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Saturday, September 18, 2010

week 3 in Jiangyou

So this week started out fairly boring since I was told the freshmen would have orientation on Monday and Tuesday (which would mean me only teaching a double period on Monday and nothing on Tuesday). On Tuesday I had my first running club. I was really excited about the prospect of it. Only two students came out this time, though. One of Vivi’s male students said he was going to and then left before 5. Hopefully as the word gets out about it more students will come. Janice decided she wanted to join, and Eliam participated in the warm-up and cool-down. We only did about 2 miles, but it was probably all the girls could have handled, especially when one shows up in jeans and a cute shirt with converses. I asked the two girls what was the most they had ever run, and they said 2 laps (which is 800 meters or ½ a mile). I said what about during high school? But they said only two laps ever was the most they had run because during high school and junior school they focused only on studying. Crazy! Eliam also took pictures of us per the request of Kerry who wanted to put it on the school’s website.

I was hoping to go to dinner with some of the students after, but they had already eaten. Janice invited me to have their trial run of tacos which I considered, but don’t want to intrude too much on their lives. On the way home, though, I ran into Media who told me about the weird schedule we are about to embark on for the next month. I couldn’t quite understand, so hopefully Kerry or Vivi can explain it to me later, but from what I could gather is that one day of class is cancelled and will be made up this Sunday (hopefully not me because I am planning on going to Mianyang Sunday). Then next Wednesday thru Sunday is mid-Autumn festival and we will have a break. Then we come back and teach Monday thru Thursday and then we have a week off for National Holiday. When we return from National Holiday the freshmen have military training for two weeks. Wow! All I want to know is when I actually teach.

So Wednesday I was really excited to be teaching my first class of freshmen. It was my long day and I was excited to actually have something to do. I would be teaching almost the entire day from 9-4. So I got to my class right around 855 and there were no students present. I thought maybe students arrive a bit later to class in the morning. When 905 came, I began to panic thinking that I had the wrong classroom. I quickly texted Kerry and asked him if he knew what was going on. Then I started to call Vivi, but remembered that she had class in the morning and hung up. I then called Kerry and he answered and told me that all of the preschool education freshmen had a meeting in the auditorium and so none of the teachers were teaching today and sorry that he forgot to tell me. Well first a wave of relief washed over me knowing that I was not late to my class, but then the anger and frustration came moments later. I texted Janice to see if she was free (because I wanted to vent) but she never responded, which was good because I was able to take a few deep breaths, got my computer and went to the office. Just in case all of my classes today were not actually cancelled and there was more miscommunication, I went to my 10 classroom. There were some students inside, but just to take a rest not to be taught. There were no students at my 1105 class, but when I went to take a look at my 130 class there were 56 students sitting inside. I waited and then this Chinese man came and started talking to me in Chinese. Then he went into the classroom and talked with the students. I was wondering if he was their teacher, but then I distinctly heard him ask them what class it was and they answered English. Then I was thinking, this must be my class. So then the Chinese man came back out and started talking to me in Chinese again. I asked him if I was to teach these students and he said yes. Okay then. Luckily I had my notes with me and one small piece of chalk (as there was no chalk in the classroom). So I taught. I thought maybe the classes in the afternoon were not cancelled, but then my 320 class also had no students. I was very confused by the end of the day. I went by Janice and Mark’s and indulged in a little chat with other foreign teachers and borrowed two books from them for pleasure reading (Wild Swans which is about 3 generations of Chinese women and their struggles and The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency of which I am sure many of you are familiar). I later asked my counterpart about the confusion and the only thing he could offer was that it would probably be normal tomorrow. I hope so. I would hate to accidentally miss one of my classes. I went to the track in the afternoon just to walk since I ran in the morning before school, but a student and teacher invited me to run with them, so I did. I really like both this teacher and student. Both are sweet, and the student communicates well in English.

Thursday I a class of freshmen in the morning, and it was rather interesting. When the bell rang for the start of class one student stood and said loudly “All stand” and all of the students stood and said ‘Good morning Teacher.” I was so taken back by this, but recovered enough to tell them they could sit back down. I really hope they don’t do that again. The class had mixed levels but were much lower than my second year students. After lunch Kerry told me that my afternoon classes would be cancelled because the students in that department had a speech contest in the afternoon. Just to be sure I went anyways but it was indeed missing students when I went by. So I went to the office and I just mentioned offhand to Vivi that I had heard that some teachers are teaching Sunday and I was wondering how they knew if they were. She said that it was on the bulletin board. Well the bulletin board is written in Chinese characters, so Vivi wrote the information down for me and I will be teaching Sunday, so no trip to Mianyang for me this weekend which I am disappointed about, but that’s life.

The one class I did attend in the afternoon was my favorite class because it is my small class. So do remember my question box that I keep in the class? It is a box that I keep available for the students to put questions in that they might be too nervous to ask in class. My Monday class put some good comments in like ‘you talk too fast; could I write bigger on the board’ things like that. Thursday my class had put some questions/comments in that were a bit different, they said:
• How will you spend the National Holiday?
• You looks thin. Do you like to teach us ? (Janice said that her students told her once that they were surprised she was thin because they thought all westerners were supposed to be fat)
• You have beautiful eyes and voice
• You looks like a Chinese!
So that was interesting and also made me laugh.

Thursday afternoon Vivi invited me to go with her to the Chinese speech contest for the students in our department (whatever department that may be). It was unlike any speech contest I have ever been to. The students recited famous speeches and most of their speeches were set to dramatic music. Vivi even said that this one student probably would have gotten a better score if she had added music to her speech. So it seemed that they were judging the students on their ability to speak standard Chinese and speak in an engaging and powerful manner. All students come from backgrounds with strong dialects, mostly Sichuan, and being able to speak Mandarin well is a valued trait. It was rather interesting. I understood very little, but I got to see some students that I know compete, which was nice.

Okay, so you are probably wondering why I am teaching Sunday, right? Next week is Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon Festival) and we have Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off. So this Sunday we are making up Thursday’s classes and next Saturday we are making up Friday’s classes and next Sunday we are making up Wednesday’s classes. I know it really isn’t a holiday, is it? Then from the afternoon of August 30th to October 1-8 there are no classes for the National Holiday and we will be making up the Thursday and Friday classes the Saturday and Sunday following National Holiday on the 9th and 10th of October. A little confusing, but that’s China. All of the universities do this.

Currently this Friday I am sitting in the office and 9 of my students are talking to me on QQ and one of my students is talking to me in person. It is nice but a little overwhelming.

Friday evening I went with two teachers shopping. They bought me dinner which was this delicious street vendor bread and spicy vegetables. I bought some peanuts from the funniest street vendor for Saturday’s potluck. When we walked up he looked at me and yelled excitedly “Hello! How may I help you?” Vivi thinks he was really excited to meet a foreigner. His English was as many as a few phrases, but his enthusiasm was great. He wanted to overcharge me, but the two teachers I was with told him that I was a volunteer, so he gave me a good price on the condition that I return. I said okay, and probably will knowing that he will give me a fair price in the future.

Saturday I spent the entire morning cleaning in preparation for the potluck I was hosting for teachers that live on campus. What I was planning to make took longer than I had anticipated and caused too much smoke to cloud my apartment, so things changed a bit. I was making potato pancakes and filling them with ground pork. I made a few, which were delicious, before just putting the mashed potatoes and cooked meat into two separate bowls instead. Janice and Mark brought fruit salad, biscuits, and a small cake. The Chinese teachers brought some other delicious dishes, but I didn’t know their names. A total of 6 people came. I was hoping for a few more, but it was nice. Kerry called in the morning to say that the school needed him to go to Mianyang and that he couldn’t come, but that he wanted to host the next one. I hope it turns into a monthly gathering.

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