Wednesday, 10 October 2018

February-April: Back to China after Spring Break

February 2018

I left my mother with a red rose in her hands that had been plucked from my garden in France on St. Valentine’s Day.

What will this new year bring, as our new year in China begins?

For a long time I have wanted a new experience, so decided to go and get teaching experience with younger children.

Enter Wall Street English, downtown Qingdao, formal and posh. You know, all matching beige, nice flower arrangements, Ikea prints on the wall, seamlessly and beautifully dressed Chinese teachers with perfect English.

It scared me.

Wandered off to meet sweet Yuan, who took me to AMIO in 4th May Square.

Tucked downstairs is a messy school, children running everywhere, doting mothers waiting by classes. Vera, the head, gave me an instant interview and I was employed on the spot. Pinned on the wall, the head of the international section bio reads:

I started giving my first English lessons in Istanbul back in the days no one cared who you were and what you were doing, and I have never looked back.

This is my place, I knew it.

Employed officially, at the weekends. I now have reinvented myself as primary school teacher.

Panic as I get home and realize I have to learn how to teach young children. Even though I have my TESOL, I have not taught young kids. A new learning curve, and no - it is not easy - one needs that youthful mindset.

So a routine is needed. Get up early. Learn kids lingo - how do I do that? Watch kids. Go and audit a few classes. Ask other teachers. So far so good. All accomplished. Yet the most difficult task is going to be mastering the Chinese computer systems, and changing class every 40 minutes

But life is this, full of chance and choice, and I want so much to learn something new. So, I bought a Udemy course on how to teach kids English in China. Destined for Internet teaching, but gave me some very good hints. So, all set to go, here I am!

For those of you who are interested:

The rose

My sweet Yuan 


John Li

March 2018


I love moving from the beach and film school, my film students, to my school in Qingdao, at the center of the all the action.

It takes me one and half hour to get to AMIO. I leave home at 7.30am. I take the Channel bus from the beach, under the sea, and past the port of Qingdao, to the beach in the city. Once here I stall a moment as the view is unforgettable.

I love to watch the sun come up, then buy a hot potato or yam, a coffee, watch the old man and his orange cat till along comes Bus 26 – my dear friend - which clunks half empty along the seaside and the old German homes.

I sit by the window dreaming of my films, my students’ films, and those kids I will meet at 9.00am. And I fall in love all over again, and think of nothing  and everything.

Two totally different worlds and two different paces.

The kids downtown have demanding and motivated parents. The kids reflect their parents’ views and desires. Study, work hard, do their best, and be a winner. In BFA my students are rebels, playing with gender issues, ideas, theories, love, poetry, and success is measured in other ways. I have always been a dualistic person, so this suits me well, having to change mind set, change clothes so to speak. Pivot from one idea to another.

Oh - playing games - Pin the tail on the donkey! Now when did you last play that - to shrieks of laughter and kids rolling on the floor in hysterics?

Then back to film and students, choosing classes, and meetings with fellow teachers, long drawn out meetings over food, tea and laughter.


Qingdao Beach

Qingdao morning 

Man and cat

Boy on a horse

Film school 

Film school reunion 


Waiting for class

April 2018

The weather is changing, the mists are coming in and out. Been doing the last of the filming for The Sea Hut. I have the story, finally, I know how it will end, and why it ends as it does. It is the most exhausting and time consuming work I have done so far, and for now I cannot talk about it too much, as it is still being carved and loved.

We - Ying and I - have lot of preparation at school for mid terms exams. We have also been asked to do the English translation for the Blue Book of Film, which is an industry standard book on Chinese film growth. We said yes, and are now leaning about trade and stocks and shares and grids. It is gruesome work and tiresome, but a promise made in China is a promise to be kept. 

Blue Book of Film

This is a busy month, putting down foundations for the year, goal setting which we are pushed to do with weekly meetings. I enjoy it, it helps structure our ideas. One idea which has been brewing for a year now is an association.

A friend and fellow filmmaker, Helena Michie, and I are starting an association which will be born and registered in France in May 2018. FILM BANDITS. We both have our homes in southern France and a desire to link with other rural filmmakers, creating ambulant film festivals during the summer in the villages.

One of our goals is to link China with France and the UK via a student film festival.

I need to take the best with me in the summer, so we can view them and begin to brainstorm. We have some interesting work, and Lin, from the independent film festival of Qingdao, will be sending some work too.

Times are busy, fruitful, interesting. Creative.

If any one wants to view some on film-freeway, please contact me and I will give the password.

And finally, important:

The SCO summit will be held in Qingdao.

Wonderful photos here of Qingdao and the spirit of an extraordinary city.

This entire month is a manic last minute clean up. The look of Qingdao is essential to the summit’s success. All outsiders will not easily be able to enter Qingdao, with tight controls everywhere, flowers planted, gardeners racing against time.

Mist from my bedroom window

Ying marking papers


Sleeping gardeners

No comments:

Post a Comment