Cleaning a Pool

Cheap Work Again

Today again another example of too cheap working resources…

Between our project site and the next building there is a pool with fountains. Its a very shallow one, just 10 centimetres in depth, tiled in light blue. But it covers a large rectangular area: About 100 meters long, 30 meters wide. It is cut into squares of about 10 meters width by the white bars, on which the fountain pipes sit. The beauty of that installation is arguable, but not our topic today.

There does not seem to be a constant flow of water, but it stands still in the pool. It is no big surprise that the still water gets dirty over time. Thus, the pool needs to be cleaned every once in a while. That happened already twice during my time on the project. And it seemed that another cleaning was due today.

Alas, the night before it had frozen. Not really deep cold, but maybe two or three degrees below zero. It was enough to cover the shallow water with an icy surface. When we arrived shortly before 9 in the morning some workers were already busy with the cleaning procedure. Now, there was no point in letting the water out of the pool–ice wouldn’t flow all by itself just because you pull the plug. But schedule is schedule, and that obviously meant the people grabbed their brooms and mops, jumped into the pool and tried to break the thin ice layer, crushed it, put the crushed ice into buckets, heaved the buckets out of the pool and dropped their cold content on the sidewalk. The whole procedure took them half the day before they could actually start cleaning the pool’s ground, which was full of slippery dirt.

In the end six people were working on breaking and unloading the ice from half of the pool. During the morning (actually, during all day) the pool enjoyed bright sunshine. The air stayed cold, but the sun melted the ice of the other half of the pool without any human activity. But the poor men kept working on their half all morning.

My consulting recommendation would have been: Find the people other work to-do, maybe peek into tomorrow’s schedule and let them do the window or staircase cleaning half a day earlier, pull out the plug of the pool and wait until by noon all ice has turned into water and flowed out of the pool all by itself.

Maybe too western a point of view…

Difficult Language Again

Tonight after work we had another Chinese lesson. An other teacher this time as our usual teacher headed back home already for the Chinese New Year festival. Good man, really, he paid a lot more attention to pronunciation, which is a huge problem for most of us. I had skipped a couple of sessions before due to…yeah, you guessed it. So I told the teacher that my Chinese is still fairly bad. He kept an eye on me during all lesson, which as usual mostly consisted of reading pinyin words and sentences. The teacher reads new words, we say the words again, sometimes individually, sometimes all together like a chorus. His corrections were quite helpful and in the end I had the good feeling that I got a bit more confident on the pronunciation of some syllables.

But the issue is: While you concentrate hard on the pronunciation there’s no attention left to the actual meaning of what you’re reading. By heart I cannot tell you one of the new words I was supposed to have learned today. Really, I’m thinking hard…maybe gongjin (公斤)? Yeah, that means kilogram…it was a session about going to the market with lots of prices, that means a good repetition of the numbers.

There a few things which are dead simple in the Chinese language: The system of numbers is definitely one of them. It’s even a bit simpler than in English: Just read them from left to right and insert bai (百) for hundred and shi (十) for ten at the right places. There is no ‘complex’ word like eleven or twelve, eleven is shi yi (十一, ten-one), twelve likewise shi er (十二, ten-two), no change in order like in seventeen (shi qi, 十七).

But beside that, I have no idea what I ordered or bought at that market while reading off the sentences. After the end of the session the teacher told me my Chinese was “very good”. It seems that I’d paid a lot of attention to the pronunciation…

Sometimes I envy the workers like the ones cleaning the pool: Their pronunciation is perfect (OK, shanghainese dialect…), they know what they are saying when speaking, and they are even so good that they get a clue what their colleague is saying when uttering all these difficult and alike sounds…

Categories: Shanghai

Originally Created: 02/02/2005 03:43:48 PM
Last Edited: 02/02/2005