Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sick in Macau: an adventure in Chinese hospitals

A view of the casinos from my hospital room  at Kiang Wu Hospital in Macau.
          As many of you may have noticed, I have not been updating regularly in Macau. However, I have been responding to your comments. The lack of posts is not because of my difficult work schedule, or my lack of dedication. Rather, it's simply because I have been enjoying life and waiting until the urge to write came back to me again. In September 2013, I became really sick and after 2 weeks in Macau in and out of the hospital, I flew home to California for another 2 weeks to get a full work-up. After a colonoscopy, 2 cat scans, and 15 pounds lighter, luckily I found out everything is A-OK and all my health issues were due to a thyroid disorder which is easily manageable.

3 months later, I am finally feeling back to normal and strong and in-shape again! And my time in the hospital in Macau makes a great story right? So after finally deciding that I had to see a doctor I walked a measly 10 minutes from my apartment over to Kiang Wu Hospital. There are only 2 hospitals in Macau that accept my national health insurance plan provided by the University. I found the fact that there are only 2 hospitals fascinating and after doing some research I later realized there is only 1 public hospital.  Reuters did a great piece titled "One public hospital, 36 casinos: Macau's skewed bet on prosperity." It is a little funny when you think about how many casinos there are here and only 1 public hospital. But we also have to  keep in mind that the population in Macau is relatively small and women here have the 1st highest life expectancy rate in the world in terms of longevity. The Macau Daily Times article reported that according to the Central Intelligence Agencies latest report, "Macau actually beats Japan in the longevity stakes, coming in second worldwide with an average life expectancy of 84.43 years topping the Japanese figures of 83.91.
         So, with such a healthy city, I guess in all reality the hospitals are doing pretty good to service the population here. As I noticed with my own hospital experience, they will try and hold you hostage to get as much pay off as they can get! The young girl sharing a room with me simply had a bad cold and stayed in the hospital with an IV for 5 days until she was well again. Her boyfriend came over regularly and hung out, and she was just hanging around reading Chinese gossip magazines all day until someone brought her food and entertained her a bit.
I wobbled over expecting to receive a follow-up appointment with a gastro-specialist, and instead, because of my extremely low blood pressure was thrown a hospital gown and admitted 15 minutes later. I did actually need medical care at the time, but there was no way that I needed to be there for one week as the doctors were insisting. They spoke good English, but they really didn't know what do to with me. They also stick to a very simple frame of mind focusing only on treating your symptoms and not trying to diagnose the real problem. I also realized (and I quote my co-worker) "People simply just do whatever the doctor tells them too here because they are like God and they know what is best for you." Which sounds completely ridiculous to any Westerner that takes full responsibility for their health decisions and goes to several doctors to seek out 2nd and 3rd opinions.
        Basically to get any tests ordered within a reasonable amount of time, you need to sit there as an in-patient, or else you have to brave the long ticket lines of the out-patient department and scheduling line which can often result in waiting 1-3 months before you get any tests run. This is simply due to the fact that there is not enough medical equipment or doctors to service all of the patients in the hospital. And the fact that there are only 2 hospitals in Macau that accept the national health insurance.
        Not wanting to pay up front at a private doctor, I flew home to use my American insurance and see doctors who really knew what they were doing. I'm not saying all doctors in Macau are bad, but the second I got home, they immediately started testing me for a million things that the doctors here would have never considered based on my symptoms. It could have been months or even longer before I was diagnosed if I had waited in Macau.
         So, lesson learned. When you are stuck in a really bad health situation, make sure you have a back up plan in case you are working outside of the country and get sick. You might just end up like me, taking all 10 of my sick days and hopping on a flight home to see a doctor.

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Monday, November 25, 2013

My apartment in Macau: a mansion compared to my old shacks in Japan and Korea

This is my third time video taping my apartments in Asia. This apartment is going to seem like a mansion in comparison to my first two apartments, which were tiny little studios. This obviously reflects my higher position and pay bump due to completing my Master's degree and getting a University job abroad in Macau. My first two apartments were filmed in Korea, and Japan.

Right now I am in what is called "temporary" off campus faculty housing for the university. My rent is subsidized by the university so I pay a measly $104 a month plus utilities for a 3 bedroom apartment. However, when you live off-campus there is no guarantee you will not have roommates. When I first moved in there was a Portuguese teacher here and then another teacher from the ELC moved in and there were three of us. After 2 months the Portuguese teacher's temporary time was up and so then it was just the two of us.

Come spring I will have this entire apartment to myself if no other teachers are in need of temporary housing. I was supposed to get moved to the on-campus faculty housing at the new university. However, the construction was never completed and I am hypothesizing that I will be here until the remainder of my 10 month contract. Those that are senior teachers only have 30 days in the temporary housing and are then required to find their own apartments and also receive a small housing subsidy.

I hope you enjoy the live tour! I live right now in the most historical area of Macau near the Red Market. Its great because almost no expats live over here and you get a more cultural side of living in Macau. I am enjoying both the Chinese and the Portuguese life over here! The tourism in Macau is huge and we see a lot of people from all over the world each weekend. It's actually hard for me to find people my age that are living here! If you have any additional questions that I didn't answer for you don't hesitate to leave a comment.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thoughts about teaching in the TESOL field in Asia

Students at University of Macau during a Mexican cooking demonstration.  

An old professor of mine asked me to share some thoughts for new teachers in the field of TESOL abroad in Asia for her new book.

What are the biggest mistakes teachers make when they first go to teach in these countries?  

Teachers are always bound to make mistakes when going abroad to work. I have taught in Korea, Japan, and China and probably one of my biggest mistakes is not asking about the nitty gritty details before taking on a position.  You don’t want to come off during the interview as a pushover, so you remain quiet and try and seem comfortable and cool right? But, this is one of the worst things that you can do, as you may be kicking your-self months after taking a position for not thoroughly and critically evaluating your new position beforehand.  As I have applied to more positions overtime, the process has gotten easier and I remember to make a giant checklist of items that I have questions about and sit there crossing them off and making more questions during my interviews.

1.      Not asking enough questions

If the interview is cut short, which it almost inevitably is, I make sure to e-mail back over my final questions or call again to get my questions answered. A lot of programs and schools are short on time during the interview process. They are brief and leave a lot of vital information out of the picture. One example happened to me recently while applying to The University of Macau. Because their University is expanding and a new campus is being built, they could not guarantee my housing stipend when I first signed my contract. I had to wait several months until I found out about my housing options through the University for off-campus faculty members. 3 months after I had signed my contract I heard back from the University with my housing package. Still, I forgot to ask if this housing was for the duration of my 10 month contract which I assumed it was. Little did I know that the University had only secured my off-campus apartment for 6 months with the hopes of moving me into the on-campus housing as soon as construction was finished. Because I was not nagging the office and administration about every tiny minute detail of my contract, I ultimately ended up with more stress upon arrival to the country. Uncertain if I was to be moved again, I could not truly settle in to my living space or purchase furniture because of the lack of communication between the administration and the University itself.

I also had a similar experience in Korea where I was told by the school that I would have assistance finding housing. They sold this as a plus side of taking a contract with their school since other workplaces teachers are left to deal with their own housing and hire a real estate agent. However, they did forget to mention that there was an exuberant fee associated with their housing assistance and I forgot to ask because I assumed that this was a perk of the position. Assume that nothing is a perk, and assume that anything offered will come with an extra fee until it is written in stone otherwise.

These are things that you need to be upfront with during your interview. You need to be detailed with your recent experience and expectations. If you do not share with your future workplace what you expect from the position and contract itself, you may find yourself wishing that you took more time to get acquainted with their position and school policies and environment.

2.      Not understanding that other countries are still developing

      Many teachers assume that because they got hired at the top notch college or school that they will have high quality access to the internet and state of the art equipment. This is often not the case and is hard to discover without visiting the new workplace in-person before-hand. A company or school may tell you that you will have access to projectors, computers, etc. but expect that there may be a lack of technology that you are used to living in the United States or other countries that have the latest technology. I taught at a University in Japan that gave me access to ONE computer in another teacher’s classroom to do attendance each day. That meant that I had NO computer to use in my classroom at all and no projector either. Everything had to be done with a simple chalk board and white board and I had to think creatively to plan my lessons without any access to technology at all. Even today at one of the most prestigious universities, the internet is often very slow because of so many classes going on at the same time. Thus, I cannot just hop on You Tube to show a video in my class or pull up an article. I need to download the clip before class and save it to my computer which takes extra time.

3.      They may think that their recent teaching experience or recent program will apply to their new workplace.
       This is NEVER the case! Each time I have taken a new position I have had to completely re-evaluate the way that I teach in order to apply my skills to their program. No program is alike and each University has their own guidelines and curriculum. For the first time I find myself in a program that is not focuses on specific language skills such as reading, writing, grammar. Etc. but strives to align itself with the core curriculum since the courses are a part of the required core classes at the university. Instead, I have found myself learning to adjust to the new curriculum which is focused on academic skills and aims to help students succeed in all of their university courses which a majority are conducted in English.

4.      Do not assume that the country you are applying to will understand or recognize your certifications or degrees.

Many schools abroad do not understand what a M.Ed. or an M.A. in TESOL entails. Instead, they are still asking teachers to have certifications such as the CELTA or DELTA. But, in other countries a CELTA or DELTA will not be recognized as a high enough certification for teaching or it may be a required certificate to work in their programs. Each country will have its own idea of the best certification or degree required for its program. Your current educational background may mean something very different in another country which is something that is often confusing for new teachers in the field. The field of TESOL is always changing and is relatively new in nature. Teachers that want to be extremely marketable for a position should try and receive every certificate and diploma possible to maximize their potential for securing a job.

5.      Not understanding the difference between language schools, universities, and teaching programs.

There is a huge difference if you are contracted by a private company to teach at a school or university versus being hired at the school or university directly. When searching for jobs, I often find myself researching the top schools in that country and looking directly for jobs on their websites. I also contact previous and current employees of these schools and ask about their experiences working for that particular school via linked-in and online teacher profiles.  I have never gone through a staffing agency or government teaching program, although if you do decide to do so, it is not a problem. However, many teachers find that when they leave a job in Korea or Japan they do not have high level positions that will allow them to move up within their profession. If you are teaching at a “Hagwon” or “Private Language Institution” in Korea, this will not allow you to secure a job at a University or public school in the states or U.K. Many teachers forget that even though they have been teaching for so long abroad and have learned how to become a great teacher within their school, they still do not have high enough certifications and work experience to get them into a job when they decide to return home. They will still need to further their education after these teaching experiences. So, if you are just going abroad for the experience a TESOL course or certification is best for you. But if you are trying to become a teacher as a life-long profession than I would strongly consider furthering your education ASAP to maximize your job potential and expertise in the field. 

What Cultural Aspects should teachers think about before going?

1.       Your style and experiences of teaching and learning may be completely different than that of your new students.

After teaching in 3 different countries I see the difference between expectations of the student and teacher the most devastatingly obvious in China. Students are passive, and walk into the classroom expecting the teacher to stand in front of the class and lecture while they take notes and sit in quiet throughout the course. In Western culture, the students are required to challenge the teacher and participate in class by asking questions and contributing to discussion. This is something that most students coming out of High School in China have NEVER done before in their lives. These students need to be taught the concept of critical thinking. This takes time and will not happen within a month or two of courses. Students are EXTREMELY nervous to explain their opinions or even raise their hand and share an answer because of fear that they will be ridiculed by their teacher and classmates.

2.       Your everyday work environment may be very different

You may be used to chatting freely in the office with your co-workers or sharing lesson plans and eating in the office.  But, in a different country these common work settings may change completely. In Japan and Korea, teachers were often expected to eat each meal with their colleagues or students on-campus. Where as many teachers in Western society may eat alone, this is not seen as a natural or viable option during the lunch or dinner hours in many Eastern countries.

Your office may be extremely quiet. My first thoughts on teaching in Japan and China were that my work environment was extremely dull. Teachers did not openly collaborate with one another during their office hours, and I often found myself leaving the office completely to escape from my cave down in the cold and dark dungeon.  However, sometimes the school required me to be on campus from 9am-5pm regardless of my teaching hours which was the case in Japan. Many teachers in the states can make up their own daily schedules around their teaching hours. However, while teaching abroad, this may be a different scenario. Luckily, I am allowed to work from any place at my current position in China. However, I understand that the local Chinese people think that if you are not physically in your office, you are not getting any work done and you may be seen as a lesser colleague for doing so. My advice is to try and engage is as much cross cultural communication as possible in your office as the locals may have completely different expectations of the work environment. Often a sterile and cold environment can be changed if your co-workers understand that you appreciate their input and social interactions in your everyday work life.  They may believe that they are distracting you, while you may believe they are rude and cold. This is a common misconception between those working in the Western world versus the Eastern world. Do not be afraid to share your culture with others and do not be expected to conform or mold your own culture to a schools professional environment. Staying completely true to your own culture may not be possible, however you can go through your every-day life as normal as possible while staying respectful of the countries expectations.

3.       Your students are stupid because they are quiet.

I can’t tell you how many teachers fall into this trap. Upon my first weeks of work in China a teacher said to me, “Oh yes, the level 0 students are very stupid. They do not know how to write at all.” Don’t listen to blunt or mistaken comments such as these. Often times there are teachers that are INSTITUTIONALIZED and have NEVER TAUGHT IN ANOTHER COUNTRY so they are out of touch with reality in their classrooms. Their teaching styles may be extremely dated and their expectations of students may be extremely low. This is simply not the case. The students coming into higher level university ESL programs simply have never had the opportunity to engage in any kind of sharing or reflections. Many of them are taught to take a test and remember the answers to questions. This is the only kind of learning that they have ever encountered before. Teachers need to be patient, and give these students many opportunities to produce ad practice their reading, writing, and speaking skills on a regular basis. Teaching down to these students will only hinder their learning. Often times I will be surprised by a student that is extremely quiet and shy in the classroom when I read their writing. This is because I find that they are even smarter than the students who try and participate in the class. Teachers need to remember that ESL students are processing information at all times and this takes longer for some students than others. How much a student is actively participating in class may not be an accurate measure of how smart this student is.

Other suggestions for new teachers

1.      Don’t be afraid to leave a position early

If a school is simply not meeting your expectations, than don’t feel obligated to finish your contract. Most schools will respect your decision that their program simply isn’t meeting your needs as a teacher and isn’t a good match. It is hard to find the perfect program that satisfies your needs and desires as a teacher. Don’t be afraid to try out many different schools and settings and even say no to positions or leave positions because you just didn’t feel comfortable working there. I currently know several teachers in the field that have changed programs and schools after only 2-3 months of working because they did not see the job as a “good fit.” This is ok! Many new teachers feel obligated to stay at their position out of fear that their reputation may be damaged for leaving. However, if you politely explain your situation to your current supervisor, they are sure to understand that it is often times difficult to find a good match between a school and a teacher. Don’t let fear or money stop you from finding a better position that will suit your personality, creativity, and goals. If the job isn’t meeting your expectations, then just leave. The good thing about this field is that you are sure to encounter many other people that have done the same, and many other supervisors who will appreciate your decision to leave a program early before they start investing in you as a teacher. There is always another job out there that is waiting for you.

2.      Don’t expect to be on vacation all the time!

Many new teachers in the field think that when they go abroad they will have an abundance of vacation and leisure time. This is often not the case as you are overwhelmed with adjusting to a new culture, moving, creating adjustments to your teaching, fitting into a new program. All of these things take time and you may find yourself busier than you previously thought. Teaching abroad is not a good means for traveling. Yes, there are perks that you are closer in distance to neighboring countries than you previously were if you are from the U.S. But in general, you will be working just as much as everyone back home if not more. Because I am so familiar with teaching in the States it is much easier for me to create a lesson plan or conduct research in that setting. However, living abroad often requires me twice the time because I am trying to take into account differences in culture and learning styles that I didn’t previously have to focus on as deeply.

3.      Travel or visit the country you plan to work-in beforehand.

Many times new teachers in the field of TESOL are  just excited to go to a new country and experience teaching abroad for the first time. However, moving to a new country is a HUGE decision that should not be taken lightly. Before each contract I have taken, I had previously traveled to the country or conducted a job interview in that country to make sure that I could see myself in that environment. I knew that I could live in Korea easily after spending 2 weeks there in the year before applying for a position. I also knew that Macau would be an easy place to live in because I had been and lived in North Eastern Asia multiple times, and knew that the European influence would remind me more of my home culture. Upon traveling to Vietnam in 2011, I knew that there was no way that I could ever apply for a teaching position there simply because I did not feel comfortable in that environment. For me, I need to be in a location that is extremely safe and provides a higher salary and middle to high cost of living. This meant that most countries in South East Asia were immediately off my list as their crime is much higher than countries like Japan and Korea. I know this about myself, and thus I take is into consideration when I am considering a country to live and work in. Knowing yourself and your living expectations is extremely important when factoring in a new job in a new country. 

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Monday, September 9, 2013

10 things to love about Macau

Portuguese flare is found all over the streets of Macau.
1. The Portuguese influence: Throughout Macau you will see tiled floors, round-a-bouts with beautiful gardens, blue tiled Portuguese street signs, tiled streets, and much more. The Portuguese history of Macau can be seen almost everywhere on the streets and is a great break from the ordinary Asian scenery for those that have traveled or lived extensively in Asia.

Gardens in Macau are found throughout the city.
2. Gardens in Macau: After walking a few streets down from my apartment I discovered about 3 different garden areas. One of them, Jardim da Flora offers playgrounds for kids in Macau, walking paths, and even a cable car that will take you up to the top of the mountain. On a clear day the views of the city are beautiful and you forget the chaos of the bustling city below.

Macau  is made up of two islands called Macau and Taipa.
3. The Island Life: 
Macau is no tropical getaway by any means. But, there is a sense of excitement from going across one of the 3 massive bridges that connects Macau and Taipa Islands. During one day in Macau, I found myself going back and forth between the islands over 5 times between work, restaurants, and different friends apartments. Going back and forth between Macau island and Taipa island becomes a standard occurrence for most locals and especially for tourists who want to see hotels which are located throughout both islands of Macau.

Fresh papaya is always available in Macau.

4. The Fresh Fruit: Something that I couldn't often find in Korea and Japan was amazing and cheap fresh fruit. Here in Macau because of our close proximity to Philippines we get a ton of imported papaya and mango. I found my fruit bowl loaded with beautiful pink dragon fruit originating from central america and grown throughout Asia and purple mangosteen from Indonesia.

Try ordering some live frog for dinner!

5. Exotic Chinese Food: When my friend told me we were going out for Chinese frog hot pot I immediately said yes! I couldn't wait to eat some fresh frog meat as the first time I tried frog legs in France I fell in love with the soft and fishy-like qualities. Little did I know that our frog meat would be served raw and alive, just like my live octopus experience in Korea. I will post a live video of the twitching frog legs being dumped into the hot pot for dinner later on.

Photo Courtesy of Club Cubic.
6. The all night hotel club scene: If you are coming to Macau to party there will be no shortage of party goers inside the hotels most elite clubs such as Cubic, D2, and D3. You will find great DJ's playing the newest music from around the world and some amusing dancers and singers trying to take their best stab at Western music. You will not often see party goers mixed with gambling as the gamblers are quite serious. And you definitely don't compare Macau to Vegas as drinking is not seen as openly on the streets here as it is in Vegas. But, enter any hotel bar or club and you will see the night life come alive.

Get touristy at the Ruins of St. Paul's church.

 7. The Historical Churches: Every step you take you will bump into a Western Church of some kind. They will be practicing or not and in beautiful condition as they are one of the main tourist attractions of Macau. The picture to the left is of course at the famous Ruins of St. Paul's which is just a remaining facade of the old church. Everyone who comes to Macau must have their picture taken at the historical monument which rests at the top of Macau's most famous shopping area Senado Square. The tiled streets are lined with hundreds of shops and restaurants that give an addictive old fashioned Europe flavor. You may even forget that you are in Asia at all, until you look around and take in all of the glowing neon signs and Asian lanterns.

Offerings on the sidewalks of Macau during ghost month.

8. The Hungry Ghost Festival: Are they having a bonfire in the middle of the sidewalk? Every year in China around August or September you will see people burning fires in little red metal boxes on the street and throwing in fake paper money. They will also leave candles and food as offerings to their ancestors. During this one month period it is believed that the ghosts of everyone's ancestors return to the earth and without giving offerings, people may be haunted by the ghosts. Don't be alarmed if you walk outside and see blazing fires in the middle of the sidewalk. Families will gather together throughout the month to offer up gratitude and thanks to their lost ones.

A peek inside the MGM Grand Hotels ocean themed room.
9. Luxurious Hotel Life: Get dressed up and wander around one of Macau's top hotels such as the The Venetian, MGM, Hard Rock, or Wynn. There is always a show or event going on somewhere and you can have a great night out shopping, fine dining, or just walking around witnessing the beautiful hotel displays. The MGM is known for its dazzling underwater glass display with its pink coral pictured to the left. There is always something new to see or discover as you get lost inside some of the biggest hotels in the world. Did you know that The Venetian in Macau remains the largest casino in the world?

Bet on a dog at Macau's greyhound racing track.
10. Macau's Greyhound Racing: Though you might not be a fan of greyhound racing due to the unfair treatment of dogs in some countries, Macau has an old race track with cheap admission of only about $1 USD where you can take part in betting on the fastest dogs. Truly a unique experience, the track is full of older generations who spend their evenings dining in the restaurant as they look for the fastest and most fit dogs to bet on. This is a unique part of Macau that is often overlooked by tourists and is more of a local scene.

If you have any questions or comments about "10 things to love about Macauplease leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Annual Faculty Retreat at MGM Grand Hotel in Macau

A photo of all new and returning faculty at the ELC.
 Last week after helping all the new teachers arrive over the weekend, we had our first faculty meetings and annual retreat. Below is an article about Day 1 of the retreat that was held at the MGM Grade Hotel in Macau. We were lucky to have a delicious 3 course meal and plenty of coffee, tea, and snacks throughout the day. They even had the sweet, sugar and cinnamon dusted churros which I used to sell on the local beach amusement park when I was in high school.  After a little research, I interestingly discovered that churros have a Chinese history.

To sum up the faculty retreat see a reflective article that my co-worker and I wrote up for the campus wide e-news bulletin about some of the events from the day. The semester does not start until September 16th, but we have been very busy with professional development workshops, course meetings, research planning, and event planning. Teaching and preparing our lessons is definitely not the only thing on our schedules!

Dear Colleagues and students, 

The English Language Center (ELC) kicked off the 2013-2014 semester with its Annual Faculty Retreat at the MGM Grand hotel on August 20, 2013. As the new semester approaches the ELC faculty may all agree on one thing; the nerves never go away before a new semester begins and we often find ourselves feeling exactly like our students with butterflies in our stomachs or like a child on Christmas morning not knowing what to expect from Santa Clause. With 8 new Faculty members joining the ELC concurrent with the expansion of the University, the retreat was a great way to get new and old teachers bonding as a team and familiarizing everyone with new ELC and University wide policies and expectations. New teachers Marie Webb and Azita Kuok reflect on the day spent getting to know one another under the sea at the MGM. 

A Handshake Game was used to reduce the tension and to get the group into a collaborative mood. Teams had to generate creative handshakes which incorporated both movement and sound, at each round increasing the number of movements as teams got bigger throughout the activity.

One of the more serious activities during the retreat was a group discussion on the ELC policy. Each group was formed with new and old staff members to discuss 3 questions related to the ELC policy. The questions covered all aspects, such as professional development opportunities, rights and duties, personnel rights and obligations, and support and funding for doing research. 

“We’ll take Important Dates and Numbers for 400 please,” a team shouted out during the American quiz show game Jeopardy. The Jeopardy game was used to revisit the policy discussion later in the day and served as a good review activity. “September 16?”, Subject Convenor at the ELC Barbara Weissmann asked, and team number 1 eagerly replied, ”When is the first day of class?” A team Jeopardy game served as an activity for teachers to review questions about policy and important days of the academic year. Of course the most important day, the first day of classes was highly deserving of 400 points. Personally, as new fellows in the program we both felt that the Jeopardy game was a great way to get all of the faculty thinking about exciting activities to integrate into their class lessons. But, we won’t deny the fact that the chocolate bar rewards also helped with our extrinsic motivation.

In addition to exciting activities such as the Jeopardy game, all level head teachers and new teachers participated in a poster session in which we shared teaching ideas for our classrooms with one another. This activity reminds us that as educators collaboration is what helps us to stay open minded and up to date in our classrooms. Sharing our insights into successful lessons or activities is not simply just a retreat team building activity, but a lifelong process in which teachers are involved in a community of sharing knowledge. 

On the note of community building, teachers were expected to build a unique structure out of materials such as spaghetti and marshmallows in another activity. ELC courses are creative and innovative and this tower building activity demonstrated the characteristics of ELC staff members. Each group had to build a tower with 20 pieces of spaghetti, a yard of string, a yard of tape and one marshmallow. The group which could build the tallest tower in 15 minutes would be the winner. We were so engaged in this activity that no one wanted to stop when time was up. We learned the personalities and talents of each group member and it was challenging to collaborate in such a short period of time. As a result many of the marshmallow towers collapsed to their death after the timer rang. It was inspiring for us to reflect about ways to work with each other and having opportunities to show our strengths. The best part of this game was that Barbara, Joan, Kevin and Azita won this challenge! 

Overall we are excited about working in the ELC and truly feel that the Faculty Retreat day one set the tone for a wonderful and bright semester filled with new relationships and friendships. We are looking forward to getting to know the ELC teachers and staff more and would like to see if round two of the spaghetti marshmallow building competition improves in quality after we have known each other for more time. Let’s all take time to reflect on the things we learned and thank one another for a successful day.

Also, check out the ELC's webpage ( for more information and photos. Thank you very much for your participation in ELC activities and for your support of our University's English Language Centre. 

English Language Centre (ELC)
University of Macau (UM)

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

The move in process in Macau for off-campus faculty housing in 2013

Some purchased items to fill up my white, empty apartment in Macau.

        As I am working for the University of Macau, I was placed into housing as a language fellow (visiting instructor position). The cost of rent is extremely cheap for us because we are not hired directly by the University and are working for the English Language Center itself. For the 4 fellows our rent is only $104 per month to stay in off-campus housing through the university. During my 5th week here, 8 new senior instructors arrived to teach in the ELC and all were placed in temporary housing as well. Because of the move to the New University Campus in January, we are in a state of housing limbo.
        After providing much help to my new co-workers on the move in  process such as setting up gas, applying for internet, obtaining water, fixing wrong keys, broken air conditioners, securing couch covers  for peeling couches, etc., the management of the ELC sent out an e-mail requesting that all teachers reply to the housing office with requests for improvement and suggestions on the moving process. Each new teacher replied to my first e-mail that was sent and added more information. Some of the information added included the teachers that were placed in the Best Western Hotel in Taipa with no Wi-fi access or kitchens. For a week or two this is ok, but the University is not paying for their Wi-fi access which comes at an unreasonable cost as well as the fact that those teachers must eat out every meal at additional costs for a period of 1-4 months since the move to new apartments on campus is uncertain.

          Here are some of the items of complaint:

Hi Carol!

Here are a few:

1. White mold present in each rooms furniture. Mainly the desk, inside the desk drawers, under, all sides of the drawers insides, behind desk. Suggestion: Proper cleaning of all furniture prior to arrival.

2. Paint peeling from couches, you cannot even sit on the couches without being covered in black specks of paint. This is especially dangerous for the families with children whom often ingest the paint. Suggestion: new furniture or proper couch covers.

3. No gas upon arrival to cook or take hot showers. Suggestion: the school buys the first tank and removes the charge from our paycheck.

4. Basics upon arrival such as a roll of toilet paper, at least one cup, dish, bowl,one cooking pan, fork, spoon, and knife. Suggestion: In the past when I have moved abroad for teaching jobs there was a basic care package either sent the same day as arrival by delivery or provided in the apartment. All materials in this package were cheap and meant for basic needs upon arrival. We could leave only the initial items provided in the care box upon leaving so they could be used again, or dispose of them.

5. Proper pillows because mine was literally falling apart. The entire pillow was shredded into small pieces and then stuffed into a pillow case. Suggestion: new pillow upon arrival.

6. Check to make sure all keys work. My roommates key was the entirely wrong key and she was locked out. Suggestion: The school checks each key to make sure it functions correctly.

7. A second set of keys for guests. Many times we arrive with someone to help us with our adjustment and it is hard to get in and out of the apartment with only one set of keys. Suggestion: Each teacher be provided with 2 sets of keys.

8. Proper cleaning of apartment. I think all of us can agree that in the Western World we have different ideas about what is  "move in clean." For example, I spent 2 days scrubbing and bleaching the black mold and grime between the bathroom and kitchen tiles. This is something that no one wants to do when they arrive to a new country. A brief cleaning is not acceptable. Suggestion: A thorough clean of the floors, walls, and furniture.



     Although it seems as there are alot of complaints about the housing, this is due to the fact that the University is in a state of flux right now during the moving process. However, one teacher did reply to the e-mail noting that the University considers itself as one of the leading schools in Macau and in China and if they claim to do so they would probably have considered the moving process for it's international teachers with more care. There were obvious signs to all of the new teachers that the University took no care regarding their move to Macau. Especially when basic items such as air conditioners were not functioning or keys did not match the doors.
     With all of the complaints noted, The off-campus apartments are of wonderful size and in a great location of Macau. It is extremely hard to find this much space anywhere in Macau and for such a great price from the University subsidizing most of the cost. However, most teachers do not want to share rooms and need more than just a peeling old couch when arriving with a family that has children. I am sure this is the last time that most teachers for the University will experience this kind of setting as the new campus will have plenty of housing for faculty. However, for faculty that does not receive on-campus housing from the beginning of their move, the University definitely needs to raise their quality of service for new arrivals. Much of the faculty from the ELC has taught in the Middle East which dominates in the relocation department. Some faculty report being handed thousands of dollars to buy new furniture and being provided with a private car upon arrival until they were more fully settled. Moving to a new country is a huge adjustment and providing professionals with a professional moving experience should not be understated. As of now, there are 3 of us living in this apartment. I am under the understanding that I would not be receiving on-campus housing and that I will be staying here for the year. My roommates are under the impression that this is temporary housing and that they will be moving in to the new apartments on campus once the construction is finished. Check back for a later post on a live video tour of my apartment in Macau.

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  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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Creative Commons License
Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
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