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

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.

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.

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

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 coplansinchina.wordpress.com)

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.

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.

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.