Friday, December 09, 2005

Take fifty cloves of garlic and a whole catfish (this is no minnow of an animal). Place in an iron pot with a miscellany of root vegetables, some chilli and pepper. Place in the middle of the table on a ceramic hot plate and heat until the fish begins to curl with heat. Pour over a sauce of dubious origin and perplexing viscosity. Heat for another ten minutes, consume the contents of said pot leaving a goodly quantity of fish bones, flesh, and vegetables. Pour in more stock then refill the pot with leaves of variable shades of green and subtle hints of aniseed. Add fried flat bread, cubes of duck's blood with a texture of tofu and scoff till you can scoff no more. All for a pound per person. (Bringing it all back home - Bob Dylan).

This was in a Beijing style restaurant today and it's great to have food prepared in front of you as I'd love to be able to recreate some of these wonderful dishes back home some day. I'm also really hoping to learn a good deal from our aye.

Other than arriving home to wonderful smells and excellent food on the table, yesterday's highlight was to unwind in the sauna for a few minutes. The flat is lovely but I have no really comfy place to sit and read a book as everything is built pretty hard round here. So, to sit and perspire the week's stresses away was a great release.

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Well, the English lesson which I was supposed to be giving this week was called off at the last minute as the students all have end of year assessments which they're all desperately cramming for. This is probably good for both them and me because it gives me some more time to come up with some fun games to play.

I find it a little confusing; I find the working practices here so alien, as I expected. I'm certainly no expert in effective working practices though I have my own techniques, I'm well aware that different people learn in very different ways. It just seems that so many people here may be stifled by the ethic of having your head in a book for so many hours a day. Of course this is my prejudice having come from a system that gives a great deal of freedom for people to study as they want which is great if people know which way they want to work but not so great if people need a little more guidance. Here, some people seem to become computational machines with great recall but less ability to think at a tangent. I think of myself to some extent the opposite - which has both its good and bad sides. I can't claim that I've read nearly as many papers as I should have or have worked through all the problems relevant to my topic area. I do however feel that I am reasonably quick at thinking of unorthodox routes around a problem. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that in Jon's experimental lab where he can play with people's lives, I'd be really interested to see what would happen if these incredibly bright young minds with stunning powers of concentration and recall were allowed to roam free for a while. I think that this would probably be a complete disaster as some would just fumble and wouldn't know how to free themselves and perhaps those who could would go off at such a tangent that they'd never be seen again. I'm sure that if the opposite were done to me I wouldn't work well and would feel stifled rather than motivated to work hard.

In fact, having read through this paragraph again, I think that I'm misrepresenting the system to some extent. People in the department aren't forced to work so many hours a day and I don't think that they're pressured into reading paper after paper. I guess the ethic is ingrained at an earlier stage. As I understand it, at school repetition is the primary tool for learning SOME things. I'm also misrepresenting the people as I have met some researchers here who do have the ability to think around problems in interesting and different ways.....the above is however my prejudiced, generalised, gut-instinct!

Talking about this also reminds me of one of my gripes about schools in England and the teaching of effective learning (not teaching) techniques but I shall leave this rant for another time.

Anyway, the week draws to a chilly close. I guess I'm getting on for a little over five weeks here now and this weekend promises some new people, some new sights, some new sounds and almost certainly something new to eat, my gastronautics continues. There are also several things I really want to get photos of but haven't had camera ready at opportune moments. This is one of my missions for the coming couple of days.(Savoy blues - Louis Armstrong)

2 comments:

Henry Ripetomato said...

Shock, you're becomming quite the philosopher. I expect to see your talking head on my TV screen some day soon, tagged with the epithet 'Dr. Shock. Physicist, lover and Social Commentator'. And get some photos up on this blog. If pictures were Vitamin C, we'd all have scurvy by now due to the complete absence.

Jonathan Shock said...

I hope that your chapped lips are healing fast. I shall attempt to reweight image to word ratio. Unfortunately, taking photos means removing hands from gloves which is becoming more and more of an ordeal.