My Adventures In Dalian – Week 1

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As I mentioned in a previous post, Friday was my first day teaching Systems Analysis and Design in Applications at Dalian Nationalities University.

The course is one that I’ve been teaching at the University of Guelph since the fall semester of 2012. Since I’m only in Dalian until June 1st, the version I’m teaching here is condensed compared to what I normally offer the 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-year students in the School of Computer Science at Guelph. Additionally, since most of the students in my Dalian classroom are in their 2nd-year (with the remainder in 1st-year), I’ve further modified what I normally teach to account for the fact that they don’t have the same set of prerequisite courses or a complete set of the usual skills.

Regardless, I think the first class went rather well. Although the students aren’t accustomed to speaking up in class in the manner that I’m asking them to, they seemed to humour me. When asked for some ideas, one girl almost leapt to the front of the class to take over the chalkboard in response. She had the class quite literally applauding and cheering for her. Others proudly stood and provided their answers. There were also nervous giggles, especially when several students were clearly unsure of their attempt at speaking English. Mind you, the giggles weren’t coming from the other classmates. In fact, the classmates were nothing but supportive when someone would stand up and try to offer their answers. The giggles were coming from those students who were unsure of themselves. Between me and the encouragement of the class, each of them eventually managed to say something. And their responses were all so very good, and exactly what I was hoping to hear.

All told, not a bad first day.

Since then I’ve been fairly relaxed. Working throughout the days, building and modifying my course notes, updating my expectations about what we might be able to cover over the next two weeks, wandering Dalian on my own, and also wandering the city with Mandy (an English studies student and staff member at DNU) and her fiance. And of course, eating.

Every meal has been fantastic. Breakfast is served every morning buffet style in the hotel restaurant. It typically consists of various veggies – steamed with lots of garlic and onions, various spices, and occasionally hot peppers – as well as eggs, dumplings, steamed buns, kimchi and other pickled things. Yesterday they had a massive platter of green onions and roasted duck. Holy hell it was delicious. I probably should have had seconds, but I’m trying to not be a complete glutton while I’m here. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been a complete glutton – just that I’m trying to avoid it. Case in point: Saturday I joined Mandy and her fiance at a hot pot restaurant to completely gorge on the deliciousness that is hot pot. Imagine four bowls of boiling soup from basic broth to the hot and spicy variety, mounds of leafy greens, and various meat and seafood for the cooking. We cooked and devoured lamb and shrimp, as well as ox throat and stomach. In fact, we ate so much that I couldn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day. It was amazing!

With the help of Mandy, I’ve also managed to check out the newly constructed bridge that spans 7km across the water, providing an incredible view of the skyline (or at least this section of it), and of Xinhai Square. The last time I was in Dalian this bridge was only about 40%-50%  complete. On Saturday, we also visited the local museum so that I could learn a little bit more about the city, and its unfortunate history (including invasion and occupation by the Russians, and Japanese prior to the 1st and 2nd World Wars). It also helped me understand better why every university student takes a class about peace.

And because I like to wander, I spent part of yesterday sauntering around a local market. The noise, the smells, the sights; all an amazing overload for the senses. After carefully reviewing the various vendors, I decided to grab myself a small bag of 8 freshly made pork dumplings for 5 yuan (about $1). If I were home I’m sure these would cost significantly more. As I continued walking, savouring each dumping while taking in everything around me, I couldn’t help but smile.

China is an amazing country. I was lucky to visit here 2 years ago. I’m incredibly lucky to be back again.

Click here to see my photos on Instagram

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