar with it - the novel is set in 1930s Alabama and deals with Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused (and later convicted) of the rape of a white woman (Mayella Ewell). Instead it is her father who has administered the beating after he sees her trying to seduce Tom. Tom is defended by his lawyer, Atticus Finch.

It's a really powerful story that is primarily concerned with themes involving racial injustice and the destruction of innocence (the story is told from the point of view of Atticus' young daughter - Scout).

Thinking about this and the US swim administrator's comments made me wonder about things. Without any evidence whatsoever John Leonard sowed seeds of doubt - much as Mayella and her father did in To Kill A Mockingbird and then stood back in a coward's stance (he says because the swimmers can't - they'll be seen to be bitter). In 1930's Alabama I'm sure he would have been successful and they would have convicted Ye.

Thankfully the world is very different in 2012. Racial prejudice and suspicion has been answered (she's had numerous clear drugs checks) and now John Leonard is left looking like the complete plonker he is.

Yeh for Ye!!

Love and peace - Wozza