I still don’t have Internet at home after a week. But from using my phone, I know that Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, WordPress blogs, and quite a few more sites are blocked here in Dalian. I think both Facebook and Twitter are newly blocked, this past June, as a pre-emptive move before the 20 year ‘celebration’ of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

As I say in my ‘POD’s are Coming’ presentation, ‘Filters filter learning’ and I’m finding the lack of information flow rather challenging to deal with.

One-Way Flow:

For over a year now I’ve had my blog posts automatically imported to Facebook as a note. Every now-and-then I’d get a comment there rather than on my blog. With my move to Dalian, I’ve now had many friends and family, who don’t normally read my blog, commenting on my Facebook notes. But with Facebook blocked, although I get email notices about the added comment and can read the comment in that email, I can’t respond. Thanks to those that have commented. I look forward to connecting more via email & skype when I get Internet at home.

I have discovered that I can update my Twitter status through But for me Twitter has never really been about my status updates, it has always been about learning conversations, so sending one-way updates to Twitter doesn’t really appeal to me.

As a side note, even 3 years ago I would not have been limited by this one-way flow of information, but I live in a different world now and I expect information to flow differently… Wouldn’t this also hold true for students? And so this leaves me wondering what a 1 hour lecture feels like to a student who thrives on communication being something more than just one-way?

Traffic Flow:

I continue to be amazed by how traffic works here. I was in a taxi yesterday and had to ask him to take it easy after he forced a third car to screech it’s tires as he swirved in front of them… done to get me to my final destination all of a minute or two faster. As both my wife and I have learned, taxi drivers have their own rules.

Despite that, there is a distinct orderliness to the general ‘rules’ that basically give priority to any vehicle that has claimed a space in front of another vehicle. You have to be an assertive, good driver to drive in this city!

When it works, it works well, but a couple days ago the sound of endless, unusually ‘angry’ (prolonged) horn blasts led me to my balcony. There I saw a bus stuck in the middle of an intersection with cars driving around it, claiming the space in front of it, and not letting it move forward. Other cars were driving in the oncoming traffic lanes to turn left and avoid going through the intersection. It was absolute chaos!

This traffic flow just seems in complete contrast to the people here. As foreigners, we are treated with kindness and generosity. Doors and elevators are routinely held for us, kind words are always exchanged, as are smiles and attempts to speak English. This disappears when vehicles are introduced, and nowhere is this more evident then when you start to walk across a street and an oncoming car speeds up to claim the space on front of you, kindly honking the horn to warn you that you had better wait.

Life Flow:

Generally speaking the pace in a city of 6+ million is faster than we are used to in the suburbs of Vancouver. Our family joined another family for a visit to the beach yesterday, (our anniversary). We had a wonderful time doing a whole lot of nothing.

I found it interesting to see so many adults wearing innertubes, life jackets and inflatable arm bands, but it makes perfect sense in a place were swim lessons would not have been a childhood norm.

Our kids draw a lot of attention. So far they are taking it well, and willingly being corralled into photographs with people they do not know and will probably never meet again. It will be interesting to see how they handle it as the novelty wears off.

Food adjustments have been a huge challenge for everone but me. Being from the Carribean, having a Chinese grandmother and best friends growing up that were Greek and East Indian, my take on food is that I’d rather not have it still moving while I’m eating… But all else is worth trying, and usually enjoyable! As for the rest of my family, this will take time. We had Pizza Hut for dinner last night and I think Western food will be something we look for at least once a week as ‘comfort food’ for the family.

Work Flow:

Tomorrow morning I meet my staff at the school for the start of the year. We have a week together before the students start. I have most of the day planned or at least outlined. I’m moving to a system very different than I’m used to and I’ll be relying on teachers with experience here to help me fill in the gaps. I like that I will be in many situations where I’m not the ‘expert in the room’ and so I will need the leadership of others to help make the coming week and year successful. This sits well with my leadership philosophy. I’ve met all the staff before, returning staff in June, and new staff at the airport and the day after. I’m really excited about the potential for this year!

Here are 3 personal/school goals that I’ll share:

1. Visit every classroom every day. I hope that, while there, I can contribute to the learning going on in the classroom.

2. Increase the technology available to teachers and students. I’m working on a technology implementation plan, that in turn will be focussed on student learning and achievement.

3. Continue to research ELL -English Language Learning. There is so much I have to learn. Which brings me to the last of my chapters in this Variable Flow post:

Communication Flow:

I’d forgotten what it was like to be spoken to in another language with the assumption that I would understand… Challenging! I came here knowing how to say ‘thank you’, and ‘hello’ in Mandarin, that’s all! I’m learning my numbers now and for the first time I really ‘get’ what it is like for a student new to a language and a country. I’m not sure how much this ‘old dog’ will pick up, as I have a horrible track record in language learning, but I will give it a sincere try and keep my humility and humour about the process.

4 comments on “Variable Flow

  1. It’s very interesting how you can define everything on a one way flow, specially when it comes to a personal life experience of learning a language, a culture, etc.

    Good luck on turning the one way road, into a two way flow… when possible of course.

  2. Hey Dave,
    Re: Traffic Flow and Life Flow
    I found that Facebook was periodically working when I was in Shanghai. They did shut it down after the riots in Orumji (or however, you spell it.)
    I know what you mean about the taxi though – my driver in Shanghai almost hit three pedestrians and one cyclist in a thirteen minute cab ride that was more like an amusement park roller coaster.
    I didn’t complain about the food though. Never went to Pizza Hut or anything like that though I tend not to have a problem eating anything – even got to try turtle at one meal in Shanghai.
    Language is also a barrier – I think the only things I learned to say were no thank you, cold beer and hello.
    Sounds like you are having a great time though, keep us posted.

  3. I remember when I lived in Okinawa as a boy, all the Japanese wanted to take pictures with my sister and me. I also remember that all the Japanese seemed to have massive telephoto lenses. I would kill for one of those. Well, maybe i wouldn’t go that far.

  4. Dave! I’ve just got to know you’re living in China. Sent you a twitter message, but it seems you won’t be able to read it.
    I’ve been quite disconnected for some months, and this has been a great surprise. I hope the best for you and your family and look forward to reading more posts.
    As for the traffic, if you ever come to Buenos Aires, your experience in China will be of great help when crossing the streets!

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