Wednesday, October 26, 2011


There is no white picket fence with a swinging gate and no arched trellis that serves as a kind welcome and open invitation to wander through the rose garden. Now, even though they were once as patterned and colorful as a kaleidoscope, they are quickly becoming beige in color and bland to look at.

A virtual maze of hedges surrounds the few bushes that stubbornly stave off the onslaught of winter. Their thorny stems grow darker and sicklier. Waxy leaves, once vivid and healthy, are blotched and spotted and curled. Each day dull orange rose hips displace the brilliance and blushes of the petals that once crowned them. The flowerbed will soon be their deathbed. Deep winter is only weeks away.

But this morning, before the droplets of dew that covered them disappeared, I captured their fading glory in the lens of my camera and gave them immortality.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yuntai Mountain

On Saturday morning Sandy and I, along with another 88 other foreign faculty teachers, boarded two SIAS University buses. Three hours later we checked into our hotel and then headed for Yuntai Mountain.

With my head tilted back, my eyes squinted at the vivid blue sky above me. What a contrast, I thought, to the black and grey colors that surrounded me. Beneath my feet water, crystal clear, bubbling and gurgling, submitted to gravity’s pull, wound around boulders and gigantic slabs of mountainside, and ran like blood through this deep gash in the earth’s dermis.

I have been privileged to gaze on more than my share of stunning landscapes around the world. Yuntai has some of the most dramatic scenery I have ever witnessed. It is also the most difficult place to photograph I have ever been. Craggy, rugged, jagged and shadowy walls of stone soaring hundreds of feet toward heaven surround you. Everything is immense, much larger than any camera lens could possibly contain.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Enjoying the Adventure

Now that we are settled into some semblance of a routine I am going to post more frequently. My FB profile states, I write about my adventures, because I believe everybody has a story worth telling. Similar to a breadcrumb trail, my desire is to leave a written trail, so that in the reader's imagination they can enjoy the adventure with me.

First, let me tell you what I am doing here at SIAS University. Primarily, I am a teacher with three-hundred students. My subjects are Corporate Finance and International Trade. The range of the students English proficiency covers a broad span, so these already difficult courses are exceptionally challenging. I am stretched!

Also, I am tutored in Mandarin Chinese by a Chinese faculty member for two hours once a week. I bolster the tutoring by studying with Rosetta Stone seven days a week. Surprisingly, reading and interpreting the Pinyin (Chinese Phonetics) has come to me easier and quicker than expected. However, speaking -- without the written pinyin to lean on -- is a much more difficult task.

At the beginning of my classes I proudly practice my second language phrases on my students. A familiar pattern has developed. First, they look very puzzled. Then, once they decipher my pathetic use of the four tones, they begin to giggle and laugh. Sometimes, if it's really bad, they laugh hysterically! I respond, "Sank you bery much!" It's my touche (The Chinese find it difficult to articulate "th" and "v" sounds of the English language).

Outside the classroom I engage with many students. At there request, I have taken pictures of hundreds of them. Being generous with my time, and listening as they practice English on me, opens opportunities to build relationships. They love it. I love them.

On Wednesday nights I meet with a group of twenty (and growing) male students for two hours. They treat me like a rock star and hang on my every word. They want to learn how to be leaders. Our tech guys in the mix have already designed a website (that you will soon be able to access)It's humbling. At our first meeting the guys wanted to come up with a name for our group. Here are a few they suggested: Iron men, Spider men, Karate Men, Natural Men, Super Men, X Men, and more! After a bit of discussion and explanation they understood that those names probably would not work.

We decided on SIAS Servant Leaders Group.