Nanjing, Tanker Shipping Sailor Training School


In the middle of a residential area, located in the west of the Gulou district in Nanjing and just 1.5 km from the Changjiang (Yangtze) River, a ship rises between the buildings. Closer inspection learns that it is only half a ship. Fourteen years ago the ship was built for training students at the Tanker Shipping Sailor Training School.


Mr. Qi is 55 years old and has been a teacher at the school for the past 10 years. He tells the school is affiliated with Sinotrans and CNS Holdings CO Ltd. Established in 1984 it moved to its current location in 1998. The school employs around 10 full time teachers and a handful of part time teachers. Though small, it is the only official training institute for sailors in Nanjing.



The school issues official shipping licenses. As sailor is considered to be a stable job, there is a steady influx of up to 300 students every year. Not only young people apply; the age of students varies from 18 to 60 years old. While some female students enroll every year, the male students outnumber them at least 1:10.


The school offers three different kinds of courses: the training of river transportation, coastal shipping and ocean shipping.


Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Qi used to be in charge of the supply of electricity on a ship. He describes his early life on the water as both “boring” and “free”. He tells that in the 80s and 90s of the last century telecommunications were not that advanced in China. He and his fellow boat mates could not surf the Internet, watch TV or even listen to the radio on the ship. All they could do to kill the time was to have a little drink, play chess or cards and read some books. However, they always had a good time when their ship was berthed at a port. They were usually given six or more hours of free time, which they used for short, yet exciting, visits to the city areas around the ports. He enjoyed a feeling of freedom in meeting people and discovering cities unknown to him.



This all changed after he got married. He felt bound to his family and did not enjoy the freedom anymore. He refers this period as a “hard time”. In the end he quit his job and became a teacher.


When asked if dealing with loneliness and being far away from your family for a long time is a subject that is part of the school’s curriculum, he explains that such subjects are not discussed with the students. Everybody has to deal with that in his or her own way.



Mr. Wang Xinqiao, 57 years old and a teacher at shipping schools for the past 30 years, joins our conversation. He speaks some English which he learned when sailing the world for 11 years as a young man.


We briefly talk about the school again. The level of education of most students is not very high. The teaching is quite relaxed; the subject matters they teach are easy to acquire. Classes are from Monday to Sunday, but teachers don’t need to work many hours in the office; they just come and go for classes.





Beijing, Little Umbrella Kindergarten


There are three kindergartens in Huang Gang village, a poor residential area in the north of Beijing.


The Little Umbrella Kindergarten is located in a hutong and takes care of children from migrant workers who live in the village. The 300 square meter large kindergarten is, according to the teachers, positioned in the mid-range. Not as good as in the urban area, but better than average.



We talked with two teachers in this kindergarten: Mr. Gu Yunhe and Mrs. Gao Yanbo.


Little Umbrella, established 2.5 years ago, is a private kindergarten for children of parents who both work during the day. All of the parents are so called migrant workers, originating from other provinces. This means there is a high turnover as parents move between different cities for work.



The kindergarten functions more like a day care center than a school, although there is some basic education. The children learn songs, counting, Chinese language and some simple English words and sentences. The kindergarten does not keep student files.



We visited the kindergarten in February while many parents and children were still in their hometowns enjoying the yearly Spring Festival holiday with their families. At our time of visiting there were only 17 children, all in one class. The oldest kid among them is six, while the youngest is just 2. In March, when all the children have returned, the children will be divided into different classes, according to their age.



Parents don’t have to pay an extra fee to this private kindergarten for not having a Beijing residency permit (hukou). Because of the high turnover, the tuition fee is charged by month. The 200 RMB per month includes lunch, which is prepared by the teachers.



We see a little red bucket in the classroom. It’s for the young children, because they are too young to use the public toilet. Older children are accompanied by a teacher when they have to visit the public toilet (in villages like Huang Gang there are no toilets inside buildings because of a limited sewage network).



The children are wearing coats inside the classroom while an electric heating fan provides some warmth. When it gets colder, the air conditioner and coal fired stoves will be used for heating.




Beijing, Mrs. Lü’s Living Room


Name: Lü Jin

Age: 47

Chinese zodiac sign: Rabbit

Education: I studied Guzheng and Koto at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Later I studied music and Korean drums in the DPRK (North Korea).


Profession: Teaching Guzheng (Chinese zither), Koto (Japanese zither) and Gayageum (Korean zither) at the Central Conservatory of Music


When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?

I like chatting with friends and listening to music. Besides classical music, I also listen to pop, rock & roll and jazz. I once formed a rock band in which I played the drums. I like rock & roll and I want to experience various musical styles. I also established a traditional Chinese instruments orchestra.

What I enjoy most, next to listening to music and chatting with friends, is thinking. I read books, think about questions and find ways to solve them. After some problems are settled, I’ll think about new ones and again try to solve them.


Name three of your daily routine activities:

Cooking, preparing lessons and teaching. Sometimes, I’ll go out and meet friends.


What is your favorite food?

I like all kinds of food. North China cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, Italian food, Indonesian food, Japanese food, American food; any food will do for me, but I don’t eat snakes.


How much money does your family spend on food per day?

60 to 100 RMB per day (about 2,000 to 3,000 RMB every month)


Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)

My hometown is Shenyang. I left Shenyang at the age of 12 when I came to Beijing to study at the Conservatory. In fact, I’ve been thinking about the question “do I miss my hometown?”. I have a feeling that I don’t know where my home is. Probably it’s because I left my hometown at a very young age. I don’t think Shenyang is my home. I have no friends and families there. Beijing seems more like my home. I also lived in North Korea for 5 years. I really don’t know where my home is.


What is your most precious childhood memory?

My most precious childhood memory is probably the time with my family, the time with my father. Sometimes I was happy, but sometimes… I was not so happy in my childhood. Maybe it’s because I always had to practice Guzheng. I started to learn Guzheng when I was 7. Before that, I studied violin for 3 years. My father taught me violin. He was playing violin in the army. The photo on the wall was taken in 1959, the 10th anniversary of the PRC. At the center of the photo are Chairman Mao, Liu Shaoqi and ten great generals of China. My father is here (pointing at the upper right corner of a group photo with hundreds of soldiers).


My father thought that a Chinese could never compete with Westerners in playing music on Western instruments, so my father made me give up the violin in favor of the Guzheng. At first, I really didn’t like Guzheng. I liked violin and cried for several days. But I had to obey my father, so I started to learn Guzheng. Now, I’ve fallen in love with Guzheng.

In 1978, I took the entrance examination of the Central Conservatory of Music. I failed in the first year, but passed the exam in the second year. It was very difficult to get admitted to the college, because the Central Conservatory of Music only accepted one Guzheng student per year at that time. There was only one Guzheng instrument and one student in the classroom …


What are the three most important things in life for you?

I think the most important things in life are love and family. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know whether my idea is right or wrong, but I really think that love and family are most important. Work comes second. However, some people think I am wrong about this. I believe that love is the motive to do things, but many people only care about work. I’ve been thinking which idea is right?


What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?

I believe truthfulness is most important. People are wearing masks most of the time. I think people should be true to everything, like when you deal with students it should come from your heart.


Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy

I feel happy most of the time. But it would be better if there’s someone resonating with my soul. It’s important for people who are in music. Just like a musician pays particular attention to resonance in timbre, I like to have profound discussions with people in order to reach resonance. If someone reaches a consensus with me in soul, I’ll be very happy.

However, it’s difficult to find such a person. I often adapt myself to other people’s way of thinking. There are different kinds of friends: true friends understand me, while some others think my ideas are strange. In their mind, the normal idea should be what most people think, but I’m different.

Contemporary society is quite complicated. Different people have different ideas about life. Many people care about money. They think success means becoming famous and earning a lot of money. Many Chinese think so. Therefore, they sometimes don’t agree with me.

For example, they think it’s worthwhile to make friends who are famous and useful to them. I believe it’s wrong.

I care more about the inner beauty of a person. If a person can resonate with my soul, I can become friends with that person, whether he or she is successful or not.


What do you expect will the future bring for you?

I hope to live a happy life with whom I love and do what I like. I don’t want to be influenced by other people’s thoughts.


What is your religion?

I became a Catholic four years ago. It’s my own choice. I tried to believe in Buddhism, but it didn’t work for me. Then I learned something about Judaism and I think it’s my right way.


Many of my friends suggest me to believe in Buddhism, but I choose to convert to Catholicism. I go to church every Sunday. If I have time, I also go there on weekdays. I enjoy the time in the church, which I spend in thinking or communicating with God. Four years ago, I was baptized. After converting to Catholicism, I feel happier. My ideas and values of life have totally changed. I grew up in a context of Marxism-Leninism, but I think some values of it are unwise.






Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
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the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China