Month: September 2009

Food, Mahjong, Corporal Punishment

I’ve just realised I haven’t written in a while!! This past week and a half has been very busy and a little hard. Time seems to be flying recently. I feel like I just got back from Changsha, but it’s actually been two weeks already!!

That week of teaching after Changsha went pretty well, except my Tuesdays with the 2nd graders as usual. It’s great because after Tuesday, the week is so easy. I’m glad it’s at the beginning of the week!!
That Friday Selina, the English teacher that I rode the bike around with on Teacher’s Day, invited me and Craig to her house for dinner. She lives with her husband in a really nice apartment about a 20 minute walk from the school. After all the kids went home for the weekend around 3pm, me and Craig and Monica went over to her house in the car of another teacher who was also coming. In China, when you go to someone’s house for dinner, you are the guest and often get told to ‘sit and rest’ while the host prepares food and gives you tea and things like that. And there is always some fruit or dried fruit and nuts on the table to eat before dinner. Since we were there so early, we all just sat and talked for a bit, then Selina asked if either of us knew how to play Liuyang style Mahjong. Neither of us did, so we went into Selina’s Mahjong room to learn. Mahjong is basically a gambling game with 136 tiles with three or four different suits on them, Bamboo, Circles and Numbers. It’s too much to describe here, but all I can say is its pretty fun. Selina has a special table that sorts and stacks the tiles for you, and has a crazy light in the middle with a dice roller. Pretty spiffy! The game is usually played with money, but since me and Craig were learning, we just used cards as money.
We played that for a while, then went to eat dinner when it was prepared. Selina is a really really good cook, so I ate a lot and got really full. After dinner we played Mahjong again until about 10pm, then went back to school.
The next day around 9am Monica called me, waking me up and said ‘Aimee! All the teachers in our department are going to a restaurant for lunch and more Mahjong. I will be there with the van in 20 minutes.’ I got up and showered and got dressed really quickly, then Monica called me again saying, ‘We will be there in 5 minutes, and I didnt get a hold of Craig, can you ask him to come as well?’ So I went downstairs and knocked, waking Craig up, telling him someone is picking us up in 5 minutes to go somewhere. (Good ol’ typical last minute news!) When Monica got there, we were just getting to the school gate, and got into the van. Monica said ‘The place is a little far from school’, but I think that meant ‘really close’ because we just went behind the big dirt hill behind the school and there is apparently a big restaurant and lake there! None of us had had breakfast, so we asked the restaurant if they had noodles, but they didn’t so everyone decided to ignore their stomachs by playing a little early-morning Mahjong. There were about 30 people all together from the department there, so we all split up into different Mahjong rooms to play a little. I sat down at a table, but then realised they were planning on playing for money, so I quickly got up and said I would just settle for drinking tea and watching. It was Monica, Selina, Craig and another teacher in our mahjong room, and I sat and watched for a while then got a little bored and decided to go for a walk and take some pictures.
It was really nice, and I actually didnt know it was right behind our school until I walked around the lake a bit and saw the top of my apartment building over the big dirt hill. It was pretty rural there and on the far side of the pond I could see an old man fishing in an umbrella hat. There was a bamboo raft tied to a dock and i sat there for a while, then walked around a little more. This restaurant has all private rooms that you can eat in, no communal eating areas. I think this style is pretty typical for restaurants in China, especially nicer ones in the countryside. The kitchen was way off to one side in a separate building, and there was even a pig barn next to the kitchen, where I heard a lot of squealing. At least I know the meat was fresh!! I went back to the Mahjong room and Craig was done playing so I went with him on another walk around the lake. When we got the other side of it, there were all these little paths going in different directions, so we followed a few of them and found little gardens in the middle of the woods of hot peppers. Hot peppers are the main ingredient in all food in Hunan, so I can see why there were so many gardens full of them and nothing else! One of the paths led to someones house, which might have been the people who own the restaurant’s house. There was a dirt road going from it in the opposite direction that looks like it might lead to a main road. There were also a lot of little sheds along the road and a lot of ducks running around and some baby’s clothes hanging on a tree to dry, next to the little rice field that was down below the house.
We walked back to the lake and saw people heading towards the dining room so we ran back and sure ’nuff it was time for lunch. Our group filled up about four lazy-susan tables in a big empty room. The staff brought the food out, one dish at a time. It was all really really good food, and some really good tofu that I wish I knew how to make. When we were done, everyone just cleared out and were going to go to another teacher’s house for more Mahjong, but I was tired and so was Craig, so some other people that were leaving brought us both back to our apartments.
Later on, Monica called me and asked if I wanted to go to Selina’s again for dinner that night, so I went and got Craig and we walked over to Selina’s house again. We played more Mahjong, ate more good food, and then went for a walk downtown. Me and Craig wanted to go to ‘Party Bar’ that evening, so we invited Selina and Monica to come along too. They went shopping for a bit, and me and Craig went walking around to find that little TsingTao place to sit for a bit. A huge rainstorm broke out, so we stayed under the plastic overhang there with a bunch of old ladies and old men who were hiding from the rainstorm. There were lots of stares and lots of giggling, and I’m still not used to it, but I tried to relax and ignore it. After the rain stopped and we had finished our beer, we went to walk around to find a bank and then go to ‘Party Bar’ to meet up with Monica and Selina. When we were at the ATM, I saw that there was a place accross the street called ‘M16 Bar’ (hmmm…M16 eh?), and so we went over to check it out, since we had been told that Liuyang only had one bar. It was smaller inside and had apparently just opened, and I liked it because no one ran over to us and tried to make us sit somewhere or make us buy a drink just because we are foreign. We left though, after just walking around because we were supposed to meet Selina and Monica. Anyway, it was a fun night, and we went back to Xinwen by taxi later on.
That Sunday I was supposed to go to Changsha to change the rest of my travellers checks so I could by my train ticket to Beijing for the National Holiday, but when I woke up and was about to leave, I figured I should check to see if the bank is open on Sunday. I checked and sure enough, it was open, but the foreign exchange counter isn’t, so I would have gone for nothing. I just hung around the rest of Sunday and did some lesson planning for my 3rd graders on Monday.
Monday went fine, as usually, but Tuesday was horrible. In class 20 I had four kids standing up facing the wall because they were causing so much trouble, and one kid standing outside. After that, the class ran rather smoothly (in comparison), but then a few hours later I got a text message from Cindy saying exactly this: ‘Hello Amy, there have a news the school want me to tell to you. If the students are very noise teacher can’t let them out of class, can’t ask them to stand in front of classroom. Because that’s a kind of corporal punishment, and it’s not permit in our school.’
So as you can see, I was kind of taken aback, since not a week before, I had seen a student get slapped across the face by a teacher, and multiple teachers do the whole ‘ear grab and drag’ down the hallways. After class I went to Cindy’s office and said ‘Cindy! I never hit a child! It was just standing!’ But apparently corporal punishment includes standing. In order to ‘save my face’, she made up a story about how it was a new policy and that the teachers had just had a meeting about it the day before and she was instructed to tell me. This is not the case. There was no such meeting. I think maybe I might have embarrassed some rich guy’s son, maybe the son of someone who gives a lot of money to the school or something, so they want to prevent anything from happening.
I asked Cindy if there were any alternative disciplinary methods, and she said well, you could just ask them to be quiet. And I told her, the only reason the kids are standing up is because I had to tell them that six times, and they were still hitting their classmates, making kids cry, running around the room or standing on their chair or dancing around behind my back. She looked aghast, ‘hitting classmates??’ "yes cindy, hitting classmates." I told her i suspect it is due to my foreignness and inability to always for grammatically correct sentences in Chinese that the kids just don’t care, and the kids know that oral English class is kind of joke, since you just play English games in the class, and are asked to talk all the time. She suggested that the head teacher be present in all my classes, which I am going to have to accept, because there is really no other alternative.
After Tuesday, I emailed my fellow Buckland teachers and asked them what they would do. There were some good ideas from the more seasoned teachers in the bunch. One idea that I’ve been using for the rest of the week was holding up a piece of paper at the beginning of class and telling the kids that anyone who i have to tell more than 3 times to behave, gets their name on that paper and the paper gets given to the head teacher at the end of class. The kids got a little wide-eyed as soon as they found out I was serious, when the first kid had to write his name down. This worked pretty well for the rest of the week, and this week I gave the kids a break. At the end of class I called the kids whose names were on the paper up to my desk and told them that this week they were lucky, because since it is the first time, i wont give the paper to their teacher, but next week I will, if the act up again. I’ll have to see how this method works on my second graders next week!! I wish I only had one or two classes, then I could really get into some good methods, but having 22 different classes every week makes it kind of impossible to do any sort of reward system or anything like that. We’ll see, we’ll see.
Anyway, on Wednesday afternoon I took the bus into Changsha to find the bank and change my travelers checks. I will never again bring any sort of check to China, because it is such a hassle to get them changed. I think a bank card will work just fine next time!! Anyway, when I got them changed, I went and got some noodles and walked around for a bit and went to Carrefour to get some floss (very hard to find in China), and then took a moto-taxi back to the bus station to go home. When I got there I saw a little ticket office for train tickets, so I decided to stand in line and get my train ticket to Beijing right then and there, since I had heard that tickets sell out very fast for the National holiday in China since it is one of China’s golden weeks where everyone goes on vacation since it is one of the few times the Chinese get off from work. I got the counter and bought a one way ticket to Bejing, since I can’t buy my return ticket until 10 days before. I told the lady I wanted to arrive in Bejing on the 2nd, but I think it said it wrong, because when I got my ticket it said I will leave Changsha on the 2nd. I figured that’s not so bad, I’ll just get to Bejing that night instead of the morning. So I bussed home and went online to check the train’s specifcations and things, and found out the lady had given me a ticket for the longest train ride to beijing, and I would be getting there at 11am on the 3rd. Most of the time the train takes about 14 hours, but my train is going to take 21.5 hours altogether. I guess I said it wrong. I should have said I wanted to leave on the 1st, and probably had a list of the trains I would be willing to take. I probably should have bought my ticket in Liuyang! On Friday afternoon I went to the ticket office in Liuyang to see if I could change it, and sure enough, the only place I can change it is at the station in Changsha. It’s gonna work out in the long run though, because I will have to pay for one less night at the hostel, and have to spread my money over 5 days 4 nights, instead of 6 days 5 nights! I’m travelling on the remainder of my money here, and we don’t get paid until after the holiday, so this is actually going to be good, except for 21 hours of boredom on a train. Maybe I’ll learn some Chinese card games, and play with the people next to me.
Last night I went to Selina’s again for dinner, and played a little more Mahjong, then just came home and had an 11 hour sleep. That pretty much brings everything up to right now.
Next week is going to be a short week, only three days. October 1st is the National Holiday and I don’t have to start teaching again till October 9th. I’ll be leaving for Beijing on the 3rd, coming back on the 7th. I’m also going to be seeing two old friends from Taiwan, who are currently living in Beijing! That is one of the main reasons I’m going. I’ve just booked my hostel today too, and it’s in the middle of a Hutong, and was apparently an old prison, and it’s only 5.50 U.S. a night! I can’t wait till I can leave, but since time is passing so quickly, I think that won’t be a problem!!
Oh, and I also wanted to mention, all my photos are up on Facebook since some good friends back in Montreal have been posting them for me! I can’t really upload photos on any website here since the connection is so weak, so just Facebook will have to do for now. Hope all is well back home!!! I miss everyone…

Teacher’s Day, Changsha, Home

Every day I realise that I’ve learned something new about teaching, and at the end of each day I realise that things are getting more fun and a lot easier. I’ve also realised that I am always really, really exhausted at the end of each day, and it’s a whole new kind of exhaustedness. Probably because I’m on my feet all day long and and I’m always talking in a voice ten times louder than I would ever speak in normally and even when I’m not in class, I’ve either got little kids climbing on me, surrounding me or yelling hello at least 10 times each, which of course I feel obligated to respond to every single hello I hear….

Also, even though it’s still only the 2nd week of school, I’ve come to the conclusion that all my classes are wonderful except for the 2nd graders. There is absolutely no hope of not wanting to pop every little 2nd grader’s head off at the end of each class. This week it was so bad that I had to run and get a Chinese teacher to come in and help me make them be quiet. Sure enough, the second that teacher walked in the room, the kids all sat down, shut their mouths, stopped hitting each other, stopped climbing on things, and neatly folded their hands in front of them. The teacher hadn’t even opened his mouth yet!! And the second he walked out, the class plunged into chaos again. I’ll have to think of something soon…..

That aside, Thursday was Teacher’s day in China, and in the morning Cindy called me and told me to come to her office to get two ‘Hong Bao’, or red envelopes with money inside from the school, one for me and one for Craig, with 200 kuai inside. Pretty gooood! Then Monica called and said that we had to go to the special dining room at school because there were two American men coming for lunch, and me and Craig should dine with them because we were also American. I expected two business men in suits to be there, probably to make some deal with the school or headmaster (who I haven’t ever seen). Me and Craig went up there and sat down in an empty dining room for 40 minutes, then the door opened and in piled 3 generations of a Chinese family who were relatives of the woman who owns the land the school is built on. Apparently the only American was this 18 year old son of a woman from Liuyang who had lived in Taiwan for a while, and now lives in Irvine, California. It was kind of a weird lunch, because there were two sets of grandparents who kept dozing off in their seats, while one guy kept pouring Craig some baijiu (60 proof rice alcohol) and another lady kept protesting, saying he had classes after lunch and couldn’t be drunk, while I talked about cadavers and fake military exercises with the younger American kid. Anyway, the food was good, and I went to class pleasantly full.

After my last class, Monica called me again and told me and Craig to meet her in her office as soon as possible because all the teachers were going out to eat and then to KTV (karaoke), courtesy of the school. 12 teachers piled into a 7 seat van and we drove to a local restaurant to have dinner. I sat down with Monica and Craig but some of the teachers came over and asked me if I would sit at their table, and all the teachers kept laughing and pointing at different male teachers, teasing them that they were the ones that wanted me to sit at their table. I was having a little trouble speaking Chinese, because I was missing a lot of the words I wanted to use, so the guy next to me thought I couldn’t understand very well and was going on to the guy on the other side of me about how fat Americans are. I laughed and nodded at him, and he got really embarrassed and said ‘oh no oh no!! i thought you couldn’t understand, oh no!!’ I thought it was really funny and kind of felt bad that he was embarrassed!

The first dish that came out was a giant pig’s head on a plate covered in hot peppers, snout and all. Everyone just hacked at it, until some chunks of meat and fat were exposed and started eating it. I wasn’t sure at first, but then dug in as well and it was so so so so tasty. After that the wait took it away and apparently cut it into small pieces and brought it back again. Maybe the giant head was just for show, and to make it look more expensive. There was another dish that I thought was some kind of clear rubbery vegetable and I kept eating a lot of it, so at the end of the dinner I asked what it was, and a teacher told me it was made from pig skin, which I guess just means its fat trimmed off the skin and meat. Mmmm…

After that Monica said there was no room in the van going back to school, so we would just walk into town. It was going to be a very long walk, so three of the teachers that had been at the dinner were going past on their mopeds and had us all hop on the back. I got on the moped of a teacher named Selina and we all went into town to wait for everyone to get to the KTV place.We had a few hours to kill so Selina said I could try to drive her moped in an empty area. The last time I drove a moped was Helen’s in Taiwan, in a park for 10 feet when I was 15, and drove horribly, but this time I did pretty well. She said I could borrow her moped any time I want since you don’t need a licences to drive one in China (no wonder there are so many accidents involving mopeds…) but I think I’ll have to pass on that. We rented some double bicycles and rode around on the closed off street next to the Liuyang river, then got back on the teacher’s motorcycles and went to KTV.

The room was enormous and full of teachers from Xinwen School. Apparently there were 2 other rooms rented for our school for teacher’s day. When I got in there was an old guy singing extremely loudly to some old Chinese song, and after that the music teacher at the school sang a bit, and everyone would order songs and sing them one after the other. Me and Craig tried to sing ‘Hotel California’. Craig did much better because I don’t know the words and I’m too shy to sing in front of anyone, but it was a fun time anyway.

After teacher’s day there was just one more day of school left until the weekend so me, Craig and Michele were planning to go to Changsha for the weekend, to see the city and meet another Buckland teacher (Katie, my roommate in Yangshuo) who was coming to Changsha to get a new cord for her laptop. Michele teaches for ‘World Teach’, which has it’s main branch in China based in Changsha, so there is a group of about 20 foreign teachers in her group teaching and living in Changsha. One of Michele’s friends (Courtney) had agreed to let us stay in her apartment for the weekend, which was great because that’s about 80 kuai that didn’t have to go to a hostel. Me and Craig met up with Michele at Liuyang’s bus station and got on a bus that was about to leave for Changsha. Apparently with local buses you can just get on and pay for the ticket then. It was only 25 kuai and it got us to Changsha’s east bus station in an hour and a half. We took a cab to Courtney’s school, which ended up being on the other side of the city, and soon discovered that Changsha was probably going to be a lot more expensive than our little tiny ‘town’ of Liuyang. The bus cost us 25 kuai to go from city to city, but the taxi cost 38 kuai to get from the east station to Courtney’s school. Changsha is HUGE, and there are ZILLIONS of people. Liuyang seems empty and serene compared to Changsha. At night in the busy districts, you basically just have to shuffle along the sidewalk because there are so many people.

That Friday night we went to eat some tasty Chinese Muslim food at a place near the walking street, then walked over to a place called ‘Folk Bar’ where Michele said the bartender is really friendly and great to talk to. We got in there and the place was pretty empty, and then within about 20 minutes I think all the ‘world-teach’ teachers in the city streamed in. I hadn’t been around that many super-3-D-faces in a while, and it was really really strange to be around so many foreigners at once. We stayed there for a little while and then I went to meet Katie at the train station and show her where to go. When we got back to the bar, Katie, Michele and Courtney were tired so they went back home and me and Craig followed the hoard of World-Teach(ers) to another place called So-Ho, which was another one of those wild Chinese discos. That ended up being very fun, and we made friends with a lot of the teachers. I also dropped my cellphone in a squat-toilet, which I fished out as fast as I could, but it had stopped working, and I didn’t think washing it would help any….(It eventually dried out after a couple days, but now I think it’s just covered in dried pee-germs…I wonder how long pee-germs live?)

After So-Ho, we followed the teachers to this guy’s apartment that was in a high-rise, so there was an awesome view of the city. It was getting light out by that point, and everyone was really tired, so after a few beers and good talks and some noodles, we all dispersed and me and Craig followed these girls back to their apartment because they said we could sleep on their couches. By 12 noon that day, I had woken up and so had Craig, but the girls hadn’t, so we just wrote a thank-you not on their table and taxied back to find Katie, Michele and Courtney.

That afternoon we went to eat at China’s Pizza Hut. The pizza was really really good, but since I’ve just been eating rice and veggies and little cut up meat every day, it felt way way too heavy and thick. Every time I eat western food, I crave it less and less. I feel way better eating Chinese food, and it has so much more taste and variety….

After that we went to Carrefour to see what kinds of things they had, then went to a pirated DVD store where I found some anime for my sister Lulu and two movies that came out to be less than 6 US dollars. It was kind of late when we had finished walking around and we were hungry again, so we went to a tofu restaurant where Mao had supposedly eaten on his visit to Changsha way back in the day. There was a big Mao-bust in the doorway, and a bunch of pictures of him all over the wall, as well as a giant red communist star. The food was really really good, and fixed my stomach after eating that thick, greasy pizza.

The last stop we made that night was to this German place called ‘Metro’. It’s basically like Costco, and it’s full of foreign products. Everything is really expensive, but I decided to get some Nutella, cinnamon and pasta and pasta sauce. I’m gonna make Monica and me and Craig and some other teachers a pasta dinner maybe, if I can get a hold of somewhere to make it.

I went to sleep on Courtney’s floor that night, and in the morning we all ran to our bus stations and caught our buses back home. We made it back just before the onslaught of noisy students return to school in the afternoon.

I always think that every time I leave a place and come back to it, it feels more and more like home, and it felt really good when the taxi came around the corner and pulled up to our school!!!! Hommmmmeee! (almost)

First Teaching Week II

The rest of my teaching week went rather well, since I didn’t have any more classes of 2nd graders!! On Thursday I had two classes of 5th graders before lunch and a class of 1st graders after lunch. Since the 5th graders are the highest grade that I teach, and I already taught that one class on Tuesday, I wasn’t worried at all about them. On Wednesday night I re-planned my intro lesson to fit what I thought might work for the 1st graders, trying to ignore that deep fear in the pit of my stomach that they might be even worse than the 2nd graders. I made a power-point with everything I could think of, and all kinds of easy songs, the full alphabet with lots of pictures, etc., and tried to get a really good nights sleep.

The next morning I woke up and went off to teach the 5th graders, which went really well. They liked all the games, played them well, and didn’t get too noisy. After a few days I’ve kind of got the classroom commands in Chinese down pat, so if things start to get out of hand, I can nip them in the bud in a language the kids understand, which is a VERY big help. After the two 5th grade classes I had three hour break to think about the 1st graders.

After lunch I went to find class number 28, full of 1st grade kids. When I walked in, I was amazed at how much smaller these kids were than any of the kids I taught before. When I walked in, some of them crowded around me and were asking me questions in Chinese and whispering to each other. When the bell rang, they all ran to their seats and sat quietly and waited for me to say something. I said, ‘Hello!’ and they all responded, wide-eyed and in unison. The whole period went amazingly well, and these little kids were so cute and well-behaved. I swear something horrible evil must happen between 1st and 2nd grade……maybe they get comfortable in the school environment and start testing everyone’s limits? I hope they stay this good all year!

The only awkward point in the lesson was when a little kid started crying for his mum and then I went over to pat him on the head and tell him it was ok, then another little girl started crying and it kind of caused a domino effect…..I had to go get a teacher in the office and ask her what to do. She just stormed in and yelled at the kids to shut their mouths, dry their tears and start paying attention in class. The kids sobered right up and were fine for the rest of the class. I don’t think I could bring myself to yell at a little 6 year old who is crying for his mum, but I guess it’s kind of necessary since the kids spend five nights a week at school, and they either get used to it or have a really hard time. They’ve got to realize early on that they are going to be doing this all year long.

So after that class ended I just went home to hang around for a while when Monica gave me a call and suggested me and Craig go meet her downtown because it was Ghost Day in China and we ought to do something special. So me and Craig started the walk down the dirt road to the big tarmac-y road to look for a taxi. For some reason, there were no taxis in sight so we walked and walked and walked, and finally we saw a taxi go by so we tried to flag it down, but it kept on going. A guy on a motorcycle, who had his baby son balancing between his legs on the front, stopped and told us to hop on. I pointed at Craig and was like isn’t he too big? Do you mean both of us? And the guy nodded and said ‘Hop on! Hop on!’ So Craig climbed on first, wrapped his arms awkwardly around the guy’s waist, then I perched on the back edge of this guy’s tiny motorcycle and away we zoomed, all four of us, down the big road, right through a stream of heavy traffic, and into the downtown. The motorcycle kept sputtering and I thought it was going to fall apart, but somehow we made it all the way downtown, all intact! We just hopped off and thanked the guy, wondering if we should give him something in return, but he just drove off. I was giggling like mad the entire way, and I felt like I was in one of those pictures you see of India where an entire family of 10 is balanced on one moped.

Anyway! We got downtown, met Monica, and walked around for a while, talking about Ghost Day. She told us that on Ghost Day the Chinese burn special ghost money that the ghosts can use in hell. Me and Craig wanted to burn some with her, so we went to a Buddhist shop along the river and bought some ghost money, complete with the words ‘Hell Bank Notes’ spelled across the bottom. We took the money and went to find a good spot to burn it. There was a little stone dock that you could climb down to right on the Liuyang River where boats were tied. There was a man and his daughter down there burning piles of ghost money, and lots of piles of already burnt money everywhere. We found a clear spot and Monica instructed us that we had to burn the money in groups of three. We peeled off each sheet of money, gathering three together, lighting them and throwing them in a pile. While doing this we had to talk to the ghosts, telling them we are giving them money and that we hope the can use it to get into the afterlife, or to go to good places, or to wish their crimes away. When we had burned all of it, we sat watching the embers die down, said the last bit to the ghosts of Liuyang and climbed back up to the road. After that we just walked around a bit more then went to a juice bar to have some tasty juice.IMG_0541.JPG

The next day I had 1st graders all day. Again, all those classes were quiet, well behaved and great to teach. They loved all the pictures I had on my power-point, and the kids who knew the English words triumphantly would yell them out as loud as they could. I had one class after lunch, right before all the kids would go home for the weekend. Normally the first class after lunch is at 2h35, so I was taking a good old Chinese afternoon ‘xiuxi’ (siesta), when I heard some frantic knocking at my door. It was only 1h30 so I wondered what was going on. I ran to the door and Craig yelled through it ‘Aimee! We have class early on Fridays! We are supposed to be teaching right now! Classes started at 1h15!’ and he ran off to his class. I quickly got everything together and ran as fast as I could through 100 degree heat to my class as well. When I got there, Cindy was apologizing, ‘I’m sorry! We forgot to inform our foreign teachers that Friday’s after lunch class is earlier! Please forgive us!’ I was thinking that it was my fault, so I kind of just apologized as well and ran into class, jumping right into the lesson. I think the 1st graders were happy to have a 20 minute lesson instead of 40, as was I! After that, I was done for the weekend even before 2h30 when I thought I was supposed to start!

I immediately went home and took a long nap. That night me and Craig went to downtown and went to that same disco we went to the Friday night before. Some of the people remembered us, and we had a pretty good time. I even got some pictures and a video of it before a guy ran over and said, ‘It is not permitted to take photographs! It is not permitted!!!’IMG_0551.JPG

On Saturday we met up with another foreign teacher who teaches at a school called TianJiaBing about 20 minutes outside of the city. Her name is Michele and is from Somerset, Mass., really close to Connecticut! It was good to hang out with another westerner, where we can all talk English at our own speed. She might come with me and Craig to meet Katie in Changsha next weekend, which should be really great!

That’s about it up till now. Tomorrow I have all 3rd grade classes, which begins a whole ‘nother week of teaching……maybe I’ll be half a pro at the end of this week??

P.S. I’ve inserted pictures into this blog entry….I hope it works because I have to post by email because Word-Press is blocked in China….

First Teaching Days

The school year has finally started!

On Monday night around 9h30pm I finally got my teaching schedule for the semester, which was to start at 8am the following morning. I ran to find out which buildings the classes were in, then ran home and threw together an intro powerpoint that I hoped would work for both 2nd graders and 5th graders.  It was basically made up of my self introduction (my name is miss lamb. do you know what a lamb is?), hello, how are you, what is your name…things like that, and making name cards to put on thier desks. I also had a game in there where they would pass around a little knit lamb I have while I played some music and when the music stops, that person has to get up and say ‘my name is blah blah’ and the class would have to answer ‘nice to meet you!’.

On Tuesday morning I woke up, went over my lesson one more time, and zoomed off to my first class of 2nd graders. I got there about 10 minutes early and was mobbed by little 2nd graders yelling things to me like ‘you’re a foreigner aren’t you? look everyone! its a foreigner with a big nose!!’ ‘will you be our oral english teacher?’ ‘are you from england?’ ‘are you Anthony (the previous foreign teacher)’s wife?’….yes little children, I am a foreigner. Yes, my nose is rather protrusive. Yes I am your oral English teacher. Please don’t go through my bag, wait for class. Sit down. No, I am American, and I have never met Anthony (An-Dong-Ni) even though he is American too. Not all American’s know each other.

You get the idea!! So finally the bell rang and I had my powerpoint all set up, and I spent the next 10 minutes trying to calm them down and get them to sit in their seats. Then spent the next few minutes introducing myself and having them repeat back to me ‘What-is-your-name? My-name-is-!’ They soon got bored of that, so I had them play the ‘Stand-Up, Sit Down’ game. In this game I teach them the words ‘stand up, sit down, jump up, turn around’ and then have them follow my commands and see how fast they can do it. This first class of 2nd graders seemed to like it, though instead of tiring them out, it just got them more excited. I decided against doing the ‘pass-the-lamb’ game, since I didn’t think the results would be very good. Finally the bell rang and I had 40 minutes till my next class of 2nd graders.

At this point I was thinking, ‘Oh, well this isn’t so bad! I can do this!!’, so I went to my next class of 2nd graders. Let me just say this class was a complete disaster. Absolutely nothing got done, and I had to put a kid outside of the classroom with his chair. Basically all the kids on one side near the windows were running around and when i would get some to sit down, the others would already be up and running accross the room to hit one of their classmates, then the classmate would get up and run to hit them back and throw things at them and whip them with their jackets. The kid that I put outside was hitting his neighbors with his jacket, so I took his jacket and put it at the front of the room. 10 minutes later he ran up and grabbed it and starting whipping the nearest classmate with it. I ran over grabbed it, and banished him. The other half of the class was a bunch of little girls, some sitting with hands folded and wide-eyes (they got more well-behaved the more they saw the boys badly behaving, and kept looking at me to make sure I knew it). The rest of the girls and boys in the class were drawing and sleeping and wiggling and whining.  The bell rang and I realised I had got nothing done except for made a few kids shout hello, how are you, what is your name a few times.

After that, I was incredibly discouraged but trudged off to my class of 5th graders. This class was a breath of fresh air. Although they were still a little noisy, they knew how to sit still, knew that they weren’t supposed to run around everywhere, and could understand a little English which made it a little easier for me. They really liked the ‘stand-up, sit-down’ game, and when I said sit down when they were already sitting down, they all laughed histerically. I decided I would try the ‘pass-the-lamb’ game, and that also worked really well, though towards the end the lamb was getting thrown clear across the room. I felt pretty good after that, though very tired. It was lunch time after that, and I slept until 2pm.

I had two more second grade classes in the afternoon, one of which was cancelled for a class meeting. The 2nd grade class in the afternoon was almost as nuts as the one in the morning, and I was still exhausted so that didn’t go too well either. That night I was feeling horrible and thinking to myself ‘What have I done? Why am I here? Why did I ever leave Montreal??’ I was tired and having trouble remembering why. All I could think about was that I used to be much more energetic and happy and laugh hysterically at least 5 times a day, and here there was none of that. I realised I hadn’t laughed much in about a week, and that’s always a good gauge of how things are going in one’s life. (for me anyway!)

Anyway, I slept well and woke up the next morning refreshed and more optimistic about the coming day because it was all going to be 4th grade classes. As I thought, the day went really well, and the classes I had were all really, really well behaved and easy to teach. I even tested out some new games on them, which all went smoothly, and I learned to relax a little about the noise level. I figure so long as about 1/3 of the class is paying attention, it’s a huge success. I also got a lot of kids saying ‘THree, THere, THis’ instead of ‘Sree, Zere, and Zis’. I also learned which classroom words in Chinese work, and what the student’s teachers usually say to get them quiet. It’s good for my Chinese, and it seems to help them understand what’s happening in class a little better, so they are more likely to pay attention.

I have 4 classes before lunch on Wednesdays and then I’m done for the day. This afternoon was great, because I was able to rest up, re-do some of my lesson plans, and think about the next two days (all 1st grade classes). It’s only been two days and already it’s getting easier and I’m seeing what works and what doesn’t, and what can be improved. I think the first few weeks are going to be hard, but once I get some sort of regular class structure, it’ll be super easy.

My list as of now:

1. refine class structure

2. make some friends

Oh yeah, I almost forgot!! I found out my old Austrian friend from Taiwan is living in Beijing until November. So if circumstances permit, I might take a trip up there over the National holiday on October 1st. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll be going around Hunan, to Zhangjiajie, Heng Shan, and Mao’s Birthplace probably.