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Monday, September 10, 2007



I have been attending 'English Corner' several times a week in various locations around Hangzhou. People get together to practise speaking in English. This is an opportunity for me to participate in a community activity and get to know a few people.

The first I attended is held Sunday mornings in a park at West Lake. There is no structure. People are there and you chat. Any westerner is quickly surrounded and badgered with questions often several people at a time. I found it exhausting, especially in the heat. However this has led me to being invited to evening sessions at different venues.

These have been more structured and for me a more pleasurable activity. In one setting they choose a member each week to speak to the group on a subject of their choice. I witnessed a presentation on one-child policy in China. The speaker had researched his subject thoroughly and certainly made up for his lack of knowledge of English with his enthusiasm for his views. I was impressed by the depth of his knowledge but perhaps not by his one-sidedness.

At another venue they have made use of my presence over two weeks to learn a little about Australia. This time I was impressed by the depth of the questions asked. Considering that they don't get to vote they certainly take an interest in political issues. We talked openly about their situation in China and compared it to political systems in other countries. They were particularly interested in taxation and economic issues.

As I write this, 'impressed' is the word that keeps coming to mind.

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