Kenny’s Wudang Shan Album

kenny climbing stairs to golden peak

Kenny and Tingting

Kenny and Tingting

kenny by the quiet temple

It was “Karate Kid” (the Jackie Chan remake) that first made Kenny want to see Wudang Shan, the legendary birthplace of taiqi, in Hubei.

Truthfully, a recent watch of the movie suggests they actually shot parts of the Wudang Shan scene (where Jackie & Jaden Smith climb the mountain & he drinks holy water), at Hua Shan on the other side of the country, at Huang Shan maybe, and even some aerial shots over Guilin very far in another province! (Basically, a roundup of picturesque China!)

Golden Peak

Golden Peak

Be that as it may…he really wanted to see it, and I agreed. We took a 22-hour train ride there (new direct route, no need to stop in Wuhan) from our summer teaching base, Qingdao.

Incense burner projecting over cliff - (where the female master in the movie hypmotizes a cobra)

Incense burner projecting over cliff – (where the female master in the movie hypmotizes a cobra)

The Taoist holy mountain exercised a powerful effect. The legends of the immortals, who used medicine, meditation and mountain power to find life everlasting. Hiking through misty valleys to the rocky outcrops where they gained immortality, where now temples stand (small and large, built by the Ming emperors — unlike the Qing, who preferred to underwrite & practice Tibetan Buddhism).

Southern Cliff Palace

Southern Cliff Palace

The astonishing Ming palaces (Taoist word for temples & monasteries), which have been very , so it appeared to amateurs, tastefully, properly restored, or just shored up well, preserving their wood carving, stone work, amazing architecture, paintings.

"Holy Water"

“Holy Water”

More on all that later. Here is Kenny’s album. Studying tai qi with Master Gu at his school, WuDang Wellness Academy, and hiking around the many holy peaks. These are his selections for his favorites.

kenny doing tai qi

kenny in mist near golden peak

kenny near golden peak

kenny on misty stairs

kenny on steps to southern cliff palace

kenny sitting at temple

kenny with golden peak behind

kenny with others at golden peak

Southern Cliff Palace

southern cliff palace landscape

with master gu at the training grounde

chinese national interesting place It is, indeed, as the sign says, a “Chinese national interesting place.”

Teacher, Friend, Son of Artists

Xiao Xiao's mother's art

Xiao Xiao’s mother’s art

Kenny art vincents mother2art vincents motherhad a wonderful “tutor” in Qingdao who took care of him while I was teaching, a part of the university compensation (which was also room & board and a lot of lovely perks like trips, and kindnesses like dinners); you could say it that way. Or it was a part of Chinese hospitality. Or it was part of an authoritarian system we saw in Beijing, where students are ‘volunteered’ time-consuming institutional duties that are anything but voluntary.

Upshot, this magnificent young man, a grad student (they say “post-graduate”) in translation specializing in the petroleum industries, and his fiancee, same field, were our companions and especially, Xiao Xiao and Kenny were often together. He kicked Kenny’s ass in badmitton, and recruited guys to play basketball at all hours of the day and night. They ate in Sichuan, Dongbei, and local restaurants around campus. They made silly movies using an iPad app.

And we learned Xiao Xiao’s parents are both noted artists: his father has a studio at Beijing’s 798 and runs an art complex there. His mother’s work (above) is traditional style, and she’s a calligrapher.

And his father’s work is below. His grandmother in Fujian was a village teacher. His grandfather hid the village’s “cultural relics”–treasures from the temple — during the Cultural Revolution, and suffered terribly as a result. Now the relics are in temples and museums.

art vincent's father

Economic-Development Zone Bike Tour

We have been living in Huadong, a suburb of Qingdao on the bay letting out to the sea –officially an “economic development zone.” I’ve been all over China and have never seen this many skyscraper apartments going up. Mile after mile, some super-fancy with the German-esque follies/details (red rooves, cottage brown stripes) that reference Qingdao’s German colonial past. It’s also home (slightly inland) to massive factory after factory campus, including Haier, which I think makes large appliances like air conditioners.

“Development” means factories, in my students’ argot. Development in my lingo means things like health, education, as well as infrastructure. Here it really doesn’t have that overtone of human development.

SO we took an economic development zone bike tour along the coast, where landscaping of flowering trees, promenades(including a “movie star walk of fame) and exercise machines stretch for miles. s the zone hasn’t finished developing — the buildings are mostly empty, my university only opened this campus a couple of years ago — it’s totally empty. On the horizon are ships and factory stacks. And along the coast,  clammers and fishermen with nets.

fisherman boatsclammers in the smog

God forbid eating shellfish here; sorry, Qingdao. It goes on and on; we’re not the fastest riders but not slow either and this is two hours’ riding  — it just doesn’t stop.

Here’s what it looks like.

Kenny on Huangdao Promenade

Kenny on Huangdao Promenade

mod swervy buildings

keny and buildings

Rent-a-tandem (we didn't)

Rent-a-tandem (we didn’t)

weird red landscaping

Laoshan: the Taoist Holy Mountain and the Beer

lao shan seasidekeny in temple gate
Laoshan is a Taoist holy mountain near Qingdao (the business & economics department was generous and sent us in a car with Kenny’s tutor and a lovely 15-year-old boy who hangs with Kenny) Guidebook says it has 72 temples. We saw three — on the coast and up on the misty, rocky peak.

Sea fairies

Sea fairies

The air is clean and wet. The landscape is pine and some bamboo forest ( native?). The mountain’s history goes back 16 centuries, but mostly to the 110s when a Taoist sect was established here, and monks lived in caves.

Laoshan cave

Laoshan cave

There are several peaks, not too high (a few thousand feet) — we summitted one (with the help of a chairlift!).  As always, with Chinese holy mountains, you ascend and descend via staircases. This one was surrounded by streams (used to chill drinks being sold trailside) and cultivated flowers. I noticed wild foxtail lily. Also plenty of tiger lilies.

Taoist shrine, Laoshan holy mountain

Taoist shrine, Laoshan holy mountain

The Taoist pantheon is still beyond me. But I noticed the elements of nature — so powerful in Taoism — appear as decorative borders on the gods’ robes in the shrines: rainbows, the waves of the sea, clouds, mountains. A few worshippers — not many.
hollyhocks at temple
A sign in the parking lot: “Feudal superstitious activity” is explicitly banned. These kind of old Communist signs don’t have any real relationship to the China we know; though — to be sure — if you were gunning for a big job and you were known to avidly practice a “feudal” faith, I’m sure this would impede your career prospects.

No feudal superstitious activity such as fortune-telling or divination!

No feudal superstitious activity such as fortune-telling or divination!

Laoshan holy mountain's rocky coast

Laoshan holy mountain’s rocky coast

The coastline is a whole new Chinese landscape to us. Korea isn’t far — a cheap ferry. Wish we had time! Qingdao’s a popular resort, with a golf course and lots of fancy villas where — I don’t know — the rich, Party members, both, take holidays.

Laoshan Taoist temple with trumpet vine

Laoshan Taoist temple with trumpet vine

But it’s not only the elite that enjoy the resort: (see blow) — even Taoist dogs get a terrific place to live at one of Laoshan’s temples.
taoist dog house

lao shan stairs
I’d heard wealthy businessmen have begun funding restoration of some of the old temples (Taoist and Buddhist). I thought this suggested a risign interest in heritage and preservation. Kenny’s tutor said that in his opinion, it was an attempt by people who had ill-gotten gains to cleanse their consciences of their many sins.

dragon detail

laoshan taoist god of the sea and rainbow

lao shan trailside tea house

lao shan above the lake
Taoism is associated strongly with herbalism (originally, alchemy) and we saw some extraordinary herbalists along the trail. Not only the usual array of mushrooms, grasses and fungus buttons, but in this case, sealife: dried snakes, anemones, seahorses.

laoshan herbalist selling dried snake

laoshan herbalist selling dried snake

lao shan herbalist seahorses

lao shan herbalist dried lizard
Laoshan’s clear mountain streams were originally used in Tsingtao beer. Laoshan is a holy mountain– & a beer label. Laoshan Beer  was acquired recently by Tsingtao. We completed the day with a toast. Possibly Kenny’s favorite part.Laoshan beer: a toast after hiking Laoshan

Laoshan beer: a toast after hiking Laoshan

Beer is, of course, a central theme in this stay in Qingdao/Tsingtao, China’s beer city. Personally, I liked the Qingdao better. The Laoshan was drier and crisp — good. But named after a holy mountain? You’re expecting an almost godly experience in a glass. Not so much.

Laoshan Beer (now owned by Tsingtao brewery)

Laoshan Beer (now owned by Tsingtao brewery)

We did the hike on July 7, which our wise 15-year-old noted marked the day Japan invaded China about 70 years ago. The anger even now is still fresh at the table when they talked about the war — young people, as if it was only yesterday.

Black Dumplings & Food that Waves Good-Bye

squid ink black dumplingschicken foot and kennyCouple of quick food notes.

1) BLACK dumplings!!! They’re made with squid ink. Qingdao thing. How cool is that.

2) Chicken claw is actually delicious, Kenny says. Our old “Chicken Guernica” problem (abstract platter of heads &  feet, splayed frighteningly in all directions,  a la Picasso) has now become…well…to my son…something cute that waves “bye” before you eat it??



One of Earth’s Holiest Spots

Why do we go out questing for certain hard-to-reach places? And when it seems worth it afterwards, as this time did, even then it’s hard to say why we did it.  Maybe the power came because we were close to leaving China. Maybe the spirituality was infectious knowing this is to be a more-than-usually religious year for us, ahead of Kenny’s bar mitzvah. Maybe it was just the density of chanting we came upon, unexpectedly, in this magical place.

It was unforgettable witnessing thousands of Mongolian, Chinese, and Tibetans monk and nuns chanting outdoors at one of the main temples of Wutaishan, the Buddhist holy mountain in north-central China (English: Mount Wutai). In China, where so few monasteries seem to be active, where holy mountains are thronged by tourists not pilgrims, this was a moving exception. The spirituality was contagious.

The architecture spans the centuries. The wild, empty heights are inspiring. We even said a few (Hebrew) prayers ourselves. It was unlike anything we saw in China.

At its heart is the valley made by 5 (wu) mountains. Scattered around are 100+ Tibetan Buddhist temples, built by China’s rulers over centuries–Mongolian (Yuan), Han (Ming), Manchurian (Qing), each of which which served, in its opulence, for each dynasty, to legitimize their rule. And to knit the disparate, diverse, tension-riddled, far-flung empire made of so many different groups, all together by the magnetic pull of the bodhisattva who once lived here.

For nearly a millennium, the powerful staked their claim, got a foothold in paradise, sought virtue and enlightenment, and made alliances with enemies, by building exquisite temples, pagodas and stupas here.

Why here? Because here once lived a real, historic bodhisattva, ‘wisdom being,’ an enlightened one who compassionately doesn’t enter nirvana, to save others. His name was Manjusri. In China, they call him Wenshu.

This sacred place, for Zen, for Chinese, for Lamaist Buddhists, kind of in the middle of nowhere, highest peaks reaching 9,000′, the  was once off limits to all but the emperor. Now Wutaishan, Manjusri’s earthly abode, is a powerful, inspiring, uncrowded place of Buddhist pilgrimage, its monasteries home to perhaps thousands of monks and nuns.

You’ll see, in towering Manjusri statues, he rides a lion or tiger–symbolizing the taming of the ferocious mind. He also holds a sword, to cuts through ignorance and illusion. Manjusri is the deity of wisdom, worshipped from Indonesia to Nepal to Japan. He is featured in many sutras (scripture) and is one of the oldest, most important deities. He’s especially important to the Gelug Tibetan line (the Dalai Lama’s school), who descend from his teachings.

The presence of so much Tibetan Buddhism here made us feel like somehow Tibet had broken off and landed in north-central China, in Shanxi province, one of the poorer areas (coal, over-farmed steep terraces) where 30,000 people still live in caves.

There were almost no tourists in these small alleys and steep stairways, just one bus of Chinese during our late-June stay (I’ve read it does fill up, but we didn’t see that). Decent tourism facilities are almost zero (people sleep in the temples), train and bus connections are terrible, and high altitude makes the roads impassable in winter; they call it “the roof of north China.” I totally didn’t want to go. But Kenny insisted it was the most important place, moreso than Wu Dang Shan (the Taoist holy mountain where Jackie Chan takes Jaden Smith in the “Karate Kid” remake).

Visiting looked unlikely when I discovered the train into the nearest town an hour away (Shahe) arrived at 2 am and there were no hotels there.* But when I discovered the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art in NY had held an exhibition on Wutaishan, devoted a conference to it, and published a book, which we read aloud together, I decided (once again) he was right.

You can feel the history, the cultural richness, the power of devotion here.

The Rubin exhibition (now online) features a 6-foot wide “map” of the site, a fanciful, amazing painting done by a Mongolian monk. His vision doesn’t look anything like Wutaishan really looks, but those kind of hard- to-find places that mysteriously ignite the imagination–they rarely do.


*There’s no good Wutaishan travel info online in English. I really hope this blog helps. I reluctantly recommend what we did: book a Chinese tour–ours was 1- or 2-star, terrible food & lodging, disorganized, they even left us behind once at an outlying monastery (someone did come back for us after an hour, during which time I cried). To be fair, we were warned it wouldn’t be international standards. In fact it was below bad youth hostel. But so what. We got there. My student helped us book, through an agency in Chaoyang. It was hard locating the tour representative at the crowded Beijing West train station, but when seats were sold out, they managed to get tickets. They’d put us on the slow Beijing-Taiyuan train (a good thing: being slow, it arrived in the normal morning, not 2 am, so you could sleep). We didn’t find the Wutaishan tour we’d paid for waiting to meet us..a long dull story. Suffice to say, we caught a different tour bus ride to Wutaishan, 4ish hours, for no additional money, and once we were there, we were there! We figured it out on our own, with the Rubin catalog, and an excellent UNESCO guide online. Actually that link is Wikitravel, quite useful, but here is the even-more-useful UNESCO World Heritage Site guide. UNESCO wisely included it in 2009. We also got the stupid, disorganized, obnoxious, confusing bus back to Taiyuan on the third day.

The other option would be a private car/driver, out of Taiyuan (wrap it in with a trip to Pingyao and/or Datong, which is amazing) — but that was beyond our budget.

Sax Man

By Kenny
Throughout the years learning an instrument, everyone wants to perform something. They want to show off what they learned. That’s why they created the recital. At British School of Beijing, there was a recital Thursday night. I had been practicing for the recital for months. I had to give up rugby (against my own will). I practiced and practiced with many hard struggles on the way there (like breaking my finger and delaying my practicing for 3 weeks). Even disobeying the doctor who said I couldn’t play — for the love of the saxophone, even though it might’ve hurt a little bit to play. But I still did it for the love of the instrument. I performed twice. Once alone with a piano accompaniment, and once with the orchestra (a big band).

The day before the concert I went in the first 2 periods of the day and started practicing and thought, ‘Oh no, I’m screwed, I can’t keep up with the piano, he’s going too fast, I don’t know when to start, I’m gonna embarrass myself.’

With an hour to the performance I’m practicing insanely hard with the piano. Playing with a piano’s really hard. When the concert started the flute, piano, trumpet ensemble played. first My friend and I were in the dressing room when in the trumpet ensemble played. I said to him, “Aren’t you in the trumpet ensemble?” He runs over and looks. Luckily for him he had a solo later in the orchestra.

Ten acts later was my solo performance on the tenor sax, with the piano, a piece called “Dark Light” (composed by Mike Nock). I hear the piano, I start going…I see friends in the theater watching me. In the middle, I see a mistake: I had arranged the pages in the wrong order, instead of 1,2,3,4 it went 1,2,4,3. I had to flip a page and go back. Luckily it was only 2 seconds. It went very well.

I had one more performance, the wind orchestra. We start with “Funkytown.” Everyone was liking the song. Since I’m a tenor sax I was playing the bass part. Towards the end of the song I had a solo. It went really well. There are 3 saxophones in that piece, me and 2 friends. Our band’s very big. There are maybe 11 clarinets, 13 trumpets and 7 flutes. The next piece was the theme from “The Simpsons.” That went well but I always get lost at one part. Luckily I got lost for about 8 seconds but I know where to catch up. That’s when my solo is. Our final piece was “Firework” by Katie Perry. It starts out with the clarinets, then saxophones and then flutes and trumpets come in.

I felt really good and it was definitely worth it. The sound was beautiful.

Earlier in the day, to get ready, my music teacher Ms. Joyce Liu, from Guanxi province, says, “Kenny, you need more practice. Come here another hour to play.” After an hour I still can’t do it, but I’ve gotten better. But I’m still falling behind a little & I’m really worried. To get my mind off it I dyed my hair blue, stuck my hair up, and put on some sunglasses and a backwards hat and made my way down to the house music competition.

At the local barbershop, my new faux-hawk

My house, the blue house, Romans, (color like Ravenclaw) were in 3rd place. We needed to win this to get close to winning the house cup. The Key Stage 3 (middle school) Romans team, about 20 of us, start out by singing a song from The Avengers movie, which makes us sound like a team. There’s a lot of tension, we’re all standing in a straight line in a military position. In a few seconds “Party Rock Anthem” goes on. We all start doing a shuffle in a messy order. Then we started dancing, clapping our hands, jumping up and down as the music goes on. Then comes a friend onto the stage wearing a box on his head, dancing. We got
a huge round of applause and the judges started clapping. Our next solo artist was a student piano player who’d played on CCTV and gotten interviewed. Luckily, she was in the Romans house. She played a beautiful classical piece that almost made me cry. The final score…We won the cup for the third year in a row!

Dajuesi, Gem of the Western Hills

Second-to-last on our list of temples* or si (“suh”) was Dajue Si 大觉寺, 1,000 years old, though mostly ruined and rebuilt in the Ming era. Once Beijing’s largest, an exquisite Buddhist ‘scenic site’ (not active) at the city’s Western edge, outside a rustic village, perched on a steep rocky mountainside, Yangtai Shan, 扬泰山.

Most unexpected: Super-chic, gorgeous, beautifully dressed rich people eating elegant fruit plates and drinking tea in some of Dajuesi’s outdoor courtyard space, converted into a tea house. Tea menu options ran $100, $200+ (yeah, that much). Hot water and a tea set, to drink some in the garden, included. Party elites from the secret military installation in the Hills nearby? We got ice cream pops at a grocery, ate on some rocks, thanks!

I printed every possible map of the location (close-up, middle distance, long view) but still 6 cabbies refused the edge-of-town fare. Finally I got the number of a hotel nearby, who could give verbal directions, which did the trick. The 45-minute ride cost $15. Incredible how rural it gets so suddenly, just 25 minutes from this university district.
It was so shimmery clear a day, so blue, so fresh, AQI was in single digits!! After smog so bad the day before, I wanted to get your vision prescription checked. At Dajuesi a shine emmanated from each object in the world: every leaf, every stone.

One Liao-dynasty relic remains (916-1125), a stone tablet engraved with Beijing’s history. Nearby a frigid underground spring feeds square stone pools.

The precious-metal Buddhas in the halls are exquisite; the main one apparently artistically significant. It’s easy to climb a bit up the mountainside to a white, 300-year-old stupa surrounded by pine and cypress.

It was Kenny, again, urging us to do more, see more, use every moment, that motivated the trip. Another fantastic imperial Beijing Buddhist gem with its own unique qualities, that moved us, after–thanks to Kenny–we discovered it for ourselves.

British School of Beijing Under-13 Basketball in Shanghai

The British School of Beijing’s FOBISSEA squad

By Kenny

Part II of the FOBISSEA (Federation of British International Schools in Southeast Asia) tournament

Day 2: Basketball

The BSB Bears FOBISSEA squad had high expectations of winning basketball due to the fact that we won an Under-12 tournament in Beijing. So we thought it couldn’t be that hard.

Our first game was against Dulwich COLLEGE Beijing (not a college). We didn’t start out very well. They were up 6-0 when we (I) finally scored a point. It was an amazing layup off a rebound. We were then 6-2. Then came our team magic as we scored 8 points. But they were still ahead by 3 points. As we lose the game, 10-13. Very big let down, cause we could’ve beaten this team.

Game 2, the Soul [Seoul] Foreign British School: My coach knew they were a lot better than us. They kept scoring and scoring. Nothing could stop them. They kept pressing, scoring, fouling: their s[e]oul was on fire. But luckily, I scored 4 points – 2 amazing lay ups, to get us, at the half, 10-6 Seoul. But we kept doing down, down & they got even better. By the end of the third it was crazy, they were up 17-9. My coach took me and the rest of the starting lineup out to give other players on our team a chance. We lost that game 25-9.

Game 3, Dulwich College Shanghai (still not a college). They looked scary. They had a ton of tall guys and a ton of small guys. Their starting center — taller than me — did the face off. I won the face off. They start out beating us 4-0 but then my magic comes in, scoring 4 points to get us tied at the end of the first quarter. Then they keep scoring. At one time they were up 10-8. I came in and was dribbling. I got fouled, took the foul shot, and scored. Less than a minute left in the half we were up 11-10 — a good start to that game.

Second half we keep fighting, keep scoring, they keep scoring… It wasn’t good enough. We tried to do fast breaks and tried to drive and score, but it was no use. With a minute left they were up 17-15. We shoot, we miss, game is over. Another loss. But personally I had a good game, scoring 9 points, a career best.

Game 4, the Taipei European School (a school that does not belong in FOBISSEA because it’s not British, it’s European), my coach knew we’d also lose to them. So we played our best knowing we stood no chance. They were scoring three pointers, going in shooting, our defense had trouble coordinating. But we were better on offense, I scored 4 points in the first quarter.

Worst part was, in the whole first half, I got fouled 6 times. Four opportunities to score, 8 free throws — I missed all of them.

Second half we were losing 10-15. My coach knew we did not stand a chance so he took out the whole starting lineup, including me, and let some other players play the last half. We only scored 2 points and we lost to them 23-12.

We had no chance of getting into a medal round. We were fighting for 5th place. We had a lunch and got into the next game against fake Harrow (it’s not the original Harrow, in London). We start the game with a decent lead. I scored 3 points first quarter and finally, I made a foul shot. We play hard. They somehow get ahead of us. By the end of the first half they were up 9-8 but we still knew we had a chance. We started playing well. I scored 7 points that game.

With 30 seconds left we were down 2 points. Then we started fouling them. They don’t make any of the shots, we make the rebound and we dribble up. It’s our last chance. A teammate has the ball, he drives, he shoots… We hear the buzzer, the ball’s in the air…and he misses. We lost that game 18-16.

There was one last game, also against Harrow. Our coach and Harrow’s coach agreed to let the players who hadn’t played that much play.

We tied for fifth.

…To be continued (soccer)

Beijing Summer

“Avengers” subway poster.

Summer traditionally begins with several consecutive days over 22 degrees (mid-70s). It’s here, “Avengers” focus and all.

I’m editing student essays on working in a factory, on losing a mother to labor migration, on how grandparents escaped starvation, on a mother’s manual labor:

“My mother and her coworkers are on duty at 7 in the morning and stand on the fruit canning line till 10 or 11 at night, seven days a week. There are two half-hour breaks, for lunch and supper. The workers are supposed to go home at 6 in the evening, but given that the overtime pay increases from 4 yuan to 6, most of them choose to work until night. What can 6 yuan buy in Beijing? One-third of a hamburger at McDonald’s.”
On the lighter side: The Knicks were eliminated, but they live on here

As summer gets into full swing and the sun is strong, women everywhere are out with big, lace-covered parasols to avoid darkening their porcelain skin.

Welcome to the Victorian era.

(If that fails, there’s always Dove’s Asia-specific whitening products.)

Meanwhile: more mutual monk attraction, ongoing at CoplansinChina . Maybe my friend Maya has it right, they were Buddhists in a previous life. Kenny allows that the bar mitzvah, however, comes first. The 10 Commandments, then the 8-Fold Path.

Beijing: You can get used to it. We’re OK with the dense crush, in a basement cafeteria, firetrap of a wholesale market, packed mile-long subway station or 12-lane highway that just happens to be a ‘normal’ city street.
China’s struggles at this moment, the sudden unexpected tension & excitement around Bo’s cinematic fall and Cheng‘s dissident challenge, the surprising optimism of many Beijing students whether or not it’s justified, the mind-blowing history lived by just about every person you meet over 50–and change so rapid you can detect it in 9 months–it’s all  fascinating & important, it’s a privilege to witness.

Tomorrow a leading Chinese environmental reporter-turned-spokesperson for The Nature Conservancy Asia addresses my students. Nabbed thanks to Brown friend Beth Conover, who made the connection.

What Happened to the British Curriculum? Part 1

By Kenny

A warm up, in vain

So if you’re asking, “What happened to the British Curriculum?” well, what happened — I don’t know.

I know you’ve all been waiting months to hear what happened in Shanghai at the FOBISSEAA (Federation of British International Schools in South East Asia & Asia) Games. Well, this is what happened:

Day 1: We go to a 50-metre (c’mon, not meter, it’s British) swimming pool. I am in 3 events–50 m freestyle, the medley relay, and 100 m freestyle. When it was my turn to start the 50m, I was worried. We were not doing very well that day in swimming and my soul sisters — from the Seoul British School — were on the medal podium for every event. Do you remember the earlier British Curriculum post about a football tournament where I got shouldered in the chin & got a big black & blue mark? (I think he’s Scandinavian — no offense to my Scandinavian friends.) I was racing that guy! So I was hoping to get revenge on him.

I heard the gunshot. I was racing.

I took the lead. Then as I got to the midpoint, I was getting up my speed, but the guy without a soul, from Seoul, somehow had gotten ahead of me. It was a very close race for first. Just as we had 5 metres to go, we were centimeters apart. He touches, I slow down. I come in silver.

Me accepting silver

Hey, that’s actually not bad, though it’s only silver. Due to the fact that, at that time there was only one other boy on my team who had a gold medal.

After I got to accept the silver medal — standing higher than the guy from Dulwich COLLEGE Shanghai (not a college) — I felt great. I knew I’d be coming home with a medal, & be able to brag to my friends. And that my old enemy, from Dulwich COLLEGE Beijing (still not a college) came in last place.

Just as I got off the podium I heard my name called: “If there’s a Kenny Coplan, come to the judging panel immediately! Your team is waiting.”

I put my medal in my bag, I go meet with my team, we’re ready to start. We’re all having a secret thought: Our secret weapon was on our team, doing the butterfly. Brian. The guy swims twice a day, every day of the week. We wanted to do better than the BSB girls, who won a silver in the medley relay. I was under a bit of pressure since I was the last person to swim (the anchor) for our team.

As I heard the gun, my teammate started swimming backstroke. I was crossing my fingers for him. When I looked up, he was fighting hard for 5th place. The Soulless School from Seoul was 10m ahead. When he finished, my friend who’d already won 2 bronze medals in swimming, was up for breast stroke. He swam really fast & got us out of 5th, into 4th place. When he got to the other end of the pool, our secret weapon was ready. I’ve never seen anyone swim harder (other than in Olympic events). He got us into 3rd place, by only a meter. Then it was up to me to hold our 3rd place.

I started swimming, all the pressure being on me. My teammates watching. Dulwich COLLEGE Beijing (not a college) had gotten ahead of me. There were only 10 meters left. It was between him and me for 3rd place. We get to the flags. He touches less than 10 cm before I do. So we ended up placing 4th.

But luckily, there was still the 100m freestyle – the event I was most worried about. If you’re thinking, “Why would you be so worried?” well, here’s the answer: I’m not very good at 100m freestyle. I put myself all out on the first 50 m so I’m tired for the last 50 m. I was hoping to at least place 3rd.

So as I hear the gun, I push off. I start pacing myself. I go slowly. I hear my name being called. I hear people cheering for me. I get to the halfway point, I do a flip turn. I see 3 swimmers behind me. I’m happy that I’m in 3rd. I was really hoping I could hold this lead. I touch the board — I came in third. My expectations were met–almost a perfect day. Although there was a disappointment in the medley, I received the second highest number of medals for our school, BSB.

The swim meet was finally over.

Me and my friends in the FOBISSEAA Games parade

Day 1 afternoon:

It was time for the track and field meet. I would be participating in the U12 division discus and the U13 division shot-put. The afternoon started with the running events.

At first I was full of energy.  Out of the 18 running events the British School of Beijing participated in, we won 3 medals, 2 being silver both won by my friend and 1 bronze won by an anther friend. Now it was time for the field events. It started with four triple jump events. We won a bronze medal. Next was the high jump, like the triple jump four events; we won 2 bronze medals. Next was my event — the discus.

I got 2 practice throws. I threw 0ver 20 metres on both throws. I watched the other participants, it looked like I had thrown the farthest. But now it was the real deal. I was the first to throw. I threw, it went over 20 metres. I got applauded from my coach. I watched everyone else throw. I had thrown the farthest. Now it was time for my next throw. I threw, the discus went about 25 metres! I watched hoping no one would throw farther then me. Luckily, no one. And it was now my last throw. I threw, it was an okay throw. Then my coach came over to me & said, “Kenny, you have a good chance of winning this.”

Kenny accepting the gold.

After everyone had thrown, the referee had the paper with the results, he had called every player’s name except for me and 1 guy on the Seoul Train. The ref said, “The winner: KENNY COPLAN FROM THE BRITISH SCHOOL OF BEIJING.” I felt like running around and screaming but I didn’t.

The next event was the shot-put. Since I had come late, I was the only one that hadn’t thrown so I got 3 throws in a row. My first throw was 6 m, my second throw was 6.7m, my third throw was 7.3 m. My result was in: I had placed 5th in the U13 shot-put. Hey but not too bad for an U12 throwing in the U13. My coach Mr. Small (he’s not small) walked around with me looking a little disappointed. He met with my other coach that had coached me in discus. They talked to me. Mr. Small asked, “How did Kenny do in the discus?” He said, “Oh, Kenny? He only won the event.” I saw a smile on Mr. Small’s face. He shook my hand and said congratulations.

British School of Beijing Bears holding the 30 medals we won at FOBISSEA that day

I had won 3 medals that day and as a team we won 30 medals 8 of them being gold.

To be continued…

Gobi Dunes Photo Journal

A fun, sandy day climbing dunes & riding camels out at the Mingsha Sand Dunes in town of Dunhuang, Gansu Province, Western China, at the edge of the Gobi Desert. Couldn’t trek because the early spring sandstorms blow your tent away! Sand’s now in everything. It’s a long way here, and the conditions challenged, but no one got hurt. So I can say it was worth it!

The kids thought it would be so cool to fly kites in a desert sandstorm. The kites broke immediately.

I climbed, and then ran down, 2 dune ‘mountains.’ The boys did it for hours.

GanSu is wedged between Mongolia (north), Xinjiang the Turkic province (West), old Tibetan Amdo now aka China’s Qinghai province (South). And of course China’s heartland to the East. The capital (Lanzhou) is a massive new Chinese super-metropolis of 4 million+ plunked down on the (horrid brown) Yellow River and sprawling with skyscrapers in every direction, seemingly in the middle of desert nowhere…Danhuang, a 15-hour trainride from there, feels really removed. Dunhuang is an oasis town, a respite on the old Silk Road. (NY Times art critic Holland Carter won a 2008 cultural criticism Pulitzer for his coverage of Dunhuang’s unique Buddha cave paintings (Mogao), plundered by the museums of Paris, London & Harvard, now being destroyed by –mostly nationalistic Chinese — visitors’ exhalations … humans’ output of moisture & carbon monoxide.)

The desolation here reminds me of the Kara Kum desert in Turkmenistan, which I crossed in a train exactly 20 years ago, also this season. But I saw no water. There’s still a tiny “crescent” oasis at Mingsha that never dries up. Here it is through the blowing grit:

It must have been a relief to come upon that 1,000 years ago, after crossing the sand. Hard to believe a place this far from (what we consider) “anything” was once the busiest route in the world.


By Kenny

Us being photographed by a stone horse.

I guess some people find it amusing to see a western kid jumping on a stone horse. I would also take a picture of that.

This is what happened to us at the Longmen Buddha Caves in Henan Province in Luoyang city: having the feeling we were movie stars.

Someone wanted this photo with us

Well it’s a bit rare to see to foreign kids standing or meditating in a small Buddha cave. Must be more interesting the seeing 1000 year old Buddhas carved into cliffs.

…and the same thing happens again.

I would agree that the most famous stone Buddha in all of the province can always be better if you get a foreign kid to pose in it with you.

It is rather fun and not annoying to get a photo taken with other people.

As they say, 2 is always better than 1.

You definitely do not see a whole Chinese tour group take a photo around the rock and kid, now do you?

So this is what happens when David yells at you: “God damn it, Ethan, if you don’t get off those rocks then you are not going on your residential trip, do you hear me?” And then comes 1 Chinese guy who starts laughing, climbs up the rock to get next to Ethan so his friend can take a photo.

But the funniest part is that if Ethan did not go on the residential trip, he would be marked for being absent.

It’s nice when someone gives you a hug and photo…….

…but a kiss takes it to a new level. And by the way, that was my first time meeting her.

A good way to show off to your friends and prove you that you met a foreigner.

(And these are the reason for going to Longmen Caves in the first place:)

Longmen Cave's most famous big Buddha

Buddha's hanger-ons

Team Play (Jeremy Lin’s, & ours)

Team matches take over our U.S. week-ends. Here not. The boys play on just as many teams, but instead of games (“exchanges”), they train. They save up competing for one huge, all-day blow-out. Today was that volleyball tournament for Kenny (Ethan’s European handball event was last week-end). These things feature dozens of teams from all over China, a caterer, rainbows of uniforms, awards.

BSB Teddy Bears' pregame huddle

Absent: parents. Also great. The kids live their own lives.

BSB on the court

Today at Dulwich College Beijing, our Under-14 British School of Beijing Bears took 5th. (Last week-end at the German School, Ethan’s team was eliminated before the quarterfinals.) Lots of floor dives, so we’re on ice and Motrin, but no hospital.

Kenny and Kimbo

Here’s Kenny and Kimbo, a good friend. They’re the team’s only 12-year-olds (“7th Years”), the rest are 13-14. I’ve talked about our bigness posing problems (can’t buy clothes or shoes, can’t get child discounts–even for an 8 year old). What’s noteworthy here–and let us add a moment of tribute to Knick Jeremy Lin, as”Lin-sanity” grips Beijing as well as NY, and Kimbo’s family is also from Taiwan–is that great multisport athletes come in all sizes. Kenny is, for sure, terrific, I’m not knocking him. But Kimbo is probably the stronger athlete. Coordinated, calm, consistent–that capable player a team relies on.

You should see the kid’s spike.

Speaking of Taiwan, tomorrow we go to Xiamen for a week, the Chinese coastal city across the Strait. We’ll visit those giant, packed-earth roundhouses, tulou, clan apartment buildings thousands of years old. …Which I hear the CIA once mistook for missile silos pointed at Taiwan! Sure glad we didn’t bomb them.

Here is a Lintastic sign. Lin is a popular name!

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Superbowl at 6 a.m.

Bad parenting

I was dead-set against it but had a last-minute change of heart the night before and decided we’d be the world’s worst parents–or maybe the best–and let the kids, NY Giants fanatics, watch the Superbowl early Monday morning.

12-year-old bar fly

We don’t know any American football fans here–certainly not well enough to invite ourselves over at an ungodly hour (as I had inserted us, for Halloween trick-or-treating, into the Western gated compound of the lovely head here of Ogilvy, to whom I’m forever grateful). Superbowl Monday began with a 5 am wake-up, travel to Beijing’s expat-heavy East side (from our West side university district), and meeting our new friend, writer William Poy Lee, who hooked us up with neighborhood sports bar Paddy O’Shea’s. We got the last seats. Fan allegiance was evenly split. It was nice seeing all those Americans, remembering all the shapes, dress codes, colors, & and sizes we come in.

About a dozen Beijing bars besides O’Shea’s opened for the Big Game, broadcast by the Asian Sports Network (sadly: without the American ads!). Most charged a RMB100 ($16) cover, including eggs, coffee, and beer, so you could be drunk and alert for kick-off at 7:30. O’Shea’s was super nice & let the kids in free. By 10:30, before the incredible last minutes, they got Sprites and pizza.

Dressing on the subway

Go, Giants!

We were on the subway to the British School by 11:30. They pulled their uniforms over sports jerseys (Kenny wore Tuck), to stares and laughter from commuting Beijingers.

Please don’t tell the headmaster.

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All the Animals I’ve Seen in Tibetan Monasteries

By Kenny

Here are some pics I took in a few Tibetan monasteries. Most of them are at Ganden Sumtseling, in Shangri La. One is in western Sichuan.


Cat in monastery

Yak in monastery, Tagong, Sichuan

Pig in Shangri-La

Another pig, Shangri La

Cow, Shangri La, Yunan

Dog in monastery

Monastery chicken, Shangri La

FINALLY The British Curriculum

Crossing Yulong River, New Years

By 肯尼 Kenny

Ni hao.

Guess who? The British Curriclum is finally back!

So at school we are part of an Asian school league, FOBISSEA: Federation of British International Schools in South East Asia. And this year there will be a sports day for this. Not sports day, but sports week.

You will have to compete in All sports and here are the sports: soccer, basketball, swimming, track & field. But the thing is, they were selecting 12 boys from years 7 & 8. And the best part is, I made it!!!!!!!!!! In 2 months I will fly to Shanghai to compete aganst schools from Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei and Seoul. Wow that sure beats town soccer!

So anyhow, can you please comment to this: What do think when you hear the word China?

This is what I thought before I came to China: The Great Wall, bad air, corrupt government, over populated, Communist, and tough schools. but now I think of China a whole lot differently: has deserts, destroying lots of old arcitexture, beaches, eco tourism, capitalist, severe loss of forests, farming in Ghana, has 150 cities with over 1 million people, good cheap food.

But what I want to know is, what do you think of when you hear ‘China’?

A house from the Qing Dynasty time

A Pesonal Summary Of Me (in Chinese Characters)

Nǐ hǎo wǒ de míngzì shì kěn ní. Wǒ lái zì měiguó. Wǒ huì jiǎng yīngwén. Wǒ zhù zài běijīng.
你好我的名字是肯尼。 我来自美国。 我会讲英文。 我住在北京。
Hello my name is Kenny. I am from America. I speak English. I live in Beijing.

Wǒ yǒu yīgè xiǎo de dìdì li sēn. Wǒ xiào zài běijīng wèi yīngguó xuéxiào.
我有一个小的弟弟李森。 我校在北京为英国学校。
I have a little brother Ethan (Li sen). I got to school the British School of Beijing.

Wǒ de māmā shì yīgè zài běijīng wàiguóyǔ dàxué de lǎoshī. Wǒ bàba shì tǒngjì xué jiā. Zàijiàn
我的妈妈是一个在北京外国语大学的老师。 我爸是统计学家。 再见
My mom is a teacher at Beijing Foreign Studies University. My dad is an actuary. Good-bye.

Things in movies that take place in China

By Kenny
So you know in the new “Karate Kid,” after seeing it in China I saw it in a different way. Beijing is a lot different. The scene where he went out with his girlfriend for fun is physically not posible.

So if you remember the part where Dre and his girlfreind had maybe an hour to play hookey from school, they go from their school in the hutong (the old part of Beijing which is in the center of the city) all the way out to the Bird’s Nest on the 4th Ring Road, which is practically on the outskirts of Beijing. Then they went to Jingshan Park which is in the center by the Forbidden City and they had to climb up to the main temple to look out onto the Forbidden City and then back to the school in the hutong.

If I were to do that in a taxi it would take up to 2 hours because the taxi to the Bird’s Nest takes, on a good nontraffic day, half an hour. The walk takes 15 mins then to take another taxi to the Forbidden City to go to Jingshan Park and climb up the hill takes 5-10 mins then come down and take a taxi to the school in the hutong. On the subway there would be a lot of tranferring and the line that takes you by the Fobidden City is very crowded. It would take just as long, if not longer.

And another thing that Hollywood got wrong, so you know when Dre & Mr. Han go for the day to the kungfu temple on a mountain, by train? To get to the closest town to that mountain, in Hubei province, they would have had to take a 20-hour train ride. (Then climbing the mountain would take a while.) In the movie they are home by dark. They filmed at Wudang Shan, the temple where taichi was born. The place where kung fu was born, that’s in another province called Henan (not to get mixed up with Hainan…or Hunan).

On to another movie, “Kungfu Panda.” So if you’re wondering why Master Oogway is called Oogway: in Chinese, oogway means turtle. Master Chifu’s name, Chifu, means master in Chinese. Tailung, the bad guy, means great dragon.

I’d like to see some more Chinese action movies in America, like “Shanghai Nights.”

Rethinking The British Curriculum (this may not be humorous)

By Kenny

“Celebrate good times come on, it’s a celebration doo doo dood o dodo.” ok, sorry for the wait. So I made a bet with my friend that I was on Google images so I seach it and I come up, there are about 10 or so pictures of me, but one is me booing Mao, I feel a lttle embarrassed. Then girls see me on the internet and then the tell other girls so what I’m blogging about gets around the whole year. The friend seaches on Google images “british school of beijing” and one of the first few pictures is me. I realized in some of my posts I had made fun of a few people. I had never realized it would come to this, that people would be reading it at my school.

Bottom line point after these a 140 words I have just written: I don’t want people at BSB to take this the wrong way. It’s a great school. I wasn’t saying anything bad about it. I was just comparing it in a rude, funny way to Montclair’s public schools. Sorry to bore you on confusions.

Let’s get to the jazz. I just got back from Guy Faulkes bonfire (the guy who tried to destroy the Parliament) so we get there. There is a bonfire, and what do you think, people playing full-contact rugby. Very fun. Then a real fireworks show, not some douchey anti-bulling assembly. No offense to the Montclair PTA.

When you go to an American public school, you might be thinking, ‘Is my son going to get bullied? Oh no my sweet pea is going to get scarred for life.’ ” Well you know all you worried American mums out there, you are sending your child to an American school that is going down the toilet. The teachers can’t do anything about it due to the fact that the town is going broke so they’re cutting world languages, the arts, PE, library, and aides!!!!!!!!!!!!Key things to learning!!!!!!!! Well at the British School of Beijing your child can’t get bullied because the bully would get caught and expelled.

Sorry if this isn’t funny. Just had to express my feelings this week. So bye bye.

The British Curriculum (could not find a better name)

Sanya Island, Hainan, China

We are back again! Just got my tan at the beach in Hainan. If you were going to a sucky American public school on a hike, they would be on you like #$%^&*+=;%. When I went hiking in a rain forest, we got split into three teams for a scavenger hunt. You were allowed to go anywhere in the rain forest, and come back at 4:30. You were alone.

Rain forests are very nice. I recommend going to one. So on my team, we took pictures of everything we saw on the list and we walked up 3 mountains, 2 caves, and 5 scary rope bridges. But luckily, we won. And best of all, no tutors [teachers] on our asses.

So we also went sailing. If you’re thinking a big yacht instead it was a 2-person sailboat with no instructors. I have very little sailing experience but luckily I did fine anyway. Most people had never sailed in their life. The instructors said, ‘This is how you put the sail up. Go out there and have fun.’ Everyone flipped over at least 5 times in the Southern China Sea, which is part of the Indian Ocean. Luckily I did not get bitten by sharks. It’s shark-infested waters. Most of the sailing instructors were Americans. They gave everyone a sailing certificate for making it to Level 2. So I guess if you had fun you really did win! True Americans.

Now unfortunately I’m back in cold, depressing Beijing. The next morning I was at a friend’s house and on the way to breakfast I saw the headmaster and his wife zooming by on a Harley Davidson. I’ve never seen a principal do that!

I now see why China is beating us. Here are two examples. Number 1. We go the the snack bar near our apartment. Ethan and I buy a Coco-Cola. We had our tennis racquets to play. We see two Chinese kids with a Coca Cola, no racquets–they’re studying. Example 2. There’s a Chinese kid on our football [soccer] team. He had to leave early from the tournament where I injured my chin…for math tutoring!

So you’re thinking, ‘Oh my god there can only be Halloween in America!’ Well you know what? Halloween came early this year at River Garden compound in Beijing, a very big, fancy walled neighborhood. We went to a billionaire’s mansion & they let us take 2 handfuls of candy! Damn! And it was good! There were 500 kids trick-or-treating and I got over 100 pieces. And the best thing is, there was imported candy, it’s the best candy. And if you’re thinking ,”Eew, I got coconut chocolate in my bag’ well you know what I got? I got sea weed!

What I got in my trick-or-treating bag

Hiking With (100,000) Friends

All together now

Aaaah: the fall foliage hike. Today we and our friends shared this pleasure with a few (million) other people. This is Fragrant Hill, or Xiangshan.

Sharing the journey

It’s half an hour from our apt. Climbing Incense Burner Peak was a real Chinese mountain experience: Stairs, a sea of fellow hikers, stops at man-made features en route (pavillions, pagodas, gardens built 800 years ago). Nearby is a closed military shelter for national leaders in an emergency, attached (they say) by secret tunnel to Tiananmen Sq.
Another difference from hiking at home is how people hang blessing ribbons on trees–for longevity, a happy marriage, prosperity. The mountain isn’t quite 2000 feet in elevation. Still, tiring. Amazing: he found a solitary rock above Glass Pond.

Occupy Wall St…& Other Educational Fun

Poster in my department.

My School of English & International Studies is talking about Occupy Wall Street. I didn’t attend this lecture last week (the potential impact on China/Chinese-U.S. relations). But in class discussions, my students commented:
(1) The demonstration has a message for Chinese youth: ‘Exercise your free-speech rights, too!’ (Not that they could organize online — thanks, Bill for pointing out “Occupy _____” with any Chinese city name has been banned by censors here.)
(2) Chaos may be looming; demonstrators must remain peaceful.
(3) The blatant alliance between U.S. politicians and big business is surprisingly shameless.
(4) The demonstrators could use some advice. Turn to us! We comrades are experienced at organizing disciplined political rallies!

More serious educational fun in China: Friday’s all-Beijing, intercollegiate Movie Dubbing Competition. This is a popular (& educational!) event for university Engish majors–like karaoke, but with movies. I’m on the judging panel! They’ll live-dub excerpts, in 2 events: With scripts, and total improv without. Don’t know which movies yet. Last year “Garfield” was among them.

Recess equipment for Ethan's grade.

Other seriously great educational news: Ethan has an all-day international school soccer tournament…on a Wednesday! Kenny’s class, 7th year, is a 4-hour flight away this week, on the tropical island of Sanya, sailing and camping! And one of my top students, a senior, just learned his father’s employer, a mineral company, will 100% sponsor his graduate studies in the U.S.!

In other politico-educational news, a colleague in the School of English and International Studies, who did his graduate work in Chicago, is in the last, heated week of his upstart election campaign to represent this area in the local/district People’s Congress. He’s something almost unknown: an independent. He’s a cult figure to students, his sharp Weibou (Twitter) feeds have been banned. When the new American Ambassador Gary Locke came here to speak, during the question-and-answer session he asked, “Have you visited the Great Wall — and have you been to the Great Firewall?”

There’s a shoo-in appointee/candidate the area’s powers-that-be have named, to run and win. So this bold campaign has angered the university entities concerned with such matters (control mechanisms the workings of which I don’t really understand). His campaign has ignited electric excitement among my students, and those few colleagues I’ve gotten to know wish him well! My inbox is flooded with his earnest and positive campaign messages (in Mandarin).

Good luck, Xiao Mu!

British Curriculum continued yet again

Before the tournament

By Kenny

Hi folks BSB curriculm is back yet again!!! Whoo hoo!

So there was a Halloween disco and all you people at Glenfield are thinking, “No way, there was one at Glenfield, too, what a coincidence!” On the bad side it had ear-deafening music for 3 hours. On the good side, it was not just middle school, it was all of secondary school year 7 through 13. It was older music and there was dirty music. If you played it in Montclair they would sue the d.j.!

If you’re thinking, “Oh no, help! Montclair is so polluted what are we going to do?? Oh, I know, at the Science Fair my darling can do a Going Green project.” Well you know what? In Beijing it’s so polluted sometimes we have to wear an air mask. Do we have to do that in Montclair? I didn’t think so. And if it gets over 250 on the air quality, we can’t go outside for break. It’s not too snowy, it’s not too hot it’s too much pollution. So you know what Gray Russell, it’s pointless. You don’t need to clean up Montclair we need to clean up Beijing!

So if you’re wondering what it’s like for some of the kids at my school. A driver might pick them up from school in a Mercedes and after a drive to their house there is a big gate and there is another door. If you ring the door bell a lady could open it who is one of their ayis (a maid, ayi means “auntie”). If you look around you will see another ayi in the kitchen, and an ayi cleaning up stairs. WOW i wish i could have that.

Back to actual campus guess who’s coaching volley ball, the teacher who calls me “Sweaty Boy.” I don’t want to know what will happen if we lose a game.

But here’s the grand finale at a big football (soccer) tournement in the semifinal game i get tripped dribbling the ball, my jaw goes into a guy’s shoulder. He starts fake crying and i get a %$*#($&^! yellow card and the thing is, it hurts when I talk but I keep playing. We lost that game but we had to play one more game for 3rd place. And the thing is, I am centre of defense so I have to talk a lot and I still play and we won 3rd place!!!

That concludes for today time for lunch bye.

The British Curriculum, Continued Again

National costume, true Americans on International Day.

By Kenny
The suspense is over the number 1 most popular post is back. So if you are a Montclair person, you must be thinking, “I moved my family to Montclair so my sweet little innocent child could go to a good school. And so my cupcake could have great diversity here.” Well you know what I would think again!!!! At the British School of Beijing most people’s first language isn’t even English!! I have friends here that are really African, no offense to all of you that are African American! So if I made a list of countries you would probably be asleep by the time I finish but I can tell you that there are over 30 different countries. Like a few of these countries that my friends are from: China of course, Taiwan, South Korea, Finland, Argentina, America, France, South Africa, UK (well of course i will say this what school do you think I am in the German School?!?!), Mongolia, Canada, and Germany.

Also Belgium, my friend from Belgium is nicknamed “French kid,” poor French kid. Sometimes when we play rugby people yell, “Go French kid” and he yells, “I’m not French!!!” But I later learned that he is a little bit French.

I’m sorry folks I have to go to bed don’t ask me why but I do so long for now folks, bye bye!!!! (It’s not over yet there will be another one coming up next time and i beg you to like us on Facebook and follow us on

The British Curriculum continued

By Kenny Coplan

Ok back to the curriculum. So we had International Day, you’re guessing, “Wow, its like Global Adventure.” But luckily we actually learned things and tasted real international food. Luckily we missed a WHOLE day of classes and explored the countries. And did I tell you that we didn’t have to do projects on countries. Instead of presenting our country to our parents, all the moms cooked traditional food and you had to dress traditionally and they presented their countries to us. Russia (their bread’s amazing), Finland (where Angry Birds is from), South Korea has good food.

So this is what I dressed up as: sagging skinny jeans, USA shirt, black hoodie, and backwards flat brim hat. So I went around like a gang member. It was fun.

Next you’d think, “Woo hoo, we got Sandy Hook for a day, awesome, the only trip the board has approved, ooh, it’s very educational.” What did we do? They gave us a talk, we had to collect shells, and we got to go fishing with a net for two minutes and got nothing. Well check this out. At the British School of Beijing our residential trip (a field trip) we’re going hiking in a rain forest, we’re going surfing, We’re going camping in a jungle and we’re going sailing. We’re taking a plane to an island off the south coast of China for FIVE days, FIVE DAYS. And guess what? We can actually get wet.

OK let’s get down to business so in school one of my teachers has some funny things to say. When the whole class got a question wrong he said, “You’re all idiots.” I don’t take it personally. He has a new nick name for a kid, it’s “The Boy Who Can’t Be On Time.” He gives him a lunch time detention every week. He says I”m way too tall and way too loud. He says I should combine with my friend who’s small and quiet.

Well that concludes for this but i can assure you the British Curriculum will continue, zai tien or bye.

Water Wheel

By Ethan Coplan

In Shanghai I went inside this kind of weird thing that spun around on water that was hollow in the middle and on the sides were two holes big enough that you could fit in. You kind of ran inside it like a hamster. Me and Kenny went in one. When Kenny kept running, I would flip over on top of him.
And in Shanghai, I went up the Pearl Tower and I was the bravest, I stayed on the glass floor. It looked you were about to go crashing down like 80 floors. And I went up a tower the World Financial Center) that looked like a beer opener. It had a glass floor also but you saw part of the building under you, so it didn’t make it as scary as on the Pearl Tower.

Shanghai Pearl transmission tower

The Bund at night

The Bund is really cool. There was an island in the river with all the tall buildings. It kind of looked like the circle with the tall buildings was New YOrk, and where we were was London.

Chinese Jewish

It’s Yom Kippur in China.
Yesterday in Shanghai, we visited the Jewish Refugee Museum and synagogue, Ohel Moshe. During WW2, a few Chinese consular officials in Eastern Europe gave visas to 30,000 Jews fleeing Hitler, and Shanghai became their wartime home–when no other country would offer refuge. They set up a little Viennatown, complete with coffeehouse. (Ethan enjoyed a graphic novel about it, A Jewish Girl in Shanghai by Wu Lin, 2008; it’s also an animated film.)

While there, we bought a book about the legendary Chinese Jews of Kaifeng: a 1,000-year-old community that’s mostly disappeared. (Originally emigrants on the Silk Road from Turkey, escaping the Crusaders, they intermarried over the centuries.) It’s a big, old hardcover collection of Kaifeng-Jewish folk tales a Chinese anthropologist gathered from the elderly a generation ago.

So it’s Kol Nidre services. Kehilat Beijing, our synagogue. And the rabbi invites up to the bima 3 young Chinese Jews from Kaifeng to say a few words! They were recently back from a few years of religious training in Israel. We couldn’t believe it! They were swamped afterwards as total celebrities.

May you be inscribed in the book of life!!

The People’s Favorite International Sport

By Kenny Coplan
The people’s favorite international sport is the NBA. I asked a few people what their favorite NBA teams were and they said: the LA Lakers, the Celtics, and the Heat. I am honestly not suprised why they picked those teams because they are 3 of the 4 best teams, but of course the Knicks are better then them all. And when Chinese commentaters talk about players they call them by their surname like Anthony, Bryant, James, and Rondo.
In Bejing you see a lot of basketball courts. The funniest courts I saw was the Forbidden Basketball Court. I call it this because in a part of the Forbidden City, you suddenly see a basketball court. Which I later learned was used by the security guards, military men, or something.

Funny Chinese jokes on things

PRC the Peoples Republic of China “Im lovin it.” I bought this shirt but mum says i cant wear it untill we get to America beacause she says it’s offensive.

A funny joke in Chairman Mao. I think its funny because Mao is the cat and change the name to Meow since cats meow.

Contermporary Art

The 798 Art District is no longer cutting-edge, but still, it’s a glimpse into Beijing’s world-class art scene. I saw both documentary frankness and irony; a multi-pronged social critique. One show depicted a warehouse full of headshots of a sex worker, taken every few minutes all day. There are tons of Mao quotations for sale (on posters, shirts, bags, mousepads). I’m told this is nostalgia (hard for outsiders to understand) along with the irony we get immediately.

“Being a man of ‘noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, and a man who is of value to the people.’ ” As a China scholar said during my orientation — Mao didn’t send his son to Harvard Business School, but to die on a battlefield in N. Korea. There’s a KFC logo shirt rendered PRC (People’s Republic of China) with Mao as the Colonel. We liked Chairman Meow, where Mao is a cat.

The British Curriculum

When you’re in Montclair doing the town soccer legue and their motto is, “If you have fun, you won,” well, at the British School of Beijing i wouldn’t go by that.

At Bradford school at recess the aids are making us play tap football and if someone gets injured, it’s go straight to the nurse, no more football for a week. Well, if you went to BSB, it’s totally different. Me and my mates are playing full contact rugby, we are tackling each other and diving for the ball; sometimes a tutor (a teacher) will be refereeing a game and if you are down he will be barking at you yelling, “It’s legal and get your ass off the ground and keep playing!”

Our school uniform is a white button-down shirt a school tie, a sweater with the school insignia on it, a blazer with the insignia on it, a nice pair of trousers, and polished black leather shoes. And the thing is, that is what we are playing rugby in. One time a friend ripped his pants. I ripped my sweater. Another time a teen tried tackling someone, missed, and started crying. I walked him to the nurse.

Back to “If you had fun you won.” Well, that is definitely not true. We have 4 houses: the Romans, I’m in that house, the Normans, the Saxons, and the Vikings. There is a house cup like at Hogwarts and tutors and kids will get angry if they lose and olny 1 house will get a trophy — unlike town league soccer where every single palyer om every team gets a trophy. So BSB is a very athletic school.

On teachers, some are great and a few have a very rude sense of humor, they call a girl in my class “the girl with no brain.” A teacher calls me “sweaty boy” since I play a ton of sports. In Montclair, if they had that sense of humor they would probobly get sued. But some teachers are awesome.

If you think your child is having are hard time in school wait until you hear this: I am required to take 3 hours of intermidate Chinese, which is sometimes hard, plus 2 hours of French a week. If you think the punishments get bad at Bradford, wait until you hear this: if you are late, lunch time detention. If you are bad, after school detention. If you are very bad, weekend dentetion, or worse getting expelled.

Leaving for Beijing

Can one teach journalism and the role of social media without mentioning the Arab Spring?

What can you feed a family of four using the only cooking tool available in the faculty apartment (a hotplate)?

How many size-13 men’s shoes, boots and ice skates get into suitcases before you exceed Continental’s  per person weight limit?

For answers to these questions and more, see you on coplansinchina.