Another thing I forgot to mention in my last post was when I was walking with one of the Chinese teachers in the evening she started talking to me about Peace Corps volunteers. She said that she really liked Peace Corps teachers. She remembered one Peace Corps teacher that she had at Sichuan Normal University a few years back named James. She remembered how James taught them about poetry and writing, how he would sit on his desk, how he would walk around the room, and how he would always bring a briefcase to school with him like he was a businessman. She remembered his enthusiasm with teaching and how comfortable he felt in the classroom. He was middle-aged. She said that she finds herself mimicking his teaching methods—like walking around the classroom. I found this a good refresher into why I am here. This teacher made such an impact on his students during this service in the Peace Corps that they still remember this teacher and think his teaching style is worth replicating in their own teaching.
Thursday I taught (my favorite class. Shh! Well I can’t really say that anyways because I have not started teaching the freshmen yet). Anyways, it went really well. I took the advice from my Monday class and spoke slower, and put more on the board for clarity. It is just so much easier to teach a class of 20 versus 40+. Maybe over time the universities will come to realize that the students can learn more and better in a smaller classroom, especially for language classes. For a good part of the day I worked on organizing my pictures for China on my computer. It will take some time to do. At lunch Wan Laoshi asked me about caring for dogs, since he just adopted two. I explained to him about what dogs should and shouldn’t eat. We practiced for a little bit in the afternoon, and then I finally got to run! I hadn’t really run all week and I was aching to. Running, even more than my apartment, is my time to relax and get away. I can put myself in the moment and rhythm of my run and not hear or think about anything. It is blissful, and yesterday was gorgeous! The sky was a bright blue with no clouds in sight, the sun was shining brightly, and I could clearly make out the mountains in the distance (even the crevices in them).
In the evening of Thursday I decided to try my luck cooking again. I decided to boil some sweet corn, which was ever so sweet and delicious. I ate one and saved the others for another day. Then I cut up a sweet onion, eggplant, and tomatoes to fry up. The gas stove heats up so much faster than the electric stoves back home. I am not quite sure when I should add the different ingredients. Anyways, it smelt okay, tasted okay, but then five bites into the dish I threw it all back up. It was kind of disgusting. I have never given myself food poisoning before. I felt okay afterwards, but I decided not to try and eat anything else—just in case. Maybe I need some cooking lessons. I might ask my students or fellow teachers to teach me how to cook.
Friday. I knew Friday would be different when I woke up to the sound of my cell phone beeping me a message. It was from one of my students saying “Happy Teachers Day, Katie!” Since I had been sleeping I didn’t register this as from my student, and responded with “Thank you! Happy Teachers’ Day to you too.” Wishing her a Happy Teacher’s Day didn’t make any sense. That morning I could also hear the morning announcements blaring across the school grounds. I don’t know if it was extra loud this particular morning in celebration of Teachers’ Day or if I was just more awake to hear it, regardless I was awake and the sun was shining extra brightly for us teachers this morning. As I was walking to the office I noticed colorful flags stuck in the grounds and banners depicting school activities surrounding the garden area. The outdoor performance area was filled with student artwork, and there were many students bustling around. I was not sure if this also was for Teacher’s Day or if it was in preparation for the freshmen that would be arriving this weekend. Either way, it provided a festive environment. When I got to my office it was to gifts on my desk! Vivi’s sweet students had given me a cactus for my office with what looked like a Valentine’s Day card that read “Katie: You have been a qualified teachers and even better friend. Thank you for all that you have done! –Preschool English Education class two grade two.” There were also cards from both classes that I have. My Monday class gave me a card that also looked like a Valentine’s Day card that said: “Dear Katie: We are very glad to have you as our teacher. We are more thankful than we can express. May you all wishes come true. Happy Teacher’s Day. Sincerely, Class 4.” And my Thursday class had a card that didn’t look like a Valentine’s card and read: “Dear Katie, Today is Teachers’ Day. Wishing you a happy Teacher’s Day! Your students: Sophie, Cindy, Mickey, Faye, Ava, Peggy, Amanda, Sophia, Nancy, Demi, Money, Vienna, Vivian, Wendy, Sancy, Angela, Chanel, Eric, Joey, Singly, Ruby, Senlina.” I should also note that I wrote these verbatim. I also received a leather-bound notebook from I am not sure who. The inside cover had a note written in Chinese characters.
Sitting in the office, I could feel the excitement in the day. It is a wonderful day for teachers, filled with gifts, happiness, and excitement (especially for this afternoon’s performance). I had many students of Vivi’s wish me a Happy Teacher’s Day. One wanted to know why I wasn’t on QQ last night because she wanted to chat with me. I told her I would try to be on more often. Then Kerry came in and gave me my full teaching schedule, which is as follows: Monday 1105-1150 (grade 1 class 8), 130-215 (grade 1 class 1), 225-405 (grade 2 class 4); Tuesday 1105-1150 (grade 1 class 6), 130-215 (grade 1 class 5), 320-405 (grade 1 class 7); Wednesday 905-950 (grade 1 class 10), 1000-1045 (grade 1 class 2), 1105-1150 (grade 1 class 4), 130-215 (grade 1 class 3), 320-405 (grade 1, class 12); Thursday 1000-1045 (grade 1 class 9), 1105-1150 and 130-215 (grade 2 class 2), 320-405 (grade 1 class 11). And no classes on Fridays! I am not sure how I am going to manage to teach oral English for only 45 minutes once a week. I’m not sure what kind of improvements they expect from these students, but that is not enough class time for such a class. Oh well, I will just try my best.
After lunch, in which Wang Laoshi asked me to teach him English profanity (he already knew most of them, and I didn’t teach him the ones he was missing. I just said “oh, that’s it”), I went with the other female teachers in our performance to go downtown to get our make-up done. We went to this little beauty shop and the attendants did all of our makeup. Mine was done by the only guy in the shop, and well…you will just have to see the pictures when I put them up, but when I left I had the attention of everybody in Jiangyou with the crazy makeup and giant sequined flower pinned to my hair. When we got back we quickly dressed and went to the auditorium. I was told numerous times by many different people that I needed to make sure to pretend to sing during the performance. Maybe the fact that I don’t speak Chinese automatically makes me incompetent, I don’t know. It went well, though. I wasn’t nervous, thanks to whoever’s brilliant idea it was to have us prerecord our voices. Many people, including Mark and Janice (truthful individuals) said they couldn’t tell that we weren’t actually singing live. So yay for us! I watched the rest of the performances before scrubbing my skin raw of the makeup (the eyeliner still remaining after three washes). I saw that they were filming the program, so hopefully I can get it to you all somehow.
When the show was over and my face mostly clean, I went to give Mark and Janice the cactus that Vivi’s students had given to all of the teachers. Kerry gave me theirs to give to them because I guess he figures I see them more often. I was stopped at least three different times on the 500 meter walk from the office where the cactus was to their apartment to have people tell me that I did a wonderful job singing. I think they must have confused me with someone else. Visiting Mark and Janice was nice, although it was only for a moment because I had to meet Vivi to go downtown to the celebration dinner. All of the teachers in our department were going out for a celebratory dinner in honor of Teacher’s Day. It was great food and really nice to go out to a nicer restaurant. Charlie (Janice and Mark’s 2 month old) was the life of the party, and I must say he is a mighty cute baby. He slept for most of the dinner, but woke up at the end to the pleasure of all. Vivi, Janice, and I chose our seats carefully. Two of the tables were drinking walnut milk and the other table (with only men) were drinking beer and baijiu. Mark ended up at the baijiu table, but when we left he said he only had one glass of each. I usually do whatever the other women do because that will be what is acceptable, and from what I can tell from the two times I have gone out with the teachers is that the women do not drink alcohol at all, so while I in Jiangyou I will do the same. During dinner I was often referred to as a’jiao which was who the song was about that we sang. A’jiao means beautiful girl, but they were calling me that because it was the part of the song that I sang, and it was what they were trying to make me into (I was the a’jiao of the performance). Very funny.
When we got back to the school, Vivi, another teacher, and I walked around a bit. I went to the one teacher’s apartment and had a look at her wedding pictures. The Chinese take their wedding pictures before their actual ceremony in their wedding outfits. It is usually a big deal and the photos sometimes tell a story about the couple. Hers were really nice and in two bound books. I asked her where her husband was and she said he worked as a teacher in Mianyang. Vivi’s husband is working on his doctoral degree in Chongqing. I find it interesting that they can just live apart for such long periods of time. I mean, they work in completely different cities. Mianyang isn’t too far from Jiangyou, but you would have to take a long distance bus to get there. Interesting. I once asked Vivi if she missed her husband, and she said sometimes especially when there are problems around the house. Very interesting. But I guess it works for them. I know eventually they will want to live and work in the same city, but they are okay with not doing it for now.
That is all for now, and who knows what tomorrow will bring, so stay tuned!