Tuesday morning I headed to the office to work. I didn’t get too much done, though (which is okay because I am actually ahead in lesson planning for right now). Vivi had a few questions she wanted to ask me concerning preschool education in the United States (how does it work, what ages does it include, etc.). I told her as much as I knew about preschool education which comes mainly from my mom (who taught in the preschool for many years). I eventually went to the Florida State University website (my alma mater) to look up information that it had related to Early Childhood Education. Vivi found all of this really useful, so I emailed her the link to the website, so she could peruse at her leisure. Vivi is hoping to get her doctoral degree in Early Childhood Education. Her husband is currently a doctoral student in some kind of education over in neighboring Chongqing Municipality (where we have many volunteers serving). Vivi also talked with me about films with the subject of teaching or teachers. She mentioned two that she really liked (Little Red Flowers (a Chinese movie, which I might go over to her house to see sometime), Les Choristes (a very famous French movie), and (I think it is called) The Front of the Class (an American film about Tourettes Syndrome). She asked me for some other movies about teaching, but of course I blanked on all the great ones like The Dead Poet’s Society, Freedom Writers, and Finding Forester (along with many other great and inspirational movies about teaching). We might have some movie nights when we watch these together, which would be awesome (bring on the popcorn!).
That same morning a couple of Vivi’s students chatted with me about preschool education (which is what Vivi teaches). Oh that reminds me that on my way to the office, I was stopped by a teacher I had never met before. She was also a teacher in the preschool education department and focused on the psychology behind preschool education (which is very important). Her English was a little poor, but she was extremely nice. Okay back to her students. They were very sweet. We also talked about Florida. I happened to have had a tourist magazine on my desk called Lake Country which was about the lake areas of Florida (yes a little random), so they perused it and asked me some questions here and there. In the end I gave them my phone number, like I end up giving to almost every student and teacher I speak with and told them they can talk with me whenever they would like.
At lunch it was just Wan Laoshi and I eating because Kerry went with Janice and Mark to take Charlie to get some vaccines in Chengdu (there are some western doctors in Chengdu. They said the one they were going to take Charlie to is from Michigan). Wan Laoshi asked me about a grammar point (which was difficult to answer without actually seeing the sentence itself, so I hope I answered correctly) and about the difference between elder and older. Apparently many Chinese teachers think elder is to be used when referring to someone close to you (like a brother) and older should be used when speaking about a more distant relation (like a cousin). Well I corrected this, however I could not give him a good definition of elder (for one, I rarely if ever use the word elder). This came up, by the way, when I mentioned that I had two older brothers. He wanted to know if they were my brothers with the same parent (i.e not my cousins). I said that Americans do not speak of cousins as our brothers and sisters, so if someone mentions his or her brother it would always be in reference to his or her brother with the same parent. See in China because of the one child policy the words brother, sister, aunt, and uncle no longer have the same meaning. Since children do not have brothers or sisters, they have begun to call their cousins ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ (which is extremely confusing for foreigners. I just assume none of the people mentioned are really brothers and sisters, but cousins or friends of the family). Also because parents do not have siblings there are no aunts and uncles, so cousins and friends of the family are referred to as aunt and uncle. Actually, it is common to show any older person respect and closeness by calling them Aunt or Uncle. I have actually been called Aunt before. Interesting, no? Also, China recently changed its one child policy so that if a husband and wife were both single children in their family they can have two children, but if either the husband or the wife had a sibling then they can only have one child. Was I able to make that clear? I hope so.
After lunch I met the other teachers in the performance to record our voices. What? Yes, record our voices. It is actually better this way. They have decided to record our voices ahead of time and at the actual performance on Friday afternoon to lip-sync to the recording. Well this turned out to be no easy feat (for me especially). First we were all too quiet, so we moved closer to the microphone the second time (they also informed me that I just needed to sing louder). Then, I was singing off key, but it really isn’t easy when I have some Chinese lady hitting me on the shoulder while I am supposed to be singing a solo in front of everyone and I could be the one to mess it up so that we have to start over again! It was a little stressful. I think I would have been okay, really, if this Chinese lady would have stopped hitting me. I couldn’t figure out why she was hitting me anyways. I think she was trying to give me the beat or something. I don’t know. We eventually left, and are going to try and record tomorrow.
I decided to take a walk to ease my stress that I felt during the recording session, so I took a different route through the farmers’ homes and fields. It was very relaxing. At one point I closed my eyes and could hear the slight rustle of the rice blowing in the wind all around me and feel the sun wrap its arms around my skin in glorious warmth. Very pleasant. Today the sky was actually a beautiful blue, and all of the Chinese women had their umbrellas out to protect them against tans (Chinese women like the white skin) and one old Chinese woman farmer asked me where my umbrella was and told me I should have an umbrella. I just smiled and said thank you, but the female teachers at the school are learning that the American women like the dark skin. I really just like the feel of the sun on my skin.
After my walk, which ended in me sweating actually because it was a rather warm day, I went to visit Eliam (Kerry’s wife) because it was her day off. We chatted a little and played Chinese checkers (she won, but it was very close). She had the door of her apartment open to let in some air, and some students walked by, doubled-back upon seeing me, and came inside. They were very sweet and talked with us for a while. Their English was rather poor, and so they asked if I could tutor them because they were taking some college level exams this year. I said of course they may call me or chat with me on QQ anytime. (QQ is like facebook). Before leaving I asked Eliam if she would be my Chinese tutor. She didn’t think that she would be good, but I assured her that I would like her to be my tutor because I can understand her Chinese very well. Hopefully it can work out because Eliam’s weekend is actually Monday and Tuesday (she works Saturdays and Sundays). I will have to see what my full teaching schedule is like (once the freshmen start next week) before I can be sure that she can be my tutor. I told her maybe 2 hours a week would be okay, and also if she could teach me some Sichuan dialect as well. Eliam is from Sichuan. Almost all of the teachers and students in the school (and certainly all of the fruit/veggie vendors, store and restaurant owners, and pretty much anyone else in Jiangyou) are from Sichuan and thus speak Sichuan dialect. It would be very useful to speak Sichuan dialect. It is not too different from standard Mandarin, but it can be difficult for some people not from Sichuan to understand. I feel like Sichuan dialect is mainly a mumbled version of Mandarin, with a few words that are completely different. Eliam also left me with a small mooncake (for the Moon Festival which is later this month) and I ate it later. Every mooncake is filled with something different (some are filled with a sweet bean paste and some are filled with meat). It is really hit or miss with the mooncakes. This one was pretty good. I have the feeling I will be eating a few more mooncakes by the end of this month. Oh, and the Moon Festival celebrates the moon. It is also a time for lovers to look at the moon together (I don’t know). Chinese culture is centered a lot around the moon, including their calendar (Lunar Calendar), so the moon is very important in China, although the Moon Festival is not a big holiday.
So, upon leaving Eliam’s I went to buy some more water (because I haven’t put together the water distiller, yet. I really should get on that so I can save some money and drink clean water because even the bottled waters still have some heavy metals in them, or so we’ve been told). Anyways, I was on my way home to change for my first running club meeting when I received a call asking me why I wasn’t at the rehearsal for our performance. I said I didn’t know we had rehearsal. Well anyways, so I rushed my way around the entire school very confused as to where everyone was. I went to the recording studio. No one was there. Then Vivi called and said they were in the Art Hall and she would be waiting for me outside. I took this to mean the Art Building, but when I went there, Vivi wasn’t there. So I went inside, and no one was in there. I asked a student what building I was in, and she said the Art Building. I was very confused, so I called Vivi back. Well it turns out when she says Art Hall she really means Auditorium. So I made it, albeit late. We had practice with the umbrella dancers again, and this time the department head was there to watch and see how we were doing. Vivi asked a student to cancel my running club, since we ended up being there until 6. I was a little sad about this. I was looking forward to running club today, but we can start next week. Oh and during the rehearsal they decided to add a little dance routine to my solo part. So now, while lip-syncing my prerecorded solo, I will be moving my arms around in a fluid, rhythmic motion. I really hope they get this whole thing on video so that I can post it to the blog! Also some students joined our little singing group, other than the three that were included from the beginning. They said that they would like to practice English with me. I told them that they could talk to me anytime. I said that maybe the group of them could have dinner with me sometime and we could talk in English. They liked this idea very much, and I am always looking for people to have dinner with. Oh and they ended up realizing that the mistake was theirs about my being late to practice. I am sure they must have mentioned it (just in Chinese only). So I made sure I was clear on practice times tomorrow. So we are recording again after lunch, and then we have a dress rehearsal at 4 (remember the blue dress and silver shoes I mentioned earlier?). The men are wearing white button-up shirts and black pants.
I decided to head over to track for a run, even though the students were not there (especially because I missed running yesterday when we went to hotpot after practice and my legs were itching to run). I ran about a mile before I was stopped by one girl named Suri. She ran one loop with me and almost died, even though I was barely running. So she asked me to stop, which I did and I walked with her and her friend a little. Then she asked if I wanted to eat dinner with them. I said sure. They wanted to eat in the students’ dining hall, so I ran ahead to grab my card for the student dining hall from my apartment (stopped momentarily by Hu Laoshi, which I didn’t mind because he is just so nice. He is in charge of the library at the school, and was on his way to take his maybe 5 year old son to play at the field. His English is really limited but he tries which means a lot. He told me his English name that he was given in high school was Murphy and I could call him that if I want). I said goodbye to him and met the girls at the dining hall, which was closing shortly. The friend didn’t eat, and Suri just ate some porridge. All that was given to me by the lunch ladies was rice, cooked lettuce and bell peppers, and some sliced potatoes. Suri suggested that I shouldn’t eat the potatoes because they didn’t look right. I took her advice on this, and ate only lettuce, bell peppers, and rice. So basically I am really hungry right now at 9pm that I am writing. Anyways, after dinner, they showed me their dorm room. It consists of 4 bunk beds (but where the bottom bunk should be is instead a desk). There is also a little bathroom (no shower. The shower is a communal one) with probably a squat toilet and a sink (I didn’t have a good look). Their laundry was hanging in this section. Next we went to go practice the piano, but Suri left soon after we got there (which I thought was a little strange). So her friend and I chatted, and she taught me a little on the piano, but she didn’t feel much like playing. The students all take music, pe, and dance (or so this is what she told me), which I thought interesting. At about 815 I told her that I should leave, but that she could call me anytime.
So today’s theme is…you can call me anytime.