Here’s to Fairness

A special note on Chinese Democracy & Fairness.

We produced a stellar video:

For a competition that they created:

In order to develop free marketing for their school (which they still use):

The competition developed:


And then we were disqualified:

… I’m not bitter.

I’m still disappointed in Aston English Schools.

*From the Archive*

Taking My Leave

After some discussion with my employer, it’s been decided I will take three weeks of leave prior to starting my bicycle trip through south China.  I think this will ultimately be good.

– and that’s the news.

August Update.

We’re closer to knowing our specific plan for the end of our stay here in China and as you may know it involves two bicycles (or one tandem bicycle), close to 2000 km of Chinese road, and my mustache with the possibility of a penguin suit or many multiples of dozens of California Flags.

I'm ready to GO!

Here’s the scoop:

After a short sit down and a long (more than necessary waiting period) with our school they finally understand our time line.  Essentially, we are quitting one month prior to classes ending and this upset them more than a little.  However, ‘surprise’ shouldn’t be a word they use when telling the story.  As eager and enthusiastic employees, I consider ourselves as open and honest individuals who strive to speak our minds when someone is listening.  And a yearning for adventure coupled with a semi-long list of grievances turned out to be a perfect mixture for my rational psyche, so we quit.  :)  And I feel great!  However, in an attempt to not land the company in ruin, we’ve negotiated a plan which will condense our final two months of teaching into one, July.  This in many respects will be hard, frustrating, and generally a nuisance, yet, in many respects too, it will be refreshing to find the time I’m using here productive.  Instead of a steady on/off schedule, with breaks for little more than a rest and a bit of travel, we’ll now have a heavy load, followed by a delightful vacation and journey.  And so it goes, as my lame duck attitude slowly filters through my teaching becomes better and my energy level increased, followed closely by my happiness.

So, let’s talk August.

Our last day in Hohhot will be the 29th.  That night we’ll take a plane into Shanghai where we will hopefully have a package awaiting us, full of two bicycles.  We’ll assemble the bicycles and collect any necessities that day as well as rest a bit.  The 31 we’ll pack our things and start riding.  We’ve assembled a comprehensive list of supplies and put together a reasonable itinerary (of which we’ll post so as to be prepared for another Mongollon situation-see previous entry under Arizona).  We anticipated doing a mixture of couch surfing and road side camping along the way.  We’ve got a road atlas, a compass, and the requisite Chinese language skills to a) read the majority of signs, b) ask for directions, c) call a friend who will remotely act as an interpreter.  I think as well put all the pieces together we’re going to be quite prepared and quite energetic to get going on the road.

Hopefully, after we depart Shanghai, some 25 days later we’ll arrive in the wonderful city of Hong Kong for a bit of touring, relaxation, and sight seeing.  We’ve scheduled our flight back to the US from Hong Kong for August 27 (hopefully that wasn’t suppose to be a secret, because now it’s not).  I arrive in Los Angeles 3 hours later.

It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long of a trip.  Hopefully I’m not forgetting to do anything while I’m out here…. I’ve already brushed my teeth.

On the Road & Website Migration.

In preparation for a month on the road I’m migrating my webposts to something which is accessible online. While I still have one month to prepare for this reality, I will be blogging from the new site in the mean time in order to break in the new system and work out all the kinks. The neat part is I’ve also migrated all of my previous blog entries, and some of the comments onto the new site (minus those found in these posts.) Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have all of these posts migrated as well, as well as the new podcast address up and working.
That new site is the root of this one. Simply
*modified from theCalifornias to
The Chair Pagoda of Hohhot

Q) Why did you move away from Blogger in the first place?
A) Blogger is unreliable in China. When we first arrived it was blocked, then it was allowed again, and now it’s blocked again. So rather than mess with email posts and frustration with media uploads I moved to the computer based iWeb platform. It worked well enough, minus a couple of SNAFUs I enjoyed using it.
Q) Why are you changing sites again?
A) As noted in the message above, I want to be able to update my site while on the road. I cannot do that using iWeb, so I must migrate to a new system.
Q) What system are you using? Where is it?
A) I’m using a server-side client called WordPress. It’s a blogging platform that is widely used and supported. While I only have about 2 weeks expierence working with it, it seems like a robust program that may in fact replace my use of iWeb in the future. However, only time will tell.
Q) How did you get to be so awesome?
A) Practice.
If you’ve got any other questions, or see an errors I don’t seem to be fixing, let me know.
(Photo: A Pagoda of Chairs I constructed as part of my children’s English lesson)

Vote for Hohhot.

Aston Corporate has finally put it’s pieces together and erected a live voting site for the various recruitment videos regions have put together. Remember ours, way back at the end of March? Here’s another look if you’ve forgotten.

Now we’re going to need your Honest To Goodness Opinion and a couple clicks with a pointer in your favorite browser.

We are nestled up here in the North, so look for Hohhot under the North and South Region category (yeah, I know, way to use your brain grouping school Aston, but go with it.) If you click on the link to view the video it will bring you back here. But go for it. Then We’ll need you to click-click-click-a-roo and then tell your friends.

This IS a competition for hard earned Chinese dolla-bills. So it’s serious. Remember. Don’t finish reading this, instead click

A Library

Sitting in the office Wednesday afternoon, I was watching Los Super Campeones. Matthew approached me and asked if I wanted to truck up to Erdos on Thursday to deliver some books to a school with him and some other Aston staff. I thought it sounded fun and agreed. He then informed me we’d be leaving that evening as soon as I was done with class. I anticipated I was now obligated to something quite complex, but interesting. This was going to be a long day. 26 hours after leaving Hohhot, we arrived back home and I went immediately into trying to cut film and filter through the photos.

We took a traveling bus out to Erdos (know also as Dongsheng, 东胜) were we arrived at about 12 AM on the 7th. We slept hard and woke up to cold showers and a meager breakfast, but still we were quite excited. We made a a quick stop and a tour of the Erdos Aston school and then the bus out to the school pulled up. A slick looking mini bus, with plenty of seating for all of us. Everyone sat down and we got the wheels rolling. Stopping a couple of times to pick up various members of media, TV, Radio, and Paper. An interesting and convoluted 4 hours later we arrived at the Ma Chang Hao primary school in the Erdos Da Qi district. The site was dusty, dry, and reminded me of the United States South West and Northern Mexico. I really wanted to surf, telling the Erdos staff that where I was from looked exactly like this, except on the other side of that little hill there is the beautiful blue ocean. I kind of got a little dizzy.

With our first looks the school seemed desolate and barren. A large empty court yard bisected with a small building and a couple of trees poking through the bricks. but then it occurred to me that campuses are designed to fit people, not empty space, so I suspended my judgements until a more appropriate time. After a bit of generic wandering we were ushered into a small cafeteria where we enjoyed a full, delicious, and hearty meal with the staff of the school. And quickly there after began work preparing for the ‘presentation.’

With a bus load of folks, things are done quickly, but sometimes a bit hastily. I think we moved chars in and out of the library 4 times. Thankfully they were light chairs and we needed the exercise. A bit of cleaning, some decorations, the temporary removal of a coal-burning central heating unit and some table cloths put the room right into order. Now the sun was beating down and I visions of a quick session in the imaginary swell frequently fogged my mind. I sat down and drank some water.

Once we were ready, someone said the word and someone else acted on it and magically all the kids appeared, dutifully filling the vacuum of the courtyard and satisfying my need for judgement. This place was alright.

The kids then all lined up, a short speech was made, mostly for the press, and then we passed books out like it was candy, and the kids took them like it was money! They grabbed at the offerings and shouted with excitement, big smiles abounded. I was astonished. Probably because I couldn’t read the Chinese texts they had received and didn’t know about the awesome characters which built this culture. Clearly there was something I was missing. But, yeah, I mean, books are cool.

After the ceremony, and when all the books were gone, we all filled the small library and passed books back and forth and around and around. I think this library thing was going to work. After a bit of time we pulled out a flat and bald basket ball and enticed a good chunk of kids out to the dirt basketball court for some good wholesome football. About an hour later, it was time to take some photos and then get on the road.

While our first impressions were of timid foreign children, our last impressions were of enthusiastic, friendly, neighbors capable of being anyone or anyplace in the world. I relished in the fact that once again after only a short time all impressions of difference melts away and all I’m left with is pieces of individual characters associated with great moments in time and interesting places that look remarkably like home.

In short… watch the video.

The Weekend Begins Again

As the weekend begins agin Dan and I reflect on a job done. We have yet to find out if our boss actually received the video or has watched it, however, it’s not important. What is important is that we’ve begun brainstorming our next projects and they’re going to be substantial. Using our daily experiences, our studio, and pulling from local and foreign inspirations we anticipate producing shorts which maintain both increases in technical quality as well as substantive quality. – I feel it’s important I convey my enthusiasm.

More so, in anticipation of becoming, well simply put, HUGE POP stars of China, I have been educating myself and experimenting with the dissemination of information and media here on this site using many google services – as it may have been noticed there are advertisements on many of these pages now. I assure you these are for testing purposes only (unless of course y’all start earning me money!)

So, as things go, that’s the update. Here’s to health, energy, and the weekend, maybe I’ll get some new jeans here soon.


We were asked to do some recruitment for Aston-Hohhot. So we looked into it and here were the terms: Make a recruitment video for the Hohhot branch of the company as a tool to recruit new teachers with. It was to be a competition. (the other schools had know about this for months already) First prize was 2000 RMB. The other videos are on YouTube. We checked them out. We thought we had a chance. We began brainstorming ideas putting down pages full of notes, hours of tea and cakes, and really difficult work. Really.

After two weeks of scripting, filming, and producing, we feel that TODAY we finally have the perfect representation of both city, society, and school here in Hohhot, China and we present it to you now, so please enjoy.

Copyright John Patrick Mizell & Daniel Gregory Tuttle 2009, All Rights Reserved.


English School Blues

At the end of last weekend, I was enthusiastic and motivated to tackle new challenges and build on old strengths. After this past week of travel and the weekend of teaching that followed, my motivation and energy for the sport has suffered.

This past weekend was a series of unplanned lessons, increased class sizes, botched presentations, zero energy, and shots to the face. Each mentally planned lesson suffered severely due to my lack of sleep and with every failed activity my faith in the subsequent drills was diminished. The ultimate failure came when I found myself with a class full of eight adults, 2 of which I had seen the week previous, prepared with a lesson that required the dead office printer and 4 copies shy of books purchased in Beijing on Monday. Compounding this was the new dispersion of ability, new difficulty in understanding and the silent observations of my boss in the corner.

After class I packed my things, notified the staff I would be leaving and any unfinished business would need to wait until Sunday, whereupon Dan and I arrived home to cook ourselves a delicious meal, down a glass of scotch, eat some Oreos and swiftly fall asleep.

Except for the fact that my students on Sunday are no taller than a toad, it was no different. Class activities perpetually fell flat, air time silent, and students started off every class even more rambunctious than I could possibly comprehend. Lunch started when one child rocketed my marker at my face. I went straight home and fell asleep.

My last class of the day received very little quality in their lesson and it’s off to drinks now. Tomorrow will be our first real day off in a while and I think I’ll take it easy and slow.

I can do this, but I’ve got to have my rest otherwise the … “what is this?” .. “it’s a DRAGON!” …comes out.