Sunday was one of the most boring days I have ever had. It was really rainy all day and not many people around campus were doing anything. I was one of them. I managed to do more cleaning in my apartment (including my baseboards which was in much needed of some scrubbing), wrote an email to my World Wise School teacher at Fairview Middle School in Tallahassee, wrote some emails, started putting together the list of Sichuan 16 volunteers (a little difficult since some have yet to email me their contact information), reorganized myself after one week of classes (throwing out a lot of the unnecessary bulk of paper the Peace Corps gave us), and attempted and failed to put together my water distiller (I have yet to give up for the chance to have free clean drinking water). After this myriad of activities I was at a loss as to what to do. So I attempted to try and win at the hardest level of Spider Solitaire (also failing) and tried to find television episodes that I could watch online. I could only manage to find short clips of two of my favorite shows (Dirty Jobs and Cash Cab). The only shows that I was able to watch full episodes of were CBS Evening News and 48 Hours Mystery. Which I did.
Oh the reason I am organizing contact information for the Sichuan 16 volunteers is because it is nice for everyone to have since we will all be working in the same province for the next two years, will be doing summer project together, and just in case something happens with their landlines and I (the deputy warden) or Angel (warden) need to contact the other volunteers in our province we have another means of doing so. Also I asked each of the volunteers to include their birthdays because it is nice to receive at least an email on one’s birthday. Or so I think it is.
So I decided that I am going to take Mark and Janice up on their offer to lend me some of the books from their small library in their apartment. I didn’t realize I would be so bored on Sunday, so hopefully having some books available to read will help alleviate this in case I am not doing anything with another teacher or students on a particular weekend, like this past Sunday.
Other than doing nothing on Sunday, I decided to try my hand at cooking in my apartment (since I now have a knife, spoon, and spatula for cooking, as well as a pot and pan). I bought some oil and rice down at the school gate, but decided to opt out of the rice and try something simple, like fanqie jidan (eggs and tomatoes). Well it turned out not to be simple at all because I couldn’t quite figure out how to work the gas stove. First I turned one burner on and flames came out, so I put my pan on, and then added a little oil. Next I put in my sliced tomatoes and giant flames shot out around the pan! When I mean giant, I mean a good 2 feet in the air! Thank heavens my face was no where near the pan or I might have burnt the freckles right off of my face. So I quickly turned off the stove and the flames went away. I decided to try again, but then the flames never came back on. I could hear the gas working, but no fire. I tried the other burner and the same thing. I tried a few times and finally the second burner turned on for me to cook the eggs. So the first meal I cooked in China was burnt tomatoes and eggs. It wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t good. Of course I ate it anyways.
I was happy when Monday morning rolled around because I knew that I would be busy for most of the day. I spent the morning in the office, explained the difference between complement and compliment to a teacher, and chatted with a student of mine on qq. QQ is most like facebook in the States. It is a social network that EVERYONE Chinese person is on. If you are cool in China then you have a QQ account. I wouldn’t be surprised if even Hu had a qq account—that is how popular it is. Well now I have one, so my students can chat with me whenever we are both online. It is good practice for them to chat in English and also in a low stress environment.
During lunch I had my table mate Wan Laoshi ask me questions about the Peace Corps. All of the teachers think it is so strange that the school doesn’t pay me to teach there. They are very impressed that I would come to China to teach in their school for free. He was asking me about how I signed up for Peace Corps, what the application is like, and other questions concerning it. It was a nice little chat.
At 225 my second week of teaching officially started. I was observed during my lesson by two Chinese teachers, which made me a little more nervous than usual. It went okay, though. I started the class by having them get into groups of five to share their family crests that they had made last week. I went around and listened to their discussions. Then I gave them a listening exercise in which I read a short article about Bicycling. I had four questions on the board that I went over beforehand. I read the passage three times. The first time I read it at a pace I would read in America, then I read it again much slower, and the last time I read it through quickly. They were able to answer all of the questions correctly. My hope is that by the end of the semester, or at least by the end of the year I will only have to read it through twice. Their test to receive a degree requires them to listen to a passage and to answer questions about it, so this is a nice little practice for them. After this I introduced the day’s topic of transportation. Each week I will cover a new topic that is under a larger theme. The first theme is travel with, I believe, four weeks devoted to it. First I covered some new vocabulary associated with travel. Then the students practiced using the new vocabulary by talking with the person next to them about when they used one method of transportation, where they were going, and why they were taking that type of transportation. Next I covered a grammar point which was the use of prepositions (mainly in terms of transportation, as in one gets in and out of a car/taxi. And one gets on and off a bus, train, or plane). Then the students turned to the person next to them and told them a short story using the prepositions (ex. Yesterday I got in my car and drove to school. Once at school, I got out of my car and went in my classroom). So they were extremely short stories, but I wanted them to practice using the prepositions a little. Then we took a 10 minute break, and afterwards I covered some idioms associated with travel (i.e. backseat driver, road rage, hit the road). For the remainder of class I had the students get into groups of 5 and create a commercial for any product but the rules were that everyone had to speak and they needed to use at least one idiom, one preposition, and one new vocabulary word. About half of the groups got to go before the Christmas bells rang for the end of class, and only about half of those half understood my directions in their entirety.
So what are the Christmas bells to which I refer? Well the college has bells that ring for the start and end of class, but they are not normal bells. They are a matchup of about 5 different Christmas songs. The first time I heard it I thought it was someone’s cell phone going off, but then I kept hearing it and realized it was a bell for the students and teachers. Then I thought I was crazy to think that the bell was a mixture of Christmas songs. But no, I ran this idea by Mark and Janice, who laughed and said oh yes, that is indeed what the bell is. So there we have it. I am lucky enough to hear Christmas music all day long and all year long. Yay me.
Okay, so back to my class. I have a question/comment box that I keep at the front of the class in case students want to say something but may be too embarrassed to say it in front of the class or in front of me. Well today I had three notes in it! I was so happy that they were using it. Two of the notes said that I was talking too fast (really really good to know) and one of them also said that I should be louder. So next time I know. I think that I am trying to pack too much into a lesson, and will have to see about cutting a part out. It all just seems so important to me! The problem, to me, is that 90 minutes once-a-week is not nearly enough time for an oral language class. We ought to be meeting 90 minutes three times a week in order for the students to really benefit. Oh well, nothing I can really do about that. The third note wanted me to teach more about my culture. I will try my best, however I am not teaching a culture class but an oral practice class.
So after class ended at 405 I had singing practice with the other teachers for Friday’s performance, and it got a little more intense than before. There are apparently going to be student umbrella dancers dancing along with our singing. Basically there are about 7 girls doing a dance using Chinese umbrellas. It will certainly be very nice. But then we had a routine to include with our singing. I start out standing behind one umbrella girl, along with 4 other singers. Two singers walk out from behind the dancers to sing their two lines. Then the next two come out to sing their lines. Then all of the singers come to the front at a part that we all sing together. Then my solo is up and the umbrella dancers scurry in front of me while I sing at the center. Then I return to the line while a boy moves in front for his two lines. Then we split men and women and we sing a few lines separately, then together. Next the men move around behind us, and we alternate singing men, half of the women, men, half of the women. Then we sing the last two lines together. At the conclusion of the song we form the shape of the crescent moon on stage with the umbrella dancers on either side of us. Are you confused? Try figuring this out when people are giving you directions in Chinese. I think it will be nice. I’m sure we will have at least one more practice this week before the performance. The whole ordeal was rather funny. There was a lot of Chinese yelling back and forth, a lot of pushing and pulling me around to where I needed to stand, and lots of confusion (and not only me).
Rehearsal ended at 6 and most of us went out to eat together at hotpot. It was actually really good. I was worried when they said hotpot because the last time hotpot and I were not friends. This one was all fish, not very spicy, and it tasted good. The men sat on one side of the table and drank beer, while the women sat on the other side and drank walnut milk. There was lots of toasting going around the table which was highly entertaining. So it turns out that most of the teachers are not English teachers, and thus cannot speak much English at all which was nice because I got to practice some of my Chinese that has lain dormant for about two weeks. At one point I stood up and gave a speech in Chinese. I said that I was happy in Jiangyou. I think that you all are good people. I think you are my friends. Hopefully that increased my guanxi with the other teachers. One teacher told me that he thought America was an excellent country, so I hope he was telling the truth. At the end of the dinner I was wondering about paying, but it turns out that each department gets a certain allotment of funds for things, which is what our meal came out of. I went back to the university with Vivi and another teacher in an unofficial taxi (which was just a lady with her car). This is really the best way to go once the bus stops running at about 730 or 8 in the evening. Taxis are usually only downtown, and these unofficial taxis usually just go back and forth from the university to anywhere else in the city. The restaurant we ate at was not in the downtown area, so we wouldn’t have seen an official taxi. When we got back to the university Vivi, the other teacher, and I decided to go for a walk. Well a walk was us walking maybe 5 minutes to the music building. Vivi was learning how to play the piano from another teacher and wanted to practice. There are individual rooms for practicing the piano at the music building, so that many people can play at one time. Vivi told me that it costs 40 yuan for the year for students to practice only once a week, whereas teachers can use the facilities as much as they want. I listened to her play and played a few small pieces of songs that I know from memory. It was a nice evening well spent with a few mosquito souvenirs to show for it.